Islands are intriguing. Acres of coast and beach. Mysterious coves and reefs. And unusual life forms found nowhere else. How they tempt the traveller with the joys and aches of solitude. As tourist spots, islands net a large volume of traffic. Take, for instance, the Seychelles, or Maldives, or Mauritius. Or everybody's favourite, New Zealand. Then again, there are little-known islands well off the radar of tourists, some for very good reasons. Consider these...
Need a reason not to visit Ilha de Queimada Grande? Take five for every one of its total 430,000 square metres. Known by the blood-chilling sobriquet of Snake Island, this island off the coast of São Paulo in Brazil is crawling with venomous pit vipers. The Golden Lancehead Pit Viper, in danger of extinction everywhere else, teems in large numbers. The snakes are so venomous that local legend holds that their bites melt human flesh. While that may or may not be true, the island is certainly off limits to humans. Except perhaps Discovery Channel teams, who seem to get around everywhere.
Off the English coast is Bishop Rock, considered the world's tiniest island with a built structure. In fact, the island has nothing but a 49-metre tall lighthouse first constructed in 1851. The structure has 10 levels, with the lamp at the apex. It is situated at the eastern end of the north Atlantic.
Hashima, which simply means island in Japanese, is an abandoned island in Nagasaki Prefecture and was once a densely populated mining centre. The undisturbed ruins of old apartments still stand in ghostlike silence. The island, which was abandoned in 1974, was seen in the James Bond movie Skyfall.
Ascension Island, part of the British Overseas Territory, is a remote volcanic island in the equatorial waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It is about 1,600 km from the coast of Africa and 2,250 km from the coast of South America.
An undersea volcanic eruption caused the Icelandic island of Surtsey to arise in the ocean in 1963. As volcanic activity died and lava cooled in the sea, rocks built up. The newly risen island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. By then, plants and birds had arrived on the island and seals and otters were seen on its coastline. The island seems to have lost some of its surface area in the last few decades that scientists have been studying it.
All of 49 square kilometres, Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic Ocean north of Antarctica is considered the world's most remote. Discovered in 1739 by Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier, the uninhabited island, which has an abundance of seabirds, became a nature reserve in 1971 and is administered as a Norwegian dependency.
Hart Island in Long Island Sound, New York was established as New York City's public cemetery in 1869. It is here that unidentified and unclaimed bodies were buried. It once contained an insane asylum and various isolation zones for victims of epidemics. An estimated 750,000 burials have taken place here since 1869.
About 35 km off the Pacific Coast of Colombia is Gorgona Island. Separated from the mainland by an deep underwater depression, it became a favoured site for a prison and was often compared to San Francisco's Alcatraz. In 1984, it was declared a National Natural Park to preserve its rich biodiversity including offshore coral reefs.
Built 500 years ago by the Uru people of Peru's Lake Titicaca, the unusual Uros Islands are made of dried totora reeds matted together. Totora reeds grow in the lake and their dense roots interweave to form a natural layer known as Khili. The Uru anchor them with ropes attached to stakes driven into the bottom of the lake. As the reeds at the bottom rot away, new layers are added on top. Maintaining the islands is an effort-intensive exercise. The islands, which are 3,810 metres above sea level, are known to last as long as 30 years.
At the top of the unusual list is Vulcan Point, often known as Inception Island. The UC Santa Barbara Department of Geography website describes it best: 'An Island within a Lake on an Island within a Lake on an Island'. Vulcan Point is located inside a crater lake of the Taal Island, a volcanic island inside Taal Lake on the Philippine volcanic island of Luzon.
Fascinated by islands? We have more good stuff for you.
The World's Top 10 islands
In the wild, wild Andaman Islands
A deep-dive into the secrets of the Andamans
The Maldives in happier times