Unspoiled, unexplored, unbelievable – The Faroe Islands.
Those were some of the keywords that National Geographic Traveler used in its description of the winner of best island destination in the world, the Faroe Islands, above over 111 other island destinations.
A panel of 522 well-traveled experts in sustainable tourism were asked to rank 111 different islands and here are the result:
Below are the top 20:
No. 1: The Faroe Islands
Rank: 1. Faroe Islands (SCORE: 87)
“Lovely unspoiled islands – a delight to the traveler.” Remote and cool, and thus safe from overcrowding, the autonomous archipelago located in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and Scotland earns high marks from panelists for preservation of nature, historic architecture, and local pride. “Spectacular waterfalls and harbors.” Simply the best island desitnation in the world.
Borgarin peak overshadows a lighthouse in the Faroes (picture above), an archipelago of steep slopes, grass roofs, and a preservation-minded people who welcome a growing number of visitors.
Portugal (SCORE: 84) This temperate mid–North Atlantic archipelago’s “green volcanic mountains and picturesque black-and-white towns” offer “driving tours, handicrafts, and cuisine,” plus an ecosystem “in great shape” and a “strong and vibrant” Portuguese culture. “Locals are very sophisticated,” but inappropriate development is beginning to appear.
3. Lofoten, Norway
Lofoten, Norway (SCORE: 82) Chilly, highlatitude islands form a “masterpiece” of spectacular outcrops steeped in cherished tradition. “Many of the villages rent out cozy rorbu, the historic fishermen’s cabins.” “There are several excellent museums and art galleries.”
3. Shetland Islands
Shetland Islands, Scotland (SCORE: 82). Just south of no. 1, the Faroe Islands lays these amazing islands. More Norse than Scottish, “Shelties” keep up Viking traditions and show “extremely high integrity in all aspects of heritage and ecology despite North Sea oil development. Great planning controls and attitude.”
3. Chiloé, Chile
Chiloé, Chile (SCORE: 82) Gateway to Chile’s fjord country, “rural and unspoiled” Chiloé possesses a “pristine seascape, enhanced by protected forests and dozens of historic towns and wooden churches, 16 of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.”
4. Isle of Skye, Scotland .
Isle of Skye, Scotland (SCORE: 81)
“Wild landscape and a place of cultural reselectric projects may affect attractiveness.” Ecotour operators at odds with whalers.
5. Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Kangaroo Island, South Australia (SCORE: 80) “Agriculture, tourism, and wilderness” meld with “high environmental uality and local involvement.” Feral pigs and goats, and introduced koalas do disrupt habitats.
5. Mackinac Island, Michigan
Mackinac Island, Michigan (SCORE: 80) “No cars [banned since 1898], no high-rises, and little development pressure” arn praise for the iconic isle in Lake Huron. “Overall the island is a gem. Downtown is a bit too touristy.”
Iceland (SCORE: 80) . Just north of number one on National Geographic Travelers favorite islands destination in the world list, the Faroe Islands, lays the also unique Iceland.Dramatic landscapes, unique culture, and high environmental awareness, but “new smelters and hydro-electric projects may affect attractiveness.”
Ecotour operators at odds with whalers.
6. Molokai, Hawaii
Molokai, Hawaii (SCORE: 79) Tops in the tropics, Molokai “is 1950s in accommodation,” its rugged coast and minimal beachfront preventing big-resort development and protecting Hawaiian cultural ways. “Seems like old Hawaii.”
7. Aran Islands, Ireland
Aran Islands, Ireland (SCORE: 78) The threesome off the Irish west coast exude Gaelic tradition. Islanders “maintain a strong sense of cultural heritage and identity.” Tourism management gets good reviews.
7. Texel, Netherlands
Texel, Netherlands (SCORE: 78) Well-caredfor Dutch holiday island on theTexel, Netherlands (SCORE: 78) Well-cared for Dutch holiday island on the Waddenzee. “Nice low-key destination for cyclists.” Waddenzee.
