12 Most Overrated Travel Destinations
We commonly see photos of countless beautiful travel destinations and read the praises of a bounty of popular sites. The truth is, if we travel enough, we often find places that, despite appearances, don't live up to the hype and fall below our expectations. So, I'm trying something new (for me) with this post by collaborating with several other travel bloggers. I tapped into the travel experiences of others to learn of some sites across the continents that are very popular, yet didn't quite deliver. Let's dive into the list of some of those sites and, perhaps consider alternate locations, instead.
Contributed by Marya Sutimi at www.thebeautraveler.com
Bali is one of the most popular spots for digital nomads these days. The island is known for its natural beauty and affordability as the cost of living is not too high. Ironically, many travelers don't even recognize Bali for what it is. Many people who visit Bali, even think that Bali is the name of the country without recognizing that it is actually an island within the country called Indonesia.
Bali had never been on the top of my bucket list as an Indonesian, despite its popularity. When I got a chance to visit Bali in September 2019, it validated my perception that Bali is overrated and overhyped. The only advantage of going to Bali is that it has a lot of beach clubs where you can enjoy the nightlife while partying by the beach. Bali caters to tourists! However, if you're looking for the natural beauty that Indonesia offers, there are so many other places throughout the country that provide you with a much more authentic experience.
Instead of going to Bali ... consider Yogyakarta on the Indonesian island of Java to experience Indonesia's rich culture and history. Dubbed as one of the two special regions within Indonesia, it is the only province in the country that is still governed by a Sultan. The region is also the home of Prambanan temple, the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia that ranks second only to Angkor Wat, in Southeast Asia. Yogyakarta also has some beautiful beaches around Gunung Kidul regency, making it a great alternative destination to Bali.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Contributed by Lisa at www.wavesandcobblestones.com
Cabo San Lucas is an extremely popular tourist destination along Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. Three million visitors flock to Cabo San Lucas annually. But, who can blame them? Cabo enjoys 350 sunshine-filled days per year ... perfect for enjoying a beautiful sandy beach or snorkeling in crystal blue waters alongside Cabo’s dramatic rock formations.
I’ve visited Cabo San Lucas twice, both times in the month of April. And yes, the beaches are wonderful, and there’s nothing that I like more than ending the day with a dramatic sunset over the Pacific Ocean. However, those three million annual visitors have spawned an economy that is overly reliant on tourism.
You will see this most clearly if you’re anywhere near the Cabo San Lucas marina (where you will definitely be if you’re one of the 100,000+ annual cruise visitors to Cabo). The marina is chock-full of restaurants, bars, and shops aimed squarely at the tourist crowds. Unfortunately, many of these are mass-market places with ‘Americanized’ menus that don’t reflect the authentic flavors and recipes of the area.
Also, the vendors in the marina area are very aggressive, so practice saying ‘no, gracias’ or ‘no, thank you.' You’ll be asked to buy everything from jewelry to clothing to glass-bottomed boat tours – or even a timeshare! This really detracts from having a relaxing vacation experience in Cabo.
Instead of going to Cabo San Lucas ... consider Mazatlán. Mazatlán, Mexico is the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’. Since tourism is a smaller portion of Mazatlán’s economy, you can enjoy a much more authentic experience – along with its twenty miles of gorgeous beaches!
Contributed by Nicole Hunter at www.gofargrowclose.com
One of the most overrated places I have ever been to is Dublin. We visited in late July with my three kids who were 18, 16, and 14 years old at the time. I have been to over 65 countries in my life, and my children to around 45, including many European countries. So we are very comfortable traveling, being in Europe, and have realistic expectations.
Dublin is not a particularly pretty city nor filled with many significant historical buildings that catch your eye. That is not to say it is an ugly city ... it just isn’t remarkable nor contains that 'older part of the city' that captures your imagination. The key tourist attractions are either boring or overpriced. For example, the Book of Kells is a 9th-century manuscript that documents the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ. It is located at Trinity College within the Old Library building, one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. However, the Book of Kells is mostly displayed through poster-sized photos of the book and the library is absolutely packed with people. With such crowds, you could only spend brief moments looking at the posters, if you even managed to get close enough. Another example is the Guinness Storehouse which is an interactive museum about the history of Guinness beer and how it is made. This has interesting and fun elements, but it is super crowded and way overpriced for the experience.
