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Seven Overrated Travel Destinations

Italy-Venice-overrun-tourists

There comes a time when you visit a destination and ask yourself: “Is this it? Did I travel all the way here for this?” Sometimes we visit places and feel they are completely overrated and don’t deserve their reputation. We are left uninspired or maybe even a little let down. We asked a group of fellow travel writers to name their most overrated travel destinations. The responses surprised us.

Venice is one of the world's top overrated travel destinations

The Grand Canal in Venice

Venice, Italy from Lance Wiedower at Trips By Lance

Venice. Yes, you read correctly. Venice, Italy, an overrated destination in my eyes. Let me start off by saying I think Venice is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. I’m glad I visited the city. The bridges, getting lost on tiny streets with clotheslines dangling above, even the smell; it’s all a memorable experience. But with all that beauty comes with an overwhelming number of tourists and crazy prices, not to mention overpriced and bland food. After spending several days in Tuscany, I found it to be such a drag to end our weeklong adventure in Italy in Venice.

Yes, romance is in the air, but getting hurried by 10 other couples wanting the same vantage point you have on the Rialto Bridge can be a mood killer. Paying a premium price for average food that comes with a great vantage point of a canal left a bad taste in my mouth. Instead, I wish we would’ve ducked deeper into the residential sections of the city to find more authentic regional cuisine. Maybe I would’ve liked Venice more if we hadn’t visited in May just as the summer crowds were beginning to heat up. Venice will always remain as one of the most beautiful cities I’ve visited. It just won’t be near the top of the list of cities I’d like to make a return visit.

The Grand Palace in Bangkok

The Grand Palace in Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand from Jim Cheney at The Tripologist

During my travels in Asia, one of the places I was most excited to see was Bangkok, Thailand. And, after spending 3 weeks exploring the rest of Thailand, I was definitely expecting great things for Bangkok. However, the city definitely let me down.

It’s not because there aren’t interesting sites to see (there are several that I would definitely consider world-class). What frustrated me the most about my time in Bangkok was the city itself. The conundrum of Bangkok is that it seems to have no soul and too much soul at the same time. Financial districts border seedy bars and the city’s grittiness is not just the stuff of legends. Bangkok also feels like one big scam waiting to happen. In fact, I encountered more scam attempts during one week in Bangkok than I did in the other 2.5 years I spent in Asia.

Maybe I would have liked Bangkok more if I had gone there before visiting the more spectacular destinations in Thailand; or maybe I would have liked it more if it wasn’t the hottest place I’ve ever been, but I found Bangkok to be the most overrated city I’ve ever visited.

Ceremony for Tourists in Kuta, Bali, one of the most overrated travel destinations

Ceremony for Tourists in Kuta; Photo by Vasenka Photography

Kuta, Bali, Indonesia from Ryan O’Rourke at Treksplorer

Bali and “Paradise”: the two words are practically synonymous. Writers are fascinated with it and travelers dream about it, but unfortunately, the popular image of Bali is not entirely true. While much of the Indonesian island is akin to a tiny slice of heaven in Southeast Asia, Kuta, the most infamous town in Bali, is very much the opposite: a veritable hell on earth. And it’s truly a shame. For many travelers, Kuta is a first—and often only—introduction to Bali and even Indonesia.

Like a never-ending frat party gone horribly wrong, Kuta has an uncanny power to shock and awe in an unsavory way and unfailingly leave a bad taste in your mouth. If the obnoxious hawkers shouting at and groping you doesn’t do it, the cacophonous streets jammed with bleach-blond beach bums and battered motorcycles emitting noxious fumes just might.

Whereas the unique Balinese identity shines throughout most of the island, in Kuta, Bali’s trademark authenticity has been almost completely stomped out, replaced with American fast food and hotel chains, and Australian surf shops. As a primer for such an amazing and diverse country, Kuta fails on all levels, and unless you are twenty-something party animal frothing at the bit for cheap cocktails or a surfer dude (or dudette) looking to rip on the Indian Ocean, consider giving it a miss in favor of, well, nearly anywhere else in Bali.

Reed islands of Uros, one of the most overrated travel destinations

The floating islands of Uros in Lake Titicaca

Uros Floating Islands, Puno, Peru from Jo Fitzsimons at Indiana Jo

Man-made islands of woven reeds where indigenous people dwell with views over Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake – I was beyond excited to visit. So, why was it that within minutes of stepping (cautiously) onto the reed island that my excitement evaporated quicker than my breath at altitude? Somewhere between the ingenious idea of creating an island from nature’s tools and making it float, the reed islands had given over to commercialization. Big time. Climbing to the top of the look-out I saw one tourist boat after another as bags of identical handicraft and cans of chilled Coke were presented for sale with a patter that has long been perfected. Not the authentic experience I’d hoped for.

