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Choosing the most beautiful islands in the world is highly subjective. You may be seduced by the sultry tropical landscapes of volcanic Tahiti, or prefer the pink sand beaches of Bermuda. Some of us love islands packed with history, like Malta, while others prefer to see nature at its most extreme, like in Iceland, where volcanoes and glaciers shape the landscape.

Whether you prefer to spend your time getting to know one or two islands intimately, or island-hop through some of the most beautiful archipelagos in the world, you’re sure to be enchanted by that special island magic.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia, one of the most beautiful islands in the world

St. Lucia

Lush St. Lucia has to be one of the most spectacular islands in the Caribbean. Its western skyline is dominated by the jagged twin peaks of the Pitons, two ancient volcanic plugs draped in dense rainforest. Hike up one of these for sweeping views of the coastline below, nearby islands visible in the heat haze.

St. Lucia is fringed by dazzling beaches. Reduit Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in St. Lucia, a long sweep of pale gold sand in Rodney Bay. There’s plenty to do here, from kayaking and paddleboarding to playing around on the inflatable water park.

Pretty shoreline of Reduit Beach, St. Lucia

Reduit Beach, St. Lucia

St. Lucia also boasts what’s claimed to be the world’s only drive-in volcano. Spend a couple of hours exploring the crater of the dormant Qualibou Volcano near Soufrière. This is an otherworldly spot of boiling mud pools, the smell of sulfur heavy in the air.

A fun thing to do in St. Lucia while you’re here is to visit the mud baths. Here, you can smear yourself with gloop, standing in the sun while it dries, before washing it off in the natural hot pools. Afterward, your skin feels as smooth as a baby’s—and you’ll have fun laughing at your muddy selfies.


Iceland, one of the most beautiful islands in the world


Lying across the division of the North American and European tectonic plates, Iceland is like nowhere else. Fire and ice have shaped the entire landscape—an otherworldly scene of pillowy black lava fields and vast, green glacier-scraped valleys.

Spectacular waterfalls tumble over sheer black cliffs, while enormous glaciers drape over the peaks of ancient volcanoes. In summer, wild lupine flowers turn the countryside into a sea of mauve.

Iceland looks small on the map, but it’s surprisingly large. Roads snake around the fjord-indented coastline, making any journey as much fun as the destination. Explore the countryside around Reykjavik, the cool capital, learn about Viking history, and bathe in natural hot springs.

Head to the north, and the frilled coastline of the Westfjords, for vast horizons, tiny fishing villages, and fantastic whale watching.

Isla Bartolomé, Galapagos Islands

Isla Bartolomé, Galapagos, one of the most beautiful islands in the world

Isla Bartolomé, Galapagos Islands

All of the Galapagos Islands are extraordinary, and each is beautiful in its own right. What all the islands have in common is pristine landscapes and an abundance of wildlife. Many species, like the prehistoric-looking land and marine iguanas, are indigenous to the islands and found nowhere else on Earth.

Picking the most beautiful island in the Galapagos will be a near-impossible task, but Bartolomé is one of the most impressive. This barren landscape is defined by Pinnacle Rock, a pointed volcanic plug that plunges into the sea at the end of a long stretch of golden beach.

Golden sands of Pinnacle Rock in Isla Bartolomé, Galapagos Islands

Pinnacle Rock in Isla Bartolomé, Galapagos Islands

Swimming around the base of Pinnacle Rock is thrilling as you drift over underwater landscapes teeming with fish, sea turtles, and rays. Every now and then, you’ll see the bullet-like form of the Galapagos penguin, a small, black-and-white bird that’s both cute to look at and impressively agile underwater.

Get the best view of Pinnacle Rock from the top of the island, accessed via a series of wooden walkways and steps that the National Park Service has installed over the ancient lava field. Look down over the rock and into the distance, where you’ll see black lava fields around Sullivan Bay, and craters and tuff cones dotted all over this otherworldly landscape.

Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia, one of the most beautiful islands in the world

Nusa Dua Beach in Bali, Indonesia

Beautiful Bali, one of the most beautiful islands in the world, is a paradise of steaming volcanoes, emerald rice terraces, cascading waterfalls, and sandy beaches. This is a deeply spiritual island, the locals following the Hindu faith, with colorful shrines and temples dotting the landscape.

Head to gorgeous Nusa Dua Beach, a sweep of gold sand lined with bustling restaurants. It’s the perfect place to try some delicious Balinese cuisine or join a cooking class.

Take a trip inland to dreamy Ubud, famous for its artists and its laid-back lifestyle. Here, you’ll find galleries, health food restaurants, traditional Balinese healers, and yoga classes. Visit the Sacred Monkey Forest to see long-tailed macaques in the wild.

Cliffside view of Uluwatu Temple in Bali, Indonesia

Uluwatu Temple in Bali, Indonesia

Visiting Uluwatu Temple is one of the best things to do in Bali. One of the island’s most dramatic temples, it’s perched on a sheer, 230-foot cliff, waves pounding the base. There’s a performance of Kecak dance here at 6pm every day—a wonderful opportunity to watch a local folklore ritual and take photos of the dancers against a backdrop of fiery sunset.

Mykonos, Greece

Mykonos, one of the most beautiful islands in the world

Mykonos Town, Greece

The beauty of Mykonos lies in its beaches, long stretches of golden sand framed by rocky cliffs. The island itself is quite barren, but vacationers come for the beach scene, the watersports, and the near-perfect Mykonos Town, with its archetypal Cycladic architecture.

The beaches of Mykonos are famous for their anything-goes atmosphere; head for Paradise and Super Paradise for soft sand, warm water, and beautiful people as well as scenery.

The island has plenty of off-the-beaten-path beaches, too. Ftelia, with pale yellow sand, shallow water, and flat rocks at either end, is one of the loveliest and is a complete contrast to the busier stretches on the island’s southern shore.

Scenic view of the Windmills of Mykonos, Greece

Windmills of Mykonos, Greece

Mykonos Town is undeniably pretty, where you’ll see blinding-white cube houses with pots of scarlet geraniums and great cascades of purple bougainvillea providing pops of color.

One of the best things to do in Mykonos is to visit Little Venice, the former fishermen’s quarter overlooked by a row of ancient windmills.

Houses with painted balconies open directly onto the sea, the water so clear you can spot sea urchins on the rocks. The old houses are now all chic bars and restaurants where you can sit and watch the world go by.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts, one of the most beautiful islands in the world

St. Kitts

Pretty St. Kitts is blessed with everything from rolling countryside to jungly mountain scenery and blissful beaches. Frigate Bay is the place to go for watersports and a decent array of bars and restaurants. Head further afield for quieter, pristine sands like those at Sand Bank Bay, where there’s much less development and far fewer people.

The landscape of St. Kitts is dominated by Mount Liamuiga, a stratovolcano that rises to 3,792 feet, making it the tallest mountain in the Leeward Islands and one of the highest peaks in the Caribbean.

People riding the St. Kitts Scenic Railway

St. Kitts Scenic Railway

There are hiking trails on the mountain’s forested slopes, or you can take in the island’s beauty in a less-challenging way aboard the narrow gauge St. Kitts Scenic Railway.

The railway was originally built to bring sugar cane from the plantations to the processing plant in Basseterre, the island’s capital. Now, it’s purely for sightseeing, taking you through rolling countryside and along remote, wave-pounded shorelines on a three-hour journey. You’ll see the remnants of the old sugar plantations and learn about the island’s past during the ride.

Read: Best Things to Do in St. Kitts & Nevis

Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece, one of the most beautiful islands in the world

Oia in Santorini, Greece

A semicircle of sheer, black, ochre and red cliffs falling into a deep sapphire sea, Santorini, the rim of a vast, dormant volcano, is a star attraction in the Cyclades island chain. Its clifftop capital, Fira, is sprinkled across the caldera rim like icing sugar.

