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6 Uncommon Places to Travel for Healing Mind, Body, and Spirit

Luke Armstrong | Apr 16, 2024

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We travel for numerous reasons. The world is full of countless things to do, places to see, and people to meet. But sometimes, we travel to get away from the state of mind we’re in. Sometimes we need to change our headspace. Changing our actual location can help.

Our modern, Western lives are a lot of things, but rarely are they relaxing and rejuvenating. To keep everything in balance, take time for yourself, and reconnect with your values in the slow-tempo world.
We also travel to seek healing. Fortunately, there are some amazing places to travel to for healing, rest, and rejuvenation. Here are some of our favorites from around the world.

1. The Sanctuary on Koh Phangan — Thailand

a woman in a red dress standing in the waterKoh Phangan is most known for its debaucherous full moon parties in Haad Rin. But just a 10-minute skiff ride away, there is an especially special strip of coastline where a warm expat community of healers has set up an outpost that melds with the locals and mixes the classic version of postcard paradise with yoga, meditation, alternative healing, and community.
The Sanctuary Resort began as a humble outpost of dreamers on cushions on a wood floor. Today it’s a wellness center that draws health-conscious travelers from around the world. The Sanctuary's Tea Temple has a rotating cast of healers who, judging by first-person feedback and my own experience with them, deliver!

Judging from the vacationing actors, apple farmers from upstate New York, physicist, backpackers, college professor, and Twitter (they were still Twitter back then) employee I met there, this is a beach that brings people from all walks and budgets together.

Writers, artists, and creatives seem to be concentrated there at a particularly dense rate. During my stay, award-winning Australian writer Romi Grossberg led a creative writing workshop, and the other writers I met found the environment conducive to their craft.
Koh Phangan is also home to Wat Kow Tom, where seekers engage in nine-day silent meditation retreats. Everyone who emerges from one of these seems to unanimously agree they are powerful and life changing. 

With these retreats as your starting points, you could spend quite a while exploring the healing and rejuvenating outposts of Thailand.

a woman sitting on top of a rock next to a body of water

2. San Marcos on Lake Atitlan — Guatemala

Lake Atitlan is a Mayan word that means “where the rainbow begins.” Aldous Huxley described it as the most beautiful lake on earth.

Few lakes can compete with Atitlan’s dramatic charm. It is the deepest lake in Central America and, being surrounded by three volcanoes, basks in an otherworldly glow. Dozens of Mayan villages dot Atitlan’s shoreline, and one of them — San Marcos — has become a haven for self-work.
For yoga retreats, there is the Kaivalya Yoga Center. Those interested in meditation can check out the courses offered by Las Pirámides del Ka. You'll find a full schedule of wellness retreats and other happenings in San Marcos on the community bulletin board in the center of town.

Aside from the many workshops and goings-on, the lake is also just a wonderful place to just be. For around $25, you can hire a private boat and spend the day touring unique Mayan villages along the lake.

3. Bacalar — Mexico

a couple walking on a dockBacalar is on many Most Beautiful Places in Mexico lists, but it’s also so much more. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, not too far from the border with Belize, it’s still held as a treasured place to the Mayans as a place where seven “mystical” lakes lie.

As a local once told it, “Not only is this a place where oxygen first formed — in other words, life — this is a place where the elders of ancient Mayan astrology would come to read the stars of the waters. Why? Because these lakes are the stillest of the still, calmest of the calm waters that reflect a perfect mirror of the sky, day and night, all year round.”

Just being around these lakes plants peace through your entire being. It is the perfect place to relax, unwind, get on a kayak, take a yoga class, or enjoy some of the freshest seafood around.

Though it's apt to change any day, Bacalar is still a quiet destination and has only popped up on the tourist radar over the last few years.

4. Cenotes in Tulum — Mexico

Only a one-hour bus ride from the mystical lakes of Bacalar is Tulum, Mexico. Much more relaxed than the more famous Cancun, Acapulco, or Playa Del Carmen, Tulum is a beach town on the shores of warm Caribbean waters. While the Yucatan Peninsula has more than 6,000 cenotes, Tulum alone has hundreds, just waiting to help you unwind and relax.

Cenotes are natural freshwater sinkholes connected through underground caves and tunnels across the region. They’re popular spots for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

 woman swimming under caveOnce a spiritual Mecca for ancient Mayan civilizations, there are the known cenotes (and a few secret ones you'll have to put your ear to the ground to locate) catering to visitors. Even the best cenotes in Tulum can be affordable for travelers on a backpacker budget.

If water is what relaxes you, throw your worries away, grab your snorkel, and take a dip in these cool freshwater pools.

5. El Zopilote on the Island of Ometepe — Nicaragua

Ometepe promises to be what you need when you’re searching for rest and relaxation and need ceaseless natural beauty to find it. It's a staggeringly gorgeous island born from two volcanoes that emerges majestically from Lake Nicaragua.

Mark Twain traveled to the island and described its volcanoes as "Two magnificent pyramids, clad in the softest and richest green, all flecked with shadow and sunshine, whose summits pierce the billowy clouds.” Centuries earlier, when pre-Columbian Aztecs stumbled upon it, they were certain: “We have made it to the promised land!"

The best place to stage your peaceful unwinding on the island is at the ecolodge El Zopilote. They work to accommodate people of all budgets, providing everything from hammocks to huts. And if your travel budget is particularly meager, they are usually looking for volunteers on their permaculture farm in exchange for room and board.
The ecolodge is as green as it gets and offers jungle huts, daily yoga, easy access to beautiful freshwater beaches, guided hikes, and a cultural clearing house that contributes to the local economy while preserving the island’s natural beauty.

As they put it on their website, "Every week visitors of different nationality, gender and languages pass through the farm, investing their talents and energy in the space. This is a source of great inspiration and wealth for us as we are convinced that the positive encounter and socialization of different cultures brings forth long lasting fruits."

6. The Blue Mountains — Australia

Australia is one grand expanse, and the Blue Mountains is just one place of many in the Land of Oz to put things back into perspective.

Only about an hour from Sydney, the Blue Mountains has hundreds of hiking trails and campgrounds (and glamping if that’s more your style). You could easily get lost — and many have — in this wilderness.

Man looking over the Blue Mountains, Australia

Katoomba is one of the most famous destinations of the mountains. This is where you’ll find the Three Sisters, a massive rock face that plays an important role in Aboriginal history. One legend has it that three sisters fell in love with three brothers from another tribe. This forbidden love sparked a war. To protect them, a witchdoctor turned the sisters into stone but was killed in battle before he could return them to human form.

Go a bit farther, and you’ll make your way to Blackheath, a quirky, welcoming mountain town that will make you feel like "everybody knows your name.” The place is packed with charming B&Bs!

In Blackheath, you can find healing through arts, crafts, and nature. And if you're really looking to go deeper into the self, you can find Dhamma Bhūmi Vipassana Meditation Centre hosting different meditation retreats by donation. It's a marvel just to see the center in the midst of the bush where families of cockatoos and kangaroos are waiting to welcome you.

Protect Your Peace with Travel Insurance

When you’re traveling for wellness, healing, and relaxation, nothing can ruin your vibe quite like a travel mishap. Cancellations and delays don’t have to ruin your trip. Lost baggage or a stomach bug doesn’t have to be the end of your adventure.

When you protect your trip and health with travel insurance, you get the support — financial and human — to make sure you can carry on and have the experience you’ve been dreaming about. Get a quick quote at SevenCorners.com or contact a licensed agent. You might be surprised how affordable travel insurance can be.

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