by Emma Thomson, The Telegraph, December 28, 2017
Exhausted after the hullaballoo of the holidays and in need of some hush? We’ve hand-picked the best places around the globe – from meditation retreats to silent cafés – where you’re guaranteed peace and quiet. It’s time to join the cult of quiet.
1. Snowy silence in Sweden
Go off-grid and enjoy serene snowy silence on a camping trip in the heart of Lapland. Operated by Lennart Pittja, a Sami reindeer herder, you’ll stay in a collection of just five sustainable luxury lavvu tents nestled inside Sweden’s Laponia World Heritage Area. There’s no electricity, but plenty of stoves and cosy furnishings to keep you warm. Lennart’s aim is to promote responsible tourism that does not threaten the reindeer and their herding tradition, so activities include visits to local communities, meetings with reindeer herders and explorations using traditional wooden skis or snowshoes.
From £695 for two nights, including accommodation, meals and warm-clothing hire. Flights not included. Departures Dec to March. Regent Holidays (020 7666 1290; regent-holidays.co.uk).
2. Silence in the city
Strung out by the thrum of the city? Japan’s younger generation are flocking to find solitude at silent cafés where nattering is discouraged in favour of notepads should you need to communicate. Locals come to sketch, write or simply unwind. Already popular in Tokyo, the concept is spreading to rural areas including Kagawa Prefecture, an hour or so by air from Tokyo. Linger over a pot of green tea overlooking the shores of Seto Inland Sea.
From £3,778 per person including international flights from London to Osaka, 14 nights’ accommodation, some meals, transport, transfers and some private guiding. Departures year-round. Inside Japan Tours (0117 370 9751, insidejapantours.com).
3. Islands that soothe the soul
Halfway between Scotland and Iceland, the Faroe Islands are a group of 18 mountainous islands with echoes of both: it may rain 300 days of the year, but the archipelago’s wild terrain will soothe the soul.
Sample skerpikjot (aged wind-dried mutton), snuggle into a locally made wool sweater and hole up inside a turf-roofed B&B. The Faroes are home to just under 50,000 people and a lot of puffins, and life hasn’t changed much since the Vikings. Let the wind whip away your stress with long wild walks and camping in raw nature.
From £1,899 for eight days, including accommodation and meals but not flights. Departures from June to Aug. K E Adventures (01768 773966; keadventure.com).
4. Exile yourself on St Helena
Put distance between you and the rest of the planet by visiting one of the world’s most-remote islands. Marooned in the middle of the Atlantic, more than 1,000 miles from both Africa and South America, St Helena was Napoleon Bonaparte’s place of exile. Previously only accessible by a five-day boat trip, it can now be reached in four hours thanks to a new airport. But don’t expect palm trees or white-sand beaches – just people-free hiking trails through lush forests of ferns and plains inhabited by wind-crooked trees and with endless ocean vistas. Wi-Fi is limited to the main town, so you can return to the days of board games by log fires.
From £1,588 per person for a week-long fly drive, based on two sharing on a B&B basis including return flights from Johannesburg to St Helena with S A Airlink, car hire, a 4WD adventure excursion and a half-day wildlife cruise. Departures year round. Discover the World (01737 214291; discover-the-world.co.uk).
5. Ancient wisdom
There’s Zen aplenty at the 1,200-year-old Unesco-listed Koyasan Temple, a two-hour drive south of Kyoto. One of Japan’s holiest pilgrimages sites and the centre of Shingon Buddhism, this working complex allows visitors to stay in several of its 52 temples where guests sleep (on the floor) in simple ancient rooms, eat shojin ryori (vegan cuisine) and join the monks for their morning chanting. You don’t need to be religious. Many just come to soak up the scent of the surrounding cedar forest, or witness the early-morning fire ceremonies.
From £4,680 per person for seven nights, including flights and a stay at Koyasan. Departures year-round. Cazenove+Loyd (020 7384 2332; cazloyd.com).
6. Hush on home shores
You needn’t always travel far for tranquillity. Holy Isle – a dime of land off the south-west coast of Arran in Scotland – is owned by the Samyé Ling Tibetan Buddhist Community, who run the Centre for World Peace and Health. They offer a mixture of meditation, yoga and tai chi courses inside a homely farmhouse.
But it’s the location that’ll put you in seventh heaven: accessible only by ferry, there are sweeping views overlooking the Firth of Clyde, while in the garden stupas and Buddhist prayer flags flutter in the Highland breeze.
The rest of the island is a nature reserve and on windy walks you can spot wild Eriskay ponies, Soay sheep and Saanen goats.
From £698 a week, including dormitory. Available Feb to Nov. Holy Isle Centre for World Peace and Health (01770 601100; holyisle.org).
7. A pod of pure bliss
New Zealand is famed for its film-worthy landscapes and Pure Pods let you experience them in the most wholesome way possible. Set in seven remote areas of spectacular countryside on South Island, these modern castaway cabins are made entirely of glass. Yes, that’s right, you’ll be showering on full display – but safe in the knowledge your nearest neighbour is miles away. The cabins are solar powered and deliberately free of Wi-Fi. You can order a dinner and/or breakfast hamper so you can read a book with a glass of wine, feet in the grass, during the day, and at night pick out the Southern Cross amid a blaze of stars.
From £1,747 per person (based on two sharing) including 14 nights’ accommodation with some breakfasts, car rental, Interislander ferry crossing, Pure Pod stay and her excursions. Flights not included. Departures year-round. Discover the World (01737 214291; discover-the-world.co.uk).
8. What’s the time Mr Wolf?
The skill for staying silent is crucial on this adventure, where you’ll spend four nights in the Belarusian wilderness searching for wolves. Bedding down in a simple eco station in a remote forest location, you’ll join an expert tracker – in a 4x4 or on foot – for dusk and dawn explorations into the woods to try to spot wolves, bison, beavers, elk, golden eagle and other wildlife. Best of all, there’s no red tape: UK passport holders visiting Belarus for fewer than five days no longer require a visa.
From £935 per person, including flights, accommodation, transport and most meals. Departures in Aug, Sept, Oct and Dec. Explore Worldwide (01252 883612; explore.co.uk).
9. Horse meditation in Jordan
Take your Namaste to the next level and try horse meditation. In this version of equine-assisted therapy, the horses intuitively mirror your state of being to offer powerful insights into your hidden behaviour. This three-day retreat at Little Petra combines yoga sessions with excursions to Wadi Rum and private Bedouin camps inside Petra. Massages, horse rides and stargazing are also on offer. It’s hard to say neigh…
From £330 per person based on two sharing. Includes some meals and accommodation, but not flights. Departures year-round. In2Jordan (00962 6 585 9699; In2Jordan.com).
10. Island escape
Marooned in perfect isolation 130 miles off West Africa, Principe is the smallest of the two islands that make up Sao Tome and Principe. Here, every stretch of beach is blissfully empty. The one town – actually the world’s smallest city, thanks to the mini cathedral in the central square – boasts an outdoor market and a café or two. There are few cars because there are hardly any roads. With more than two-thirds designated a Unesco biosphere reserve, Principe is criss-crossed with hiking trails that pass waterfalls and colonial ruins. While away the hours in a beachfront bungalow, or a converted plantation house in the heart of the rainforest.
From £7,740 for an eight-night holiday based on two adults and two children on a half-board basis, flights via Lisbon included. Departures Dec to Feb and May to August. Rainbow Tours (020 3131 4845; rainbowtours.co.uk).