Someone asked me a question recently that I don’t receive too much. “Was there any place that you were glad to leave, or that you just didn’t click with?” It was a hard one to answer. I can find something to love about each of the 38 countries I’ve visited in my life. It’s rare that I arrive at a new destination and don’t find at least a few things to make me want to return. But I have to admit that there ARE a few places I’ve visited that just didn’t spark any kind of joy for me. These are places that most other people love, so if your dream destination is on this list, please don’t write it off just because I felt kind of ‘meh’ about it.
I will also add a disclaimer: much of travel is about the specific place and time and people you travel with. Sometimes I go to a new place and am just not in the mood to love much of anything. Sometimes I am, unfortunately, in the company of a person who I’d rather not be around. I’ve done my best to include only places in this list that weren’t tainted too horribly by the above two factors. Meaning, even if I visited at the perfect time with the perfect people, I still wouldn’t exactly jive with the destination. Also keep in mind that these are my experiences. They’re completely subjective and are based around my own travels. Most of these places I’ve only been to once, so I am the first one to admit that if I went back it could be a different story. So, here we go, let’s talk about 5 destinations that are overrated to travel to (IMHO).
5 Overrated Places To Travel
1. Berlin, Germany
It feels almost shameful to write that I don’t like Berlin. Who doesn’t like Berlin? Well, um, me it turns out. When I went there on my two month backpacking trip in Europe it just felt cold (not literally, because it was summer) and uninviting. I’ll admit that we maybe didn’t do the right activities for me to fall in love with Berlin. Much of the time we spent there either sleeping off a hangover, waiting in line for a club, or dancing to electronic music in said club. This is not my preferred way to travel, though I know a lot of people travel to Berlin for this exact reason.
I prefer getting out during the day to take advantage of cultural sights to sleeping all day and partying all night. I do love to dance, though, and I think if my experiences in Berlin nightclubs had lived up to the hype I would be singing a different tune. Too bad I actually dislike electronic music! How do you dance to it?? I honestly believe that the only people who can dance to electronic music are on drugs. I WILL say that experiencing Berlin’s famous Berghain nightclub was a trip and had some great people watching, though.
I would definitely return to Berlin someday to see if I could craft an itinerary that is better suited to my preferences. But if I end up just not loving Berlin after all? Well, there are plenty of other cities in the world. [Like New York City, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Panama City, or Paris.]
Things I DO Recommend in Berlin, Germany
2. Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
I really wanted to love Puerto Viejo! For one thing, one of my favorite travel bloggers, Camille of This American Girl, loves Puerto Viejo and called it her home base for years. For another, so many people I ran into in Panama told me that they loved Puerto Viejo. This Caribbean town in Costa Rica sounded like everything I love: hippie vibe, by the ocean, in Costa Rica, a country I was dying to return to after the retreat that changed my life. But the real deal just fell flat for me.
The timing of my visit to Puerto Viejo could have been better, I’ll admit. I was burnt out. You can tell in the one post I wrote about Puerto Viejo, which I titled ‘The Tired Traveler’s Guide to Puerto Viejo,’ how over it I was. But usually, when I’m burnt out and tired, I’ll stay longer in a place. I left Puerto Viejo after about three days because I just didn’t want to be there anymore. To me, Puerto Viejo had the feeling of a place that was tourist weary. No one seemed particularly happy to be there besides the dreadlocked surfer dudes and their beach babes who had taken up residence. I know it’s my own fault for not getting out of town, but the beaches in town were disgusting. And I just didn’t feel safe walking around after dark. After Bocas del Toro in Panama, I was not feeling it.
Ironically, even though Puerto Viejo didn’t call to me, I loved one of the places that is least-loved in all of Costa Rica, San Jose!
3. San Francisco, CA
I do NOT want to admit that I don’t really like San Francisco. Who would when that city is one of the most loved in all the world? But here I am, coming out of the closet as someone who doesn’t really see the appeal of San Francisco. Sure, there’s the cool Victorian architecture (I love it!) and all the culture, history, and art. All of these things that should make me love the city. But whenever I visit San Francisco, I can’t help but think… “Why wouldn’t you just live in New York City?” And I’m not even kidding! Would someone who has lived in both cities and chosen San Francisco let me know why?
