3 Best Places to Travel Sober

Have you ever wondered what the best places to travel sober are? As a sober traveler myself, I’ve been traveling through Asia and I’ve had the time of my life as a sober traveler. But it wasn’t always this way – if you met me a few years ago, you probably associated me with bottles of red wine and someone to avoid if you wanted to go home at a decent hour.

Sober travel was something that seemed an inherent juxtaposition. Travel…without drinking? I couldn’t imagine it. My travels before were about escapism – I wanted to completely escape my life, my body, my worries, and my anxiety. Travel was a time to completely check out and hurl myself into “fun” that truthfully, ended up being some version of chaos. 

My entire identity revolved around drinking, so much so that I genuinely had no idea who I was without alcohol. When it became clear that I had to get sober, I remember tearfully looking up at my partner and saying, “I can’t do anything.”

Two years of sobriety later, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Sober travel has completely changed my life – I lived abroad in South Korea for 2 years, I’ve traveled to 6 countries sober and counting, and I’ve had the absolute time of my life.

I’ve put down the escapism traveled and discovered travel that transforms. Rather than using travel as a coping mechanism to escape your life, I invite you to pursue travel that brings you closer to yourself.

While traveling as a sober person seemed daunting, no…TERRIFYING at first, it’s actually been the greatest gift! To travel sober is to be completely present for every magical moment.

I’m excited to share with you my favorite destinations to travel sober. I promise, you’ll have plenty of adventure, relaxation, joy, awe, and whimsy – all without the booze.

Temple gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Japan
Tagalong rice paddy in Bali
Haedong Yonggungsa Buddhist temple in South Korea

1. BALI – Find your bliss

Bali is known for its deep, spiritual practices and yogic presence. While it has grown immensely in popularity in recent years, it still maintains a spiritually rich center which makes it the perfect destination for the sober traveler. Here are some of my favorite places in Bali to nourish your soul and enjoy meaningful travel experiences. You’ll immediately learn why it’s the ultimate destination for the sober traveler.

Go deep with a yoga class

Yoga has been revolutionary to my sobriety, and its a great way to practice embodiment while you are traveling. Bali’s yoga studios are world class and English speaking! I’ve never encountered so many accessible, beautiful, english-speaking yoga studios abroad as I have in Bali! You’ll find sweaty flows like Power Yoga and Vinyasa, and more healing practices such as Yin and Kundalini. Bali is the perfect place to discover yoga or drop into a deep asana practice.

Meditation at Kanto Lampo waterfall in Bali

Engage with the past, present, and future with a Balinese medicine man

I met a Balinese Medicine Man in Bali, and it was transformative. I was able to receive an aura reading, participate in a chakra opening ceremony, and ask questions about my past lives. A major part of my sobriety is healing my inner child, and this experience did so much of that. You can book your own Balinese temple tour and spiritual cleansing experience here.

Participating in a water purification ceremony in Bali

Experience Bali’s epic waterfalls

Bali has an incredible amount of awe inspiring waterfalls to explore! No matter where you stay in Bali, there are epic waterfalls just a motorbike ride away! Put on your swimsuit and plan on diving into the cool pools below, or paying a local to take a photo shoot of you!

I was suspicious about the photo shoots originally – but I gave into one in Bali and had so much fun! It’s amazing to take time to experience adventure and to celebrate your body. Celebration is a major part of my sober travel and sober lifestyle – there is always something to feel joy about!

Smiling in front of Banyumala Waterfall in Bali
Posing in front of Banyumala Waterfall in Bali
Banyumala Waterfall in Bali

Sip mocktails and listen to live music

There are countless restaurants with live music in Bali! You’ll be delighted to find that most bars and restaurants have beautiful mocktail lists – filled with fresh herbs, brightly colored fruits, and are served in a fancy glass! 

My all time favorite restaurant in Bali is Sayuri Healing Food in Ubud. This place is pure magic in every sense of the word. It’s an entirely vegan restaurant with nourishing, nutrient-dense food that will fill you up and delight your taste buds. The restaurant has live music each and every night, and everyone is always up and dancing! 

