Islands by group

2013-03-19 14:58
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Spectacular islands of the world

It has been said that no man is an island - be that as it may - it sure does feel good to escape to one. Take a look at these eleven stretches of sand surrounded by sea, dotted across the globe.

What's the first thing that pops to mind when someone mentions taking an "island break"?

Turquoise water, cocktails in coconut shells, hammocks, tropical vegetation and sunshine. Fair enough.

But, well, the truth is not all islands are tropical. The Scandinavian islands like the British Isles must be the furthest thing most people have have in mind when planning an island escape. While temperatures may soar for a brief moment in summer (May - July), the islands are characterised by chilly weather and cloudy skies throughout much of the year.

We check out a few of the other island groupings from around the world and see what makes each unique.

Pacific

The Pacific Islands comprise 20 000 to 30 000 islands in the Pacific Ocean. Melanesia is the most populous of the three regions, including islands and archipelagos like Fiji, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, while Polynesia covers the largest area, with Hawaii, New Zealand, Easter Island, Tonga and Samoa included in its reach.

Where: The large majority lie south of the tropic of Cancer and are traditionally grouped into the three divisions of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.

Closest continent/s: North America, South America, Australia and Asia

What to expect: Climate-wise it greatly depends which of the three regions you find yourself in, and also which area of the region. For instance Hawaii is pretty much the epitome of tropical, while New Zealand's climate can be described as cool temperate to warm temperate.

What all the different regions do have in common, however, is an amazing abundance of up-close outdoor and ocean experiences, and a generally warm reception from locals.

Attractions: Explore the spectacular Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, snorkeling with Humpback Whales in Niue, marvel at the massive monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people called Moai on Easter Island, visit a traditional village in Fiji...

Greek


(Shutterstock)

Greece has a large number of islands, with estimates ranging from somewhere around 1 200 to 6 000, depending on the minimum size to take into account. The number of inhabited islands is variously cited as between 166 and 227.

Where: Mostly east and southeast of mainland Greece. The Greek Islands are divided into about seven clusters, based on which areas they fall into. The main clusters are found in the Aegean Sea, the Saronic gulf near Athens, off the coast of Euboea and west of the mainland in the Ionian Sea. 
Closest continent: Europe, the Middle-East and Africa

What to expect: The Greek islands are characterized by beautiful white-washed facades, contrasting with bougainvillea creepers decorating the walls, warm Mediterranean waters lapping onto pebbled and bouldered shores, quaint beach cafés with checkered table cloths. The islands are typically "open for business" between Easter and mid-October.

Attractions: If you're the aesthetic type who wants to return with loads of fantastic photographs, visiting the picturesque islands of Mykanos, Crete and Santorini come highly recommended. Beach lovers should have Skiathos, Paros and Corfu on their bucket list, while clubbers should head to Ios and Rhodes.

Other Mediterranean

While the large majority of the islands dotted around the Mediterranean belong to Greece, there are a few that fall under Italian, French, Spanish, Croatian, Turkish and even Tunisian jurisdiction.

Where: Western and southern parts of the Mediterranean

Closest continent: Europe, the Middle-East and Africa

What to expect: Similar climate to the Greek islands, but culture-wise they vary from place to place. The Spanish islands are famous for their party vibe, the Italian islands like Sicily and Sardina are great for a bit of a cultural boost and exploration and Croatia's islands are a beach-lover's dream (yes, also the ones who like to strip down completely!).

Attractions: Party season in Spain's Ibiza, which reaches its climax in June, Lequarci Waterfalls in Sardinia, the monastery at Tuan in France's Corsica, seeking a hidden cove on Croatia's Krk island for some private nude bathing.

Caribbean


(Kamira / Shutterstock.com)

The Caribbean is a region that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands (some surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and some bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean), and the surrounding coasts.

Where: Southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland, east of Central America, and north of South America.

Closest continent: North America, South America

What to expect: The climate of the area is tropical but rainfall varies with elevation, size and water currents. The region enjoys year-round sunshine, divided into 'dry' and 'wet' seasons, with the last six months of the year being wetter than the first half.

As for culture - with an eclectic mix of influences, including indigenous people, European (French, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish) explorers and African slaves, the islands dotted around the Caribbean sea are known for their exuberant and colourful expressions of life. This combined with beautiful beaches, warm oceans, a pleasant climate and party spirit, makes it one of the most popular island breaks to take.

Attractions: Whether it's shopping, beach, outdoor exploration or partying you're after, the Caribbean pretty much has it all covered. Experience reggae culture at its most raw and vibrant in Jamaica, sip cocktails at Frigate Bay in St Kitts, head to Trinidad for their colourful carnival, watch daily life go by while enjoying an aromatic cup of coffee at a Havana street café in Cuba.

East African

Probably the easiest and most cost effective for South Africans, the east coast of Africa has some spectacular options for island escapes.

Where: East African coastline, i.e. the Indian Ocean, just off the coast of Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania.

Closest continent: Africa

What to expect: Warm waters, tropical climate and vegetation, white beaches and the ultimate relaxation. Located conveniently along ancient trade routes, these islands have also benefitted from a mindboggling mix of cultures, evident in their architecture, cuisine and traditions. Famous archipelagos include the Maldives, Zanzibar and Mozambique's Portuguese islands.

Attractions: Check out our article about East Africa's most popular islands.

West African

Dotted around the large Atlantic Ocean, the islands off Africa's West Coast vary greatly in climate, attractions and culture.

Where: From the Canary Islands along the northwest coastline between Morocco and Western Sahara to Tristan da Cunha way down south.

Closest continent: Africa

What to expect: As mentioned, it varies greatly, depending on where you find yourself. The Canary Islands, for instance, belong to Spain and are therefore greatly influenced by Spanish culture, they also have a moderate climate with mild winters and warm summers. Their seasons coincide with the Northern Hemisphere. Ascension, St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha on the other hand, belong to Britain and slot in with Southern Hemisphere seasons. These islands are also less lush, with more scrubby vegetation and beaches that aren't really bathing friendly.

Attractions: Take an alternative cruise aboard the last working Royal Mail ship in the world to St. Helena Island. Go for a snorkeling or diving holiday in the Canary Islands.

Southeast Asian

Comprising exotic locations such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, the southeast Asia is a tourist hotspot, and also a rather affordable one at that.

Where: The seas south of Asia and north Australia

Closest continent: Asia and Australia

What to expect: Humid tropical climate, burgeoning cities complete with crazy, scooter-driven traffic, clear blue water, palm-treed beaches, loads of comfy accommodation offerings for reasonable prices, mouthwatering cuisine, friendly locals, awe-inspiring temples with massive gold-plated statues, monkeys, elephants. In short - the epitome of the classic tropical island dream.

Attractions: For surfing and other water sports, Indonesia is an excellent destination, while Thailand's Phi Phi island is famous for being the location where The Beach was shot, the Phillipines are a totally underrated party destination and the island city state of Singapore is a fascinating cultural case study.

 
Read more on:    travel international

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