As much as we love tourist hotspots like Venice, Phuket, and Dubrovnik, there’s no question these popular destinations can get CROWDED. And not only are crowds a pain to deal with as a visitor, but they can be hugely problematic for the locals as well.
Thanks to a growing number of budget airlines, an increasingly nomadic workforce, and influencers with FOMO-inducing travel feeds popping up like daisies all over Instagram, global tourism is on the rise—along with its evil twin, overtourism. As record numbers of visitors flock to international destinations, historic cities and natural sites are being damaged, cost of living is spiking, local infrastructure and amenities are overwhelmed, and frustrated residents are being forced out.
So what’s a socially responsible traveler to do? Be part of the solution rather than the problem by opting for off-season adventures, infusing as much of your trip cost as you can into local businesses and accommodations, and—most importantly!—exploring alternatives to overcrowded destinations.
Feeling a little overwhelmed yourself? Don’t stress! We’re always here to help, starting with this handy “go here, not there” guide. Discovering an incredible under-the-radar destination, ditching the crowds, and doing your part to combat overtourism all at the same time—what’s not to love?
Daydreaming about Hawaii’s island beauty?
👉 Find bliss in the Azores instead
Once thought too remote and difficult to access, expanded airline options and an intriguing eco-tourism scene mean the Azores Islands are now poised on the brink of a millennial travel boom.
One look at the landscape here and you’ll see why this Portuguese archipelago is quickly becoming a must-visit: black sand beaches, bubbling mud pots, crater lakes, and volcanic peaks wrapped in lush jungle make the Azores an absolute stunner. Outdoorsy travelers will find no end of activities to occupy them, including whale watching, diving, hiking, canyoning, paragliding, and surfing, while curious foodies can sample Azorean wine on Pico Island (home to the highest mountain in Portugal) and handmade cheeses on Flores.
There are no packaged beach vacations or quick cruise stopovers here—instead, a new generation of savvy Azorean entrepreneurs are leveraging the rugged beauty of their home to offer visitors the kind of wild, unique, and immersive experiences they’re after. And right now, while the Azores are just beginning to edge into the international spotlight, is the perfect time to go.
Starry-eyed over Banff’s beautiful mountains?
👉 Discover Kyrgyzstan’s soaring peaks
Western Canada’s national parks are lovely, but some (including the uber-popular Banff National Park) are struggling to accommodate the millions that flock to them annually. If you’re after alpine beauty with a little more elbow room, why not hop over to Kyrgyzstan instead?
Sure, it’s a longer flight, but the view alone will be worth it: dramatic mountainscapes and rolling pastures, steep hillsides dotted with herds of horses and sheep, yurts embroidered with colorful felt sitting beneath an impossibly blue sky.
The Kyrgyz people are semi-nomadic (a traditional lifestyle in much of Central Asia) and spend the summer months tending to their flocks in the alpine pastures known as jailoos. Summer, incidentally, is the best time to visit—the weather is mild, hikes and roads are accessible, and shepherds are happy to invite you into their yurt for an overnight stay.
Visit Son-Köl Lake to watch its glittering waters change color as clouds scud by overhead, indulge in the delicious simplicity of Kyrgyz cuisine, and try a sip of fermented mare’s milk if you’re feeling brave. (Just be warned: Kyrgyzstan will steal your heart.)
Pining for Tuscany’s sunny vineyards?
👉 Slovenia’s got the cure
Specifically, the municipality of Brda. This tiny region, which butts up against the Italian-Slovene border, is Europe’s best-kept secret—full of rolling hills, pastoral villages, white-washed churches, and amazing vineyards.
The natural conditions in Goriška Brda (Gorica Hills) are perfect for wine-making. Hot summers, mild winters, and an ideal mix of sun and rainfall mean an excellent harvest of grapes each year. The star of the show? Rebula, an ancient variety of grape that produces a deliciously unique white wine. Rebula is only grown within a 40-kilometer radius of Brda, making it a must-try for visitors.
Although wine-tasting is (of course) the main activity here, there is plenty of opportunity for hiking or cycling as well. Regardless of the activity, Brda’s green hillsides and pretty medieval villages are completely enchanting.
Dying to hit Thailand’s golden beaches?
👉 Try sun, sand, and surf in Mozambique
Nowadays, Thailand’s beaches can get clogged up with backpackers, expats, and honeymooners galore. If you’re like us and prefer your beach time a little more serene, Mozambique is where it’s at.
This southeast African gem is still wild at heart, which is why it feels so rewarding to explore. Visitors will be entranced by long stretches of pristine coastline and swaying palm trees, but Mozambique offers more than just a stellar beach holiday—exceptional diving, pulsating nightlife, colonial architecture, and delicious cuisine (think fresh seafood and Portuguese-influenced dishes) are all on tap as well.
Getting around in Mozambique is not always easy (this is when a travel concierge comes in handy! 🙋♀️), but travelers with a little patience and a big appetite for adventure will discover plenty to adore in this fascinating, enigmatic country.
In love with fairytale Prague?
👉 Happily ever after awaits in Olomouc
Odds are you’ve never even heard of this underappreciated Czech treasure, but we’re here to change that!
Nestled alongside the Morava River, Olomouc is the epitome of charming. Its Old Town is the second largest historic preservation zone outside of Prague, with winding cobblestone streets, colorful baroque townhouses, beautiful churches, and ornate fountains. At the heart of the town square lies Olomouc’s pride and joy, the Unesco-protected Holy Trinity Column—a 35-meter-high monument built in the early 18th century and decorated with impressive religious sculptures.
As a university town, Olomouc is a haven for history buffs and intellectuals. You’ll find all sorts of pretty cafes, art galleries, and bookshops to cozy up in, along with plenty of pubs and microbreweries (ahh, student life).
And if you’re looking for a real whiff (ha!) of local culture, try the cheese—apparently it’s the smelliest in the entire country.
Mesmerized by glitzy Dubai?
👉 “Beauty has an address” in Oman
You probably know someone who’s visited Dubai, but have you ever heard anyone start a sentence with, “So, this one time in Muscat…”?
Oman is, in a word, otherworldly. Stunning coasts, windswept desert, and spectacular mountains collide to form the kind of landscape that makes your heart beat a little faster. Unlike the over-the-top architecture of the Middle East’s wealthier nations, Oman’s cities have hung on to their traditional charm. The capital, Muscat, is packed with cultural delights, dazzling mosques, and warm welcomes from locals whose Bedouin roots run deep.
The beauty of Oman lies in its versatility as a destination. Want desert trekking and nights under the stars? Done. Want to be wined and dined at 5-star accommodations? Check. Want to spend the day on a boat, touring ancient fishing villages? You got it.
Oman is a welcome oasis in the middle of a region that many are nervous to visit, simultaneously modern and ancient, accessible but still largely an afterthought for travelers. Take advantage of this blissfully uncrowded paradise while you can.