9 Alternative International Destinations You Will Love

As technology has taken over our lives, the world has gotten smaller. Just minutes after taking them, you can scroll through photos of wonders of the world on your phone or video chat with friends and colleagues around the world. Sometimes it is also a little too easy to plan a trip before arriving there, as there is no shortage of articles, reviews and travel guides.

Planning your trip can be a good thing, but sometimes the element of surprise has its own charm. There’s nothing like being in a corner of the world that feels like your own, a feeling you can’t repeat with a hundred tourists photographing the same sunset or posing in front of the same cathedral. And let’s not talk about the crowds who line up in front of a painted wall for an Instagram-compatible photo.

Fortunately, the world is still big, even if it doesn’t always look like it. There is more than one way to find the experience you want and these alternative travel destinations prove it. You will find similarities with tourist destinations around the world, but without the same flashy reputation. This is an opportunity to have fewer people, lower prices, and an opportunity to find a place that suits you. Even if these places aren’t that famous, you will love them just as much, maybe even more because you won’t be fighting for your place in paradise.

Forget: the Greek islands, try: Chalkidiki

Islands like Mykonos are usually the most popular, but Halkidiki offers the same turquoise waters at lower prices, with fewer crowds and no ferries. In fact, you can get to your resort in just an hour’s drive from Thessaloniki Airport. This proximity makes it popular with locals, so you’ll be surrounded by Greek culture rather than cruise ships and sightseeing tours.

Halkidiki has three peninsulas that form a trident in the Aegean Sea. Most visitors choose to stay in Kassandra, the westernmost part, to indulge themselves in beach resorts and enjoy a familiar vacation atmosphere. Sithonia, the central island, is quieter and more relaxed, while the third, Athos, is home to magnificent monasteries that can only be seen on a sightseeing cruise. Much like the islands, all three peninsulas enjoy brilliant sunshine, stunning beaches, and fresh seafood.

Forget: Rome, try: Algeria

The Roman Empire stretched over five million square kilometers, so don’t limit yourself to a visit to the Colosseum. Instead, head to Algeria, where ruins like those of Djemila and Timgad still stand today. Forgotten, then preserved by the desert climate, they are in fantastic condition even after two millennia. The story is just as present there and you don’t have to strain to get the perfect shot.

While history is a big draw for most visitors, Algeria has more to offer than you might think. The breathtaking landscapes include beaches and mountains as well as parts of the Sahara. Traveling here is certainly more complicated than traveling to Italy, but travelers will want to find a guide quickly or do extensive research in order to travel independently before applying for a visa.

Forget: Chichen Itza, try: Tikal

The Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza are among the most spectacular, but also some of the most visited. This is a popular day trip from Cancun resorts and Mexican cruise ports that is often very busy. On the other hand, if you head south to Guatemala, you will find Tikal, older, bigger and in a magical setting.

Granted, Tikal takes a bit of effort to get there. From Guatemala City, you’ll need to take a day bus or a fast flight to Flores, and from there it will take you around an hour’s drive to reach the archaeological site. Travelers who take the trip are rewarded with a pristine jungle environment that is home to wild animals such as howler monkeys, coatis, and turkeys. Here you can also climb several of the pyramids, an experience not to be missed (but not allowed in Chichen Itza).

Forget: India, try: Sri Lanka

India is huge, fast-paced, and impressive to many. If you’re not ready for this destination, try Sri Lanka instead. This island nation has its own culture and is not an exact replacement, but it can make traveling to this part of the world easier for you. The locals are friendly, rarely intrusive, and often speak perfect English.

Since it’s a smaller country, you can combine a wide variety of activities into a two- or three-week trip. Start with the capital, Colombo, heading to popular beaches on the south and east coasts, and then inland for leopard safaris, tea plantations, and mountain hikes. You will also find impressive temples and historical world heritage sites in Sri Lanka’s “cultural triangle”. Trains and hired drivers make getting around easier.

Forget: London, try: Victoria

Victoria, British Columbia is diverse, but it is the most English-speaking city in Canada. It’s closely associated with the British royal family and has colonial architecture that leaves you in doubt that you’ve accidentally crossed an ocean. It’s easy to get to (a short ferry ride from Seattle or Vancouver) and with a mild climate and 308 days of sunshine a year, the weather is better too.

Victoria is much smaller than London, but you will find many similar experiences here. Spend an afternoon at the Royal British Columbia Museum, order fish and chips in a pub, or sip high tea in the Empress Hotel. There are also fabulous antique shops, lots of parks and green spaces, and even a castle.

Forget the Great Barrier Reef, try the Red Sea

While the Great Barrier Reef is the most famous in the world, it is nowhere near the only option for divers and snorkelers. The Red Sea, which you can reach from Egypt, Jordan, Israel and some less visited countries, is home to fish and corals of great beauty, as well as warm water and excellent underwater visibility. In short, that’s all it takes.

For the most options (and the best prices), move to Egypt. Cities like Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada have hundreds of beach resorts with options to suit all tastes and budgets. Experienced divers can also find cruises aboard cruise ships to dive sites (reefs and wrecks) further from the coast. Of course, the rest of Egypt is a spectacular destination too if you’ve spent your time under the sea.

Forget: Mount Everest, try: Cordillera Blanca

The Himalayas are more famous, but the Cordillera Blanca of Peru is much closer to Americans. A dozen peaks reach impressive heights of 6,000 meters or more, and the region has more than 700 glaciers. Turquoise colored alpine lakes, hot springs and an unearthly flora add to the attractiveness of the region.

Unlike Mount Everest, you don’t have to be a seasoned climber to get there. From the town of Huaraz, visitors can explore Huascarán National Park in a 4 × 4 vehicle, or set off for a day of hiking or mountain biking. More experienced (and acclimatized) adventurers can also opt for multi-day hikes deep into the mountains.

Forget: Switzerland, try: Slovenia

Switzerland is undoubtedly beautiful, but also expensive. For equally beautiful landscapes, head to Slovenia, a country so worthy of Instagram it’s surprising it hasn’t been invaded yet. There are castles in abundance, such as the impressive Predjama Castle, which was built into a rock wall. Other fairy-tale scenes are a church on a small island in the middle of Lake Bled, which almost seems to float, and Lake Jasna, the banks of which shine in color every autumn.

Given its small size, Slovenia manages to offer all kinds of popular European experiences. From the bustling capital of Ljubljana, you can visit the Julian Alps, Adriatic Sea, eastern wine regions, and adventure centers like Bovec. The best way to see it all is to rent a car for a week or more.

Forget about the African safari, try the Pantanal

Nature lovers tend to focus on African safaris to make their dreams come true, but the South American Pantanal also offers an incredible experience. The region can be visited from several countries, although Brazil is usually the most direct country. Trips typically last three to seven days, so they’re easier to find when you’re short on time.

As in Africa, you will find savannahs full of wild animals. Tours take you by jeep in search of ocelots, anteaters, capybaras, and more. Bird watching is second to none, with more species than you could ever count. When you get tired – and you won’t – take boat trips to change your pace. Day trips depart from Porto Jofre and you can see giant river otters, caimans and jaguars.

There’s nothing wrong with traveling to classic destinations, but if you’re looking for something new or different, these alternatives are great ways to enjoy your favorite experiences without always returning to the same place. You’ll enjoy the best of an old favorite destination with a new twist … and maybe even avoid the crowds and high prices while you’re there.

Article translated from Forbes US authors: Becky Pokora, Caroline Lupini

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