Not a fan of huge crowds? That’s completely understandable. Not everyone enjoys venturing into spaces with hordes of tourists. With the Singapore government’s Vaccinated Travel Framework, it’s now possible to visit lesser-known places beyond the hot (and overcrowded) tourist sites if you’re fully vaccinated!
With the ever-changing rules, it’s best to keep yourself updated with the latest advisories on official sites. Take the path less travelled the next time you tick off places from your bucketlist — some countries on this list may require connecting train rides to the specific city upon touchdown. Still, they’re well-worth the effort to get to.
1. Helsinki — Finland
Unlike busier cities in Europe (think London or Rome), Helsinki has been known to present a laidback and idyllic atmosphere in comparison. It’s no wonder Helsinki is touted to be one of the world’s most livable cities. As UNESCO’s designated City of Design, you’ll easily come across unique architecture made from diverse materials here.
Marvel at a few of their notable buildings: the Senate Square, Helsinki Cathedral or the Kamppi Chapel (also known as the Chapel of Silence). These are distinctive state-of-the-art landmarks that make for great photo backdrops. Not only does the Helsinki Cathedral serve as a place for worship, but it’s also currently used for special events such as weddings. Fun fact: it dates back to 1830, and was built as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland.
Saunas have been a practice rooted in physical and spiritual cleansing for locals. For those on the hunt for a quintessential Finnish experience, consider spending time at The Löyly Design Sauna in Hernesaari — an urban oasis offering a private view of the stunning Helsinki waterfront. Alternatively, hop on a 15-minute ferry out to one of their many charming islands, such as the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. This is an 18th-century World Heritage site where you’ll stumble across talented street musicians, charming seaside cafes and fishmongers selling fresh catches of the day. A bucketlist addition for sure – it’s one of the world’s most beautiful places indeed!
How to get there: Hop on a direct flight from Changi Airport and travel from Singapore to Helsinki.
2. Rotterdam — Netherlands
Rotterdam has long been neglected by tourists, with many opting for Amsterdam as their Dutch city of choice instead. For an alternative destination sans the overwhelming crowd, Rotterdam would be an excellent pick.
Historically, the city was bombed and damaged heavily during World War II, but Rotterdam has since been completely reconstructed into a modern city known for its fantastic cuisine, architecture and a busy seaport. Right off the bat, it’s home to artworks by the likes of Monet and Munch. Naturally, one can expect to find impressive art museums there, such as the Museum Bojimans-van Beuningen.
Among other must-sees is The Markthal — a huge food hall boasting a high and picturesque kaleidoscopic ceiling. A wide range of food choices is available there, including local favourites like stroopwafels (a delicious cookie made with two thin layers of baked dough joined by a caramel filling), or row of stalls offering samples of mouth-watering cheese varieties.
How to get there: Take a flight from Changi Airport and travel from Singapore to Schiphol Airport located in Amsterdam. Hop on a 20-minute train ride and arrive at Rotterdam Centraal.
3. Jeonju — South Korea
Jeonju is a rural city located on the western end of South Korea. Directly translating to ‘perfect region’, Jeonju is where people go to get acquainted with the country’s rich history, culture and heritage instead of over-crowded cities like Seoul. Immediately, you’ll notice how the city moves at a much slower pace. Spend a day dedicated to sightseeing alone and it’s likely that you’ll be charmed with what the place offers.
The city has retained much of its traditional architecture, including quaint hanok villages, temples and shrines. There’s also the Jeonju Hyanggyo (or Confucian School) located only 15 -minutes from the central Hanok Village. Originally established in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), it’s interesting to know that historical treasure is still used to teach Confucian principles to students to this day!
Jeonju has been designated as UNESCO’s city of gastronomy too, so you might want to consider spending a day exploring food. Don’t forget to get a taste of authentic Makgeolli — a milky spirited made from fermented rice. Many of Jeonju's streets are lined with bars that specialise in this drink. Bibimbap (mixed rice) is a safe bet too, as Jeonju is the birthplace of this classic dish. Better yet, keep your tummies full from Korean street food alone — delicacies like Odeng (fish cakes) or Patbingsu (shaved ice) can be easily found along the Hanok Village.
How to get there: Take a flight from Changi Airport and travel from Singapore to Incheon Airport. Next, take a bus from Terminal 1 to Gwangmyeon station, then a KTX train to Jeonju station.
4. Colmar — France
Forget shoving through large crowds in Paris or Rome – visit one of the most under- the- radar cities in Europe instead! Located only a short distance away from the German border, Colmar is a French town that looks straight out of a fairytale.
