Now, when it comes to our precious vacations, we often like to be pretty darn particular. After all, we aren’t Kim and Kanye, and we can’t afford to throw our cash around willy-nilly. We try to tailor our trips to our tastes as best we can, and every dollar counts.
We trawl travel agents and airline’s sites, compare deals on holiday insurance, all of these sorts of things. Before getting down to crunching those numbers, though, you’ve got to settle on exactly where and when you’re going.
Needless to say, that’s going to depend on the kind of trip you’ve got in mind. Is it going to be a week or two of lazing on the beach, enjoying exotic fruity drinks with little umbrellas in them? Would you prefer to go skiing in Switzerland? Or maybe an adventurous camping trip would be more your speed? That’s the sheer joy of traveling, in my eyes. There’s a perfect trip for everybody out there, you’ve just got to find it (and compromise and agree on it, in a lot of cases).
The thing is, though, you’ve also got to be wary. If you’ve ever ordered a disappointing pizza on the strength of a picture on the website, you’ll know that what you’re looking at and what you end up receiving can be two different things.
So you were hoping for a relaxing and romantic trip to Venice? A luxurious, comfortable and sun-kissed lounge on Bondi beach? Perhaps even a liberating, carefree swim with the squishy denizens of Jellyfish Lake? Well, those are just the first disappointments of my rundown of 25 Supposedly Relaxing Destinations That Will Have Us Leaving More Frustrated Than We Arrived.
25 The Taj Mahal, India: One Big Garbage Situation
As we all know, the human race is guilty of making some very questionable decisions about our planet. We cut down trees to make money, we cut corners to save money, we waste, pollute and do all kinds of other awful things besides.
So, you wanted to have a peaceful and spiritual visit to India’s iconic Taj Mahal? Well, you may not be able to for much longer. As reported by Global News, the still-stunning structure “has been turning yellow and green due to pollution.” It’s becoming a “hopeless cause,” the Supreme Court of India suggested in July, unless something is done about the site and the “nearby garbage-filled river” that breeds harmful insects.
24 Mount Rushmore, United States: It Looked Much Bigger In The Pictures
As I say, the people of the United States are super proud of their country and their heritage. The U.S.A is a very young country, relatively speaking, but we won’t get pernickety about that.
With this in mind, it stands to reason that Mount Rushmore would be such a popular attraction. In pictures, these 60ft sculpted heads(depicting Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt) always look darn impressive, and perhaps they are if you can get a good view of them. The problem is that the viewing platform’s so far away. Visitors to the monument in Keystone, South Dakota sometimes come back disappointed.
23 Jellyfish Lake, Palau: So, How About Those Jellyfish?
There are several ‘jellyfish lakes’ at Palau, in the western Pacific. The most famous of these, the one you’ve surely seen in those stunning, ethereal and slightly unnerving tourist photos, is found on Eil Malk island.
It’s a super popular tourist destination… or, rather, it has been. Recently, as National Geographic reports, the famous golden jellyfish had all but disappeared, owing to drought and El Niño heating the waters. Earlier this year, disgruntled tourists who had failed to do their research were arriving in the area to learn that the lake had been temporarily closed to visitors (in the hope that the population could recover).
As of right now, the lake is accepting visitors again, but it’s a trip you’ll definitely have to look into before booking to avoid disappointment.
22 Bondi Beach, Australia: Not As Bonza As You May Have Thought
For me, Australia is the most naturally beautiful country in the world. I’m from windy, rainy old Britain, and the climate and scenery of Australia are just a million miles away from anything I’m used to.
You’ll find miles and miles of stunning beaches down under, some of the most brilliantly bizarre wildlife anywhere in this world, and local slang that’s just hilariously perfect. Most important right now, though, is that first thing: the beaches.
Many tourists are likely to want to make a beeline for Bondi beach, one of Australia’s most famous, but it’s a real mixed bag. If you don’t go at the right time, as the locals will tell you, it’s crowded beyond any crowd you’ve ever seen. It’s for this reason that readers of The Guardian declared Bondi the country’s worst –and best—beach.
21 Venice, Italy: *HOW* Many Gondolas?
That’s the trouble with these sorts of super-popular tourist spots. They lose their charm, become over-saturated, and nobody can darn well move. It defeats the object if you can’t see the thing that you came because you had to see, because everyone else has to see it as well. Just wait until we get to the Louvre a little later.
