Every year, major lists come out from various publications telling travelers where they should visit. Then these places get inundated with tourists, taking away the atmosphere that made them popular in the first place.
We’ll address some current popular destinations and provide a few alternatives. Hopefully, you can see them before they too become overrun.
♦ Visitor counts to Split and Dubrovnik along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast have soared because of their popularity as scenic cruise ports and filming sites for The Last Jedi and HBO’s Game of Thrones. These tiny ancient cities aren’t equipped to handle the thousands of visitors that cruise ships disgorge almost daily.
On our visit to Dubrovnik, there was a line just to get into the walled city. Lines to climb the fabled walls were even longer. We gave up and soon left. If you must visit, check the cruise schedule at crew-center.com/dubrovnik-croatia-cruise-ships-schedule-2019 and try to visit during an off day.
Alternative: Trieste, Italy. Located on the northern tip of the Adriatic Sea, it provides Old World ambience, Roman ruins, and a food culture that, because of its complicated history, blends cuisines of the Mediterranean and Central Europe. Best of all, you won’t be paying elbow hockey with thousands of other visitors.
♦ Austin, Texas, seems to be the go-to destination for its hipster reputation. We found neighborhood pockets that are enjoyable, but the city’s rapid growth has made traffic a nightmare.
Alternative: Tucson, Ariz., which might not have the same reputation as the Texas capital, but which does have a similar energy. Like Austin, it’s a college town, but it is much easier to navigate, offers spectacular scenery, a wealth of wonky ‘50s architecture, and neon signs. It was designated as the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States. Get there before the crowds do.
♦ It continues to amaze us that Bali shows up in lush magazine spreads as the ultimate destination. Our experience there was much different. Call it the Eat, Pray, Love effect, but it is severely crowded, and the beaches were among the most trash-strewn we have seen in the world.
Alternative: Hilo, Hawaii. For a taste of the Pacific and beach culture that is closer, consider this town on the eastern coast of the Big Island. It never really took off as a tourist destination because it gets more rain (like Ubud in Bali) than the resorts on the island’s arid west side. What remains is a charming town with authentic old Hawaiian culture, a handful of hotels with a mid-century vibe, and fewer crowds.
Some of our most memorable travel experiences have been when we strayed off the beaten tourist path and explored someplace not quite as popular. For more inspiration, the book Off the Tourist Track, published by DK Eyewitness Travel, offers hundreds of alternative suggestions. With a bit of planning, you can discover your own unsung destination.