Eight Places to Visit Where There Are No Cars

Paris is banning cars in the first four arrondissements one Sunday every month, Bogotá does it every Sunday, and London banned cars for a twenty-seven kilometer stretch one day in September. New York city voted to impose a traffic tax, making people pay to drive in certain zones of congestion. San Francisco and Seattle are considering the same thing. 

But if you feel like getting away from cars altogether (for a little while, anyway), here are eight places you can visit where cars are never allowed. Pull on your walking shoes and pick a destination. 

Giethoorn • Netherlands 

Typical view on Canal,  Giethoorn, Netherlands.

It’s been called the “Dutch Venice” after the network of canals winding through the village. Float on a punt (flat-bottomed boat) past thatched roof farm houses and edenic gardens. Walkways allow bikes and pedestrians access to shops and restaurants. A few dozen hotels and B&Bs offer accommodations

Sark • Island in the English Channel

La Coupee Sark Island
Image Credit: Sark Tourism Office

Look up at the night sky in the city and you can usually make out Sirius. If you’d like to see more, head to Sark. Sark Island is an official Dark Sky Community with no streetlights to spoil your view of the heavens. There’s an observatory, museum, bike rentals, garden tours, and hand-dived scallops freshly pulled from the seabed surrounding the five square kilometer island. Transport is via foot, bike, or horse and carriage. A long skinny pathway, La Coupée, connects two parts of the island. It’s about a hundred meters long and eighty meters high, but just three meters wide — and there wasn’t always railing.   

Rottnest Island • Australia

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Go diving amongst shipwrecks, tropical fish, dolphins, and limestone coral reefs. Take a selfie with a cat-sized, eternally smiling marsupial called a Quokka (just don’t touch it). Zip around the island on a Segway. Or tour one of two lighthouses on the island. Rottnest is a twenty-five minute ferry ride off the western coast of Australia and the entire nineteen-square-kilometer island is protected to conserve the land and its unique wildlife, some of which, like those insanely cute quokka, are endangered.   

Little Corn Island • Nicaragua

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Eighty kilometers off the eastern coast of Nicaragua are two Corn Islands. Little Corn Island is very little indeed — smaller than four square kilometers. You can snorkel, kite surf, kayak, hike, explore hidden coves, dance in the village or go deep sea fishing with Alfonso or Elvis. Not only are there no cars, there are no golf-carts, no motorbikes, and no roads, only foot-paths. Relaxing in a hammock is apparently required. The island has more than twenty different accommodations resorts, hostels, and beach cabins, many of which go for less than $20 per night.  

La Cumbrecita • Argentina

LaCumbrecita
Image Credit: Commune of La Cumbrecita

Most car-free places are islands. This one’s land-locked. Situated in the northern half of Argentina, La Cumbrecita is a German-style hamlet about 1,450 meters above sea level. The once barren spot of land was transformed starting in the 1930s by the German businessman who bought it. Park your car in the lot outside of town then zipline among the afforested birch trees, hike or horseback ride to explore the surrounding rocky plains and waterfalls, or just stroll among the idyllic little town eating at one of the sixteen restaurants

Caye Caulker • Belize

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Caye Caulker’s roads are made of white sand. You can walk (going barefoot seems to be the preference) or take a golf cart. As the island sits in the midst of migratory routes for fish and feeding grounds for lobster, fishing is the second biggest industry (the first is tourism). Bird watch, Scuba dive amongst manatees, sting rays, and nurse sharks or go exploring underwater limestone caves and the Belize Barrier Reef. Get there via water taxi and stay at one of the thirty hotels.  

Hydra •  Greece

Hydra
Image Credit: Official Website of Hydra Island

On this island in the Argosaronic Gulf, they banned cars and now a prime means of conveyance are donkeys. Also, Leonard Cohen wrote “So Long, Marianne” while living there. It’s an architectural reserve, as in no permits for new construction, and the buildings are old and lovely. Explore three hundred churches, six monasteries, and mansions converted to museums. Then check out seven different beaches offering  kayaking, sunbathing, and diving. And how do you get there? Flying Dolphin, of course. 

Gili Islands • Indonesia

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You can see Bali and Lombok from these three tiny islands in Indonesia. Local ordinance bans cars so people go by foot, bike, or horse-drawn carriage. Go for the white sand beaches, clear blue waters, and legendary sunsets. Snorkel amongst the coral, swim with sea turtles, and stand-up paddle board all day long. Stay at one of the hotels eat at a beachside cafes and forget how cars work for a while. 

All images 123rf.com except where noted.