From remote hideaways in the middle of the ocean to lively party destinations bursting with adventure, islands are the ultimate holiday experience. But with so many favourites around the world, it can be hard to find what you’re looking for, so we’ve come up with the definitive list of islands perfect for getting away from it all. Now all you have to do is pick one and pack!
For many travellers, Mauritius is seen as a luxury destination ideal for couples and honeymooners. There’s certainly some truth to that – the beach resorts are so glamorous, you often find visitors confined to their hammocks and waterfront accommodation – but there’s also a more adventurous side to the island without crowds. The southern half of Mauritius is rarely visited by tourists, but it’s where you’ll find many of the natural wonders that the island is famous for. Cascading waterfalls and remarkable soil segmentations – trust us on that, they are stunning – are accessible by quiet hikes or not-so-quiet quad bikes. If you are prepared to tear yourself away from your hotel, you can find a real slice of Mauritius that few outsiders ever get to experience.
This intriguing spot in the Gulf of Naples, off the coast from the city itself, is largely mountainous, while the coastal parts are densely populated, which make for a great combination of nature and local culture. Ischia also has a great selection of hotels, with the likes of San Montano Resort & Spa offering visitors the chance to truly enjoy local experiences. There is a film festival held here in the summer, and cinemagoers might recognise some of the locations from big-budget blockbusters such as Cleopatra (1964) and Men in Black: International (2019), to name but two.
The Maldives remain a bucket-list destination for most travellers, especially loved-up couples with a bit more cash to spend. If the sort of island escape you want involves complete relaxation and potentially days without seeing anyone else, then this is the place for you. There are some extraordinary hotels here, most of which cover entire islands on their own, and the appeal of a private beach is obvious. If you’re looking for more of a cultural trip, then there is a bit more to see and do in the capital, Malé, but we know this is more of a luxury getaway and there’s far more of the decadent side to enjoy on your visit.
You already know the main Balearic Islands, but did you know that Ibiza, Menorca and Mallorca have been open to tourists even though most of the nightclubs on the islands have remained shut? Throw in the fancy island of Formentera and you’ve got yourself a collection of destinations that are easy to get to, with plenty to do for every type of traveller. Away from the revelry, Ibiza is a great place to reconnect with nature. Easy hiking routes lead to fantastic lagoons where you can enjoy sundowners before heading back to town. Take a short boat ride to Formentera from Ibiza Old Town and you’ll find a small island with miles of sandy beaches. Menorca and Mallorca are arguably more family-orientated, but they also have cultural highlights and some of the best food in the world. Why aren’t we there already?
On the surface, the Seychelles look as if they might offer a similar experience to the Maldives, but there’s actually more to this archipelago of small islands, more than 500mi (800km) from the next accessible country – Madagascar – than you might expect. The beaches and forests offer more for explorers than the relatively empty interior of the Maldives; as such, a trip to the Seychelles could result in a more complete travel experience. You may not get the same wildlife that you’d find in Madagascar, but you’ll still get adventure.
The Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands is closer to Africa than it is to Europe, with a climate to match. The individual islands range from popular tourist destinations like Lanzarote and Gran Canaria, to smaller, lesser-visited spots like La Gomera and La Palma. These sleepy islands have beaches and pine forests aplenty, yet remain a boat ride from party hotspots like Tenerife. For British holidaymakers, the Canary Islands are often seen as a cheap and cheerful option for family holidays, but there’s also a chance to see a quieter part of the region if you’re happy to get on a boat and venture away from the beaches.
The Andaman Islands, often paired with the nearby Nicobar Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, are part of India, some of which are inhabited by the Sentinelese people and strictly off limits to all outsiders. Elsewhere, however, there are outstanding resorts that are worth a visit. The entire region is regulated in terms of how many people get to visit on a yearly basis, which in turn makes this an exclusive destination you’ll be able to show off about when you get back home. There’s a small airport that has a regular service to and from mainland India, as well as a ferry route that can be taken if you have two days and two nights to spare. Complete isolation isn’t easy to come by, after all.
Bora Bora, an island group in French Polynesia, has become byword for luxury and exclusivity. The local economy is driven mainly by tourism, and a lot of the best-known resorts are to be found in the lagoon, where the first water bungalows were built in 1961. The style of accommodation proved so popular, hotels and resorts around the world have since copied it. Given the remote location and limited incoming flights – only from Tahiti – there’s a sense that Bora Bora is out of reach for the average traveller. But things are changing, thanks to a concerted effort to attract more budget-orientated visitors, and the reward for making the effort is an island escape with unbeatable snorkelling and hotels.
Italian capital of culture 2022 and the smallest island in the Bay of Naples, this colourful location is accessible by boat from the ports of Calata di Massa and Molo Beverello, or from Pozzuoli a little further away. The charm of Procida is classic Italian, and if you head here in the summer, you will probably find yourself surrounded by mainland Italians who have tried to keep this destination a secret. Come earlier in the year, before all the hype around Procida being crowned Italy’s capital of culture in 2022 kicks in, and you’ll get this beautiful Italian island all to yourself.
The Greek Islands are about as well known as any tourist destination gets, but there are still a few hidden gems if you know where to look. Symi has a little bit of all the islands in the region, as well as a unique atmosphere that will make you feel as if you’re on a proper holiday away from the crowds. The architecture is Ottoman and neoclassical in style, with colourful buildings visible from the sea as you approach the island. And you will approach by sea – Symi is so small, it has no airports at all. Fly into Kos – 75mi (120km) away – or Rhodes – 40mi (65km) away – then take a relaxing boat ride to this special Greek retreat.