It used to be that once a place got so well-known that you’d know it just by seeing a picture of it—that place became a black hole for tourism. Even if you heard about it, the chances were that by the time you got there, there would be a couple hundred other people waiting in line to see it too. So, it’s no surprise that the introduction of the information highway that is the internet has only hastened the process of corroding hidden treasures all around the world. With the exponential amount of pictures uploaded daily, it wouldn’t surprise us to learn that the entire world has been photographed. The recent boom in social media travel and travel bloggers has made matters even worse. Everyone wants to travel everywhere now and the pictures we find online leave us drooling to go to these places. The only problem is that when we show up, it’s nothing like the photos we saw online. Social media paints the most beautiful pictures of places around the world from Egypt to the Philippines, and in doing so, it has accidentally made these places nearly unbearable. That’s not to say these destinations have lost their beauty, but we must admit that making them popular has certainly ruined the tranquility.
So if you think social media has ruined traveling, then sit down and learn to start thinking inside the box because here are the 20 Travel Destinations That Were Completely Ruined (Thanks To Social Media).
20 Boracay, Philippines - Has To Be Closed To Visitors From Time To Time
In 2012, Boracay was named the world’s best island. And if you’ve ever seen pictures of this little island in the Philippines, you’d know why. South of Manila and just off of the northern tip of Panay, Boracay is a place that has gained international notoriety for its pristine white beaches and lovely tropical water. The Philippines is a great place to travel for beaches, but there are so many islands that it can be sometimes difficult deciding which one to plant your flag in. People all around the world were put on notice when Boracay was named the world’s best beach, and now it’s become a major tourism destination. Not only are the beaches pristine, but with activities like snorkeling and helmet diving (you’re given a helmet with air and can walk along the sea bottom), Boracay is the ultimate beach excursion. There are even some quaint shops and eateries built right along the coast so you don’t even have to leave the sandy beaches to explore the area.
It’s hard to imagine a beach would make this list since there are so many that you’d think it’d be hard to ruin one specifically. Unfortunately, Boracay has suffered from over-tourism to the extent that the government has had to step in and limit the amount of visitors as well as closing the area from time to time.
19 Great Wall Of China, China - People Suffer The Long Ride From Beijing To Reach The Wall, Only To Find Huge Crowds
What might be one of the greatest structures ever built (sorry, we know how cool the pyramids are), the Great Wall of China stands as the nation’s symbol for strength and ability and has stood the tests of time to become a modern marvel of the ancient world and a modern destination for visitors who want to see the structure in all of its glory. The 13,000 miles of wall and military outposts were originally built along China’s northern border in the third century B.C. to keep out northern invades. And while the wall never successfully kept out such invaders, over time, it grew to symbolize the country’s incredible strength as a nation. Today, people from all over the world travel to see this structure. Walking along the top gives an incredible view of China, and there’s really no other place in the word to see the image of a stone serpent snaking its way across the landscape.
Like any other major structure like this, people love to take pictures. And while many travel blogs and social media adventurers love to post pictures of the wall, it can get a little crowded by the heavy tourism. The Great Wall is not a travel destination like the Maldives of Bahamas. It’s meant for historical context and to wonder at the human ability to create and build. Many people suffer the long ride from Beijing to reach the wall only to find crowds. And some are even disappointed by it, perhaps having expectations built up through social media.
18 Cano Cristales, Colombia - It's Not Always So Colorful
It’s often been called one of the most beautiful rivers in the entire world, and honestly, it’s hard to argue with that. The famous Cano Cristales in Colombia in a river so alien that it’s hard to believe the pictures when you seem them. South of Bogota at the very bottom of the Cano Canoas National Park in central Colombia lies the Cano Cristales, a tributary of the Guayabero River. What makes the river so special is the colors. Nicknames include the 5 Colored River and the Rainbow River because visitors will find that the river is comprised of blues, blacks, greens, yellows, and a lot of reds. The colors come from the aquatic macarenia clavigera plant which requires a very specific environment for the colors to bloom.
Of course, this bloom only happens for a single part of the year, and what many people don’t see from social media is that the river is closed for most of the year while the Macarenia clavigera is in hibernation. At times, the river actually dries up. The closing of the river is due in part to the heavy foot traffic the site gets. And because this phenomenon only happens in one place in the world, it’s important that the government protects this treasure for future generations to enjoy.
