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Not all islands are equal. Whether you like sand and surf, or culture and food, here are five of the best island destinations where you can find your own slice of paradise.

Langkawi Geopark. Image via Tourism Malaysia

Langkawi, Malaysia

The Jewel of Kedah is a shining gem of an island, blessed with lush tropical rainforests, sandy beaches and some of Peninsular Malaysia’s most beautiful and biodiverse diving sites. Lacking the high tourist traffic of its busier cousins on the East Coast, the island offers a tranquil escape for those looking for relaxation. There are a number of luxury resorts to be found on the island, such as the glamorous Four Seasons Langkawi, where part of Hollywood blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians was filmed. Aside from beaches, the island is also home to vast land and sea caves, impressive geological formations, mangroves, waterfalls and scenic villages.

El Nido, Palawan. Image via adnorf/Pexels

Palawan, The Philippines

The Philippines is a cloister of over 7,000 islands, and while most of them are incredibly beautiful, few come close to being as breathtaking as Palawan. Comprising Palawan Island and various smaller islands and islets, the archipelago is known for its abundant natural beauty, from diving sites thriving with coral reefs and marine life, to subterranean rivers and crystal clear lakes. The white sandy beaches of El Nido and Coron in the northern part of Palawan boast waters that are a stunning shade of cerulean.

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Valley of Temples, Sicily. Image by poudou99 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Sicily, Italy

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We usually think of beaches when we think of islands – but Sicily offers plenty of diverse attractions, from natural wonders such as volcanoes, to some of the best preserved ancient Greek and Roman temples in the world. A must-see is the Valley of Temples in Agrigento, which dates back to around 500 BC, as well as the dramatic Greek theatre and Roman amphitheatre at Syracuse. That aside, enjoy Sicilian cuisine, which has a lot in common with Italian food but with traces of all the cultures that have existed around the region, such as Arabic, Greek, Spanish and French.

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Stonetown, Zanzibar. Image by Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
Zanzibar, Tanzania

If you love culture and heritage, then a trip to the island of Zanzibar will be right up your alley. The capital, Stone Town, is a maze of narrow streets and alleyways filled with craft shops and art galleries,  alongside spice bazaars and jewellery stores selling Tanzanites (precious blue gems only found in Tanzania). Sailing is a popular activity in the azure blue waters surrounding the island, as are boat trips to see dolphins.

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Marigot Bay in Saint Lucia, where celebrities such as Mick Jagger and Oprah Winfrey have their holiday homes. Image via Prayitno / from Los Angeles, USA [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Saint Lucia, West Indies

Nicknamed Helen of the West (after Helen of Troy, a character in Greek mythology famed for her beauty), Saint Lucia is a small, sovereign island nation in the West Indies. The island is surrounded by the calm, blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and features towering twin peaks called the Pitons, alongside sandy beaches, lush rainforests, idyllic fishing villages, waterfalls and geothermal attractions. Zip-lining, hiking and other nature activities are popular. Cruise ships depart from Castries, the island’s capital, which is also home to historic landmarks from the island’s time as a French, and later British, colony. Saint Lucia is also where the world’s only drive-in volcano, the Sulphur Springs, can be found.