7 Off-the-Grid Travel Destinations
“I checked myself into the Ananda Spa for a crash course in balance. Located in northern India, surrounded by the white-capped Himalayas, the resort is renowned for its Ayurvedic program: an ancient study of natural medicine designed to align body and mind. This region, a part of India that is alcohol-free and vegetarian, is the birthplace of meditation and yoga. I wondered if a New York hedonist like me could survive it. After an initial assessment, I was prescribed a diet of broths, juices and cooked vegetables to recalibrate my body (which runs cold, I’m told), and over the next four days I underwent 24 mind-body healing treatments, from hot basalt stone massages to therapeutic sweating and meditation, in order to shed toxins and induce relaxation. It wasn’t all easy, but after day two I could feel the transformation from within. By the time I boarded the plane home, I was a new person: focused, supercharged, calm—and ready to bring some balance to my frenetic life back home.” —Melanie Dunea, author and photographer, @melaniedunea
STAY Ananda Spa is a colonial-style hotel tucked into the foothills of the Himalayas above the city of Rishikesh. Choose from more than 80 traditional Ayurvedic and Western wellness treatments. &Beyond travel (andbeyond.com) organizes airport transfers, hotels and local guides to the area. From $450 per night; anandaspa.com.
DO Rishikesh, about 45 minutes by car from the Ananda, is home to the famous “Beatles Ashram,” where the Fab Four penned most of the White Album. While the chef caters meals to your regimen at the Ananda, there are many healthy options in town as well. Near the famous Lakshman Jhula bridge, drink a good strong coffee or herbal tea at Devraj Coffee Corner and German Bakery and buy some local honey at Honey Hut. Stock up on Himalayan pink salt, aromatherapy oils, herbal teas and local soaps at Arora Provision Store.
Big Sur, California
“I love how peaceful trail running is here. My favorite course is the Ventana Double Cone, an out-and-back from Bottcher’s Gap campground that climbs up to a high peak where you can see the whole Ventana Wilderness and incredible ocean views. It’s 29 miles and takes seven hours, but to run that and never see anyone else is pretty awesome. For something shorter, Andrew Molera State Park has a six-mile loop or a one-mile path out to the ocean. And, of course, Big Sur Bakery for pizza or just-out-of-the-oven breads is a must post-run.” —Justin Cogley, chef, @justincogley
STAY The Post Ranch Inn is made up of small buildings set on a ridge high above the Pacific to maximize the spectacular views (from $675 per night; postranchinn.com). The hotel will pack you a lunch to take down the Pacific Coast Highway in a Lexus convertible that guests can borrow. The 500-acre Carmel Valley Ranch recently completed a major face-lift, including 30 new suites with comfy outdoor living rooms (from $300 per night; carmelvalleyranch.com). Its Valley Kitchen restaurant has a new terrace for treetop dining.
DO With everything from surfing to hiking to trail running, this stretch of California coastline is paradise for people who cringe at the thought of working out indoors. For a meal worth changing out of your workout gear, head to Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel to try chef Justin Cogley’s incredible, globally influenced tasting menu.
Chiang Rai, Thailand
“In the Golden Triangle, where Burma, Laos and Thailand dovetail, you’ll find the Four Seasons’ village of canvas-top tents surrounded by bamboo forest, tea fields and lush mountains. Perhaps the most magical thing about the place is that it’s also a wellness sanctuary for elephants. In the morning, their low rumbles gently shake me from my plush pillow-top bed—just early enough to catch the sunrise over the misty Laos mountains. I feed these two-ton beauties a breakfast of bananas before a spiritual ‘mahout-style’ bareback ride through camp.” —Kate Donnelly, travel writer, @k8bdonnelly
STAY The Four Seasons Tented Camp, located in a remote bamboo jungle of expansive hills and grasslands, combines a luxury hotel with a close-to-nature feeling that’s hard to find outside a campground. Aside from the 15 luxury tents, there’s also a brand-new two-bedroom lodge. From $1,660 per night; fourseasons.com.
DO Two open-air salas offer spa treatments that feature the healing traditions of nearby hill tribes using local oils like energizing lemongrass and ginger. The Four Seasons’ restaurant Nong Yao serves great versions of classic Thai, Burmese and Laotian dishes, or you can book a private dinner in the wine cellar.
Pumphouse Point, Tasmania
“I traveled to the hotel by seaplane, which was an incredible way to arrive. As we dipped under the misty clouds, the breathtaking Pumphouse Point, a former power station, suddenly came into view. Surrounded by infinite mountains, in the middle of the majestic Lake St. Clair, I was awestruck by the area’s natural beauty. There’s nothing around for miles, but that’s exactly why you go there.” —Sharyn Cairns, photographer, @sharyncairns
STAY Pumphouse Point, a 1940s hydroelectric station transformed into a luxury hotel, sits at the edge of an 820-foot-long pier on Lake St. Clair. The hotel’s 18 rooms are divided between the midcentury-inspired Pumphouse and the Art Deco–style Shorehouse. It’s a two and a half hour drive from Hobart, but we recommend taking a seaplane from town for an even more dramatic approach. From $210 per night; pumphousepoint.com.au.
