The 12 Most Peaceful Places on Earth
Want to unplug, avoid the crowds, and find a few moments of Zen? These destinations are sure to soothe your soul.
Orcas Island, Washington
The San Juan archipelago is nestled between three great cities—Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria—and surrounded by the Salish Sea (which encompasses Puget Sound). Orcas Island, in particular, serves up the lush forests the Pacific Northwest is famous for, as well as an array of wildlife, from blacktail deer and river otters to mink and bald eagles. Moran State Park, spread over the eastern side of the island, offers more than 5,000 acres of wilderness, with five freshwater lakes and nearly 40 miles of hiking trails. Mountain Lake lies within this park and is circled by soft, wide trails bordered by native salal and salmonberry, red-barked Pacific Madrona trees, and heaven-scented Nootka rose. Listen for the gentle lap of the water and a chorus of birds. The climate is temperate year-round, but if you visit during the shoulder seasons, the trails will belong only to you. If you want to be one with nature a little closer to home, check out the best state park in your state.
If traveling to a very remote corner of the planet will bring you peace, then Svalbard, Norway, is the destination for you. Located close to the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean, this Norwegian territory has a population of less than 3,000. In fact, Longyearbyen, the largest settlement on the archipelago, is the northernmost-inhabited settlement in the world. "It's a remote land awash with glaciers, snow-draped mountains, and icy seas, and one of the last pristine wildernesses on our planet," says Emma Gillies of Nordic Visitor.
Polar bears reign supreme here, with a few thousand roaming the land. While these 12 polar bear pictures will melt your heart, just know that they can be aggressive, and precautions to thwart attacks must be taken in this region. Be sure to go reindeer sledding (it's the oldest form of transportation in the north) and dog sledding, and visit the ice caves, too. Another Zen-like experience is enjoying a vivid northern-lights display in the middle of the day from October through February, a period of time known as the "Polar Night" because it's pitch-dark 24/7. "You can see the moon throughout the whole day," says Gillies, "and with snow covering the entire land, it makes the days brighter."
Namuamua Waterfall, Fiji
A few years ago, Gallup International conducted an opinion poll on "Happiness, Hope and Economic Optimism" and found that Fiji is the happiest country in the world. While there's no shortage of Zen-like locations on this archipelago of more than 330 islands in the South Pacific, one especially blissful experience is a boat ride to Namuamua Waterfall. Because it's so remote, you're unlikely to find this spot on your own—but for guests staying at Nanuku, Auberge Resorts Collection, this afternoon excursion is a glimpse into a truly untouched part of Fiji's southern coast.
You'll board a traditional wooden longboat and relax as your captain navigates through rapids, past rainforests, and through remote farms and villages along the Navua River. Once docked near the small village of Namuamua (which translates to "where two rivers meet" and has fewer than 300 inhabitants), you'll hike over rocks and through lush scenery for about 15 minutes until you reach the cascading waterfall. Enjoy a dip in the freshwater pools, swim up to the waterfall, and dry off like a mermaid on the half-submerged rocks on the water's edge. No wonder Fiji is one of 20 places you need to go in 2020, according to travel experts!