Over-tourism is becoming a big problem for many countries where the number of tourists significantly out-numbers locals.
In some cities, over-tourism has been the cause of rising house prices, overcrowded roads, and overflowing waste management facilities. With increasing pressure on tour companies to ensure all travel is sustainable, perhaps it is time to forgo the well-travelled tourist favourites and trek somewhere off the beaten track.
But where can you go instead? Here are five over-touristed destinations and five great alternatives.
Croatia has exploded as a holiday destination in recent years thanks to Game of Thrones and an increase in small-ship cruising in the region. According to Intrepid’s Adventure Index, in 2017 tourist numbers in Croatia soared to more than 57,580,000 – meaning tourists outnumbered locals about 13 to one. Dubrovnik in particular is struggling to cater for the influx of visitors, especially in the summer high season.
Slovenia, Croatia’s northerly neighbour, features a similar climate and opportunities for small-ship cruising without the large hoards of visitors. See the green-blue beauty of Lake Bled, enjoy gorgeous Mediterranean beaches and picturesque towns without the crowds.
Iceland’s unique natural environment is what draws visitors to this island nation. In 2017, more than 1.8 million people visited Iceland – a lot more than the 334,000 residents that call the country home. Housing in the capital Reykjavik is becoming increasingly unaffordable for locals, due to a rise in Airbnb and other short-term rentals.
The Faroe Islands are as close as you’ll get to the volcanic regions of Iceland. Parts of Game of Thrones were also filmed here, and the islands are home to the incredibly cute Puffin. Unfortunately, Iceland is pretty unique in terms of the environment – there aren’t many places in the world where you can see glaciers, geysers, black beaches and hot springs. There are a few ways to limit your contribution to over-tourism. Try heading to smaller towns and villages outside of Reykjavik, or look for alternatives to the more popular tourist attractions. Alternatively, seeing Iceland by sea in a circumnavigation cruise is a great way to appreciate the country and limit your tourist footprint.
Greece is the ultimate summer destination – and its iconic white buildings and sparkling blue water make Santorini one of the most sought after holiday destinations. It comes as no surprise that tourists outnumbered locals three to one in 2017.
There are plenty of other areas in Greece to experience – not just the most popular islands and Athens. Up in the Pindus National Park, there are plenty of ancient ruins to see and wonderful Greek hospitality to experience without the crowds. Another island to consider is Kythnos. Despite only being a short ferry away from Athens, this island is frequently overlooked by visitors. If either of these destinations takes your fancy, why not join us on an easy-to-moderate trek in September 2019?
Italians are famous for their delicious food and hospitality – perhaps that’s why more than 84 million people visited Italy in 2017. Anyone who has visited a famous Italian monument knows the struggle of trying to take a nice photo without other people in it (avoiding a selfie stick to the head should become an Olympic sport!). But with so much culture, history, and of course, mouth-watering cuisine, it can be hard to leave Italy off the list.
Sicily is the perfect alternative to mainland Italy. The birthplace of the cannoli, Sicilians sure know how to cook up a storm. Sicily’s history has been influenced by many different external powers, including Roman, Byzantine and Islamic. This makes for interesting architecture and a rich cultural history. Need some advice on Sicily? Our Adventure Consultant Matt recently lead a Sicilian Food Odyssey tour and knows all the best spots. He’s considering bringing it back in 2020 – if the itinerary piques your interest, contact Matt to learn more!
Overtourism in cities such as Barcelona has seen locals beginning to fight back, and not in a pleasant way. You can understand why. This city of just over one million people receives 32 million visitors a year. Other areas in the region also experience a high level of visitors, such as Ibiza and Madrid.
Portugal is a great alternative to Spain, with equally rich cultural opportunities and delicious food (have you ever tried a Portuguese tart? Because you should!). Portugal’s location means that the weather is temperate year-round, giving you plenty of opportunities to enjoy this fantastic country. They also have cool festivals such as La Tomatina (aka. the Tomato Battle), where you can join in on the world’s biggest food fight!
Don’t completely give up on these fantastic over-touristed destinations, but perhaps be more conscious of the impact tourism has on the lives of the locals. Travel in the off-season, get out of the cities, explore the local villages, and travel to countries you have never considered. You’ll get to discover some of the region’s best-kept secrets, and reduce your tourism impact. Win win!