You know what they say: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Ok, and maybe a heavy dose of expectation, too.
Be honest, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you imagine yourself travelling?
Idyllic train journeys? A travel diary bursting at the seams with ticket stubs and unpronounceable names of cities scribbled on napkins, that you simply must see?
And of course, the fantasy always lives up to the hype, right?
There’s a 50/50 chance that it actually turns out to be a classic case of “Instagram vs. Reality” and that foreign city you’ve been pining over doesn’t stop your heart as imagined. Instead, it just elicits a deadpan selfie (for proof) and a feeling of mild homesickness.
Don’t fret, it’s sort of a rite of passage in the world of travel. On the bright side, for every underwhelming tourist trap, there are heaps of unique places in our big beautiful world waiting to knock your socks off.
So for easy-peasy planning, we’ve grilled thousands of our travel-obsessed members in our Facebook community about destinations they felt were too overhyped and underhyped.
We’ve also gone behind the scenes at JFC and quizzed our team on which places they loved, and those they didn’t.
Of course, one traveller’s perfectly posed backdrop is another’s tacky nightmare. So as with any advice in life, take this list with a grain of salt, a sense of humor and follow the path that feels right for you.
Overrated: Bali, Indonesia
A dreamy paradise, or the Magaluf of Asia? Locals say that Eat, Pray, Love was the best thing that happened to the economy, but the absolute worst thing to happen to the soul of the island.
Underrated: Peucang, Indonesia
If only one article pops up on a quick Google search, you know you’re onto something good!
Overrated: Angkor Wat, Cambodia
I’m not even sure how one would go about photoshopping 300 faces out of the reflection pool. Perhaps just ask yourself, “Do I REALLY have to go at sunrise?”
If the answer is yes, maybe give up your fifth-row spot in front of the pond and, instead, venture into the temple while everyone else photographs it from out front. Chances are you’ll have the place mostly to yourself. Just bring a headlamp until the sun comes up.
It’s hardly a secret that the western world has blazed a well trodden tourist trail through Southeast Asia. Laos on the other hand has managed to fly under the radar compared to the likes of Bali or Thailand. It’s best known for some of the region's most impressive waterfalls.
To get to Laos, you can take the no-hassle route by grabbing a cheap flight from Thailand, Vietnam, or Cambodia. Or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, why not try a riverboat crossing down the Mekong Delta?
You might want to go sooner rather than later, though, before the secret’s out!
Overrated: Naples, Italy
Ah, Naples, you were the city of firsts for me.
The first time I tried the BEST pizza in the universe. The first time I saw a gun, a baby on a motorcycle, and the first time a hostel I stayed at got raided.
It was also the first time I ended up couch-surfing on a US naval base because I felt entirely too sensitive for this city.
Pompeii was nice, though.
Underrated: Vilnius, Lithuania
Katy, is that you making a bunch of fake Facebook accounts just to hype up Vilnius?
Just kidding, it’s no secret at JFC that our Detour Editor Katy adores Lithuania’s buzzy capital, and it looks like our members do too!
Choc-a-block with café culture, seriously good eateries and more castles than you’ll know what to do with, we can certainly see why.
Overrated: San Francisco, United States
Yikes, what has gone wrong with the United States' most beautiful city? And most importantly, how can it be healed?
Underrated: Utrecht, Netherlands
Careful, your cortisol levels are no match for crossing the street in Amsterdam. Look left, right, into the past and the future, into the 5th dimension. Reaaaady…GO!
Yeah, chances are you’ll still get hit by a bike.
Instead, opt for Utrecht. It’s the same vibe – sans sensory overload.
Overrated: Marrakech, Morocco
I can’t speak for Marrakech, but I can for Tangier. The minute I got off the boat from Spain, I was man-handled by a bunch of different guys, offering to “show me around”.
After being harassed even after politely declining their offer, it left me feeling a little on guard, especially after realizing that for the rest of the afternoon, I was being followed everywhere I went.
Wasn’t great, definitely didn’t feel safe, but still, Morocco’s gorgeous natural scenery beckons.
Oh, did I mention you can defy gravity while you sleep, too?
Overrated: Paris, France
Out of all the places on our list, Paris has definitely been voted as the most disappointing city by our members, staff, and pretty much everyone on the internet. It even has its own syndrome!
Underrated: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Oh Slo, how easy it was to fall head over heels with you. With your moody mountain peaks, medieval castles, and quirky riverside cafés, my 2-week trip turned into an 8 month Ljove affair.
With an obscene amount of green space per resident, this is another one of the spots on our list that calls out to nature-lovers.
Riding a train through the largest cave system in the world, kayaking down the emerald waters of the Soca Valley orrrrr border hopping to Italy, it’s no wonder why our members sing high praise for Slovenia.
Not to mention, DRAGONS.
