Travel is a matter of personal taste, but there are some attractions that most tourists feel simply compelled to see. These are the locations that everyone brings up when they talk about travel, the destinations that grace countless postcards and litter the pages of travel guides.
Going to Paris? Well, you simply must visit the Eiffel Tower. You can’t possibly leave New York without visiting the Empire State Building. Heading to Thailand, well you must have heard the hype about Phuket, right?
These bucket-list attractions are famous, so they must be famous for good reason, goes the thinking. The hard truth is, however, that some of these places used to be a big deal but now aren’t. Others are places that everyone thinks should be interesting but just aren’t, and then there are those destinations that the locals will desperately try and convince you are worthwhile, despite the fact - you guessed it - they aren’t.
Some of the world’s most famous attractions are simply way over-hyped. So save your previous time and money and read our list of the 25 most disappointing attractions on the planet. It’ll make you think twice before planning your next once-in-a-lifetime trip. No need to thank us.
26 25. Keeping Up Appearances: The Taj Mahal, India
It’s one of the seven modern wonders of the world and it’s true that the Taj Mahal is a work of art with a fascinating history. But like all the entries on this list, expectation versus reality can be a little disappointing.
At its peak, the ancient palace receives up to 50,000 tourists per day and around seven million people visit the site each year, which is why authorities have, as of this year, imposed a three-hour limit on visits in a bid to combat ongoing problems with overcrowding, according to The Independent.
But annoying crowds aren’t the only problem. This massive palace in Agra is basically just a pretty facade housing only one small room, and it’s beauty can’t distract away from the extreme poverty and pollution right on its doorstep.
25 24. What Is The Big Deal? The Spanish Steps, Rome
Rome is chockablock with super old, big, impressive landmarks that will take your breath away. But the Spanish Steps is not one of them.
It’s a big flight of stairs that takes you nowhere particularly interesting, and it’s become a free market for pickpockets and peddlers of selfie-sticks.
There are exactly 135 steps, they’re named after the Spanish Embassy, and they hit the big screen in the Audrey Hepburn film A Roman Holiday. The facts are more interesting than the destination. Waste. Of. Time.
24 23. She’s Smaller Than You Think: The Mona Lisa, Paris
The Louvre in Paris is the largest, most-visited art museum in the world. Some 8.1 million tourists flocked here in 2017 to admire its some 70,000 artworks. But one artwork draws the crowds like no other, and that’s the famous painted lady by 16th century artist Leonardo da Vinci.
Despite measuring a tiny 30 by 21 inches, the Mona Lisa is one of the most viewed works of art on the planet. Of course, this means you’ll have to barge your way through hordes of selfie-snapping tourists just to even catch a glimpse. But why bother? There is a lot more wonderful art around the Louvre that’s worthy of your attention.
23 22. An Island Paradise Lost: Boracay, Philippines
Once upon a time, this tiny island in the western Philippines was as close to a tropical idyll as you could find, with pristine beaches, tropical rainforests, and a laid-back, peaceful atmosphere. A magnet for backpackers, word got out and it become the country’s top tourist draw.
Unfortunately, with popularity came an unsustainable level of growth and mass development, with vast resorts swallowing up huge chunks of the famous white sand and raw sewage pumped out into the sea.
Visitors expecting paradise found a polluted and overcrowded disappointment.
But there is some good news. In April 2018, the Philippine government ordered a six-month closure of the island in a serious effort to improved environmental conditions in Boracay. Its success remains to be seen, but undeterred Conde Nast has still included Boracay in The Best Islands in the World: 2018 Readers' Choice Awards. Things could be looking up.
22 21. The Mystery Is More Fun Than The Reality: Stonehenge, UK
This neolithic landmark often makes it into “overrated and disappointing tourist destination” lists, so don’t just take our word for it. If we're honest, the most fascinating thing about Stonehenge is the backstory - or rather, its lack of backstory.
How did the stones get there? What are they for? This is the mysterious, interesting stuff. The actual site itself, however, is just a bunch of big rocks.
Another problem for hard-to-please sightseers is that you can’t even get up close to them, despite the hefty entrance fee.
