What is it that we all find so magical about travelling? There’s a reason why we’re all here, after all, this community of people who seek to experience the riches our planet has to offer.
Maybe your 9-to-5 existence is getting you down, and you plan something as lavish and exotic as possible for your brief vacation escape. And how to experience that? Lazily watching the world go by from the deck of a luxury cruise ship? Forgetting all of that splendour and just jumping in the experience life with the locals, armed only with your backpack? Wherever you’re going and however you’re experiencing it, just make sure you’re on the trip that’s right for you.
In reality, this is a tough thing to do. Sometimes, we choose vacation destinations on the spur of the moment, in keeping with the whole spirit of adventure. Sometimes, we base our choices on reviews and recommendations from others. There’s also, of course, the possibility of sticking with the familiar, returning to a resort that you know well and enjoy.
All of these balls are entirely in your court, friends. As Burger King like to say, have it your way.
That extends to our opinions of the destinations themselves, of course. Universal popularity is completely impossible. In this rundown, we’ll look at 20 super popular vacation destinations. These are some of the most beautiful and fascinating places on Earth, including Venice, Australia’s Bondi Beach and Barcelona, yet there are still faults to be found with them.
20 Phuket, Thailand: Trouble In Paradise?
For many people, the number one thing to look for in a vacation is quite simple: sun, sand and garishly-coloured cocktails with one of those umbrellas stuck in them. If that’s what you’re all about, Phuket will deliver in spades. The biggest province of Thailand, it receives quite staggering tourist numbers (8.4 million last year, according to The Thaiger).
The trouble with all this popularity is that… well, humans will be humans. Lately, Phuket has been victim to a terrible litter problem, and the quality of the water at the beaches is declining as a result. Not to mention the issue of actually finding a spot on said beaches. This is why we can’t have nice things.
19 Loch Ness, Scotland: A Whole lot Of Nothing
You won’t have to worry about sun, sandy beaches and cocktails here, that’s for darn sure. Scotland, like much of the British Isles (well, all of it, speaking as an honest Londoner), is hardly renowned for its weather. One thing Loch Ness is certainly famous for, though, is its monster.
It’s a beautiful, natural and peaceful place (think the exterior shots in the Harry Potter movies), but it’s also alive with overpriced and tacky Nessie-related souvenirs. And, of course, a boat trip. An appearance from the legendary creature would certainly liven up your journey, but it’s a long and winding road from Edinburgh to be rewarded by all that super-murky water.
18 Hong Kong: Caught Up In The Crowd
Now, I don’t know if you’ve gotten this memo, but streets tend to be just a teensy bit on the busy side in China. We are, after all, talking about the world’s most populated country. How many people live there? Almost 1.5 billion, that’s how many.
Hong Kong itself is the fourth most densely-populated region in the world. With all of this in mind, then, you’ll understand why visitors can have trouble making their way around the city’s busier districts. Overcrowding is rife, and conditions can be stifling. You’ll definitely want to take care.
17 New York City, New York: The Met-Ropolis
Now, nobody’s talking needless smack about New York City here. Heckles no. As I say, every city and region on this rundown is a world-renowned bucket list regular, and New York is certainly no different. It’s just that, sometimes, a place can be so hyped up that it’s bound to disappoint some of us.
The concrete jungle that is New York boasts all manner of tourist attractions, such as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center and so many more. The difficulty is getting around the heavily industrialised and busy streets. Have you ever driven… well, anywhere in New York?
16 Marrakesh, Morocco: I Heart Tourists
For many travellers, the allure of the whole thing lies in new experiences, sharing in a culture so different from our own, learning from it, and expanding our horizons as a result. The issue with that is, many such destinations rely on tourists for their income, and so cater more and more to them. They’re in danger of losing their identity in the process.
The frequently-visited town of Marrakesh, Morocco revels in its popularity, with attractions and overly-friendly locals who are out to make some money from the naivety of visitors. That’ll be a popular sentiment in this list, as you’ll see.
15 Bali, Indonesia: Much Bigger Than You Think
Some of us like to take idyllic, peaceful vacations. That clichéd image of the cartoon person floating in a rubber ring in a pool all to themselves, sipping from a tropical drink? You could be that cartoon person, friends.
