The world is full of new destinations waiting to be explored, from Insta-worthy chic cities to small ocean towns and plenty of UNESCO World Heritage sites. But even the most popular destinations shouldn’t necessarily be at the top of your travel bucket list, and there are plenty that probably isn’t but should be.
In a lot of the major tourist destinations around the world, overcrowding is becoming a major issue. Add to that an increase in prices in accommodation, or lack thereof, and a fear for safety in some places, and you’ve got yourself lots of cities and countries worth giving a miss this year.
For every problem country though, there’s a shiny new attraction to be seen elsewhere. Some places used to be popular but have fallen behind over the years, only to bounce back on to our radar thanks to popular TV shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings.
Whatever the reasons to visit or not visit, “the world is a book and those that do not travel read only one page”. Here are 10 destinations that are best to avoid in 2018, and 10 that definitely should not be ignored.
20 Avoid: Bali, Indonesia - Insta-worthy but not the real Indonesia
Bali has become over-populated in recent years by tourists from all over the world. What was once a sleepy surf town is now covered in tree-top cabins, brightly colored street art and trendy cafes and bars just begging to be captured for Instagram. What people don’t realize is that with tourism booming, so is the impact on the once idyllic environment. Plastic containers in all shapes and sizes line the beaches — some are so trashed that you can barely see the golden sand. Instead of contributing to the problem, it may be best to stay away until the island has a chance to clean up its act.
19 Avoid: Venice, Italy - Tourists cruise in, locals cruise out
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Italy, why wouldn’t you want to go to Venice!? It’s a unique city full of Italian charm, gondolas galore and far more waterways and canals than it needs. It will always be a big player in the European tourist game, but with a suggested, 30 million visitors a year, its biggest attractions like the Rialto Bridge are covered in selfie-stick obsessed tourists at all hours of the day. The number of cruise ships stopping off in Venice via the Giudecca canal has also significantly grown, so much so that locals took to the famous cobbled streets to protest in 2017. Since then the city’s population has dropped to just 55,000, according to CNN.
18 Avoid: Dubrovnik, Croatia - Game of Thrones fans rule the capital
Speaking of crowds, Croatia’s capital is drowning in hordes of tourists. Each year the numbers grow as people eagerly walk the city’s 15th-century walls to get a photo of what is known to Game of Thrones fans as King’s Landing. While Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and her dragons are nowhere to be seen (except for those locals who dress to impress on Game of Thrones-themed tours), there are plenty of huge cruise ships docking at the ancient port daily. It’s so overcrowded that UNESCO has threatened to take away its World Heritage title. Now, it’s said the number of people who can walk its walls is capped at 4,000 a day. According to CNN, 10,388 did so in one day alone back in 2016.
17 Avoid: Honduras - Not Super Safe
If world-class diving is your thing, Honduras could be for you. The Central American country is cheap and its shores are fringed by coral reefs, baby whale sharks and manatees. On land, you can weave your way through tropical rainforests, mangroves and spot some incredible wildlife. Sounds great right? It is, but the country is also known for being one of the deadliest places on earth, with one of the highest murder rates in the world. While the murder rate has dropped in recent years, Fodor’s says it’s still not safe for tourists and our hard-earned cash should be spent elsewhere.
16 Avoid: Barcelona, Spain - Tourists are unwelcome, that much is clear
The Catalonian capital is home to some of the most unique architecture and art in the world, thanks to the likes of Antoni Gaudí, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso. It’s also famous for its traditional tapas cuisine and golden sand beach. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows — the popular European tourist destination is also known for being popular with pickpockets. On top of that, a recent law was passed that restricts the number of visitors to the city. Over the years the number of tourists has continued to rise, along with the number of both legal and illegal tourist apartments, like those available on Airbnb. Now, Barcelona is full of accommodation for tourists, leaving its locals protesting over residence shortage and some of the highest rents in Spain.
15 Avoid: Missouri, USA - Travel advisory warns of discrimination
Traveling to the US? It may be best to skip the Show-Me State which is home to some big cities like St Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield as it enters a state of turmoil. Some worrying reports popped up in 2017 like a state representative arguing that homosexuals weren’t human beings and a lost tourist who ran out of gas only to be later found murdered in his jail cell, even though he was never put under arrest, according to Fodors. Missouri was also the state where the SB-43 Bill was passed, making it more difficult to sue employers for discrimination.
