Overtourism is a quickly increasing global issue. We can attempt to help solve the problem of overtourism by choosing to travel to alternative destinations.
It’s no secret that overtourism is a major problem around the world. You’ve probably heard the buzzword before, and it always seems to strike up heated conversations from all spectrums of the debate.
It’s not just major cities like Paris, London, Rome, Beijing, and New York City having these problems either. The problem lies in formerly lesser-visited locations such as Dubrovnik, Croatia who have seen a massive increase in tourism but don’t possess the infrastructure to handle the crowds.
What is causing Overtourism?
It’s a fact that travel has increased by over 170% in the last twenty years, and it is predicted to rise even more each year! I remember being 9 years old flying to Scotland to visit my Grandma in 1993, and it was a BIG deal! Now, I look at my own kids, who have visited nearly 30 countries and all 50 states, and wonder what has changed?
Why are people traveling more?
- Experiences Over Things: According to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky who shared research that showed, “Three in four millennials said they’d rather buy an experience than a physical good.” And with the popular book and TV show, Tidying Up, which focuses on a minimalistic lifestyle, people are focusing on limiting their physical possessions and instead opting for experiences, including travel, especially as gifts. As they buy less “stuff” they have more money for travel! According to this study, 78% of people stated that they would rather have a desirable experience over a desirable item.
- Affordability: There’s no question that travel is much more affordable now than it was even 3 years ago! Decreasing flight prices and access to more affordable housing like Airbnb has allowed many who couldn’t afford to travel to do so now.
- Digital Nomads: There are now more and more jobs that are done remotely, leaving “digital nomads” able to travel more rather than being constrained by their two weeks of paid vacation. Read more about how to become a digital nomad.
- Social Media Influence: This one is quite possibly the biggest scapegoat when it comes to overtourism, and for good reason. We now have around-the-clock, nonstop access to social media, and therefore to “destination inspiration” all around the world.
As a child, I remember waiting for the new National Geographic magazine to arrive so I could drool over the gorgeous photographs and learn about new places that would transport my mind. Now I can access that any time I want along with millions of others.Most of the destinations that are new to me, I have learned about through social media. Viewers of social media are adding new countries and cities to their bucket lists on a daily basis.Places that were once “hidden gems,” only known to locals or hippie backpackers are now bucket list destinations for an ever-increasing demographic of voracious travelers.I remember just four years ago, Paul went to Prague on a long weekend while he was working in Switzerland. We had never even really heard of Prague and didn’t know what was there. Now Prague is overcrowded and suffering from overtourism.A new generation of travelers has a different mentality due to access to friends and influencers via social media. “FOMO” (fear of missing out) plays a real role in the increasing rate of travel. 69% of millennials regretted not taking a trip because of “FOMO” according to this study.Not only has the influence of social media caused an increase of travel, but also an increased desire for selfies in these iconic landscapes, causing dangerous situations and even death all “for the gram.”
- International Busines: There is much more international business being conducted now than ever before, therefore more international travel is required. Even while on business, most people will at least visit one attraction.
- Smart Phones: We literally hold the ability to book an entire trip in our hands! Why wouldn’t we travel more?
While overtourism is definitely a problem, it is also a sign of success, not only for a destination but also for a population. It means that the destination has cultural importance and appeal for many and it means that the population is mostly thriving.
Travel is not a necessity, and the fact that many people can afford to take a vacation is a sign of prosperity. And while tourism can be beneficial, bringing in money to these locations and opening our minds, it can also be harmful.
So what can we, as travelers, do about overtourism?
Solving the Problem of Overtourism Through Alternatives Destinations for Sustainable Travel
With so many amazing “bucket list destinations” circulating around the internet, it’s unfair to say “just stop traveling.” That’s not necessarily the answer. Overtourism means different things for different destinations.
Tourism does have benefits! It brings economic advantages, employment, improved infrastructure, and conservation awareness. If destinations can be prepared for coming changes then hopefully they will be able to reap the benefits of tourism.
What Can I do to Help Solve the Problem of Overtourism?
We can play our part in helping to solve the problem of overtourism as well by doing a few simple things:
1. Off-Season Travel
We can travel during the off-season. This means different things for different destinations. Research the busiest season for your desired destination before you go. Other benefits of traveling off-season are fewer crowds, a more authentic experience, and cheaper flights and travel expenses.
2. Be Aware of Issues Before You Travel
Being aware of a destination’s specific problems with overtourism before visiting can be really helpful. For example, if a destination’s issue is Airbnb making housing unaffordable for locals, book a hotel instead.
If the problem is environmental, tread lightly. If the problem is litter and pollution, pack out your own trash and rent a bike or take public transit instead of driving.
Be sure to read my tips on sustainable travel before you go anywhere.
3. Choose Alternative Destinations Over Places Suffering from Overtourism
While all those amazing locations you see on social media are wonderful, trying something a little less popular can be just as fulfilling and beautiful. These alternative destinations can help promote sustainable travel all across the world.
I’ve rounded up over FIFTY incredible alternative destinations to places suffering from overtourism.
1. Skip Dubrovnik and Visit Split, Croatia
Overtourism is a serious problem in Dubrovnik. Since the popular television show “Game of Thrones” debuted in 2011, the city of Dubrovnik has seen an overwhelming number of tourists.
This quiet coastal town on the Adriatic was a gem of a secret to those who knew of its existence, but the popularity of an epic television series has dramatically shifted the city’s tourism numbers. Today, cruise ship passengers descend on the UNESCO World Heritage Site in droves, thousands each day, making it extremely difficult to enjoy the city and its charms.
Instead of adding to the constant crowds, why not head to Split, Croatia instead? Split lies 3 hours north of Dubrovnik, and has the same charm, food, and history (and Game of Thrones ties too if you want that), with fewer crowds. The city itself has 200,000+ inhabitants (compared to 40,000 in Dubrovnik) and is spread out, instead of compact and crowded.
Split is home to Diocletian’s Palace, one of the best-preserved villas of a Roman emperor, dating to the 4th century AD. The area has beaches for relaxing and parks for hiking, and a dining scene that is top notch. Split has everything Dubrovnik has, but without the crowds. There is room to spread out in Split, which I think allows everyone to slow down and enjoy life the way Croatians intended.
Learn more about Split from Kids are a Trip
2. Skip Iceland and Visit Newfoundland, Canada
Iceland is gorgeous. This magical land of fire and ice is one of the most popular destinations in the world for adventure travelers. And therein lies the issue. Iceland has become oversaturated with tourists. The once peaceful waterfalls are crowded with Instagrammers trying desperately to get that perfect shot. But what if I told you that there was a destination that offers much of what Iceland does but without the crowds, and at a fraction of the price.
Newfoundland, the easternmost province in Canada, is just a short hop from Iceland. But where Iceland is packed with explorers, Newfoundland is nearly untouched by foreign visitors. You can enjoy the quaint fishing villages, stunning landscapes, and magical fjords with just a few other adventure seekers.
Places like Western Brook Pond, Arches Provincial Park, and Gros Morne National Park are spectacular. And Newfoundland even has it’s own Viking history, being the first western location where Europeans landed, nearly 800 years before Colombus.
While Newfoundland may not have the plethora of waterfalls that Iceland boasts, it makes up for it in another spectacular way. If you visit Newfoundland during the early summer, you have a great chance of seeing the massive icebergs that make their way from Greenland down to Iceberg Alley. Often the small coastal towns are dwarfed by mammoth bergs that get stuck on the bottoms of the narrow Newfoundland fjords.
Learn more about Newfoundland from Wandering Wagars
3. Skip Santorini and Visit Kefalonia, Greece
Greece welcomed over 32 million tourists last year. More than DOUBLE that came from less than ten years ago. There’s no denying that Greece is an incredible country full of ancient history, amazing food, and jaw-dropping beauty, but the majority of tourists are flocking to popular locations in the country like Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, Naxos, Paros, and Zakynthos.
Greek politician and environmentalist, Nikos Chrysogelos said “We can’t keep having more and more tourists. We can’t have small islands, with small communities, hosting one million tourists over a few months. There’s a danger of the infrastructure not being prepared, of it all becoming a huge boomerang if we only focus on numbers and don’t look at developing a more sustainable model of tourism.”
While those popular islands in Greece are all amazing, there are many lesser-known islands in the country that are just as worthy of a visit. Maybe we can help Greece out by spreading the wealth. Kefalonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands is a hidden gem that not many people know about. Trade in those blue and white rooftops for the blue of an underground lake and turquoise of Ionian waters instead.
Learn more about Kefalonia, Greece here
4. Skip Banff and Visit Yoho National Park Canada
Banff National Park is stunning, no question about that. But it is also hugely popular and can get uncomfortably crowded in peak season, especially at top scenic attractions like Peyto Lake or Lake Louise, or on the well-known trails like the Agnes Teahouse trail at Lake Louise or the Johnston Canyon trail. Banff lodging can also get quite expensive in season.
