The Seychelles’ towering beach boulders are a mainstay on computer desktops, but they’re more than merely aesthetic — they also fascinate geologists, who have identified the Seychelles as the only mid-ocean islands formed of granite. Other superlatives: The archipelago is the oldest on the planet, and it has the cleanest air. Naturally, celebrities flock here; if you want to vacation a la British royalty, stay on North Island, where Prince William and Kate Middleton spent their 2011 honeymoon.
Drop-dead gorgeous Fiji is a filmmaker’s dream. Spy its Mamanuca island chain in Cast Away and Survivor; ogle its Yasawa archipelago in the 1980 version of Blue Lagoon. A dizzying amount of natural beauty — from mountains and mangroves to rivers and reefs — swathes Fiji’s 333 islands, and awe-inspiring wildlife (whales, sea turtles, dolphins, parrots) is the icing on the cake. For scenery with a side of luxury and exclusivity, reserve a bure (villa) at one of Fiji’s numerous private-island resorts.
The Quisby $50+ Wyndham Garden Hotel Baronne Plaza $93+ The Whitney Hotel $99+ B on Canal $106+ Pelham Hotel New Orleans, La $116+ International House Hotel $118+ Royal St. Charles French Quarter/Downtown $119+ Royal Crescent Hotel $120+ Holiday Inn New Orleans-Downtown Superdome $122+ Chateau Hotel $122+ Holiday Inn Express New Orleans - St Charles $122+ Wyndham New Orleans - French Quarter $126+ French Market Inn $136+ Bienville House $141+
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Possibly the location of the storied island of Atlantis, Santorini is the stuff of screensavers and wall calendars. Red-, black- and white-sand beaches rim its caldera lake — one of the largest in the world — while iconic whitewashed buildings stair-step up the hillside overlooking the Aegean Sea. Photo ops abound, from centuries-old windmills and ancient ruins to blue-domed churches and colorful wooden fishing boats. Stay in a boutique cave hotel for the full experience.
Nicknamed “The Helen of the West” (an allusion to the beauty of Helen of Troy), St. Lucia stuns with its signature feature: the UNESCO-listed twin Pitons. Reaching heights of about 2,500 feet, the voluptuous volcanic spires complement the island’s other attractions, including verdant jungles, sparkling silver-sand beaches, haunting sugar-estate ruins, and a mineral-rich natural mud bath. Meanwhile, the island’s most famous resort, Jade Mountain, is an architectural gem in its own right.
Holding the largest number of overwater bungalow resorts in the world (more than 75 and counting), the Maldives understands its best asset is the gin-clear, abundant waters of the Indian Ocean. When you’re not snorkeling, diving, or gazing at the rich marine life through the floor windows of your water-top villa, continue enjoying the underwater display while dining at 5.8 Undersea Restaurant, or even while getting pampered in Huvafen Fushi’s submerged spa.