It was named Lonely Planet’s top destination for 2019, but the Easter Sunday terror attacks in Sri Lanka saw the country’s booming tourism industry suffer tremendously. Now things are on the mend, with a new world No.1 ranking — and this time it’s voted by travellers. Sri Lanka has been named No.1 in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Islands — a reader generated list based on activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness and value. Here are the top 10:
1. SRI LANKAIt may be only a smidge bigger than Tasmania, but what Sri Lanka lacks in size it makes up for in its variety of attractions. The coastline is home to several marine national parks making it every diver’s dream, while the island’s perfect waves and crowd-free waters lure its surfers. The inland is home to cascading hills of tea plantations and wild life parks, inhabited by elephants, monkeys and leopards. Sri Lanka’s flavourful cuisine continues to draw in the crowds, as does its luxurious accommodation offerings.
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3. BALI, INDONESIARich in culture and cheap where it matters, the mere mention of Bali evokes thoughts of paradise. Aside from Australian tourists, dramatic volcanoes, hillside temples, tea plantations and luxe beachside resorts dominate this enticing island.
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4. MILOS, GREECEJust north of Crete, you’ll find the picture-perfect Milos, an island of turquoise waters, incredible seafood and a history as intriguing as its landscape. The ancient Venus de Milo was discovered here in the spring of 1820, scattered in a section of rural land in six separate pieces, before it was transported to the Lourve in Paris.
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5. MALDIVESHome to some of the best beaches in the world, each of the Maldives’ 1200 islands are as beautiful as the last. It is here that the waters are ideal for diving, the sands are whiter than powder and the waters as luminous as can be.
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6. ANGUILLAWhen you visualise paradise, the Caribbean’s Anguilla probably comes to mind. Surrounded by coconut palms, sea-grape trees, shimmering white sands and colourful beach bars playing live reggae tunes, Anguilla is as laid-back as it gets.
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7. CRETE, GREECERich with historical sites, places to hike and good wine is Crete. For something a little out of the ordinary, head three hours from the centre of the island to Elafonisi Beach, a stunning swimming spot known for its perfect year-round weather and pink sand.
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8. CAPE BRETON ISLAND, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADAThe jewel of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island is connected to the mainland by a steel swing bridge. Once crossed, travellers are treated to a coastal trail dotted with mountains, glorious ocean views and a couple of moose along the way.
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10. AZORES, PORTUGALConsidered the Hawaii of the mid-Atlantic, adventure awaits you in the Azores. Aside from housing two of Portugal’s 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites — the vineyards of Pico and the old town of Angra do Heroismo on Terceira — this remote archipelago is home to excellent surf breaks, vivid crater lakes and world-class whale watching areas.
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Other category winners in the Travel + Leisure reader awards included Singapore Airlines for best airline, Singapore Changi Airport for best airport, and India’s Leela Palace Udaipur was named the world’s best hotel. Of the top 100 stays, the only Australian hotel to make the cut was Southern Ocean Lodge at Kangaroo Island (pictured), coming in at No.21.
— Sammy Stewart