If you want to visit a gorgeous part of the Canadian Rockies without dealing with crowds, consider Yoho National Park in adjoining British Columbia. Yoho, which means “awe” in Cree, is also part of the Canadian Rockies UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a smaller park, and because it is less developed, for the most part, it feels like a more intimate wilderness experience. We did a day trip to Yoho National Park from Lake Louise on our last visit, and we liked it so much that we plan to make it our base on our next trip out.
Yoho National Park has stunning natural scenery, just like Banff and Jasper. And if you are interested in jewel-hued alpine lakes, look no further than Emerald Lake, where you can do kayaking or canoeing in season. Emerald Lake does tend to draw more visitors than other parts of Yoho on nice weather days (who can resist that color?!), so plan to visit early or late in the day to have more solitude. In other areas of the park, you will see far fewer people, and hiking trails are not choked.
You can stay at Emerald Lake Lodge, right on the lake shore, or at various accommodations in the little hamlet of Field, where you will also find eateries.
Learn more about Yoho National Park from Not About the Miles
5. Skip Banff and visit Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada
Another alternative to Banff is Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta. With the same sweeping lake views as Banff, Waterton feels like a throwback to what Banff would have felt like 50 years ago. There’s a small town in the center of the park selling kitschy souvenirs and food as well as several campgrounds and some amazing hikes. You can spot all sorts of wildlife including bears in Waterton.
6. Skip Yosemite and visit Sequoia & Kings Canyon
When it comes to Yosemite National Park — breath-taking, mighty and overflowing with adventure — there is also streams of people and painfully slow traffic to contend with, especially in the summer and on the weekends.
If bumping into people along popular hiking trails just isn’t your thing, or you’re looking for more serenity, consider Sequoia & Kings National Parks instead.
You’ve heard the saying: Two is better than one. Sitting side-by-side like inseparable besties and found in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks offer all kinds of adventure at widely varying elevations (ranging from 1,370′ to 14,494’)!
Often referred to as the Land of Giants, here you can: -Hike and immerse yourself in Sequoia groves; learn why these superhero trees live for thousands of years!
- Meet General Sherman and hike the easy-going Congress Trail
- Visit Crystal Cave and explore underground
- Enjoy driving through mountain landscapes along the Generals Highway and the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
- Earn a badge in the Junior Ranger Program
- Climb Moro Rock, a stone stairway up a granite dome in the Giant Forest, and enjoy the view.
- Camp, stay in a lodge or backpack into the wilderness.
- Rock-climb, picnic, day-hike, ride horseback, ski, sled, snowshoe and more.
With all of the above options, we wish we would have spent much more time Sequoia and Kings Canyon. These parks are a really nice alternative to super-crowded Yosemite. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are about 4.5 hours drive southeast from San Francisco, or 3.5 hours north from Los Angeles.
Learn more about Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks from Rad Family Travel
7. Skip New Delhi and Visit Jaipur, India
As India’s capital city and with a number of famous landmarks, Delhi feels like a must-see. But it’s also dirty, crowded, has terrible traffic, is usually roasting hot, and often has air so polluted that it’s difficult to breathe. India’s infrastructure has certainly contributed over decades of rapid growth and disrepair, but hordes of tourists also haven’t helped.
Instead, consider heading a bit west to Jaipur, an Indian jewel in the state of Rajasthan. Jaipur will still provide that same popular, vibrant city feel, but on a smaller, cleaner, more accessible scale. The Pink City’s Amer Fort is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved in the country, and the multiple levels and entries are perfect for adults and kids alike to explore. The famous Hawa Mahal, City Palace (part of which is still a royal residence), and colorful entry gates are bucket list-worthy. The vibrant shopping district will give you a taste for the state’s stunning fabrics and embroidery, and the street food scene rivals that of any city in India. All of this with surroundings that feel positively garden-like in comparison to some other big Indian cities, with beautiful plazas and flowers around town.
Jaipur is perfect for anyone hoping to experience India’s rich, vivid, bustling energy!
Learn more about Jaipur, India from Local Passport Family
8. Skip Prague and Visit Cesky Krumlov, Czechia
Another European city that is suffering from overtourism, Prague has become one of Europe’s most popular destinations. It was only a few years ago when it was still advertised as cheap, beautiful, and a hidden gem of Europe. Well, those days are long gone, and now you’re lucky to find a time of year where Prague isn’t swamped with tourists, big bus tours, and stag/hen parties.
As an alternative to visiting Czechia’s capital city, consider spending more time in nearby Cesky Krumlov. Cesky Krumlov is often touted as a day trip from Prague, it is just 2 hours away by car and 3 hours away by train. However, it is well worth dedicating a few nights to staying in this charming Czech city. Cesky Krumlov offers gorgeous medieval architecture, a beautiful Baroque castle, and tredlinks (the famous rolled pastry) around every corner!
Cesky Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and this lovely preserved town is sure to make you fall in love. It is best explored on foot by wandering through all the small cobblestone streets and taking in the pretty pastel buildings. In addition to the beautiful town, in the warmer months, you can rent a raft or canoe and float down the Vltava River! This was one of our family’s favorite activities from our summer trip to Europe. Not only was it a fun way to enjoy the outdoors, but it gave us a unique view of the city as we rafted down the curvy river through the middle of town.
There are also plenty of campgrounds along the river if you prefer camping instead of staying in a hotel. There is even more fun to be had just 30 minutes drive away in Lipno. Lipno offers a variety of outdoor activities. In the winter you can ski and in the summer there is a treetop walk, forest playground, alpine coaster, bobsleigh track, and more! This lakeside town is another great addition to your Czechia itinerary that is off the beaten tourist path. Between Cesky Krumlov and Lipno, you could enjoy an entire week in Czechia while skipping the overtourism in Prague.
Learn more about Cesky Krumlov from Abroad Wife
9. Skip New York and Visit Philadelphia
New York, New York…what could possibly compare? At least, you’ll remind yourself of this when you’re pushing against a million other tourists who supposed the same. For all its iconic sites and sounds and tastes (and there are many wonderful ones), New York can also be a bit much. Part of the charm is exactly that it is nonstop. And any local will tell you that the city has definitely been impacted by the number of tourists who come to witness it in all its glory.
For those of you looking for all the perks of New York without all the stress, Philadelphia is a perfect alternative. The nation’s first capital is brimming with history around every corner, and terrific exhibits make it accessible for all. The museums are absolutely world-class – the Philadelphia Museum of Art boasts one of the largest Impressionism collections in the country and is bordered by the Barnes Foundation to supplement. But don’t stop with art – the Franklin Science Institute, Please Touch Museum, and Constitution Center are just a few that offer something for every age and interest.
And while New York has its food classics, Philly has perfected its own. The BYO scene means you’ll score top-notch meals for way less money than you’d pay further north, and some of the best chefs in the country have set up shop in this gastronomic hub. But it’s not all about fussy food, either – feel free to get your cheesesteak fix by doing a taste test amongst the many competitors, or sample everything from Tex Mex to Amish at Reading Terminal Market. Wash it all down with some Federal Doughnuts or Capo Giro gelato to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Once you’ve eaten yourself silly, you can choose your own cultural adventure by heading the renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, or by joining locals to devotedly cheer on one of Philly’s home teams. Or just spend some time outside basking in some of Philly’s beautifully developed outdoor spaces – the newer riverfront area or Boathouse Row are perfect for little ones to run and explore while you drink in the charm and peace of the City of Brotherly Love.
Learn more about Philadelphia from Local Passport Family
10. Skip NYC and Visit Brooklyn
When you hear about visiting New York City it is typically all centered around the island of Manhattan. But the city is massive, and there is so much more than Manhattan. Brooklyn is another borough of New York City, just east of Manhattan. It is quicker and easier to access from the two major airports in New York City compared to Manhattan. And this borough offers travelers tons of things to see and experience!
Manhattan has all the big cliché tourist attractions, but hefty crowds come along with that too. It’s Brooklyn that offers you beach access and that classic boardwalk vibe down in Coney Island. The major parks, such as Prospect Park, may be smaller than Central Park, but are also less crowded and offer visitors so much to do! It is also in Brooklyn where you can find the botanical gardens, which to me are one of the best I have seen.
Brooklyn also is incredibly family friendly. The whole borough is quieter than Manhattan, and also is easy to navigate by subway or uber, or even a car if you are driving. Some other things we have enjoyed in Brooklyn with young kids are the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Prospect Park Zoo, and the New York Aquarium. Another awesome reason to choose Brooklyn over Manhattan is the quantity of top-rated restaurants. Not only will you find a number of the best restaurants in all of New York City, but also unique food options like the famed Smorgasburg.