17 Sistine Chapel, Vatican City - Make Sure You Buy A Ticket Ahead Of Time (For Your Crammed Visit)
The independent state of Vatican City in Rome, Italy is one of the most beautiful cities in the world when it comes to old-word buildings. It’s certainly the place to go to see some of the most iconic works of art and architecture influenced by Christianity. Much of its most splendid works are born from Italy’s famous Renaissance which gave birth to some of history’s most famous artists and thinkers. Suffice it to say, if you’re an art lover or someone who appreciates history, then you need to see visit Vatican City. In Vatican City resides one of the most beautiful works of art in the world, The Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel is the official residence of the Pope, and it’s there that you will find some of famous artist Michelangelo’s greatest work painted on the roof above.
Pictures on social media tend to skew the realities of visiting the Sistine Chapel. With cameras and eyes pointed up at the exquisite paintings, it’s hard to notice the massive crowds below. Small and famous do not go well together. Visiting the Sistine Chapel means enduring crowds so thick you can barely crawl, areas that are designated ‘no speaking’ areas, and tours that slog on. You need to reserve tickets from the church’s museum, which can be pricey too.
16 Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Italy - Coming Only For The Tilted Tower Takes Away The Beauty Of The City
In central Italy in the region known as Tuscany, you’ll find the quaint town of Pisa along the Arno River. Italy is known for its beautiful cities all over the country built during late antiquity and during the Renaissance. The city itself is beautiful and might have had a chance to compete with cities like Seville, Rome, and Florence as being one of the premiere old-world cities in Italy for travelers to visit. Instead, Pisa is famous for one structure and one structure only: the notorious Leaning Tower of Pisa. The free-standing bell tower was built near the town’s cathedral and almost immediately showed signs of tilting. Over time, because of the soft foundation to one side, the tower began tilting and tilting until the city was forced to get involved in the 20th and 21st century to stabilize the structure. Because of the odd tilt of the beautiful structure, people from all around the world travel to come see the bizarre tower. The tilt also offers the perfect opportunity to take hilarious photos by creating optical illusions.
It’s a lot of fun to do, but because it’s the most famous tilting structure in the world, a crowd full of people leaning and sticking their arms out looks kind of funny. And coming for Pisa for the Leaning Tower takes away the beauty of the city at large.
15 Pedra Do Telegrafo, Brazil - It's All A Matter Of Perspective
By now, you’ve probably seen this place online in one form of the other, whether it’s the photos on social media showing daredevils braving the sheer drop just to snap a photo of the Brazilian backdrop or if you’ve come across the articles asking why anyone would risk life and limb just to get one awesome picture. Most people simply know it as ‘the cliff.’ Pedra do Telegrafo has become world-famous as the view to have when you travel to Rio de Janeiro. The view is the result of a beautiful hiking trail you can take that snakes you along the neighboring hills near the Brazilian city. Really, the photo is great, but the nature and hiking required to get there make reaching Pedra do Telegrafo worth the expedition.
The only problem here is that the photos you find online and on social media aren’t nearly as harrowing as they make it out to be. It’s all a matter of perspective. And if you get a snapshot at the right angle, it looks like the cliff has a sharp drop, but the reality is more like a ten-foot drop that will still hurt you. However, the shallow slope is far less dangerous than what you see in photos. The trick of the photo has ruined the beauty of the hike.
14 Great Pyramids Of Giza, Egypt - A Wonder Of The World Is Surrounded By Urban Development
What has to be one of the most compelling and alluring attractions of the ancient world are the Pyramids of Giza. We’ve all seen the photos of the travelers on camels’ backs with the three massive pyramids in the background, trudging across the desert landscape like explorers looking for an undiscovered tomb. In fact, the pyramids have inspired many people to seek out adventure and mystery. They’re reminiscent of an ancient time in the world when the ancient Egyptians ruled the Nile. Even more so, it harkens us back to a more recent but old time when archaeologists explored the ruins of Egypt looking for famous tombs. All of the mystery and beauty surrounding the Pyramids have only been fueled by famous photos of people standing with the pyramid or kissing the Great Sphinx.
The sad reality is that the pyramids are right next to a major Egyptian city in Cairo. In fact, there’s a golf course right next to them. The fact that such a wonder of the world is surrounded by urban development lets a little air out of the sail and seems to be missing from the photos we see on social media. Now, people flock in hordes to see the great Pyramids only to find that it’s like any other major attraction, crowded and severely edited to appeal to a certain aesthetic.
13 Machu Picchu, Peru - The Site Could Get Ruined
The lovely and captivating ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru may be one of the worst offenses on this list. Even before the age of internet and social media, these 15th-century hilltop ruins of the Incas were one of the most fascinating heritage sites in all of the Americas. Nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, the former citadel sits atop the Sacred Valley northwest of Cuzco where the Urubamba River flows. When you arrive, you’re looking slightly down over the ruins with a backdrop of lush green mountain ranges all around you and this single point of civilization. It’s quite a beautiful site and one that begs for photographs.
