Despite being nearly 600 miles from the coast of Ecuador, Galapagos Islands is high on the bucket lists of many travellers who are keen to spot giant tortoises and plants that most people will never see in their lifetime.
Boasting idyllic beaches, historic cities and rugged coastlines, these are the top 10 islands in the world, according to Travel + Leisure magazine.
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador 90.82 2.%
Home to 18 main islands, this archipelago in the Pacific Ocean is famous for its marine life and rare species of birds and plants. Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution while studying wildlife on the islands, which are home to marine iguanas, sharks, blue-footed boobies, sea lions and other creatures. In 2010, Galapagos Islands was removed from Unesco’s List of World Heritage in Danger. The UN agency was satisfied that Ecuador’s government had taken steps to address threats posed by invasive species, unbridled tourism and over-fishing.
Bali, Indonesia 88.98 3.
A favourite destination for Australian and British travellers, Bali is the Indonesia’s biggest tourist draw thanks to its beaches and party scene. But it is also lures holidaymakers with its Hindu temples, mountains, rugged coastlines and rice terraces. There are fears the island has been overrun with tourists, however. Last year Indonesian tour operators held a travel fair to encourage foreigners to holiday in places other than the Balinese hotspots of Kuta and Seminyak beaches.
Maldives 88.53 4.
This idyllic tropical nation in the Indian Ocean is famous for is crystal-clear waters, stunning beaches, sea life and luxurious resorts. It is a popular destination for honeymooners and divers, boasting average daily temperatures that can fluctuate from 31C during the day to 23C at night. The lowest temperature ever recorded in the Maldives was 17.2C. With 26 natural atolls, Maldives is the lowest-lying country in the world, raising fears that its existence is in jeopardy due to climate change and rising sea levels.
Tasmania, Australia 88.32 5.
This island state off the south coast of Australia may seem like a surprising inclusion, but Travel + Leisure readers called it a little known treasure, the magazine said. Perhaps best known for the Tasmanian devil, more than 40 per cent of this large island is reserved as a national park and world heritage area. Its stunning landscapes include mountains, forests and picturesque beaches.
Santorini, Greece 87.93 6.
These volcanic islands in the Aegean Sea may be best known for their white houses and blue-domed churches on rocky cliffs. The complex of islands is still an active volcano (the crater is below the sea) and the last big eruption occurred around 3,600 years ago. A popular getaway spot for couples, its beaches boast white, red or black sand or volcanic pebbles, and spectacular rock formations.
Moorea, French Polynesia 87.90 7.
Shaped like a heart, this idyllic island can be reached by plane or high-speed catamaran from Tahiti. With tumbling waterfalls and fern-softened cliffs, the island’s mountains are surrounded by a wide, shallow lagoon with sparkling blue water. A handful of resorts on the less touristy island offer thatch-roofed bungalows over the water, providing a perfect spot for a romantic escape.
Maui, Hawaii 87.89 8.
No list would be complete without the inclusion of one of Hawaii’s spectacular islands. Maui is consistently rated as one of the best islands in the world thanks to its shimmering beaches, water sports and massive Haleakala shield volcano. The Valley Isle’ welcomes more than two million visitors a year, including plenty of famous faces.
Kauai, Hawaii 87.88 9.
Hawaii’s second entry in the top 10 is the US state’s oldest island and is covered with a tropical rainforest. Sometimes called the Garden Isle, it lures travellers with its emerald valleys, jagged cliffs and cascading waterfalls. Some parts of Kauai are only accessible by sea or air, lending credence to its billing as Hawaii’s ‘island of discovery’.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia 87.31 10.
This chain of more than 100 enchanting islands offer holidaymakers exactly what they’re looking for – a slice of paradise. For visitors, there are more than 100 islands to choose from along Australia’s north-east coast, including the Whitsundays and Northern Islands. The waters surrounding the islands are filled with hundreds of species of marine life and thousands of reefs, providing an amazing playground for divers.
This archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea – formerly part of the British Empire – has gained even more interest from tourists in recent years after serving as a filming location for Game of Thrones. It was already a popular draw thanks to its rich history and thrilling diving spots, and has added boutique hotels and buzzing nightclubs in recent years. Malta’s capital, Valletta, is one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world, with 320 monuments and Unesco World Heritage status.