You might have heard it before… Venice, Italy, is going under and there are too many tourists coming in clogging up the city, which isn’t helping. But what about the other places ruined by tourism? Because it’s not just Venice we need to worry about… here are 10+ destinations to forget about this year to avoid contributing to overtourism! This list includes overtourism cities, countries, and other popular attractions around the world.
Before we get into the deep darkness of overtourism, I want to first tell you a quick story…
The moon and stars are still high in the sky and the deep black of night hangs heavy over the city as my alarm jolts me from my sweet slumber.
It’s 2 am and I am not ready for this, to say the least.
But, without thinking about it too hard, I rub my crusted-over, sleepy eyes, set aside all concerns, and start getting ready for the upcoming day.
I slip on my sustainable active wear and lace up my tennis shoes; it’s time to hike up Mount Batur and experience the magical Bali sunrise, y’all.
A quarter after 2 am, I stumble out of my homestay room and make my way towards the main street to be picked up by my guide. The usually bustling city of Ubud, Bali, is quiet and calm, the only noise being the here and there bark of a dog.
Just a few minutes later, a small van pulls up and a friendly face let’s me know he’s my trusty Batur tour guide. So, I hop in with my fellow tour buddies and we start our way towards inland Bali.
A mere hour later and we’ve made it to the base of the mountain. Sleep still lingers throughout my body as I jump out of the van but excitement begins to bubble up as my tour guide hands me a small flashlight and starts to lead the way.
Now you might be wondering, “Sophie, what the heck does this have to do with overtourism places…?” But stay with me here! It’ll all make sense very, very soon. I pinkie swear.
As one might expect, there’s nothing more rewarding than waking up at 2 o’clock in the fricken’ morning, climbing a mountain even before the sun begins to rise, and then hiking all the way back down, only be back home in bed before 11 am. Sounds awesome, right?
Well… in this case, I wish it were that cool.
Let’s just say, Mount Batur is not not popular. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
As my hiking group and I started the ascent towards the top of Batur, something off-putting caught my attention… considering there were absolutely no street lamps or lighting to be seen, as we were in the middle of nowhere, there were definitely more than a few flashlights and torches making their way towards the top with us.
I shit you not, my small group of 6 young people passed at least a hundred others hiking their way to the top. Yes — over one-freakin’-hundred.
And then, to make the experience even more ill-tasting, when we reached the top of the mountain, we were not the only ones — not by a long shot.
While the mountain top isn’t vast by any means, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of other hikers dotted the summit.
Even worse, on our way back down the mountain, I noticed oodles and oodles of trash; plastic bags, cups, containers… you name it.
It was unpleasant to say the least. How something so raw and beautiful as Mount Batur was being trampled and devastated by all the tourists.
And that, my friends, was my first ever real experience with overtourism.
WHAT IS OVERTOURISM?
Before we get into the thick of things with my list of 10 places you should avoid visiting this year due to too many tourists, let’s talk about what overtourism actually is.
According to the The Challenge of Overtourism by Harold Goodwin…
“Overtourism describes destinations where hosts or guests, locals or visitors, feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area or the quality of the experience has deteriorated unacceptably.
It is the opposite of Responsible Tourism which is about using tourism to make better places to live in and better places to visit. Often both visitors and guests experience the deterioration concurrently and rebel against it.”
Essentially, overtourism is too many f*cking people in a destination and it’s f*cking up the locals lives and/or ruining the experience.
Not cool, right? Right.
But, let’s be real: what the heck is the actual cause of overtourism? How the heck does it even escalate to such detrimental levels?
Causes of Overtourism
While the number of tourists wandering the world and venturing abroad has been growing steadily for decades now, the buzz word “overtourism” has really just hit mainstream media in the past few years.
So… why are we talking about it just now?
Because it’s been only in the past decade that city residents and locals have been increasingly protesting the number of tourists visiting their cities.
But, with that said, what’s the real cause of overtourism? Why have things gotten so out of hand for certain destinations?
While it’s a puzzle of various causes, here are a few biggies to keep in mind:
- Low-cost airlines. Now more than ever, budget airlines are offering ridiculously low flight prices to more destinations around the world (particularly Europe). While it’s great to have the opportunity to travel on a budget, this is in turn hurting not only the end destination but also the environment, as jet fuel isn’t a friend to our atmosphere.
- Cruise ships. More and more, people are venturing around the world via cruise ships, as they can be pretty cheap… but there’s one huge problem with this. Pouring out hundreds of thousands of short-term visitors, cruise ship guests flood into cities only staying for mere hours, disrupting the the lives of locals, as well as visitors who are actually staying within the city.
