The world's most relaxing destinations

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.
Sunset at Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China. Photo: Shutterstock
Sunset at Hangzhou, Zhejiang, 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 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 centre. 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 snorkelling, before savouring cool drinks and authentic Mexican dishes at one of the bars and restaurants along the beach.


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 savour luxurious villa accommodation, fine dining and unspoilt beaches. 


4. Langkawi, Malaysia

Lovers of the great outdoors can get their travel fix in the Langkawi archipelago, 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 dialling up the relaxation with a sunset dinner cruise as part of Insight Guides' Indulgent Malaysia holiday.

Langkawi, Malaysia. Photo: Vaflya/Shutterstock


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.'


6. Vientiane, Laos

There are plenty of reasons why Laos should be on your travel wish list. From the ultra-walkable and easy-going capital of Vientiane, where 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 mesmerising volcanic caldera is known for its highland setting and charming lakeside villages. A wonderful destination in which to savour 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 traveller 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. Discover its charms for yourself as part of Insight Guides' Deluxe Sri Lanka trip

Galle Fort, Sri Lanka. Photo: Thomas Dekiere/Shutterstock


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, 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 it for yourself on Insight Guides' Vietnam and Cambodia by rail trip, which includes a two-night stay in Nha Trang. 


10. Bagan, Myanmar

Travellers 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. 

Hot air balloons over Bagan, Myanmar. Photo: Ikunl/Shutterstock


11. Mykonos, Greece

For some, relaxing means cutting loose from the pressures of everyday life, indulging in top-notch food and enjoying a bit of fun. Mýkonos offers wonderful granite-sand beaches and a dazzlingly beautiful port town that draw numerous visitors each year, along with the island’s well-deserved reputation for designer shopping, buzzing nightlife for all orientations, and some of the most luxurious accommodation in the Greek islands. However, Mýkonos is also a destination where you can fully unwind. On the north coast, Agios Sostis and Panormos are undeveloped, sheltered sandy beaches where you can relish idyllic peace and quiet. In Mykonos Town, the Folklore Museum and the Archaeological Museum, at different ends of the quay, are both full of fascinating objects, and you can spend hours wandering through the town's maze of narrow streets lined with boutiques, restaurants and diminutive churches.  


12. Dead Sea, Jordan

Jordan’s year-round sunshine means it’s always possible to experience the Middle Eastern café culture in the capital Amman, before travelling through the breathtaking desert landscapes of Wadi Rum. Floating in the Dead Sea’s cobalt waters is easy as they are so heavy with salt and oils, but savouring beauty treatments in one of the luxury mineral spas is an experience not to be missed. You can pamper yourself with therapies ranging from rejuvenating natural mud wraps, to purifying milk baths and Dead Sea salt scrubs, which use the local waters to exfoliate the skin, leaving you utterly refreshed.


13. Nachi Falls, Japan

Japan's exquisite Nachi Falls is a magnificent sight to behold. Hidden away in the Nachi Primeval Forest, the waterfall features an incredible 133-metre drop. Nachi Falls attracts worshippers and travellers alike to Seiganto-ji, a beautifully serene and ornate Buddhist temple that is said to have been created specifically for worshipping the majesty of nature. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the three-tiered pagoda sublimely complements the waterfall, helping create one of the most relaxing destinations in all of Japan, if not the world.

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

Seiganto-ji Temple pagoda at Nachi Falls, Wakayama, Japan. Photo: Shutterstock


14. Lakshadweep, India

Luxuriant palm groves, abundant coral reefs, and dazzling 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 known for exceptional snorkelling and diving opportunities, thanks to the exotic marine life and sparkling, clear lagoons. Lakshadweep isn't the easiest destination to reach, which of course only makes it that much more alluring. Access to the islands is controlled by the Indian Government, and foreign travellers must book through official tour operators. The Society for Promotion of Nature, Tourism and Sports is the primary agency.


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 epic coastlines make for an intoxicating combination. Here, Celtic culture is alive and well amidst rocky seascapes, narrow winding roads, and lush green countryside. When planning your next relaxing trip away, be sure to explore Brittany's 'Pink Granite Coast', aptly named for its fascinating pink-hued rocks. Discover it for yourself as part of Insight Guides' Northern France Tour: City to Coast trip.


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, the Drakesbad Guest Ranch sits surrounded by mountain meadows and lakes, offering cosy accommodation in rustic bungalow cabins that don't have electricity, making this the perfect destination to unplug during a truly off-the-grid stay. Hiking trails, horseback riding and hot spring pool swimming set the stage for an altogether relaxing vacation.


17. Mendoza, Argentina

One of the world’s greatest wine capitals, western central Argentina’s Mendoza wine country is a must for aficionados. Just a 90-minute flight away from the capital Buenos Aires, there’s plenty to enjoy here besides Malbec. Set at the foot of the Andes mountain range, architecturally striking wineries, such as DiamAndes and Zuccardi in the Uco Valley and Lagarde in Luján de Cuyo, serve mouthwatering wine-paired lunches, which you can enjoy in leafy gardens overlooking verdant vineyards, while taking in sweeping views of the surrounding scenery.

Luján de Cuyo valley vineyard, Mendoza, Argentina. Photo: Thomas Barrat/Shutterstock


18. Hangzhou, China

Widely regarded as China's most relaxing city, Hangzhou is sure to satisfy your inner romantic. Its slow-paced energy, combined with rolling expanses of lush green mountains and time-honoured pavilions, are enough to stop you in your tracks. It's a refreshing change of pace from the hustle and bustle of China's major cities, like nearby Shanghai. West Lake remains Hangzhou's main attraction, and rightfully so, with charming gardens and sweeping vistas that embody serenity.  


19. Dubai, UAE

The UAE probably isn't the first place to spring to mind when thinking of relaxing destinations, but this exotic location shouldn't be overlooked. Dubai is a luxury traveller's dream, especially those out for a more glamorous holiday. High-end shopping, opulent accommodation, and fine dining converge in this Middle Eastern hotspot. Where else can you go skiing in the desert before taking a private helicopter tour? Come nightfall, Dubai has plenty to offer in the way of top-notch live entertainment, like rhythmic belly dancers that cross paths with fine Arabic cuisine at the luxurious Bab al Shams desert resort.


20. Lake Bled, Slovenia

Built in the 15th century, 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 Shiply.com. 'Whilst travelling around Europe with 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


Ready to take a trip to a relaxing destination?

Insight Guides can help you plan and book amazing trips to destinations around the world. Simply get in touch to share your ideas for the trip and to let us know when you would like to travel. Our local experts will then create a personalised itinerary based on your specific requirements, which you can amend until it's exactly how you want it before booking.


Updated 15 August, 2019