Escaping tourists can be difficult in some of the world’s more popular destinations, but it’s still possible if you know where to look. Travelling the extra few miles can really pay off. These destinations are in or near very popular places but are just far enough removed to offer true isolation and respite from your daily life.
Stay on an organic farm in Ibiza
If you’ve ever dreamt of escaping to the Med and buying a farmhouse, a stay at Can Marti will show you how it can be done successfully. Swiss owners Peter and Isabelle have spent over a decade transforming their traditional Ibizan finca into an idyllic country home and the island’s first genuinely eco-friendly accommodation. Couples can choose between three self-catering studio apartments in the old stone farmhouse, while up to four can stay in a separate arabesque, clay-plastered stone house that overlooks the estate’s sloping terraces of almond, carob, olive, pistachio and walnut trees.
If you’re able to stir yourself away from this country idyll, there are plenty of swimming spots at the coves and beaches along the northeast coast. One of the best, close to Portinatx, is Cala d’en Serra – an arching sandy bay (with excellent snorkelling) where you can have drinks and grilled fish at a chiringuito among the pine trees behind the beach. After a few days at Can Marti, dipping in the clear-blue waters along this less-visited side of the island, you’ll have to pinch yourself that this is the same island that thousands of the world’s clubbers descend upon each summer. It’s another world.
For directions, accommodation details, prices and booking see http://www.canmarti.com.
Discover the quieter side of Mallorca
The resorts of the Bay of Palma may define mass tourism, but away from these concrete jungles, Mallorca is surprisingly wild and beautiful – a place where hilltop villages and monasteries look out over sweeping agricultural plains. The Tramuntana Mountains – which stretch from the western town of Andraitx to the island’s northernmost cape – encapsulate this remoteness, and make for a great region to explore at a leisurely pace.
Based in the coastal town of Sóller in the heart of the Tramuntana Mountains, Tramuntanatours organizes day-trips into the mountains. Choose between walking tours, mountain biking, canyoning and sea kayaking around the coast. Groups are typically of four to eight people and tours include a guide, who will inform you about the native flora and fauna as well as the region’s surprisingly rich cultural history. You’re encouraged to find accommodation in and around Sóller; one of its recommended places to stay is Casa Bougainvillea, a small B&B in a traditional townhouse. The rooms are in simple Mediterranean style, there are potted plants everywhere and even an honesty bar for essentials. Magaluf it is not.
Hideaways in the hills of Kido, Grenada
If you’re willing to make the trek, Kido Ecological Research Station, lost in the dense forest of the island of Carriacou, is an escapist retreat like few others. From Grenada itself it takes two hours on the daily ferry, and when you disembark at Hillsborough, a one-street town that must rank as one of the world’s smallest and most laid-back capitals, you’ve still got a 30min bus ride to reach Kido. But it’s worth it: once there you’re treated to a panoramic view from your elevated balcony out over the sea towards the atolls and reefs of Tobago Cays, with animal cries and birdsong the only noises.
Accommodation-wise you have three options at Kido. The Octopus House sleeps four and has views out across the bay with a private set of steps down to the sea. Alternatively the Villa, tucked away amongst the foliage on a hill, is ideal for a family looking to get even further away from it all. Perhaps the most fun is the Pagoda, which sleeps up to ten and is popular with volunteers.
Kido is a working wildlife research station and rescue sanctuary, and during the turtle-nesting season volunteers help the researchers between March and October, by tagging newborns, marking nests or patrolling the beaches by night. The station also makes a great base to explore the island’s interior by foot or on mountain bike.
For details of guided ecotours, rates and bookings see http://www.kido-projects.com.
The simple life in Uruguay
Uruguay’s most famous beach resort is the brash, glamorous Punta del Este, but if you prefer empty stretches of sand and utter tranquillity to yacht-filled harbours and posturing models, then head further up the Atlantic coast to the charming Cabo Polonio.
A simple fishing village with just 140 residents, Cabo is comprised of small, rickety houses dotted arbitrarily among the white dunes, each facing a different direction. Designated a protected area in 2009, Cabo’s makeshift allure is now safe from the reach of ill-planned development. A few homes boast electricity and out-of-place satellite dishes, but the vast majority continue to function as they have for generations, without technological frills.
A Bohemian hangout popular with musicians and artists, Cabo’s calm beauty may spark your creative urges. During high season (mid-Dec to Feb) day-trippers flock in to visit the lighthouse and the neighbouring colony of sea lions smugly basking on the warm rocks. At other periods you’ll have the beaches to yourself for long windswept walks, bracing dips in the ocean and cloud-gazing.
To enjoy a taste of rustic life stay at Posada Santa Maradona. A comfortable and solidly built house, it’s a snug, off-grid retreat from the modern world.
For rates, reservations and directions see http://www.cabopolonio.com/restaurantesx.htm (Spanish only).
Go barefoot on the Andamans, India
With perfect beaches, dense rainforests and some of the world’s best diving, there’s much to lure travellers to the Andaman Islands, 1000km off the east coast of India. But it would be best to steer clear of Sentinel Island: so averse to visitors are the indigenous Sentinelese that when the Indian army airlifted supplies in after the 2004 tsunami, they simply took everything, buried it on the beach, and hurled spears at the helicopters above. They remain one of the last truly isolated tribes on Earth.
Elsewhere, however, development is happening at a greater pace. The main tourist hub is the island of Havelock, where plenty of beach huts are set back among the trees that line two of its beaches. The star is Barefoot Jungle Camp, whose complex of thatched cottages and villas is one of just two resorts located in the mahua forest that fringes Radhanagar Beach. Staffed by Andaman locals, the camp has set up the only rubbish-collection operation on the island, and is educating school children on how best to protect and preserve their surrounding environment.
For those eager to get a taste of deserted island life, Barefoot offers a few overnight trips to some of the uninhabited islands. You can sea-kayak, snorkel little-visited reefs and share the beach with unperturbed and harmless monitor lizards. And as you’ll be visiting one of the hundreds of islands on which no people live, you can rest assured there’ll be no spears piercing your tent while you sleep.
For details on how to access the resort as well as prices and further information, see http://www.barefootindia.com.