17 Bucket List Items RUINED by Real Images

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jammed-plane-aisle  The Bucket List.  It’s your ever-growing ‘do before I die’ list that is full of vacation destinations, adventures, and good times.  I don’t have a bucket list myself, but that doesn’t mean I hate the idea of bucket lists.  I don’t.  I just hate buckets lists that suck.  This article isn’t meant to keep you from having a bucket list, but it’s meant to help you improve it.  If you are going to have a bucket list, then put some real thought into it.  Create detailed list items that can really be life changing.  Not predictable, broad items that everyone tries to do.

The only thing I hate more than crowds is crowds of tourists with iPads and Carbon Fiber Selfie Sticks. I have to admit that months of constant traveling have turned me into a bit of a tourist hater even though many times I am a tourist myself.   This post is the result of me realizing that the most famous tourist destinations always seem to leave me disappointed, whereas the small cultural experiences where few other travelers are with me always leave me in awe.

– Dan

Note: the picture above is me waiting for a plane in China to completely deplane before I even move.  It’s not worth fighting a plane full of people running from an imaginary fire.

Check out my list below and let me know if you have any bucket list items that left you disappointed:


1. Visit the Eiffel Tower – Paris, France

What you imagine: 

It’s early morning, Paris has what seems like an endless sunrise, and you and your soulmate have just finished a croissant and espresso at the same cafe where they filmed “Before Sunrise”.  A quick five-minute walk from your quaint Paris hotel puts you right in front of the Eiffel Tower just in time to have a quiet, romantic kiss before taking a scenic elevator ride to the top where you can keep kissing while discussing how awesome Moulin Rouge was last night.

Photo source: Anya Berkut


What it’s really like: 

You have to wake up at 4am since the only hostel you could afford was an hour-long metro ride from the city center.  You thought buying tickets in advance and getting there early would allow you some romantic time with your annoying boyfriend that might allow him to destress from his irrational complaints about your constant urges to check how many Instagram likes you’ve racked up since last night.

You were wrong.  You end up standing in line for hours with the world’s worst collection of entitled tourists which gives you plenty of time to perfect your “I’m surprised this photo is being taken even though I’m the one taking it” selfie.

Oh, and it’s about to rain.

Photo source: Instagram


2.  Walk The Great Wall of China

What you imagine:

You’re the first human to explore these ancient ruins in over a thousand years.  There isn’t a person in site other than you and your local guide as you enjoy the beauty of untouched China.


Photographer: Trey Ratcliff

What it’s really like:

Welcome to tourism in China.



3. See the Pyramids – Giza, Egypt

What you imagine:

Your camel has been trustworthy during your two-day trek across the Egyptian desert to reach one of the greatest wonders of the world.  When you finally stumble upon these treasures, you spot archeologists working nearby, showing off their latest find.  After you eat some delicious local manna that you read about in the Bible, you head into the Great Pyramid to look for mummies.


What it’s really like:

How annoying is it that only Pizza Hut’s inside the U.S.A have buffets?  What gives?  I hope the Sphinx is air-conditioned too.



4. Swim with the Dolphins

What you imagine:

It’s what you’ve dreamed of since you were a little girl.  The dolphins seem shy at first, but once they realize how fun you are they decide to come over and play with you.  One even gives you a big kiss!  You can’t wait to be able to tell everyone you kissed a real dolphin and now you also have the perfect photo to use on your Tinder profile.


What it’s really like:

You were a little nervous about whether you would get that perfect photo of you and your new dolphin friend for Tinder but thankfully the resort has a professional photographer on hand that can take one for an extra $50.  Hopefully he can get a shot that doesn’t show the other 50 people in bright yellow life jackets and water-proof iPads harassing the other slave dolphins in the background.  Otherwise, people will know this wasn’t real.

The dolphin looks nervous too, but it’s OK because she is first given a tasty dose of antacids to treat her stress-induced ulcers that come from the never-ending, repetitive human interactions she must perform before being allowed to eat.  Don’t worry, I’m sure your dolphin actually likes you and isn’t upset at all that although she’s smarter than you, she’s stuck in a shallow, cement cage forced to kiss your gross sunscreen-tasting face.  Oh, and why is the water so brown and dirty?   Thankfully you only have to be in this water for 30 minutes since that is how long your $250 ‘is it my turn yet?’ experience lasts.  At least your money is going to a good cause.  If only there was a company that allowed you to swim with dolphins in the wild…. Oh wait, there is.


