Off-the-Grid Travel Destinations for Your New Year Digital Detox 

Put down your phone and enjoy the sunset in Jūrmala, Latvia
Put down your phone and enjoy the sunset in Jūrmala, Latvia | © EyeEm / Alamy Stock Photo
Konstantina Pyrnokoki

Travel Writer

Tired of looking at the screen for the past couple of years? There’s no time like the present to go off-grid and rediscover yourself. Of course, switching off is easier when you’re amid divine beaches and palm trees. We’ve picked the following destinations to help you plan the ultimate digital detox.

Big Sur, California, US

Pfeiffer Beach on Big Sur, California, is a great spot to decompress

Probably the best place to decompress in the US, Big Sur feels worlds away from the city buzz of San Francisco and Los Angeles. This rugged stretch of California coastline has long provided creatives with inspiration, thanks to its towering mountains, old-growth redwoods and pine forests, which give way to wild, beautiful beaches. You’ll be so mesmerised by the scenery here that you’ll forget all about your phone, if only for a few days. Venture a thrilling hike along the Manuel Peak Trail, see the McWay Falls trickling into the ocean and watch the sunset from the picture-perfect Keyhole Arch Rock at Pfeiffer Beach. This is nature at its finest.

Alaska, US

Camping in Alaska is something of an extreme sport

If you’re looking for unspoilt landscapes that deserve to be experienced in silence, no electronic device in hand, Alaska will not disappoint. Dubbed the last frontier, this vast, largely unexplored state boasts snowy peaks and charming fishing villages; it’s a land where time stands still and emails are a foreign concept. Cruise your way through the winding rivers and lakes of the Chugach National Forest, hike along the 12mi (20km) Mendenhall glacier that’s almost 3,000 years old, hang out with bears at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and learn all about the Alaskan Indigenous culture at the Totem Bight State Historical Park. A ride back to the 1800s on the quaint White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad is a must.

Machu Picchu, Peru

It doesn’t get more mystical than Machu Picchu, in Peru

It doesn’t get more mystical and awe-inspiring than the legendary Inca citadel dating to the 15th century. About four hours away from the city of Cusco in Peru, you’ll find Machu Picchu, one of the world’s most iconic archaeological sites, which rises 2,430m (8,000ft) above sea level in the middle of a tropical mountain forest. As you slowly hike your way through the ruins, you’ll see gems such as the Temple of the Sun – said to have been used for astronomical observations in the past – the sacred Huayna Picchu rock, which comes with splendid vistas, and the agricultural terraces the Incas built on the mountainous Andes terrain. If you can’t find the strength to let go of technology here, there’s a good chance you never will.

Pamukkale, Turkey

The limestone terraces at Pamukkale, in Turkey, are Unesco-listed

This town in western Turkey is known for its mineral-rich thermal waters, which flow down a series of bright white limestone terraces. The basins cascade over a cliff to form a landscape of snowy slopes marked by petrified pools and waterfalls. Apart from this stunning sight that will surely help you find your zen, the therapeutic hot waters are known to cure chronic illnesses, as well as digestive and circulatory problems. Pamukkale also neighbours Hierapolis, an ancient Roman spa city where you can bathe in Cleopatra’s hot bath – said to have been a gift from Mark Antony. Living off the grid comes naturally when your muscles are this relaxed.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay is a Unesco World Heritage site

It’s not every day you see limestone pillars rising out of emerald waters, but in northeast Vietnam, in Ha Long Bay, that’s what you’ll find. This Unesco-listed bay is dotted with almost 2,000 islets that sit among sinkholes under the surface, creating an otherworldly landscape. Only 40 of these tiny landmasses are inhabited, and not all of them offer accommodation, but it’s still worth taking a cruise, even if it’s a day trip from Hanoi. Some islands, such as Cat Ba, are ideal for hiking and rock climbing, while others, like the super-secluded Cong Do, are the ultimate detox sanctuary, their waters brimming with marine life. Many are named after their shapes, such as Stone Dog and Teapot, which only adds to the fun.

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Seal spotting on the Galapagos

These volcanic islands spread on either side of the Equator – about 1,000km (600mi) off the coast of Ecuador in South America – are as close as it gets to finding inner peace. Each of the Galápagos Islands is unique, yet what they all have in common is the amazing wildlife that ranges from penguins to giant tortoises and iguanas. You will find the latter chilling on the white sand of Tortuga Bay beach on Santa Cruz; this island also hosts the Charles Darwin Research Station where you can marvel at the region’s rich plant life. Hike along the active Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island and you can snorkel amid all the peculiar tropical fish.

Benguerra, Mozambique

The Bazaruto National archipelago off Mozambique offers the full castaway vibe

If the full Tom-Hanks-castaway vibe is what you’re after, head to the Bazaruto archipelago, off the coast of southern Mozambique. Benguerra, the second largest of the five islands in the group, lies 14km (9mi) from the mainland. Hop on a boat or helicopter and expect to find pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters and swaying palms, as well as a number of resorts where you can just kick back and do nothing. Try sailing or scuba-diving around the coral reefs – there are often conservation projects going on so you might end up volunteering with local people to help out on a good cause.

Wild Taiga, Finland

The Northern Lights are on everyone’s bucket list

This little gem, on the eastern border of Finland, is as wild as the name suggests. Perfect for a digital detox weekend, Wild Taiga has evergreen forests, clean waters and astonishing wildlife: think rare or extinct bears, wolves and wolverines, roaming freely in the woods. Plus, there’s so much to do you here, you won’t need your phone – whether it’s trekking, canoeing and fishing or berry and mushroom picking. The Hossa National Park, famous for its Värikallio cave paintings that date back to the Stone Age, is worth a visit – take a reindeer sleigh ride to get here in winter. In summer, a series of festivities and music events take place; for maximum isolation, book a stay in a wilderness cabin.

Jūrmala, Latvia

Sunset off the coast of Jūrmala, in Latvia

Latvia might not seem an obvious choice when it comes to switching off, but this resort town, just west of Riga, could become your hideout. Pine forests, mineral waters, white sand dunes and beautiful beaches are some of the calming features of Jūrmala. Spend your days cycling or jogging along the coast, wander around the art-nouveau villas and see unspoilt flora and fauna in the many nature parks. Discover Jūrmala’s recent fascinating history at the Open-Air Museum, which depicts the life and work of local fishermen in the 19th and 20th centuries, and catch a spiritual music concert at one of the churches.

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