What is slow travel and five destinations to do it

No schedules, no travel guides, no stress. Traveling is much more than crossing places off a list. It's discovery, reflection and rest.

Always moving around on foot? On a bicycle? In a very old car? What is slow travel? Fortunately, none of the above, since more than a way of getting around, slow travel is a whole philosophy of life that began, curiously, with a McDonalds.

More specifically, with the one that opened in Piazza di Spagna in Rome in 1986. When the American hamburger chain revealed its plans to open that establishment, many Italians, who love their gastronomy so much, were deeply offended. Journalist Carlo Petrini, along with other colleagues, launched a manifesto defending the traditional forms of their cuisine against fast food, and cleverly called it Slow Food. That statement of intent promoted a change in mentality, encouraging people to connect with food in a more natural way, through communal meals, local ingredients, traditional dishes and preparations. In short: that food and everything around it be made with no rush and with pleasure.

That philosophy soon spread to other areas, creating an authentic Slow Movement, in which of course there is also room for travel. Thus, slow travel is the opposite of mass tourism, in which it is necessary to visit as many places as you can and photograph absolutely all of them. Slow travel aims for a real and deep connection with the places you visit, with longer stays in the destinations – for example, in local houses instead of hotels –, a calmer approach to different cultures and, above all, making the most of every moment.


Italy typical street

Slow travel in Italy?

What better place to start enjoying slow travel than where it was created? Italian history and culture are so interesting that it's worth taking the time to get to know them in depth. How about taking a boat ride through the different villages on the Amalfi coast, hanging on the slopes of the mountains? Or discovering the best of gastronomy by cycling through the olive groves of Tuscany? Rome – and its hundreds of monuments – is fine, but the country has much more to offer.


Lavender field in Provence, France

Slow travel in France – Provence

In the south of the country, far from the tourist bustle of Paris – the most visited city in the world –, the region of Provence still retains the charm of the most authentic France, the one that enjoys the endless types of cheese, the one that made painters like Van Gogh fall in love with it, and where even today actors and celebrities retire to go unnoticed. Its eternal fields of lavender, its hidden medieval villages and its unaltered nature deserve to be enjoyed with patience.


Hot air balloons over Indian sky

Slow travel in India

India is so vast and so diverse that it is common for those who travel there to go to various places to learn more about such a different culture. But there are some places in the country where you can take a break and just enjoy yourself. Jaipur, capital of the state of Rajasthan, stands out for the spectacular nature of its buildings – both traditional and modern – and for preserving the purest craftsmanship and traditions. Don't let yourself be carried away by the many tourists that gather there and take your time to walk around its narrow streets and populated markets.


Castle over lake in Scotland

Slow travel in Scotland

With its small towns separated by large meadows and lakes, Scotland is an ideal destination for slow travel. As well as having great modern cycling routes, nowhere else can you indulge in a spa session inside a train while looking out the window at the famous Highland landscape. If you prefer water, you can always travel on one of the boats along the Caledonian Canal, stopping at the different towns that cross it. And move past Loch Ness, it is not the most beautiful of all there.


Northern lights over Stockholm

Slow travel in Stockholm

Its large parks and gardens have earned it the title of Green City of Europe, and it is often compared to Venice as it is made up of thousands of small but well connected islands. This – in addition to its flat terrain – makes it very easy to tour the city by bike or even on foot without getting too tired, making it easier to stop at its incredible Nordic design cafes. Or discover its surprising gastronomy, dedicated in great part to fish. And, although it may surprise you with its low temperatures, soak up the street life that Swedes love so much.

These are just a few ideas in case you want to get started in slow travel, but remember that more than a specific place, it is a mindset that you can apply wherever you go. However, to be rested and make the most of every moment, never forget to take a travel pillow. What is slow travel? The best way to travel!


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