Stunning Irish island ranked among best in world - ahead of Bali, Ibiza and St Barts

Stunning Irish island ranked among best in world - ahead of Bali, Ibiza and St Barts

THREE rocky isles located in the rugged west of Ireland have been named as some of the best in the world.

The Aran Islands have made a list of the Best Islands in the World, compiled by the editors at Big 7 Travel.

Using aggregated scores from previous media results, and contributions from the Big 7 Travel editorial team, the travel firm has published a list of the 50 “most amazing islands to visit right now”.

It’s a diverse list, with tropical cays and Nordic bays, and islands from Mallorca to the Maldives getting special recognition.

And while it may not be tropical, or sun-drenched, it appears Ireland still holds its own when it comes to island envy.

The Aran Islands, located in the mouth of Galway Bay, place a very respectable number 15 on the list.

They’re known for their ancient sites, with the largest island, Inishmore, home to the prehistoric fort of Dún Aonghasa, perched on top of a high cliff.

Inishmaan is the second largest island, while Inisheer is the smallest of the three.

“These three remote islands off Ireland’s west coast are like stepping back into time, with a rural charm and stunning scenery that will take your breath away,” Big 7 says.

“Visitors can either walk around them or cycle the pretty road that are lined with hand built brick walls,” they add.

“Hear Gaeilge being spoken, enjoy fresh seafood and the simple things in life.

“The sheer cliffs looking out into the Atlantic ocean and the famous local hospitality make these a must visit for anybody who loves Ireland.”

Here is the full list of the Best 50 Islands in the World:

1 Lummi Island, Washington

Lummi Island yet feels lightyears away from the bustle of Seattle. It’s a sleepy, scenic island with a thriving artist community, local and organic dining, and stunning vistas of the Salish Sea. Coming here is like going back into the past where life is a little bit slower and a lot more meaningful. It’s an ideal place to get off the grid and enjoy seaside strolls, bicycle rides and a good book. After the past 18 months of the pandemic, this is the sort of place that heals you from the inside out. Fewer than 1,000 people live here full time, and for those that do – we’re jealous.

2 Palawan, Phillipines

El Nido is a cluster of 45 islands just off the tip of Palawan, which is famous for its Secret Lagoon. Swim through a hole in the limestone rocks to enter a hidden bay with crystal clear water and soft sand. It feels untouched, with white sandy beaches and tropical jungle. As soon as you step foot onto here you’ll instantly agree it’s one of the best islands in the world.

3 Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

Santo – as locals call it – is the largest of the 83 Vanuatu Islands. It still remains largely unspoilt, with powdery white sand and freshwater Blue Holes surrounded by natural rain forest. You’ll fall in love with this place the moment you spot it from the plane. One of the world’s most picturesque islands, this spot has clear blue waters and sparkling sand. At Champagne Beach you will also find fresh fruit stalls, freshly prepared crab and lobster and cute beachside shacks.

4 Sommarøy, Norway

If you visit Sommarøy on a summer’s day, you would be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the Caribbean: there’s coral beaches and turquoise ocean views. It’s the famous ‘Midnight Sun’ that makes it so special though. Sommarøy – meaning ‘Summer Island’ – is an island in Norway where the sun doesn’t set for 69 days every summer, and is in constant darkness from November to January.

5 Korcula, Croatia

Korcula is one of the must-visit destinations on Croatia’s South Dalmatian coast. It’s a little further out to get to than most of the other islands, so you can enjoy less crowds and a more laid-back feel. People call Korcula Town “Little Dubrovnik” because of its medieval squares, churches, palaces and houses, while the beaches and dense forest offer incredible scenery.

Aerial view of Platypus Bay, Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia

6 Fraser Island, Australia

This is a large island that is one of many similar stunning spots on Australia’s East Coast.

Fraser Island stretches over 123 kilometres in length and 22 kilometres at its widest point. Fun fact: it’s actually the largest sand island in the world. It is a must visit for anybody backpacking around this part of the world, with endless activities, wildlife and stunning natural scenery to see.