- Home share concept. Aka brands and companies like Airbnb. While Airbnb is a great idea for less visited areas, where you can support something like a small local farm, it’s not great for already over-saturated places, such as city centers. The home share concept has managed to undercut local hotels and hostels. Even worse, as it becomes more popular, rent has risen sky-high, pushing out local people. Not cool.
- Social media. Can’t forget to give social media a cool mention on this overtourism cause list. You probably agree that on one or more occasions, social media has inspired you to either visit a destination or add one to your bucket list. For example, I didn’t know Bali existed until I saw it popping up on my social feed (and then it wouldn’t leave).
Case in point — there are multiple reasons overtourism occurs.
That’s why it’s our duty — aka the traveler’s duty — to take part in responsible and sustainable travel by actively not participating or in any way enhancing it and the disastrous effects of overtourism.
With that said, let’s talk about those places we shouldn’t visit this year, eh?
10+ OVERTOURISM DESTINATIONS SAYING “WISH YOU WEREN’T HERE!”
It wouldn’t be a list of overtourism cities without Venice, now would it?
One of the first cities to be highlighted due to the hoards of tourists, who far outnumber the actual locals, and their destructive impacts, Venice has seen its fair share of visitors and needs a well-deserved break.
What you can do about it: To spare this beautiful and historic city any more overtourism impacts, leave it off your must-visit list for the next few years. And if you really want to visit… just don’t. Or do it in 10 years.
I think we can both agree… Iceland has been near the top of the destination hot list for a couple years now! But just a decade ago, this island wasn’t even on the radar of travelers.
In fact, in 2010, Iceland received fewer than half a million tourists, but according to the Icelandic Tourist Board, almost 2.2 million people came in 2017, an increase of half a million in a single year.
Even crazier, the population of Iceland is only around 350,000. Whoa, amirite?
This dramatic influx of tourists has put an increased stress on the infrastructure, society, and natural landscapes.
What you can do about it: Try going during off season! Or more specifically, avoid the notorious Golden Circle. Go off the beaten path and visit the less popular areas, such as the north.
Did you know that Santorini recently limited the number of tourists that can visit in a day?
While that might seem a bit extreme or over-doing it, there are numerous cities around the world that are limiting or otherwise restricting the number of tourists.
As you stroll around the small island of Santorini, you can definitely see the unappealing affects of mass tourism; oodles of trash, litter, donkeys that look tortured, tired, and unhappy. It’s not a pretty sight.
What you can do about it: Visit during off season. When I visited Santorini in the middle of March, this notorious Greek island was damn near empty compared to what it looks like in the summer months.
Did you know Boracay recently closed off the island due to too many tourists destroying the ecosystem?
A once island paradise has been desecrated by an overrun of visitors, turning it into a “cesspool” according to the country’s president. With literal poo running into the crystal clear waters and trash filling up the beaches, it’s been turned into a not-so-pretty site.
On that note, make sure to check out my plastic-free travel tips, OR my post on my favorite zero waste things to pack, as it’s essential that we all do our part for the earth!
What can you do about it: While the island has since been reopened, I wholeheartedly believe the island still needs a bit more time to recover. Although, if you want to visit a beautiful island in the Philippines, take a look at these Boracay alternatives.
Machu Picchu, Peru
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most recognizable places in the world, it’s really no surprise that Machu Picchu is on this list of overtourism examples.
In fact, during the peak months of July and August, over 5,000 people visited this incredible architectural wonder every single day.
Holy moly! That’s a lot of foot traffic damaging this ancient site.
In response to the growing number of tourists, officials put limits on tickets; allowing only morning or evening tickets — not both.
While this is a good start to reducing the amount of visitors, it’s not an end-all, do-all solution.
What you can do about it: Visiting off-season is the best way to avoid the high number of tourist traffic. If you can, try to visit other ancient Peruvian sites, such as Choquequirao or one of these.
Madrid, Spain, is just one of many cities taking the Airbnb problem head on to encourage responsible travel.
As the city becomes more and more popular amongst tourists, the number of Airbnbs rise with it — especially in the Central Madrid district.
In fact, the city reported that 23 times more tourists sleep in the Central district of Madrid than all the other 20 districts of Madrid combined. Whoa!
What you can do about it: Traveling during off season is key when visiting Madrid. Not only will you have a better chance to have a more authentic experience, you’ll also get better travel deals and won’t have to deal with the crowds. Also, forego staying in an Airbnb! Stay in a local hotel or bed and breakfast instead.
Alternatively, if you do prefer Airbnb, use my top tips on how to use it more responsibly!
Mount Everest, Nepal
Did you know literally thousands of pounds of shit pile up on Mount Everest every single year?
