The desire for slow travel tends to creep up on you after one too many fast-paced adventures. Zipping around the globe is exhilarating, but when you stop to allow a place to truly sink into your soul, a whole new world of discoveries opens up and captures your heart. From the familiar smiles of locals to favourite stretches of sand and a barister who knows your name, slow travel leads to a home away from home, time and again.
Best Places for Slow Travel
Think about the places you’ve travelled to and which ones made your heart ache to leave. These are the best spots to revisit for a slow travel experience. Allow at least two weeks, or months if you can, to stay in the same place and get to know it beyond the tourist path. Delve into the local customs, eat where the locals do and settle in at a homestay, guesthouse or Airbnb to meet new friends who live in the area.
No matter where you choose, there’s a slow travel experience waiting. However, some destinations are tinged with an extra bit of magic that’s simply perfect for leisurely exploration.
If you’re a water baby, get set to fall in love at first sight with Lake Bacalar, and launch into slow travel on its glistening shores. It’s dubbed, ‘the Lake of Seven Colours’. However, seven isn’t nearly enough to encompass the astonishing array of blues that cross its surface at different times of the day. Swimming, kayaking and boating here make you feel like you’re gliding across a paradise island travel brochure. Give yourself a DIY body scrub with mineral-rich mud from Pirates Channel every day and you might just look like you stepped off the cover, too!
Town life revolves around a sleepy square flanked by cafes and bohemian shops, with hundreds of dream catchers blowing in the breeze. While this is the main hub for tourists, there’s a tranquil atmosphere until the sun goes down. Fairy-lit restaurants beckon, with cuisine ranging from local favourites to authentic Italian and succulent seafood.
Inland from the lake, you’ll find gorgeous hotels and guesthouses within flat streets lined with old fishermen’s houses. Cycling is the eco-friendly way to get around and a bike is all you need to explore. When you want your slow travelling to reach a little further, incredible cenotes and archeological sites are just a short taxi ride away.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An’s Ancient Town is a UNESCO-listed wonder that heaves under the weight of tourism. Beyond the chaotic swarm of selfie-sticks though, you’ll find a peaceful haven of emerald rice fields, the warm waters of the South China Sea and a creative community of both locals and expats. When you indulge in slow travel here, you can beat the tourist rush and enjoy the exquisite Ancient Town on balmy mornings free of tour groups.
Homestays and guesthouses abound, many of which are run by local families only too happy to welcome you into their lives. All you need is a pushbike or a scooter to explore the whole area, from the white sands of An Bang Beach to buffalo-filled fields and markets to buy your own delicious, local produce. Once you get off the beaten path, expect to unearth charming restaurants hidden within lush surrounds, art galleries in tiny warehouses, shops full of unique treasures and delightful conversations.
The whole island of Bali is a slow travel dream, but it’s hard to escape the throng of tourists while still lapping up the affordable luxuries the island offers. Candidasa sees its fair share of visitors, but they don’t outnumber locals fishing in the picturesque lagoon or playing football in fields backed by dense jungle foliage.
You’ll find boutique, oceanfront hotels with serene infinity pools overlooking the crystalline water for budget-friendly prices – and you’ll rarely have to fight for a sunbed. Slow travel in Candidasa is all about swimming, eating and exploring the stunning surrounds of monkey-filled jungles and rice fields. Explore a little further to see the Tirta Gangga Water Temple and Karangesam Palace.
When you slow right down though, you’ll find that all you want to do is watch the glittering wings of dragonflies whizzing about, hear the quirky voices of giant geckos and breathe in the scent of salt air drifting across an island paradise.