The Top Islands in Africa and the Middle East
This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.
There’s no shortage of culture and natural beauty in this part of the world, where historic sites, diverse culture, and wandering wildlife draw curious travelers. But the region’s islands offer equal appeal, combining all of the above with a string of beaches that beg to be immortalized on social media feeds and a clutch of plush resorts that tempt you to extend your stay.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
Related: The World's Best Awards 2020
Longtime favorite Zanzibar, which came in second place last year, won the No. 3 rank this time around for its “world-class” hotels and “unmatched” food. One reader described the Tanzanian archipelago — famed for its blissful beaches, verdant landscape, and historic Stone Town — as “the most amazing place and unique island ever!”
Last year’s top pick, the Seychelles, is the smallest African nation and came in second this year. Its archipelago of more than 100 granite and coral islands scored big with readers, who call its boulder-lined beaches “the most beautiful in the world” and praise its romantic hotels, which have welcomed royal and celebrity honeymooners. “The natural scenery is amazing,” wrote one reader of the republic, which boasts endemic species including one of the world’s smallest frogs and the heaviest tortoise. One of the Seychelles’ two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, was once believed to have been the Garden of Eden.
But true paradise, according to T+L readers, is found on Mauritius, which epitomizes the best of the region’s spectacular outdoors and blend of cultures.
The winner in 2018 and number three in 2019, Mauritius rebounded this year to snag the top spot. The diverse destination — a “fascinating” mix of Indian, Chinese, European, and African cultures — is loved by readers for its miles of sugar-sand beaches and water so clear it makes diving, kayaking, and snorkeling must-dos. For land excursions, there’s Black River Gorges National Park, whose forest-carpeted hills are home to 300 species of plants, nine endemic birds, and giant fruit bats. Travelers can make their home away from home at one of the many fine resorts, including the Oberoi Mauritius, One&Only Le Saint Géran, and Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita.
3. Zanzibar, Tanzania
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.