Escape the Crowds: Best Alternatives to Avoid Tourists

When vacation time comes around, it’s natural to make a beeline for some of the world’s hotspots—you’ve seen your friend’s Insta pictures from Venice and heard another’s stories from their trip to Bali. The downside of these places is that everyone goes there. This can mean your experience might be dampened by overcrowding, queues, sold-out restaurants and tourist attractions, and none of that peace and quiet you were so desperately seeking.

That’s why–curveball–we’ve put together a list of alternative destinations that will still give you the culture, connection to nature, or vibrant atmosphere you’re looking for, whilst avoiding the crowds in the tourist hotspots. So, let’s go!

Instead of Santorini, try Folegandros

Santorini is a picture-perfect destination, with its iconic white and blue buildings nestled on the side of the hilly Greek island. With historic towns and villages surrounded by dramatic coastline, Santorini is unsurprisingly a highly sought-after tourist destination.

If you’re keen to avoid the crowds and the ever-rising tourist tax, check out Folegandros. Another Greek island, located between Santorini and Paros, Folegandros is the best island you’ve never heard of! The Cycladic architecture is present across the island, and coupled with its sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, you won’t feel like you’re missing a thing! So sit back, relax, and enjoy a tranquil beach experience…except the cocktails are much cheaper!

Instead of Barcelona, try Cadiz

Barcelona is a European city break on many people’s bucket list, offering a vibrant Spanish lifestyle paired with stunning Gaudi architecture on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. The downside of this hotspot is that hotels get easily booked up, and are pricey year-round.

Further south, in the stunning and culturally rich Andalucia, you’ll find the coastal city of Cadiz. It’s the oldest city in Western Europe, with plenty of Moorish legacy to be found in its architecture. With beautiful beaches, a cathedral and castle, and of course, traditional Spanish Flamenco, Cadiz is a less-known but just as delightful option.

Instead of Bali, try Sumbawa

While Bali is Indonesia’s most talked-about hotspot, the multi-island nation has so much more to offer. The surf in Sumbawa may not be as powerful as in Bali, but fewer visitors means less queuing to ride the waves, which still makes for a sweet ride. The clear, tropical waters and enchanting coral reefs are another reason to entice you into the ocean, but for those who prefer dry land, there are waterfalls, rice fields and the beautiful 16th-century Old Palace of Dalam Loka.

While Bali is considered a relatively cheap tourist destination for Westerners, the prices have crept up over the years due to increased demand, whilst prices on Sumbawa have remained low.

Instead of Tulum, try Boca del Cielo

Want to know how to avoid tourists in Mexico? Skip the Caribbean port city of Tulum and head to the fishing village of Boca de Cielo. The area boasts a lagoon, La Joya, which is separated from the ocean by a 100m wide sand bar. The area is rich with mangroves, a turtle sanctuary, and long stretches of beaches with restaurants and cabañas. With warm waters, it's a perfect spot for swimming, paddleboarding, or just relaxing on the pristine beaches.

The best thing about Boca de Cielo? You’ll have the place almost entirely to yourself, as this is one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets.

Instead of Rome, try Verona

One thing anyone returning from Rome is guaranteed to comment on is the crowds! Avoid them by heading to Italy’s northern city of Verona instead. The Roman town was founded in the 2nd Century BCE and offers plenty of Roman ruins to enjoy. Whilst it’s not the Coliseum, the Amphitheater in Verona is quite the spectacle (and the third largest in the country), all while being significantly less crowded. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which sits on the Adige River. It’s famously the setting of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, where you can even visit Juliet’s balcony!

Instead of Venice, try Murano

Have you ever dreamed of visiting Venice, but are keen to avoid the crowds? Instead, stay on the Venetian island of Murano. You’ll still have access to the many beautiful canals and easy access to the city itself, whilst having somewhere a little calmer to wind down at the end of the day. With frequent water buses across to Venice every 15-20 minutes, you won’t miss out on the Venetian charm but will have the opportunity to soak up a calmer local vibe. On the island of Murano, known for its exquisite glass craftsmanship, you’ll find the glass museum, a beautiful basilica and churches to visit. The island is actually a series of 7 islands, connected by bridges so you’ll be surrounded by water—perfect for a tranquil escape!

Instead of Lisbon, try Coimbra

The Portuguese capital is a charming Atlantic coastal city, rich with Portuguese culture. Slightly further north and located on the Mondego River is the stunning town of Coimbra.

Coimbra is known for its UNESCO-listed University—one of the oldest in Europe, as well as a 12th-century Romanesque Cathedral. Make sure you go and see a live Fado show and experience some traditional Portuguese music, and see the dazzling architecture of the city built on the river banks on a Mondego boat tour.

It’s only a three-hour train ride from the capital, meaning you could easily fit in a day or two in Lisbon as part of your trip, whilst getting to enjoy a Mediaeval Portuguese city and avoid the crowds!

Long story short…

Choosing an alternative destination for your next vacation will not only save you money and show you some of the least crowded places, but may offer a totally unique and alternative experience. Happy travels!


Written by Alex Callahan