Top 10 slow travel ideas

Slow travel frees you from the pressure to rush around ticking off bucket list sights and activities. Instead, you’ll make more meaningful connections to the places you visit and people you meet along the way – your fellow travellers, guides and hosts. Taking your time enables you to track down out-of-the-way eateries and lesser-known landmarks, and to visit popular locations at quieter times.

As well as making for more satisfying holidays, travelling slowly is better for the environment. Your holiday’s carbon footprint is significantly reduced by reaching your destination by train instead of a flight. Slow travel also often incorporates delicious, locally sourced organic and seasonal food.

Read on for our top 10 slow travel holidays

1. Trundling from London to Croatia by train

It takes just four days to reach Croatia’s Adriatic coast from London by rail, following a relaxed and well-planned itinerary that allots plenty of time for sightseeing along the way. The picturesque villages of the Champagne region bubble past your window before an overnight stay in the Bavarian capital, Munich. From there it’s mountainous scenery through Austria and Slovenia before you reach Zagreb, and finally a scenic afternoon journey on to Split.

When to go: All year round
Our top selling trip: London to Croatia by train holiday
See all our trips: Flight free rail holidays
Read more: Flight free holidays travel guide

2. Off-grid Andalucia activity holiday

There’s getting away from it all… and then there’s spending a week on an off-grid eco farm in the Altiplano de Granada, peacefully roaming national parks in the Andalusian lake district while leaving Spain’s crowded Costas and steamy cities for others. Active families will love the range of sporty things to do, but there’s something to suit all ages, and of course you can do as much or as little as you feel. You can stroll whitewashed villages and historic castles, and go wild swimming, flamenco dancing, stargazing or caving. Or simply doze on a balcony in the shade.

When to go: All year round
Our top selling trip: Altiplano de Granada activity holiday
See all our trips: Family activity holidays
Read more: Family activity holidays travel guide

3. Take the slow boat to Cairo

Join the cargo cult as you discover one of the best-kept secrets in travel with a unique, flight-free odyssey from London to Cairo by rail and sea. The sea part via a working freighter from Salerno in Italy to Israel, dining with captain and crew in the officers’ mess and dispensing with onboard entertainment and buffet meals in favour of a sailor’s life. This two-week adventure tacks along at a gentle pace, culminating at the Great Pyramids of Egypt, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

When to go: All year-round
Our top selling trip: London to Cairo over land and sea
See all our trips: Flight-free holidays
Read more: Flight free holidays travel guide

4. Sailing Skye & the Small Isles

Discover some of the wildest and least-explored reaches of Scotland’s Small Isles aboard a small wooden sailing vessel. The boat has plenty of stories, repurposed and crewed by a seafaring Scottish family with unrivalled knowledge of the area. Watching out for marine wildlife, including otters, whales, sea eagles and even orcas, your route will follow the whims of the weather, tidal conditions and your own interests as you move between Oronsay, Eigg, Canna, Rum and Skye.

When to go: April to September
Our top selling trip: Skye and the Small Isles sailing holiday
See all our trips: Scotland small ship cruising holidays
Read more: Small ship cruising in Scotland travel guide

5. London to Georgia by train

Georgia remains one of Europe’s least-visited countries. Getting there by train adds another layer of mystery, romance and adventure. Travelling from London to Zurich, you’ll continue over the Arlberg Pass into the Austrian Tyrol, pausing to take in the architectural treasures of Vienna and Budapest before reaching the wilds of Romanian Transylvania. Then it’s on through the Carpathians, a sleeper train to Istanbul, and a private car journey for the final leg to Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast. By taking your time the whole way, the cities and landscapes are allowed to breathe like a fine Georgian wine.

“Travelling to Georgia by train the most memorable section is through eastern Turkey,” says Jim Louth, founder of our partner Undiscovered Destinations. “The Dogu Express journey is absolutely stunning: remote and mountainous, trundling along a single line. There’s a restaurant car where you can enjoy simple meals like kebabs and a glass of wine while you soak up the views.”

