Islands have always fascinated mankind. From the early explorers who left their homelands in search of new worlds to the modern tourists who love to chill out by the beach, travellers have always flocked to remote lands in search of novella experiences.
1. SANTORINI, GREECE
The most striking part of this island is the white walls and blue domes that adorn the hillside. But located in the Aegean Sea, around 200 kilometers away from the Greek mainland, this volcanic island owns a fabulous collection of landscapes and villages. Also known as Thira, this island is the biggest of a small, round archipelago.
Tourism is one of the major sources of economy for this island, hence, it is maintained with a view to attract travellers. The best way to get here is by air from Athens, the Greek capital. During some seasons, there are flights directly from several major European airports. You can also take ferries, but should be wary of sea sickness.
Santorini offers a public bus service for local commutation, with about a bus every half to one hour. During holiday seasons, these buses can get crowded, and if you prefer a private mode of transport, there are tour operators who can assist you throughout the island. The more adventurous ones can try bicycles or even go on foot as the island is not too big. Walking, in fact, would be easier than cycling, as the island’s roads are not considered bicycle-friendly. There are some fantastic walking trails that can get a bit difficult at times, but are definitely the best way to experience Santorini in all its glory.
One doesn’t have to travel halfway around the world to reach the third best group of islands. About an hour’s flight from South India, Maldives is a string of pearl-like islands that has become a tourist paradise in the recent times.
The best part about a trip to Maldives is that anyone can get a visa for 30 days as long as you have a valid travel document, proof of accommodation, return tickets and sufficient funds to cover the duration of your stay. The best way to get here is through the Malé International Airport on an island called Hulhulé, which is quite close to the capital city Malé.
To see the place, boats, seaplanes and yachts are the popular choices. Of these, boats are the best to get you closest to the local culture. There are three kinds of boats – the public ferries, semi-private boats and chartered speed boats. Within the Malé city, taxis are available to take you around.
3. GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR
If its myriad forms of wildlife don’t excite you, then at least the fact that this island is associated with one of the greatest minds in history should interest you to visit Galapagos.
First discovered when a diplomatic ship was blown off course, this Spanish-speaking archipelago of volcanic lands belonging to Ecuador is undoubtedly on top of the charts for any island lover. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Despite its attractions and tourism value, reaching this place is not as easy as you might think. Travel restrictions and the isolated location of the islands make a trip here expensive. There are only two places from where you can reach the Galapagos, and both of these are cities in Ecuador, namely Guayaquil and Quito. Daily flights from these cities will take you up to the Isle of Baltra Airport, from which the main settlement of the archipelago on the Santa Cruz Island is about two hours away.
Once you reach there, the best way to see the place is by boat. During peak seasons these boats are booked well in advance, so it would be wise to plan your trip early. Although a local tour company is the most economical option, there are several international travel agencies who also offer you the same service.
There are restrictions on the number of visitors to each island and the official landing and tourist locations are not many. Tourists are also instructed not to wander off the marked paths, to not disturb the animals.
4. BALI, INDONESIA
The Indonesian archipelago has over 17,000 big and small islands, but none of them stand out from the rest as Bali does. With a diverse landscape presenting mountains, coastal areas, beaches and paddy fields, this place is often referred to as paradise on earth. Apart from being an ideal place for water sports, the island’s vast trove of archeological monuments and sites make the place an ideal destination for both the adventure-loving tourist and the laid-back holidayer.
The easiest way to reach Bali is through the Ngurah Rai International Airport, where international visitors can purchase a visa on arrival. There are several airlines, including low-cost carriers flying into this airport daily, and getting here is often not an issue. Some hotels will help you arrange transportation from the airport, and if this is not the case, there are public taxis available.
Bali is not a small island, and seeing the whole place would take some time and planning. If you have the stomach for some chaotic traffic and not-so-well-made roads, rent a bike and go around. But if this is not your kind of holiday, it is not uncommon to see hotels and other agencies offering sight-seeing tours.
5. MOOREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA
What’s a guide to islands without mentioning some of the best options for snorkeling and scuba diving? If you are into such water sports, Moorea, the biggest coral reef eco system in the world offers the best opportunity to get up close with underwater wildlife. Even if you are not the kind who wants to get wet, but still enjoy everything marine, a trip on a boat can give you a good experience too.
