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Avoid Holiday Crowds With These Underrated Islands

Some island destinations consistently make it on to must-visit lists. They're the faraway cities or countries you think of first when you want to don a swimsuit or take in endless blue horizons while swaying in a hammock. Other places are misunderstood, perennially fly under the radar, or fall out of favor without finding the momentum to bounce back again. These uncut gems have so much to offer and just as much to gain from renewed tourism. And best of all, they're usually not overrun by pesky crowds. So, are you ready to explore?

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01There's more to Ibiza than clubbing

The old city part of Ibiza city with white architecture and flowers on summertime. Artur Debat / Getty Images

'We're going to Ibiza! We're gonna have a party...in the Mediterranean Sea' Remember this hit song from the Venga Boys? If you're drawing a blank, you're probably not millennial enough.

Either way, Ibiza has a bad rap as a busy party hub. The Spanish island's nightlife and EDM scene are loud and buzzing, but if that's not your kind of thing, you can simply avoid it and have a fantastic vacation between sunrise and sunset. Ibiza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its Renaissance walls and Phoenician settlement, and you can pair a dose of history with a yoga retreat or a stunning hike.

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02There's more to Sicily than the mafia

Coast of Cefalu Federico Scotto / Getty Images

Most people who aren't very familiar with Sicily associate it with the infamous Cosa Nostra, largely because The Godfather filmed scenes in Savoca and Forza d'Agrò. But there's so much more to this Italian island than crime and gangsterism. If you look on a map, Sicily is the 'ball' to Italy's 'boot,' and it's time we stomp out any hint of a bad reputation.

The island is rich in culture and possesses an enviable cuisine. And it's also beautifully diverse with a wine region, opportunities to ski, and plenty of swimming spots.

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03There's more to Greenland than ice

Paddling under the Glacier in South Greenland near arsarsuaq Posnov / Getty Images

It may be the biggest non-continental island globally, but small neighbor Iceland tends to overshadow Greenland because of accessibility. Going to this snowy wonderland does cost a pretty penny, but it just might be worth it if you value spectacularly wild nature, a little peace and quiet, and privacy. You can do salmon fishing, kayaking, and hunting without hordes of other tourists, and when you tire of those activities, you can relax and take photos unrivaled for their uniqueness. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Santa Claus.

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04There's more to Robinson Crusoe Island than castaways

Robinson Crusoe Island JeremyRichards / Getty Images

Just an hour away from Chile's capital, there's an island that inspired Daniel Defoe's classic novel published in 1719. Previously known as Más a Tierra, the island shouldn't present you with as many misadventures as it did the book's protagonist.

Getting to Robinson Crusoe Island requires a seven-seater plane. And once you're there, there's a chance you could find treasure buried under the sands or while scuba diving around a shipwreck. Avian enthusiasts will also enjoy the island's Important Bird Area status.

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05There's more to Madagascar than a movie

Beautiful Baobab trees at sunset at the avenue of the baobabs in Madagascar dennisvdw / Getty Images

Did the animated movie pluck Madagascar from obscurity and thrust it into the spotlight? Yes. But Madagascar could still do with more attention and tourists. Other Indian Ocean islands and archipelagos like the Maldives and Mauritius get much more love and many more honeymooners.

It's true that tourism in Madagascar is relatively underdeveloped, and the crime rate could be lower. But if you love diamonds in the rough and gazing upon flora and fauna, the likes of which most people will never see in person, this is the place for you. Kitesurfing, mountain biking, and off-road driving complete the adventure.

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06There's more to Sandön than mystery novels

Nordic noir is a genre unto itself. But a holiday to the Swedish island of Sandön need not be nearly as dark. Trips to Sandön are positively relaxing, if not very tropical. You can cycle through a pine tree forest and sample pytt i panna and herring in the village of Sandhamn. Or you can relish a Stieg Larsson or Viveca Sten thriller on one of the myriad pleasure boats here.

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07There's more to Nicaragua than protests

Female hiker near Volcán Concepción on Ometepein Lake Nicaragua in Nicaragua Central America Bkamprath / Getty Images

Nicaragua went through a period of unrest that saw tourist numbers plummet. Things are picking up again, so consider this Central American country if you're looking for less conventional island destinations. Ometepe Island has rainforests, and tiny Jicaro Island on Lake Nicaragua has a lodge that's as eco-friendly as they come.

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08There's more to Cuba than communism

Downtown Havana city, Cuba Kriangkrai Thitimakorn / Getty Images

There are certain travel restrictions for Americans going to Cuba, but these are not difficult for the average tourist to navigate. And navigate them you should for dirty dancing in Havana, rock climbing in breathtaking Viñales, yuca con mojo, classic cars, and cigars. The white sand beaches are awesome too. All of which is to say, Cuba deserves a comeback.

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09There's more to Haiti than political unrest

Haiti, Sud, surfers on the beach and morning waves in the Caribbean Sea John Seaton Callahan / Getty Images

To an outsider, Haiti might seem beleaguered by earthquakes and assassinations. But the drop in tourism makes it that much harder to restore infrastructure. If you're keen, see how you can volunteer. Or do your bit just by booking a holiday on this Caribbean island that's as naturally dazzling as ever.

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10There's more to Sri Lanka than civil war

Cave temple in Dambulla, Sri Lanka ValeriiIavtushenko / Getty Images

Beyond the tea plantations and hill stations, there are impressive beaches for surfing, rainforests and mountains, and sunny people. You'll also find UNESCO World Heritage sites galore in the Cultural Triangle. Go on safari to spot leopards, learn about the island's Portuguese entanglement, and let tasty curries fortify you in between activities.

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