Paris. Rome. New York City. Bangkok. We can all think of world-famous travel destinations that get all the hype, but are they really worth a visit?
To save you time, money, and energy, we got the inside scoop from travel experts to learn which cities you might want to skip, and why. It turns out these popular destinations might not be worth so much praise after all.
Follow along to learn more about potential tourist traps and the hidden gems you should visit instead.
The U.S. Side Of Niagara Falls
Lea Cramer from Fine Dining on Discourse told us, “I found Niagara Falls, U.S.A. to be overrated and disappointing. The American side is tired and unkept. While there are plenty of green areas around, it reminded me of those spaces that are vacated by a carnival.”
Instead of a potentially mundane trip to the U.S. side of the falls, Lea suggests a visit to the Canadian side. “Hotels and restaurants face the falls. Boat tours are aplenty. Killer aerial photos can be taken from the Skyline Tower. If you are a thrill seeker you can even zipline to the falls. Tours behind Niagara Falls are also available. The best view of Niagara Falls is definitely from the Canadian side.”
The American side is still gorgeous, but Lea does have a point -- there are some pretty spectacular activities on the Canadian side that the American side just doesn’t have. In Ontario, grab a Niagara SkyWheel ticket and see views of the falls day or night from 175 feet up.
If you’re bringing along the family, check out Clifton Hill, an amusement park fit for all ages. Looking to make the most of the sights? Whirlpool Aero Cars -- which are similar to cable cars -- take you over the stunning Niagara Whirlpool and whitewater rapids.
For a more relaxing, low-key experience, Oakes Garden Theatre is a lovely outdoor amphitheater right by the falls. The Japanese-style garden is lush with lily ponds, shrubs, flowers, and other vegetation that will make your inner landscape designer swoon.
Karen Warren from World Wide Writer believes Stonehenge isn’t worth the hype. Karen told us, “There are hundreds of other stone circles in Britain and Ireland, many of them in more spectacular locations than Stonehenge.”
The history of Stonehenge is undeniably interesting, but Karen thinks Avebury, in particular, provides a more well-rounded experience.
“It is easy to get to, free to visit, and doesn’t have the crowds of Stonehenge. And it is -- in my opinion -- a much better site.”
Avebury is also significantly larger than Stonehenge. In fact, it’s the largest stone circle in the world -- meaning you’ll have more to appreciate.
Avebury is not just an arrangement of rocks, either (sorry, Stonehenge). The site also includes a small village, a chambered tomb, and a massive artificial mound. Best of all, if you visit Avebury instead of Stonehenge, you can save time and money! Bypass the hustle and bustle of Stonehenge while also saving up for other highlights during your UK adventure.
Paris is known for its dreaminess, but two travel experts believe this destination is given too much credit. Barbara Weibel of Hole in the Donut is wary of all tourist destinations that are considered, as she calls it, “iconic.”
She told us, “Everyone wants to see the Eiffel Tower or stroll through the lavender fields in France. Unfortunately, many ... travelers have little respect for these sites. They trample through fields of wildflowers to get that perfect shot, in the process ruining it for everyone else.”
She went on to say, “More and more, I find myself shunning these famous sites and instead searching out neighborhood coffee shops where I can meet locals and really learn something about their culture.”
Betsy Wuebker of Passing Thru agreed with Barbara, telling us when it comes to overrated destinations, “Bring on the haters, but it's Paris. Don't get me wrong, I love Paris. But if you're looking for Gallic charm, atmosphere, better food, and a more manageable experience overall, Brussels gets our vote.”
Brussels is considerably smaller than Paris, meaning it has inherent small-city charm. And Brussels can be a stop for those seeking romance, too! Visiting the Royal Museums Of Fine Arts, strolling the Grand Place, and splitting an order of crispy frites with your travel companion are some of the best ways to spend a day in Brussels.
Cinque Terre, Italy
Italy is known best for two completely different types of travel: navigating big cities full of impressive history and experiencing more charming towns on the Italian coast or in the countryside. When it comes to the latter, Cinque Terre -- a string of five vibrantly colored cities with astonishing views of the Mediterranean sea -- is typically considered a must-visit.
That said, to Michela Fantinel, creator of Rocky Travel, Cinque Terre isn’t where you should focus your attention. She believes Cinque Terre is actually the most overrated place in Italy.
She explained, “First of all, these places are average places with nice hilltop views, but many of the colorful buildings are run-down and the infrastructures often leave much to desire. On top of that, there are thousands of travelers getting off big cruising ships and checking out the Cinque Terre, so this small stretch of land and the coastal strip is bombarded every day by masses of travelers, which makes it almost impossible to enjoy the place to the fullest.”
Michela recommends travelers head north instead. “Northern Italy has many hidden treasures. The Dolomites are a splendid example [and are] a world heritage site, too. Visiting off-the-beaten-track places nowadays has many advantages and the guarantee of an equally beautiful experience without any hassle.”
The Dolomites have a rugged beauty we can’t help but fawn over. Eroded limestone means the mountains are carved into jagged shapes, and glaciers glitter from above the mountain range. Even though the mountains may appear hostile at first glance, every outdoor activity -- biking, hiking, sailing, soaking in thermal pools -- is possible in the Dolomites.
Travel expert Dan Fellner, creator of Global-Travel-Info, suggests limiting your time in Bangkok. “It’s definitely worth spending a day or two there,” he said, “but I find the city exhausting, overcrowded, [and] polluted, and the traffic is a mess.”
He suggests switching your focus to Chiang Mai. “Chiang Mai is a walkable city that is cooler, more scenic, and offers so many wondrous Buddhist temples. The elephant parks and hill-tribe villages near Chiang Mai are worth exploring and there are so many activities in the area for adventure-minded travelers. Chiang Mai is my favorite destination in all of Southeast Asia!”
Bangkok is infamous for having some of the worst traffic in the world, and because of the incessant traffic, pollution and smog do negatively impact the city and its residents.
Chiang Mai can be an oasis from the traffic and urban hustle in Bangkok. Also, Chiang Mai is easier to navigate and more walkable. An added benefit? There are many day trips from Chiang Mai if you’re planning on staying for more than a few days. Consider visiting an elephant park or hill-tribe village, or venture to the sticky waterfalls -- also known as the Bua Tong waterfalls -- just outside the city.
If you’re committed to avoiding tourist traps, you’ll also want to consider these other high-profile destinations that may just be overrated.