Island with just six inhabitants is voted the world’s best

Iceland’s Flatey island topped the list

Helen Coffey
Thursday 03 October 2019 12:54 BST
Flatey island offers a desolate beauty
Flatey island offers a desolate beauty (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A car-free island in Iceland with just six permanent residents has been named the world’s best in a new ranking.

Flatey Island, located off the north-west coast of Iceland and spanning just 1.2 miles in length, bagged the top spot in Big 7 Travel’s list of the 50 best islands for 2020.

The scores were based on a combination of reader votes, previous media coverage and staff’s own travel experiences.

Although Flatey is quiet in winter, visitor numbers swell to around 9,000 in the summer months as people flock to stay in summer houses and observe the resident puffin population, plus more than 35 species of breeding birds.

These include black guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars, cormorants, oystercatchers and arctic terns. Wildlife lovers can also observe more than 150 species of plant, plus killer whales have even been spotted off the coast.

Part of an archipelago of 40 islands and islets set in Breiðafjörður Bay, Flatey is the only inhabited one.

The island is only accessible by a ferry service from the town of Stykkishólmur and once there, there’s just one hotel – the Hotel Flatey – which is only open during the three summer months (June-August).

The island is known for its desolate beauty and its library, which, built in 1864, is the oldest in Iceland.

There’s also a church dating from 1926, with frescoes painted by Kristjana and Baltasar Samper.

Big 7 Travel, which produces online city guides, says of the top choice: “In a charming way, it feels very much like a movie set. And so it is. Many movies are set on the island, most notably The Honour of the House based on a short story by Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness.

“The tranquillity at this island is unique – time stands still.”

Top 20 islands

  1. Flatey, Iceland
  2. Palawan, Philippines
  3. Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
  4. Sommarøy, Norway
  5. Korcula, Croatia
  6. The Aran Islands, Ireland
  7. Pemba Island, Zanzibar
  8. Barbados
  9. Lummi Island, Washington, US
  10. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
  11. Rawa Island, Malaysia
  12. Azores, Portugal
  13. Koh Tao, Thailand
  14. Capri, Italy
  15. Fraser Island, Australia
  16. Bali, Indonesia
  17. Ibiza, Spain
  18. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
  19. Corsica, France
  20. Santorini, Greece

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