Quiet beach vacations
DESTINATIONS AWAY FROM THE CROWDS
Modern life offers us a little bit of everything – food from all corners of the globe, constant contact with distant relatives, streamed music, and access to our favourite TV programmes 24/7. But the one thing that we just don’t seem to be able to pin down is peace and quiet – a place to retreat to away from the crowds. So where better to seek it than on a secluded beach – with just the sound of lapping waves and the odd sea turtle or seagull for company?
Here are our top picks for a quiet beach vacation – with a few inland options too for those who still want their slice of silence without sea on the side. Aaaaand – breathe....
Our favourite resort on the island of Ithaca is built on the ethos of slow. Slow travel, slow food, slowing your racing mind and relaxing into the Greek way of life. This luxurious villa is surrounded by organic gardens – enjoy the produce during a cooking class, picnic, or prepare the freshly harvested herbs and fruit in your own, well equipped kitchen. Stay on site and make the most of the pool, Pilates and aromatherapy massages, or book horse riding trips, yacht charters and cycling excursions through dramatic Mediterranean scenery.
If you’re looking for silence and stillness, Castara might not tick the box. Waves thunder upon the shore below, parrots squawk in the surrounding jungle and Friday nights ring out with the sound of steelpan bands in a nearby open air café. Hummingbirds flit energetically from flower to flower, while busy fishermen haul their heavy nets up onto the sand. But as you sway in a hammock in your hillside cabin, cooled by the soft sea breeze, you’ll have a sense of being the still eye of a beautiful, tropical storm as nature and Caribbean life buzz on around you. It’s a true escape from the modern world.
There are 115 islands in the Seychelles, of which just 30 are inhabited – so it’s not hard to get away from the crowds here. It also means you’re sure to find a quiet beach retreat which is just right for you, from traditional thatched cabins to colonial-style villas. Some luxury accommodations serve produce grown in their own organic gardens, other islands have bicycles and ox carts as the main forms of transport. But don’t confuse “uninhabited” with “empty” – there are seabirds in their hundreds of thousands, nesting sea turtles, giant tortoises and reefs teeming with life.
If you’re looking for a quiet beach vacation in Southeast Asia, think beyond the well-worn trails of Thailand, and set sail instead for a remote Malaysian island. The seclusion is all the more pronounced after the shining towers of Kuala Lumpur – on Tioman, for example, your neighbours include 45 species of mammal and 138 birds, flourishing here thanks to the creation of wildlife and marine reserves. If you’re craving human company, you can take a trip to one of a handful of island villages to learn about life in paradise. Sample traditional Malaysian dishes at one of the waterfront restaurants as the sun sets, before finding your way back to your chalet, carefully concealed by trees and rocks.
Lanzarote may be the last place that springs to mind for anyone looking to escape the crowds. But it turns out “Lanzagrotty” is hiding some rather delightful secrets in between the stacked resorts and looming volcanoes. Take your pick of characterful cottages with walls built from dark volcanic rocks, traditional Canarian balconies and beautiful wooden floors. Many accommodations also take advantage of Lanzarote’s perpetual sun and wind – and are powered by solar panels and turbines. Swimming pools, landscaped gardens and – of course – the beach, all provide tranquil placed to relax, or you can pop out for lunch at a nearby fishing village and enjoy the catch of the day.
The Indonesian island of Bali has long been celebrated for its spirituality, artistry, cultural history and outstanding natural beauty; despite the increase in tourism, no building can be higher than a palm tree and the island still pulses to the clicking of traditional looms and the hollow ring of the gamelan. Travel past rice paddies, temples and distant mountains to reach your boutique beachside accommodation, boasting private pools, detailed wood carvings, Balinese textiles and blooming tropical gardens.
The name “Mauritius” just oozes luxury, and with 160km of coastline, you’ll be able to take your pick of secluded beaches. Powdery sand gives way to lagoons and coral reefs, backed by forests literally dripping with tropical fruit. Kayak and snorkel your way along the coast, or learn to dive to get closer to the clownfish and angelfish. Spend a day sailing to explore a little further – keep an eye out for dolphins! Back at your beachside hotel, the underwater world comes to you – as fishermen bring in the catch of the day. Alternatively, take a balmy evening stroll to a restaurant in a nearby village.
Zanzibar & Chole, Tanzania
Tanzania offers a double whammy of seclusion – first in the wilderness of its game reserves, where you’ll be surrounded more animals than people – and then on its offshore islands, whose sands are tickled by the milky blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar is big on Swahili culture – with the winding alleyways of UNESCO-rate Stone Town and spice plantations to explore in between the beach time. Little Chole Island, in the Mafia Island Marine Park, is even more tranquil; explore lush forests and traditional villages from your romantic treehouse base, tucked amid the baobabs.
Quiet vacation destinations
DESTINATIONS AWAY FROM THE BEACH
Not everyone seeks coastal seclusion; if sandy sandwiches and salty hair are just not your thing, take a look at our top three tranquil vacation destinations away from the beach.
Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Portugal
Portugal’s sleepy enough as it is – but once you head into this lush natural park, criss-crossed with walking trails, you can take your pick of empty vistas – from the craggy Sintra Mountains all the way down to Europe’s westernmost point at Cabo da Roca. Staying in this glorious guesthouse also lets you explore on one of their bikes, fired up on the (included) organic breakfast. It’s unlikely you’ll even hear the roar of an engine; you can walk and cycle everywhere.
Time seems to have stopped in this lovingly restored 1800s guesthouse, owned by a real Count whose family have lived in this Transylvanian village for generations. The atmospheric sound of ticking grandfather clocks echoes around the exposed stone walls and heavy wooden beams, but the real drama begins when you step outside; the guesthouse sits at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, and you can take your pick from wolf and bear tracking, bird watching, and exploring the local village.
At the end of the day, the quest for quietness does not always require us to journey far from home. This self catering cottage in Devon promises a bit of old fashioned peace and quiet – the chance to don your wellies for a walk, pedal to the local pub or just enjoy the stillness as you fish in the farm pond. The cottage is open throughout the year, and don’t be put off in by the cold – chilly evenings are something to look forward to as you snuggle by the wood burning stove – or wrap up and head outside to stargaze on a crisp winter’s night.