A lot of visitors to the beautiful Italian city of Venice have one thing in mind: a slow, romantic trip through those famous canals with their partner. Gondola rides aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, though. Condé Nast Traveler probably says it best:
“One can’t deny the history and symbolism of the flat-bottomed vessel, but once on board, the novelty drifts away faster than you think… once we left the picturesque Grand Canal, the rest of my ride was spent staring at the back walls of homes, empty lanes or at numerous other gondolas in the canal, hoping to get a move on.”
20 Four Corners Monument, United States: Move Along, Folks, Nothing To See Here
As a people, USA folk tend to be super, super patriotic. I know this, they know this, the whole darn world knows this. It follows, then, that many of us want to travel this vast, varied country, to see what it has to offer and discover so much more than just our home states.
There’s so much to take in, so much to see. One interesting (and I use that term loosely) attraction is the Four Corners Monument, which marks the only spot in the country shared by four different states: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. It’s found southwest of Cortez, Colorado, and you soon realise that the plaque is the only thing here. Was it worth the trip?
19 The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt: Of Ancient Wonders And Pizza Huts
As a self-confessed history nerd, Giza and its magnificent pyramids have a proud place at the very top of my travel bucket list. I’ll get there, friends, I definitely will.
The issue is, I’ve had an interest in Ancient Egyptian history from a very early age, and I’ve built up a certain image of the pyramids. Having said that, I’m also fully prepared for the worst: it’s not going to be anything like the serene, historical experience I’d like it to be. It’s crowded, noisy and packed with peddlers (who are so aggressive that the U.S Embassy issued a warning about them).
18 Pisa, Italy: Yep, The Tower’s *Still* Leaning
Speaking of serene, historical destinations, Pisa is one that actually holds true to the name. Like a lot of these Spanish and Italian towns, it’s a mix of quaint, traditional customs and bustling, lively places for visitors to soak in the local flavour. It’s easy to lose sight of the former in order to embrace the latter, but I don’t think much of Pisa has received that memo yet.
Sadly, many visitors bypass all of this to focus on one thing, and one thing only: that famous Leaning Tower. As towers go, though, it’s not really very big, and with the lack of other big-ticket tourist items in the area, you may come away feeling a little short-changed.
17 Pompeii, Italy: Meet The Neighbours
As the wise old saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Often, super-talented people and fantastic places just don’t get any limelight, because somebody less interesting but with a louder voice gets all the credit.
Take Pompeii, for instance. The story of Vesuvius’ eruption and its destruction of the town is well known, so much so that the ruins are always packed with visitors. As Ranker reports, though, this is a bit of an injustice to the neighbouring city:
“Herculaneum is another city that the eruption destroyed; however, its preservation was far more complete, with almost every structure surviving. Thanks to the fact that it was a wealthier location, the city is also far more lavish and a rather remarkable sight when compared to its neighbour, Pompeii.”
Less crowded, easier to navigate and even more impressive? Sounds like a winner to me.
16 Blarney Castle, Ireland: Kiss Me, I’m Irish
If England’s Stonehenge is one of the world’s most overrated tourist traps, as that survey suggested, then let’s not forget the people of Ireland. They’ve got their beloved germophobe’s nightmare that is the Blarney Stone, and they don’t want us to forget it.
The Blarney Stone is situated at the top of Blarney Castle in (you guessed it) Blarney, Ireland. There’s a legend surrounding the object, which says that anybody who kisses it (you have to dangle over the battlements to do so) will be given ‘the gift of the gab’ (eloquent speech). It’s a wholesome enough idea, but if you wanted a little peace to kiss the stone, you’re out of luck: there are a whole influx of visitors trying to get the gift of the gab for themselves.
15 The Dead Sea, Israel/Jordan: It’s Not As Easy As It Looks
So, yes. I think we all know the Dead Sea’s USP. The whole so-super-salty-you-can-easily-float-on-it thing is pretty darn neat, but all accounts.
Sadly, it’s all too easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by that. By those selfies of people casually floating along reading newspapers or whatever they’re doing. The truth is, as anyone who’s been there with even the smallest scratch on their bodies will tell you, the Dead Sea can be an uncomfortable and even incredibly dangerous place.
As reported by Gizmodo, swimming in the Dead Sea is a completely different experience. As is drowning in it, which is 100% possible. And, I’m sure, all kinds of disappointing.
