Nearly a quarter of people who made New Year’s resolutions vowed to travel more this year. If you’re included in that group, may we make a humble suggestion? Consider ditching the Dublins and Romes of the world and check out these awesome alternatives.
If You Like Paris, Try Quebec City
Paris is incredible, but it’s also huge, and busy, and for some the City of Lights has lost some of its allure as chain stores overwhelm mom-and-pop bakeries and crowds continue to swell. While Paris is certainly still a bucket-list destination, so is Quebec City.
Sure, Quebec is technically in Canada, but it’s practically encapsulated, preserving its uniqueness and Parisian-like charm while also embracing modernity just enough to keep you comfortable. You’ll love the cobblestone streets in Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can also see notable religious attractions like Notre-Dame-de-Québec Basilica-Cathedral and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.
Then there’s the shopping and food. In between stops at little artisanal boutiques and art galleries, seek out pouding chômeur, “poor man’s pudding” drowning in oodles of syrup, or treat yourself to a seat at restaurants like Laurie Raphael or Chez Muffy that transform locally sourced produce and fresh-caught seafood into award winning cuisine with a decidedly French flare. And don’t forget poutine, of course. It’s the best hangover cure there is.
Tips: Quebec is whimsical during the holidays. Check out the twinkling lights draped all over the Quartier Petit Champlain and wander through Old Quebec, which look a tiny village taken right from your grandmére’s favorite snow globe.
If You Like Pompeii, Try Herculaneum
The city of Pompeii encompasses some of the most well-known ruins in the world, but now the tourist attraction is so overrun with visitors it’s crumbling under the weight of its own popularity. Add to that destruction caused by exposure to the elements, such as heavy rains, and this UNESCO World Heritage Site could use a breather.
Do your part and switch your travel plans from Pompeii to Herculaneum. This town, also located under the shadowy jut of Mount Vesuvius, was destroyed right along Pompeii in 79 A.D., but the lack of name recognition means it’s less crowded. In some ways, it’s also better preserved; lava hit Herculaneum before the ask, basically carbonizing (think Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back) every organic bit of material it touched. In an area where most buildings were constructed at least partially out of wood, this makes for an incredible sight.
Tips: Hercalaneum is open year-round, every day except January, May 1, and December 25. Double check the hours—it’s typically open during daylight—and remember that last admission is 90 minutes before closing. Stay in Naples and take the Circumvesuviana train into Ercolano Scavi station. From there, it’s just a 10 to 15-minute walk to the ruins.
If You Like Switzerland, Try Slovenia
It’s hard to imagine a more iconic ski locale than the Swiss Alps, where powder enthusiasts flock to resorts in cities like Verbier, St. Mortiz, and Davos, but avoid the hordes and book a ticket to Slovenia instead. We promise, you’ll love what you find, even in summer.
Your pocketbook will immediately feel the difference between the sky-high costs in Lucerne and the far more affordable accommodations and lift tickets in Vogel. Altitude may be relatively low, but the snow is plentiful and the surroundings are relatively unspoiled. In summer, tastes shift from Nutella dumplings and a delightfully fatty sauerkraut and bacon soup to air-cured ham served with lavender honey and salted peaches, the perfect combo for picnicking as you go hiking, paragliding, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, or fly-fishing. It’s a different side to this normally snowy spot, and it’s nothing short of gorgeous.
Tips: Winter is for exploring mountains, but in summer stick to the waterways. Lunch by the Ljubljanica River, plunging in waterfalls at Lake Bled—this is how you want to spend your time off work.
If You Like Phuket, Thailand, Try
Boracay Island, Phillipines
It seems like everybody and their brother has been to Phuket by now, and that’s kind of the problem. It’s hard to enjoy stunning beaches and crystal-clear water when the entire island is teeming with people. Like a spring break party that never ends, Phuket is always rocking; if that’s the vibe you’re after, then great, but if you miss the Phuket of old and crave island beauty as well as a bit more solitude, head to Boracay.
The tiny island of Boracay is just under 4 square miles in size. It too had a tourism problem, but the government stepped in to get things under control. Visitor numbers are now seriously restricted and beachside drinking is banned, but instead of chaos and sewage problems (yes, that was unfortunately a thing), you get jaw-dropping expanses of white sand beaches and all the relaxation you can handle. There’s still plenty of nightlife, though—there’s a pub crawl for the true partiers, and The Manic Monkey Crew hosts yacht parties perfect for bachelor trips or wedding groups.
Tips: There are more than 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines. Don’t be afraid to check out more than one of them. Hit up Boracay for the fresh air and meditation opportunities, then hop over to Panay to traverse the boardwalk and mangroves at Bakhawan Eco-Park and stuff your face with fresh seafood at the palutuans on Baybay Beach.