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World's Best Islands 2010

Traveling to islands makes us feel like we’ve really traveled. It doesn’t matter whether they’re tropical or glacial, trammeled by thousands of other visitors or just by birds and sand crabs; by definition, islands are more remote, more challenging to get to than mainland destinations, and therefore that much further from our everyday lives.

It’s almost a no-brainer, then, that islands hold a special compass point in most travelers’ hearts. And when Travel + Leisure asked its readers to weigh in on the best islands around the globe, we weren’t surprised to be deluged with responses.

Readers were asked to rank their top picks according to several criteria: the islands’ natural attractions, activities and sights, and restaurants and cuisine; also, the friendliness of the resident islanders and the overall value of taking a vacation there.

The results, as our list reveals, are literally and figuratively all over the map. This year’s top-rated islands include some that can be accessed with a single domestic air transfer and others that require crossing a half-dozen time zones using several forms of transport. Some on the list are oases of quiet and unspoiled nature; others draw hordes of party-minded fashionistas. And some are as tiny as confetti scraps, while others would take months to properly explore.

Still, when compared to 2009’s “Best Islands” survey results, this year’s list does reveal a few particular trends. For starters, Travel + Leisure readers seemed slightly less enamored with extremely far-flung islands in 2010 (two distant tropical Asian destinations slipped in the rankings). They also seemed far more interested in Mediterranean and Adriatic isles (4 of the top 10 slots were taken by newcomers in Greece, Italy, and Croatia).

The most marked change, however, is that this year’s top two spots were both nabbed by islands prized for their extraordinarily riotous, untamed natural environments. One is close by (right here in the U.S., in fact); the other is about as far-off as a place can be without being totally inaccessible. Want to find out where they are? Check out the list and see.

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