Smart Travelers Know These Are Better Alternatives to Popular Tourist Spots

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The problem with a lot of the world’s most famous tourist spots is that they’re often too crowded and very expensive. Savvy travelers know there are always alternatives, though, places that offer a similar experience that’s just as good with fewer crowds and lower costs.

These 20 handpicked destinations offer the charm and adventure of their more famous counterparts without overwhelming crowds and inflated costs. Each location was selected for its ability to provide a comparable, if not superior, visitor experience with the added benefit of tranquility and affordability. Discover peaceful alternatives to tourist-heavy hotspots, where the beauty and thrill of exploration remain untarnished by the masses.

Canyonlands National Park (Instead of Grand Canyon)

Canyonlands National Park
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The Grand Canyon truly is a sight to behold, but traffic and parking there can be nightmarish. At Canyonlands in Utah, the Green and Colorado rivers have cut some impressive canyons into the landscape, and this park is far less crowded. There are also a lot more hiking trails.

Lower Geyser Basin (Instead of Old Faithful)

Lower Geyser Basin
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Old Faithful is mobbed pretty much all the time except at night. Further along the Firehole River basin is Lower Geyser Basin. The geysers there aren’t as spectacular as Old Faithful is, but some of them are almost constantly erupting, and although you won’t escape crowds here, they’re not as bad as they are at Upper Geyser Basin, where Old Faithful is.

Nantahala National Forest (Instead of Great Smoky Mountains)

Nantahala National Forest
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Great Smoky Mountains is the most-visited national park in the country, and it often really feels that way. Nantahala National Forest is south of the park in western North Carolina, and it has mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and hiking trails that you can enjoy without the crowds of the Smokies.

Alpine Loop (Instead of Rocky Mountain National Park)

Alpine loop in Utah
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Rocky Mountain in Colorado has gotten so busy that you now need reservations to get in during peak months. In the southwestern part of the state, the Alpine Loop is a rugged 4wd route that winds and climbs through the spectacular San Juan Mountains. It sees a lot of traffic in the summer, but not like that going through RMNP, and there are a lot of trails and side roads that let you get away from most other people.

Savannah (Instead of New Orleans)

Savannah, Georgia, USA
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Savannah doesn’t have the same cultural influences that New Orleans does; it’s actually strongly steeped in Irish culture. However, it’s a beautiful city on the Georgia coast with plenty of Southern charm, and in the historic quarter, it seems there’s always a lot going on.

Reno (Instead of Las Vegas)

Reno, NV, USA
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If you find Vegas to be overwhelming, try heading up north to get a casino experience in Reno, which is a lot smaller. Reno is also close to beautiful Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border.

Oregon Coast (Instead of Big Sur)

Oregon coast
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Many people consider California’s Big Sur region to be the most beautiful section of the Pacific coast, but Oregon comes in at a close second. You’ll get more clouds and rain there, but they don’t take away from the stunning beauty.

Chincoteague (Instead of Outer Banks)

Chincoteague Island, Virginia
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North Carolina’s legendary Outer Banks keep getting busier and busier and more commercialized, and some people have started looking for an alternative. Many have found it up the coast on Virginia’s Chincoteague Island. Chincoteague gets busy, but because it doesn’t have much geographical room to grow, it can only get so busy.

Quebec City (Instead of Paris)

Old Quebec City
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In this Canadian city, you’ll enjoy authentic French food and culture without the crowds, costs, and travel times associated with Paris. On the cobblestone streets of the Old City, you’ll think you’re in a classic French village.

Yellowstone Wildlife Tour (Instead of African Wildlife Safari)

Yellowstone Wildlife Tour
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All of Yellowstone teems with wildlife, and the Lamar Valley area in particular is called the “American Serengeti.” You can go on wildlife tours in Yellowstone, though you can’t do an African-style safari. Or, you can do the touring in your own car. Wildlife you’re likely to see include elk, bison, moose, deer, pronghorns, black and grizzly bears, wolves, bald eagles, and more.

Biltmore Estate (Instead of European Castles)

The Biltmont Estate in Asheville, North Carolina
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A trip to Europe to tour castles there requires a big budget. You can get a similar experience for a lot less money and hassle at the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina. Modeled after the French chateaus of the Loire Valley, it’s considered to be the largest manse in the States.