Part of French Polynesia, the island is estimated to have formed about 1.5 to 2.5 million years ago. The best way to reach here is by a high-speed ferry from Papeete, the largest city and capital of French Polynesia. It’s slightly costlier than the slow-speed one, but gets you there in half the time and is a much pleasant ride. Flights are also available, but the aircrafts are often tiny and fly at low heights, increasing chances of air sickness.
Once there, it is possible to rent a moped. The roads are quite good, although certain sections can be rough. Car rentals and taxis are also available at higher costs. There is also a shuttle service.
6. GREAT BARRIER REEF ISLANDS, AUSTRALIA
A massive coral reef expands from the northeastern tip of Australia, packed with over 400 types of marine life. It is the biggest coral formation in the world, often considered a diver’s paradise. Getting here is usually by day trips from the Queensland Coast. Most major tour operators have services that leave early in the morning and return in the afternoon or late evening. There are also longer voyages that can get you closer to the diverse range of underwater wildlife that inhabit the area.
7. TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA
Australia is unique for its remote location from the rest of the world. But what’s more unique than the country itself is its only island state, Tasmania. With dense forests and dramatic mountain ranges, this small island is named after the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman who first reported sighting it.
Tasmania is famous for its breathtaking scenery, a lot of which is part of the protected national parks. What’s best is that the island has a bit of everything, quiet beaches, cool rainforests with remarkable wildlife and glaciers, offering something for any kind of traveller.
Reaching here by flight is convenient, as there is more than one airport, but a trip by ferry from the Australian mainland could be a worthwhile option for some. The Spirit of Tasmania Ferries has services that run daily from Port Melbourne night or day. The trip can be a bit rocky, but it does offer some spectacular views.
Once in Tasmania, cars are the most preferred mode of transport of to get around. Cars can be hired at the island on arrival. If you have a lot of time, bus can also be an option. Just make sure you get to know the bus schedules as services tend to be infrequent.
8. KAUAI, HAWAII
Kauai is a landmass in the mid-Pacific, a slice of the Hawaiian archipelago. It is dubbed “the Garden Isle”. Due to the sultry forest layering, most of its area gets watered thanks to the heavy rainfall. Kauai is considered older than the other islands and is the fourth largest. It’s sandy coastlines are longer than other islands, due to its age.
Kauai is considered a class apart from the rest of the islands in the region. In fact, to most travellers who reach here, it’s almost like entering a new world. Lihue Airport is the island’s major airport, served by several major domestic carriers.
Renting a car is the best option to see the place, once you reach there. To be more precise, this is the only way to see some of the most exotic and remote areas. Rental companies have offices at the airport. The other main commutation option is the Kaua’i bus, but taking this will majorly limit your options of what to see. Bicycles are an option for some people, but the island’s bicycle paths are still not up to the mark.
8. MAUI, HAWAII
Hawaii attracts everyone, from ordinary travellers to celebrities. Maui is the second biggest of the major islands that are part of Hawaii. There are several ways to get here. Kahului Airport is the main landing space for most travellers, with several airlines offering flights from various cities in the US. There is also the JHM West Maui Kapuala Airport and the Hana Airport, both of which are smaller in size with less connectivity.
Getting around by public transport is feasible to an extent, but there are many places that buses can take you to. Renting a car is a popular option for most visitors as it is not expensive on regular days.
Maui’s major attractions include Haleakala National Park, which is open 24 hours all year round. The park offers a chance to see the thrilling landscapes of the island. There is also the Wainapanapa State Park, which has a beach with black sand and sea caves that attract tourists.
A tiny island nation in the Mediterranean sea, Malta is rich in history with archeological proof showing that people lived here since the Neolithic period. If you are a lover of history and heritage sites, Malta offers you some of the oldest standing structures in the world.
The country is a member of the Schengen group and hence, a Schengen visa is what you need to get here from outside Europe. There are regular flights from most cities in Europe. Ferries from Italian ports are also a possible mode of transport, although on some days this service may not be available.
Once there, the local bus network is a popular mode of commute. There are regular services between popular tourist attractions, although they may not keep to schedule. There are also hop-on-hop-off buses that can take you to all that Malta have to offer. Some travellers prefer to rent a bike, although this is not a popular option.
LOSE SIGHT OF THE SHORE
Motivational speakers will tell you it’s never possible to reach new heights without letting go of what you already have. Perhaps a journey to any of these islands would be an ideal metaphor to this. A vacation on an island would also be a much needed break from the modern urban life, offering a break from the hustle and bustle of populated lands.