Have you ever been somewhere really hyped up and just found it a bit average? Bundled yourself off somewhere on the recommendations of friends, forum users or travel mags to find it’s just a bit, well, meh?
Every regular traveller tends to have one place that didn’t stand up to expectations, and for me it was Beijing. I’m not sure if anyone really rates the Chinese capital, but it was a bit of a let down. Sure, the 798 Art Zone was OK and the Forbidden City a fascinating place to get lost for a while, but beyond that I found it one sprawling, disorientating spiral of main roads and noise, a maelstrom of fog and fumes populated by hustlers and hawkers. And of course all that phlegm-hacking spitting everywhere.
Of course there’s a lot more to China and to form an opinion on the country from four days in Beijing is akin to visiting Bradford having never stepped in Europe and writing off the whole continent, so I’m keen to go back. I just think I’d start in Shanghai next time.
Overrated destinations – as picked by authors, editors and more
So where’s the most overrated place you’ve been? Here’s a few other picks from Rough Guides authors, editors and other travel personalities…
Steve Vickers (writer): John O’Groats. As the village that’s acted as the finishing post for thousands of fundraising challenges, you’d imagine John O’Groats to be a welcoming place, with plenty to see and do. Unfortunately, it isn’t.
Ben Fogle (traveller, author and TV presenter): Tahiti, in French Polynesia, was one of the most disappointing places I visited. I’d never seen anywhere so breathtakingly beautiful, but it’s so overdeveloped with all these big multi-storey hotels.
Alison Roberts (travel editor): Darjeeling, India. It’s best not to visit Darjeeling expecting too much in the way of colonial charm; the city is quite dilapidated nowadays and air pollution from the big jeep stand in the centre is bad. Added to this, the weather is often too cloudy to appreciate the stunning views of Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. The town still makes a nice change from the heat and hassle of the Indian plains, but bus strikes are regular, so it’s easy get stuck here if you’re not taking the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
“If you don’t like Guinness, go home”
Mark Carwardine (traveller, author and broadcaster): I tend to shy away from places that are heaving with tourists. Ranthambore National Park, in India, and Churchill, in Canada, immediately come to mind – but even in these places the wildlife encounters can be superb.
Lucy Kane (travel editor): Dublin. Ah, Dublin. The home of Guinness, Guinness drinkers, random pub music fuelled by Guinness, people sheltering in pubs away from the rain and drinking Guinness… and the city’s pièce de résistance, the Guinness Storehouse. If you don’t like Guinness, go home.
Keith Drew (managing editor): My picks would be Kuala Lumpur (although it does have a couple of really tall towers) and Los Angeles. Only the famous and the wannabe famous would want to spend any amount of time here.
Is Dubai overrated? Simon Reeve thinks so…
Andy Turner (travel editor): Auckland – Despite its beautiful waterside setting, gleaming skyscrapers and a million inhabitants, Auckland can be painfully dull.
Simon Reeve (traveller, author and TV presenter): I don’t see the attraction of Dubai. I’m particularly saddened by the way they’ve treated many of their guest workers from places like India and Bangladesh, having personally seen the appalling living conditions and heard stories of virtual slavery. And I struggle to see why anyone thought building a city on the edge of a sweltering desert was a good idea. You can’t survive without air conditioning on maximum – why not just go to Westfield or the Trafford Centre on a sunny day?
Pico Iyer (writer): How can I answer that when someone from Atlanta might read this interview?
So let us know, where is the most overrated destination in your opinion?