As I sit typing on my laptop, I'm aware of an irresistible urge: to check my emails; check social networking sites; check whether there's been any update since I last checked five minutes ago! The thing is, I'm not crazy about technology, but if you're anything like me, you'll know it's easier said than done escaping it. Even when it comes to taking that much-needed 'getaway', we rely on the likes of HomeAway to book our accommodation and read independent reviews, and can't seem to help posting pictures of ourselves grinning mid-adventure. Whether it's so our friends and family can see how much fun we're having, or to inspire envy of our exciting escapades away from home, is debatable!
But while we're living in an increasingly digitalised world, it's important to switch off now and again. Mark Hillary's recent article only serves to emphasise that of all Europeans, us Brits are the worst for whacking away the Blackberry and simply soaking up serenity and solitude: the truth is, we don't know how to de-stress. That's why I've researched some low key locations where you can truly unplug from the mains: from unspoilt Scottish wildernesses to hippy hangouts in Sri Lanka, these are five destinations I certainly wouldn't mind disconnecting for. So go on: switch off that smartphone for five, or at least start using it to plan a holiday!
Located just off the coast of Tanzania, you'll find the dream-worthy archipelago of Zanzibar. Offering stunning views over the Indian Ocean, in which you'll find manta rays, dolphins and turtles swimming amidst colourful corals, it's a pristine paradise which demands your attention. You might find the urge to snap Stone Town, the island's UNESCO World Heritage Site and capital, difficult to resist (Freddie Mercury was born amidst its stunning, labyrinthine streets); but mesmerised by Matemwe, one of the traditional Northeastern villages; or the Red Colobus monkeys which live in Jozani Forest, you'll forget all about the emails you'd usually be busily typing out Monday mornings.
Spanning 750,000 fertile and luscious acres, the Cayapas Ecological Reserve is as breathtaking as it is immense. Here, you'll find the town of Cotacachi, its eponymous peak and neighbouring Imbabura, both towering over 15,000 feet high, and Cuicocha Lake, formed in an ancient volcanic crater. Wildlife wise, you'll come across llamas, Andean ducks, condors and spectacled bears, and a truly overwhelming array of tropical flora and fauna. One of the best ways to switch off when in Cayapas is by booking one of HomeAway's private cabins in Ecuador. Situated a short drive from the thermal springs of Chachimbiro, the traditional weaving centre of Otavalo, or waterfalls of Peguche Park, you won't have time to stay connected!
If you can't quite face the prospect of a day-long plane journey, but still fancy fleeing from those everyday stresses, look no further then the Isle of Bute. It's famed as one of Scotland's best spots for spectacular views and a sense of seclusion, despite its easily accessible location in the Firth of Clyde. Spend an afternoon wandering around the Victorian Gardens and Fernery, or admire the Gothic splendour of Mount Stuart, the island's stately home. Of course, it's also a great setting to get back in touch with the simple things: enjoy a spot of trout fishing on Loch Fad, begin birdwatching on Kilchattan Bay, or walk the 25 miles of the West Island Way to discover fertile farmland and forests.
Situated in the West Highlands of Iceland, between the glaciers of Langjökull and Hofsjökull, is the inimitable nature reserve of Hveravellir. One of the world's most impressive geothermal areas, it's a spectacular destination for switching off; whether you choose to travel during Summer or Winter. Jet off here in January and you're likely to spot the Northern Lights, while a jaunt in June won't see the sun set at all! Think bright, blue skies and even brighter, thermal springs, heated to blissful temperatures. Blönduos in Northwest Iceland is a great base from which to visit the park: from here, you could go whale watching in Husavik, swimming in Lake Myvatn, or fishing for salmon in the River Blanda.
Hikkaduwa sprang to prominence as a backpacker's dream back in the 60's, and today it's no less exciting. Nestled at the heart of Sri Lanka's palm-laden Southern Coast, it's got some of the best beaches for surfing and scuba diving in the country: perfect for those looking to launch, rather than lull themselves back into a laid-back way of living! You'll find the Kosgoda Turtle Project and Sinharaja Forest Reserve nearby, and the Unawatuna Reef - home to more marine species than the gargantuan Great Barrier Reef - is easily reached.
So there you have it: five stress-free destinations, where you won't want to play with your phone. Of course, there are so many ways to get back to nature, and tune out from the tumult of city life. Why not consider a short break in a yurt, bell tent or tipi? For more inspiration, check out our Glamping holidays page: with eco-retreats replete with electricity and modern conveniences, you'll stay connected in the best way possible.
Written by Sophie Gackowski, a travel writer for HomeAway.
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