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Seven Overrated Travel Destinations

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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, Italy

The Grand Canal in Venice, one of the world's top overrated travel destinations
The Grand Canal in Venice

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.

Bangkok, Thailand

The Grand Palace in Bangkok
The Grand Palace in Bangkok

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.

Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

Ceremony for Tourists in Kuta, Bali
Ceremony for Tourists in Kuta; Photo by Vasenka Photography

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.

Uros Floating Islands, Puno, Peru

Reed islands of Uros
The floating islands of Uros in Lake Titicaca

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.

Pisa, Italy

Piazza de Miracoli in Pisa
Piazza de Miracoli in Pisa, Italy

From Adelina Wong at Pack Me To

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

Cancun, Mexico
Cancun, Mexico; Photo by The Cuillivo

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 Lake Titicaca, 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. But, we love Amsterdam, if for no other reason than the delicious Dutch food.

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). We also agree Murissa that Cozumel is a great destination in Mexico, but don’t overlook the eco-adventures along the Riviera Maya (such as Xcaret and Xel-Ha, Xplor, and Xenotes).

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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