Digital Detox Holidays: 10 places to get offline (at any price point)
Shut down & take off!
Wanna get off the grid on your next getaway? Pól Ó Conghaile has 10 digital detox holidays for the year ahead.
The Westin: Digital Detox in Paris
The five-star Westin Paris-Vendome invites you to deposit your devices in a safe on arrival, before checking in for a digital detox with a difference.
The offer, priced at €548 for two, includes one night's B&B, a 30-minute session at the Six Sense Spa ("ideal to ease your neck, trapezius and thumbs due to daily use of your devices"), a guide to the parks, gardens and open-air activities in the heart of Paris, a 'Sweet Kit' providing delicacies ("because well-being also comes from pleasure and emotion", don't-ya-know), and more. Get fit in France, anyone?
Details: +33 (0)1 44 77 11 11; thewestinparis.com
Donegal detox at Harvey's Point
Harvey's Point has been TripAdvisor's top hotel in Ireland for four years in a row, so you can be assured a restorative stay - with or without devices.
From February 5-7 2017, however, it's running a 'Donegal De-stress and Digital Detox Weekend' - including two nights' B&B, dinner on one evening and activities including a meditation class, healthy cooking demo, woodland walks, breathing techniques and group discussions ("speak to each other in more than 140 characters").
Packages start from €199pp.
Details: 074 972-2208; harveyspoint.com
Lizard Island: Great Barrier Relief
Lizard Island is a luxury resort sitting away from the crowds on Queensland's Great Barrier Reef, and it prides itself on having no mobile phone reception, no TVs and Internet access that is only available in its guest lounge.
It's a paradise for snorkelling, diving and fishing, boasting 24 "powdery-white" beaches, five-star cuisine, a top-notch spa and its own lagoon.
The long journey, culminating in a light aircraft connection from Cairns, gets you away from it all in the most literal sense - but prepare to pay for the privilege. All-inclusive rooms start from AUD$1,800/€1,240 per night.
Details: +61 1300 130 372; lizardisland.com.au
Ireland: Beat about the bush
Fancy unleashing your inner Bear Grylls?
In Ireland, bushcraft courses are available through several operators - including the Living Wilderness Bushcraft School in Co. Meath, Kippure Estate in Co. Wicklow, and the Lough Allen Adventure Centre in Leitrim.
"We suggest leaving the mobile phones behind," as the latter's owner once told me. "They complain at first, but they come back loving it."
Activities include fire-lighting techniques, navigation, shelter-building, foraging and trap-making… as well as the chance to sleep under the stars.
Basic weekend courses cost around €199pp.
Details: adventurewicklow.com; bushcraftireland.com; bushcraft.ie.
Lifehouse Spa: Ditch the devices...
"We like to be a mobile phone, Blackberry and electronic device-free area," says this Essex spa escape... though there is Wi-Fi in the bedrooms.
Similar to Monart in Co. Wexford, guests can hand over their phones for safekeeping on arrival, or store them in the privacy of their room if they fear going cold turkey. The spa is strictly a "technology-free zone", however.
A'De-Stress' SOS retreat costs £249/€293pp, including one night's B&B with dinner, several treatments and full use of the facilities.
Details: +44 1255 860050; lifehouse.co.uk.
Tanzania: Splendid isolation
You've heard of the Serengeti, but Ruaha National Park and the Selous Game Reserve offer as remote and exclusive a Tanzania safari as you'll find.
Arriving on small planes from Dar es Salaam, your pilot may need to circle to scare impala and elephant off the dirt-strip runway before you're whisked off to luxury tents in the Jongomero or Selous camps.
Having no mobile reception is one thing, but check out the hooters in your tents... these are to call the guards in case wildlife gets too close. Exclusivity like this doesn't come cheap, of course - expect to pay several thousand for a week's trip, including flights. Try tropicalsky.ie or scottdunn.com for packages.
Details: +255 22 212-8485; selous.com
Ireland: Four escapes from the phone
Silver Strand, Co. Wicklow
Another no-signal zone is Silver Strand (above). Just a couple of kilometres south of Wicklow town on the R750, you can access this stunning little cove via Wolohan's campsite (it costs from €8 per car). By the time you drive across the fields and descend the stone steps onto the sands, you'll be out of reach of everybody…
Erris Head, Co. Mayo
One of my favourite reception-free zones is also one of the most remote outposts of the Wild Atlantic Way. Erris Head sits on the Mullet Peninsula in West Mayo - a great, treeless hump overlooking the thrashing seas. Abandoned lookout huts, dramatic cliffs and a stone 'Eire' sign add to the desolation. Bliss.
Silver Strand, Co. Donegal
The phone reception flickers as you drive west along Donegal's Slieve League peninsula, finally dying out as you approach this magical beach at Malin Beg. Off-peak, it will be just you, a mind-blowing cove, and several dozen sheep.
The Aran Islands, Co. Galway
"If you long to truly relax and see old Irish life, hop a ferry to the Aran Islands," The Huffington Post recently advised its readers. "Most B&Bs and guesthouses have limited cell phone service, and many don't have Internet connections. But you won't crave your laptop with these breath-taking views."
NB: This article has been updated to reflect current dating, prices and new developments. It first appeared in Insider magazine.
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