Get ready to find your sea legs, follow the horizon and join us, adding your own breath-taking images as we take to the ocean and create the ultimate island-hopping adventure around planet earth. Literally hundreds of thousands of islands cluster the world's oceans, rivers and lakes, some tropical, some home to icy glaciers, some desolate, others downright mysterious. Nature lovers, ocean divers, culture vultures and even chocoholics are guaranteed to find something and all it takes to find inspiration to check the world's islands out is a simple look at the numbers. The fact that a single nation alone, Indonesia, has 18,307 islands and the Caribbean roughly 7000, is an indication of just how rich and vibrant island exploration can be. Islands also provide some of the most captivating photographs and snapshots on earth. Just one look at a postcard of a South Pacific, Indian Ocean or Caribbean island is enough to conjure dreams of paradise, but white sands, azure waters and swaying coconut palms are far from the only highlights. Tranquil tidal shrines, mist-shrouded cloud forests and volcano-inspired black magic are just some of the additional prizes on offer and so come with us as we chart our planet's most awe-inspiring and fascinating island scenery, archipelagos, reefs, atolls and much more.
Jul 16 2014
Few places on earth showcase the ideal of tropical island paradise as much as Hawaii. Sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the USA's fiftieth state is Polynesia's northernmost island group. Unlike other islands in Oceania where it can be difficult to find authentic Pacific island culture to explore, Puuhonua O Honaunau on the west coast of the island presents the perfect opportunity to do exactly that.
May 31 2004
While the marae of Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands present images of Polynesian life in centuries gone by, sometimes these sites leave alot to the imagination. Not the case at Hawaii's Puuhonua O Honaunau. Complete with immaculately carved Polynesian tiki sculptures, this officially designated US National Park was once a refuge and place of forgiveness for defeated tribal warriors and native Hawaiians believed that Puuhonua O Honaunau was auspicious due to a form of spiritual energy known as mana flowing from the bones chiefs buried at the site.
Feb 23 2008
Located just off the coast of southwestern Canada, British Columbia's Vancouver Island makes the list due to its unique mix of indigenous Comox culture and a climate which somehow manages to sustain a glacier while simultaneously allowing the cultivation of subtropical fruits such as lemons and olives. Virtually at the centre of the island, the Comox Glacier rises almost 6500 feet and is referred to by the native Comox people as Kwénis, or 'whale'.
Nov 25 2008
Further south on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia's official capital of Victoria, Thunderbird Park is home to dozens of totem poles carved by the area's native tribes. The park's totem poles were erected in 1940 thanks to a collaborative effort to preserve the region's native art. Showcasing artwork carved by the Kwakiutl, Gitxsan and Haida tribes, the totem poles depict sacred animals such as sharks, coyotes, lynx and, most prominently, the mythical thunderbird from which the park takes it name.
Jun 20 2013
No list of the world's best islands would be complete without the iconic and mysterious Easter Island in the southeastern Pacific and home to the Rapa Nui people. Officially part of Chile, Easter Island is world famous for its 887 monolithic stone statues known as 'Moai', which can be found all over the island, including on Anakena Beach, where the statues stand in a line looming over the sand with their backs turned towards the vast emptiness of the Pacific Ocean.
Feb 23 2010
Most of Easter Island's Moai weigh around twelve tonnes and stand at roughly four metres high. Anthropologists believe that the Moai were positioned facing inland instead of staring out into the ocean as a means of keeping watch over the island's inhabitants. It is also believed that the Moai are not only symbols of religious and political power, but that the statues also store mana, the magical Polynesian spirit energy.
