A major volcanic eruption in 1650 B.C. leads the core of what was once a single island driven to implode and surrender to the sea. Some claim this was the original home of the abandoned city of Atlantis that vanished into the waters of the ocean a long time ago. Which remains in this mythological metropolis, stunning beaches and stately, whitewashed houses are now secured.
Today, two inhabited islands and numerous islets make up Santorini. Most tourists spend their time on Thira (the biggest island in the archipelago), which is home to the main towns of Santorini, including Fira and Oia. Sleepy Thirassia also offers a nice day ride. And don’t count the quieter islands: it is worth visiting Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni.
Hitting the vibrant beaches is your first order of business in Santorini-the black and red sands make for a fun visit. Next up, enjoy the historical delights of the impressively preserved Ancient Akrotiri or trek to Ancient Thera to see the remains of three kingdoms, including the Romans. Catch a stunning glimpse of the caldera from there, a brilliant turquoise water pool that acts as the center of this archipelago’s varied islands.
Some would suggest that you only need a day to enjoy the charms of these islands (they are a common port of call for cruise ships), but you would need a few days to a week to truly drink anything Santorini has to offer. Then you’ll have plenty of time to discover that there’s more to these lovely dots of the Cyclades than the eye can find.
Who wasn’t spellbound by Capri’s electric Blue Grotto images? Ash-white limestone cliffs, concealed sand slivers, a towering natural arch-no wonder since ancient Roman days, Capri has become a visitor hub.
What’s the most amazing item in Bali? Dazzling beaches like Nusa Dua, Jimbaran Bay, and Seminyak? The terraced rice fields of Ubud, the holy forest, and ancient landmarks? Or the 10,000 complex temples on the island, including Pura Empul (the one you bathe in) and the sea temple of Uluwatu?
Experience all of the above, and make your own choice. The Land of the Gods also boasts a loveliness that is more than skin-deep, due to its warm people and pervasive, holistic spirituality.
One of the vastest coral-reef systems on Earth, the fragile Great Barrier Reef hosts more than 1,600 species of fish, whales, rays, octopuses, dolphins, and more. The 74 Whitsunday Islands, all but four of which are protected national parks, are nestled in the center of this global wonder.
Bask in comfort at a high-end resort like Hamilton Island, and book a seaplane or helicopter ride to enjoy sights like Heart Reef and the blowing silica sands of Whitehaven Beach’s Hill Inlet at one of the best islands in the world.
The Island of James Bond, Southern Thailand
A limestone spike rising dramatically from the emerald waters of Phang Nga Bay, James Bond Island (Koh Tapu; “Nail Island” in Thai) received its nickname from featuring in two 007 movies.
Excursions on photogenic longtail boats depart from the popular resort areas of Phuket, Khao Lak, and Krabi. Explore underground lagoons, rocky sea caves, and a floating village on one of the most popular islands during your tour.
Christened the Garden Island, Kauai’s splendor stretches to its rugged Napali Cliffs, stretching up 4,000 feet, from its vermillion Waimea Gorge, plunging down 3,600 feet. Kauai’s Poipu Beach, frequently dotted with dozing monk seals, has featured on the coveted list of America’s Best Beaches by Dr Beach.
The interior is garnished with rivers, rainforests, and waterfalls. Don’t miss the Wailua Falls photo op, famously included in the Paradise Island opening credits, on one of the world’s most stunning islands.
Bora Bora, the Tahiti Islands
In the lagoon of Bora Bora, aka the Pearl of the South Seas, any possible hue of blue expresses itself. Coral Motus, like a sandy sash, rings the main island and, under the sea, throngs of dolphins, rays, sharks, turtles, and colorful fish. The moss-green volcanic mountain of Mount Otemanu, where Deity descended on a rainbow to the island, is watching over it all, according to local legend.
On one of the most exotic islands, timeless grass-skirted dancers and over-water bungalows fill out the sublime scene.
The towering beach boulders of Seychelles are a mainstay on-screen desktops, but they are more than just aesthetic: they also fascinate geologists who have described Seychelles as the only granite-formed mid-ocean islands.
Such superlatives: the archipelago, with the cleanest climate, is the oldest on the earth. Celebrities swarm here, naturally. Stay on North Island, where Prince William and Kate Middleton enjoyed their 2011 honeymoon if you want to holiday a la British Royalty.
St. Lucia, Caribbean Republic
St. Lucia stuns the twin Pitons, identified by UNESCO. The voluptuous volcanic spires, reaching heights of around 2,500 feet, accompany the island’s other attractions, including verdant jungles, sparkling silver-sand beaches, eerie sugar-estate ruins, and a natural mud bath rich in minerals.
Meanwhile, Jade Mountain, the island’s most popular destination, is an architectural jewel in its own right.