While exploring a pristine, natural island is a dream shared by many intrepid travellers, untouched isles are few and far between these days. The Italian island of Montecristo is one of a handful of places that can claim to be truly undiscovered, visited by just 1,000 tourists each year and only during limited periods.

Located in the Mediterranean, the island is part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park and has been a designated protected area since the 1980s. You might recognize its name from author Alexandre Dumas’s book, The Count of Monte Cristo, in which the island is a key setting.

More than 5 million years old, Montecristo is home to unspoiled landscapes and rare types of wildlife. The minimal human presence also makes it a popular gathering place for marine life, including whales, which can often be spotted off the coast.

Montecristo is only open to visitors between late August through October, as well as two weeks in April each year. Visitors must apply for permits, only 1,000 of which are granted each year – preference is given to school groups and scientific teams. Adding to the challenge is the island’s inaccessibility, with no scheduled ferry service running to and from the mainland 40 miles away. Visitors who receive one of the coveted permits need to arrange their own transport.