“Nice low-key destination for cyclists.”
8. Dominica, Caribbean
Dominica, Caribbean (SCORE: 77) Rugged, green, friendly, with few beaches, the “Nature Island” offers an “authentic, unspoiled experience, with natural and cultural amenities.” Downside issues: support for Japan on whaling and a proposed oil refinery
8. Grenadines, Caribbean
Grenadines, Caribbean (SCORE: 77) “Unspoiled beauty,” not too developed, and great yachting, although yacht discharge
pollutes local waters. Authentic—“one of the last, best hopes of the Caribbean.”
9. Tasmania, Australia
Tasmania, Australia (SCORE: 76) “Great, but needs to reduce logging” sums up panelist opinion. “Proposed pulp mill threatens Tasmania’s image as clean, green, and pristine.”
9. Bora-Bora, French Polynesia
Bora-Bora, French Polynesia (SCORE: 76) “Outstanding natural and cultural beauty.” The island gets praise for balancing beach tourism with “emphasis on local culture, archaeological sites, and native species.” Risk of becoming “very touristique.”
9. Fraser Island, Australia
Fraser Island, Australia (SCORE: 76) Forested sandy island off Queensland, a World Heritage site, gets good marks for park preservation, but “busloads of tourists detract.”
9. Bornholm, Denmark
Bornholm, Denmark (SCORE: 76) “‘Homey’ rather than spectacular” characterizes the “charming townscapes” of this Danish outpost in the Baltic Sea. Crowded in summer.
9. Hydra (Ídra), Greece
Hydra (Ídra), Greece (SCORE: 76) Small island with no cars allowed and “beautiful local architecture, authentic Greek food.” Good preservation, but can be “swamped by day-trippers.”
9. Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands (U.K.) (SCORE: 76) Wild, bleak, and culturally British; a stopover for Antarctic cruises. Notable problem: Leftover landmines from the 1982 war inhibit hiking.
10. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (SCORE: 75) Vibrant Acadian and Celtic heritage mix with coastal panoramas on the “top notch” Cabot Trail. Tourism helps combat “high unemployment and out-migration.”
10. Corsica, France
Corsica, France (SCORE: 75) “Fantastic mix of mountains, beaches, and strong cultural identity.” The independent-minded Corsicans maintain one of the Mediterranean’s last isles sheltered from mass tourism. Well, almost: “Still a gem, but not in August.”
11. Vanuatu, Melanesia
Vanuatu, Melanesia (SCORE: 74) “Traditional villages, active volcanism, the world’s best kava.” Multicultural archipelago’s “hospitable people” don’t benefit enough from tourism. “Outer islands are of untold beauty.”
11. Santa Catalina Island, California
Santa Catalina Island, California (SCORE: 74) “Lots of visitors,” but most stay in Avalon. Catalina Conservancy protects nature, although area must recover from the May 2007 fire. “Catalina works, for what it is.”
12. Upolu and Savai’i, Samoa, Polynesia
Upolu and Savai’i, Samoa, Polynesia (SCORE: 73) Praised for cultural integrity, or fa’a Samoa, the “Samoan way.” “Family tourismbusinesses give a taste of Samoan life to the traveler.” Issues with pollution and trash.
12. Isle of Man (U.K.)
Isle of Man (U.K.) (SCORE: 73) Semiindependent island with unique Nordic-Celtic “character reasonably preserved.” Past-prime resort hotels need rejuvenation. “Manx traditions retained, but shot through with immigration from England.”
13. Palawan, Philippines
Palawan, Philippines (SCORE: 72) “Blessed with incredibly beautiful seascapes and landscapes.” Richly diverse marine life threatened by pollution, but conservation improving. Recommended: El Nido and the Calamianes Group.
13. Moorea, French Polynesia
Moorea, French Polynesia (SCORE: 72)
“Stunningly beautiful. Lush flora, extensive
reef systems, diverse sea life, and archaeological
sites.” “The experience lingers long
after your tan.” Downer: “Style of tourist
development very intrusive.”
