Whether or not you are in the ten percent of the world population who resides on an island, there is a whole lot to be said about the over 100,000 islands on our planet. Some form part of archipelagos, and some are countries on their own. Some are national parks, and some are an urbanized metropolis.
During the summer, when most tend to travel, you might be planning to visit one of the world's islands for your holiday. Lucky you! If so, bear in mind that some of these isles have limited access and you don't want to get stuck on the mainland nor unable to leave the island once your stay is over! Some islands are fully equipped with airports and harbors with several ferries and flights to chose from, but others have much fewer means of transportation and can only be reached by a private yacht.
Also, make sure you do proper research before setting off to your chosen island, so you know what you're up against. If it means knowing the hottest bars in London, or whether or not there's 24/7 electricity on Palmerston Island, you want to be well informed. You might also want to know beforehand if the islands residents are all related and whether or not you're about to fraternize with mostly zoologists and ornithologists.
20 Overcrowded: Java, Indonesia, 141, 370,000
At the top of the list is the most populated island in the world (if you don’t count continents as islands) we have the island of Java, population 141, 370,000 which is about the size of North Carolina or England and the 13th largest island by landmass in the world. Even though it’s just the fifth largest island by landmass of Indonesia, it still is home to 56.7 percent of the population. Due to this, it’s been the centre of Indonesia's long and eventful history, and it’s colorful and wide range of culture. This beautiful island has both gorgeous, luscious nature, a variety of cultures and the hustle and bustle of Jakarta, the capital and a megacity.
19 Overcrowded: Honshu, Japan, 104,000,000
The Honshu Island is what makes up most of Japan both in population and landmass. It is the seventh largest in the world by landmass and second by population with its 104,000,000 people living there. Honshu is the historical and present centre of Japanese culture and political power, and as a tourist, you’d be spoilt for options. Not only is the exciting and interesting city of Tokyo situated here, but you also have the opportunity to go skiing, visit old temples and explore the beautiful nature. It’s an island that has it all and the perfect mix between new innovating and the ancient historical Japanese culture.
18 Overcrowded: Great Britain, 62,600,000
The third largest island in the world is no other than Great Britain. It’s formed by England, Scotland and Wales, and have a population of over 62,600,000 people. One would have to agree that it’s one of the historically most important places in the world considering that from here the British Empire ruled over 23% of the world's population. Now, a population over 62 million people isn’t bad either, and the island from north to south and east to west has a lot of culture to offer. Whether if you’d fancy going up north to the gorgeous highlands of Scotland, or visit the cultural and historical London, you are spoilt for options as Great Britain has it all.
17 Overcrowded: Santa Cruz del Islote, Colombia, 2,247
A lesser-known island is the Colombian island Santa Cruz del Isolte, which is four times more densely populated than Manhattan and the most crowded island on Earth. Population? 2,247 people, although they all live on 0,012 square kilometres. The island was inhabited about 150 years ago when the first permanent residents moved here because of its lack of mosquitos. Today there are over 100 homes, lack of running water and space yet the people who live here are happy and content and have a strong community spirit. The people, their lifestyle has its struggles, but it’s very captivating when you see despite living so closely how it still just works.
16 Overcrowded: Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong, 80,000
Ap Lei Chau is an island that’s situated just outside of and a part of Hong Kong, a city that itself is very highly populated, but Ap Lei Chau takes that to an extreme. 80, 000 people live here on an area that’s 1.3 km2. This means that there live 66,755 people per square km. With the typical Hong Kong skyline with high rises that’s mostly residential, there is no wonder how that many people can fit and live on an area that’s so small. The island is linked to the main Hong Kong island by a four-lane road bridge. Being formerly British the whole Hong Kong area is also known as Aberdeen island and still has a lot of its culture intact.
15 Overcrowded: Migingo Island, Kenya, Up To 500
Situated in Lake Victoria between Kenya and Uganda the tiny little island of half an acre, about the size of a football pitch, is home to between 131 to 500 people (the number varies). After an eccentric fisherman moved here in the beginning of the 2000’s, word spread of the lucrative catches he did, and more people quickly joined him to make a living. Not entirely without any conflict and issues, the tiny little island has been in a bit of a conflict between the two African countries, both with fishing water disputes and who had ownership of the tiny rocky island.