DO Start the day with canoeing or trout fishing, and walk the trails in search of pygmy possums and wallabies. End it with a glass of local Pinot Noir in the hotel’s bar. Take a day trip to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), the largest privately funded museum in Australia, located within the Moorilla winery on the Berridale peninsula in Hobart.
Song Saa, Cambodia
“There’s nothing like a private island escape. Some of the most beautiful, remote and naturally preserved ones I’ve visited are just off the southwest coast of Cambodia, including Song Saa. Full of white sand beaches and pristine rain forests, a short boat ride from Sihanoukville, its resort features a number of initiatives to promote responsible tourism so that these islands can remain the idyllic sanctuaries they are. For example, the owners built a marine reserve to protect coral reefs and fishing grounds, and created a sustainable food program with locally grown ingredients. I love to start the day with a traditional breakfast of steaming noodle soup (kuy teav) or comforting rice porridge (borbor), and I look forward to ending it with a feast of grilled meats and fish marinated with lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, turmeric, garlic, galangal and shallots. Between meals, I paddle board and snorkel around the reefs, and make sure to block out time for a deep-muscle Khmer massage, all of which leaves me feeling relaxed and invigorated.” —Deana Saukam, food and travel writer, @faimfatale
STAY Song Saa spans two tiny islands, Koh Ouen and Koh Bong, that are connected by a footbridge—but locals call them song saa, Khmer for “the sweethearts.” About a 30-minute boat ride from Sihanoukville, the resort features 27 airy, thatch-roof bungalows, many of which open right onto—or hover over—the turquoise water. From $1,098 per night; songsaa.com.
DO Sunrise yoga and meditation ease you into the day as you work your way up to kayaking and a trek through the rain forest. Wind down with a Khmer massage and a tropical cocktail on the beach at the Driftwood Bar.
“Outside of Reykjavik, the landscape quickly reverts to its natural state: glacial lagoons; lush, grassy hills; and rushing, rocky rivers. It’s one of the most unique places I’ve ever visited. My ideal day would include a hike to the Reykjadalur Hot Springs, followed by a visit to the incredible Skogafoss, Svartifoss or Seljalandsfoss waterfalls. Or a walk on the stunning, eerie black sand beach in Vik, with a soak in the steamy Seljavallalaug natural pool, followed by a tomato-infused lunch in the greenhouse at Fridheimar Farm in Reykholt. Every stretch of road brings something entirely new.” —Lauren Wells, travel writer, @laurenswells
STAY The Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel in Selfoss is a minimalist oasis surrounded by lava fields, in what feels like the middle of nowhere. Situated near Thingvellir National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, it’s an ideal base for exploring Iceland’s geological wonders. From $300 per night; ioniceland.is.
DO All that hiking and hot spring soaking can work up an appetite. The family-run Fridheimar Farm (fridheimar.is) serves a fantastic lunch in its greenhouse, with fresh herbs you snip yourself. For a cozy seaside lunch in the Western Fjords, book a table at Bjargarsteinn Mathús (bjargarsteinn.is), and follow it up with a hike along the spectacular cliff from Fjöruhúsid to Arnarstapi.
Sawtooth Valley, Idaho
“Winter in the Sawtooths is about getting away from it all: cooking meals in your rented cabin, visiting the local saloon after a day of backcountry skiing, soaking in the hot springs. One of my favorite spots is the Elkhorn Boat Box [pictured]—it’s like a hot tub in the middle of the wilderness on the banks of the Salmon River. You fill it yourself with piping-hot geothermal water that comes straight out of the hillside.” —Greta Rybus, photographer, @gretarybus
STAY While many resorts in the Sawtooth Valley, including the famed Redfish Lake Lodge (from $76 per night; redfishlake.com), are only open May through October, Mountain Village in Stanley operates year-round—it also has a market, a gas station and a saloon (from $77 per night; mountainvillage.com). Another worthy option: Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch has 15 rustic cabins for rent (from $245 per night; idahorocky.com). SV Trek (svtrek.com) and Sawtooth Mountain Guides (sawtoothguides.com) offer hut, yurt and tent rentals for more adventurous travelers.
DO Stock up on groceries to cook in your cabin or grab a burger and a beer at Mountain Village after a day of skiing or snowshoeing. Stop by Kasino Club for live music and a whiskey to warm you up after a soak in the Boat Box hot tub. Mountain Village has a pebble-lined pool fed by hot springs that can be rented by the hour and offers incredible panoramic views of the Sawtooth Valley.