Overrated: Dubai, UAE
Behold! A city of gold…with a dark side?
Underrated: Tallinn, Estonia
How can a place be home to more start-ups per person than Silicon Valley, be voted the European Green Capital of 2023 and still be criminally underrated?
If you’ve fallen under its beautiful Baltic spell, we hear the digital nomad visa isn’t too difficult to get your hands on.
Overrated: New York City, United States
But…would he still be naked during a snowy New York Christmas, though?
Underrated: Sarajevo, Bosnia
Ok, first things first, kick your misconceptions to the curb. It’s no secret that Bosnia has got baggage. But decades later, it’s back on the map in a big way, and countless members seem smitten.
Dubbed as the “green paradise of the Balkans” this entire country packs a serious punch for nature lovers in the know.
Sure, as a tourist it might be easy to ignore the dark and painful stain on history, but to truly embrace the indestructible soul of Sarajevo, you shouldn’t look past it.
Overrated: Honolulu, Hawaii
Hawaii is a paradise alright, but whose? And at what cost? As gentrification swallows up its island, one-percenters get richer and locals are left grappling with lack of access to fresh water, displacement, depletion of resources and cultural heritage.
Since the pandemic, locals have taken to social media in hopes of educating travellers about what they’ve been experiencing.
If you do have a trip booked, perhaps it’s worth reconsidering. And if you can’t put it off, this guide is an important resource to ensure your visit is as sustainable as humanly possible.
Underrated: Madeira, Portugal
Overrated: Pyramids of Egypt
Expectations adjusted. Thanks, Nicola!
We’re curious – would comments like this put you off from travelling to Egypt to see the pyramids?
We’re with you on this one, the whole country is a nature-lover's paradise. Think Costa Rica without the price tag.
If you can, try to carve out some time to hop on a boat to the Little Corn Island. With no cars, and no internet between 5am and noon, this artsy island is the best cure for a busy mind.
Overrated: Geneva, Milan, and Marrakech - and possibly more, according to William.
Tell us how you really feel, William…
Would have to agree with you on Geneva, I found it to be incredibly boring and dull. Not to mention expensive. No surprise there, though, the only thing free in Switzerland is the air!
Officially declared an independent country in 2006, Montenegro has quickly become a firm favorite for many backpackers willing to go beyond the regular tourist trail.
Maybe it’s the ineffable beauty of the mountains, beaches and lakes, or perhaps it's the larger than life locals. Regardless, it’s safe to say this is one place likely to leave an imprint on your heart.
Overrated: Bondi Beach, Australia
Flight Finder Larissa is a Sydney local, and she totally agrees it’s “busy AF”. Instead, she points you in the direction of the beautiful beaches of Cronulla, easily reached by train from Central.
They’ll still be busy, but with locals rather than tourists. The coastline here is a lot longer than Bondi, so you’ll have more places to sunbathe and swim.
White sand beaches and turquoise waters, Albania might not be the first place that comes to mind, but it gets a huge vote of confidence from many of our members and staff at JFC.
Don’t miss the chance to jump in a car and head north for some epic Alpine views and spectacular hiking trails.
Sadly, it seems that some of our members have had some frightening encounters in Tunisia, and doesn’t seem like it is the safest choice for solo female travelers.
Consider travelling with a reputable local guide who speaks the language and knows which areas to steer clear of.
Underrated: Mainland Greece
A no-brainer for some quick summer sun, Greece isn’t exactly a hidden gem. But, instead of making a beeline for Mykonos, why not check out some of its stunning secret corners?
A flight into Thessaloniki is the easiest way to begin your trip, and for hikers, Zagorochoria is a must-see, if you can pronounce it!
Overrated: Las Vegas, United States
Slightly tacky and undeniably wacky, can you seriously expect anything else from the casino capital of the world? It may be considered a farce of a city for some, but if you take it for exactly what it is, surely you’ll have fun!
Underrated: San Sebastian, Spain
Our Team Recommends...
“8-year-old me would say Lapland is seriously underrated. My mum took my brother and I to meet Santa, and it's still one of my best holiday memories with its ice mansions, real life reindeer, it was just magical!
For me, Dubai felt quite overrated! I struggled with how materialistic it was. I know it's renowned for its luxury shopping and glitzy restaurants, but it was never ending, and I found it quite hard to relax.”
“I definitely agree with Robyn on this one, Dubai is very overrated. In my perspective, it's a wasted potential. They could have made a modernized Arabian city instead, while keeping their heritage and culture.
With that being said, a lot of the infrastructure and engineering here in the UAE is meant to attract westerners, like glitzy malls and futuristic skyscrapers, showing how the Middle East has generalized opinions on this matter.
