I had the idea to write this blog post after my friend asked me for help deciding his next vacation. He wanted to go to a quiet place where he could be disconnected from the internet, where he could be alone and away from people, and where he could read all day undisturbed. I gave it some thought, recommended him a few places, and in doing so made a list.
I found these places by chance during my travels. Most are quiet, remote, and largely undiscovered save for the few thousand, and in some cases, few hundred people that lived there.
In these places, I could drop everything, and truly feel as though I had been completely disconnected from the world.
Here is my list:
1. Nagarkot, Nepal — Nagarkot is a village in the Nepalese mountains with a population of several thousand people. There is one road that cuts through the village, connecting it to Kathmandu. The ride there is several hours long.
There are several guesthouses in Nagarkot, and many of them are filled to capacity with only a handful of guests. It’s a good idea to book a place in advance. The guesthouse I stayed in had an outdoor common area with pillows and cushions set around a fire pit, a set of stone steps leading to a shrine where you can get a clear, panoramic view of the snow-capped Everest, lit golden at sunrise.
The rooms are properly suited for the cold nights that fall over the village. The guesthouses are surrounded by a forest.
2. Bali, Indonesia — Bali can be messy, full of tourists, and expensive; Kuta Beach can be downright awful. Kuta is a terrible place to spend your time in Bali, yet people stay there anyway, thinking it is the only place in Bali worth visiting. I wrote a post about other places in Bali that are private, local, and miles away from the multitude of tourists that go to the island.
How you find these places are up to you, but much of the island is still largely unexplored. This, however, is quickly changing—new resorts, hotels, and guesthouses are being built in these once local-only areas.
It’s worth taking a trip to the shores where the locals still make up a large part of the inhabitants, the food is authentic, the nights are quiet and the beaches are still private.
3. Zdiar, Slovakia – A modern mountain town with a population of ~1,500 people. It is full of cabins, and best for the winter. It is a very long way from Bratislava by a combination of bus, train and car rides. Zdiar is a few minutes drive from the border with Poland.
There are very few accommodation options. Most people stay for several weeks if not months. There are few travelers, the town is mostly inhabited by locals who own the cabins. Restaurants and shops can be found but their hours are largely undependable.
4. Skopje, Macedonia – The capital of Macedonia. This can be tricky, as it is still a large city and can be noisy. But in the winter the city can be very cozy.
Best to find yourself a room or a hotel or guesthouse with a woodfire furnace to heat the place up. These are not difficult to find, given how harsh the winters there can be.
I’m listing this city because of how memorable the experience was for me—the small guesthouse, filled to capacity with only a handful of people, all of us sitting close together as the winter wind howled against it, throwing logs into the heavy iron furnace and talking until late hours of the night.
Maybe this experience can be recreated for someone else.
5. Manzanillo, Costa Rica – A town in the Costa Rican rainforest. A wooden path links the beach to the Congo Bongo resort. The last time I was there a Dutch couple owned the resort.
Next to the resort is a small town with several restaurants built on the sand. The tourists are mostly natives of Costa Rica. The town is about a 30-minute walk from the resort.
In the morning we could hear the howling monkeys, and all throughout the night, the sounds from the rainforest made sleeping easy and wholesome.
6. Pai, Thailand — A small town in the Thai mountains. Most of the people here are tourists.
Its an easygoing town with great food options, full of people who are there to relax. Mostly these are artists, musicians, and hippies. The only difficult part is the 6-hour nauseating bus ride through the winding mountain roads.
The bungalows are built along the river. The water splashes on the riverbank as you’re falling asleep. At night people sit on the bridge and sing and you can hear the music and see the lights at a distance. The mornings are calm and the mountain air is crisp.
7. San Andrés and Providencia, Colombia — An archipelago in the Caribbean sea closer to Nicaragua than it is to Colombia.
The island is very quickly becoming famous for its colorful beaches, though most of the tourists still tend to be locals coming from mainland Colombia.
But the real treat is Providencia, an even smaller island with a population of several thousand people reachable only from San Andres by a small propeller plane.
— Notable mentions that will take some planning ahead —
1. Merzouga, Morocco — Merzouga is near to the Algerian border. The black mountains of Algeria are visible as you venture out into the Sahara. There are hotels and guesthouses where you can stay, but the idea is that you sleep in the desert. These trips usually last several days to a week but there really is no limit if you want to stay longer.
The rest of Morocco is noisy, chaotic, and crammed with people and buildings. Merzouga is an hour from the nearest bus station, which takes an overnight bus ride to get to from Fez, the nearest city.
2. Malaysia (Vipassana retreat, Palm Oil Plantation) — I have never felt more at peace than I did during a 10-day meditation retreat in Malaysia. This meant no talking, no reading or writing, no technology, 2 vegetarian meals a day and 10 hours of solid meditation daily. The palm oil plantation where the course is held is 4 hours from Kuala Lumpur on the other side of the country.
Courses can go from 10-days minimum to several months, and you can continue for as long as you wish. People spend many long months on the plantation, sitting in absolute silence for weeks at a time.