Off the Beaten Track: Great places to go to beat the crowds

Off the Beaten Track:  Great places to go to beat the crowds

I love to travel but I hate crowds. When I go somewhere I want to be able to enjoy the atmosphere and feel of the pace as well as tick off the must-see museums and attractions. If it’s me and a million other tourists, it spoils my trip. I’ve learnt that most people go to the same big places in the summer when most Europeans take their holidays, so will a little bit off planning and research it’s possible to visit wonderful places and not have the experience ruined by too many other people. So here would I recommend to beat the crowds?

The Garfagnana region of Northern Tuscany is one such place. Reached by following the Secchio river north from the beautiful walled city of Lucca. To the west lie the Alpi Apuane or marble mountains, famous for the quarries that provides the marble for the great churches of Florence and the statues of Michelangelo. To the east are the Appenine, the mountainous spine that cuts Northern Tuscany in half.

From here you can visit small mountain villages and hamlets unchanged for centuries, walk in the mountains in the National Parks, maybe taking in the Pania di Corfino, a small viewpoint that gives spectacular view of the whole valley. The food is rustic, traditional and delicious, washed down by the agricultural Chiantis they import by the barrel.

The south coast of France gets heaving with tourists during the summer months visiting the iconic towns and cities such as Nice and Canne, as well as enjoying its beautiful beaches. Travel a few kilometres inland into the Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur region and you enter the rural France of yesteryear. Dramatic roads climb into the hills through steep alleys and canyons, passing hilltop villages such as Gourdon. Small, sleepy villages such as Cipieres, dominated by its lovely chateaux, hang to the mountain sides. A bit further and you come to small, ski resorts such as Greolieres, perfect places to base yourselves for beautiful mountain walks.

In the UK you should consider destinations that escape the large numbers of tourists who flock to places like Cornwall in the summer, popular with Londoners escaping the city. Consider Norfolk, locate only 90 minutes from London but with wonderful beaches you can almost have to yourselves. It contains the Broads, a network of man-made lakes dug in medieval time when peat was extracted as a fuel and then naturally flooded. Boating here is a peaceful break, enjoying the unique landscape and visiting traditional British pubs every night.

For something more exotic then consider a trip to Morocco, basing yourself in one of the Berber cities of Marrakech or Fez, or even the coast fishing town of Essaouira. You can do trips into the Atlas Mountains, snow-capped until spring, visiting local villages such as Around and trekking towards the highest peak in the range, Jebel Toubkal. You can head south to visit the Sahara Desert, travelling by 4×4 to see the Bab n Ali or visiting the Todra gorge. The food is delicious, with tagines and couscous cooked perfectly and washed down by freshly made Mint tea or spicy Berber coffee.

Going on a break doesn’t always have to be city based. Look around and you can find National Parks, forests, mountains and coasts that made the perfect destinations for escaping the crowds. It’s now easier than ever to find accommodation that lets you stay in the heart of these beautiful places and really enjoy your own space.