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8 Ultimate Islands


This year, T+L casts a wide net in our never-ending quest for lush landscapes and sybaritic seclusion. The timing is right for these tropical wonderlands, so get ready to kick off your flip-flops and sink your toes into the sand.

Published on Sep 19, 2012

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Gili Air
Great For Barefoot Elegance

Floating in azure seas just out of reach of Lombok’s lush Sire Peninsula, you’ll find the first of Indonesia’s three palm-dappled, sugar-white sanded Gili Islands. When the migrating Bugis fishermen came calling from Sulawesi decades ago, they settled here first. Less sedate than Gili Meno and not as popular as rapidly developing Gili Trawangan, Air combines both space and vibrancy as increasing numbers of vacationing families, hippie chic nomads and chilled-out backpackers seek the island’s penny-wise international sophistication delivered with a distinctly Indonesian spice. The Aussie-owned franchise Scallywags ( was a game changer when they built a beach club worthy of Air’s widest, whitest beach, with cushy rattan seating, plush lounges, a killer sound system and an extensive menu. It’s hardly the only newcomer. Stroll the island and you’ll discover a tasty Italian bistro here, a world-class yoga studio there and alluring local greasy spoon kitchens where delectable, fiery meals cost less than US$2. Though tourism numbers are rising, Air has so far retained its village heritage and still feels like rural Indo. Cows and goats roam the island undisturbed, and vast tracts of powdery beach remain empty and ready for exploring. T+L TIP When the sun drops at the end of the day, head for one of the beach bars on the northwest coast where the sunsets are Technicolor and the archipelago views are truly sublime.—Adam Skolnick

Great For Biodiversity

Asia’s newest nation is emerging as a destination that rewards the determined traveler. Bad roads, uninspiring hotels and a lack of tourist infrastructure can make Timor-Leste a challenge for traditional tourists, but perfect for those with a pioneering spirit. The human fossil record on the island dates back 40,000 years, and since that time there has been almost no industry, major fisheries or use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, making Timor a leader in organic agriculture.
What this means to the traveler is biodiversity.

Marine biologists suggest that Timor could have some of the most biodiverse reefs on the planet, great news for snorkelers and divers. Timor also has one of the highest concentrations of marine mammals in the world and boasts a whale super-highway passing its shores from October to December. And with 261 identified avian species, including six species that can only be seen on Timor, it’s a birdwatcher’s paradise. T+L TIP Eco Discovery Tours (+670 332 2454; offers a weeklong Sparrow Trail tour, which walks in the footsteps of the famous Australian commandos known as the Sparrow Force who fought Japanese troops here during the Second World War.—Daniel J. Groshong

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