Dec 13 2005
In the Pacific Ocean 550 kilometres west of Costa Rica, Cocos Island boasts pristine beaches, some of the best diving on earth, tropical jungle and the island's history pulsates with stories of lost pirate treasure. Little to nothing was known about Cocos Island until Spanish seafarer Juan de Cabezas happened across it in 1526. The island was mapped by French cartographer Nicolás Desliens in 1541 and, in the ensuing centuries, served as a rest stop for sailors and privateers to stock up on provisions. Fresh seafood and coconuts were not the only prize on offer on Cocos Island as rumours also spread of huge amounts of pirate bounty being buried on the island including the famous 'Treasure of Lima', a huge treasure chest filled with gold and silver ingots and a life size Virgin Mary statue.
Apr 8 2006
Inland from the idyllic beaches, the Cocos Island's interior is swamped in dense tropical jungle which is home to a huge percentage of endemic plant life and two species of lizard, a gecko and an iguana, which are also exclusively found on the island. Cocos is also completely unique as the only eastern Pacific island to feature natural cloud forests and scenes from Steven Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park were also filmed off the coast of the island. In addition the name of the movie's fictional location of 'Isla Nublar', literally meaning 'Cloudy Island', was also inspired by Cocos Island's unique cloud forests.
Oct 2 2009
When most people hear the word 'Peru', their minds immediately become filled with images of Cusco, Inca trails and Machu Picchu. Away from Peru's Sacred Valley and seven kilometres from the town of Puno, Islas Uros are a unique group of floating islands in Lake Titicaca man made entirely from the totora reeds which grow around the edges of the lake. The inhabitants of the floating islands, the Uros, are descendants of the first settlers of the Andean Altiplano and their heritage pre-dates even the Inca.
Jul 19 2011
The totora reeds are not only used to build the floating islands but the Uros even use them to make houses, crafts and even boats. The Uros built the floating islands as a means of isolating themselves from the aggressively expanding Inca empire six centuries ago. The totora reeds, which according to the islands' inhabitants taste like sugarcane, are also used as a staple food source on the floating islands and the signature meal of the Uros is totora served with trout caught fresh from Lake Titicaca.
Sep 4 2008
A country which can boast some of the most idyllic beaches on the planet as well as being affectionately known as the 'Chocolate Isles' is worth a visit in anybody's book. At a combined 372 square kilometres in size, the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe make up Africa's second smallest country and the two island nation sits in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Gabon. The equator slices through São Tomé, the larger of the two islands, and the country's humid climate, volcanic soil and dense emerald rainforests have historically made the island a Mecca for sugar traders, with the Portuguese being the first Europeans to arrive on its shores in 1470.
Apr 28 2009
The arrival of the Portuguese gave rise to São Tomé 's unique Forro Creole culture and this combines with the crystal clear blue water, white sand beaches and black volcanic rock cliffs to make it one of the world's most unique and attractive islands. As if its natural features weren't enough of a paradise, São Tomé also has its very own 'Chocolate King'. Soil rich in volcanic minerals blesses the island with some of the best cacao growing conditions on earth and at a plantation in Nova Moca, in the centre of São Tomé, an eccentric chocolatier named Claudio Corallo produces some of the world's most sought after dark chocolate.
Mar 9 2011
Just off the Tunisian coast, the island of Djerba is home an eclectic mix of Mediterranean, Jewish and indigenous North African Berber cultures. The island is linked to the Tunisian mainland both by a Roman-era causeway and a ferry running to and from the town of Jorf. Star Wars aficionados will also recognise the Berber fishermen's storage house in the village of Ajim on Djerba's southwestern coast as the filming location for Obi-Wan Kenobi's house.
Jan 1 2010
On Djerba's north coast near the island's main town of Houmt Souk, Ghazi Mustapha Fortress was built in the thirteenth century when the island was ruled by the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. When the occupying Europeans were defeated by an Ottoman force under the command of Turkish admiral Piali Pasha in 1560 the conquerors left a grisly monument of Spanish skulls stacked up in one of the towers of the fortress.
