Forget Wellness Fads – We’re Visiting “Blue Zones” For A Health Kick This Year

Dotted across the planet, these life-affirming destinations are home to some of the world’s longest-living individuals. Here are four “blue zones” to visit for a wellness boost in 2024

Another January, another attempt at nailing our New Year's resolutions, living healthier lives and finding our best selves, right? Only, we're pretty bored of smearing snail slime on our faces and visiting terrifying Swiss clinics in search of inner peace. Instead, for 2024, we're taking a holistic approach.

"Blue zones" are destinations around the world where people live longer than average; these life-lengthening places include the sun-kissed Greek island of Ikaria and Japan's balmy Okinawa. Scientists aren't entirely sure what sets them apart, but they think it's down to the easy-on-the-eye landscapes, good weather, healthy diets and - we're guessing - a certain "je ne sais quoi".

This year, visiting these hallowed regions looks set to be a hot wellness trend. Here are four blues zones to have on your radar.

Blue zones - where the healthiest people in the world live

Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa

Japan

This sunny Japanese group of islands - there are 160 in all - is home to some of the longest-living women to grace the earth. Their secret? Ikigai: the belief in having and articulating your sense of purpose in life. And, by the look of their plant-packed diet, for most Okinawans that purpose is eating well. Heavy on the soy and sweet potato, and with plenty of funky fermented flavours, the islands' cuisine is a highlight of any visit. Stay at the EM Wellness Kurashino Hakko Lifestyle Resort in Okinawa's Nakagami District, where spacious rooms, morning and evening yoga sessions, nutritious fare, and food and fermentation workshops will put a spring in your step in no time. For traditional Okinawan meals, try Kurumi Sha - you'll dine in a family-home setting overlooking a garden.

Ikaria, Greece

Ikaria

Greece

With endless sunlight and easy access to the ingredients that form the basis of that famous Mediterranean diet, it's no surprise that the Greek islands are home to one of our blue zones. Anchored serenely between Greece and Turkey, Ikaria's population lives, on average, up to eight years longer than the typical US citizen, with 50 per cent fewer cases of heart disease, and hardly any cases of dementia. Some put it down to the local herbal teas; others, the raw, unpasteurised Ikarian honey. We'd argue that the islanders' longevity stems from their love of a party: saints' day celebrations are common in Ikaria, spent dancing and laughing with loved ones late into the night, paired with gallons of Ikarian wine. Give the Ikarian lifestyle a try on a visit to Afianes Winery in Raches, where you can enjoy a tour of the estate and get to sample local reds and whites while learning about ancient Ikarian traditions of winemaking. When you're ready to call it a night, Toxotis in Armenistis is a 20-minute drive away. The hillside villas overlook the Aegean, and you'll be able to walk to local fish tavernas to continue the party.

Sardinia, Italy

Sardinia

Italy

In Sardinia, a cluster of rustic villages makes up a blue zone that boasts the highest concentration of male centenarians in the world. Fuelled up on a life-giving Mediterranean diet, and often found enjoying gentle hikes (and sometimes climbs), the region's oldest inhabitants have suggested that the secret to their old age is gentle ambulations in the steep landscapes surrounding their hometowns. Who needs gym memberships when the vertigo-inducing slopes in villages such as Baunei offer enough cardio to elongate your life by several years? Book a stay at rustic guesthouse Via Roma Charming Rooms, then wake up early for a day trip to the secluded Cala Goloritzé, a white-sand beach on the Gulf of Orosei. The one-hour hike from Su Porteddu, a 20-minute drive from the guesthouse, provides the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs like the local grandads.

Nicoya, Costa Rica

Nicoya

Costa Rica

Residents of Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula are twice as likely as an average human to reach a ripe old age, which scientists put down to their vitamin D-rich location, along with the complex carbs - maize, squash, black beans - found in traditional Costa Rican dishes. Residents of the peninsula, though, swear by their plan de vida or "life plan" - a philosophy of getting work done, and sticking to traditions. Investigate the concept for yourself by booking a room in a rustic B&B in the heart of Nicoya city; we'd advise a trip to La Tortillería for authentic, traditional cuisine. Need a break after all that work? Head to La Negra Surf Hotel in Nosara for some R&R. Situated at the edge of Playa Guiones' croissant-hued sands, with access to great waves, this place will soon have the years dropping off.

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