The world's most relaxing destinations

Looking to unwind a bit? From colonial towns like Galle to the chilled-out beach resorts of the Maldives, here are a handful of relaxing holidays to put on your travel wishlist...
 Hangzhou with sunset glow, China. Photo: Shutterstock
Hangzhou with sunset glow, China. Photo: Shutterstock

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 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 literally hundreds of tropical islands, each one more spectacular than the last. For relaxation at its best, Kuramathi in Rasdhoo Atoll is home to a luxury resort with spa treatments involving seaweed and other purifying elements. Meanwhile, the lavish Cinnamon Dhonveli Resort in the North Malé Atoll doles out jasmine tea and Balinese massages on the regular. Alternatively, have Insight Guides plan, organise and book your trip for you on its Luxury Sri Lanka and the Maldives holiday

2. Tulum, Mexico

With one of its top attractions called Paradise Beach, it's little wonder Tulum makes our list of most relaxing holidays. Playa Pariaso, as Paradise Beach is formally known, was made for beach lovers. Perhaps its biggest claim to fame is its ultra-secluded vibe; our insiders tell us that the crowds are thin, allowing you to take in the magnificent coastline with ease. Spend the day swimming or snorkelling, grabbing an authentic Mexican dish, and forgetting the troubles of everyday life. For more beach bliss, browse Insight Guides' Mexican vacation packages.

3. Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is easily one of the hottest locations in Thailand, drawing in endless tourists with its sparkling beaches and laid-back attitude—but that doesn't mean it isn't also one of the most relaxing destinations to visit. For traveller Denise Foley, Phuket is the place to unwind.

"From the view of the plane, there was bright blue sky, sunshine, continuous crystal-clear ocean, flowers and trees everywhere you looked; we had reached paradise! Lush colours of green, turquoise, and fuchsia were everywhere, we took it all in on the ride to the hotel.

"Now thoroughly jet lagged, I was never so happy to be in a place where your only option was to relax. Surrounded by greenery, we were completely insulated from the outside world. Sunrise and sunsets were spectacular; with the colours of pink and blue cast off the ocean in the morning shifting to a warm, fiery glow in the evening. Watching the sunset from our chairs on the beach, drink in hand, was the best way to end the day."

If this doesn't convince you, we're not sure what will. It's time to add Phuket to your bucket list.

4. Langkawi, Malaysia

Lovers of the great outdoors can get their travel fix in the Langkawi archipelago, a Malaysian locale 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 dialling up the relaxation with a sunset dinner cruise on 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, proprietor of Organic Aromas and 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."

Laos girls splashing water durin tradition festival in Vientiane. Photo: ShutterstockLaos girls splashing water during traditional festival in Vientiane. Photo: Shutterstock

6. Vientiane, Laos

There are plenty of reasons why Laos should be on your travel wish list. Our Big Fat Travel Adventure aptly calls it "laid-back Laos," and with good reason. Upon arriving, blogger Amy describes "melting into the sleepiness of small-town Laos." Check out the ultra-walkable and easy-going capital of Vientiane, where delicious restaurants and bakeries await. Sleepy Laos is also a fantastic place to discover ancient relics of years past: it's home to some of the most history-steeped shrines and ruins in Asia (our experts highly recommend Wat Phu).

7. Casa Palopo, Guatemala

Guatemala certainly has no shortage of impressive natural wonders. Lago de Atitlán, also known as Lake Atitlan, certainly tops the list. This mesmerising volcanic caldera is known for its highland setting and charming lakeside villages. Let Insight Guides take you there on a tailormade holiday: submit a trip request and our local experts can plan, organise and book your trip for you.

Traveller Veronica Pena's personal favourite for unwinding is Casa Palopó: "I went on a trip there for the first time and fell absolutely in love, and came back feeling like a new, rejuvenated person," she says. "With panoramic views of Lake Atitlan and its majestic volcanoes from all corners of the hotel—a gorgeous scene to inhale and exhale to—Casa Palopó is an ideal escape to enjoy ultimate relaxation. The once-private home turned boutique hotel boasts only nine individually decorated, Mayan-inspired rooms, perfect for guests seeking a private escape without an overload of concierge lines and frantic guests."

