The term ‘overtourism’ means too many people in a place at a given time, according to one definition by National Geographic. While there isn’t a definitive figure stipulating the number of visitors allowed, it says, an accumulation of economic, social, and environmental factors determine if and how numbers are creeping up.
In December 2023, CNN named eight of what it called the year’s “worst destinations for overtourism”. They’re some of the most popular hot spots around the world, many of which experienced record visitor numbers last year.
“Such surges may be sweet for local economies and hospitality businesses’ bottom line, but they also come with notable downsides: increased noise, pollution, traffic, and strain on public resources; a lower quality of life for locals; and a diminished visitors experience, just to name a few.”
Ahead, we suggest the best alternatives to CNN’s overcrowded hotspots. These destination dupes are similar to what you’d find at the original spot but are far less crowded and often more affordable too.
So, here’s where to travel in 2024.
As CNN reported, Dutch officials announced an initiative in March 2023 telling young male Brits to “stay away” if they had plans to “go wild” in Amsterdam. In 2024, all visitors to the city will have to pay the highest tourist tax in Europe.
Amsterdam is the capital city of The Netherlands so it makes sense it’s the most crowded. Some alternative destinations in the country are Utrecht, a 30-minute train ride from Amsterdam and with many of the same features, like canals, cobblestone alleyways and wonky houses. Also worth seeking out are Rotterdam, Maastricht, and Haarlem.
Greece’s most visited archaeological site, the Acropolis, in Athens, was so packed last Euro summer that in September, officials capped the number of its visitors to 20,000 per day via an hourly slot system on a booking system. Greece’s islands, in particular Mykonos and Santorini, were also packed.
For some inspiration for where to travel in 2024, we’ve rounded up a few lesser-known Greek island options here. In Athens, if you can’t get into the Acropolis, consider wandering through its Plaka neighbourhood, the oldest in the city, Monastiraki Flea Market and Pittaki Street. History buffs will appreciate Rhodes, once home to the Colossus, one of the world’s Seven Wonders, and today, the island houses a UNESCO World Heritage-classed old town.
Ah, Bali, the Indonesian island Australians are well-acquainted with. The rest of the world’s interest was piqued after the release of memoir-turned-movie ‘Eat Pray Love’. As a result, July and August, when the US and parts of Europe are on summer holidays, are some of the island’s busiest tourist periods.
We shared five other islands in Indonesia to consider visiting instead here, which you can use as inspiration for where to travel in 2024. They are Komodo, home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Komodo National Park, Nusa Lembongan, close to Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan, Sumba, Sulawesi, and Sumatra.
Barcelona was among the first European cities to ban new hotels in its city centre and restrict short-term room rentals, reports CNN. Like many other cities on the continent, Barcelona is busiest in July and August, so if you are looking to visit, think about going during shoulder season.
One alternative to Barcelona is Girona, which has an old town containing one of the best-preserved Jewish quarters in the world. Seville, with maze-like alleyways, Valencia, where paella was borne, and Granada, with a grand cathedral and steep cobbled streets, are also options to think about.
Another overcrowded tourist spot named is Miami. “Residents are increasingly concerned about rising crime and disorder, feeling that the city is becoming more dangerous and less family-friendly,” a 2021 op-ed piece in The Miami Herald reads.
Florida is home to dozens of other beach towns you might consider visiting, like Tampa, Key West, and Daytona Beach, though many of them do get packed during American universities’ spring break time in March and April.
While Paris has always been popular, CNN noted that Netflix hit Emily in Paris and its role as host of the 2024 Summer Olympics has helped to boost visitor numbers in recent years. If you do want to see the Eiffel Tour, think about visiting during shoulder season. Otherwise, other French cities Lyon, Marseille, and Nantes also offer visitors plenty to see and do.
Thailand’s government didn’t lift COVID-19 rules until October 2022, but the crowds didn’t waste any time flocking to the country, a substantial chunk of them to Phuket, an island province off the mainland.
You’ll be pleased to hear then that Thailand has around 1430 islands, so when it comes to Phuket alternatives for where to travel in 2024, you’ll be spoilt for choice. A few islands with tourist infrastructure set up include Koh Lanta, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan.
Overtourism in Venice made headlines again several times in 2023. While there’s nowhere else in the world with the same canals as Venice, there are a handful of other cities in Italy where you can find similar architecture and culture, including Trieste, a two-hour drive from Venice, Palermo, and Genoa.