11 Lesser-Known (But Equally Incredible) Alternatives To Popular Spring And Summer Vacation Destinations

Spring is in the air...which means it's not too early to start thinking about your summer. And specifically, vacations! If you're looking for an off-the-beaten path escape away from the crowds, you're in luck. Here are some lesser-known alternatives to popular summer vacation destinations that are well worth a trip before word gets out further — both in the US and beyond.


1. Instead of Hawaii, go to Oregon.

The Pacific Coast Highway.

There are some pretty obvious differences between Hawaii and Oregon (namely, that only one of these places is an island with a year-round tropical climate. But hear me out: Oregon offers sweeping Pacific coastline, a temperate rainforest, incredible hiking, scenic farmland, waterfalls, and some of the most picturesque scenery in the country. There may not be palm trees and coconuts, but Cannon Beach is a pretty spectacular place to sunbathe on a warm summer day. And while you won't find the Road to Hana, a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway isn't too shabby.

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The landscapes throughout the state are so diverse and nothing short of jaw-dropping.

A waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge.

The Oregon Coast — from Astoria to Bandon — is home to jagged coastline, state parks, hiking trails galore, sweeping sand dunes, and freshly caught seafood. You can even go whale watching or boating for Dungeness crab. In the Columbia River Gorge you can hike to hidden waterfalls and sip on hard cider made at local apple and peach orchards. And don't forget about Crater Lake National Park, a giant volcanic crater surrounded by cliffs and the Valley of the Giants, a rainforest that houses some seriously impressive Douglas-fir and Hemlock trees.

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2. Instead of Cape Cod, go to Fire Island.

A seaside home and the ocean

Cape Cod is one of the most visited vacation destinations in the Northeast, and with good reason. But high season on the Cape comes with hefty price tags to match on hotels and home rentals. For a similar down-to-earth feel, beautiful beaches, stunning summer sunsets, and quaint, small-town vibe, Fire Island is an excellent alternative. This tiny barrier island (just 31-miles long) is close to New York City, making it easily accessible for a short weekend or longer vacation. And you won't find any cars on slow-paced Fire Island; rather, the preferred method of transportation is bicycle or boat.

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Each of Fire Island's hamlets has a totally distinct feel.

A lighthouse at sunset on Fire Island

Ocean Beach is the most lively town complete with seafood restaurants, ice cream parlors, bars, and shops; Cherry Grove is a favorite among LGBT travelers; Kismet is a free-spirited hamlet known for its party scene, and hotel-free Saltaire is the place to go for its peaceful, relaxing atmosphere. Whether you're looking to rent a house, lay low, and cook your meals at home or stay in a hotel, beach-hop, and explore the surrounding towns, Fire Island offers something for every type of traveler.

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3. Instead of the Canadian Rockies, go to Idaho.

Rolling hills and mountains of Idaho

Summer is high season in the Canadian Rockies, when people flock to take in the natural beauty of Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, and glacial-fed Lake Louise. But right here in the US, Idaho is an exceptionally underrated destination for the great outdoors. It boasts both Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest scenery, complete with deserts, water falls, lava fields, mountains, and lakes galore.

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This state is paradise for anyone who loves the great outdoors.

Hike in Sun Valley, raft down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, camp and fish in the Sawtooth Mountains, explore Coeur d’Alene with its forested lake, and blend urban comforts with outdoor adventure in the hip city of Boise. And make a point to visit Stanley, a small town with a big personality in the Sawtooth Valley, which is the gateway to all the rafting, fishing, and great outdoors the area has to offer.

Hike in Sun Valley, raft down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, camp and fish in the Sawtooth Mountains, explore Coeur d’Alene with its forested lake, and blend urban comforts with outdoor adventure in the hip city of Boise. And make a point to visit Stanley, a small town with a big personality in the Sawtooth Valley, which is the gateway to all the rafting, fishing, and great outdoors the area has to offer.

