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Shinrin-yoku, better known in the western world as forest bathing, is a form of nature therapy that originated in Japan. It helps to relieve stress while providing a variety of mental and physical health benefits by immersing yourself in nature. It doesn’t require actually bathing, but a simple walk through the forest and these forests offer some of the most breathtaking places to try it.
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Arashiyama Bamboo Grove - Kyoto, Japan
In the Arashiyama district of western Kyoto is the world-famous Bamboo Grove, a magical wonderland of towering bamboo trees, some that reach over 65 feet in height. With the sun filtering through the darkness as the trees gently sway in the wind, a walk here feels like a dream. The path that links Okouchi Sanso Garden and the Tenryuji Temple, also popular Kyoto attractions, draws visitors from across the globe as one of the most photographed places on the planet. Plan to arrive early for the best experience and to capture your own photos without the crowds.
Redwood National and State Parks, California
A must-see in California, the Redwood National and State Parks sit along California’s northern coast protecting nearly half of the world’s remaining coast redwood old-growth forests. There are lots of trails to enjoy forest bathing while immersed among the giants. Stroll the easy 1.4-mile trail through Lady Bird Johnson-Forest that winds over flat ground through a beautiful ridge top grove in Redwood National Park, or hit the 12-mile loop in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. One of the most scenic, it boasts soaring stands of old-growth redwoods, a fern-lined canyon, and a wild, sandy coastline too.
Puzzlewood, The Forest of Dean - Gloucestershire, England
Puzzlewood is one of the most magical places for forest bathing in the Forest of Dean. Walking through is like walking in a fairy-tale, with twisted yews, mossy rocks and little wooden bridges. The serene moss-carpeted woodland also happens to be the place where JRR Tolkien is said to have found the inspiration for the forests of Middle Earth, and in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” it served as the Forest Moon of Endor inhabited by Ewoks. The verdant landscape has been used in TV series like “Merlin” and “Dr. Who” as well, making it an especially popular destination. In fact, the local tourism board created a Film and TV trail that makes it easy for visitors to spot key filming locations.
Olympic National Park, Washington
There are countless beautiful trails in Olympic National Park, but some of the best for forest bathing wind through the Hoh Rain Forest, one of the Northern Hemisphere’s rare protected temperate rain forests, located on the west side of the park. It receives an annual average of 140 inches of precipitation, making it one of the lushest places in the country. There are two short and easy trails that can be accessed from the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, including the 1.25-mile Spruce Nature Trail that meanders through the younger forests of red alder and cottonwood along the glacier-fed river. The 0.75-mile-mile Hall of Mosses Trail reveals moss-covered maples that are particularly stunning in the spring.
Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
More than half of Costa Rica is covered by forests that boast some of the world’s greatest biodiversity. Taking a stroll through the misty Monteverde Cloud Forest means being surrounded by natural beauty and an abundance of flora and fauna. There are hundreds of different bird species that can be spotted along with howler and capuchin monkeys, deer, pumas, jaguars and ocelots. After a hike, join a canopy tour or whiz across a zip line for a bird’s-eye view from above.
Taiga Forest, Finland
The Taiga forests of Finland offer some of the most remote forest wilderness in the world, located just below the Arctic Circle, a stone’s throw from the Russian border. Filled with pristine lakes and evergreens, nature lovers can enjoy treks through Hossa National Park which offers a hike that passes with its 4,000-year-old rock paintings. Watch for rare European wildlife too, including wolves, bears and wolverines that are extinct in most other regions, along with reindeer, elk, pine martens and lynx. Learn more about the creatures here and the forest itself at the Peltola Visitor Centre in Kuhmo.
Borneo Rainforest, Sabah, Malaysia
The Borneo Rainforests are the world’s oldest rainforests, here for more than 130 million years. A remarkable 750 different species of trees can be found in this region – to compare, there are 700 in all of North America. There are also more than 1,600 known animal species, creating the ultimate paradise for forest bathing while watching for mammals like the pygmy elephant, orangutans, sun bears and civet cats. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the rarely seen clouded leopard. You’ll need to head out with a guide, with a night walk one of the most unforgettable experiences.
