An Introduction to Slow Travel
Published on: December 17th, 2019
Last modified: November 23rd, 2023
The term ‘slow travel’ has emerged as a reminder to savour the journey as much as the destination. But what does it really mean and what are its origins?
Slow travel is a deliberate departure from the rush culture of modern tourism. By putting aside our obsession for convenience, slow travel encourages us to immerse ourselves in the local culture, connect with communities, and appreciate the subtleties of different landscapes.
By embracing a leisurely pace and immersing ourselves in the local culture, we can forge genuine connections with the people, landscapes, and traditions of a destination. This unhurried approach allows for a deeper understanding of the nuances that make each place special, fostering cultural appreciation and empathy. In essence, slow travel allows us to step off the fast-paced treadmill of modern life and embrace a more intentional and mindful way of exploring the world.
The slow movement finds its roots in Italy. It began with the ‘Slow Food’ movement, which was founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. The initial focus of slow food was on promoting local, traditional, and sustainable food practices in contrast to the rise of fast food and globalised food production. From there, the international move expanded beyond food and gave rise to other ‘slow’ movements, such as slow cities, slow travel, and slow living.
These movements share a common philosophy that emphasises a slower, more mindful, and meaningful approach to various aspects of life. They encourage people to savour experiences, appreciate local culture, and prioritise quality over quantity.
Why Choose Slow Travel?
Slow travel is not only a way to explore the world but also one that fosters meaningful connections with people and places. By eschewing the hurried pace of conventional tourism, we are able to minimise our footprint and lessen the strain on local resources.
This intentional mode of travel often leads to a deeper understanding and respect for local cultures and environments. Travellers engaged in slow travel are more likely to have a positive impact by supporting small businesses, artisanal crafts, and sustainable practices, thereby contributing to the economic well-being of communities.
How to travel slower?
To embrace this approach, start by choosing a limited number of destinations for a more in-depth experience. Extending your stay in each location allows you to take time for a genuine connection with the local culture. This not only enhances your travel experience but also contributes positively to the communities you visit.
Selecting the appropriate mode of transportation is pivotal in cultivating the essence of slow travel, with each choice influencing the overall experience. Opting for train travel over more expedited means, such as planes, inherently aligns with the unhurried ethos.
Once at the destination, slowing down your pace by exploring destinations on foot or by bicycle also allows you to notice the small details that are often missed when travelling at high speeds. But most importantly, it minimises your negative impact on the planet.
The Best Destinations for Slow Travel
Some destinations lend themselves more naturally to the art of slow travel, inviting exploration at a leisurely pace. Here are some of our favourite places for slow travel:
1. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka and slow travel go together like spicy lentil parippu and rice. Just southeast of India, the ‘pearl of the Indian Ocean’ unfolds a collection of wonders, its landscapes peppered with temples, tropical rainforests and tea plantations. Kandy is the country’s cultural hub and ancient capital of the last Sinhalese kingdom. Reach the city by train from Colombo, a 3 to 4-hour chug through misty hills, passing by verdant paddy fields and swaying palm trees.
The adventure doesn’t end here; extend the journey from Kandy to Badulla on a day-long ride along the Main Line. Traverse lush green tea country and rugged valleys, soaking in the breathtaking scenery that only slow travel can unveil.
2. Costa Rica
For Costa Ricans, pura vida is a concept that means ‘pure life’ – finding joy in each day regardless of circumstances, and prioritising what truly matters. It’s a greeting and a goodbye, and it’s at the heart of life here in Central America. With over 98% of its energy being derived from renewable sources, Costa Rica does not only showcase an impressive commitment to environmental responsibility but also seamlessly aligns with the principles of slow travel.
On a private nature tour, slow down on the remote Oso Peninsula to spot jaguars, pumas and pelicans, try ocean kayaking, horseback riding or surfing, there are ample opportunities to embrace the essence of pura vida. In Manuel Antonio National Park, you can set off on an exclusive guide hike, led by local experts. They’ll assist you in observing sloths and hummingbirds in their natural habitat.
Switzerland’s landscape undergoes a mesmerising transformation throughout the year, offering a visual symphony of changing seasons. Travelling by train in the winter months, you follow snow-covered paths that wind through the Alps. As spring emerges, hiking trails lead through meadows adorned with Alpine wildflowers.
Summer unveils lush green landscapes, with trails dotted with hidden lakes. Autumn, with its golden hues, invites exploration along trails bordered by forests ablaze with the colours of fall. Traversing Switzerland on foot allows for an intimate connection with nature and is a quintessential way to experience the joys of slow travel.
Leaving behind the cobble streets of Edinburgh, winding tracks lead you through the Scottish Highlands, revealing breathtaking vistas of rugged mountains, serene lochs, and ancient castles. Immerse yourself in the lap of luxury on the Royal Scotsman, considered one of the most opulent train journeys in the world.
