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If trying to squeeze out a spot on a crowd-filled beach isn’t your idea of fun, you may want to consider some of the more underrated islands in the world for your next getaway. While there are many that offer striking white sands and abundant sun, there are others that provide a more unique experience. Whether you want to experience wildlife, history or perhaps a mix of it all, without packed streets, you really need to visit some of these underrated isles.
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This Caribbean island in the Lesser Antilles chain is one that’s rarely talked about, and while the term is definitely overused, it really is one of the regions hidden gems. Known as “The Unspoiled Queen” for its purity and protection of a unique ecosystem, the five-square-mile island isles left in the Caribbean that don’t receive cruise ships or have much in the way of development. There are no mass resorts or even beaches for that matter. It’s all about nature and the water here, including an impressive marine park which hosts dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and vibrant coral. Divers and snorkelers can also view underwater mountains created by volcanic activity.
If you want to experience true Greek village life, head to Naxos, the largest island in the Cyclades. While most tourists head to Santorini, Naxos is an uncrowded gem that offers an experience that’s hard to beat, even by its more famous neighbor. There are 46 villages of varying sizes including multiple white hill towns that glisten in the sun, along with ancient ruins to explore, soaring mountains for climbing, waterfalls for viewing and gorgeous white beaches lined with clear azure waters for swimming. Be sure to sample some locally-made jams and crepes before setting off on a hiking adventure to the Routsouna waterfall or the summit of Mount Zeuss.
The smallest of the three Irish Aran Islands, which sit off the west coast near Galway, can be accessed by a passenger-only ferry or a short flight. Here you can experience old Ireland in a place where locals speak Irish Gaelic as their first language and English as the second. The two-square-mile island is home to a shipwreck featured in the opening of the 1990s hit Irish comedy series, “Father Ted,” and can easily be covered in foot, though tours are also available via the local pony-and-cart drivers. Just steps from the ferry dock you’ll see a beautiful stretch of white sands that looks as if it should be in the Caribbean. Dip your toes in the clear cerulean-hued water and you’ll quickly realize that this is the Emerald Isle.
Nearly everyone that travels to California’s Channel Islands, heads to the more famous Catalina Island, but the second largest island offers many delights without the crowds. Santa Rosa Island provides stunning beauty and nature lovers will find lots of things to see and do. While there are no hotels or services here, it makes for a great day trip, or bring your food and camping gear and enjoy sleeping under the stars. There are several trails that traverse the island, offering fantastic hiking opportunities, ranging from the relatively flat trek to Water Canyon Beach to the rugged, mountainous path to Black Mountain.
Fogo Island is anything but a tropical island, located off the northeast corner of the Newfoundland coast by ferry from Farewell, but it provides the opportunity to step into what feels like a lost time, forget all about your cares and stray far from the beaten path. With 11 unique communities, there’s lots to explore, including Tilting, a traditional Irish village where you’ll hear the sounds of thick Irish lilts, wander across old wooden docks with red-painted fishing rooms. Stroll the walking trails, and visit a gorgeous Caribbean-like beach complete with soft white sands and clear turquoise waters. In the Lane House Museum and Dwyer Premises you’ll be able to learn about Tilting’s interesting heritage and fishing industry.
Other highlights on the island include the Brimstone Head trail, a place the Flat Earth Society claims to be one of the four corners of the Earth, the Herring Cove Art Gallery, where you’ll find unique crafts including original paintings and prints by local artist Winston Osmond of the local area.