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"Overtourism" ruining some of the world's most beautiful destinations

Polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba
Polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba Copyright Travel Manitoba
Copyright Travel Manitoba
By Rosie Frost
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Travel Lemming has announced its top 30 underappreciated destinations to help reduce the impact of overtourism.


The Annual Emerging Destinations award has announced its top 30 under appreciated holiday locations for 2020 in an effort to help reduce over tourism and encourage travellers “to spread out and appreciate every corner of this stunning planet”.

Over tourism has had a stunning negative effect on some of the world’s most beautiful places. Must-see destinations, like Thailand’s Maya Bay on the island of Phi Phi Leh, have seen major damage from thousands of visitors and the environmental impact their visit brings. Over tourism had such an effect on Maya Bay that it has remained closed to visitors since 2018 in an attempt to help its beautiful corals and marine wildlife to regenerate.

Maya Bay on the island of Phi Phi Leh was popularised by "The Beach" a film starring Leonardo Dicaprio

It’s not just stunning natural environments that suffer when a location becomes popular with tourists, however. Sharing economy platforms, such as Airbnb, can cause rental prices to soar causing problems for local housing markets, according to a European Parliament Report. The report by TRAN, the parliament’s committee on transport and tourism, also found that rising numbers could be down to rapidly changing trends boosted by social media.

Travel Lemming, a site dedicated to promoting underappreciated destinations, has just announced its top 30 emerging travel destinations for 2020 in an effort to encourage travels to choose a less Instagram famous location for their holiday. These aren’t motivated by online trends but instead based on recommendations from local governments and tourism boards and are championed by travel experts and local stakeholders.

Here’s a taster of our favourite from the list.

The Cook Islands

Made up of 15 separate islands in the South Pacific, The Cook Islands offer a paradise for anyone looking for a quiet beach holiday. It’s well established sustainable development plan means you can be sure that, with 1 million square kilometres of conservation area, the marine life you see is well protected.

There are plenty of white sand beaches to be found on the 15 islands.

The country is also world-leading in its use of renewable energy as it pushes towards a goal of 100% for 2020. By reducing the islands’ reliance on imported diesel, electricity will instead be generated from sources like wind and wave.

Many resorts found on the islands are naturally environmentally friendly. Those like Ikurangi, an Eco retreat offering immersive glamping, hope to leave visitors with the impression that they have been a part of something that positively impacts the environment and the community that lives there.

Read More | Mexico's new Ritz Carlton champions local artistry and environment


One of Rwanda's biggest draws is the opportunity to see one of the world's most endangered animals, the mountain gorilla. There are only 1, 000 mountain gorillas left in the wild with 20 families currently in Volcanoes National Park. Alongside expert trackers, small groups of explorers are permitted to see these animals in a safe and unobtrusive way with 12 of the 20 families accessible to visitors. 

With only 96 permits per day and limit of one hour of contact, the government are championing a responsible approach. The 8 families you can't visit are solely accessible by researchers following in the footsteps of renowned conservationist, Diane Fossey.

Sunrise in Kigali, Rwanda

These permits have a high price and this money provides substantial funding for Gorilla conservation projects with 10% of the revenue also going towards local community projects, according to Visit Rwanda.

Churchill, Manitoba

Crowned the unofficial "Polar Bear Capital of the World", Churchill, Manitoba, Canada is one of the only places on earth where humans and polar bears exist together. Megan Indoe of travel blog, Bobo and Chichi said they had picked Churchill as "polar bears might not be around forever, this is one of those once in a lifetime experiences and destinations people need to experience".

Travel Manitoba
The Tundra Buggy offers tours in one of the last places on earth where polar bears can be seen in the wild.Travel Manitoba

If you are keen for a unique wildlife experience, it isn't all polar bears in Churchill. During the spring, an estimated 55000 beluga whales pass through as the ice begins to break up according to Oceans North. It's here that they choose to rear their young in the Hudson Bay and its surrounding rivers. As sea ice melts, the biodiversity of this unique region could be lost and so the Manitoba government has put a plan in place to protect the beluga whales by minimising human impact. They hope to create a national marine conservation area that will safeguard these globally important animals.

Travel Manitoba
You can also see Beluga Whales on a kayaking tripTravel Manitoba


Judge and travel blogger, Chloe Gunning says the panel picked Dominica as it was the "wild, raw, untouched Caribbean". With lush mountain ranges and the clear blue waters synonymous with the region its a unspoiled paradise.


With a deep value for its own identity, it's not hard to see why Dominica is striving to protect its communities and habitats by spreading an ethos of responsible tourism. There are no international hotel chains present on the island and the indigenous population is actively involved in how visitors are welcomed.

Beautiful waterfalls and coastal resorts make Dominica just what you'd want from a Caribbean holiday

Waitukubli National Trail is one of the greatest long distance walking trails in the Caribbean and was created by ecotourism experts, Friends of Waitukubuli. You can walk this 185 km long path that links remote villages and visit some of the most underappreciated beauty spots there are. You can even use homestays along the way which support communities and offer incredibly low impact tourism opportunities.

Read More | Saving the whales could help save humanity too

Aarhus, Denmark

As one of the happiest countries in the world, according to the UN World Happiness Report, it's easy to see why you might want to visit Denmark. Aarhus is one of Denmark's arty cities where cycling is part of its fabric. There is even a free bike scheme for visitors to get around without contributing to CO2 emissions. If you don't fancy staying in the city centre, there are plenty of cycle paths out to the Marselisborg woods, deer park and beaches.

RUNI Photopop /VisitAarhus
Sailing Rooftop is a roof terrace in the centre of the city with incredible panoramic viewsRUNI Photopop /VisitAarhus

The city is full of cultural opportunities with art from Olafur Elaisson at the Aarhus Art Museum, summer home of the Danish Royal Family Marselisborg Palace and innovative modern architecture at the harbour. With everything within walking distance and great, green public transport, Aarhus is a model for pedestrianised, car free cities.

Fotograf Anders Trærup/ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum
Your rainbow panorama by Olafur Eliasson on the roof of the Aarhus Art MuseumFotograf Anders Trærup/ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum

You can take a look at the other 25 Top Emerging Travel Destinations and see Travel Lemming's recommendations on their website.

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