22 Jan Most Disappointing Travel Destinations for 2015
Have you ever traveled to a destination after seeing it on one of those “Top destinations” list only to be totally disappointed and let down? I know Adam and I’ve had high hopes for several destinations on our around-the-world trip only to get there and be totally confused as to what all the fuss was all about. We’ve come to the realization that you have to go a destination with less expectations. We’ve been to cities that others rave about that we could wait to leave, and the reverse too. If you’ve ever felt this way, don’t worry you are not alone.
We recently had our 500th travel day anniversary and we started thinking about our favorite cities and our least favorite. Several cities we visited we had seen on those lists “Top 15 destinations to visit in 2015” or “Best beaches in the world”, but no one ever shows you “Top travel disappointments” list. So we asked 43 of our travel blogger friends: “Which travel destination has let you down the most? What inspired you to travel there, and why it didn’t live up to the hype?”Adam and I have been to 22 of the 36 listed cities below, and I will say we agree with 14 of them as being disappointing.
By far the most disappointing continent was Europe, and 5 out of the 40 bloggers we asked picked the same city as their biggest letdown. The most disappointing travel destination is….PARIS! I decided to include 1 bloggers disappointment of Paris below and the other 4 bloggers for a special post – Paris: Love it OR Hate it?
Meg Jerrad at Mapping Megan
Mine is a highly unpopular opinion, however, Paris was the most disappointing travel experience for me, and it’s all because of the hype. People rave about Paris. They talk deliriously about its beauty, and put the city on a pedestal which I sadly felt was too far detached from reality.
In its own right, Paris is a great city – there are a fantastic range of historical attractions, the architecture is gorgeous, and it’s a very European experience. Though it certainly doesn’t live up to the hype of “the most romantic city in the world”, and as such I traveled with expectations which were way too high. I expected magic. I expected to fall in love. I expected the city to woo me in a way I had never been woo-ed before. But what I found was a city not dissimilar to any other in Europe. I thought it was fairly dirty, that the locals were rude, and that there was too much tourism to make for an enjoyable experience – attractions were crowded, and you couldn’t escape street vendors selling tacky souvenirs. I felt a huge anti-climax in traveling to Paris, and after having given it a second and third shot to “woo” me and change my mind, it never did.
Hanna Sobczuk at Hanna Travels
For me the most overrated destination was Milan in Italy! I started my Northern Italy and Cote d’Azure trip few years ago and I thought it’ll be amazing city, just one of many Italian gems! I found very disappointing that the only thing that really interested me was the Cathedral, also known as Duomo di Milano. I visited it, than climbed the roof and… I didn’t know what to do next! Brera distrcit was quite nice but I didn’t feel the atmosphere of it… Maybe for some fashion lovers it would be amazing, all those Dior, Dolce & Gabbana or Prada shops… But for me, a person, who just enjoys the beauty of art and architecture, this city was totally boring! So I came back to Duomo and read a book while listening to organ concert for about one hour, which delighted me. Always look for positives! 🙂
Milou at Explorista
‘As a young girl with a massive crush on the fashion industry and the guilty pleasure of reading loads of gossip websites, Milan is just one of those must visit-places. I was convinced it would be like Paris: fancy white mansions, models on every street corner, high fashion boutiques, and the smell of freshly baked pizza drifting through the air. But aside from the spectacular Duomo, that is plagued with annoying street vendors trying to sell you overpriced scarfs, and the fancy shopping street Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II, that truly is pretty, but waaayyy out of my budget, there was nothing to see or do in Milan. I wandered the streets in search of pretty sights, but instead got lost and discovered that what I thought to be a grand park on the map, turned out to be a construction site. My secret dreams of being discovered by Italian designers and made into their muse were shattered.
Anna Lysakowska at Anna Everywhere
One of the places that disappointed me the most was Florence, where I lived in 2012 to study Italian and see historical sites. I expected to eat tasty Italian food, enjoy sightseeing, and learn the language, but instead I experienced the city over flooded with tourists. It was barely possible to practice Italian and to get into any museum you had to stand in line for a few hours and fight to see anything inside. As a result, I felt like I was in some sort of Disneyland instead of a beautiful Italian city.
Roni Weiss at roniweiss.com
I love Italy. The food, the people, the history… It’s my favorite country to visit. I went to Venice during a break from working at an English immersion camp. I didn’t go to Venice blindly. Everyone knows that a well-known city will have its touristy aspects. While I knew I wouldn’t be on a gondola ride or buying kitch, I thought I could commune with the ‘real’ Venice. The problem is that Venice is a dead city. It’s a relic. The main parts of town are simply tourist crossings.