And it’s no surprise considering its history: Colmar was the real-world inspiration for the village as seen in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and it’s not hard to see why. You’ll find tiny cottages and cobblestone streets lined with colourful, mediaeval buildings all around. There’s even the option of taking a boat tour down Petite Venice, the town’s little winding river.
Everything is pretty much photo-worthy — it’s the perfect place to wander around and get some memorable shots, so the portable monopod or tripod will definitely come in handy. Colmar is also the capital of Alsace wine, so why not hop on a private tour that brings you to four wineries? On this day trip, you’ll get to travel along the Alsace wine route, sample different varieties and learn more about the winemaking process. While exploring, keep a lookout for cute boutique shops that sell local produce such as chocolate and wine too, or take a pit-stop at one of the many gorgeous waterside cafes.
How to get there: Hop on a flight at Changi Airport and travel from Singapore to Basel, St.Louis Euroairport. Take a short 10-minute bus ride to St.Louis, Gare, then transfer to a train that brings you to Colmar.
5. Quebec — Canada
As a treasured UNESCO heritage site of Canada, Quebec makes for another worthwhile alternative to a crowd-free travel spot. Ideal for nature lovers, Quebec is a fortified Canadian city nestled on the continent of North America.
More than anything, Quebec is famous for its breathtaking landscapes. Need a break from high-rise buildings and city life? You’ll easily find yourself amidst peaceful lakes, rolling rivers and even glacial valleys at the Jacques-Cartier National Park. In fact, a third of its visitors come from outside the region specifically to escape the bustle — whether it is to camp, hike, fish or canoe. The wWeather here is cloudy almost year-round, with an average temperature between -14°C and 25°C depending on the season. For optimal warm-weather activities, it’s best to travel between late June to September.
If anything, this is also one great foodie destination. The city of Quebec hosts a buzzing culinary scene inspired by a wide range of styles, from French to North American and indigenous influences. Here’s where you can find authentic comforts of poutine, tourtiere and sweet maple treats. Farm-to-table cuisine is also weaved into the roots of the city’s culture — stroll through the sunbathed halls of Grand Marche (public market), for instance, to devour the freshest local products in the form of heart apple wine, lobster rolls or iced apple cider, one of Canada’s finest! If you’re heading to Canada for your next trip, here are some travel tips that will help you ensure a safe and productive getaway.
How to get there: Take a direct flight from Changi Airport and travel from Singapore to Vancouver Airport, then transfer to a connecting flight to Quebec.
6. Fiji Islands
Think seaside destinations, and it’s likely that Bali or Maldives comes to mind as travel destinations. While these are places with incredible charm, their beaches can get too crowded with tourists at times.
Like Bali, this is where you can find sparkling blue seas. But a visit here could very well mean having untouched sandy shores to yourself.
There’s a slow rhythm of life in the Fijian archipelago — islands aren’t overly developed, so it’s easy to spend your days immersed in nature. The place boasts of stunning beauty, most evident in its wide range of over 300 islands. Among the many interesting spots is the Mamanuca Islands — that’s where Tom Hank’s Castaway was filmed. It was also a filming location of the reality television series Survivor!
Go scuba diving among stunning coral reefs or sit back for a private waterfront dinner at The Boatshed Restaurant for some delicious Chicken Tikka Masala and Coconut Crusted Walu. Alternatively, venture into the crystal clear waters of Beqa Lagoon. Located south of Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, there lies the protected Shark Reef Marine Reserve. In addition to viewing sharks up close, visitors can even hop in the waters with up to eight species of sharks. Where else can you swim alongside sharks like blacktip reefs and tawny nurses in a single dive?
How to get there: There are direct flights from Changi Airport and travel from Singapore to Nadi International airport. The airport is located by the coast on the western side of the main island, Viti Levu.
Travel overseas to these unique destinations & make each getaway worth every cent
Travelling often means dealing with long dreaded queues and overly-populated tourist sites. While that may be part of the fun at times, there are alternative travel destinations to visit for those who prefer to escape the crowd. Sometimes, the best vacations and getaway come from travelling to places that are under the radar. We hope this list has helped narrow down lesser-known places for your next trip. But we’ll also leave you some hints on more - consider New York’s Finger Lakes if you’re looking for adventurous things to do away from the bustling city, explore marine life at Indonesia’s Raja Ampat, or chase the Auroras in Australia’s Tasmania.
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