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The most fabulous island holidays for a proper escape

island holidays
The best island holidaysSicily. VanSky - Getty Images

Planning your next escape and looking for a chance to truly get away from it all? Nothing says 'escape' quite like an island holiday.

A real opportunity to unwind, our pick of the best island holidays offer restorative travel experiences, with wonderful wildlife, stunning landscapes, and beautiful beaches lapped by sparkling seas.

You can do more than just fly and flop (although, of course, that’s always an option). Island holidays come in all shapes and sizes, with various and diverse experiences to choose from.

You could sail around the islands of Croatia exploring its pristine national parks, get to know the wildlife and heavenly beaches of Scotland's remote isles, or go on a Northern Lights craft cruise in Iceland.

While far-flung destinations like the Caribbean and the Maldives are famous for their island holidays, you don't need to travel far to experience natural beauty and a sense of tranquillity. You could travel as little as 28 miles from the UK mainland to appreciate the white beaches, incredible wildlife and sub-tropical gardens of the Isles of Scilly.

If you want to combine visits to several islands in one trip, a carefully curated cruise might be for you. This is a great way to visit parts of the coastline that can only be reached by sea, and remote isles that are hard to reach by other means, like the wild and beautiful Hebrides.

Whether your idea of a perfect island holiday is a classic Mediterranean idyll or exploring the exceptional landscapes of remote islands closer to home, you’ll be feeling the sand between your toes in no time with our pick of dreamy island holidays.

Isles of Scilly

These unspoilt islands 28 miles off the Cornish coast are a wonderful destination for wildlife lovers and, despite being so close to the mainland, will have you feeling far from home. The largest island, St Mary’s, is where most of the 2,200 Scillonians live, and can be reached easily by ferry from Penzance.

The second largest island is Tresco, which has craggy headlands, deserted beaches, and historical forts, and is most famous for the glorious Tresco Abbey Gardens, known as the Scilly Islands' answer to Kew.

Some 453 species of seabirds, waders and migrants, can be spotted on this archipelago throughout the year as well as Atlantic grey seal pups in autumn.

How to visit: Good Housekeeping has a six-day tour of the Isles of Scilly where you'll hear from Julian Branscombe, head of the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, and stay in a historic castle hotel on pretty St Mary's.

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The Cyclades

The gorgeous Greek Cyclades include many classic island holiday destinations, like chic Mykonos with its party atmosphere and Santorini with its postcard-perfect white-walled houses and iconic blue roofs. These islands are beloved holiday destinations for good reason, with their inviting beaches, bougie hotels, and excellent food.

There is plenty of history to be discovered in the Cyclades too. On Amorgos, you can see the spectacular cliff-clinging Hozoviotissa monastery, which dates back to 1017, and over on Patmos, you can visit the cave where St. John the Divine is said to have lived.

How to visit: Discover the history of Patmos, Amorgos and more on a cruise around the Cyclades with author Victoria Hislop. Victoria has written a number of novels set in Greece and its islands and has a great passion for the country.

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mykonos, greece the narrow streets of mykonos town
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The Western Isles

Scotland's Western Isles have been inhabited continuously for over 6,000 years, and boast a wealth of fascinating history nestled amongst landscapes of pristine beaches, towering mountains and moorlands rich in flora and fauna.

On the Isle of Skye, the largest island in the Inner Hebrides, you can visit Dunvegan Castle, the stronghold of the chiefs of MacLeod for nearly 800 years. Another intriguing archaeological site is the Calanais Standing Stones, a collection of 50 ancient stones erected 5,000 years ago.

How to visit:
You'll see all of the above and more on our island-hopping cruise around the Western Isles. Starting on the Isle of Skye, you'll explore villages with a pace of life long forgotten on the mainland, along with exceptional natural attractions, like the Butt of Lewis, which holds the title of the windiest place in the UK

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the cuillin hills, widely regarded as britains most spectacular mountain range, dominate the isle of skye the village of tarskavaig on the sleat peninsula affords a fine view of the range
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Mauritius

Mauritius is another classic island holiday destination, with glorious white-sand beaches, chic beachfront hotels, and warm, turquoise waters perfect for swimming, snorkelling, or more adventurous activities. As beautiful as the beaches are, it's worth exploring other landscapes too, like the otherworldly Terres de Seven Couleurs, a surreal geological formation of colourful dunes.

Bel Ombre is a particularly heavenly part of the island, and is home to a protected marine ecosystem, meaning you can see a stunning variety of fish below the water's surface on snorkelling, diving, or glass-bottomed boat tours.

How to visit: With Good Housekeeping's trip to South Africa and Mauritius. you'll spend five nights at the four-star Tamassa Bel Ombre, where you can relax on the beach, try some watersports and enjoy a tasting at a Michelin-acclaimed winery.