Source: Tripadvisor


5. Climb Mount Everest – Nepal

What you imagine:

Years of training and dedication have finally paid off.  You and your sherpa guide become one of only a handful of people to ever have reached the summit of Earth’s highest mountain.

Photo by Barry Bishop – National Geographic “125 YEARS.”

What it’s really like:

You and 250 other rich assholes pay $75,000 each to wait in the freezing cold for their turn to litter and pretend to be a real adventurer.  As of 2012, 90 percent of the climbers on Everest are guided clients and most lack basic climbing skills.  I bet a lot of them are big game hunters too.




6. Explore Angkor Wat – Siem Reap, Cambodia

What you imagine:

After watching Tomb Raider, you couldn’t wait to have your own abandoned temple experience.  After talking with some locals, you finally find someone willing to take a tourist to this holy site.  At sunrise, you find yourself alone with just you and your horse and you quickly take out your travel journal and sketch the beautiful scene.


What it’s really like:

After a local Cambodian breakfast at your hostel that consisted of chocolate cake and a banana pancake, you jump on one of the 10,000 tuk-tuks and get to the temples just in time to find yourself in the middle of 25 Chinese tour bus groups.  If only you hadn’t left your selfie stick back at the hostel.

Photographer: Hang Meang Khou

7. The Beach – Ko Phi Phi Lee, Thailand

What you imagine:

Ever since you saw the movie The Beach, you’ve dreamed of taking that once-in-a-lifetime backpacking trip through Thailand.  But you aren’t just a typical backpacker.  You are spontaneously unique and enjoy adventure even more than you enjoy sarcasm.  After hiring a local fisherman, you head out to the ocean in hunt of an undiscovered beach.  Just as you were about to get discouraged, the cloudy day turns into a clear sky right as you stumble upon the most beautiful beach you’ve ever seen.  Now it’s just you, the beach, and 50 Shades of Gray on your Kindle.


What it’s really like:

Why are there so many people here in Thailand?  There must not be any beaches anywhere else in Asia where you and a couple of friends can find your own beach.  You would try those other destinations, but it wouldn’t be the same if it was a beach that Leonardo hadn’t been to.  After being pressured into buying a beach-hopping package in Phuket, you and 15 other adventure-seeking suburbanites get on a brand-new speedboat.  You immediately strap a GoPro to your head as the boat zooms past a bunch of local fisherman trying to catch fish in the polluted bay.  In no-time you show up at THE BEACH, and you are lucky enough to get the last bit of parking space on the beach to dock your monster boat.  Hopefully your selfie-stick can extend high enough to take a photo that makes it look like you’re alone in paradise just like Leo.

This sucks.


Source: The Wall Street Journal


8. Cross Abbey Road – London, England

What you imagine:

London will be so small and quaint just like in Notting Hill.  You’ll simply jump on the tube from your affordable hotel in the West End and within minutes it will be just you and your three best friends at the famous Abbey Road.  You will ask a jolly-old English fellow to take your photo as the four of you become the first people to think of recreating this famous album cover.  It will probably go viral on Facebook too!


What it’s really like:

Your feet hurt from walking.  Who knew London would be so big and spread out?  Why is everything so far away?  It’s easy to find the crossing because of all the honking from cars.  Is there a system set-up to decide who waits in the photographer line and who waits in the “ready to cross” line?  Are the lines synced up or is it total chaos?  Maybe tomorrow it will be less crowded.


Photographer: Finding Hermione


9. Cuddle with a Tiger – Thailand

What you imagine:

What an amazing discovery.  A temple of monks who live with a couple of tigers that they rescued after finding them in the jungle as cubs.  Now, these monks have invited you into their home to cuddle with these tigers in an intimate, holy setting.  Imagine how awesome this will look on Instagram!


What it’s really like:

The bus from Bangkok ended up being an overcrowded van full of backpackers from Australia.  The temple is less of a temple and more like a prison.  The day isn’t totally ruined though, as in-between doses of sedatives the tigers get a chance to get teased by you and a group of idiots:


10. See the Taj Mahal – Agra, India

What you imagine:

The Crown of Palaces!  After an amazing first-class train ride in from New Delhi you find yourself staring directly into one of the world’s most amazing structures.  You used the tips from your Lonely Planet book to avoid the crowds and now it’s just you, the Taj, and your imagination.


