Visiting popular destinations is an amazing experience, especially when traveling to see specific landmarks or museums. Sometimes, however, navigating the crowds becomes too stressful, you become tired of paying triple prices and you begin to wish it was all a bit less busy. Below is a list of the alternative destinations that are questionably better than their popular competitors to inspire your next trip.
Gozo is the smaller, sister island of Malta which can be accessed by a short ferry and is often visited by tourists on day trips and mainland locals on the weekend. The island has the same quaint architecture of its bigger sister but is much quieter and largely consists of local Maltese who call the island home. If you enjoy sea swimming then the beautifully bright blue bays will impress, as will the coastal paths and waterside family-run eateries. While there are plenty of hotels on the island, many locals rent out their villas which tend to be spacious with their own swimming pools. Hire a car and take the ferry across to Malta for a day of sightseeing. You will be pleased to return back to the tranquility of Gozo after a day of the hustle and bustle in the crowds.
While Paris is a bucket list favorite, consider alternative destinations such as Bordeaux. A classic UNESCO French city with a small inflow of tourists, Bordeaux provides a high level of gastronomy, nightlife, culture, and charm. The museums, landmarks, and cafes ensure there are countless things for any visitor to do, but the city’s close proximity to the beach and vineyards mean there is an abundance of interesting day trips on offer too. If you are a lover of wine, this one is for you.
Mamma Mia! fans will know that the island of Vis in Croatia is where the second movie was shot, and while Croatia has been popular with tourists, Vis has remained partially low-key. Many flock to Hvar for its bustling small towns and clear waters but in recent years the island has become popular for weddings and party holidays. Vis, on the other hand, provides the fun without the noise and cruise ship visitors. Be adventurous and try tunneling, abseiling and cycling or relax on the cove beaches. When you’re bored of sunbathing there are plenty of museums and cultural centers to visit. While you are there, hire a boat and sail to the tiny neighboring islands where you can spend the day at the beach clubs that are popular with the British royal family.
For anyone who has seen photos of the Amalfi Coast, they will know that the famous string of coastal towns boasts an array of multi-colored buildings, small fishing boats and a sense of classic Italian seaside culture. Although all of this, combined with blue seas and hot weather makes for an amazing summer getaway, the coastline becomes overpopulated in the summer months. The Cinque Terre, however, has managed to keep a slightly more authentic small-town life feel while still taking on tourism as a major economy. This is perhaps due to the fact it is not flooded with day trippers and the super-rich, unlike the Amalfi Coast. Spend your days walking the coastal paths to the connected towns and seeking out local, family-run finds.
Smaller than Barcelona but with just as much culture, Bilbao is a port city in Northern Spain with a strong art scene and incredible dining options. While the architecture may be more modern and shiny than the Gaudi buildings of Barcelona, Bilbao boasts the Guggenheim Museum which is housed in a shiny Frank Gehry building and is one of the main talking points of the city. For those who prefer more classical attractions, pay a visit to the cathedral or take a trip to the outskirts of the city to see some spectacular landscapes.
You’ve probably heard of Chiang Mai, a city in Northern Thailand, famed for its Buddhist temples which sit close modern skyscrapers and buzzing nightlife scene. Although many travelers enjoy the party side of the city, some are left looking for a quiet place to unwind. Chiang Rai, however, offers spiritual temples and cultural sights like its sister city but with a more relaxed feel. The city remains provincial and undeveloped but still holds events like its Night Bazaar and has a small offering of high-end accommodation, allowing visitors to chill in luxury and immerse themselves in Thai culture at the same time.
Île de Ré
The French Riviera may offer luxury hotels, fine dining and hedonistic nightlife, but a week or two spent in this ‘billionaires playground’ will quickly have you delving into your savings account. For the same picturesque coastal town vibe without the ridiculous price tag, take a trip to the Île de Ré on France’s Atlantic Coast where the Parisians go for their holidays. When you’re not at the beach, take a coastal bike ride, visit the antiques and food markets or enjoy lunch at one of the islands oyster shacks.
When you think about Morocco, it’s difficult not to picture the bustling souks and sand colored buildings. Marrakesh has been the tourist hotspot for a long while now, but Morocco’s oldest imperial city of Fez is one of its competitors for alternative destinations. With thousands of locals still living in the city despite a surge in tourism, the traditional way of living has stayed intact. Take a wander through The Medina and browse the range of goods the artisans have on display, take a cooking lesson in a riad or visit the Tanner’s Quarter and watch barefoot workers dying hides. The city has also seen a new wave of luxury hotels opening so you can spend your trip staying in style.
It’s no secret that Venice is suffering from an onslaught of tourists and the problem is not getting much better. So, if a city built on waterways is what you are after then ditch Venice for Veneto’s Treviso, a small historic town that offers the classic Italian charm with less of the selfie-snapping crowds and overpriced eateries. There’s a covered fish market, countless fresco paintings, and a central piazza that houses Benetton’s flagship store. Beyond the walled city are fields of salad radishes and superior quality grapes, which are used in the making of DOCG status prosecco. If you really feel like your missing out on an €80 gondola ride then Venice is only a shuttle bus away.
The Nabatean Kingdom’s second largest settlement, Mada’in Saleh is known as Saudi Arabia’s hidden city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lesser known and far less busy, Mada’in Saleh is on the amazing alternative destinations to the popular Petra. The ancient ruined city is home to many tombs which have been revealed through ongoing archeological investigations and collections of carvings are now visible throughout the site that is rich in cultural history. Although Mada’in Saleh is currently closed to public viewings for development, it is one to add to the bucket list for its reopening in a couple of years.
Have you visited any of these alternative destinations, or do you have any recommendations? Share your suggestions in the comments below.
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