6 DESTINATIONS TO RELAX BODY AND MIND
It’s safe to say that not everyone’s idea of a relaxing holiday is the same. While some people might find cycling around the French countryside relaxing, others prefer to spend their time in the pool of a fully inclusive resort. But with our hectic modern lifestyles, sometimes even the average beach holiday is not enough. To reset the balance between body and mind, only the ultimate in relaxing travel experiences will do.
Whether you like to relax on the beach to rejuvenate and revitalise or want to be at one with nature to regain peace of mind, these are some of the most relaxing travel experiences you’ll find…
1. CHANG MAI, THAILAND
While Thailand probably wouldn’t be the first place you’d think of in your search for a blissfully relaxing travel experience, Chiang Mai is a million miles from the chaos of Bangkok and the all-night parties of the tourist-packed islands. In the north of the country, the mountainous city of Chiang Mai offers real serenity.
When you deviate from the usual tourist hotspots, there are some magical, truly meditative places including forests, waterfalls and temples where you can be alone with your thoughts. The city itself is also surprisingly clean with numerous markets, modern malls and the temple-filled old city to explore. The hills on the outskirts of the city are thick with lush green jungle and hiking trails offer sweeping views of the mountains beyond, plus gorgeous Elephant Nature Parks to discover. Chiang Mai truly has it all.
2. CINQUE TERRA, NORTHERN ITALY
The coastline of northern Italy is probably most famous for the five villages of the Cinque Terre region, a picturesque, colourful collection of small villages linked by hiking trails through vineyards and forests. Although the villages are swamped by tourists in the summer months, in autumn you can really experience the sights and sounds of these five villages at their best.
Enjoy seafood lunches and well-priced Lingurian wine in waterfront restaurants and bars before continuing your hike through the breathtaking scenery. Your reward for reaching the final village of Monterosso is a long sandy beach and the turquoise Mediterranean Sea. Want to discover more of this idyllic destination? Browse our guide on where to go in Italy for a round-up of our favourite resorts.
3. FORMENTERA, SPAIN
The sister island of Ibiza, Formentera, offers the sort of beach holiday dreams are made of. Although ‘unspoilt’ is one of the more overused words in the travel lexicon, this off-the-beaten-path island with its whitewashed villages, secluded beaches, sand dunes and salt plains is absolutely pristine. Although there’s no shortage of luxury villas, tourism on the island is very unobtrusive so you’ll feel like you have this little piece of the Mediterranean completely to yourself.
And the good news is that Formentera is going to remain a blissful little island for many years to come. The authorities have stopped developers from building the mega hotels and super clubs Ibiza is known for and have placed a blanket ban on beachfront buildings. There have also been claims that the island is planning to ban selfies and even man buns, two rules relatively few people would argue with.
4. ALGARVE, PORTUGAL
Most people are attracted to the Algarve for the cliff-lined coasts, fresh seafood and beach-side towns, but away from the resorts, there’s a wild and untamed beauty that often goes unexplored. The Algarve is an extremely diverse region, with the tourist towns of Albufeira, Vilamoura and Lagos but also the unspoilt inland hills of Monchique and the fishing village of Salema, where fishermen still sit mending their nets on the beach.
In the southern part of the Algarve the tranquil town of Sagres, with its iconic lighthouse and fortress on the exposed cliffside, is one of the quieter spots in the region. Here you’ll find surfers enjoying the waves rolling in from the Atlantic on stunning, windswept beaches with a wild beauty that has to be seen to be believed. Further east and less than 30 kilometres from the Spanish border is the historic village of Cacela Velha. This village is one of the hidden treasures of the Algarve and home to the Praia da Fábrica, which has been voted one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere in the world.
Better still, Algarve holidays are just as popular outside of peak season so you can swerve the crowds and save a bit of cash while still indulging in the sunshine.
5. PAROS & ANTIPAROS, GREECE
Of all the beautiful Greek Islands, and there are certainly plenty to choose from, Paros and the nearby island of Antiparos are arguably the best if you’re looking for unadulterated rest and relaxation. Paros is the busier of the two islands and is home to two of the most charming towns in Greece, Naoussa and Parikia, the latter of which is also the ferry port where you can take a boat to Antiparos.
Both islands are ringed by golden beaches and the pristine Aegean Sea. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the bizarre rock formations at Kolymbithres to the windsurfing haven at Chrissi Akti. Many of the beaches are backed by sleepy tavernas roasting spits of souvlaki and little chapels. There are also whitewashed hillside towns to discover, all at your own pace of course, and importantly, there are absolutely no boisterous restaurants, nightclubs or bars.
Whether you fancy visitng these islands or want to head elsewhere, we've got a selection of gorgeous Greek Island holidays from £200pp.
If you’re looking for your own little slice of beach heaven then Barbados is the long-haul destination for you. In terms of travel experiences, this sun-soaked Caribbean gem has it all. You can scuba dive, snorkel and swim with turtles in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, join a Jeep safari through the forests and sugarcane fields or drink Bajan rum punch on the beach.
If you’re feeling energetic you can go kayaking and windsurfing or soak up the culture in the UNESCO-listed capital of Bridgetown, or even take in a cigar factory or two - just a few of the reasons why this postcard-worthy isle tops the popularity charts for best travel destination this year! Whatever you decide to do, you can be sure this exotic destination is the perfect spot for a summer getaway or a much need dose of winter sun.