10 Gorgeous Islands for Your Next Postcard-perfect Vacation

Overhead view of couple on a beach, Maldives, Ari Atoll
Photo: Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

Most people think of islands as havens for swimming, sunning, and seafood. And while many are, the world's best islands offer so much more. From world-class whiskey to extraordinary wildlife, from natural wonders to historic attractions — these destinations expand the meaning of "islands."

Whether you're exploring ancient artifacts in Paros or snorkeling the Thunderball Grotto in the Bahamas, these islands will make for an unforgettable vacation. Sun worshipers will find glassy clear waters and spectacular coastlines on the Greek island of Milos, while Paros, with its low-key vibe, wins over curious visitors with incredible granite formations. Nearly 20 hours away by plane, Bali beckons with sizzling beach clubs, beautiful villas, and world-class spas. Still further, the Maldives entrances with secluded bungalows overlooking lagoons.

No matter what your desires, there's an island to pique your interest. To help you decide where to book your next flight, we've compiled a list of 10 islands everyone ought to have on their bucket list. From hubs for adventure to storybook castles, birdwatcher's paradises, whale watching, and more, the islands here offer something for anyone who revels in seeing the world.

01 of 10

Milos, Greece

Tsigrado is one of the most beautiful southern beaches of Milos, Greece
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Mykonos may get all the love, but Milos also has gorgeous beaches and arguably a better backstory. Here you'll find catacombs to rival Rome's, an open-cast mine, the remains of an amphitheatre, and plenty of maritime, folk and archaeological museums to keep you busy during the daytime. In terms of beaches, Tsigrado is a must - just know that in order to reach it you'll have to lower yourself with a rope!

02 of 10

Exumas, Bahamas

Aerial view of the Exumas islands in the Bahamas
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This postcard-perfect archipelago has water adventure, ecotourism, fresh-caught seafood, and more. Snorkel the Thunderball Grotto, an underwater cave west of Staniel Cay immortalized in the James Bond film "Thunderball." Or spend a day at Moriah Harbour Cay National Park, where an array of birdlife makes its home. The weather is always stellar, so there's never a bad time to go.

03 of 10

The Hebrides, Scotland

Pathway descending down from the Old Man Of Storr, a rocky hill on the Trotternish peninsula of the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
Simon Roberts

You'll find everything you need for a fairytale vacation on these western islands: gorgeous beaches, incredible wildlife and superb five-star seafood. Skye and the Western Isles offer prime trails for hiking, while Islay and Uists are a birdwatcher's dream. Prefer to stay indoors and knock back whisky instead? On Islay you'll find the world's finest.

04 of 10

The Azores, Portugal

Rear view of female hiker on Sete Cidades Caldara, Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal
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Some say this volcanic island chain on the North Atlantic could be the next millennial hotspot. UNESCO recognized three islands - Graciosa, Flores, and Corvo - as biospheres, and there are 13 Ramsar (important wetlands) sites and even more Blue Flag beaches. Those keen on sustainable tourism will love it, as will fans of whale watching, watersports and hiking. Mt. Pico, Portugal's highest mountain, affords impressive sunrises and sunsets.

05 of 10

Bali, Indonesia

Holy Spring Water Temple (Pura Tirta Empul), Bali, Indonesia
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The Island of the Gods lives up to its name with sacred temples, open-air yoga and heavenly seafood. Southern Bali is also great for water yoga, paddleboarding, and Muay Thai. After visiting Tirta Empul, one of the most holy temples, in the town of Tampaksiring.

06 of 10

Paros, Greece

Paros Island, Greece
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On Paros, you'll get all the charm of Mykonos without the oontz-oontz madness. Stop by the church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani, built in 4th century A.D., near the capital, for a trip back in time, or hit Kolymbithres beach where the coves and rocks just beg you to sunbathe on them. History buffs will dig the Archaeological Museum filled with Hellenistic and Roman treasures.

07 of 10


Overhead view of couple on a beach, Maldives, Ari Atoll
Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

The world's lowest country (in terms of elevation) is perhaps its most stunning with powdery beaches and crystal-clear waters. Precious wildlife abounds, from spinner dolphins to sea turtles, and the islands are mostly unspoiled. Explore their abundant treasures on land or by boat, and go during the dry season when there's greater visibility.

08 of 10

Vancouver Island

Young woman exploring Strathcona provincial park on Vancouver Island
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From quiet fishing villages to a wine region worthy of the Mediterranean and outdoor sports galore, Vancouver Island is a great non-traditional option. Head into Strathcona backcountry to spend a night under the stars, or book a room at the Wick, aka The Wickaninnish Inn, where the gas fireplaces and comfy armchairs beckon you to take in the sunset.

09 of 10

Tasmania, Australia

Sunrise on Maria Island, Tasmania, Australia
Sean Fennessy

The wines are gaining international buzz, and super-deluxe hotels like the Henry Jones are as chic as any you'll find in Sydney or Paris. MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, which opened in 2011, may be Tassie's biggest attraction, with a main gallery scooped out of a sandstone cliff and interiors covered in graffiti. Be sure to visit Triabunna, on Tasmania's east coast, for a glimpse of beloved - and sadly endangered - wombats, Forester kangaroos and Bennett wallabies.

10 of 10

Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Waiheke Island
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This 12-mile-long island, loved by hippies and foodies alike, is like a mini New Zealand. Summers are mild, winters are warm, and the beaches are some of the dreamiest. Visit Verandah at Cable Bay for small bites overlooking the water, and taste award-winning olive oils at Rangihoua Estate. For shopping, you can't go wrong with the strip of boutiques at Oneroa.

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