From intrusive email alerts to constant social media sharing, technology is an ever-present guest at our dinner tables, in our office meeting spaces, and on our morning commutes. It’s even snuck its way into experiences meant to be relaxing and revitalising, like vacations. While electronic devices can certainly help ease some travel troubles, it can also be a relief to step away from your phone or computer.
Looking to cut your digital tethers on your next trip? Try one of these signal-free spots.
RAWAH WILDERNESS, MEDICINE BOW MOUNTAIN RANGE, COLORADO
Run by the USDA Forest Service, Colorado’s Rawah Wilderness rests within Roosevelt National Forest and covers around 78,000 acres of mountains, glacial lakes, and sprawling grasslands. Hiking amid all that natural wonder, you won’t miss your cell phone service. You’ll need to backcountry camp in this protected forest, so plan to bring everything you need—minus your tablet or computer—and discover the region by foot, since even bicycles are prohibited.
While there, be sure to follow the Forest Service’s guidelines to preserve this fragile landscape. The area’s peaks reach nearly 13,000 feet in elevation, but campfires are prohibited above 10,800 feet, since they consume the scarce vegetation. Campers also need to stay a quarter mile from Blue Lake and Hang Lake, where the Service is working to grow and maintain new grasslands.
Colorado's Rawah Wilderness area, run by the National Forest Service, offers visitors gorgeous mountain views and ample backcountry camping.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PATRICK LIENIN, GETTY IMAGES
HALAWA VALLEY, MOLOKAI, HAWAII
There are no direct flights from the U.S. mainland to this remote Hawaiian destination, so you’ll need to catch a flight through either Honolulu or Maui. This extra effort needed to reach Molokai is an indication of its technological remoteness, so plan to unplug while you’re there. Phone service on the island is spotty and almost non-existent at its edges.
Forget connecting with the rest of the world, and focus on connecting with the natural beauty and rich history of the island. Head to the northeast corner and hike through the Halawa Valley. The route will take you past hidden heiau, ancient sacred sites or places of worship, and will eventually lead you to Moa’ula Falls—a 250-foot cascade flanked by moss-covered rocks.
A road leads across Hawaii's Molokai island to the Halawa Valley, where visitors can hike to the 250-foot Moa’ula Falls.
PHOTOGRAPH BY RICHARD A. COOKE III, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
KOPAN MONASTERY, KATHMANDU, NEPAL
While it’s easy to use a cell phone in Nepal, a stay at the country’s Kopan Monastery won’t require an international SIM card. The focus at the Kathmandu community is on spirituality and living in the moment. Travelers can visit for the day, book a private stay, or sign up for a multi-day course on Buddhism.
There’s an internet café on the premises that guests on private stays can use to email and make photocopies, but there is no wi-fi on the grounds. Staying digitally connected is discouraged at the monastery. Staff ask guests to leave their phones with reception when they arrive and not use personal electronics in public spaces. There’s plenty to keep you occupied without technology. Take the time to join the monks' morning prayers, visit the nearby nunnery’s incense factory, or meditate in the gardens.
Lights illuminate a Buddhist stupa at the Kopan Monastery in Nepal.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS L. KELLY, AURORA PHOTOS
HORNSTRANDIR NATURE RESERVE, ICELAND
On the northwestern tip of Iceland, Hornstrandir Nature Reserve offers pristine natural landscapes to both daily visitors and backcountry hikers. It’s not easy to explore—you’ll have to arrive by ferry, and walking is your only transportation option once on land—but you’ll be rewarded with empty shorelines, lush valleys, and towering bluffs.
Since the region is so isolated, you won’t be able to find a phone signal or internet. No bother though, you’ll be too busy hiking the mossy hills and taking in gorgeous views of the Denmark Strait. Instead of checking your messages, look for the many species of birds living on the coastal cliffs and the protected Arctic foxes that roam the fields.
Hikers traverse a high mossy path in Iceland's Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL MAYALL, ALAMY
KAKADU NATIONAL PARK, AUSTRALIA
This Australian national park, named a UNESCO-protected World Heritage site in 1981, is a natural and cultural wonder—home to ancient rock art, a breadth of ecosystems, and some of the best-preserved landscapes in the northern part of the country. Visitors looking for an authentic Australian experience can hike beneath crashing waterfalls, spot saltwater crocodiles, or take a cultural tour with a local Aboriginal guide.
There’s little to no cell coverage in Kakadu National Park, so it’s easy to evade vacation-interrupting texts and calls. Though some of the region’s lodges offer wi-fi, you can avoid digital temptation by bringing a tent and sleeping in one of the many campgrounds, which are booked on a first-come, first-served basis.
Leave your electronics at home and explore South America’s penguin-populated Falkland Islands. The archipelago sits around 400 miles east of the South American mainland and is home to over 200 bird species, hundreds of thousands of penguins, and a human population of just under 3,000. While locals manage to stay connected through technology, it’s unlikely you’ll have the same luck when visiting.
However, you’ll be so focused on the excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, you’ll forget you aren’t getting email alerts. From sea lions basking on the southeastern sandy beaches to colonies of black-browed albatrosses on the northwestern cliffs, the islands offer visitors a unique chance to experience its flora and fauna up close. And the only electronic device you’ll need is a camera.
If you take the trip with National Geographic, you’ll get the chance to see king penguins along the beaches of South Georgia Island on the same trip.
A flock of black-browed albatrosses sits at the shore of Steeple Jason Island in the Falkland Islands. On this remote archipelago, the focus is on flora and fauna, not technology.
PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANS LANTING, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC