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5 Overhyped Tourist Destinations, and Where to Go Instead

04/16/2014 05:27 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2014

Koh LantaWhether it's a packed cruise ship unloading throngs of boisterous passengers, or a mob of thirty college students tearing through town, an excess of tourists can make a destination go from in-demand to insufferable, just like that. Consider avoiding these played-out locales and shift your attention to nearby spots that are lesser-known, and more worthy of the term "vacation."

Instead of Capri...
With the likes of Mariah Carey making a habit out of spending time on the pristine Mediterranean islet, Capri is by no means a well-kept secret. For pleasure-seekers exploring Italy's south western coast, why not make the leap across the Tyrrhenian Sea into the Aeolian Islands? Just like Capri, it's possible to reach Lipari, the largest island in the group, by ferry from Naples. (You can also take a shorter voyage from Messina, on Sicily's northeastern coast.) Once you've arrived, plan on exploring the secluded pebble beaches, small trattorias, and historic churches that characterize the region.

Instead of Cozumel...
If vodka-fueled pool parties and crowded beaches are your thing, then by all means head to Mexico's most overdone island. Otherwise, consider heading up to Isla Mujeres, where a more laid-back crowd dominates. The island, which, like nearby Cancun, is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea's crystal clear waters, offers modern, affordable lodging like Ixchel Beach Hotel (from $113 per night) and the chic Hotel Secreto (from $259 per night). And in addition to its gorgeous, rugged coastline and native wildlife ( sea turtles!), the island is starting to become something of an adventure destination as well.

Instead of Paris...
Look up "tourist" in the dictionary, and you're likely to see a photo of someone posing in front of the Eiffel Tower, which recently celebrated its 125th anniversary. Now, don't get us wrong: we love the City of Light as much as the next Francophile, but a recent visit to enchanting Bordeaux taught us there's more to France than strolling along the Champs-Élysées and queuing up to glimpse the Mona Lisa. Particularly for those planning a tour of France, plan on spending time in Bordeaux, where the longest stretch of 18th century architecture in all of France makes the perfect backdrop to days of croissant-sampling and idyllic strolls along the Garonne River.

Instead of Sentosa...
If Singapore is known for one thing, it's the city's near-fanaticism when it comes to cleanliness. Everywhere you turn, a sense of order is upheld through smoothly-running metro lines, immaculate shopping malls, and quaint canal-side promenades. This is certainly true of the man-made attractions found on Sentosa Island, with its amusement park rides and nonstop beach parties. But for a closer look at Singapore's natural beauty, head to Pulau Ubin, a tiny island accessible from the city by ferry (around $2.50 each way) dotted with bike trails, mangrove walks, and a few home-style cafes.

Instead of Koh Pi Pi...
In the 2000s, the film The Beach ricocheted the relatively small Thai island of Koh Phi Phi into the realm of superstardom, but at a price. Nowadays, sunburned, beer-swigging tourists stumbling down souvenir shop-filled streets are what you're likely to find - hardly in line with the secluded paradise-on-earth depicted in the film. Koh Lanta, a 4-mile-wide island ringed with gorgeous white sandy beaches and unspoiled forests, is probably closer to your idea of what a Thai beach escape should be. To really make your visit count, grab a scooter and head toward the southern half of the islands, where empty beaches abound, and Mu Koh Lanta National Park ($12 admission) offers traditional fishing villages, scenic hiking trails, and a few diving spots.

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