Church of San Pietro di Castello in Venice, Italy.

Church of San Pietro di Castello in Venice, Italy. Credit: Getty Images/Peter Adams

On a sunny July morning in New York City, the line for the American Museum of Natural History flowed out the front door, down the steps and around the block. Once inside, visitors were packed elbow-to-elbow, stroller-to-stroller, all jostling to get a glimpse of the Hall of North American Mammals.

It would not be worth it. I know this because I was in this crowd. I made the same mistake at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Van Gogh's cypresses aren't as majestic when you're only able to see them through the cellphone screens of other visitors.

There is a time and place for tourist traps, but vacation time is too precious to be stewing in massive lines.

If you must see the Louvre, go knowing what you're getting yourself into. But if you're flexible, you can have a more relaxed time on a trip by choosing these quieter alternatives to major landmarks.

Skip the Pantheon for the Basilica of Sant'Agostino in Rome

Basilica of Sant'Agostino, Rome, Italy.

Basilica of Sant'Agostino, Rome, Italy. Credit: Getty Images/Violetastock

Rome-based cookbook author and tour guide Katie Parla says this is not the summer to wing it in Italy, where the weather is hot and the crowds are huge. "The kind of tourism that I enjoy — like fly by the seat of your pants, don't have any plans — it's really challenging to do that in the big cities now," she said. "There is no moment where the crowds are smaller and you can get in."

Parla says it's been a "nightmare" trying to get travelers into ticketed sites like the Colosseum. "Big tour companies buy up all the tickets," she said.

Earlier this month, the Italian Culture Ministry introduced a 5 euro ticket to enter the Pantheon, which has led to long lines and confusion. While the ancient Roman temple is a can't-miss for its architecture, paintings and notable burials, there's plenty of art and history to peruse in lesser-known places.

"Rome has so much artwork in small churches," Parla said. "You can see works by Raphael and Caravaggio and Michelangelo with shockingly few crowds." One such church is the Basilica di Sant'Agostino.

Skip Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Shrine for Ise Grand Shrine

A couple climbs the steps of Ise Grand Shrine, or...

A couple climbs the steps of Ise Grand Shrine, or Ise Jingu, in Ise city, central Japan.  Credit: AP/Yoshiaki Sakamoto

Since Japan reopened for travel last fall, the country's most popular sites, such as Tokyo Skytree and Kyoto's Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, have been as swarmed with tourists. One particularly clogged social media-magnet is Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Shrine; after a recent visit, travel writer Jake Emen described it as "swamped."

To appreciate stunning temples away from the masses, Naomi Mano, who runs the Tokyo-based travel company Luxurique, recommends nearby Nara, home to some of the country's oldest shrines. Kasuga Grand Shrine is similarly colored to Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Shrine's famous vibrant torii gates.

And because Nara is older than Kyoto, and also one of Japan's former capital cities, "it's just a lot more history to it," Mano said.

If you're feeling ambitious, Mano's more off-the-beaten-path option is the Ise Grand Shrine, a holy site established about 2,000 years ago.

Skip Edinburgh Castle for the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Members of the military parade at the Palace of Holyroodhouse...

Members of the military parade at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland. Credit: AP/Owen Humphreys

A trip to Scotland's capital may feel incomplete without a trip to Edinburgh Castle, one of the oldest forts in Europe. That may be why it's one of the most crowded sites on the continent.

Duncan Greenfield-Turk, managing director and chief travel designer for Global Travel Moments, recommends visiting Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. You can see the former chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Skip the Louvre in Paris for the Musée Carnavalet

View of the exhibition area of historical shop signs at...

View of the exhibition area of historical shop signs at the Carnavalet Museum in Paris. Credit: dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images/picture alliance

Even with its timed ticketing system, the Louvre can feel like a zoo. For an alternative that's also an architectural and historic treasure, Kathleen Peddicord, who splits her time between Paris and Panama, recommends the Musée Carnavalet, a museum dedicated to the history of Paris.

The Carnavalet is made up of two mansions in the Marais district — the Hôtel Carnavalet and the former Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau.

Skip Glacier National Park for Bob Marshall Wilderness

The sun sets along Hurricane Ridge and Walling Reef on...

The sun sets along Hurricane Ridge and Walling Reef on the Rocky Mountain Front in the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana. Credit: AP/Chris Peterson

Visiting America's most popular national parks this summer can be a challenge. Several require advance reservations to reduce crowds, including parts of Glacier National Park.

Visitors to Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in western Montana, don't need a reservation or permit to explore more than a million acres of mountains, lakes and waterfalls.

Skip the Acropolis in Athens for the Temple of Poseidon

A full moon rises behind the ancient marble Temple of...

A full moon rises behind the ancient marble Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, southeast of Athens. Credit: AP/Petros Giannakouris

Between extreme heat and wildfires, it's been a hot and dangerous summer in Greece. Earlier this month, the Acropolis in Athens shut down twice for several hours because of extreme temperatures. The monument's staff went on strike over dangerous conditions.

In addition, visitors face a new e-ticketing system debuting this month to control Acropolis crowds, which often clock in at more than 17,000 visitors a day. Avoid the chaotic scene and go southeast of the capital to Cape Sounion to see the Temple of Poseidon, said Emmanuel Burgio, founder of travel company Blue Parellel.

Dedicated to the god of the sea, Burgio says the ancient marble temple perched on a cliff's edge is one of the most important historical sites from Athens's Golden Age.

Skip Yosemite for Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Yosemite National Park, one of America's most popular national parks, has made headlines this summer for unprecedented lines and hourslong waits to enter. Save Yosemite for another season and try Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.

The stars of the show here are giant sequoia trees, including the largest living sequoia, the General Sherman Tree.

Skip St. Mark's Square in Venice for Castello

Between a new "entrance fee" coming in 2024 and its #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign, Venice is working to fight overtourism.

Parla recommends skipping the crowds at its most famous sites like the Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark's Square and heading to the Castello neighborhood. There you'll find Le Stanze del Vetro, a gallery Parla loves that "always has incredible glass exhibitions." While you're in the area, stop by the Basilica of San Pietro di Castello, whose history dates to the 7th century.

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months