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The World's Best Car-Free Islands

18th October 2015

We round-up our favourite car-free islands, where the roads are sandy and donkeys or bicycles rule.

From tranquil gems off the coast of Mexico and Brazil, to off-the-beaten-path destinations you might have never heard about, we believe these might just be the perfect spots for a bit of holiday rest and relaxation.

Hydra, Greece

 Image: Daily Telegraph

Hydra, which shot to fame in 1957 as location for Boy on a Dolphin, starring Sophia Loren, "remains endearingly time-warped," says Marc Dubin, Greece expert.

"As a listed architectural reserve, all new construction is [theoretically] banned, and it’s blissfully free of motor vehicles except for a few miniature rubbish trucks – photogenic donkeys [or mules] do most of the haulage. The clip-clop of the beasts' hooves on marble pavement and their drovers' cries are very much part of the soundtrack here," he adds.

Herm, Channel Islands

 Image: Alamy

"At about 2.5 kilometres long, Herm is the perfect tiny island. There are limited full-time inhabitants, semi-tropical gardens, white sandy beaches, turquoise water, dramatic cliffs, puffins, seals and a bittersweet history dating back thousands of years when Neolithic nomads first settled in Herm.

"The beaches, as breathtaking as any Hebridean or Caribbean beach, curve almost halfway around the island. It takes two hours to circumnavigate the island at a leisurely pace," says traveller Clare Mann.

Holbox, Mexico

 Image: Alamy

This tiny island to the north-east of the Yucatan peninsular is just the shortest of hops from Cancun, but you will certainly notice the difference.

Characterised by sandy roads, ramshackle buildings and the odd tourist bumbling around in a golf buggy, this is a place where time slows to a standstill. Whale sharks pass by in the summer, otherwise it's all about simple pleasures here.

Ilha Grande, Brazil

 Image: Alamy

One of the brightest gems on Brazil's Emerald Coast, on Ilha Grande you will find Atlantic rainforest, homely and hammock-filled lodges, swinging troupes of monkeys and quiet beaches that you will need to trek to. One of the best, sometimes described as one of the world's best, is Lopes Mendes - a long swathe of white sand that is popular with surfers.

Fernando De Noronha, Brazil

 Image: Alamy

Visitor numbers are restricted and a daily tax imposed on this marine-protected island, a ragged tip of the mid-Atlantic ridge 277 kilometres from Brazil's coast.

This is why Noronha’s beaches, some of Brazil’s best, still feel wild and desolate. Time dissipates in the foam as you stroll down long, quiet stretches, past rock pools and magnificent volcanic stacks gleaming with sea spray. Most of the time you’ll see no one else but the odd surfer.

Find serene nature closer to home. Queensland’s Coast Is Rich In Natural Marvels

Heading to Asia? One Night In A Deserted Paradise

Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

 Image: Alamy

The tiny island off the coast of Central America has a big sister, Big Corn, which does support cars; however, Little Corn does not.

Jade Conroy visited in 2013 and had this to say: "Accessible by a charter flight to Big Corn Island, followed by a boat ride, Nicaragua's Little Corn is the country's own slice of Caribbean paradise.

"At just 2 miles [3 kilometres] long and one mile [1.6 kilometres] across, no motorised vehicles are allowed on an island where healthy coral and sea life flourish, and which boasts numerous dive sites well worth exploration."

Lopud, Croatia

 Image: Alamy

"The tiny, car-free Lopud [one of the Elafiti islets] is a 50-minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik’s port, Gruz. There’s just one small village and it's very peaceful, so bring some good books.

"From the village, a footpath leads across the island [20 minutes], through dense, herb-scented vegetation, to the blissful Sunj beach, an arc of sand giving on to a warm, shallow bay.

"There are several beach bars, and one end of the beach is clothing-optional – naturism has a long history in Croatia. From Lopud, you can take the ferry to Dubrovnik for a day exploring the medieval old town. The same vessel runs to the nearby islets of Sipan and Kolocep," says Jane Foster, Croatia expert.

Ile De Porquerolles, France

 Image: Getty

"Porquerolles is intimate in scale and its beaches are diminutive. The fragrance of eucalyptus and pine hangs in the air with nothing to compete against it.

"Sand and trees work together beautifully on Plage de Notre Dame to create a scene reminiscent of a distant desert island. Porquerolles is relatively unknown by the British, but is a favourite with the French.

"Late May sees the island at its most beautiful, with tender shoots still green and fresh, and blossoms exuberant with new colour," says visitor Sara Evans.

Marettimo, Italy

 Image: Alamy

"Marettimo is as much about tuning into the laid-back island lifestyle as it is about hiking around the trails or heading for the nearest beach.

"This is a great place to indulge in some serious summer reading over a cappuccino or two. It’s difficult to oversell the joys of living in what is basically a car-free village where everyone knows everyone else.

"This is an island with people-based tracking systems that work better than any GPS tag. The island also displays a rich biodiversity, with flora including great clumps of pink cistus, prickly pear and a few species not found on the Sicilian mainland," says Lee Marshall, Italy expert.

La Graciosa, Canary Islands

 Image: Alamy

"This tiny island off the north tip of Lanzarote has no roads, just fabulous beaches and a handful of idyllic waterside fish restaurants. Good for cycling and hiking if you are feeling energetic.

"Take the ferry from Orzola or book a trip from your resort," says Annie Bennett, Spain expert.

Princes' Islands, Turkey

 Image: Alamy

"This unspoilt archipelago just a few miles from bustling Istanbul is Turkey's forgotten garden paradise. An hour on the steamer from Istanbul, the Princes' Islands form a set of nine verdant outcrops in the Sea of Marmara that have been inhabited since antiquity.

"Apart from minimal essential services, there are no petrol-driven vehicles on any of these islands. Silence rules, broken only by the hum of electric bikes, seagulls, the odd wheelie suitcase and the rumble of pavement refrigerators, displaying ice cream and the trawlerman's morning catch," says traveller David Wheeler.

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This article was from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.