They’re beautiful, they’re quaint, they can be the staging ground for an unforgettable vacation. Now that the urge to travel is coming back with a vengeance, we have a few recommendations. These little and not so little islands are hidden paradises with unique identities and quirks, with amazing vistas and architecture, waiting to be explored, experienced, lived. So, without further ado, here’s five unknown islands to put on your travel list (now that you can!).
1. Hydra (Greece): Greek islands always feel like cheating. Exclude the really famous ones like Crete and Santorini and Mykonos, and there are still dozens of islands, small and big, that can be a treat for any traveler. Knee-deep in history, Hydra is an amazing little island close to Athens, the capital. You’ll find very few, if any, vehicles and you’ll move around on foot or by donkey, taking in the exquisite architecture, the crystal clear waters. Enjoy the local cuisine, meet the always welcoming inhabitants of the island and have a few cocktails by the sea. It doesn’t get better than that.
2. The Aeolian Islands (Italy): We are cheating once more. The Aeolian islands are an archipelago, therefore they are many islands together, but we couldn’t choose one. If you ever visit Sicily (which is a world of adventure of its own), try to make it there as well. Hidden beaches, amazing grottoes, volcanic landscapes, fishing villages, historical sites (as everywhere in Italy), there is something for everyone. From the biggish Lipari to the tiny Filicudi, the Aeolian Islands are a veritable gem.
3. Lanai (Hawaii): If you want a Hawaiian vacation in a tiny package, Lanai is for you. There are some tourist facilities that will cater to your every need, but you can also see unspoiled nature, go on a hike that can turn into a pleasant adventure, visit the beach, dive and swim in crystal clear waters. You will avoid the fuss of the bigger islands and you can concentrate solely on what you want to do. There’s also a Sweetheart Rock; doesn’t that pique your curiosity?
4. Isle of Arran (Scotland): We did the warm ones, now let’s go to colder climates, to a different, raw experience. Scotland likes to say that the Isle of Arran is Scotland in miniature and that may well be true, as long as you take Edinburgh and Glasgow out of the equation. You’ll go to Arran to hike, to see a coastline that has no equal in the whole world, to get lost in a harsh world, so close and yet so far from civilization. Sometimes, it feels as if you’re in a medieval movie and you’re expecting a knight to appear behind a rocky hill, probably asking about swallows.
5. Iriomote (Japan): Japan is so vast and varied that it can satisfy any type of traveler. But even if it’s your first time in the land of the rising sun, you might want to take some time to visit Iriomote. Closer to Taiwan than Okinawa, the island is almost entirely covered by jungle. Visitors will want to see the waterfalls and the beaches, the mangroves and the unique flora and fauna on the island. Don’t forget to check out the banks of the Urauchi River, which could be mistaken for the Amazon River itself.