13. Block Island, Rhode Island
Block Island, Rhode Island (SCORE: 72) Low-key. Good nature reserves, “charming, old New England culture of the sea,” but poor zoning turns second-home influx into landscape-altering “large-lot subdivisions.”
14. Ilha Grande, Brazil
Ilha Grande, Brazil (SCORE: 71) “Richly forested, marvelous beaches, charming communities” near Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. “No big international hotels.” Realestate development is a threat.
14. Sardinia, Italy
Sardinia, Italy (SCORE: 71) “Coves, caves, and long sandy beaches; mountainous interior preserves a rich cultural heritage.” Some coastal enclave resorts. Outlook on tourism development is uneven.
14. Hvar, Croatia
Hvar, Croatia (SCORE: 71) Authentic, attractive gem of the Dalmatian coast “under control except for the build-up of holiday homes.” Jammed in summer.
14. Jersey and Guernsey, Channel Islands
Jersey and Guernsey, Channel Islands (U.K.) (SCORE: 71) Scenic. “Strong identity, rich cultural heritage, high environmental quality.”Tax haven status has attracted the affluent, inflating real estate. Recommended: “the
network of green lanes and cycle routes.”
15. San Juan Islands, Washington State
San Juan Islands, Washington State (SCORE: 70) Ferry-linked archipelago is slowpaced counterpoint to Seattle; “becoming gentrified.” Good conservation; no jet skis. Boat-borne whale-watching can get “out of hand”—i.e., too many boats behaving badly.
15. St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, Caribbean
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, Caribbean (SCORE: 70) “Thank God for the national park that covers half of this island.” Appropriate resorts, great natural feel. Development pressure affects remaining portion; some beaches can get crowded with cruise-ship day-trippers from St. Thomas.
15. Anguilla (U.K.), Caribbean
Anguilla (U.K.), Caribbean (SCORE: 70) The eel-shaped colony “appeals to those seeking a slower, quiet place. Beaches of legendary beauty, friendly people, fine dining, and art.” Reefs, culture, and villages said to be in good shape. Worries include “overdone new developments” and tendency to “become a place only the ultra-rich can enjoy.”
15. Seychelles, Indian Ocean
Seychelles, Indian Ocean (SCORE: 70) Beautiful—“like paradise on Earth”—and priced that way. “High ecological quality.” Risks: “high-class, exclusive tourism, with large chains entering the market.”
15. Nevis, Caribbean
Nevis, Caribbean (SCORE: 70) “Nevisians
preserve cultural heritage and share it via
well-informed tours.” “Great natural and
historic beauty, but under threat” from exotic
species and a proposed oversize resort.
16. Palau, Micronesia
Palau, Micronesia (SCORE: 69) “Good conservationof the Rock Islands. The traditional villages of Babeldaob Island are an
under-recognized asset.” Next issue: Asiandevelopers seeking to build large resorts.
16. Cook Islands, Polynesia
Cook Islands, Polynesia (SCORE: 69) “Relatively unspoiled” except for Rarotonga,home to sun-and-sand resorts. A national geotourism plan calls for more emphasis on coral reefs and Polynesian culture.
16. Prince Edward Island, Canada
Prince Edward Island, Canada (SCORE: 69) “From the fiddles to the oysters, PEI seemswholly authentic.” Except: “ugly, if not unsustainable”tourist development around Cavendish; “ecological quality low, cultural integrity high.” New bridge not a problem.
16. Salt Spring Island, British Columbia
Salt Spring Island, British Columbia (SCORE: 69) Rural, tree-clad gulf island with “fine arts, music, creative organic cuisine.” Well-protected, but “the population is digrowing too fast,” putting funky character at risk. “Increasing wealthy-retired second homes. Skyrocketing housing prices.”
