20 of the most relaxing holiday destinations

updated 7/4/2023
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Need a relaxing holiday? Get marooned on an island, or bask in some stunning scenery. Here is our pick of the most relaxing holiday destinations for a truly relaxing break.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for visiting the world.

Landmannalaugar, Iceland

The astonishing landscape of Landmannalaugar still feels remarkably off the beaten track in Iceland. Its mountains are streaked in varying shades of orange and brown (and at times, blue and green),

Those that do make it here come for the hiking or – and more appropriate for those in search of the most relaxing holiday destinations – the hot springs. These are about as natural as they come – scalding water emerges from underneath lava to meet a cold water flow, creating the perfect, scenic conditions for a soak.

Beautiful colourful volcanic mountains Landmannalaugar in Iceland © Oleg Senkov/Shutterstock

Ang Thong National Park, Thailand

Though Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan have plenty of perfect beaches for even the weariest of travellers, head to nearby Ang Thong National Park for the most relaxing holiday destinations.

This group of 42 small, lush islands boasts the kind of winning combination of sand and rainforest. Whether you dive among the coral reefs, seek out your own pristine bay or spot macaques in the rainforest, you’ll have left the stresses of real life far behind you.

Ang Thong National Marine Park, Thailand © Shutterstock

Budapest, Hungary

Stately Budapest remains one of the grandest of Europe’s capital cities. The highlight of any visit is undoubtedly the chance to wallow in one of the city’s restorative spas, fed by thermal waters from subterranean springs. The Art Nouveau Gellért Baths offer an air of exclusivity among its mosaics and stained glass. Meanwhile, the Széchenyi Baths are the hottest in the city, with outdoor pools and water rapids to add to the experience.

Where to stay in Budapest

Find more accommodation options to stay in Budapest.

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest - one of the most relaxing holiday destinations in Europe © Anna Dunlop/Shutterstock

Seychelles, West Indian Ocean

Seychelles is the stuff that tropical-paradise dreams are made of. Ridiculously soft white sand, clear azure waters and a lush interior that’s just waiting for exploration. It’d be hard for even the most stressed-out city dweller to not arrive here and feel themselves instantly relax.

Though the name conjures up images of honeymooners and expensive resorts, it is thankfully possible to stay here on a smaller budget – making paradise a much more affordable possibility.

Eden Island in Seychelles © GagliardiPhotography/Shutterstock

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Vancouver, Canada

Cosmopolitan Vancouver, scenically set by the water and ringed by mountains, feels like the best of both worlds. This vibrant, exciting city is within spitting distance of some astounding nature. The city itself has a laid-back vibe that has much in common with the US’s west coast cities. There’s arguably no better place to experience this – whether on the beach or on two wheels – than semi-wild Stanley Park, the city’s green heart.

Where to stay in Vancouver

Find more accommodation options to stay in Vancouver.

Water view of Vancouver City and harbour, Canada © canadastock/Shutterstock

Bay of Islands, New Zealand

It’s worth making the stunning Bay of Islands, in the far north of New Zealand, your final stop after indulging in the country’s plethora of adrenaline-filled activities. It is truly one of the best holiday destinations to relax. This subtropical region is best explored from the water. While here, you might get to spot whales, penguins and dolphins. Even the largest island of the bunch – Urupukapuka – remains remarkably tranquil.

View from Urupukapuka Island in Bay of Islands, New Zealand © Shutterstock

Sacred Valley, Peru

North of Cusco, the Sacred Valley stretches out towards Machu Picchu. Here, in the steep-sided valley, you’ll find the evocative Inca ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, in dramatic positions high above the river. Once you’ve spent a few days exploring, head a bit downriver to Urubamba, which is becoming something of a spiritual centre, to relax under the snowy peaks of the Andes.

Soak up some Peruvian culture on this whirlwind tailor-made trip to Peru. See the capital Lima, pretty Cusco and the Sacred Valley before you acclimatise to the high altitude of Machu Picchu, the greatest mountain city on earth and the gateway to the Incan Empire.

