The desire to stay young – be it through sulphuric bubble baths, broccoli juice elixirs or good ol’ fashion botox – has been a cultural obsession and egotistical hobby throughout history. In 1513, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León set sail to find a mythical land said to have a fountain of youth. Flash forward five hundred years and our communal quest for immortality continues. If you’re curious about unlocking the secrets of eternal youth, here are a few top destinations around the world that are rumored to make you live longer, feel healthier and act like a kid again.
1. Ecuador: Vilcabamba
Surrounded by the Andes Mountains, the rural town of Vilcabamba in the southern part of Ecuador, is known as the “Valley of Longevity.” It got its name due to the many local residents who are over a hundred years old. Why do they live so long? They lead an active lifestyle, eat locally-grown fresh fruits and veggies, drink water with high mineral content and enjoy good weather year round. For the traveler looking to tap into the Zen-ness and tranquility of local life, Vilcabamba offers several yoga and meditation spas, horseback riding adventures in the Podocarpus National Forest and nature hikes with sweeping views overlooking the Chaupi Valley.
2. Florida: St. Augustine
Every year, thousands of tourists are drawn to the quaint Floridian town of St. Augustine (the oldest city in the U.S) for a sip of the fabled spring that’s said to bring eternal youth. For a hands-on history lesson about 16th-century Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon and his quest for the rejuvenating juice, head to the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, a fifteen-acre historical site along the waterfront where you can sample the fresh spring.
3. Monaco: The Highest Life Expectancy on Earth
According to the 2012 CIA World Fact Book, the European nation of Monaco is the #1 country with the highest life expectancy on earth. The average Monaco resident lives to be around 89 years old, while your typical American, 78 years old (*the US is ranked 51st on the list of some 222 countries). So what is it about the small Mediterranean country that grants its residents an extra 11 years of life? Located on the southern coast of France, Monaco’s people are well educated, wealthy, have excellent state-funded healthcare, eat healthy and don’t pay income tax. With tons of casino, luxury yachts, royal palaces and a pleasant climate, who needs eternal life when you’re already living in paradise.
4. Colombia: El Totumo Mud Volcano
Drive some 40-minutes outside Colombia’s colonial town of Cartagena to find El Totumo Mud Volcano, a crater filled with gooey grey clay believed to have holistic healing properties. Settle-in for a relaxing soak in the medicinal chocolate-pudding-like mud bath that can accommodate up to fifteen people at once. For those suffering from skin irritations and joint inflammation, the mud’s minerals are said to have detoxifying agents to keep the skin glowing and the body free from arthritis. It’s the dirtiest way to feel young again!
Photo credit: Flickr by hculligan
(photo credit: Luca Picciau)
5.Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
From La Paz, travel by bus to the Incan hotspot of Copacabana, a tourist gateway between the inspirational shores of Lake Titicaca and Peru’s Cuzco. This is where you’ll find the rumored fountain of youth. Drink up at one of the world’s most stunning locations. With inexpensive eats, $1 beers and affordable souvenirs (the woven Alpaca scarves are my favorite), Copacabana has great deals for the budget traveler. Add Bolivia to the bucket list….