When deciding on a trip, we often consider countries and locations that have been hyped up by our friends and fellow travelers. Every traveler has their own set of recommendations that can, despite their good intentions, be totally misleading.
With most people only having two or three weeks of vacation a year, travelers end up devastated when their trips don’t live up to expectations. However, there are instances when our vacation spots meet and exceed the hype raised around them! Whether it is due to the food, the hospitality, the sight-seeing, the history, or something else, falling in love with a location is a fantastic feeling – especially if you didn’t know what to expect!
These travelers from around the world share the amazing locations that not only lived up to expectations but absolutely blew them away. Hopefully this list will help you when planning your next adventure.
46. The Raw, Natural Scenes Of North Michigan
I haven’t gone to any famous landmarks or places like that. I like to find random, more obscure and lesser known places. Northern Michigan in the Traverse City area is one of the most beautiful places. So much untouched nature and the lake is a bright Caribbean blue. The inland lakes are just as gorgeous. Charlevoix is this silvery hue, almost purple. Torch is Crystal clear and the color of the Bahamas, the sand bar stretches for miles and I had so much fun kayaking it. Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pyramid Point are a natgeo experience. I loved it there so much.
45. Don’t Skip The Obvious
44. Fjord Focus
43. Venice Vidi Vici
I loved Venice. I think most people (at least Americans) that don’t like Venice stopped over while on a cruise and only had a short, day-time trip.
So much better at night and when you have time to get away from the big tourist destinations. Venice and it’s history are amazing.
42. The Most Beautiful Lakes On Earth
41. Shut Up And Drive
I’m from Cape Breton Island in Canada. It took me 38 years to finally drive around the Cabot Trail. “That’s just something the tourists do,” I thought.
Holy canoli is that one beautiful and scenic drive, with some of the most charming little towns along the way. It really made me feel proud the be a Cape Bretoner.
40. Now Museum, Now You Don’t
I’ll keep it art-museum themed.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre (skip the obvious painting unless you just want to be jostled by tourists inexplicably taking pictures of it), the Hermitage, the National Gallery, Tate Modern. the Uffizi, and dozens of others.
Basically, yes, most world-famous museums live up to their hype.
38. Center Of The Universe
37. Come And See
Königssee in Germany. It’s as mind-blowingly beautiful in real life as in pictures.
36. Wise Words For All Travelers
I am not as well traveled as some, but there is a lesson I have learned in my family’s journeys: Learn what it is you are seeing.
If you walk through St. Paul’s Cathedral without knowing anything, it’s just an old church and will be a letdown. If you know some of its history, how the citizens of London manned its walls during the bombing runs, willing to sacrifice their lives to save the heart of London, it carries more weight when you tour it.
When in Paris, strolling through Place de la Concorde, it can seem almost pedestrian. However, if you walk into that square knowing that it was once known as Place de la Révolution, drenched in so much blood during the mass of beheadings, so much so that animals would no longer enter it, so that it was paved to hide the stench, it takes on a whole new meaning.
Anne Frank’s house, the Sistine Chapel, Piazza San Marco, the list goes on.
So many times, when I hear that something was a letdown, the person often didn’t know why it was a tourist destination to begin with.
Learn before you go, it will make a trip so much more memorable.
Costa Rica. It’s a touristy country because the nature is so beautiful, and everyone’s so friendly.
The Disney parks live up to their hype as well. They’re always fun and the magic never gets old, regardless of how young or old you might be.
34. Oceans Rise, Empires Fall
33. Wat’s Up
32. Duomo Arigato
I’ll tell you a tourist attraction that deserves more hype than it gets: the Duomo in Florence.
First of all, you get to walk around a platform ringing the interior of one of the largest domes ever created, and look down at a gothic masterpiece.
Secondly, you get to walk through the most claustrophobic stairways ever made. I will say, walking up stairs that were literally slanting inward with the curvature of a dome was one of the more unnerving things I’ve done.
Finally, you are allowed to chill for as long as you want on the peak of the Church. Did I forget to mention that in addition to having the largest dome of the Middle Ages, the Duomo is also by far the tallest building in Florence? Looking down at such a vibrant city is a breathtaking experience. If you are in Florence, consider taking the climb.
31. Night At The Museum
30. Picture-Perfect Austria
Austria. I felt like no matter which direction I looked it was like a picture from a postcard. I expected the people to be somewhat cold but they were very friendly and welcoming. I’d love to go back.