Of course, the photographs have only increased exponentially in volume, thanks to the internet. And now that social media has encouraged people to travel and see more, what were once local points of beauty have no become full-fledged tourist destinations. The fate of Machu Picchu is particularly concerning since it’s really the only site of its kind. The site itself is fairly small, yet the amount of visitors has been growing substantially, so the government has had to step in and enforce a ticketing system to regulate the tourism. An effort to build a cable car system to the site has been halted since studies have shown that the foot traffic could cause a devastating landslide that would ruin the site.
12 Paris, France - So Many People It's Difficult To Navigate
We struggled with this one. And we struggled for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s easy to knock the crowds in Paris. Even before the internet or social media made it one of the most photographed places in the world, Paris was one of the most visited cities in the world. Paris has always had a reputation as being a place people need to see. Another thing is we love Paris. It’s such a beautiful place full of history and beauty. Whatever you could want from a place, Paris has it. From museums like the Louvre to architecture like the Eiffel Tower, Paris sits near the top of great cities.
One problem with social media is the subversion of expectations. Clever angles and good timing have allowed bloggers and social media professionals to snap shots of Paris cafes, streets, and images that give Paris the feeling that it’s remote and tranquil. The reality is that one of the most visited places in the world comes with some of the largest crowds too, and in a city as old as Paris, it’s hard to deal with them. The trouble is that many images of Paris promise an intimate journey through an old city, when really, it’s as crowded and difficult to navigate as any other major city.
11 Maya Bay, Thailand - Too Much Attention Since The Movie, 'The Beach'
For the past few years, Thailand has been steadily growing as a travel destination for younger adventurers. Millennials have found a perfect place to visit because the beauty of Thailand can be had for incredibly low prices, perfect for the younger generation that can’t afford to travel to the more frequented destinations of the world. And Thailand is a gorgeous place, especially Phuket. In fact, Phuket is famous for its many lovely islands. One of the better-known of these islands is the Phi Phi Islands, and that is where you’ll find Phi Phi Lee. Phi Phi Lee is famous for is beach which was once featured in a film with Leonardo DiCaprio. It gained some notoriety after the film for its exotic location, wonderful scenery, and crystal blue water.
Of course, the advent of social media and the ever-growing number of young millennials traveling to Phuket has only burdened the small island and its famous bay. Because of all the attention garnered on social media, Maya Bay sees nearly 5,000 visitors a day and this has caused some extensive damage to the coral reef. In fact, the damage has grown so severe that the local government has been forced to close the beach at times to allow the fragile ecosystem to recover.
10 Taj Mahal, India - Because Of Overcrowding, The White Marble Is Becoming More And More Yellow
The Taj Mahal is another world-famous structure that has endured the test of time and continued to stun crowds of people who flock to Agra, India. This 17th century mausoleum was constructed by the emperor, Shan Jahan, to honor his most favorite wife. The white-marble structure has a great historical significance and even some romantic undertones if you find a man spending so much land and energy building a tomb for you romantic. In fact, one famous story suggests that after completion, the builders of the great Taj Mahal has their arms cut off so they could never recreate the beauty of the building ever again. It's considered one of the most gorgeous structures in history, so it’s no wonder that people flock to take pictures here.
Unfortunately, social media has distorted our expectations of this place. For one, it’s incredibly crowded. Turns out, one of India’s most famous destinations suffers from overpopulation. In fact, the Indian government has been forced to cut down on the amount of visitors they allow to the site. Because of pollution and overcrowding, the white marble is losing its sheen and becoming more and more yellow. So, those pictures of the lone person posing in front of the great, white Taj Mahal may have inadvertently prevented others from doing the same.
9 Forbidden City, China - The Crowds Are Overwhelming
There’s something about the mystery surrounding a place named The Forbidden City. Near the heart of Beijing in China, you’ll find the palace originally erected in the Ming dynasty and home to dozen of Chinese emperors. Originally built with the belief that the emperor was an incarnation of God himself, the palace was built as a replication of Heaven on Earth. Suffice it to say, the building is incredibly stunning and massively large. Since it’s now a museum, there are a number of relics important to Chinese culture within the Forbidden City. Inside, you’ll find beautiful halls, belvederes, towers, exquisite pillars, and eaves. Named because it was off-limits for common people at the time, the Forbidden City is one of China’s most complete and best representations of its ancient, storied history and culture. The Forbidden City is such an iconic place that it sees nearly twice as many visitors a year than equally impressive destinations like the Louvre in Paris.
