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5 of the Best Alternatives to Over-Touristed Destinations

By Nicole Villeneuve
Read time: 4 minutes

When traveling, it’s tempting to stick to a well-worn path, but venturing into places outside of the tourist norms can unveil hidden gems and fresh perspectives. Visiting an alternative city that shares characteristics with a more popular place can offer a similar experience, but with fewer crowds and lower costs. Taking this travel approach may also provide a more authentic glimpse into local culture and lifestyle while helping alleviate the strain on overcrowded tourist destinations. From Quebec City’s European flair to the romantic canals of Annecy, France, here are five of the best destination alternatives to consider for your next adventure. 

Annecy, France – Instead of Venice, Italy

Credit: Manfred Gottschalk/ Stone via Getty Images 

Annecy, France, is often dubbed the “Venice of the Alps,” so it’s no wonder it passes as a delightful alternative to the real thing. Nestled about 30 miles south of Geneva, Switzerland, Annecy’s aquamarine canals, charming bridges, and colorful buildings are reminiscent of Venice’s picturesque romance — only without the massive crowds. 

While Annecy’s small city center streets can also get busy throughout the day, it’s nowhere near the crowds of 30 million tourists who visit Venice each year. Wander through the quaint old town (Vieille Ville), built around a 12th-century castle, while taking in the preserved medieval streets and lively markets. And yes, you can still get that canal boat ride — complete with beautiful views of the surrounding French Alps.

Paros, Greece – Instead of Santorini, Greece

Blue and white patio chairs and tables alongside marina in Paros, Greece
Credit: Poike/ iStock via Getty Images 

Santorini is one of the most popular islands in Greece, and with good reason. With its iconic whitewashed buildings perched atop volcanic cliffs overlooking a breathtaking caldera, it’s a postcard-perfect paradise. But when visiting in reality, you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with many other tourists, to the tune of 2 million visitors each year. Nearby Paros, meanwhile, also boasts classic Cycladic architecture against a backdrop of azure seas and golden sands — but with much less foot traffic. Like Santorini, flights or ferries are easily available from Athens to this Aegean island.

On Paros, explore enchanting villages like Naoussa and Parikia — their beloved local taverns, narrow alleys, vibrant flowering bougainvillea trees, and traditional windmills evoke the same allure of Santorini’s timeless views. The laid-back atmosphere is perfect for travelers seeking tranquility away from Santorini’s bustling crowds, and there’s plenty of historical allure, too, with sites like the Byzantine Church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani.

Quebec City, Canada – Instead of Geneva, Switzerland

Historic stone buildings in Quebec City, Canada, with Château Frontenac looming on hilltop overhead
Credit: grandriver/ E+ via Getty Images 

Cobblestone streets and fortified city walls without a transatlantic flight? It’s possible if you consider visiting Quebec City instead of one of the most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland. The Canadian city, one of the oldest in the country, was founded in 1608 on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Quebec City’s majestic and historic Château Frontenac, built in 1893, evokes some of Geneva’s spectacular castles, and the city’s bilingualism adds to its European atmosphere. 

Wander through the historic streets of Quebec City’s Quartier Petit Champlain, lined with boutique shops and cozy cafes, or take in the vibrant creative community — the city offers several annual music and arts festivals. Quebec City’s storied past and French heritage are the perfect recipe for a European-inspired getaway right in North America.

Lombok, Indonesia – Instead of Bali, Indonesia

Aerial view of Lombok, Indonesia
Credit: Andrey Danilovich/ E+ via Getty Images 

Bali’s beautiful beaches and stunning scenery make it a beloved travel destination, but the island is starting to feel the effects of overtourism. For a similar paradise that fewer tourists know about, look no further than Lombok, another Indonesian island situated east of Bali. The lush landscapes and pristine beaches — such as the Gili Meno — are more peaceful but no less stunning. 

Lombok offers a quieter, more laid-back atmosphere, but if you’re looking for nightlife similar to neighboring Bali, the island’s scene is slowly growing. Plus, with its majestic waterfalls, looming volcanic cliffs, and traditional Sasak villages, Lombok offers a potentially more meaningful immersion into Indonesian culture and nature.

Torshavn, Faroe Islands – Instead of Reykjavik, Iceland

Aerial view of colorful buildings and marina in Torshavn, Faroe Islands
Credit: RicoK69/ iStock via Getty Images 

The Faroe Islands offer a more relaxed Nordic experience compared with visiting Iceland, thanks to the archipelago’s smaller size and lower tourism numbers. Plus with its own airline, Atlantic Airways, connecting from many European cities, travelers can easily make their way to the quiet archipelago, located about halfway between Iceland and Norway. 

Many start by settling into the capital city of Torshavn, located on the southern tip of Streymoy. While certainly smaller than Reykjavik, Torshavn has no shortage of excellent restaurants and sightseeing — for example, the Nordic House cultural center and National Gallery of the Faroe Islands. 

From Torshavn, a network of ferries and buses can help you explore the surrounding islands and sites. While Iceland’s immense natural beauty is certainly special, the Faroe Islands aren’t lacking in stunning scenery. Fossa waterfall’s tiered, cascading currents are a must-see, as are the Vestmanna bird cliffs (best visited on a boat tour). Unfortunately, there’s no true alternative to the Blue Lagoon in the Faroes, but a visit to the Varmakelda Healing Spring might put you in a similarly tranquil state.

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