Should there be Oscars for the most spectacular places on earth, plenty would deserve the lifetime achievement award, from Venice to the Taj Mahal.
Yet lesser-known spots nearby may be every bit as inviting. With ‘overtourism’ affecting so many of our best-loved holiday destinations, it’s time to think laterally. Here’s what we suggest…
Love Dubrovnik? Try Sibenik
The Croatian city of Dubrovnik, pictured, which is extremely popular with tourists
Tourists can swap Dubrovnik for Sibenik, pictured, which has a fascinating old town full of labyrinthine cobbled lanes
Half way between Split and Zadar on Croatia’s Adriatic coast, in the region of Dalmatia, Sibenik has a fascinating old town full of labyrinthine cobbled lanes, as well as the Cathedral of St James — a Unesco World Heritage Site.
This 15th-century masterpiece was designed by Juraj Dalmatinac (‘George the Dalmatian’).
Sibenik is a good base from which to visit the waterfalls of Krka National Park and the beautiful Kornati Islands archipelago.
Book it: Broadway Travel (broadwaytravel.com, 020 3368 6221) has five nights at the D-Resort Sibenik from £344 pp including flights.
Love Dubai? Try Ras Al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah, pictured, has immaculate beaches, five-star hotels, mountainous scenery, nature trails and camel rides
In the north of the United Arab Emirates, Ras Al Khaimah — one of the seven emirates that include Dubai and Abu Dhabi — offers all of the immaculate beaches, five-star hotels, desert fun, mountainous scenery, nature trails and camel rides you expect from the others, only it is much more peaceful.
That is as long as you do not insist on trying the Jebel Jais zipline. Situated in the Hajar mountain range, which formed more than 70 million years ago and is home to the country’s highest peak, the zipwire is the world’s longest. It travels for 1.7 miles and reaches speeds of 93 miles an hour.
Book it: Loveholidays (loveholidays.com) has six nights at the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah from £633 pp including flights.
Love Marrakech? Try Essaouira
Essaouira, in Morocco, pictured, has souks piled high with ceramics and textiles and spice markets
Essaouira, in Morocco, has long been popular with those in the know — Jimi Hendrix, Maria Callas and Winston Churchill all holidayed behind the ramparts of the white-washed medina.
These days the Atlantic coast beaches may attract more surfers than sunbathers, but the city and atmospheric port are irresistible to all-comers.
Souks are piled high with ceramics and textiles. Spice markets sell 15-spice royal tea. Fish is eaten straight off the harbourside grills. It’s all a pleasant change from the scrum of Marrakech.
Book it: Villa Maroc (villa-maroc.com) has rooms from £126. EasyJet (easyjet.com) has return flights to Agadir from £46.
Love Barbados? Try Puerto Rico
The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, pictured, has 270 miles of coastline and 300 white-sand beaches
Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico has 270 miles of coastline and 300 white, sand beaches.
Snorkel in the cays; kayak three of the world’s five bioluminescent bays (rare ecosystems that produce a ‘glow in the dark’ effect in the water) or hike in the El Yunque tropical rainforest.
You can also surf, swim with turtles, or simply nap in a hammock or lounge around sipping a pina colada — the cocktail is said to have been invented in Puerto Rico.
Book it: Combate Beach Resort (combatebeach.com) has rooms from £85. BA (ba.com) has return flights to San Juan from £603.
Love Bali? Try Bintan
Bali’s active volcano Mount Agung. The island is a huge draw for tourists
Tourists can swap Bali for Bintan, pictured, which has beautiful beaches for bathing and lush rainforests for trekking
You’ll arrive in the Indonesian island of Bintan via a catamaran from Singapore (45 minutes away) to find beautiful beaches for bathing and lush rainforests for trekking. There’s also the dusty, bustling capital city of Tanjung Pinang to explore.
Journey through the mangrove forests of the Sebung River, and hike Gunung Bintan to spot rare breeds such as silvered leaf monkeys.
You could also take a boat to Senggarang, the Chinese fishing village with houses on stilts. It’s home to a 200-year-old Banyan tree (a popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists). Or head to Penyengat to see old Dutch forts and palaces, and the Sultan of Riau’s Grand Mosque.
Book it: Angsana Bintan has rooms from £92 (angsana.com). BA has return flights to Singapore from £441.
Love Bruges? Try Dinant
Dinant, pictured, sits on the banks of the River Meuse in Belgium and has a backdrop of steep cliffs and a citadel
The proud birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone, the Wallonian city of Dinant in Belgium sits on the banks of the River Meuse, with a dramatic backdrop of steep cliffs and a citadel.
Go canoeing or hiking, admire its mini-Versailles castle, eat some of the best chocolate in the world, and explore the gorgeous Collegiate Church of Notre Dame.
But when you stop at a cafe for a Couque de Dinant, don’t forget to dunk those traditional biscuits in your coffee (they’re very hard).
Book it: Ibis Dinant Centre has rooms from £54 (accorhotels.com). P&O ferries from Dover to Calais cost from £25 each way per vehicle (poferries.com).
Love Kyoto? Try Kanazawa
The Japanese city of Kanazawa sits on the northern side of the country, about three hours from Tokyo by bullet train
Known as ‘Little Kyoto’, compact Kanazawa sits on the northern side of Japan’s coast, about three hours from Tokyo on the bullet train.
The spectacular Kenroku-en garden is a must-see; the name refers to a poem listing the six characteristics, including space and seclusion, that make a perfect garden according to ancient tradition.
Don’t miss the Omicho market; the museum dedicated to D. T. Suzuki (who introduced Zen Buddhism to the West), the teahouses, temples and — if you time your visit right — the April cherry blossom.
Book it: Inside Japan Tours (insidejapantours.com) has six nights in Kanazawa including return flights to Tokyo, a rail pass, and private guide from £1,686 pp.
Love Corsica? Try Elba
Elba, pictured, is an Italian island sandwiched between Corsica and Tuscany
Napoleon was exiled to the Italian island of Elba, sandwiched between Corsica and Tuscany, in 1814. Learn about his time there at the Villa dei Mulini, where he lived (now a museum), and Teatro dei Vigilanti, a church that Napoleon turned into a theatre. Situated in the capital, Portoferraio, it still operates.
You can also swim in secluded coves, laze on one of 150 beaches, hike up to the Madonna del Monte church, or meander through the pretty hilltop village of Poggio, or the town of Marciana.
Time your trip with the Tuscany Walking Festival in April and May, or in late summer, and enjoy its many events, including a moonlit silent walk to ‘mindfully’ appreciate the night.
Book it: Hotel Ilio (hotelilio.com) has rooms from £60. EasyJet flies to Pisa from £39 return.
- Hotel prices are for two people in a double room with breakfast per night.