Want to do yoga or meditate twice a day while on vacation? Or explore your interest in sustainability and organic farming? Or simply enjoy fresh air and beautiful surroundings with like-minded individuals? Chances are that one of the following 10 towns could be your personal paradise. Just don’t blame us if, after settling in, you can’t find the motivation to leave!
Located right in the center of Copenhagen on an abandoned military site sits Christiania, a “free town” that claims autonomy from Denmark’s government and the European Union. Sure, Christiania’s approximate 40-year history has been wrought with occasional conflict with Danish officials, but over time, the two forces have seemingly agreed to disagree. Today, the area is home to about 1000 residents who own “shares” in the community or have applied to live there, and the town attracts tourists to its many art galleries, music venues, organic restaurants, cafes and cultural centers. The commune’s main market area, Pusher Street, is home to a bustling (and illegal, but tolerated) hashish trade and a strict “no photography” rule. The town is open to visitors with a taste for anarchy, and guided tours are even available.
This rugged and remote river village in Laos hit the big time in the 2000s, when the traveller trail echoed with whispers of towering limestone karsts, strong, home-brewed whisky, and a chance to tube down a river lined with waterslides and bars. A side of happy shakes, opium and ‘shrooms lured experimental youngsters to the town in droves, and Vang Vieng’s main street became known for its TV bars (screening episodes of Family Guy and Friends on repeat), nearly-naked Westerners and trance parties. But after a string of drownings and drug-related deaths, the Lao government cracked down on the party scene in 2012 and today, the town attracts a more holistic crowd. An organic farm, various impressive caves and kayaking opportunities lure those with a love for the outdoors. And tubing on the Nam Song River is still on… albeit in a much more responsible manner.
Due to its position straddling the holy Ganges River, Rishikesh serves as a pilgrimage site for devout Hindus and a destination for those looking to take advantage of the yoga and meditation that comes with such an important site. The town also attracts adventure seekers who’ve heard tales of treks in the Himalayas and world-class white water rafting. To mimic the Beatles (who wrote the White Album from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram that was since abandoned), stay in one of the towns yoga centers that offer up to 1000 guest rooms each at discounted prices (or even for free) to serious yoga students. You’ll need the yoga after dealing with the brazen assault from local monkey populations.
This town is an oasis in the middle of Chile’s Atacama desert, so it’s no wonder why the small grid of streets is frequented by free souls sporting indigenous South American clothing. The town is the jumping off point for tourists of all types looking to explore the surrounding desert, where geysers, salt flats, flamingoes, hot springs and lunar landscapes await. The town is rumoured to have a positive energy as a result of its location amidst a metal and mineral filled environment, but we’re willing to bet that all of the good vibes going around have more to do with the coca tea being sipped to combat altitude sickness. After a meal in any one of the town’s many decent restaurants (including impressive vegetarian options), there’s almost no better place in the world to go stargazing.
The city of Manali in India’s northern Himachal Pradesh state is the gateway to the Himalayas, but that doesn’t mean that all visitors to the orchard-dotted hill station are just passing through. No – north of the city’s modern center sit Old Manali and Vashisht, two hippie towns that feature a mix of traditional wooden shelters and backpacker-targeted bakeries. And aside from the stunning natural scenery, impossibly fresh air and unlimited outdoor activities on offer, theres one specific thing that attracts hippies to Manali in droves: some of the world’s best hashish is produced here. And though it’s illegal, the “charas” pretty easy to come by. Walk out of town in any direction and you’re bound to come across some funky smelling marijuana plants, and count on several stores in town to offer the paraphernalia needed to enjoy the local produce.
Pretty much the only things to do at Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan are yoga, swimming, hiking, shopping, napping and drinking. The large lake is surrounded by several colourful towns that are home to indigenous Mayan communities – a few of which are accessible only by boat – and this is generally a place where travellers come to indulge in relaxation, and not much else. Some towns like Jaibalito and San Pedro la Laguna feature daytime “clubs” where infinity pools seemingly overflow into the lake, while Panajachel is the lake’s centre of nightlife, where trance music pounds until the early morning hours. The tiny San Marcos has developed a reputation as the lake’s hippie town and it’s become a centre of yoga, meditation and mindfulness.
Burlington, the state of Vermont’s largest city and home to the University of Vermont, lists Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders as a former mayor and is where eternal jam band Phish was born. And as if those reasons are not enough to establish the town as one of the USA’s strongest hippie footholds, Burlington is full of craft breweries, farm-to-table restaurants and dive bars aimed at the city’s liberal-leaning student body and visitors to the beautiful Lake Champlain. The city is close enough to several ski mountains to act as a base for snow-seekers, and it’s surrounded by farms and hiking trails ripe for exploring during the warmer months. Convenient for that mysterious case of munchies, Burlington is also known for its local cheese, maple syrup and, of course, the world’s favourite ice cream: Ben & Jerry’s.
Jericoacoara has its remote location on Brazil’s coast is to thank for the fact that the beachside paradise hasn’t become overrun with mass tourism and over development. Jeri, as it’s affectionately nicknamed, can only be reached via a four-hour car journey from the city of Fortaleza, which includes an hour-long dune buggy ride that covers only 12 miles in the time. But the arduous journey is worth it. Because of the rare ability to look both east and west over the watery horizon, this is a sun worshipper’s paradise; it seems like the entire town turns up on the beach with cocktails every evening to see out the last of the day’s rays. The sandy town is surrounded by shifting dunes that shelter freshwater lagoons perfect for swimming, while the waters off of Jeri’s windy coast are perfect for wind- and kite-surfing.
Though it lies at the end of about three hours of nausea-inducing winding roads north of Chiang Mai, Pai welcomes more and more tourists every year. But somehow, the small town has managed to maintain its bohemian vibe – Pai’s streets are lined with homemade jewelry shops, yoga studios and tattoo parlors, and wheatgrass shots are as readily available as bucket drinks. Pai’s daily night market boasts cheap eats, while plenty of restaurants offer delicious Thai and international cuisines. The city’s nearby attractions include hot springs, waterfalls, a canyon and expanses of green rice paddies, and the best way to see everything in a day is to hire a motorbike from Pai’s main drag.
Nimbin’s hippie history goes back to the 1970s, when crowds of free thinkers rolled into town for the Aquarius Festival and never left. Today, the inhabitants of Nimbin continue to value sustainability and holistic living. But the town is pretty much just known for loving weed. Much to the disdain of law enforcement officials and undoubtedly the neighbors, Nimbin hosts an annual MardiGrass festival where marijuana enthusiasts campaign for herb to become legal. The town’s mural-painted main street sees a march and rally lead by “Ganja Faeries,” local indigenous people and sympathetic tourists, plus a MardiGrass “Olympix” with events such as bong throwing and joint rolling.
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