Apr 8 2014
Nestled in a reservoir of the Old Aswan Dam along a stretch of the Nile in southern Egypt, Agilkia Island the adopted home of an Ancient Egyptian temple complex known as Philae. When construction began on the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, the temple complex was largely forgotten and would today be completely underwater were it not for the intervention of UNESCO, who initiated a project to move the ruins to nearby Agilkia Island which was said to resemble the mythical Isle of Isis.
Oct 28 2009
Today, the relocated ruins of Philae on Agilkia Island showcase monuments which transcend empires and dynasties as structures built by Ancient Egyptian pharaohs, Ptolemaic Greeks and Roman Caesars stand side by side. Agilkia Island's most famous structure is unquestionably its Temple of Isis, built by Pharaoh Nectanebo I in the fourth century BC. Featuring its own inner temple dedicated to the gods Horus and Osiris, the temple also showcases its original and elaborate hieroglyphs as well as carvings of the famous Ancient Egyptian sphinx.
Nov 11 2008
The island of Suqutra sits in the Arabian Sea just over 500 kilomtres southeast of the Yemen mainland. Spread over an area of 3800 square kilometres, Suqutra is one of the most isolated islands on earth and most of its flora and fauna is endemic. Three types of terrain make up Suqutra, its pristine Indian Ocean waters and coastal plains are what makes it seem like a typical island paradise when viewed from afar but what makes Suqutra completely unique from anywhere else on the planet is the otherworldly scenery found on its limestone plateau interior.
Jan 10 2014
Two of Suqutra's aliases are the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean’ and the 'Most alien-looking place on Earth'. The island's Dragon Blood trees, which resemble a bizarre hybrid between an oversized Banzai tree and some sort of space mushroom from a Hollywood movie, sprout out of red-orange sand making it seem as if Suqutra has just crash-landed in the Indian Ocean from Mars. Only Hawaii, New Caledonia in the South Pacific and the Galapagos Islands themselves have more unique and endemic species of plant than Suqutra and legend has it the island was once the home of dragons and phoenixes.
Jun 21 2013
The Seychelles are one of the main locations which spring to mind when most people think of tropical islands. Praslin is the second largest of the islands which make up the Seychelles and the interior of the island matches its paradise coastline. Vallée de Mai is an officially designated nature preserve which showcases the Seychelles' lush palm forest and ,when visiting the area in the nineteenth century, British General Charles George Gordon was convinced that Vallée de Mai was the Garden of Eden. Dozens of plants and animals are on show in Vallée de Mai, most famously Coco de Mer, or 'Sea Coconut', which is actually two coconuts in one and completely unique to the Seychelles.
Apr 15 2011
Elsewhere in the Seychelles, with no official inhabitants and surrounded by crystalline azure water and platinum white sands, nowhere else on earth epitomises the tropical desert island idyll more than Ile Coco. Just over seven kilometres northwest of Praslin, Ile Coco is an officially designated marine park as well as being one of the premier diving spots in the Seychelles. Image Credit - Jmhullot (Wikimedia)
Jun 24 2009
In the state of Assam in northeastern India, Majuli is the largest river island in the world. The island sits in the Brahmaputra River and is spread over a total of 350 square kilometres. Main access comes via a ferry which connects Majuli to Nimatighat, near the city of Jorhat, and with its shimmering emerald rice paddies, traditional Assamese bamboo stilt houses and water meadows the island also offers some of India's best birdwatching. Sadly, part of Majuli Island disappears every year after the monsoon season and due to natural erosion caused by the mighty Brahmaputra which flows around it on all sides. Image Credit: Kalai Sukanta (Wikimedia Commons)
Apr 20 2008
Majuli's two main settlements are the villages of Kamalabari and Garamur and the island has been an Assamese centre for a branch of Hindu culture known as neo-Vaishnavism since the sixteenth century. A total of 22 neo-Vaishnavite satras, or monasteries, can be found on Majuli and anyone visiting the island and looking for a more unique glimpse into Hindu culture should head straight to one of Majuli's satras. The satra in Kamalabari, three kilometres away from the ferry port, is one of Majuli's main centres for classical neo-Vaishnavite art and literature as well as some of the island's best-known puja rituals.