Explore Oia at the northern tip of the island’s curve—its white cube houses are a sharp contrast to the deep blue sky. Lose yourself in the back alleys, each one with a stupendous view across the caldera, and stop to try mezze dips with views of the sapphire sea far below.

Tiny harbor in Nea Kameni, Greece

Nea Kameni, Greece

Or join a hike on the island of Nea Kameni, a black lava shield squatting in the middle of the caldera, its sulfur-encrusted crater wafting pungent fumes. At Palea Kameni, the island’s smaller neighbor, you can swim in curiously fizzy water, drifting through streams of bubbles rising from the sea floor.

Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Clear water of The Baths of Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

The Baths of Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Everybody has their favorite when it comes to both the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. However, sleepy Virgin Gorda is regarded by many as the most beautiful, its shoreline dotted with smooth rocks framing stretches of powdery white beach. The snorkeling and diving here are spectacular, too.

The best way to take in the island’s beauty is to explore The Baths, protected as a national park. Here, massive granite boulders, some 40 feet across, are tumbled along a stretch of soft sand, hidden lagoons, and rock pools.

Follow the trail through the rocks via a series of steps, ladders, and rope handrails to the beach at Devil’s Bay, one of the Caribbean’s hidden gems. All you’ll need is a pair of water shoes and a waterproof camera as you pick your way across shallow pools and natural caves under some of the rocks.

Needless to say, the photo opportunities here are spectacular, and there are plenty of swimming stops along the way.

Tasmania, Australia

Scenic view from Mount Wellington in Tasmania, Australia

View from Mount Wellington in Tasmania, Australia

Isolated Tasmania has long been overlooked as one of the most intriguing and beautiful islands in the world, but it’s enjoying a boom in interest as Australians discover the charms of their own backyard.

Visitors from further afield come to this wild, mountainous spot for the history, the culinary scene, and the superb art galleries, as well as the untamed nature.

Head up Mount Wellington, which towers 4,170 feet over the south of the island. The views from here down over Hobart, the capital, and the hills and inlets that surround it, are magnificent.

One of the best ways to enjoy Mount Wellington is to cycle down from the summit, an activity that provides a thrilling experience and great scenery with minimal effort.

Tasmanian devil spotted in a zoo

Tasmanian devil

Tasmania is famed for its wildlife, too, although the chances of spotting the elusive Tasmanian devil in the wild are slim. Instead, get to know these enchanting marsupials at the Unzoo in Taranna, near Hobart.

Art lovers should head to MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, an extraordinary private collection housed underground. After your visit, stop for wine at the cellar door of the Moorilla Winery, just one of Tasmania’s excellent producers.

Read: Things to Do in Hobart

Ibiza, Spain

Ibiza, Spain, one of the most beautiful islands in the world

Dalt Vila in Ibiza, Spain

Boho-chic Ibiza is famed for its summer party scene, as well as the beauty of Ibiza Town, specifically the hilltop D’Alt Vila.

But there are plenty of quieter spots away from the crowds of glossy summer visitors. Here, you’ll find pretty, secluded coves for swimming and snorkeling, and whitewashed villages dozing in the sunshine.

Join a guided walk that follows rocky clifftop paths past citrus and olive groves, with tantalizing glimpses of the sparkling Mediterranean.

Aerial view of Es Vedra in Ibiza, Spain

Es Vedra in Ibiza, Spain

One of the best things to do in Ibiza is to take a jet ski tour to the craggy islet of Es Vedra, which some believe to be the birthplace of the Phoenician goddess Tanit.

Head to Ses Salines in the far south of Ibiza, where endless skies are reflected in the still waters of the salt pans, and the long beach is backed by a series of scrub-covered dunes. This is one of the island’s most fashionable sunbathing spots, with gleaming superyachts dropping anchor offshore and chillout tunes emanating from the cool beach clubs adding to the vibe.


