Disappointing Destinations – Attractions that Fall Short

Disappointing Destinations – Attractions that Fall Short

Ever travel to a new city and hear of that “must see/do” thing only to be disappointed….

We’ve all been there, whether in our own city or abroad, there’s always that spot you just have to hit up, a restaurant you must try, or a city you’ve been dreaming of visiting. Yet, when you get there it wasn’t all that you had hoped….

I’ve asked around to see what people thought was their worst, or most disappointing place they have visited. The answers may surprise you!

Santorini, Greece

Laura of LauraDelCarmen.Com

I wanted to visit Greece since I was a little girl. I remember watching The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and daydreaming of this magical place. Last year, my dream finally came true when my husband and I went Greek island hoping for our babymoon. The first two islands we visited, Milos and Folegandros, were beautiful, relaxing and inviting. Santorini on the other hand, was crowded. There wasn’t much to see apart from the small town of Oia. The food was disappointing and the locals were unwelcoming as a result of the rude tourists trespassing their homes to get “the picture”. I had really high expectations of Santorini, don’t get me wrong, it is extremely picturesque, but after you take “the picture” there is not much else to do. Fortunately, we decided to do a catamaran tour around the volcanic Greek islands and that was stunning, worth it and the highlight of Santorini for us. So if you (like me) dream of visiting Greece, I recommend spending most or all of your time in some of the other lesser known islands because the food is much better, the people are welcoming and it’s a lot cheaper.

The Forbidden City – Beijing, China

Kay from The Awkward Traveller

If you google “Top Things to Do in Beijing” RIGHT NOW, visiting the Forbidden City is guaranteed in the top 3. The biggest mystery of the universe is – WHY. Don’t get me wrong, as a historical site, the Forbidden City is absolutely incredible. The fact that it is even still standing is a modern miracle in and of itself. The Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors of China, right up until THE LAST EMPEROR OF CHINA. It’s monumental. But, uhh… it is one of the most disappointing tourist attractions you will ever encounter.

I am obsessed with Chinese history, but the Forbidden City wasn’t worth it. And the fault lies in the over-hype, truly, it’s overrated. By all means, go and see for yourself, but what you will find is just emptiness. Walls behind walls of emptiness, behind more walls, behind more emptiness. To top it off, it’s crowded. It’s just hundreds of people in an empty square, surrounded by four red walls. If you don’t stop to look at the sparsely scattered artifacts, it will take at least 3 hours to walk through the Forbidden City. Three hours that could have been spent eating incredible Chinese food. Or shopping. Or doing literally anything else. Sure, the Forbidden City might be for some people. For example, someone incredibly devoted to ancient Chinese politics. But for THE LARGE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE – save yourself the frustration and just pop your head in the front gate (which is free!) and invest your time enjoying Chinese culture literally anywhere else in Beijing. 

Cinque Terre, Italy

Christina Nazario

After traveling Europe for a month, one of my last trips was to Cinque Terre. I was extremely excited because of all the Pinterest-worthy pictures of Cinque Terre and it’s beautiful beaches. After traveling for so long, there was nothing more to do than to relax on a beautiful beach – but once we arrived it was an immediate disappointment. There are hundreds of people everywhere! The beach was so packed with tourists, there was nowhere to sit and no beach chairs for rent. Everyone was on top of each other, babies were screaming, naked sunbathers were too close for comfort, and it smelled like body odor. My group had to be separated due to lack of space. The only escape was the ocean, which we’d have to do in shifts to watch our belongings. While the water was as clear and blue as day, the stress of the entire experience was not worth it.

Horseback Riding – Montego Bay, Jamaica

Shannon of Traveling Teacher Girl

My most disappointing travel experience was horseback riding in the ocean in Jamaica. I was staying at a nice resort and decided to book this excursion last minute. I had seen many photos of people horseback riding in the ocean, and I thought that it would be a magical experience! However, when I arrived to the tour, I saw that the horses were underfed, malnourished, and very poorly trained. The tour guide was rough with the horses and was only able to lead them through intimidation.

The tour guide led us into the water one at a time, but he horses were terrified of the water and were struggling to swim. Grunting and moaning as they kept their heads above the deep water with the riders. After the first few people went into the water, the majority of our group decided to not proceed because we felt so bad for these poor animals. This experience still haunts me, and I regret booking this excursion and putting my tourist dollars towards an inhumane company. While my experience happened in Jamaica, this could have happened anywhere and is a cautionary tale to always do your research before booking activities – especially when they involve animals!

Grand Canyon – Nevada, USA

Claudia Grizales

During a trip to Las Vegas, I was offered a heavily discounted tour to the Grand Canyon. The tour retails at nearly $80 a person, but I paid $30, which should have been my first warning.

We arrived to the Grand Canyon after we spent roughly 6 hours being shuttled from one bus to another before the long drive to the South Rim. While it was advertised as a guided tour, our tour guide took this time to sleep on the bus instead. Once reaching our first stop, our guide made it clear he would leave us if we did not return in 45 minutes! Which gave me enough time to push past the crowds to snap a few pictures. We only had one more stop, the viewing deck, which you can imagine was the most jam-packed area with tourists.

it gets worse….

The tour package was supposed to include a visit to the Hoover Dam, however our tour guide stated we took so long trying to reach the Grand Canyon that they were foregoing the Hoover Dam – but if we looked quickly to our right we can see it in the distance!
Overall, the tour took 14 HOURS with only an hour and a half at the actual site. I should have seen the red flags when they offered the tour so cheap! If you want to see the Grand Canyon I would recommend doing it on your own and early to avoid the mob of people trying to get their pictures at this natural wonder.

