Have you ever visited a place because a friend told you it was amazing, only to feel totally underwhelmed by your own experience? It’s bad enough when it’s just a local restaurant, but when you’ve traveled halfway across the world for the trip of a lifetime – boy does it sting.
We live in an age of exaggeration, a time when heavily-filtered Instagram pics can make almost anywhere look like a paradise. So how can you make sure the destination everybody else thinks is incredible is actually worth the hype?
Here are five travel destinations that won’t leave you asking for your money back.
1) Split, Dalmatian Coast – Croatia
Since HBO introduced us all to Game of Thrones in 2011, visits to the show’s filming locations have gone through the roof. In Croatia, where large parts of GoT were filmed, tourism is booming. And that’s been great news for Split.
Croatia’s second city overlooks the Adriatic Sea and is home to Diocletian’s Palace – a fourth-century fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get lost in its historic, high-walled lanes and be sure to go below-ground too – you’ll recognize the palace cellars as Meereen’s premier dragon storage facility.
From Split, you can take a day-trip to nearby Sibenik for the Krka National Park, where you’ll find some of the most spectacular waterfalls in Europe. Or you can take a boat trip to Hvar, officially the sunniest of all Croatia’s islands.
2) Las Vegas, Nevada – USA
Few travel destinations are hyped-up the way Las Vegas is, which is mostly thanks to the movies. But you’ll realize the hype is all justified before you’ve even left the plane – especially if you’re flying in at night to a warm, neon welcome.
If you’ve always dreamed of hitting the Las Vegas casinos, the Entertainment Capital of the World will not disappoint. From the bright lights of the Strip, home to the world-famous Bellagio and fountains, to off-strip gems such as the Golden Nugget, you can fulfill every gambling fantasy you’ve ever had in this incredible desert city.
And if you’re looking for some culture, you’ll find bags of that too. Highlights include the Neon ‘Boneyard’ Museum, a treasure trove of historic advertising signs, and the Bellagio’s surprising fine art gallery, conservatory, and botanical gardens.
3) Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, Dorset – UK
Dorset and East Devon’s Jurassic coast became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 and is home to two of the most breathtakingly-beautiful natural attractions in the UK. Around 750,000 people visit every year, but does it deserve the hype?
In short, yes. Arriving in Lulworth Cove, you’ll wonder what took UNESCO so long to make its award. This scallop-shaped bay was eroded into existence around 10,000 years ago. Grab an ice cream, head for the picture-perfect pebble beach, and allow your jaw to drop.
When you’re ready, walk the coastal path to the world’s most famous natural stone arch, and Dorset’s most-Instagrammed landmark: Durdle Door. Someday, the arch will collapse and leave behind a lonely sea stack. But for now, this limestone ‘door’ is simply stunning.
4) Milan, Lombardy – Italy
Often overlooked in favor of the ‘more beautiful’ Rome, Venice, and Florence, Milan is finally enjoying some hype. Almost nine million overnight visitors in 2018 means it’s now one of Europe’s most popular cities, and it’s easy to see why.
It might be famous for fashion, but architecture is the jewel in Milan’s crown. The city is packed with beautiful buildings, from the Italian gothic Duomo to the 1950s brutalist masterpiece Torre Velasca. You’ll spend half your time there looking up in awe.
Milan’s metro system makes it super-easy to get around, which is good because there are great things to see and do right across the city. Culture vultures will want to check out the Prada Fondazione art gallery and its Wes Anderson-designed bar, and fans of stunning scenery should take a day trip to gorgeous Lake Como.
5) Seminyak, Bali – Indonesia
Crowded. Ugly. Cheap. These are just some of the words often used to describe the Bali resorts of Kuta and Legian. Nearby Seminyak, though, is sold by experienced travelers as the chilled-out antidote to the chaos of Kuta. Can it live up to the hype?
The answer, thankfully, is yes. It’s less than four miles north of Kuta Beach, but Seminyak feels like another world entirely. This is an area famous for luxury and glamorous relaxation – all-day spas, fancy hotels, and cool beach bars provide a welcome sense of serenity.
Everything you’ve heard about Balinese sunsets is true, and seeing your first one with your own eyes is an unforgettable experience. Head for Seminyak beach as the sun goes down, grab a drink and a seat on the golden sand, and prepare to have your breath taken away.
Which travel destinations have lived up to your high expectations? Share your stories below.