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Our planet is filled with thousands of beautiful, remote islands, and many of these captivating enclaves make for an ideal vacation destination. If you’re looking to get off the beaten path, these stunning isles are sure to provide you with the inspiration you need to start packing.
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The island of Flores is the westernmost point of the beautiful Azores Archipelago, and of the European continent. It takes its name, literally “flowers,” from its abundance of wildflowers, particularly hydrangeas. It’s also noted for tranquil lagoons, cliffs carved by grottoes, hot springs and volcanic remains.
Moorea is a triangular-shaped island encircled by a lagoon of translucent green and fringed by a cerulean blue Polynesian sea. In addition to towering, dramatic interior mountains, the island is home to magnificent expanses of black and white sand beaches, known as some of the most beautiful on the planet as well as luxurious romantic resorts.
Hidden in the North Sea, the Shetland archipelago is Britain’s most distant and most starkly stunning clutch of islands, with rugged heather-covered hills, ponies and picturesque seascapes. The northernmost inhabited island of Unst features unspoiled scenery, Viking heritage, and a great nature reserve where thousands of North Atlantic birds nest.
The San Blas Islands are a 365 island archipelago offering picture-postcard beauty set along Panama’s Caribbean coast. Soak in the sunshine on pristine stretches of white sand, go snorkeling, and learn about Kuna culture from the locals themselves.
Norway’s Lofoten Islands are known for its quaint fishing villages set among a backdrop of soaring mountains with jagged peaks that reflect the fiery glow of the midnight sun during summer months. Located just above the Arctic Circle, this time of year means never seeing the sun set over its stark white beaches bordering clear emerald waters.
Brazil’s Fernando de Noronha is known as an eco-wonderland and beach lovers’ ultimate paradise with luxuriously warm, pristine jade waters teeming with dolphins, colorful fish and sea turtles. The island lies within a volcanic archipelago of 21 islands, filled with rushing waterfalls and natural swimming pools, jagged cliffs and caves. You won’t see many other tourists as just 420 are allowed on the island at any given time.
If you’re drawn to bright lights, big crowds and happening nightlife, Molokai isn’t going to cut it. This island may be just nine miles away from popular West Maui resorts, but it’s truly a world away from Hawaii’s more famous, touristy islands. Here you might just find a beach all to yourself.
Los Roques is a magnificent archipelago national park in Venezuela, set about 80 miles from Caracas in the Caribbean. There are no high rises or cruise ships that dock here – just practically limitless stretches of perfect sands surrounded by dazzling clear waters that are the home to 280 species of fish and nearly 100 different bird species.
Guadeloupe has no grand resorts, moving to its own gentle rhythms where you’ll find small inns, rustic waterfront cafes, breathtaking seas and beaches, as well an especially lush interior dotted with cascading streams that plunge into idyllic pools.
Southeast Alaska’s Admiralty Island is home to the highest density of brown bears in North America and the world’s greatest concentration of nesting bald eagles with over 5,000 eagles found along the coastline of Seymour Canal. Harbor seals, porpoises, sea lions and humpback whales are often spotted in the surrounding waters.
Heimaey Island is the largest island in the Westman Islands archipelago, just off the southwest coast of Iceland’s mainland. It’s one of the nation’s best kept secrets, with the opportunity to explore sea caves, a volcano and the largest puffin colony in Iceland.
Snorkelers and scuba divers looking for peace and quiet without being completely isolated, might want to choose Okinawa, Japan’s Ishigaki Island, known for legendary sites like the “Manta Scramble,” where giant manta rays gather. This incredible emerald blue bay found in the northwest corner of the island, is dotted by tinier, craggy islands and numerous perfect stretches of sand.
This beautiful island that sits in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, is practically untouched by humans, with a tiny native population and only 400 tourists allowed to visit each year. The limit is in place to protect the jaw-dropping natural landscape of the island which is home to a beautiful crystal lagoon and coral reef.
The Skellig Islands are two small rocky islands that sit just off the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland, famous for their thriving puffin and gannet populations as well as an early Christian monastery. Although you can’t spend the night, day tours to Skellig Michael are available from the charming fishing village of Portmagee.
Mu Ko Ang Thong is a national marine park just off the shore of Koh Samui in Southern Thailand. It comprises 42 islands covered with tropical rainforests and lined with pristine white sand strands that are often void of visitors. In the surrounded emerald green sea lie spectacular coral reefs, perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
The Paracel Islands, located in the South China Sea 205 miles from the Hainan Province, is known for its tropical beauty as well as being home to some of the rarest birds in the world, many of which can only be seen in this region.
The dazzling western Pacific island of Palau is home to the Rock Islands, which are found in its Southern Lagoon, between Koror and Peleliu. The islands are filled with surprises, like the Milky Way which is a bay filled with white limestone known for rejuvenating the skin.
Cat Island is one of the least frequented and the most beautiful of all the Bahamas out-islands. This is the ideal escape for those looking for peace, tranquility and unchartered territory. Every inch is perfect, from the weather to the sand – Cat is also home to an eight-mile stretch of pink sand.
Tristan da Cunha, Saint Helena
If you’re looking for remote, Trista da Cunha is the world’s most remote island. Located between South Africa and Argentina in the Atlantic Ocean, it’s actually made up of six separate volcanic islands. Its main settlement, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, is 1,350 miles from the nearest human settlement located on Saint Helena and is home to less than 300 residents.
Photographs can’t truly capture the magnificent beauty of Aitutaki, home to a brilliant turquoise blue lagoon filled with crystal clear, warm waters and renowned as one of the most stunning and best places for snorkeling in the world. One Foot Island is an islet set inside the lagoon with a beach that’s been voted the best in all of Australia and the Pacific.
Mykines, the most westerly and most beautiful of the Faroe Islands, feels like a journey back in time with its village filled with small, grass-roofed houses. This wild, remote island surrounded by high cliffs is also one of the best for bird watching, particularly puffins, found here by the thousands.
Dominica is often referred to as “The Nature Island of the Caribbean,” due to its stunning lush landscape that includes an unspoiled rainforest, volcanic hot springs, 365 rivers and countless waterfalls. While it’s not known for its beaches, it is known for its amazing swimming holes.
Montserrat is known as the Caribbean’s Emerald Isle due to its Irish heritage and lush rainforests. The island is also a modern-day Pompeii, with its former capital of Plymouth devastated and abandoned by volcanic eruptions. One side of the island remains lush and green, offering everything you could ever want in a Caribbean vacation at an affordable price, while the other is dismal, gray, and eerily fascinating.
This South Korean island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula in the Sea of Japan is rarely visited, even by Koreans. The beautiful volcanic isle is surrounded by cliffs that fall directly into an azure-colored sea, trailing up to the edge of an ancient caldera, offering a true hiker’s paradise. Its highlight is the Haengnam Seaside Walkway which travels along the rugged, cliffside coastline from the town of Dodong to the village of Jeodong.
An island that still retains the color and adventure of the Old Caribbean, the tiny isle of Bequia, part of the State of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is a true hidden treasure as one of the few unspoiled islands throughout the Caribbean Sea. No glitz and glamour here, just plenty of friendly locals, ever-flowing rum punch and dazzling turquoise waters perfect for snorkeling.
While on Bequia, be sure to charter a sailboat to Petit Tabac, a small, uninhabited island that’s part of Tobago Cays Marine Park. This was the very isle on which Johnny Depp’s character, Captain Jack Sparrow, was marooned with Elizabeth Swan, played by Kiera Knightly.