5 alternatives for average vacations


We suspect that you, like us, are not interested in average vacations. You want to travel in a way that shakes things up and is good for your mind, body, and soul. You have an adventurous spirit. You favor uncommon places and experiences. As more people travel and places become ever-more connected, touristy, and Instagramed, it can be hard to suss out the average from the extraordinary. Here a few of our favorite alternatives to more popular and average destinations.

Alternative to the French Riviera: Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast

The French Riviera is a well-established vacation spot with glamorous beach resorts and bright blue water. But the beaches and restaurants are packed. Good luck finding a secluded bit of sand to spread your towel and relax. Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, the sunny “new riviera,” has warm beaches, clear water, fewer people than other Mediterranean coasts, and many opportunities for adventure! Kayak one day, hike through olive groves and vineyards the next, sample the local delicacies of brandy and oysters—all without the hordes of beach-goers.

Alternative to monotonous terrain: New Zealand’s South Island

If you’re like us, you like getting out into the landscape, but you might not love multiple days of the same scenery, which is just not possible on New Zealand’s South Island. The range of landscapes found in this small area is hard to match. Each day will bring a new ecosystem to explore. Tour the rainforest with a Maori guide, hike in the shadow of the snow-capped Southern Alps, kayak on a pristine glacial lake, and dig your toes into a white-sand beaches. Then meander through charming towns.

Alternative to backpacking Europe: The Camino de Santiago

Those post-college years spent roughing it in hostels and being spontaneous on a shoestring budget were fun. But traveling with neither plan nor intention can get old. Walking the Camino is definitively an intentional act and personal journey. It’s a more refined travel and cultural experience over just checking off famous sites and European capitals. For some it’s about the spirituality and history. For others it’s about the long-distance hiking. This adventure affords the time to reflect on the significance of history and our place in the world.

Alternative to a country weekend: Hiking in Scotland

Do you love the rolling hills and wide-open spaces and vistas of a country getaway? A weekend is far too short of a time to truly relax. Instead, spend several days in the Scottish Highlands and islands. This region offers superb hiking trails and endless views over the near treeless and verdant landscape, from craggy mountains to sheer cliffs that dive into the North Atlantic. Sheep and cows graze in their idyllic pastures. Sleepy villages welcome travelers at day’s end, as does creative, fresh cuisine and wonderful whisky.

Alternative to chaotic Asian cities: Bhutan

The big cities of Asia offer so much in the way of cultural experiences and historical sites. But they can also be overwhelming, even if you’re accustomed to the traffic, noise, pollution, and crowds. That’s not to say those cities aren’t worth exploring, but afterwards, go to Bhutan. Bhutan is charming and peaceful. It is a remote country where Buddhist principles and philosophies are infused into every aspect of the culture and daily life. It’s a world apart from our usual hectic 21st-century life. The capital city of Thimphu is the antithesis of other Asian capitals—it doesn’t even have a traffic light.

Matt Holmes is the Founder & President of Boundless Journeys. Boundless Journeys is an award-winning tour operator that goes off the beaten path for immersive and authentic travel experiences.

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Comments (6)

  1. Claire says:

    As somebody who has worked in Scotland, I’ve had the opportunity to explore a great and underrated landscape over time. You need to consider the cons: the midges and rain. So do your research on seasons. Though on the plus side there’s world class whisky, salmon and haggis.

  2. Stanley says:

    I’d say that New Zealand’s South Island will definitely cover your wanderlust for variety. Enjoy mountains, lakes, and glaciers. If there’s only one place you could visit, I’d recommend Aoraki Mt. Cook since it runs along the entire length of the island and has some of the most spectacular sceneries. Equally awesome are Central Otago, if you love wines, and Marlborough Sounds.

  3. Geoff says:

    If you have ten utterly outstanding travel experiences then even the one that is mathematically average will be fantastic. I think that average for this piece is being used as something of a derogatory adjective rather than as a mathematical concept.

  4. Sarah Bugden says:

    Swapping the Croatian Riviera for the French Riviera is a great call. The French coastline is stunning but it is ridiculously expensive and the traffic just crawls along. I’ve not made it to Croatia yet. Friends who’ve been speak highly of Croatia. Yeah, that’s one substitution that I’d go for.

  5. Nick Dougill says:

    There’s a great piece in today’s Times from Billy Connelly. He says that Scotland isn’t so much a country as a state of mind. He’s right. You’ve got to buy into the whole concept to really “get” the place.

  6. Liz says:

    I’m very interested in the Camino de Santiago. In our materialist age it is good to see a journey with a spiritual purpose. Too much travel today is about the visual, just collecting images for Instagram. Slow travel like this gives you a chance to immerse yourself in the experience, reflect and sometimes even to change. I’ve meet some people who’ve gone through difficult times and they’ve found that pilgrimages offer a source of renewal and a chance to start afresh.

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