My favorite part might be that they don’t serve any booze. Instead, they have an exquisite “Uptail” menu of mocktails that even includes an alcohol-free gin drink! They also have divine healing elixirs – kombucha, reishi mushroom tea, cacao ceremonies, and matcha.

2. JAPAN – Find your balance

Japan is such a wonderful country to travel sober in! I actually wasn’t expecting Japan to be such a phenomenal place for sober travelers, and yet I was completely impressed!

Japan not only offers endless, enriching experiences but I also found non-alcoholic beer at almost every bar and restaurant! They also have karaoke everywhere, so going out always offers something to do that is not drinking alcohol. I fell in love with Japan on my sober travels and I’m positive your heart will fall in love too!

Visit Japan’s beautiful temples

Spirituality is so embedded in Japan that you cannot separate it from the culture. Japan’s main religions are Buddhism and Shintoism – religions that are rich in meditation practices and respect for the earth.

To visit the temples of Japan is to have a grounding, spiritual experience. I encourage you to wear some comfortable clothes and shoes and walk around Japan’s shinto temples and the hiking paths that are often beside them. 

Temple gate at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan
Posing in front of Yakushiji Temple in Nara, Japan
Sunset over Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

Participate in a Japanese tea ceremony

Are you a traveler that used to fill their time with wine tasting and brewery tours? Before getting sober, I sure was that kind of traveler. If you loved the experience of alcohol, you might be wondering how to immerse yourself in a similar experience without the booze. My advice is to swap vineyards for tea fields and brewery tours for coffee roasteries. There is no better place to indulge in exquisite tea than in Japan. 

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a meditation practice rooted in tradition. You can find a teahouse that conducts ceremonies in English online or find a guide with Get Your Guide or Air BnB Experiences. I invite you to experience Japan’s delicious matcha the way it was meant to be tasted. 

Experiencing Japanese matcha tea

Sip non-alcoholic beer at an Izakaya Restaurant

A Japanese Izakaya Restaurant is a bar that serves traditional Japanese food. I love them as a sober traveler because the food is always top notch, and they almost always have non-alcoholic Japanese beer!

Everyone is different in their NA beverage preferences – if drinking non-alcoholic drinks like beer and wine trigger you, then listen to your body and find something that empowers you! If you’re like me, and sipping NA beverages sparks joy, then this is a great option.

I really enjoyed being able to drink local beer without the booze and was so delighted to discover non-alcoholic Japanese non-alcoholic beer at almost every restaurant we went to! Izakayas often have karaoke machines as well – grab the mic and belt out your favorite song! The locals will absolutely love you for it! 

Feed the bowing deer in Nara

Nara is a province outside of Kyoto, and it was Japan’s most ancient capital city. Now, it’s famous for its thousands of wild deer that you can find! I had an absolute blast feeding these eager, and sometimes aggressive, deer when we visited Nara!

They are adorable, they are cute, and they are persistent! I laughed so hard my sides ached and my cheeks hurt after our day in Nara! If you are looking for something that is outside of the box to occupy your time – this is such a great itinerary item!

Nara is full of ancient and beautiful temples since it’s Japan’s ancient capital. Strolling through Nara will delight all of your senses – smelling incense emanating from temples, seeing the deer roam and munch on grass, hearing laughing from people being pursued by deer families – it’s a wonderful place to spend your time.

Deer outside Buddhist temple gates in Nara, Japan
Deer relaxing in the forest in Nara, Japan
Deer outside of Shinto temple gate in Nara, Japan

3. SOUTH KOREA – Unwind and rejuvenate

South Korea is probably best known for its capital city of Seoul, and you may be thinking about the party neighborhoods that reside there. What does this country that’s blowing up all over the world have to offer the sober traveler? But South Korea has so much more to offer than that, and my number one travel tip for Korea is to get outside of Seoul! 

I lived in South Korea for two years, teaching English as a foreign language and teaching yoga at an English speaking studio. South Korea holds a special place in my heart for the sober traveler because it’s the country that I got sober in! South Korea offers such adventure, spirituality, and rejuvenation and it’s such a great place to visit as a sober traveler. 

