The Best Islands in Africa and the Middle East
Travelers often flock to Africa and the Middle East to visit rich cultural treasures and sites. But those who journey to the regions’ dreamscape islands will find themselves richly rewarded with plenty of wildlife and an abundance of gorgeous scenery. The Seychelles is one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet, with some 7,200 species of plants and animals, and on Mauritius, tortoises can outnumber sunbathers. Add five-star hotels and pristine coastlines, and it’s no wonder these islands and others in the region earn readers’ praise.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
Related: The World's Best Awards 2019
Last year’s top choice, Mauritius (No. 3 this time around), is adored for its paradise-like white-sand beaches and clear waters, dormant volcanoes, a wildlife preserve, and its Indian, Chinese, European, and African influences. Named to our list of best places to travel in 2018, Mauritius is also home to a Four Seasons, The St. Regis, The Oberoi, and the legendary One&Only Le Saint Géran, occupying the tip of the Pointe de Flacq peninsula. Wrote one T+L reader, “Amazing culture, food, and snorkeling.”
Zanzibar (No. 2), an archipelago off of mainland Tanzania, is a perennial favorite of T+L readers, who are drawn to the intermingling of Arab, African, Indian, and Portuguese cultures in Stone Town, Zanzibar’s historical capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island’s interior is lush, while its sandy shores are studded with honeymoon-worthy hotels, including the intimate &Beyond Mnemba Island. “Magnificent beaches, friendly people, and very delicious food,” raved one reader.
As for the ever-popular No. 1 island, revealed below, it shares all of these extraordinary qualities spread out over 116 glorious atolls and granite isles.
2. Zanzibar, Tanzania
This is not the first year that the Seychelles, an archipelago of 116 islands, has scored the top spot, thanks to its natural beauty and memorable hotels. (Kate Middleton and Prince William evidently agree — they spent their honeymoon here, as did Amal and George Clooney.) Almost half the land is protected for wildlife to thrive, and the country’s marine parks are home to species like whale sharks and stingrays, making it a diver’s dream. If you’d rather not don scuba gear, swimming with hawksbill sea turtles is as simple as stepping into the tropical waters off the beach at esteemed properties like Six Senses Zil Payson, whose parent company has been voted best hotel brand for a third straight year. Wrote one reader of these islands, “Paradise on earth.”
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2019.