‘Destination dupes’ to travel to this summer, with alternatives for Seoul and the Maldives

Overtourism has become a major talking point in recent years in the world of travel.

Many European destinations, for example, that are traditionally popular for summer holidays are getting more crowded than ever.

That’s why “destination dupes” are a big trend this year. These are more affordable, less-crowded equivalents to popular holiday hot spots, places where you can avoid the unpleasant impact of overtourism while still enjoying a similar vibe.

Here are 10 destinations The National recommends jetting off to, all of which are easy to reach from the UAE.

Swap Santorini for Paros

Crystal-clear waters, stunning beaches and traditional Cycladic architecture abound in Paros, a fabulous alternative Greek island destination to the intensely popular Santorini. It has all the charm, but is also more laid back and affordable.

Spend your days trying out water activities and exploring the quaint fishing village of Naousa or the main port at Parikia, where the whitewashed buildings and narrow cobblestone streets create a picturesque setting.

During the day, discover ancient ruins including the magnificent Byzantine-era church complex Panagia Ekatontapiliani, and in the evenings indulge in local cuisine at seaside tavernas or experience Paros’s vibrant nightlife.

Swap the Maldives for Palawan

Palawan is often referred to as the Last Frontier of the Philippines because of the thousands of kilometres of unexplored forests and coastlines, making it an easy rival for the Maldives’s renowned beauty.

The narrow archipelago is the third largest island in the Philippines and features pristine beaches and bright blue waters, but also incredible biodiversity and marine life.

It’s also home to two Unesco World Heritage Sites – the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which includes the world’s longest navigable underground river, and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, coral-reef atolls that are uninhabited by people but that are home to more than 400 species of fish.

It is an ideal location for diving enthusiasts or anyone hoping to get a taste of authentic Filipino cuisine, but a variety of luxury hotels also means it’s perfect for a more off-the-beaten-track tropical escape.

Swap London for Liverpool

The home of The Beatles has historically been overlooked as a British tourist destination, but travellers all over the world are starting to catch on to this northern English city’s charm, not to mention its relatively cooler climes during the summer.

While London lures tourists with its cosmopolitan allure, Liverpool captures imaginations with its rich cultural heritage, lively music scene and friendly vibe. Music fans can explore the Fab Four’s history at the famous Cavern Club, while football fanatics can head to Liverpool FC’s home at Anfield.

No trip to Liverpool should go without a visit to the Royal Albert Dock, home to galleries, restaurants, bars, shops and museums, including the Merseyside Maritime Museum. The famed Tate Liverpool’s Albert Dock home is temporarily closed for renovations, but you can take a detour to Mann Island, where Tate and the Royal Institute of British Architects have collaborated on a new, dynamic art-filled experience on the waterfront.

Swap Sydney for Perth

The vibrant Fremantle arts scene, lush Kings Park and scenic Swan River are only a handful of reasons to make Perth your destination of choice on your next Australian adventure. It’s a charming, laid-back alternative to the country’s most famous metropolis.

It’s also home to stunning shorelines, including Cottesloe Beach, one of Western Australia’s most famous. But Perth’s biggest perk is its warm and friendly atmosphere, thanks to welcoming locals and a fine balance between city and nature in a more compact setting, which is conveniently located for exciting and adventurous day trips. These include stargazing in the desert at The Pinnacles and meeting cute quokkas at Rottnest Island, a protected nature reserve.

Swap Seoul for Taipei

International interest in South Korea has boomed over recent years, leading to crowds of tourists heading to its wonderful capital, Seoul. While it’s still a must-visit in off-peak season, for another captivating Asian experience this summer head to Taipei.

The capital of Taiwan is a similarly dynamic blend between modern meets traditional, where bustling night markets, delicious street food, towering skyscrapers and historic treasures reside side by side.

Explore Bangka Lungshan Temple, a Chinese folk religious structure that dates back to 1738, or Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, an impressive monument that pays homage to the island’s former leader.