Personally, I would say the Philippines is pretty underrated, especially Coron and the Palawan Islands. The nature and atmosphere is similar to Bali—it’s great for travelers who are backpacking, and on a budget and it isn’t too touristy…yet”
“Underrated definitely has to be Kraków and Lisbon for me. Also, loads of our members are raving about Turkey at the moment—Antalya in particular. Paris is just disappointing.”
“I'd say Ljubljana and Vilnius, too—I found the cities so interesting and beautiful with great food. London wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, it’s hard to get to know the city when it’s crammed full of people.
Tbilisi in Georgia was out of the world incredible as well, it lived up to everything I had imagined. It’s gritty, and quirky and surprisingly wholesome, don’t even get me started about the food!”
“I unexpectedly fell in love with Belgium. Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges are all very close together but all unique and surprisingly cheap with gorgeous architecture. Delirium Café can’t be missed, it’s got over 2000 beers!
I found Paris to be underwhelming. Outside the usual Louvre and Eiffel Tower, I found the locals to be impolite, and it was way over the top expensive.”
“I feel like Colombia as a whole is totally underrated, mostly due to the country’s complicated past. When I visited I was really struck by the kindness of the locals and I really loved everything about Bogotá. If you’re there, visit the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral and don’t forget to try Arepas and limonada con coco. Yum!
Honestly, I haven't been anywhere that I thought was overrated. What I love most about travelling is seeing how people live in different parts of the world, and I've never been disappointed with that.”
“Albania is super underrated, especially the south coast. We stayed in Sarande which is literally just across the water from Corfu (you can see it from the shore), but sooo much cheaper for the same water/beaches.
The people were lovely, but tourism infrastructure is still developing. If you’re OK with that, though, I highly recommend it. Tirana is also a great city for history buffs—lots of awesome museums tracking the communist and fascist period.
The country wasn’t fully re-opened to international influences until the 90s, so the locals have a unique perspective, as they still remember being so isolated.
I’d have to agree with everyone about Paris - if the weather isn’t nice, the whole place feels dreary and grey and most people I encountered weren’t exactly friendly.”
“I totally agree about Paris, it's fun for a day trip, but I preferred staying further outside and getting the train in. That way, we could see way more of Hauts-de-France.
There are some great châteaux! The ones I particularly enjoyed were Chantilly—also the home of Chantilly Cream (delicious!) and Pierrefonds.
There are also some lovely historic towns to see in the area, Soissons has an amazing ruined abbey and cathedral. We stayed in a campsite near Soissons, and it had water slides, a man-made beach and tons of stuff to keep the kids entertained, much better than any in the UK, if you ask me! ”
“I found Cartagena in Colombia totally overrated, everything was aimed at tourists and my whole time there just felt really inauthentic.
There were a lot of street performers that followed you round and hassled you for money, and in general everything was waaay more expensive than the rest of Colombia.
Alternatively, Minca is soo underrated! It's a small town near the mountains, and it's full of eco lodges, waterfalls, and coffee farms. It's a literal dream.”
“Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I realize all places I’ve been are more or less appropriately rated, but I really really loved Mexico.
Speaking about Colombia, I found Medellín to be quite disappointing, mostly because my understanding of what the city would be was totally different from reality.
I’m not sure if I would call it overrated, though, because the scenery and nature around you is really beautiful and feels like you’re isolated from the rest of the world. Experiencing that felt worth the trip there. But sadly, the division between locals and travelers was very prominent.”
“Maybe not quite underrated, but I’d have to say Redwood National Park. It’s definitely less talked about than some other places in California, and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. The small town of Crescent City really captivated me with its lighthouse.
Some friends and I only stopped there to rest on a longer road trip, but it actually ended up being the highlight of our trip.
As for places that I find are overrated, I actually quite love some of the tackiest cities in the US – looking at you New York, LA, and Vegas!
But I really don’t like Orlando. It’s an overbuilt shopping mall that’s only good for spending ludicrous amounts of money in the name of “magic.” Snoozeeee.”
"I found Mérida in Mexico to be a bit “meh”. I arrived with high expectations, but left feeling underwhelmed and very sunburned, happy to skip off to the highlands. Same thing with San Miguel de Allende, it felt like a giant, gentrified theme park.
Instead, I recommend Guanajuato City, especially if you’re looking to cram as much culture and color into your trip as possible. I went for a day trip and ended up staying for half a year, it was that gorgeous. It even inspired my article about Mexico’s lesser-known spots!
For outdoorsy types, Drake Bay in Costa Rica is probably the closest thing you can get to a remote paradise, I’ve seriously never seen anything like it. It’s a pain in the ass to get to, but that’s part of the fun, and I promise as soon as you climb out of the boat and wade your way to shore, you’ll see what I mean by paradise.
National Geographic calls this place the most "biologically intense place on earth" and I'd have to agree. I guarantee your entire camera feed is going to be taken up with hundreds of pictures of monkeys, toucans and scarlet macaws. You can even take nighttime trekking tours through the jungle too.”