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.
The natural beauty of the islands in Africa and the Middle East is so revelatory that our winning island was described by a T+L reader as the “eighth wonder of the world.” And once you discover our No. 1 island in Africa and the Middle East, you’ll be hard-pressed to disagree.
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.
Our No. 3 island, Mauritius, is as far-flung as they come, sitting 1,200 miles off the coast of mainland Africa, and more than double that distance from southern India. Mauritius was our top-seeded island after taking first place last year, boasting miles-long stretches of beach and wildlife-sighting opportunities, from the bats at La Vanille Nature Park to the sea turtles swimming among the Mascarene Islands.
Over a thousand miles west of Mauritius, toward mainland Africa, is our second-place island — immediately off the coast of Dar es Salaam. Zanzibar is home to the famed UNESCO World Heritage site of Stone Town, an architectural marvel influenced by Middle Eastern, Indian, African, and European cultures. The archipelago comprises four Tanzanian islands known not only for their stunning beaches but also for their rich spice-trade history.
Reclaiming the No. 1 spot (which it also held in 2019), the archipelago is the smallest country in Africa: the Seychelles, a “natural, beautiful, and exotic setting” with “unique flora and fauna” that continues to captivate Travel + Leisure readers.
The respondent who characterized this 115-island archipelago as the “eighth wonder of the world” also described it with an all-caps exclamation: “EXQUISITENESS!” Another enthralled reader dreams of “going back and cruising among the islands,” no doubt to take in the Seychelles’ six national marine parks and two UNESCO World Heritage sites. As tourism grows in the Seychelles, so does its luxury footprint. This summer, Hilton portfolio LXR debuted the 41-room Mango House on Mahé’s Anse aux Poules Bleue beach. Whether you venture to the Seychelles as a honeymooner following in celebrity footsteps, or as a nature-seeker in search of wildlife in Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve’s verdant tropical forest, you’re guaranteed to find “breathtaking experiences,” as one reader put it.
2. Zanzibar, Tanzania
See all of our readers’ favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World’s Best Awards for 2021.