- North Korea
- Green Bank, West Virginia, USA
- Upper Peninsula, Michigan, USA
- Jammu and Kashmir, India
- Tierra Patagonia, Chile
- Three Camel Lodge, Gobi Desert, Mongolia
- Ultima Thule Lodge, Alaska, USA
- Amankora, Bhutan
- Emerald Lake Lodge, Yoho National Park, Canada
- Kokanee Glacier Cabin, British Columbia, Canada
- Lake Placid Lodge, New York, USA
- River’s End Restaurant and Inn, Jenner, California, USA
- Chumbe Island Coral Park, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Looking to do a digital detox? There are surprisingly few places left on the planet where Wi-Fi is unavailable, making it all too easy to spend your time glued to your phone and other screens instead of connecting with the great outdoors—or the people around you. Here are 20 places on Earth where you can escape the trappings of modern technology, whether its absence reflects a lack of freedom and human rights or a desire to better appreciate nature.
Although Greenland does indeed provide internet to its citizens, travelling to “one of the most remote and least accessible countries in the world” is a “chance to unplug from the World Wide Web and get in touch with marvellous natural surroundings, yourself, and your travel companions.”
This is the mindset that Visitgreenland.com suggests you adopt when visiting the vast, icy nation. If you must, you can purchase Wi-Fi in most places, but be prepared for a high price tag.
Under President Xi Jinping, China has established the “largest and most sophisticated online censorship operation in the world,” monitored and overseen by the Communist Party. The Asian country uses its Great Firewall to block foreign search engines, media sites, and social media platforms. That means you won’t be checking your Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube accounts while in China, as they are banned.
Although there has been much improvement in recent years, “Cuba still has the most restricted climate for the press in the Americas.” Despite efforts to increase access to the internet and mobile data plans, these services remain too expensive for most Cubans.
In May, Cuba announced it was legalizing private Wi-Fi networks and the importation of hardware such as routers to expand access. However, the state still controls the internet itself, with only one provider on the island. That means Cubans and tourists still have to line up to purchase government scratch-off cards to use the internet.
An extensive, week-long internet shutdown occurred in November 2019, orchestrated by the Iranian government amid protests against rising fuel prices. This is not the first time the country’s citizens have been denied internet access to prevent the flow of information and communication. Iran is also no stranger to blocking websites and social media platforms, so be prepared.
Although some schools and state institutions in North Korea have access to Kwangmyong, the state-controlled intranet, citizens are forbidden from accessing the global internet as we know it due to “yellow” content—a North Korean term for content that is “inappropriate and subversive.”
When travelling to Turkmenistan, be prepared to take a holiday from traditional media and your social media accounts, as they will likely be blocked, heavily filtered, and monitored. There is no media freedom in the country. What’s more, access to the internet is limited and state-controlled, not to mention among the most expensive to access in the world.
All media in Vietnam is owned and controlled by the government. In addition, a new cybersecurity law came into effect in January that allows authorities to censor online content and force technology companies to disclose user data and take down content they view as unacceptable. This law extends the scope of a 2013 order that allows the state to censor blogs and social media.
Green Bank, West Virginia, USA
If you’re looking to escape the internet era in our modern world, head to the tiny West Virginian town of Green Bank. Just four hours from the American capital of Washington, D.C., Green Bank has a population of fewer than 150 people and a ban on Wi-Fi, cellphone towers, and anything else that emits electromagnetic waves. Why? Because the town is home to a large radio telescope (pictured) and electromagnetic waves would interfere with its operation.
If you happen to be travelling through rural Iowa, you might be in for a shock—a surprising number of areas lack internet connectivity. The small town of Atlantic in southwestern Iowa, for example, has a population of roughly 7,000, but it struggles to get a good signal. Somewhat ironically, tech giants such as Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have built enormous data centres in Iowa, yet rural pockets can’t get decent internet in hospitals and schools.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan, USA
The Upper Peninsula in Michigan faces serious inconsistency in its level of internet access, especially in the Luce and Iron counties, where residents lack critical internet services. In some communities, kids hang out at the local McDonald’s on school nights or sit in library parking lots to connect in order to do their homework. In addition, homes without reliable broadband access have significantly lower property values.
