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May 24, 2013

Discuss: What Destination Disappointed You the Most?

A row of Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi'an, China.

Last week’s discussion focused on the question, “What Destination Lived Up to the Hype?” And, while many destinations are as amazing as advertised, some aren’t. Unfortunately, when you hear a lot about a destination, you tend to build it up in your mind as being absolutely spectacular. Then, when you finally get there, you are sometimes left underwhelmed and disappointed. I like to call this the “Star Wars Prequel Syndrome”.

The Star Wars prequels were released amid much anticipation. Unfortunately, though, they had been built up so much over the preceeding years that there was no way they could be as amazing as many hoped.

The same can happen with travel destinations. When you’ve read about them, seen pictures, and even talked to people who’ve gone, you build them up in your mind. However, when you build up something so much, it’s hard not to be disappointed when you finally lay your eyes on it.

For me, the most disappointing thing I’ve seen while traveling was the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, China. I’ve already devoted an entire post about why I think they underwhelmed me so much, but let me recap a bit for you.

First, I feel like the Terracotta Warriors lack the “wow” factor you see in so many other sites. Instead of gazing up at their magnificence, like you do at many sights, you have to stare down at the warriors. Even the sheer number of warriors makes it hard to overcome this obstacle.

Furthermore, when I was there, I had this overwhelming sense of skeptisism. Looking over the giant pit of warriors, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something off, that maybe the warriors were much more restored than they would make you believe. I don’t have any proof of this, it’s just a feeling I had. And, judging by the comments on my above linked post, I’m not the only one who walked away feeling this way.

What about you? What was the most disappointing travel destination or attraction you’ve been to? Something you heard a lot about, and were really excited to see, but in the end left you underwhelmed. Let me know in the comments section below.


  1. Though I think every destination has value, I was the most underwhelmed with San Antonio’s River Walk.

  2. I completely agree with the Terracotta Warriors. No fun there. More recently we were very disappointed with Koh Tao. We knew it was going to be full of tourists but everybody we met was saying how awesome and pretty it was so we went anyway. What a complete waste of money that was. The beaches were some of the worst we’ve seen, everything was overpriced and there was nothing authentic to be found on that island. Even the local pad thai tasted like ketchup.

  3. Playa Pilar in Cuba. Every other beach seemed better!!!

  4. Halong Bay. The experience was too sanitized, touristy. Maybe it’s our fault for signing up with a tour service in the first place. Then again, I know of similar limestone karst landscapes with far better weather and cleaner water than in Halong Bay.

    • I’ve heard that several times about both Halong Bay and Vietnam as a whole. That’s part of the reason why I didn’t go to Vietnam when I was in the region last year.

  5. Leisa

    For me it was Croatia. I’d heard from so many people how amazing it is. But I found parts of it too boring (Zagreb especially, but also Zadar) and other parts way too touristy (you can already guess – Split and Dubrovnich). I will admit I loved Plitvice NP but that was definitely the highlight of our trip. Didn’t hate Croatia, but totally underwhelmed by the lack of culture and the overall ordinary-ness of the country. Much preferred our side trip Bosnia…

  6. Brent

    Mine was the capital of Vanutau – Port Vila.

    Nothing on the surrounding spots but a complete let down.

    Like a few other capital cities I could mention.

    It’s often not until you get out of the major cities that you start to get a real sense of a place .

  7. For me, its Rio de Janeiro, everybody says how cool it is and how awesome the famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches are, but in reality, its hard to enjoy a beach with 4 million other people sat on it. I’m not saying that Rio is completely not worth visiting but I would hardly rush to get there. Beautiful city by the sea? That would be Cape Town for me, exciting cultural city in Latin America? Probably Havana or Buenos Aires. I was just disappointed with Rio.

  8. Pat

    The Ring of Kerry in Ireland. I’d always heard so much about it and how beautiful it was. We drove through countryside and farmland that was indeed beautiful but didn’t get excited about it or anything. I remember getting back to the hostel that night and realizing that the farms and fields and cows just didn’t excite me because it’s sort of an everyday sight when you grow up in rural Pennsylvania.

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