Venice and its marble palaces, gondolas and picturesque canals have captivated an international audience for centuries, drawing tons of travelers to Italy. Despite its charm, though, the popular tourist hotspot can be just that: hot and overcrowded. Particularly at the height of summer. If you love the idea of floating along the water but aren’t sure Venice is the place for you, here are a few other spots that offer their own intriguing waterways.
You won’t find many places more charming than this Dutch canal town complete with thatched cottages, arched bridges and abundant greenery. Giethoorn is located in northwestern Europe’s largest bog, which, in past years, allowed residents to export peat, their cash crop, with ease through the waters. With no roads in sight, a summer visit allows you to explore 50 miles of canoe trails by boat or bicycle. A visit during the winter brings its own perks as you can strap on your skates and whiz through the town on the frozen canals. As you glide along the narrow waterways and past private islands, you’ll hear little more than the occasional flutter of a bird or the soft quacking of a duck beside you. Even the boats contribute to the peaceful ambience, outfitted as they are with silent electric motors.
The Chao Phraya River and its tributaries make up a series of watery avenues that at one point were the most important means of transportation for the city of Bangkok. Today, they’re still used for that purpose, but far more often you’ll see longtail boats towing tourists. The city’s huge network of waterways means one can explore different neighborhoods, temples and cultural landmarks, all from the back of a boat. You can get a taste for real Thailand along the Khlongs of Thonburi where traditional wooden houses sit on stilts and women wash their clothes along the river. You can live in the lap of luxury on a candlelit dinner cruise or you can indulge your stomach at one of the city’s colorful and chaotic floating markets. The choice is yours.
Take in the sights of Europe’s most well-preserved medieval town from the back of a boat. The canals once served as protection from invaders and acted as an economic link to the North Sea and the city's fortifications. A tour will take you past bountiful gardens, 17th century mansions, cathedral towers, and old almshouses. Beyond the canals, Bruges is packed full of enough historical and cultural sights to last you a lifetime so take your time and properly enjoy the Gothic architecture, delightful food (eel anyone?) and their world-famous handcrafted lace.
El Gouna, Egypt
When developer Samih Awiris went in search of a beautiful strip of coast to call his own, what resulted was a city considered to be one of the world’s most exotic resort getaways. Set along the western coast of the Red Sea, El Gouna, began as a remote sandy wilderness. Today, it is an elaborate network of turquoise canals, and sand-colored homes, designed with traditional Nubian domes or decidedly Tuscan tilts. Whether you’re looking to relax or for a more exciting adventure like kite surfing and wake boarding, El Gouna offers a delightful array of enticing options.
On the southern tip of India a chain of lagoons, rivers and lakes make up more than 550 miles of waterways. Known as the Kerala backwaters, this area near the Arabian Sea has become a haven for people looking to get away from it all. While the city of Alleppey itself is a frenzied locale, a houseboat allows you to float away to a watery world filled with paddy fields, small villages, gamboling otters, and sunbathing turtles. As you pass by palms and other greenery, keep an eye out for toddy shops. These establishments serve up an alcoholic beverages made from palm tree sap that’s particularly popular in this region of the world.