the-ghan-train

An Introduction to Slow Travel

Travel + Leisure - World's Best Awards 2019
Written by
Sascha Gill

With many travellers leading hectic lives and packing their vacations full of adventure, slow travel is a welcome breath of fresh air.

A grassroots movement that’s taken the travel industry by storm, slow travel is revolutionising some of the world’s favourite destinations.

To help you slow down on your next vacation, this is our guide to everything slow travel - from what it actually is to the world’s most laid-back destinations.

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What is Slow Travel?

Slow travel’s origins lie in the slow food movement, a focus on local farming and regional cuisine that began in 1980s Italy as a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome. Following suit, slow travel has become part of what’s widely known as the ‘Slow Movement,’ which aims to address the issue of ‘time poverty’ through an increased focus on making connections with people, places and things.

When it comes to slow travel, in particular, this means spending a little more time getting to know the places you’re visiting, as well as the people behind them. With the advent of train travel, it’s becoming even easier to appreciate landscapes as you go rather than just rushing through them. It doesn’t stop at train travel though, with walking, biking and boating all popular options. A great way to combat over-tourism and really get under the skin of a destination, slow travel is a trend we’re sure isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. 

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Best destinations for Slow Travel

1) Switzerland

A picturesque European gem that’s just waiting to be discovered, Switzerland’s rolling hills are perfect for slow train journeys through Alpine landscapes. With so many luxury train journeys to choose from, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by choice, but we’ve picked out a few of our favourites. Nestled amongst Switzerland’s Alpine passes, the Golden Pass from Gstaad to Montreux winds its way down through narrow valleys before passing the romantic Lake Geneva. Fitted with panoramic windows, this picturesque journey offers sweeping views across Switzerland’s verdant rolling hills and snow-capped mountains. 

 

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One of the most popular ways to see the Alps – and for good reason – is the Bernina Express. Travelling from St Moritz to Tirano, this UNESCO World Heritage Site route links together regions with different languages and cultures, allowing travellers to discover different sides to Switzerland. For one of the finest views over the fairytale town of Zermatt, board the Gornergrat railway. As the highest open-air railway in Europe, passengers are rewarded with a good view of the infamous Matterhorn and breathtaking panoramas over Alpine countryside.

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2) Australia

With luxury train journeys galore, and a couple of cruises thrown in for good measure, Australia is one of the world’s best destinations for slow travel. From the timeless elegance of The Ghan to the newly launched Great Southern, there are few better ways to take in Oz’s sprawling countryside than from a train window. Australia’s most iconic train ride, The Ghan’s journey stretches for an incredible 3,000 kilometres, taking in all the incredible sights situated between Darwin and Adelaide. Rolling pastoral hues of the South Australian plains, rusty reds of the MacDonnell ranges and tropical greens of Darwin all come together to create an unforgettable journey.

 

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Australia’s newest rail journey is the Great Southern, connecting the southern cities of Brisbane and Adelaide. With its rugged coastline, sun-kissed beaches, forested peaks and cosmopolitan capital cities, South Australia is well worth an exploration. Complete with fine dining, premium wines and unrivalled hospitality, there are few better ways to experience Australia’s south than from one of the Great Southern’s cabins. 

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3) Peru

Travelling between three of Peru’s most stunning areas, Belmond’s Andean Explorer is one of the best ways to journey through Latin America’s striking landscapes. Traversing Cusco, Lake Titicaca and Arequipa, the Belmond’s Andean Explorer is one of the world’s highest train routes. In unmatched style and comfort, the train effortlessly glides through Cusco’s cobbled streets and past Lake Titicaca’s spiritual shores before arriving in the UNESCO World Heritage ‘White City’ of Arequipa.

The exclusive feel continues throughout the carriages, with interiors inspired by Peru’s traditional hand-woven fabrics and complemented with the soft tones of alpaca wool. The lounge car features a baby grand piano, offering the perfect setting for guests to come together and enjoy a convivial drink. Two dining cars on board serve contemporary cuisine, brought to life by local, seasonal produce from the Peruvian Andes. The real highlight though, is the open-deck observation car; enjoying the breathtaking mountain scenery whilst sipping on a Pisco sour is an experience few will forget. 

4) Scotland

Another fantastic destination for train travel is Scotland; from the comfort of a train cabin, you’ll be able to experience Scotland’s highlands and islands from an entirely new perspective. One of our favourites is the West Highland Line, which runs from Fort William to the port town of Mallaig on the edge of Scotland’s West Coast. A journey steeped in history, this railway line still follows the same route as it did in the 19th century. 

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One of the most exciting bits about this railway line is the Jacobite steam train. The locomotive made famous for transporting Harry Potter to Hogwarts, the Jacobite steam train transports passengers through verdant rolling hills and back into a bygone era. The railway’s best-kept secret, though, is the Great Moor of Rannoch. One of the last remaining wildernesses in Europe, this moor is an incredible stretch of land made up of bogs, rivers and rocky outcrops. 

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The West Highland line gives passengers a bird’s eye view of the moor, as it crosses the Great Moor of Rannoch for an incredible 23 miles at an altitude of 1,300 feet. The only way to see this moor is by rail, so don’t pass up the opportunity to discover some of Scotland’s hidden gems on the oldest railway in Scotland.  

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5) Cambodia and Vietnam

With world-famous rivers winding through each of these Asian countries, river cruising is all the rage in Cambodia and Vietnam. Spanning an astonishing 4,350 kilometres, the Mekong River is the lifeblood to communities across southeast Asia. Along the banks of the vast Delta, spanning Cambodia and Vietnam, lie rice paddies, fruit orchards, fish farms and floating villages. 

 

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Offering a wonderful way to meet locals and view life along the Mekong, a plethora of refined luxury river cruises depart on a daily basis. Cruises typically range from three nights to weeklong journeys, plying the waters from Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam to Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. One of our favourites is the Aqua Mekong, complete with an outdoor deck, shaded infinity pool and a one-to-one staff to guest ratio that offers complete luxury. 

 

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Feeling inspired? Our expert travel designers are always on hand to help you discover the world at a more laid-back pace.