Uncharted Isles

On these seven islands, you're guaranteed to get there before anyone you know.

FRENCH POLYNESIA
Fakarava Island
The island's single road wasn't paved until 2003, in anticipation of a visit by then French president Jacques Chirac (he never arrived, nor did he give a reason why). But that certainly helped put Fakarava on the map—unlike its more populated neighbors Bora-Bora and Tahiti, Fakarava is home to about 500 residents. In the center of Rotoava village is the Relais Marama, the one pension in town with oceanfront bungalows (relais-marama.com, from $106). For divers and snorkelers, the northern Garuae Pass and the southern Tumakohua Pass have pristine coral reefs that are accessible through outfitter Te Ava Nui (divingfakarava.com, from $80). You'll have to travel for a full day to get to and from Tumakohua—the pass is only reachable by boat—but it's worth the trip. The nearby village of Tetamanu has a church built entirely out of coral, as well as several black-pearl farms that give free tours. A pension on the outskirts of Rotoava, Pearl Guest House Havaiki, will even allow you to snorkel to its oyster farm with the owner and keep any pearls you find (011-689/93-40-15, havaiki.com, tours from $40). One-hour flights to Fakarava depart from Papeete, Tahiti, once daily (airtahiti.com, from $437 round trip). —Lynwood Lord

INDONESIA
Sumba Island
Legend has it that Sumba's first inhabitants descended a ladder from heaven, but as soon as their feet hit the ground, they started battling. The natives' reputation convinced European traders to avoid the island in southern Indonesia, leaving it relatively undeveloped for centuries. The warrior culture lives on in the annual Pasola ritual war festival held each February and March, in which horsemen from various tribes joust using spears. For more mellow activities, the island's southern coast has great surfing—12-foot swells are not uncommon—and a community-minded (although expensive) resort called Nihiwatu. The hotel has day trips to nearby villages, where you can chew betel nut with the locals, buy colorful ikat cloth, and volunteer at a clinic funded by the resort (nihiwatu.com, day tours from $25). The more affordable Sumba Nautil Resort is down the coast (sumbanautilresort1.com, from $116). One-hour Transnusa Air Service flights to Sumba depart from Bali (transnusa.co.id, $207 round trip). —Susan Crandell

PERU
Amantaní Island
Few places have a welcoming committee quite like the one on Amantaní, an island in Lake Titicaca: Aymara Indian women wearing embroidered black tunics line the dock and wave to visitors as they disembark from the ferry arriving from the city of Puno. After living in relative isolation for centuries, residents on the island began to allow overnight stays about 10 years ago. There are no cars or roads, and quinoa and barley are grown by hand—as they have been for centuries—on hillside terraces. Stone hiking paths lead to the island's two highest peaks, Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Pachatata (Father Earth). During the Fiesta de la Santa Tierra each January, the residents form dual processions from temples built atop Pachamama and Pachatata to the main village, also called Amantaní, where everyone dances late into the night. Tour operator Edgar Adventures will arrange farmstays with several families that take turns hosting visitors (edgaradventures.com, $27 including the four-hour ferry ride). "The Aymara live simply on what they produce," says guide Fredy Manrique. "It made me realize that you can be happy with very little—that you don't necessarily need to have big houses and cars." —Justin Bergman

ISLAND ESCAPES

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