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Image: Tanzania, Zanzibar Archipelago, Mafia island, to the south of Unguja island, small islet (aerial view)
Hemis  /  Alamy
Less than a thousand tourists a year visit Mafia island, off Tanzania, which has ruins dating back to the 11th century.
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updated 10/19/2011 9:38:47 AM ET 2011-10-19T13:38:47

Tried-and-true island favorites such as St. Barths and Capri have long been wooing fashionable travelers. But these days, the new prestige in globetrotting lies in exploring far-flung destinations the masses have yet to invade. Even better: a vacation spot so exotic that no one has even heard of it. “We’ve been seeing strong interest in remote, off-the-beaten-path destinations, especially from travelers who have been to a region before and now want to discover its hidden side,” says Scott Wiseman, president of luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent USA.

Slideshow: 10 new luxury islands

Enter a new set of islands in the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Caribbean and beyond. Take, for example, the Indonesian island Sumba. If Bali is too obvious a vacation choice, hop a short flight to this lush oasis, which now has its own luxury resort. You’ll forget Bali even existed. Meanwhile, St. Barths is not the only isle de French paradise: Deep in the Indian Ocean lies the France-owned island Réunion, where you can start your day with a croissant before hitting the surf. And before it fully developed into a vacation destination for the rich and famous, Capri would have looked quite a bit like nearby Ischia, its rugged cousin.

“Private and reassuringly hard-to-get, these islands entice diehard fans to get off the grid,” says James Lohan, CEO and co-founder of the boutique hotel website Mr. & Mrs. Smith. They let vacationers “be the ruler of their own domain and feel like they have discovered someplace unique.”

That’s certainly the case at Makepeace Island, off of Australia’s Sunshine coast. Richard Branson just started renting out the heart-shaped piece of land off this summer. Accommodations only house 22. Thailand’s Koh Surin Nu is so secluded that the only way to stay overnight is in a rustic bungalow or camping out under the stars in Mu Koh Surin National Park.

So transition into being a trendsetter by picking a destination that bears some similarities to a familiar favorite. Then prepare to tack on extra travel time, since being an early adopter usually means adding an extra leg of travel. It’s the moderate difficulty in getting there that keeps these places exclusive. Are you ready for an island less ordinary?

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Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

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