Even the things I would have liked in a bubble, like the architecture and energy of being a water-adjacent city, were undermined by the imbalanced vibe of tourism. I felt like I was in Disneyland, minus the rides and costumed pals. American accents everywhere, and not the folks I would go out of my way to hang out with. If you can ignore all of the heathens that converge upon Venice and mentally transport yourself to a prior century, sure,
Brittany at The Trading Travelers
Our most disappointing travel destination would most definitely be Brussels, Belgium. I’d like to chalk it up to high expectations, but we had actually already prepared ourselves that it wasn’t the city of choice for most when visiting Belgium. Even still, it made sense for us to stopover for the night before heading onto Bruges. However, even one day proved to be too much for us. After spending just a few hours exploring the more grungy than charming old town and taking a snapshot of the underwhelming Manneken Pis, we headed back to our room and used the rest of the day to catch up on blog posts. We just didn’t get that whimsical vibe like we imagined it would have and it wasn’t the most welcoming city. We actually felt unsafe walking around outside of the main square. We later had a short stopover in Antwerp and it was much more what we imagined Belgium to be. We immediately wished we had allotted more time to spend there.
Lindsey Hodder at Chasing The Wild
I went to Bruges, Belgium, for the Christmas Markets. A quaint little city, Christmas Markets that I was repeatedly assured were one of the best in Europe – what could go wrong? I’m not sure if it was an off-year, or whether my expectations were over-hyped, but the markets were… less… than what I expected. Smaller, not as vibrant as I’d hoped. This was further cemented when I happened to see the Edinburgh Christmas Markets. Bruges – and it’s Christmas Markets – were lovely, but not what I’d call some of the best in Europe.
Toccara Best at Forget Someday
By the time we visited Amsterdam this past summer, we had read enough blog posts and talked to other travelers who raved about Amsterdam and figured we just had to go there. It just didn’t do it for us. To begin with, we prefer smaller cities and towns and Amsterdam was rather large. We hoped to go on an open-air canal tour, but because there was a slight call for rain in the forecast, all open air boat tours were cancelled for the entire day, even though there was not a single drop of rain all day. So, instead we settled for a glass-top boat tour, which was terrible. There was hardly any legroom, so our knees were smashed up against the hard seat in front of us. The commentary was a recording, which was not timed correctly for the first quarter of the tour and because it was just a recording, as opposed to a lively tour guide, it was plain boring! Total waste of money.
From there we decided just to explore the city by foot. While Amsterdam had its charming neighborhoods, neat architecture, cool houseboats, and beautiful parks, its appeal was lost for us when we stumbled across the famed Red Light District, which we were really trying to avoid, but it wasn’t identified on the map we were using. While this is what attracts many visitors to Amsterdam, we simply found it tasteless. So, after walking by prostitutes in storefronts, countless “toy” shops, and advertisements for live porn shows, we were ready to go. We passed the marijuana museum and other countless weed cafes on our way back to the train station and had already made up our minds that we’d probably never need to return to Amsterdam. While we can respect that everyone has different experiences and different interests while traveling,
Amsterdam just wasn’t for us. And while we don’t disagree that there are indeed beautiful parts of the city, we can now say we’ve “been there, done that”… don’t need to go back.
Andrea from No Money, Will Travel
They said it would be charming. They said it would have character. They being the dozens of articles I had read before packing my bags and heading to Europe. I came to Hallstatt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, looking to explore a village. I ended up going to Hallstatt to reflect on the nature of tourism. There were hundreds, no, thousands of tourists flashing their cameras and smiles; ignorant of the locals around them. In Hallstatt, I didn’t feel like I was visiting an actual place, I felt like I was visiting an open-air museum: the locals being the exhibit on display.
Shara Johnson from SKJtravel
My primary destination in Poland was the Wieliczka Salt Mine, just outside Krakow. So I would have stayed there in any case, and I’d met lots of people who raved and raved about it. I guess the main reason it didn’t live up to the hype for me was because we (husband and I) drove there after visiting Wroclaw … a Polish city I’d never even heard of until I saw it in a guidebook and it was located on our driving route from Prague to the salt mine.
