From our Wi-Fi speed to the food we eat, everything needs to be faster. Seems we can’t even queue for a simple coffee these days without pre-ordering it online. But what exactly are we freeing up time for?
In recent years, most of us appear busier, worn out, and attached to our phones more than ever before. Thankfully, more people are waking up to this paradox, and fast food, fashion and travel are being replaced by their slower cultural travel and healthier counterparts – for us and the environment.
The discerning traveller is realising that it’s not just about rushing through a checklist of experiences, but rather taking the time to fully connect with a culture and return home feeling more refreshed. Remember - life itself is a journey, not a destination. What’s the rush, seriously?
From an eco-friendly retreat in Colombia to slow living in Provence, discover some of our favourite cultural travel destinations with the right idea of ‘slow travel’…
Live like the French, or is that ‘eat’ like the French? Either way it’s an expression you often hear and it’s because they do both, really well. Stretching from the snow-crested Hautes-Alpes, down to Marseille and along the coast to the glittering Cote D’Azur, Provence makes for the perfect cultural destination.
Nestled in the heart of Provence lies the ancient massif of Luberon. With many picturesque villages on hilltops that date back over 1000 years, stroll for hours on end and breathe in the stunning views of the valley below. Bonnieux is perhaps the most well-known, and with its medieval church and winding cobbled streets, it’s quite possibly the most beautiful too. There are paths and trails that will take you through gorges, farms and woods, and with an accepted right of way allowing pedestrians access through private property, a rare glimpse into local life that would otherwise never be seen. The prestigious Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape wine region is also under an hour and a half away… just follow your nose.
For accommodation that embodies ‘Slow living in Provence’, look no further than La Baye des Anges. Overlooking the medieval town of Vaison-la-Romaine, this restored Provençal farmhouse not only offers minimalist chic accommodation but they do it all in a sustainable and eco-friendly style. Using upcycled and repurposed furniture and offering the finest in organic cuisine, enjoy the luxury of a simpler, more fulfilling way of life.
If you’re looking for Slow Travel Down Under, then Byron Bay is where it’s at. With the words “Cheer up, slow down, chill out!” written on the welcome sign, you know you’re in for a Zen time. Since the New Age crowd descended upon this Australian town many moons ago, it’s attracted a more bohemian and free-spirited crowd. Camper vans with bumper stickers like “Don’t hate, meditate” sum up the peaceful, laid back way of life here in Byron Bay. But it’s not all tie-dye and backpackers; it’s also the birthplace of cult fashion brands like Spell & The Gypsy Collective, and in recent years it’s seen an influx of boutique hotels and trendy cafes to appease any crowd. The Aussies love to be active, and the home of the Hemsworth brothers (Chris and Liam, in case you were wondering!) offers a plethora of ways to expend your energy. Surfers will be familiar with ‘The Pass’ beach, which has the longest right-hand point break in the Bay. But even if you’re not the next Kelly Slater or Stephanie Gilmore, walk all four golden miles of Tallow Beach, dip your toes into the calm, crystalline waters at Captain Cook, or hike up to Cape Byron Lighthouse and be rewarded with spectacular sunset views. If you’re lucky enough, you may even get a glimpse of some local turtles and dolphins!
Foodies can’t come without visiting The Farm – a collective of local independent businesses sharing one goal – “Grow, Feed, Educate.” This ambitious project only grows food using traditional, sustainable methods that are 100% spray and chemical free. Come to eat, make cheese or even immerse yourself in some Agroecology! Another must-taste menu is at Fleet. With only 14 seats (stools at the bar actually), everything from the home cultured butter to the tonic that comes with your gin is made locally, and to perfection.
Live like a local in style at Bask and Stow, just 10 minutes from the centre of town. A complex of just 4 self-catering suites with shared facilities, this is laidback luxury Byron Bay style, and just three doors down from the iconic Top Shop Café… no, not that Top Shop!
Albuquerque might not be an obvious cultural holiday destination, but it sure makes for an interesting visit. Every October, balloonists from all over the globe are drawn to its Balloon Fiesta (although the balloon museum is open year-round), and we’re not talking about the party variety here. As far as air travel goes, you can’t get much slower or cleaner, as these balloons run off propane gas. But if you don’t have a head for heights, Route 66 runs straight through this New Mexican city which is also home to the world’s longest tram ride. So before your next road trip, take a ride to the top of Sandia Peak and enjoy panoramic views of the city below. Sandia means watermelon in Spanish, but should you fancy something a little fierier, the locals are devoted to their chilli peppers. Think you can take the heat?
Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm understands the meaning of being present. Nestled amongst twenty five acres of lavender fields and oversized cottonwood trees, this historic New Mexican farm is the place for wellness and total connection with nature. With 50 rustic-style guest rooms and the finest field-to-fork restaurant, nothing could be more therapeutic.
Beach lovers are going to adore Weligama. A crescent-shaped bay with crystal blue waters, this Sri Lankan destination is the idyllic spot to catch your first wave, or fiftieth. A blend of fishing villages and beach resorts, Weligama (meaning ‘sandy village’), is fast-becoming a hot spot for those seeking a slower pace of life, yoga, and surfing. In fact there are over 30 surf schools here and Basecamp offers some of the most experienced instructors in the area. You’ll go from kook to kickflips in no time! For a true cultural experience, skip the restaurants and eat where the locals eat, with countless ‘roti huts’ serving up the finest Sri Lanka has to offer.
For a luxury home away from home, you need to check out Kalukanda House – a new, privately owned and sustainably-run villa that actively encourages ‘experiential travel’; one where you get to be part of the experience rather than just a spectator. Take a tuk tuk and explore the World Heritage site, Galle Fort. Go surfing, bodyboarding, practice your finest Trikonasana, or simply do nothing at all. As founder Dee Gibson eloquently puts it;
“The magic of a holiday is those surprising moments of interaction with other cultures… the heartfelt way of touching another person’s life and our own… Building relationships and not only taking away memories, but leaving some behind.”
Want to really disconnect from the rest of the world? Let us suggest Buritaca. A sleepy town just south of Palomino, Colombia – this place literally takes you back in time. Unspoilt from mass tourism, many vendors don’t even have card machines so make sure to bring cash. And if you don’t speak a word of Spanish, pack a phrase book too as English isn’t widely spoken over there. Swimmers will love the choice between seawater and freshwater dips, with just a strip of pure white sand separating the river from the ocean. Alternatively, head to one of the nearby waterfalls for a truly invigorating experience. Fresh fish is everywhere – just wade across the water to one of the many open-air restaurants for a feast to remember.
Along the coast from Buritaca sits the unique nature Hotel Playa Koralia. An eco-friendly retreat at the gateway of Tayrona National Park, this hotel blends seamlessly into its natural surroundings, and is proud to be the only hotel in Colombia that is government certified sustainable. This is the place to truly disconnect. You won’t find any locks on the rooms and who needs them when you’re in total isolation? You can walk for miles along its talcum white beach without seeing a single soul. All you need to do is be. But should you get bored just being, take a dip in the fresh waters of the Caribbean Sea, rejuvenate the soul with some morning yoga, explore the nearby waterfalls, rivers and lagoons and enjoy delicious freshly prepared organic food.
As they put it:
“We are a canvas upon which you can colour your castaway dreams.”
Forget high speed Wi-Fi too. Try no speed Wi-Fi (except in the reception and bar area), or TV, or even a newspaper for that matter. Now, isn’t that better?
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