Golden sands of a beach in Jamaica

Beach in Jamaica

One of the most beautiful islands in the world, verdant, hilly Jamaica is encircled by golden beaches, the spine of the misty Blue Mountains to the east. Its Arawak name, Xayamaca, means “land of rivers and springs”.

There are plenty of ways to commune with nature. Climbing the Dunn’s River Falls near Ocho Rios is one of the most popular. The Dunn’s River tumbles more than 900 feet over a series of natural travertine rock ledges, which simply invite further exploration, especially on a hot day.

Join a guide and pick your way up the falls from the bottom, stopping along the way to cool off in rock pools behind the misty veil of the cascades.

Beautiful landscape of the Blue Hole, Jamaica

Blue Hole, Jamaica

Also near Ocho Rios is one of Jamaica’s best places to visit, the Blue Hole. This limestone sinkhole features a greeny-blue water, hence the name. Jump off the rocks into the silky water, scramble up a waterfall, play on a rope swing, or explore a cave.

Much of the beauty that Jamaica is known for comes from its people and their distinctive culture. The island’s motto is, “Out of many, one people,” and you’ll discover influences from Africa, India, Britain, Spain, Portugal, and China, as well as the original Taino people, as you explore.

While you’re here, take time to learn about reggae, part of the island’s identity, and sample sizzling, spicy jerk dishes.

Hydra, Greece

Busy port of Hydra, Greece

Hydra, Greece

Car-free Hydra is one of the most seductive Greek Islands. Instead of traffic, you’ll have the sound of donkeys braying and cockerels crowing on the breeze as the soundtrack to your vacation.

Hydra has long since attracted artists and writers to its rocky shores. The eponymous capital, which cascades down to a pretty port over a natural amphitheater, enjoyed a cultural heyday in the 1960s. Songwriter Leonard Cohen was one of its most famous residents then, and you’ll often encounter buskers in leafy squares strumming “Hallelujah” and other Cohen songs.

Because there are no cars here, you get around by water taxi or on foot, following the rocky coast path to tiny Greek beaches sloping into the warm, clear Aegean.

Or stay in town and find a taverna looking out over the boats bobbing in the harbor. A chilled white from the mainland and fresh fish straight from the grill are the perfect accompaniment to the view.

Sardinia, Italy

Colorful waterfront of Cagliari in Sardinia, Italy

Cagliari in Sardinia, Italy

Sardinia is the second-largest of the islands in the Mediterranean after Sicily. Much of the island is wilderness, the almost impenetrable, mountainous interior crossed only by goat tracks that connect tiny rural communities.

The coastline is indented with dazzling white beaches and bays of such iridescent turquoise that you’d think you were in the Caribbean.

Sardinia is part of Italy, but has its own distinctive culture, particularly in the cuisine; the cheeses and pasta dishes here are delicious, while the island produces some excellent wines.

Embrace the outdoors with a hike on Mount Arcosu, the habitat of the rare Sardinian deer. Head to Italy’s longest beach, Poetto Beach, in Cagliari. It’s a paradise of soft sand, watersports, and kite surfing.


Pretty waterfront of Valletta, Malta

Valletta, Malta

Malta’s beauty is in its spectacular architecture, the legacy of the Knights of St. John, who built some of the most dazzling palaces and mansions over the 16th and 17th centuries.

The capital, Valletta, is a warren of alleyways and palaces defended by towering, honey-colored walls that glow gold in the sunshine.

While many of the buildings appear austere from the outside, their interiors are a different story. Brace yourself for Caravaggio’s disturbing masterpiece, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, in the almost shockingly opulent St. John’s Co-Cathedral.

Or visit the Grand Master’s Palace for an insight into the artistic tastes of the wealthy, somewhat decadent knights.