Immerse yourself in the lap of luxury on the Royal Scotsman, considered one of the most opulent train journeys in the world. With its fine dining car, round-the-clock steward service, and an intimate setting limited to 40 guests, the experience is tailored for those seeking a truly refined and exclusive adventure.
5. New Zealand
New Zealand’s roads ribbon through the north and south islands, taking in geothermal wonderlands, ice fields, glaciers, beaches and steep-sided fiords. These scenic landscapes are perfect for slow exploration on foot and you can embark on a ‘Great Walk’ of the Tongariro Crossing, or a heli-hike in the Southern Alps from Mount Cook.
The Mekong River flows through the mountains of northern Laos to the gently rolling hills and plains of the south. In the heart of the mountainous region the Mekong has formed a peninsula where Luang Prabang, one of the oldest cities in Laos, has stood for more than 1,000 years. Here, where the architecture is a rich tradition of ancient Lao Buddhist temples and French colonial buildings, time stands still.
Rise before dawn to witness a remarkable sight: slews of barefoot monks emerging from temple gates in a solemn procession known as Tak Bat (or Sai Bat). Every morning, they wind their way through the historic town centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. Lay down your head at Rosewood Luang Prabang, a jungle-backed luxury resort nestled close to a waterfall (exclusive river cruises, complimentary bikes and a spa, are just a few of their tailor-made services).
Our Team's Favourite Trips
Where to Stay
Rosewood Luang PrabangSet amid a scene of lush green jungle that surrounds the historical and captivating city of Luang Prabang is the Rosewood hotel. Throughout, you will detect a combination of blissful natural characteristics with charming and authentic features. An exotic retreat that celebrates the essence of experiential travel, guests will also be treated to a touch of local tradition, with architectural themes and décor reflecting that of colonial and Laotian style. Dotted throughout the verdant grounds are 23 spacious accommodations, consisting of four deluxe rooms, four speciality suites, three riverside villas, six pool villas and six luxury tents. All exemplifying Lao tradition and French colonial style, each accommodation features stunning furnishings with use of indigenous materials and local artwork. The rooms and suites are located on the riverside and benefit from wonderful views of the mountainous setting, while the riverside villas are calmed by the soundtrack of the gentle flow of water. The pool villas are immersed in nature, boasting their own private pool, outdoor wooden bathtubs and private bar, while the hilltop tents are hidden away, affording amazing views that are best enjoyed from the sofas that sit on the private balcony. The Great House restaurant serves up delicious Laotian regional specialities, and has a farm-to-the-table philosophy in order to support the local community. The Elephant Bridge Bar promises relaxation and refreshments with its cocktail list and Laotian bar snacks, while for an extra sense of rejuvenation, the Sense spa presents a range of luxury treatments and signature holistic offerings. If you need to cool down, the retreat’s inviting swimming pool, set next to a natural waterfall, is the perfect antidote to a busy day exploring Luang Prabang.
Solitaire LodgeSolitaire Lodge is located in a lush environment upon the fringes of Lake Tarawera, with a spectacular backdrop of volcanoes and forest, a vista which each of the 10 stylish suites makes the most of through vast glass walls. Fine dining at the restaurant is a particular highlight here, with Solitaire’s talented chefs creating daily changing contemporary New Zealand fare prepared with fresh local ingredients, complemented by a variety of superb wines from selected regional vineyards, enjoyed in the communal dining room or somewhere more private. Head down to the lake to explore its waters aboard the lodge’s motorised dinghies and kayaks, fish from the jetty or simply swim from the private beach. There’s a spa menu to indulge in, self-guided hikes to nearby Tarawera Falls and cycle trails past some stunning geothermal sites. Scenic helicopter flights, Maori guided tours of Rotorua and more challenging hikes can also be arranged, along with a full roster of adventure sports nearby or perhaps a visit to the Hobbiton village movie set from The Lord of the Rings.
Belmond Royal ScotsmanHead into the heart of Scotland on this exclusive train that takes a maximum of 40 guests to discover the spectacular Highlands scenery that goes unseen by most. The Belmond Royal Scotsman is considered one of the most luxurious trains in the world and from the minute you step on board you will feel like royalty. Whether you’re in a twin, double or single cabin, each has been designed with decadence in every detail, from the hypoallergenic duvet, quilted cotton bed covers, refined wooden finishes and private en-suite bathrooms. Head to the Observation Car to sink into an inviting armchair or sofa and chat with your fellow travellers, or to really take in the stunning Highlands scenery step out onto the open-air veranda as you travel past glassy lochs, castles and majestic mountain ranges. Meals on the Belmond Royal Scotsman are as memorable as the landscapes you are travelling through. Served in mahogany-pannelled dining cars, you can relish hearty Highland breakfasts, seasonal lunches and in the evening enjoy gourmet dining with fresh local ingredients accompanied by fine wines. After dinner, unwind with a scotch malt whisky as a local Highlander shares tales of life in Scotland through the centuries, or simply retire to your cabin for a peaceful sleep as the train settles into a siding for the night.