5 Places Other Travelers Love That I Think Are Overrated

Overrated Places to Travel
Overrated Places to Travel

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.

overrated places to travel

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.

Overrated Places To Travel

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

  • Hamburger Bahnhof – A modern art museum with the best name ever
  • Flux Bau – For some clubbing that doesn’t suck
  • The Dali Exhibition at Potsdamer Platz – I believe this is a permanent exhibition. Dali isn’t the first artist you think of when you think of Berlin, but this was a stunning exhibition.
  • Tiergarten Park – If it’s nice out, a walk through this ginormous woodland park is a great day out.
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    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.

    What To Do In Puerto Viejo

    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!

    Surprised in San Jose Pinterest
     

    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?

    Overrated Places To Travel

    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!

    Overrated Places To Travel

    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

  • Go to Berkeley! – Just across the bridge from San Francisco is the chill residential neighborhood of Berkeley. Take a hike in Tilden Park with an amazing view of the surrounding Bay Area. Drink coffee at Philz. My friend Lauren would kill me if I didn’t mention her favorite bar, Jupiter.
  • Eat all the Food – San Francisco has an amazing foodie scene. Ice cream at Humphry Slocombe. Authentic Mexican and Latin American food. Blue Bottle Coffee. Lovejoy’s Antiques and Tea Room for afternoon tea. Just…eat everything, okay?
  • Bookstores, galore! – Remind me why I don’t like San Francisco, again? There’s a strong literary history here, and it shows in the plethora and range of bookstores.
     

    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.

    Overrated Places To Travel

    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.

    Overrated Places To Travel

    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:

    Nicaragua for the Solo Female Backpacker
     

    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!

    Overrated Places To Travel

    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.

    Overrated Places To Travel

    Things I DO Recommend in Venice, Italy

  • Museo Correr in St. Mark’s Square – Escape the crowds and see some art
  • Palazzo Ducale – Learn about the “paranoid mofos” in the Venetian government (as it says in my travel journal from the time)
  • Anima Bella – Restaurant with really delicious ravioli
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    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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    30 comments

      1. I totally get that about New York, no worries! hahah..it can be super overwhelming, especially in tourist areas. I definitely recommend getting outside of the tourist-y areas next week! Maybe an outer borough if you can swing it? Or at least the Lower East Side/West Village in Manhattan. Also, it’s ok if you just don’t like NYC! After living there for 3 years I had more days of hating it than loving it, tbh!

    1. Such a good article! Interestingly enough, I live near San Francisco. I love being close by, but wouldn’t want to live there. You’re right about food though! In general the Bay Area has the best restaurants. Sounds like you maybe didn’t go to Oakland, which is one of my favorite cities. I’d rather go there than SF most days.

      Also, I personally found Amsterdam and Split+Dubrovnik very disappointing, and feel guilty about it, haha.

      Anyways, take care!

      1. Thank you, Melissa!! I haven’t yet been to Oakland, but I’d love to visit! I think you’re right about the Bay Area + food! Some of the most diverse, delicious foods in the USA!

        I wasn’t SUPER into Amsterdam like some people seem to be, so I get that. And that’s surprising about Split and Dubrovnik, because you do hear so many good things about them! But don’t feel guilty 😛 Sometimes we just don’t click with a place. It’s all good, plenty of places to see!

    2. I totally feel you on the electronic music! I can dance for it for maybe an hour, but not a whole night…I prefer hip hop!! That may explain why I didn’t really go out in London while I lived there.

      I actually feel the same about San Francisco. I haven’t spent a whole lot of time there, but it all seems a bit “entitled hipster” -ish to me. (But I’m biased, I live and grew up in New York! 🙂
      chewy recently posted…When you are ready for a trip to endMy Profile

      1. Omg I was literally going to write that San Francisco was full of “entitled hipsters” but then I didn’t want to be too harsh hahaha. After all, so is NYC! But San Fran feels like the worst parts of Brooklyn glorified hipster to me. Oops!