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4. Instead of Santorini, go to Tinos.

A small village in Tinos island

When you think of the Greek Islands, your mind likely immediately travels to Santorini. And while this popular Aegean destination is most certainly beautiful, it's over-saturated with tourists from all over the world. For a similar vibe, equally stunning scenery, and very few crowds, consider Tinos instead.

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Set just 30 minutes from Mykonos by boat, this island feels like an undiscovered gem.

An alleyway with flowers in Tinos

In Santorini you'll struggle to get a seat at the packed and overly expensive restaurants, but each of the dozens of villages in Tinos boast down-to-earth tavernas serving simple, perfectly cooked seafood from just offshore. There are picture-perfect villages to explore like Pyrgos and Kardiani, wineries where you can sip local Greek varietals, and glistening beaches like Livada, Kolimvithra, and Ormos Giannaki.

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5. Instead of Sicily, go to Sardinia.

A boat floating in bright blue water

As if Sicily weren't already popular enough, the most recent season of White Lotus has all but guaranteed that everyone and their mother will be flocking to Palermo this summer. For a quieter Italian beach getaway with all the same allures, check out the nearby island of Sardinia. The jewel of the Mediterranean Sea floats between Italy and North Africa. And like Sicily, it's home to idyllic beaches, jutting mountains, and a blend of charming fishing villages and posh resort towns.

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Sardinia's Costa Smeralda — a 12-mile stretch of coast — is the most popular part of the island among visitors, but there's so much more to explore.

A colorful town in Sardinia

There are ancients ruins and ports like Su Nuraxi Nuraghe and Porto Flavia, natural wonders like Neptune's Grotto, and the enchanted town of Castelsardo. While you're there, take a boat ride around Maddalena Islands, explore the island's fantastic hiking trails, and sample the local cuisine like pane carasau, Sardinian flatbread, and culurgiones, a stuffed pasta similar to ravioli.

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6. Instead of the Algarve, go to Alentejo.

A boardwalk leading to a quiet beach

There's no doubt that the Algarve is a beautiful beach destination, but summer is primetime tourist season where you'll be fighting for a tiny sliver of beach. If you're looking for a quieter Iberian getaway, set your sights on the Portuguese region of Alentejo. This historic area, a place made unique by its Portuguese, Roman, and North African influences, has everything from the bustling cities of Évora and Portalegre to golden beaches and scenic countrysides dotted with wildflowers and cork forests.

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You won't find any of the Algarve's summer crowds in this up-and-coming region.

A hilltop town in Portugal

The sleepy beach town of Comporta feels worlds away from the busy Algarve towns like Albufeira and Lagos. Here, you'll find seafood shacks just steps from the Atlantic Ocean, bike paths alongside rice paddies, and highly curated boutiques selling locally designed goods. And it's worth mentioning that Alentejo is quickly putting itself on the map as a renowned wine destination.

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7. Instead of Croatia, go to Slovenia.

Red rooftops of a coastal town in Slovenia

In recent years, Croatia has become one of the most popular summer destinations in Europe, but people are only just beginning to understand all the allures of its northern neighbor, Slovenia — a safe and budget-friendly country with so many diverse landscapes. For an urban escape, there's the capital city of Ljubljana with its green spaces, bridges spanning the Ljubljanica River, open air markets, and outdoor cafes.

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From alpine lakes and gorges to medieval cities, this country has it all.

Lake Bled during the summertime

Beyond the city, the Alps surround Lake Bled and the lesser known Lake Bohinj, while Vintgar Gorge offers similar scenery to Plitvice Lakes National Park but without all the tourists. And finally there's Piran, a popular resort town on the Adriatic Coast with a colorful main square and medieval walls that will give you serious Dubrovnik vibes.

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8. Instead of the Italian Alps, go to Georgia.