Our days there were jam-packed with interesting and architecturally delightful activities, there were very few tourists, and the market square was beautiful and colorful. So we figured if we’d never even heard of Wroclaw, the well-raved-about Krakow was going to be incredible. The first turn-off was finding the market square so overcrowded and people continually accosting us to ride in their horse carriage. Though St. Mary’s Cathedral on the inside is fully jaw-dropping, in general the exterior architecture of the market square was not especially compelling, just kind of run-of-the-mill (for Europe), as was the rest of the city, including the castle.
We had no memorable meals. We felt a little bored after a few days. If we had visited Krakow before Wroclaw, I imagine we might have been more impressed. As it was, we did them in the wrong order. I have at least 5 times as many photos from Wroclaw as Krakow for staying the same number of days.
Lance at Travel Addicts
Perhaps the most disappointing place we’ve ever visited is the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp outside of Krakow, Poland. We were inspired to travel here by the haunting black and white photos of the Birkenau train platforms and movies such as Schindler’s List. We’re not strangers to the deeply disturbing and horrific events of the Holocaust. And Auschwitz has a reputation for the terrible – the worst of the worst happened here. We expected to encounter a solemn place where the horrific events of the past overwhelmed and humbled visitors. Instead, Auschwitz is an assembly line – mandatory guided tours rushing visitors through the museum rooms before journeying out through the streets of the camp. There was no time to pause or reflect on the atrocities of the past – even as our guide rushed us past an urn containing the ashes of Holocaust victims. Having visited other concentration camps, we expected a highly emotional experience at Auschwitz. That didn’t happen.
Stephen from A Backpackers Tale
I’m an ancient history buff, so Athens was always a city high on my list of places to visit. Countless times I daydreamed about standing beneath the massive stone columns of Zeus’s Temple, climbing the steps to The Acropolis, and exploring the famous relics of Athens’ Museum. The sites were impressive.
However, the city did not live up to my expectations. My first impression of the city was seeing squads of cops in riot gear patrolling the streets, local drunks stumbling out of bars, and homeless people sitting on every street corner. Many of the sights I was excited to see were undergoing repair leaving them covered in scaffolding and making it hard to get a decent picture. None of the people were rude, but no one was extremely nice either.
Overall, I found the city overcrowded and the streets full of trash. In certain areas, I was nervous to walk alone. Being such an ancient city I expected to fall in love with Athens, but in the end, it has become one of my least favorite cities. The sites were good, but the city did not impress me the way I thought it would.
Mont Saint-Michel, France
Tom Bartel from Travel Past 50
The monastery at Mont Saint-Michel, France is a Unesco World Heritage site, and deserves to be so for its history. But today, it’s now pretty much been turned into a tourist trap, complete with grossly overpriced parking (€12.60) and bus after bus of Japanese and American tourists (at least on the day we were there.) The admission charge is €9, not including the museums, which are another €9. All in all, an expensive and unrewarding experience. There are a lot more interesting places to spend your money. Those would not necessarily include the overpriced gift shops in the abbey, or the bevy of restaurants and souvenir shops on the steep walk up to the abbey. I’d have like to have seen it a few centuries ago. Like maybe 12 centuries ago, when it was founded as a combination abbey and fortification.
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Clelia Mattana from Keep Calm and Travel
I was obviously inspired to visit this destination after watching the movie “The Beach”. The place was indeed paradise on earth, so when I actually saw it I was quite disappointed. The place itself is stunning, but unfortunately the mass tourism ruined it completely. In addition to that, for the fans of the movie who plan to visit “The Beach”, in the movie the rocks in front of the beach close it completely (they used some special effect), while in reality, the left part is open. A small detail that makes a big difference, at least for me!
Christopher James Mitchell from Traveling Mitch
I love Thailand, but Koh Phi Phi managed to put forth all that I hate about it. At the time, my girlfriend Briana and I were backpacking across Southeast Asia, about two months or so into a four month journey, and were loving it. We had already spent some time checking out other islands on the other side of the country (Koh Phangan, Koh Lipe, Koh Tao etc.), and fell in love with the perpetual sunshine, cheap yet delicious food, the opportunity to rent a motorcycle without a second glance, postcard-worthy views, and the warmth of the people. I had all this to compare to Koh Phi Phi, which was apparently a “must see.