So next time you are thinking of visiting New York City, consider Brooklyn for a different spin on this country’s largest city. And even if you are in Manhattan already, the best way to get into Brooklyn is to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. And as soon as you get into Brooklyn, stop in Grimaldi’s for some of the best pizza in the city!
Learn more about Brooklyn from Patsey Family Travels
11. Skip Cancun and Visit the Florida Gulf Coast
Learn more about the Florida Gulf Coast from Outside Suburbia
12. Skip London and Visit York
Learn more about York from Wandermust Family
13. Skip Paris and Visit Amiens, France
Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world and tends to be very overcrowded during any time of the year. While you might feel the compulsion to visit Paris, I want to suggest to take a different path and discover Amiens instead. Amiens is located about 1 1/2 hours from Paris.
The city is known for the most breathtaking cathedral, the very French inner city, authentic French food, museums, and the floating gardens. In Amiens, you meet real French people, while in Paris you are prone to fall into the common tourist scams. Paris is a place where you need to take care of yourself because you can easily fall in trouble, it’s not a safe city.
We visited Paris and didn’t enjoy it as much as we enjoyed Amiens. The city of Amiens satisfied our traveler curiosity and we learned about the local culture. The city is Eco-conscious. That means the locals have been keeping it green for generations by taking care of their floating gardens. The air is crisp and fresh in Amiens, while Paris is polluted due to vehicles and crowds. Besides Amiens is located right between Paris and London. You can travel there in the morning and enjoy a wonderful day in one of the most beautiful medieval cities in North France.
Learn more about Amiens from Masala Herb
14. Skip Paris and Visit Lyon, France
Paris! Magical, romantic, iconic Paris. But also crowded, rushed, huge Paris. Even aside from the hordes of tourists and long lines for famous attractions, there are health and safety considerations. Recent terrorist attacks, smog, and the at times dirty & crowded Metro can be hard to manage, especially for families with kids. While Paris can be amazing, it can also be just a little overwhelming.
Enter: Lyon, the 3rd-largest city in France but with only a fraction of the number of tourists as Paris. Even visitors who escape Paris tend to head to the south of France, completely bypassing this beautiful, quintessentially French city, keeping it full of local charm.
Lyon has so much of what makes France, France. It’s the gastronomic capital of the country, with terrific local specialties and broader French cuisine around every corner. The city is also beautiful and clean – the Metro system is spacious and well kept, and the residents take pride in their hometown. Even in the height of summer, Lyon doesn’t feel overcrowded, and you’ll get a true French flavor wandering the ancient corridors. The old “traboules” – or secret passageways for Lyon’s silk makers – are perfect to explore with little ones, and the whole family will be fascinated by the ancient Roman ruins near the Fourviere Basilica. There are a number of lovely museums ranging from classic art to Lyonnais to marionettes to the history of film starting with two Lyonnais brothers.
Overall, I highly recommend Lyon as a Parisian alternative that will feel calm but fascinating, beautiful and historic, and classically French.
Learn more about Lyon from Local Passport Family
15. Skip Cinque Terre and Visit San Fruttuoso, Italy
Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera is famous for the five beautiful hill towns and walks in the hills between the towns. There’s a reason they are so famous – they’re beautiful – but they have become a bit too famous for their own good. The towns are small and can get overcrowded, especially in summer, which puts a strain on the infrastructure. However, there is an alternative nearby that is arguably even better.
It is possible to take a boat from Rapallo to Portofino and then hike in the hills to San Fruttuoso. This is a truly wonderful place. Portofino is also a tiny town, nestled at the bottom of hills, with picturesque colored houses around a boat-filled bay. Hike up from town past olive groves and lemon trees and you will soon be alone with the hills and the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea far below. The hike is mostly flat, though the start and finish are steep. It ends at San Fruttuoso, which is home to a tenth-century abbey and a tiny beach with several restaurants. The emerald green water and golden monastery make this a magical place. It is accessible only by boat or on foot, which helps make it even more special.
Learn more about San Fruttuoso Italy from Travel Collecting
16. Skip Machu Picchu and Visit Chan Chan
Machu Picchu is the most famous site in Peru, so it’s no surprise that it’s suffering from overtourism. During the peak season, as many as 5,000 people visit the site every day. There are also concerns about poor working conditions for many of the porters who carry supplies for the tourists who hike the Inca Trail to get there.
Instead of adding to the already intense pressure on this fragile site, consider visiting the Chan Chan archaeological site instead. It’s an easy day trip from Trujillo, sees far fewer visitors than Machu Picchu, and is also larger and several hundred years older.
Chan Chan was once a bustling city of about 50,000 people and was the capital of the Chimor Empire. The Chimú people were eventually defeated by the Incas, but from 900 to 1470 AD they reigned over a powerful empire from Chan Chan, which was the largest pre-Columbian city in all of South America.
The city’s basic infrastructure and walls are still intact, and many are decorated in superb bas-relief carvings. Exploring the ancient city’s many labyrinthian passageways is a great alternative to jostling with the crowds at Machu Picchu. The weather here is also much more inviting. The name “Chan Chan” means “Sun Sun”, and the city was named for its sunny climate.
Learn more about Chan Chan from the Nomad Vegan
17. Skip Yellowstone National Park and Visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Yellowstone National Park is a special destination, full of wildlife, stunning vistas, and thermal features. But it is also full of tour buses, selfie sticks, and swarms of tourists. If you are looking to see beautiful landscapes and impressive wildlife without being stuck in massive bison traffic jams, head north to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota instead. While smaller, this park doesn’t have nearly the crowds, allowing you to enjoy hikes, scenic drives, and wildlife viewing in peace.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is known for its massive prairie dog towns, herds of feral horses, plentiful elk, and large bison herds. And, you can enjoy a charming and authentic western town experience by staying in Medora just outside of the park’s gates. Be sure to put a performance of the Medora Musical on your itinerary.
Learn more about Theodore Roosevelt National Park from We 3 Travel
18. Skip Belfast and Visit Derry, Northern Ireland
A great majority of visitors to Northern Ireland make Belfast the base from which they explore the country. This is not detrimental to Belfast in itself, but it means that the areas of Northern Ireland that are a bit further to be included in day trips will be missing out on being included into travelers’ itineraries. This not only would avoid the potential risk of overtourism in Belfast, as it has happened in other cities, but it creates an economic imbalance. Being a largely rural economy, Northern Ireland would largely benefit from having the west of the country being used as a base.
The perfect city to counterbalance this would be Derry, also known as Londonderry, and there are plenty of reasons why visitors should visit Derry instead of Belfast. Derry is one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe, and the only city in Ireland in which the complete walls remain. Built in the 17th century, it is the city’s main attraction. But aside from ancient history, Derry is the perfect place to learn about the recent history of the Northern Ireland conflict. It was, in fact, at the center of what it was known as The Troubles and the location of the Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday. Visit the People’s Gallery, a set of street murals that illustrate events of the conflict and explain the journey to peace in a symbolic way.
Derry is also a great place for foodies, with a lot of the local eateries focusing on serving food prepared from local produce in a sustainable way. There certainly is a lot going for Derry as a destination.
Learn more about Derry from Brogan Abroad
19. Skip Tamarindo and Visit Playa Avellanas
Learn more about Playa Avellanas from Drink Tea & Travel
20. Skip Iguazu Falls and Visit Kaieteur Falls
Learn more about Kaieteur Falls from My Adventures Across the World
21. Skip Prague and Visit Belgrade
If you’re looking for communist history, Slavic culture and language, gorgeous churches, pretty bridges, busy nightlife, and impressive architecture, you could be forgiven for thinking of Prague first. But I’d encourage you to explore offbeat Belgrade instead! This Balkan city is relatively under-touristed, something that definitely cannot be said about Prague.
There is so much to do in Belgrade it’s almost hard to summarize, but I’ll try! For photography lovers, you should be sure to check out the suburb of Zemun, which has colorful Golden Lane-looking houses without the crowds you’ll find in Prague as well as the beautiful Gardoš Tower. The Stari Grad area of Belgrade is full of impressive architecture and there are a number of palaces in the city itself, from the twin Novi and Stari Dvors in the city center to Beli Dvor on the outskirts of the city. If you’re interested in Communist history, Belgrade has it in spades, whether it’s visiting the mausoleum that’s the resting place of Tito (the leader of Yugoslavia) or checking out the architectural legacies of Communism in Novi Beograd.
