Travel News

Valencia for Barcelona and other holiday swaps to make to avoid the crowds

Simon Calder’s Travel

After several years in which travel was severely restricted, 2023 was the year that holidays were back in full force – and 2024 is set to be even more jetset. UK travel agents’ association Abta has predicted that international travel will continue to grow in 2024, with passenger numbers achieving or surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Though in many quarters tourist-starved destinations will be giving thanks for an uptick in visitors once more, in others, the balance has tipped swiftly from “just enough” to “overwhelming”.

The blight of “overtourism”, one of the defining words of 2018, seems to have returned. Places struggling under the weight of their own popularity have once again been forced to implement strategies aimed at curbing visitors, from Barcelona reducing the number of cruise ships that can call at its central port to Venice saying it will finally introduce new taxes for day trippers.

Aside from visiting a hotspot outside of peak season and going at a quieter time of the year instead, another way to ensure you don’t put more pressure on an oversubscribed beauty spot or city could be by swapping it for an undersubscribed one.

Want canals? Venice isn’t the only place to see them. Dream of visiting Incan ruins? There are far, far more options out there than Machu Picchu.

Here are some ideas of alternatives to help you travel more sustainably in 2024.

Read more on sustainable travel:

Swap Amsterdam for Utrecht

Quaint canals and gabled houses typify Utrecht as well as Amsterdam (Getty Images)

Often seen as the poster child for overtourism, the Dutch capital was so sick of lairy visitors that in March 2023 it launched a campaign to discourage disruptive tourists. It was a resounding success, with the number of arrivals from the UK down 22 per cent compared to 2019. While Amsterdam is still keen to welcome the “right” kind of tourist (no stag dos, please), there are plenty of other Netherlands alternatives where you can enjoy traditional gabled houses, peaceful canals and top-notch museums and restaurants. The city of Utrecht is just a 25-minute trainride south of Amsterdam, and is replete with classic Dutch architecture, waterways and narrow, historic streets. Plus it has its own Medieval centre to rival the capital’s.

Swap Venice for Genoa

Venice frequently hits the headlines due to locals complaining that the…

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