29. New Zealand’s Beyond Gorgeous Landscape
New Zealand. I went there this July so it was in the middle of their winter and my Kiwi mate was telling me how cold it would be (I’m English by the way) and it was autumn. The landscapes are just amazing. I walked up to Roy’s Peak and the views were amazing. I went hiking on a glacier and if it was summer I could have gone surfing in the same day. Also, the roads are great. Most of the highways are one-lane but the roads are so empty that it doesn’t make a difference.
28. The Friendly, Jovial Nature Of Ireland
Ireland. People were beyond friendly and it was like a jolly pub celebration complete with traditional Irish music every night. The bar atmosphere is so different — less sleazy dudes trying to get it and people being friendly to actually be friendly. It was wonderful.
27. Stunning, Massive, Energizing Yosemite
Yosemite National Park in California.
Everything was supersized and beautiful. Hiking in a normal local park, even if it has mountains and waterfalls, just feels small now.
26. The Glorious Arthur’s Seat Of Edinburgh
Arthur’s seat in Edinburgh Scotland. It was an incredible climb for an incredible view of the country.
We accidentally took the radical road instead of the actual trail up to the top. There’s this mostly flat tourist trail on the left and the radical road to the right. Rad road goes straight up, just below the summit, and then straight down back to the road. It took about an hour and a half altogether. We were insanely lucky to get up there on a clear, sunny day. So we got a great view!
25. Norway’s Stunning Natural Setting
Norway. Endless nature. Giant pretty mountains. Drinkable see-through water. So many rocks to jump on and very few people in sight. I give it a 9/10. I would go in the summer though.
24. The All-Consuming, Breathtaking Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon. It is beyond amazing. It truly makes you feel tiny. I hiked down one of the trails (not all the way down) and it was an amazing experience. 10/10. I would most definitely go again.
23. Insanely Spine-Chilling View From Table Mountain
The view from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town. It was like a vision of eternity. No photograph could possibly show how beautiful that view is.
22. The Peaceful, Pretty Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast. To be fair, I’d never heard any hype about it, but if there is hype, it’s totally accurate. The perfect setting is sitting on a patio overlooking a beach with steel grey waves crashing in, eating a bowl of slumgullion while drinking a rogue ale. The air is chilly and foggy, but under the tent roof of the fish and chip shop you’re totally comfortable. Then the sun comes out and you comb the beach for agates while keeping an eye for those sneaker waves.
21. Rome’s Overwhelming Flood Of History
Rome. Hands down. I still can’t get over the awe I felt seeing the Colosseum for the first time. And the food is incredible. Everywhere you turn, there’s an incredible piece of history.
That being said, do watch your pockets…
20. A Call To Adventure In Amsterdam
Amsterdam. It is beautiful and historic with friendly people and easy to explore. I was heading to Singapore next so I didn’t risk trying any of the local herbs, but I did walk through the red-light district for some eye-candy.
Paris. While the people are only friendly if you speak French like a native, I enjoyed myself anyway. There is great food around almost any corner, beautiful architecture, easy to get around, and lots to do and see.
19. The Marvelous Mount Everest Base Camp
Mount Everest Base Camp! (Tibet side).
It may sound silly but I was kind of nervous Everest wouldn’t actually look like the tallest mountain in the world or something, or even worse, it be too cloudy to see. In actuality, she was majestic and I had great weather. Seeing all the expeditions preparing was a life highlight for me. I got tears in my eyes because Everest seemed like the moon- a place I dreamed about in my childhood but you don’t really go to. I couldn’t believe I was there!
Wow was the elevation tough though.
18. Asia’s Rich Culture And Vastly Epic Entertainment
The Inari Gates (Kyoto, Japan). The arcade district in Tokyo (I forget the name but just skyscrapers full of arcade games). Lotte World (Seoul, SK) the largest indoor amusement park. It’s not intended for adults but we didn’t care. Honestly, Seoul has zero hype and is super underrated. Korea isn’t very touristy so everything is authentic and a blast. The DMZ did not live up to the hype and was the only touristy part of the whole country as far as I saw.
17. The Exceptionally Crisp And Colorful Yellowstone
Yellowstone. We JUCY RV’d around the west coast for 4 weeks. Yellowstone blew my mind; beautiful place, fantastic tours with park rangers, incredible wildlife, and a massive range of scenery. From the colors of the grand prism, the power of old faithful, the grassy buffalo habitats, to the rocks and mountain goats. Breathtaking.