Instead of going to Dublin ... consider Belfast in Northern Ireland. Belfast is a much smaller and cuter city than Dublin. It is easy to walk around the downtown core and see everything. However, what is most fantastic are its tourist attractions. There is an enormous interactive Titanic Museum where you can spend hours exploring. It is fascinating and fun. In addition, you can take a Black Cab tour of the “Troubles”. This tour takes you into the most contentious areas of Belfast where Catholics and Protestants were in intense conflict with each other right up until the late 1990s. The street art in that area is fantastic and you are led on tour by people who were actually in the "Troubles."
Fiji in the South Pacific
Contributed by Roxanne de Bruyn at www.farawayworlds.com
With white beaches and clear waters, Fiji looks like the perfect place to go for a tropical island holiday. However, along with the natural beauty, comes a number of drawbacks. First, it’s expensive for what you get. Resorts, food, and alcohol are all very expensive, even when taking into consideration the distance from the mainland. Also, many of the resorts are owned by international companies which hire local staff and pay low wages. Despite this, room rates are quite high, yet often without five-star quality. Of course, this does depend on where in Fiji you are. If you head out to the Yasawa or outlier islands, you will get more rustic accommodations in stunning, isolated settings. On the other hand, Denarau Island is where many of the five-star resorts are located and is a very popular destination for visitors. While you can have a lovely resort stay there, it isn’t on a beach and you’ll find yourself missing the country’s spectacular natural beauty. Another drawback of Fiji is that it gets very hot and humid. Fiji can simply be a bit too hot for comfort. In some months, even walking between the beach and the pool can feel exhausting simply because of the heat. Lastly, in Fiji, it can be difficult to connect to the local culture. Many of the resorts serve Western food and while there are “cultural nights”, they often feel a bit more like a tourist attraction than a celebration of local culture.
Instead of visiting Fiji ... consider Tonga in the South Pacific. Tonga has similarly stunning beaches, relatively few tourists, and simple accommodations in beautiful surroundings.
Contributed by Stephanie Jackson at www.bookitletsgo.com
London is the capital city of England, and this huge concrete jungle receives millions of visitors every year. With the West End full of theatres and a vast choice of restaurants and international shops to choose from, it’s easy to see why! But, it is one of the most overrated travel destinations in the world.
As a tourist destination, London can be dirty and smelly in places, especially by the river Thames. Also, due to the configuration of the streets being narrow with high-rise buildings, London lends itself to a high level of air pollution. Although there are tons of things for tourists to do in London, the prices of attractions, restaurants, and transport are much higher in London than in other places in the UK. Londoners can also be quite rude to tourists as they bustle about their daily business and push their ways on and off the underground. In regards to helpfulness, many Londoners won’t spare a second to give directions or recommendations.
Instead of going to London ... consider Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. Cardiff is a much nicer city. Cardiff has many things for tourists to do including museums, free walking tours, plenty of open green spaces, and a castle. The streets of Cardiff are large and open, still with high rises in places, but the buildings lining the streets are generally older and more aesthetically pleasing than the ones in London. The people of Cardiff are completely different from Londoners, too. They are very helpful and always open to chatting about places to visit or recommending local eateries.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Contributed by Megan Anderson at www.packing-up-the-pieces.com
It's hard to imagine a trip to Peru without a visit to its most famous Inca site, Machu Picchu. Yes, the 'Lost City' is a modern world wonder and truly is spectacular ... the mystical Huayna Picchu mountain in the backdrop, fog drifting over the crumbling Inca ruins, llamas grazing on the terraces, and those picture-perfect moments of smiling travelers wearing alpaca ponchos. There is no doubt that Machu Picchu is a must-see destination, but its popularity has brought tourists in droves and this beloved site has lost its sustainability. With over 2,500 visitors entering the site daily, one gets deprived of the magic that is otherwise offered by silence at such a sacred site.
