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Greece in the Off Season

If you haven’t realized it yet by reading my blog, I am a pretty huge fan of off-peak travel. In fact, I often prefer it for many reasons (which you can read about below). One of my goals for 2020 is to be an even more conscious traveller… Which includes travelling as often as possible during off-peak times.

And I want to challenge you to make this part of your yearly travel goal too! That’s why, I’ve rounded up some of the best off-peak travel destinations to visit to during every season of the year.

But first...

What is Off-Peak Travel?

Off-peak travel largely refers to travels to certain cities or destinations at the times when others are unlikely to visit. For example, opting for Europe’s most popular destinations outside of the summer season; or travelling to popular winter destinations during the warmer months. 

Why am I over here advocating for off-peak travel?

While I truly hate crowds. And I mean hate. There is so many other (important) reasons to flock to cities during the off-season. 

#1. You get a more local perspective.

Many of my favourite travel experiences have happened during the off-season. This is because the locals are less busy. They have more time to spend with you, more patience, and are able to provide more time to give recommendations or help you arrange your trip. This has led to the most special local bonding moments for me during my travels, and some of my all-time-best travel memories.

#2. It’s good for the environment.

The environmental impact of over-tourism is insurmountable. On a local level, it impacts the infrastructure, damages nature, and create pollution. All these environmental impacts have also compounded to push locals out of their homes, alienating them from their culture. The long-term effects of over-tourism in some of the worlds most popular cities will evidently destroy them (sounds harsh… but it’s the truth). By opting to visit during the over-peak season, the impact can be mitigated with more even traffic flows through the city year round.

#3. It stimulates the local economy year-round. 

Seasonal revenue fluctuations for locals are a side effect of seasonal travel. When I recently visited Montenegro last summer, many locals pointed out the burden that the seasonal tourism had on their families. While they were thankful for higher tourism-related revenue during the summer months, during the rest of the year they were often laid off or seasonally unemployed, which put a large amount of stress on them and their families financially.

Can you imagine only getting paid for three or fourth months a year, and having to make it last until the following high season? Additionally, this tourism fluctuation means that many locals will be over-worked, in order to make as much money as possible to last through the off-season (in many countries without labour laws, this could mean working 16+ hours a day, 7 days a week). This is seriously detrimental for their personal health.

Continuous economic stimulation translates into a higher quality of life for locals. Think of it as a way of giving back!

#4. You don’t have to plan far in advance.

Want to take a certain tour? Make a dinner reservation? Or book tickets to a cultural experience? You are much less likely to have to plan way ahead for these things during the off-season (or risk being upset because you weren’t able to book it).

Europe's Best off-Peak Travel Destinations

wINTER: sCANDINAVIAN cAPITALS

Summer in Scandinavia is beautiful, there’s no doubt. But winter in the Scandinavian capitals is still a great time to travel. Home to “hygge” and “fika,” Scandinavian culture is practically synonymous with coffee, fireplaces and coziness. And while many travelers flock to the Scandinavian north to see the northern lights, or head to the slopes to go skiing, the region’s biggest cities are also made more winter fun.

Copenhagen Nyhavn in the Winter
Winter: Eastern Europe

There are so many hidden – and not so hidden – gems scattered across Eastern Europe. And if you’re in the mood for a little winter road trip (or train or bus trip), Eastern Europe is a great spot to do it.

Venture from Poland, through the Czech Republic down to Hungary. The snow-covered rooftops in these fairytale-like spots will surely look magical. Recommended itinerary: Warsaw – Krakow – Prague – Budapest. These are all cities that are busy in the summer, but are just as beautiful in the winter.

Spring: Athens & The Greek Islands

Greece is arguably my favourite country in Europe. The food, the locals, and the diverse landscapes. I would live there if I could. However, popular destinations like Santorini and Mykonos are busy. In fact, there have been conscious efforts made in recent years to combat over-tourism in these popular islands.

Still want to see the famous calderas of Santorini? Head there in the spring. While it is still busy, the crowds are manageable. And while you’re there, you can hop over to some of my other favourite Cycladic islands, like Naxos and Milos (where there is sure to be very few tourists).

And while you’re in Greece, don’t make a very common mistake and skip Athens. It is filled with history, and culture – and some fantastic restaurants. And the spring is a great time to visit! You can walk around all day long without having to worry about the heat.

Spring: Portugal

Speaking of avoiding the heat…

Portugal is very popular – and very warm – in the summer months. Avoid the crowds and the heat by visiting in the springtime. April was the perfect time for us to spend two weeks exploring this incredible country. Temperatures were mild, and we were able to eat at the best restaurants (and there are a lot of them), wander the streets, and explore the sights without worrying about crowds.

Sintra Portugal in April
Autumn: Amsterdam

Ahhhh, Amsterdam. I love this city.

