In the eyes of Travel + Leisure readers, the best islands in the world promise much more than aquamarine waters, dramatic coastlines, and pristine beaches. All are evidence that we are not only enthusiastically exploring again but re-examining what an ideal island experience might entail.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L 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.
The majority of the most popular islands offer crystalline sands and thriving marine life that can be explored by divers of any level. Cases in point: the Maldives (No. 2), Bali in Indonesia (No. 3), or Thailand’s Phuket (No. 7). Readers also flocked to isles with rich culture and food, from the ancient ruins and elements passable food of Mílos, Greece (No. 4) to nightlife on Ibiza, Spain (No. 17).
Readers’ enthusiasm for Vietnam’s Phu Quoc (No. 14) has earned it a place on this list thanks to its white-sand beaches and delectable food. The island is renowned for its production of fish sauce and peppercorns, as well as its coral reefs and dense tropical forest.
But this category, according to T+L readers, has a new winner this year. Read on to discover why Italy’s Ischia took the title of the No. 1 island.
1. Ischia, Italy
Located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, a one-hour ferry ride from Naples, Ischia has attracted more attention among travelers after featuring prominently in Elena Ferrante’s novel “My Brilliant Friend,” which HBO was recently adapted into a series. It earned the top spot thanks to its picturesque villages, thermal springs, and unspoiled beaches, which include Le Fumarole and its geothermally heated sand. One reader added praise for the “very nice and helpful” locals. While there are myriad villas to rent, there’s also the full five-star hotel experience of the grande dame Regina Isabella and newcomer Mezzatorre, run by Pellicano Hotels.
3. Bali, Indonesia
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 92.51
4. Mílos, Greece
5. Fiji Islands
6. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
7. Phuket, Thailand
9. Boracay, Philippines
10. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
11. Palawan, Philippines
12. Paros, Greece
13. Azores, Portugal
14. Phu Quoc, Vietnam
15. Moorea, French Polynesia
16. Cebu, Philippines
17. Ibiza, Spain
18. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
19. Madeira, Portugal
20. Maui, Hawaii
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 89.55
22. Crete, Greece
23. Mackinac Island, Michigan
24. Island of Hawaii
25. Kiawah Island, South Carolina