Note: This post originally appeared at Travelocity.com.
My biggest annoyance when I’m traveling: crowds. If I fly halfway around the world to see an amazing site, I want to experience it with as few other people around as possible. This is especially true if I’m with my kids. Long lines and crowded attractions aren’t family-friendly.
Success has been mine, one UNESCO World Heritage Site at a time. Here are my secrets.
Wake up early! If you’re one of the first people at a site, then there’s no one in front of you. This makes it so much easier to have a real sense of place and to remember why you wanted to visit in the first place.
At the Taj Mahal, we arrived early and lined up before sunrise, but we also moved quickly as soon as the gates opened to get in front of everyone else. Once we took photos from the main vantage point we walked over to the Mosque well before anyone else arrived, save one caretaker. Beyond the people-free photos, it was special to have the site practically to ourselves as the sun came up.
Another place where it’s worth waking up early is Florence. While the city has a popular spot for photographing the sunset, Piazzale Michelangelo, there’s not an equivalent sunrise spot. As a result, and because of the late night culture, there’s virtually no one out when the sun comes up. I wander around the city at daybreak as often as I can. I’ve taken a few photos over the years, but I usually put the camera down and simply enjoy the Renaissance city – it’s much easier to appreciate the magnificence of the Duomo and the city’s squares without thousands of tourists around.
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Ryan Biddulph says
We open almost all sites. Or we arrive on opening. Great advice. Do not sleep in if you want to enjoy visiting the wonders of the world. During our recent Istanbul trip we saw the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque on opening. No crowds. No throngs. No distractions. We woke early, took public transport and got there before the rush would spoil the experience. No offence to fellow tourists. But too many tourists spoils the travel soup.
Eric Stoen says
Great to know that that works in Istanbul too. I agree completely about not wanting to be around other tourists, even though I’m one of them…
Lars-Olof Nilsson says
Our daughter, who lives in Italy, gave me a nice birthday present. She arranged for a guide to meet me and my wife at Pompeii early in the morning, just when the ticket office opened. We were the first to enter and for a long time I could take tourist-free images. Later, just as I wanted, I took photos of people studying maps, listening to audio-guides, taking pictures, looking into interesting buildings, etc. Being early is absolutely a good idea!
Eric Stoen says
Very cool! I’ve seen some early-morning, empty photos of Pompeii recently and was thinking that I need to do that at some point. We visited off a cruise ship during peak crowds, and heat. Not ideal!