For a taste of modernity, head up the observatory in Taipei 101, which until 2009 was the world’s tallest building, before it was surpassed by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

Swap Bali for Langkawi

Bali is on most people’s bucket list, but rowdy tourists, big crowds and rising gentrification has had people looking elsewhere for that dreamy island paradise feel. The Malaysian archipelago of Langkawi is an excellent choice.

Want picture-perfect beaches? Check. Lush rainforests? It’s got that. Wildlife? Yes. Luxury hotels? In abundance. Major tourist attractions won’t have queues forming for miles just for a photo opportunity, including Langkawi Sky Bridge, a 125-metre curved pedestrian cable-stayed bridge 660 metres above sea level, and Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls, a popular swimming and hiking spot home to several natural pools.

Yet you can still also savour authentic local cuisine, bask in a spiritual experience, island hop and soak up the relaxed atmosphere – all at a much lower price point.

Swap Dubrovnik for Sibenik

Croatia has been on many people’s summer travel lists for years now, so the main cities of Zagreb and Split are typically overflowing with tourists, while the southern seaside city of Dubrovnik is also extremely popular.

A great alternative is Sibenik, a lesser-known gem along the country’s Adriatic coastline that offers a quieter, more authentic experience surrounded by well-preserved medieval architecture. This includes the Unesco-listed Cathedral of St James, known as a masterpiece of Renaissance and Gothic art.

Similar to Dubrovnik, the city’s Old Town stands out, but the nearby beaches are also a major draw. Sibenik is also known as the gateway to the stunning Kornati Islands, which can be reached by sailboat.

Swap Amsterdam for Utrecht

The Netherlands’ capital is a quintessentially popular summer spot, but why not consider Utrecht this year? The city, which is about 45km south-east of Amsterdam, has tree-lined canals, colourful houses, quirky boutiques, a thriving cafe culture and plenty of hidden gems.

Whether you’re visiting the myriad museums, which cover genres from steam trains to self-playing instruments, the botanic gardens or the 14th-century landmark Dom Tower, the tallest church tower in the country, you won’t be short of things to do.

Explore the Van Gogh Museum or stroll around family-friendly Giftpark and take a boat cruise along one of the many tranquil canals. It’s often hailed as the “crowdless mini-Amsterdam” for a reason.

Swap Bruges for Ghent

Bruges is one of Belgium’s most popular destinations, no small thanks to Colin Farrell’s turn in the 2008 hit crime-thriller In Bruges. But the small medieval city, which was once an important centre for economic activity in Europe, is now overrun with tourists on those cobbled streets and canals.

Ghent, however, which is about an hour’s drive away, has similarly charming medieval architecture, picturesque canals and a rich cultural heritage.

It particularly stands out as being one of the most sustainable destinations in Europe, where eco-friendly accommodation, vegetarian restaurants and electric transportation are in plentiful supply.

It’s also home to a thriving student population, meaning the contemporary arts scene is blossoming, and there is a lively nightlife scene across the city’s vibrant neighbourhoods.

Swap Stockholm for Gothenburg

Scandinavia is becoming an increasingly popular go-to come the summer thanks to the cooler temperatures, so avoiding bustling metropolises is ideal.

In Sweden, that could mean heading to Gothenburg, on the country’s west coast, an important port known for Dutch-style canals, tree-lined boulevards and a more relaxed and yet still classic Swedish experience.

Gothenburg is filled with things to do, from art galleries and museums to historic sites and a stunning opera house.

Stroll through the picturesque Haga district, known for its cobbled streets and traditional wooden buildings that are home to candlelit cafes and courtyards, creating a bohemian vibe.

Or unwind in the tranquil, century-old, 137-hectare Slottsskogen Park and indulge in a thriving culinary scene propped up by local markets and seafood restaurants that showcase the city’s diverse gastronomy.

Updated: February 27, 2024, 6:37 AM