On Koh Phi Phi, I found more “bros” than a frat house. Every single person had on a neon tank top with Rayban-esque sunglasses, and I’m fairly sure the average IQ of a tourist there was so low it was incalculable. The smells of the island also led us to call it, appropriately, Koh Pee Pee. It was the most touristy island we visited in Southeast Asia – I mean, there is a damn Holiday Inn on the island. All there was to do was drink, which, honestly, I don’t mind doing sometimes, but I can also do that in my apartment for little to no money. Now, I’m really not much of a complainer when it comes to travel, but I wouldn’t go back to Koh Phi Phi for the life of me, even if I had a free room at the Holiday Inn.
Christ at One Weird Globe
So my original mention was Sukhothai (central Thailand), which has one major attraction: the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sukhothai Historical Park. Like most national parks and popular tourist sites in Thailand, farang are charged several times more than the locals, and ripoffs abound. Bear in mind we’ve lived in Bangkok – birthplace of touts and ripoffs – and this tiny town almost had it matched! If you opt to go, the maps are dilapidated, the signs poorly translated or at least a decade old, and the locals all seemingly out to get you for everything they can.
Nicole at I luv 2 Globetrot
Chris at We All Travel Together
We were lured to Langkawi by photos of pristine sugar coated beaches and emerald green water but what we found were the beaches to be more of a dusty sand, the water had no clarity and the closest snorkeling is half way to Penang or on Ko Lipe in Thailand.
Food is another important aspect to our travels but we found the food to be very bland which didn’t measure up to the food on Penang, Kuala Lumpur or Malacca. Try to eat at the market that changes venues each day for anything authentic. We knew that Langkawi was quieter than the islands of Thailand and even though just as commercialized we were surprised at how quiet it was at night.
Another thing there is no public transport on the island so to see more of the island than just Pantai Cenang then you need to either rent a motorbike, car or taxi to get around. Next time we are looking for an island break in Malaysia we will try the Perhentian islands on the west coast.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hayley Griffiths at Love Puffin
My most overrated destination has to be Kuala Lumpur. We decided to make a short stop there on our round the world trip as a jumping point for our trip to Borneo. I had heard mixed reviews about the city but arrived with an open mind, ready to explore. The first mission was to find some suitable lodgings and so armed with my Lonely Planet Guidebook I proceeded to explore the budget hostels in and around Chinatown. Well, it was as if we had been transported to Christmas Eve the night before Jesus himself was born… ‘No room at the Inn’, ‘sorry, we’re full’, ‘try somewhere else’.
Eventually we found what can only be described as a brothel and after 5 hours of traipsing around we settled into our new home (pic attached of our ‘high security’ door).
This wasn’t a great introduction to the city but I was still determined not to let it affect our trip. However, when we left our room and ventured outside, we struggled to find any real points of interest. Apart from the obvious Petronas Towers, the city seemed to be divided up into small villages with no real focal points. It was hot as hell, and suddenly we were caught in the most horrific downpour of rain which left as quickly as it came. This city was utter confusion itself. I had heard great things about the food here, so made a beeline for a local hawker market, only to be confronted with one option… Satay. Underwhelming.
Poor old Kuala Lumpur. I had wanted so much to like you. Perhaps we can kiss and make up on my next trip to Asia?
Stacy at One Travels Far
My travel destination is Beijing, China, where I lived for 8 months. I made an impulse decision to move to China, and while I don’t regret it, I was lured in by the chance to make a lot of money, while experiencing a completely different culture.
Travel shows often present Beijing as being “fun, vibrant, and safe”, but for me, the reality was quite different. Sure, I made a huge group of friends and enjoyed the nightlife, but there were days when we simply couldn’t go outside as the pollution was so bad, and while I usually love eating street food, this was a no no in Beijing, as much of it is made with gutter oil-which is obviously not what you want in a breakfast. While I felt physically safe in Beijing, every single one of my friends has been robbed at least once while living there. I had my wallet stolen out of my bag and the thieves managed to break into my bank account from home and cleaned me out. The same thing happened to my English friend a few months later, and I have a friend from Texas who has had five bikes, her wallet, and three phones stolen while she’s been in Beijing.
I think this was the hardest part for me, since I’ve traveled throughout Southeast Asia, where people have so little, and yet I’ve never had a problem. However in Beijing, where people have so much in comparison, we were targeted daily for being foreign. And it was exhausting. Maybe it would have been different if I had simply visited the city, and I would have seen what attracts so many people. But living there was a different story.