14 Cruising, Worldwide: A Rest? On Vacation? Nope
My partner is a lifelong cruise vacationer, but I’ve only just been introduced to the whole experience in the last few years. One of the first things I learned was this: you are not getting an easy ride, friend.
Here’s what I mean by that. The ship itself is one great, floating restful resort, but the excursions? Oh, the excursions. You’re sure to want to stop at one of the beautiful destinations the ship will visit over the course of the cruise (at least one), and the shore excursions are as exhausting as they are brilliant.
The early wake-up, the heat, the sightseeing, the enthusiastic guide bouncing down the streets of Rome like Usain Bolt… Remember to pace yourself.
13 Stonehenge, United Kingdom: I Came Here For *This*?
The whole Stonehenge experience is probably another that is radically different to how you imagined it. You probably pictured something spiritual, something impressive, something that… wasn’t in the middle of darn nowhere.
This isn’t to say that Stonehenge can’t be awe-inspiring and impressive (much like the pyramids of Egypt, we still don’t quite know how the stones were raised or the significance of them). It’s just… you can’t get particularly close anymore. As The Express reports, the Wiltshire monument has been deemed one of the U.K’s most overrated attractions.
London is heaving with worthy attractions, but… you’re a long way from London here, friend.
12 The Louvre, France: Moaning About Lisa
Now, let’s not be snarky about the Mona Lisa here. After all, Leonardo Da Vinci’s iconic masterpiece is probably the most famous work of art in human history. Perhaps it always will be.
As reported by Guinness World Records, its insurance valuation was $100 million dollars in 1962 (around $800 million in today’s money), the highest for a painting ever. As a result, yes, it’s the jewel of the Paris Louvre’s collection, ad the one artwork that many people are really there to see.
If they can, that is. The painting itself is rather small and isolated on its wall, and the great throngs of visitors mean that you’ll be lucky to get close enough to admire it.
11 Loch Ness, Scotland: About That Monster…
Of course, I can’t definitively say that the legendary Loch Ness Monster doesn’t exist. Any day now, a swarthy Scottish fisherman could reel in a fifty-foot plesiosaur, and then I’d look darn foolish, wouldn’t I?
Cryptozoology is a fascinating field, and I’m down with a little Yeti talk. It’s just… if you come to this serene, quiet place in the highlands of Scotland, you’re likely to see a whole lot of peaty water (and some absolutely stunning scenery, true enough,) and nothing much else.
10 Oia, Santorini: When Everyone Descends On You
It’s always the same, isn’t it? If you’re a veteran traveller, you’ll be familiar with that satisfied feeling you get from discovering something before it becomes just another hashtag. Before everybody else does too.
The problem is, if you’re new to a destination, you sometimes have an idealised vision of how a place used to be, before it became overcrowded.
As we’ve reported previously, the stunning colourful buildings and clear waters of Oia, Santorini remain, but there’s barely a square inch of space for you to relax and enjoy them during the peak season. If it isn’t during the season, of course, a lot of the amenities are closed, which makes for a different problem.
9 New York City, United States: Now, Wait Just A New York Minute
I totally hear you, friends. When it comes to relaxing destinations, New York probably isn’t the first destination that comes to mind. The ever-vibrant and hectic city is famous for sights like Times Square, after all.
Sometimes, though, that’s exactly what you’re looking for. Ardent people-watchers know that the busier a destination is, the more you can enjoy simply sitting back and watching it all speed past you.
Whatever you’re looking for, New York City is a place that will give you back what you’re willing to put into it. Much like London, you’ll struggle to find a chance to rest while you’re hurrying from sight to sight. Anyone who’s played the recent Marvel’s Spider-Man on PlayStation 4 and tried to photograph all the city’s landmarks will tell you that.
8 Paris, France: It’s A Non From Me
Well, no, that’s not quite true. I’ll preface this one by saying that Paris is one of my favourite cities in the world to visit, and it’s certainly one that always leaves me wishing I had more time to spend there as I leave.
The issue there is, so many people seem to share that opinion. It’s a very, very popular place to visit, boasting world-renowned sights like the Eiffel Tower and the previously-mentioned Louvre museum. As a result, the queues for everything you might want to see tend to be monstrous. So you want to head up the Eiffel Tower? I hope you’ve got the time to wait.
