There's a popular, unconfirmed rumor on Salt Spring Island that the Dalai Lama flew overhead in a plane and pointed it out as a spiritual site. The truth is anyone's guess. "I've heard that story about a lot of people," says Matthew Coleman, coordinator of the island's famously colorful Salt Spring Saturday Market. "Not just the Dalai Lama, but also about His Holiness Karmapa, who escaped from Tibet several years ago, and the Maharishi (Mahesh Yogi), who does transcendental meditation."
As eccentric as all this might sound, it's standard gossip here, where massage is considered serious medicine, local drivers still stop to pick up hitchhikers, and supporting organic farmers is a way of life.
It's not hard to understand why the Dalai Lama could have been drawn to this place. The largest of British Columbia's Southern Gulf Islands, Salt Spring is a rugged 70-square-mile landscape strewn with crystal blue lakes and dark peaks. A journey to the hilly north feels like an adventure, with many of the island's famous art studios hidden away on the narrow, winding roads (you can visit most of them on a self-guided Studio Tour). To the south is the Fulford Valley ― dotted with farms and capped by the island's largest peak, 2,300-foot-tall Mt. Bruce ― as well as Ruckle Park, where under July's clear blue skies, visitors hike the scenic, rocky shoreline. In the center of the island, a hike up Mt. Maxwell affords views of nearby Vancouver Island and sailboats drifting on the cobalt waters of Burgoyne Bay. Anchoring these various parts is Ganges, a picturesque waterside village.