Over a decade ago, two Steves — Jobs and Wozniak, that is — blew the collective mind of our generation by democratizing the smartphone. Today, we consider it normal to walk around with some of the most advanced technology available tucked into our back pockets, constantly connected to our friends, family, and complete strangers (AKA “followers”). While most of us can agree that putting down our phones every once in a while is beneficial, it’s hard to ignore the allure of dinging messages and brimming inboxes. So if you want a digital detox but can’t accomplish it unless there is literally zero cell service, here are seven remote vacation spots that might just make you forget pocket computers were ever invented. Or at least just rid you of that FOMO for a few days.
This small Buddhist kingdom located just east of India uses a Gross National Happiness index to track progress and only legalized the internet in 1999. To prevent mass tourism, Bhutan limits the number of tourists to their remote vacation spots and requires most visitors to abide by a $250-a-day tour package that includes all food, accommodation, and guides. But don’t let this scare you off, there is a lot of choice within this structure and — with almost two-thirds of the country unreachable by road — much to explore. Head for the Himalayas on the Jhomolhari Trek to spend 9 days hiking ancient trade routes with a snow-capped backdrop, and be sure to visit the cliff-clinging Paro Taktsang monastery.
2. Chumbe Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Located off the coast of Zanzibar, Chumbe Island is a protected coral reef sanctuary and forest reserve run by a nonprofit that encourages ecotourism. Enjoy one of our world’s most spectacular reefs guilt-free by staying in fully-sustainable accommodation complete with composting toilets, rainwater caches, and solar water heating. With no electrical outlets, your devices will soon be dead, so put down the tech, pick up a snorkel, and head to the reef to see some of nature’s works of art. Enjoy meals of fresh local fish and produce prepared by onsite chefs overlooking the expanse of the Indian Ocean and some of the starriest skies you may ever see.
3. Dzanga-Sangha National Park, Central African Republic
This protected reserve gave a home to the vulnerable animals of the Central African Republic during a tumultuous time of armed conflict and unrest. You can now safely visit this national park in the middle of a tropical forest where elephants, gorillas, and giant forest hogs are common sights. In the safe hands of a Pygmy tracker, head into the rainforest via elephant tracks following the subtle signs of gorilla activity to keep tabs on the animals for the groups of researchers stationed in the area. While you’re not guaranteed to see a gorilla, you will definitely remember the adrenaline-pumping trek through the dense forest. When you tire of forest life, hop in a traditional dugout canoe for some bird-watching down the Sangha River. Haggle with the local fishermen for their catch of the day, then take your prize back to camp for one very fresh meal.
4. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Those pesky reception bars won’t be able to reach you at the bottom of the United States’ largest canyon. If you’re up for a challenge, hike the 23-mile Rim-to-Rim trail, where you can ogle rock formations sculpted by nature’s whims over two million years ago. The hike down to the canyon floor takes you from leafy trees to water-hoarding cacti overlooking the Colorado River. If you want the views without the calf cramps, enjoy the singular gait of a local mule as your transport of choice.
There are several campsites and lodges available on route, but be sure to book six — eight months in advance if you want to be guaranteed a spot. Those feeling lucky can check for cancellations in the days leading up to your hike.
5. Yoho National Park, Canada
Yoho National Park — named from the Cree exclamation for awe and wonder — would leave you too captivated to Instagram even if there was cell phone service available. But there isn’t, so leave your phones behind and head to British Columbia where aquamarine lakes reflect the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains. In summer and autumn, visit Takakkaw Falls, the second highest waterfall in Canada, and book a tour of the Burgess Shale Fossil Beds to see the best preserved prehistoric marine organisms in the world. Once the snow hits, rent equipment at Emerald Lake and follow the well-kept trails for some scenic cross-country skiing.
6. Puerto Natales, Chile
Puerto Natales sits at the gateway to the dramatic Torres del Paine National Park, where you can spend days in tech-less bliss trekking through the remote vacation spots such as glacial lakes and alpine passes of the Chilean Patagonia. The park is popular, but for good reason: you’ll have a hard time choosing which skyscraping rock formation or jade-colored lake to visit first. For those who want the trek without roughing it, trails now have a strict booking system that ensures a shower, comfy bed, and a hot meal. If you arrive outside the ideal November-April season, skip the national park and book a kayaking tour to the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers or hop on a catamaran for an intimate look at Chilean sea life.
7. Greenbank, West Virginia
And if you really need to have your phone disabled, this small town in rural West Virginia will do the trick. As home to the world’s largest steerable radio telescope, the town is cut off from all cell service and WiFi so that scientists can listen to galaxies exploding at the end of the universe. Spend the day at the Greenbank Observatory learning about cutting-edge science technology and enjoying the delights of the onsite Starlight Cafe. Be sure to visit the nearby Cass Scenic Railway where you can ride a vintage steam engine through the Allegheny Mountains.
A version of this article was previously published on May 1, 2018, and was updated on February 23, 2022.