The main island, Viti Levu, is home to Suva the main cruise port and Nadi the airport, and as such is the gateway to the archipelago. Backpacker travel is starting to grow here, based out of Nadi, thanks to more affordable options sprouting up around the airport and plenty of day trips from Nadi. A short drive away at Denarau Island, though not really an island, is where you’ll find the luxury resorts.
I was torn whether to include Socotra, given the horrific and ongoing humanitarian crises in Yemen. But, given Socotra it is some 600 odd kilometres away from the mainland, floating in the sea nearer the coast of Somalia than its home nation, I have decided to.

1. Dominica, Caribbean

The Komodo dragons, a giant lizard which can grow to 2.6 metres in length, may look docile while lounging around, but when they pick up the pace, a single bite can kill. The dragons are residents on a few of these unique islands and must always be visited with a local guide. Other islands in the park, such as Padar, are free of the big beasts, but offer incredible panoramic views from their highest points. Getting to Raja Ampat is quite a journey, once you’ve taken the one or two flights to Sorong, West Papua, a three-hour ferry connects you to the island of Wasier before smaller boats ferry you to remote island homestays. With some of the most diverse underwater conditions you’ll find, it indeed is a scuba divers paradise. So say goodbye to your phone signal, grab your mask, and head to one of the most unspoilt beauties in the world.
The rugged and mountainous island of Madeira, Portugal, is undoubtedly having its moment in the spotlight – in a big part, thanks to its relatively safe COVID status in 2021.
Mont Saint Michael Normandy

Whether it’s relaxing in an Onsen, visiting a temple overtaken by bunny rabbits, or enjoying a pristine sunset from a bridge overhanging the weathers coastline, Sado Island is a lesser-explored jewel to escape the crowds of Japan’s most populated cities.
Off the east coast of Australia, Fraser Island offered me some firsts. As the worlds largest island wholly made of sand, as in 120 kilometres of it, it completely fascinated me.

2. Raja Ampat, Indonesia

From crashing waterfalls without a soul in sight to rum distilleries and cocktails for days, there are countless reasons to visit Mauritius. None other than the hospitality and warmth of the locals. To start to get a true sampling of the island life, leave the resort and head to the central market in the capital of Port Louis before venturing off to explore the monkey-ridden hikes, tea plantations and religious temples. A bevvy of new AirBnB options are also making Mauritius a more affordable destination than many would imagine.
While Scotland is home to some of the best islands in the world, there is more than one reason why the small but stunning Isle of Skye has become so popular.

Viewpoints in Raja Ampat

Singapore’s reputation may be for high-rise tower blocks and modern architecture, but at the handful of Islands off this city-state, there are some surprises.

3. São Miguel, Azores, Portugal

You can snorkel or scuba-dive between tectonic plates here, visit black beaches covered in ‘diamonds’ of glacier ice, take a dip in the world famous warm blue lagoon or venture out on the road trip of a lifetime. Whether you spend your days marvelling at waterfalls and geothermal landscapes or climbing on top of glaciers and into ice caves, a trip to Iceland provides the ultimate winter playground for adventure lovers.
While the island has been cut off from tourism for some years, and the landscapes have likely changed since the UAE have set up a military base here, there is no denying it is one of the most unique and biodiverse islands in the world. While I haven’t visited personally, it has been on my bucket list since my good friend Nicole who visited many years ago introduced it to me. Many describe it as an alien island, thanks to the unique landscapes, trees, dunes and crystal clear waters: it is one unique island adventure you will never forget.
From late 2019, LATAM also launched a new weekly flight from São Paulo, making this hard and expensive to reach destination slightly more affordable and accessible.

4. The Falkland Islands

East of the Panama Canal is an archipelago of islands and sand specks. Although over 360 of these sandy escapes can be found, only around 50 of them are inhabited.
This gem of a country has a tiny airport, so it’s impossible to fly here long haul, rather you’ll need to change in a neighbouring island such as Antigua.
Personally, I always saw Singapore as more than a stopover. Partly due to its picturesque China town and little India, incredible street food, but also due to the islands such as Pulau Ubin.
Fiji felt like being welcomed home by friends from the first Bula! Arriving at customs with a guitar serenade put on by the airport, the island vibes, or Fiji time as the locals call it, began straight away. Laughter and smiles crack as often as coconuts here, and you can really tail your island experience to suit you.

