If you’ve ever arrived home from a holiday and felt like you needed another break to recover, you might be interested in a slow travel experience for your next trip. Many people feel the need to rush around when they get to a new place, ticking off as many sights and activities as they can. But, while you may see a lot this way, it can be tricky to form a meaningful connection with your destination.
Slow travel is expected to be one of the top travel trends of 2024, and there are several reasons for this. Rejecting hectic itineraries and whistle-stop tours in favour of taking time to really get to know a place can be relaxing and rewarding. You can develop a deeper appreciation for your surroundings, discover authentic experiences, and avoid the traps of mass tourism.
Slow travel is a branch of the ‘slow movement’, which pushes back against fast food and fast fashion. Travelling slowly is often more sustainable – and because you’re spending longer in one place, there can be more time to visit local markets and cook and eat fresh, sustainable food.
So what exactly does slow travel look like? It can simply mean staying longer in one place and taking the time to discover local gems, experience the culture, and get off the beaten track – often by exploring destinations using public transport, on foot, or by bike. It can also involve camping, backpacking, or taking a road trip to travel at your own pace.
While slow travel can be practised anywhere, some places seem made for exploring at a more leisurely pace. So, if you like the idea of travelling in your own time and enjoying a far richer experience, here are 12 of the best slow travel destinations.
1. Yukon, Canada
If you want to get away from it all and feel at one with a vast and rugged wilderness, why not head to Yukon? This Canadian province boasts some of the most dramatically beautiful scenery in the country – from gleaming glaciers and churning rivers to dense pine forests and lakes speckled with icebergs. Animals far outnumber humans, and you can spot grizzly bears, eagles, and beavers.
You can paddle along the Yukon River, following in the footsteps of gold-rush miners, and learn about this region’s heritage. Camping under the stars will allow you to feel as though you’ve truly left civilization behind, and the sense of serenity is magical. Yukon shares a border with Alaska, so for the ultimate slow trip, why not visit the USA’s last remaining frontier at the same time?
2. Provence, France
For something a little more luxurious – and food-focused – you might like to head to Provence. This part of Southern France is known for its characterful villages, sprawling vineyards, fabulous cuisine, and rich cultural heritage. It’s the perfect place to savour the finer things in life. Accommodation ranges from boutique hotels to cosy guesthouses and traditional farmhouses, so there’s hopefully something for everyone.
Travelling slow in Provence is a feast for all the senses: dappled sunlight shining on the olive groves; the heady scent of lavender in the air; the sound of birds singing at dusk; the taste of crisp rosé wine, and local dishes like bouillabaisse, ratatouille, and pissaladière. And, if you’re into history, there’s plenty to see and do – from the Roman amphitheatre in Nîmes to the Palace of the Popes in Avignon.
3. Hue, Vietnam
Vietnam is a popular spot on the backpacking trail, but many people rush it, visiting only the riverside town of Hội An, Ho Chi Minh City, and perhaps the capital Hanoi. But Vietnam is often best explored slowly, and the city of Hue gives you a fascinating insight into the rich culture and history here. Sail along the Perfume River, visit palaces and pavilions, and indulge in the famously mouthwatering street food.
The longer you have in Vietnam, the better, because this unique country has something for everyone. Spend long, lazy days on the beaches of Phú Quoc, explore the vibrant city of Da Nang, and marvel at the otherworldly beauty of Ha Long Bay. Stay in a traditional garden house, or choose a homestay and live with local families. Be sure to try delicious dishes like pho, bánh mì, and papaya salad!
4. Sri Lanka
Travel has always been slow in Sri Lanka. Once part of the Silk Route – a historic trading route that connected China to Roman Egypt – in more recent years it’s become a firm favourite for backpackers and travellers seeking peace. Home to beautiful beaches, wild jungles, picturesque tea fields, and hulking mountains, this gorgeous island is also known for its fabulously fragrant food.
It’s a great destination for a train adventure too. Railways weave through the countryside, rewarding you with startlingly photogenic views of forested hills and soaring ridges and valleys. You can hop on and off at your leisure, exploring the well-preserved temples and ruins, and hiking through the rainforest. Meanwhile, in the capital Colombo and the lakeside town of Kandy, cultural treasures abound.
5. California, USA
If you like the idea of a road trip, there are few locations more iconic than California. The Golden State is incredibly diverse, and the glamour and energy of Hollywood contrasts beautifully with the quiet splendour of Yosemite National Park. A road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway is a great way to explore California’s sweeping coastline.
Foodies will enjoy having time to explore Los Angeles, and you can feast upon the excellent street food downtown, moving from one vendor to the next at your leisure. The cities of San Diego and San Francisco shouldn’t be rushed either. The natural beauty of this state will likely take your breath away; golden beaches, towering redwoods, glittering lakes, and cacti-dotted deserts – California has it all.
In the video below you can join friend of Rest Less, Cathy Bartrop as she sets off on an awe-inspiring, week-long road trip down Highway 1. Joined by travel writer, Amanda Statham, the pair give us a glimpse of incredible vistas, enchanting wildlife, and delicious food – as well as sharing driving tips and ideas for things to do and places to stay.
6. Puglia, Italy
If you’re passionate about gastronomy, a trip to Italy is an obvious choice. Slow travel here revolves around food and wine, and if you really want to experience a slower pace of life, head to Puglia in the south. Far less touristy than places like Tuscany or the Amalfi Coast, Puglia’s unique old-world atmosphere allows you to relax and unwind, taking time to treasure every moment of your trip.
