Most of us enjoy going on holiday. Though, if you’re not a people person, dealing with throngs of tourists is rarely enjoyable.
Even if you do like being around people, hardly anyone likes visiting towns or sites that are jam-packed with other travellers. Not only can it ruin the experience and stop us from exploring at our own pace, but it’s also stressful – and nobody wants to be stressed on holiday!
But the good news is that there are many gorgeous places all over the world where you can find paths less travelled.
From locations that are off-the-beaten-track to towns that are simply overlooked in favour of their more famous neighbours, here are 11 places to go on holiday if you want to avoid crowds.
1. Peruvian Amazon
Peru is known for many things: Incan history, Andes mountains, Machu Picchu, and having the best food in South America. But it’s also home to one of the world’s most unexplored regions – the Amazon.
While over half of the Amazon is contained within Brazil, 13% of it is found in Peru, and it’s here where the biodiversity is at its greatest.
If you’re looking for a nature-focused holiday far away from the crowds, the sweltering and seductive Peruvian Amazon is absolutely ideal – as this is where the rainforest is at its most wild.
This is a truly enormous place where tribes who have never had any contact with outside civilization live, and where indigenous communities and captivatingly rare wildlife can hide away from prying eyes.
Of course, travelling through such a protected yet vast place should be done responsibly, and a river cruise is an excellent way to do this.
You can venture into the depths of the jungle without disturbing any wildlife, and enjoy some luxury and comfort while experiencing an intrepid adventure. Swim with pink dolphins, visit native communities, and marvel at the unique flora and fauna.
2. Valencia, Spain
If you’re thinking about a city break in Spain – perhaps somewhere where you can stroll through historic streets, soak up plenty of culture, and kick back on the beach – there’s a good chance that Barcelona is the first place that comes to mind.
But while undeniably exciting and beautiful, Barcelona is also crowded, and walking around the popular Gothic quarter can be uncomfortably busy.
So why not head further down the coast and visit Valencia instead? As Spain’s third-largest city, Valencia is packed with culture, history and beauty, but is lower key than Barcelona or Madrid, and allows tourists to explore on their own terms and at their own pace. Boasting a lovely old quarter, fantastically futuristic buildings, and plenty of gorgeous green space, it’s ideal for a city break.
And then there are the beaches. The Valencia region, on Spain’s east coast, is home to the Costa Blanca – the ‘White Coast’ – and there are more than 200 metres of sugary white sand beaches to visit.
Whether you’re looking for captivating culture, compelling history, idyllic beaches, or lively restaurants, Valencia has it all – just without the throngs of tourists.
3. Senegal, West Africa
Senegal is tipped to be the next must-visit African holiday destination, and while the colourful capital city of Dakar is lively and exhilarating (and at times overwhelming) other places in this captivating country are blissfully tranquil.
If you’re looking for a serene beach break, you’re in the right place, as the Petite Côte and Cap Skirring coastlines boast wide strips of beaches where you can relax undisturbed. The beaches of Île de Gorée, Yoff, and N’Gor are also ideal if you want to avoid crowds yet still enjoy a fun, laid back ambience.
Just two hours south off Dakar is one of Senegal’s best resorts, the idyllic Pointe Sarene. Once a sleepy fishing village, this six-mile-long stretch of coast is fast becoming one of the country’s most popular resorts. And despite of the increasing number of luxury hotels and villas popping up, the crowds haven’t yet caught on, so things still feel surprisingly quiet.
If you’re into nature, you can find peace and solitude – as well as fascinating wildlife – in one of Senegal’s six national parks. The easiest to access is Saloum Delta National Park, a 440,000-acre stretch of saltwater canals and forest-swathed wetlands where you can spot countless species of exotic birds, take breathtaking boat rides, and enjoy being alone among such scenic surroundings.
4. North Macedonia, Southeast Europe
If you’re looking for an idyllic European destination that isn’t overcrowded – even in summer – then a holiday in North Macedonia might be ideal.
Bordered by Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Albania, North Macedonia isn’t only one of Europe’s lesser-known spots, but it’s also one of the most unique. Its culture is both Mediterranean and Balkan, and its history boasts Greek, Roman, and Ottoman heritage.
