11 Stunning Islands Where Cars Are Not Allowed

From Mackinac Island to Koh Phi Phi, these popular islands are where sightseeing happens at a slower pace

boats in water near buildingsPhoto: Getty Images/Vladislav Zolotov

Venice, Italy

Though technically an archipelago of 100-plus islands connected by hundreds of bridges, Venice nonetheless constitutes Europe’s largest car-free zone. That’s no real hindrance for art and architecture lovers, who can take in Renaissance-era landmarks like the Ponte Rialto, Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, and the Doge’s palace by taking a vaporetti ride through the Grand Canal or traversing the floating city’s extensive network of pedestrian bridges. However, no trip to Venice is truly complete without an intimate gondola ride through some of its quieter waterways.

view of island with buildingsPhoto: Getty Images

Lopud, Croatia

Leave the Venetian Lagoon behind and cross the Adriatic to take in Lopud, the gem of Croatia’s Elaphiti Islands. Under an hour’s ferry ride from Dubrovnik’s medieval fortifications, this car-free island boasts multiple 15th-century churches that may yet make an appearance in one Game of Thrones spinoff. For fans of fantastical landmarks rooted in the present, Lopud is the permanent home of the Your Black Horizon Art Pavilion, Olafur Eliasson’s art and architecture-fusing installation which made its debut at Venice Biennale 2005.

aerial view of beach and buildingPhoto: Getty Images

Hydra Island, Greece

Defined in equal measure by pebbly beaches for sunbathing and steep, narrow cobblestone hills that make donkeys more valuable than anything with wheels, Hydra offers a quintessentially Greek experience that’s a doable day trip from Athens. Compared to the Acropolis, however, most of the landmarks on this Saronic Island are of a slightly more recent vintage: think 10th-century Greek Orthodox monasteries and mansions displaying collections of locally sourced 18th-century furniture. If you’re looking for something even more contemporary (or you’ve been dying to see a Jeff Koons sculpture in a converted slaughterhouse), visitors in the high summer season can peruse the collection of Greek collector Dakis Joannou at the Deste Foundation.

aerial view of island waterPhoto: Getty Images

Caye Caulker, Belize

Fitting for a small Caribbean island where “go slow” functions as the de facto motto, Caye Caulker is devoid of pretty much anything faster than a golf cart. But when walking from the windward side of the island to a stunning leeward sunset only takes minutes, you won’t be complaining. Appropriate for a place that was largely uninhabited until the 19th century, the five miles of limestone coral that make up Caye Caulker are full of mangrove forests and exotic birds, both of which provide plenty of reasons to slow down and get in touch with the natural world. And for those who long to explore scuba dive spots like the Belize Barrier Reef and the Great Blue Hole, Caye Caulker is a perfect base of operations.

view of island and waterPhoto: Getty Images

Marstrand, Sweden

Home to the imposing Carlsten Fortress as well as Sweden’s oldest synagogue, this small island to the northwest of Gothenburg played an outsized role in 16th- and 17th-century Scandinavian history. These days, it’s known as a place to spot famous Swedes and sleek sailboats, especially when Match Cup Sweden, one of the longest-running stops on the World Match Racing Tour, passes through in early July. Despite that cosmopolitan aura, Marstrand’s cobblestone, car-free streets and quaint homes still offer plenty of opportunities to step into Sweden’s past.

aerial view of islandPhoto: Getty Images

Lamma Island, Hong Kong

If you need a break from the density and dazzling lights of Kowloon or the towering skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island but don’t want to fully leave civilization behind, Lamma Island is just a quick ferry ride away. Though a chart-reading error saddled the island with a name that translates to “mud” (lama) in Portuguese, the presence of placid, sandy beaches like Lo So Shing certainly defy that notion. Waterfront restaurants offer views of the more aptly named area Picnic Bay. Another perfect way to pass the time is through the network of hiking trails that lead to Lamma’s abundance of scenic overlooks, which are well worth exploring for those who want to see Hong Kong from a fresh perspective.

aerial view of island and waterPhoto: Getty Images

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Situated between Phuket and the Straits of Malacca, the Phi Phi Islands are one of the most majestic beachside locales in Thailand, if not all of Southeast Asia. Though tuk-tuks and taxis are a no-go, all you need is a spot on a longtail boat to cruise around the limestone cliffs surrounding Koh Phi Phi Le’s Maya Bay, the highly Instagrammable backdrop setting of 2000’s Leonardo Dicarpio movie, The Beach. And, though a sizable tsunami destroyed the vast majority of buildings on the archipelago just four years later, its collection of recently established resorts means there are plenty of places to stay in this slice of paradise.

Via Architectural Digest

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