7 Westminster Abbey, England: Is *Nothing* Sacred?
Speaking as a Londoner who has visited Westminster Abbey multiple times, yes, it is a beautiful building. Just breathtaking. There’s no taking that away from it. As News states, it has hosted the coronation of kings and queens, and also serves as the final resting place of Charles Dickens, Stephen Hawking and many other giants of their fields.
Is it worthy of a visit? Oh, absolutely. Will that visit be everything you expected it to be? Probably not. As snarkily stated by Far & Wide, “It’s not that Westminster Abbey isn’t impressive — it is…it’s just that the church is so darn crowded, with guides leading herds of tourists around while braying out information.”
6 The Spanish Steps, Italy: Yep, They’re Actually Italian
That’s right, friends. As veteran travellers will know, the famous Spanish Steps are actually in Italy, yet another of Rome’s achingly popular tourist attractions.
For the uninitiated, this impressive staircase of 174 steps was so named because it links to the Bourbon Spanish Embassy, as well as the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square) itself. They’re a very popular attraction for couples, boasting a unique romantic atmosphere not unlike a gondola ride. If you’re there for a peaceful, loving moment, though, you’d better think again.
It’s another of those come-at-just-the-right-time-or-it’s-beyond-overcrowded sort of situations. It’s very frustrating, these magnificent attractions that you can’t fully appreciate in your limited time.
5 Bruges, Belgium: How Many Can This Tiny Picturesque Place Hold?
A lot of travellers and travel sites will extol the beauty of an ‘unspoiled’ or ‘undiscovered’ destination, or else bemoan the fact that tourists have found out about them. In the case of Belgium, Bruges would be one of these cases.
Of course, you can’t blame a destination itself for its popularity and crowds, but it’s always a shame to see the effect that tourism has on small, quiet towns that just can’t handle the numbers.
4 Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Thailand: Not The Shopping Experience You Bartered For
Now, when I say I’m from London, I’m actually from a small town near London that you wouldn’t know. It’s known for one thing, and one thing only: its market. This is when people actually visit my hometown, because nobody can resist the opportunity to buy things for cheap.
If you visit Bangkok, you’re probably going to want to check out the floating markets. Damnoen Saduak is probably the biggest and best known of them, but if you’re looking to have a relaxing browse, you’d be better off elsewhere. As Travel Triangle states, Damnoen Saduak market is hugely popular, and so “can be very crowded and touristy. If you’re looking for a more laid-back place, we recommend others like Khlong Lat Layom.”
3 Athens, Greece: Acropolis Now
Speaking again as a nerdy history buff, Athens was another top pick on my travel bucket list. Ancient history is particularly interesting to me, and there are select famous sites and cities around the world that have some stunning offerings to cater to that.
Rome’s Colosseum? Of course. The Pantheon? Darn right. Athens’ Acropolis? You’d better believe it.
The Acropolis is a wonder to behold for sure, but away from the tourist-heavy areas, Athens may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
“There are four buildings you knew of before you came here, and they’re all nestled on a magical, hilly oasis called the Acropolis. The streets beyond it are notoriously dirty and crowded,” The Huffington Post concludes.
2 The Grand Canyon, United States: Just How Grand Are We Talking?
Again, nobody’s talking needless smack about the Grand Canyon here. It’s a marvel of nature, and one of those essential and uniquely US tourist attractions that you’ve just got to take in if you’re visiting Arizona.
That’s the thing about these places, however. It’s just not natural anymore, because tourists pack in there in their droves and ruthlessly commercialise and ‘busy’ everything.
As The Huffington Post puts it, “It is very hard to find the canyon from the parking lot. And once you do, you may only stare at it from the rim. Unless you called 13 months ahead to book a 48-hour mule ride along the cliff path that's about three feet wide.”
1 Anjuna Beach, India: People Strike Again
For our last stop on this rundown, we’re going to cross back over to India, and check out another once-stunning beach that has lost a little of its luster.
Anjuna beach is in Goa, India, and was famous for its beautiful white sands and pristine nature. Sadly, the average tourist isn’t the best at the whole keeping things pristine thing, and so the situation has deteriorated lately. According to Flashpack:
“Made famous by its beach parties and Wednesday flea market, Anjuna has fallen into a state of disrepair. Gone is the white sand, replaced with mud and rubbish thanks to over-eager construction of beach bars and hotels along the seafront.”
A familiar story, all in all.
References: National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, The Express, Guinness World Records, Ranker, Gizmodo, Global News, Travel Triangle, The Huffington Post, Flashpack.