7 Pemba Island, Zanzibar

This is a remote island off the east coast of Africa, and probably as far away from civilisation you might ever find yourself. Pemba is Zanzibar’s most green and fertile isle, with exceptional diving sites and native wildlife. Most of Zanzibar’s cloves are grown here, so when the annual harvest runs from July to January, the scent of drying cloves lingers on every passing breeze.

8 Barbados

Barbados is one of those magical holiday destinations that everybody dreams about visiting; it instantly ticks so many boxes when you arrive. Nestled in the south of the Caribbean, it offers stunning beauty, a vibrant cultural scene and some of the best beaches and surfing in the Caribbean. Mainly though, it is the people that make Barbados what it is. Magical.

9 Flatey, Iceland

Have you ever visited some of the islands around Iceland? Flatey is one of them, and can now claim fame top spot among the best islands in the world. There’s beautifully kept old houses dotted along the island, but just two families stay here throughout the winter.

In a charming way, it feels very much like a movie set. And so it is. Many movies are set on the island, most notably The Honour of the House based on a short story by Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness. The tranquility at this island is unique – time stands still.

10 Bora Bora, French Polynesia

When you think of bucket list destinations, the most ridiculously stunning Instagram travel snaps, or even desktop pictures, many of them come from Bora Bora. It’s home to some of the clearest water in the world thanks to its shallow reefs, which are ideal for snorkelling and other water sports. It also happens to be home to some of the prettiest and most luxurious hotels and private villas in the world.

11 Rawa Island, Malaysia

There’s very few places quite as beautiful as Rawa Island in Malaysia. Take a dip in the warm waters of the South China Sea. Enjoy the green scenery. Snorkel along the natural coral reef just metres from the shore. It’s an easy drive and boat trip from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, with a stay at the private island resort on the island essential for visiting. Rawa island boasts 100% coral cover and its house reef is naturally shallow, so it’s perfect for easy dives.

12 Azores, Portugal

The Azores, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is an archipelago of nine islands that have recently been highlighted as an emerging tourist destination. It’s one of the largest whale sanctuaries in the world. Explore geysers, hot thermal waters and volcanic lakes, hopping from island to island. A top pick? The tiny island of Corvo has a broad, beautiful crater at its centre, and attracts many species of birds coming from both Europe and America.

13 Koh Tao, Thailand

This peaceful island in the Gulf of Thailand has plenty of sheltered bays, but Tanot is the most beautiful. It’s uncrowded with warm, blue water and soft sand. Snorkelling is excellent here, with a great variety of coral and some fairly large fish that you’ll see as soon as you dip your toes into the water. While there’s endless amazing Thai islands to take your pick from, Koh Tao ticks all the boxes.

14 Capri, Italy

This small island just off the coast of Naples is one of the gems of the Mediterranean Sea. You can stay on the island or do what most people do and take it all in on a day trip.

The steep cliffs along with the bustling port, friendly locals and some stunning food make this a paradise escape. There are very few people who don’t fall in love with Capri the moment they set on the island.

15 The Aran Islands, Ireland

These three remote islands off Ireland’s west coast are like stepping back into time, with a rural charm and stunning scenery that will take your breath away. Visitors can either walk around them or cycle the pretty road that are lined with hand built brick walls. Hear Gaeilge being spoken, enjoy fresh seafood and the simple things in life. The sheer cliffs looking out into the Atlantic ocean and the famous local hospitality make these a must visit for anybody who loves Ireland.

An aerial view of Inisheer Island

16 Bali, Indonesia

The Indonesian island of Bali has long been a huge draw on the travel route, for everybody from surfers and backpackers through to honeymooners and luxury travellers.

It’s the paradise island that has something for everybody. There’s terraced rice fields, pristine beaches, world-class surf spots and historical temples.  Add in a buzzing food and drink scene and it’s easy to see why Bali is one of the best islands in the world.

