Six holiday destinations in UK and Europe ruined by TikTokers

TikTok has more than one billion users in 100-plus countries, its video posts swiftly whipping up tens of thousands of views that can soon run into the millions. Its popularity can be a burden, however. The hashtag “Travel” has 183.5 billion views and individual users with a travel-focus can have millions of followers. Popular recommendation videos breed copycat versions. And, suddenly, anyone on TikTok who’s heading to, say, Italy’s Cinque Terre or the Lake District, will be stopping at the same beauty spot or beach to produce their content.

Spain’s Balearic Islands are the latest tourist hotspot where social media promotion has resulted in unwelcome behaviour by visitors. Some residents have complained that posts about “secret” coves and beaches are “destroying” their islands. The criticisms were also aired on social media.

Spain is the favourite destination of British holidaymakers and the Balearic Islands are among the most popular parts of the country. In 2022, the islands received 16.5 million tourists, up from 8.6 million in 2010.

However, overtourism is not the result of TikTok, rather fuelled by it. Venice, Barcelona, Dubrovnik and the Isle of Skye are among the places where high visitor numbers – and disrepectful tourist behaviour – had already had a negative impact on the local community.

Meanwhile, the tourism industry continues to chase growth, increasing capacity to satisfy and stimulate demand. Yet a sudden uptick in arrivals to a single beach or beauty spot, particularly those who are there to record it for social media, is off-putting for tourists and locals. These six places have experienced the downsides of TikTok popularity, but there are plenty of alternatives.

TikTok favourite: Lake District

Rydal waterfall surrounding by autumn colour
Rydal waterfall surrounded by autumn colour (Photo: Unique Landscape/Getty)

“Hidden” UK beauty spots are a popular topic on the platform. Wild swimming spots, waterfalls and beaches are the topic of travel TikTokers round-up style videos. England’s biggest national park often features and has 24 million views under the “lakedistrict” hashtag, which can lead to a sudden surge in visitor numbers. This month, a video of a stay at Stonethwaite Farm Campsite in Keswick clocked up hundreds of thousands of views and more than 16,000 shares. Comments beneath the post point out that this publicity could cause the site, for which guests pay-on-the-day instead of booking ahead, to become overcrowded.

Last Christmas, a TikTok video posted by Romeo Beckham of his festive break with girlfriend Mia Regan at In the Vale glamping site near Blencathra received almost 325,000 likes.

Around half an hour south, The Grot – a grotto at Rydal Hall estate next to a waterfall – has become a popular spot for drug taking, after it featured heavily on TikTok. South Lakes Police have installed CCTV in the area after receiving complaints from staff. A hashtag for the building, which visitors can enter for views of the falls, has 28,900 views.

Another popular location, particularly for wild swimming, is Black Moss Pot pool, which has 1.8 million views. Recently, Cumberland Council have warned visitors about parking on both sides of the road at nearby Stonethwaite, where cars often block the road for passing vehicles, including emergency services. A video of nearby Stonethwaite Farm Campsite – which has 60 pitches – by “joereed9678”, highlighting the scenic location and affordable £8-per-night rates, has had more than 1.4 million views and 70,000 likes.

Alternative: Ribble Valley

If you’re looking for low-cost campsites and tucked away waterfalls in a less obvious portion of North West England, switch to the Ribble Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty north of Blackburn. With green valleys, hills and the Forest of Bowland, it’s popular with hikers and cyclists. Its historic highlights include the 14th-century Whalley Abbey and Clitheroe Castle. And with TikTok views in the thousands, rather than millions, you’re less likely to be mobbed by content creators.

TikTok favourite: Santorini, Greece

SANTORINI, GREECE - 2022/10/11: Tourists taking pictures and selfies during sunset in the town of Oia with its limewashed houses and windmills. Santorini is one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea known for the traditional architecture of the whitewashed buildings, making it one of the most famous travel destinations during summer in the Mediterranean. (Photo by Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Tourists taking pictures and selfies during sunset in the town of Oia, Santorini (Photo: Marcos del Mazo/Getty)

This volcanic island in the southern Cyclades chain, a semi-submerged caldera, received three quarters of a million visitors by air last year (not taking into account those arriving by sea). It’s a sharp jump from the pre-pandemic peak of 520,000 air arrivals. But eclipsing those numbers are the 3.2 billion views for the hashtag “santorini” on TikTok, and 376 million for “santorinigreece”. Many are of the pretty, whitewashed cliffside streets of Oia. But there are plenty that show the reality – London blogger Anna (@nospaceinmypassport) posted a sunset view of dozens of tourists crowding into one viewpoint to get the best seat, while @oana.bucketlist showed a queue of tourists lining up to get the best shot of Oia’s blue-domed church.

