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Overrated Tourist Traps Best Avoided

There are travel destinations that seem to be on everyone's bucket list — sites with amazing world-famous works of art and stunning vistas of natural beauty. However, the expectations of visiting popular destinations don't mesh well with reality. Perhaps you decided to visit these places after seeing them on TV. But what you might forget is, when they're filmed, production teams close the site down for exclusive access without crowds. The problem with a place being popular is they are crowded and often become overpriced tourist traps that can never live up to expectations.


01 The Taj Mahal in India

tourist trap B&M Noskowski / Getty Images

The Taj Mahal is architecturally stunning and an iconic symbol of enduring love. But remember, all those famous photos of a near-empty site with the Taj Mahal alone in the background are one of two things:

  1. Photoshopped to remove the thousands of people who visit each day.
  2. Taken when the site was closed to the public.

In reality, the Unesco World Heritage site is crowded with tourists - up to four million each year. Getting there involves a lot of travel in a remote area or an expensive organized tour. With the added risk of monsoon floods, the Taj Mahal rarely lives up to expectations.


02 Stonehenge In England

Stonehenge tourist traps DavorLovincic / Getty Images

There are two days of the year when it is worth going to Stonehenge: on summer and winter solstices. Only on these days are you allowed to touch the stones and wander between them, all for free admission. Of course, on these days visitors stand shoulder to shoulder with thousands of other people. Also, the unpredictable English weather means being able to see a sunrise is unlikely.

However, the rest of the year is worse. After paying a startling amount, you can circle at a distance from several large boulders. Yes, realizing that prehistoric peoples moved them hundreds of miles from Wales is impressive. But how long will that thought keep you entertained?

Avoid this tourist trap and seek out any one of the hundreds of other stone henges in the UK. Most of which are free to enter and you can get right up to the ancient stones.


03 The Acropolis In Greece

greece tourist traps TARIK KIZILKAYA / Getty Images

This trap comes with a caveat. If you can visit early in the day or outside of peak tourist season the Acropolis of Athens is truly stunning. However, most experience the birthplace of democracy is in sweltering heat, standing toe-to-toe with thousands of other people. Many of those people will be on a day trip from a cruise ship with a tight itinerary. It's not unusual to see tourists barging slower walkers out of the way to keep to their timetable.

The Acropolis is mostly empty of archaeology. All the interesting artifacts are either in the new purpose-built museum below the Acropolis or in the British Museum in London. Both of which are worth a look, especially the local museum next to this ancient wonder where you can learn far more than at the Acropolis itself.


04 The Forbidden City In China

tourist traps B&M Noskowski / Getty Images

The Palace Museum in Beijing was once the hidden enclave of imperial China. Now open to the public it welcomed an astonishing 17 million visitors through the gates in 2018. In fact, authorities in Beijing are now considering limiting the number of visitors to the Forbidden City. The sheer number of people is causing damage to the site. Proposed ideas include encouraging people to visit in the afternoon and during the hot summer days of July.

The Forbidden City is a large site covering 150,000 square meters (1,600,000 square feet) which contains over 90 palaces and 980 buildings — because of this, being inside the Palace Museum might not feel as crowded as other sites on this list. However, there are bottlenecks at the entrance gates meaning there are long waits in queues.


05 The Creation Of Adam In Vatican City

tourist traps destinations Jupiterimages / Getty Images

One of the most famous ceilings in the world, Michelangelo's masterpiece adorns the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. It's actually quite difficult to appreciate the artwork while tilting your neck up at a 45-degree angle. Art admiration is even more challenging when you are being bustled about by hundreds of other people. All of whom seem to be trying to take a sneaky photo of Adam and God nearly touching whilst irate guards shout "no photo!" in a dozen languages at the crowd.

If you must visit the Vatican, there are plenty of other areas worth your time. Save yourself the neck ache and buy a postcard instead.


06 Niagara Falls

Niagara falls tourist traps Mike_Kolesnikov / Getty Images

Straddling the border between Canada and the US, Niagara Falls sees over 30 million visitors annually. The geological feature is formed of three waterfalls and is slowly eroding its way upstream. While the falls are impressive, many visitors feel somewhat disappointed. Besides watching 168,000 cubic meters (6 million cubic ft.) of water go over the falls each minute, there is little else to do at Niagara Falls.

Traveling closer on a boat cruising through the mist might look great from a distance, but on the boat itself, you will mostly only see the mist.


07 Leaning Tower Of Pisa In Italy

tourist traps tips Imgorthand / Getty Images

Now open to the public, tourists can scale the staircase of Italy's most popular destination. After tourists battle their way through the posing visitors - all of whom are doing exactly the same "I'm holding up the leaning tower" pose - they can pay a huge sum to travel up the tower.

The lean angle has been reduced by careful engineering to stop it falling over. It was caused because the tower was built on top of two different rock types, one softer than the other. One side of the tower began sinking into the softer rock and t began leaning soon after it was finished. Because of the recent work to save it toppling over, the tower should be around for a long time. Therefore you might want to put a visit to the bottom of your list.