Lina & David Stock at Divergent Travelers
For us it has to be Bali, Indonesia. For as long as I can remember Bali has been one of those ‘must see’ destinations for us, so it only seemed natural that we incorporate it into our long term travel plans. While I don’t regret our visit, I have to say it was nothing short of disappointing. It is a prime example of a place ruined by tourism. It is seedy, trashy, much of it is dirty, the beaches are only ok and it is hard to find places not overrun by tourists and money hungry locals. It is far from the tropical island paradise we pictured in our minds for so many years and despite visiting several areas, just couldn’t get over how disappointing it was.
Phnom Penh Cambodia
Elizabeth at Awesome Wave
Phnom Penh was such a disappointment. I had met so many people who recommended I go. Plus numerous travel guides mentioned that it was a must-do on a Cambodian trip. But from start to finish it was an awful 3 days. Our first impressions weren’t great when dropped off in a random part of town and numerous taxi drivers trying to scam us. We found the city to be unwelcoming, ugly and the must-see tourist attractions simply harrowing. Yes, I do think it’s important that we don’t forget the horrendous actions of the Khmer Rouge, but the Killing Fields and S21 were the most depressing and soul-destroying places I’ve ever been too. Other than that, food was meh, the people were disinterested in helping us and it was just one miserable encounter after another. Phnom Penh just did not work out for us at all.
Cat Gaa at Sunshine and Siestas
We rearranged our whole trip to India to be able to see the Taj Mahal, despite the distance and the hassle of a long trip from Madrid. Everyone we spoke to told us that Agra merited a night’s stay, as there was more to see than the Taj. While the building itself was as stunning as I imagined, everything else we saw that day paled in comparison – including seeing it turn colors at sunset from the Methab Bagh. What’s more, the city was dirty and felt more crowded than Delhi, and we fell victim to a scam. Apparently the city is known to Indians as the most rampant for scamming tourists, and we left feeling disappointed and that’s we’d lost a day elsewhere. Go for the Taj, but don’t stay for much more!
Laura at An American Abroad
When I first moved to Sydney I had two things on my mind – the Opera House and Bondi Beach. They were the icons that featured prominently in my dreams of life in Australia. The Opera House lived up to every expectation and more and I was excited to head over to the Eastern Suburbs to check out the famous beach. When arrived I was expecting a bit of glamour, some swanky
beach chairs, beachside cafes and lots of tourists. Instead what I found was a run down village that badly needed a paint job. The main town of Bondi Beach is ramshackle at best. The cafe’s are average compared to those in other suburbs and yet still twice the price. There are definitely plenty
of tourists, but as a top off to a spectacularly average beach, there are people wandering around trying to sell you things, blocking out the sun you are laying down to roast yourself in. Pretty much every other beach in Sydney is better than Bondi.
Joburg, South Africa
Johnny Ward at One Step 4ward
Johannesburg was everything I feared about South Africa. Edgy, dangerous and a distinct taste of racism in the air, from every side. I spent more than three weeks there – a mistake, and I didn’t love my time there at all. Stick to Cape Town or Durban, beautiful spots in a beautiful country.
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Anna Vawser at Crazy in the Rain
I went to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua at the suggestion of a Couchsurfing travel buddy. I didn’t think the beach was that gorgeous. I even did a day trip to another beach and didn’t really like that rocky beach either. To be fair, I don’t surf. The food was okay. What I really didn’t like was that I met countless people who had really terrible experiences going out at night. They got mugged, got their stuff stolen, got in fights, etc. It really seemed like a town with a lot of drugs and some locals preying on tourists. I saw myself a crazy man waving a machete outside my hostel window freaking out screaming at 4:00am. Nothing there really stood out to me as really amazing. I’m sure some people have visited San Juan del Sur and loved it. I just didn’t.
La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Katie at Around the World in KT Days
Arenal Volcano looms over the town of La Fortuna, Costa Rica beckoning adventurous travelers to climb, swim, and explore everything around it. I had heard talks of waterfalls that cascaded into piercingly blue water, hikes that led to bubbling lava flows, and some of the best hot springs in all of Central America. I was so excited to arrive in this town and experience the beauty and adventure that makes La Fortuna such a hot spot.
What I found was a town drowning in tourists. Tourist shops. Tourist restaurants. Tourist prices. Nothing about La Fortuna lived up to the hype. The waterfall was not that blue. The hot springs were a crowded pool. And the prices of all the tours were far too hefty for my meager backpackers budget. I found La Fortuna to be overrated, over commercialized and expensive!
