Monday, March 28, 2011

Top 10 Unusual Island Territories

The exploration of our seas and oceans have unearthed some fascinating island and archipelago finds. Subsequent claims of national jurisdiction sometimes fly in the face of apparent geographical proximity and make these idyllic destinations ever the more interesting. The barren volcanic masses of Heard Island and McDonald Islands for example, though north of Antarctica and technically part of Australia, are actually closer to Madagascar. The globe is replete with countless territorial island quirks. Here are 10 that stand out as superb vacation destinations, some more unusual and random than others.
10. Guam
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The unincorporated territory of the United States of America is a lush, verdant island in the Western South Pacific Ocean. Native inhabitants trace their history back over 4,000 years. With over 170,000 people, the largest island in Micronesia relies heavily on tourism from Japan and U.S. Department of Defense installations.

9. Elba
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The famous location of Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile, the Italian island of Elba is part of the magnificent Tuscan Archipelago. The island chain between the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas is a vital National Park and under strict conservation laws. With a unique culture, cuisine and wine cultivation, Elba is a popular tourist resort.

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A network of small North Atlantic islands just south of Newfoundland, Canada, the Territorial Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon is believe it or not, part of France and the European Union. The picturesque archipelago, home to 6,000 people who consider themselves French, is the last colonial trace left in Canada and remains a popular destination with tourists from the province of Quebec.

7. Bermuda
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Bermuda’s paradisiacal reputation is no secret, as the overseas territory of Great Britain in the North Atlantic draws scores of expat professionals and tourists to subtropical environs and the top GDP per capita in the world. What does stand out however, is how incredibly English Bermuda is, even to this day. Remarkable when you consider that the territory is a mere 1,350 km from Halifax, Nova Scotia and 1,030 km from the state of North Carolina.

6. Christmas Island
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The Territory of Christmas Island belongs to Australia but open any atlas and the tiny outpost looks to be a stone’s throw from Jakarta, Indonesia. Which it is to be honest. In fact, Christmas Island is five times further away from Perth than it is from the mad metropolis of 8.5 million people. A gorgeous National Park covers nearly two-thirds of the island and comprises the main catalyst for tourism.

5. Cook Islands
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Under the sphere of influence of New Zealand, the Cook Islands nonetheless maintain a parliamentary democracy. A collection of fifteen South Pacific Ocean islands, the Cook Islands receive almost 100,000 tourists yearly. Predominantly Kiwi, people come for the tropical climate and idyllic island landscape and location, smack dab between Fiji and French Polynesia.

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The Polynesian island in the South Pacific Ocean is a special territory of Chile. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and famous across the globe for a network of giant stone faces and ancient cave art, the island is actually 3,700 km from the South American coast.

3. Canary Islands
When you verify a map, it looks like Morocco, at least from a geographical standpoint, has more claims to the Canary Islands than Spain. But politics and colonialism being what they are, the enviable archipelago belongs to the European nation. Already a leader in tourism, the Canary Islands, with destinations like Tenerife and Gran Canaria, put Spain over the top. The islands remain one of the most popular destinations for Europeans in search of a sandy piece of coastal paradise.

2. The Azores
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Another archipelago anomaly, the lovely Azores are almost as close to the Newfoundland capital of St. John’s in Canada as they are to Lisbon. The black sheep of Portugal is nonetheless one of the most beautiful parts of the country, with lush mountain landscapes, exotic maritime fauna and scenic coastal towns like Angra do Heroismo.

1. Corsica
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Though natives of the magnificent Mediterranean island of Corsica are fiercely independent, the territorial collectivity remains bound to France. With over 1,000 km of pristine coastline, dramatic mountain peaks, evergreen forests and river systems, the island with 280,000 inhabitants is a relatively unblemished destination.
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