Such is our current desperation to up our travel game and capture the perfect holiday shot that you too may find yourself, as I did, handing over money to enter a book shop in Portugal to take a photo for social posterity. Paying to enter a bookstore (the so-called ‘Harry Potter bookstore’, but still) and pose with every other tourist in Porto, and then leave without a book because the entire family lost their collective rag after five minutes? Guilty.
Of course, there are other factors beyond social media that have led us to what has now been termed ‘overtourism’, including cheap flights, more accessibility and increased online awareness. But fast-forward to 2019 and even the illusionist David Copperfield would be hard-pressed to recreate his famous walk through the Great Wall of China for the crowds of Fjällräven Kånken backpacks and Olympus cameras in the way.
Hanging out of a fast-moving train across India while faux-kissing your beloved? Sure Susan, risk your life and limbs to recreate moments saved from the internet to pop them on the ’gram. Somewhere along the way, we forgot holidays were supposed to be about experience, not social currency.
If you look hard enough (ironically online) you’ll find loads of places with oodles of picture-perfect experiences for the conscious travellers and explorers among us that are actively seeking tourists. Below, our pick of the best.
SKIP: The rock formations of Arizona’s Antelope Canyon (you may as well just do the replica photo op in Glossier’s LA store – it’ll be marginally less busy).
DO: Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe instead.
In Africa, no two safari experiences are created equal and while feeding giraffes from your breakfast table has huge appeal for some, the unparalleled beauty of the African bush is best explored on foot. Walk through the wilderness with Khangela Safaris before watching the sunset over Lake Kariba, as it peeks through the bare branches of the ‘drowned trees’.
SKIP: Hat Maya on Phi Phi Leh Island – you can’t get near ‘The Beach’ beach anyway, because all the tourist snorkellers have killed the coral.
DO: High Country Cabin, Ben Ohau instead.
Set on 10 acres in Ben Ohau on New Zealand’s South Island, this tiny cabin is about as far from the maddening crowds of ‘Hobbitan’ was you can get. Hop on a ski-plane for a once-in-a-lifetime glacier landing or adventure through the ice caves with a mountain guide before settling in for the night under the never-ending Milky Way sky.
SKIP: The Staalmeestersburg Bridge, aka ‘lovers’ bridge’ with it’s cute view of the romantic Groenburgwal canal: been there, done the padlock.
DO: Leiden, Netherlands instead.
Bypass the canal traffic jams in Amsterdam and head south to the cool cultural city of Leiden. Explore the beautiful 17th-century buildings and grab a coffee at one of the many canal-side cafes before heading to the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, recently reopened after a massive renovation.
SKIP: the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in Canada. Frankly, how many more people can that thing hold before it plummets them all to their fairy-lit deaths?
DO: Tourists Welcome, North Adams instead.
This 48-room hotel sits in the north-western corner of Massachusetts in the resurgent town of North Adams. The 1960s roadside motor lodge was given a modern makeover in 2018 and offers art, design, food and adventure – if you can bear to leave the comfort of the vintage tan Mario Bellini Camaleonda sofas, don your hiking boots and explore one of the woodland trails in the Berkshires or visit the Mass MoCA.
SKIP: Rue Cremieux in Paris. The poor residents are no longer able to pop to the shops in their PJs without being in the background of a thousand tourist photos.
DO: Breadway, Odessa instead.
Located in the historic port city of Odessa, Ukraine, Breadway is a cafe and bakery straight out of a Wes Anderson film. Grab a coffee (and a quick pic) before exploring the streets of this charming city where you can visually feast on its special mix of architectural style and nip behind gateways into hidden courtyards.
IMAGE CREDITS I GETTY IMAGES