The line for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City snaked out the front door, down the steps, and around the block on a bright July morning. Once inside, people crammed stroller after stroller, elbow to elbow, in an attempt to see the Hall of North American Mammals. Not worth it, in other words. I am aware of this because I was among the group. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was where I committed the same error. When you can only see Van Gogh’s cypress trees through other tourists’ mobile displays, they don’t seem as beautiful.
Concentrated crowds at the most popular destinations are making them unpleasant places to be as summer travel increases. Tourist traps have their place and time, but vacation time is too valuable to spend waiting in long lines. If you absolutely must visit the Louvre, prepare yourself beforehand. But if you’re willing to be flexible, you can go more leisurely by selecting these less-crowded substitutes for famous sites.
For the Basilica of Sant’Agostino in Rome, bypass the Pantheon: The summer in Italy, where the weather is hot and the people are massive, is not the time to wing it, according to cookbook author and tour guide Katie Parla, who lives in Rome. She remarked, “The kind of travel that I like, like going with the flow and making no preparations, is incredibly difficult to accomplish in the large cities right now. There is never a time when entry is easier due to fewer people. The Colosseum is one of the paid attractions that Parla describes as a “nightmare” to enter. “Big tour companies buy up all the tickets,” she claimed. Long lineups and confusion have resulted from the Italian Culture Ministry’s introduction of a 5-euro ticket to access the Pantheon earlier this month. There is much of art and history to explore at less well-known locations, even if the old Roman temple is a must-see for its architecture, paintings, and prominent tombs. Small churches in Rome have a ton of artwork, Parla noted. “There are surprisingly few people around to see works by Raphael, Caravaggio, and Michelangelo.” The Sant’Agostino Basilica is one such church. Raphael is buried at the Pantheon, so you won’t be able to visit his grave, but you may view some of his frescoes and a Caravaggio picture for free.
Go to Ise Grand Shrine instead of Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine: The most well-known attractions in Japan, including the Tokyo Skytree and Kyoto’s Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, have been overrun with visitors ever since the country reopened for travel last fall. The Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto is one place that attracts a lot of social media traffic; after a recent visit, travel journalist Jake Emen characterized it as “swamped.” Naomi Mano, owner of the Tokyo-based travel company Luxurique, suggests visiting nearby Nara, which is home to some of the nation’s oldest shrines, to take in gorgeous temples away from the crowds. The renowned colorful torii gates of Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine are similar in hue to Kasuga Grand Shrine. “It’s just a lot more history to it,” Mano said of Nara, which is both older than Kyoto and a former capital of Japan. If you’re feeling ambitious, the Ise Grand Shrine, a sacred place built around 2,000 years ago, is Mano’s more off-the-beaten-path alternative. Travelers and pilgrims are allowed to cleanse and purify themselves at the sacred Isuzugawa River after admiring the nearby temples and woodland. Mano declared, “It’s the top of all the shrines in all of Japan.”
Consider the Palace of Holyroodhouse instead of Edinburgh Castle: One of the oldest forts in Europe, Edinburgh Castle, may make a vacation to the capital of Scotland feel incomplete. That could be the reason it’s one of the busiest locations on the continent. The best time to go is off-peak hours, or you can choose to visit another royal location instead. The managing director and chief travel architect of Global Travel Moments, Duncan Greenfield-Turk, suggests visiting Holyroodhouse, the British monarch’s palace in Scotland. In comparison to Edinburgh Castle, you may visit Mary, Queen of Scots’ former chambers and some of the most significant gems in the Royal Collection with far less crowding.
For the Muse Carnavalet in Paris, avoid the Louvre: The Louvre sometimes has the vibe of a zoo, even with its timed admission system. Kathleen Peddicord, who divides her time between Paris and Panama, suggests the Muse Carnavalet, a museum devoted to the history of Paris, as a substitute that is also an architectural and historical gem. The Htel Carnavalet and the old Htel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau make up the Carnavalet, a pair of mansions in the Marais neighborhood. Nearly 10,000 historical artifacts, photographs, drawings, and archaeological materials that reflect Parisian life are kept there. The Louvre features artwork by artists including the 19th-century painter Louis Broud as well as possessions of Marie Antoinette, Napoleon, and Marcel Proust.
Avoid Glacier National Park in favor of Bob Marshall Wilderness: This summer, it can be difficult to visit some of America’s most well-known national parks. Several, including portions of Glacier National Park, demand reservations in advance to lessen overcrowding. Scott Cundy, co-founder of the tour business Wildland Trekking, advises going to the close-by Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in western Montana, just south of Glacier, rather than competing for a spot. To explore the more than a million acres of mountains, lakes, and waterfalls at Bob Marshall, visitors are not required to make reservations or obtain permits. Cundy offers North Cascades National Park in Washington as a substitute for Glacier’s untamedness outside of Montana. It’s one of the most beautiful and underappreciated national parks in our nation, especially for those who are prepared to exert some effort and hike, he claimed. “It’s just incredibly beautiful,” The trick, according to Cundy, is to start early, wherever you end up. And if you work hard, you can find some solitude even in places that are quite crowded. “Go on some long hikes,” Cundy advised. “The first mile, maybe two, are the busiest. Then it really begins to thin out after that.
The Temple of Poseidon in Athens is preferable to the Acropolis: The summer in Greece has been scorching and hazardous due to wildfires and excessive heat. Due to soaring temperatures earlier this month, the Acropolis in Athens was forced to close twice for many hours. The personnel at the monument went on strike because of the risky circumstances. In order to manage the Acropolis crowds, which regularly top 17,000 people per day, a new e-ticketing system is being introduced this month. Emmanuel Burgio, the creator of the travel agency Blue Parallel, advised avoiding the tumultuous scene and traveling to Cape Sounion, southeast of the capital, to see the Temple of Poseidon.