Of course, you shouldn’t miss St. Sava Church, the largest church in the Balkans and one of the largest Orthodox Churches in the world or walking around the impressive Belgrade Fortress complex, which offers amazing views over the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers and Belgrade’s many bridges. Finally, while Prague certainly has a reputation for nightlife, Belgrade would put it to shame with a number of amazing bars, pubs, and clubs, the most famous of which are the riverside ‘splavovi’ floating nightclubs that are a Belgrade rite of passage. Pass by Prague in favor of Belgrade and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Learn more about Belgrade from Sofia Adventures
22. Skip Prague and Visit Olomouc
Learn more about Olomouc from Kami and the Rest of the World
23. Skip Hawaii and Visit Fiji
Why visit Fiji instead of Hawaii? There are many answers but one of the chief reasons is for a more authentic Polynesia experience. While parts of Hawaii have become akin to a Disney theme park, much of Fiji, especially away from the main Island of Viti Levu, remain relatively undeveloped as compared to most of the Hawaiian Islands. Plus in the Fiji Island archipelago, you have 300+ more islands to chose from than in the Hawaiian Island chain.
Fiji is a considerably longer flight from the west coast of the United States, 10.5 hours versus 6 hours. The prices for most things including accommodations are cheaper in Fiji than in Hawaii and will help defray the extra cost of the airfare to Fiji.
Fiji is an independent country and will be more of a varied cultural experience than U. S, state of Hawaii. Fijian people are warm and welcoming. You will find a mix of indigenous Fijians of Polynesian descent and those of Indian heritage. The cuisine is a mixture of the two cultures that dominate the islands. You can experience a Lovo, which is a Fijian feast cooked in an earthen pit or you can find a curry that will make your eyes water.
Are you looking to explore little known islands or become a castaway on your own deserted island? Then Fiji is a great fit because only 110 of the 333 islands are inhabited. By-the-way the movie Castaway was filmed on one of the islands in Mamanuca (pronounced mama nuthas) group of islands. Backpackers and adventures will want to visit the Yasawa Islands to find remote natural places to explore.
Fiji offers a version of Polynesia that is difficult to locate in Hawaii anymore. A more authentic, less created for tourist experience is available to the traveler in Fiji.
A few of the many things you can do and experience in Fiji:
- Sport Fishing
- Day Cruises
- Cava Drinking Ritual Ceremony
- Four-Wheel Drive Off-Roading
- Romantic Private Island Picnics
- Sea Kayaking
- Dolphin Watching Tours
- Jet Skiing
- Sunrise Champagne Breakfasts
- Rainforest Treks
- Cultural Exchanges
- World Class Surfing
- Jet Boating
- Visits by boat to a Working Fijian Village
- Pearl Farm Tour
- Sunset Cruises
- Scuba and Snorkeling
- Mountain Biking
- Home Visit & Dinner with a Hindu Family
- Whitewater Rafting
- River Floats
- Mangrove Forest Kayaking
- Waterfall Hikes
- Sailing Trips
24. Skip Halong Bay and Visit Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Learn more about Ninh Binh, Vietnam from World for a Girl
25. Skip the Roman Coliseum and Visit El Jem Coliseum
Yes, the Roman Coliseum in Rome is a grand attraction, and fairly so. What’s too often forgotten is how many other Roman empire coliseums exist — and how untouristed many of them go. Exhibit A here is in El Jem, Tunisia, a few hour train ride from Tunis. Like others, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage and was the center of filming for the Life of Brian and Gladiator (remember when movies weren’t entirely made on computers?).
During our off-season visit, we saw no more than 10 people across the entire compound — wonderful to meander and get pictures without worrying about tourists getting in the way.
Much of the site has been well-preserved, and with fewer tourists around, less of it needs to be preserved behind glass. You have access to much of the space, and one of the only signs of the modern reconstruction is the metal grating keeping people from falling down the former trench, which was once covered by a wooden deck. There isn’t a ton of English here – French and Arabic are the two more common languages, with English being a somewhat distant third. Rome doesn’t need more tourists, and the touts there don’t need more marks.
Tunisia has weathered some terrorist attacks, which sadly scared off the mainstream tourists. Independent travelers will discover some great deals to be found, some fun food of a French / Arabic nature, and a lesser-traveled side of the world.
Learn more about El Jem Coliseum from Becoming a Digital Nomad
26. Skip Mount Everest and Visit Ladakh, Indian Himalayas
Gleaming and snowcapped, Everest conjures up images of pristine and isolated slopes for most travelers. Unfortunately, the reality is a little different, and growth in tourism to Everest Basecamp has increasingly been leaving its mark – literally – on the surrounding land. According to recent reports over 5,000kg of trash is being left behind each season at Everest.
At this altitude, there’s no waste infrastructure so plastic bottles, tin cans and other food containers specially imported for tourists are put into landfills and burned, releasing toxic chemicals into the groundwater supply and air. Some locals have said they are running out of space for the landfills. The threat of over tourism to Everest is also increasing as China continues to explore options for opening up Everest via Tibet meaning that the problem is not likely to go away anytime soon.
Located westwards and over the Indian border, the region of Ladakh is home to many of the lower Himalayan peaks and majestic scenery, with treks up to altitudes of 5,400 meters and as low as 3,000 meters – providing something for most trekking abilities. The majestic Karakoram mountain range runs through Ladakh (although it’s the highest peak, K2, is on the Pakistani side of this range).
On the lower treks in Ladakh, it’s possible to trek from homestay to homestay, thereby supporting remote and rural communities through tourism. Ladakh is also a delicate environment and care needs to be taken – you can avoid using plastic by bringing refillable water bottles with you and fill up from streams along the way. Water is generally clean in many parts of Ladakh but to be safe bring a steripen UV filter too.
Trekking is one of the most sustainable ways to see Ladakh as it is generally low impact and we recommend supporting the Ladakhi Women’s’ travel company if you can – who use female trekking guides and promote opportunities for Ladakhi women working in tourism.
Learn more about Ladakh from Soul Travel Blog
27. Skip Edinburgh and Visit Fife
Edinburgh is the second most popular place to visit in all of the UK after London. Over 3.8 million people travel to Edinburgh every year – that’s a lot of visitors for a city with only half a million residents. The busiest month of the year is without at doubt August when no less than five international festivals bring the best artists, performers, comedians, writers and musicians of the world to the city.
As visitors are taking over the city center of Edinburgh during this time, it comes as no surprise that the place is bursting at its seams – especially when it comes to accommodation. Hotels are unaffordable, hostels super-busy and considering the ethical issues around short-term rentals on AirBnB & co. it can be a nightmare to find a good place to stay.
Now, I’m not saying, ‘Don’t go to Edinburgh’ or ‘Don’t go to Edinburgh for the festivals’. The city is gorgeous and at its most exciting during the festival period. However, you can avoid the high cost and struggle to find housing very easily, by basing yourself a 30-minute train ride away in the Kingdom of Fife. Fife is the region of Scotland that lies just north of Edinburgh and is reached across a network of bridges over the Firth of Forth. Places like North Queensferry, Dunfermline or Aberdour are just a hop, skip and a jump away from the bustle of the Edinburgh festivals, but also great hubs to explore a different area of Scotland during your trip!
And if the Edinburgh Festivals sound a bit too busy for you, consider traveling to Scotland to attend one of the numerous festivals that happen in other regions. Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, for example, has 10 major cultural festivals throughout the year. My favorite one is North East Open Studios, where you can visit artists in their workspaces and learn about their craft!
Learn more about Fife from Watch Me See
28. Skip the Amazon and Visit The Pantanal
The Amazon is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet with thousands of different species of wildlife living within its thick tropical jungle. But because the Amazon jungle is so thick, the wildlife is very hard to spot. You can spend days on the river and not see much at all.
To actually see the wildlife, head instead to the Pantanal – an epic tropical wetland sprawling across the states of Mat Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil, with parts of it spreading to neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay.
Unlike the Amazon, the Pantanal is a flat and open landscape made up of interconnected lakes and rivers, and the amount of wildlife that you can observe here is astonishing. There are jaguars, giant otters, giant anteaters, caimans – the crocodile-like reptiles, capybaras, different species of macaws, toucans and even the hummingbirds. In the Pantanal, you will see more wildlife in one day than you would in a week in the Amazon.
The Cuiaba River in the northern Pantanal is the best place in the world to see the Americas’ only big cat – the elusive jaguar. They are quite easy to spot on the riverbanks upriver from the small fishing community of Porto Jofre. The riverbanks are home to a huge population of caiman – jaguars favorite prey in these parts, and if you are lucky, you may even witness a hunt.
Learn more from the Wildlife Diaries
29. Skip Lisbon and Visit Porto, Portugal
Learn more about Porto from With Husband in Tow
30. Skip Cairo and Visit Aswan, Egypt
Visiting Cairo, and the Great Pyramids of Giza, is on most people’s bucket list. And while the Pyramids are pretty incredible, they’re also over-flowing with tourists, full of garbage, and don’t really offer much in the way of learning or Egyptian culture. People are often disappointed with the pyramids, because they sit in the middle of the city, overlooking a garbage dump. It doesn’t live up to the image of three great pyramids in the desert along the Nile!