But, Amsterdam is also one of the biggest victims of over-tourism in Europe. And I can attest to this, because the first time I went to Amsterdam, it was August. It was warm, crowded – but somehow, I still fell in love with it and I was keen on returning.

A few years later, I opted to go back to Amsterdam in November. The leaves were changing colours on the trees, the number of tourists was controlled, and I was able to truly enjoy the crisp fall temperatures while walking the canals without having to worry about getting hit in the head by a selfie stick (or by a tourist on bike who doesn’t understand the rules of the two-wheel road).

The city has began to crack down and have plans in place to counter this problem, such as removing the famous iAmsterdam signs and regulating Airbnb properties. However, you can do your part by heading there during the off-season.

Any-Season-But-The-Summer-Season: This applies it ANY of Europe’s most popular destinations.

I’m talking most of Italy and France, Spain, Croatia… The list really could go on and on, but I think you get the point. If you’re schedule only allows you to travel during the summer, consider an alternative, less-visited destination.

Montenegro is a great alternative to Croatia, with some of the most breathtaking landscapes I have ever seen. The Douro Valley in Portugal, home to port wine, is a good Tuscany alternative. And if you’re inclined to head to the Greek Islands during the summer, consider a less-busy island, such as Naxos instead of Santorini and Mykonos.

Some of my other favourite summer destinations where I’ve (for the most part) been able to avoid severe over-tourism: Southern Germany (including Munich, Nuremburg and surrounding Bavarian towns of Bamberg or Rothenberg); Salzburg, Austria; and Belgium (Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp, and Bruges).

And, if you can (again, only if you’re able to… I want to stress that this isn’t an article about passing judgement) – avoid August. This is when most Europeans are travelling. And is by far the busiest month of the year.

What do you think are the best off-peak travel destinations?

There are so many amazing destinations across this globe, and I am by no means trying to discourage others from seeing some of the world’s most iconic landmarks. But by considering to travel during the off-peak season, you are making a conscious decision to improve not only your own personal travel experience, but also the experiences of those employed by the tourism industry – all while contributing to the sustainable travel movement.

Don’t forget to share your favourite off-peak travel destinations in the comments below!

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And while you’re at it, check out my Top 10 Places to Visit in 2020.
The best off-peak travel destinations
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Skane rapeseed fields

If you’re anything like me, you’ve already been dreaming about the places you’re going to visit in 2020 for months now. Or maybe more you’re more of the last minute planner. I’m personally a bit of a mix of both. I’ve got my “big trips” planned (Vietnam, Italy, and Russia/The Baltics), but I like to be a bit more spontaneous with weekend getaways. Even still, everything always seems tentative until the flight is booked. And I’m constantly turning to other bloggers and travel writers for inspiration. 

The world is a BIG place. And our modern travel culture is making it bigger and more accessible than ever before. If your bucket list if forever growing like mine, I’m hoping this list can help you narrow it down or inspire you to visit somewhere you hadn’t considered before.

With that being said, I can’t stress enough that this 10 places to visit in 2020 list is not designed to be a literal checklist, and likewise, travel should not be about simply just crossing off locations. I’m personally not a fan of the concept of country-counting. This list is designed to inspire you to think long and hard about which destinations resonate with you. Which fill your travel aspirations. Or inspire you. And choose to really VISIT them. To immerse yourself in the culture. And travel as slowly as your schedule allows. Because this… this is when you’ll experience the magic of these spots.

10 places To Visit in 2020

Detroit, Michigan

I know what you’re thinking… Really, Detroit? You choose ONE American city to add to this list and it’s DETROIT?!

Yes, Detroit. If it isn’t on your radar, it should be. The city has been reborn and in the coolest way possible. It’s a city fill of innovators, thinkers, and doers. Of people who are obsessed with their home and are eager to welcome travellers. The city has endless things to do – sports, music, cultural events, and a killer, world-class restaurant and bar scene. And a unique vibe that pulsates through the city that you can only truly understand by visiting. If you are adding one new American city to your travel list 2020, Detroit should be it.

I’ve written all about Detroit here. Give it a read.

Belt, Detroit

Porto, Portugal

Portugal has become a hot travel destination in recent years… and I’m not just talking about temperatures. While I see others more commonly flocking to the south – to Lisbon and the Algarve – northern Portugal seems to be missing from many agendas. 

Well, in my opinion, this is a mistake. Sure, Porto is a bit more “rustic” than its bigger sister Lisbon. But it is full of beautiful views, culture, and things to do. Here, you’ll spend your days sipping port wine along the waterfront, searching for tile-clad facades around the city, and eating LOTS of good food. To me, Porto seems more local. And in ways, more authentic, then Lisbon (although I realize this is a potentially controversial statement). Plus, it is the gateway to the Douro Valley – Portugal’s wine country.

