Last year when Italy’s Cinque Terre decided to limit the amount of tourists that visit each year, overtourism once again came to the forefront of many people’s travel plans. While other popular landmarks and cities also had tourist caps or were exploring crowd-limiting options, iconic Cinque Terre’s cap has gained a lot of attention, and is part of a rising trend.
Now, more cities and landmarks are limiting the number of visitors in the face of overtourism. Many of these locations just recently experienced a tourism boom, and while that may be great for their economy, some places don’t have the resources or infrastructure to support such a sharp influx of visitors, and their locals suffer the consequences.
Tourist caps can mean a variety of things, but two popular options are: Limiting the literal number of visitors into a destination either per day, month, or year. Or, setting restrictions on certain aspects of tourism, like hotel developments, Airbnb listings, and more. The former is typically how fragile places like small islands or archaeological sites handles tourists, while the latter is what major cities, i.e. Barcelona, have been doing.
Where Is Overtourism Happening?
In addition to these 12 destinations, Dubrovnik, Ibiza, Majorca, and Amsterdam started their own efforts to limit tourists this year. The main source of these growing pains? Cruises. And it makes sense: Dumping a massive shipload of people onto a small island or port city can cause problems when the destination isn’t accustomed to supporting that many people. Other factors contributing to overtourism (like at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat) include poor management and associated environmental risks.
Alternatives to Overtourism Destinations
What to do? As SmarterTravel’s Ed Perkins explains, “Avoiding popular visitor areas completely is not a viable solution. After all, they’re popular for a reason. Florence, Venice, Santorini, and Carmel are unique—there are no substitutes. Nor can you unilaterally do much to aid the overtourism.” Perkins rightly advises that you stick to low or shoulder season, and avoid being part of the too-busy times of year.
And while this is absolutely true, there are also plenty of underrated destinations that can handle tourists—you just might not have seen them all over your Instagram feed yet. Here’s a list of recommended alternatives to overcrowded (and at-risk) destinations:
- Instead of Machu Picchu, go to Choquequirao: While you’ll face a harder trek to get there, these Peruvian ruins are basically untouched.
- Instead of Dubrovnik, go to the French Riviera: Head to one of the many coastal towns along the French Riviera. Since there are plenty of options, the stress of tourism isn’t on just one city.
- Instead of Ibiza or Majorca, go to Sardinia or Crete: These larger islands can handle more people and are used to hosting many European tourists each season.
- Instead of Venice, go to Ljubljana: Slovenia’s capital is home to rivers, boat rides, and romantic bridges, too—without the flood of tourists.
- Instead of Amsterdam, go to Stockholm: Head to the Scandinavian capital for fika in place of coffee shops. You’ll find a similar biking and museum culture.
- Instead of Barcelona, go to Granada: This southern Spanish city is often overlooked by foreign tourists, but it offers similarly iconic architectural sights and famous markets.
You tell us: Would you consider an alternative destination if tourist caps are in place at a destination you’re traveling to?