Piazza de Miracoli in Pisa, Italy

Piazza de Miracoli in Pisa, Italy

Amsterdam and Pisa from Adelina Wong at Pack Me To

Two over-rated cities I’ve found in my travels are Amsterdam and Pisa. Both left me saying to myself “is that it?” Amsterdam, with its leaning brick houses, canals that go every direction, and bicycles zooming around, left me feeling confused. The city felt to me dark and gloomy, much like the weather that was surrounding me. The Netherlands boasts many other fantastic cities and they’re definitely worth a visit.

Pisa is overrun with tourists. There is nothing to see in the city beyond the tower where you will run into hundreds of tourists taking the exact same photo. Every so often, the quietness of the city will be interrupted with the shrill tweet of a whistle from a police officer demanding everyone get off from the surrounding grass area. If you must visit, make it quick. Perhaps a day trip from Florence.

Cancun, Mexico, one of the most overrated travel destinations

Cancun, Mexico; Photo by The Cuillivo

Cancun, Mexico from Murissa Shalapata at The Wanderfull Traveler

Cancun is a tourist trap as you can probably imagine with authentic Mexican food being a rarity, poor beaches with little to no snorkeling, kitschy resorts with drunken suburban nightlife looking for a numbing break from reality (hey, we all need it sometimes but please don’t find it in the hot tub!), bad food and sweet drinks. As you can imagine I am describing my first and last Mexican all-inclusive resort experience. As an alternative I would suggest Cozumel Island as a safe beach paradise option.

So what do we think are the most overrated travel destinations?

These are some great thoughts from our fellow travel writers. This got us thinking: what do we think are the most over-rated travel destinations? We’d agree with Jo Fitzsimons that the floating reed islands of Uros in LakeTiticaca, Peru are designed for tourists and would top our list. Laura would also agree with Adelina that Pisa,Italyis overrated. If it weren’t for a mistake of engineering, Pisa might be just another town in Italy. While many people rave about Vienna, Austria, we weren’t moved by it. It has the grandeur of other European capitals, but lacks the warmth and inviting ambiance (by contrast, we loved Salzburg). Finally, we’d include Alexandria, Egypt as an overrated destination. While the city has an impressive history, the Alexandria of today lacks any resemblance to that storied history.

What are your most overrated travel destinations?

A final note: If you liked this article, you might also enjoy Seven Under-Appreciated Travel Destinations!






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What do you think about Seven Overrated Travel Destinations?

  1. kate October 10, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Agra & The Taj Mahal. I’d been travelling through India and Nepal for a few months and figured this would be a big highlight. I’m not sure if it was the crowds of tourists pushing the pilgrims out of their way for the perfect snapshot, or the smog that made it hard to breathe. Not a fan at all!

  2. jennifer October 10, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    I hated Venice as well. It was such an overpriced madhouse. I still think I would make the mistake of going back and perhaps going out before sunrise to see it without all the people around. I might still hate it, but at least then I would know I hate the city and not just tourists.

  3. Miranda October 10, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more with Venice! Although I really enjoyed Amsterdam- it felt like Venice “done right.” 😉 I’d add Iceland to the list (landscape fine, but not spectacular, and cost is exorbitant)… and will prepare to be pelted with insults.

  4. Mera Johnson October 15, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    What about the Bahamas? What a rip off!

  5. Marsha October 16, 2013 at 2:14 am #

    I absolutely agree about Pisa. You see the leaning tower which is pretty cool but there is nothing else to see.

  6. SnarkyNomad October 16, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    I think just about every city has a good side and a bad side, and some of these destinations are more high-maintenance than others. You need to manage your expectations not to be disappointed to some degree.

  7. Laura @ Travel Addicts October 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Personally, we loved Venice, but I think a lot has to do with the weather and the crowds when you visit.

    We got married in the Bahamas, so we’re a little partial to them too. There’s a huge difference between the islands, though. I probably wouldn’t go back to Paradise island/Nassau.

    Did not love Pisa at all.

  8. jdomb October 17, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    Plitvice Lakes in Croatia is totally overrated in my opinion. We didn’t like it at all. Too overrun with tourists and I’ve seen far more spectacular sights.

