The List: The World’s Most Overhyped Vacation Spots
With just a few weeks left in August, vacation season is at its peak. Still don’t have plans while the rest of the office is away? Want to avoid the tourist traps? In this week’s highly scientific List, FP visits a few of the world’s most overrated summer travel destinations so you don’t have to.
ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images
ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images
Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
The hype: A sunny resort town on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula with glistening beaches, world-class scuba diving, and a reputation for high-stakes Middle East diplomacy
The reality: Its tackier than a King Tut ashtray. Tourism dominates the local economy, and the uneven development has left Sharm with all the charm of a strip mall. Dont fall for the sleek brochures; the beaches are swarmed and even snorkeling trips will prove crowded affairs, with several boats of divers parked in popular spots. The town is now also haunted by a trio of terrorist attacks in 2005 that killed at least 60 people. In a bid to improve security, the Egyptian government is building a fence around the town. But you cant fence out bad taste, apparently.
Only go if: Youre a diving fanatic who loves KFC.
CHRIS JACKSON/Getty Images
The hype: Mediterranean paradise by day, hedonistic party capital by night
The reality: Its mayhem. The former hippie havens beaches and laid-back lifestyle were big draws in the 1960s, but the rocky, wooded island has since become package-tour hell. Millions of summer revelers arrive each year to club the night away in the birthplace of the rave. Expect sex, drugs, and lots of trance, but also a healthy dose of crime, hefty club cover charges, and condoms on the beach.
Only go if: The idea of dancing all night with a few thousand sunburned, drunk Europeans appeals.
JIM DYSON/Getty Images
The hype: Pristine scenery, the Blue Lagoon, and 22-hour days of sunlight in Reykjavik
The reality: Its exorbitantly expensive. The vistas may be awe inspiring, but the prices are eye popping. Be prepared to fork over $10 for a beer while enjoying Reykjaviks storied nightlife. (And no, you wont run into Bjrk in a bar.) Youll want to hire a car to get beyond the well-traveled Golden Circle in the west, but watch out for gasoline prices: A gallon of gas will set you back about $7.
Only go if: You get your credit card limit raised beforehand.
The hype: The section of the Great Wall closest to Beijing
The reality: Its a tourist trap. Your photos of the trip will include not just shots of one of mankinds greatest achievements, but several thousand other visitors and a few dozen T-shirt stalls. This heavily restored section of the structure was the first to be opened to tourism in the 1950s, giving the impression that this is what a Great Wall pavilion at Epcot might look like. Travelers looking for a quieter vantage can visit nearby Simatai, the only unrestored section of the wall open to tourists.
Only go if: Youre dying to have that I climbed the Great Wall T-shirt.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
The hype: Monuments, museums, and the Mall
The reality: Its hotter than Karl Roves BlackBerry on election night. Summer visitors may think theyre ready to hike from one monument to the next, but most find that theyre rubbing elbows with the rest of the traveling hordes in whatever air-conditioned cafe or gift shop they can find. And in August, the action that makes this town truly interesting is nowhere to be found: Capitol Hill is quiet; President Bush is on vacation; and the pandas at the National Zoo are too hot to move. Oh, and that $20 Federal Witness Protection Program T-shirt wont seem so funny once you get home.
Only go if: You havent seen the Constitution up close. Trust us; we live here.
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