11 months, 17 days ago
Garuda Airlines just launched the first direct flights from London to Bali. We’d love to say you’re now just one journey away from inner peace and harmony, because it sounds good. Truth is; hectic Jakarta probably won’t be the serenity you seek. But, Indonesia’s the world’s largest archipelago and, if you can’t find calm in Sumatra, Java, a big chunk of Borneo, quite a lot of New Guinea and all the tranquil and lovely bits of Bali that aren’t Jakarta, you may be a lost cause. If the very thought of long-haul is stressful, there are plenty of other places to unwind this year without a 24-hour flight. Here’s the pick of blissed-out destinations – near and far – we like the look of right now.
Hvar Island is how you imagine the French Riviera might have been before the billionaires rolled into town. Loved for historic towns, ridiculously good food, wonderful wine and flawless beaches, the best known of Croatia’s Adriatic Islands is remarkably peaceful, considering. You can walk through vineyards, olive groves and lavender fields without seeing anyone else for hours. There are tiny coves and bays where the sea’s all yours, all day. And the atmosphere is so easy going you won’t even notice how relaxed you are until you remember you haven’t worried for a week.
Casares sits in the magnificent Sierra Crestelina just beyond the Costa del Sol’s reliable summer crowds. It’s a typical Andalusian hilltop town: all little white houses, tiny churches and narrow streets tumbling down a cliff from a romantic Moorish castle. Less than an hour from Marbella, but untouched by anything, this is the place to chill completely. Walk in the mountains, shop at the morning market, have dinner on a pretty square as the sun sets behind the mountains. We don’t think they have a word for ‘stress’ here.
Anyone with a passing interest in enlightenment knows Ubud, Bali’s spiritual heartland, famous for a breathtaking landscape of paddy fields and temples, palaces, mountains and rivers. It’s difficult to believe anywhere could be lovelier unless you travel a bit further east to Besakih. One of Bali’s most sacred sites, home to The Mother Temple and almost undiscovered compared to Ubud, if you don’t find peace in Besakih, you’re a lost cause.
In spite of a long reign at the top of the island paradise list, Koh Samui is still one of the easiest places on earth to abandon all cares. It’s not short on wild parties, bustling towns, hectic markets, lively restaurants and livelier clubs. But, look to the south and west of the island and there are pockets of perfect calm, unchanged for centuries, where the beaches aren’t manicured just wildly lovely. Go swimming at Nam Tok Na Muang in the centre of the island and, at the right time, the waterfalls and pools are almost deserted. If you’re happy to walk for a bit and don’t mind some rugged terrain, Koh Samui can be the most peaceful place on earth. Or, to escape completely, visit Ang Thong Marine Park for the day – it’s where the most iconic images of Thailand come from.
Key West is the Florida Key with the literary reputation and a well-deserved laid back, anything goes approach to life, holidays, politics and personal choice. When you aren’t in the mood for splendid isolation but want a bit of ‘gone fishing’ attitude and sand between your toes, it’s perfect. And spectacularly good restaurants, lively bars, intriguing shopping and acres of romantic architecture are in the mix too – just in case you wind down too much.
One of those rare places people visit, fall in love with and go back to again and again, Sardinia qualifies as stress-relief in almost every way: unspoiled and lovely countryside, pristine beaches, ancient ruins and monuments, historic cities. You can do nothing and see almost nobody for days or, if your idea of relaxation is endless activity, you can have that too. Sardinia simply gives you the choice, then leaves it with you – probably why it’s such a reliable breaker of travelling hearts.
Cape Town might not immediately say ‘inner peace’. But, if communing with nature is what soothes your soul, South Africa’s Mother City should be high on your list. Table Mountain National Park is one of the richest and most fascinating in the world. The marine end of its wonders has Boulders Beach where you get to share sand and sea with an entire colony of African Penguins. And Cape Town’s less than two hours from the Cape of Good Hope. South Africa’s most southern point, washed by both the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean – if that doesn’t put your cares in perspective, we don’t know what will.
Here are but a few of our best property choices for your escape from stress:
Take your pick, pack only what you need and remember to think no further back or forward than five minutes – it’s the definition of unwinding and easy in the right surroundings.