Sacred Valley, Peru © obscur/Shutterstock

Valladolid, Mexico

There are plenty of places to relax in the Yucatán, but head away from the coast to colourful Valladolid and you’ll discover a much more local side to the region. The greatest pleasure here is in exploring on foot, ducking into little shops as they take your fancy. Or tying the local specialities and cooling off in the wonderful natural cenote (sinkhole) on the edge of town.

Yucatán is calling you, and this tailor-made Mayan Heritage trip is the way to do it. Experience the jungle in a completely new way; enjoy incredible food, beautiful sunsets, and the warmth of its communities.

San Servasio Cathedral in Valladolid, Mexico © Shutterstock

Treasure Beach, Jamaica — one of the most relaxing holiday destinations

On an island that’s synonymous with chilling out, Treasure Beach particularly stands out as one of the most relaxing holiday destinations. The beaches are blissfully quiet by Jamaican standards. However, there’s still very much a local heart to the beachside community, which definitely adds to its appeal. This is undoubtedly the place to come to discover the island’s gentler side.

Treasure Beach, Jamaica © Shutterstock

Ubud, Indonesia

The cultural heart of Bali, Ubud is picturesquely set among paddy fields and remains a magnet for healing treatments and local art and music. Hire a bike and take a leisurely ride out into the lush surrounding countryside before heading back to relieve any aching muscles with a Balinese massage. In the evening, check out a traditional dance show at the atmospheric Ubud Palace.

Where to stay in Ubud

Find more accommodation options to stay in Ubud.

Discover a new you with this rejuvenating Bali-based tailor-made yoga trip. Enjoy personalised yoga and meditation classes, together with revitalising Ayurvedic treatments, all in idyllic surroundings.

Pura Taman Kemuda Saraswati Temple in Ubud, Bali island, Indonesia © Pelikh Alexey/Shutterstock

The Dordogne, France

It’s hard not to be enchanted by the Dordogne as it winds its way past dramatically-sited château and medieval villages. The region is best appreciated at a slow pace —whether floating down the river in a canoe, over the fields in a hot air balloon, or over a leisurely lunch in a sun-dappled square.

Even driving here is a pleasure. It’s hard to beat driving the quiet country roads at dusk as the river glints appealingly beside you.

Chateau de Castelnaud, Castelnaud, Dordogne, Aquitaine, France © Shutterstock

Bora Bora, South Pacific Ocean

Let’s be honest, you’re unlikely to head to Bora Bora for anything other than the delights of sun and sea. The ultimate way to do it, if you can afford to, is to stay in an over-water hut, from where the peaceful sunsets and vast expanses of aquamarine water are yours alone to savour.

If it all gets a bit too quiet for your liking, explore the beautiful lagoons by boat, hike into the interior or experience the vibrant underwater life on a diving trip.

View of the sandy beach with palm trees, Bora Bora, French Polynesia © gg-foto/Shutterstock

Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

The largest national park in the UK, and right in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, the Cairngorms boast the kind of jaw-dropping scenery that’ll impress you even in the worst weather. And if it does turn out to be dreich (dreary), it’s hard to beat cosying up by a fire in a Highland pub with a glass or two of whisky.

This tailor-made trip to Scotland's Wildest Natural Scenery is a breath of fresh air and perfect to explore the most enchanting landscapes of the Highlands. It will allow you to get to know the wildest landscapes of Scotland, its fast-paced history and its amazing traditions.

Cairngorms, Highlands, Lecht, Scotland © taboga/Shutterstock

Joshua Tree National Park, USA

The silence of the desert is what makes Joshua Tree National Park one of the most relaxing holiday destinations. There’s undoubtedly something otherworldly about the eponymous Joshua Trees (which are in fact yucca rather than trees). The park is at its most magical at dusk when the desert shifts into varying shades of orange, pink and red.

