10 Under-The-Radar Islands Of The World

Roger Cracknell01/Alamy

Hollywood scouts were on to something when they skipped over Mykonos and chose a secret island in Greece as the location for Mamma Mia. The movie was a $600-million hit, in part because it fueled peoples' fantasies of escaping to a secluded island (and yes, those catchy ABBA tunes didn't hurt).

Hollywood scouts were on to something when they skipped over Mykonos and chose a secret island in Greece as the location for Mamma Mia. The movie was a $600-million hit, in part because it fueled peoples' fantasies of escaping to a secluded island (and yes, those catchy ABBA tunes didn't hurt).

Surprisingly, that picture-perfect movie location, Skopelos, has stayed under the radar. There are still gems like Skopelos hidden all around the globe, if you know where to look.

Our friends at Travel +Leisure have done the requisite digging to find places you can truly unwind, from the rugged Chilean spot that inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe to a tiny island in the Caribbean that was virtually deserted for decades until a luxe resort opened in 2010.

Similar high-end resorts have been popping up across Southeast Asia, where many islands are vying to be the next Phuket. So those looking to get far off the grid head to Con Dao, an archipelago 110 miles off Vietnam's southeastern coast. Sheer granite cliffs border deserted beaches, and a private guide can lead visitors by motorbike to remote spots like the spectacular Dam Tre Bay lagoon.

Travelers looking to commune with nature can also find solitude on Nicaragua's acre-wide Jicaro Island on freshwater Lake Nicaragua. The nine casitas at Jicaro Island Ecolodge were built from storm-felled trees, and all the food is locally sourced; you can sip a passion-fruit-banana cocktail as you sit by the infinity pool.

No matter the daydream, check out their picks for the secret islands of the world.

Text and photos courtesy of our friends at Travel + Leisure.

Secret Islands
See Gallery
10 Under-The-Radar Islands Of The World (PHOTOS)

There’s nary a traffic light on this laid-back island—a five-mile strip of land that’s a 15-minute flight from Belize’s main airport. Head to Shark Ray Alley to snorkel among nurse sharks and stingrays or go scuba diving at the underwater caves of Blue Hole.

Above ground, try the curried lobster at the roadside Jolly Roger’s Grill (Ave. Hicaco; 011-501/664-3382; dinner for two $25). On the eastern side of the Caye, Seaside Cabanas (501/226-0498;doubles from $105) has 10 rooms and six colorful cabins, each with its own roof terrace for taking in those amazing Caribbean views.

T+L Tip: Visit during the annual Lobster Festival (July 1–3), when the main road turns into a street party.

A 2 1/2-hour ferry ride from Scotland's west-coast whisky town of Oban takes visitors to this remote Hebridean island. Sheep far outnumber people, and those who have made the wildflower-carpeted island home are the sort of characters who would have inspired Robert Burns.

There’s the naturalist Kevin Byrne (44-1951/200-320; walks for two from $32), who can name every buzzard flying near the mile-long sands of Kiloran Bay, or proprietor Mike McNicholl of the General Store (44-1951/200-265), who’ll tell visitors about the dolphins he just saw and sell you a bottle of Laphroaig. The Howard family owns the Colonsay Hotel (44-1951/200-316;doubles from $160), a nine-room Georgian inn built in 1750, with white pebble-dashed walls, sloping slate roofs, and spare furnishings. Meet all the locals at the village hall for Saturday’s weekly ceilidh dance, as authentic a gathering as you’ll find in the British Isles.

T+L Tip: For a customized tour of neighboring Jura’s legendary whisky distillery, contact David Tobin of Dream Escape.

Phu Quoc might be hailed as the next Phuket, but those looking to get far off the grid head to this undiscovered archipelago just 110 miles off Vietnam’s southeastern coast. A 45-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City brings visitors to Con Son, the largest (and only inhabited) member of the 16-island chain. Here, sheer granite cliffs border deserted beaches and crystal-blue water — imagine a tropical Amalfi Coast without the crowds. The arrival of the Six Senses Con Dao (Dat Doc Beach; 84-64/383-1222;villas from $685) has brought a welcome dose of luxury to the island.

Standing along a stretch of golden sand are 50 airy villas (some with private pools) that look out onto the South China Sea. Food is a highlight here. In classic Six Senses style, the hotel’s Vietnamese restaurant is set up to resemble a market; there are separate stalls “hawking” noodles and rolls, while made-to-order dishes are cooked outside in charcoal-fueled woks. The 20-square-mile island is well worth exploring. Hire a private guide from the hotel, who will take visitors via motorbike to the area’s most remote spots, including a 19th-century hilltop lighthouse and the spectacular Dam Tre Bay lagoon.

T+L Tip: Take a boat trip to Bay Canh Island to view endangered hawksbill turtles during nesting season (May through September), arranged by the hotel.

