Why fight the hordes of tourists at some of the world’s most popular holiday destinations when you can explore similar—yet less crowded—alternatives? From glistening seas to picturesque towns and wildlife spotting, here are 10 places to travel in 2020 if you want to escape the crowds.
Known as Bregu to locals and the Albanian Riviera to the rest of the world, Bregu is a line of traditional villages that stretches from the Llogara Pass to Ksamil and is home to beautiful golden beaches, turquoise seas and mountain backdrops. Some of the best ones to check out are Bay of Grama, Gjipe Beach, and Ksamil. Unlike neighbouring countries like Italy, Greece and Croatia, the Albanian Riviera offers luxury accommodation and excellent food and wine for an affordable price.
Ahuriri Valley, New Zealand
Located 2.5 hours drive from Queenstown, Ahuriri Valley is a tranquil yet rugged slice of paradise in New Zealand’s South Island. Carved over millions of years by the once fierce glacial waters of the Ahuriri River, the conservation park features a dramatic backdrop of snow-capped mountains, wetlands, tussock grasslands and beech forests. Nestled gently into the landscape, The Lindis is the only luxury lodging in the area and their newly-opened Pods offer guests a truly unique accommodation experience. With mirrored glass walls on three sides, these quarters bring the environment well and truly into the fore, while offering the ultimate in privacy and escape. Luxuriously heated and totally private, guests can enjoy the ever-changing environment as they sip a glass of champagne in their outdoor bathtub. Popular activities include tramping, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting and fishing.
Kotor is a town on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast and is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best way to experience the old town’s rich history is by entering through one of the three main gates and exploring the ancient cobblestone streets, walking along the old city walls, and stepping into its beautiful churches. While the climb up to one of the most popular Kotor attractions, Castle Of San Giovanni, isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s definitely worth the effort thanks to its incredible panoramic views of the stunning bay below.
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Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Raja Ampat is situated off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula on Papua, the most eastern Island of the Indonesian Archipelago. Home to some of the most pristine coral reefs in Indonesia (and the world), the area is a must visit for divers and snorkelers alike. In fact, an astonishing 75 percent of the world’s coral species exists beneath the waves of Raja Ampat. Thanks to the difficulty and expense of getting to Raja Ampat, the area still remains free of crowds.
A picturesque town full of colourful, half-timbered houses, dreamy canals, flower-laden windowsills and cobblestone streets, Colmar is located in the Alsace region of France, close to the German border. Known for its Christmas markets, Colmar is a great place to visit at any time of the year thanks to its gorgeous walks, museums and delicious food and wine. Visiting Colmar really is like stepping back in time.
Kinabatangan River, Sabah, Borneo
The Kinabatangan River is Sabah’s longest river and offers some of the best wildlife watching in Southeast Asia. As well as being home to Borneo’s indigenous orangutan and proboscis monkeys, the surrounding forest is known for its pygmy elephants, tarsiers, slow loris, macaque monkeys, crocodiles, freshwater sharks, Irrawaddy dolphins, hornbills and a variety of other birds. There are numerous small villages along the river offering accommodation, but our top pick is the Sukau Rainforest Lodge, which is perched on the bank of the Kinabatangan River and was the first lodge in the area designed based on ecotourism principles and embraces conservation, community development and sustainable tourism as part of its green policies. It’s also a member of National Geographic’s “Unique Lodges of the World”.
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The capital of Moldova, Chisinau has one of the highest proportions of natural spaces of any city in Europe. Situated on the Bic River, surrounded by fertile land rife with vineyards, it’s a popular destination for wine tours. The city is also renowned for its cognac and award-winning beer. While the former Soviet city isn’t at the top of everyone’s bucket list, it’s easy to loose yourself wandering through the country’s fascinating past while exploring Communist era monuments, beautiful churches and green parks.
As popular as Mexico is with tourists, Mérida has remained largely under the radar. The vibrant capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán, Mérida has a rich Mayan and colonial heritage, as well as stretches of sunny beachfront perfect relaxation. The Mayan ruins of Uxmal, about an hour’s drive away, are just as impressive as Chichén Itzá but not nearly as overrun by tourists.
Muscat, Oman’s port capital, sits on the Gulf of Oman surrounded by mountains and the desert. Famous for its impressive souks and superb seafood, the city feels a world away from the glitzy skyscrapers of neighbouring Dubai. Whether you want to go trekking in the desert, watch dolphins surf the waves or simply enjoy the outstanding Omani hospitality, Muscat is the place to go.
Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga
The Vava’u Island group in the Kingdom of Tonga is a spectacular tropical island paradise in the Pacific Ocean. From charter sailing and sea kayaking to surfing, diving and swimming with humpback whales, Vava’u has it all. The main town of Neiafu is a common destination for yachties and is the perfect place to enjoy the unhurried South Pacific pace, while experiencing the friendly Polynesian way of life.
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