    • Dani December 16, 2015 at 9:10 am #

      You cant be serious. Have been twice…. the most beautiful national park I have ever seen. Yes there are tourist but remember you too are one of them

  9. Murissa Shalapata October 17, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    I gotta disagree with Venice. I love that place but then again I also was studying art history and had an educated professor show us around but still!

    Thanks for inviting me to participate Lance! The results are very surprising.

    Murissa

  10. Renuka October 18, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    I loved this post! I was more focused on Venice, because Italy is my dream! I know popular cities like Venice and Rome are not as exciting as the countryside. But now I know that whenever I visit Italy Venice will be only for a day!

    Thanks!!!

    • J. Matthew February 4, 2017 at 6:03 pm #

      Renuka, in my opinion a day in Venice is enough. Enough to get the flavor of a city that’s half water. But everything is very overpriced, food is generally mediocre at best, and too many people. By all means, do it for a day just so you can say you did it.

  11. Anonymous October 21, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    I never regret travelling to a destination, but there are some places I probably would not visit again.
    I spent 3 days in Venice in December last year and there were hardly any tourists. I still felt claustrophobic. But I think it is a place one must visit, it is unique.
    For the person who mentioned Plitvice Lakes, I cannot believe you think that way. I thought it was absolutely stunning and would return in a heartbeat. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Pisa is also worth a visit, even if only for an hour on your way to Cinque Terre or Florence 😉

  12. World Travelista October 22, 2013 at 4:15 am #

    Try PARIS! It is not the airy, romance-filled place you see in the movies. It has fashion and beautiful architecture but that’s not what greets you. The streets are dirty and, cross a frenchman, and watch that sophisticated romantic accent get very harsh. Lol. Glad to have experienced it but I’ll pass on going again

  13. Lindsay Lewis Thomas November 5, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    I think I may agree with only two of these (really, just one)- Cancun. I don’t think the others are that over-rated- i.e. I am glad that I have visited those places and had great experiences. Yes, Venice can be a bit of a nightmare (especially in the summer heat with no A.C.) but I think it’s such a unique and historical place that it warrants a visit.

  14. Ayngelina November 10, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    Interesting perspective on this, definitely agree on some!

  15. Lance November 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    Thanks Ayngelina! Some good suggestions from our fellow writers.

  16. Andrea December 9, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

    Totally agree with this list! I’ve been to all but Puno and agree completely with the rest, so overrated!

  17. Deborah January 3, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    Thanks for a much needed article. I just got back from Costa Rica and would absoutley put this on the list. For so many reasons not enough space to go into. Its really a terrible feeling to plan and pay and go through the nightmare of traveling to arrive at a place you so longed to see and get that feeling…”is that all there is?”.

    I really don’t know if I want to go anywhere anymore. I also will add that when you are younger, in your twenties, traveling is experienced differently…..it’s all new and these days everyone travels, and a lot of ego is associated with it..(“I’ve done blah blah and Ive done blah blah) as though going somewhere makes you special.

    The Sierrra Mountains in California, Yosimite..are jaw dropping. So is Tulum Mexico, just an hour and a half south of Cancun.

    I had been considering going to Amsterdam, and Vienna..but now I don’t think I will. What isn’t overrated, when you’re sixty?

    • Lance Longwell January 3, 2015 at 9:58 pm #

      Deborah, sorry to hear your experience in Costa Rica wasn’t great. I spent two weeks there in 1998 and loved it! We briefly stopped in Limon on a cruise about five years ago and also enjoyed it.

      Yosemite is pretty amazing, although I haven’t been there in over 20 years. I have fond memories of it. Personally, I enjoyed Amsterdam and it’s on my list to go back, But Vienna I’m not in love with it – I feel like I need to give it another try sometime.

  18. Katie Diederichs May 19, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

    I cannot agree more about the floating islands on Lake Titicaca. We thankfully avoided that tourist trap when traveling from Peru to Bolivia. We opted to spend our time on Isla del Sol, which is beautiful and I highly recommend it.

    Pisa is also another big waste of time. The only thing in that city is the tower. It is fun taking pictures and if you are in the area, you have to go. But only spend a few hours there.

    I plan on going to Bali this August so I hope it is not a letdown. I am not much of a big city person so I’ll be heading to Ubud instead of Kuta. Are there other parts of Bali to avoid?

