Seven islands you’ve probably never heard of to visit in 2021, including Príncipe in the Gulf of Guinea and Norfolk Island, Australia

Travel has been on hold for most of 2020, but as the world begins to look to the future it's time to start dreaming again. Rosie Paterson puts a new spin on the phrase island hopping, with her round up of the most under-the-radar ones out there.

For more inspiration, make sure you pick up Country Life’s December 30 issue — it’s our annual travel special, full of many more ideas for adventures far and near.

São Tomé and Príncipe, Gulf of Guinea

This two-island nation is Africa’s second smallest and incredibly safe — once the largest world’s largest producers of cacao, before the Portuguese Empire collapsed. Príncipe is the favourite: home to just 7,000 people and carpeted in vibrant green jungle. There are a handful of places to stay (Bom Bom and Sundy Praia), but thankfully, the island still feels wonderfully undiscovered.

Anguilla, the Caribbean

Ok, so you’ve probably heard of Anguilla, but I bet you haven’t been because it’s one of the Caribbean’s quieter gems with only a handful of UK tourists visiting every year (despite being a British Overseas Territory). And for this very reason, it’s retained laid back charm and a quieter way of life, by the bucket and spade load. Talking of buckets and spades, Anguilla is also regarded as having some of the best beaches in the Caribbean — including Rendezvous Bay (go for the swimming) or remote Meads Bay (pictured). There’s a good selection of luxury beachside hotels (try Malliouhana or Belmond Cap Juluca), but most prefer to hide away in a private villa. Fall for the clapboard walls in SJ Villa’s The Love Shack.

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Lofoten Islands, Norway

Lonely Planet once described the beauty of the Lofoten Islands as ‘simply staggering’ and they’re not wrong. And though the fjords, mountains and surf-bashed beaches are best suited to the more outdoorsy traveller (think kayaking between islands, fishing for your supper and bird watching), thanks to the Gulf Stream, the islands aren’t as cold as you might expect. Come between late May and mid-July for the midnight sun, and between September and mid-April for the Northern Lights (main image).

Norfolk Island, Australia

Located off Australia’s eastern coastline—roughly halfway between it and New Zealand—Norfolk Island is a breathtakingly beautiful, former penal colony. Today the old convict buildings are a protected-UNESCO site, it’s mandatory to wave to everyone you pass and cows have right of way. As well as snorkelling over coral reefs, visitors are encouraged to explore the National Parks and Botanical Gardens.

Islas Secas, Panama

Top of my bucket list, since it opened last year. Islas Secas is a 14-island private archipelago, off the coast of Panama, that embodies the idea of barefoot luxury.

Adventure (try whale watching, water sports and scuba diving) and sustainability are at the heart of everything the team there do. Tie into a larger South American holiday itinerary with help from Plan South America.

One Foot Island, Tapuaetai, Cook Islands

Some say One Foot Island resembles a left foot from the air; others say that a father and son hid on it, from an invading tribe — the father carrying the son to the protection of a tall coconut tree, so that when he paddled away for help, only one set of footprints (arriving and leaving) appeared in the sand.

Today, you can visit by boat, swim, snorkel and get your passport stamped in the tiny post office.

Minor Italian islands

Few believe that there is much left to discover in Italy, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations for centuries. But, chances are, they’ve never even heard of places such as Ponza, largest island in the Pontine archipelago, Panarea, smallest in the Aeolian archipelago or San Domino—an island off the coast of Puglia with excellent snorkel-
ling opportunities. Unlike their larger, less-untouched counterparts, they’ve escaped the ravages of mass tourism.
On Capraia, the most north-westernmost island in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, little can come close to Forte San Giorgio (pictured)—a listed national monument that sleeps 21 guests. One of the two swimming pools juts out over the protected sea—home to pass-ing sperm whales, dolphin, tuna and swordfish; honey buzzards hover overhead. Trips can be arranged via The Thinking Traveller