A church in the mountains of Georgia

You could visit some combination of Piedmont, the Dolomites, and Lake Como in the Italian Alps this summer, or you could head to Georgia before it inevitably becomes one of Europe's most popular destinations. With a unique history shaped by Russia, Turkey, and Persia and its incredibly diverse landscapes (think: monasteries built into rocky caves, deep gorges, dramatic mountains, and fairy-tale-like towns built deep in valleys.

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Tbilisi might just be one of the coolest cities in Europe.

Landscape of Tblisi, Georgia

The capital city of Tbilisi is a fascinating, hipster locale with narrow streets, a thriving food scene, leafy squares, and an old town that feels stuck in time. It's also a great base camp from which to take day trips to nearby Gori, Uplistsikhe, and Mtskheta. Georgia also claims to be the birthplace of wine, and you can visit many family-run vineyards to taste the country's signature orange wines in Sighnaghi or Kakheti.

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9. Instead of Iceland, go to the Faroe Islands.

A traditional village in the Faroe Islands

Over the last decade, affordable, short flights have made Iceland an ever-trending destination. But sadly, it's getting harder and harder to avoid the tour buses in this beautiful country. So instead of Iceland, check out the Faroe Islands. Technically part of Denmark, this archipelago sits between Iceland and Norway in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Summer is the best time to visit as the Faroe Islands burst into green, mossy life, wildflowers bloom, and the days are long and bright.

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Like in Iceland, the weather changes here in an instant, so bring your layers, but the scenery is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

A waterfall in the Faroe Islands

Drive past Múlafossur Waterfall and fjords surrounded by mountains; take a ferry to Kalsoy island with its jutting, green cliffs; spot puffins in Mykines; hike to Lake Sørvágsvatn, a lake "infinity pool" overlooking the sea; and explore the colorful fishing towns of Nólsoy and Gjógv. The capital city of Tórshavn may be small, but it's well worth exploring the historic area of Tinganes with its grass-covered roofs, quaint streets, and cozy nordic restaurants.

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10. Instead of Paris, go to Dordogne.

A village of Dordogne built on a hilltop

Dreaming of a French getaway this summer? While everyone flocks to Paris and the South of France, do something a bit more original by visiting the Dordogne Valley. This picturesque area in southwestern France — just east of Bordeaux — is home to fairy-tale medieval villages, rolling meadows, and some of the most charming scenery in the country.

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The towns that make up this French region could have come straight out of a storybook.

An adorable French town in the Dordogne.

Don't miss the hilltop town of Domme, Beynac-Et-Cazennac with its cobblestone streets and chateaux, and Sarlat known for its open-air markets selling everything from regional cheeses to fresh strawberries. If there's one main reason to travel to Dordogne, it's for the cuisine: it's known for some of France's most luxurious foods like Périgord truffles, foie gras, and Bergerac wines.

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11. Instead of the South of France, go to Turkey's Turquoise Coast.

A rocky hilltop coastline.

The Turkish Riviera, also known as the Turquoise Coast, is a stretch of Mediterranean beach towns between Fethiye and Antalya (and once you see the glistening beaches and iridescent water, you'll understand exactly why it deserves the nickname). Here you'll find ancient cities like Xanthos and Arykanda that are perched high on hilltops and rich in spectacular ruins. There are also gorgeous resort towns like Kaş, Bodrum, Kaleköy, and Alanya, which are set between the mountains and the sea.

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You'd be hard pressed to find this unique blend of history and scenery anywhere else.

Sunbathers at Ölüdeniz, Turkey.

History buffs will love the ancient ruins like the Temple of Apollo, the Temple of Athena, and ancient theaters. And the beaches and landscapes are as striking as any of the rivieras in western Europe, only this is more affordable and less populated. One of the best ways to see the Turquoise Coast is by boat, stopping to snorkel in the azure Mediterranean, and sunbathe at the best beaches like Ölüdeniz, İztuzu, and Patara.

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What's your favorite spring or summer vacation destination you'd recommend to other travelers? Tell us about it in the comments!