16. Grand, Star-Packed Desert Of Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum, a desert preserve in the South of Jordan. It’s beautiful. My wife and I visited Jordan this summer and spent the night in Wadi Rum with a Bedouin guide and his son. It was a fantastic experience and I highly recommend it. Never in my life have I seen so many stars or such a beautiful sunset.
15. A Halloween Exploration Of Salem
Salem during Halloween. Everyone should do this once in their lives. New Orleans over Halloween was also amazing but we expected it to be.
Mine and my girlfriend’s anniversary is Halloween so we go to different places on that day to celebrate.
14. Disney World’s Endless Magic
As strange as it sounds, Disney World. I went there last year with my girlfriend and we had the time of our lives. It really didn’t sink in until our last night; we stayed until the park closed that night and walking back from the castle down the main street, all to the instrumental from wish upon a star playing… it really was a place of dreams and magic.
Also for me personally: the historic Portsmouth naval dockyard. Being able to touch history was an amazing experience.
13. A Blast From The Past In London
I found London to be amazing. The museums, in particular, were incredible. I did a semester abroad there and it was the best semester of school for me.
I’ve also never been to somewhere quite like Newfoundland, Canada. Gros Morne National Park was absolutely unique and hauntingly beautiful.
12. Bright, Kind, Beautiful Scotland
The highlands of Scotland and city of Edinburgh were amazing. I give them a 10/10. The people were incredibly friendly, talkative, and helpful. The pubs were lively and fun. I can’t wait to go back again. Also, Zion National Park in Utah was amazing. It’s like a little paradise in the middle of the desert.
11. San Fransisco’s Explorable Spirit
I went to San Francisco with absolutely no expectations. It was just a quick weekend before a wedding in LA. I was completely surprised by how much I loved it. I wandered around the city on a beautiful November afternoon.
Go figure that the one US city I’d love more than my hometown of New York City would be the one city here that’s more expensive.
10. The Absolutely Breathtaking Macchu Picchu
Even if you aren’t into the whole ancient city (which I kind of get it… it’s crowded as heck and you’re essentially just walking through), the view is so incredible with the mountains all around.
There’s a pathway that leads off the city and gives you a wild panorama of the ruins and all the surrounding mountains. There are very few people up there (because it’s a heck of a walk) so it’s quiet and you just get to take it all in. The town underneath Macchu Picchu is also really cool because it’s essentially just built up the side of a mountain.
9. Key West’s Calm, Chilled-Out Vibe
Key West, Florida. It’s just so beautiful, serene, and out in the middle of basically nowhere. The trip there is pretty neat as well. Once you get past the mess of Ft. Lauderdale/Miami, you get to the Overseas highway, over 100 miles long to Key West, island after island.
The seven-mile bridge is also pretty neat. That’s between Marathon and Little Duck Key. The demarcation between the middle keys and the lower keys.
Once you get to Key West, the main happenings are on Duval street. On the southern end of that is that buoy that’s the Southernmost place in the US. It is a little ugly looking, but it’s neat to stand at the point and know that you, at this point in time, are standing as far south in the continental U.S. than anyone else.
8. Fantastic Times In The City Of Lights
Vegas, because I have never been anywhere else like it and it’s too much fun! Though the drinks are pretty expensive. As an add-on, the 9-hour drive back to the Grand Canyon south rim was worth it, even if I was only there for 90 minutes. It was still really worth it! That place really is deserving of the word “indescribable.”
7. Gorgeous Scenery Of Peaceful Australia
Australia. I absolutely loved every minute of it, although I’m glad we were only in Sydney for a couple of days. I just couldn’t cope with the hustle and bustle of the city. Uluru/Ayers Rock was as amazing as you think and Port Douglas is just a timeless slice of paradise.
6. Dublin’s Chill, Carefree Essence
Dublin, because there wasn’t much hype. And that’s amazing because this place is the bees knees.
It’s so relaxed, has lots of history, and the Irish we ran into genuinely loved that we were visiting from the U.S. They could also totally tell that I was Irish just by looking at me, which was pretty cool.
We’ve been there 3 times and it’s still our favorite spot.
5. The Brilliant, Entertaining, Well-Weathered Paris
I would recommend Paris. 10/10. The best part about the Eiffel Tower is standing underneath it. Also, go during mid/late January. The weather is cool and crisp and you don’t need a lot of layers to stay warm. Granted, I’ve been to Paris a lot (my friend live there), but the best places to see besides the tower is Notre Dame, La Musee de L’Armee, and all the small restaurants you’ll find in Mont Marte.