Alternative: Milos and Folegandros

Milos, where the statue of Venus de Milo was discovered more than a century ago, is a quiet haven of chalk-white rocks and colourful villages, ringed by turquoise waters. While it receives a fraction of the visitor numbers seen by Santorini (all by sea), recent visits by Justin Bieber and high-profile fashion shoots mean it’s in the ascendancy. Try quiet Folegandros instead, an island that has racked up 8.7 million TikTok views and whose main town Hora is also perched on the top of a cliff.

TikTok Favourite: Spiaggia Rosa, Sardinia, Italy

Cala di Roto bay. Spiaggia Rosa beach. Isola di Budelli island. archipelago della Maddalena. La Maddalena. Olbia Tempio. Sardinia. Italy. Europe. (Photo by: Luca Picciau/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Spiaggia Rosa beach has been a victim of its own success (Photo: Luca Picciau/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

This fragile “pink beach” on Budelli island in Sardinia’s Maddalena archipelago has long been the subject of unwanted attention. Visitors were banned in the 1980s, and taking and trading sand and shells from the beach – whose colour comes from pink miniacina miccroorganism – was banned in 2017. More recently, visitors who do not arrive on an organised tour, and try to land on the beach to take pictures or post videos, could face a fine of up to €500. Fabrizio Fonnesu, president of Parco Nazionale dell’Arcipelago di La Maddalena, told The Times last month that Spiaggia Rosa is “again in danger as people arrive by boat, clamber up the beach, then post photos”.

Alternative: Paignton Beach, Devon

The red sandstone cliffs that hug the seaside resort of Paignton have given the long stretch of coastline here a sweep of reddish pink sand that are bookended by rockpools and from which you can stride down the resort’s pleasure pier.

TikTok favourites: Portofino and the Cinque Terre, Italy

The Cinque Terre, a string of pretty villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – on the Italian Riviera, is a long-standing tourist favourite. Pastel-coloured buildings clustered at the shore, motor and fishing boats bobbing in the water and walking trails with clifftop views all add to its appeal. The “cinqueterre” hashtag has had more than 304 million views and there are plans to restrict visitor numbers to the popular Via dell’ Amore.

North-east, the fishing village of Portofino – with 26.5 million TikTok views – is no less charming and popular. Its filmic quality has been captured by Hollywood, but fast-moving social media trends can lead to a more sudden surge of visitors. Matteo Viacava, mayor of Portofino, has set up “red zones” to stop tourists from crowding the village piazzetta (main square) to take selfies, where fines of up to €275 can be imposed for lingering to take photos or videos. There are fewer than 400 people living in Portofino, quickly outnumbered by holidaymakers and daytrippers during peak periods.

Alternative: Montegridolfo

ancient tower at the entrance to the village-castle of Montegridolfo, one of the most beautiful medieval villages of Italy
Montegridolfo, one of the most beautiful medieval villages of Italy (Photo: Elisa Severi/Getty)

The Italian Tourist Board suggests exploring towns nearby to Portofino such as Camogli or Santa Margherita Ligure, which “offer similar beauty but a more local and tranquil atmosphere.” Elsewhere on the Italian Riviera, it recommends Portovenere or Lerici.

However, aiming for villages that are a little trickier to access (Portofino is 45 minutes by train from Genoa, and the Cinque Terre can be as little as an hour by fast train) will reward with the experience of authentic village life, without the feel of a theme park.

Hilltop communities in Emilia-Romagna are among those included in the most beautiful villages in Italy list, devised by the Borghi più belli d’Italia Association. You’ll need a hire car, but there are direct flights available from Stansted to Rimini, then a 40-minute drive to one of the listed villages, Montegridolfo. This medieval village is home to a 13th-century castle that changed hands between two contesting noble families, the Malatesta of Rimini and Montefeltro of Urbino, several times.