Jammu and Kashmir, India
In August, after the Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir lost its special status, the internet was shut down to “maintain law and order.” By mid-November, the ban still hadn’t been lifted, causing widespread negative economic, social, educational, and psychological effects. The ban is also having a negative impact on tourism, as tourists are frustrated by the lack of access.
Tierra Patagonia, Chile
Set atop a bluff on the shores of Chile’s Lake Sarmiento, Tierra Patagonia boasts big windows overlooking the lakes and peaks of Torres del Paine National Park. With such a spectacular view, you won’t miss having a TV, cell service, or Wi-Fi in your own room. To access such mod cons, you’ll have to venture into the common areas and—gasp—be social.
Three Camel Lodge, Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Picture yourself in an eco-lodge in the middle of the Gobi Desert, 500 km from the nearest Wi-Fi zone. Amid the breathtaking Gurvan Saikhan Mountains, home to lammergeiers, argali sheep, ibex, Gobi bears, wild camels, and snow leopards, you’ll get a true off-grid experience. There is, however, a satellite phone on hand for emergencies.
Ultima Thule Lodge, Alaska, USA
Tucked away in the Wrangell Mountains of Alaska, Ultima Thule Lodge is about as remote as you can get in the continental United States. Located near the expansive Wrangell–St. Elias National Park, nearly 200 km from the nearest road, you can forget about texting, as there’s no cellphone service. And while the lodge has one old computer with dial-up internet, is that really how you want to spend your time in the last frontier? Better to spend it hiking, bush-plane flying, and hot tubbing.
Tucked between the Tibetan Plateau and India is a remote mountain kingdom that remained isolated for most of the 20th century. What better place to take a break from our high-tech world? Although many hotels in Bhutan now provide internet, Amankora, a luxury resort, does not. Instead, it encourages guests to spend their days hiking in the Himalayas or meditating in a Buddhist monastery.
Emerald Lake Lodge, Yoho National Park, Canada
The seemingly endless, sparsely populated mountains of British Columbia, Canada, afford many opportunities to unplug and explore the rugged wilderness without interruption from social media notifications. Set in the majestic Canadian Rockies on the shores of a pristine lake in Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake Lodge is about three hours from the Calgary airport. Outdoor enthusiasts won’t miss the lack of cell service. You will find Wi-Fi in the main lodge, but not in your cozy cabin. Instead, light a fire and cuddle up with a good book after a day of hiking.
Kokanee Glacier Cabin, British Columbia, Canada
You may have to sweat a little to get there, but once you reach the backcountry luxury of Kokanee Glacier Cabin, perched on the shore of Kaslo Lake, not far from the small ski town of Nelson, you won’t mind the fact that your phone can’t find a signal. What’s more, it costs only C$25 (about US$20) a night per person (or C$50 per family) to stay! If you want to visit in the wintertime, however, and partake of the world-famous backcountry skiing, you’ll need a little luck on your side—winter bookings are made using a lottery system, and access is by helicopter only.
Lake Placid Lodge, New York, USA
If you’re looking to do a digital detox while on vacation, look no further than the lovely Lake Placid Lodge in New York’s stunning Adirondacks. Opt for the “Check-In to Check-Out” package and stay in a TV-free room or cabin; you’ll need to leave your phone, laptop, and other devices at the front desk. Instead of basking in the blue light of your phone, cozy up by a stone fireplace or enjoy a pint at the pub with some upscale farm-to-table fare after a day of exploring the great outdoors.
River’s End Restaurant and Inn, Jenner, California, USA
A quick online search will bring up plenty of reviews complaining about the lack of Wi-Fi, phone reception, TV, and internet at River’s End Restaurant and Inn in California. But if you’re looking to reconnect with nature and your travel companions instead of scrolling through your social media feed, you won’t be disappointed. Located in Jenner, a small, coastal town roughly two hours north of San Francisco, River’s End Restaurant and Inn is known for its breathtaking views and romantic dining.
Chumbe Island Coral Park, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Chumbe Island Coral Park in the Zanzibar archipelago off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa is a private nature reserve dedicated to the conservation and sustainable management of this uninhabited island. Experience a zero-impact stay in one of the eco bungalows. Never mind missing Wi-Fi—you won’t even have electricity. But you will have a coral reef sanctuary and forest reserve where you can spot rare wildlife, from humpback whales and green turtles to coconut crabs and mini antelope.