 What it’s really like:

Here is a good rule of thumb:  If bottomless-pockets Oprah isn’t able to visit somewhere without avoiding herds of tourists, then you won’t be able to either.




11. Watch the Sunset on Santorini – Greece

What you imagine:

The most stressful thing to happen all night is deciding which amazing bottle of wine to order next.  The sunsets here seem to last forever, and I can’t believe we were able to find a room with a view that has a secluded roof-top restaurant!


What it’s really like:

Nothing is more romantic than pushing your way through a crowd in order to view the sunset with hundreds of other cranky couples.


Photographer: Superwoman & The Worldhorizontal_line

12. Take an Elephant Ride

What you imagine:

The land you’re traveling to is so remote and so untouched by humans that the only transportation method is your trusty elephant.  Thank goodness you have your side-kick Short Round to help guide you through this unfamiliar country.


PhajaanWhat it’s really like:

You are trying to ignore the fact that the elephant you are about to ride and bathe is currently chained to a tree and looks a bit irritated.  The good news is that the elephant won’t harm you after it’s been unchained because he was previously ‘broken’ as part of his training to prepare for carrying around overweight tourists 12 hours a day.  The breaking of the elephant is called the Phajaan or the crush, and it includes being beaten by multiple men and stabbed repeatedly with sticks that have sharp nails attached to them.

If that wasn’t enough security for you to ensure you get a great photo of you riding the elephant, the trainer is carrying a bullhook with him to force the elephant to spray water on you before you attempt each selfie.


13. Watch Old Faithful – Yellowstone National Park

What you imagine:

The grand finale of your great American road trip.  Your family of six has behaved perfectly as your fuel-efficient SUV  trekked across the Great Plains of the American West.  You sit quietly in the tall grass with bison grazing nearby and watch Old Faithful erupt in all her glory.


What it’s really like:

The kids haven’t stopped fighting since the moment your shitty van left the house.  Now, you finally reach Old Faithful and the only option you have to view it erupting is watching it on one of the six iPads that are being held up in front of your face.  It’s better to leave before it’s done erupting so you can beat the inevitable traffic jam.


Photographer: Stephanie Lesser



14. See The Maldives

What you imagine:

It’s your chance to experience how the top .01% of people travel.   Heaven on Earth.  A visit to the Maldives is pure beauty in every direction!


What it’s really like:

Well… maybe it isn’t beauty in EVERY direction.  This is evident after you see what is known as Thilafushi Island, the 4.6 million square foot artificial island made up entirely of garbage.   Don’t worry, once you get back to your private villa, you will forget the rubbish island exists.  Until a plastic bottle floats by while you snorkel.  I recently found a cool community of people that look for unique ways to begin consuming less plastic.



15. Experience Ancient China!

What you imagine:

The world’s most-populated country is just dying to be explored!  Imagine all the old cities with ancient buildings and bridges, full of little old ladies selling trinkets.


What it’s really like:

Ok, this one is a bit of a stretch, but I just had to use this photo:



16. Take a Gondola Ride – Venice, Italy

What you imagine:

Your dream trip to Italy isn’t complete until you treat your wife to a romantic gondola ride through Venice’s charming canals.  Although it’s a perfect August afternoon, the canals are completely empty and you have hours alone on the water as your gondolier serenades you.


What it’s really like:

It’s so hot out that even the stinky brown canal water looks like a refreshing escape.  The canals look like unhealthy arteries today, and you have spent more time stopped in between other gondolas than actually moving.  Your gondolier has informed you that he doesn’t know how to sing, but it’s OK because the four retired ladies from Nebraska in the gondola in front of you are singing Dean Martin’s That’s Amore.


Source: The Cruisington Times


17. Take a Romantic Trip to Rome – Italy

What you imagine:

It’s time to channel your inner Audrey Hepburn and visit all of Rome’s magically romantic places.  The Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain are just two of the many spots you will hit up as you and your boyfriend rekindle your love just like in the movies.


What it’s really like:

Maybe some people will leave if you wait a little while… Probably not.


Photographers:  Team Turner and Newman & Hunt 



What bucket list items have left you disappointed?


Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Check out the highlight video from my recent RTW trip:


I don’t hate bucket lists. I just hate bucket lists that suck:

17 Bucket List Items RUINED by Real Images

Posted by This World Rocks on Sunday, August 9, 2015

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91 Responses to 17 Bucket List Items RUINED by Real Images

  1. nataliesayin@hotmail.com' Natalie says:

    Alas – the pitfalls of mass tourism

  2. goni@gmx.net' Goni Boller says:

    When I end up at places like this I always think about taking photos showing all the people there as you do in your article. However, then I just want to leave and forget about the pictures.

    I love your article. It’s good to see these pictures before actually going to places. Great as well that you include the animals. I think it’s important to inform people about how that works in reality. Too much swimming with dolphins, riding elephants and similar is going on.

  3. info@travel-echo.com' Nick Martin says:

    This so hilarious! Been to a couple of those places as well and unfortunately its true. Seems like we have to get up really early or do something more crazy to take good travel pictures. Places you should add to this post: The atomic clock in Prague (old town square), the Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai or the Macchu Picchu in Peru….

  4. thetravelmanuel@gmail.com' Lauren says:

    Thanks for shedding the light on so many amazing places that have just been ruined and overrun by mass tourism. Back in 2007 Maya Bay was already jam-packed with people and I couldn’t bring myself to visit the Karen tribes of Chang Mai as I knew exploitation and herds of tourists awaited. So glad you mentioned phajaan and the truth behind what one-word animals go through before us humans can ride or stroke them. This for me is one of the most tragic parts of mass tourism. Money comes first – way of life for locals and animal sanity are never considered.

  5. hola@madaboutravel.com' Patricia says:

    The Blue Lagoon in Malta was a huge disappointment. I was expecting a crystal clear paradise, solitude, silence, relaxation… and I ended up in a 10 square metre lagoon packed with people eveywhere, with no space to leave stuff and boats filled with party-goers that blasted music so loud that we had to leave in search of peace and quiet somewhere else…

    • Cfelice11@gmail.com' Cristian says:

      You may have not been a party goer or inconsiderate tourist but he fact ou were there makes you just the same. From another persons perspective you were just another body taking up space and ruining their unique and special trip. We are all part of mass tourism just by being there.

  6. jack@buzztrips.co.uk' Jack says:

    AKA – the disillusioned cynic’s guide to travel 🙂

    Very enjoyable post. I also like Evan Stewart’s comment about “the raindrop never feels responsible for the flood”. How many people recognise themselves as raindrops I wonder?

  7. mail@onemoderncouple.com' macrae says:

    Haha! Great post!
    I guess I was lucky when I visited Ankor Wat. When on phi phi the boat took us there later so the beach wasn’t very busy but we heard that 1000 people visit every day, crazy! And for the great wall, we avoided going to the most popular wall becaus we heard it was way too busy, we opted for a visit to Mutianyu instead 🙂

    • travelingthruhistory@gmail.com' Erin says:

      We visited several of these places and have great photos. There was hardly anyone at Angkor Wat and we spent 4 hours exploring the grounds and taking hundreds of photos. Same with the Great Wall. We went to Mutianyu and there were maybe 10 other people there. Maya Bay wasn’t that bad, either. There were other people there, but it wasn’t as crowded as the above photo. I guess we just went during the off season: Angkor Wat (Christmas), China (August), Thailand (February).

      • oz_matrix@hotmail.com' Raphael says:

        You were VERY lucky then. Mutianyu is the second most crowded place in the great wall, right after Badaling, and August is the high season in China. June, July and August are the summer holiday. All the scenic spots get crazy around that period.

  8. arnewell@gwu.edu' Allison says:

    All of these are my nightmares, always stick to the low season!

  9. alexiserubenstein@gmail.com' Alexis says:

    Oh my gosh I love this post! I can relate to so many of these!!

  10. leah@startsomewhere.com' LN says:

    So the main point is: you’re not the only traveler. I hope that’s not a surprise!

  11. andresmith@hotmail.com' Andre says:

    I would assume the person writing this has never left the US.

  12. You hit the nail on the head with this post Dan! We have been to half of these and you were spot on….it’s really sad what some of them really look like in person!

    • Dan says:

      When are you coming to Minnesota???

    • spc4travel@hotmail.com' Sharon says:

      Some horrible images.lucky to walk Great Wall in peace away from crowd’s at jinshangling. Travel off season. Venice in January cold misty atmospheric no hordes

      • patrickgijsbers@hotmail.com' Patrick says:

        Well.. the thing with the Great Wall is that there still are many parts that are quiet. The place on the photograph is the place where the great leader (in their eyes) Mao Zedong has visited. Chinese tourists all want to walk in his footsteps and choose this part.

