15 of the World’s Most Beautiful Islands
When you think about the most beautiful places on earth, images of pristine white sand beaches on remote tropical islands often come to mind. And while there are plenty of spectacular beaches on this list of the world’s most beautiful islands, there are other, more unexpected draws as well.
From the limestone cliffs of the Philippines’s Palawan Island to the jagged Dientes de Navarino mountains of Isla Navarino off Chile; from the towering fir trees of Orcas Island in the Pacific Northwest U.S. to the prehistoric palms found on the Seychelles, these 15 destinations prove there are as many different definitions of beauty as there are islands.
Leave it the French to inhabit an island of such intriguing complexity. White sand beaches and jagged mountains; seaside grottoes and dramatic gorges; medieval harbor towns and pristine nature reserves — Corsica has it all.
Miyako Island, Japan
The largest of Japan’s Okinawa Islands, Miyako defies the common images of this austere nation. Expect clear turquoise waters, powdery beaches, coral reefs, and picture-perfect sunsets.
The Azores, Portugal
Crater lakes, bubbling mineral baths and dinosaur-sized ferns are just a few of unique characteristics that make the Azores, an enchanting nine-island archipelago less than 1000 miles west of Portugal, an otherworldly destination.
Isla Navarino, Chile
Seemingly at the end of the earth (aka, Chilean Antarctica), this remote island is dominated by the jagged spires of the Dientes de Navarino (Navarino Teeth) mountains. Wild tundra, forests covered in multi-colored lichen and peat bogs are spectacles not seen in other parts of the world.
Dominica, also called the Caribbean’s “Nature Island,” has a lush emerald beauty that hides 365 rivers, dramatic waterfalls and swimming holes in its rainforested interior, as well as stunning black sand beaches.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Gazing across the sweeping green hills of Scotland’s Isle of Skye, you can practically hear the bagpipes. Dramatic rock formations pierce through the rugged land, waterfalls spill into the sea, and fairy pools and medieval castles wait to be discovered.
Often referred to as a “secret” amongst the Greek Islands, Milos has some 75 beaches, some with mineral baths, some with pumice rock formations, all with mesmerizing Mediterranean beauty.
Orcas Island, U.S.
Think of it as the Pacific Northwest at sea. Orcas Island, the largest of Washington’s San Juan Islands, has towering firs and cedars on the interior, and miles of protected shoreline for spying its namesake whales.
The towering twin Gros and Petit Pitons make this Eastern Caribbean island one of the most distinguished in a Sea known for its beauty. Besides the signature mountains, there are golden beaches, lush rainforests, volcanoes and sulphur springs.
Palawan Island, Philippines
This long, thin island in the western Philippines has some of the most unforgettable natural beauty. Think: a subterranean river beneath stalactites and stalagmites, limestone rocks that rise out of azure lagoons, and sweeping palm-fringed beaches that beg to be Instagrammed.
Cocks Comb Island, Myanmar
There are no beaches on this island in the Andaman Sea off Myanmar, but its color-changing, heart-shaped lagoon makes up for that. Swim through a tunnel to access the peaceful lagoon, and enjoy the sublime snorkeling.
Society Islands, French Polynesia
Because it’s nearly impossible to declare Bora Bora more beautiful than Tahiti or Moorea, the whole archipelago known as the Society Islands earn the decree. Crystalline waters, lush jungle greenery, and over-the-water bungalows make it the very definition of tropical paradise.
There is no singular island that is the most gorgeous in this South Asian nation made up of over 2,000 small islands. As a whole, the Maldives are home to quintessential turquoise waters, phenomenal snorkeling and diving, and some of the world’s most exquisite resorts.
An ancient archipelago of 115 islands, the Seychelles is as close to time travel as you can get. Amongst the prehistoric palm forests, granite boulders made soft by millennia of erosion, giant tortoises are perfect beaches where time seems to stand still.
This French island, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, has a lushly forested interior that includes one the world’s most active volcanoes: the Piton de la Fournaise. Not to be outdone, Reunion’s coast is defined by turquoise lagoons, black and white sand beaches, and coral reefs.