Banned: Ten beautiful places you can't drive cars in

Thursday - 24/06/2021 09:10

On bike, on boat, on foot or by horse-drawn carriage, give cars the cold shoulder and explore 10 of the world's most picturesque auto-free towns.

Hydra, Greece


Hydra, Greece. Photo: iStock

On arriving on this Greek isle, the first thing you'll notice are the donkeys and mules that meet each ferry to transport goods across the island. The second thing is the silence (except for the occasional bray or neigh), a far cry from Athens' cluttered streets. A 90-minute ferry ride from the port of Piraeus, pretty Hydra in the Saronic islands lured Leonard Cohen and the boho set in the '60s, and is a perennial fave with Athenians, who spend their summers leaping into crystal-clear waters and drinking sundowners at tiny bars on its rocky fringe.

Hoi An, Vietnam

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Hoi An, Vietnam Photo: iStock

Vietnam's ubiquitous mopeds get short shrift in Hoi An's Ancient Town, so grateful wanderers can amble the cobblestoned streets, window shopping for silk and tailoring services without being cleaned up by passing motorcyclists. The 15th century port town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, admired for its French colonial architecture strung with colourful lanterns and photo-worthy shop houses converted to chi-chi café-bars. vietnam.travel

Rottnest Island, Western Australia


Rottnest Island, WA. Photo: Tourism Australia

For a holiday thigh workout, WA's largest island obliges. A 25-minute ferry ride from Fremantle or 90 minutes from downtown Perth, cars are banned from Rottnest, though cheaters can catch the accommodation shuttle bus, take a bus tour or join the hop-on, hop-off Rottnest Explorer, which runs in a continuous loop around the island, including Pinky Beach and the Wadjemup Lighthouse. Otherwise, bikes are the way to go, though prepare for some steep climbs, rottnestisland.com

The Medina of Fez, Morocco


In the medina of Fes in Morocco. Photo: iStock

Watchtowers and fortresses, souqs and venerated universities are all hemmed in by the ornate city walls of the Medina of Fez. Founded in the 9th century and rising to become the Moroccan capital by the 13th century, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city is a glorious cacophony of spice markets and saints' tombs, caravanserais and 14th-century hammams, still in use today.


Venice, Italy


St. Mark's square in Venice. Photo: iStock

Possibly the world's most famous car-free city, La Serenissima runs on all manner of boats, from cheesy tourist gondolas to slow-moving garbage barges, the hardworking vaporetti that ply all the main canals, and the nippy little traghetti, which provide a budget option of nipping across the Grand Canal for a handful of Euro cents. That's not to say you can't do plenty of walking in the 118 islands within the Venetian Lagoon – after the sun goes down and the daytrippers depart, the walkways of even the two main islands empty, satisfying even the most fault-finding flâneur.

Masdar City, UAE


Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Photo: Alamy

In the future, we'll give cars the flick: that's the premise of this pioneering eco-city in the deserts of the United Arab Emirates. Funded by the Abu Dhabi government, Masdar is fuelled by wind and the sun, and aims to create clean, sustainable cities. The snappiest way to get around the futuristic little city is by white, automated pods designed as personal public transport.

Old City of Jerusalem, Israel


Jerusalem, Israel. Photo: iStock

One of the world's most evocative walkways, the Via Dolorosa, runs between the Christian and the Muslim Quarters in the Old City. The historic walled route, where Jesus walked toward his crucifixion, gives the sensation of being in a giant maze. At their narrowest, the 4000-year-old city's lanes are shoulder-width only, while the main thoroughfares are lined with sellers of spices, tea, keffiyehs (scarves), hookah pipes and fruit juice stands. Beware the stampeding religious tour groups, who take no prisoners to get to the next historic point, be it a basilica or a Station of the Cross.

Dubrovnik Old Town, Croatia


Dubrovnik old town, Croatia. Photo: iStock

Not much was needed to transform the Old Town of Dubrovnik into Kings Landing, the Lannister stronghold in the gloriously evocative Game of Thrones series. While there may be no cars within the 16th-century walls, the limestone-paved streets see plenty of foot traffic. For a breather, look for a hole in the external walls near the southern gates – chances are you've found Buža (literally, The Hole), a rocky swimming spot in the crystalline waters of the Dalmatian Coast on the other side of the wall, complete with a café serving icy aperitifs.

Princes Islands, Turkey


Princes Islands, Turkey Photo: Alamy

It was once a punishment to be sent to the Princes Isles, which take their name from the royalty who were banished there in Turkey's past. A popular daytrip by ferry from Istanbul, the group of nine islands are in the Sea of Marmara. The selling point is a ride in its phaetons – horse-drawn carriages that replace cars on the islands, but bike hire is the other way to go. During the Ottoman era, the islands were the holiday hotspot for İstanbullular, who left a legacy of elaborate mansions.

Fire Island, New York State, US

A 15-minute ferry ride from Long Island is all it takes to shift from Manhattan mode to the wilderness of this low, lengthy barrier isle. The Atlantic Sea thunders onto Fire Island's dunes, which have a florid history of harbouring pirates and slavers, and cars are off-limits in summer, so ferries service the 31 communities on the 50km-long island. The two-day, 21km Fire Island Trek follows the southern beaches, starting from the island's key landmark, the 163-year-old lighthouse. fireisland.com


Fire Island Photo: iStock



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