        As far as the other parts. Find out when to go. Because now-a-days high season is cry season.

        I am a tour guide for some Dutch travel agencies. And our companies avoid the spots like the Elephant (beating) tours in Thailand. Though some people in our groups still want to go, because they think it is part of the cultures, we try to advise otherwise.

        • 1000daysbetween@gmail.com' Dan Perry says:

          This is a fantastic post, one of my favorite travel stories ever. A really great idea.

          i agree about the Great Wall. There are still some sections that look like the first picture. The second picture is definitely Badaling. I think the reason so many Chinese people go there is because it’s the only section reachable via public bus or train from Beijing. And generally speaking, they don’t mind the crowds. To go to any other part of the wall you need to either join a tour group or take a taxi, at least part of the way.

      • oz_matrix@hotmail.com' Raphael says:

        Indeed. I was also at Jinshanling in off season (December). It is cold and the scenery is not all green, but it is definitely worthy it. Only met a canadian family walking the opposite way while in there (4 persons total). Apart from that, had the great wall only to myself.

  13. jacinth.suico@gmail.com' Jace says:

    Wow .. A Moment of silence for my broken dreams (Jaw-dropped)

    Jace | http://www.laagpamore.net

  14. This is hilarious. I often talk about this with people, these bucket list items are never the same when you’re there.
    A few I noted that are particularly bad are Christ the Redeemer, and Casa de Arbol in Equador. Everyone wants that perfect Instagram of them on the casa’s swing but if you look behind there is a huge queue of people waiting for their turn!

  15. hello@LeMisstache.com' Shayne says:

    There’s always a downside to over popular destinations. heh

  16. sarj925@yahoo.com' Sarah says:

    Maldives 🙁 I can tolerate everything but Maldives broke my heart.

    • prattcmg@gmail.com' connie says:

      the Maldives too…to bad. I went to Huahine and Morea years ago when I was traveling a lot. French Polyneseia I had a deserted motu to myself it was in 2004. Curious whether it has chaned to? It was very remote and untouched. Where does one go for peace and quiet abroad?

    • magnar.nordal@yahoo.com' Magnar says:

      Maldives has two faces: 1) Pristine resorts with luxury villas, white beaches, blue and turquoise sea and some of the best scuba diving places on the planet. This is what the tourists are coming for, and is exactly what they experience! 2) Local habitats with plastic garbage littered everywhere. “Garbage Island” on the picture is the worst place. But none of the tourists ever have to go there. So Maldives does not deserve to be on this list.

  17. rifkyvicky@yahoo.com' Vicky Amin says:

    Number six. And to make it worse, a tourist from China played some stupid music on speaker it ruined the calm of my Indochina sunrise…

  18. heidi@teamrosen.com' Heidi Rosen says:

    The “Welcome To Las Vegas” Sign. A obnoxious queue of people at absolutely every moment of every day.

    I went to Maya Beach and there were a lot of people but I didn’t think it was as bad as that. I didn’t have the thought I would be there alone tho.

  19. essd@sasktel.net' Shirley says:

    Dan has it right in this article. It’s time we were totally honest about places we visit, instead of pretending that everything was fantastic! This is why we choose little known places to visit with few tourists and no tour buses! Well done!

  20. julia.m.neale@gmail.com' Julia says:

    Love this article! Thank you so much for mentioning twice about animals, it’s something I neglected to talk about in my travel blog. I have to say, and this always starts a heated debate, BALI belongs on your list. My husband and I went there a few years ago (before our RTW trip) for our honeymoon, and aside from moments in the one resort we stayed in (yawn), it never felt romantic, or special or beautiful or anything other than scammy, covered in garbage, crowded with drunk tourists and unpleasant. Now, on our last RTW trip, we went to some amazingly underrated places that should be on everyone’s bucket list- Ko Yao Yai, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; The South Island of NZ’s west coast to name a few.