4. The Adventurous City Of Budapest
Budapest is my favorite city on Earth. It’s actually divided in two, so the Buda and the Pest sides are divided by the Danube River. Both sides have a unique but awesome vibe, and the prices in Budapest are sooo inexpensive compared to Western Europe.
Pest has an amazing nightlife and I’ve had one of the best nights of my life there. Very New York City vibe, but without the skyscrapers. Ruin pubs are definitely the thing to check out. They’re bars that were once residential buildings but they make for a very cool atmosphere.
The Buda side is absolutely beautiful, full of incredible buildings and sculptures everywhere you go. I loved walking around the Buda Castle, and Fisherman’s Bastion was stunning as well. The bathhouses are also a must visit since Budapest is famous for its thermal waters. I went to Gellert Bathhouse and it was like swimming around in a museum.
All in all, I can’t wait to go back.
3. The Spectacular Sights In British Columbia
The entire province of British Columbia. I’ve been quite a few times as I have family there. But this year my cousin was getting married in the summer so my girlfriend and I decided to fly to Calgary, rent a car, and drive to Vancouver. I can not describe the beauty of the mountainscapes and the scenery, and I’m not a nature person in the least. We went to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake as our first stop… absolutely breathtaking. It had crystal clear glacier water, mountains on either side and miles and miles of hiking trails.
We overnighted in Revelstoke and visited with friends in Vernon who gave us a tour of the Okanagan region. The people are super friendly and welcoming. The fact that the sky was almost perpetually grey because of all the forest fires this year didn’t even take away from the sights.
I would definitely recommend doing the drive from Calgary to British Columbia. I is a once in a lifetime experience and there’s no shortage of attractions along the way. There’s a reason we saw plates from Texas, Florida, Nova Scotia, New York etc. People know how awesome it is there.
2. Germany’s Awe-Inspiring Hospitality And History
Germany. In my experience, no one really talks about Germany as a place to visit — it’s often overshadowed by France, Spain, Italy… but during my 6 months in Europe, I fell in love with Germany out of any of the countries I saw. The culture is great, the people were some of the most welcoming and generous I met, the food exceeded my expectations, and I loved the area and the sights. I spent most of my time in very southern Germany (Konstanz/Constance), but saw Munich, Berlin, Freiburg, Straßbourg, and Salzburg (which is technically Austria, but is very very north so shares a lot with Germany).
Germany was beautiful, cheap, accepting, kind, and overall my favorite place in Europe, closely followed by Bellagio, a tiny town in Northern Italy on Lake Como, and Alicante, a city in southeastern Spain. I largely found that my favorite spots were the smaller cities and towns rather than the sprawling metropolises – Paris and Rome were very underwhelming, but Germany exceeded my wildest expectations.
1. Frozen In Time
The Mendenhal Glacier.
I went there as an afterthought a couple years ago. I was hopping through Alaska for work and I ended up having 12 hours to kill in Juneau.
Now, I’ve been traveling all my life. I enjoy seeing new things, but there is little in the world that has made me stop and catch my breath. When change becomes the norm, new things are simply things that you experience and move on.
I went to the glacier, even though it was a 25 minute drive from my hotel. It was summer, so the sun stays up in the sky most of the day. It was around 9 PM, and it looked like early afternoon.
I followed the signs to the glacier, and it took me through what seemed almost like back roads. One lane each way, and to either side of the road were small houses and so many trees. Tall, lovely, green trees that obscured most of my view of the area.
That is, until I got to the left turn.
The road curves gracefully to the left, leaning into a mountain that was covered in green vegetation. As I shielded my eyes and squinted against the glare of the sun reflecting from my mirror, I peered up at the mountain, then looked slightly past it, to the left.
My breath caught in my throat, and that has NEVER happened before.
It was huge. It rose up behind the green mountain like a breaking wave that had been frozen by something more powerful than time. Sunlight bounced off of faceted sides from an angle that turned the ice a deep, deep greenish blue. I was staring at an emerald that had been there to watch the earth become real.
I stayed for about a half hour before I had to get sleep. But I came back the next day, and almost missed my flight out because I took the two mile hike to the falls. It brings you so close to the falls that you can put your hand into the water as it crashes down. From there, you can look across the icy water, where fifty yards away the glacier sits.
I swear, you can feel time.