The relentless pace of modern life means we all need a breather now and then. But that doesn’t have to mean splashing out on a luxury spa or travel to the Himalayas for a weeklong retreat. From city parks to airplane apartments and temples, here’s our pick of 16 of the most relaxing places in the world.
Seven Sisters, East Sussex coast, England
The rolling hills of the quintessentially English South Downs drop dramatically into the sea at the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, located on the coast of England’s East Sussex between Seaford and Eastbourne. On a warm spring day, the lush green grass, the searing blue of the English Channel and the whirring and clacking of songbirds make this one of the most peaceful places imaginable. The undulating path along all seven cliffs ends at National Trust café at Birling Gap, the perfect place for cake, coffee and a snooze in the sun.
Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters, Beachy Head Rd, East Dean BN20 0AB +441323 423197
The Yoga Barn, Ubud, Bali
Bali’s interior of paddy fields, shrines and distant peaks is a far more relaxing proposition than the often chaotic vibe found around the beach resorts of Kuta and Seminyak. The town of Ubud’s chilled vibe makes it ripe for a long stay and the Yoga Barn is the ideal spot for those looking to get fully horizontal. Its studios overlook unspoiled countryside, with 15 classes a day, from relaxing yin to dynamic power flow. Class passes are available for those just passing through, ranging from three lessons to unlimited 30-day access.
The Yoga Barn, Jalan Raya Pengosekan, Ubud, Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571; +62 361 971236
Sidi Chamharouch, Morocco
Halfway up the trail from the village of Imlil to the climbing hut at the foot of Mount Toubkal sits Sidi Chamharouch. A Berber settlement named after the Sultan of the Jinns, an unmissable hulking white rock serves as a shrine for pilgrims from across Morocco looking to cure ailments and make offerings to Allah. The village sits on the banks of a series of waterfalls, with handy rest stops perfect for resting in the shade and taking in the vast mountain views. As relaxing pit stops on long hikes go, this one is hard to beat.
Ise Jingu, Japan
Known as “the soul of Japan,” Ise Jingu is home to a series of Shinto shrines dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu. Despite its huge popularity, the shrine complex’s vast scale means it remains a peaceful, relaxing place. Soft sunlight filters through a grove of cedar trees that stand next to a clear running stream, while Shinto priests in traditional dress carry out ceremonies in temples, which are rebuilt every 20 years. A slow stroll here will leave even the most tightly wound visitor feeling calmer and more centered.
Ise Jingu, Mie Prefecture, Ise, Ujitachicho; +81 596 24 1111
Saruni Samburu Safari Camp, Kenya
Remote wilderness isn’t in short supply in Kenya, but the spectacular Saruni Samburu Safari Camp takes things to the next level. Resting on the top of a rocky outcrop, with views over Mount Kenya and Kalama Conservancy, its six villas are the peak in post-safari relaxation. There’s a gorgeous rooftop pool, while the villas’ outdoor showers offer unimpeded views of the plains and waterholes, with the chance to spot giraffes and elephants roaming free. A sundowner on the deck as the night sky comes to life makes this spot unbeatable when it comes to kicking back.
Saruni Samburu Safari Camp, Samburu, Kenya; +254 735 950903
Stanley Park, Vancouver
Few city parks can match the wild forest and easy charm of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. With bike trails that skirt its edge and pass through its center, there’s plenty of scope for getting back to nature without ever having to leave Canada’s finest metropolis. Throw in gorgeous views across the bay into the mountains, seaplanes coming into land and perfect bathing at Second Beach, this is a park that turns kicking back and going with the flow into an art form.
Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC V6G 1Z4
Cape Elizabeth, Maine
The coast of Maine in summer is a place of pure relaxation, with flags ruffling lightly in the breeze and the Atlantic swell slumping onto sandy beaches and rugged cliffs. Cape Elizabeth, home to historic lighthouse Cape Elizabeth Lights (also known as Two Lights), is favored by those looking for a calm spot along the state’s rocky coast. The Lobster Shack is an idyllic place to take in the area, its wooden tables perched above the water, with views of the lighthouse adding to that quintessential New England vibe. A lobster roll and a beer paired with the wide open view are guaranteed to make anyone feel pleasingly blissed out.