  21. cindy.padilla@live.com' C says:

    Great post! Thanks for this. It’s sad how mass tourism can ruin a place. At the rate travel industry is going nowadays, it’s hard to imagine what these beautiful places would look like three, five, or ten years from now. Would there still be something left for the next generation? In the Philippines where I live, mass tourism is also becoming a problem especially with the rise of film tourism promoting travel to the point of travel bandwagon. If you have time, please check out what I’ve written too. http://www.bandcbackpacktheearth.com/thing-called-travel-bandwagon-clouds-different/

  22. Mass tourism. 🙁 Such a shame.

  23. I’d totally add Bruges in Belgium to that list.

  24. ejhemails@gmail.com' Liz says:

    This is great! Nice to see an honest article for once – so many travel posts are full of staged photos, which makes this little reality check very refreshing!
    (and quite hilarious)

  25. Pingback: Viagem e Turismo | Blog Achados

  26. chris@morethanchris.com' Chris says:

    Having traveled non stop over the last ten years I can confidently say this article couldn’t be more wrong. I’ve been to all of the places mentioned here aside from yellowstone. The only thing I will agree with is the animal posts, although those too are over dramatic. Being a photographer and having seen the Angkor complex three times I can tell you this picture is taken on the solstice where the sun exactly rises over the center spire, it’s the most popular day of the year. I was there two months ago and there wasn’t even that many people there. I walked 10km across the great wall and met a handful of people. I stayed the night on Maya bay and we had the whole beach to ourselves. The Taj Mahal was quiet enough for me to take a great shot with hardly any tourists in it. I swam with dolphins on my own in the clearest water imaginable. Stop writing utter sensationalist tat, stop putting people of traveling and do some proper research.

    • Dan says:

      Take it easy, relax, and breathe. Everything is going to be OK. The article is meant to be humorous and sarcastic as well as inspire people to think outside the box when creating their bucket list. Of course those places aren’t always like that, and 99% of the people who read this post seem to have understood the sarcastic/over-dramatic approach.

      P.S. Congrats on all your travel accomplishments, especially swimming with a dolphin in the clearest water imaginable. You must be very proud.

      • onlyvic@gmail.com' Victoria says:

        I couldn’t agree more with you, Dan. I haven’t gone to all the places you’ve listed but I get your point.

        Currently in Cambodia now since a week ago. I haven’t gone to Angkor Wat at all. But of course I am planning to do so since I am already here. However, going to the tourist spots shouldnt be the reason why we travel to one place.

        I decided to come here to Cambodia because we met a Cambodian family in the train on our way from KL to Singapore. They are beautiful souls who invited us to spend a week with them. Cambodia wasnt part of my plan as that time but I felt like the place is calling me.

        After our Malaysia and Singapore, I had to decide where to go next. India was the main destination but i felt like it’s not the right time.

        So, I booked myself and my 3-year old son tickets for Siem Reap and flew the next day.

        On our first day in Siem Reap, I fell in love with the country for so many reasons even ithout Angkor Wat in the picture.

        My point is there are so many reasons to travel. For some, it’s the tourist spots. But they shouldn’t expect too much coz it wil just break their hearts. Instead, they should see a place and make their own stories and experiences. No matter how different reality is from their dreams, they indeed should think out of the box for the bucket list they are making. After all, it’s their list.

        Great post and I couldnt wait to see Angkor Wat myself. But i am not in a hurry. I am staying here for the next months while i travel to the neighboring countries.

        Sending you temples of love!

        • 1000daysbetween@gmail.com' Dan Perry says:

          Victoria — Angkor Wat is crowded, but everyone is standing together, trying to take the classic sunrise picture that you’ve seen a million times already. Walk right past the crowds and find a nice spot next to the temple to watch the sun come up. You’ll have the whole place to yourself for the first hour. Plus, there are tons of other amazing temples in the area that are nearly empty. It’s worth spending two or three days exploring.

          Also, bring a headlamp if you have one. And get started before first light. You’ll have an amazing experience.

  27. frank10070@gmail.com' frank says:

    I agree to some extent to some extent with the approach taken by this article. Obviously sensationalism was on the bucket list at least for the purpose of promoting this blog and its contents. The truth is slightly different. If I consider the photo of Angkor Wat it is true if we’re talking about the month of March but cometh June, July, August and September and that crowd will not enter the temple on any single day including the weekends when the locals take it to the area for their picnics. Been there 6 times in the last 5 years spread over different months, last June being my last visit there.

