The world’s getting louder every day. For a dose of peace and quiet, retreat to an isolated beach, park or desert. Wait until you’re out of earshot of the crowds and then feel yourself become absorbed by the quiet. You’ll notice that, far from being silent, the natural world in a seemingly empty landscape is full of hushed sounds: a low hum from the bush, the soft wash of surf or a squeak of sand beneath your feet. And it’s this near silence that has the capability to bring you the utmost peace.
Olympic National Park Washington, USA
Although it’s accessed from Hwy 101, Olympic remains one of the least-peopled national parks in mainland USA, so you can wander without seeing another soul. Most of the park remains relatively untouched by human habitation, with 1000-year-old cedar trees juxtaposed with pristine alpine meadows, clear glacial lakes and a largely roadless interior. Reach the park’s coast and the only soundtrack will be the crashing of Pacific surf on wild shores.
Essential information: The park boasts numerous large, car-accessible campgrounds and around 100 backcountry campsites for overnight excursions.
Damaraland, Northwest Namibia
Damaraland is one of the country’s last ‘unofficial’ wildlife regions, and one of the only remaining refuges of the black rhino. Few people live in this ancient landscape and as it’s harder to see megafauna, safari parties head elsewhere. There’s even a petrified forest and fine prehistoric rock art nearby. You’ll likely have the place to yourself – just you and a family of elephants sucking up acacia pods like giant vacuum cleaners.
Essential information: Guides are compulsory when visiting Twyfelfontein’s rock engravings; bear in mind that tips are their only source of income.
The Empty Quarter, Arabian Peninsula
Covering 655,000 sq km of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE and Yemen, Rub al-Khali spans a fifth of the Arabian Peninsula. Long chains of sculpted dunes reach up to 250m high in this ‘abode of silence’, where cloaks of early morning fog further deaden any sounds. The Bedouin simply call it ‘the sands’. You can explore the desert with a 4WD, but be sure to bring all provisions with you.
Essential information: Arrange overnight stays or trips to the more scenic dunes further in with a tour company or an experienced tour guide.
Sparsely populated Northumberland National Park is one of England’s last true wildernesses. Keep an eye out in the woodlands: this is one of the few places in the country in which to spot red squirrels. Or take a glimpse at some of the world’s darkest skies (and the Milky Way) at Kielder Observatory. A section of Hadrian’s Wall – the Roman wall running coast-to-coast – also weaves through the park.
Essential information: Visit April to May and you’re sure to see lambs; or come in August when the moors turn purple with flowering heather.