The best way to experience the park is on foot – clambering over giant boulders, hiking down to an oasis, or just finding a shady spot from which to soak up the silence.

Joshua Tree National Park, USA © Martin Froyda/Shutterstock

Kosi Bay, South Africa

Tucked up in the far northeastern corner of South Africa, right by the border with Mozambique, Kosi Bay feels like a bit of an adventure to get to. It is blissfully undiscovered by most other tourists. Hippos wallow in the waters around here, while the bay itself is fabulous for snorkelling. The beautiful stretches of sand are so quiet and secluded that you won’t quite believe your luck.

Traditional Tsonga fish traps built in the Kosi Bay estuary, Tongaland, South Africa © Shutterstock

Las Alpujarras, Spain

The hairpin bends that litter the roads through this mountainous part of Andalucía may mean you arrive feeling a little less than relaxed. However, it doesn’t take long to slip into the sleepy rhythms of this beautiful region. Spend your days exploring the quiet white-washed villages, tasting the delicious local jamón, or taking a leisurely ramble along a mountainside path.

Spring trees in blossom surround the village of Cadiar in the Las Alpujarras region of Andalucia, Granada Province, Spain © Caron Badkin/Shutterstock

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Famously laid-back, Amsterdam is not a city to rush through. Join the locals and explore by bike – at a meandering pace, of course – or wander over bridges and quiet side streets to discover the city’s most alluring side for yourself. It feels especially magical in winter when countless cosy bars provide the perfect respite from the chilly northern air.

Where to stay in Amsterdam

Find more accommodation options to stay in Amsterdam and read our guide to the best areas to stay in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam on a bicycle © RossHelen/Shutterstock

Nong Khiaw, Laos

North of Luang Prabang on the wide Nam Ou River and surrounded by striking limestone karsts is the village of Nong Khiaw. It is one of the most relaxing holiday destinations in Laos. While there are plenty of activities on offer in the surrounding countryside, it’s really about the simple pleasures here. Chill out in your riverside hammock, ideally with a cold Beer Lao in hand, as the sun sinks below the horizon.

One of Southeast Asia’s lesser-travelled countries, Laos is definitely off the beaten track. Itt has retained its culture, charm and traditional village life, wild jungle and stunning countryside. On this tailor-made trip to Historical Laos, you'll find tradition and mystery and a unique adventure.

The wonderful landscape of Nong Khiaw in Laos © taboga/Shutterstock

Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker more than lives up to its motto of 'Go Slow', and at just 35km northeast of Belize City it makes for one of the most relaxing holiday destinations. Best of all, at affordable prices.

This relaxed and easy-going island is only just over 8km long. The big appeal here, in addition to the gorgeous white-sand beaches, is the abundance of opportunities that the reef – 1.5km offshore – provides, not least snorkelling among the coral canyons.

Take this tailor-made family-friendly adventure through Guatemala and Belize. Discover Lake Atitlan on kayaks, explore the active volcano Pacaya or play hide and seek in the large archaeological complex of Tikal before heading out to Belize for its fantastic underwater world and beaches.

Palms and beach at Caye Caulker island, Belize © Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

It’s not hard to be blown away by the majestic landscape of the Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. The centrepiece is undoubtedly the immense Paine Massif. Of which the Torres del Paine themselves usually steal the show as they tower over the almost too-reflective-to-seem-real waters of Lago Nordenskjöld.

The vast expanse of Patagonia is home to extreme landscapes, from jagged mountains, stark glaciers, clear blue lakes, and grassy fields. You will find them all in Torres del Paine, a huge contrast to the start of this tailor-made trip to Chile in the historical, bustling city of Santiago.

House on the island in the national park Torres del Paine, lake Pehoe, Patagonia, Chile © Shutterstock

Ready to plan your relaxing getaway? Check out our Rough Guides books and start planning your perfect trip.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

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updated 7/4/2023
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