This Not That: 7 Underrated Summer Travel Ideas to Avoid Crowds And Venture Off the Beaten Path

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The Modern Travel Agency

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    a seaside wooden pool deck surrounded by lounge chairs and trees

    Image courtesy of Maslina Resort

    Now is the time everyone is booking summer travel. Tried-and-true destinations are popular for a reason — and are likely to be booked up. But it's worth venturing to lesser-known locales. Not only will you avoid the crowds by doing so, you'll also help counteract overtourism.

    Below, we’ve listed a few alternatives to the traditional summer spots (Italy, Paris) that will inevitably be awash with tourists this summer. Sometimes the wisdom of crowds doesn’t apply. 

    Ready to travel? Connect with Fora to plan and book your off-the-beaten-path adventure today. A slew of more under-the-radar, less-trodden destinations are calling.

    Instead of Spain, consider Budapest

    a modern hotel room with a pink chair and a painting of a person holding a palm leaf in front of a purple background

    Image courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest

    Spain will be packed with tourists this summer, but we have an alternative idea: Budapest. The fairytale-like Hungarian capital is brimming with charm and culture. Plus, it’s under-the-radar enough where you’ll be able to avoid absurdly large crowds while still getting a healthy dose of convivial summer energy. Budapest is in fact a dual city, consisting of Buda and Pest, which are separated by the Danube. Either side merits ample wandering.

    Meander along cobblestone streets, savor chicken paprikash in local bistros (or Michelin-Starred dining at a chic gourmet restaurant) and marvel at the city’s ornate, historic architecture. Don’t miss exploring Castle Hill, where you’ll find the famed Buda Castle, a Baroque masterpiece. The neoclassical St. Stephen's Basilica is also a site to behold. (Listen to the church’s organist if you can.)

    As for where to stay, Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest is a sophisticated, beautiful option housed in a 20th-century palace in the bustling Belváros-Lipótváros district. Another option is the regal Párisi Udvar Hotel Budapest, with a premier location near some of the city’s top sites, including Dohány Street Synagogue and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.

    Fora Perks at Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest:

    • When you book Four Seasons with a Fora Advisor, you will enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner amenities. Your advisor will be pleased to give you more details.

    Fora Perks at Párisi Udvar Hotel Budapest:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit, welcome amenity, breakfast daily, upgrade & early check-in whenever possible.

    Instead of Italy, consider Croatia

    tables and chairs on a sunny pool deck

    Image courtesy of Maslina Resort

    “Croatia offers a compelling mix of pristine coastline, rich history and vibrant cultural experiences, often with fewer crowds and at a better value,” said Fora Advisor Hannah Corderman

    The country, she added, is an “emerging European gem.” Although the sparkling Dalmatian Coast merits a visit, Hannah urges travelers to also explore the country’s interior. She’s partial to Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia’s largest national park, and Krka National Park, home to waterfalls and medieval monasteries.

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    Advisor - Hannah Corderman
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    Hannah Corderman
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    • Luxury,
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    Fora Advisor Nancy Vuletic recommends Biokovo National Park for great hiking and outdoor exploration. The natural expanse offers a stunning mix of mountain and sea, and the cliffside Skywalk, on top of Biokovo Mountain, is a must for panoramic views of the Adriatic and its idyllic coastline.

    “The drive up the mountain is not for the faint of heart, but the unforgettable adventure and stunning vistas make it worth it,” she said.

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    Advisor - Nancy Vuletic
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    Nancy Vuletic
    expertise
    • Europe,
    • Croatia,
    • Luxury Travel,
    • Cruises

    Makarska is especially lovely in the summer, Nancy added, as the seaside town hosts a range of local festivals. 

    Both Hannah and Fora Advisor Amna Ismail recommend Maslina Resort, a sleek, contemporary stay on Hvar Island, an ancient Adriatic gem. Amna also loves the vibrant Hotel Lemongarden, located on the island of Brač. For something closer to Biokovo, Nancy said Aminess Khalani Hotel is the best option in the area. (See more of our picks for the best hotels in Croatia.)