17 Ibiza, Spain

While you’ll have your fair share of techno club photo ops, Ibiza is also one of the most beautiful Spanish islands, with a pretty Old Town and scenic beaches. Ibiza isn’t all party, party, party – the Old Town is actually a UNESCO Heritage Site. It’s full of narrow streets and monuments and is classically charming. Cute wine bars line the streets near the harbour, and as you walk up into the hilly town you will have a spectacular view of the sea below.

18 Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canasa

With incredible season, rich Aboriginal, Gaelic, and Acadian cultures, there’s a reason Cape Breton Island is one of the world’s top island destinations. It’s on the north-eastern tip of Nova Scotia on Canada’s East Coast, You may want to check your brakes before heading to Cape Breton as the world-renowned Cabot Trail, with its dramatic coastal views, can be pretty steep. It’s one of the best island drives you’ll do in your lifetime.

19 Corsica, France

Stunning rock structures that jut out of the clear blue waters are symbolic here, as well as the colourful old streets of Bastia and dolphin spotting. The beach at Palombaggia is one of Corsica’s finest, with fine white sand. It faces gorgeous blue seas, and is lined with beautiful pine trees, with the Cerbicales islands in the distance.

20 Santorini, Greece

A trip to Greece isn’t complete without Santorini — the most well-known and oft-talked about island (for good reason) of them all. A volcanic explosion created the stunning cliffs of Santorini, which now feature two gorgeous cobblestoned towns — Oia and Fira. Tourists love to take donkeys up and down the steep staircases, edging along the cliffs and snaking through the villages.

21 Havelock Island, Andaman Islands, India

There are 572 islands in the Andaman Islands, divided into five broad categories – Great Andaman, Little Andaman, Ritchie’s Archipelago, East Volcano Islands, and Sentinel Islands. Havelock Island is a real standout, with its world-famous Radhanagar Beach. Havelock Island is a traveller’s paradise, with palm trees, white sandy beaches and a great mix of budget and luxury hotels.

22 Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai is sometimes called the “Garden Island,” which is an entirely accurate description. As the oldest island in Hawaii, it’s covered in lush greenery, with tropical rainforests, forking rivers and cascading waterfalls! Some parts of Kauai are only accessible by sea or air, giving you incredible views. It’s the island’s laid-back atmosphere and rich culture found in its small towns that makes it one of the best islands in the world.

23 Colonsay, Scotland

The Isle of Colonsay is the ideal destination for anyone seeking to get away from it all.  There’s just 125 or so people who live here, making it a remote retreat. There’s unspoilt sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs and an amazing variety of flora and fauna. Local activities include agriculture, oyster-farming, arts, crafts, honey production, a brewery, accommodation for visitors, lobster-fishing, publishing and even a substantial bird sanctuary. On a clear day you can even glimpse the coast of Donegal in Ireland to the south-west.

Cliffs at Colonsay island in Scotland

24 Aitutaki, The Cook Islands

The Cook Islands are a little South Pacific Paradise that’s only six hours from Sydney. There’s 15 islands to explore, but a must-see is Aitutaki. It’s spectacularly beautiful, with a triangular-shaped reef surrounding a bright turquoise lagoon containing 15 small motus (islets). The crystal-clear water is home to an array of tropical fish and its pristine white-sand beaches are private and secluded. What more could you ask for from one of the best islands in the world?

25 Cebu, Philippines

Cebu Island is a tropical paradise in The Philippines; made up of Cebu Island and 167 other islands in the Visayas. There’s sugar-white beaches, clear emerald waters, hot springs and several jungle waterfalls. For an unforgettable experience, you’ll want to head to Oslob on the southern tip of Cebu. This is where you can go swimming with whale sharks! Be sure to try some TUBA, the coconut nectar wine which is best drunk fresh when it is still sweet.

26 The Maldives

Looking for paradise? You’ll find it in the Maldives, a tropical nation in the Indian Ocean of more than 1,000 coral islands. It’s home to some of the world’s most luxurious hotel resorts, with white sandy beaches, underwater villas and restaurants and bright blue waters.

