This Diwali, island getaways to get away from it all
Ahead of the Festival of Lights, here's a curated list of island destinations for every kind of traveller. Which one will you travel to?
Island destinations evoke the exotic, bringing to mind ruched waves, serene beaches, vibrant cultures, and delicious seafood. But not all island vacations are the same.
Some offer palm-fringed white sand beaches and crystalline aquamarine waters; others provide reefs, rainforests, and caves; a few are ideal for adventure and water activities; while some simply let you be. Quite a few combine a multitude of options!
Be it whisky-centric Islay in Scotland, the Langkawi archipelago with pristine beaches, coral reefs, and lush mountains; the sun-kissed, whitewashed Santorini in Greece; or Fiji, with its perfect beaches, vibrant marine life, and fancy resorts—island vacations are like none other.
Ahead of Diwali, YS Life curates a list of island destinations for every kind of traveller.
For the road tripper: Ireland
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Celtic Sea, and St George's Channel, the Republic of Ireland shares its only land border with Northern Ireland.
Known for its craic, Ireland has a road for every kind of road tripper. From two hours to three weeks, you can plan a road trip to suit your vacation days and budget.
The Wild Atlantic Way, which takes you across more than 1,500 miles over three weeks, is Ireland's top adventure and spans nine counties.
The Ring of Kerry—a 111-mile circuit that begins and ends in Killarney, County Kerry—takes you to some of Ireland’s most outstanding mountain and coastal scenery on the Iveragh peninsula.
You can also try the Inishowen 100, a 100-mile circuit in County Donegal; Ring of Hook Peninsula, County Wexford; or Atlantic Drive, County Mayo.
For the culture vulture: Cuba
Cuba is a melting pot of cultures and customs. Named Cubanacán by the native Taino Indians, the island is located in the Caribbean Sea near the coast of the United States and Mexico. The Spaniards, who arrived in 1511, shortened it to Cuba, which has since been the name of the “most beautiful land human eyes have ever beheld”.
The island country is the birthplace of numerous musical genres, including Mambo, Cha-Cha-Cha, and Afro-Cuban Jazz, and hosts many famous carnivals and festivals.
Cuba also has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a variety of museums—making it a paradise for culture vultures. Be it Havana or Santiago de Cuba, the cities showcase varied architecture—Spanish colonial, French Baroque, 1920s Art Deco, and more.
For the romantic: Maldives
Tiny jewel-like islands, clear emerald waters, colourful reefs, the whitest soft sand, and luxe overwater bungalows. It has to be Maldives!
A nation comprising 1,192 stunning islands, stretching along a length of 871 km and grouped into a double chain of 26 atolls, Maldives tops the charts when it comes to couples’ destinations.
Home to about 3% of the earth’s reefs, only 200 islands are occupied. That means an isolated, romantic retreat! Greek island Santorini, known for its whitewashed buildings with blue domes, comes in at a close second.
For the nature lover: Seychelles
An archipelago of 115 islands, Seychelles is a country of staggering natural beauty. The granitic islands, the powdery golden sands, the turquoise waters lapping the shores, and the palm trees offer the most beautiful setting for any holiday.
The islands cluster around the main island of Mahé (Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, is located here), Praslin, and La Digue. There’s plenty to do—hire a yacht, go fishing, sailing, snorkelling, diving, windsurfing, and bird watching. Or you can go on a long walk on one of the many nature trails, take up golf, or sign up for a horseback-riding tour.
Don’t miss a ride in a glass-bottomed boat and get a closer look at the colourful marine life. The lovely beaches also offer superb opportunities to sunbathe, snooze, and relax after partaking in the sumptuous Creole cuisine.
But, if you want to connect with nature, there’s only one place in Seychelles to go—Denis Island—the privately owned, tiny island that spans just 1.4 sq km. It’s a paradise, to say the least.
For the party animal: Boracay
When it comes to nightlife, Boracay tops the list of 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines.
