Have you ever been to Santorini when several mega-cruise ships have just unloaded their passengers? Or perhaps you stood in line with 5,000 of your closest friends trying to score tickets to the Vatican. In the heat of summer. At noon. These are but two examples of situations you want to avoid on your holiday.
Here are some tips how to avoid the crowds on your next adventure travel holiday.
Summer holidays are busy times in Europe. Not only are families visiting from overseas, Europeans themselves load up their cars and travel far and wide across the continent. Add to that cruise ships docking in Dubrovnik, Barcelona and many other ports, and you have a busy situation indeed.
Consider travelling off-season. When I was in Greece a year ago, walking the islands, I chose to travel in spring. The weather was delightful, people welcoming and best of all, there were very few other travellers. I was actually able to walk around Santorini without throngs of people pushing their way between shops.
Many other places in the world are perfectly fine to travel to off-season. Think Kenya and Tanzania during the wet season, when animals give birth and predator activity is at its height. Consider trekking in Nepal in winter, visiting the Andean countries outside of the dry season or travelling to Australia and New Zealand on either side of the traditional high season.
Each place has its traditional travel season but don't let it pigeon-hole you.
This spring I am cycling the Danube and visiting Vienna and Budapest. I booked a self-guided cycling trip and decided to start it on a Friday. My reasoning was I would be one day ahead of the many people who decide to start on a weekend. Those cyclists will be one day behind me for the entire time. It means I will have many of the sights to myself.
Weekends are also when many locals do their weekly shopping, making city streets extra busy. (Of course if you like that kind of local vibe, or want to endulge in some local nightlife, weekends are perfect to visit).
Avoid known hotspots
I mentioned Santorini before. It was always on my bucket list. And while the scenery is unlike anything I have seen in the world, the island itself is overrun by tourists.
Instead of visiting known hotspots, consider alternatives. Travel to Choquequirao instead of Machu Picchu, trek Annapurna-Dhaulagiri instead of the Annapurna Circuit or Everest Basecamp, do the Portuguese Camino instead of the Camino Frances,
Visit early morning
When I was in Tallinn, Estonia, a few years ago I wandered around town one early morning. I had the town to myself and it was a great time to take photos. Mid-morning though people started to arrive and come lunch-time the place was packed.
Early access, Skip the Line and prebook
Of course there are places no one will want to miss. Imagine going to Spain and not seeing the Alhambra in Granada or La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona! For those places we recommend you purchase timed tickets well ahead of your visit. Be sure to buy them directly from the venue and not from secondary vendors. If Skip-the-Line or early access tickets are available, get them.
Use Google Maps
Did you know Google Maps has data on how popular particular places are at certain times? Look up the Colloseum in Rome and you will see it is busiest from 11am to 2pm with early morning being by far the quietest.
Avoid local holidays
Anyone who has ever travelled during the Lunar New Year in China or Vietnam knows this - transport and sights get crowded. Likewise, Ramadan can be both an interesting and an awkward time to travel to Islamic countries. Do a bit of research; this website lists all holidays around the world.
Hire a private guide
Hiring your own guide is a great way to get around sites as they will be able to avoid busy spots and times or even get preferred access through their contacts. We can tailor trips in most countries around the world, where we book all your accommodation, transport and privately guided sightseeing.
Go off-the-beaten track
While some places in this world may be overrun, there are of course still plenty of locations where you will see few travellers. Recently I compiled a list of ten of the most remote places in the world.
Join a small-group tour
You don't have to fall off the map to enjoy a quiet holiday. Joining one of our small-group adventure holidays often means an earlier start than most tours so we can beat the crowds. And by their nature, adventure tours get you to places few other tours do, visiting in ways no one else offers, while getting to know the culture of a country in-depth.
Do you need help figuring out where to go when? Contact us!