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Doppelgänger destinations: 11 lesser-known alternatives to popular places

As avid travellers at Skyscanner, we’re often dreaming and planning future trips. But as travel has become difficult in many regions of the world, we have to get a little more creative with how we travel. These global destinations are famous landmarks, sights and experiences, which often appear as the backdrop to travellers’ social media accounts, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Colosseum in Italy. But if you look a little closer, you may realise these destinations aren’t quite what – or where – they seem… Here are 11 lookalike destinations across the globe that are masquerading as their better-known doppelgängers. They might not be as famous, but they definitely deserve a spot on your future travel list. See if you can spot the difference.

1. Venice, Italy

Answer: No! This is Venice’s doppelgänger, Aveiro, Portugal. 

Doppelgänger destination: Aveiro, Portugal 

Venice, Italy has often held firm at the top of travel bucket lists for couples, with its romantic gondola rides down canals, candlelit waterside dining options and picturesque waterways cutting through the compact city second to none – until now! Consider the humble Aveiro, Portugal a strong alternative destination to Venice, offering very similar scenes and experiences for a fraction of the cost and the crowds. Dubbed ‘the Venice of Portugal’, it’s clear to see the similarities between the two cities. But in Aveiro, you can coast down the canals in a traditional moliceiro one minute, then lather on sun lotion on a nearby beach the next. Porto’s a day-trip away, plus there are plenty of museums, restaurants and stunning, historical architecture to admire. 

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2. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia 

Answer: No! This is Salar de Uyuni’s doppelgänger, the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA. 

Doppelgänger destination: Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA

You’ve probably seen photos of Salar de Uyuni floating around social media before – the world’s largest salt flat, stretching almost 5000 square miles (12,950sq km), as far as the eye can see. When covered with water, you get a purely magical vista where the separation between the sky and the ground seems nonexistent. But you don’t have to set your sights on Bolivia exclusively – the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah is a smaller, but strong, lookalike contender. About 100 times smaller than its more famous doppelgänger to the south, the Bonneville Salt Flats has had its time in the limelight too, often featured in Hollywood films (like Independence Day), and hosts many high-speed race events. If you’re dreaming of other-worldly destinations, move over Salar de Uyuni – the Bonneville Salt Flats is truly a sight to behold. 

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3. The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Photo: Chris Connolly / Instagram

Answer: Guess again! This is the Eiffel Tower’s doppelgänger, a 108m-high (354ft) replica in Tianducheng, China.

Doppelgänger destination: The Eiffel Tower in Tianducheng, China

The City of Light is unarguably a popular tourist destination, with the Eiffel Tower as the feather atop its uber-fashionable hat. But with its popularity unwavering and steady crowds the norm, skip the queues and say bonjour to China’s alternative replica landmark: the larger-than-life Eiffel Tower twin in Tianducheng. Although a dwarf in comparison to its 1064-foot-tall (324m) Parisian counterpart, posing in front of the 354-foot (108m) lookalike is no less impressive. This Hangzhou suburb as a whole mimics Paris, with near-identical architecture, and further replica landmarks, like the Champs Élysées. With far fewer crowds at this Parisian pretender, opportunities abound to get those picture-perfect moments with the Eiffel Tower doppelgänger background. 

Read more: Wander the virtual streets of Paris

4. Santorini, Greece

Answer: Nope! This is Santorini’s colourful doppelgänger, Gamcheon Culture Village in South Korea.

Doppelgänger destination: Gamcheon, South Korea

Santorini’s pristine white buildings cascading down the cliff sides above the Aegean Sea is a universally recognisable image. But add a splash of colour and swap in East Sea views instead, and you get Busan, South Korea’s Gamcheon Culture Village – ‘the Santorini of South Korea’. Buildings are painted a rainbow of different colours, and throughout the village, you’ll find vibrant murals and works of art. Wander the steep alleyways to find your favourite colourful backdrop for your next selfie, or pop into a cafe to enjoy the sweeping vantage point views down below. Whether you come to add a little extra colour to your life, or simply want to take advantage of the nearby beaches, this lookalike destination is giving Santorini a run for its money. 

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5. Sahara Desert, Africa

Answer: Try again! This is actually the Thar Desert in India, a Sahara lookalike.

Doppelgänger destination: Thar Desert, India

The Sahara is the world’s largest desert, covering an area about the size of the United States across the northern half of the African continent. As one of the world’s natural seven wonders, sinking your toes into the sand of the Sahara is an experience many travellers hope to have. But if you’re after seemingly endless sand dune views and desert adventure, the Thar Desert in India is another option worth considering – and you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two. The Thar Desert in India not only looks like the Sahara, but you can also have the same kinds of adventures, from camping to camel rides to dune bashing. And while the Sahara may be the biggest desert, its doppelgänger is the most widely populated desert, so you’ll get the boundless desert views with an extra dose of cultural experiences, too. 

Read more: How to see the great outdoors from home

6. Big Ben, London, UK

Answer: No! This is Big Ben’s doppelgänger, the Peace Tower in Ottawa, Canada.