The small gateway village of Aguas Calientes sits below Machu Picchu and acts as a transit hub that caters to tourists. A ticket to Machu Picchu is pricey, at over $40 for a standard ticket, which only gets you through the entrance gate. Thereafter the fees quickly add up, if you add a climb up one of the mountains, a guided tour, bus rides, a train ticket, or a trek to the Lost City. While Machu Picchu is a bucket-list item, sometimes it's more about the journey than the destination and it can leave some travelers a little underwhelmed.
Instead of visiting Machu Picchu ... consider Waqrapukara Archaeological Site. Found a few hours south of Cusco, Waqrapukara is also known as the "horned fortress." The site is almost double the elevation of Machu Picchu (13,580 ft), costs a fraction of what Machu Picchu does (only around $3), and sees barely any tourists. The best part is you can camp on-site next to the Inca ruins and experience the magical silence of this place, nestled perfectly in the Apurímac Valley.
Contributed by Erin at www.erinstraveltips.com.
Pisa, Italy is one of those places most all of us have read about in grade school. The town is primarily known for its unique architectural monument, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Travelers come far and wide to marvel at this leaning bell tower which is located at the Field of Miracles (Campo dei Miracoli) alongside the Cathedral and Baptistry. It takes just a few hours to tour the entire complex. But be prepared for the frequent solicitation of counterfeit fashion goods, such as handbags, wallets, and watches, that border on harassment near the tower.
If you venture beyond the Field of Miracles, there aren't many awe-inspiring things to do. There are the Botanical Garden, the Palazzo dell'Orologio, and the Piazza dei Cavalieri. Several areas in the city felt let go and in need of repairs. Overall, there are far more alluring places to visit in Italy.
Instead of visiting Pisa ... consider Capri. This spectacular island is truly one of a kind with its jaw-dropping cliff views and crystal blue waters. Capri is perhaps best known for the Blue Grotto, a cave that has brilliant blue waters caused by sunlight passing through its opening.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Contributed by Brodi Cole at www.ouroffbeatlife.com.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico is a very popular tourist destination in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. However, it's not the best place in the Yucatan to visit for several reasons.
Similar to Acapulco on Mexico's Pacific Coast, Playa del Carmen's tourist areas have become a hotbed for cartel violence. In January 2022, for example, the manager at a famous beach club in Playa del Carmen Centro was executed during business hours in the club's restroom.
Additionally, the red seaweed that only used to plague the beach town during the summer months now rots on the beaches all year long, although the seaweed quantities are greater during the summer. It's occasionally possible to find some nearby beaches without the seaweed, but it's not guaranteed and those beaches tend to be overcrowded with other tourists also avoiding the seaweed. The seaweed smells bad and can cause rashes to people who swim in the water near it.
Lastly, other than aquatic activities involving beaches and the occasional cenote, there isn't much to do in Playa del Carmen. All the best things to do there are actually located inland as day trips outside the town itself.
Instead of going to Playa del Carmen ... consider Merida, Mexico. Located just three hours from Playa del Carmen, Merida is rated one of the safest cities in the world, there are clean beaches less than an hour away, and there is a large variety of activities both in and near the city to stay busy on vacation.
Singapore in Southeast Asia
Contributed by Victoria Maria at www.guideyourtravel.com
Singapore is an international hub and at the top of many travelers' must-see lists when coming to Southeast Asia. This glitzy city is expensive, though, and sometimes considered overrated. Singapore may be an impressive place to see but many visitors feel bored after a few days and end up spending a lot more than they should. Even a basic hotel in the city costs over 100$ per night while nearby hubs like Kuala Lumpur cost less than a third of the price for the same experience. Singapore has lost a lot of its authenticity and the local culture has given way to expensive new hotels and high-rises.
Instead of Singapore ... consider Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur has retained a lot more elements of its original culture and costs a fraction of the price. There are plenty of things to do in the city and the only thing KL cannot really offer compared to Singapore is beaches. Temples, rooftops, and street food, however, are most likely superior in Kuala Lumpur and you can stay much longer for the same amount of money.
Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England
Contributed by Paulina at www.ukeverday.com
If you believe that visiting Stonehenge, one of the most famous stone circles in the world, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I have to disappoint you. There are plenty of other stone circles in the UK, that are free to visit, unlike Stonehenge where you have to pay for the entrance.
Stonehenge is surrounded by fields, in the middle of nowhere, in Wiltshire, England so the main problem at this historic site is extreme wind. Even during nice weather in spring or summer, you will feel cold.
Another disappointing thing is that you can not even touch those prehistoric stones or walk amongst them because there is a fence surrounding them. It should not take more than 10 minutes to explore this prehistoric monument, while the whole journey from London to Stonehenge takes over 2 hours just one way. With a lot of traffic, that trip might be even longer. Attractions like Stonehenge are not worth your time and money. Especially since this is not the oldest stone circle in the country.
Instead of visiting Stonehenge ... consider Castlerigg Stone Circle in the Lake District. This is one of the earliest stone circles in the UK. You will be able to walk inside the circle, touch the stones and admire some of the best views in Lake District National Park.
Contributed by Jennie Tuck at www.jenniewanders.com
One of the most overrated places in Italy is Venice. Unfortunately, due to tourism, Venice has become overcrowded and overpriced. A simple gondola ride along the canals will set you back nearly 100 EUR for 30 minutes, and you’ll be fighting for a spot along with all of the other tourists. Whilst it may have winding cobbled streets, Venice is hard to navigate and can be overwhelming for a first-timer in Italy!
Instead of Venice ... consider Verona, if you want to experience somewhere in Italy that’s not as crowded or overpopulated. Verona is home to one of Italy’s largest amphitheaters which are open to the public for a tour, music events, or live theatre shows. In the main square, you will find rows of restaurants, buskers, authentic gelato stalls, and cute Italian boutiques. Verona has an amazing, authentic Italian atmosphere, with friendly people, incredible food, and beautiful views over the River Adige. Plus, it’s well located if you desire to head out to the Italian countryside and the wonderful Lake Garda!
Contributed by Anda Bartos at www.travelforawhile.com.
When you first get to Vienna, your expectations of the imperial capital are high. Palaces, carriages, and museums are all there to be visited and transport you back to its most glorious times. We visited at the end of April when the weather was still moody, but not very cold. And though I was ready to be impressed, the click didn't happen. Not because Vienna isn't beautiful, but because of some annoying little things. For example, people sometimes seemed snobby and often responded in German, even when asked a question in English at a restaurant or shop. Some elements are old and dated ... even stuck in time. That can be seen with the metro system, accommodations, and even some famous Viennese coffee shops. In the afternoon, people walk everywhere and the city looks alive, but by 10 PM it's hard to find an open place to have a drink.
Instead of visiting Vienna ... consider Bratislava, Slovakia's capital, where it took me less than 10 minutes to feel at home. It's a much smaller city, but it feels friendly, cozy, and full of life. Something was happening at every corner, a street food festival in the pedestrian area, people having a beer in a small square, and children enjoying an ice cream in the park. The food was delicious, and most restaurants in the old center looked inviting. We also took a craft beer tour in Bratislava that convinced us to go back to Bratislava for a longer stay soon.
As I read with great interest the various travel blogger's contributions, I noted that recurrent and overarching reasons people seemed disappointed with otherwise beautiful cities, islands, and sites were overtourism and a lack of authenticity. Areas simply being too crowded, menus too westernized, shops and vendors too aggressive and catering to mass-market tourism. I can certainly understand this, as I, too, have visited gorgeous places that left me somewhat disappointed for those reasons. For me, Santorini, Mykonos, Venice, and Dubrovnik were all somewhat of a letdown due to the sheer number of travelers by land and cruise ships, and a tourism market beholden to that business. Additionally, the Instagram culture, technology, and a boom in the number of digital nomads have transformed locales away from authenticity, as the desire for boujee western eateries, wifi cafes and foreign-owned AirBnBs have supplanted the simplicity of the local cultures, sometimes even displacing the natives when the real estate gets too pricey.