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10 places to go for peace and quiet

Want to start 2018 in a Zen state of mind? Then head to these destinations around the world

  • Holy Isle, ScotlandImage Credit: Supplied
  • Kagawa Prefecture, JapanImage Credit: Getty Images
  • Lapland, SwedenImage Credit: iStockphoto
  • BelarusImage Credit: Supplied
  • Koyasan Temple, Kyoto, JapanImage Credit: Getty Images
  • Little Petra, JordanImage Credit: Supplied
  • Princepe, West AfricaImage Credit: Supplied
  • The historic centre of Jamestown, capital of the island of St Helena, seen from the top of Jacob's Ladder.Image Credit: iStockphoto
  • The Faroes, in ScotlandImage Credit: iStockphoto

Exhausted after the hullabaloo of the holidays and in need of some hush? We’ve hand-picked the best places around the globe, from meditation retreats to silent cafes, 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.

2. Silence in the city

Strung out by the thrum of the city? Japan’s younger generation are flocking to find solitude at silent cafes 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.

3. Islands that soothe the soul

Halfway between Scotland and Iceland, this group of 18 mountainous islands has 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.

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 1,609 kilometres 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.

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.

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 Samye 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.

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 your favourite beverage, feet in the grass, during the day, and at night pick out the Southern Cross amid a blaze of stars.

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.

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 ...

10. Island escape

Marooned in perfect isolation 209 kilometres 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 cafe 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.