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From an island that doesn’t allow sunscreen to a haunted islet where ancient Romans once sent their plague-infected citizens, the world is full of seaside destinations where visitors are not permitted. Luckily, we’ve put together some alternative options so you can get an equally unique experience somewhere you’re a bit more welcome. Here are 11 banned islands and where to go instead.
The cove made famous by Danny Boyle’s 2000 film The Beach, featuring a young Leo DiCaprio, became so packed with tourists it was shut by the Thai government in June 2018 over concerns about the coral reef.
While Maya Baya regenerates, why not try Trang, Thailand? The coastal region is home to many tiny islands, including Koh Kradan, Koh Libong and Koh Mook, all of which are as spectacular as Maya Bay.
Also closed for environmental reasons, this Philippines paradise has been off limits to visitors since April 2018 and will remain so until October. President Rodrigo Duterte hopes to avoid reef destruction by taking some time to clean up the area.
Luckily, there’s a nearby alternative: Siargao, Philippines. Boasting 15 world-class surf breaks, including the incredible Cloud 9, it’s a rad choice for surfers. Apart from the pristine white-sand beaches, you can also take in the Magpupungko tide pools.
Known for its iconic Spiaggia Rosa, or Pink Beach, the sand on this tiny atoll off the coast of Sardinia is a vibrant pink. The colour is naturally occurring due to crushed coral and crystal mixed into it by the sea. However, owing to tourists stealing the sand, the island has been off limits since 1994.
Pink Beach, Bonaire, offers an equally millennial pink experience. The sand gets its hue from the crushed shells of microscopic sea creatures called foraminifera and will make just as gorgeous an Insta post as its Italian cousin.
Also called The Forbidden Isle, Ni’ihau was purchased by Elizabeth Sinclair from the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1864 and has been passed down to her descendants ever since. The 69.5-square-mile island can only be visited by invitation. Practically frozen in time, the white-sand haven has no shops, no cars, no roads and no internet.
If you want to give some similar unspoilt loveliness a try, head to Ouvéa, New Caledonia. The least visited of the French territory’s three Loyalty Islands, it is one of the few places in the world where there’s a good chance you could be entirely alone on the beach.
A volcanic island 32km from Iceland, Surtsey is a relatively new land mass formed between 1963 and 1967. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a natural laboratory where evolution can be seen in action but other than researchers, no human has ever set foot on its shores.
For an equally fascinating lesson in evolution, head to Chichijima, Japan, one of only two inhabited islands in the Ogasawara archipelago. A 24-hour ferry ride from Tokyo, a visit here propels you what feels like centuries back in time. Forests and shrublands are surrounded by dramatic cliffs and provide refuge to extremely rare flora and fauna.
This verdant island in the Indian Ocean is the most unwelcoming to tourists a place can possibly be – its indigenous population is known for attacking anyone who attempts to visit. Travel is therefore banned to the area and going within three miles of the island is actually illegal.
A safer and legal alternative is Lakshadweep, an archipelago off the coast of Kerala, India, in the Laccadive Sea. You’ll need to get a permit to make the trip but what awaits is a magical tropical experience, including the only coral reef formation in India.
This breathtaking Andaman island is part of the Similan National Park and has been closed by the Thai government since 2016 due to over-tourism. Its crystal seas are teeming with leopard sharks, whale sharks and manta rays.
While the waters of Koh Tachai rehabilitate, head to another diver’s dream, the island of Koh Tao, Thailand. Speckled with charming coves and boasting a lively party scene, this is one of the best and cheapest places to learn and practise scuba in the world.
A cap on visitors put in place in 2017 means cruise ships in Santorini can send a maximum of 8,000 passengers to shore per day. Add that to the droves of tourists already staying on the island, and blindingly beaut sunsets aside, you have what many people would consider a recipe for holiday disaster.
Thankfully, you can drink your ouzo on the equally magnificent and much more relaxing island of Antiparos, Greece. The hidden gem of the Cyclades, this turquoise haven offers glorious beaches and ravishing sunsets, without the crowds.
For those who like a side of spooky with their vacation, Poveglia would be an ideal haunt. A banned island off the coast of Venice, it started as the preferred place for ancient Romans to ship their plague-infected citizens and in the 1920s housed a psychiatric hospital. It is said that the ground there is made up of a combination of dirt and ash from human remains.
An equally shiver-inducing spot is Isla de las Muñecas, Mexico, or Island of the Dolls. A two-hour boat ride from Mexico City, it is the not-so-restful resting place of thousands of mutilated dolls that hang from trees. They were put there by a local recluse who believed they would appease the ghost of a girl who died in the area over 50 years ago.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fernando do Noronha only allows 460 visitors at any given time. The island’s world-famous tide pools are even more exclusive – only 100 visitors per day can go there and they are are prohibited from wearing sun cream as its additives can pollute the waters.
For a burn-free alternative, look no further than Ilha Grande, Brazil, off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Secluded beaches and lush rainforests wait for you here, thanks to strict restrictions on development. The wildlife is as varied as the landscape with whales, orcas, sea turtles and even Magellanic penguins.
This Tasmanian island is one of the few places in the world where you can still find the rare species of bird from which the island takes its name. However, being a private nature reserve, it is off limits to any visitors apart from scientists.
For another exotic animal sighting that civilians can actually access, make your way to Rottnest Island, Australia, just two hours from Perth by ferry. The island is one of the only places in the world that is home to a friendly breed of marsupials called quokkas.