And even worse, this shit isn’t going anywhere because it’s so damn cold that it’ll take decades — maybe even centuries — to break down.
Essentially, you could say when one hikes Mount Everest, they’re pretty much hiking a mountain of poo.
Doesn’t sound so magical now, eh?
Here’s a little snippet one Sherpa (aka the major ethnic group in Nepal and typically the guys who carry everything up and down the mountain) told SummitClimb.com when asked about pollution coming from the Everest base camp:
“Ohh… awful… Pollution everywhere. Our main water source has been polluted. The dumping site is along the main trail to EBC, sometimes our local animals (yaks) fall into the pit. Even though it has been moved to different location now, I think it takes so many years to disintegrate because of the cold climate the pollution will remain there for many years.”
What you can do about it: Just don’t go. Hike another, equally-challenging mountain. If you’re hiking it just to brag to others you climbed Mount Everest, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.
Cinque Terre, Italy
How many times have you seen that photo of the colorful houses nestled amongst the cliff in the Italian Rivera?
Maybe with a beautiful gal in the foreground wearing a summery dress majestically looking off into the distance?
I know I’ve seen like a bajillion.
What was initially a rather unknown, off-the-beaten-track destination, the Cinque Terre has quickly rose to the top of basically every travelers bucket list — and it’s really started to take a toll on the place.
So much so that the area with 4,000 residents now sees 2.5 million tourists per year. With only 3,000 beds available, the majority of these are day-trippers.
As you can imagine, this is a recipe for not only environmental disaster, but also a destructive impact on the lives of locals.
What you can do about it: Give this destination a few years or so before visiting. It needs a well-deserved rest. Or, consider visiting during off season; the colder months see a fraction of the tourists compared to summer months. (Also check out these Cinque Terre alternatives!)
While this Croatia destination has always been a popular, it has blown up in terms of tourism in the past couple years, mainly due to Game of Thrones — as it’s one of the infamous filming locations — and the cruise ship industry.
Even though only around 40,000 people live in Dubrovnik, over 2 million visit each year just during the summer! Guys — that’s over 22,000 people per day. Holy shit.
What was once a beautiful, serene Old Town has now turned into a sardines-packed nightmare filled with selfie-taking tourists and hot, sweaty bodies. Yuck.
What you can do about it: As this is a hot spot for summer tourists, consider visiting during the early spring or winter months, but avoid holidays. For example, visiting between January and April, or the cooler months leading up to Christmas.
Reknowned for it’s beautiful canals where you can either stroll along the river or ride a bike through the cobblestone streets, Amsterdam has become known as one of Europe’s prettiest cities.
And yet… the local residents are finding it extremely hard to see over-the-top rent, over-packed city streets, and crowded playground of tourists as pretty.
To put this into perspective, even the tourists say there are too many tourists (you think they’d take the hint).
As crazy as it sounds, Amsterdam is expected to see 23 million visitors by 2025 (and that’s total for the year 2025 itself!). And Amsterdam only has around 850,000 inhabitants — yet, it’s a pretty compact city.
What you can do about it: Go somewhere else entirely (try these Amsterdam alternatives). And if it’s a must-visit on your bucket list, go during off season.
November to February is a great time to experience a more authentic Amsterdam (if you can even call it that anymore), plus cheaper prices.
Additionally, with the Airbnb problem, consider staying outside of the Centre and in a local accommodation, such as a local hotel or bed and breakfast.
What was once a magical island filled with friendly locals, chill beaches, cool surfers, and incredibly lush landscapes has been turned into a littered tourist destination.
While this island still has it’s off-the-beaten-track areas, like the north, the south has been completely overtaken by high-end resorts, undisposed waste, unregulated (and unnecessary) development, and — as mentioned above — incredibly packed tourist attractions, like Mount Batur.
What you can do about it: Rent a motorbike and head to the north; find untouched beaches, undiscovered waterfalls, and way less tourists.
Also, think about going during the shoulder season, like March to May and September. And don’t be afraid to venture off the island; Lombok is what many say is Bali 10 years ago, but still has the magic side intact!
If you’re wanting to see more destination to avoid due to overtourism, check out this post by Green Global Travel.
There’s nothing worse than seeing a beautiful place destroyed by overtourism, right?
That’s why it’s a tourist’s and traveler’s duty to do what they can to reduce their impact and wander more responsibly.
Whether that’s going during off season, visiting a similar alternative destination, or simply abstaining from traveling to a place altogether, there are steps each and every one of us can take to participate in sustainable travel.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings about these particular overtourism destinations! Please feel free to share anything in the comments below.
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DianeFebruary 19, 2019 4:15 pm
This is such an important topic Sophie! Thank you for sharing.