8 islands for adventure - (not just beaches and sunshine)
8 islands for adventure - (not just beaches and sunshine)
Islands, by definition, are cut off from other parts of the world. Not by much, sometimes – but the very fact of their geographic isolation can lead to some fascinating outcomes. Some islands are places where history, nature or culture have conjured up something amazing, and have turned a small isolated land mass into a unique wonderland.
Take a look at this line up of islands – these places offer more than just white-sand beaches, sunshine and pina coladas. They offer a unique kind of adventure.
Iceland – dramatic volcanic landscapes
Iceland is an island where volcanoes reign supreme. It's wilderness – but not as we know it. These are harsh, rugged and unfamiliar landscapes. We're talking glacial lakes, tumbling waterfalls, fields of lava, geysers, craters and boiling mud pots.
Take a look at this day in a typical tour of Iceland – visit the Snæfellsjokull Glacier that is perched on the top of a 7000 year old volcano. Then visit a stunning black pebble beach with lava formations and glaciers as its backdrop. Stroll along some clifftops and finally visit the picturesque Buoir lava plains, where a lone church is set is a vast windswept landscape. It's nature in all its rugged glory.
Sri Lanka – traditional culture and ancient history
Sri Lankan culture stretches back over 2000 years and the people have left a sturdy legacy on their land. The ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa were once thriving religious and commercial centres – today, the impressive ruins are fascinating to explore. The ruined fortress of Sirigiya, perched on the top of a massive column of rock, is another incredible highlight.
When you're done with ancient sites, hit the world-class surf, go hiking, wildlife watch or snorkel. For relaxation, head to the calming hilltowns and tea plantations or the coconut-palm-lined beaches – Sri Lanka is a diverse and beautiful island.
Corsica – Europe's toughest hike
Corsica is an island of contrasts – the sparkling waters and beautiful beaches of the coast quickly give way to the dramatic rocky peaks of the island's interior.
The GR20 is a classic hiking trail that traverses the length of Corsica. The 180 kilometre trail is considered to be one of Europe's finest – and toughest – treks. The whole walk is done over 13 days, traversing mountains along steep, rocky paths. You'll pass fields of wildflowers, barren craters, towering peaks, high altitude lakes and dense forests. Serious determination is required but if you're a keen hiker, this island should definitely be on your hit list.
Gili Islands – perfect snorkelling and diving
The Gili Islands in Indonesia are pretty much beach-life nirvana. Drink from whole coconuts, laze on the sand and head to a laid-back beachfront cafe for dinner.
But the reason the Gilis are rising in popularity is not just their version of beach paradise. They are also a snorkelling and diving mecca. Wander off the sand into the water, pull on your snorkel and dive in. You'll be swimming over the fringing coral reef with green sea turtles and colourful fish. For experienced scuba divers, head further afield to explore the canyons and ridges to see a diverse array of sea life – lionfish, white tip reef sharks, octopus, rays and abundant turtles. It's an underwater island adventure.
Madagascar – pirates, shipwrecks and lemurs
Some versions of Madagascan history tell the tale of Libertatia, an anarchic colony established by pirates. It was a safe haven where pirates could live by their own rules in isolation from the rest of the world. Whether or not Libertatia really existed, there were certainly pirates in these waters. The area is also rich with shipwreck history – over 100 notable shipwrecks dot the waters.
This rough history is fascinating to explore, but it's the lemurs that still inhabit the island that will capture your heart. One hundred different species of these unique and funny creatures live on the island, along with dancing sifakas and half of the world's chameleons. Madagascar is not only a pirate haven but a wildlife haven too.
Cuba – intriguing history and a fascinating future
Cuba is like six different places at once. It's part Caribbean island, with a laid-back vibe and grass-roofed beach huts. It's part 1950s film set – on the streets of Havana well-maintained vintage cars drive past crumbling old buildings, as if time is moving forward at a slower pace than the rest of the world.
It's part colonial museum in the world-heritage-listed town of Trinidad, where the glorious colonial mansions of the sugar farming magnates stand proudly next to cobbled squares and elegant churches. And it's part a place of dramatic change – a place pulling itself into the twenty first century as trade and tourism embargoes are lifted and Cubans strive to create a new future.
Galapagos Islands – a wildlife haven for exotic creatures
The Galapagos Archipelago is 1000 kilometres off the coast of South America. That's as remote as islands get. This extreme isolation has created a unique natural wonderland – endemic creatures have adapted and evolved to their island home. Wildlife that is not found anywhere else in the world is thriving in the Galapagos.
Giant tortoises, land and sea iguanas, lava lizards, hawks, albatross, flamingos, sea lions, whales, penguins... it's a self-contained ecosystem of abundant wildlife. With few predators, many of the creatures have little fear of humans – making exploring the Galapagos one of the world's best wildlife watching adventures.
Sicily – a Mediterranean mecca of cuisine
Sicily is a place where history surrounds you. The Greek temples, Roman amphitheatres and Byzantine churches tell of a long and complicated history. But it is in the cuisine that you'll taste the history of land and its people.
Sicily's cuisine is assured, balanced and delicate, using fresh local produce at its most delicious. Simple flavours and combinations rise to the level of sublime. Pasta con le sarde (sardine pasta) or spaghetti ai ricci (pasta with sea urchin) are typical Sicilian dishes that are enhanced by quality ingredients such as local olive oil, wild fennel, garlic, parsley, pine nuts or saffron. Follow your pasta with a cassata or a home-made cannoli and you'll be tasting the real Sicily.