27 Curaçao

Curaçao combines urban and outdoor life like no other island. There are over 35 spectacular beaches that are never too crowded. Time it right and you might just have a sandy stretch all to yourself. The island of Curacao is also one of the most colourful islands in the Caribbean. The Shcarloo neighbourhood and the street art you’ll find there, though, take this to a whole new level.

28 Rangitoto Island, New Zealand

Rangitoto is the youngest and largest of Auckland’s 48 volcanic cones. You can hire a kayak and paddle out to Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano not far from downtown Auckland (you can also get there by ferry). See the black lava caves on your way up to the summit and bring a torch to explore them with the kids; the views from the top are spectacular. A super day trip.

29 Sir Bani Yas – Abu Dhabi, UAE

Admire flocks of flamingos hanging at the mangrove lagoon and walk on white-sand beaches at this man-made island near Abu Dhabi. What was once a deserted island is now home to luxury resorts and a safari-like reserve for 16,000 animals. Hop on a 4×4 jeep in the Arabian Wildlife Park to catch sight of the park’s cheetahs or giraffes. This is an island unlike any you’ll step foot on again.

30 Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

The wonderful country of Ecuador is famous for being home to the Amazon jungle, Andean highlands and the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands. These biodiverse islands are home to unusual animal life – such as the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch – that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835. It goes without saying that a trip to the Galapagos Islands will be the journey of your lifetime.

31 Gozo, Malta

Gozo is thought to be the legendary Calypso’s isle of Homer’s Odyssey. Folklore aside, it’s as if the whole island  was created especially for Instagram. With its unique charm, gorgeous farmhouses and majestic sunsets you’ll get gorgeous snaps on the smaller Maltese island. It’s a popular tourist destination, with Baroque churches and old stone farmhouses. Let’s not forget the fact that Gozo also has some of the Mediterranean’s best dive sites.

32 Pulau Tengah, Malaysia

Tengah Island is a privately owned island that’s a slice of paradise that has to be seen to be believed. Stay at Batu Batu, a rustic island retreat set amongst coconut groves, rocky outcrops and fine sand beaches on the uninhabited island of Pulau Tengah. Those wanting to explore the coral kingdoms of the South China Sea can just don a snorkel and mask and step right off the beach.

33 Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Just a tiny speck in the middle of the Caribbean sea, the Cayman Islands are known all over the world. Seven Mile Beach is among the many reasons why Grand Cayman is considered an ideal tropical destination. With sparkling waters and coral sands it’s so perfect it almost doesn’t look real.

34 Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada

This fascinating island is the jewel of the Southern Gulf Islands. With three regular ferry crossings and great proximity to Victoria and the Cowichan Valley, this island getaway is easier to get to then most people think.

35 St Barts, Caribbean

The small French island of St Barts (Saint Barthélemy to give it its full name) in the Caribbean is one of the prettiest islands you will ever visit. With its beautiful beaches, world class resorts and stunning scenery, it’s the perfect getaway from the stress of big cities and 9-5 life.

36 Mont-Saint-Michel, France

This mystical place is one of the best islands in the world and never ceases to impress on first sight. Set in the mesmerising bay where Normandy and Brittany merge, the island is connected to the mainland by a causeway – you can even book a special horse-drawn carriage. As well as the Benedictine Abbey (where nuns and monks still reside), there’s charming restaurants and cafes to explore.

37 Laucala Island, Fiji

This jaw-dropping luxury private resort island in Fiji is on a tropical jungle section of land, with lush vegetation and wild growing coconuts as a natural backdrop to the white sandy coastline. Now, Laucala is a hot spot for celebrities such as Oprah and George Clooney. The resort has coral reefs, postcard-perfect beaches and dense rainforest.

38 La Digue, Seychelles

This tranquil island is a great place for wading into the shallow, warm waters of the Indian Ocean. You walk through the old L’Union Estate coconut plantation to access the beach, which has unusual boulders and shimmering sand. You may even spot a sea turtle swimming off the shore.