5. Rottnest Island, Australia

Also, there is a distinct lack of resorts on the island like much of the Caribbean, and one of the highlights for me was the beach-side bungalows, stepping out on to the black sand in the morning to enjoy my coffee usually under a rainbow. Words can’t do this place justice, so you’ll have to go see it with your own eyes!
Aruba may be best known for its resort and palm-fringed beaches, bustling casinos and sometimes chaotic cruise port, but drive five minutes away from these, and you’ll find an untouched landscape ripe for adventures.

A happy Quokka on Rottnest Island

Raja Ampat, translated as the four kings, is a collection of Islands making up this archipelago. A remote adventure, during my time here we were limited to a few hours of electricity a day from a clapped out old generator, but the perfect sunsets and reef sharks swimming beneath our feet more than made up for any luke-warm beers we had lugged over from the main port.

6. Isle of Skye, Scotland

Beyond the obvious reasons to visit: remote sandy beaches, palm trees and lapping waves, they provide a fantastic place to island hop thanks to the relative proximity. A digital detox is ensured on many of the islands, and with family-run accommodation the norm here, it is still an authentic experience. Tourism only opened here in the 1940s, and The Guna Yala who are the indigenous people of the islands now share their culture with visitors. From Panama City, a three-hour jeep ride through a jungle will transfer you to the port to access the archipelago.
There are countless reasons that Indonesia is my favourite country, and Komodo National Park is one of those. A testament to the vast variety of wildlife and adventures that span Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, here you can come face to face with dragons.
Find yourself an empty beach in the south to round off an island escape that offers numerous unforgettable experiences.

7. Komodo National Park, Indonesia

I have no shame in admitting I’m an addict for the island life, but as someone who tires quickly of lazy days in the sand, I’m often looking for something a bit different. These unique island escapes each offer something special. Whether it’s a wildlife-based exploration, a fascinating geographical element, or a slice of culture you won’t find elsewhere, here is some inspiration from my past five years of travels.

A king penguin colony at Volunteer Point

8. Nisyros Island, Greece

Trek along the Levada walks (old irrigation channels, now turned popular trails), disappear into forests to reconnect with nature, sample the local rum punch drinks, or admire the year-round flowers of the island where it’s nearly always spring – especially during the flower parades or carnival. For a small island, Madeira packs a lot in. One of the absolute highlights is seeing the sunrise above the clouds from the highest peaks, home to one of the most impressive trails on the isle.
Once a monastery, and then a convent, and now one of the most famous tourist attractions in Normandy, and indeed France, the island of Mont St Michel is undoubtedly unique.
The island is linked by ferry or bridge to the mainland, and you’ll find a variety of attractions that are all crowd pleasers. From the incredible views that a hike around Quaraing, a set of towering rocks, to the magical and mystical fairy pools and fairy glen, the island provides ample opportunities to enjoy Scotlands famed nature and landscapes.

9. Madeira, Portugal

But that makes it feel all the more untouched, as only a handful of small planes arrive here delay. I visited during the off-season (June) which also meant there were no cruise ships in port, and most place I visited there were just a couple of other tourists. I’ve heard and can imagine that due to the mountains when the cruise ships are in, the main sights would get uncomfortably busy. So, I would suggest avoiding cruise season if you can.
This may be down to its car-free way of living, with bikes being the go to get around, or perhaps the crystal clear waters and tropical vibes. But really, I think the main reasons is the adorable Quokkas that call Rottnest Island home.
Firstly, this is not The Dominican Republic. This is The Commonwealth of Dominca, and it’s a beauty! The second best way to appreciate this incredible island of rugged landscapes, epic waterfalls, parrot enchanted rainforests and black sand beaches is to watch this video, the best way is to book yourself a flight pronto!
Off the coast of Perth, in Australias seemingly never-ending stretches of coastline and uninterrupted nature, Rottnest Island is slowly becoming famous world round.

