Summer has finally arrived. Yet many of us find ourselves midway through the year slightly burnt out, stressed and in desperate need of a good vacation. For those of us looking for an exciting place to relax, disconnect and get the heck away from it all – perhaps all we need is a bit of “water, water, everywhere.” Island holidays are ideal. While it might take a bit of effort to arrive, once you’re there – you can sit back, relax, explore and enjoy your own little piece of heaven.
Here are 12 of our favorite islands, and of course – as “island” doesn’t require tropical temperatures, we’ve included some cooler destinations that are famed for their wild, natural beauty or cultural heritage.
1. Corsica, France
The French refer to their island of Corsica as the “’île de beauté” and once you’ve seen it for yourself, you’ll understand why. While part of France, this beautiful Mediterranean island is actually located closer to Tuscany than to mainland France. Having formerly been part of the Italian Republic of Genoa – the character of Corsica today still very much reflects both its French and Italian influences. Visitors will notice this interesting blend in the local cuisine, culture and Corsican language. The birthplace of Napoleon, Corsica is famed for its wild, natural beauty in areas like the Scandola Nature Reserve. In addition to being the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean, Corsica has lovely forests and hundreds of beaches. It’s no surprise that some of the world’s best hiking trails can be found on this island like the GR20. For tourists seeking unspoiled, natural beauty, delicious cuisine, very good wine, hiking, diving and swimming, it’s hard to top Corsica.
2. Rhodes, Greece
The largest of the Dodecanese islands, Rhodes is actually closer to Turkey than it is to mainland Greece. Rhodes has been a popular tourist destination since the ancient times. In fact, throughout the ancient world, the island was best known for being home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Colossus of Rhodes, a massive statue of the Greek Titan Helios. The island has been visited by many of history’s most interesting characters including Saint Paul the Apostle who traveled to the island of Rhodes in order to spread Christianity. Today many visitors to Rhodes visit the fantastic archeological site of the Acropolis of Lindos and Rhodes’ Medieval Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within Rhodes’ historic city walls, visitors encounter boutiques, street vendors, art galleries and a lovely ambience. Those who venture out a bit more will find traditional, isolated mountain villages and the some of the cleanest, most beautiful beaches in all of Greece.
3. Easter Island, Chile
Located in the Pacific Ocean, the Polynesian island of Easter Island is officially part of a country located over 2000 miles away: Chile. And while the island’s beaches are insanely beautiful and it’s a paradise for scuba divers and its volcanic craters certainly merit a visit – Easter Island is best known for its moai statues. Believed to be between 330-900 years old, the aboriginal Rapa Nui people constructed these colossal statues throughout the island, and today there are almost 900 still standing. The way the native islanders physically transported the moai has always remained something of a mystery (click here for an interesting article on this) This volcanic island is one of the most isolated, mysterious places in the world; its nearest neighbor is located over 1000 miles away, and the demise of the native population is still highly debated. Because of Easter Island’s rich cultural heritage, the island’s fantastic Rapa Nui National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
4. Sicily, Italy
The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily very much feels like its own country and not just a region of Italy. Sicily became a Greek colony just under 2800 years ago, and since then – many cultures have passed through and left their mark: Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantine Greeks, Arabs, Berbers, Jews, Normans and Spaniards. Yes, everyone’s been there, and the “visitors” haven’t stopped coming! Sicily remains a favorite island vacation destination for many. It’s a mecca for antiquity fans with Greek and Roman archeological sites like the breathtaking Valley of the Temples and the Villa Romana del Casale. It offers vacationers everything: heavenly beaches, fantastic wine, delicious food and marvelous sightseeing. In Sicily you can visit one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Mount Etna, check out your favorite Godfather filming locations, see Ragusa’s gorgeous baroque architecture in Ragusa and then snorkel in the transparent, turquoise sea near Taormina.
5. Isle of Islay, Scotland
Found off the west coast of Scotland, the beautiful Isle of Islay (pronounced Eye-la) is Scotland’s fifth largest island. As part of The Inner Hebrides island chain, Islay is commonly called “the Queen of the Hebrides.” Home to prehistoric monuments, lovely villages like Port Charlotte, and friendly locals (25% of whom still speak Scottish Gaelic), Islay is truly a relaxing place that will take you far and away from the hustle and bustle of our modern world. With over 130 miles of sandy coastline, this island contains incredible wildlife and picturesque landscapes. It’s a wonderful place to cycle, fish and play golf. That being said – many vacationers to Islay have another activity on their sightseeing agenda: tasting single malt whiskey! Islay is famed for its whiskey production. It’s actually a major industry on the island, which is home to working whiskey distilleries.
