Check out Europe’s less traveled destinations as Americans flood hotspots

Editor’s note — Sign up for Unlocking the World, CNN Travel’s weekly newsletter. Get news on when destinations open and close, inspiration for future adventures, plus the latest in aviation, food and drink, where to stay and other travel developments.

(CNN) — If you think every American you know is in Europe this summer (or heading there this fall), you might be right.

“For most American travelers, this is the first year they’ve traveled unhindered by Covid restrictions,” Dolev Azaria, founder of New York-based Azaria Travel, said in an email.

“And with such pent-up demand, the most popular destinations in Italy, France and Greece, such as the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Tuscany, the French Riviera, Saint-Tropez and Mykonos, are seeing record demand. .”

For her discerning European clients, Azaria says her agency recommends that they “take full advantage of places like Indonesia, and especially Bali, in its nascent opening season” as a way to escape the current hordes of tourists. in the most popular places on the continent.

In Europe, she directs clients to the French island of Corsica – a “more down-to-earth, laid-back version of its glitzy Italian neighbor Sardinia” – and Montenegro’s 295-kilometre (183-mile) coastline on some of Croatia’s most trampled beaches and islands.

CNN Travel reached out to other travel agents, experts and locals in Europe to find out where to go to get away from the masses in Italy, Spain, France and Croatia – among other European countries popular with American travelers – if you are looking to go where everyone is not.

The Camargue, France

International tourists gravitate to the waters of the famous Côte d’Azur filled with yachts and renowned cities such as Saint-Tropez, Nice and Cannes. But the south of France is much more than the predictable places.

Marianne Fabre-Lanvin, co-founder of organic French wine line Souleil Vin de Bonté, points to the Camargue – a wild region of vast, empty beaches where white horses roam – for a quieter escape east of Montpellier . Accommodation runs the gamut from a rustic stay on a traditional bull or horse farm called herd to the five-star boutique-hotel version of the Mas de Peint farm stay.
“The Camargue is not overcrowded. There are very, very long beaches in this region, so you are alone on the beach if you wish, even during the summer months”, explains Fabre-Lanvin, naming La Espiguette beach as a favourite. During the summer, a sustainable beach club, L’Oyat Plage, even appears on the sand, drawing the kitesurfing set.

Alentejo, Portugal

The Alentejo region of Portugal has miles of uninterrupted beaches.

Janina_PLD/Adobe Stock

When Arlindo Serrão wants to spend time on the Portuguese coast, away from the tourist crowds of the most popular towns and seaside destinations in the far south of the country, he leaves Lisbon for a special stretch of coast in the Alentejo region. .

“People call the Alentejo ‘Europe’s best kept secret’, but I don’t know how long it can stay that way,” said Serrão, founder of Portugal Dive.

The Alentejo offers long stretches of unbroken beachfront and incredible wine and seafood without the hordes that descend on the Algarve’s best-known beach destinations.

Here, just south of the Tróia peninsula, the beach stretches for almost 28 miles and the outposts of Comporta and Melides are “the perfect places to stay and rest from everyday life”, says Serrão.

For a preserved stay, the rooms, suites and villas of the Sublime Comporta are surrounded by pines, cork oaks and imposing wild dunes.

As well as its spectacular beaches, the area is known for being Portugal’s largest wine producer as well as having the most marked hiking trails in the country.

“For me, it’s a place of peace in a raw part of Portugal,” says Serrão.

Costa de la Luz, Spain

Spain’s Costa de la Luz rewards intrepid travelers who know how to aim beyond the Mediterranean.

Spaniards flock out of their hot, sweltering cities in the summer to relax on the coast, where everyone (or their abuela) seems to possess a humble second home or apartment.

The Mediterranean beaches around Barcelona in northwest Spain and the sands along the Costa del Sol in the south of the country pack sunbathers like sardines, but you’ll have more leeway if you head instead towards the windier Atlantic coast, says Manni Coe of Andalusia-based tour operator TOMA & COE.

The 121 kilometers (75 miles) of south coast facing the Atlantic between Tarifa and the Guadiana River, near the border with Portugal, has “slightly cooler temperatures, has not been mass developed and is a hidden gem,” Coe says.

