Iconic travel destinations look incredible on Instagram, but the most popular hot spots have become victims of their own success. Overtourism leads to overcrowding, pollution, and inflated prices to meet demand, making these places less pleasant for everyone.
The thrill of discovery is a lot more fulfilling than going where everyone else goes, only to end up disappointed it didn't look exactly like that Pinterest board promised. Instead of checking boxes, think outside the box and consider a lesser-known, less crowded (but no less fabulous) location for your next trip!
Spain has long been the numero uno holiday destination for sun-starved Brits, with Ibiza, Benidorm, and Magaluf at the "tapas" of the list for Vitamin D-deficient travelers. However, its reputation as the UK's one-stop party spot has cast a dark shadow on the land of sun, sand, sangria, and siestas. The hordes of hedonistic party-goers who descend on Spain's coastal towns and islands prefer to get inebriated than engage in the local culture, leading to resentment among residents. You might want to avoid the overcrowded coastal towns and islands altogether and head inland to Granada, Toledo, or Segovia. These pretty cities mostly enjoy national tourism, so you'll be living the high life amongst the (much tamer) locals.
France is by far the most-visited country on the planet, with Paris alone attracting around 44 million visitors last year. But the City of Love has a very unromantic reputation for high prices, dirty streets, snooty garçons, and les pickpockets. The intense disenchantment many feel after visiting France's capital is so common it has its own name -- Paris Syndrome. (Quel dommage!) Other high-traffic tourist attractions suffer similar problems.
Instead, consider Lyon, France's third biggest city, known as "The Food Capital". It has all the buzzy metropolitan vibes of Paris but far fewer tourists -- and did we mention the food?
With over 6,000 sunbaked islands, Greece is a favorite Mediterranean getaway for British holidaymakers. Unfortunately, over-tourism is turning the most tourist-heavy hotspots like Santorini, Mykonos, and Crete into overpriced cesspools, happy to prey on people with more money than sense.
Stunning Milos, on the southernmost end of the Cyclades islands, is an oasis from that overcrowded resort feeling. It still embodies the traditional Greek vibe other islands lack.
The impulse to flock to Florence, roam to Rome, or pop over to Pisa and pretend to prop up a tilted tower can be irresistible when you're in Italy. The only problem is that millions of tourists also have those same impulses. Venice has officially become the poster child for over-tourism, which has had Venetians vacating the city by the thousands in recent years. (You could say the city has gone to hell in a gondola.) Most tourists skip the south of Italy altogether, but it's one of the most breathtakingly beautiful parts of the country. Naples, Salento, and Amalfi Coast will give you plenty of breathing room on your break.
Portugal is getting more popular each year, and it shows. Its ancient capital, Lisbon, struggles to accommodate the tourists that swarm the tiny city. The seaside town of Algarve, famous for its beaches, is increasingly overcrowded and expensive, and you can find better food elsewhere. Nestled between those tourist-heavy hubs, however, is the lesser-known coast of Alentejo, where you'll find the same balmy climate but fewer crowds, better cuisine, and vineyards that produce nearly half of Portugal's wine. (Saúde!)
Orlando, LA, New York, and Las Vegas may be dream destinations for British travelers. However, getting from A to B in the "Land of the Free" can be a nightmare. If you're traveling by car, mind-numbing suburban sprawl and endless eight-lane "stroads" studded with chain superstores can make you feel like you're starring in your own version of Groundhog Day.
If you want somewhere with lots of sunshine, a slower pace of life, and a walkable downtown, mosey on over to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Established in 1610, it's one of America's oldest cities.
As a gentrified city that often feels more international than Irish, Ireland's main draw, Dublin, isn't all that it's "craic" ed up to be. The buildings are pretty, the people are friendly, but after you've had a tipple at Temple Bar and a stout in the Guinness Storehouse, you've seen it all.
For a true sense of Ireland, head northwest to County Donegal. That's where you'll find the rugged beauty (and real local pubs) the country is famous for.
Turkey attracts several million British holidaymakers alone each year. Istanbul is becoming increasingly commercialized as sightseers swarm the city, and Antalya on the Turkish Riviera has more tourists per capita than residents. The formerly white "Cotton Castle" of Pamukkale is such a popular landmark with hikers and selfie-takers that it's now a murky shade of gray.
Want to escape the hustle and bustle? The quiet cobblestoned fishing village of Kas and nearby Kaputaş Beach are hidden Turkish delights that still go largely unnoticed by most tourists.
After years of flying under the radar as a travel destination, people are finally starting to notice Poland. Tourism is projected to rise steadily over the next few years.
Although Warsaw and Krakow offer more Old World scenery and culture than you can shake a kielbasa at, consider giving Gdańsk a second glance. Located on the Baltic coast, this lesser-known medieval port has all the panache of any modern European metropolis. Fewer crowds mean you can soak in the colorful architecture, rich culture, and culinary scene at your leisure.
Amsterdam is amazing -- after all, who doesn't love a good canal, tasty stroopwafel, or perfectly rolled joint? Sadly, the experience feels more like an overcrowded, overpriced Dutch Disneyland than a city. Even the best "coffeeshop" buzz is no match for the droves of drunks staggering into your path as they window shop for hookers.
Get your clogs on and take a train to some of the smaller towns instead. Nearby Haarlem has the same historic ambiance without all the hype.
Oktoberfest (or Wiesn, as the locals call it) pulls in six million beer-drinking, dirndl-wearing tourists from all over the world each year. What used to be a quaint Bavarian jubilee has become the world's largest drinking fest and a smelly, bloated, eardrum-destroying caricature of German culture. Alcohol poisoning aside, the long wait times and lack of tents are enough to get anyone's lederhosen into a twist.
If you want an authentic German beer festival without all the hype, try the smaller Waldfeste in Tegernsee instead.
Two weeks on a Thai beach sounds like anyone's idea of bliss -- but unless you like sharing the sand with thousands of other travelers, you may want to say "Phuket" to Pattaya and Krabi during the high season. These hotspots have the highest number of tourists per resident in the world.
Picturesque islands like Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, and Koh Chang are much quieter and maintain an authentic local presence. It feels like true Thailand, not a commercialized holiday resort.
Melbourne and Sydney are top tourist destinations in the Land of Down Under — but much like Vegemite, these congested concrete jungles are not to everyone's taste (especially after a 20-hour flight)!
If you want the best of what Oz can offer without the overcrowding, opt for the oft-overlooked island of Tasmania instead. You'll find lush rainforests, unspoiled wilderness, craggy coastlines, Cradle Mountain, and the historic hamlets of Hobart and Port Arthur.
Dubai is the definition of glitz and glam on a grand scale. Scrape the surface of all that sparkle, however, and the Emirati city has all the soul of a suburban megamall -- with jacked-up prices to match. Artificial islands, full-scale replicas of famous monuments, and indoor skiing when it's 113 degrees out make the place feel as fake as a hastily assembled movie set.
If you're craving something more "real," explore the galleries and marketplaces in the nearby Al Fahidi Historical District. The well-preserved village hearkens back to Dubai's roots as a fishing village in the 18th century.
When people think of Canadian tourism, they usually think of outdoorsy things -- snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes, unspoiled forests, the "good side" of Niagara Falls, and maybe a moose or two thrown in for good measure. But natural wonders like Banff, Jasper, and Whistler are hard to get to from major airports, adding hours, even days, of travel time to your trip. (And that's if the weather cooperates.)
Consider a city break instead. Québec is just two connecting flights away from the UK, and it's full of surprises. (For one, they speak French.)