Aswan is a much better choice for learning about Egyptian culture in a much more relaxed and enjoyable setting. Located in Southern Egypt, along the banks of the Nile, Aswan is full of incredible temples and historic sites. Philae Temple, while not as old as the Pyramids, is far more interesting to visit. Along the walls, you can see Hieroglyphics and large carvings dating back thousands of years. It’s also fascinating to see the way these markings have been altered over the years as the ruling power of Egypt has changed.
Philae Temple is likely the most visited place in Aswan, so if you’re looking to get even more off the beaten path, head to Kalabsha Temple, on the South side of the Aswan dam. You have to take a small boat from a dock near the dam, making it a bit of a trek, but there’s a very high possibility you’ll have the whole place to yourself. Kalabsha is well preserved, and it’s quiet, clean and offers serenity, something uncommon amongst most Egyptian ruins. You’ll feel a little bit like you’ve discovered something special because you have! I hope I’ve convinced you to skip the busy, dirty streets of Cairo and head up the Nile to Aswan instead!
Learn more about Aswan from Where Is the World
When you think of Egypt, the first city that often comes to mind is, of course, the capital, Cairo. Infamous for its rich Ancient Egyptian history and is known as the city of a thousand minarets. But what first-time visitors are often surprised to see is insane traffic, pollution and well… a lot of garbage. It’s no surprise that after a brief visit to Cairo, visitors often flock to the beach for rest and relaxation. While there is an undeniable charm to the city and the organized chaos is actually quite impressive, for some, it can be overwhelming and particularly difficult to travel and get around in if you’re looking to travel more independently.
On the other hand, Aswan, which is also a city on the Nile a few hours to the south, in many ways is opposite to Cairo. When compared to the pace of life in Cairo, everything here seems to slow down and there’s a relaxing atmosphere in the air. Aswan is the perfect jump-off point to visit other areas, whether you travel here by train, plane or my favorite – Nile Cruise!
If you come in search of Ancient Egyptian history, there’s an incredible breadth of things to do in Aswan. With so many temples to be seen, (and by far some of the best in all of Egypt) which includes the likes of Philae and Abu Simbel. Truly immerse yourself in a unique part of Egypt that goes beyond the Ancient ruins; the city is home is to the Nubian people, who have a distinct and rich culture and history of their own. Enjoy a felucca ride down the Nile as you sail to visit some of their colorful Nubian villages. While both cities are incredible and worth visiting, consider adding Aswan to your must-visit list!
Learn more from Ahlan Monica
31. Skip the Isle of Skye and Visit the Isles of Scilly
The Isle of Skye is a victim of its own success. It’s beautiful and relatively accessible (there’s a bridge from the mainland), it has a long and fascinating history, and it’s the location of numerous films. However, come summertime it’s packed with tourists which is beginning to put a strain on the island’s resources.
If you’re after an island experience in the UK without the crowds, I have an alternative: the Isles of Scilly. I’ll admit these isles are not in Scotland but if you’re looking for beautiful empty beaches, car-free roads and rich history, the Scillies take some beating.
The Isles of Scilly are located off the coast of Cornwall and are famous for their Caribbean-quality beaches and their slow pace of life. Even in the height of summer, you can find a beach just for yourself. I didn’t believe this claim until I visited with my family in the summer of 2018. Even the Isles’ most picture-perfect beach, Great Bay, was empty but for our little gang.
Of the five islands, just five are inhabited. You can’t bring a car to the Scillies so you’ll be walking, cycling or hiring a golf buggy. And you’ll be taking a lot of boat trips: to visit other islands, to view wildlife or perhaps to go diving.
If history is your thing, the Scillies have that covered: pre-historic settlements, countless castle ruins and a 17th-century garrison complete with cannons overlooking the waves, our children were spellbound.
And talking of children, the Isles of Scilly are perfect for families. Parents can relax in a beachfront café while their little ones build sand castles and splash in the sea. The islands offer an independence for children and parents which I thought was relegated to holidays of yesteryear.
Learn more about the Isles of Scilly from Smudged Postcard
32. Skip Agra and Visit Hampi, India
Eight million tourists flock to Agra each year to get a glimpse of the iconic Taj Mahal. Even before the gates open at sunrise you will see long queues and tour buses unloading. Then as soon as the gates open it’s a mad dash to be the first in, and get that insta-worthy shot of the Taj at sunrise without another soul. Personally, with two young kids in tow, I wasn’t going to join the race and instead had to battle off the selfie-requests from other visitors who thought my fair-haired children were more photogenic than the Taj. It is indeed a beautiful building and a huge bucket list item. But in all honesty, after a couple of hours walking around the grounds, there isn’t a huge amount of things left to do in Agra. Maybe visit Agra Fort, and get a glimpse of the Taj from the towers, or visit Mehtab Bagh (for a different view of the Taj).
However, if you want to see some true ancient architecture peppered with those colorful Indian ceremonies, and with much fewer crowds, head to Hampi, a place I instantly fell in love with. Here, large sandstone boulders balance precariously across the undulating landscape, which itself is dotted with magnificent ancient temples and ruins patrolled by tribes of macaque monkeys. A calm spirituality ebbs across this chilled traveler town where the magnificent Virupaksha Temple plays center stage. This is a working temple and majestically towers over the village of Hampi. Then head down to the ghats to mingle with locals as they bathe and wash their clothes. However, the highlight for my boys (who were 2 and 3 at the time) was driving a tuk-tuk around the ancient ruins. And yes, I mean the kids actually drove the tuk-tuk (well sat on the lap of a trained driver).
Learn more about Hampi India from TraveLynn Family
33. Skip Amsterdam and Visit Utrecht
Amsterdam is such a beautiful city, but we found it to be overwhelming with the crowds and not as kid friendly as I hoped! Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful time, but also found it kind of hard to navigate with kids. Utrecht, on the other hand, was amazing! We spent a few days here and found it to be such a family-friendly city.
Utrecht can be described as a mini Amsterdam, with its historic canals intersecting the city. It’s also one of the only cities that has a unique wharf-basement structure that creates a two-level street along the canals. These wharves are lined with cute little cafes, making it a perfect place to relax canal side.
We found the city so much more charming than Amsterdam as well, and so many fun activities for the whole family. You can go on a cruise, or better yet, kayak on the canal! explore the city on a bicycle just like the locals, and see more of this wonderful city. There are so many wonderful kid-friendly museums here as well, one, in particular, is the DOMunder tour. The tour gives you a history of the city and it’s past Roman life, and the best part is that it’s interactive. The kids will have an amazing time learning with their very own interactive flashlight. Utrecht is such a wonderful city, and would definitely recommend a visit here instead!
Learn more about Utrecht from Skylar Arias Adventures
34. Skip Budva and Visit Lake Skadar
One of the top visited destinations in Montenegro is Budva. Favorite summer place with beautiful beaches and truly wild nightlife. But this is not all. Overcrowded beaches with no shadow, traffic jams, a huge amount of tourists, noisy town with loud music, especially at night. What’s more, in peak season the prices are often very inflated. This is not a place for someone who wants a calm vacation and silence on the beach or families with children.
A better way to spend your vacation is at Lake Skadar. Although, usually a lake can’t compete with a coast, yet in this case, the lake is a better alternative. The first reason is that the lake represents the real essence of Montenegro. The slogan of Montenegro is “Wild beauty” and that’s what the lake is like. Here you will come across easy-going lifestyle, traditions, and local healthy Mediterranean food.
Lake Skadar is a protected National Park, the largest lake in Europe and a definite hotspot for a diversity of wildlife, principally birds. This place is so uncommercial that is why most foreigners have never heard of it.
Nature lovers and adventurous souls will enjoy this magnificent nature by outdoor activities, such as bird watching, hiking, fishing, renting a boat and swimming. This is also a place of cultural monuments, including monasteries, churches, and fortress you can visit or you can just explore small charming villages.
Learn more about Lake Skadar from Safarinomad
35. Skip Glacier National Park and Visit Bob Marshall Wilderness
They call Glacier National Park the “Crown of the Continent” for a reason – its razor-thin peaks, carved by creeping ice over millions of years, are like nowhere else in the world. The park’s beauty is seemingly unmatched, but such beauty comes with some downsides. Over three million visitors clog the single road crossing the park, the Going-to-the-Sun Highway. Millions of boots trample its fragile alpine trails, leading to erosion, despite the best efforts of park officials. Campgrounds are filled to capacity nearly every night during the peak summer season.
Fortunately, awe-inspiring wilderness is never in short supply in Montana. Just across U.S. Highway 2, which forms Glacier’s southern border, is the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. Fifty percent larger than Glacier and with only a fraction of its visitors, “the Bob,” as locals call it, has a wealth of amazing landscapes to explore. The Bob’s most impressive feature is undoubtedly the “Chinese Wall,” a 22-mile-long, 1,000-foot-high rock wall. Its location, deep in the heart of the wilderness, can only be reached after several days of hiking. There’s also the South Fork of the Flathead River, which has become one of the country’s most popular waterways for packrafts – small, inflatable rafts that are light enough to carry in a backpack to remote mountain rivers before paddling back to civilization over a few days.