14 Overcrowded: Luzon, Philippines, 53,336,134
Luzon is the fourth most populous island in the world and the home to over half of the Philippine population: 53,336,134 people. The capital Manila is situated here, and it is the economic and political center of the nation. From gorgeous lakes, active volcanoes and amazing nature the island is a very popular destination for tourists. The famous Manila Bay is supposed to be where you can catch one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. The country is to this day heavily influenced by the 333 Spanish rule and later the American leadership, English is still one of the official languages (as well as Filipino).
13 Overcrowded: Sumatra, Indonesia, 50,180,000
The second Indonesian island on our list is Sumatra, home to about 50,180,000 people and it’s truly an island where it feels like an adventure is just right around the corner. Being one of the most beautiful and intriguing places on earth Sumatra has ten national parks, jungles and deserted beaches. The jungles are homes to animals such as the Sumatran tiger, rhinos, elephants and orangutan. The real wilderness in the jungle and with the gorgeous beaches are mixed with the power of nature with frequent earthquakes, eruptions and tsunamis. An adventurous place filled with life and that makes you humble about nature could be the place you’d want to visit next?
12 Overcrowded: Madagascar, 25,5oo,000
Madagascar is an island and a county off the southeast coast of Africa. It's also a great animated movie, but that's for another time! This island is known for its rich flora and fauna; five percent of all known animals and plants reside in Madagascar, and only there. You might already know the lemur to be the country's spirit animal, but there are also lots of other creatures that you've never even heard of before. It's the fourth largest island in the world, and home to over 25 and a half million people, the perfect destination for anyone who loves animals, nature and adventure!
11 Overcrowded: Borneo, Indonesia/Brunei/Malaysia, 21,258,000
Borneo is the real-life Jungle book, and it’s the home to one of the oldest rainforests, at 130 million years old, in the world. The island is divided between three countries: Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia, together that’s 21,258,000 people who live in this beautiful place on earth. One of the most significant impacts of Bornean tourism is ecotourism; visiting the still untouched wildlife of the rainforest. Though due to industries that chop down the forest has made the animals that live here, such as the Bornean Chimpanzee endangered. Are you a nature lover but want to make your vacation eco-friendly, then there is plenty of places to go to in Borneo that are environmentally friendly.
10 Not Crowded: Foula, Shetland Islands, 30
Foula is one of the Shetland Islands and is one of the most remote islands in the United Kingdom. Norsemen conquered the tiny island around 800 AD, and they named it 'Foula' which means 'bird island'. It is an incredibly fitting name, although perhaps not that creative. Foula is famous for its rich bird life and has become an essential place for zoologists and ornithologists.
Foula became part of Scotland in the 15th century, but the Norse traditions live on through music, folklore, and special holidays and celebrations.
Now, if birds and Norse festivities seems like your cup of tea, you're in good company. The thirty inhabitants on this tiny island are probably ready to welcome you with open arms, and you can get there by either boat or plane.
9 Not Crowded: Tristan da Cunha, 262
Tristan da Cunha, or Tristan as it's typically called, is the world's most remote archipelago in the world that is inhabited. Situated in the South Atlantic Ocean, the nearest inhabited land is Saint Helena, which is 2,400 kilometers (1,500 mi) away. The volcanic island boasts 262 permanent inhabitants, all located on the main island. The group of islands is part of The British Overseas Territory since 1816, and the main settlement on Tristan is named Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.
If you plan on visiting Tristan, make sure you bring an umbrella as there is consistent rain and very little sunshine. Also, beware that there is no airfield, so you can only access by boat.
8 Not Crowded: Pitcairn Island, 48
The Pitcairn Islands consist of four volcanic islands in the Southern Pacific Ocean, and it is the last British Overseas Territory in that region. Now, this group of island is scattered over hundreds of miles of ocean, and although it is not the biggest of the four islands, it is only Pitcairn Island which is inhabited. The population consist of around fifty permanent residents, all stemming from four main families.
The island used to have very strict laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol, smoking, dancing and public display of affection. Yikes. Luckily, these rules have been relaxed, and islanders, as well as visitors, are able to enjoy alcoholic beverages in the one licensed cafe, or from buying their drinks in the government stores.