Hike South Korea’s lush mountains

Hiking is one of my all-time favorite sober activities. It can be a leisurely or adventure activity, and South Korea’s mountains are everywhere! I guarantee that you’ll be able to find a hike near you in each and every city you will find yourself in.

Traveling as a sober person can be overwhelming at first, and a retreat to the mountains will refresh and completely revive you. I felt instantly calmed when I stepped onto a trail and smelled the fresh forest air. 

You’ll also discover beautiful Korean Buddhist temples near or on trails in the mountains! In addition to temples, you can often find ancient gates on mountain tops and ridge lines. There is so much to discover and explore while hiking in South Korea. 

Buddhist temple gate at Seokbulsa Temple in Busan, South Korea
Scenic overlook at Namsan mountain in Gyeongju, South Korea
Buddhist temple gate at Beomosa Temple in Busan, South Korea

Rejuvenate at a traditional Korean bath house

A traditional Korean spa is called a “jimjilbang” and they are known for their incredible spa treatments! In the West, a day at the spa can be an intimidatingly large expense. But in Korea, a day at a nice jimjilbang can be around $20.00 USD! You can relax in the nude baths – they’ll have a mix of warm and relaxing salt baths as well as cold baths! Often, the nude baths include Finnish saunas and steam rooms as well.

Splurge a little extra for a traditional Korean scrub treatment – not for the faint of heart! I’ve never experienced anything quite like a Korean scrub down – they will get it all! After your time in the bathhouse, you can put on pajamas given to you and walk around the co-ed spaces. You’ll find nourishing cafes, places to rest, and countless saunas with different health benefits! 

My favorite bathhouse is called “Spaland” in Busan and it can be found inside the famous Shinsagae Department Store. You can find a link HERE. 

Outdoor foot bath at Spa Land in Busan, South Korea
Himalayan Salt Sauna at Spa Land in Busan, South Korea
Outdoor foot bath at Spa Land in Busan, South Korea

I lived in South Korea for two years, and I can attest that it’s a stunning country to travel to! If you are looking for more adventures to delve into in South Korea, explore opportunities here.

Sing your heart out at noraebang – a private karaoke room

I think the best nightlife activity in Korea is karaoke! It’s so popular in Korea, you’ll see it everywhere, all of the time, in every city you visit! What makes Korean karaoke so special is the private room! Say goodbye to having to visit a bar or getting up in front of a bunch of strangers, grab your friends and head to a karaoke room! 

Another special thing about karaoke rooms in Korea is that they sell food and beverages! Often they’ll encourage you to order dinner, so it’s a fun dining experience as well! I’m not sure every place allows it – but I encourage you to pop into a convenience store and stock up on your favorite NA beverages to sneak in! South Korea often has great non-alcoholic beer selections at their convenience stores! If not, you’ll definitely find ginger beer and other delicious options. Stock up and sing your heart out!

What is the best place to stay sober when traveling?

Japan is the best country to visit to stay sober when traveling.

How do you stay sober while traveling?

Fill your time with activities you enjoy and prioritize self care.

Can you enjoy life without alcohol?

Absolutely! You will find a life of fun, freedom, and endless possibility in sobriety.

Final thoughts

If sober travel intimidates you, you aren’t alone. There seems to always be a narrative that the best way to maximize your adventure and relaxation is to drink while on vacation. But I’ve discovered a much more liberating travel in my sobriety than I ever could have imagined.

After living abroad and traveling through Asia full time, there’s so many dreamy destinations for the sober traveler. Traveling as a sober person is a way to ditch escapist travel, and step into travel that transforms. I don’t know about you, but that sounds much better to me!

Does sober travel intrigue you? What sounds exciting and what sounds terrifying? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences when it comes to sober travel. What country would you add to this list? Please leave a comment below and send this to the intrepid travelers in your life!

Sunset over the ocean in Bali
Looking out at the Tagalong Rice Paddy in Bali
Twin Waterfalls in Bali

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