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    Amna Ismail
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    • Europe,
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    Fora Perks at Maslina Resort:

    • $100 food / beverage credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    Instead of the UK, consider Denmark

    a sprawling living room with a yellow couch and blue walls

    Image courtesy of Nobis Hotel Copenhagen

    There’s a reason Denmark is often cited as one of the world’s happiest countries. Copenhagen in particular offers a dynamic urban landscape with a local feel and an overall sunny disposition. The city is a great alternative to busy UK locales like London. Even better, there are direct flights from New York and Los Angeles to the Danish capital. 

    “Bring an almost empty suitcase,” Fora Advisor Karen Hart stressed, “because you will want to bring home a whole new wardrobe from the outstanding shopping in Copenhagen.”

    Karen added that the city really “comes alive in the summer months.” People flock to Copenhagen’s numerous rooftops for al-fresco drinks. And the Louisiana Art Museum’s outdoor Sculpture Park and seaside views are especially pleasant during this time of year.

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    Advisor - Kay Hart
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    Kay Hart
    expertise
    • Sustainable Travel,
    • Off the Beaten Path Travel,
    • Jungle Travel,
    • Luxury Design Hotels
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    If you want to extend your trip, Copenhagen is an easy ferry ride away from Sweden. 

    “And if staying in the city the whole time is not your thing,” Karen said, “you can island hop easily, get to the fjords in a day and experience the breathtaking hikes through some country and fishing villages.”

    Hotel-wise, Karen loves Nobis Hotel Copenhagen, Nimb Hotel and Hotel Sanders for luxurious, design-forward options with great spa services.

    Fora Perks at Nobis Hotel Copenhagen:

    • A welcome amenity, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    Fora Perks at Nimb Hotel:

    • $100 food / beverage credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    Fora Perks at Hotel Sanders:

    • Complimentary three-course dinner for two, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    Instead of the Greek islands & Athens, consider the Mani Peninsula

    a seaside resort pool flanked by white loungers and wooden cabañas

    Image courtesy of Mandarin Oriental, Costa Navarino

    The Mani Peninsula is a veritable hidden gem in Greece. The mountainous region is part of Peloponnese, in Southern Greece, and is dotted with quiet fishing villages, rugged coastline, caves and cliffs.

    Fora Advisor Chloe Kletsa noted that the Peloponnese is the perfect road-trip destination. Follow your own schedule, free from the constraints of ferries or puddle jumpers required for hopping between Greece’s various islands. 

    “The Greek islands in peak summer can be overcrowded: the boats are packed, you often need to plan every meal in advance in order to get access to all the restaurants on your list and the beaches are overrun by tourist boats and megayachts,” Chloe said.

    In contrast, the Peloponnese is far less traveled, and offers a more authentic, local experience. The region’s beaches are not to be missed, she said, nor are the charming towns. (Nafplio is a great first stop while on your way to Mani, and Kardamili is another lovely village.)

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    Chloe Kletsa
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    • Greece,
    • Italy,
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    Don’t miss the area’s historical sites either. The Archaeological Site of Olympia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hosted the very first first Olympic Games in 776 BC. In Mani, the 13th-century Venetian Methoni Palace begs to be explored.

    There are rugged hikes amid ancient landscapes (the peninsula is believed to have once been home to the Spartans) and charming hilltop villages amid olive groves and centuries-old stone towers. The beaches are dotted with hidden coves and impossibly clear waters. The pace of life here is blissfully laid-back — and it’s blissfully uncrowded.

    The new Mandarin Oriental, Costa Navarino, Chloe said, “is particularly special and unique for Greece.”  For a family-friendly resort, The Westin Resort, Costa Navarino is a solid option.

    Kinsterna Hotel, a historic mansion amid olive groves and citrus trees, is Chloe’s favorite. The five-star hotel is the perfect homebase for exploring the nearby Laconian Castle of Monemvasia.

    Fora Perks at Mandarin Oriental, Costa Navarino:

    • $100 food / beverage or spa credit, a welcome amenity, breakfast daily and an upgrade.

    Fora Perks at The Westin Resort, Costa Navarino:

    • A welcome amenity, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out.

    Fora Perks at Kinsterna Hotel:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit, welcome amenities, breakfast daily and an upgrade.

