This year’s World’s Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.
After spending so much time at home, the idea of sitting on an airplane for hours may seem like an adventure in itself. And when that journey ends on a tropical island in Asia, it’s a welcome reminder that some things really are worth the wait.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
The Philippines’ Palawan not only made this regional list again at No. 5 (though down from No. 1 last year) but also earned a spot in the World’s Best Islands list. When they arrive, guests find mountains as well as white sand beaches washed by the Sula and South China seas. Resorts range from eco-chic stays to the spectacular Amanpulo resort, accessible only by private plane. Its 58 casitas and villas are nestled in the lush hillside and along the beach; each villa has its own chef and butler.
Equally beautiful coastlines and crystal-clear waters beckon visitors to Koh Samui, Thailand (No. 2), Bali, Indonesia (No. 3), and the Maldives (No. 4). All three are also on the World’s Best Islands list this year, thanks to their consistent ability to deliver unforgettable vacations, no matter your choice of activities and lodgings. “Nowhere else on the planet offers so much in one place,” said one voter about Bali, while another elaborated, praising the island’s “friendly people, excellent service, food and drink.”
But even with longtime reader favorites well-represented this year, it was India’s Andaman Islands that emerged in the top spot. Read on to find out what sets the destination apart from the other havens readers chose as this year’s best islands in Asia.
1. Andaman Islands, India
Made up of roughly 300 islands, only 37 of which are inhabited, this archipelago in the Bay of Bengal has tropical rain forests, silky beaches ringed by mangroves, and extraordinary endemic wildlife. The islands offer a lot to look at — limestone caves, rice paddies, orange plantations, and thriving reefs. Some guests may want to follow the nature trails; some may simply stare out to sea. To experience it all, many travelers opt to take boat tours of Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, where they can see coral and sea turtles in particular. No matter your view, one reader promises, it will be nothing short of “breathtaking!”
2. Koh Samui, Thailand
3. Bali, Indonesia
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 90.32
5. Palawan, Philippines
See all of our readers’ favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World’s Best Awards for 2021.