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Park those big-city traffic jams and make a move for one of these car-free destinations.
1) Venice, Italy
Famed for its waterways, Venice is the ultimate car-free destination. Composed of 150 canals, the city is more water than land and, while you’ll find 400 bridges, walking isn’t always on the cards. Travel by way of gondola (or water taxi) and scout out your evening plans from the comfort of your boat – the gondoliers often have the best tips.
2) Rottnest Island, Australia
While “Rotto” (as it’s known to locals) has 63 beaches, 20 bays and 135 species of fish, the figures go down when it comes to car count. Swap your wheels for rollerblades and zip from beach to beach or get a bike and bus pass if you rate ease over exercise. Just like much of Australia, Rottnest’s prime offerings come in the form sun, sea and sand. Head to Salmon Bay for a spot of swimming or Geordie’s Café and Gallery to check out the local art scene.
3) Hydra Island, Greece
A jewel in the Saronic Islands, Hydra is a piece of Greece that appears to be frozen in time. Instead of Ford Fiestas zooming along winding roads, you’ll find donkeys clip-clopping on marble pavements. As a listed architectural reserve, new construction is illegal, meaning Hydra’s terracotta and white vista is safeguarded for years to come. Wander around the island and you’ll find that slow transportation translates to an equally slow-paced way of life. Languid lunches are spent at seaside tavernas and sunset dips in the island’s deep-blue sea extend into moonlight.
4) Caye Caulker, Belize
The definition of “island vibes”, Caye Caulker ticks all the boxes: sparkling waters, rugged coastlines, an incredible reef, lush jungles and a “no shoes, no shirt, no problem” policy. Naturally, cars are a no-go on this tropical idyll, but being only five-miles long and one-mile wide you won’t feel inconvenienced. Snorkel or scuba-dive until your heart’s content and when you’re tired out by watersports, head into the tiny town to check out the handful of colour-washed boutiques. Then it’s time to kick back at a beachside bar.
5) Ghent, Belgium
In an effort to eradicate traffic and improve air quality, Ghent has been car-free since 1996 – and the city’s penchant for bicycles complements its make-up. Whizz down cobblestone paths and along winding canals until you reach St Bavos, the city’s first cathedral and home to the epic altarpiece, The Adoration of The Mystic Lamb. For an altogether different art scene, make tracks to Graffiti Street where bold graphics in bolder colours are juxtaposed with the city’s historical architecture.
6) Fire Island, New York
If you’re a native New Yorker and not holidaying in the Hamptons, chances are you hit up Fire Island when the summer smog gets too much. Just 40km from the concrete and skyscrapers, it’s a haven of good, old-fashioned American fun. With no cars allowed, it’s all bicycles on boardwalks and bare feet on beaches. On the western tip (just off the south shore of Long Island) you’ll find Robert Moses State Park, an 875-acre stretch of immaculate beach punctuated by picturesque lighthouses.
7) Zermatt, Switzerland
Nothing quite compares to crisp mountain air, and as the highest village in the Swiss Alps (that is also combustion-free), Zermatt boasts some of the freshest. With private cars banned in favour of electric taxis, your best bet for reaching this Alpine haven is by way of the Glacier Express Train, which grants non-stop views of snow-capped mountains, deep gorges and running waters. Once you’ve arrived, switch to cable cars, horse-drawn carriages or your own two feet. Visit in summer for mountain walks in the shadow of the Matterhorn.
8) Lamu, Kenya
This Swahili island offers everything you want from a beach escape. As well as being home to spectacular nature, Lamu’s cultural scene differentiates it from your standard beach holiday. Founded in the 14th century, a long history of trade between Africa, the Middle East and Europe has produced a unique coastal culture that manifests in crumbling Portuguese forts, medieval towns, Arab mosques and Swahili settlements. Lamu’s town square is a hub of activity, filled with market stalls and school children playing football on their lunch break. Catch the sunset with a dhow boat ride from Shela Beach.
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