The tiny island, blessed with a long stretch of powdery white sand and crystal clear azure waters, offers adventures on land and sea. But the “island that never sleeps” is best known for its partying scene—which goes on till the wee hours of the morning or till you drop.
When not partying, try your hand at swimming, island-hopping, diving, snorkelling, parasailing, and kayaking. The small island is extremely rich in biodiversity, ideal for snorkelling to see fish and coral reefs up close and diving to explore underwater beauty in detail.
For the intrepid adventurer: Bora Bora
James Michener, author of Tales of the South Pacific, called Bora Bora “the most beautiful island in the world”. Like most island destinations, the “Pearl of the Pacific” offers turquoise lagoons, iconic overwater bungalows, and beautiful beaches.
However, besides being the very definition of a tropical getaway, the island is also the top choice for people who seek adventure and thrills.
Bora Bora’s crystal-clear waters mean that you can sign up for varied snorkelling and diving experiences or you can try your hand at parasailing and jet skiing, among other adventure sports. A helicopter tour is a great idea for a bird’s eye view!
For the history geek: Paros
A Greek island in the central Aegean Sea, Paros is a gorgeous island with lovely beaches, blue waters, and stunning landscapes. In the olden times, the island was known for its white marble quarries and the top-quality Parian marble—greatly in demand for use in architecture and sculpture.
Medieval villages like Marpissa, Prodromos, and Lefkes; the Byzantine road—a 1,000-year-old footpath paved with weathered Parian marble; and Cape Korakas, with its 19th-century lighthouse, deserve a visit.
Other sites worth exploring include the Church of Panagia, the Baptistry, Venetian Castle, and the Archaeological Museum, with a range of exhibits from the island’s archaeological sites.
Don’t miss out on exploring Naousa—a picturesque fishing village—that offers tourist trappings like traditional white-washed houses, colourful fishing boats, and numerous cafes.
For the recharge retreater: Bali
Elizabeth Gilbert found herself at the “eat-pray-love island”, and so can you! With its beautiful beaches, Bali, formerly a Dutch colony, is Indonesia’s biggest tourism draw.
The exotic tropical destination, with scenic rice fields, small villages, stunning beaches, art and craft communities, ancient temples, palaces, and rivers, the heritage and culture ensures that Bali has something for everyone.
And, if you just want to be, Bali is the best place to be. Enjoy a massage, sit by the beach, visit a temple, explore a rice estate, or watch the sunset at Tanah Lot. Or you can participate in the melukat ceremony or enjoy a traditional dance performance. Not to be missed: a meal at a seafood café in Jimbaran!
For the fun lover: Yas
Excitement and adventure abound at Yas Island—one of Abu Dhabi's largest tourism projects. Spread over 25 sq kms, the family-friendly entertainment destination means fun for everyone—without an itinerary!
Explore four theme parks—Warner Bros, SeaWorld, Ferrari World, and WaterWorld; rev up at Yas Marina Circuit—home to the annual Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and where you can try driving, drifting, drag, and karting experiences.
There are plenty more things to do. Shop at the massive Yas Mall, sit back and relax at the gorgeous Yas Beach, or take in a concert at Etihad Arena. End the day with a meal at one of the waterfront restaurants.
For the solitude seeker: Shetland
Shetland isn’t easy to get to. But if you’re seeking real solitude, this is the place for you. Made popular by a TV series of the same name, the remote islands are located between Great Britain, the Faroe Islands, and Norway, and are as far north as St Petersburg, Russia, or Anchorage, Alaska.
The Shetland archipelago comprises about 300 islands, of which only 16, including Lerwick, Unst, Yell, Bressay, and Fetlar, are inhabited. You can take up plenty of solitary pursuits—walking, cycling, running, angling, kayaking, surfing, and climbing. Or get up close and personal with wildlife, bird life, and sea mammals, and explore the wildflowers and lovely beaches.
The Shetland winter is the perfect time to see the Northern Lights, locally known as Mirrie Dancers. If you want even more solitude, head for Fair Isle—a small isle with a population of around 60 people.
(Photos courtesy: Shutterstock)
Edited by Suman Singh