Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives by Eyewitness Travel (with a foreword by Bill Bryson) is an inspiring book offering a plethora of choices for the traveler who feels beleaguered by crowds of tourists and the hawks they spawn.
The book looks at many traditional destinations and the places you may want to replace them with. For instance, instead of visiting the Pyramids of Giza the authors suggest the Pyramids of Meroe in northern Sudan where you are likely to be one of the only people there. Likewise they recommend Borobudur, Indonesia for unspoiled Buddhist monuments in place of Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Another is Avebury stone circle where you can still walk among the huge stones rather than Stonehenge which no longer lets tourists into its circle.
In addition to ancient and historical sights the book covers festivals and parties, great journeys, architectural marvels, natural wonders, beaches, sports and activities, art and culture, and cities. Here is a sampling of the editor’s picks in each of the categories: Festivals and parties: Carnival in Salvador, Brazil over Rio’s more celebrated one. Great journeys: the Apolobamba Trek vs. the Inca Trail. Architectural marvels: Notre Dame D’Amiens rather than Notre-Dame de Paris. Natural wonders: Iceland vs. Yellowstone. Beaches: Ihuru, Maldives instead of Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. Sports and activities: Kicking Horse for skiing in Canada rather than Whistler. Art and culture: the San Sebastian Film Festival vs. its counterpart in Cannes. Cities: Fez instead of Marrakech.
The book has a wealth of ideas on many alternative destinations to be inspired by, but it is light on practical information, so you’ll need to do more research on the places that catch your eye. Also, I would use Off the Tourist Trail to add new less traveled destinations to my itineraries rather than to subtract the iconic ones. For instance it’s hard to imagine going all the way to the Peruvian Andes without seeing Machu Picchu, but I would be interested in including Isla del Sol or Pisac on the journey. For that reason I didn’t really care for the Isla del Sol vs. Machu Picchu format of the book, but chose to see all the options laid out as a collection of opportunities. It is a perfect coffee table book, rich in pictures, and as Bill Bryson points out the good (and bad) news is “that there are more fantastic things in the world to see than you can ever possibly hope to get to.”
Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives, Eyewitness Travel, DK Publishing, 2009, $40
©Christina Kay Bolton