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Dupe Destinations in the Aegean

Dupe Destinations in the Aegean

In April, Princess Cruises told passengers that it was canceling a scheduled stop in Santorini, Greece, citing congestion. Four cruise ships were already anticipated to arrive on the same day in June, and were it to join, the ships would have brought some 17,000 visitors to an island of 15,500 residents.

In the Aegean Sea, more than 1,000 islands fill the waters between Greece and Turkey, and the coastlines are lined with spectacular bays. Both countries set tourism records last year, a boon for two fragile economies, but one that follows and in turn fuels frenzied development that threatens local livelihoods, cultural heritage and ecological balance, particularly on the Greek islands.

With plenty of whitewashed islands and historic coastal towns offering the same charms as their neighbors, it’s time to look beyond Mykonos and Marmaris to lesser-known spots that might benefit from more visitors. Whether you’re in search of a hiking adventure, a cultural excursion or seclusion in rugged beauty, here are five destinations that offer distinctly Aegean experiences, without the crowds.

When Michelin expanded its Turkey guidebook last year, the quiet district of Urla, near the port city of Izmir, stole the spotlight. On a windy peninsula with clay-heavy soil, the hilly region has a rich winemaking tradition that dates back 6,000 years. A near-total government monopoly on winemaking stymied production for decades, but recently boutique makers and chef-driven restaurants have carved a path for themselves and put Urla on the gastronomic map.

Newer wine producers like Hus focus almost exclusively on indigenous grapes, joining longtime innovators along the Urla Vineyard Route, which winds through rolling fields, olive groves and nine wineries, two of which have beautiful guest rooms, including 2 Rooms hotel at Şarapçilik (from $230). Each producer is no more than a 20-minute drive from the next.

“It’s as if everything here is passed down from word of mouth, from generation to generation, from season to season,” said Seray Kumbasar, the sommelier and co-owner of Vino Locale, a fine-casual restaurant among vineyards.

The local grape Bornova Misketi, a semisweet ancestor of muscat, features in many of Vino Locale’s Italian-leaning dishes. Ms. Kumbasar and her husband, Ozan, who is the chef, take a hyperlocal approach, harvesting the restaurant’s produce alongside the farmers who supply it. Most menu items are bright takes on simple ingredients:…

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