14 Avoid: Taj Mahal, India - Overcrowding at its finest
Heading to the Taj Mahal is liking trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s an incredible building to marvel at, with a romantic history to go with it, but that’s if you can find it among the crowds of tourists. So many people have visited over the years (around 8 million a year) that in 2018, the 17th-century mausoleum is to undergo a thorough cleaning to correct the dome’s white marble, which is now a shade of unwanted yellow. In other words, unless you want a photo of the Taj Mahal poking out from a crowd of heads and grey scaffolding and mud, it’s the year to give it a miss.
13 Avoid: Machu Picchu, Peru - UNESCO numbers are out of control
Any history buff will have Machu Picchu on their travel bucket list. According to CNN, some 5,000 people a day made the trek in 2016, double the number recommended by UNESCO. The Peruvian government has been trying to reduce overcrowding since 2014. Not only do foreign visitors require an official guide to visit the Inca site, there are now timed visiting slots — morning sessions from 6 am until midday and an afternoon session from 12 pm until 5:30 pm. Going during the rainy season (between October and April) will mean you are among fewer visitors, but Machu Picchu is still Peru’s most visited site.
12 Avoid: Santorini, Greece - Island charm dwindling
Santorini is just one of many tiny Greek Islands. Every corner is painted with iconic white stone houses and narrow cobbled streets. It looks like somewhere you see captured on souvenir postcards so it’s no wonder almost 2 million people visited in 2017. According to CNN, 850,000 tourists sailed in on cruise ships, which drop anchor in its caldera and drop passengers off for only a few hours at a time rather, than days. Overcrowding was becoming a real problem, so the island’s mayor capped the number of visitors allowed to just 8,000 a day.
11 Avoid: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador - Stringent rules to protect the habitat
The Galapagos Islands are home to arguably one of the most well-known natural habitats in the world. Protecting such a unique natural wonder is not an easy task, and the Ecuadorian government is trying its hardest. Visitors are limited to specific sites and marked trails and must have a tour guide with them at all times. On top of that, travelers must now show a valid return airline ticket, have a hotel reservation or a letter from a resident inviting them to stay and a special transit control card before entering.
10 Don't Ignore: Canada - 151 years of blue hues
One of the most photographed places in the world, Canada is home to snow-capped mountains in the winter and picture-perfect turquoise lakes in the summer. Often overlooked because of its American neighbor, Canada’s tourism continues to boom since celebrating its 150th birthday last year. The liberal country is also home to beautiful Black and Brown bears and some of the most stunning landscape you’ll ever see. If you like the great outdoors, it’s definitely one for you but if cosmopolitan cities are your thing, you’ll find those here too in Vancouver and Toronto. The East side of the country — the French side — is brimming with history too.
9 Don't Ignore: Seville, Spain - Artistic past comes to life
The capital of Andalucía has undergone a major revamp during the past 10 years and should be top of the list of European city breaks to explore this year. What was once a busy city is now a chic center for art and film lovers. The year, it will play host to the 31st European Film Awards and is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the local Baroque painter, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, with a handful of unique expositions. Game of Thrones fans will recognize its stone walls, but unlike Croatia, the crowds haven’t descended onto Seville yet, so, get there while you can.
8 Don't Ignore: Oslo, Norway - Celebrate landmark event with Scandinavian royals
For so long, Norway’s capital has been overlooked because of its popular Scandinavian neighbors and thanks to its fame as one of the most expensive cities in Europe. Splashing the cash will be worthwhile this year though, as the beloved king and queen celebrate 50 years of marriage. They, along with the whole of Oslo, will attend a number of lavish cultural, culinary and civic events. Oslo’s famous Opera House is also celebrating a landmark event: it’s 10th birthday. So when the royal events are over, there’ll be plenty of seasonal concerts and performances to enjoy as well as all the usual Norwegian attractions like a visit to the Viking Ship Museum and Vigeland Sculpture Park.