Big Ben – London, UK

When you hear the name Big Ben you think of, well something big! Except when you see it in person – it’s anything but! Maybe it’s me comparing everything I see to the skyscrapers back home in New York, but Big Ben was LITTLE! When I googled how tall (or short) Big Ben was only 315 feet, compared to 1,250 feet of the Empire State Building – not including the antenna. Not to mention the fact that the tower is under renovation until 2021, with the famous clock hidden behind scaffolding. It was definitely underwhelming and 7 year old, Spice Girls loving me would have been heartbroken.

which reminds me of another disappointing London attraction…

Platform 9 3/4 Kings Cross Station – London, UK

I want to start off by saying it breaks my heart to write this as I am an avid Potterhead (& a proud Gryffindor). But Platform 9 3/4 was a complete let down of a mustsee attraction. THERE, I said it – don’t send me to Azkaban! You don’t need tickets but you have the option of a fast pass online to skip the riddikulus line. Once there, you have the chance to take a picture with your trolley “passing through” the wall. The line tends to get out of hand, especially on weekends. Is it worth it for the picture? Honestly, no. I managed to get my picture standing suspiciously close to the line and very quickly!

There is also a Harry Potter store with tons of merchandise, such as getting you own Ollivander’s wand. Of course, there is a line to get inside as well – but I would say it’s worth it. Not to mention a little overwhelming for a fan, I wanted to buy everything! Bottom line, don’t go out of your way or plan it strategically so you don’t spend 30-45 minutes on a line.

Panama Canal – Panama City, Panama

The Panama Canal is relatively cool if you know it’s purpose. The canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans which facilitated global trade. It’s known as one of the must see attractions when in Panama, but it’s really nothing more than some water with ships passing by (if you’re lucky).

If you go, the only way I can see the visit being worth it is by booking a tour that takes you through the canal by boat. However, those tours can be pretty expensive! It’s a pretty underwhelming tourist attraction. Then again, did you even go to Panama if you didn’t go to the Panama Canal?


Travel isn’t always what it seems on social media. Or sometimes our imagination hypes up a destination only to be let down. While travel fails do happen, don’t let this discourage you! Then again, one mans trash is another mans treasure – and the same applies to travel! You could have hated X city, but your friend loved it!

That’s the beauty of travel. So travel far and wide to find what places speak to you! Have you ever been let down on a trip before? Share in the comments so we can all do our research!

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15 Comments

  1. Not surprised horseback riding at the beach in Jamaica made the list. I’m from Jamaica so I’ve always seen the horses about at the beach and sadly, none have ever looked healthy to me. They’re usually old retired race horses so the last thing they want is an eager tourist on their backs. The others making the list are interesting too, and you’re right. Travel experiences are so highly variable, but your reasons for why several of these places (inc Santorini) disappointed sound like what my experience would be too. #travelgram isn’t always what it’s hyped up to be.

    • It’s definitely hard when it comes to excursions with animals to find ethical ones that treat the animals right. That’s definitely sad with the horses but thank you for sharing that tidbit, I never knew they were racehorses! And yes I think Instagram has made a lot of places look like something their not, and that leads to a lot of disappointment! These filters and photoshops don’t always tell the real story of a location!

  2. This is why I opted out of Santorini and other major tourist spots in Greece. I went off peak season so it was so much cheaper and affordable. Try staying in Plaka at the center of Athens. Hostels are affordable and close proximity to local restaurants and cafes. If you walk further you get a good price and dining experience. I did a last minute cruise around 3 less familiar islands and enjoyed it. My other hostel mate did one super early ferry to Santorini before Easter (where a local told me they raise their prices on everything because they take advantage of the popularity) and was able to capture beautiful pictures of the sunset and get a cheap hotel with a wonderful view. I say go again but definitely during its off season.

    • When I went to Santorini it was also off season so I didn’t have to deal with the crowds like Laura unfortunately did! While it was absolutely beautiful, I do think it is overrated, and we did run into problems from locals who don’t like people taking pictures anymore, so I definitely see where she’s coming from! I will admit I liked Athens more, city vibe but still laid back – and the food was amazing!

  3. I have been disappointed so many times by places that have been overhyped! I’ve heading to London soon, so I’m glad to know some places I should skip

    • It happens! But these experiences may not be your own, just do your research and see if some of these places are worth the risk for you! Lol safe travels in London!

  4. I was so disappointed I couldn’t see Big Ben! I knew it was being renovated but I couldn’t see it at all! Not even the clock face 😕

    • Not even the clock?! Oh man at least I was able to see that when I visited. I’d be disappointed too sorry but that just means you need to plan another trip there!

  5. We actually went to CInque Terre in the summer and loved it SO much!! Like were so mesmerized by its beauty! Some people don’t like crowds though and I understand that. We’ve never been to Greece yet and have been dying to go!!

    • It’s all about personal perspective! For example I’ve been to Santorini and personally loved it! But I understand why Laura had that experience during her time in Santorini. Everyone is different and yes Greece is amazing and you should go!

  6. I´ve had exactly the same experience with Cinque Terre, one of the most horrible trips in my life lol but I loved Santorini: I visited 10 years ago and maybe, it was not that touristy yet! or the views have compensated for the rest, but I get it why it could be disappointing!

    • When I went to Santorini it was off season, so I didn’t experience exactly the same things as Laura did who shared her story, but I definitely see her point why it could be disappointing! Luckily I missed the crowds when I went

  7. Oh so sorry you had a bad experience at the Forbidden City in Beijing! I’ve been a few times and I think the Forbidden City is a lovely place – especially for taking photos. There are crowds, true, but you can also avoid them if you visit really early or 1 hour before it closes.

    • I personally have not been but my guest writer Kay of The Awkward Traveller had that unfortunate experience! That is the thing about travel though, everyone’s experience will be different!

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