Travel today is often frantic with tourists zipping from one attraction to the next in an effort to take in as much as possible before returning to even faster-paced realities of home. Many contemporary travelers are fighting this cycle and embracing the ever-expanding concept of Slow Travel.
Slow travel contributes to a traveler's overall wellbeing as it cements a stronger connection to the destination and the people one meets along the way, and helps reduce stress levels after just two days of travel. The concept of slow travel is further embraced by the increasing market of wellness travelers -- a breed of travelers who take in destinations with light physical activity. A research report conducted by SRI International for the Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS) recently found that wellness tourism already represents a US$439 billion market, or 14% of world tourism expenditures. The industry also predicts the market share of wellness tourism to grow 9% annually through 2017, which is 50% faster than "regular" tourism.
"Walking tours really go hand and hand with the Slow Travel Movement. As you explore a region on foot, you are naturally immersing yourself into the local culture and getting away from the busy tourist areas," says Jamen Yeaton-Masi, Vice President of Worldwide Product at Country Walkers. "Strolling through medieval villages or lake-side trails invites you to slow down, enjoy the views and chat with the locals you meet along the way. Slow Travel invites one to savor each step without the pressure of trying to see everything. It's less about getting somewhere and more about the experience and the people you meet along the way. It's about spontaneity and celebrating each moment, encounter, and sensation."
Here are five trips for 2015 that are perfect for slow and wellness travelers:
• Slow travelers can let equines do most of the walking as they experience Nomadic Expeditions' Northern Mongolia On Horseback (pictured above) adventure through majestic forests and meadows to Lake Hovsglov, also referred to as Mongolia's "dark blue pearl." Designed for adventurous and more experienced horseback riders, a highlight of this journey is visiting the Tsaatans, members of the Turkic-speaking Tuvinian ethnic group known as Dukha, whose families herd domesticated reindeer for transportation and milk and live in teepees among remote mountains, lakes and larch forests. Guests also enjoy opportunities to hike and fish in the pristine wilderness of Mongolia. 15 days, from $5,495 (land rate).
• Country Walkers' new guided walking adventure in Kyoto, Nara & The Kumano Kodo offers the rare experience of trekking the Kumano Kodo - an ancient pilgrimage route that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The itinerary also includes the country's most-treasured locales in the imperial capitals of Kyoto and Nara, and concludes in bustling Osaka.The walking routes on this trip cross moats to a feudal castle, entering immaculately preserved temples with traditional and tranquil Japanese Zen gardens, allowing travelers to unwind and decompress. Guests will also stroll through narrow streets flanked by traditional wooden homes and shops. 8 days, $6,798 per person.
• A wonderful alternative to the more heavily traveled Inca Trail, the newly launched lodge-to-lodge Mountain Lodges of Peru Lares Adventure hiking program follows the Lares Trail to Machu Picchu and into the Urubamba Valley. Mountain Lodges of Peru recently opened two new lodges in the town of Lamay and the rural community of Huacahuasi (a third in the village of Patacancha will open in spring 2016), which serve as deluxe "base camps" for day hikes designed for a variety of abilities. The Lares Trail is noted for cultural attractions including traditional weavers attired in colorful dress, roving herds of alpacas and llamas, and a panorama of waterfalls, snow peaks and glacial lakes. Rate: 7 days/6 nights from $2,590 per person/shared accommodations; 5 days/4 nights from $1990 per person/shared accommodations.
• Guests looking for a slower paced adventure, can discover Guatemala, with its vibrant landscape of volcanoes, beaches, protected rainforests and UNESCO treasures such as Mayan temple city and Tikal National Park. The Big Five Tours & Expeditions' Guatemala Tour enables travelers to scale volcanoes and witness some of the world's most incredible biodiversity. The country is a gold mine for health and wellness adventures with myriad of activities including snorkeling, scuba diving and hiking. The tour also allows guests to experience the Mayan Empire via glamping in Uaxactun, trekking through the Iximche Archaeological Site, and visits to the colorful Chichicastenango Market, among the most famous in Latin America. Lake Atitlan will take thrill-seekers up close to the deepest lake in Central America, surrounded by three volcanoes. The Tz'utujil still inhabit the region and maintain many of their cultural practices. 7 days, $3,637 per person.
• Situated in the heart of the Laikipia Plateau between Mount Kenya and the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, Wilderness Collection's Segera Retreat is a serene oasis offering a unique balance of utmost luxury amidst natural beauty. Segera Retreat encourages guests to engage in a culture of wellness that extends from the environment to the communities surrounding travelers during their stay and nourishing their entire being - perfect for adventurers seeking full immersion in a Slow Travel experience. The Retreat's Wellness Center offers a variety of luxurious holistic treatments and therapies, which can also be enjoyed en-suite. The Spa's Rasul Steam Tower provides total mind and body relaxation with herbal infused steam treatments, and the salt-water pool is great balancing the body's equilibrium. Travelers seeking additional mind engagement can enjoy the Retreat's yoga training, which is offered in both group and individual settings. Rates from $1,070 per person, per night.