We are excited to have our resident Gnomad Dr. Cacinda Maloney of PointsandTravel share her ideas on how to help combat the effects of overtourism. She should know; she has practically been everywhere. Well, not everywhere, but it is on the list!
It seems that 2019 has been the year that tourists have visited too many of the same old spots. With Venice announcing that it is putting a cap on the number of cruise ships coming in, Rome no longer allowing tourists to sit on the Spanish Steps, and Paris trying to ban tourist buses from the city center, it is time for us all to make some changes. But how?
Start by going to places that could use the tourism and are a lot less crowded than popular favorites. These destinations are often places excited to have you there, less likely to treat you like a number, and instead, embrace that you have come to their city to visit and to learn about their culture.
Bilbao vs Barcelona
Who doesn’t love Barcelona? Everybody it seems, including the 30 million who visited last year, plus the 1.7 million residents who are just trying to live their lives among all the selfie snapping and sidewalk blocking. Between Gaudi’s masterpieces, La Rambla shopping street, La Boqueria Food Market, a great climate, the Gothic Quarter and more, the crush of tourists is making the Catalonian capital feel like a theme park. During my last visit there, for example, I was simply overwhelmed by the number of tourists jam-packed into such a small area.
Don’t get me wrong, Barcelona is awesome, but why venture up to Basque Country instead and check out Bilbao? Located about six hours northwest of Barcelona, Bilbao is a more doable city and has plenty of pizzazz to keep you busy, including the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum and more than 40 Michelin-starred restaurants. Speaking of food, Bilbao is famous for its pintxos or “pinchos” (small bite-sized portions of delicious Basque tapas!). Its UNESCO World Heritage Vizcaya Bridge, a hanging bridge linking the towns of Portugalete and Las Arenas across the Nervion River, is pretty spectacular, too! No wonder Bilbao won the European City of the year in 2018! It rocks!
Trieste vs Venice
Everyone has heard how crowded Venice has become and how the cruise ships have packed the city with tourists. Honestly, I love Venice, but last time I was there, I wasn’t even able to get a spot on the Rialto Bridge for a view! It was simply too crowded see the gondolas in the water because the bridge was crammed four people deep. So let’s replace Venice with a trip to Trieste.
Trieste is a 2,000-year-old port city only a couple of hours from Venice by train. This shimmering city occupies a thin strip of land between the Adriatic Sea and the Slovenian border in Northeastern Italy. It boasts canals with tree-lined palazzos, yet the crowds are far fewer. Like Venice, you can go shopping, eat at fabulous cafes, go to museums, and drink perfect cocktails, but, you can also walk around without bumping into other tourists!
Algarve Coast vs Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is no doubt stunning. I remember flying into Rome, renting a car, and driving down the coast on my 17th wedding anniversary—but that was 10 years ago! It was a fantastic trip with plenty of stops along the way and Portofino was stunning. Again, no wonder everyone wants to go here, but now, the crowds have overtaken all the hot spots.
Why not try Portugal’s Algarve Coast instead? Fly into Lisbon, rent a car, and drive south along the coast that’s famous for its hand-painted pottery and azulejos, which are tin-glazed and painted ceramic tiles. It is known for its beautiful beaches and warm waters, as well as its white-washed fishing villages dotting the coast. It has white sandy coves that have now been transformed with villas, hotels, cafes and bars. Enjoy the food…expect things such as roasted suckling pig (leitão à bairrada) and Portuguese steak (bife) served with wine-based sauce and fried potatoes or the national dish of codfish (bacalhau). Between the surf, sand and food, there are plenty of things to do.
Albanian Riviera vs Greek Islands
Don’t even get me started about how much I love the Greek Islands! These sun-soaked isles are literally breathtaking, but what is also breathtaking—and not in a good way—is the number of tourists these islands receive each year. Yes, I love Greece, but there is another alternative that doesn’t have the crowds, and that is the gorgeous Albanian Riviera. This is one of the last stretches of undeveloped Mediterranean shore, and many travelers haven’t yet discovered this area of the world, but locals are definitely ready for your visit!
The Albanian Riviera is sheltered from the bulk-purchasing cruise crowds primarily by its inaccessibility to get there. But I can help you with that! Just fly into Corfu, Greece, then take the ferry to Saranda, Albania. It is easy and only takes 2 hours, and offers everything Greece does but sans the crowds! With stunning sunsets and golden beaches, it is a fraction of the cost and worth every penny! You can even visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Butrint. This will transport you back in time to 7th century A.D.!
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