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Image: Shutterstock / Time Out

9 flightless travel adventures for 2023

As we pledge to do better for the planet, these epic trips can be enjoyed without getting on a plane

Karen Edwards
Written by
Karen Edwards

As we all come out blinking from a bewildering few years for travel, it appears that 2023 is the year we’ll return to full-scale normality. All-out travel is back – and the possibilities are endless.

However, an entire return to normal isn’t perhaps what we should be wishing for. With the climate crisis and stories of overtourism dominating the headlines, there’s no getting away from the fact that sustainable tourism is important. Put simply, the way we travel must change for the better.

One powerful way to do this is by flying less, particularly as transport-related emissions from the tourism industry account for such a significant percentage of both global transport emissions and man-made greenhouse emissions. If we all opted to fly less, there would be a significant reduction in carbon being emitted into the atmosphere.

So, whether you’re planning to flop on a beach or embark on an adventure-filled journey, here are nine brilliant trip options to enjoy without setting foot on an aeroplane.

🏕 Essential ways to be a better tourist right now
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Flightless travel adventures for 2023

Guernsey by boat
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Guernsey by boat

An outdoor lover’s haven, Guernsey is home to picturesque coastlines and beautiful beaches. And it’s close to the mainland, too – the ferry trip across the English Channel takes just three hours.

Don’t miss the cliffside stroll from Saint’s Bay to Petit Bot beach, or opt for sea kayaking with Outdoor Guernsey to explore the neighbouring coves and bays. If you have time, take the summer Travel Trident ferry to nearby Herm Island for the day, where you can spend a leisurely two and a half hours circumnavigating the island on foot (there are no cars). End your stay at beautiful Belvoir Bay, where the fresh air, sea views and silky white sand will lift your soul.

Hiking in northern Spain
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Hiking in northern Spain

Known as ‘the mountains and forests of the brown bear’, Parque Nacional de Los Picos de Europa is loved by locals for its spectacular highland scenery, pretty lake views and varied hiking trails. Despite its epic energy, the park has remained relatively off the tourist radar, simply because it’s tougher to reach than other regions. If you enjoy being outdoors, it’s worth the jaunt. Family trips are easier by car – via the Euro Tunnel to France and then heading southwest into Spain. Otherwise, trains will take you as far as Santander, where Autobuses Palomera S.A. operates a twice-daily bus route to Potes, outside the park.

Interrailing (it’s not just for backpackers)
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Interrailing (it’s not just for backpackers)

Train travel in Europe is, on the whole, reliable and comfortable. It also enables you to explore at your own pace, stopping off wherever you fancy to take in the sights. Popular short routes go to Prague, Budapest or Munich, while travellers with more time can go all the way to Sofia in Bulgaria or Riga in Latvia.

An Interrail Global Pass allows you to choose, in advance, how many travel days you’ll need within a set timeframe. If you’d rather improvise, the Unlimited Global Pass offers unrestricted train travel over a month. Most local trains are included, so you can explore lesser-visited regions like Romania’s wildlife-rich wetlands.

Drive Ireland’s east coast
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Drive Ireland’s east coast

If you’re starting off in Britain, the ferry from Fishguard in Wales to Rosslare Harbour on Ireland’s east coast takes three hours and 30 minutes. The advantage is, of course, that you’ll have your own car with you for this scenic road trip to Dublin. This seaside town of Wexford is 20 minutes away from the port, while nearby Enniscorthy Castle – where Hollywood flick Brooklyn was filmed – houses an exhibition detailing the history of the region. You could also spend a night at the delightful adults-only Monart Spa. Further north, Arlow beach is a discreet spot to take in this wild Irish coastline, while Wicklow’s rugged cliffs showcase spectacular sunrises. Return ferries run from Dublin to Holyhead.

Island-hop to Gozo
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Island-hop to Gozo

Every point on this journey is worth savouring, from the journey from Paris to Livorno or Naples – whether you Interrail or drive – to the ferry ride to Valetta, Malta. Even the laidback 30-minute boat ride from Cirkewwa port to Gozo is lovely. The tiny island is home to just 37,000 people and is rich in local Gozitan culture and baroque architecture. Whether you’re strolling through the medieval Citadel, sunbathing by the pool against a bougainvillea backdrop or sipping a full-bodied red wine in a town square, it’s a beautiful place to unwind.

A circumnavigation of France
Photograph: Shutterstock/prochasson frederic

6. A circumnavigation of France

A road trip around France is a must-do at least once. Hop over to the mainland by Euro Tunnel or Eurostar. On arrival you must beeline to Giverny, where Claude Monet found inspiration for his famous lily ponds. Head west towards Mont Saint-Michel, or inland to the Loire Valley for ancient castles and crispy sauvignon blancs. Alternatively, stop at Reims for a steaming pot of moules marinière and a glass of real champagne. Bordeaux, in the west, is ideal for full-bodied riojas. Around Provence, you’ll be surrounded by spectacular gorges and lavender fields, not to mention the stunning red rock coastline between Saint-Raphaël and Cannes. Finally, Lake Annecy in the east combines bike rides and paddle boarding with afternoon spritzers.

Explore Morocco’s highlights
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Explore Morocco’s highlights

Reaching Morocco – on the northern tip of Africa – can be an adventure that mostly involves a series of southbound trains. First is the Eurostar to Paris, where France’s TGV will connect you to Barcelona via the glorious scenery of the Pyrenees. From here you wind along the Renfe Spanish railway through Madrid, Andalucía and Algeciras, before crossing the Strait of Gibraltar by ferry, to reach Morocco’s Tangier. Pick up a hire car on arrival and the road to Marrakech, Casablanca and Rabat is yours to explore. This is a three-day journey with overnights in Barcelona and Algeciras. However, as each train leg is ticketed separately you can stop over as you wish.

Discover Croatia’s idyllic coastline
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Discover Croatia’s idyllic coastline

Take the picturesque three-leg train journey through Central Europe to Zagreb (23 hours), before hiring a car from one of the usual car hire companies in town. From that moment, the road is your oyster. Head south on the E65 and E71 towards the peaceful sandy beaches of Senj, before continuing east on the winding coastal road to Šibernik. From here you can island-hop the pretty Kornati Islands or spend a week or so on a slow drive to Dubrovnik, stopping to enjoy a cliffside walk and the local wines and seafood dishes, alongside the allure of the Adriatic.

The Scottish Highlands by boat
Photograph: Liner /

9. The Scottish Highlands by boat

Local expedition cruises, such as those run by Hebridean Island Cruises are a wonderful way to explore the Scottish Highlands. Plus, not only will you see the region’s famous offshore landscapes up close, but you’ll do so in the company of trained academics who will share their expert knowledge on the wildlife, environment and local culture. Trips run from Oban in the west to Inverness in the east, with various programmes exploring the sprawling lochs of the western highlands. The seven-day Wildlife of the Western Isles itinerary – taking in Lewis, North Uist, Skye and Lunga – is a must in the spring and summer months.


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