World's Best Islands
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Islands naturally ignite wanderlust. Whether your journey is a short ferry ride or oceans away, the extra effort it takes to get to that island seems to heighten the experience exponentially.
But which islands are most worthy of the trip? We asked readers to cast their votes in T+L’s 16th annual World’s Best survey, and the results reveal one universal truth: a predilection for islands with astonishing natural beauty. Bali continues to hold on to its ranking in the top five, but there are also surprises. Two of last year’s European islands fell off the list, while a desire for the far-flung raised the profile of destinations in the South Pacific and Asia. One such newcomer, Boracay in the Philippines, may be one of the last undiscovered Asian beach getaways.
Read on to find out which islands ranked at the top:
No. 1 Santorini, Greece
An ancient island that endured one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history, Santorini, 120 miles southwest of mainland Greece, feels like no other place on earth. Here, everything is brighter: the whitewashed cube-shaped houses, the lapis lazuli sea, and the sunsets that light up the caldera. So it seems about time that Santorini captured the No. 1 island title for the first time in World’s Best Awards history—beating out Maui, Bali, and the Galápagos. For the ultimate trip, base yourself in picturesque Oia, on the island’s northern tip, where hotels are set on cliffs above the glittering Aegean Sea.
No. 2 Bali, Indonesia
Lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Bali is but one of 17,500 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, yet even among its colorful neighbors—and even after decades of tourism development—it stands alone in its lushness and incomparable beauty. Perhaps that’s the reason it’s been ranked the No. 1 island in Asia every year since 1998. Why go now? Resorts are making cultural relevance a priority, promising unique entrée into local art and architecture, cuisine, and traditional medicine.
No. 3 Cape Breton, Canada
Readers love Cape Breton for its captivating vistas—cliff-backed beaches; forested headlands studded with lighthouses—which is why the island, in Nova Scotia, hasn’t dropped below the No. 2 ranking in the Continental U.S. and Canada since 2005. Local culture commingles Scottish, Acadian, Irish, African, and native Mi’kmaq influences, and is fueled by music, from Celtic-style fiddling played in parish halls to the popular Thursday night ceilidh (kay-lee) dance gathering.