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aerial view of mauritius island panorama and famous le morne brabant mountain, beautiful blue lagoon and underwater waterfall
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Croatia

Croatia's sun-drenched Adriatic coastline is known as the 'land of 1,000 islands'. In fact, there are more than 1,000 islands in these exquisite turquoise waters, ranging from the upmarket resort of Hvar - with its pristine beaches, vibrant nightlife and fragrant lavender fields - to many hundreds of uninhabited islets.

Eighty of these islets make up the Kornati National Park, where you can swim in hidden coves and marvel at this fascinating marine ecosystem. Another Croatian destination you'll love visiting is the tiny heart-shaped isle of Galešnjak, where you can take a dip in secluded bays and wander the powder-soft beaches. It's no wonder this island is nicknamed the 'the island of love'.

How to visit: Good Housekeeping has an eight-day cruise of Croatia's sunny coast and islands on a boutique ship with a maximum of 41 passengers. You'll visit the Mljet National Park with, Hvar, Dubrovnik and other spectacular locations, enjoying views from the sundeck as you sail.

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Corsica

Basking in the Mediterranean sun, Corsica is home to some of the most breathtaking island scenery in Europe. It's no wonder it's affectionately known as 'L'ile de Beaute', or 'the Island of Beauty'.

There's the ancient capital of Corte, tucked away among rugged peaks and rolling rivers, and the modern capital of Ajaccio, where you can stroll through the squares and along the promenades, or relax in one of the many pavement cafés.

You'll also find multiple quaint villages dotting Corsica, which are easily reached by the island's fabulously scenic local trains, which run on single tracks across mountains and along the coastline.

How to visit:
Explore Corsica with Good Housekeeping on a nine-day tour and you'll discover the Ile de Beaute by riding the enchanting local trains. Look forward to stops in Bastia, Corte, Ajaccio, and several charming coastal villages along the way.

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The Hebrides

This rugged archipelago off the northwest coast of Scotland is divided into two main groups, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, and has over 50 inhabited islands. Home to deserted beaches, tiny fishing villages and wild mountains, these remote islands make for an unforgettable holiday, where you can discover the culture and history of the Hebrides' Gaelic-speaking communities.

Highlights include the Isle of Skye, connected to the mainland by a bridge, Islay, the ‘whisky island’, and the Isle of Mull, one of Britain’s best spots for whale watching. One of the most remote parts of the Hebrides is volcanic archipelago of St Kilda, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you'll find one of the world’s largest colonies of puffins.

How to visit: Good Housekeeping has an 11-day island hopping cruise of the Hebrides, including wildlife watching and whisky tasting. You'll visit St Kilda, Islay, the Isle of Mull and several more spectacular islands.

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Alternatively, join a shorter, five-night cruise around some of the most enchanting locations in the Hebrides, from the basalt columns of Fingal's Cave, the bonnet-shaped Bac Mòr island, the Small Isles archipelago and the Holy Isle of Iona.

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If you're looking for an extra-special sailing, why not join our cruise with proud Scotswoman and weather presenter Carol Kirkwood on board a luxury yacht-like ship? Carol will tell you about her Scottish family's history during a talk and Q&A session and join you on an excursion.

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Iceland

A trip to Iceland is not your typical island holiday. Rather than sun, sea and sand, Iceland is all about dramatic natural landscapes of bubbling mud pools, vast lava fields and spouting geysers. Then there's the Aurora Borealis, one of the world's most breathtaking natural spectacles.

As well as its natural attractions, it's also worth checking out Iceland's quirky, cosmopolitan capital city of Reykjavik, with its fascinating mixture of Norse history and vibrant modernity. There's even the possibility of catching the Northern Lights dancing in the skies above this vibrant city, although the best sightings will be in rural areas with less light pollution.

How to visit: Good Housekeeping has an 11-day cruise that will take you to Iceland — along with the Orkney and Faroe Islands — at the heights of Northern Lights season. As you sail, you can participate in craft workshops to make Aurora-inspired crafts, like seaglass jewellery and stained glass.

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aurora over kirkjufell, iceland
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The Azores

For a far-flung Atlantic island adventure with plenty of dreamy natural landscapes, the Azores archipelago is calling. Here you'll find idyllic islands famous for emerald-green cliffs, quaint fishing villages and lush forests full of fascinating flora.

The largest of the nine Azores islands is São Miguel, which is famous for its dramatic volcanic peaks, crater lakes and cedar forests. It's a great destination for whale-watching, diving and hiking along the scenic coastal trails. Three of the islands, Graciosa, Corvo and Flores, with their large number of botanical species, are decreed biospheres by UNESCO.

How to visit:
Visit this gloriously green archipelago with Good Housekeeping on a nine-day tour. Look forward to seeing the Sete Fontes Forest Park and the viewpoints of Fajã dos Cubres and Fajã do Ouvidor and the mighty Capelinhos volcano.

