Where is it safe to travel? 7 ideas to escape on vacation


Some habits are hard to break — but that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to travel.  

Travelers’ habits are changing — quickly and en masse. People are bypassing big cities in favor of smaller destinations that attract fewer tourists, and outside activities such as hiking and biking are attracting more interest than before.

To avoid crowds while spending time in the great outdoors, here are seven spots worth considering once it’s safe to travel again.

Normandy, France

France has been the most visited country in the world for years, with travelers congregating in Paris in the interior, the French Riviera in the south and the country’s world-famous wine regions dispersed throughout the lower two-thirds of the country.

But what of the north? Regions situated along the English Channel, such as Normandy, receive a small fraction of France’s tourists, which makes them ideal for travelers wishing to experience the country while avoiding large groups.

Though Normandy is relatively quiet, crowds are common at Mont Saint-Michel, a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey located less than a mile from the French mainland.

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Normandy is popular with World War II history buffs who come to see the famous D-Day beach invasion sites, as well as accompanying cemeteries and memorials. Others are enticed by the seaside beach towns of Deauville and Trouville, the cobblestone alleyways of Honfleur and the majestic tidal island of Mont Saint-Michel.

Like much of France, food is another draw. Normandy is famous for Camembert cheese, Calvados liqueur and tarte aux pommes (apple tarts).  

The ‘other’ islands of Greece

Travelers can escape the crowds by choosing a Greek island, such as Lipsi, that receives far fewer tourists than Santorini or Mykonos.

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With tourists tightly concentrated in the most popular Greek islands, that leaves many others with far fewer tourists, including Iraklia in the Cyclades island group and Lipsi in the Dodecanese, said Makis Bitzios, general manager of Greek tourism consultancy Remake.         

“Both islands are very beautiful, without crowds, very authentic and not as known as many other Greek destinations,” he said.

Central Vietnam

Many international tourists to Vietnam head north to Hanoi and Halong Bay or south to Ho Chi Minh City.

Those who do venture to the center typically go to the old town of Hoi An, the glitzy hotels outside of Da Nang or to the historic sites of Hue and My Son.

Anantara Quy Nhon Villas is an all-villa resort built in the South Central Coast region of Vietnam.

Courtesy of Anantara Quy Nhon Villas

“Both Anantara Quy Nhon Villas and Anantara Mui Ne are located in more off the beaten track destinations and in their own enclosed locations affording peaceful experiences, but within easy reach of local sites,” Pieter van der Hoeven, the brand’s regional general manager, told CNBC Global Traveler by email.

Another attraction to the country’s interior is the colossal Son Doong cave. First explored in 2009, only 1,000 travelers are permitted to explore it every year, a limit put in place to protect the cave, which is believed to be one of the largest and most magnificent in the world.

Kagawa, Japan

Not to be confused with Kanagawa, the popular coastal prefecture just south of Tokyo, Kagawa is Japan’s smallest prefecture by geographic size. At about 724 square miles, it’s about two-and-a-half times larger than New York City, yet home to fewer than 1 million people.

Located on the island of Shikoku, Kagawa receives a small share of Japan’s tourists. In 2019, fewer than 550,000 of the nearly 32 million international tourists to Japan went to Kagawa, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Travelers who arrive to see feudal castles, temples and gardens and to eat udon — the famous dish is closely tied to the prefecture, which produces the noodles from locally-farmed wheat — can look into Urashima Village.

Urashima Village is a remote inn with three private buildings (one of which is called “Silence”) that overlook the uninhabited island of Maruyama.

Courtesy of Urashima Village

Dandenongs, Australia

While Melbourne gets the lion’s share of the accolades (and tourists) to the Australian state of Victoria, there are numerous destinations outside of the city that deserve recognition.

One such place is the Dandenongs, a quiet mountain range dotted with bucolic bed-and-breakfasts, forest gardens and family-owned restaurants.

Less than an hour from Melbourne, the Dandenongs Ranges is a mountainous area with superb food and small-town friendliness.

Nigel Killeen | Moment | Getty Images

New Mexico

Ghost Ranch near Abiquiú, New Mexico is an area with an eclectic mix of former inhabitants, including dinosaurs, Spanish settlers and the artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

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The Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Sante Fe, however, is set on 57 acres outside the city. Guests stay in suites and detached casitas, which means “little houses” in Spanish, that are outfitted with southwestern décor and wood-burning, pueblo-inspired kiva fireplaces.

Overlooking the Rio Grande River Valley and the nearby Jemez Mountains, the resort sports a year-round pool, outdoor firepits, and an adventure center which organizes hot air balloon rides, horseback riding and whitewater rafting, as well as cultural tours to Ghost Ranch or Bonanza Creek Ranch where movies such as “Cowboys & Aliens” and “Wild Hogs” were filmed.

Saba and Saint Eustatius

With the Caribbean islands normally averaging over 30 million international travelers a year — a figure which does not include cruiser ship passengers — the number of international visitors that go to the small Caribbean islands of Saba and Saint Eustatius could be but a rounding error.    

Both islands are special municipalities of the Netherlands, and each receives fewer than 10,000 tourists by air a year, according to Dutch governmental agency Statistics Netherlands.

Saba and Saint Eustatius (shown here) are part of the Dutch Antilles and provide a remote escape to hike, dive and delve into ecotourism.

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