1. SANTORINI, GREECE
Encircling a sea filled caldera, spectacular Santorini scores top points for its dramatic beauty. Bleached white villas tumble down volcanic cliffs. Blue domed churches rise against the sparkling sea, and bright sprays of bougainvillea add to the eye popping palette of colour. Perched atop the black lava cliffs, the settlements of Fira and Oia are the island's most picturesque - and pricey, destinations - and Oia ranks among the most photographed locations in the world. Other highlights of Santorini include Akrotiri Archaeological Site, Ancient Thira, the black sand beach of Perissa, and of course, the sublime sunsets. Sailing into this stunning caldera surrounded by soaring sea cliffs makes an unforgettable first impression.
2. THE COOK ISLAND
If you have ever dreamed of being a castaway in the South Pacific, the Cook Islands are for you. Strung between French Polynesia and Samoa but with strong ties to New Zealand, the archipelago's 15 islands are among the most beautiful islands in the South Pacific. Among the islands top attractions are enticing aquamarine lagoons, palm fringed beaches, and volcanic peaks. Best of all, the locals are among the friendliest in the South Pacific. Roratonga is the main tourist hub, with its many resorts, lush peaks, and plentiful beaches. Aitutaki one of the most beautiful island in the south pacific. Hibiscus laced villages snuggle on the hillsides, and 21 motus or small islets lie along its heavenly lagoon, many within kayak distance of the resorts. Ensconce yourself here in an over the water bungalow or hole up in a rustic beach shack on a remote out island and live your Robinson Crusoe fantasies.
3. BALI, INDONESIA
Bali's intoxicating culture is a feast for the senses. Incense wafts from Hindu temples, rice paddies glow in electric greens, and the food jolts the taste buds. Surfing, swimming, and sunbathing are popular activities at the islands beautiful beaches, and tourists will find so many other things to do on this exotic isle, from temple hopping and sightseeing in the lush countryside to spa treatments, shopping, and hiking. Soak up the spiritual side of Bali in Ubud, see Seminyak, and family friendly Sanur, feel the pumping pulse of touristy Kuta, or explore the attractions on the neighboring volcanic island of Lombok. One thing's for sure: Bali's enchanting spirit will wash over you like a warm, tropical wave.
4. DALMATIAN ISLAND, CROATIA
In the Adriatic sea off the coast of Croatia, the Dalmatian Islands are an enchanting mix of relaxed charm and rich history. Quaint villages and boutique hotels and restaurants dot these gorgeous isles, which are surrounded by sparkling seas and some of the Croatia's best beaches. Top on the list is Brac with the famous beach strip of Zlatni Rat. Hvar is also beautiful with its Gothic churches, car free old town, and picturesque fishing harbor. From here, you can zip across to the beautiful Pakleni Islands, known for their crystal clear water and secluded coves. Other must see Dalmatian islands include Korcula, with its red roofed, white washed buildings, Mljet with its two inland saltwater lakes; and relatively uncrowded Vis.
5. CAPRI, ITALY
Glamorous Capri, about 20 kilometers off the Amalfi Coast, lives up to all the hype. Sea stacks and soaring cliffs rise from the teal-hued Tyrrhenian Sea, framed by sprays of colorful flowers. One of its most popular tourist attractions is the blue grotto, a glowing sea cave, where locals row tourists in on tiny boats and sing opera to demonstrate the acoustics. Once you arrive at the port of Marina Grande, catch the funicular up to the main town of Capri, which feels like a movie set. The piazza here buzzes with impeccably dressed locals and tourists toting shopping bags filled with designer clothes and the island's perfumes. While you're here, be sure to also visit the highest town, Anacapri, and take the chair lift up to Monte Solaro for spectacular views across the island and sea.
6. SARDINIA, ITALY
Winsome white sand beaches, rugged coastal peaks, mouthwatering cuisine, a unique blend of cultures, and ancient archeological treasures. Most travelers have heard of the glamorous Coastal Smeralda, or Emerald Coast, with its craggy coves and clear green seas, but this large and diverse Mediterranean isle. Sardinia is home to the largest canyon in Europe, prehistoric archaeological sites; the captivating Catalan tinged town of Alghero, and the medieval streets of Cagliari the capital.
7. BORA BORA, FRENCH POLYNESIA
Shaped like a giant sombrero, this lush volcanic island stars in countless South Pacific fantasies. The focal point and best asset of this tropical beauty is its ravishing lagoon in technicolor turquoise. Fish, turtles, sharks, and rays swim in the clear waters, and tiny islets or motus dot the lagoon. The island, of course, is distinctly French, with mouthwatering cuisine to match. Diving and snorkeling are excellent in the surrounding reefs, and hiking trails weave through the palm studded forests. If you can afford it, hide out here in a luxurious over the water bungalow and bask in your good fortune as you fall asleep to the gentle slosh of the sea.
8. PALAWAN, PHILIPPINES
Palawan is the Philippine's answer to paradise. This island province stretches southwest to Borneo, with lush limestone peaks rising from a jewel like sea so clear, that you can almost see the expressions on the fish from above the surface. Slivers of gleaming white sand beaches fringed with rustling palms rim many of these jungle clad islands, while under the water, coral reefs teem with an impressive diversity of tropical fish, offering some of the best diving in the world. Other attractions include the islands' unique wildlife, emerald lakes, and quaint fishing villages. Coron is home to plush resorts, and El Nido drips with natural beauty and is one of the most alluring islands in the chain. One of Palawan's top attractions is the World Heritage listed Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, an impressive limestone cave system with a long underground river.
Pristine and picture perfect, the Seychelles are worth traveling for. East of Kenya, this relatively unspoiled archipelago of 115 coral and granite islands is packed with attractions, from UNESCO listed jungles and thriving coral reefs to palm linked, powdery beaches flanked by giant boulders. Almost half the total land area of these equatorial isles is protected, and many of the islands lie within fish rich marine sanctuaries with excellent diving and snorkeling. The Seychelles also feature some of the planet's richest fishing grounds, making this a top destination for anglers. Add some spicy Créole cuisine into the mix, as well as the plush resorts of Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue, and it's easy to understand the Seychelles' allure.
10. ST. LUCIA
St. Lucia exudes a dark and brooding winsome. Unlike other Caribbean islands, its best assets are not necessarily its beaches, though with their golden sands and graceful palms, they are popular with those who visit. Rather, the island itself is drenched in topographic drama. The towering Pitons, twin volcanic peaks, preside over the luxuriant landscapes, rising more than 700 meters from the sea, and providing a breathtaking backdrop to the stunning scenery. Bristling forests of coconut palms, waterfalls, quaint fishing villages, coral reefs, nature trails, and healing hot springs are just some of the sights to explore on St. Lucia. Pretty Marigot Bay and Anse Chastanet Marine Park are highlights. The island's French influences also add to its exotic appeal.
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