10. Sado Island, Japan

Often referred to as the worlds happiest animals, thanks to their tendency to have a beaming smile and readiness for a selfie. Cycle the island, spot these cute critters, and enjoy some of the freshest seafood in the Pacific. Teamed up with a visit to Perth, one of the most remote cities in the world, and you’ve got yourself a sampler of Western Australia that might have you hooked for more.
Ponta do Sol Madeira
Isle of Skye
From exploring remote abandoned temples reclaimed by nature to heading into long closed down gold mining pits, this is an island far removed from the modern images of Japanese megapolises. Visit historic wooden fishing villages, take a ride in a traditional tub boat, and be sure to visit the Taiko Centro, a beloved historical drumming practice that is world-acclaimed, you can even have a lesson with a master.
Charter a private boat or join a tour to see some of the islands in one day, or take a live aboard for a more extended adventure. Most boat trips kick off from Labuan Bajo, Flores, accessible by air from various Indonesian airports.

11. Sri Lanka

Mauritius was truly one of the most surprising destinations for me, I knew the sands would be white, and the lapping waves would be calling, but it was the island adventures that really surprised me.
Cruising along the 'motorway' of Fraser Island

The island nation of Iceland has certainly not been without its tourism attention in recent years, and that’s all with good reason.
A Shinkansen train will deliver you to the port in just over two hours, and from here a hydrofoil will whisk you to the off-coast island in under an hour. With an impressive history of gold mining, it’s from here a fair chunk of Japans wealth originated from.

12. Aruba

I’ll round off my list with one of my favourite islands in the world, Bali. While it may be one of the most touristy spots on the list, you can still find your slice of island paradise if you know where to look. Sure, the island has its problems which I’ve talked about here, but the good far outweighs the bad.
The island nation of Mauritius, tucked away off the south-eastern African coast might conjure up ideas of untouched beaches and honeymoon escapes, but there is much more to discover beyond the beaches.
One of the nine main islands and the capital of the Azores archipelago, São Miguel is not just the perfect launching off point to explore some of the lesser-visited islands but a true gem itself.

While many visitors will stick to Kuta or Seminyak, if you head inland, or to the north or east coasts you’ll find a much more authentic experience. Bali is a unique island in comparison to the rest of Indonesia as it is a Hindu Island, and you can spot this from the temples to the traditional festivals that can often close down streets. Travelling in Bali means living on island time and embracing these events, the journey is as remarkable as the destination.

13. Socotra, Yemen

Elephant Safari Sri Lanka
Nisyros Island is quite small which makes the whitewashed villages that circle the volcano crater the ideal place to switch off and escape reality. Complete with those white streets, blue paint, and hanging flower pots, you get all those Greece vibes, while feeling like you have stepped back in time by at least 30-years. Tours to the crater allow you to walk across it and admire the bubbling sulphur fumes that rise from the cracks at close up proximity.
One of the best islands in Europe for sure, the landscapes vary depending on which part of the island you are on. Whether it’s dark-sand and stone coves surrounded by some of the highest sea-cliffs in the world, terraces of banana plantations rising to epic view-points, or the dramatic fern-covered, waterfall-tumbling, north with its own micro-climate – every corner is a beauty!

14. Fraser Island, Australia

The overgrown, jungle-like vibe of the island feels a world away from downtown Singapore, and it’s best explored by bicycle. Once you’ve taken the little bum-boat from near Changi, you’ll quickly be delivered to the mangroves and a wooden boardwalk over the waves. Large lizards run freely, and it feels very much like you have ventured to Jurassic Park, a far cry from modern Singapore. If you visit the lion city, do yourself a favour and take a day trip here to reconnect with nature.
Iceland Winter Photography

Come to the Caribbean I thought. Relax on the beaches, I thought. Have a rum punch, I thought. But no, Dominica had other ideas for me; the first being throwing myself off a canyon edge into the cyan waters being illuminated by the sun, and boy it was EPIC!

