These days peace of mind seems to be an evasive luxury. Not only are people caught up in their own busy lives, often stressed and burned out, but the international headlines aren’t exactly uplifting much of the time. Thankfully, there are still places in the world where you can disconnect, immerse yourself in nature and rejuvenate the soul, body and mind. We may not be able to get to these destinations quite yet (thanks to COVID-19), but we can dream! Without further ado, here are six chill places to find peace of mind:
1) Cahuita, Costa Rica
Cahuita is as chilled-out as it gets. Indeed, it’s a small Caribbean town where you can feel your troubles drift away as soon as you as you hear the sound of the surf. The beach is wild, full of driftwood and mesmerizing waves crash onto the shore.
There are just a few colorful Rasta restaurants and a couple of small supermarkets in town. A narrow dirt track hugs the coast, surrounded by lush tropical foliage and views of the ocean. As if that’s not enough, there’s a stunning national park which you can walk into from downtown Cahuita.
A coastal trail runs through the park. Electric blue giant butterflies flutter past and monkeys sit in the trees. If you are really lucky, you may spot a sloth hanging around. The ocean is perfect for swimming and there’s a pristine coral reef where you can snorkel with a guide.
2) Leh, India
High in the Indian Himalayas in the region of Ladakh, there exists a far-flung Shangri La. Colourful prayer flags flutter against a landscape of snow-topped mountains. The chants of Buddhist monks can be heard emanating from temples. Travelers enjoy the Himalayan vibe as they drink herbal teas in cafes. White-water river rafting and trekking in the mountains are popular pursuits.
Short trails lead to temples and stupas located on hills overlooking Leh, from where there are panoramic views of the city and mountains. The ancient city is surrounded by countryside. Oxon plough the fields and narrow lanes wind their way through the rural landscape. It’s about as far away from anywhere as you could wish to be.
There is a mystical energy in the Himalayas. For spiritual seekers, Leh provides a conducive atmosphere for the study of yoga and meditation. Whether you wish to attain spiritual enlightenment or not, you will certainly leave Leh in a mellow state of mind.
3) Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA
Deserts have the reputation of being the most spiritual of landscapes and that can certainly be said of Joshua Tree National Park. Just a two-hour drive from the metropolis of LA, it’s a perfect escape from big city living and provides the opportunity to commune with the stars while indulging in some serious soul searching.
Back in the 1970’s, Jim Morrison camped in the Joshua Tree National Park in a quest to expand his mind. Natural beauty is abundant. There are plenty of trails to explore where boulders, cactus and of course, joshua trees are the main features in the landscape.
The desert light is exquisite at sunrise and sunset when a golden glow is cast over the rocks and boulders. The Joshua Tree National Park is certainly a place where the power of nature works its magic.
4) Punakaiki, South Island, New Zealand
The west coast of New Zealand’s South Island feels wild and remote. Thinly populated, the coast consists of wide sandy beaches backed by mountains and rainforest. A visit provides an opportunity to connect to nature in relative solitude.
Punakaiki is a tiny settlement on the west coast, and home to a strange formation of limestone rocks, sculpted by the weather and resembling pancakes. When the tide is high, blowholes spout water spectacularly high into the sky. Most visitors spend an hour at the rocks and head on down the highway, but it is a lovely destination to spend a few days and chill.
A short walk along the coast road brings you to the entrance of Paparoa National Park, where there are a choice of tramping trails through the lush semi-tropical rainforest. Towering limestone cliffs look down on the Pororari River and a kayaking trip on the river amongst such sublime natural beauty is almost a meditative experience.
Rent a basic beach hut and take long walks along the deserted beach at sunset. A sojourn in Punakaiki rejuvenates the body and soul and makes you feel grateful that there are still such unspoilt destinations to be found.
5) Luang Prabang, Laos
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang in laidback Laos is a serene and sleepy place to spend a few days. Located on the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, the town has admittedly become more crowded than it was a few years back, but it has managed to maintain its gentle pace and chilled ambience.
Every morning, saffron-robed monks pad barefoot through the streets to collect alms, a timeless scene. There is a high concentration of intricately decorated Buddhist temples dotted throughout the town. Cafes and restaurants are housed in traditional French/IndoChina buidlings, perfect for lounging in and watching the world go by.
Encircled by mountains with the mighty Mekong flowing through, this languid destination with its nearby waterfalls, caves and forests is a tropical getaway to revive the spirits.
6) Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey
Goreme is located in the magical landscape of Cappadocia in Turkey. A fantasyland of fairy chimneys, turrets, valleys and bizarrely sculpted rock formations, there is nowhere else in the world quite like it. Accommodation in whimsical Goreme is mostly of the cave variety, with dwellings to suit all budgets.
You can hike away your troubles in the surreal landscape, all within walking distance of Goreme. Discover a world of canyons, caverns and stunning vistas. Around every corner is a surprise, be it an ancient cave church or a fantastical rock formation. Sit in a cave surveying the astonishing terrain and listen to the distant call to prayer of the muezzin, an evocative and mystical sound.
A visit in this amazing destination is more akin to a visiting another planet (but a lot cheaper!) and you will undoubtedly feel the benefits of your Cappadocian pilgrimage.