Avoid overtourism at these lesser-known destinations
Overtourism has become more prevalent in recent years. But you can skip the crowds with just a few changes to the itinerary.
Since international borders reopened a few years ago, the tourism industry has well and truly bounced back. But some places have been hit particularly hard, with overtourism rearing its ugly head.
The allure of some hotspots can be hard to resist, and you may think by skipping them, you’re going to miss out. But if you visit these cities instead, not only will you avoid the crowds, but you may even prefer the experiences.
Instead of Amsterdam, try Leiden
Amsterdam in the Netherlands has been a tourism hotspot for years. With its winding canal system, dreamy houseboats and Gothic architecture, the city has long outshone many other Dutch destinations.
So much so that the city council implemented an Amsterdam ‘Tourism in Balance’ ordinance in 2023. According to the European Tourism Association, the huge influx of tourists has meant that “the quality of life in busy areas is declining and some neighbourhoods in popular areas are at risk of losing their identity.”
If you’re planning on visiting Amsterdam in 2024, this may sound like bad news. However, other cities in the Netherlands are just as beautiful, brimming with art, history and culture.
One such city is Leiden in the province of South Holland. Known for its centuries-old architecture, tulip gardens and stunning canal system (yes, it has one!), this city truly is the lesser-known version of Amsterdam. And what’s more, it’s just waiting to be discovered.
Instead of Athens, try Larissa
Athens is another European hotspot that’s on the bucket list of many travellers. But in 2023, one of the city’s most popular and arguably delicate landmarks, the Acropolis, was so packed with visitors that officials had to introduce an online booking system and numerical cap on crowds.
The booking system has since been introduced to 25 other sites across Athens, with a first-in-best-dressed policy. With so many amazing sites to see and only so much time available, this means you may unfortunately miss out.
Don’t fret, though. The town of Larissa is only a four-hour drive away and can definitely scratch the same itch. The city has an ancient industrial and agricultural history that can still be admired today.
Check out the Ancient Theatre of Larissa, which dates back to the beginning of the fourth century BC. Other popular landmarks include the Bezesteni of Larissa, Platamon Castle and the Metropolitan Church of Agios Achillios.
Instead of Bali, try Krabi
The beachy, laidback vibes of Bali have long been desired by travellers, with the tiny island nation seeing over four million tourists in 2023 alone.
Last year in spring, the tourism tidal wave caused provincial governor Wayan Koster to introduce a dos and don’ts list attached to tourist passports. As of February 2024, a new tax will also be introduced for international tourists entering Bali.
While implementing rules to combat overtourism is necessary, you may be keen to opt for somewhere else – unique, tropical vibes included. And that’s where Krabi in Thailand comes in.
Famous for its exotic beaches and isolated islands, the resort town of Krabi remains a hidden gem to most of the world. Picture this: coral reefs, crystal-clear waters and cheap cocktails, all without the crowds. Add in natural hot springs, sea caves and ancient limestone cliffs, and you’ll have forgotten all about Bali.
Instead of Barcelona, try Toledo
What’s more, the city’s northern port terminal closed to cruise traffic in October, affecting approximately 340 annual cruise dockings. For such a beautiful city, it’s not hard to see why overtourism has become a problem and how its affecting Barcelona and its residents.
Don’t want to become part of the problem but mesmerised by the Spanish charm? Don’t worry, we’ve got you. Just over an hour’s drive out of another of Spain’s most popular cities, Madrid, you’ll find Toledo.
An ancient city overlooking the plains of Castilla-La Mancha, Toledo is the less-popular but just-as-cool cousin of Barcelona. You’ll find ancient cathedrals and monasteries bearing the same Romanesque architecture style. Museums are overflowing with history and culture. Plus, there’s an epic underground foodie scene just waiting to be discovered.
Instead of Paris, try Bordeaux
The city of Paris has been romanticised by the tourism industry for decades, becoming synonymous with love. But recently, the city has been loved a little too hard. And with the 2024 Summer Olympics just around the corner, the number of visitors is only set to increase.
Lines for the Eiffel Tower are only getting longer. The Louvre already has a daily visitor limit of 30,000. Trying to find a spot along the Seine? Good luck.
However, you don’t have to visit Paris to fall in love with France. Head south-west to the city of Bordeaux and you’ll be just as captivated. The gorgeous Garonne River runs through this port city, which is at the centre of the world-renowned wine region.
Its gothic architecture rivals any Parisian street, with galleries and museums offering a true cultural experience. Forget the crowds of Luxembourg gardens, enjoy swathes of grass all to yourself at the sprawling Jardin Public. Want Notre Dame? Visit the Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux. Trust us, you’ll be spoilt for choice.