        And YES about EDM. Why is it the only music played in bars and clubs now? I’m with you about hip hop!

        1. Haha, maybe we can keep it in the comments then. I don’t want to offend people either! Though hipsters tend to not want to identify as hipsters (even though they totally are). I agree that somehow New York is a little better! But I do have to admit that I do sometimes enjoy hipster things haha

          I think it’s like that in a lot of places outside of the states for some reason :-\

          I’ll have to give LA a try. I haven’t been, but have been wary of it for the longest time!
          chewy recently posted…When you are ready for a trip to endMy Profile

    3. I’ve visited two of these places – I felt underwhelmed by San Fran myself and while I could barely deal with the crowds in Venice I enjoyed exploring away from the central, tourisy areas. Nicaragua and Costa Rica are places I really want to go so would keep in mind your tips on what to do. I think Patong Beach in Phuket was one of the most overrated places I’ve ever visited! A crowded tourist trap basically.

      1. See, I wish I had gotten a chance to get away from the crowds in Venice, too! It really was beautiful, I just felt so suffocated by the crowds and heat!

        I totally have heard that about Phuket before! Honestly, I avoided traveling to the Southern beaches when I was recently there because I didn’t want to deal with all of the tourists! hahaha

    4. I’m with you on the San Francisco front! I didn’t enjoy it (though as you recommend, liked Berkeley much better) and loved Los Angeles instead (although I was sure not to like it before I arrived! Crazy!) But I love Venice. It’s too bad you had a bad experience… I visited in early septembre and in february and it was amazing 🙂

      1. Yes! Omg same! Berkeley and LA over San Francisco any day 😛 I felt similarly about LA, especially because living in NY I always heard people say how much of a dump it was. But I loved it. I want to go back to Venice during one of those months! I shouldn’t have gone in the summer.

    5. I didn’t much like Berlin either at first, but warmed to it after a week there. San Fran was the first place I travelled to in the States so had nothing else to compare it to! I think mine would be Paris and Trinidad in Cuba. I like posts like this, as it’s interesting reading about other people’s opinions of places you’ve travelled to. As Groove Armada once said “if everybody looked the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other.”
      LC recently posted…11 Ways You Can Green Up Your Life at Home or AbroadMy Profile

    6. I didn’t fall in love with Berlin, I liked it for what it is but it’s not my cup of tea even though it’s actually very similar to where I live (Melbourne). Nicaragua still on the bucket list. Funny that you don’t rate San Fran. I loved it but the weather is not amazing 🙂
      Great post, you don’t have to love every where you go!

    7. I love how you provided several positive things about each place as well as alternatives that would actually be helpful for people planning to visit! It’s nice to see a seemingly negative topic actually have positive content :). Great post!

    8. While I’ve always wanted to check out Litte Corn, I agree with pretty much everything you say here, so I’ll brace myself when I do go!

      Really great post about the subjectivity of travel and tourism. I find the most touristy, most beloved spots (big picture destinations or “must visit” restaurants within) are the ones I don’t vibe well with.

      Hilarious that we absolutely fell in love with LA almost instantly and just didn’t feel San Francisco, just like you!

    9. it’s great you had disclaimers at the beginning bc it really is about timing, your mood and the company.
      do give Venice another try as one day in August will try anyone’s patience. it’s one of my favorite places to explore despite the fact it’s made for tourists now (my first visit was over 20yrs ago, I’ve been many times since) stay in Dorsoduro and try a rowing lesson next time

      as for me, a few visits now and Portland, Ore is on my list of places I’m not a big fan of
      Suzanne (PhilaTravelGirl) recently posted…10 Solo Travel Tips & Destination Ideas to Plan Your VacationMy Profile

    10. Interesting! I too have been disappointed by cities and places on my travels that I felt were overrated (Taj Mahal comes to mind!) so I’m glad i’m not the only one 🙂 I can slightly agree with Venice as I too wasn’t overly fussed and I went twice.

