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Find Your Perfect Island

15 islands to cover all tastes, from cultural breaks to castaway fantasies

Best for Atmosphere

SANTORINI, GREECE

POPULATION 15,000

SIZE 35 square miles

Few volcanic eruptions have adjusted geography for the better quite like the blast that shook Santorini more than three millennia ago, an explosion that turned a single island into a curious chunk of land shaped like a broken Polo mint. What stands today is a place quite unlike any other: windmills, churches and whitewashed houses cascading down cliffs that were once the rim of a mighty volcano, blue sea having long since replaced bubbling magma below. Holidays in Santorini follow an established routine: idling on beaches of red volcanic sand, rambling the alleyways of hilltop villages or visiting the crumbling ruins of Akrotiri – an outpost of the Minoan civilisation until it was destroyed by said eruption around 1620 BC. All, however, are but a prelude to the daily drama of watching the setting sun shimmering in the waters of the Southern Aegean, from a whitewashed balcony high in the cliffs.

GETTING THERE Fly to Santorini direct from Birmingham, London, Manchester and Newcastle (from £170; easyjet.com), or via Athens in the November–March off-season.

Best for Walking

RÉUNION, FRANCE

PHOTOGRAPHS: JULIEN BOÉ/500PX, MICHELE FALZONE/AWL IMAGES, UGO MELLONE/SIME/4CORNERS

POPULATION 845,000

SIZE 970 square miles

The notion of an Indian Ocean island suggests turquoise lagoons, infinity pools and all-inclusive resorts. Well, Réunion is nothing like that.

A piece of French soil detached from the mainland and 400 miles adrift off the coast of Madagascar, Réunion looks more like a wild island out of comic book fantasy, with smouldering volcanoes, thundering waterfalls and a jungle-clad, mountainous interior criss-crossed by hiking trails. The king of all these trails is the five-hour slog up the Piton de la Fournaise – an active volcano which periodically sends smoke spiralling to the heavens and lava streaming towards the sea. In the intervals between eruptions, walkers can hike to the rim for views overlooking plains of volcanic ash and green foothills, with the Indian Ocean beyond.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - April 2016
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