Jul 20 2015
Located 500 kilometres off the south coast of Java in Indonesia and officially recognised a territory of the Commonwealth of Australia, Christmas Island takes its name from being spotted by a fleet of the British East India Company on December 25th, 1643. Centred around the main towns of Kampong, Silver City, Poon Saan, and Drumsite, the island's population numbers just over two thousand, mostly Malay Chinese as well as a small number of Europeans and Buddhism is its main religion. The edges of Christmas Island are studded with tropical beaches, with most of the island covered in dense tropical jungle on the central plateau and from here one of the most famous natural spectacles on earth unfolds every year.
Jan 1 2009
Christmas Island is home thirteen species of land crab, including the Coconut Crab and Indian Ocean Hermit Crab, but the Christmas Island Red Crabs are one of the most famous species on the planet. The island's 40 million-plus Red Crabs outnumber the human population 20,000 to one and at the beginning of the wet season every year, usually around October and November, adult Christmas Island Red Crabs begin a spectacular migration from the island's central plateau to the ocean. The timing of the crabs' march to the sea is entirely dictated by the phases of the moon and during this eighteen day period millions of the crabs make their way to the island's beaches to lay their eggs. During the migration, many of Christmas Island's roads are closed and in 2015 special bridges and underpasses were built to help the crabs' in their journey to the ocean.
Oct 14 2009
Located at the mouth of the Pearl River, Lantau is Hong Kong's largest island and with a total area of 147 square kilometres, is twice the size of Hong Kong island itself. Luckily the airport, the highly developed Tung Chung New Town and the Disneyland which epitomise Hong Kong's surge into modernity are confined to Lantau's northern fringes and the rest of the island is studded with forest, beaches and traditional Cantonese fishing villages. Of these fishing villages, Tai O is the biggest and best known and even sits on its own island separated from the southwestern coast of Lantau by a narrow stretch of water. Tai O's unique wooden 'Pang uk' stilt houses are adapted from the house boats found in Hong Kong's harbours and many of the village's residents still follow the traditional ways of fishing and oyster picking.
Aug 31 2005
In the nineteenth century Lantau was one of the main hideouts of Chinese pirate Cheung Po Tsai and among the highlights of the island's interior are its mountainous hiking trails, the Song Dynasty Tung Chung Fort and Fung Wong Shan, or 'Phoenix Mountain', Hong Kong's second highest peak. Lantau's most famous landmark, however, is the Tian Tian Buddha which sits atop Ngong Ping Plateau in the centre of the island. Sitting inside a lotus flower sculpture and on top of a pedestal modelled on the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, Tian Tian was once the largest seated Buddha statue on earth and was constructed in 1993 from 202 individual pieces of bronze. On a clear day the colossal, 34 metre-high statue is visible from as far away as Macau.
Feb 3 2013
With a total area of 338 square kilometres, Siquijor is one of the central Visayan Islands in the Philippines. The island is famous throughout the region for its 102 kilometres the sugar-like sand on its shores and Salagdoong on the east coast, Tubod on the south coast and Paliton in the west are three of Siquijor's best known beaches. Some of Southeast Asia's most sought after coral reef diving can be found on Siquijor and the island's caves, mountains and forests are also popular attractions.
Apr 6 2007
While Siquijor, and especially its beaches and coastline, may seem like an almost typical paradise, the island's interior is said to hold a dark secret. Siquijor has long been known for its herbalists and spiritual healers, known as 'Bolo-Bolo' and who are said to possess the power to heal illnesses and disease using local herbs and plant roots as natural remedies. On the slightly darker side, however, Siquijor is also said to be home to black magic sorcerers known as Mambabarang. Among the rituals practiced by these sorcerers are pasting pieces of paper with the name and address of a victim to a skull and yelling dark incantations to invoke harm and dangling a named and addressed scrap of paper wrapped around a nugget of root ginger into a bamboo tube where it is devoured by ravenous beetles. Although the subject of black magic is a touchy one for Siquijor's locals, whether or not these sorcerers have ever caused any physical harm has never been proven.
