Invisible Cities: can we still see them?

And how can we have a positive impact when we travel to over-crowded cities?Â
For centuries cities have been glorified and mystified in books from Carlos Ruiz Zafón Barcelona and Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul, Amitav Ghosh’s Mandalay and Singapore, Shakespeare’s Venice and Salman Rushdie’s Florence. The masterpiece of them all being Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities.

We keep filling our notebooks with “bucket lists”, social media accounts with “seen that, done that” posts, take dozens of low cost flights and stay in affordable shared accommodation. We are filling up these magical cities to the brim and making them burst from over-crowding.

We can rightfully, ask ourselves is it still possible to see these places in their full splendor, to be amazed by their magic and beautify, and explore their hidden sides? Â

And all of this in a conscious, mindful and respectful manner towards the environment and local communities.

The answer is YES!  For the propose we will explore 9 Invisible Cities. Ones that have been misunderstood, slandered for being over-touristy and scorned upon. Ones that are not what they appear to be and are just not seen for their true value. Collectively these cities receive over 215 million visitors, more than the entire population of Brazil, the 5thmost populated country of Earth.

We would like to show that despite their image these cities still possess an authentic natural, historic and culture charm. And yes, there is a way to visit them consciously, mindfully and respectfully. You will find 5 tips below.

5 tips to visit invisible cities

Don’t be a hit and run tourist,  be a conscious and mindful traveler and a positive guest, +guest. If you want to have a positive impact on the cities you travel to, especially the ones that are already over-crowded, consider the following.

When you visit?
You will have a very diffident impression of a city depending on when you visit. If you can, choose the low season and off-pick hours. Also speak to local people for advice when is the best time to visit a particular site, you will be amazed.

Do exactly the opposite of what the crowd does. See a sunrise when no one else does (e.g. Dubrovnik) and skip the sunrise when everyone else doesn’t (e.g. Angkor Watt, instead walk around the temples). Would you even consider taking the Tube in London between 7-9 am on a week day?

What you visit?
Expand the scope of what your visit. Most travelers would stick to half a dozen main sites and skip the rest. Do the opposite. Go on a desert trip and snarl in Dubai, when everyone else is stuck in air-conditioned shopping malls. Take a boat trip along the clonks in Bangkok when everyone is busy buying fake goods in Pat Pong. Find a local guide who can take you to the hidden corners of a city.

How you visit?
Let yourself be surprises. Forget the map, Google Maps, Trip Adviser and just wander. Get lost and allow the place to reveille itself to you.

Think of alternative means of transport: walk, cycle, take a boat, a train, a tuk-tuk or a cable car.  Not only do they provide you with a different perspective of a place but many of them are more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways to travel. For example, do a bike tour in Lisbon to visit some of it sea front sights instead of catching a taxi.

How long you stay?Give yourself time to absorb the city’s atmosphere, the local culture and customs. If you can, stay several days. This way you also give yourself the chance to get to know a place at off–pick hours. See people opening up their shops in the morning and kids playing in the neighborhood square in the evening. Take a leisurely straw, sit in a local coffee shop and observe the people passing by, go to a local market and buy some typical local fruit and veg.

How you spend your money?
Consider that every penny you spend will go into someone’s pocket. You have the power to decide and choose who it would be: the local artisan, the large multination company, the small corner shop or the guy standing in the street corner offering fake goods. Even if you are traveling on a budget your travels can have a positive impact on local economies and communities.

Whenever you can, stay in a local place, eat in local restaurant, take a guide and buy local seasonal goods. When you start to haggle think about what would be a fair price to pay and not how much your purse with suffer. Consider if it is a good idea to give money to beggars, buy from children and use a grey market service or product.

But applying these 5 tips, not only will you have a more authentic experience of a place, but you will do it a favor by taking off pressure from its strained infrastructure and resources. Â

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