    Living 10 years in China the great wall was one of the regular weekend outings. If you happen to go during one of the Chinese week long holidays prepare yourself to meet the largest crowd ever in your life, but after the October holidays all the way up to April you might as well feel lonely at this same great location, especially if you have no problem fighting the frost and the howling winds. But if photography is your purpose like in my case, then nothing is gonna stop you from getting what you really want. If all you want is a photo with the wall behind your back, then buy a proper photo and superimpose your selfie on top of that.

    I can go on and on about all the 17 places mentioned but I think these two examples are enough to give a different point of view. Great locations remain great whether it is peak season or not, and peak or off-peak is decided by tour operators not locals. The locals prefer their location a peak season all year round for obvious reasons. in my opinion what remains of these places in 10 years’ time depends not on the number of tourists that visit the place, but the political situation and to some extent the economic advances of these countries. Consider Iraq and Afghanistan before the Gulf War and what is left now? Some unique archeological places these countries boasted were not ruined by the flocks that visited them but by the locals or the beliefs that pushed them to do so.

    • Dan says:

      It’s important to remember the article was meant to be humorous and was written in a sarcastic tone. Of course there are ways to do many of these attractions without seeing another person for miles, but the main purpose of the article was to inspire people to think outside the box when making their bucket list. Brooke said it best in her comment:

      “I think it’s important for travelers to really research each attraction/activity in advance. Support ethical organizations, visit at shoulder season, wake up super early etc. (photographers go to great lengths to get that perfect shot and often visit dozens of times) More importantly, I believe a bucket list should be a list of experiences, not sights to see. Even when it sucks, it’s meaningful…and makes for a great story!”

  28. Loved this article! I think it’s important for travelers to really research each attraction/activity in advance. Support ethical organizations, visit at shoulder season, wake up super early etc. (photographers go to great lengths to get that perfect shot and often visit dozens of times) More importantly, I believe a bucket list should be a list of experiences, not sights to see. Even when it sucks, it’s meaningful…and makes for a great story!

    • Dan says:


      Thank you for summing up the points I was trying to make in this article better than I could have. Wonderful comment and spot on! Thank you!

  29. nicolelynnsmoot@gmail.com' Nicole says:

    This is hilarious and so spot on! I’ve been to a few of the places on here and felt the same way. Definitely has made me quite jaded towards mass tourism. I find that I have better experiences at less known destinations than the big ones that I’m convinced I need to see from what a guidebook tells me.

  30. ivonne@myfootprints.nl' ivonne says:

    O so true, but a lot of the times it is quiet and amazing just round the sorner! To laugh is to recognise they say and I had to laugh a lot…..

  31. sergiu.biris@gmail.com' Sergio says:

    NY: Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, the bull on Wall Street.

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  33. andyjamesb75@gmail.com' Andrew says:

    its so sad but it’s so true. what a great idea for a post! That picture from the Maldives is really shocking!

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  35. andyg@andygrace.com' Andy Grace says:

    Loved this piece and have my own personal collection of images of US fast food joints adding ‘culture’ to bizarre locations. The McDonalds right at the Pantheon in Rome probably wins (though I believe it’s now gone), but the Pizza Hut at Giza is a close second, followed by McD at Le Louvre Paris. Honourable mentions to the KFC pretty much right on The Bund in Shanghai and McD/Starbucks/Pizza Hut at Windsor Castle and the two-for-the-price-of-one Pizza Hut/KFC Megaplex in Kathmandu. Hate those scammers trying to rip you off at the Trevi Fountain and the incessant pimp/strip bar promoters slapping cards of strippers on every Las Vegas corner!

  36. Oh, my goodness! What a sad and crazy post!! Eye opening – I chuckled at the one with Oprah. *sigh* I don’t even have words. Really interesting topic!
    Natalie, The Educational Tourist

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  39. adib.hakimsg@gmail.com' Hakim says:

    Ur Awesome bro….. Reality bites yet most dont feel it…

    Very fortunate that i been to AngKor Wat much earlier.

    But for ardent travellers, it dont stop and wont stop us from travelling.


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  41. nisha@lemonicks.com' Nisha says:

    I loved every word of it ! So brutally true! 🙂

  42. cbalsam@web.de' Tina says:

    You have to add “Giants Causeway/Northern Ireland”. You expect to be all alone and have a nive view over the Causway that looks like a Giant has build a bridge. Evil reality: You can’t even see the stones because on every stupid stone there are tourists standing….

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  44. Zoe.bookworm91@xtra.co.nz' Zoe says:

    I’ve been lucky, I haven’t really had any real disappointments like that. Mostly because I’m not naive enough to think that I’ll have world wonders to myself.