Highlights include the beautiful fishing village of El Rompido, the great food scene in the city of Cadiz, and the wild beaches around Huelva (between Mazagón and Matalascañas). The region is also a magnet for kitesurfing.

Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Italy

Lipari is one of the volcanic Aeolian Islands located off the northern coast of Sicily.

Lipari is one of the volcanic Aeolian Islands located off the northern coast of Sicily.

Diego Fiore/Adobe Stock

The laid-back Aeolian archipelago of Sicily lures with an uncrowded allure that the Amalfi Coast or Capri can’t match.

Comprised of seven main volcanic islands strung like a necklace in the deep turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea off the northern coast of Sicily, the Aeolian Islands are hardly alone during Italy’s sweltering summer. But their relative remoteness means they don’t get nearly the American masses of a Positano or a Capri.

“The Aeolian Islands are a far cry from Americans’ idea of ​​islands,” says Absolute Sicilia’s Dario Ferrante, adding that visitors don’t come here for Caribbean-style white-sand beaches, but rather for active holidays, including hiking on the Stromboli volcano with a guide.

Ferrante names the island of Salina as his favorite for holidays, but he says the islands of Filicudi and Alicudi offer the most remote and rustic experience (the latter has no cars – only donkeys to transport Your luggage).

It also designates the northern side of the Etna volcano as one of the most beautiful and unknown regions of Sicily. It is only 40 minutes from the popular beaches of Taormina.

“It’s perfect for total relaxation, trekking and wellness and a haven for wine lovers and food junkies,” says Ferrante.

Zadar Archipelago, Croatia

The coastline and islands around Croatia’s Zadar offer a “world apart” experience from busier points to the south such as Split, Dubrovnik and the island of Hvar, suggests Alan Mandic of Croatian travel agency Secret Dalmatia.

The car-free Adriatic islands of Silba and Olib in the Zadar archipelago have fabulous beaches that almost look like the Caribbean, he says. You can even stay at a lighthouse on the western cape of the larger island of Dugi Otok.

“These are the places we go to when we want to avoid the crowds in general,” Mandic says. “You won’t really see any Americans there.”

Pelion Peninsula, Greece

With such a spectacular coastline and mountains to explore, Greeks tend to vacation in their own country during the summer, says Andria Mitsakos, founder of luxury lifestyle brand Anthologist.

And while the international summer masses might struggle to look past the iconic white and blue postcard backdrops on crowded islands such as Santorini and Mykonos, Mitsakos says she often heads to the mountainous peninsula of Pelion, east of the Aegean, from mainland Greece for a more low-key stay.

The lush, verdant peninsula, with the Pagasetic Gulf flanking its western shores, is dotted with coastal and mountain villages, with fresh seafood at every turn.

There are beaches all around the peninsula, but if you only hit two, Mylopotamos and Fakistra on the Aegean side are the places you can’t miss. They are nestled in natural bays where the waters lap the coastal cliffs like liquefied turquoise under the dazzling sun.

Coastal Albania

The Albanian coastline at Ksamil.  The Albanian coast is much less sought after by tourists than neighboring Greece or Italy.

The Albanian coastline at Ksamil. The Albanian coast is much less sought after by tourists than neighboring Greece or Italy.

lukaszimilena/Adobe Stock

Far less vetted by tourists than neighboring Greece to the south or Italy across the Adriatic, the Balkan peninsula country of Albania is still somewhat of a well-kept secret among discerning travelers – but it’s unlikely that it stays at the bottom for a long time.

“Croatians and Europeans in general are discovering the Albanian coast,” said Mandic of Secret Dalmatia. “It’s fabulous, it’s incredibly cheap. The food, the history, the hospitality, the nature, the beaches, it’s all here.”

Among the beaches to explore along what has been dubbed the Albanian Riviera are Ksamil, near the Greek border, and Himare and Dhermi further north, where you can feast on cheap platters of prawns, octopus grilled and fresh fish picked straight from the Ionian Sea while gazing at its glistening expanse.

Comments are closed.