Rio Celeste, Costa Rica
Emily Shea at Travel Mother
Rio Celeste in Costa Rica is touted as one of the bluest waterfalls in the world, due to volcanic minerals in the water. The photos online look simply unbelievable. This shade of turquoise blue paints story books and dreams–it couldn’t actually be found in nature, could it? We headed to the Tenorio Volcano National Park in the north of Costa Rica to see for ourselves. The area of Rio Celeste is very remote, and reached via a long gravel road. The actual path to the Rio Celeste waterfall was indeed enchanting, as it was shrouded with misty green jungle teaming with bird calls. I paced up to the waterfall entrance with the expectation of awe that hit me when I first laid eyes on the Grand Canyon–however, unfortunately, it was not unlike the other waterfalls that I’d recently visited. Beautiful as it was, it was not that intense hue that the magazines and websites promoted. It was a lovely shade of blue, but an “aqua-marine-turquoise-down-right-celestial-blue?”–no.
In all fairness, it had poured all the previous night, and we have since been told that heavy rains can stir up the soot and therefore lessen the glorious color. Oh well, or “Pura Vida,” as they say here in Costa Rica. I suppose it’s worth another try, someday.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Andrew and Brenda Tolentino at Dish Our Town
San Juan, Puerto Rico may not be considered a top tourist destination, but if you grew up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the island is spoken about as nothing short of Heaven itself. I was a skeptic for years, but after a long stretch of stressful times at work, our family of three decided to take the short flight from New York to San Juan, in hopes that it lived up to the billing it received all my life. It did not. From the get go, and I should have known, it was not nearly far enough from New York to get away from New York.
For people like us, who like to immerse themselves in a culture of a country, this was not the town to do it in. The sites, few, and poorly kept. Though not on a budget, drinks seemed to be expensive. The beaches were less to be desired. Lastly, the food offerings were terrible. The aforementioned notwithstanding, I will say however, that the Puerto Rican people are authentic and beautiful. Maybe this would have been a better destination for a bachelor party and not a family getaway.
Las Vegas, USA
Gemma at Two Scots Abroad
Picture this – a mini bus with ten girls and two guys, driving into Las Vegas, edging towards The Strip, excitement levels through the roof and then… ‘oh, is that it?’ I honestly expected the place to sparkle, even in daylight. Instead I was faced with a seedy, long street of hotels; money slots and boring men. It’s Vegas, baby! I’d seen it in the films; heard of rollercoasters and lions and boats in hotels; expected champagne popping parties but instead the water was dry in Venice.
This was one stop on a month long camping/group travel tour of The States so the destination was prearranged as part of the package but it was one of the reasons I picked that tour. We spent two nights there and I was happy to leave, I parted thinking it was a sad place but I did enjoy some fine karaoke and purchased a glittery hipflask. New Orleans ended up being the ‘Vegas’ of the trip- I lost two nights of my life to that hot mess and would urge party travellers to head South for jazz and hurricanes over cards and girls!
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Billie Frank at Santa Fe Travelers
Mount Rushmore is an iconic American destination. Ever since seeing the majestic mountains with its carved presidential heads in the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie North by Northwest, I’d wanted to see it. On an unexpected road trip to South Dakota we were nearby and knew we had to go. We never got beyond the parking lot. It was filled with tour buses, not our kind of place. We looked at each other and decided to go see the nearby Needles. Maybe it would have spoken to us more at the crack of dawn or sunset before the buses and masses arrived or after we left. We really don’t know how we would have felt about Mount Rushmore if we’d gotten closer to is and never will — we won’t go back.
Yosemeite Natoinal Park, California
Rachel at Hawaii Living Magazine
As Yosemite National Park is one of the most talked about and thus most visited parks in the United States, my husband and I figured that if everyone else loved it, so would we! Luck would have it that our road trip was heading us straight for the park, so we decided to visit what we had come to think Yosemite was- tall powerful mountains, lush wildlife viewing and tons of beautiful hiking trails.
We could have not been more wrong. Yes, the mountains were tall and beautiful in their own right, but they were overshadowed by the massive amount of loud, obnoxious visitors that blanketed the park. Forget about intense wildlife viewing, most of the wildlife, no matter how hard you searched, was hidden away, successfully escaping the human crowds.. Hiking was a nightmare as we were constantly having to walk around people pausing in large groups on the trails and spent a good amount of time looking over our shoulder for an over eager biker. I’m sure without the crowds and noise, Yosemite would have been everything we hoped for and more, but that just wasn’t the case.