7 Don't Ignore: Chile - Making friends with Alpacas is cheaper than chips
What Chile lacks in size it makes up for in culture. The South American gem sits between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean and has two polar opposite climates in its north and south. To the north is the dry Atacama Desert, where you can go sand-boarding, paragliding or for a simple desert trek. To the south, you’ll find Patagonia, where wilderness is everywhere — in caves, up mountains and on the open ocean. At its heart, the capital Santiago is trendy and buzzing with restaurants, bars, museums and street art. This year, the country celebrates 200 years of independence, so add it to your list to join in with the festivities.
6 Don't Ignore: New Zealand - Adventure all round
If the great outdoors is calling your name, you should jump on a plane and say Kia Ora to New Zealand, stat. Forever known as an adventure lovers playground, the tiny country still lives up to its adrenaline-filled nature. Face your fears with a bungee jump in Queenstown, skydive over Lake Taupo, or go white water rafting in the South Island. It’s also got something for wildlife lovers — think kayaking with whales and dolphins — and those who like the finer things in life, like some of the world’s best seafood and wine should head to the Marlborough region. The countryside is also awash with rolling hills and mountains, there to be hiked or skied down in the winter months.
5 Don't Ignore: Great Barrier Reef, Australia - Nemo isn’t dead yet
The status of the Great Barrier Reef has been under watch for years now. Climate change, a rise in sea temperature and ocean pollution has caused bleaching of the reef and many of the coral to die. The good news is, the reef is absolutely massive, about the same size as Japan or Italy! To tick it off your list will be to tick off one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. Spend days snorkeling the surface to spot turtles, reef sharks, and everybody’s favorite clownfish, Nemo. If you want to delve deeper to see marine life like 100-year-old giant clams, year-round warm weather means scuba diving is easy. Or, enjoy the reef from one of the many tropical islands that surround it.
4 Don't Ignore: Turkey - Country bounces back
Turkey has a turbulent past and its location in the Middle East means it’s often overlooked by tourists. Given that no country is terror-proof and the Syrian border is hundreds of miles from Turkey’s main attractions, it’s 300-mile Turquoise Coast should be left unexplored. Not only are its golden sandy beaches uncrowded but the Turkish Lira is weak enough for travelers of all budgets. It also is a unique country that has somehow melded the East and the West together (not surprising given its unique history of conquests). It's a country where one can seek out spiritual peace but also enjoy the amenities of a modern and eclectic atmosphere.
3 Don't Ignore: South Korea - 2018 Winter Olympics revives Asian treasure
Its northern counterpart has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons in recent years, but South Korea is slowly coming out of its shadow. The beginning of 2018 saw the Winter Olympics take place in Pyeongchang. Since then, more tourists have been flooding through its doors to explore Buddhist temples, scenic mountains, and its forested landscape. South Korea also has a new high-speed KTX train, meaning exploring the country is easier than ever. Choose from 12 UNESCO sites, including 5,000-year-old palaces, tombs, and villages as well as waterfalls and volcanic rock formations.
2 Don't Ignore: Nicaragua - Coffee, cigars, and lashings of culture
A diverse Central American country, Nicaragua has plenty to offer, from mountain-side villages to colonial towns like Granada. It’s also got some of the best dive and surf spots in the region and in the land, and its blooming with tropical rainforest, birds, and monkeys. It’s also a popular spot for tourists who like a challenge — hiking up and boarding down volcanoes is the thing to do. But if culture is your thing, you’ll find plenty in artistic towns like León or statues and monuments in the capital Managua. Or, spend your days sipping world-class coffee and rum, smoking cigars or shopping brightly-colored markets.
1 Don't Ignore: Singapore - Michelin-starred cuisine on tap
Singapore is one of the best countries in Asia to sample cheap Michelin-starred cuisine — the cheapest in the world can be found, according to VisitSingapore.com. When you’re too full, head to the modern Gardens by the Bay, famous for its network of giant solar-lined trees and greenhouses. Or, wander Hindu temples, Buddhist temples, and synagogues in the heart of the city. The fun doesn’t stop there. Singapore Airport has recently been named the best in the world. It’s the kind of airport where you want to be delayed — there are a slide and rooftop pool to enjoy as well as an indoor climbing structure and a butterfly garden.
References: LonelyPlanet, CNN, Fodor’s Travel, The Telegraph, VisitSingapore