8. Galle, Sri Lanka

This bit of Sri Lanka is perfect for the traveller looking for a little luxury and a spot of relaxation. Galle is brimming with old-world charm, especially with its preserved colonial feel, which you can discover for yourself on Insight Guides' Deluxe Sri Lanka holiday. The area can actually trace its roots back to 1640 to the period of Dutch rule. These days, Galle is a top destination for boutique shopping and leisurely strolls that will leave you feeling as though you've stepped back in time. The beaches won't disappoint either. 

9. Nha Trang, Vietnam

Nha Trang has a split personality. On the one hand, it's one of the liveliest, most celebrated party towns in Vietnam. On the other, its hidden charms, attractive beaches, and proximity to buzzing destinations like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City make it an unexpected spot for a relaxing vacation. Experience it for yourself on Insight Guides' Vietnam and Cambodia by rail holiday, which includes a 2-night stay in Nha Trang. 

If you really want to escape it all, our travel experts recommend the Six Senses Hideaway, a boutique accommodation that's accessible only by speedboat. Butler service, delicious fare, and unmatched dive sites are all on offer. 

10. Bagan, Myanmar

Travellers seeking remote adventure and slowed-down discovery would be correct in adding Bagan to their list of most relaxing holidays. You probably know this bit of Myanmar from the iconic image of buoyant hot air balloons gently floating above gold-dipped ancient pagodas and temples. Balloons Over Bagan offers up surreal, bird's-eye views, a mix of verdant countryside below, and misty, jagged peaks in the distance. Insight Guides includes this impressive experience on its Myanmar Dreams holiday; what are you waiting for?

11. Mykonos, Greece

For some, relaxing means cutting loose from the pressures of ordinary life, indulging in top-notch food and enjoying a bit of fun. Mykonos, with its multi-coloured domed chapels and rugged seaside cliffs, fits the bill.

"The most relaxing destination on earth is Mykonos, Greece!" says traveller Sherica A. Matthews. "I visited this island last October and it was the most relaxing and peaceful place I had ever been. It wasn't overly touristy. The island is a place where people actually live, not just visit. The weather was perfect and the wind/water were calm. I would highly recommend this island to anyone looking to get away and relax."

For an ultra-serene experience, our experts suggest checking out Little Venice (also known as Alefkandra), in the north.

12. Dead Sea, Jordan

When it comes to spa treatments, getting your fill at the world-famous Dead Sea is about as therapeutic as you can get. Here, be enveloped in a Dead Sea natural mud wrap. The dark, clay-like texture is said to purify the skin, while simultaneously restoring its natural minerals. If mud isn't really your thing, try your hand at a purifying milk bath (yes, really), or a Dead Sea salt scrub. This last approach uses salts from the local waters to brilliantly exfoliate the skin, leaving you utterly refreshed. Enjoy lavish luxury at the Dead Sea on one of Insight Guides' holidays to Jordan

Pagoda of Seiganto-ji Temple at Nachi Katsuura with Nachi no Taki fall in Wakayama, Japan. Photo: Shutterstock

Pagoda of Seiganto-ji Temple at Nachi Katsuura with Nachi Falls in Wakayama, Japan. Photo: Shutterstock

13. Nachi Falls, Japan

Japan's exquisite Nachi Falls is a magnificent sight to behold. Here, hiding in the Nachi Primeval Forest, is the waterfall itself, which features an incredible 133-metre drop. Nachi Falls attracts worshippers and travellers alike with Seiganto-ji, a beautifully ornate Buddhist temple that is said to have been created specifically for worshipping the majesty of nature. The UNESCO World Heritage Site's red pagoda is a celebrated landmark, standing proudly in the foreground of the waterfall. It remains one of the most tranquil and relaxing destinations in all of Japan, if not the world. Visit Nachi Falls for yourself on a trip with Insight Guides: submit a trip request to organise your holiday with a local expert

14. Lakshadweep, India

Luxuriant palm groves, abundant coral reefs, and white-sand coastlines are the hallmarks of the Lakshadweep Islands—a bit of remote paradise scattered about 200 to 400 miles west of the Keralan coast. These wonderfully isolated specks of land are associated with downright stunning snorkelling and diving opportunities, thanks to the exotic marine life and sparkling lagoons. Lakshadweep is about as off the beaten path as possible. In other words, it isn't the easiest place to get to (of course, that only makes it that much more alluring). Lakshadweep Tourism lists up-to-date information regarding which islands are currently open to visitors.