21 20. Simply Underwhelming: Mount Rushmore, US
Located in South Dakota, this monument dedicated to the revered presidents of America’s past has become synonymous with greatness, but do you know what? It’s not all that.
Firstly, it’s in the middle of nowhere and, secondly, once you have travelled out of your way to find it, the novelty of Mount Rushmore wears off in minutes. Lastly, it looks way smaller than you might expect, which will leave you questioning why you bothered to make the detour in the first place. Take our advice, don’t waste your time.
20 19. Big Whoop: The Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Italy
It’s one of the ultimate sightseeing clichés, posing hilariously with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, while mucking about with forced perspective and "propping" the tower up with a hand or two. Beyond this, however, there really is very little to it. It’s just a tilting old tower in Pisa.
Tourists flock to this Italian landmark, yet it’s surprisingly small. Add to the mix huge crowds and souvenir salesman and the result is a very disappointing travel experience.
19 18. There Are Better Beaches In Sydney Than Bondi
For every person that loves Bondi Beach, you’ll find two others who can’t understand why.
There’s no denying the beach is stunning, but when you have to share it with 40,000 other tourists who flock to this Sydney landmark every single day, it kind of puts a downer on the experience.
Despite its reputation, it’s not even the nicest beach in Sydney and according to Time Out City Life Index, Bondi is ranked as the most overrated suburb in Sydney thanks to it being too crowded, difficult to get to and overpriced.
18 17. Walk On By: The Hollywood Walk Of Fame, USA
You’d have to have a deep passion for bits of pavement and handprints to bother with this Los Angeles attraction. With more than 2,500 handprints, this famous landmark gets old fast, and it isn’t what it used to be either, with many of the plaques, even those belonging to the most beloved stars, in a state of disrepair.
There's a reason Hollywood's Chamber of Commerce decided to put stars bearing the names of stars on either side of this particular stretch of Hollywood Blvd: there is literally no other reason for you to go there. Trust us, the Walk of Fame isn’t reason enough.
17 16. Overdevelopment Is Not Attractive: Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
With their picture-perfect beaches and stunning jungle interiors, Phi-Phi Don and Phi-Phi Leh - collectively known as Ko Phi-Phi - are the jewels of the Andaman Coast.
Sounds worth a visit, but sadly, having faced the 2005 tsunami, the islands were rebuilt with little thought given to sustainable development.
Phi-Phi Don has become an overpriced, over-polluted party island, teeming with rowdy tourists.
The environmental impact has gotten so bad that authorities have closed the islands’ famous Maya Beach, used in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach, in an attempt to revive the area's decimated corals.
Crowded, dirty, terrible food, and an environment destroyed by overdevelopment - don’t waste your time. Thailand has much better to offer.
16 15. The Hype Is Over The Top: The Eiffel Tower, France
When you think of awesome views of the Paris skyline, there’s one landmark sure to dominate - the Eiffel Tower. But guess what? When you visit the tower itself, your view from the top is missing this legendary French attraction.
Once you get close to the Eiffel Tower, the magic almost completely disappears. Plus, the queues will test even the most patient traveller.
15 14. It's In The Wrong Place: Mital del Mundo, Ecuador
Outside of Quito is Mitad del Mundo, the “Middle of the World,” and if you want know what it’s like to visit it, simply draw a line on the ground, straddle it and tell yourself “I’m at the centre of the world.” In terms of experience, it’ll be just as authentic, plus you’ll save yourself a load of money and disappointment.
The Ciudad Mitad del Mundo is a park featuring a monument and a painted line that claiming a latitude of 0–0–0. Thanks to some pre-GPS calculations, however, it’s not the equator at all - the real thing is a few hundreds yards away, and features its own little museum and dividing line and egg balancing experiments. This gaudy attraction is little more than a tourist trap. Avoid.
14 13. Niagara Fail: Niagara Falls, USA
Niagara is famous for being the falls with the highest flow rate of any on the planet, and six million cubic feet of water barreling over a cliff is an awesome sight. But the horrible tourist tat you have to put up with to see it makes the whole experience overwhelmingly disappointing.