39 Jicaro, Nicaragua

Jicaro Island Lodge is a private island getaway just minutes from the colonial town of Granada. There’s spectacular views of the Mombacho Volcano across the lake and charming ‘casitas’ to spend the night. They’re raised up above the ground like a tree house. The nine casitas on the island all have lake views and are only a short walk from the pool, restaurant, and wellness centre.

40 Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel is where the first rays of sunshine hit Mexico, making sunrises here unforgettable. The island’s spectacular, dreamy landscapes and marine biodiversity have made it a popular place for divers and explorers. There’s also plenty of ecotourism activities such as zip wires, rappelling, kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, fishing, golf, motorcycle rides, bicycles, canoes and kayaks.

41 Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Koh Rong Samloem is a small tropical island in the Gulf of Siam, with picture perfect white sand beaches fringed by palm and casaurina trees. It’s still a peaceful destination that has a laidback vibe and is relatively untouched. A highlight here is the amazing bio-luminescent plankton that makes the warm waters glow and sparkle at night.

42 Culebra, Puerto Rico

Culebra is one of Puerto Rico’s most stunning gems, just 20 miles off the coast of Fajardo. It’s surrounded by more than 20 cays and vibrant underwater landscapes, making it a haven for those interested in getting closer to ocean life while snorkeling or diving.

Its famous beach, Flamenco Beach, is constantly ranked among the top beaches in the world and will leave you in awe.

43 Formentera, Spain

Ibiza might be better known, but the neighbouring island of Formentera is just a short boat ride away and boasts one of the best beaches in the world. Formentera has over 20 km of beaches, from rocky coves through to white sand beaches, but Cala Saona is the prettiest.

44 Tobago

Not as well-known as its sister island Trinidad, but Tobago is actually said to be the island upon which the book Robinson Crusoe was based. The island is a rich tapestry of steep mountains, dense tropical forests and lush beeches. There’s a great choice of luxury all-inclusive resorts, with the bonus of being on an unspoilt paradise island. Tobago is a must-visit for anyone looking for some peace and quiet.

45 Öland, Sweden

Öland is joined to the Swedish mainland by the 6 km-long Ölandsbron (road bridge) from the city of Kalmar, in the south of the country. It’s a favourite summer destination for Swedes who seek out the beautiful island’s white sandy beaches. In fact, the Swedish Royal Family holiday here every summer.

46 St Lucia, Caribbean

St Lucia is one of the most picturesque island destinations. It’s the perfect place to come for a luxury holiday to lose all sense of time. Stay in some of the best high end resorts where your every whim is catered to and you’ll find yourself blissfully sipping on cocktails with your feet in the sand.

47 Paros, Greece

Paros is an essential stop when island hopping in Greece. It’s just a quick ferry ride from both Naxos and Mykonos, and one of the more beautiful rocks of them all, featuring glittering sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and wild nightclubs and bars, stocked with expats, locals, and travellers alike. The little villages have spider-webs of cobblestone streets, easy to get lost in. But who cares? You’re island-hopping in the Cyclades. You can be lost for days.

48 Chiloe, Chile

Chiloe island is the second biggest island in South America, with rich scenery and quaint palafitos – colourful houses built on stilts above the water. There’s also colourful wooden churches, 16 of which have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Take one of the many trekking routes or hop in a kayak to explore the sea channels of this magical place.

49 Mallorca, Spain

The Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca has always been one of the top spots in the Mediterranean for a nice holiday. It has everything you could ever wish, for including pristine beaches, gorgeous hotels and resorts as well as plenty of great nightlife in the main city of Palma. Plus, it’s absolutely beautiful.

50 Côn Sơn, Vietnam

Côn Sơn, also known as Côn Lôn, is the largest island on a 16-island archipelago. Visitors can stay at the luxurious Six Senses Resort: it’s just a 45-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City but a world away from the everyday. The golden sand and blue sapphire sea makes it one of the best islands in the world.