Don’t expect to see much night sky here: In summer, daylight shines for up to 21 hours on this rocky one-mile hideaway in Breiðafjörður Bay. Lush meadows and multicolored timber houses dot the scenery, and the mainland’s Snæfellsjökull volcano is always within eyeshot. In town, Hotel Flatey (354/555-7788; doubles from $180) stays true to simple Scandinavian design (blond-wood furniture, whitewashed walls), and the downstairs restaurant turns into a live-concert venue for local talent at night.

T+L Tip: Swing by Iceland’s oldest (and smallest) library, built in 1864.

There are palm trees and thatched roofs, even a shadowy volcano in the distance, but the air has none of the tropical tang one would expect in Nicaragua, and there are no waves or powdery shores. That’s because Jicaro is located on Lake Nicaragua, a freshwater lake 10 minutes by boat from the colonial town of Granada.

The island’s single acre is occupied by Jicaro Island Ecolodge (505/8403-1236; doubles from $480, including meals), a hotel as sensitive to the environment as it is easy on the eyes. Its nine casitas, stylish with their slatted façades and mosquito-netted beds, are crafted entirely from Nicaraguan timber, salvaged from storm-felled trees. The food is locally sourced, all organic; solar power heats the water; and there’s a freshwater infinity pool.

T+L Tip: Spend an afternoon hiking around the cloud forest on the upper slopes of the nearby volcano, Mombacho.

A two-hour flight west of Chile's capital, Santiago, this rugged isle earned its fame from the 18th-century sailor Alexander Selkirk, whose wild spell as a castaway here inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe. The aura of adventure still endures (there’s even a rumor of buried treasure). Travelers arrive on a seven-seater plane, then take a 30-minute speedboat ride to the town of San Juan Bautista.

At the new Crusoe Island Lodge (Bahía Pangal; 56-23/460-103; doubles from $330, all-inclusive), all 15 rooms are made with recycled materials and wood from the nearby forest.

Hire guide Michelangel Trezza from the hotel to organize a scuba dive (from $150), on which visitors can see a centuries-old shipwreck.

T+L Tip: Try El Mirador (dinner for two $100) for piping-hot lobster empanadas.

Partially protected from commercial activity since 1959, the Exuma Cays are normally the domain of cruisers — and a few privileged landowners such as Johnny Depp. But guests at Sampson Cay have access to the area’s thriving patch reefs and isolated islets. At the Sampson Cay Club (877/633-0305; doubles from $275), the five modest villas include wide patios that are perfect for watching the sunset. While the limestone karst terrain may be rugged, every path ends on a stretch of secluded white sand.

T+L Tip: Rent a Boston Whaler from the hotel (from $250 per day) to tour the surrounding Bahamian islands.

Flocks of ibis and egrets fill the sky at this 25,000-acre hideaway in northeastern Argentina’s Paraná Lake. Owner Douglas Tompkins — the founder of fashion label Esprit — transformed a former cattle ranch into Estancia San Alonso (54-3782/497-172; doubles from $160, all-inclusive), with five rustic-chic suites.

Guests arrive by aircraft from the city of Posadas (arranged by the hotel; $770 round-trip for up to three people), on the mainland, and head out on twice-daily fauna-spotting forays — if lucky, you’ll see caimans and the endangered pampas deer. After, return to the lodge for a fireside barbecue.

T+L Tip: Take a fly-fishing tour (arranged by the hotel) to catch a 15-pound golden dorado.

The name may suggest otherwise, but a trip here hardly constitutes roughing it. Once a pit stop for explorers, it’s been virtually uninhabited for decades — until last year, when the luxe Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina (877/890-7444; doubles from $375) opened its doors on this British Virgin island. What to expect? Spacious hillside villas, guided trips to nearby Norman Island, and sunset nature hikes.

T+L Tip: Reserve Honeymoon Beach (accessible only by boat) for a picnic à deux.

A one-hour ferry ride from Skiathos, the Greek island of Skopelos is so dreamy (hidden coves; blue-roofed tavernas; hundreds of Byzantine-era churches) that Hollywood chose its Kastani Beach as a set for "Mamma Mia". At the just-renovated Adrina Beach Hotel (Panormos; 34-24240/23371;doubles from $98), the 49 pastel-colored rooms face the pine-tree-studded coastline, strewn with daybeds. Later this year, the same owners will debut the more upscale Adrina Resort & Spa (Panormos; 30-24240/23371; doubles from $110), with 16 terraced rooms and 22 villas that look out onto the Aegean.

T+L Tip: After a dinner of grilled lamb at garden-side Perivoli (Skopelos Town; 30-24240/23758; dinner for two $60), walk to open-air Mercurius Bar & Café (Skopelos Town; 30-24240/24593; drinks for two $12), or the hillside Ouzeri Anatoli (Skopelos Town; 30-24240/22851; drinks for two $12), for live rebetika music.


Read Full Story