TikTok favourite: Caló des Moro, Mallorca, Spain

TikToker “@poisonscorpio01” recently took to the social media platform to complain about the volume of videos made to promote Mallorcan beauty spots, which “do not need more promotion”.

The island has more than 5 billion views, while its tiny, turquoise cove of Caló des Moro, on the south-east coast of the island, has 6.6 million views – and numerous posts that reveal the “Insta vs Reality” dichotomy between its natural good looks and packed-out sands, which can only be accessed by a 30-minute hike that ends on a rough cliff path. One user warns “if you want to go, go at 8am, otherwise it’s not worth it.”

Alternative: Fragas do Eume, Galicia

Woman walking along Fragas do Eume Natural Park. It is one of the best-preserved riverside Atlantic forests in Europe. ???Fraga??? means a forest with different species of trees. It is the most important example of the survival of the indigenous forest in the coastal area of Galicia.
Fragas do Eume Natural Park is one of the best-preserved riverside Atlantic forests in Europe (Photo: Igo Fdz de Pinedo/Getty)

Manuel Butler, director of the Spanish Tourist Office (UK), says, “We are proud that the Spanish mainland and its islands are known for warm climates, high-quality food, and pleasant vistas which attract hundreds and thousands of tourists every year. Nevertheless, in some areas this can lead to new challenges such as over-tourism, which impacts both local communities and holidaymakers.

“One answer is for holidaymakers to simply visit places off-the-beaten-track. In Spain we are fortunate to have an enormous variety of lesser visited sites. Just a few examples include the lush Fragas do Eume Natural Park, an Atlantic forest in Northern Spain’s Galicia; the volcanic island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands; and the hidden beaches and coves of the Costa Verde in Asturias.“

The Fragas do Eume is home to fewer than 500 residents, a “landscape of a thousand greens”, springs, waterfalls and thickly forested slopes. Follow the Rio Eume to the Rio de Bratanzos estuary and you’ll find numerous beaches, such as Praia de Ber, Sabadelle and Seselle.

TikTok favourite: Hallstatt, Austria

A provisional wooden fence is partially blocking the beautiful view, as visitors take selfies with the landscape, in the tourist community of Hallstatt (district of Gmunden), Austria, on May 15, 2023. The Austrian village of Hallstatt -- popular among selfie-seekers -- has installed wooden barriers to obstruct the view in an effort to curb overtourism and restore calm. (Photo by REINHARD H??RMANDINGER / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT (Photo by REINHARD HORMANDINGER/APA/AFP via Getty Images)
The Austrian village of Hallstatt – popular among selfie-seekers – has installed wooden barriers to obstruct the view in an effort to curb overtourism and restore calm (Photo: Reinhard Hormandinger/AFP via Getty Images)

On the western shore of Lake Hallstatt, this fairytale-pretty town in Salzkammergut is all 16th-century Alpine houses, spires and soaring mountain scenery. As a long prosperous salt-mining region (as far back as the Bronze Age), the architecture reflects its riches and its beauty attracted writers and artists in the 19th century, followed by tourists… and social media content producers.

Recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site for its lack of modern development, it was replicated by a mining tycoon in Guangdong, China and then rumoured to be the inpsiration for Arendelle in the Disney movie Frozen.

Now, the village of less than 800 residents receives about 20,000 tourist buses and up to 10,000 tourists per day, resulting in the temporary erection of a fence to deter camera-phone wielding visitors from lingering on its narrow waterfront. Many TikTok videos of the town have had tens of thousands of likes and more than 10m views.

Alternative: Krems an der Donau

This larger town of just under 30,000 residents has proportionally lower TikTok views (2.8 million) but just as much scenic beauty. Its history stretches back more than a millennia, and it is also on the Unesco World Heritage list, having been singled out as a Model City for Historical Preservation in the 1970s.

Sitting aside the River Danube, it is a gateway to the Wachau Valley where visitors can enjoy prestigious Riesling and Gruner Veltliner wines, then return to enjoy its historic centre.