We’ve all seen an influencer do their thing at one point or another (or maybe been a wannabe ourselves). The one that has a travel buddy to capture shot after shot, as they wistfully stare at a breathtaking view, at an epic tourist attraction or at a magnificent natural wonder, posing in a stylish outfit for what’s more like a fashion photo shoot than a travel memory.
Visit almost any beautiful beach and you’ll notice beachcombers posing in swimsuits or on surfboards, dying to get the perfect shot. Companies have even started banking on influencers flocking to new, immersive exhibitions and experiences like the pop-up ice cream museum, where visitors are encouraged to constantly snap shots with the colorful, quirky exhibits and share them on social media.
While taking and sharing these types of influencer photos can benefit a destination/attraction and its local population, they can also create a myriad of problems for both locals and other visitors. One particular example is London’s Notting Hill neighborhood, lined with colorful, quaint houses. According to the UK’s Evening Standard, residents of the neighborhood are fed up with visitors who are “influencing their doorsteps,” setting up shop on patios, corners and doorsteps, even bringing changing tents and professional photographers with them.
Your social media feeds are also likely filled with fitness travel influencers, molded into impossible yoga poses or handstands on mountaintops (which — shockingly — isn’t the safest way to stand at the edge of a cliff). Drones are also becoming increasingly common too, and influencers often fight for the chance to get that perfect shot from up above, creating a whole new set of privacy concerns.
Here at TPG, we’re not saying you shouldn’t go to these popular tourist attractions, monuments, natural wonders or even cities themselves that may be overly crowded now thanks to Instagram. Heck, if you’re there, you might as well join in on the photo shoots and snap away. But if you’re looking for a travel experience that’s less about sharing your trip on social media and more about just having a great vacation, here’s a list of alternative destinations to visit that haven’t been quite as impacted by influencer tourism.
From off-the-beaten-path to just-a-subway-ride-over, travel to these spots if you’re looking to put your phone down and live in the moment (at least until it’s time to Insta-story whatever meal you’re eating next).
If you’ve already snapped Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, posed in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor and danced the night away at Ibiza’s beach clubs, head to a lesser-visited region of Spain: Extremadura. The southwestern Spanish region that borders Portugal has a number of tiny villages, the four main towns of Cáceres, Badajoz, Mérida and Trujillo, and the lush natural valleys of Jerte and La Vera. The province is known for its exceptional ham, cheeses and paprika, crumbling castles, Medieval buildings and even Roman ruins. If Rome’s Colosseum is simply too much of a circus for you, Mérida’s Roman aqueduct, theater and Roman circus are delightfully void of the photo-hungry, especially during the off-season.
Lake Retba, Senegal
Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is definitely an amazing body of water (and geothermal spa), but Africa’s Lake Retba, also known as the Pink Lake, is another unique body of water worth checking out. Just an hour drive from Senegal’s capital, Dakar, the lake’s pinkish hue comes from a special algae as well as having a very high salt content. For a few dollars, you can hop in a rickety wooden boat and enjoy the colorful water as a guide rows you around the lake. Swimming in the salty water is possible too, but you won’t want to hang around too long as the NaCl is pretty intense. You can rinse the salt off after with an unofficial shower — a local who’ll dump a few buckets of fresh water on you.
Machu Picchu makes for an unbelievable experience, but overtourism is slowly taking its toll on the famous monument, despite strict new entry policies. Plus, taking that same photo in front of the ruins, with the Huayna Picchu mountain looming in the background, has certainly been done. Adventure travelers should consider heading to Choquequirao instead, which is known as Peru’s real lost city — probably because it’s still sort of lost. Getting to these Inca ruins isn’t easy, and there’s very little tourist infrastructure in place. But that’s what makes the adventure so enticing. Although the ruins are three times the size of Machu Picchu, the site reportedly only receives around 12 visitors per day. It’s not surprising, though, as access to the ruins is only possible after an intense three-day trek.