Unfortunately, this means that it suffers from the same symptom that many others on this list suffer from: the crowds. As sprawling as the site can be, the crowds can sometimes feel overwhelming here. The Chinese government has stepped in to regulate the museum more heavily in order to preserve the experience for its visitors.
8 Cinque Terre, Italy - Hidden Treasures Are No Longer Hidden
The demise of Cinque Terre in the north of Italy has been a more recent phenomenon. With social media allowing us billions of photos, the world has shrunken considerably in size and scope. Now, hidden treasures in foreign paradises have been called out and put on display for the world to find. That’s what happened to this small coast along the northwest of Italy. Houses were carefully built into the steep rock face along the shore, painted different colors and given an ambiance totally unique while still feeling unapologetically Italian. The scene is beautiful, and we’re sure you’ve seen some photos online of people posing in front of this Riviera Coastline. Of the five villages that comprise of Cinque Terre, the most iconic has to be Manarola, which is the small coastal village full of colorful houses that you most typically see when looking at the area on social media.
Because they’re built in such tight spaces along the rock side cliffs of the Riviera, these villages are not designed to hold the massive influx of crowds that have been growing annually in the area. There are ways to avoid the mess that social media has caused in the region, and we suggest staying in one of the five towns overnight for the full experience rather than simply visiting as a day tourist, the ones that typically cause the most log jam.
7 Hooker Valley Track, New Zealand - Social Media Has Blurred The Realities Of The Trail
New Zealand has become a major travel destination for younger travelers because of its scenic beauty and accessible hikes. One of the most popular of those scenic hikes is the Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook National Park. This trail in the middle of New Zealand’s lower island body is one of the most frequently-visited trails by both locals and visitors to the area. That’s because the hike is considered accessible to a wide range of fitness levels. The trail is only 3 miles long with an incline of only a hundred feet or so. There’s a wooden plank trail over the land and a bridge which leads to the closest view of Mount Cook and a glacial lake at the bottom.
Scenic and serene, this entry on our list doesn’t get beat up as badly as others, but still, social media has blurred the realities of the trail. The Hooker Valley Track is still an effort to complete if you want that picture people love to take. Another misleading aspect is the green grass typically seen in photos. Most of the time, this place gets freezing and many people don’t realize that upon arriving. We chalk this entry’s spot on this list as a simple misrepresentation of reality when it comes to photos of the Hook Valley Track.
6 Angkor Wat, Cambodia - Beautiful Pictures Can’t Even Be Taken Without Catching Someone’s Shoulder Or Face
Probably one of the most exotic destinations in Southeast Asia, the temple of Angkor Wat has always had an air about it that made it both mystical and awe-inspiring to behold. The smoky Cambodian fog floating over the water before the rustic, jagged temple’s structure is truly an image from another time and another world. One of the greatest wonders of the ancient world, Angkor Wat is actually the largest religious monument in the world at a whopping 400 acres. It was originally built as a Hindu temple before being converted to a Buddhist temple in the 12th century. The old-world structure blends in perfectly with the palm trees and thick growth famous to Cambodia and has become an iconic image of the country. It’s hard to see from the ground level, but the entire site was built with great care. From the air, you can see that the temple is built in a perfect square shape with a square water feature surrounding the temple within.
People flock from all over the world to see the temple, and social media has only encouraged more people to travel here for the beautiful pictures you can take within. The crowds can be a problem—so bad that the beautiful pictures can’t even be taken without catching someone’s shoulder or face. Another problem is that the tourism has attracted impoverished locals who pester travelers to buy things and have ruined the sanctity of the temple.
5 Chiang Mai, Thailand - Elephant Rides Are Problematic
There is a fairytale quality to Thailand’s largest northern city of Chiang Mai. It was once a major capital and strategically-located city because of its proximity to the Ping River. What makes the city so beautiful and unique are its many Buddhist temples situated all over the city and in the surrounding national parks. Each temple was crafted with the utmost skill and care, with details so amazing that it’s sometimes hard to truly appreciate it from a photo. Many trails and hikes will take you to temples like the famous Doi Inthanon temple with gardens and structures so breathtaking and unique, it’s as though it was taken from another world entirely. The otherworldly charm and beauty of Chiang Mai has even earned it the coveted distinction of being a UNESCO Creative City for its contribution to the arts.