Sep 19 2006
As far as volcanic islands go, Jeju-do off the southern coast of South Korea is a geologist's dream. On Jeju Island's southern Jisatgae Coast, the Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff is a natural remnant from when Hallasan Mountain erupted into the sea. The cliffs are honeycombed with almost perfectly formed cube and hexagon-shaped rock pillars and the twenty metre high cliff has also been officially declared as a natural monument of Korea.
May 4 2011
Jeju-do is also home to one of the world’s most extensive and impressive systems of lava tubes, natural underground caves connected to a volcano through which lava once flowed. There are ten of these lava tubes on Jeju-do, collectively known as Geomun-Oreum Lava Tube System and located in Seongyo-ro, southeast of the island’s capital of Jeju City. The Geomun-Oreum Lava Tube System was formed 200-300 thousand years ago when its namesake volcano erupted and lava began surging through nearby cave tunnels, creating a thirteen-kilometre-long river of lava all the way down to the coast. Of the resulting lava tubes, Manjanggal stretches on for almost nine thousand metres and with thirty-metre-high by twenty-four-metre-wide cave passages, the lava tube is Jeju's best known natural site. Alongside the multi-coloured geocrystals and carbon and calcium deposits which adorn the cave passages, the cave is an exhibition of dozens of types of lava formations including lava stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, helictites, ancient cave corals and lava shelves.
May 24 2014
Located off Indonesia's West Papua Province, Raja Ampat is an archipelago comprising over 1500 individual islands and coral atolls. The Raja Ampat Islands are spread over a total of 15,000 square miles and the region is world famous for its snorkeling and diving as well as being a centre for oyster pearl farming. Amazingly, 96% of all of Indonesia's species of oceanic coral are thought to be endemic to the Raja Ampat Islands.
Oct 20 2011
The name Raja Ampat literally means 'Four Kings' and legend has it that the four main islands, Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo, were once four of seven eggs found by a goddess. Of these seven eggs, three hatched into a ghost, a stone and a woman and the four other eggs hatched into kings who would become the rulers of the four largest islands. Located on Waigeo Island, the small town of Waiseo is regarded as the 'capital' of the region and every year the locals hold a festival which retells the story of the hatching of the 'Eggs of Raja Ampat'.
Apr 15 2012
The Seto Inland Sea is a body of water which separates three of the four main Japanese islands of Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū. Also known as Itsukushima, which literally means 'Shrine Island', Miyajima is located in the west of the Seto Inland Sea in Hiroshima Bay and is home to a population of roughly two thousand people. The vermilion red 'floating' Torii gate, itself part of Itsukushima Shrine, is one of the most iconic images in Japanese culture and history, appearing in Neo-Confucian scholar Hayashi Gahō's seminal work 'Nihon Sankei' as one of classical Japan's three most famous sights.
Dec 27 2011
Located on the island of Miyajima and officially designated both as a UNESCO heritage site and as a National Treasure of Japan, Itsukushima Shrine is dedicated to Susanoo-no-Mikoto, the Shinto god of the ocean and storms. Itsukushima Shrine as seen today dates back to the mid sixteenth century and is based on a design drawn up in 1168 by a Samurai warlord named Taira no Kiyomori, with his original idea to build a shrine recreating the the mythical Ryugu-jo, or 'Dragon Palace'. While the famous red Torii gate lies out in the Seto Inland Sea-proper, Itsukushima Shrine can be found in a small tidal inlet with paths around the complex allowing Shinto devotees and visitors to fully explore it. Image Credit: Flickr - Travis
Aug 1 2013
360 kilometres south of Tokyo in the Philippine Sea, Aogashima is the southernmost island in the Japanese archipelago of Izu. At just 3.5 kilometers long and 2.5 kilometers wide Aogashima is home to roughly 170 people and the island first appeared in official census records recording Japanese volcanic eruptions during the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1652. Aogashima's main topographical feature is Ikenosawa, a volcanic depression known as a caldera, which has a diameter of 1.5 kilometres and from a which a central volcanic cone called Maruyama rises up nearly 1400 feet.