Valletta’s military history is extraordinary, too. The story is told at Fort St. Elmo’s National War Museum, which documents life on this barren, rocky island from the Bronze Age through the Roman Empire to the First and Second World Wars.

Read: Best Things to Do in Malta


Beautiful waterfront of Limassol, Cyprus

Limassol, Cyprus

Cyprus basks in the far Eastern Mediterranean and enjoys a sunny climate year-round. While its coastline is heavily developed, the interior of the island is exceptionally beautiful.

The Troodos Mountains form a craggy spine across the center, their foothills neatly striped with vineyards. The upper slopes are rich in ancient forests of indigenous trees, including oak, pine, and cedar. Cool streams trickle along valley floors, some crossed by ancient stone bridges built by the Venetians.

Lush landscape of Caledonia Falls, Cyprus

Caledonia Falls, Cyprus

You can explore this pristine landscape on a 4×4 adventure, or perhaps follow one of the many hiking trails. One of the most fun is Caledonia Falls, where the trail follows the river downhill, occasionally crossing it via a series of stepping stones. Your reward at the bottom is a dip in a deep, cool mountain pool.

Cyprus is rich in history and mythology. Admire the exquisite mosaics at Paphos, adorning what was once a series of grand Roman villas.

West of Limassol, admire the towering sea stack of Petra tou Romiou. This rock is said to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love, who emerged from the foam here. Swim around the rock and, legend claims, you will achieve eternal youth and vitality.

Tahiti, French Polynesia

Quaint town of Papeete in Tahiti, French Polynesia

Papeete in Tahiti, French Polynesia

Jagged mountains cloaked in dense jungle, long ribbons of waterfall, and shimmering lagoons in cobalt blue are just some of the factors that make Tahiti one of the most beautiful islands in the world.

You may not find white sand beaches here—they’re more likely to be sparkling black—but the island’s volcanic nature simply adds to its allure.

Everything here feels more intense; the vibrantly colored birds, the sweetness of the giant pineapples in Papeete Market, and the intoxicating fragrance from the tiare flower, the gardenia that perfumes the famous mono’i oil.

Lush landscape of Papenoo Valley in Tahiti, French Polynesia

Papenoo Valley in Tahiti, French Polynesia

Explore the interior on a 4×4 safari through the Papenoo Valley, a landscape of towering cliffs and plunging waterfalls.

Snorkel over coral reefs, where fish in every color of the rainbow flit around dazzling coral heads and rays glide through the sunlit shallows. Take a sunset catamaran sail and admire the fiery colors streaking the sky as you enjoy a cocktail.

Crete, Greece

Pink sands of Elafonisi in Crete, Greece

Elafonisi in Crete, Greece

The largest of the Greek Islands, Crete is also one of the most dramatic. High mountains are criss-crossed by deep gorges, while lush valleys bask in the sunshine.

Crete’s beaches range from rocky coves to stretches of pinky-white sand at Elafonisi, or near Chania, Agioi Apostoloi, a string of golden semicircles fringed by pines and eucalyptus.

Take in this natural beauty with a hike through Therissos Gorge, near Chania, a rocky chasm surrounded by citrus groves and vines. The gorge soon narrows as you follow the road, hemmed in by sheer-sided cliffs. A stream runs along the rocky floor, and dense vegetation creates welcome shade.

Crete has man-made beauty to admire, too. Take a trip to see the Palace of Knossos, an impressive archaeological site dating back to the Bronze Age and famous as the locale that gave rise to the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur.

Colorful Old Port of Chania in Crete, Greece

Old Port of Chania in Crete, Greece

Wander around the colorful old port of Chania, where the boats are overlooked by grand mansions built by the Venetians and adorned in pastel hues.

Head into the White Mountains to admire tiny Cretan villages seemingly forgotten by time. In these close-knit communities, the way of life is simple but wholesome, which helps explain the impressive longevity of Crete’s rural population.

