Renowned for its breathtaking beaches with cerulean waters, Phuket is a prized tourist destination among all kinds of travellers – honeymooners, backpackers, solo trippers, and families. It is also much favoured for its numerous top spas, resorts, and party scenes. Historically, the island was one of the main trading routes between India and China. Tourism forms the chief income generator for the place. It is dominated by mountains, a prime tourist draw.
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Known as the ‘Emerald Island’, this drop-shaped land is an island country in itself. The place is rich in fauna and flora, and forms one of the 25 biodiversity hot-spots in the world, including having the highest density of biodiversity in Asia. Italian explorer Marco Polo declared the place to be the “best island of its size in the world”. Sri Lanka is a holistic tourism destination, offering amazing beaches, mountains, wildlife, and art and cultural heritage.
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Comprising 26 ring-shaped atolls, Maldives consists of more than 1000 coral islands, known for their aquamarine waters and rich corals reefs. The dreamy beaches with placid blue-green shallow waters over pristine white sands make it a hot favourite destination for honeymooners from across the world. It is the smallest Asian country by land area and population and it has a large submarine mountain range. It is the world’s lowest country, with an average ground-level elevation of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above mean sea level.
Andaman Islands, India
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An archipelago in the Bay of Bengal region of the Indian Ocean on the eastern waters of India, Andaman Islands form the northern counterpart of the Nicobar Islands. Almost 300 isles form the Andamans. They are well-known for their turquoise waters, white sands, and palm lined beaches. The Andamans have some of the most beautiful coral reefs that are remaining in the world. The location is also popular for diving and snorkelling.
Lakshadweep Islands, India
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Constituting the second major group of islets on the coastline of India, Lakshadweep lies on the western side of the peninsula in the Laccadive Sea. The name Lakshadweep is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘laksha’ meaning ‘one hundred thousand’ and ‘dweep’ translating to islands. Out of the 39 islands that comprise the archipelago, only ten are inhabited. It is rich in marine life, including over 600 varieties of fish and 78 species of corals.
Langkawi Islands, Malaysia
An archipelago of 104 islands, Langkawi is situated in north-western Malaysia. The islands were awarded the ‘World Geopark’ status by UNESCO in 2007. Burau Bay, Datai Bay, Pantai Cenang are some of the popular islands for tourism. Migratory birds are a famous attraction at Burau Bay; while Datai Bay has forests lining its white sand beaches. The Sky Bridge is a remarkable destination that can be reached by a cable car.
Mentawai Islands, Indonesia
Though only 150km from the mainland, the Mentawai Islands and its people were kept isolated until the 19th century by strong winds, unpredictable currents and razor-sharp reefs. It’s thought that the archipelago separated from Sumatra some 500,000 years ago, resulting in unique flora and fauna that sees Mentawai ranked alongside Madagascar in terms of endemic primate population. Of particular interest is siamang kerdil, a rare species of black-and-yellow monkey, named simpai Mentawai by the locals.
While surfers have long flocked to the Mentawai Islands for its legendary waves, it's a destination that will also have a far-flung appeal to independent travellers, in particular for those wanting to meet the island's tattooed hunter-gatherer tribes. The islands' pristine beaches are also magnificent and as idyllic as any you'll find anywhere in Sumatra.