Doppelgänger destination: The Peace Tower, Ottawa, Canada

Big Ben, officially known as the Elizabeth Tower, stands high above the UK parliament building, overlooking the River Thames in London and across the river from the London Eye. Most trips to the Big Smoke involve photos featuring Big Ben, but did you know that Canada has its very own doppelgänger clock tower? Across the pond in Ottawa, the UK gifted the Peace Tower to Canada to mark the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. Also located on parliament grounds, the Peace Tower has its own river backdrop, too, courtesy of the Ottawa River. And while visually, the similarities between the two clock towers are striking, Canada’s lookalike is actually ever-so-slightly taller, coming in at 98m (321ft) – two metres taller than Big Ben. 

Read more: How to spend 24 hours in London virtually

7. Naples, Italy

Answer: No! This is Naples’ doppelgänger of the East, Kagoshima, Japan.

Doppelgänger destination: Kagoshima, Japan

With the mighty Vesuvius dominating the horizon, Naples, Italy is a growing tourist destination for Italian history, art and culture. However, about 6000 miles (9600km) east, lies Kagoshima, Japan – Naples’ Asian doppelgänger. Here, Sakurajima rises to the sky, a very active volcano in the region. As twin cities, Naples and Kagoshima have a lot in common, including agreeable climates and overall appearance, even naming a street in each respective destination after each other (Via Kagoshima in Naples and Napoli Dori in Kagoshima). Locals in both even keep umbrellas close by to shield themselves from volcanic ash raining from the sky – a not infrequent occurrence in both destinations.  

Read more: 13 dream destinations for your travel bucket list

8. The Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

Answer: No! This is the Grand Canyon’s doppelgänger in Australia, Kings Canyon.

Doppelgänger destination: Kings Canyon

One quick glance, and it’s clear to see why these two destinations are doppelgängers. The Grand Canyon in the United States has been drawing millions of visitors from across the globe for years, a gigantic natural wonder to take your breath away. But on the opposite side of the world, the Grand Canyon’s lookalike, Kings Canyon in the Northern Territory, rivals it with equally impressive vistas. Located in the Watarrka National Park, Kings Canyon is a true highlight of Australia’s Red Centre, offering intrepid explorers the chance to hike the canyon rim, and get to know the rugged Australian Outback in person. If you can’t get enough of the 985-foot-tall (300m) sandstone walls and valley views, you can pitch a tent and stay awhile – accommodation in the region favours the outdoorsy type.

Read more: Spend the day in Sydney from your sofa

9. Guilin, China

Photo by aamanatullah / Flickr

Answer: No! This is actually its doppelgänger, Little Guilin in Singapore.

Doppelgänger destination: Little Guilin, Singapore

Guilin, China has long been a popular tourism destination, with its city wrapped around the Li River, amongst towering limestone karsts. Star Wars fans will recognise this destination as the location for the Wookie planet in Revenge of the Sith. But more than 1500 miles (2700km) southwest of this Chinese city lies Little Guilin, a mini doppelgänger destination in Singapore. Officially known as Bukit Batok Town Park, the park was once a granite quarry, and when it fell into disuse and water filled the quarry creating a lake, the area was turned into a public park. The granite outcrops and nearby greenery reminded locals of the scenery in Guilin, China – and thus, the moniker was born. 

Read more: A 24-hour virtual tour of Singapore

10. The Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Answer: Try again! This is actually its doppelgänger, the Pula Arena in Croatia.

Doppelgänger destination: Pula Arena, Croatia

The magnificent Roman Colosseum is a famous landmark in Italy, with several million visitors every year. But just across the Adriatic Sea, the Colosseum’s twin towers in Croatia. The Arena, as it’s known locally, is a near-identical Roman amphitheatre, situated near the harbour of the Croatian city of Pula. Constructed in the first century, visitors can tour the Arena, exploring the well-intact Roman architecture where gladiators once fought, as well as the underground chambers. Nowadays, as well as a tourism site, the Arena also hosts concerts, film festivals, and in the summer, Spectacvla Antiqva – gladiator reenactments and old-timey entertainment. 

Read more: Discover the world’s most famous sites from home

11. Mars

Answer: Nope! This is actually Mars’ doppelgänger on earth, The Pinnacles in Australia.

Doppelgänger destination: The Pinnacles, Western Australia

We’ve all been thinking about space travel a lot more recently, eyeing up Mars as a potential new planet to colonise, and thinking up ways to make Mars tourism a reality. So if space travel is on your futuristic bucket list, you can stop looking to the sky – there’s a real life Mars right here on Earth. The Pinnacles is an area in the Coral Coast region in Western Australia, where huge, naturally-formed limestone structures decorate the desert landscape. Located within the Nambung National Park, visitors can wander through the maze of protruding pinnacles and admire the bizarre surroundings. Though you may not be able to convince your friends and family you went to actual Mars, it’s an experience and photo-op unlike any other.

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