A while ago, I wrote about five great pedestrian towns which I had visited and enjoyed. (It’s easy to enjoy a town when you’re not continuously dodging cars.)
Today I give you five more car-free places which I’ve heard about but haven’t seen for myself yet, except for one: the Princes Islands in Turkey. As it turns out, all five are islands, which is not really all that surprising.
Hydra is a Geek island located in the Argo Saronic Gulf, a two-hour ferry ride from Athens. Cars and other motor vehicles are completely prohibited on the island. You can get around on foot, by boat or by riding a donkey. Clear waters, small villages, and hiking trails will entice you to stay for more than a day. Given its proximity to Athens it can get busy on on summer week-ends. All the more reasons to stay overnight. (I got pretty close last time I was in Greece during my day sail to Aegina!)
L’Isle sur la Sorgue, France
I hadn’t heard about this place until last week when a friend clued me in. L’Isle sur la Sorgue is a small French island town surrounded by a river and crisscrossed by canals. It’s located in Provence, a mere 25 kilometres east of Avignon. People park their cars along the ring road that surrounds the town before venturing on foot among the interior alleyways. Cars are not officially banned from the narrow lanes, but pedestrians have right-of-way, so the rare motorized intruders have to slow to a crawl. 🙂
The Princes’ Islands, Turkey
The Princes’ Islands are a group of islands located about 20 kilometres from the centre of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. These islands (four are inhabited) are all car-free, including the most popular: Büyükada and Heybeliada, known for their Victorian wooden cottages. The cheapest transportation options are walking or renting a bike. You can also hire a horse carriage to tour around. There isn’t all that much to see or do on these islands so a day or two to relax away from the big city traffic should be sufficient.
Caye Caulker, Belize
Off the coast of Belize, Caye Caulker is a relaxed island with slow-moving golf carts and bicycles, but no cars on its sandy streets. Not that there is much need for even those, as you can walk across the island in 20 minutes. Home to only 1000 easy-going locals and a centre of rasta culture, it features the usual tropical island suspects: sand, sea, palm trees, seafood, and hammocks. Oh and it’s right on the doorstep of the second largest barrier reef in the world!
Mackinac Island, Michigan, USA
A car-free place in the United States? Who would have thought? Mackinac is an island located in Lake Huron, near its meeting point with Lake Michigan. Disembarking from the ferry, you find yourself in a living Victorian village from the early 1800s, where 500 permanent inhabitants move around on foot, by bicycle, or by horse and buggy. In summer, this number is compounded by loads of visitors who keep cottages here. The island also functions as a State Park and was recognized by National Geographic as one of the top 10 in the country.
Bonus place: Toronto Islands
A short ferry ride from downtown Toronto, the Toronto Islands (or rather “island”, as it’s a single finger of land) are well known for their car-free roads, enjoyed by cyclists and rollerbladers during the warmer months. They’re also a giant park where people can picnic or throw around a frisbee. What many visitors don’t know is that there is a mini-town on Ward Island at the eastern end where a grid of walking paths (called “streets” even though they can’t accommodate anything larger than a bicycle) are lined with small bungalows. Many of those homes don’t seem to have changed since the early 20th century, and people who live here rarely move.
Have you been to any of these places? Let us know how it was in the comments.