15. Brittany, France

If you're looking to experience a different side of France, Brittany ought to be at the top of your travel itinerary. Its delightful towns paired with its epic coastlines make for an intoxicating combination. Here, Celtic culture is alive and well amidst rocky seascapes, narrow little winding roads, and lush greenery sprinkled throughout the countryside. When planning your next relaxing holiday, be sure to explore Brittany's "Pink Granite Coast," aptly named for its fascinating pink-hued rocks. Discover it for yourself on Insight Guides' Northern France Tour: City to Coast.

16. Mount Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

There's California, then there's Lassen Volcanic National Park. This destination is awesome in every sense of the word. According to the National Park Service, this travel gem's claims to fame are its "steaming fumaroles, meadows freckled with wildflowers, clear mountain lakes, and numerous volcanoes."

As far as unwinding goes, traveller Chelsea Kurnick adds that the Drakesbad Guest Ranch is the best place in town.

"With wooden 'bungalow' style cabins that don't have any electricity, it's a perfect way to unplug," she says. "The lodge, which is more than 100 years old, combines aspects of luxury with aspects of a truly rustic off-the-grid stay."

The hiking trails, horseback riding, and nature paths set the stage for an altogether relaxing vacation.

17. Mendoza, Argentina

Fancy a glass of South American vino? Mendoza is the ultimate destination for wine lovers looking to cut loose. Insight Guides can take you there on our Argentina's Northern Highlights holiday. Valle de Uco, Maipu, and Lujan de Cuyo represent the three main regions; each playing host to a number of standout wineries (Trapiche and Salentein both come highly recommended by our travel experts). With the harvest season typically running from February to April, this makes for a fabulous time to plan a visit. Mendoza kicks off wine season with the National Grape Harvest Festival, an all-out party and cultural celebration in Argentina.

18. Hangzhou, China

Lauded by experts as China's most relaxing city, Hangzhou is sure to satisfy your inner romantic. Its slow-paced energy, paired with its rolling expanses of lush green mountains and time-honored pavilions, are enough to stop you in your tracks. It's a refreshing change of pace from the hustle and bustle of China's clamouring big cities, like nearby Shanghai. West Lake remains Hangzhou's main attraction, and rightfully so. It's charming gardens and sweeping vistas simply ooze serenity. Included on Insight Guides' The Best of China trip, it makes for a refreshing pit-stop. 

19. Dubai, UAE

The UAE probably isn't the first place to come to mind when talking relaxing destinations, but this exotic locale shouldn't be overlooked. Dubai is a luxury traveller's dream, especially those out for a more glamorous holiday. High-end shopping, opulent accommodations, and fine dining converge in this Middle Eastern hotspot (pun intended). Where else can you go skiing in the desert before taking a private helicopter tour? Come nightfall, Dubai has plenty of top-notch live entertainment, like rhythmic belly dancers and fine Arabic cuisine crossing paths at Bab al Shams. Experience all this and more on a relaxing holiday with Insight Guides: review suggested itineraries online now

20. Lake Bled, Slovenia

Built around 1470, the church on Bled Island is a much-loved landmark in Slovenia. In fact, tradition says that for couples who get married here, the groom is to carry the bride from the dock before ringing the church bell for good luck. Weddings aside, this destination is every bit as charming (and peaceful) as its picture suggests.

"I have been fortunate enough to travel to many different locations all over the world, but by far the most relaxing of them all was Lake Bled in Slovenia," says Tom Brown of "Whilst travelling around Europe with four friends, we stumbled across this haven and I still have a clear memory of the serenity of the lake and its surrounding landscape. On one of our days there, we took our own boat out into the middle of the lake as the sun was setting behind the mountains, and to this day I’ve still never been as relaxed as I was at that moment!"

Lake Bled from Mt. Osojnica, Slovenia. Photo: Shutterstock

Lake Bled from Mt. Osojnica, Slovenia. Photo: Shutterstock

This article was originally published on September 23, 2016

Taking a holiday with Insight Guides: how to get started

Insight Guides can help you with planning, organising and booking your trip to multiple destinations across the world. Simply, get in touch and share your budget, interests and travel style. Our local experts will create an itinerary exclusive to you and your requirements, which you can amend until you are satisfied. Alternatively, browse and modify ready-made holidays to create your dream trip today. Remember, all of our trips are fully customisable. 

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