16. Mount Desert Island, Maine
Mount Desert Island, Maine (SCORE: 69) “Every tawdry ice-cream shop on the outskirts of Bar Harbor disturbs, but then you take a hike up Cadillac Mountain, or a bike ride in the woods, and all is forgiven.” Praise for rural stewardship offsets the development demerits: “Town overrun with trinket shops.” “High-end tourism and cruise ships are not in keeping with the natural aesthetic.”
16. Réunion (Fr.), Indian Ocean
Réunion (Fr.), Indian Ocean (SCORE: 69) “Volcanic landscapes steal the show.” Multiethnic island with mainly French tourism that is “not that intrusive.” Reefs degraded.
17. Bonaire (Neth.), Caribbean
Bonaire (Neth.), Caribbean (SCORE: 68) Earns praise for its encircling coral-reef marine park and worries that the “island is poised to become overdeveloped.”
17. St. Vincent, Caribbean
St. Vincent, Caribbean (SCORE: 68) Lush, relatively undeveloped. “Natural beauty; loss of the banana sector may mean fewer pesticides but more poverty.” A jocular criticism: “Kingstown ain’t no garden spot.”
17. Sicily, Italy
Sicily, Italy (SCORE: 68) Complex island. “You can find a petrochemical plant next to an ancient amphitheater.” Assets: Archaeology, culture, food and wine, volcanic Mount Etna. Downside: intrusive industry and motorways. “Constantly contending with crime.”
17. Yasawa Group, Fiji
Yasawa Group, Fiji (SCORE: 68) Archipelago of small islands “making good attempts to maintain ecological quality and cultural integrity.” Growing popularity means “developers need watching. Otherwise, idyllic.”
18. Hawaii (Big Island)
Hawaii (Big Island) (SCORE: 67) A Hawaiian favorite for many panelists. “Live volcanoes, rare birds, forest and waterfall hikes,” plus diverse hotels. “Vast areas retain integrity. Kailua-Kona is crowded, tacky.” Concerns: trend toward larger-scale resorts, cruise ships. Invasive species also a problem.
18. Pemba, Tanzania
Pemba, Tanzania (SCORE: 67) “Beautiful island, limited beaches.” Fishing with dynamite threatens fine reefs. “Tourism is in its infancy”; could grow to help save reefs and Swahili Muslim culture—or degrade them.
19. Bermuda (U.K)
Bermuda (U.K.) (SCORE: 66) Tidy, rich, and
well-tended, the Anglo-Caribbean outpost is also “aloof,” crowded, and stressed—“a
high-end market beginning to fray.”
19. Out Islands, Bahamas
Out Islands, Bahamas (SCORE: 66) The status of these islands varies. Some are “charming, visually appealing, and relaxed,” but too often preservation efforts vie with foreign investment that romotes “big development, second homes, and loss of everything Bahamian.” Affluent foreigners moving in: “Chickens crossing the road mix with celebrity sightings” on Eleuthera.
19. Tobago, Caribbean
Tobago, Caribbean (SCORE: 66) “Charming laid-back rural ambience” on this slowpaced island, but Trinidadian investors push “coastal tourism development that is too rapid, unregulated,” threatening environment.
19. São Tomé and Príncipe
São Tomé and Príncipe (SCORE: 66) Tiny, undeveloped, “very beautiful” two-island African country offers nature, beaches, culture,unique colonial farms, but “very weak” environmental policing, threats of mass tourism, and “disregard for sustainability.”
20. Cyprus, Turkish side
Cyprus, Turkish side (SCORE: 65) Scoring higher than the overdeveloped Greek side of the island, Turkish Cyprus has a “political situation that stifles development,” leaving time to lay out a strategy, but historic buildings are neglected, and “many second homes are being built all over with little planning.”
20. Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique (SCORE: 65) Native flora and “stunning” marine ecology in these “not yet spoiled”
offshore islands now draw “increasingly inappropriate” tourism development.
20. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts (SCORE: 65) “Has lost some of its authenticity in steamroller of East Coast money,” which “has helped fund preservation efforts. Not too overdeveloped.” But: “outrageous cost of living.”