Due to its immense size, many visitors choose to explore the wilderness on horseback, with dozens of outfitters plying the main trails. However, it’s not hard to avoid the crowds; the more remote northern section sees very few visitors. Unlike Glacier Park, which uses a lottery system to assign backcountry camping permits in the summer season, you can pitch a tent just about anywhere in the Bob.
Learn more about Bob Marshall Wilderness from Passions and Places
36. Skip Cartagena and Visit Bogota, Columbia
Year-round tropical weather and beaches draw many visitors to Cartagena. But if you travel all the way to Colombia, be sure to visit more than beaches. While Cartagena is pretty, its biggest industry is tourism so it’s harder to find authentic experiences compared to some other destinations.
While the capital city of Bogota is becoming a tourist draw, it is not as reliant on tourism as Cartagena. Highlights of Bogota include an architecturally rich historic center (Candelaria) featuring great museums and picturesque Monserrate.
Panoramic views of Bogota and the Andes Mountains from Monserrate are dramatically beautiful. The Andes, which surround Bogota, dazzled visitors with how lush and green they are. Monserrate Sanctuary dates back to 1657 and there’s also biblical sculptures displayed around the grounds. This also makes it a pilgrimage spot and some visitors hike to the top. Monserrate has several cafes, shops and a beautiful restaurant called Casa San Isidro. A cable car or funicular train connects visitors to the top, to an altitude of 3,152 meters (10,341 feet).
Bogota’s Candelaria has several highlights. Bolivar Square is home to the Colombian Parliament and you may even get to pet a llama right in the square. Two museums are musts: The Museo Del Oro (Gold Museum) and the Museo Botero. The Museo Botero was our favorite and is a free museum featuring the works of Colombia’s most iconic painter: Fernando Botero, along with works by European masters. There’s also great food and shopping in the Candelaria.
Learn more about Bogota from Wanderlust Marriage Travel
37. Skip Boracay and Visit Malalison Island
It’s undeniable that Boracay is one of the best beaches in the world, but it’s also fully commercialized such that in 2018 the government had to close it down for 6 months for rehabilitation. The good news is that there are other alternatives nearby, and one of that is Malalison Island in Antique.
Malalison Island is a small island in the province of Antique, about 2-3 hours away from Boracay. A small community lives here and work together to welcome the tourists. Some of the things to do here include trekking to see the picturesque rolling hills and cliffs overlooking the seaside community, as well as swimming and beach bumming.
It’s also possible to take a boat ride to visit the nearby Seco Island, an uninhabited island that is popular for its fine white sand bar. Here, tourists can swim and chill, as well as windsurf.
As for the accommodations in Malalison Island, there are tents, homestays and beach resorts available depending on your preference. Malalison Island doesn’t have loud night bars and the multitude of hotels & resorts that Boracay offers. Instead, this charming & quaint island is an alternative especially to those who want a quieter beach vacation in a more pristine location.
Learn more about Malalison from Tara Lets Anywhere
38. Skip Barcelona and Visit Bilbao, Spain
Barcelona is mentioned in nearly every article talking about overtourism, and for good reason. The seaside Spanish city has been a victim of its own success, so much so that locals scrawl graffiti on building walls telling tourists to go home. Much of the problem revolves around housing, as getting an apartment has become impossible for local residents. Landlords prefer to rent out the apartments on Airbnb, often buying up entire buildings and evicting residents to make way for tourist rentals. Nearly 30 million tourists visited the city in 2017, compared to the 1.6 million residents, turning traditional places like Boqueria Market into expensive, crowded tourist traps, losing much of the culture that attracted tourists to begin with. The city has rapidly become a crowded playground for weekend tourists at the expense of locals that usually live off much lower salaries than visitors.
Instead of contributing to Barcelona’s overtourism problem, why not visit another unique city in Spain, Bilbao? This northern city is the capital of the Basque Country, a region with its own unique culture, language, and history. It has just as much beauty and charm as Barcelona, but without the crowds.
Art lovers can visit the impressive Guggenheim museum, or simply marvel from the outside at the building’s architecture and accompanying outdoor sculptures, including a gigantic dog covered in flowers! Wander the historic quarter and catch a sight of a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago, a long distance pilgrimage route the passes through heart of Bilbao.
The city is also within easy reach of the mountains, with a funicular that takes visitors straight up a hillside for sweeping views of the city and its green surrounding landscape. If you prefer the ocean, a short metro ride will take you to the seaside town of Portugalete, where you can view and ride on the “Hanging Bridge,” a UNESCO World Heritage site and impressive feat of industrial engineering.
Finally, Bilbao boasts a vibrant foodie scene and Basque gastronomy is renowned around the globe. A visit to Bilbao isn’t complete without experiencing “pintxos,” the north’s version of tapas. Pintxos or pinchos are small dishes available at every bar throughout the day. Try a few at each place, accompanying them with traditional Basque wine, Txakoli. Even vegetarians and vegans don’t have to miss out on the delicious food. Plant-based eaters can read the Basque Country Vegan Guide to learn more.
From Alternative Travelers
39. Skip Tuscany and Visit Umbria, Italy
Tuscany is home to Florence, Pisa and Siena, three of some of the most popular places to visit in Italy. Many people only know to go to Tuscany in Italy. As such, the towns can be very crowded, and the prices are expensive. In Florence, you will have to wait in long lines to visit the Uffizi Gallery or to visit The David even with a pre-booked ticket.
An excellent alternative to Tuscany is the region of Umbria. Umbria is just outside of Rome and has many smaller cities that are worth seeing. Not only is it less crowded but less expensive than Tuscany. Many of these towns have tons of historic sites that you have not heard of but are definitely worth visiting.
In Amelia, the city walls date from the 12th century and are still standing. Assisi is the birthplace of St. Frances, and there is a basilica there dedicated to him. The town also offers stunning views of the countryside. Best of all is Umbria is so close to Rome that many of these places can be on a day trip from Rome if you are already visiting the Eternal City.
Learn more about Umbria from A Girl and Her Passport
40. Skip Mauritius and Visit Rodrigues Island
Mauritius bears no resemblance to the island it was 30 years ago and is now home to a multitude of luxury chain hotels, golf courses and the crowds of tourists that go with them. Rodrigues Island, however, which lies 560 km northeast of Mauritius, retains a raw natural beauty, offers wholesome food, genuine hospitality and the friendliest of people. Rodrigues Island is off the beaten track, authentic and an Indian Ocean gem that not too many people know about. Yet.
Head for the white sands of a palm tree-studded beach on Rodrigues and you’ll find yourself sharing it with a goat or two but rarely another tourist. Because the island is relatively undiscovered there are only one or two hotels.
Accommodation is mainly in B&Bs and homestays run by locals who dish up fresh, home-grown food from recipes passed down through the generations. Fish and seafood is plentiful, fished straight from the reef-fringed lagoon that surrounds the island. A range of cuisines is served from Creole to Indian and African to Chinese marking the cultures that have passed through.
Wildlife is important to the people of Rodrigues. A giant tortoise sanctuary is home to hundreds of these huge creatures. A small island dedicated as a bird sanctuary where you can spend time watching the birds and enjoying the white sand beaches and crystal waters. Explore underground caves, hike from cove to cove, snorkel, scuba dive or kite surf. But go soon before too many people get to hear about this Indian Ocean paradise.
Learn more about Rodrigues Island from The Travelbunny
41. Skip Mallorca, Spain and Visit Sao Miguel Island in Azores, Portugal
Sustainable tourism is one that seeks to minimize environmental and socioeconomic impacts on communities and destinations (regions and countries). From this premise, we can find a broad spectrum of destinations that are doing very well or very badly in terms of sustainable tourism, and responsible.
It is true that the Balearic island of Mallorca is currently making some efforts to improve the quality of tourism it receives. Although it is complicated because their tourism started very soon and a lot of high-rise hotels were built on the coast with a great negative impact on the local economy among other problems.
So, we want to recommend alternative island destinations in southern Europe to help the recovery of Mallorca and the Balearic Islands. And one of the best options is the Azores, and more specifically the island of Sao Miguel, because there the tourism is of very high quality and the local economy is respected. Throughout the year there are isolated tourists and even groups, but never overtourism. In addition, nature lovers will fall in love with their exceptional landscapes. Enjoy!