You have to pay over the odds to sleep in a decidedly average motel simply because it's within a 10-mile radius of the falls. Then you have to navigate a labyrinth of kitschy casinos and Hard Rock Cafes and world record museums on your way to get there. Only after purchasing the almost mandatory souvenir poncho will you get to see it.
If it’s firmly on your bucket list, then head across the Canadian border to view it. America’s northern neighbours yield better views of all three falls - Am. Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls.
13 12. Authentic Tourist Traps: Floating Markets, Bangkok
Floating markets sound like a wonderful place to absorb local culture and get an insight into a bygone era. Vendors selling colourful produce from traditional rowing boats - that’s got to feel like the real Thailand, right? Wrong.
Yes, there are boats out there loaded with goods for people to buy. But you’re not really buying anything, are you? And after gawking at the first couple of boats going past, it all gets pretty samey.
Most visitors want to visit a floating market and many of them will end up at Damnoen Saduak, 100 km from downtown Bangkok, which means any authenticity is lost under the swarm of tourists. The whole experience feels a bit contrived.
12 11. Yuck: The Blarney Stone, Ireland
The Blarney Stone, which is in Blarney Castle outside Cork City, is one of Ireland’s most famous tourist attractions and attracts around 400,000 tourists a year.
Legend has it that kissing this rock will give you the gift of gab, and many celebrities, such as singer Mick Jagger and comic duo Laurel and Hardy, have visited in order to benefit from its rumoured powers.
But it’s also one of the most unhygienic tourist attractions in the world, according to travel critic Catherine Price, thanks to all the saliva left behind.
Plus. it’s just a rock.
11 11. At The Copa…Copacabana, Brazil
Slurping a cocktail as the sun goes down on the iconic Copacabana Beach - what could be lovelier? Well, unless you like the smell of sewage and threat of pickpocketing, pretty much anything.
It might be one of Rio de Janeiro’s major pulls, but this beach is always crowded and it’s actually a bit low-class, lined with tacky hotels and a busy main road.
10 10. The Least Impressive Attraction In New Zealand: Hobbiton Movie Set
The marketing bumph invites you to experience the real Middle-Earth with a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set, featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. Take a look at Bag End, where Frodo and Bilbo’s adventures began. Get lost among the hobbit holes and visit the Green Dragon Inn, the mill and the Party Tree. It all sounds jolly enough, until you see the entry fee, and the crowds.
Tolkien nerds might enjoy this odd little attraction, but for the casual fan of the movies, the gigantic film set that is New Zealand in its entirety, is way more impressive.
9 9. Say Goodbye To Personal Space: Times Square, USA
Flashing advertisements, obnoxious peddlers selling ripped DVDs, chain restaurants, and hordes of lost tourists - what is the big deal about Times Square?
It might be the first stop on the list of tourists visiting New York for the first time, but unless buying grocery-store candy at the M&M's World store, dining at an unremarkable Olive Garden, and gawking at billboards, is your idea of a top time, Times Square has little else to offer. Residents of the city go out of their way to avoid this area, and we don’t blame them.
8 8. It’s Not Even The Most Interesting Church In Paris: Notre Dame, France
Thanks to its role in Victor Hugo’s famous work The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Notre Dame is one of the most famous churches in the world. While it looks romantic, with its towers and crypts, gargoyles and bourdon bell, it’s by no means the most interesting church in Paris. Its reputation has been romanticised, somewhat.
Any gothic romance you hope to experience will be knocked out of you by the hundreds of other tourists gawping at the architecture.
7 7. An Ancient Wonder At Odds With A Modern World: The Pyramids At Giza, Egypt
The fantasy of visiting the Great Pyramids, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is quite different to the reality.
These great structures have not been untouched by time, insomuch as they now enjoy a backdrop of Pizza Hut, KFC, and a ton of litter.
Although crowd numbers have been in steep decline, the site still has its fair share of aggressive touts and security measures mean you can't touch the Sphinx or climb up the sides of the pyramids anymore. The pyramids are remarkable, but the fact they are so marred by modern Cairo is enough to disappoint many travellers.