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Engines off: Find vacation escapism on these car-free islands

There's no need to wait until the next Car-Free Day, September 22, to plan a trip without using this mode of transport, which is often associated with freedom and escapism in our culture's collective imagination. But that's certainly not the case in these six destinations

Published: Jun 17, 2023 07:55:20 AM IST
Updated: Jun 16, 2023 06:10:00 PM IST

Engines off: Find vacation escapism on these car-free islandsOn the Greek island of Hydra, you get around by donkey. On the Greek island of Hydra, you get around by donkey. Image: CJ_Romas / Getty Images

There's no need to wait until the next Car-Free Day, September 22, to plan a trip without using this mode of transport, which is often associated with freedom and escapism in our culture's collective imagination. But that's certainly not the case in these six destinations...

Hydra (Greece)

With whitewashed houses, cobbled streets and a laid-back atmosphere, Greece's Cyclades islands offer an exotic experience, especially when you can only get around by bike or by donkey. In Hydra, for example, there are no cars. The only motorized vehicle you'll see is the garbage truck. The easiest way to reach Hydra is by boat from the port of Piraeus in Athens. But be warned, a vacation far from the noise of cars doesn't come cheap, since this Greek island is one of those Aegean destinations where a comfortable budget is a must. The sight of luxury yachts moored in the small port of Hydra says it all.

Mackinac Island (Michigan, USA)

In a country as vast as the United States, where pick-ups and Hummers are proudly driven as signs of wealth, this island in the state of Michigan is something of an anomaly. In fact, Mackinac Island is a trailblazing car-free destination, having never lifted its ban on motor vehicles since 1898! Instead, you can travel by bicycle, or even in a horse-drawn cart. Get ready for a complete change of pace!

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Porquerolles (France)

France is home to many car-free island destinations. In the Mediterranean Sea, the magnificent island of Porquerolles is a fine example of one of these magnificently unspoiled places. One of the îles d'Or islands, along with Port-Cros and Ile du Levant, it can be reached from the Giens Peninsula, Hyères or other Var ports such as La Londe or Bandol. The turquoise waters of Porquerolles are easily accessible even without a car. Mountain bikes can be hired on arrival. Towards Cap des Mèdes, you can leave your two-wheeler behind and walk to explore a trail reminiscent of Brittany's landscapes, with its jagged rocks lapped by crystal-clear waters. Speaking of Brittany, this other corner of France has various car-free options, from the island of Bréhat in the Côtes d'Armor to the island of Batz in Finistère. The Chausey islands in Normandy are also car-free.

Also read: Road less travelled: Why Indians are embracing the allure of luxury road trips

Tuno (Denmark)

In contrast to the hustle and bustle of Copenhagen, visitors can take their time and live life at a walking pace on this Danish island, which can be reached by a 50-minute ferry ride from the port of Hou. Not far from the island of Samso, world-famous for its environmental initiatives, this little green haven of just 3.5 sq km offers a completely different take on seaside and/or summer vacations. Just like the 112 inhabitants who live here, you have the luxury of tackling the windy cliffs by bike, or even better, by tractor!

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Styrsö (Sweden)

Still in Scandinavia, Sweden has a car-free option in the archipelago off the coast of Gothenburg. Welcome to the island of Styrsö, a popular destination for those who love the seaside resorts of Northern Europe. With water temperatures of 20°C and plenty of summer sunshine, Styrsö has all it takes for a great vacation. Above all, the setting is stunning, with wooden houses silhouetted against the horizon, as if delicately placed in an unspoiled green environment. Here, you can walk or cycle to secluded coves and beaches for an out-of-sight swim.

Also read: What will 2023 bring for travel & hospitality

Alicudi (Italy)

When you want to discover another side of Sicily, head for the Aeolian Islands. If you've already been to Stromboli or strolled around old Lipari, you can reconnect with nature in Alicudi. The destination is currently relatively little-known, but that certainly won't be the case for long, since this island is getting more and more attention. The destination is perfectly in tune with the spirit of the times, with travelers looking for greener getaways. In Alicudi, you get around by donkey. It's not that cars have been banned here, but rather that there are no roads. Also, be warned that there are steps—lots of steps—so a donkey really will be your best friend in this destination.

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