California Wine Country (Instead of Italy or France)

California Wine Country
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California produces some really good wines, and not just in Napa Valley. Many of these wines fall into the world-class category, and going to California is a lot cheaper and more convenient than going to France or Italy is.

Halkidiki (Instead of The Greek Isles)

Halkidiki, Greece
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This region is in Northern Greece, and it has the same great scenery you get in the Greek Isles. However, it’s minus the crowds, especially all the cruise ships.

Algeria (Instead of Rome)

Oran, Algeria
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The Colosseum is an incredible sight, but it’s also incredibly mobbed and touristy. In Algeria, you can find well-preserved Roman Empire ruins, and you can also enjoy beautiful beaches and amazing Saharan landscapes.

Tikal (Instead of Chichen Itza)

Great Jaguar at Tikal
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Chichen Itza in Mexico is a spectacular Mayan ruin, but its proximity to Cancun and other Mexican cruise destinations means it gets very crowded. In Guatemala, you can see Tikal, which is in a stunning setting and is even older and larger than Chichen Itza.

Victoria (Instead of London)

Victoria, Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada
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If Quebec City is the Canadian Paris, Victoria in British Columbia is the Canadian London, and it’s easy to get to from Seattle or Vancouver. Even better, it has a mild climate and 300+ days of sunshine yearly, definitely not like London.

Ljubljana (Instead of Venice)

Panorama of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Image Credit: Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

It’s no secret that Venice has suffered from unmanageable tourism. The ecosystem has been harmed, the cost of living (and staying) is sky-high, and artisan shops are being replaced by shops for cheap souvenirs. Across the border in Slovenia, though, you can enjoy a taste of Venice as it used to be in the capital city. There, a river winds through an eco-friendly city filled with amazing, friendly people.

Mozambique (Instead of Andaman Coast)

Mozambique, Africa
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Thailand has become one of the top tourist destinations in the world, and the crowds are starting to detract from what lured people there in the first place. Mozambique in southern Africa doesn’t have those problems, so if the sandy coasts along the Andaman Sea are what draw you to Thailand, you’ll love Mozambique’s 1,500 miles of sunny Indian Ocean coastline.

Yoho National Park (Instead of Banff)

Yoho National Park
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Banff has some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world, but the towns, villages, scenic overlooks, and popular day hikes can be packed with people, and tour buses seem to be constantly unloading. Yoho is just on the other side of the Continental Divide in British Columbia, and you can enjoy beautiful mountains and lakes without the Banff crowds.

Myvatn Nature Baths (Instead of The Blue Lagoon)

Myvatn Nature Baths
Image Credit: Dani Figueiredo/Shutterstock

Both of these hot springs are in Iceland, yet one is a tourist magnet while the other isn’t. Myvatn is in the northern part of the island, so it’s more of a commitment to get to, but you’ll get almost the same experience but minus all the people.

No Passport, No Problem: You Don’t Need One to Vacation in These Countries

woman backpacker tourist
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

If you’re an American citizen traveling out of the country, you have to have a passport to be allowed into somewhere else, right? While that’s mostly true, there are some exceptions. Some are independent countries, while others are U.S. territories that largely operate independently.

Note: Before you visit any of these places, make sure you look into what the entry requirements are. For example, you may need an enhanced ID or proof of certain vaccinations.

No Passport, No Problem: You Don’t Need One to Vacation in These Countries

The World’s Most Beautiful Mountain Ranges

woman sitting on mountain top
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For as long as humans have existed, mountains have inspired and daunted us. They’re the basis for countless legends, and although they can be deadly, have an irresistible pull on us, drawing millions of sightseers, hikers, climbers, skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts every year. Making a definitive list of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world is subjective, but the ones here are certainly strong contenders.

The World’s Most Beautiful Mountain Ranges

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Robert Sihler is an educator, freelance writer, and rock climbing guide and instructor living with his family in Driftwood, Texas. In his spare time, he enjoys reading fiction, streaming films, completing crossword puzzles, and rock climbing. When he goes on vacation, he likes to visit the mountains of the West and climb remote, obscure peaks that have seen few or no prior ascents.