    11. I hate to admit I kind of felt that way about San Francisco too. It’s such a beloved city that I hate to say it wasn’t my favorite, especially since I really didn’t spend much more than a few hours there. I did love wine country though, but even that wasn’t quite what I expected. Another one I wasn’t wild about was Madrid, and I adore spain in general. Madrid was like any big international city that has lost its charm and culture. So when I tell people to go to spain, I tell them skip Madrid and go to Barcelona or southern Spain. I’ve been thinking about writing a post like this but wasn’t sure how to go about it so I’m glad you did it! Very tasteful 🙂

    12. If I had visited Venice in August I know I would have hated it too! Actually, I’m convinced that visiting any European city in the height of summer is a recipe for disliking it. Heat, humidity, massive tourist crowds? No thanks! Plus many of the residents (smartly) head away on vacation during that time, so that tourist feeling is amplified all the more. I visited Venice in early January and ended up loving it – freezing cold and foggy, yes, but also empty, mysterious and romantic.

    13. Having never been to San Francisco but LOVE NYC I would probably still ask the same question, why would you not live in New York ha! I’ve not been to Venice due to timings for your exact reasons as well it sounds like a nightmare! Great post

    14. Really enjoyed this!! Everyone has places that they just don’t click with…for me, that’s Phuket, Thailand. Seems to be a top tourist destination but I don’t really see the appeal!

    15. I went to Little Corn two years ago and looooved it! But after Googling it recently, it looks like there are a lot more hotels and restaurants popping up.

      That’s crazy about the drinks being so expensive, I can only imagine how much everything else is too then, and people only being paid $3 a day. I’ve definitely tried to be more aware of this kind of thing lately.

    16. Haha yess love it! It’s so rare that a traveler actually talks about not liking a place. I was trepidatious to do so when I wrote about not liking Florence, since so many people raved about it! But actually since writing that, I found more people that agreed with me, but hadn’t said so online previously. I love that you still managed to keep a positive spin on things and suggest stuff for people that might still wanna go there.

      I do think you should give Berlin another chance though, if the opportunity comes up! We were just there for a week and loved it – reminded us of NYC in many ways. Very multicultural, lots of street art, so many cool and free things going on…but we didn’t go to a discotheque once (not our scene either), I’m sure if we did I wouldn’t have enjoyed it either. And omg…when we were in SF this summer, all Veren kept saying was ‘This is just a shittier version of a wannabe NYC’ LOL.

      I think liking a place also has a lot to do with who you know there. I’ve been to some random places that I liked because I knew someone that showed me to their favorite and local spots. Lots of tourists visiting Madrid don’t fall in love with it (as I see another commenter above!) because it is not brimming with impressive landmarks. It’s more about enjoying the local vibe, connecting with the rhythm of the day, exploring the incredible layered history of the streets…When I first moved to Madrid I didn’t know anyone and found it hard to connect to the city, but now after a year and a half I really love it!
      Sam | Alternative Travelers recently posted…Berlin Vegan GuideMy Profile

    17. Oh no, I love Berlin! I think it has a lot to do with my interest in history too… and street art. Take those travel interests away and maybe I’d feel the same.

      I definitely agree on Venice though. Paris and Miami are the two most overrated for me. And if it weren’t for the fact I needed to relax after a hectic roadtrip to there, Niagara Falls would be on the list.

    18. I also found Venice hotels and crowded (august!)… my most underwhelming list would include Amsterdam, which I’ve tried several times with different groups of people and just can’t seem to like very much!

      And interesting read – thanks very much.

    19. Hello eva! I strongly disagree. I think in some of the places you’ve listed you have visited with superficiality. I’m really sorry, 1 day for Venice it is just the time for a picture.
      Berlin is really much more… that clubing! “Overated”, no. Probably you dislike but not “overated”.

    20. Hi Eva
      I too struggled with San Francisco. I hated the public transport. Loved the subway and buses in New York. On a positive note, I liked the bookshops and The Ferry Building. I aldo found the people friendler in NYC

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