World: The 5 Most Over-Rated Tourist Spots in the World
| September 28th, 2009
But not to worry — we have alternatives!
It may seem sacrilege to suggest that Stonehenge or Machu Picchu aren’t quite what they’re cracked up to be — but that is the premise and frankly the audacity of a new travel book meant to shake the dust off a few dearly held myths.
Off the Tourist Trail (publisher, price), with a foreword and, presumably, the endorsement of travel writer and adventurer Bill Bryson, no slouch when it comes to sorting the good stuff from the bad, offers the real truth about the wonders of the world and then suggests some lesser known but also fabulous alternatives. You may want to re-think your bucket list!
Among the over-rated:
The famous and mysterious Stonehenge is remarkable for the sheer engineering it must have taken to create the strange pattern of huge stones, not to mention its dramatic setting. Sadly though, visitors can’t actually get up close and certainly are not allowed to touch anything. Not only that, you can’t actually wander inside. There is no museum to explore its history and no shelter in case of (frequent) bad weather. You also have to pay an entrance fee.
Only 85 miles west of London you will be able to get hands-on with mysterious ancient stones and see the world from a 5000- year-old perspective. Though the stones are not as large as Stonehenge, Avebury is four times its size, making it the world’s largest henge. Avebury also has a museum you can explore that was set up by amateur archaeologist Alexander Keiller. Avebury’s guests are able to roam free and touch all of the stones. Entrance is free!
2. COLOSSEUM, ROME
The great thing about being in Rome and looking for the colosseum is, you don’t need to look for it at all, just join the crowds walking toward it and queuing for the privilege of entering. It’s easy to imagine hordes of Romans there watching lion fights because there are always hordes of people there — it is certainly breathtaking though as Italy’s most-visited sight it is mobbed. And, the ancient gem is incredibly precious and therefore visitors are unable to actually visit a lot of it.
PULA ARENA, CROATIA
Across the Adriatic Sea is an equally spectacular arena in Pula that will evoke similar feelings as the Colosseum, in a much more intimate space. Built in the 1st century AD at about the same time as the Colosseum the Arena is the sixth largest amphitheatre of the 200 that the Romans erected in centuries of power. Known as a place of entertainment, Pula Arena hosts the annual Pula Film Festival and has been described as the “the most beautiful cinema in the world.” The Arena has also been known to have a “freer and friendlier appeal.”
3. SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
One of the world’s most famous and beautiful performing arts venues and Australia’s most recognizable symbol, the Opera House is also Sydney’s most visited tourist spot. The Opera House holds upwards of 1, 500 performances a year in its five main venues. However, on a given sunny afternoon it is rare to get a glimpse of the interiors of the Concert Hall or Opera Theatre due to back-to-back performances.
WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL (downtown Los Angeles)
Though one may not expect Disney to be associated with opera, the Hall’s odd angles and seductive curves are an architecturel-buff’s dream. Designed by Frank Gehry, Disney’s concert hall is often thought of as a smaller version his iconic Guggenheim Bilbao (Spain). Disney is also known for its excellent acoustics, even guests sitting at the top of the hall’s 2,265 seats enjoy crystal-clear acoustics. Whether you like the sound of music or not, the architecture is spectacular and there are free-guided tours nearly every day.
The Amazingly intact ruins of Pompeii are one of Europes most compelling archaeological sites, offering insight into life at the height of the Roman Empire. An entire day can be devoted to touring this incredible site. Pompeii has over 2.5 million visitors a year, making it the busiest tourist site in Italy. Thanks to 20th century restorations some of the ruins have been compromised to recreate the “atmosphere” rebuilding walls and roofs using often-unattractive concrete and steel.
The same explosion of Mount Vesuvius that demolished Pompeii in AD 79 wiped out this small Roman town. The ruins are far better preserved and many of the buildings have lasted so well that they look nearly the same as they would have millennia ago. The architecture of Herculaneum displays far higher standards of craftsmanship.
5. MACHU PICCHU
This majestic city, known as a lost city was discovered in 1911. It has held the top spot for travelers eager to see the majesty of the Inca for several years. Many tourists and hikers who experience Machu Picchu describe the experience as magical. The downfall is that the journey to Machu Picchu is not a pleasant one. The entrance fee has increased to US$44, that is not the only cost, add the price of the round-trip train fare to the village at the foot of the mountain, as well as the cost of food and you will be spending well over US$100 before you even step foot inside Machu Picchu (if you even fall inside the number of people allowed in daily.)
ISLA DEL SOL
The tiny island is littered with remnants of the Inca and is the birthplace of one of the world’s most fabled societies. It is situated nearly 10, 500 ft above sea level and the lake is so clear that original inhabitants believed they could see the entrance to another world at the bottom. Isla Del Sol has not changed much over the centuries and many of the 5, 000 or so inhabitants are descendants of the first Inca clinging to their centuries-old lifestyle. No other place on earth provides such a vivid insight into the origins of the great Inca as Isla Del Sol.