6. Santorini, Greece
Arguably the best-known and most breathtaking of all the Greek islands, Santorini (one of the Cyclades islands) is interesting, historic and unimaginably picturesque. Santorini’s volcanic origins are geologically fascinating. The island’s formation – and in particular its caldera – created landscapes and panoramic views that are dramatically beautiful and quite rare. Many vacationers travel to scenic Santorini to sunbathe on one of its many beautiful beaches – which are home to transparent, azure waters and black, red or white sand depending on the beach. The postcard-like village of Oia is also extremely popular because of its famous sunset views. While in Santorini, visitors can relax in local cafes, check out the many jewelry boutiques, or visit the local wineries to taste some of the island’s distinguished wines. It’s also worth noting that after the island of Crete – nowhere else in the world has as interesting archeological artifacts and ruins belonging to the ancient Minoan civilization. Santorini’s remarkably well-preserved site of Akrotiri is often compared to the ruins of Pompeii.
7. Korčula, Croatia
Surrounded by the azure waters of the Adriatic Sea, Korčula is just one of over a thousand islands residing off Croatia’s superb coastline. This picturesque island is best known for its medieval history, olive oil and fantastic wines. In fact, people have been producing wine on Korcula since the times of the Ancient Greeks! While exploring Korčula vacationers are taken in by its beautiful bays, quiet towns, wonderful hiking paths, family wineries, olive groves and fruit orchards. The most frequently visited area of the island is Korčula’s Old Town, which was a city of utmost importance during the Middle Ages. Defensively fortified by thick walls, for many years Korčula was part of the Republic of Venice. It is even rumored to be the birthplace of explorer-merchant Marco Polo.
8. Guernsey, Channel Islands
Found just 30 miles off the coast of France’s Normandy, the beautiful Channel Island of Guernsey is home to a distinctly more British culture than French one. And although there are people who still speak Guernsey’s Norman language (Guernesiais) the primary language spoken on the island is English. Guernsey (along with several nearby Channel Islands) is a possession of the British Crown, though it is not part of the United Kingdom nor the European Union. This Channel Island is home to interesting history, a rich maritime heritage and gorgeous natural beauty. Neolithic monuments can be found throughout the island – as can German fortifications from World War II; Guernsey was occupied by Nazi troops for five years, and before their arrival, the local islanders sent their children to safety in England. Guernsey also has an interesting art and literary heritage. In fact, Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables while living in exile in Guernsey, and visitors today can still visit his home in the lovely harbor town of St. Peter Port.
9. Phuket, Thailand
Located in the Andaman Sea southwest of the mainland, Phuket is the largest island in Thailand. Home to beautiful beaches, mountains, mangrove forests, dramatic waterfalls and rainforests, Phuket lures vacationers with loads of exciting activities, a great social scene and splendid nature. While visiting tropical Phuket, it’s well worth exploring the island’s local fishing villages and rural, Buddhist temples. Visitors here can snorkel, scuba dive, fish or sunbathe on one of the island’s sandy beaches – some of which are more social, while others feel much more remote and intimate. Phuket is an ideal destination for those who want to relax, kayak, hike through the rainforest, explore the national parks – or ride an elephant. And for golfers, Phuket is home to many excellent golf courses.
10. Menorca, Spain
Of the four Balearic Islands, Menorca (or Minorca as it’s also written) is the most remote and for the most part, the most quiet. Menorca’s strategic location in the Mediterranean has resulted in it being quite the melting pot over the past few thousand years and unsurprisingly, it’s a fascinating place for history lovers. The island is speckled with megalithic monuments. Romans, pirates, Vandals, Jews, Byzantine Greeks, Moors, Turks, Christian Spaniards and the British have all called Menorca home. While exploring the island, you’ll come across charming fishing villages, wildflowers and incredible beaches. And while it is quieter than its neighbors Ibiza and Mallorca, Menorca contains truly stunning natural beauty, which led to it being made a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. It hosts lively, traditional summer festivals like Festes de Sant Joan in Ciutadella and the food of Menorca, ah… the food – is divine. Be sure to try the local lobster stew (caldereta de langosta).
11. The Aran Islands, Ireland
The three Aran Islands (Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer) lie in Galway Bay just off Ireland’s west coast. A brief ferry ride to these islands transports visitors back in time once they encounter the islands’ picturesque, rugged beauty and incredible prehistoric forts. Of the forts, the most famous one can be found on Inishmore: the 3000-year-old fort of Dún Aengus. It is one of the most important archeological sites in all of Ireland. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Aran Islands is the fact that its local population primarily speaks Irish Gaelic. Unlike Ireland’s mainland, the Aran Islands largely remained isolated from the English presence, and as a result – Irish is still the main language spoken in the islands’ homes, schools and places of work.
12. Bali, Indonesia
A province of Indonesia, the verdant island of Bali is one of the most beautiful spots on Earth. It offers visitors amazing beaches (white and black sand), scenic mountains, and a fantastic variety of marine life for scuba divers to explore along its coral reefs. Bali is known for its rice and coffee production as well as its excellent local art scene. Appreciating the island’s traditional dances, handicrafts and fine arts is an essential part of visiting Bali. Unlike the majority of the country, Bali is home to Indonesia’s Hindu minority and as a result – vacationers traveling to Bali will be astounded at the traditional Hindu temples and shrines located on the island.
If you’re considering making an escape to any of these fabulous island destinations, please be sure to first check out our Top Deals on www.go-today.com. We offer packages, sightseeing tours – and the option to 100% customize your own trip.