Once of Asia’s most underrated destinations, Taiwan is the perfect alternative to Japan if you want to see the cherry blossoms among fewer visitors. Taipei’s many night markets are a maze of food stalls, shops and locals, where you can find cheap goods for sale and local foods. The country is home to nine national parks where visitors can hike mountains, bike trails, see wildlife, swim in waterfalls and more. Plus, if Santorini’s crowds aren’t your thing, the former mining town of Jiufen has hilltop buildings that overlook the sea. Visiting Jiufen’s tea houses is a traditional way to sip a hot drink while learning about Taiwanese culture.
Queens, New York
Sick of waiting for people to snap shots in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge? Head to Queens. While Brooklyn and Manhattan are always trending topics, Queens is still… Queens. But with some seriously awesome food, colorful street art and one-of-a-kind museums, like the Museum of Moving Images and the Queens County Farm Museum. The Queens County Farm Museum is even home to New York City’s largest plot of farmland. (Yup, farmland in New York City exists.) We’re definitely not saying skip visiting the Big Apple, but don’t discount the borough of Queens if you need a break from all the selfies. And you might even be able to find some avocado toast at a reasonable price (maybe).
Khao Sok, Thailand
While islands like Phuket, Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi are overflowing with tourists, the southern peninsula of Surat Thani, and more specifically, the National Park of Khao Sok, remains a hidden gem in a country some many argue is teeming with influencers (well, at least the ones who aren’t in Bali). Home to the oldest evergreen forest in the world, the limestone cliffs jutting out of the water may trick you into believing you’re in a spot like Koh Phi Phi or Angthong National Park, but much less crowded. Plan to canoe, kayak, hike or simply explore the park’s lush flora and fauna, blue-green waters and rocky caves.
While this Mexican region is certainly growing in popularity, it isn’t quite as overrun as the Riviera Maya, which is a popular tourist spot for US travelers and social media addicts. Oaxaca, on the other hand, maintains much of its local charm. Besides the stunning coastline that rivals the Riviera Maya’s white sands, this southern Mexican state is also a cultural melting pot of indigenous and Mexican culture. You’ll be too busy shopping for hand-crafted goods at street markets; indulging in tlayudas, hearty tortillas covered with meat and melted cheese; lounging on white sandy beaches; and simply admiring all the colorful architecture to even think about spending hours snapping selfies.
The Black Sea, Bulgaria
Italy, Spain and Greece, please move aside to make way for Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, which is an up-and-coming spot for many travelers, especially during the summer season. A destination which was always frequented by locals and visitors from other Eastern European countries, the Black Sea shoreline is now reaching well-beyond, luring in travelers (though not too many influencers just yet) from all over the world with its golden sands, affordable prices and delicious wine and cuisine. The two main seaports are Varna and Burgas, both of which have airports and a presence from low-cost carrier Ryanair.
Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali
While this structure may not be quite as monumental as India’s Taj Mahal or Abu Dhabi’s stunning mosque, this UNESCO World Heritage site isn’t swarmed by influencers, even though the Djenné is the oldest known city in sub-Saharan Africa. Located in Mali on the banks of the Bani River, the building’s architecture is as interesting as it is impressive, constructed using palm wood and mud to withstand the hot temperatures. Each year, the mosque is re-plastered by townspeople during a large festival. Although it’s definitely more difficult to get to, it’s worth a visit, especially for travelers who love getting off-the-beaten-path.
Dom Luís I Bridge, Porto, Portugal
If this impressive iron structure looks mildly reminiscent of a familiar towering Parisian monument, that’s because it is. This famous double-decker bridge which spans Portugal’s River Douro was designed by Théophile Seyrig, a student of Gustave Eiffel. Not only is it fascinating to capture the bridge from angles around the city on either side of the river, crossing the Dom Luís provides gorgeous river and city views too. Visitors can cruise below it via boat, walk across the top or bottom sections, drive across the bottom, or take the city’s metro on the top. The giant iron beams juxtaposed with the red tiled city rooftops and the blue-green river is truly exceptional. Plus, crossing the bridge gives you access to the region’s Port wineries of Vila Nova de Gaia, which offer tours and tastings to visitors.
Featured photo taken in Oxaca, Mexico by Lindsay Upson / Getty Images.
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