You’ve been watching the Netflix series with traveler Dan Buettner about Blue Zones have you? If so, you will have been curious about these regions in the world where people are claimed to live, or have recently lived, longer than average. The ones included are: Okinawa Prefecture, Japan; Nuoro Province, Sardinia, Italy; the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California, United States.
Some Travel Experts - like Huw Owen, the Co-Founder of TravelLocal - have revealed Green Zone destinations that are expected to go blue in the future. “The Blue Zones are an intriguing prospect for travelers, but typically hard to reach and, outside some common lifestyle factors, not necessarily endowed with masses to see and do. Where else might some of these factors be available to the discerning traveler, in locations of wider interest to all visitors?” shares Owen.
A bit on each of these miraculous locations and the people living the healthiest longest.
BLUE: Costa Rica - Nicoya
GREEN: Azores - Sao Miguel and Faial
Nicoya is known for its beauty, proximity to the sea and protected landscapes, on top of the Blue Zone factors such as excellent diet (largely plant-based, and with high polyphenol wines), time spent outdoors and a strong sense of community. The Azores might be an interesting alternative. The landscapes (and seascapes) of this chain of volcanic islands, out in the middle of the Atlantic, are renowned for their drama and beauty. Outdoors is more or less what you come for - whale watching, snorkeling and hiking in the hills. The diet is similar to, but distinctive from, the Portuguese mainland, with an emphasis on local produce, including incredible seafood and wines high in polyphenols. And if support for the local football teams are anything to go by, the Azoreans have a strong sense of belonging!
BLUE: Italy - Sardinia
GREEN: Morocco - Fes
Sardinia's distinctive claim to Blue Zone status is its combination of fava beans (yes really), sunshine and high polyphenol wines. On the other side of the Mediterranean Morocco is not widely known for its wine - but it should be. The main wine producing regions are between Fes and the city of Meknes and the best known wines are Syrah - one of the grape varietals with the highest amount of polyphenols. Fava beans are an intrinsic part of Moroccan cuisine - indeed in Fes the fava bean dip Bissara is an iconic part of many menus. And then there's the sun - both Sardinia and Morocco score well on that front.
BLUE: Japan - Okinawa
GREEN: Cambodia - Kampot
Okinawa has long held a fascination for Blue Zone addicts. It has an unusual list of things that seem to mark it out from other Blue Zones, perhaps related to geographic isolation. Common factors seem to be turmeric and ginger in the cuisine, a relatively relaxed, "low stress" culture, and staying active outdoors, including gardening. It put us in mind of a rather different place - Kampot and the surrounding region of southern Cambodia. Here you can not only eat ginger and turmeric in the national dish - fish amok - you can actually watch it growing! And there's more than enough sunshine and outdoorsy things to keep everyone moving most of the day.
BLUE: United States - Loma Linda
GREEN: India - Kerala
Loma Linda is a small town about an hour east of Los Angeles, with a strongly religious local community (for which, in Blue Zone terms, read "a sense of purpose every day"), lots of plant based eating and plenty of outdoor exercise. On the other side of the world we think we can see similarities with Kerala, specifically Kochi. India has the highest concentration of vegetarians in the world (38% apparently) and Kerala is home to one of the most iconic vegetarian dishes of all - the dosa (though some would say it's from Karnataka, just next door...). Kerala is best described as a vegetarian's paradise. The region is strongly religious, but simultaneously diverse, with Hindus, Muslims and Christians form 99% of the population. Getting outdoors is usually easy, though it's more humid than Loma Linda.
BLUE: Greece - Ikaria
GREEN: Greece - Crete
The last of the five famous Blue Zones is Ikaria, an island in the eastern Aegean Sea. According to the Blue Zone research undertaken by Dan Buettner Ikarians live for such a long time because they exercise every day (tending the veg patch), they live in the mountains (cleaner air perhaps?), they drink herbal tea (high in antioxidants) and strong red wine (those polyphenols again), and they take long naps in the middle of the day. Apart from sounding delightful this lifestyle feels tricky to replicate, until you realize that Greece is chock full of mountainous places with a great diet and heat that may necessitate a long nap. And so, we have picked Crete as the substitute - much easier to reach, but with an enormous amount to see and do, including sleeping...
Dan Buettner's Secrets of the Blue Zones docu-series reveals 12 habits that can add years to your life.
Author: Daniel Scheffler Travel writer born in Africa, bred in Europe and now living in America, Daniel Scheffler is a travel writer, podcaster, and producer. He has covered 140 countries across the globe. His original show Everywhere (available on Spotify) encompasses all his beliefs—travel is about humanity and sharing that beauty. Sign up for his newsletter WithoutMaps for more travel, culture and more.