Are you ready to truly unwind? Here we look at laid-back places around the globe – from quaint colonial towns and chilled-out beach resorts to virgin forests and mountain lakes – that are serious contenders as the world’s most relaxing destinations.
The whole point of a vacation is to disconnect from everyday life and cut loose. But when it comes to recharging our batteries, an action-packed itinerary can sometimes be too much. Never fear, we’ve uncovered 20 of the most relaxing destinations in the world. From tropical islands to laid-back cityscapes, here’s the definitive list:
1. The Maldives
There’s a reason the World Spa Awards designated the Maldives as the top spa destination on the planet: where pampering yourself is concerned, this dreamy locale takes the cake. Comprised of coral atolls in the aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is home to hundreds of tropical islands, each one more spectacular than the last. For relaxation at its best, Kuramathi Maldives is a luxury resort with a spa offering treatments based on traditional Asian therapies, as well as pristine beaches and a diving center. Meanwhile, the lavish Cinnamon Dhonveli Maldives on the North Malé Atoll offers luxurious bungalow accommodation in a stunning island destination complemented by exquisite cuisine and a tranquil spa.
2. Tulum, Mexico
With one of its major attractions known as Paradise Beach, it’s little wonder that Tulum on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast makes our list of the world’s most relaxing destinations. Playa Paraiso is a secluded, palm-fringed expanse of white sands that remains relatively quiet and relaxed despite its abundant beauty and calm, crystal clear waters. You can spend your days swimming and snorkeling, before savoring cool drinks and authentic Mexican dishes at one of the bars and restaurants along the beach.
Soak up the relaxing atmosphere in Tulum as part of Insight Guides’ Mexico City to the Yucatán trip.
3. Phuket, Thailand
Phuket is easily one of the hottest locations in Thailand, drawing in endless visitors with its sparkling beaches and laid-back atmosphere. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t also one of the most relaxing destinations to visit. In fact, Phuket can be the place to unwind. The northernmost reaches of the island’s western coastline encompass the extensive stretch of Hat Mai Khao beach, which is part of the protected Sirinat National Park. Its secluded location makes it one of the island’s quietest, with golden sands and very clean waters. Truly kick back at destinations such as Anantara Layan Phuket Resort to the south, where you can savor luxurious villa accommodation, fine dining and unspoiled beaches.
4. Langkawi, Malaysia
Lovers of the great outdoors can get their travel fix in theLangkawiarchipelago, a Malaysian destination known for its staggering limestone cliffs, lush greenery, and jaw-dropping natural geological formations. It’s actually Southeast Asia’s premier geopark, jam-packed with biodiversity you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else – the towering mountains and intricate cave routes are nothing short of paradise.
By day, take part in an eagle-watching and mangrove tour before dialing up the relaxation with a sunset dinner cruise as part of Insight Guides’ Indulgent Malaysia holiday.
5. Ubud, Bali
Writer Elizabeth Gilbert chose Bali to round out her famous Eat, Pray, Love journey. We can’t say we blame her. ‘Ubud, Bali is one of the most tranquil and relaxing places on earth,’ says Jon, owner of a luxury villa in Ubud. ‘There are few places that can delicately balance relative modernity and quality infrastructure with quiet, peace and natural beauty.’
He also touches on Bali’s multitude of high-end accommodations, spas and retreats – perfect for some introspection and soul-searching. ‘You can get love, adventure, rest, and enlightenment in Ubud, Bali. It has a rightful place on a list of the most relaxing destinations on earth.’
Appreciate the restorative value of meditation sessions on the island and unwind in Ubud as part of Insight Guides’ Bali Yoga Retreat trip.
6. Vientiane, Laos
There are plenty of reasons why Laos should be on your travel wish list. In the ultra-walkable and easy-going capital of Vientiane delicious restaurants and bakeries await. You can head out into the peaceful surroundings of small-town Laos, and beyond to discover ancient relics of years gone by. This laid-back nation is home to some of Asia’s most historic shrines and archaeological sites, such as Wat Phu Hindu temple ruins.
7. Casa Palopo, Guatemala
Guatemala certainly has no shortage of impressive natural wonders, and Lago de Atitlán, or Lake Atitlan, is certainly high on its list. This mesmerizing volcanic caldera is known for its highland setting and charming lakeside villages. A wonderful destination in which to savor its highland lake location is the charming Casa Palopó which offers sweeping views of Lake Atitlan and its majestic volcanoes from a hilltop, lakeside location. Its individually designed, Mayan-inspired rooms are ideal for guests seeking a relaxing escape, and are complemented by a casual restaurant, an infinity pool and a serene terrace, all of which afford stunning panoramas of the lake.
8. Galle, Sri Lanka
The city of Galle on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast is perfect for the traveler looking for a little luxury and a spot of relaxation. One of Asia’s most perfectly preserved period pieces, colonial Galle Fort dates back to the city’s period of rule under the Dutch, who seized Galle from the Portuguese in 1640 and spent the next 150 years embellishing and fortifying the town. Their work remains apparent in the streets of low-slung colonial villas, many of which now house delightful boutiques, making the town a wonderful destination for shopping and leisurely strolls.
9. Nha Trang, Vietnam
Nha Tranghas a split personality – on the one hand, it’s one of the liveliest, most celebrated party towns in Vietnam, while on the other, its hidden charms, attractive beaches, and proximity to fascinating destinations such as Hội An and Ho Chi Minh City make it an unexpected spot for a relaxing vacation.
Experience its delights for yourself as part of Insight Guides’ Vietnam and Cambodia by rail trip, which includes a two-night stay in Nha Trang.
10. Bagan, Myanmar
Travelers seeking remote adventure and laid-back discovery would be correct in adding Bagan to their list of most relaxing destinations. You may well be familiar with this city in Myanmar from the iconic images of buoyant hot air balloons gently floating above ancient, gold-dipped pagodas and temples. Balloons Over Bagan offers flights on which to take in surreal, bird’s-eye views of the verdant countryside peppered with stupas, and misty, jagged peaks in the distance.