You can watch fishermen unloading their catch in Gallipoli – and feast on the fresh fish in local restaurants. Stroll along the cobbled narrow streets of Matera, learn about the history of la città sotterranea (the underground city), and perhaps even stay in an authentic cave residence. Along the way, explore medieval towns and hilltop estates, enjoy wine-tasting tours, and soak up the sun.
7. Kyoto, Japan
As the cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto is a fascinating destination for slow travel. There’s so much to see and do here that it’d be a shame to rush it, and taking your time allows you to explore the history and beauty of Japan’s former imperial capital. Spend days visiting the temples and shrines, exploring the old geisha district of Gion, and watching tea ceremonies in centuries-old gardens.
A great way to explore Kyoto is by bike, but you can also get around easily on foot. Both will get your appetite going – which is a good thing in Kyoto, as the food scene here is fabulous. Be sure to try kaiseki (traditional multi-course Japanese meals), sushi, and the delicious street food! For maximum authenticity, stay in ryokans, traditional Japanese inns where you can experience the famous Kyoto hospitality.
Peru is one of the most beautiful countries in Latin America, so it makes sense to really savour your time here rather than rush around trying to cross off the highlights. It may be most famous for being the home of Machu Picchu, but there’s far more to Peru than Inca ruins. Its indigenous history is as fascinating as its modern cities and thriving arts scene.
Lima boasts some of the best food in South America, so take your time here feasting on dishes like ceviche and sipping pisco sours. If you’re a surfer, the surging Pacific Ocean also offers endless adventures. In Cusco and the Sacred Valley, you can hike the Inca Trail; while exploring Colca Canyon, the second deepest valley in the world, is a must. For relaxation, the spellbinding Lake Titicaca ticks the box.
9. Highlands, Scotland
You don’t have to leave our shores to experience the best of slow travel. From Cornwall to County Antrim, there’s a wealth of beautiful destinations in the UK that are best explored slowly – but perhaps the most spectacular is the Scottish Highlands. While many people like to take road trips through the Highlands, walking is arguably the most memorable way to explore this remarkable wilderness.
The West Highland Way is Scotland’s most iconic walking route, and it takes you over imposing mountains, along mirror-like lochs, past wild moorlands, and through picturesque villages. As you walk, you can immerse yourself in the region’s culture and history; visit whisky distilleries, sample smoked salmon, tour historical attractions, and learn about local legends like Robert the Bruce.
10. South Aegean Islands, Greece
All the Greek Islands are great for slow travel, but there are so many of them that it’s still almost impossible to see everything. Instead, it’s better to pick an island group, and the South Aegean Islands are perhaps the dreamiest of all. Home to stunners like Kos, Rhodes, Santorini, Paros, and Mykonos, each island has its own character and appeal, so it’s worth taking your time here.
Known for crystal-clear waters, gorgeous beaches, ancient history, and cultural heritage, every island is packed with authentic Greek charm. Watch spectacular sunsets in Santorini, visit ruins in Rhodes, relax on white sand in Kos, stroll through whitewashed villages in Paros, then enjoy fresh seafood and meze in Mykonos, perhaps washed down with some local wine…or a glass of ouzo.
11. South Island, New Zealand
Another destination that’s perfect for a slow travel road trip is New Zealand – particularly the South Island. The landscape here is so dramatically beautiful that you might have to pinch yourself, and a car gives you the freedom to discover its diversity. Or, if you’re keen to travel more sustainably, why not take a slow train? The Tranz Alpine route takes you through the sensational scenery of the soaring Southern Alps.
But New Zealand is also known to be one of the world’s best hiking destinations, so if you’re a keen walker, why not explore on foot? A walking holiday is the epitome of slow travel, and you can trek past snow-capped mountains and astonishingly blue lakes, stopping to relax whenever you like. Plus, because you don’t have to worry about driving, you can make the most of the world-class wineries!
12. Rajasthan, India
For years India has attracted travellers seeking spirituality. While the whole country is an excellent destination for anyone craving a colourful and cultural slow travel experience, if you have to pick just one region, why not make it Rajasthan, the ‘Land of Kings’? Steeped in history, Rajasthan is the jewel in India’s crown – the home of maharajas and tigers, medieval forts and palaces, and kaleidoscopic colours.
Visit the rosy palaces of Jaipur, the ‘Pink City’, and explore the cobalt houses of Jodhpur, the ‘Blue City’. In Jaisalmer, marvel at the golden fort that stands above the shifting sands of the Thar Desert, then immerse yourself in the culture and energy of New Delhi. Be sure to savour the deep flavours of Rajasthani cuisine by sampling as much street food as you can – if in doubt, just follow the locals!
We hope that this article has shone a light on the appeal of slow travel and perhaps inspired you to consider travelling more mindfully on your next holiday. Once you forget about schedules, checklists, and itineraries, you’re able to experience a more authentic side of a destination – and come away with memories that are often far more meaningful.
It isn’t just travellers who are embracing the idea of slow tourism; tour operators and travel companies are warming up to the idea, whether it’s offering flexible walking holidays that allow you to go at your own pace, or organised tours that move more slowly, so you have time to soak up the sights.
Slow travel is about going with the flow. It’s about exploring a city with no destination in mind, just walking where your feet (or eyes, nose, or ears) take you. It’s also about stopping whenever you feel the urge – to browse local markets, people-watch over drinks, or sample delicious street food.
Once you stop worrying about ticking things off or seeing as much as you can, you may gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of your surroundings, and be able to embrace new cultures, food, music, and even languages. As the saying goes, it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.
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Are you a fan of slow travel? Are you tempted to visit any of these places, or perhaps visit another destination more slowly and mindfully? We’d love to hear about your travel experiences in the comments below.