I’ve read a few articles and blog posts lately complaining how overrun some places have become (like Ankor Wat and Machu Picchu, for instance) and then making the false logical leap that this there aren’t any undiscovered places left in the world. We’re all on the same circuit, all flying to places millions of people have experienced already.
This is bunk.
A week from today I’m taking a trip to Morelia in Mexico? Never heard of it? You’re not alone. My Lonely Planet Mexico book calls it “the coolest place you’ve never been.” From everything I’ve seen, it’s a fantastic place to visit, but I’ll probably be able to count on one hand the number of gringos I see over the weekend. When I went to awesome Zacatecas last year, I ran into two. They lived there.
In the past few weeks I’ve talked to four people who have been to Salta, Argentina but did not make it through the canyon to laid-back Cafayate. There are no real “sites” in Cafayate except the canyon outside of town, so many tourists give it a pass. So it’s mellow, sleepy, and feels undiscovered, despite the proliferation of wineries all around town. There are a dozen little pueblos in that region that are in dramatic settings but they get even fewer visitors.
Sure, Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley are jam-packed with visitors now. Take a trek to Choquequirao though and your group will have the grand ruins to itself. Or just do a trek in the Sacred Valley to places where the tour buses aren’t stopping. Or head to northern Peru and gaze at 5,000-year-old ruins in solitude.
Prague is completely jammed with tourists, especially in the summer, but it’s a whole different story in the Moravia region in the south. Same with Eger in Hungary or Poland away from Warsaw and Krakow. Even in France and Italy, if you take your time instead of zipping around checking off boxes, you can stay in places nobody you know has heard of (except maybe Rick Steves).
Escaping the travel crowds is no harder now than it was 20 years ago. Two decades from now you may be reading about Morelia, Cafayate, and Eger all over the place and you may sigh, “Oh, it was so much better when…” But there will be awesome places not swarming with tourists that are still off the radar. Go enjoy them.