When describing an island with soft white sands, crystalline waters full of colourful coral reefs and gorgeous palm-fringed shores, the Maldives may be some of the first holiday hotspots to come to mind.
However there are some lesser-known islands that boast shores just as pristine and beautiful – but unlike the Maldives, they get just 5,000 visitors every year.
The Marshall Islands aren't a typical holiday hotspot, but they definitely have all the credentials. We're talking soft sand beaches, swim-friendly turquoise waters that are the stuff of Instagram dreams, palm-fringed trails, amazing food and friendly locals.
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Like the Maldives, they're remote as they sit halfway between the USA and Australia, but it is possible to visit them from the UK. Although there are no direct flights from Britain, you can fly to the US and have plenty of options for onwards flights to the Marshall Islands from there.
As for the weather? Expect hot and sunny offerings year-round, with balmy temperatures usually ranging between 28C-30C even during off shoulder seasons such as September or May. However, you'll want to avoid planning a trip between November and April; while there may be cheaper flights available, this window falls right into the islands' cyclone season so it's not likely to be the relaxing break you picture.
There are a handful of hotels on the islands but generally it's not built up to attract heaps of tourists, so if you're after a bustling party resort this won't be the destination for you. However if you're looking to escape the crowds, soak up the sunshine and get away from your gadgets and daily grind, then they're well worth having on the bucket list.
Still, there's more to the islands than just some pretty beaches. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. In fact, it's since been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In its listing, UNESCO explains: "In the wake of World War II, in a move closely related to the beginnings of the Cold War, the United States of America decided to resume nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean, on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall archipelago. After the displacement of the local inhabitants, 67 nuclear tests were carried out from 1946 to 1958, including the explosion of the first H-bomb (1952). Bikini Atoll has conserved direct tangible evidence that is highly significant in conveying the power of the nuclear tests, i.e. the sunken ships sent to the bottom of the lagoon by the tests in 1946 and the gigantic Bravo crater.
"Equivalent to 7,000 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb, the tests had major consequences on the geology and natural environment of Bikini Atoll and on the health of those who were exposed to radiation. Through its history, the atoll symbolises the dawn of the nuclear age, despite its paradoxical image of peace and of earthly paradise. This is the first site from the Marshall Islands to be inscribed on the World Heritage List."
Nowadays, there are dedicated diving expeditions in the area to explore some of the ships which were purposefully sunk as part of the tests, and the trip never fails to impress visitors.
One holidaymaker on Tripadvisor urged others: "Bikini Atoll the test site for the USA atom bomb program, sank about 9 ships, but destroyed over 100. My second trip and a lot has changed, I advise anyone thinking of visiting war wrecks or places like this to stop putting it off and go and see them before they all collapse. The ships in the lagoon at Bikini are awe inspiring and if you can dive Kwajalein as well you have really struck a winner."
Another added that it had been some of the "best wreck diving in the world".
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