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Madeira

A sub-tropical paradise in the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira is a wonderfully fertile island, with rich, volcanic soil making it the perfect place for vibrant, colourful flowers to flourish. Its exceptional botanical gardens and carefully landscaped parks are home to everything from purple-blossomed jacaranda trees to rare orchids and the delicate bird of paradise flower, while native species include the UNESCO-listed laurels.

The scenery is spectacular too. There are vast beaches, towering mountains and verdant valleys, as well as jagged rock pools and caves to explore. The capital city, Funchal, is known as Little Lisbon, thanks to its elegant tree-lined avenues and its lively cultural scene. It's at its buzziest in spring when the yearly Flower Festival takes place.

How to visit:
Join Good Housekeeping for an eight-day visit to Madeira, perfectly timed to coincide with the buzzing Flower Festival. You'll see the botanical highlights of the island before wandering the pretty streets of Funchal during the festival, soaking up the joyful atmosphere.

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the beautifil promenade walk from funchal lido into the fishing viallge of camara de lobos on madeira at sunset
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The Faroe Islands

Perched halfway between Iceland and Scotland are the spectacular Faroe Islands. This archipelago of 18 wildlife-rich islands rich and dramatic, rugged landscapes is a self-governing territory of Denmark with its own unique culture and an intriguing Viking history.

The islands' capital, Torshavn, has brightly-coloured houses and buildings that date all the way back to Viking times. The islands are also packed full of wonderful wildlife. Keep an eye out for a variety of birds including puffins and razorbill, and seals, whales and porpoises in the surrounding waters.

How to visit:
Tour this heavenly archipelago with Good Housekeeping and you'll get to try a spot of traditional Faroese fishing, all while enjoying exceptional landscapes from the sea. There's also a chance to admire these stunning vistas from the sky, as you take a helicopter ride between Suðuroy and Torshavn.

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sunrise scene of capital city torshavn in faroe islands in north atlantic urban scene of scandinavian city in warm golden sunlight
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Sicily

The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily has so much to offer for an island holiday. There are well-preserved ancient ruins of Greek temples and Roman theatres, demonstrating the rich history of the island. Balance time learning about Sicily's fascinating past with days relaxing on its idyllic beaches, or tasting wines from local vineyards.

Of course, being an Italian island, food is central to Sicilian life. Enjoy pitstops on your holiday to sample typical Sicilian street foods like arancini, roasted chestnuts, and sweet cannoli. For dinner, make sure to stop off in an authentic Sicilian pizzeria and tuck into pizzas fresh from the flames of a wood-fired oven.

How to visit: Discover Sicily with Good Housekeeping and explore Palermo, Taormina, Siracusa, and Mount Etna. You'll take a drive to the snow-capped summit of Europe's highest volcano, where you'll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views across the island.

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If you're a solo traveller looking for an Italian island adventure, you might instead opt for our special eight-day itinerary designed specifically for independent explorers. You'll stay in handpicked hotels, many with pools and stunning views, all well-located for your guided tours.

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The Channel Islands

A holiday in Channel Islands feels a little like a British staycation with more sun and a French flourish. This archipelago in the English Channel is made up of two UK Crown dependencies, Jersey and Guernsey, plus a whole host of smaller islands. You'll find a blend of British and French influences alongside pretty landscapes and stunning coastlines dotted with sandy beaches and quaint harbour villages.

There's lots of fascinating history to uncover in the Channel Islands too. These islands were the only part of the British Isles under German control during World War II, and a visit to the picturesque St Peter Port in Guernsey will give you the chance to learn about the islands' intriguing wartime history.

How to visit: Join Good Houskeeping on a trip to the Channel Islands over the August Bank holiday weekend. You'll pay a visit St Peter Port in Guernsey after a quick stop in the Isles of Scilly and before travelling on to Honfleur in northern France.

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Sardinia

Another of Italy's exquisite islands is sunkissed Sardinia. It's the second largest island in the Med after Sicily, and as you'd expect, you'll find plenty to see and do in between time spent relaxing on the beach.

You can visit ancient archaeological sites like remnant of Nuragic civilisations, explore enchanting towns such as Alghero and Cagliari and indulge in mouthwatering local delicacies like pane carasau and culurgiones. Alghero is also well-known for its seafood, and the Catalan-style lobster is a speciality and worth a try.

How to visit: Good Housekeeping's eight-day tour of Sardinia will take you to some of the island's best spots, including Alghero, Bonifacio and historic Olbia. There'll also be time to kick back on some of the island's many pristine beaches and taste plenty of local dishes.

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Looking for inspiration for your next holiday? Grab a cuppa and browse our brochure packed with unique escapes.

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