You can read more about Porto here. 

Bavaria, Germany

What do you think of when you think of quintessential Germany? For me, it’s dirndls, lederhosen, and drinking the biggest steins of beer in massive beer halls. Sure, Berlin is super cool and trendy. But have you spent time in Munich and southern Germany? This is where German culture comes alive (and you don’t have to visit during Oktoberfest to experience it).

Roaming around southern Germany in 2015 still remains one of my favourite trips ever. From the small towns of Bamberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber, to the busy streets of Munich, the history of Nuremberg, and the beautiful landscapes of the Bavarian alps – southern Germany has it all and I frequently talk about returning there one day.

Milos, Greece

What’s your favourite Greek island? When you ask this question to most people, you’re bound to hear Santorini or Mykonos. For me, the answer is easy: Milos. 

Milos was one of the best kept secrets of the Cyclades until Vogue named it one of the top five destinations to visit in 2017. Since then, I’ve seen it pop up everywhere. I even recently read a Travel & Leisure article that suggested it was the best island in all of Europe. So, I guess the secrets out?

Even still, you MUST go. Because I too think this has to be the best island in Europe (or at least in the top three). It has diverse landscapes, beautiful beaches, and some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. You’ll truly think you were transported to paradise.

Read more about Milos here.

Toronto, Canada

What do you picture when you think of Canada? Mountains? Lakes? Nature?

Well, Toronto doesn’t have much of that… but it still has SO much to offer. A booming culinary scene. Museums. Art. Culture. Sports. If you’re looking for a city escape in 2020, Toronto is a great choice. From the hip Queen Street West neighbourhood, to the bustling Entertainment District, Toronto is almost like a mini-NYC (although not that mini… it is home to almost 3 million people and rapidly growing).

And, bonus! The Canadian dollar is weak right now, which means it’s a fairly cheap getaway for all my American and EU readers. 

The Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Looking for the perfect summer getaway? A spot that looks just like Croatia but without the crowds? Well, Montenegro is your spot.

Easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro has all the ingredients for a perfect summer getaway. Turquoise waters, mountains, historic cities – and very few crowds, even in the summer months. Montenegro is pretty new to the tourism game, but I can’t imagine it will stay this way for long. Which is why 2020 is the perfect time to pay a visit to this stunning coastal country.

Thinking of visiting Montenegro? You can read more about it here.

Perast Montenegro

Copenhagen, Denmark

I love Copenhagen. But, if you’ve been following me for awhile, that shouldn’t be a secret. To me, Copenhagen isn’t like most other European cities. It emulates this special coziness that is so classicly Danish. The city makes you feel at ease, and at home within seconds. It’s not too big, yet big enough to offer lots of things to do. And let’s not forget the food scene. If you’re looking for a capital city that is unique to many others in Europe, Copenhagen is your perfect match.

Just a word of caution: You might leave wishing you were Danish (because I know I do every single time).

You can find more on Copenhagen here.

Kraków, Poland

Kraków is a city that truly surprised me in 2019. I knew the city had a lot of history, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. With endless WWII history tours and exhibits, an innovative culinary scene (I’m a huge advocate of the pierogi-only diet while visiting Poland), and beautiful sights, you could spend several days in Kraków and have endless things to do.

As a bonus, it is by far the cheapest destination I went to this year. So if you’re looking for a money-saving destination, this is your spot.

Read all about Kraków here.

Ghent, Belgium

Talk to most travellers and Belgium isn’t typically on their list. Or, if it is, there’s a good chance they are headed to the fairytale town of Bruges. And while Bruges is truly beautiful (and I loved it there) – Ghent is also beautiful. And cool. And wildly underrated.

A largely university town, Ghent is as quaint as they come. With historic buildings lining the old town, dozens of shops to pop in-and-out of, and a fun nightlife, Ghent embodies Belgian charm. If you’re looking for a smaller town to explore in 2020, this is the perfect destination to add to your list.

Read about Ghent here.

Cuberdon in Ghent
How to spend 24 hours in Ghent

Skåne County, Sweden

You didn’t think you’d get through this list without listing my new hometown in southern Sweden, did you? While some may say I am a bit biased, I have truly been blown away by southern Sweden. While most people flock up to Stockholm, I am making it my personal mission to encourage people to visit Skåne (the county that Malmö resides in).

It is full of small historic towns (read about those here), the beautiful university town of Lund, Malmö (Sweden’s third-largest harbor city), and the most beautiful beaches. If you’re looking to do something a little bit different in 2020, you should absolutely visit southern Sweden.

All kinds of Sweden content can be found here.

Pretty streets in Gamla staden, Malmö
Simrishamn Beach in October

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I’d also love to hear your list of 10 places to visit in 2020. Add it in the comments below!

10 Places to Visit in 2020
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