Learn more about Sao Miguel Azores from A World to Travel
42. Skip Langkawi and Visit Tioman Island, Malaysia
We were very disappointed in Langkawi after hearing so much about it. It was incredibly cramped with tourists, even before the high season when we were there. It seemed we couldn’t walk through the town without being asked to buy something or come into a restaurant, and the vying for our attention was not warm and friendly competition, but cutthroat business. Also, the beaches were grey and dirty, with vehicles parked all over them, people walking off with live sea stars, and motorsports up and down every swimmable section. And there was a lot of new construction right on the beaches too, which will further destroy the coastline.
In comparison, Tioman Island was much more relaxed and friendly. It had a healthy tourist population, small family cafes and businesses, and beautiful, unspoiled beaches. We volunteered for a week helping a sea turtle project there and were amazed at how stunning the beach still was! Some development has happened on Tioman of course, but a large portion of their land has been purchased specifically for it NOT to be developed; it is retained for locals to farm on. I hope it always stays that way.
Learn more about Tioman Island from Small Footprints, Big Adventures
43. Skip Angkor Wat and Visit Kampot, Cambodia
There is no denying that Angkor Wat is beautiful, but there are a variety of reasons you should skip it. Firstly, due to the massive surge in visitors, the price of visiting Angkor Wat is continually rising, to very expensive prices that almost outweigh the beauty. Every year the government hikes the price up, but when does it stop? Crowds are increasing and this decreases the tranquility that once could be experienced at the temples. Rather, if you’re looking for a beautiful place in Cambodia that’s peaceful, tranquil and friendly, then take a visit to the beautiful riverside town of Kampot.
The sunrises and sunsets are stunning, dining by the lake is inexpensive and beautiful, you can kayak along the river for $3 and you can visit caves, pepper farms, secret lakes, temples and much more all via moped. Kampot is extremely beautiful and very cheap. You can stay on the actual lake in beautiful bungalows, and you can take a riverboat cruise at night to view the stunning fireflies that surround you. It’s one of my favorite places in all of Cambodia and it truly stole my heart. It’s a perfect spot for couples looking to relax for a few days too since there is a touch of romance in the air.
Learn more about Kampot from Dream Big, Travel Far
44. Skip Venice and Visit Trieste, Italy
If you plan a trip to Italy this summer, instead of going to Venice, which is heavily suffering the crowds of tourists, plan a visit to Trieste for a more relaxed city trip. With a comfy train ride aboard the Frecce, you can get to Trieste from Venice in less than 2 hours to explore one of the lesser-known, yet beautiful cities in Northern Italy. Having changed the flag many times during the World War II, it has undergone a deep transformational time, due to the rich multicultural background that shines through its people, its buildings, its places and first and foremost its cuisine. From fish-based dishes to Slovak recipes to Mediterranean delights and one of the best coffees in Italy!
For nature lovers, it’s an ideal getaway to the Karst plateau, on the Triestine hills skirting the coast, or to the northern Croatian islands. A stone’s throw from Trieste for keen hikers who love to have a hiking and swimming adventure. When in town visit the Grand Canale that will remind you of Venice where small sailing boats are moored, walk through the small streets to admire its imposing buildings and the majestic Piazza Unità, the largest city square with a seafront view. And last but not least don’t skip on the promenade walk to the Miramare castle to savor the Austro-Hungarian buildings and its beautiful English gardens.
Learn more about Trieste from Rocky Travel
45. Skip Sapa and Visit Ha Giang, Vietnam
Every year, an estimated three million people flock to a little corner of Vietnam that’s long been a mecca for trekking and homestays. Postcard-perfect vistas of sweeping rice terraces, colorful markets, and misty mountain peaks: Sapa in Lao Cai Province has it all. But behind the pretty veneer is a host of problems stemming from overtourism. Poor infrastructure, environmental degradation, pollution, corruption, and social problems are just some of the issues Sapa faces. A lack of local ownership and the commercialization of ethnic cultures are just two contributing factors. Add to this the fact that many parts of Lao Cai are overcrowded year-round, and Sapa has lost a lot of its charm.
Already popular among domestic tourists, Ha Giang is now emerging as an alternative destination for foreign visitors. Located north-east of Sapa, Ha Giang Province consists of a collection of villages and small towns scattered amongst the rugged mountain passes and karst plateaus that form a natural border with China. Like Sapa, Ha Giang is mostly inhabited by ethnic minority communities, including the Hmong. Ha Giang only recently opened up to tourists (foreign passport holders still require a permit to visit). Many people view it as a ‘fresh slate’ and see tourism development in Ha Giang as an opportunity to learn from Lao Cai’s mistakes. Social enterprises and NGOs are moving in to help set up sustainable tourism projects.
Ha Giang offers trekking and landscapes to rival Sapa, but without the crowds and with far less pollution. With the exception of Dong Van city, the largest in the area, Ha Giang is still relatively off the beaten track. Visitors can expect more rustic accommodations and fewer food options—but the tradeoff is a much more rewarding travel experience. I spent time in both Sapa and Ha Giang when I was recently living in Vietnam. I still think Sapa is a fantastic place for trekking, and because of its accessibility from Hanoi, I believe it will always be a popular destination. There are definitely sustainable tourism options available in Sapa, which I highly recommend pursuing if you visit. For a truly sustainable alternative, consider Ha Giang instead.
Learn more about Ha Giang, Vietnam from Wander Lush
46. Skip Cartagena and Visit Villa de Leyva, Colombia
The sunny and charming coastal town of Cartagena, way up North in Colombia, is about as charming as a colonial town can be. You get the cobblestone streets. The horse-drawn carriages. The old pirate fortress. The ancient city walls from which you have the most amazing view of the sunset. Oh and did I mention the brightly painted houses? Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, you are not the only one thinking like that. Everywhere you go, you will see tons and tons of tourists. That sunset I’ve mentioned before? Well, you’ll be sharing that view with about 200 people. While it is still stunning and has a wonderful vibe and it is not so much a question of not worth a visit (because it definitely is!), there is another town where you get to experience that colonial feeling in a truly wonderful setting.
Villa de Leyva, 3 hours north of Bogotá, was named the most beautiful village of Colombia and we can only confirm that. We extended our stay from 2 to 5 nights and we even added 4 more days at the very end of our Colombian tour. That’s how much we fell in love with Villa de Leyva. The Plaza Mayor, with its 14000 square meters the largest square of Colombia, is the heart of the town. Cobbled streets, white painted colonial buildings and it’s setting surrounded by green hills complete the gorgeous picture.
It is still a rather touristy little town, but where all the visitors in Cartagena are foreign, those coming to Villa de Leyva are Colombian! We managed to spot 5 foreign travellers. 5! In 9 days! Sights in and around the colonial village include dinosaur remains (the most complete Kronosaurus was found here!), a Pozo Azúl (great place for swimming) and visits to nearby villages (for example, artisanía hot-spot Ráquira).
From Travel Gear for Kids
47. Skip Machu Picchu and Visit Choquequirao Ruins
Machu Picchu in the last years became a bucket list destination for thousands of people, as a result, the ruins got overcrowded and the Peruvian Government had to limit the number of people that can access Machu Picchu to 6,000 people a day but it’s still a lot. The ruins are still impressive; located at the top of the mountain surrounded by the clouds but the number of people queueing to take photos spoils them quite a bit.
On our last trip to Peru, we spent one month in Cusco and had enough time to explore more off the beaten path places and ruins. One of them was Choquequirao ruins so-called little sister of Machu Picchu. The ruins are located in the remote area in order to get there you have to walk for two days from Cachora the nearest town where you can get by bus. Trek to Choquequirao ruins is quite challenging and requires a good level of fitness.
The ruins like Machu Picchu are located at the top of the mountain. There are two groups of ruins; the Lower ruins that consist mainly of terraces and the Upper ruins with houses and temples, the Upper part looks stunning at the sunrise. There is a designated campsite at the Lower Ruins you can camp here as long as you want which allows you to have enough time to explore the area.
There are no shops or restaurants nearby trekkers have to bring all food with, the campsite is the only infrastructure here. In high season there are no more than 100 people a day at the ruins compared to 6000 at Machu Picchu. We were at Choquequirao at the end of October and in two days we stayed there we saw about 30 people. Visiting this stunning ruins with very few other people gives you a feeling of traveling back in time, the place didn’t lose its magic due to tourism exploitation and overcrowdedness.
Learn more about Choquequirao Ruins from Stingy Nomads
48. Skip The Great Barrier Reef and Visit Raja Ampat, Indonesia
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s top destinations for scuba divers. With miles and miles of underwater reefs that are rich with life, it is easy to see why so many divers who visit Australia add the Great Barrier Reef to their bucket list. But is it worth it?
There are several things to consider. First, Australia is not a cheap destination. It is very expensive to visit the mainland, let alone to visit the Great Barrier Reef sites. And unfortunately, with overtourism and climate change, the Great Barrier Reef is deteriorating. The reef is under a lot of stress, and many corals have gone through irreversible bleaching that eventually kills the reef system.
