The World’s Most Beautifully Silent Destinations
I’m swinging in a hammock suspended over the balcony of my cliffside bungalow, which overlooks the Nam Ou River in Nong Khiaw, Laos. If only I could relax.
The frenetic, thumping beat of a distant sound system is cranked so loud, I can feel the vibrations in my feet. That, coupled with the muffler-less motors of the boats passing by on the river below, and I’m forced to take in the verdant, mountainous river gorge wearing noise cancelling headphones.
During thirteen months of nonstop solo travel throughout Asia, I learned a handful of undeniable truths:
Everyone’s just trying to feed their family.
Most people will help you out if given the opportunity.
We live in a very loud world.
It’s hard enough to quiet the mind in quiet surroundings. But entering a state of total tranquility with a Vietnamese cover of Jennifer Lopez pounding in yours ears? Forget about it!
If you’re looking for true quiet – sans noisy neighbors, crackling sound systems, and the incessant honking of endless traffic – there are still a few places left on earth where you can find it.
Kronotsky Nature Reserve, Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
Often referred to as the Land of Fire and Ice, the Kronotsky Nature Reserve is a 10,000-square kilometre expanse located on a peninsula in Far Eastern Russia.
The reserve is only accessible to tourists via a single day, 5-hour helicopter ride. The rest of the area is filled with giant brown bears, active volcanoes, the only geyser basin in Russia, and the complete absence of human noise pollution.
Selous Game Reserve, Southern Tanzania
This 54,000-square-kilometer game reserve is home to wildlife, the Rufiji River, and absolutely no human residents.
While hunters are allowed on the reserve and tourists are helicoptered in to take photos, the area is so expansive that a walking tour can easily usher you towards vast vistas of sweet silence.
As long as you don’t mind the occasional lion’s roar, that is.
Kalahari Desert, Southern Africa
The Kalahari is a 900,000-square-kilometer savannah that covers most of Botswana, as well as areas of Namibia and South Africa.
Throughout this vast expanse of land, there are only 8 human settlements. The Kalahari is home to the San people, an indigenous group who have hunted the land for over 20,000 years. If you don’t mind the sound of the San gathering edible plants, the Kalahari could be the desolate destination of your dreams.
Orfield Laboratories, Minneapolis, USA
This manmade silence chamber in the Midwestern United States holds the Guinness World Record for world’s quietest destination.
The room features fibreglass wedges, insulated steel, and thick concrete walls that block out 99.9% of all sound. According to the chamber’s creator, Steven Orfield, the room is so quiet that sounds emanating from the human body seem to grow louder and louder after just a few minutes inside. Visitors to the room say they can hear their heart beating, their blood flowing, even their lungs working!
Even in the world’s most desolate destinations, you’ll still hear the occasional roar of a jet or chop of a helicopter. Without human presence, the symphony of nature takes over, just as in the absence of external sound, the music of the human body crescendos.
Perhaps true relaxation isn’t accomplished in the absence of sound, but in the freedom to choose which sounds you’re exposed to at any given time.
For my money, I’d replace thumping bass and rusty motorboats with lapping waves, rustling palm leaves, and the soft thud of a coconut falling to the sand.
How about you?
Rebecca Anne Nguyen is a freelance writer and the Founder of TheHappyPassport.com, an inspiration site for solo female travellers.