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10 Overtouristed Places and 10 Cool Alternatives

January 14, 2020

Leave Santorini, Barcelona and Bali to the masses and enjoy the likes of Naxos, Greece; San Sebastian, Spain; and Lombok, Indonesia instead. These are bucket list-worthy trips you need to take.

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Photo: Rory McDonald / Moment / Getty Images

Take the Path Less Traveled

If global tourism seems to have increased in recent years, that’s because it has. The World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) cites varying reasons for more travelers: more affordable travel options; a growing middle class in economically developing countries; and a strong global economy. The problem is that more people are going to the same places. For example, Venice, Bali and Machu Picchu remain perennial favorites, but the sheer tourist numbers threaten what made these places so special in the first place. One way to preserve these destinations is to visit similar, less-crowded equivalents that aren’t as heavily promoted. And you just may find that you like the alternatives even better.

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Photo: iStockPhoto/sborisov

Instead of: Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s numerous canals, bike-friendly roads and legal marijuana usage are among the reasons why more than 19 million tourists flood a city that’s home to less than one million people. Overtourism has become enough of a problem that in 2018 the city announced the “Enjoy & Respect” campaign. Targeted toward the 18-34 demographic from the Netherlands and Britain, it informs visitors about the types of behavior that aren’t tolerated in the city (public urination, disorderly conduct). However, in 2019 the city went one step further by charging cruise passengers a tourist tax of about $9 for each day spent in Amsterdam, and cracked down on short-term Airbnb rentals. And in 2020, Red Light District tours will no longer be available.

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Photo: Geography Photos/UIG via Getty Images

Visit: Utrecht, Netherlands

Amsterdam isn’t the only city in the Netherlands filled with tree-lined canals, bike lanes and historic buildings. And prior to the 17th century, Utrecht, whose old town is still populated with medieval structures, held the honor of being the country’s most famous destination. But this university city has re-emerged from Amsterdam’s shadow as word has spread about its trendy restaurants and bars, independent shops, cultural attractions and boutique hotels. Even better, the city is an easy half-hour train ride from Amsterdam — minus the crowds.

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Photo: iStock/WitR

Instead of: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik’s UNESCO-listed Old City already made it a cruise stop favorite, but tourism numbers went next level after Game of Thrones set its fictional King’s Landing there. It’s become bad enough that Dubrovnik has considered banning new restaurants to prevent overcrowding and too many tables and chairs spilling out onto sidewalks. This has resulted from 1.372 million tourists visiting through October 2019, beating the previous record of 1.271 million in 2018. These numbers are unlikely helped by the fact that American Airlines launched a direct flight to the city this past summer, with plans to fly daily in 2020.

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