15. San Blas Islands, Panama

Cabo Girao as seen from Camara do Lobos
Nowadays, the island with its lush green forests, rugged rock formations and crashing waves, carved out over thousands of years, is sometimes compared to a Japanese Hawaii – and although not volcanic, evidence of sea lava from thousands of years ago can be spotted.

16. Fiji

While the tightening of visitor permits came in late 2019, and another planned entry hike to the substantial conservation fee are due to follow, it’s still somewhere well worth visiting.
Arikok National Park
In warmer climates, cycling provides a great way to venture between the colourful and often wooden houses of the small fishing villages, while winter adventures are more likely to bring the northern lights on clear, long evenings. Wildlife spotting is of course high on the agenda here, and while the price tag for visiting Norway is always high, I don’t know anyone who has returned from the Lofoten islands disappointed.

17. Mauritius

If the tides are low, you can walk or bus across to the island, but at high tides, it returns to being completely cut off from the mainland as it once was when it was a strategic defence location.
Hike at sunrise for some fantastic views of Mount Batur, visit the cultural hub of Ubud for temples and dense jungles inhabited by monkeys, or head to the black rocky beaches in the north for scuba diving, dolphin spotting or just some R&R without the crowds. From the multi-coloured lakes and crashing waterfalls in the centre of the island to the hip vegan cafes of Canggu, the Island of the Gods somehow has me falling in love a little more each time I visit.

18. Mont St Michel, France

The pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is basking in its moment on the world tourism stage. While I’m sure plenty has changed since my visit in 2015, the sheer beauty and charm of the country surely won’t have.
While this is a day trip rather than an island escape, if you venture to northern France this island should undoubtedly be on your agenda. You can walk through the Abbey, explore the houses and shops at the lower levels, and even check into a hotel if you wish. Located just 1 kilometre off the coast of Normandy, it’s an easy island to access. Many people don’t know that across the channel, in Cornwall, England, a similar island defence system can be found at St Michael’s Mount.

19. Pulau Ubin, Singapore

Some are tiny sand cays, others are islands with communities, but with rising tide levels the concern of many disappearing is real.
Another one on my bucket list, the Lofoten Islands in Norway are starting to garner more tourism interest as images of the snowy landscape, and colourful houses grace more and more Instagram feeds.
Aruba Travel Guide

20. Lofoten Islands, Norway

It may be a small island, but it certainly packs a punch when it comes to outside activities. From the rugged beaches and incredible snorkelling to the slightly deeper scuba diving adventures around shipwrecks and sunken aeroplanes, the water life here ticks all the boxes.
Located at the bottom of South America, a regular stop on route to nearby Antarctica by exploration vessels, The Falkland Islands is home to some 500,000 pairs of breeding penguins spanning across five breeds. That’s not the only wildlife on its sheet though, with countless birdlife, dolphins, seals, sea lions, whales and more, completing the mix and making it an ideal place for photography.
Socotra Island © Nicole Smooth

21. Iceland

Culturally, the Aruba Carnival, which runs from January to March each year is the big draw. As the streets come alive with colourful and bejewelled outfits, and steel drums and brass bands ring out through the streets, the passion and hospitality of the locals shine. Fear not though, for if you visit outside of these months the Thursday festivals in San Nicolas, the second city which is being revived through incredible street art and colourful facades, will give you a taster that will leave you wanting to return.
If you’re in Tokyo and looking for the opposite side of Japan, Sado Island will oblige.
On the clear stretches of beaches that act as a runway for flights to land, you can cruise along the sand in your 4WD, being sure to give way to sunbathers or incoming aeroplanes.

22. Bali, Indonesia

If you are seeking a remote, rugged and penguin filled escape – look no further than the hauntingly beautiful Falkland Islands – my most recent island destination that feels like a dream now.
Perth, Fremantle and Rottnest Island

Fiji still felt quite real to me, as soon as I stepped out of the resorts, and I think that’s something you won’t always find on heavily touristed islands or at the resorts of the Maldives Whether you want to relax on a beach with a massage, do water sports off a private island, stroll through lush national parks or embrace the cultural side of island life, Fiji offers everything up in a safe, family-friendly environment.

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