It might be a small country, but North Macedonia isn’t short of dramatic beauty. Around 80% of its land is blanketed with looming mountains and gleaming lakes, so if you’re into hiking, cycling, or kayaking, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Nature enthusiasts will be just as happy, as you can spot bears, wild boars, wolves, foxes, and deer here – as well as over 200 different species of butterfly.
If you’re more into culture and history, there’s just as much to keep you busy. The Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires have left their mark all around, and there are many amphitheatres, statues, monasteries, and statues to visit.
The food is a delicious blend of these cultures too! While Lake Ohrid and its town can feel busy in summer, much of the country feels wonderfully unexplored.
5. Northumberland, England
The UK may be small compared to some other countries, but there are still places that feel almost deserted.
If you’re thinking about a staycation, you may be tempted by the Pembrokeshire coast, the charming Cotswolds, or the rugged Scottish highlands, but the famous beauty of these places means they’re popular with tourists all year round.
If you really want to stay away from throngs of tourists and crowded attractions, why not head to Northumberland instead? Known as ‘England’s last great wilderness’, this beautiful county is home to the least populated national park in the country, and more castles than anywhere else in England. And that’s without mentioning its gorgeous moorland and miles of craggy coastline.
Hikers will love exploring Coquet Valley and Breamish Valley, while history buffs can visit magnificent castles like Dunstanburgh, Alnwick, or the Holy Island of Lindisfarne just off the coast.
Or, to venture further off the beaten track, why not head to the Farne Islands? Known for being David Attenborough’s favourite place in the UK, these wild, lonely islands are home to puffins, seals, and dolphins.
6. The Mekong, Southeast Asia
If you’ve always dreamed of visiting Southeast Asia, but don’t want to face the crowds in sprawling cities like Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City, why not take a cruise down the Mekong River?
Asia’s third-longest river flows for more than 3,000 miles, beginning high up in the Tibetan Plateau, and passing through the stunning landscapes of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Exploring these spectacular countries from the water will give you a unique perspective on your surroundings, and you’ll see far more diversity than you could while jostling your way through crowded cities.
In Vietnam, the Mekong Delta winds its way through emerald rice fields and floating markets, while in Cambodia, you can explore fascinating Phnom Penh with its Silver Pagoda.
If you like, you can also visit busy tourist sites like Angkor Wat or embrace the frenetic energy of Bangkok, knowing you can escape to the tranquillity of the river any time you want.
Travelling overland through Southeast Asia can be fun – especially if you have an adventurous spirit – but it’s also often a hot and crowded experience. Yet following the Mekong and travelling by boat is a whole other adventure!
7. Hamburg, Germany
Germany’s second city, Hamburg, is often overlooked in favour of Berlin – but if you’re looking to explore the arts, culture, and food scene of an important and historic city, there’s no denying Hamburg is one of the best places in Europe.
Named “one of the coolest cities on earth” by Lonely Planet, this city combines the history and significance of Berlin with the canal charm of Amsterdam…just without all the crowds.
Known all around the world for its nightlife, you don’t have to hit the clubs to have a good night here. With so many exceptional cocktail bars, local pubs, concert halls, and a 300-year-old state opera, you won’t be short of things to do.
Then there’s the culinary scene, which is a masterclass of gastronomic diversity and culinary trends – perfect if you like trying new things!
This modern, exciting city is also steeped in history. A centre of international trade during the Middle Ages, Hamburg’s maritime past still pervades the city, and the lively waterfront along the Elbe River is home to many of Hamburg’s best attractions. Visit the historic fish market, pop into breweries, explore museums, and admire the gorgeous sea-facing architecture.
8. British Columbia, Canada
As the world’s second-largest country, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that vast swathes of Canada remain totally untouched by tourism.
Canada is an incredibly diverse country, home to dense forests, thundering waterfalls, majestic mountains and shimmering lakes, as well as many cosmopolitan cities. But British Columbia is arguably one of the most beautiful provinces.
While parts of British Columbia, like Vancouver and the popular ski town of Whistler, are tourist hotspots, other parts are far more remote and far less frequented by travellers. The Sunshine Coast in particular is where to go to escape the crowds, as this 180 km stretch of captivating coastline and pristine wilderness is only accessible by plane or boat.