Mindo Cloud Forest, Ecuador
A 2.5-hour drive from Quito, the Mindo Cloud Forest is a popular day trip from the capital city, nestled in a valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains. The rivers and high elevation create this lush cloud forest that covers over 100 square miles, home to 450 different types of birds, all sorts of exotic butterflies, mammals and reptiles. Hop on a cable car across the forested valley and you’ll be able to access a hiking trail that winds through the brilliant greenery splashed with colorful flowers, leading to six to beautiful waterfalls that spill into tranquil pools for swimming.
Daintree Rainforest, Australia
Located on the north-east coast of Australia, spilling down to deserted tropical beaches, the Daintree Forest is one of the world’s most spectacular, offering the opportunity to immerse yourself in a biodiversity hotspot that’s home to 90 percent of the country’s bat and butterfly species. Easily accessed from Cairns, Port Douglas and Cooktown, take a self-guided stroll on the rainforest boardwalks or head out to Mossman Gorge with an Aboriginal guide, learning about the native medicinal plants and spiritual customs along the way. Be sure to keep an eye out for the elusive and rarely spotted cassowary – if you see one, the locals say it’s time to buy a lottery ticket.
Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia
The last remaining vast expanse of coastal temperate rainforest in the world, British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest covers over 16 million acres. It’s filled with ancient cedars, moss-framed waterfalls and the rare Kermode bear, or Spirit bear as it’s known by the local Tsimshian people who consider it sacred. There are less than 400 of the animals left on Earth so if you hope to see one, the best way to do so is with a guide. Some of the other wildlife to watch for includes everything from Sitka deer to grizzly bears and mountain goats, while treks along the coast bring opportunities to see humpback and orca whales, sea otters and sea lions.
Crooked Forest, Poland
One of the most unique forests in the world, the Crooked Forest is a grove of bizarrely shaped pine trees that lie just outside Nowe Czarnowo in Poland. They didn’t get this way naturally, but no one is certain how this happened. Some believe a special technique may have been used when they were planted nearly a century ago to produce naturally curved timber for ship building and furniture, while others think the young saplings were crushed by tanks during World War II. Whatever the reason, a stroll here is likely to make you feel as if you’re in your own mythical tale.
Glendalough - Wicklow National Park, Ireland
Just 11 percent of Ireland is covered in forest, but what it does have makes up for the lack by providing stunning natural beauty. Glendalough in Wicklow National Forest offers one of the most beautiful forest walks you’ll find, following the Green Road Trail along the lower lake. Mostly flat terrain, it features glistening silver birch, willow and alder trees while offering exceptional views of the Glendalough Valley and the famous round tower from the Glendalough Monastery.
Routeburn Track, New Zealand
Take the Routeburn Track in Fjordland and Mount Aspiring national parks on New Zealand’s breathtaking South Island and you’ll cross a swing bridge that leads to beech forest and the Routeburn Gorge. Easily accessed from Queenstown, the 20-mile-long route boasts some of the country’s most renowned scenery, with towering mountain peaks, hanging glaciers, wide valleys, turquoise rivers and sparkling lakes. It may be the world’s most ultimate place for forest bathing.
Black Forest, Germany
The Black Forest was named for its canopy that’s so dense there is little light that gets through making it look black. The deep-green woodland draped across the granite and sandstone mountains in Baden-Württemberg is believed to have inspired many of the Brothers Grim fairytales. Well-marked trails for hiking will bring you through the pristine, nearly untouched landscape while feeling as if you’re part of a storybook yourself.
Abernethy Forest - Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
Located near the town of Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands in Cairngorms National Park, the Abernethy Forest is the United Kingdom’s largest area of ancient Caledonian Forest. Enjoy the fresh air and smell of pine along with views of vibrant green foliage and red-hued trunks. A circular walk from the RSPB forest lodge will bring you through woodlands along the River Nethy and can be extended further to explore the expansive forest, picturesque lochs and streams, while watching for wildlife like osprey and red squirrels.