The Lobster Shack, 225 Two Lights Rd, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107; +1 207 799 1677
Sipping on a glass of Malbec as the sun hits the peaks of the Andes, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect place to be than in the vineyards around the city of Mendoza. Outside of the searing hot summer season, ideally in April, is the best time to visit, when tours take in the best wineries, with the option of eating and drinking al fresco without sweltering. The cooler air makes those rich reds taste even better, too.
Nayara Springs, Costa Rica
When it comes to relaxing, sometimes only a slice of luxury will do. Adults-only luxury resort Nayara Springs is home to a cluster of private luxury villas with views across lush rainforest to the smoldering peak of Arenal. Each one has its own plunge pool heated by nearby hot springs, a covered deck and inclusive mini bar. Best of all, the walkways are well concealed, meaning each villa feels like a private bubble.
Nayara Springs, Arenal Volcano National Park; +506 2479 1600
With its narrow country lanes, remote vineyards and hazy views into the Alps, Provence is the perfect place to escape the chaos of everyday life without traveling too far from civilization. Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, this southeastern French region is both calming and beautiful. A bike ride from the village of Violès, wine tasting at vineyard “caves” and stopping off for a picnic of local cheese and bread is a fine way to ease off the pace of modern life while in this beautiful French region.
Wilderness Hotel, Nellim, Finland
Located 260 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, the tiny village of Nellim is home to the remote Wilderness Hotel, a family-run retreat in northern Finnish Lapland. A series of log cabins with their own saunas make for the ideal place to relax on cold days before heading out after dark to the shores of nearby Lake Inari to catch the majestic Aurora Borealis. In fall, the surrounding forest is awash with color, burnished oranges and browns standing stark against the silver birches.
Wilderness Hotel, Nellimintie 4230, 99860 Nellim, Finland; +358 40 0809949
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap can feel impossibly hectic, with the tourist crowds swarming before heading to the temple complexes of Angkor. But it’s proved to be a wonderful haven for those looking to take things easy while everyone else goes sightseeing in the searing tropical sun. This Cambodian town is blessed with numerous spas, where massages and treatments can be had at a snip compared with big-name hotels.
Frangipani or Mudita, both centrally located, are standouts.
Frangipani Spa, No. 24 Hup Guan Street, Siem Reap; +855 12 982 062 / 63 964 391
Mudita Spa, Road 6, Banteay Chas, Borei Angkor Resort & Spa, Krong Siem Reap 17251; +855 63 966 704
Hoi An, Vietnam
It’s no surprise the UNESCO-protected ancient town of Hoi An in Vietnam’s central coast is a mecca for tourists. When the sun is out on the riverside, it’s hard to find anywhere more serene in this wonderful country. The cafés that line the water all serve bia hoi, a fresh, light local beer that’s brewed daily. Sitting in the shade, glass in hand, watching the world go by, is every bit as relaxing as an afternoon on the town’s long stretch of sand.
Zermatt is rightly lauded for its skiing and snow sports, but the car-free Alpine resort takes on a more laid-back feel in the summer time. Trails head out into the foothills of the towering peaks, with the Matterhorn an ever-present sight. The paths leading up to this iconic mountain are the perfect tonic for those looking for the freshest air, passing through picture-postcard meadows and along steep, hairpin tracks. A journey through here is the ultimate way to tap into nature and get away from it all.
Wategos Beach, Byron Bay, Australia
Byron Bay’s beaches are among the most loved in Australia. Wategos and Little Wategos are a more relaxed alternative to the busy Main Beach, offering plenty of swimming and surfing opportunities and perfect white sand at every turn. Bring a picnic, slap on some sunscreen and spend a day doing very little.
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