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Aimée Smith, 16 January, 2020
Inntravel’s Aimée Smith presents some of the quieter alternatives to Europe’s most popular destinations.
I’d like to begin by stating that I have absolutely no problem with tourist hotspots. I love Venice and its intricate canals, and I had one of my best ever holidays on the Amalfi Coast, visiting the ‘must-see’ sites of Capri, Sorrento and nearby Pompeii. After all, if a place finds itself on a top-10-style list it is usually with very good reason; plus, it’s almost always possible to escape the throng – you can travel out of season, stay overnight (I love exploring in the evening after the day-trippers have melted away) or seek some expert advice on where to find those secret and authentic corners known only to locals.
That said, there’s something wonderful about not needing to negotiate the crowds at all, especially when you don’t have to compromise on destination. In the course of our travels across Europe, we’ve discovered many little-known but fascinating towns, cities and regions which make excellent alternatives to some of the continent’s most popular tourist haunts:
Ibiza vs. Ibiza
White-sand beaches, inviting seas that reflect the glint of a dazzling summer sun… and a plethora of ‘superclubs’ and partygoers to complete the picture. If Ibiza’s raucous reputation has deterred you from visiting then you’re certainly not alone. And yet there is another side to the 'White Island', with the authentic guesthouses, gentle footpaths, hidden beaches and endless views of the north-eastern corner creating the perfect setting for a relaxing walking holiday. Ibiza’s neighbouring isle, Formentera, is even quieter...
Milos vs. Santorini
We’re all familiar with Santorini, even if we don’t realise it – the island’s azure waters and cascading, white-and-blue-domed villages are one of the archetypal images of Greece and tempt many to the Aegean each year.
Jetsetters’ favourite Santorini is part of the Cyclades archipelago, which also includes Milos, a much lesser-known island characterised by its kaleidoscopic volcanic landscapes, secluded bays, dramatic white pumice cliffs and quiet and traditional ways of life.
Roman Provence vs. Rome
Rome – gloriously chaotic, brimming with art, history, charisma and whizzing vespas. Roman Provence – a sun-drenched land where life moves at a Slower pace, where the cities are enthralling and easily walkable, and there is a surprising wealth of ancient monuments.
If you fancy delving into the past at your own pace, it’s well worth considering the South of France and the cities of Nîmes, Narbonne and Arles, in particular. You don’t even need to hire a car to get around – opt for rail and arrive into the heart of each city.
Aveiro vs. Venice
The first clue that the coastal city of Aveiro has modelled itself on La Serenissima lies in its oh-so-subtle nickname, Portugal’s ‘Little Venice’. This is more than a clever marketing ploy, however, for Aveiro really does resemble Venice in many ways. It has a proud maritime heritage, streets of elegant houses intersected by canals and waterways, and the Portuguese equivalent to gondolas: vibrantly coloured boats with high, curved prows known as moliceiros. What Aveiro also has is glorious, unspoiled surroundings of quiet beaches and wildlife-rich lagoons.
Moselle Valley vs. Rhine Valley
Teetering riverside castles, thickly forested hillsides and dizzyingly steep vineyards – the Rhine Valley is one of the most romantic of Europe's landscapes. Or at least it would be without the constant stream of cruise ships and industrial barges.
Step forward the Moselle: this similarly scenic valley has vine-terraced hills and historic villages aplenty, but by comparison is largely unspoiled by tourism.
Senja vs. the Lofoten Islands
There was a time when the Lofoten Islands represented the great unknown, then rumours began to spread of the islands’ startling landscapes. Although the Lofotens still promise a unique holiday experience, it’s now essential to book early and be prepared to share at least some of the striking scenery with others.
Happily, for those seeking walking, beauty and isolation, the island of Senja offers all three. It’s increasingly popular among Inntravellers, though, so book sooner rather than later!
Istria vs. Dubrovnik
We love Dubrovnik, and wouldn’t dream of disputing its status as the world’s most perfectly preserved medieval city. Yet there’s no denying it is a tourist favourite, with careful planning required to dodge the crowds. If what draws you there is the idyllic coastal setting and delightful tangle of cobblestone streets then we have some very good news for you – the Croatian fishing port of Rovinj shares much of Dubrovnik’s appeal, but not its renown. Rovinj is located on the country’s beautiful Istrian peninsula, where peaceful landscapes and historic towns are the norm.
Vienna vs. Graz
There is much to unite Austria’s first and second cities: a passion for art and well-brewed coffee; ornate and beautiful buildings; and a central place in Austria’s imperial history. Instead of simply switching Vienna for Graz, we reckon the best way to appreciate each city’s individual charms is to visit them in tandem – soak in the jaw-dropping opulence of Vienna before making your way to Graz by means of a spectacular mountain rail journey. Once here, you’ll be struck by the city’s laidback and innovative vibe – all the more noticeable after a few days in the capital.
Dolomites: south vs. west
South Tyrol – northern Italy's German-speaking region – is breathtakingly beautiful, and no matter which corner you visit you can be sure of a memorable stay. However, to really get off the beaten track, we would highly recommend heading to the southern Dolomites.
Away from the region's famous Seiser Alm plateau, the landscapes are quiet and undiscovered, the villages small and traditional and the flora and fauna wonderfully varied. What's more, this is where you'll find some of the finest hotels in our entire collection.