10 places to avoid the crowds

Go where the crowds aren’t for a deeper, more meaningful connection with a lighter footprint…

Most of us are as guilty as the next for connecting obsessively with our devices and not nearly enough with ourselves and each other. This constant state of digital distraction is forcing us deeper and deeper into isolation and further away from the human connections we all need with each other and with the natural world.

Just as our lives have been overrun by technology, some of the world’s most iconic destinations are being devastatingly overrun by mass tourism. From Italy’s famed Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain, to Amsterdam’s cobblestoned streets and Cambodia’s ancient temples, congestion and overcrowding caused by overtourism continue to threaten the future and legacy of these historic places.

One of the solutions to overtourism is, quite simply, to give those overwhelmed tourist hotspots a chance to breathe. Go where the crowds aren’t to enjoy a deeper, more meaningful connection with a lesser-frequented, but equally intriguing, destination.

Wherever you choose to explore, do your research, see past any greenwashing, and select responsible travel companies and properties that operate sustainably and ethically to ensure the ongoing preservation of landscapes, historical sites, local communities, cultural heritage, etc.

It’s time to disconnect from the crowds and reconnect, responsibly, with the natural world. Go and wander where the wifi is weak and feed the soul with new experiences, cultural immersion and some much-needed down time. Reconnect with what is most important to you.

1. Easter Island, Chile

Smack dab in the middle of the South Pacific, approximately 3,500 km (2,175 miles) from the continental mainland and just over 2,000 km (1,243 miles) from the nearest inhabited island, is the blissfully remote and mystery-laden Easter Island.

One of the most isolated places on the planet, this is not a quick and easy destination to get to, which naturally makes it a great place to escape the crowds.

The time, effort and expense it takes to travel to Easter Island make it a worthy slow travel destination, where travellers can enjoy a longer, more immersive stay in one of the most remote communities on earth.

Among the world’s largest open-air museums, Easter Island is famed for its 800+ eerie moai (giant monolithic human figures) that were carved by the Rapa Nui and mysteriously strewn across the island more than 800 years ago.

5. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Similar to Bhutan, Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands have also implemented strict measures to mitigate the damage caused by overtourism. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was inspired by this fragile archipelago of volcanic islands and travellers have a responsibility to ensure it remains a biodiversity hotspot, and not an overrun tourist hotspot.

To protect this delicate and ecologically diverse ecosystem, the Ecuadorian government has introduced several conservation measures aimed at low-impact tourism. Excessive cruise travel is regulated; tourist numbers are restricted; park and conservation fees have been increased; inter-island traffic is limited; the possible threat and spread of invasive species is monitored; and much of its land (97%) has been declared a protected national park with strict entrance and visiting guidelines.

As always, do your research before exploring the Galápagos. Book with a responsible, eco-minded travel company that is committed to giving back to the landscape, its unique flora and its curious land- and marine-dwelling inhabitants.

Opt for smaller, less-invasive yachts, as opposed to carbon-heavy cruise lines. Avoid excessive and unnecessary island-hopping by staying longer on a particular island to appreciate its natural wonders.

6. Namib Desert, Namibia

Like the Atacama Desert, Namibia’s ethereal, Mad Max-esque Namib Desert is the perfect place to disconnect from the bustling crowds and reconnect, peacefully and harmoniously, with the natural world … and indeed yourself.

Opt for smaller, boutique properties that use clean energy wherever possible to minimise the effects on the ancient landscape.

Lose yourself in mother nature’s masterpiece. Like a real-life Renoir painting unfolding right before your eyes, the ever-shifting colours of the Namib are spellbinding. Climb some of the world’s highest dunes, float amidst the sunrise in a hot air balloon, witness the unique desert-adapted wildlife, gaze up at a gazillion stars that seem close enough to touch, and most of all, enjoy the indescribable and powerful silence.

7. Mnemba Island, Zanzibar

Best described as a barefoot beach paradise, &Beyond Mnemba Island is a small, private island off the warm, tropical shores of Zanzibar. Quite literally your own private island paradise, it boasts just 12 rustic beachside bandas and you can walk the entire circumference of the island in a mere 20 minutes.

Even during Zanzibar’s peak travel season, this (literally) heart-shaped island nirvana is one of the most romantic, relaxing and carefree escapes, far from the madding crowd. Spot dolphins, watch endangered green sea turtles hatch, dive the captivating Mnemba atoll, snorkel the turquoise waters and toast the sunset aboard a traditional dhow.

This popular diving spot is actively monitored and protected through the implementation of the Mnemba Island Marine Conservation Area (MIMCA). In 2005, &Beyond, together with the Zanzibar Department of Fisheries and members of the local Zanzibari fishing communities, established this protected zone to help protect the coral reef systems, reduce the incidence of net fishing, encourage sustainable fishing by the local communities, and to demarcate specific areas for snorkelling, diving and fishing.

MIMCA’s daily recreational levy helps fund local community projects and supports the local fishermen. This is an enviable luxury island holiday, off the beaten path, that celebrates the local culture, supports the surrounding communities and helps to protect our oceans.

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