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How Long is Long Enough? A Slow Travel Cheat Sheet

  • whl.travel
  • 22 February 2012

‘Length of stay.’ In the travel and tourism industry, this statistic is a big deal for a destination. Researchers gather data about it and government tourism offices brainstorm about how to increase it. But how long is long enough? For local tour operators, it’s a number that can influence the shape of their businesses and itineraries.

We’ve asked our global network of local tourism professionals about the ‘length of stay’ factor in their destinations. Answers varied, but they all agree on one thing: the average tourist isn’t a slow traveller and just doesn’t stay long enough to really appreciate a place.

We’ve shared the thoughts of 15 of our local partners on how long is long enough and what the average fast traveller is missing.

Lithuania Curonian Spit

The moving sand dunes on the Curonian Spit, near the town of Nida, Lithuania. Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/Lee Fenner

Lithuania

Average length of stay: Three days to visit the three main cities in Lithuania – Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipeda.
Recommended length of stay: One week at least. Two weeks would be even better to allow time at the awesome beaches on the Baltic Sea in summertime or Druskininkai spa resort.
How to travel slow in Lithuania: Cycling, canoeing, taking hot air balloon rides and relaxing by the seaside or at the spa.
~ Kestas Lukoskinas, the whl.travel local connection in Lithuania

Luang Prabang Laos local markets

Browsing the local markets of Luang Prabang, Laos. Photo courtesy of Stanislas Fradeliza

Luang Prabang, Laos

Average length of stay: Three to four days.
Recommended length of stay: Two weeks, in order to include outdoor activities around Luang Prabang, which is also to be considered in other destinations like Nong Khiaw, Vang Vieng and Vientiane.
How to travel slow in Luang Prabang: Practice the art of doing nothing! Just sit beside the river with a drink, relax and soak in the ambience. Rivers are the lifeblood of Laos and its key destinations (Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang), so take the time to travel via the Mekong River, as local people do. For example, take a slow boat cruise from Luang Prabang to the Thai border.
~ Cindy Fan, the whl.travel local partner in Luang Prabang

Malta boats

Boats near the Sunday Morning Fish Market in Marsaxlokk, Malta. Photo courtesy of Louisa Attard

Malta

Average length of stay: 8.2 nights. This number is quite high compared to other countries, mainly due to the many long stays of English school students.
Recommended length of stay: Between two and three weeks. Take your time with each site so you really can appreciate the atmosphere. Even though Malta is very small there’s still so much to see.
How to travel slow in Malta: Find more time to experience the landscape by foot. Go hiking in Malta, especially in spring. Take five days, pack up some camping gear and hike around the whole island of Gozo. You’ll be surrounded by pure nature.
~ Marco Attard, the whl.travel local connection in Malta

Rio de Janiero: Ipanema sunset

Surfing at sunset on Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Photo courtesy of Luiz Renato Malcher

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Average length of stay: Two to three nights.
Recommended length of stay: At least one week.
How to travel slow in Rio de Janeiro: Try the local brownie with chilly pepper jam in one of the cosy cafés in the Santa Teresa area of Rio de Janeiro. See the samba rehearsals on Saturdays at a local samba school. Visit a favela. Watch a soccer match in Maracanã Stadium. Sample the nightlife in the bars and clubs of the Lapa district. The list could go on and on!
~ Luiz Renato Malcher, the whl.travel local partner in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Solomon Islands Rennal Island bird watching

A fuzzy lake bird spotted on a trek to Niupani Village on Rennell Island of the Solomon Islands. Photo by Rennell World Heritage Tours

Solomon Islands

Average length of stay: 10.92 days (according to a study completed in 2009).
Recommended length of stay: Essentially it would take months to reach the 900+ islands on local transport, but you need about two to three weeks minimum to get a real feel for the Solomon Islands. Most visitors take the first four or five days just to slow down and stop looking at their watches.
How to travel slow in the Solomon Islands: Stop and stay overnight in a local village. Stroll through and watch how life moves at ‘Solomon Time.’ Sit down with locals to learn about how simple a lifestyle they have.
~ Kerrie Kennedy, the whl.travel local partner in Solomon Islands

Medjugorje, Bosnia - Apparition Hill

The view from Apparition Hill in Mejugorie, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo courtesy of Mate T. Vasilj

Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Average length of stay: Four to seven nights.
Recommended length of stay: Six nights and seven days in Medjugorje to see it well.
How to travel slow in Medjugorje: Attend the frequent talks in John Paul II hall given by local Franciscan priests of the Medjugorje parish. Find peaceful time for prayer or just walk through the fields. If you stay longer, you will have the chance to be a part of the Medjugorje local community. Stop for casual conversation with locals.
~ Zana R-Bilal, the whl.travel local connection in Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Florianopolis, Brazil- kite surfing

Kite surfing in Florianópolis, Brazil. Photo courtesy of Renata Asprino

Florianópolis, Brazil

Average length of stay: Travellers spend from five to seven days here.
Recommended length of stay: A minimum of seven days, but 15 days would be better to really experience the island of Florianópolis.
How to travel slow in Florianópolis: Get in close contact with the island’s well-preserved nature. Hike to remote fishing villages or to archaeological sites. Mountain bike to refreshing waterfalls. Learning to kite-surf, go birdwatching or just relax on the beach.
~ Renata Asprino, the whl.travel local connection in Florianópolis, Brazil

Ushguli, Georgia

Ushguli, the highest village in Europe, is towered over by Mt. Shkhara in Georgia. Photo courtesy of Ia Kverghelidze