Hannah at GettingStamped
Montanita was suppose to be this cute little beach town with sand for me to lay on, and waves for Adam to ride as he had just learned to surf a month earlier. Other travel bloggers raved about it comparing it to Caye Caulker and Gili T (both places Adam and I love). It sounded like the perfect place to spend 5 nights before heading out to the Galapagos Islands. Little did we know it would be the most disappointing city we have ever been too…
So what happen? The cute little beach town was a loud, drunk, dirty, cloudy town that was full of drugs. We had already booked our 5 nights and were stuck there. We suffered through 5 nights in hotel on cocktail avenue (never stay in a hotel that is on Cocktail Ave). Night after night the pounding bass from the 100’s of street carts serving up drinks & bars kept us wide awake until 4a.m. Many nights we had to go out and get drunk just to be able to fall asleep. The town was full of hippies on who knows what drugs, a hand-full of Ecuadorians on holiday, some surfers, and a few confused travelers like ourselves. We couldn’t go more than a few steps without being offered some sort of drug, and no we didn’t, in case you were wondering. Montanita was a big let down, not the cute little beach town that we signed up for…
Machu Picchu. Peru
Lainie at Raising Miro
Visitors from far and wide flock to Peru’s Sacred Valley to visit the famous UNESCO World Heritage site, promising intrigue and mystery. The question is, does the site deliver or is it simply overrated?
Deep passion for history and archeology fueled my excitement as I made plans for my son and I to visit Machu Picchu for the first time. The promise of sneaking a glimpse into the worlds of the mysterious megalithic builders piqued my interest. However, my impression after visiting the site for the first time, and two subsequent times afterwards, have left me feeling more than disappointed. Here’s why:
Machu Picchu has been restored, in some places totally rebuilt, polished, primed and accompanied by a well rehearsed “official story” that discounts many of the earlier civilizations thought to have contributed to that site. As a history and archeology buff who’s visited over a hundred archeological sites throughout my lifetime, these traits are easily recognizable.
Next, the entire experience is very EXPENSIVE. Transportation via train to Aguas Calientes (or Machu Pichu town) runs anywhere from $100 to $600 depending on the class of train service. Hotel rooms run 100% higher (double the price) than comparable rooms in Cusco. The 10 minute round trip bus ride to the site will set you back almost $20 (but you can always walk if you want to save a little $). It costs $60 per person to enter the site.
The archeological site attracts over 2 million visitors annually with entrance tickets for specific days selling out months in advance. All visitors pass through Aguas Calientes first, most staying in the little town for one night. The pueblo is as authentic feeling as Main Street Disneyland catering exclusively to the tourism dollar. After spending three years in Peru, I can say with complete confidence that Aguas Calientes is my least favorite place in the country.
Last, the archeological site itself is generally very crowded. Visitors are herded through the site on a specific route guided by arrows and are discouraged from sitting in the shaded areas along the route. The guards armed with sharp whistles will alert you if you are “loitering” too long and encourage you to be on your way.
Is it all bad? No. The surrounding cloud forest and mountains are magical and the sheer scale of the archeological site will take your breath away. If you are sensitive to energy, one might feel as deep sense of history. In my opinion, the problem is the modern day human interference coupled with consumerism that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
San Pedro de Atacam, Chile
Kach of Two Monkeys Travel
We had little choice but to go to San Pedro as we were traveling South through Uyuni salt flats before crossing into Chile. We did a little research about it and it looked like a decent place to spend New Year before heading on to Santiago – we didn’t want to spend NYE on a sleeper bus!
We had heard it was just a nice, small traditional town in the desert, but when we arrived it was clear right away that it had been turned into a high priced tourist trap, where a dorm bed could easily cost you $20! The price of anything you may have wanted to do there had been inflated to at least three times the norm for other parts of Chile, including Santiago. We can’t write it off completely; the architecture in the plaza is stunning and people are really friendly, but it’s now essentially a big, desert-themed, outdoor food court with hotels attached, and we just weeny expecting that!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Carlo Cretaro at Next Stop Who Knows
We went to Rio for 6 weeks, the big appeal for us to go to Rio initially was the World Cup, as well as the Christ the Redeemer statue. It was always a dream of ours to experience a World Cup in the country it was taking place and what better place to witness that than the spiritual home of football!
Honestly, if it wasn’t for the World Cup experience then we definitely wouldn’t have stayed there for 6 weeks straight. The city just didn’t live up to the expectations that we had expected. The people were amazing, but as a city in itself, we just didn’t click with it. There’s no one reason, it’s a relative thing I suppose.
