Alone, aloof, distanced, and with a mentality that you are a visitor and not a resident, islands have a wonderful standalone quality about them – like grandparents and their grandchildren, they love seeing you arrive and love it that little bit more when you leave. The islands we have selected here aren’t all of the aspirational kind – we could have taken the Maldives, Mauritius and Caribbean routes exclusively, but we wanted to include islands closer to home that have just as much to recommend. Are you ready to hop? Let’s go!
Why Should I Go There?: Hvar languishes in the Adriatic Sea, has a sizeable fertile coastal terrain – not for nothing is it known as the Queen of the Dalmatian Islands and the Pearl of the Adriatic. Hvar features regularly in the go-to lists of many travel publications and – here’s the clincher – has an average annual air temperature of 16 °C. Crunching the numbers, that’s more than 2,700 hours of sunshine per year.
What Will I See?: Interestingly, its tourism strategy has been a part of its business model for almost 150 years, and so while there is a veritable culture of history and heritage, there is also a generations-old culture of greeting visitors and making them feel very welcome. Factor in freshwater springs, pine forests, and rural regions covered with lavender fields, orchards, olive groves and vineyards, and you have no excuse.
Why Should I Go There?: Renowned for its ecological environment, Dominica is known as the Nature Isle of the Caribbean. Something of a paradise for scuba divers, as well as being especially appealing to eco-tourists, the ‘island-country’ has made a concerted effort in the past five years to be more tourist-ready, with both the Kempinski and Marriott hotel groups opening properties.
What Will I See?: Essentially, the island is a destination for nature and adventure lovers. As well as over 300 miles of nature trails in unspoiled rain forests, you have natural hot springs, immense waterfalls, and clear, clear waters that will make the jaws of divers and snorkelers drop to the ground.
Why Should I Go There?: With average year-round temperatures in or around 30 °C (Bali rests eight degrees south of the equator), the paradise island was once the preserve of very rich celebrities. That has changed over the past 30 years, but what hasn’t is the special becalming character of the island people. However, unlike more streamlined islands (typically, Bahamas, and the Maldives) that cater to levels of tourist expectations, Bali offers what can only be described as the real deal.
What Will I See?: As it’s known as the Land of the Gods, expect to be spirited away with a virtually non-stop sequence of natural beauty. From terraced rice fields and revealing volcanoes to diving spots dotted around the island and trekking across the National Park.
Why Should I Go There?: You know when you read about a particular place where the writer describes it as ‘magical’ or ‘enchanting’ as if it’s a holiday resort for fans of Harry Potter? Well, put away your cynicism and/or your disbelief, because that is exactly what the Isle of Skye is. Once you are locked into the rhythms of the locale, that’s it, buddy – you’re trapped.
What Will I See?: The scenery is quietly, stealthily magnificent – from the Waternish peninsula to the islet of Raasay, everything here is vivid, beautiful and soul-stirring. Tip? Bring your walking boots and see everything on foot – you won’t regret it. It is truly (oops, here we go again) magical. And enchanting. And not just for fans of Harry Potter, either.
Why Should I Go There?: For more than 20 years, Maui – aka the Valley Isle, and the second-largest Hawaiian island – has been voted by various travel outlets as the Best Island in the US. There are good reasons for this: luxurious beaches, the astonishing food, hiking trails, and the kind of extraordinary scenery you’d be used to seeing in James Bond movies.
What Will I See?: You mean apart from the kind of extraordinary scenery you’d be used to seeing in James Bond movies? Well, how about hiking trails through bamboo forests, snorkelling amidst fish-crammed coral and reefs, and watching the sunrise from the peak of Haleakala, the huge shield volcano that forms over 75% of the island? As Tom Cruise didn’t say – you had me at “aloha”.
Why Should I Go There?: About one hour from Athens, Kea is something of a secret to most people. Mention it to even seasoned travellers and they just shrug their shoulders. Yet Kea – although it belongs to the Cyclades group of islands – is a wonderful change from the usual Grecian suspects.
What Will I See?: Earthier in colour tone from its island neighbours (that is, you won’t see blue-domed chapels and white-washed cottages), there is rural greenery here that is often breath-taking. Because of its proximity to Athens, expect not so many tourists and more locals – a real sign of authenticity.
Why Should I Go There?: Fiji is an island nation consisting of an archipelago of over 300 islands, two of which – Viti Levu and Vanua Levu – account for about 90% of the total population (almost 900,000). Viti Levu is where you should go, however, as its capital, Suva, is the economic, political and cultural centre.
What Will I See?: If you’re into scuba diving and snorkelling whilst submerged in warm, turquoise waters, then welcome to your idea of heaven. You’ve got the whitest, sandiest beaches here, too, and a mid-range priced holiday destination – especially popular with honeymooners – that won’t break the bank.
Why Should I Go There?: Bornholm really is Denmark’s best-kept secret. The compact Baltic island is accessed either by aeroplane (from Copenhagen) or ferry (from Sweden). It has been on glossy travel magazine radars for a few years now, but more recently the island has become an item of discussion amongst you, me, and (figuratively speaking) the dogs in the street. In other words, get there quickly.
What Will I See?: Unlike the majority of the Danish landscape, Bornholm’s topography consists of dramatic rock formations. Alongside the scenery, the island has captured the imagination (and the appetite) of serious foodies eager to sample genuine Nordic ground-to-plate produce.
Why Should I Go There: According to anyone that has been there, the Seychelles are the most beautiful islands on earth. Indeed, the sheer jaw-dropping beauty is almost mythical. The entry point for most tourists is the island of Mahé, which has amazing beaches, resorts and restaurants, but it is also the most crowded, which is why smaller islands (such as La Digue or Praslin) appeal to the more seasoned traveller.
What Will I See?: The beaches are so picture-postcard-perfect you might have to blink a few times to get a sense of how amazing they are. Factor in UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Vallée de Mai on the island of Praslin (said by some to be the original site of the Garden of Eden), and you have the wonders of the natural world at your fingertips.
Feature By: Tony Clayton-Lea