7 Not Crowded: Kerguelen Islands, 110
This group of 300 islands with only 110 people living on there is the size of Delaware and is a territory of France. Located over 2,000 miles away from any other civilisation just outside of the Antarctic circle it is also known as the Desolation Islands because of their windy landscape and remote location. You may wonder what kind of people there is who lives here. Well, according to NASA, most of the residents are scientists, and not all live there all the time, so the population changes depending on the season. The people here are studying the interesting flora and fauna due to its remoteness and harsh climate as well as satellite and rocket tracking.
6 Not Crowded: Palmerston Island, Cook Island, 62
Palmerston Island is one of the Cook Islands and the only one where English is the native language. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it was discovered by James Cook in 1774. It’s called the end of the world due to its extreme remoteness; their only connection to the rest of the world is a telephone station and cargo ships that visit a few times a year as the island doesn’t have an airport. All but three of the 62 people living on the Island are descended from the same man, William Marsters, who in 1863 arrived on Palmerston with his three wives and later on had 23 children. The islanders live a very calm life where religion and togetherness stay strong in their everyday life. In 2015 their lives got that little bit easier when they installed solar power system and got 24h power for the first time.
5 Not Crowded: Surin Islands, Thailand, 150
The Surin Island of Thailand is actually an archipelago consisting of five smaller islands, which together form a national park. Though it is far from the traditional tourist trap you might think of when hearing Thailand. Visitors rather come for a quiet escape and are attracted by the lack of development and urbanism of the island, though getting here can take a few hours by boat it’ll be all worth it if it’s your cup of tea. The people who live on the Surin Islands are called the Moken, which a group of 150 or so people called ‘sea gypsies’ or sea nomads and spend most of their lives on boats and live of the ocean.
4 Not Crowded: Toshima, Japan, 306
This beautiful island is often mistaken for the area in Tokyo with the same name. Though the name is pretty much the only thing the two have in common because where the ward is busy with people and movement, the island of 306 inhabitants are as calm as can be far away from the pulse of the city.
Situated about 140 km south of Tokyo the small island of just 4,12 square meters is rich with beautiful nature. The island is surrounded by rocks and has no beaches, but growing more popular is dolphin sighting since a lot of them are living around the area. How to get here? Well, we’re happy to tell you that you are spoilt for options. Anything from a 9-hour ferry ride to a private helicopter ride in less than an hour. While you’re at the lovely island, you can check into one of nine inns, but no camping as the whole island is a national park.
3 Not Crowded: Fair Isle, Scotland, 70
Being the UK's most remote inhabited island Fair Isle is the home of 70 or so people, all living on the east side of the island. In spite of its small size and location, the island has been inhabited for 5,000 years, and you may wonder why and how? Well, it’s a mystery since even though the waters are great for fishing, the five kilometers long and three kilometers wide island is lacking in raw material and home to a lot of flora and fauna. Especially birds, which makes it attractive for birdwatchers and the island is the proud home to the Fair Isle Bird Observatory. But when the Norman settlers came in the 9th-century, they must have seen the charm like the people before them, because the Nordic heritage is still noticeable with the traditional ‘Fair Isle knitting’ maybe you'll be charmed too!
2 Not Crowded: Suwarrow, Cook Island, 2
As part of the northern Cook Islands, Suwarrow is that kind of island that would be the perfect setting for a movie. It's a true treasure island since there was a shipwreck carrying a large chest of silver and gold valued at about US$5 million, which has never been found. Today it’s a national park and a treasure of another kind. It is seasonally inhabited between April and October by two people, why, you might ask. Well, every five years the Cook Island government send out an ad for the position of ‘Suwarrow island nature reserve caretaker’. If a genuinely secluded environment is something that attracts you, where you can only be reached by a private yacht - then this is the job for you!
1 Not Crowded: Marathi, Greece, 5
The five people that live on the Marathi Island in Greece are part of the same family who came here in 1977. But bear in mind during the summer months the population more than doubles, and a whopping 12 people live on the island. Why? Well the year after the family settled down on the island with only one beach and no roads, they decided to open a hotel. Without water, electricity or telephone they decided they could build all that on their own and run their business as they please. You can go there by boat, or the owner family will pick you up at a close by harbour and bring you to their own little corner of the world.