There’s always more to learn about Earth. It’s full of incredible history, cultures, and landmarks. There’s always something new about the planet that’s hidden away ready to be discovered. While the big cities get all the attention, the strangest islands have the most interesting stories. These lesser-explored and unknown islands are exotic-looking places with abundant biodiversity and unique wildlife. Most people might not realize these fascinating places exist.
In most cases, these islands hide away from the rest of the world. While everyone else is fighting, arguing, and insulting each other, life on these strange islands continues far from the rest of civilization and make for interesting places to visit.
12 Strange Islands You Won’t Believe Exist
1. The Island of Dolls
Near Mexico City, in the canals of Xochimilco, sits the creepy Island of Dolls. Also known as La Isla de las Muñecas, the island features hundreds of dolls hanging from trees and other surfaces. These dolls slowly deteriorate as spiders and bugs crawl all over them. The former owner Don Julián Santana Barrera began placing these decaying dolls around the island in 1950.
According to local legend, Barrera attempted to save a young drowning girl but failed. He discovered her doll in the river nearby. Thus, he began placing the dolls around the island to ward off the young girl’s ghost and other evil spirits.
Japan’s Ōkunoshima is a small island that’s part of Hiroshima Prefecture. The small, unassuming island has a rich and fascinating history. In 1925, Imperial Japan began using the isolated island to test chemical weapons, such as tear and mustard gas. In fact, Japan built numerous forts and secret chemical factories.
Japan tried to hide the island’s dark history after World War II. Also known as Rabbit Island, it’s most famous for its abundance of friendly rabbits. These adorable, cuddly, and wild rabbits are not afraid to approach humans, making them a tourist attraction.
3. Snake Island
Located in the Black Sea is the mythical and historical Snake Island. The Discovery of the island goes back to the classical era. A hero of the Trojan War, Snake Island was a sacred place for Achilles. Indeed, evidence suggests a temple for Achilles once stood on the island.
In the 1700s, the island came under the control of Russia and Romania at various times. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine took control of the island. However, Russian forces occupied the island during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Eventually, Ukraine regained control of Snake Island.
4. Poveglia Island
According to legend, Poveglia Island isn’t some ordinary place. Tucked away on the Venetian Lagoon between Venice and Lido, the island is the most haunted place on Earth. The small island in Northern Italy has a rich history, first mentioned in 421. A small population quickly grew into a large community.
In 1379, many of the residents left the island to escape warfare. Poveglia Island became a quarantine station for those with diseases, notably the plague, from 1793 to 1814. In 1922, a mental hospital opened on the island. The island’s rich history led many to believe it’s haunted and contains the ghosts of those who died during the war, quarantine, or at the hospital.
5. Christmas Island
On Christmas Day 1643, Captain William Mynors sailing for the East India Company spotted a stunning island northwest of Australia’s mainland. As they sailed through the Indian Ocean, Mynors named the island after the day, Christmas.
Various cultures settled on Christmas Island over the years. Following World War II, the United Kingdom transferred the island to Australia. Christmas Island is now famous for its ecosystem and abundance of wildlife.
6. Pohnpei Island
In 1928, iconic horror writer H.P. Lovecraft published the short story The Call of Cthulhu. The tale revolved around a lost city in South America. Lovecraft took inspiration from the real-life Nan Madol on Pohnpei Island, part of the Pacific Ocean’s Caroline Islands. The famed archaeological site was the capital of the powerful Saudeleur dynasty until 1628.
The city consisted of artificial islands in a lagoon connected to a grid of canals. Construction of the megalithic structure likely took place from 1180 to 1200 AD. However, Pohnepian folklore claims that two sorcerers, Olishishpa and Olosohpa, performed a ritual to construct the site. The levitating brothers are said to have built the structure with magic and the aid of dragons.
7. Cat Island
After the American Revolution, British loyalists left the former 13 colonies and headed to a small island in the Bahamas, Cat Island. There’s some debate over the origins of the island’s name. At one point, the island had a large number of cats. Hence the name Cat Island. Others believe the name comes from Pirate Arthur Catt. Name said, the island is famous for its stone monastery, Mount Alvernia, sitting on the highest point on the island.
8. North Sentinel Island
Near the Bay of Bengal, North Sentinel Island quietly sits. The indigenous Sentinelese self-isolate on North Sentinel Island. Thus, the Sentinelese do not allow outsiders onto the island. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Act of 1956 prevents outsiders from forcing their way into the area.
The Sentinelese have a reputation for using deadly violence and force to protect their land. They’ve killed several people, including two fishermen, so scientists know very little about the island or the tribe.
9. Easter Island
A special territory of Chili in the Pacific Ocean, Easter Island has a fascinating history dating back centuries. After a series of volcanic eruptions, Easter Island formed just east of the Tahiti Islands. The island is famous for its mountainous landscape and deep caves connecting to large mountains. Also known as Rapa Nui, evidence suggests the first settlers arrived between 800 and 1200 AD.
Civilization thrived at times, but a civil war decreased the population before the Europeans arrived. In 1722, the Dutch landed on the island, naming it after the day they discovered the island.
These days Easter Island is famous for its giant stone statues known as moai. These statues are an architectural marvel, with more than 800 on the island. Easter Island became a World Heritage Site in 1995 and is a major tourist attraction.
10. Sable Island
The small Canadian island, Sable Island, sits southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Currently managed by Parks Canada, Portuguese explorers landed on the island in the 1500s. Sable Island is famous for being stone-less and tree-less.
It attracted a large number of shipwrecks over the years. With a thick fog and sand bars, more than 300 vessels crashed on the island. The addition of lighthouses and other safety measures cut down on the shipwrecks. Since it lacks trees but has an abundance of marram grass, the wild Sable Island horse thrives on the island.
11. Ilha da Quimada Grande
Located near Brazil in the Atlantic Ocean, Ilha da Quimada Grande is best known for the abundance of snakes living on the island. Also known as Snake Island, it’s home to the critically endangered golden lancehead pit viper. Evidence suggests the venomous snake became trapped on the island during the last ice age.
Rising ocean levels cut the lancehead off from the mainland. That allowed the lancehead to adapt to the new environment and increase in population. It is believed the island has anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 venomous lanceheads, with the island now closed to the public for obvious reasons.
12. Socotra Island
South of the Arabian Peninsula is Socotra Island. Belonging to the Republic of Yemen, the island is world-famous for its biodiversity, notably flora and fauna. In 2008, due to the island’s rich history and wildlife, it was named a World Heritage Site. The island’s isolation makes it the perfect home for endangered species.