The Azores (Portugal)
Lush with greenery and flowers, this archipelago is covered with hydrangeas. You can enjoy breathtaking mountain top views over limpid lakes, hot springs, geysers, black sand beaches, flooded calderas and crystal-clear ocean waters. Comfortable air temperature, delicious food and wine add to the appeal.
Still little known by tourists, these Portuguese islands get a small number of visitors, which means a relaxing holiday with no one stepping over your head while searching for a beach spot.
The Lofoten Islands (Norway)
Despite the northern location of the islands, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream normally keep temperatures above zero, even in winter, so don't hesitate to come here in the cold season – freezing is off the agenda.
The Lofoten Islands also happen to be one of the world's best places to view the Northern Lights. They are absolutely unbelievable here! Even if you have already observed this phenomenon in other parts of the world, it will still take your breath away.
Beautiful scenery, pink dawn-like glow all day long, red cottages and clear waters – all makes it worth it.
The Aeolian Islands (Italy)
This Italian volcanic archipelago ranks third on our list. You should plan at least a five days', rather than the couple of hours' visit that travel agencies tend to offer. We recommend that you stay on the outer islands never covered by day tours. Salina is the greenest of the seven islands. It's a great place to explore beautiful nature, admire the famous volcano Stromboli that occasionally still spews lava into the sea, drink the local wine called Malvasia and enjoy the peace and quiet.
You will discover high reefs, caves, sea cliffs, beaches of fine black sand and clear sea teeming with fish.
The Galápagos Islands (Ecuador)
Those who have visited Ecuador may initially find the Galápagos archipelago less impressive because of a number of local subtleties. You may, for example, find beaches inaccessible and the gate closed at sunrise or at sunset, as this happens to be egg-laying time for turtles, or you may have to take a long walk to a beautiful beach as no transportation is available. Still, the idea of sharing a beach with sea lions, blue-footed boobies, pelicans, turtles and marine iguanas is very inspiring. You won't experience it elsewhere, and it is definitely worth a visit. You will have a chance to see a volcanic island made of nothing but lava!
It was the unique fauna of the Galápagos Islands that set Charles Darwin thinking and developing his theory of evolution as he studied the local wildlife during his voyage.
Visitors are sure to discover pristine beaches – complete with white sand, turquoise water and birds and animals peacefully strolling around. There are no cafés or food stalls, no rubbish, cars or tents for miles around – just wilderness, wild animals and you.
Most travellers visit Iceland for the sake of its beautiful nature. Still, although their beauty is not to be questioned, the local landscapes are hardly unique, as it is often possible to find the likes elsewhere.
You should also be prepared for ubiquitous tourists: you stop by the roadside to take a few shots, and before you know it, another car pulls up.
Many islands fall out of our top 5 list. We did not find Bali particularly inspiring, although we went there for our honeymoon, and such islands as the Maldives where we vacationed a few years ago are not suitable for everyone, because some may find them boring and monotonous. With lots of sightseeing and good food, Greek islands are perfect for a relaxing holiday with children, but did not make it onto the list of our personal favourites.
If you find this section interesting, please leave your comments. Perhaps we ought to add more photo reports of each island?
Photography: Timofey Sharko
Moscow never sleeps! Together with the announcement about opening of the Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg, Canadian-based five-star hotel company introduces the plans for the opening of the second property in Russia in 2013 – Four Seasons Hotel Moscow.
In the “Lost in translation” film Sofia Coppola took us to the noisy Tokyo into the luxury five-star hotel. Almost all scenes took place in the Park Hyatt Tokyo hotel, where main characters are feeling lost.
This hotel is the one you need when you travel a long distance or even not that long but if you are waiting for another flight at the Schiphol Airport.
We are already familiar with Holiday Inn Express Amsterdam – Schiphol hotel since our previous inspection made in 2012; so we decided to see what has changed for that time.