It doesn’t often work out that way, though. Luxurious resorts tend to have incredibly busy peak times, and nowhere is this truer than in Bali.
As Ed Graham Photography reports, the beautiful Indonesian island is a vast and busy place, with a population of almost four million. These problems of overcrowding are exacerbated by vacationers. A wonderful place, certainly, but not the remote and peaceful idyllic paradise some may picture.
14 Hollywood, California: Celebrity Spotters Beware
Here’s something important to note. When it comes to disappointing destinations, a place doesn’t have to be all-out bad. None of the entries on this list represent bad trips to take. The key is knowing what you’re getting yourself into.
Take Hollywood, for instance. If Katy Perry’s California Gurls is any indication, we should all be rapping with Snoop Dogg and dancing around in a beautiful place called Candyfornia. Sun-kissed skin, so hot we’ll melt your popsicle and all of that malarkey.
The Hollywood area itself isn’t the celebrity-ridden funland you may have envisaged and the Walk of Fame is a dangerous tourist trap to fall into.
13 Walt Disney World, Florida: Maybe Not The Happiest Place On Earth
Now, this one, I’m definitely a little conflicted on. Granted, Disneyland/World isn’t for everybody, but if you’ve got a child or two on board, it’s basically a dream come true. The place is pretty darn popular with adults too.
The thing about Florida specifically is, there’s just a wealth of other attractions to see and enjoy. When you’re on an all-too-brief vacation, you’ve got to make the best of it.
As The Independent suggests, Orlando also offers Universal, which may arguably boast the more worthy attractions and rides. Still, that’s the beauty of all of this: it’s completely up to the individual.
12 Athens, Greece: It’s Ancient
There are some places that have one very obvious USP. No fuss, no muss, just make a beeline straight towards it if you’re in the area. No trip to Pisa, for instance, would be complete without going to check out that world-renowned Leaning Tower (more on that later). These are the sorts of attractions that people build trips around.
When in Athens, you’re probably going to want to make sure to stop off at the Acropolis. The jewel of this historic city, it’s a must see. It’s just a shame that the modern streets (which are sadly dirty and crowded, The Huffington Post reports) aren’t as valued.
11 Los Angeles, California: Katy Perry Strikes Again
Earlier in this rundown, we took a look at Hollywood, that much-glamorised haven of the rich and famous. The city of Los Angeles is very much in that same ballpark, and again, it’s not quite the same as we see in the movies.
As Traveller reports, there are certainly luxurious and exclusive areas of the city. However, to skate over the less fortunate areas of the city is to do what’s happening here an injustice. There’s a lot of pollution and traffic to mar the A-lister image, which may come as a stark surprise to those who have never been.
10 Barcelona, Spain: Paradise Lost
Often, Europe is seen as a bit of a treasure trove of history and culture. Paris, Rome, Florence, Naples… I took a cruise around the Mediterranean this summer and had the fortune of passing through some of these wonderful cities.
That’s exactly the thing, though: I passed through them. On a brief trip, you can get only a snapshot of what a town or region is really like. As much as I loved Barcelona, and wish I could have spent more time there, things change, and (as The Richest states) the city has embraced commercialism and chains in a big way.
9 Prague, Czech Republic: Money Money Money
Another important thing to note is that you can’t condemn a place for the tourists (and the damage and pollution caused by such). After all, in these uncertain times, it’s dang difficult enough to get by. The fact is that visitors can make up a huge proportion of a nation or resort’s income, and many vendors and stores are completely reliant on such.
Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, knows this all too well. It’s a city that can be tough to navigate for those who don’t have the lay of the land and can be very unfriendly should you stray from the beaten track.
8 Cairo, Egypt: Don’t Talk To Strangers
So, yes. As I say, the word tourist does have certain connotations. Often, the locals can see visitors coming a mile off, and seem to think that they have the world gullible tattooed across their foreheads.
If you’ve been to any major attraction around the world, you’ll know that they’re breeding grounds for street vendors. Some of them just will not take no for an answer, either. Cairo (and Giza, the site of the iconic pyramids) are particularly notorious for them.
In 2013, USA Today reports, the US Embassy had to issue a warning about the aggressive nature of Egypt’s street vendors. Couple that with the infamous congestion, and you’ve got a city that may not give you the experience you’d hoped for.