When to go: All year round
Our top selling trip: London to Georgia by train holiday
See all our trips: Flight free rail holidays
Read more: Flight free holidays travel guide

6. Yoga & hiking in Austria

Relaxingly active is the name of the game with a tranquil, adults-only retreat in a family-run mountain chalet. Drink in views of the Hohe Tauern National Park every morning from the inhouse yoga studio, then trek in the company of a local guide knowledgeable about the area’s flora and fauna, and capable of identifying the various Alpine species you spot. Meals – healthy, plant-based, organic and seasonal all the way – are served in a cosy atmosphere conducive to getting to know your hosts and fellow guests.

When to go: May to September
Our top selling trip: Austria yoga and walking holiday
See all our trips: Walking combination holidays
Read more: Walking combination holidays travel guide

7. Walking & cooking in the Italian Alps

Enjoy a holiday for the senses and the soul at a family-run B&B in Piedmont. And as if you weren’t far enough away from it all, in the height of summer you can take the chairlift above the tree line to hike in pure tranquillity. Leave space in your backpack too. Your hosts will recommend artisan producers in the vicinity whose cheeses, wines and liqueurs made with local herbs can be sampled. Cooking classes focus on regional specialities and seasonal favourites, with market day a particular highlight. This is slow travel, with slow food at its heart.

When to go: April to November
Our top selling trip: Italian Alps walking and cooking holiday
See all our trips: Cooking & food holidays
Read more: Cooking & food holidays travel guide
[We had] the feeling of really getting to know, in a personal and down to earth way, about a new place with its own distinct culture and traditions.
– Kay Garvey on our walking and cooking holiday in the Italian Alps

8. Calm cruising in Croatia

Rarely anything less than idyllic, Croatia’s Adriatic coast is at its finest when explored in a leisurely fashion. Cruise between sandy bays, tiny fishing harbours and islands that bejewel a sea that beckons you in for a swim. You’ll pause for lunch in sleepy tavernas, dining on fresh local produce. Dip bread into olive oil – or your nose into a glass of wine at a family-run vineyard – and use your captain’s knowledge of the cruise ship schedule to see Dubrovnik when it’s most quiet.

When to go: April to October
Our top selling trip: Southern Croatia cruise in comfort
See all our trips: Croatia small ship cruising holidays
Read more: Small ship cruising travel guide

9. Immersive wilderness trekking in Mongolia

Hosted by local herders, you’ll explore traditional ways of life and awe-inspiring landscapes in Mongolia’s remote north, travelling across forest, open steppe and mountains via Lake Khovsgol. You’ll also attend a small festival celebrating Mongolian horsemanship and discover the herding lifestyle with a horseback trek following grazing cattle. Group sizes are kept to just six for the most immersive experience and to minimise your trip’s impact on Mongolian communities not prepared for large numbers of visitors.

When to go: July
Our top selling trip: Exploratory trekking holiday in Mongolia
See all our trips: Mongolia walking holidays
Read more: Mongolia travel guide

10. Sedate, self-guided cycling in Sweden

The Sörmland region southwest of Stockholm is heavenly for cycling, with lakeside tracks and coastal routes that you can meander along, through seaside villages and dense forest, stopping for a picnic lunch whenever you feel like it. This is a charming way to explore the Swedish countryside, its lakes and undulating landscapes, as well as the palaces, manor houses and castles dotted around. Perfect for families, it also allows for a little canoeing. Self-guided routes are carefully plotted by our experienced partners, so that you’ll never need to accelerate beyond a gentle pedal.

When to go: May to September
Our top selling trip: Sweden self-guided cycling holiday
See all our trips: Sweden cycling holidays
Read more: Sweden cycling holidays travel guide
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: angela pham] [1. Trundling from London to Croatia by train: Tom Wheatley] [4. Sailing Skye & the Small Isles: St Hilda Sea Adventures] [7. Walking & cooking in the Italian Alps: Megan Cole] [10. Sedate, self-guided cycling in Sweden: Efraimstochter]