If you’re a keen hiker (or just an admirer of nature), chances are you’ll love exploring the spectacular scenery, trekking up the craggy Mount Elphinstone summit trail, or wandering through mossy rainforests in Malaspina Provincial Park. There are charming fishing villages to relax in, gorgeous beaches to kick back on, and dazzling fjords that will take your breath away – all without crowds.
9. Lombok, Indonesia
The Indonesian island of Bali is famous all throughout the world for its beauty, spirituality, nature, and nightlife. But with fame comes crowds, and even in the off-season, this tropical paradise can be chock-full of tourists.
If you’re looking for a blissful beach break, neighbouring Lombok has all the charm and beauty of Bali – except there’s more space on the sand to lay down your beach towel. Plus, it has more mystery and better trekking.
The south of the island is home to silky beaches lapped by warm turquoise waters and backed by sheer cliffs. This gorgeous island is also known as a surfer’s paradise, so if you’re into surfing, or you’d like to learn, there are few better places for wave-chasing.
For those into trekking, you’ll almost certainly want to climb Gunung Rinjani, which is Indonesia’s second-highest volcano. Hiking up its jungle-clad paths takes a few days, but it’ll be an experience you’ll remember forever – and when you get to the top, the view of volcanic calderas silhouetted against the spectacular sunrise will quite literally take your breath away.
10. Uzbekistan, Central Asia
Uzbekistan is one of those places you may have never even thought about visiting – but once you go, you’ll wonder why you left it so long.
Throughout history, Uzbekistan’s charms were long known to adventurous explorers, as this Central Asian country is the heart of the old Silk Route, and aside from its spectacular mountainous landscape and welcoming locals, it has much to offer tourists.
The reason that Uzbekistan wasn’t very popular with travellers in recent years was to do with its complex visa regime and Soviet-era controls – but today the country is a very different place. Now Uzbekistan has flung its doors open to tourists, it won’t take long for the crowds to start streaming in, so if you want to visit before the rest of the world wises up, now’s your chance!
If you’re into culture, history, and architecture, the Silk Road cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Khiva are a must-visit. You can admire some of the world’s most elaborate Islamic buildings, from delicate minarets to opulent, turquoise-tiled palaces.
A trip to Uzbekistan will offer you the chance to stroll through bustling bazaars, explore remote desert citadels, and immerse yourself in a mesmerising country that’s as ancient as it is unforgettable.
11. Bhutan, South Asia
It’s no exaggeration to say that Bhutan is like no other country in the world. Closed off to visitors until 1974, entering this fascinating country, that’s locked between China and India, feels like stepping back in time…
Red-robed monks wander through ancient monasteries, locals stroll the streets in traditional dress, the hills tinkle with the ring of yak bells, and archery is still the national pastime.
Bhutan is a beacon of sustainability and preservation – both of environment and culture. Not only is it carbon neutral, but it’s also carbon negative, and it’s built on a philosophy of low-impact tourism.
Much is made of the country’s tourist tariff, which sees visitors paying $250 per day to visit, but it’s important to consider that this includes all accommodation, food, transportation, and a local guide. This tariff protects Bhutan from the millions of visitors who would otherwise flock to this unique country and allows you to access one of Southeast Asia’s most spectacular places.
Located in the midst of the world’s highest mountains, this Himalayan Kingdom is home to towering peaks, lush valleys, and remote monasteries – not to mention the enigmatic snow leopard!
If you’re thinking about a holiday but dread the thought of being crammed in like sardines, we hope this article has inspired you. From far-flung corners of the world and continental breaks to holidays on our very own shores, the world might be overpopulated, but that doesn’t mean every part of it is crowded…not by a long shot.
If you’re interested in a city break, you might be tempted by Valencia or Hamburg, or if you’re after a coastal break that feels like a genuine escape, Lombok or Canada’s Sunshine Coast might appeal to you more. Or, if you just like being by the water, you could also cruise along the beautiful Mekong River.
And if it’s culture and history you’re looking for, you’ll find that in abundance in both Uzbekistan and North Macedonia. Or, if you’re into adventure, and like the idea of heading somewhere remote, then the Peruvian Amazon or Bhutan will certainly tick the box!
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