7 Mykonos, Greece: It’s Greece, Jim, But Not As We Know It
You know how it can be with tourists. There you are on our remote island, minding your own business, when somebody comes along and discovers you. Before you know it, they’ve built a dang Starbucks and seven McDonald’s outlets around your home as you slept. You’ll wake up with somebody apologising to you because the ice cream machine’s broken.
Of the Greek islands, Insider reports, Mykonos has been hit perhaps the hardest by the stampede of tourists. It’s developed a reputation as the place to party, which attracts visitors in droves but likely puts off just as many. Again, it’s all a matter of opinions.
6 Bondi Beach, Sydney: You Can’t Keep Anything Nice
When it comes to countries famous for their beaches, Australia is right up there with the best. The island nation is surrounded by miles and miles of magnificent coastline. That’s a bucket list road trip if ever I’ve seen one.
As far as that goes, Bondi Beach’s reputation precedes it. And so we arrive at a familiar problem: everyone wants to go there, but everyone wants to go there.
The unfortunate consequence is that the beach just cannot accommodate all the visitors. Facilities are sorely lacking, and the sheer quantities of refuge they leave behind detract from the natural beauty of the area.
5 Pisa, Italy: Let’s Take THAT Picture
For the average tourist-about-town, Pisa doesn’t boast the numerous big-ticket attraction that, say, London, New Your City or Rome do. That’s not a fair comparison, I’ll grant you, but that’s the way it is. What the beautiful Tuscan town does offer, however, is… well, you know what it offers. A certain tower of questionable architectural repute.
If you’re not strictly a history buff, the whole thing may not live up to your expectations. The tower is not as large as some visitors envisage, and once you’ve got your obligatory hey, check me out, with my revolutionary holding-the-tower-up pose! Nobody’s done this before in the history of everybody photo, you’re probably done.
4 Daytona Beach, Florida: Man, That’s A Lot Of People
Veteran travellers get that feeling sometimes, that they’ve been everywhere and seen everything. Their destination bucket list gives them that same feeling you get as you approach the end of a show you’ve been binging. Where in heckola is my life going? What do I do? Who even am I? You know, that feeling.
For some of us, the big hotspots cease to be big hotspots once everyone else has been there too. When MTV Spring Break first aired in Daytona Beach in 1986, it ushered in waves of visitors, many of whom came simply to be able to say that they’d been.
What is there to do at Daytona that hasn’t already been done? That’s the question.
3 Stonehenge, England: Rock The Heck Am I Doing Here?
Crossing back over to the British Isles now, maybe Loch Ness wasn’t for you. that’s totally fine. Personal choice and creativity is the essence of travel, after all. In that case, why not hop over the border to England and take in another popular tourist attraction: Stonehenge.
This prehistoric ring of standing stones is found in Wiltshire. They stand about 13ft high, leaving some visitors disappointed at the size of the monument. According to Fox News (via Icepop), the general consensus on this mysterious site was, “It’s small, you can’t get very close to it, and it’s really not worth the rather long journey from London.”
2 Venice, Italy: Boat Ride To Hell
I hear you, friends, I really do. For many of us, it’s nothing short of outrageous to see the much-beloved Venice here. After all, this idyllic and traditional town has been a dream destination for all kinds of travellers for decades. The idea of sailing down those canals with your partner is about as beautifully romantic as it’s possible to get.
In reality, though, it’s not all reading poetry, having picnics together, being serenaded and smelling the sweet, sweet smell of roses. You’ll be smelling something rather browner and more questionable, in fact: As Ranker reports, the water of the Venetian canals is very polluted, looking and smelling quite foul.
1 The Australian Outback: The Official Middle Of Nowhere
As we know, lots of places can claim to be in the middle of nowhere. None rock that status quite like the Australian Outback does, though.
Lots of drivers are enticed by the charm of the open road. Top down, wind in your hair. If that sort of thing is your jam, there are no roads like those in the Australian Outback. It’s remarkable just how vast, open and unspoiled this area is, when you consider how we’ve filleted and packaged much of the world for our own ends.
If you’re the sort of adventurer who’d like to visit these wilds, you’ll sure have to take care. The remoteness, heat and wildlife of the region are not going to be your friends.
References: Insider, Huffington Post, The Independent, Traveller, The Richest, Ranker, Icepop.