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5 Unique Slow Travel Destinations To Visit

23 Jun 2024 | travel & explore

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Do you ever return from vacation feeling more stressed than before you left? Immersing yourself in a slow travel destination might be just what the doctor ordered.

What is slow travel and how can you embrace its benefits the next time you go on a trip? Choosing the right getaway spot helps. Add one of these unique slow travel destinations to your itinerary and rediscover yourself while diving deeply into another way of life.

What is slow travel, exactly?

Slow travel shifts your attitude and mindset from ‘If it’s Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium’ to ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’ It chucks the traditional itinerary out the window, instead inviting you to focus on connecting deeply with the cultural milieu and environment of your destination.

Slow travel requires no special ‘tourist traps’, although you can certainly immerse yourself in points of cultural interest. For example, a traditional itinerary to Paris might entail photographing the Arc de Triomphe at dawn, the Eiffel Tower in the morning and the Louvre in the afternoon. Whew! Can you even remember anything from that whirlwind?

Conversely, a slow traveler might linger for an entire day exploring a single museum exhibit. They’ll read every placard, increasing their knowledge and pause to reflect on how what they’ve learned integrates into what they already know. By the end of their visit, they could easily talk at length about their favorite piece of art or fill pages in their travel journal with memorable details.

Benefits of slow travel

The purpose of going on vacation is to relax and recharge, not add another overflowing to-do list to your life. Those who embrace slow travel can reap the following benefits:

Lower stress:

One of Dr. Karl Albrecht’s four types of stress is time stress, which is when you lack sufficient minutes and hours to do everything on your list. When your itinerary simply consists of “experience Prague,” there’s far less pressure.

A greater sense of renewal:

An overloaded vacation can feel like trading in one demanding job for another. Slow travel invites you to linger and take as much time as you want to explore what fascinates you with no boss hovering over your shoulder.

Deeper appreciation and understanding of other cultures:

Mark Twain once wrote that travel is fatal to prejudice, but only if you take the time to chat with the locals. You can’t do that when you’re rushing to make a train.

Treading gently on the earth:

Instead of focusing on souvenirs and conspicuous consumption, slow travel invites you to immerse yourself in the genuine way of life at your destination, using no more resources than the locals do and respecting the environment they call home.

Pastel houses on Santorini - slow travel destinations

5 Unique slow travel destinations

Are you ready to immerse yourself in your journey at a pace that lets you enjoy the ride? Add the following five unique slow travel destinations to your bucket list.

1. Santorini, Greece

Imagine waking in the morning to sip your tea on a terrace in an ancient city overlooking the Mediterranean. That’s the kind of slow travel morning you can enjoy in Santorini, Greece. This destination graces the covers of countless travel magazines for good reason, but a mere one-day stop during a cruise doesn’t do the experience justice.

Santorini actually consists of a group of islands — Thira, Thirassia, Aspronissi, Palea and Nea Kameni. The caldera that formed the island group is one of the few active volcanoes in Europe. Each of the 12 eruptions that created the group collapsed the volcano’s central part, but it rose anew like a phoenix. Slow travel here allows you to marvel at the geological forces that created the earth beneath your feet as you soak in volcanic hot springs.

You’ll find ample archeological treasures from Akrotiri to the Oia Castle. You’re in heaven if you follow the Mediterranean diet — fuel your mindful adventures with moussaka, dolmas, stuffed tomatoes or the day’s fresh fish catch.

2. Canterbury, New Zealand

If you wish you could enjoy slow travel through the mystical land of Rohan from “The Lord of the Rings,” you can — at least the Peter Jackson version. Canterbury, New Zealand, served as the filming location for Edoras, Rohan’s capital city, and you can hike to the top of Mount Sunday to enjoy the breathtaking vistas. Lake Pukaki served as the filming spot for Laketown in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

Canterbury also offers the chance to spend mindful time admiring some of the earth’s most fascinating creatures. Go on safari to witness the Pohatu penguins come in from the sea or spend a day on a whale-watching tour. Better yet, rent a sea kayak to get even more up close and personal with these amazing animals. When you take your time, you can admire from afar until you build confidence enough to snag that prize-winning photograph.

3. Portland, Maine, USA

If it’s a wilderness immersion you seek, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to linger in the forest when you visit Portland, Maine, USA. You can spend the day at sea admiring whales, dolphins, basking sharks, turtles and birds. Hiking and biking abound and are the best ways to take in the fall foliage at Cape Elizabeth or Tumbledown Mountain.

Are you a fan of lighthouses? The Portland area has 65 historic ones located along its coastline. Stop by the Portland Head Lighthouse to start your adventure and fuel yourself with a lobster roll. Although many consider this seafood dish a rare delicacy, you’ll find it plenty affordable in Maine. Round out your meal by digging for clams along the beach as you mindfully synchronize your breath with the incoming waves.

Tulum, Mexico - beach - Unique slow travel destinations

4. Tulum, Mexico

It’s one thing to witness sea creatures frolic in icy waters but quite another to join them. You can swim with the dolphins in Tulum, Mexico or master your snorkeling or scuba diving skills in the crystal blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Tulum is a popular destination for artists and other expats seeking a slower, quieter life. It abounds with activities from beach yoga to gallery walks. The jungle’s mysteries lie not far to the west, and you’re only a short distance from many New World pyramids, remnants of the ancient Mayan empire. Stop by one of the many cafes to linger over a spicy lunch — the capsaicin in the hot peppers helps creaky knees so you can mount the stairs to the top of Ek Balam.

5. Goa, India

Slow travel and yoga retreats go together like milk and tea. This ancient practice is the perfect way to become mindful and bring awareness to the present moment. What better place to do so than in the land that gave birth to the discipline? Centers such as Purple Valley and the Mandala Retreat immerse you on the mat, taking your flow to new heights.

Natural and architectural wonders abound to indulge your intellect after stretching your body. Hike to Dudhsagar Falls and witness one of the world’s richest areas of biodiversity. Nap on Candolim Beach in the afternoon to restore your energy for the nightlife that brings the area alive with music. Expand your spiritual horizons with a visit to Shree Shantadurga Temple or Se Cathedral.

Linger at these slow travel destinations

You could easily spend a month or more exploring the above destinations. All invite you to kick back and indulge your slow travel urge, immersing yourself in the culture and natural beauty of the region instead of rushing through multiple tourist attractions.

Dedicate your next vacation to true relaxation, not another rush-rush to-do list. Embrace slow travel and enjoy the gift of entering another life, at least for a little while.

Mia Barnes is a dedicated freelance writer passionate about health, wellness, and mindful living. She is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine. With a focus on empowering readers to prioritize their well-being, Mia’s articles aim to inspire positive lifestyle changes and promote holistic self-improvement.

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