Everyone always compares San Francisco and Los Angeles. They say Los Angeles is full of fake people trying to make it in “the business.” And while that’s a stereotype, it’s one that holds some truth. But here’s what I say: at least the people in LA don’t pretend it’s anything other than what it is. The shameless, out there, fake-everything LA lifestyle isn’t covered up. That being said, Los Angeles regularly tops most people’s ‘overrated places to travel’ list, but it’s one of my favorites!
San Francisco just doesn’t do it for me. It’s not very walkable in my opinion, save for a few neighborhoods. There is public transportation, but it’s not nearly as comprehensive as NYC’s. I will admit that I’ve had some great days out in San Francisco, but overall? Meh.
Things I DO Recommend in San Francisco
4. Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
It had all the trappings of a perfect destination. A plane ride AND a boat ride are required to get there. No motor vehicles are allowed on the island. It’s been “up and coming” for only a year or two. I wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about before Little Corn became “over-touristed” like everyone said it would. Well, I think I was too late.
That’s not to say that Little Corn isn’t worth a visit. Quite the contrary, it’s an absolutely gorgeous place with lots to offer. It was just a far cry from the Little Corn I thought I would be visiting. In Little Corn, it truly hit me how tourism does not always “improve” a place. We may talk a lot about how tourism can boost a country or city’s economy. How we should travel to a place to spend our tourism dollars there because they “need it.” I am not denying that there are many places in the world that rely on tourism to function. But the concept that tourism makes a situation better for the people who live there? Not necessarily true.
We have to be comfortable discussing the fact that maybe the people who live there were a lot happier before tourists came to town. And that tourists can have a negative impact on a place we deem the “next best island” to visit. First of all, how much money is actually going to the people who live there, and have lived there for their entire lives? In my experience, not much.
At least on Little Corn, many of the places that tourists visit (myself included!) were owned by foreigners. How much were the local people benefiting? I heard tell of a certain resort I visited for sundowners that charged $15 for a cocktail but only paid its’ bar staff about $3 per day. I admit that I know next to nothing about owning a brick and mortar business, so I have no idea the money that goes into a project like that. But from my perspective, if you are charging that much for a fruity cocktail, you can afford to pay the people who make it a bit more.
It makes me feel sick to think of the places around the world, beautiful places, places with their own culture and traditions, that had to change significantly for them to be “tourist ready.” And to know that I am part of the problem.
Definitely, visit Little Corn Island, it’s a beautiful gem in Central America. Just be conscious of what goes on behind closed doors. Be mindful of where you spend your money. And please, please leave the island as beautiful as it was when you arrived.
To read about my recommendations for Little Corn, check out my guide to 7 Weeks in Nicaragua:
5. Venice, Italy
So yeah, I didn’t like one of the most universally beloved places on earth: Venice, Italy.
This one is probably the most subject to change because I will admit I didn’t have the ideal setting to experience Venice for the first time. On my first backpacking trip through Europe, we only allotted ourselves one day to see Venice. Add to that the fact that the day we chose was in August during the height of the tourism season? It made for one sweaty, frustrating day of sightseeing.
Remember how I described Paris in the summer in my post on three days in Paris? Well, imagine that, but now take away half the space you can walk in and replace it with water. And you have Venice!
The architecture was mind-blowing, as expected, but I couldn’t really take it all in because I was constantly being herded through crowds of camera-toting tourists. What’s more, I am notoriously bad in hot climates (in fact, one way someone found this blog was through searching the term ‘sweating a lot in Central America.’) and get pretty cranky if I’m constantly overheated.
Obviously, my impression of Venice wasn’t going to be great. So, if you are planning on including Venice in your summer vacation in Europe, just be forewarned. Maybe add some extra days so that you can sightsee for a couple hours a day and just relax the rest of the day.
Also, as always, I highly recommend getting out of the main tourist areas. It’s a great way to see what local life is really like and comes with the added bonus of getting away from all of those PEOPLE. Which, if you’re a traveling introvert like me, is absolutely essential every once in a while.
Things I DO Recommend in Venice, Italy
Those are 5 of the destinations I’ve visited that are, in my opinion, overrated places to travel to. I would definitely go back to each and every one of these places to see if my opinion could change. And hey, there have been plenty of places I’ve visited and loved that other people think are overrated. So if one of your favorite places is on this list, leave me a comment and tell me why I’m wrong!
Tell me in the comments: have you ever been to a destination that you thought was overrated to travel to?
Happy Exploring, Wherever You Are!
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