08 Sydney Opera House In Australia

australia tourist traps funky-data / Getty Images

Looking like a cross between an armored armadillo and a rack of toast, the Sydney Opera House is instantly recognizable. However, unless you are going to see an Opera or a show, a visit inside is not worthwhile.

The fact is, the worst place to see the Opera House is standing in front of it. From close up you cannot appreciate it's stark lines and elegant beauty. Once inside there is not much to see besides the usual plastic tourist souvenirs of fridge magnets and novelty sunglasses.

Thankfully, there are plenty of places to sit and admire the opera house for free in Sydney. Save your cash for other adventures.


09 The Empire State Building In America

america tourist traps Lingbeek / Getty Images

An instantly recognizable building, the Empire State Building welcomes over three and a half million visitors per year. Most people pay to travel up to the 86th-floor viewing platform, but there is the option of going higher to the 102nd floor. While this might be exciting for fans of hights or architecture, for most the experience is cold, expensive, and not worth the effort.


10 Pyramids At Giza In Egypt

tourist traps yuliash / Getty Images

Movies have ruined ancient Egyptian landmarks for everyone. Anyone who has not traveled to Egypt will have a similar mental image of this wonder of the world. People expect to see majestic pyramids emerging from the desert sands, maybe a romantic camel trek to the base of the pyramid, and an exploration of the inner tunnels which glitter with the gold of the pharaohs.

Unfortunately, that is a Hollywood myth. The pyramids of Giza are more like a busy, polluted roundabout today. Aggressive hawkers try to sell tourists rides on emaciated camels. While you can pay to enter the three great pyramids, there is little to see that justifies the cost.

To see the gold of the pharaohs, visit any large museum. Most of which have collections of Ancient Egyptian artifacts looted and removed by collectors years ago.


11 Venice, Italy

couple walking in streets in Venice LeoPatrizi / Getty Images

Venice, the city of canals, is undeniably enchanting, but the reality of visiting can be less than idyllic. The narrow streets and bridges are often congested with tourists, and the gondola rides are exorbitantly priced. Plus, the city's popularity has led to a surge in prices for dining and accommodation.


12 Check Point Charlie, Berlin, Germany

Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie mbbirdy / Getty Images

Once a symbol of the Cold War, Check Point Charlie has now been reduced to a commercialized spectacle. Actors dressed as soldiers pose for photos, while the surrounding area is filled with fast-food outlets and souvenir shops. The historical significance feels lost amidst the kitsch.


13 Manneken Pis, Brussels, Belgium

Close-up of man taking a picture to Mannekin Pis from Brussels with mobile phone F.J. Jimenez / Getty Images

This small statue of a boy urinating is a symbol of Brussels, but many tourists find it underwhelming. The statue is much smaller than expected, and the area is often crowded with tourists trying to get a glimpse.


14 The Great Wall of China, China

Tourist Walking on The Great Wall of China, Peter Adams / Getty Images

While the Great Wall is an architectural marvel, the experience can be marred by the throngs of tourists, especially at popular sections like Badaling. The wall is also much steeper than it appears in photos, making the climb physically demanding.


15 Santorini, Greece

Tourists watching the sunset in Oia, Santorini, Greece George Pachantouris / Getty Images

Santorini's blue-domed churches and sunset views are iconic, but the reality can be less than picture-perfect. The narrow streets of Oia, the most popular town on the island, are often packed with tourists, especially during the summer months. The island's popularity has also led to inflated prices.


16 The London Eye, London, UK

Nightshot London Eye Laurie Noble / Getty Images

While the London Eye offers panoramic views of the city, the experience can be underwhelming. The queues are often long, and the 30-minute rotation can feel slow. Plus, the high price of admission might not feel worth it, especially on cloudy days when visibility is poor.


17 Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy

The Spanish Steps in Rome. Julian Elliott Photography / Getty Images

The Spanish Steps are a famous Roman landmark, but they're essentially just a staircase. The area is often crowded with tourists, and sitting on the steps, a popular pastime has been banned, limiting the ways to enjoy this site.


18 The Equator Monument, Ecuador

Equator monument Steffen Wachter / Getty Images

While it's exciting to straddle both hemispheres, the monument marking the equator in Ecuador is not actually on the true equator, as modern GPS has shown. This, coupled with the somewhat kitschy surrounding park, can make the experience feel less authentic.


19 Wall Street, New York City, USA

Flag and Wall street sign Fabrice Cabaud / Getty Images

Wall Street, the heart of the financial world, can be underwhelming for tourists. It's essentially a busy street lined with office buildings. The New York Stock Exchange building is not open to the public, and the famous Charging Bull statue is often surrounded by crowds.


20 Moulin Rouge, Paris, France

moulin rouge exterior in paris Athanasios Gioumpasis / Getty Images

The Moulin Rouge is a Parisian icon, but the reality can disappoint. Tickets for the cabaret shows are expensive, and some visitors find the performances to be less impressive than expected. The surrounding area, while historically the city's bohemian heart, can feel seedy and commercialized.


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