As an alternative, diving in Raja Ampat of Indonesia is a cheaper and overall better experience. For one, Indonesia is much cheaper than Australia – even when you start your journey in Jakarta or Bali, it is much cheaper than Sydney or Brisbane.
To get to Raja Ampat, you will have to make your way to the West Papuan town of Sorong, where most of the diving operators are located. From here, you can hop on a week-long liveaboard dive boat, such as the Raja Ampat Aggressor, to view one of the most spectacular diving experiences you can find anywhere on Earth.
Raja Ampat is home to several amazing creatures, such as Epaulette Sharks and tiny Pygmy seahorses. There are tons of bait fish balls, and anything from the tiniest of nudibranchs to massive whale sharks.
Learn more about Raja Ampat, Indonesia from The Round the World Guys
49. Skip Vienna and Visit Graz, Austria
Vienna has been a popular tourist destination for hundreds of years now. With travel becoming more affordable in the last century, however, visitor numbers have grown exponentially. While the tourist infrastructure in Vienna is very good, the housing market is suffering. Of course, apartments in the ‘most livable city in the world’ have never been cheap, but the emergence of Airbnb has put prices over the edge. While new rules are being implemented, it is well worth to look for an alternative destination in Austria. Austrians also love to claim that Vienna isn’t ‘real Austria’ anyway, and in fact, many businesses today cater to tourists exclusively.
To get a taste of Austria off the beaten track, head to Graz instead. Although it is the second biggest city in Austria, it only receives a handful of foreign tourists every year. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more authentic Austrian city than Graz. Not only is its historic center UNESCO-listed, but it is also the home of numerous museums and imposing palaces. It is also the perfect location to explore southern Austria’s culinary treasures.
Thanks to its mild climate Graz and its surrounding regions are well known for their vineyards. A short car ride can take you to a traditional ‘Buschenschank’ which not only serves crisp wines, but also traditional Austrian snack platters, known as a ‘Brettljause’. The Styrian Buschenschank is much more rustic and intimate than the Viennese Heuriger which makes it worth the trip alone!
Learn more about Graz, Austria from Nomad Epicurians
50. Skip Mount Everest Base Camp and Visit Annapurna, Nepal
Nepal has some of the most beautiful mountains and hiking trails in the world. The most popular is the Everest Base Camp Trek, which gets almost 30,000 people each year. Every day on the trail you can expect to share it with about 500 other tourists.
This has led to a number of problems, including polluted trails and increased bottlenecks at the Lukla airport, where you have to fly to start the Everest trail. Tourists are then forced to pay for helicopters instead of planes to get out, which companies charge inflated prices for.
Instead of hiking the Everest Base Camp trek, try one of the many beautiful hikes in the Annapurna Mountain range. There are a number of alternative hikes equally stunning as Everest base camp, that also have a number of added benefits.
These hikes are much easier to access, as the trailheads are within a couple of hours drive from the gorgeous town of Pokhara. The Annapurna Base Camp trek is at a much lower altitude than the Everest base camp so the likelihood of getting altitude sickness is reduced, and the time to adjust to the altitude at stops is shorter.
Another reason to consider hiking through the Annapurna Mountain Ranges is that you will find fewer tourists. While hiking through the Ghandruk tail, we only passed a couple of other tourists each day. Whatever hike you decide to do in Annapurna as an alternative to Everest base camp, the views and experience will not disappoint.
Learn more about Annapurna from Explore With Lora
51. Skip Rocky Mountain National Park and Visit Grand Lake, Colorado
First of all, let me state I absolutely love Rocky Mountain National Park. Can I tell you what I don’t love? The summer tourist crowds. It’s getting busier every year and rarer to be off on a trail with few people.
Therefore, instead of going to Estes Park, Colorado and then into Rocky Mountain National Park, our family loves to visit Grand Lake, Colorado. Have you heard of Grand Lake? It’s just outside the western side of the park and is generally much less crowded than Estes and the opposite side.
Let me tell you why I love Grand Lake. First off, it’s the perfect place for a family vacation. There are activities for all ages: fishing, hiking, beaches, kayaking, canoeing, wildlife viewing, and probably the best little café in this part of the world, The Fat Cat Café. Grand Lake is specifically known for its moose, and they are often seen wandering through town and around the lake.
Earlier in the summer is the least crowded. Head over to the Grand Lake East Shore Trailhead and take a hike up to the Shadow Mountain Lookout for amazing views of Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake, and the surrounding mountains. It begins in the Arapahoe National Forest, outside the National Park. However, the Lookout itself is located in the National Park and is on the register of National Historic Places. It’s about 4.8 miles up with a significant elevation gain, but you’re rewarded with few people on the trail and amazing views!
There are a variety of other hikes around at many different levels. My husband and son love the fishing, my daughter loves the little mountain town, and I love to relax by the lake! There are activities every day with charm and a historic feel, without the giant crowds of Estes Park and the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Learn more about Grand Lake, Colorado from Explorer Momma
52. Skip Barcelona and Visit Pamplona, Spain
Pamplona may not be as well-known as Barcelona for travel in northeastern Spain but the city boasts an astounding amount of things for tourists to do. Barcelona attracted nearly 9 million tourists in 2017, while Pamplona attracted just over a million. Barcelona is a beautiful city in and of itself, however, the city constantly struggles with over tourism, and environmental concerns stemming from cruise ships leaving Barcelona’s port city almost daily throughout the year. Pamplona is a beautiful alternative in a great location to other charming towns and cities in Spain’s Basque country.
One of the better-known events in Pamplona is the annual San Fermin, or running of the bulls festival. Drawing approximately 1 million tourists during early July, the festival has become known for tourists who try to outrun the massive bulls during the 800-meter run toward the central plaza de Toros. The festival also includes music, festivities, fireworks and many other Spanish cultural activities that are sure to spark the hearts of tourists.
Taking a stroll through Pamplona’s Casco Viejo is an experience in itself. One can feel as if they are being transported back in time as they stroll past old defense walls, cathedrals such as Santa Maria, medieval buildings and even sculptures of the American writer Ernest Hemingway. Pamplona was a constant yet quiet retreat for Hemingway, and the city has not forgotten one of its most famous visitors.
Looking for a traditional Spanish treat? Try chocolate with churros at Café Iruna and you’ll no doubt be longing to chat with the locals about one of Basque Spain’s loveliest cities.
Learn more from the Elusive Family
53. Skip Shimla, India and Visit Mawlynnong, India
Located on India – Bangladesh border, this village has been deemed “The Cleanest Village in Asia” in 2003 by DISCOVER INDIA and since then it has been living up to its title. Located in Meghalaya State in India, the inhabitants have gone the extra mile and you can see the impact the moment you step in the place.
Bamboo dustbins right outside each home collect all type of waste including fallen tree leaves. While Biodegradable waste is converted into manure, other waste is 100% recycled and reused. With zero tolerance for smoking, littering, and the use of plastic bags, this village has set an example for the world to follow. Switching to solar lights and rooftop plants is helping them turn it into a 100% carbon neutral place. Installing a rainwater harvesting system by creating natural basins right outside each home is making them self-sustainable.
Mawlynnong is also a unique example of women empowerment where the wealth of family is transferred from mother to her daughter and children inherit their mother’s surname instead of their father’s. For travelers, this destination offers a UNESCO world heritage site in the form of “ Living Root Bridges.” These bridges were naturally made in the span of 20-30 years by the connecting roots of rubber trees among each other over river streams.
Learn more about Mawlynnong from Family On The Wheels
54. Skip Arches National park and Visit Capitol Reef National Park
Arches National park is magic. We love it but it can get very crowded, especially in the spring, summer or autumn. Instead of visiting Arches, we suggest Capitol Reef National Park.
I grew up going to Capitol Reef and have nothing but fond memories. It’s such a fun place for everything southern Utah without the crowds. You have arches, petroglyphs, narrow canyon hikes, and fun drives. There is also the fun historical area of Frutia in Capitol Reef which is something that doesn’t exist in any other of the Utah national parks.
If you go in the winter be aware that many restaurants are closed but it’s still doable. Some of our favorite places to hike are Hickman Bridge, Capitol Gorge, The Grand Wash. Our favorite drive is the Cathedral Valley Drive. It’s a 56-mile long dirt road but well worth the day trip. It’s an absolutely gorgeous valley with virtually no one around.
One of our favorite activities is looking at the stars. Capitol Reef is known as one of the darkest places in the USA to view the night sky.
If you want the beauty of arches but a million fewer people, head to Capitol Reef. It’s such a charming national park.
Learn more about Capitol Reef National Park from Tava
By visiting some of these incredible alternative destinations, we can do our part to help prevent overtourism. Sustainable tourism has never been more important than now as the number of travelers continues to rise. I’d love to hear about any ways that you are attempting to be an ethical traveler and I’d love to know of any alternative destinations you recommend!