  19. Scott @ VacationCounts May 28, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    I love posts that generate instant reactions and passionate responses from travelers. A few of my own experiences.

    I grew up in NYC and a drawing of the Leaning Tower of Pisa was probably on every pizza box (I ate a lot of pizza as a child). So visiting it was a must and while it isn’t as exciting as one might hope, it was definitely worth seeing in person. I can say “WOW – I actually climbed it” (in the pouring rain too).

    While on a city tour of Southeast Asia, my wife and I only visited Bangkok in Thailand and we were not disappointed for a moment. There is so much to see and explore in this bustling, colorful city. After visiting Singapore and Kuala Lumpur just prior, it awoken our senses.

    As for Venice, it is one of the most amazing cities in the world. I say if you don’t have that opinion and the main reason was the crowds, visit again in the off season. We went during the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday (late November) and it was not crowded. We often got lost (in a good way) wandering around this romantic and atmospheric city.

    For me there are no overrated destinations, just destinations that I wouldn’t visit a second time 😉

    -Scott, VacationCounts – Take More Vacation Time Off
    Scott @ VacationCounts recently posted…Are You Missing Vacation from Your Definition of Work-Life Balance?My Profile

    • Lance Longwell May 28, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

      Re: places you wouldn’t visit a second time. I respect that. For me, the guide of overrated is whether, knowing what I know now, would I still visit the first time if I could do it over again. And there’s a number of spots that I would pass on. 🙂

  20. Jason October 18, 2015 at 8:26 am #

    One place missing on this list of overrated destinations —–ARUBA.

    Made the mistake of travelling there and hated every minute of it. I actually cut my vacation short, cut my losses and flew home early. Don’t waste your time and money.

    Aruba “One Overrated Island”

    • Laura Longwell October 18, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

      Thanks for the suggestion, Jason. We’ve only visited Aruba once on a brief cruise stop, and we enjoyed it, but it was only 8 hours.

  21. Jeremy January 20, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

    I laughed a few times on this one. I used to hate bangkok too, but you have to learn how to get around the city and how the actual road system works and your life becomes much more enjoyable. I also think Bali is one of the most overrated travel destinations in the world, not just Kuta. I thought it was a real dump!
    Jeremy recently posted…Taking A Couple Pieces from Tani Mens Wear For A SpinMy Profile

  22. Jeff March 20, 2016 at 8:56 pm #

    I wish I had found this blog before booking my trip to Bali. I was deciding between Gerorgetown, Siem Reap and Ubud for a long weekend trip after my two week business trip. I like living places i.e. not places that rely primarily on tourism revenue. For that reason I ruled out Siam Reap. I chose Bali and Ubud based on their reputations for being beautiful and artistic/spiritual. What a disappointment. Ubud reminded me of a mini Bangkok without the bennies of good food. Loads of traffic and taxi drivers hawking their services. Stores galore filled with the identical tourist tsotchkes e.g. sarongs, fans, et al. The only peace and calm I found were in the Monkey Forest, temples and on the grounds of my B&B (a true haven). There were more interesting temples and villages north of Ubud, but I had little time to stay there. Other travelers whom I’d met were likewise disappointed; several had come from Malacca and other points in Malaysia. They recommended those places (ex-KL). Next trip, I will definitely head toward Malaysia.

    • Laura Longwell March 21, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

      Ugh. I’m glad there were at least a few bright spots.

    • J. Matthew February 4, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

      Wife & I enjoyed Bali a lot, but it was a 10-day tour sponsored by Stanford with a Stanford professor telling us about everything. Kuta is a hellhole; don’t go near it. Nusa Dua is much better if you want the seashore. Bali is on the equator, hot all year and humid. The mountainous areas are much cooler. But our tour took us into many out of the way places and we think that’s where the beauty of Bali shines. If we had tried to do it on our own I think it would have been a failure.

  23. Ashley July 15, 2016 at 12:38 am #

    I agree with Cancun, Mexico, I don’t hate the place but it was not perfect for a holiday vacation. I am a Filipino and I am a traveler. Philippines is a beautiful country and if anyone who wishes to visit the country, I am open to share some tourists spots and best islands in the country.

  24. Amber Dastrup January 14, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

    I personally thought Antigua was terrible! The locals were relentless. And it felt like such a tourist trap.

    • Lance Longwell January 14, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

      We just visited Antigua two weeks ago. We had some locals trying to push their wares, but no different than any other Caribbean destination. We did, however, enjoy their beaches!

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