Not sure if you can stomach joining the hordes to see an over hyped destination? These alternative city breaks will help you break free…
We’ve heard all about the problems of tourist saturation at many of the world’s most popular destinations, which can be off putting for any tourist. Do you really want to fly half way around the world to traipse around with thousands of other people to see something that you’ve already seen in pictures? Well, if you’re looking for a more original approach, try these alternative city breaks and tourist attractions that don’t get half the footfall as their more famous cousins.
Italy: Venice Or Verona?
There’s no doubt about it, Venice is stunning and is a must visit destination. There are plenty of quiet corners you can explore to get away from the hordes, but really, the Rialto bridge and Piazza San Marco are knee deep in tourists.
If you can’t stomach being one of the 70,000 people who visit Venice on a daily basis, look just a few miles down the road.
Verona is the gateway to the Lake Garda region and as such is still a popular destination with tourists. It also has the Juliet balcony (supposedly the site of Romeo & Juliet’s romantic encounter, although remember, it is fiction) and plenty of amazing architecture. But, it only gets a fraction of the visitors of Venice.
As it’s only an hour or so by train, you can even make a day trip to the city of canals to experience the wonder (and the chaos) of the beautiful city of Venice. Or, wander villages around the edge of Lake Garda and experience a hectic Italian city.
We also reviewed Trieste, a town slightly further down the coast which is also worthy of alternative to Venice status.
Thailand: Koh Phi Phi Or Koh Libong?
No question, if you’re in Thailand you’re gonna end up on one of the islands. Most head to Koh Phangan (full moon party island) or Koh Tao (cheap scuba island) – or most likely Koh Phi Phi (That one from ‘The Beach’ movie). Leo DiCaprio has a lot to answer for..
Koh Phi Phi has unfortunately been quite heavily subjected to the rigours of unchecked tourism, its once pristine beaches now littered with rubbish and pollution. Add to this the party backpacker vibe and suddenly the paradise vibe seems a bit distant.
Head a bit further south to Trang province (near the border with Malaysia) and you’ll find yourself with a glut of beautiful and relatively untouched islands. Top choice among them is Koh Libong. You’ll find jungle interior, those epic rock formations, a choice of accommodation for all budgets and even scuba and snorkel opportunities. But, without the neon painted masses.
Head to Hat Yao in Trang and take the half hour boat ride to the island.
Brazil: Rio de Janeiro Or Florianapolis
One of the world’s most iconic cities, Rio de Janeiro is on many peoples bucket lists for good reason. The hedonistic lifestyle, the stunning beaches and the beautiful backdrop. But, many find Rio to be a bit of a disappointment. It is a modern city so, it’s busy and polluted. It also has a pretty appalling crime level and those glamorous beaches are actually quite polluted and dirty.
No question, Rio is a good looking city. But if you can forgo the iconic and largely overhyped Rio you’ll find a wealth of beautiful cities surrounded by amazing beaches all along the Brazilian coast.
One of the best options is Florianapolis. This island city has a reputation as being blessed with some of the best beaches in Brazil and that’s saying something… You still get that hilly jungle backdrop, a cool city where the locals love to party and a glut of golden beaches where you can surf, sunbathe or sip caiprinhas. There are over 40 beaches on Santa Catarina Island (the island the city sits on) so you’ll be spoiled for choice – secluded or buzzing, take your pick. You’ll probably need a hire car to explore the island though as the public transport is a bit spotty – but there are beaches close enough to the city such as Praia de Joaquina and Praia de Campeche.
But why settle with just Florianapolis? Check out also Salvador de Bahia, Recife, Aracaju and Maceió.
Mediterranean: Ibiza/Mallorca or Sardinia/Corsica
If you’ve ever been to the Ballaerics in summer you’ll know about the definition of tourist saturation. Mallorca’s well publicised struggles with tourists have even led to talk of limiting the amount of visitors to the islands and even Ibiza seems to have had enough. In fact, as of 2018 the tourist taxes have doubled in an attempt to stem the tide.