  45. Joelbrandonbravo@yahoo.co.uk' Mole says:

    Mass tourism, what a shame, said all the tourists…
    What makes people think it’s the right of just the middle class adventurous to visit these places and then moan that they are full of people like you?!?
    I congratulate the governments that limit access in order to preserve the sites themselves but also bear in mind that for many of these places tourism is their main chance of a livelihood. So the expression of (slightly patronising) ‘shame’ is there lifeline. I’m sure they would love to travel themselves but feeding their families is as much as many can hope to achieve.

  46. Crystal.Doro@gmail.com' Crystal says:

    My memory is if the mass tourist busses in front of the great pyramids- nothing like taking photos with miles of busses around. And these people help you pose for silly photographs and my friend behind me is doing it as well in my photo – couldn’t be more touristy!

  47. aanchal.anand@gmail.com' Aanchal Anand says:

    Had the same experience at the Registan in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. You have to go there at 7AM if you want to avoid the excessive tourists!

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  49. Claudiacalvet@gmail.com' Claudia says:

    I would add the visit to the Christ the redeemer statue in Rio, where I live. And I end up going there kind of often to take friends and my american husband’s family when they come to visit. Before I found out about the possibility of buying the tickets online, I stood up 3h waiting in line for the train ride. Once up there, good luck! Be careful to not be pushed over the short fence, and be satisfied with pictures having loads of people in the background!

    However, I had a good experience in Santorini. We went there early October, and we could see amazing sunsets. Oia, the most popular spot was still a little crowded, but bearable, but the best sunset we watched in the middle of the road… We stopped the car, jumped the small fence and enjoyed a bottle of wine we had just bought in the top of the cliffs with absolutely nobody around…

  50. tuliobraganca@gmail.com' Túlio says:

    Yes. It works like this if you don´t ´prepare yourself. I went to the Eiffel Tower and there were no lines. You just have to buy the ticket online, you get there at the arranged time and that´s it. No lines. I also went to Abbey Road and there was a lot of people, but everybody was very cooperative. It wasn-t like this picture and I went on a hollyday that was supposed to be packed with people.

  51. This is exactly how we felt for Angkor Wat and a few of the others here. I’m just about to post my Great Wall photos, and you can see the difference
    Oh my, Maldives! I haven’t been yet but wow.

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  57. larissatroesch@yahoo.de' Larissa says:

    I can confirm those pics for Paris and Rome – when you go to those places in the middle of the day. But when you go to the Taj Mahal ealry in the morning it is really not that bad … I have not been to the Maledives but the Seychelles are rather close and it was VERY beautiful (I was there in May) – very clean, postcard-perfect pictures and very nice people … so don’t give up on your dreams! Get informed when it is the best season and time of day to go there and maybe make some adjustments …

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  59. corina.secarianu@yahoo.com' Corina says:

    It’s not really fair. You compared magazine pictures with pics taken in high season and in certain key spots.
    For example, the “What is really like” pics at the Great Wall and the other one from China have been taken during the Golden Week (beginning October, when all Chinese have some days off). I have been in China during the Golden Week and even then you ca find nice places that are not full of people.
    In Santorini it looks the same, but the second pic just zoomed in on the terrace from the middle of the first picture.
    Another example: at Taj Mahal – of course it was a bit crowded – Oprah was there!!!
    At Angkor Wat it is crowded, but that place is huge and you can find a lot of gorgeous temples to explore by yourself (this does not include the Tomb Raider as that one is always crowded).

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  61. rcol5037@gmail.com' Renita says:

    Same experience at Gateway of India, Mumbai. Entire place was barricaded, and had to stand in line for 2 hours just to get into the viscinity of the beautiful structure, to take a picture with about what appears to be millions of people in the background!

    Excellent article, btw.

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  64. theufuoma@gmail.com' Ufuoma says:

    This is SO hilarious. I love it. So so true.

  65. jamesacoberly@yahoo.com' JC says:

    I’ve been to a few of these places, and your “real” pictures are exaggerated too – more like worst case. Truth is, it’s somewhat in between.

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  67. For example, the “What is really like” pics at the Great Wall and the other one from China have been taken during the Golden Week (beginning October, when all Chinese have some days off). I have been in China during the Golden Week and even then you ca find nice places that are not full of people.

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