Vibrant destination photos beckon the wandering heart to step into a picture-perfect paradise. Yet some of the world’s most popular locations don’t always make for an unforgettable vacation.
Bad weather, traffic, unfriendly locals, crowds — there are many reasons why a destination might be a let-down. To see how much you’ll spend to visit these overhyped locations, GOBankingRates looked at travel costs for July 9 to Jul 16, 2017. Here’s a look at overrated, high-cost tourist destinations you might want to skip.
Airfare: $1,110 round trip
Hotel: $610 nightly
The Expectation: Pedal your way lazily between charming cafes, underground bars and hipster haunts like the De Pijp neighborhood and Albert Cuyp Market street market.
The Reality: You’ll be sharing those quaint, narrow streets with motorbikes, cars, trams and bike-wheel-swallowing tram tracks. Not to mention a host of other bicyclists, many of whom pedal at Tour de France speeds. Brightly colored rental bikes are less of a target for the ever-present bike thief, but make you a greater target for crooks looking to part you from your other valuables.
Beware of those sweet kids along the way offering up platters of homemade cookies or any other free “hospitality” from people you don’t know. If you fall for these tourist scams, you might wake up in a dark alley divested of bike and valuables alike.
Airfare: $1,203 round trip
Hotel: $361 nightly
The Expectation: Step into the past as you explore the ancient ruins of Athens. Peer up at Acropolis Hill, a relic of the past silhouetted against a clear blue sky. Ascend the mount and spend the day looking at relics and ruins before descending to dine with a view of the illuminated icons.
The Reality: Modern sophistication has its drawbacks, and pollution is a major one in Athens. Glimpse a hazy view of the Parthenon through the dirty air and scurry into line with the masses who want to beat the midday heat to see the monuments. Then, drag your tired feet back downhill to dine with a view of the Acropolis. Forget about following dinner with a romantic moonlight stroll. Thieves follow tourists looking for an opportunity to steal their valuables, especially at night.
The Blarney Stone, Cork, Ireland
Airfare: $850 round trip
Hotel: $221 nightly
The Expectation: Steeped in legends associating it with everyone from Moses to saints and kings, the Blarney Stone bestows the gift of eloquence to anyone who kisses it.
The Reality: Trek your way up 128 stone steps and wait your turn to smooch a rock in the same spot where everyone else in front of you has just planted a pucker. To line yourself up with the limited stone-kissing real estate, you have to lay on your back through iron bars. This means you’ll likely lay your lips right where those before left their lipstick or germs. You might or might not receive the gift of eloquence, or you might come home with a cold sore.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Airfare: $3,438 round trip
Hotel: $1,676 nightly
The Expectation: Soft turquoise waters lap against white sand, creating a soothing soundtrack as you savor views of your tropical paradise from the deck of an overwater bungalow. It’s the ultimate in exclusive beach vacations.
The Reality: Eels, stingrays and sharks thrive beneath the azure waters, although fatal shark attacks are rare. Street dogs, roosters and potholes pepper the narrow city streets, which are crowded with vehicles ranging from buses to scooters, making for a less-than-soothing experience.
Airfare: $561 round trip
Hotel: $637 nightly
The Expectation: Compared with many seaside vacations, Cancún is inexpensive. So bring on the bikinis, beaches and nightlife.
The Reality: Although bargain prices will get you sun, sand and shimmering surf, you get what you pay for. Travelers on TripAdvisor complained of outdated hotel rooms, lack of hot water and deferred maintenance at some hotels. If you’re headed there for the culture, take a pass. Unless American spring break party culture is what you’re after.
Disneyland, Anaheim, Calif.
Airfare: $483 round trip
Hotel: $663 nightly
The Expectation: Step into the Happiest Place on Earth filled with gravity-bending rides, magical scenery and cheerful characters from your favorite cartoons and movies.
The Reality: If paying up to $124 for a day of waiting in line brings you joy, this may be your cup of tea. The problem is worst during peak times, like spring break, summer vacation, weekends and holidays. The park can fill up as early as 11 a.m. with no way to escape wall-to-wall crowds. It’s a small world, after all. Expect to wait 30 minutes to two hours for rides lasting less than five minutes or to eat overpriced food in a sit-down restaurant.