Tbilisi and Caucasus Mountains, Georgia

Average length of stay: Seven days.
Recommended length of stay: 7-12 days. Although Georgia is a small country, all its regions are different from one another.
How to travel slow in Georgia: The best way to feel the Georgian spirit is to hike in the remote mountains, where ancient and medieval towers are still preserved. Visit Ushguli, the highest settlement in Europe. Compare the nature, architecture and traditions of the mountainous areas of Tusheti, Svaneti and Khevsureti. Other options of active travel are mountain biking and rafting. Georgia is famous for its wine. A wine tour in the Kakheti region, with advanced winemaking techniques and many vineyards, promises tasty wine and meals.
~ Ia Kverghelidze, the former whl.travel local partner in Georgia

Corfu, Greece- country road scene

A typical road scene outside Petriti in southeast Corfu, Greece. Photo courtesy of Jillian Wareham

Corfu, Greece

Average length of stay: Around 7-10 days
Recommended length of stay: At least 14-21 days
How to travel slow in Corfu: Since north, south and west Corfu are so different from each other, just spend a few days on each coast. Find Paxos Island. Go snorkelling or diving. Ride horses. Try cycling, walking or hiking.
~ Sandra Broedner, the whl.travel local partner in Corfu, Greece

Malawi - Nchima paper making

Recycling paper at the Nchima Paper Recycling Trust in Malawi. Photo courtesy of Will Turner.

Malawi

Average length of stay: Two weeks.
Recommended length of stay: Two to three weeks.
How to travel slow in Malawi: Try activities that are unique to Malawi, like visiting its rural areas, especially the mountains and rural villages.
~ Kate Webb, the whl.travel local partner in Malawi

Panama- slow travel art lodge

Boat painting at Slow Travel Art Lodge in Panama. Photo courtesy of Sandrine-Pia Casto

Panama

Average length of stay: Three days.
Recommended length of stay: At least five days.
How to travel slow in Panama: Look for traditional fishing and handicraft workshops with the local population, discover islands off the coast of Panama and visit Coiba National Park.
~ Sandrine-Pia Casto, the whl.travel local partner in Panama City, Panama

Borneo Malaysia- a Rungus Longhouse

Inside a traditional longhouse used by the Rungus tribes of Borneo, Malaysia. Photo courtesy of Borneo Eco Tours

Borneo, Malaysia

Average length of stay: One week.
Recommended length of stay: At least two weeks.
How to travel slow in Borneo: Visit the Mari-mari Cultural Village. Cook local dishes from Malaysia and taste local delicacies. Visit Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Springs. Taste local fruits when in season. Stroll through the Sunday Market on Gaya Street in Kota Kinabalu. Allow for two nights on the Sukau Kinabatangan river cruise. Stay in a traditional Rungus tribal longhouse. Finally, get outdoors on a three-day climb of Mt. Kinabalu or a five-day trek to Crocker Range or Maliau Basin.
~ Jessica Peters, the whl.travel local partner in Borneo, Malaysia

Shea harvest in Ghana

A harvest of shea to be used for shea butter in Ghana. Photo courtesy of M&J Travel and Tours

Ghana

Average length of stay: 10-12 days.
Recommended length of stay: It’s not the quantity of time, but rather the quality of time that’s important. Seek the kinds of experiences that enable you learn more about the ways of life of ordinary people in Ghana.
How to travel slow in Ghana: Opt for homestay accommodation with a local family so you can get a feel for their daily activities or simply spend a few days. It’s all about doing very genuine things. Sample the farming life, try volunteering and take an interest in local livelihoods.
~ Marian Thompson, the whl.travel local partner in Ghana

A giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

A giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Photo courtesy of Heather Rath

Ecuador

Average length of stay: Most travellers spend at least a week in Ecuador.
Recommended length of stay: At least 14 days to really experience the important destinations.
How to travel slow in Ecuador: Experience all “four worlds” of Ecuador. Take a tour of Quito, the capital of the world, then head to the Galapagos Islands to learn about the place where the evolutionary theory was born. Then head back to the mainland to visit the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest.
~ Sebastian Sierra, the whl.travel local partner in Quito, Ecuador

Dakar, Senegal - Goree Island

Goree Island, one of Dakar's biggest tourist attractions.

Senegal

Average length of stay: Less than a week in Senegal and less than two days in the Dakar area.
Recommended length of stay: Exploring Senegal would require more than 15 days, but if you choose to zoom in on just one or two areas, then plan about four days per area.
How to travel slow in Senegal: For a real feel of Dakar, spend one night on Goree Island. Dedicate one full day to the markets, for they are so different one from another. Spend one day focused on cultural places and traditional arts, and one night making the most of Dakar nightlife. Take one day to visit Dakar’s surroundings, with an excursion to Pink Lake (Lac Rose), Turtles’ Village (Village des Tortues), Bandia Nature Reserve or Îles de la Madeleine Reserve.
~ Jérôme Kardos, the whl.travel local partner in Dakar, Senegal

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whl.travel is one of the largest global online travel-booking networks catering to independent travelers headed off the beaten path, often in the developing world. The extensive whl.travel network today taps into the strengths of local tourism experts who, alone, are local leaders, but together have become a forceful planet-wide presence for the right kind of tourism, bringing to major markets all the local opportunities that can have such a positive impact on hosts and visitors. Visit the whl.travel website.
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Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Ecuador, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Laos, Lithuania, local knowledge, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Panama, Senegal, Solomon Islands, whl.travel,

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