Take advantage of the world's deserted tourist hotspots

Popular destinations are more attractive than ever as the crowds stay away. Nicole Garcia Merida reports

A deserted Grand Canal in Venice © ANDREA PATTARO/AFP via Getty Images
Venice: an even more extraordinary experience than usual
(Image credit: A deserted Grand Canal in Venice © ANDREA PATTARO/AFP via Getty Images)

The magic of Venice

The rules about where you can go without having to endure quarantine change by the day, but at the time of writing, Italy was open for business to the UK. Few Brits, however, are braving the journey, says Maria Shollenbarger in the Financial Times. For those who do choose to go, that makes the situation “pretty delightful”: “empty squares, queue-free museums, hill towns and seaside ports largely returned to their inhabitants”.

Of all the country’s celebrated destinations, Venice is “the most genuinely extraordinary to experience right now”. A city that has suffered the most “at the hands of the tourism that feeds it” is now breathing easily. On a walk through St Mark’s Square you’ll encounter only a “smattering of mostly Venetians”; the Giudecca Canal is close to empty. “Only the traghetti, a few fishing boats and the odd water taxi plied its jade-hued expanse.” The walk from the Aman Venice in San Polo, past the Salizada San Samuele, through San Marco and along the Riva degli Schiavoni, is less crowded; on a “windblown, sun-saturated day” it is “truly magical”. The city can’t survive like this forever, but at the moment it is a wonderful break from the norm – not to be missed, and very likely not to be repeated.

Holiday boltholes in the British Isles

Castleton, Derbyshire © Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Peak District is “unfairly overlooked” © Getty Images/iStockphoto
(Image credit: Castleton, Derbyshire © Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If the constantly changing rules on quarantine make you feel nervous about venturing abroad, fear not – there are plenty of beautiful spots in the less touristy areas of Britain. For many, a British holiday means a trip to “well-known holiday boltholes such as Devon and Cornwall, the Lake District or the New Forest… but there is real beauty in slightly less trodden parts of coastal, urban and rural Britain”, says Josh Halliday in The Guardian. The Peak District’s spectacular hills and rolling rivers are often “unfairly overlooked”. A short hop from London lies Mersea Island in Essex, “a somewhat-secret place of pilgrimage for seafood fans for years”. But while most UK holidays involve coast and countryside, you may be missing a trick by not visiting cities. “York is one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations in normal times, but its visitor income has disappeared virtually overnight.” It is well worth a visit to see Clifford’s Tower alone, the biggest surviving remains of York Castle.

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Croatia without the crowds

Croatia reopened to tourists in May, but although they have started flocking back, the numbers are still half of what they were last year, says James Butler on iNews. Visitors will have “the rare opportunity to enjoy Dubrovnik’s red-roofed Renaissance majesty without the cruise crowds”.

A short distance from the Old Town is Lokrum, an island where you can escape even the tourists who are still arriving. The nature reserve, which is the site where Richard the Lionheart reputedly washed ashore in 1192 on his way home from the Crusades, is made up of rocky coves and secluded beaches. Crowning Lokrum’s highest point is the 18th-century fortress, Fort Royal. This is a “low-key alternative” to the popular cable car to the top of Mount Srd, and gives panoramic views of the walled Old Town – “even if the scramble up did make me feel like a mountain goat”.

Finding nirvana in Sardinia

In ordinary times, Cardedu, a town in Sardinia, feels so remote it’s like it’s scarcely there at all, says Chris Leadbeater in The Daily Telegraph. Sardinia itself, Italy’s second biggest island, is not the best known of Mediterranean destinations. It has a “defiantly rustic backwardness… goats bleating on hillsides, stone houses crumbling on the peripheries of vaguely cultivated fields, granite bluffs punching the sky”. In ordinary times, such remoteness would be “relaxation incarnate”. Thanks to Covid-19, it “sounds like nirvana”.

Cardedu has the soundtrack of the countryside – “a chatter of insects in the bushes, the grumble of a tractor somewhere unseen, the burble of the Rio di Quirra” – and hosts the unpretentious Perdepera Beach Resort, with 170 cabins in shades of pink, yellow and aquamarine covered in bougainvillea. The beach itself feels like an extravagance — one of those “arcs of silver-grey that haunts... Instagram feeds”. Beyond the gates of the resort, you can hike a trail into the Monte Arista, an outing that will reward you with views stretching far up the coast, “the land an olive-brown against the dark blue of the sea”. (Seven-nights full-board at Perdepera Beach Resort costs from £3,968; see markwarner.co.uk.)

Nicole García Mérida

Nic studied for a BA in journalism at Cardiff University, and has an MA in magazine journalism from City University. She joined MoneyWeek in 2019.