Have you ever dreamed of living on your own island paradise? Now you can! We scoured the globe to find the world’s most hidden isles — with rooms! Whatever your schedule, these island treasures are just waiting to be discovered:
Scattered in turquoise seas and just 1-hour by ferry from Dubrovnik, Lopud is one of the largest of the gorgeous, green Elafiti islands. The only settlement is a village of 220 inhabitants and there are no cars. The islands are home to some of the loveliest seascapes in the world, and Lopud has some of the finest beaches in the region. One of them – Sunj – has powdery white sand (extremely rare in Croatia) in a sheltered horseshoe bay.
Stay: This charming 16th-century seaside villa has just 7 stylish, white-washed rooms right by the waterfront. The food is fantastic, staff are lovely and laid-back, and you can dive straight into crystal clear waters from the stone pontoon.
Kastellorizo island is a microcosm of everything that’s wonderful about Greece: pretty pastel houses, friendly locals and delicious fresh food served at waterside tavernas. There are no sandy beaches – but that’s part of its charm. Certainly that – and its remoteness – have kept the crowds away. Its waters are among the clearest and bluest in the Med, and magical to swim in. Come for lazy days of swimming and snorkelling, reading or painting, fresh seafood on starry evenings, and very little else. We fell in love with Greece all over again here.
Stay: These handsome houses hide 5 simple-yet-stylish bedrooms, with white curtains wafting in the sea breeze. The welcoming owners have also resuscitated an ancient fisherman’s cottage, a pair of studio apartments and the excellent Olive Garden taverna, minutes’ walk from the harbour.
The westernmost island of the Dodecanese, Astypalaia is one of Greece’s most far-flung isles — but it’s not as hard to reach as you imagine, thanks to daily direct flights from Athens. Must-sees include a seaside village with a golden-sand beach backed by citrus groves; tiny islets dotted with castaway beaches that look like they belong in the Caribbean.
Stay: Neither hugely expensive nor flamboyantly luxurious, eco-conscious Pylaiahas a small spa, twin pools and an upscale restaurant. It’s the classiest retreat on this remote, rugged outcrop.
Between Islay and Mull, the little-known isle of Colonsay is warmed by the Gulf Stream and enjoys long summer days. Be warned: the island’s emerald beauty, clear sea air and shimmering beaches will slowly steal your heart away, reminding you of how life can be lived in the slow lane. The longer you stay, the harder it will be to return to mainland.
Stay: This wee Hebridean gem (just 8 miles in length) has a single hotelwhere locals, yachtsmen and visitors happily mix and enjoy a dram or two in front of crackling log fires. The Colonsay can fairly claim to be Britain’s remotest hotel, but there are regular ferries and occasional flights from Oban.
A half-hour ferry ride from Sicily is the tiny butterfly-shaped island of Favignana, where the bright turquoise sea meets rugged rocks and arid hills. Formerly a secret summer haunt for in-the-know Italians, flights to Trapani have now opened-up Favignana to adventurous foreigners but the island remains wonderfully peaceful (for now). This pretty little islet is small enough to explore by bicycle or hire a scooter and zip across to its pristine beaches and sculpted coves.
Stay: The converted fisherman’s cottages and private beach of Cas’almare are an ideal hideaway for those seeking romantic seclusion. We loved the sun-drenched terrace, where meals are served overlooking watery views. The Sea Suite – with its ‘feet in the water’ – is an amazing honeymoon bolthole.
Pulau Tengah, Malaysia
Just 16km off the southeast coast of Malaysia and a 20-minute speedboat ride from the port of Mersing, you can discover the pristine paradise of Pulau Tengah. The most dazzling blue shallows, purest white sands and deepest greens of the jungle make Pulau Tengah an untouched heaven.
Stay: Hugging a stretch of the 3km coastline, between thriving coral reefs and swaying coconut palms, Batu Batu is the only resort on this otherwise uninhabited island. The resort channels much of its profit into protecting the island’s flora, fauna and marine life and this is a perfect place to immerse yourself in nature – swim alongside blacktip reef sharks, play among schools of clownfish, or watch in awe as critically endangered Hawksbill turtle hatchlings venture into the lapping surf. Afterwards, watch the sunset on your very own deserted beach.
Koh Yao Noi, Thailand
The island of Yao Noi, may seem worlds away from the madding crowds of Phuket, but this secret idyll can be reached in just 35 minutes by speedboat. Charmingly laid-back, with an unspoilt vibe, the beachside views are some of the best in Thailand.
Stay: Soak up sensational panoramas from the dreamy infinity pool at Koyao Island Resort. Pick your own coconut in the plantations or get up-close with extraordinary marine life with a longtail trip to its craggy outer islands — inhabited by monkeys and lizards — where you can swim through caves and discover deserted coves.
Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
About 100 miles southeast of Saigon lies Con Dao national park – a smattering of mountainous islands with cobalt blue coastlines, soaring cliffs, limitless skies and hardly any development. With its steep forested slopes and a beach that’s pristine yet somehow still a bit wild, the sheer natural beauty of Con Dao is breathtaking.
Stay: On a private crescent beach, Six Senses is a resort that somehow breathes at the same pace as the nature around it – wood-panelled eco villas built with the very lightest ecological footprint blend into their surroundings. It’s hard to tear yourself away, but if you do, take a bike to the remote lighthouse or snorkel in the spectacular lagoon, where you’ll see turtles and rays.
Mafia Islands, Tanzania
Mafia is a stunning, virtually unexplored archipelago with amazing marine life ranging from tiny sea-horses to giant turtles. The main island (about 50km x 15 km in area) has a population of around 40,000, most in tiny hamlet habitations on the coast. There are just two roads – neither of them surfaced – one of which runs north-south up the west coast, while the other crosses east to the village of Utende.
Stay: This understated little beach lodgecomprises a handful of wood-and-thatch bungalows with comfy Italian fittings. If you want to chill on a remote island with nothing to disturb your reverie save for a spot of sailing or diving, then you’ve found your ideal place.
Step away from reality and step ashore on Chiloe, the mystical Chilean island that time forgot. Part of Chilean Patagonia and populated by tiny fishing villages, the residents of this remote outpost remain predominantly self-sufficient, catching their own food and making their own textiles.
Stay: at Tierra Chiloe, an architectural wonder which appears to float above the pasture. The hotel’s conceptual structure was designed to mimic both the island’s landscape and its traditional stilted homes. Happily, it also takes every opportunity to frame the expansive views of the surrounding bay. Wander down to the private beach, search for penguins and otters on boat tours around the island, or horse ride across the rugged interior.