Travel writers name the world’s 15 best escapes for peace and quiet
All I felt was gratitude
Tbilisi | Georgia
The calm I needed
Volta Region | Ghana
An incredible feeling
ATIU | Cook Islands
When “Tbilisi Loves You” is the airport’s Wi-Fi network, it’s fair to deduce that there is a warmth toward visitors. My time there was exactly that — a cornucopia of feasts, wines and passionate locals eager to share their culture. Every evening left me electrified.
I like to walk as much as I can while traveling, to take in all the sights and sounds. One morning, while staying at Meidan Square in Old Tbilisi, I decided to hike up to the Narikala Fortress to take panoramic photos of the city. It was then that I stumbled into the National Botanical Garden of Georgia.
I was suddenly enveloped in a greenery of calm. The pathway filled with rows of cypress trees is seemingly endless, and I felt my sense of being shift. My mind became quiet — in a good way — and all I felt was gratitude.
– Cheryl Tiu
The Wli Falls is the tallest waterfall in West Africa. I vividly remember stepping into it and looking up — and seeing a huge rainbow. I felt such a profound sense of peace.
Back home in Maryland I am a registered nurse, which can be an overwhelming career. But the feelings I came with lifted with ease, knowing that priceless natural beauty like this exists in this world.
On the river, I passed waving fishermen and Ghanaians dancing to Afrobeats by the palm trees. Ghana is a travel-friendly country that I always recommend to others as their first destination on the African continent. Ghana is a place where one can find warmth — in its weather and its people.
– Shandorf Yirenkyi Jr.
Photo: Shandorf Yirenkyi Jr.
Atiu is one of the largest of the Cook Islands, yet it lacks shimmering lagoons and beach hotels. It has about 400 residents. And in January 2020, I was the only visitor.
During the day, I explored sea caves. At night, I cooked simple meals and read books.
On my final morning, I walked to a beach I hadn’t explored. Days before, conservationist “Birdman George” Mateariki told me Cyclone Timo, lurking near Fiji, might push giant frigatebirds toward the shore. To no avail, I watched for them as huge waves caused by the faraway storm crashed over the harbor walls and onto the deserted beaches.
As I reached Matai Beach, I spotted a flock of low-flying, diving birds. Finally! They flew toward me. Soon I was surrounded by soaring, circling frigatebirds. It was an incredible feeling. For a couple of minutes, the whole world was just them and me. It was a fitting farewell for a once-in-a-lifetime journey.
– Carrie Hutchinson
The only noise was the whirl of the wind
Kamalame Cay | Bahamas
After more than a year of the pandemic, the death of George Floyd and other political and social upheaval, I was exhausted.
When my water taxi docked on Kamalame Cay, and I saw the lush greenery and white sand beach, I exhaled — finally. The private island resort is near the world’s third-largest barrier reef with acres of coconut palm groves and stunning vegetation.
There were no crowds. The only noise was the whirl of the wind, the waves. I heard my thoughts. I took long walks along the water.
The sunsets soothed, as did the over-the-water spa with the wind blowing, the sea splashing and the thrill of a stingray swimming below my Swedish massage.
With the pampering and Mother Nature’s magic, I left the island better than I arrived, assured that somehow everything would be OK in an upside-down world.
– Sheryl Nance-Nash
One of my fondest memories
Dona Casilda Iturrizar Park | Bilbao, Spain
I felt at home
Howzak House | Isfahan, Iran
An astonishingly beautiful mountain town
TAWANG | India
Ihad been awake for more than 36 hours. Jetlagged and filled to the brim with pintxos and Rioja, I popped into Dona Casilda Iturrizar Park on my first night in Bilbao.
As the city’s main public green space, the park would likely be teeming with locals on a sunny day. But it was sleepy at 10 p.m. on this misty Sunday night, with only a few people and their dogs.
Though I rarely enter a park after dark, that brief time remains one of my fondest memories of the two weeks I spent in Spain’s Basque Country. I didn’t do much in Dona Casilda that night except people-watch, listen to the splashing fountain, and sense Bilbao preparing for a good night’s rest.
– Tracy Kaler
Nassi and Babak, the founders of this unassuming guesthouse in the Ebn-e Sina area of Isfahan, want guests to understand Iranian culture. So they offer guided walks to a nearby cultural haven, where I handled 100-year-old wooden blocks used to produce intricate qalamkar fabrics, and listened to string music from the kamancheh, a bowed string instrument.
The house, a converted 90-year-old residence, says a lot about the culture too. I would see this every morning when sunlight filtered through the preserved stained-glass panels atop my windows and door, as birds chirruped their greetings. I felt it as I worked on my laptop, with my legs within the heated korsi — a low-lying heated table — to fend off the late winter chill.
Whenever I stepped out, the fatherly Mr. Rahnama, the housekeeper, offered tea, soup or bread to enjoy on one of their daybeds. Despite the stark cultural differences between us, I felt at home, cocooned in this oasis.
According to an old Persian saying, “Isfahan is half the world.” And Howzak House was my world in this distant land.
– Morgan Awyong
Tawang is an astonishingly beautiful mountain town, tucked away in India’s extreme north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. This secluded part of India is ethereal, with its towering Himalayan peaks, glacial lakes and jaw-dropping mountain panorama.
I feel privileged for having spent my early childhood in this Himalayan town. The sheer simplicity of life, the fascinating Monpa tribal people, those visits to the 400-year-old Buddhist monastery — with monks chanting “om mani padmme hun” and indulging in a game of snow football with my friends — remain etched in my memory.
The town’s hallowed spiritual ambience is palpable and His Holiness the Dalai Lama is revered as God incarnate by the local Monpas. Incidentally, Tawang was the first place the present Dalai Lama went to after fleeing Tibet when Chinese forces invaded in 1959.
– Subhasish Chakraborty
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