Apr 25 2015
From the ocean Aogashima may seem like a lump of rock cast adrift in the middle of the Philippine Sea, but what makes the island so fascinating is that two Japanese hamlet-style villages live in relative harmony on the side of a still active volcano. The two villages, Yasundogō in the east and Nishigō in the west, are home to the vast majority of Aogashima's population and also feature natural saunas heated by natural volcanic and geothermal water. Image Credit: Flickr - Charly W. Karl
Oct 13 2006
Part of the Senyavin Islands, Pohnpei Island makes up part of its namesake state which is also one of the four officially federated states of Micronesia. At 334 square kilometres, Pohnpei is the largest island in Micronesia as well as being one of the wettest places on earth due to its three inches of annual rainfall. With its beaches, crystalline turquoise water and explosively colourful coral reefs, the image of paradise islands in the South Seas is perfectly embodied in Pohnpei and small Melanesian villages are clustered all around the island.
May 12 2011
Pohnpei's main draw are the mysterious and waterlogged ancient stone ruins of Nan Madol on the east coast of the island. The complex was once a lagoon city made up of artificial islands linked together by ocean canals and the ruined city's original name, Soun Nan-leng, literally means 'Reef of Heaven'. Local legend tells of Nan Madol being created by two twin sorcerer brothers named Olisihpa and Olosohpa who built the city by flying in massive blocks of coral and stone on the back of a dragon. In reality, Nan Madol was originally built in eighth century before becoming a residential area for Pohnpei's Saudeleur Dynasty in roughly 1628. The ruins of 58 of Pohnpei's original buildings are still showcased at the site today, and archaeologists believed some served as living quarters for priests as well as ancient workshops where canoes and coconut oil were made and processed for trade with other Melanesian islands.
Dec 31 2006
Just under 170 kilometres north of Vanuatu's capital of Port Vila and home to two of the country's nine active volcanoes, the island of Ambrym is also known as 'Black Island'. Firstly, due to the thick layer of volcanic ash which cakes the island's central area, and secondly because of the ancient Melanesian black magic which is still practiced in Ambrym's 'kastom' native villages today. These kastom villages preserve and showcase traditional Melanesian culture, religion, art and magic and Saanembur Lonbato, better known as Fanla, is one of Ambrym's most unique.
Aug 30 2007
As well as Ambrym's other traditional kastom villages, the island is famous for producing some of Vanuatu's best examples of traditional Melanesian stone and wood carving. Along with huge, man-sized wooden slit drums known as 'tam tam' or 'namange', hand carved tiki statues of gods, monsters and legendary figures from Melanesian mythology are gathered in clusters all around the island's villages.
Jul 1 2009
In New Zealand's Bay of Plenty, Whakaari is an active volcano just over ninety kilometres off the coast of Tauranga on the country's North Island. Also known as White Island and 'Te Puia o Whakaari', or 'Dramatic Volcano' in Maori. Whakaari is roughly circular and has a total area of 2 square kilometres. The volcano has been active long before it was discovered by English explorer Captain James Cook in 1769 and the vast majority of the mountain which makes up the island is underwater, rising approximately 1600 metres from the ocean floor.
Jul 15 2012
Whakaari has erupted 35 times since records in the area began in 1826 and until until 1914. when an avalanche of volcanic mud known as a 'lahar' killed ten workers, the island was a sulfur mine. Whakaari is also New Zealand's most active marine volcano, so much so that local tour guides make wearing a hard hat a condition of visiting the island either on foot or flying overhead in a helicopter.