Four Corners Monument, Navajo Nation
Airfare: $587 round trip
Hotel: $105 nightly
The Expectation: Getting that classic vacation photo where you can stand in four states at once.
The Reality: Although there’s an abundance of breathtaking beauty on the Navajo Reservation, you won’t find it on the hot and dusty drive to Four Corners Monument, 45 minutes from the nearest city. There’s no plumbing, electricity, phones or running water at the monument and cell service is spotty. Depending on how busy it is, expect to stand in line in unshaded heat waiting for your photo opportunity. There’s not much else to do at the site except browse craft booths of Native American souvenirs or enjoy authentic Navajo tacos.
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Airfare: $462 round trip
Hotel: $740 nightly
The Expectation: Bike or walk across the historic Art Deco suspension bridge for a panoramic perspective of the Golden City.
The Reality: As the only gap in the coastal range for hundreds of miles, you can expect wind — and lots of it. Summer weather can turn cold and miserable as you strike out across the bridge, thanks to fog, damp and other dramatically changing weather conditions. Add in the fact that the nearest bike rental is about 8 miles away, the loud traffic amplified by the steel framework and the dismal presence of suicide prevention call boxes, and you’ll have a trip you might rather pass up.
Loch Ness, Scotland
Airfare: $849 round trip
Hotel: $322 nightly
The Expectation: Catch a glimpse of the fabled Nessie as she pokes her head from the blue waters of Loch Ness.
The Reality: A 2016 survey by the Manchester Evening News found that Loch Ness is the third most overrated tourist destination in the UK. Don’t waste your time driving 3½ hours from Edinburgh. Scotland has far prettier lochs among its 31,000 without the crowds and touristy claptrap of monster souvenirs.
Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles
Airfare: $483 round trip
Hotel: $685 nightly
The Expectation: Immerse yourself in Tinseltown glamor as you stroll by about 2,000 terrazzo and brass stars dedicated to your favorite movie icons along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Take photos of costumed superheroes and go celebrity spotting around Los Angeles.
The Reality: There’s oodles of Hollywood history to take in along the Hollywood Walk of Fame if you’re willing to battle the crowds. The stars on the public walkway are often obscured by other onlookers as well as cigarette butts, candy wrappers, gum and other trash. Worst yet is the traffic, which you’ll battle non-stop wherever your travels take you in the city.
Airfare: $258 round trip
Hotel: $489 nightly
The Expectation: Sip a cup of sustainable bean coffee at an outdoor cafe before hopping on a bike to view Wynwood’s colorful street art or Ocean Drive’s Art Deco architecture. Party with the cool crowd at South Beach nightclubs and nosh tasty Cuban cuisine in Little Havana.
The Reality: Bring your bug repellent and plenty of antiperspirant when you visit Miami. Up to 10 inches of rain per month, temperatures in the 80s and daily humidity levels exceeding 90 percent set the stage for mosquito season to last most of the year. Drink lots of water to avoid collapsing from heat exhaustion while you’re pedaling to see the sights. If you’re hungry, expect to pay about $18 per person for a “cheap” meal in the city.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Airfare: $536 round trip
Hotel: $295 nightly
The Expectation: Feel patriotic as you stand before the 60-foot faces of four American presidents gazing down from a granite mountainside. Best of all, there’s no park entrance fee to this national memorial.
The Reality: There’s nothing truly free about this national park. You’ll pay $10 to park, and even if you take a bus the entrance cost gets passed onto you. Once you see the crumbling faces of dead presidents, elbow your way through the tourists sauntering along the short trail that just leads to a closer view.
Central Park, New York City
Airfare: $217 round trip
Hotel: $354 nightly
The Expectation: Take a carriage ride through iconic Central Park to enjoy the best of New York City’s art, architecture and natural history.
The Reality: Crowds, traffic and crime aside, there are brief periods in spring and fall that are suited to venturing out in the city. The rest of the time, plan to endure excruciating heat in the summer and biting winds whipping between the skyscrapers in winter. Don’t bother with the carriage ride unless you want to pay upwards of $50 for a mere 20-minute jaunt accompanied by the smell of horse manure.
Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Airfare: $178 round trip
Hotel: $243 nightly
The Expectation: Stand in wonder as you witness the falls with the greatest flow rate in the world, Niagara Falls.
The Reality: Niagara Falls is smaller than you’d expect — it’s not even in the top 10 largest waterfalls in the world. You’d have to stack Niagara Falls about nine wide to come close to Khone Falls in Laos. And don’t believe the hooey about it having the largest flow of water in the world — it ranks 11th, according to the World Waterfall Database. You’ll pay a premium for everything from rooms to food just for being within 10 miles of the watery tourist trap and, unless you go in the dead of winter, expect shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.
Airfare: $673 round trip
Hotel: $433 nightly
The Expectation: From the Eiffel Tower and Louvre to the flea markets in Belleville and culinary markets of the Rue des Martyrs, Paris is the tourist destination where you’ll put your finger on the heartbeat of high-fashion France.
The Reality: Don’t go to Paris on a budget. An inexpensive meal will run you more than $15 and if you want to wash it down with a beer, you’ll pay $6.52 for a draught or 11.2-ounce bottle, according to Numbeo. Set it all to a backdrop of damp, dreary weather with sunshine only 152 days a year, and you’re better off finding European sophistication elsewhere.
Airfare: $137 round trip
Hotel: $289 nightly
The Expectation: Relive the faith and courage of Pilgrim forefathers in the spot where they first set foot in the New World.
The Reality: The only two Pilgrim accounts of the Plymouth landing don’t mention any rocks; there’s only the word of one of Pilgrim’s descendants more than 100 years later. Moreover, it’s just a gray rock. The underwhelming boulder isn’t even exciting enough to upload a picture to Facebook.
Santa Fe, N.M.
Airfare: $594 round trip
Hotel: $1,250 nightly
The Expectation: Stroll through this centuries-old city with a flair that’s created the “Sante Fe style” influence on food, art, architecture and more. Experience fiestas, parades, music and more in the happening atmosphere of Santa Fe Plaza.
The Reality: Theme park déjà vu. The homogeneous building code requires all structures to look like they’re made of old adobe, even gas stations and fast food joints. Overpriced souvenir shops surrounding the plaza only add to the Disneyland atmosphere.
Airfare: $684 round trip
Hotel: $1,470 nightly
The Expectation: Hike red rock vistas, relax by a babbling creek or pamper yourself at a spa in the vibrant natural beauty of Sedona.
The Reality: Sedona’s a good place to go if you miss sitting in traffic back home. Surrounded by national forest lands, Sedona’s answer to its popularity as a trendy travel destination involves cramming its 10,000 residents and more than 3 million annual tourists into 19 square miles. Crawl along at a snail’s pace on single-lane roads to get into town and don’t be surprised if multi-lane back-to-back roundabouts and impatient locals work your last nerve en route to your relaxing venue.
Stonehenge, Salisbury, U.K.
Airfare: $842 round trip
Hotel: $1,059 nightly
The Expectation: Stand in silent awe at this tourist destination as you ponder the monster stones that were transported up to 150 miles to create Stonehenge.
The Reality: You might be silent, but the cars on the nearby freeways aren’t. You could see the stone monoliths from the road, but if you pull in to snap a few quick photos from the parking area, you’ll pay a $5 or so parking fee. The charge is refundable when you pay your $20 fee to walk into the site. There’s little else to do besides see the rocks and browse the visitor center. Not to mention, the rocks appear smaller than they do in creative travel photos.
Airfare: $352 round trip
Hotel: $774 nightly
The Expectation: Get outdoors in Colorado’s clean mountain air and enjoy some of the best winter and summer sports the state has to offer.
The Reality: If you’re breathing the clean mountain air high on Vail Mountain, congratulate yourself. You’ve braved the heavy I-70 traffic and sky-high prices at local tourist traps for everything from food to outdoor equipment. Take a deep breath — if you can. The rarified air at more than 11,000 feet might send you back to your pricey hotel room with altitude sickness.
Methodology: All prices are based on travel from July 9 to July 16, 2017. Hotel costs are based on five-star accommodation regular nightly rates found on GoSeek and Google. Airfare was determined using JustFly for round-trip flights originating from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, with the exception of New York City, which uses Chicago O’Hare as a starting point.