The city just didn’t feel too safe overall while we were there. Even though the amount of police on the streets was crazy, it just had a pretty unstable vibe. Fair enough the World Cup was on, but we got the feeling that things would be a lot less secure once the event was over. Looking back though, it was the people that really made our visit in Rio memorable, as they were so friendly and helpful. I’d like to point out that at no point during our 6 weeks there did we ever feel unsafe – but the city definitely had an unsafe vibe about it in general.
Amber at With Husband in Tow
We traveled to Jordan primarily to see Petra, or more specifically, the Treasury. You know, the Indian Jones building. It is a bucket list item, and probably why it is not worth it to have such a list. We are not hikers or explorers of the outdoors, so behind the Treasury and a handful of other buildings, I was not sure what else there was to see. I was going to see the Treasury, and for me that was enough. Until I saw the cost. The entrance fee to Petra was $70 for a single day visit, per person. We were in the park for 2 hours. I read that the ticket cost includes a map (which we never received) and a horse ride. Yes, the horse ride is “free” but then you need to negotiate a tip with the driver. Even if you negotiate a rate, it is said they will hold you hostage on the top of the horse until you agree to pay more. I don’t even want to get into the rumors and stories of the treatment of the animals either. The touts were out of control, and I had read up on scams ahead of time. I just felt entirely on the defensive the entire time. Seeing the Treasury was fun, it was like the photos show. We took the obligatory Treasury selfie, and explored the lower areas a bit more to get our money’s worth out of the ticket cost, and then left. Yeah, it was entirely disappointing. If the ticket price was lowered, my expectations would be lower, and I think I would have enjoyed Petra a lot more.
Johny Blair at Dont’t Stop Living
I spent a month backpacking in Iran and loved it, however the most advertised and recommended tourist sight in the country is Persepolis, ruins that date back to 550 BC. I kept this visit until the end of my time in Iran and was looking forward to being blown away by the sheer magic of Persepolis. We had heard fantastic reviews about it. We based ourselves in the city of Shiraz for this part of the trip and headed on a double bus journey out to Persepolis (via Marvdasht). It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere and having visited ancient archeological sites in China, Peru and Armenia, I was excited as our bus strolled into the wilderness.
However on arrival at Shiraz, there’s a small hut with some information boards – this is the so-called “museum”, and the entire site is enclosed behind this ugly glass wall. You pay your entrance fee (100,000 Rials for tourists) and in you go. There won’t be many tourists around and soon you will realise why. There’s hardly anything of interest here at all. Apart from the pillars and ruins of a temple, the highlight is in fact tombs up on the hill in the distance. Persepolis itself, Iran’s most popular tourist sight, is also the least impressive sight we saw on our entire time in the country. After about an hour, we were finished and that was it. Talk of day trips out here, hours exploring the ruins etc. just don’t happen. If compared with a place like Machu Picchu or Teotihuacan, I’m afraid the previous two could keep you occupied for hours on end, walking round, reading up on the history and taking a load of photos. After a while at Persepolis it was a case of “was that it?” And yes that was it – Iran is a great country with amazing scenery and friendly people but Persepolis is definitely a huge let down.
Karisa Klee at Flirting with the Globe
To be fair, I hadn’t really ever intended to visit Dubai (mostly because I figured that the city really wasn’t my type of tourist destination). My visit to Dubai was funded by a TV network – one of my girlfriends was chosen to be on a reality TV show, and I was lucky enough to be her “plus one” and tagalong for the (free) ride. In the interest of full disclosure, I should also mention that our visit to Dubai was during monsoon season and Ramadan. So, not only was it over 100 degrees and humid outside, we couldn’t even drink water in public due to the religious holiday. I’m a traveler who typically chooses my next destination based on a city’s unique culture, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and natural beauty. For me, Dubai lacked in these areas, but the city certainly didn’t lack in over-the-top opulence and superlatives. The world’s largest shopping mall, tallest building and only “7 star” hotel aren’t attractions that I’m inclined to travel across the globe for. Should I find myself in UAE once again, I think I’ll skip the man-made island shaped like a palm tree and head to Abu Dhabi instead!
What’s your most disappointing travel destination?
Share with us your most disappointing travel destination. What were you expecting and what was the reality?
This post goes to show that everyone has different tastes. What one person dislikes another loves. Adam and I were sad to see some of our favorite cities on this list, but realize everyone is different. Travel is an extremely personal experience, and it’s ok not to like a place that’s on the big travel magazine’s top 15 lists.