    Instead of Paris, consider Prague

    a luxe hotel room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a river

    Image courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Prague

    Paris is always a good idea, but this summer, it may not be. The 2024 Olympic Games will bring in waves of additional tourists, and soaring prices along with it. En lieu of the French capital, consider Prague.

    The Czech capital looks as though it’s been plucked from a fairytale — medieval bridges and architecture, cobblestone streets, castles and clocks add to its magic. Even better, the city is far more affordable than Paris, said Fora Advisor Lindsay Vaughn

    “Imagine strolling across the stunning Charles Bridge or marveling at the grandeur of Prague Castle, all bathed in a whimsical, storybook atmosphere,” she said.

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    Another plus: Prague is compact and easily navigable. Many of the city’s top sites are within walking distance, too. Lindsay mentioned how Prague’s history is vast, spanning from the Holy Roman Empire to Habsburg rule and beyond. 

    Plus, with fewer crowds, you’ll be able to enjoy an overall more relaxed pace. But don’t miss the city’s fun (and affordable) nightlife, Lindsay advised. 

    Lindsay’s top Prague hotel picks include the Four Seasons Hotel Prague, right on the Old Town Square, and the Hilton Prague, a modern option on the Vltava River. For additional inspiration, see more of our picks with the best hotels in Prague.

    Fora Perks at Four Seasons Hotel Prague:

    • When you book Four Seasons with a Fora Advisor, you will enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner amenities. Your advisor will be pleased to give you more details.

    Instead of Mexico, consider Puerto Rico

    an outdoor yellow colonnade with tables and chairs over a floor with a checkered pattern

    Image courtesy of Hotel El Convento

    Early summer (May and June) is the prime time to visit Puerto Rico. The weather is perfect — the bulk of the crowds have dwindled and the country’s rainy season has yet to begin. In contrast, later in the summer (July through August) sees heavy precipitation, but even fewer crowds. If you can’t make it down there in June, and don’t mind the chance of rain, consider a later summer month to travel.

    Puerto Rico is endlessly vibrant. Starting with its energetic capital, there are tons of things to do in Old San Juan, from visiting historical sites to wandering along its cobblestone streets, popping into artisanal boutiques for handmade clothes and jewelry. And the beaches, of course, are not to be missed. Another must-visit is El Yunque National Forest, a biodiverse wonderland complete with ample hiking trails and waterfalls and a short day trip from the urban center.

    In San Juan, stay at Hotel El Convento, a boutique gem housed in a former convent, or the opulent Condado Vanderbilt Hotel. For a beachfront resort moment, the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel and The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort are two top options.

    Fora Perks at Hotel El Convento:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out.

    Fora Perks at Fairmont El San Juan Hotel:

    • Hotel / resort credit, a welcome amenity, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out.

    Fora Perks at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out.

    Instead of New York City, consider Toronto

    a large room with a zig-zag floor pattern and a large black-and-white painting

    Image courtesy of Park Hyatt Toronto

    In the summer, NYC is hot (both literally and figuratively). For an alternative city vacation that also has a bustling vibe, great gastronomic scene, world-class museums and personality-driven neighborhoods, Toronto is a great choice.

    Ontario’s capital is also Canada’s largest city, and you won’t be at a loss for things to see and do. Take in panoramic views from atop the CN Tower (you can even spot Niagara Falls on a clear day), check out the varied art exhibitions and galleries at the Royal Ontario Museum, stop by the Hockey Hall of Fame or meander among the gardens and memorials in Queen’s Park.

    As for hotels, you can’t go wrong with the Fairmont Royal York, Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, Park Hyatt Toronto or the Kimpton Saint George Hotel, all of which boast ideal locations and tasteful decor.

    Fora Perks at Fairmont Royal York:

    • $100 food / beverage credit, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out.

    Fora Perks at Four Seasons Hotel Toronto:

    • When you book Four Seasons with a Fora Advisor, you will enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner amenities. Your advisor will be pleased to give you more details.

    Fora Perks at Park Hyatt Toronto:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit, a welcome amenity, breakfast daily, an upgrade & extended check-in/out.

    Fora Perks at Kimpton Saint George Hotel:

    • $50 hotel / resort credit, welcome amenities, an upgrade & late check-out.

    Ready to get away this summer? Connect with Fora to plan and book your dream trip.

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