Here's how to get the view to the Grand Canyon and other iconic landmarks all to yourself (Shutterstock)
Advice Words : Wanderlust Team | 03 May 2019

22 tips for avoiding crowds at classic travel icons

It’s always the same: top locations, big views and huge queues – that is unless you have the inside track. Wanderlust's travel-mad readers share their tips for beating the crowds...

The early bird catches the worm…

Hop in an air balloon at sunrise before Teotihuacan opens (Dreamstime)

Hop in an air balloon at sunrise before Teotihuacan opens (Dreamstime)

The ancient city of Teotihuacan is a Mecca for people visiting Mexico, and can get quite busy. One way to see this archaeological site without people crowding your photo is by booking a sunrise hot air balloon ride before the site opens. From your basket, high above the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, you can get a great shot before the crowds arrive.

— Rolf Stanley, Latin America Destination Manager, Tucan Travel

"I always travel in the shoulder season. I entered Park Güell in Barcelona at 7am and I had the whole place for myself for an hour."

— Kate Hipkins

"Take advantage of your jet lag! Instead of trying to sleep, go on morning hikes and enjoy sunrises without tourists blocking your view."

— Helena Lamers

"We always get up extra early to arrive before crowds start to gather and take breakfast with us to eat in case we have to queue."

— Kellie Stanness-Witcher

"Early birds catch the worm and not the crowds - try to arrive as early as possible. If you need to buy tickets, do so prior to the day of visit."

— Deborah Mead 

Venture where others won’t

Visit the Sistine Chapel when everyone else is busy listening to the Pope on a Wednesday morning (Dreamstime)

Visit the Sistine Chapel when everyone else is busy listening to the Pope on a Wednesday morning (Dreamstime)

Visit the Vatican and Sistine Chapel on a Wednesday morning when the Pope holds an audience in the square – most visitors will be busy outside, listening to him speak.

— Alastair Bell

 

"The shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto is beautiful. If you arrive when it’s busy, keep walking uphill and under the torii gates – most people give up after a while, so you can get some great photos."

— Sue Stones 

"The further from Beijing you get, the fewer crowds at the Great Wall, so try to visit a section of wild wall as it’s hardest to hike these parts."

— Louise Clarkson

"Choose a day when there are lots of other events at another tourist attraction and your place will be empty. I also go really early or really late."

– Adam Gleave

"I visited Petra during a World Cup football match and it was less crowded since everyone was watching the games." 

— Helga Boom

What would the locals do? 

Avoid the crowds at Saint Mark's Basilica by attending Sunday mass (Shutterstock)

Avoid the crowds at Saint Mark's Basilica by attending Sunday mass (Shutterstock)

If you’re visiting a church such as the Basilica di San Marco in Venice, where the queue wraps around the building, try going to evening or Sunday mass. You can still look around, plus you get to experience and appreciate the local culture, whether you’re religious or not.

— Cassandra Ward 

"Ask around. A local told me to go to sulphur springs in Saint Lucia as they closed, when they let locals in for free and there’s fewer people." 

— Reggie Williams

Find yourself a guide, someone who was brought up locally rather than a tourism operator. You can usually find one through recommendations on TripAdvisor, and they will know the perfect time to avoid crowds. Had one in Venice and he was irreplaceable!  

— Louise Frances 

"Utilise the knowledge of a local (acquaintance, friend or guide). Once gained entrance to the Colosseum in Rome via the builders' entrance, skipped all the massive lines of other tourists waiting outside."

— John Mulligan 

Find the back way in

Caroline Lywood enjoying the quiet side of Angkor Wat (Caroline Lywood)

Caroline Lywood enjoying the quiet side of Angkor Wat (Caroline Lywood)

Choose the less obvious route. At Angkor Wat, most tourists head through the closest entrance – the grand West Gate – for sunrise, so the eastern side was deserted. Approaching the hidden ruins in the steamy jungle made us feel like intrepid explorers. Sure, as we continued west, we became engulfed in the crowds – but we were grateful for the few hours of serenity that we had managed to catch earlier.

— Caroline Lywood 

"Hike in the back way, via Little Petra. You arrive at the Monastery, then clamber down the 800 steps to the city – the views are amazing."

— Claire Gray

"Use your angles. The outlying buildings and the mosque have amazing views without being overcrowded. Also, try to resist ‘sheep syndrome’ – hanging around places where a lot of other people are. Just because everyone is there doesn’t mean it’s any better than that which you can find yourself." 

— Melanie Marti

"If visiting the Grand Canyon head for the North Rim rather than the south (only open late May to early October). It gets only 10% of the visitors that the south receives, and the views are if anything more awesome because you are higher."

— Sarah Wilkie

Don't be afraid to go off-season 

Walking the Camino de Santiago in Autumn will mean it will be much quieter (Shutterstock)

Walking the Camino de Santiago in Autumn will mean it will be much quieter (Shutterstock)

Be ready to travel out of season – you can make some beautiful memories. Camino de Santiago is always busy in summer, so why not risk it and visit in autumn?

— Deborah Del Pozo Gomez

Go out of season. All the photos you see online are going to be from the peak seasons, so you get a different perspective - the colours and atmosphere are contrasted from what everyone else experiences and you get to relax more and enjoy the scenery.

— Jamie Piper

Go out of season, even if it means risking a bit of rain. Take a mac, check the local forecast and plan your visits around it. We saw the Taj in the last week before the monsoon season and it was stunning.

— Julia Pollock 

A sneak peek 

Reader Jane Nimmo in Banff National Park (Jane Nimmo)

Reader Jane Nimmo in Banff National Park (Jane Nimmo)

If you see a bear or moose at Banff­ National Park, says reader Jane Nimmo, stop your car and pretend to look at a map. No-one else will stop and you can enjoy your sighting in peace! 

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