This summer travel season is meant to be an extremely busy one, and people are planning on traveling in record numbers to popular destinations all around the globe.
One region that is bracing for some large crowds is Europe, with major hotspots such as Italy, Greece, and Spain gearing up for record tourism numbers.
With this influx of visitors comes the side effects that over-tourism can bring.
Not only is massive overcrowding, higher prices, and lack of accommodation an issue for travelers but local residents and the local environment are greatly affected as well.
Some popular tourist destinations have begun to work to counter the effects of over-tourism by adding tourist fees, reservation systems for popular attractions, and other restrictions and rules for this year.
One such country that has made some changes that travelers need to know about is mega-popular Italy, which is anticipating a record number of visitors this summer.
Luckily for us, there really is no shortage of amazing places to visit in Europe, and while Italy is very much worth a trip, it might be better to hold off until everyone else goes this year and enjoy it after the post-pandemic crowds have thinned out (hopefully).
While there are many reasons to visit Italy, most come for the beaches, the history, the nature, and of course, the food and wine.
These alternative options will have you exploring 6 countries that pack just as much natural beauty, history, sunshine, and amazing food and wine as Italy, with a fraction of the crowds, and not to mention a lower price tag as well.
The 5 countries suggested for Italian alternative this year include Turkey, Georgia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Malta, and Albania. Let’s explore why these make great substitutes for an Italian trip this year.
Here Are The Top 6 Underrated Alternatives Instead Of Visiting Italy This Summer:
Instead Of The Dolomites: Visit Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains
Those who are interested in getting outside and into nature might be surprised to find out that Italy has recently needed to implement reservation systems, visitor caps, and traffic restrictions on its popular mountain region in the north.
While these measures are undoubtedly necessary to help the effects of overcrowding on the local environment, they can make travel plans a bit more complex for travelers.
If you are looking to explore some mountains, why not check out Georgia’s Caucasus Range?
Offering hiking, camping, skiing (ok, maybe not in the summer), and a variety of outdoor activities, this underrated eastern European country is worth a visit.
With a fraction of the crowds that you will see in Italy’s popular Dolomites, the Caucasus mountains offer something more unique, cheaper, and quieter for travelers who are willing to go off the beaten path a bit.
Instead Of Lake Como: Enjoy Lake Ohrid, or The Bay of Kotor
You will find the tiny Balkan country of Montenegro twice on this list of Italian alternatives, and for good reason.
The county’s most popular destination is Kotor, which was founded by ancient Romans, but shows strong Venetian influence in its design.
The bay itself is stunningly beautiful, vast, and surrounded by mountains and little towns around every bend.
While the area does get busy in the summer months, it’s nowhere near as busy or pricy as Lake Como. Although unfortunately, you are not likely to spot George Clooney there.
Another late and impressive (and lovely for swimming) Balkan lake bordering Albania and North Macedonia.
The town of Ohrid draws a bit of a crowd, but the smaller villages around the lake make for some peaceful lake days, and P.S.: North Macedonian wine is very good and very cheap!
Instead of The Italian Riviera: Try The Albanian Riviera
The Italian Riviera is stunning; there is no question about it. However, the summer months bring traffic to a halt, and with more traffic restrictions and parking issues, the task of zipping around to take in the sites becomes a bit of a nightmare.
Not to mention the mega-popular Portofino has just instituted a selfie and loitering ban for tourists, with heavy fines for those who take too long to get their photos.
Want to explore a stunning coastal region with significantly fewer people and much more laid-back and less expensive villages?
The Albanian Riviera is for you then!
Drive along the coast and check out popular Saranda and Ksamil, but if you are really looking for fewer crowds, head up further north and explore the smaller villages such as Dhermi and Himare.
Instead Of Venice: Visit Malta, or Old Town Kotor
Here we see Montenegro’s Kotor again, this time not so much for the lake but for its compact and ancient old town. Here is where you will notice the Venetian influence in every piazza you stumble across.
While you won’t see any canals running through town, you will be serenaded by live musicians, enjoy great food and drink (Montenegro wine is also a must-try, not to mention the fresh seafood!), and enjoy verandas offering stunning views of the mountainsides.
P.S.: you also won’t have to pay a tourist fee to enter the town and be greeted with dried-up canals.
In addition to Kotor, Malta makes an ideal substitute for a Venice trip. Again, you won’t see canals cutting through the old town here, but wandering the streets of Valletta or the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, you might have to remind yourself you are not in Venice.
Perhaps it’s the hundreds of colorful boats called Luzzus, the water taxis, the blue water lapping at the docks, or the architecture, all of which win over everyone who visits.
Insider Tip- Happy hour drinks in Valletta almost always include some fabulous snacks, usually homemade bread and tomato jam. Come hungry!
Instead Of Italian Ruins: Explore Turkey’s Ancient Ruins
Ok, Turkey is not exactly a secret. This is another country that is also expecting many more visitors this year than in previous years.
However, Turkey is large and full of things to see, and the crowds will not feel nearly as pressing when you venture out and explore some of the county’s ancient ruins.
With its location bridging the east and the west, Turkey has historically been a hub for ancient civilizations; therefore, you can find ruins from many ancient Greek and Roman cities and monuments.
Rivaling any of Italy’s historic ruins are the ancient structures that you can find throughout Turkey.
Some notable sites inlace the Roman theatre in Aspendos, The ancient cities of Aphrodisias or Hierapolis, or the famous and striking Library of Celsus, and the Temple of Artemis.
With numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, not to mention the 9,000-year-old city of Çatalhöyük, it’s no wonder this country has been referred to as the world’s largest museum.
Disclaimer– Again, we can’t stress enough that we are not suggesting people SKIP Italy forever. Italy is a country that deserves all its popularity and accolades, and there really is not a proper substitute for the dolce vita.
However, it would absolutely be best to wait it out this summer and let the masses do their thing. Explore these totally underrated places instead, and then head to Italy another time!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com