But, for the sun kissed Mediterranean island feel, you don’t have to stray far from these stalwarts of the scene. Sardinia in Italy and Corsica in France are still relatively quiet (compared to their neighbours), although admittedly the party scene is not as vibrant. But, if paying €10 for a bottle of water isn’t your idea of a good night out, you’ll probably find these two more up your street.
Corsica’s hilly interior, called the maquis, is an incredibly beautiful landscape dotted by craggy hills. You’ll find white beaches practically empty of tourists and sleepy towns where you can enjoy a meal and a glass of wine for what is still a reasonable price, even for expensive France. Towns like Bonifacio on the southern tip are the postcard image of the island, with its buildings perched across a clifftop.
Sardinia is one of the biggest islands in the Med, so is blessed with a diverse choice of beach towns for the adventurous tourist. For party seekers, Olbia, Cagliari and Alghero are packed full of cool bars and nightclubs where you can dance the night away.
Neither of these are cheaper options, Spain is after all still a bargain. But to avoid the Brits abroad these two are great options.
NOTE: Air Corsica have launched flights from Stansted Ajaccio and Bastia on the island, so expect to a rise in visitors this year…
USA: Las Vegas Or New Orleans
One of the biggest draws in the USA, Las Vegas is made for tourists. Glitzy casinos, resident celebrities doing nightly shows, the strip… If you want to go wild Vegas is the place to do it. But, it’s also packed full of tourists year round, thanks to its climate and reputation. If you’re not sure if the shameless greed, bright lights and hedonism of Vegas is for you there is another option.
New Orleans still has the vibrant nightlife but with a bit more of a cultural vibe. You’ll still hear jazz and blues wafting out of bars off Bourbon Street and if you like Cajun food then there is nowhere better. Yes, ‘The Big Easy’ is still a tourist hot spot but nowhere near the levels of Las Vegas.
Be warned, it gets hot and humid down south and it’s also wise to avoid hurricane season (around August to September), for obvious reasons.
Croatia: Dubrovnik Or Anywhere Else In Croatia
Thanks largely to Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik has seen a huge surge in visitors over the past few years, bringing it nearly level with Venice for saturation levels. It is, after all, a stunning city with it’s walled old town and red roofed houses. However, it isn’t a big city and in the summer months the tourist footfall can make it tricky to appreciate the splendour of the town -and it annoys the locals too.
Croatia, however, is blessed with gorgeous coastal cities that haven’t been in GOT and therefore are only a bit crowded, relatively. Pula, Split, Zadar and Rijeka are all equally as stunning, In fact, stick a pin in the Croatian coast and you’ll find a picturesque, red roofed town worthy of as much acclaim as Dubrovnik.
Another aspect of the overcrowding issue is the cruise ships which spend the summer months criss crossing the Med and bringing up to 4,500 people in one visit to towns which are already popular with tourists. Santorini, Barcelona, Venice and Dubrovnik are some of the most high profile cases of cities that have been subjected to tourist saturation.
If you’re looking to enjoy Croatia and avoid being part of the heaving masses of tourists, head to any of the other towns instead…
Cambodia: Siem Reap/Angkor Wat
One of the most popular visitor attractions in South East Asia, there is no doubt that the Angkor Wat complex has seen a huge influx of tourists over the years. And as Asian countries become more affluent, that tourism is set to increase.
In Cambodia itself there isn’t much that would serve as a direct alternative to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. In the wider region however you’ve got Bagan in Myanmar, Ayutthaya in Thailand and Prambanan in Indonesia, to name but a few. But Angkor Wat is a huge draw and probably always will be, and besides local authorities limiting visitors or charging a higher entrance fee there isn’t much that can be done.
Peak season is between December and April, the dry months in Cambodia. Best bet is to try and visit during November or April, which are just outside of peak times.
Be An Eco Tourist
Being mindful of your impact can help to minimise your personal disruption on a popular tourist destination. Avoid littering, don’t climb or graffiti monuments or places where you shouldn’t and respect the locals. Check out our article about being a good traveller here…
Ready to go and explore (in a considerate way)? Check flights on our handy widget below…