Some places you long to see turn out to be unlovable. Here are 10 tourist towns with a disappointing side.
If you dream of seeing Hollywood, best keep dreaming. The reality is less glamorous and shabbier than you expect, and how much excitement can you get from a big white sign and name plaques on a sidewalk? No wonder the Walk of Fame is often ranked as one of the world’s most disappointing tourist attractions. Hit Los Angeles’ half-dozen top-notch museums and chilled-out, beachside Santa Monica instead. See discoverlosangeles.com
If you think a leaning tower might provide hours of entertainment, Pisa is certainly for you. Why not join a million other tourists taking unoriginal Instagram shots of yourself propping it up? Yay! Of course, Pisa’s Renaissance architecture is lovely, but no lovelier than in many other Italian towns – such as Lucca, just 20 kilometres up the road and a much more all-round enjoyable town. See turismo.pisa.it
PAPEETE, FRENCH POLYNESIA
French Polynesia is stunning, but its gateway capital is a pass-through transport hub and, given often late-night flight arrivals, an annoying overnight necessity. It has a lot of tropical lushness but plenty of concrete and traffic too. Food markets are the highlight, but you’d best hurry out of town – or better yet, on to other islands – as fast as you can to find that Polynesian prettiness. See tahititourisme.com.au
NIAGARA FALLS, CANADA
Niagara Falls the natural feature is phenomenal, and you should absolutely see it. Niagara Falls the town, though, is a tacky tourist trap of chunky motels, souvenir shops and bizarrely old-fashioned tourist attractions. Who needs another waxwork of Justin Bieber? Keep to the kilometres of lovely riverside promenades to see Niagara city’s best bits. As for the US side of the border, forget it. It’s falling to pieces. See niagarafallstourism.com
Pattaya is in places an over-developed collision of concrete resorts, neon-flashing cocktail bars and tacky restaurants serving up beer and bland Thai curries. And yes, this is a fun party town – but not necessarily the sort of parties that give tourists a good reputation. Head to North Pattaya for a quieter, more cultural stay and some of the nicest beaches, such as Naklua and Wong Amat. See amazingthailand.com.au
Nassau estimates it will get more than four million cruise visitors in 2023, which is 16 times its permanent population. While the Bahamas is delightful, the gritty, overpriced capital really isn’t. Scrums of beach vendors make sunbathing less than relaxing. Unlicensed taxi drivers are pests. And who needs that many duty-free shops? Skip out to Harbour Island or The Exumas to enjoy the beautiful best of the Bahamas. See bahamas.com
Okay, you ought to visit Delhi for its Red Fort, Friday Mosque, layers of history and colourful chaos of street life. But you’ll have to accept that Delhi’s time-worn sights come with horrendous heat and pollution created by a cocktail of agricultural burn-off, traffic fumes and dust. If watery eyes and a hacking cough don’t get you, the incessant beeping of car horns will drive you mad. See delhitourism.gov.in
Sure, a film festival gives Cannes glamour, but where is the substance? The rest of the year it’s just a few big hotels, same-same luxury stores and palm trees. You’re charged to use the private beaches, the old town is ordinary, and there isn’t much to do unless you own one of the harbour-moored superyachts. Many French Riviera towns are much better, such as Antibes up the road. See cannes.com
The beaches are plump and the surrounding Mayan ruins amazing – you should certainly visit the Yucatan region. That said, Cancun is one big beach resort born in the 1970s, that era of unhappy architectural aesthetic. It’s also a prime party destination for American college students, intent on bad behaviour abroad. Not disappointing at all, then, if you’re 22 and think cheap booze is the best reason to travel. See visitmexico.com
This city is increasingly on cruise-ship itineraries, though it’s hard to see why. Sihanoukville is half-built (or half-demolished) and has pothole-filled roads. You long to see something nice but all you get are concrete apartment blocks and bling-laden casinos. Its plus? Sihanoukville is a transit hub for independent travellers passing through to lovely nearby islands. Proof that you can get beyond disappointment, and enjoy a whole lot of happy travels.