Of course, a place so lovely and fantastical draws a lot of visitors flocking to snap photos. There is an ongoing battle with the locals who fight to preserve the tradition of Chiang Mai while tourism in the city continues to grow. Another problem with Chiang Mai are the elephant rides that tourists can take. These animals are usually smuggled illegally as babies and forced into cruel training regiments for the tourism industry.
4 Venice, Italy - Too Many Tourists Has Led To Log Jams In The Narrow Canals
We’ve all seen the images of lovers in the traditional gondola boats floating lazily through the canals of Venice Italy. The image is one of the most recognizably iconic in the world. Who wouldn’t want to float away in Italy and be transported to and from your hotel to delectable Italian restaurants on the water? The canals and the gondolas that visitors ride in are very much like a fairy tale, a world built on the water where you get around by traveling the water. The tall, narrow canals along the sides of the Grand Canal where you soak up the sun is blocked out by towering, lovely, colorful, and vibrant Italian homes and buildings that all create an image and experience that have made Venice one of a kind.
Venice, however, is not one of a kind necessarily. This not a knock on Venice, but there are actually many cities and places in the world where you can travel around the city via boat. Venice is not a monopoly, but its name has become synonymous with romantic boat rides, and the images we see on social media of travelers in gondolas have made people flock to the Italian city to have their own experience. This has led to log jams in the narrow canals and more gondolas than people. Indeed, tourism has suffocated the experience of Venice.
3 Chefchaouen, Morocco - Not As Blue As Pictures Portray
Morocco at large is an incredibly beautiful country to visit. Its placement at the north of Africa and nearly connected to Spain and the rest of Western Europe by the Strait of Gibraltar makes it the perfect place to explore a unique culture born out of so much history. Marrakesh, Casablanca normally see the most visitors, but a small village to the south of Tangier happens to see a massive increase in visitors during peak tourism season. Nestled in the hills of Morocco, the quaint village of Chefchaouen has become one of the hottest places to snap travel photos for social media. That’s because the village is blue. That’s right. Although the stories differ as to the actual reason why the buildings are colored this way, it can’t be denied that it looks beautiful when you snap a photo of yourself walking the narrow streets surrounded by the deep, vibrant blue.
Because it looks so good, tourists flock to this city to get their pictures and see the unique village. The reality is that the entire city is not steeped in blue. It’s not so much a letdown as others on this list, but some people claim Chefchaouen is not as blue as advertised. Another problem is that the village has become overpriced and lost much of its old-world charm for the sake of profiting off of tourists.
2 Jeju Island, Korea - Not-So-Tranquil...
South of the Korean Peninsula, you’ll find the quaint island of Jeju. Jeju is South Korea’s largest island and home to the country’s highest mountain. It’s also where you’ll find a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mountain is actually a dormant volcano, and the lava tubes there have captivated visitors from all around the world. But Jeju isn’t a one-trick kind of travel destination. It’s also home to beautiful South Korean coastline and beaches, some gorgeous scenery along the ocean, and some lovely fields of purple flowers. What makes Jeju such a great place to visit is its small-town aesthetic. The island is part of one of the country’s smallest province and holds a fairly small population. The quaint small town makes visiting the island warm and appealing.
Once word of this tranquil island reached social media, the tourism industry to the island exploded. The massive inflow of cash is a good thing for the economy; so good that the government has begun plans to remodel the airport and make it an international hub that would increase visitors to the island significantly. This is all to the locals’ dismay. The new mega-hotels and heavy foot traffic have ruined the island. Trash, traffic, crowded streets, and thoughtless tourists have overrun the island and tarnished its tranquility.
1 Santorini, Greece - The View Is Starting To Be Less Impressive Because Of Overcrowding
The Greek island of Santorini may be one of the most notorious entries on this list. South of the mainland, in the Aegean Sea, Santorini is the southernmost island in the Cyclades group of islands. It’s the remnant of a volcanic eruption and is shaped roughly like a crescent moon. What makes Santorini so mesmerizing are its classic Greek white-washed houses that dot the ridge of a steep hillside in what may be one of the most beautiful images in traveling since the advent of social media. The city is breathtaking as you wander the narrow walkways among the beautiful homes and dine outdoors while the sun sets.
There isn’t an Instagram model or travel blogger around that hasn’t taken a photo of this view while sitting atop a white rooftop or staring out into the sunset. Of course, Santorini has earned a reputation as being the island to go to for this view, and it has caused some overcrowding issues. What makes Santorini such a tragedy is the fact that there are so many Greek islands out there and dozens of them have similar white-washed homes and beautiful sunsets, but Santorini happens to be one of the most beautiful and one of the most well-known, so it suffers the most from overcrowding.