Kangaroo Island, Australia

Kangaroos on a beach in Kangaroo Island, Australia

Kangaroo Island, Australia

Pristine Kangaroo Island (“KI” to the locals) lies off the south coast of Australia, near Adelaide. This unspoiled spot is famed for its endless beaches, rolling interior, abundant local produce, and laid-back lifestyle.

And, of course, the wildlife; you’ll see seals, dolphins, koalas, echidnas (if you’re lucky), and plenty of kangaroos, with none of the animals in cages or enclosures.

Admire the rock formations and the fragrant gum forests of Flinders Chase National Park. Spot Australian sea lions lounging on great swathes of powdery white, surf-pounded beach.

Head for the farmer’s market to taste local cheeses, olive oil, and honey made by KI bees. And if you’re feeling adventurous, visit Little Sahara, an area of towering dunes of white sand. Rent a sandboard and try your hand at surfing down the soft slopes.

Corfu, Greece

People relaxing on Paleokastritsa Bay in Corfu, Greece

Paleokastritsa Bay in Corfu, Greece

Long, skinny Corfu basks in the blue Ionian Sea. The island is fringed by a necklace of white sand beaches backed by pine forests, the hills inland green with olive and citrus groves.

Beautiful Paleokastritsa Bay is one of the best beaches, where the contrast of bottle green, white, and the astonishing aquamarine of the water is especially pleasing.

Corfu Town, too, is one of the most beautiful of the Greek island capitals. The architecture here bears strong Venetian influences, with elegant, pastel-colored townhouses.

You’ll find other influences, too. The colonnaded Liston is Corfu Town’s most famous street, built by the French and said to be modeled on the swish Rue de Rivoli in Paris.

Just outside the town, visit the Italianate Achilleion Palace, the one-time summer home of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria, set amid exquisite formal gardens.

Mallorca, Spain

Mallorca, Spain, one of the most beautiful islands in the world

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

The administrative center of Spain’s Balearic Islands, Mallorca is one of the loveliest spots in the Mediterranean.

The Serra de Tramuntana mountains form a dramatic spine along the west coast, plunging into rocky coves. The central plains are a sea of pale pink in early spring, when the almond trees blossom.

Palma, the elegant capital, sprawls around a wide, curving bay crammed with gleaming yachts, the coast beyond the urban area opening out into a series of scalloped coves, or caletas. To the west, you’ll find turquoise inlets perfect for swimming, sailing, and sea kayaking, each Mallorcan beach backed by shady pines.

Historic La Seu Cathedral in Mallorca, Spain

La Seu Cathedral in Mallorca, Spain

While Palma itself is worth exploring, particularly for the magnificent La Seu Cathedral and the tangled alleys of the Gothic Quarter, there’s plenty to see out of town. Ride the vintage train to the honey-colored hill town of Sóller, surrounded by pinewoods and orange groves, for one of the best views of the countryside.


Couple exploring Jobson's Cove Beach, Bermuda

Jobson’s Cove Beach, Bermuda

Enchanting Bermuda is a delightful combination of inviting beaches, many in shades of pink, and bucolic country lanes that look like a slice of rural Britain in the tropics, with their flower-filled gardens and stone walls.

The whole island is fringed by coral reefs, and it’s a sensational place to explore for divers and snorkelers.

Take time to explore the island at a slow place so you can take in all its verdant beauty. The Bermuda Railway Trail, a former railway line that’s now a hiking and cycling trail, extends for 18 miles. It crosses some of the loveliest countryside and coastline, much of it shaded by lush greenery.

Then there are those famous pink beaches. Horseshoe Bay Beach is one of Bermuda’s best beaches; in fact, it’s often included in lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world. A perfect semicircle of pale pink sand is framed by limestone rocks at either end and backed by low dunes. Come here to sunbathe, swim, snorkel, or simply take in the dreamy setting.

Couple on a catamaran in Bermuda


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