Overrated Tourist Attractions

This page may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.


When I sat down one idle Saturday to watch Primer, I wasn’t expecting anything. I remember reading someone on Twitter going on about it, but I didn’t put much stock in his opinion cause, you know, Twitter.

90 minutes later and I was crying great tears of joy at having experienced something of such staggering beauty. I’m not often moved to tears by art (the last film I cried at was I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry), but this one movied me in a way that I hadn’t been movied in a long time.

Erin hates Science Fiction. When she found my secret collection of Battlestar Galactica episodes, she started throwing plates at me. Screams of “How could you?” and “You’re such a typical bastard male!” accompanied a shower of porcelain shards as I cowered apologetically in the corner.

But after watching Primer she actually said that she liked the film. Voluntarily. With no cajoling.

This independent, unknown, ultra-low budget time travel movie had managed to get Erin to enjoy Science Fiction.

(Stupidly, I then tried to build on this positive step forward by taking her to see Transformers. Thanks to Michael Bay, I’ve now lost her forever.)

A Title To Draw You In While You’re Scanning: This Section Is About Cheese

If movies were cheese, Primer would be a perfect portion of light, creamy goats cheese served with sweet yellow cherry tomatoes and a splash of fine balsamic vinegar. Titanic, on the other hand, would be a hulking man-size block of Tesco mild cheddar served with one stale cracker.

<Aside> I once heard from a reliable source that to make Tesco mild cheddar, the company just hooks up a hose to the waste pipe of a tyre-factory and adds some Riboflavin-5′-Phosphate. </Aside>

Titanic was, at the time, the highest grossing film in history, and remained so for 12 years until it was surpassed by another Cameron ‘masterpiece’, the superior but still oh-Gods-where-is-the-story Avatar.

People just gushed and gushed about it for what seemed like years (but was probably only a weekend). Everywhere I went, it was “Oh Leo!”, “Oh Kate!”.

Oh good grief. Superlatives became so pedestrian that they had to invent new ones. I read one review that said.

“This flamboyotic mastermovie is an emotiondizing work of artisticulate wonderfulendipity! See it now!”

I think that one might have been from the Daily Mail: they like to make stuff up.

Truth be told, I didn’t actually mind watching Titanic. Some of the effects were nice, but it wasn’t as great as everyone was making it out to be. I don’t think it filled a particular hole in my soul nor was my life massively enriched from the experience.

I certainly wouldn’t have paid 10 times the usual movie theater price just because it was really, really famous. I also don’t believe that dressing up like Jack Dawson and queuing for 10 hours in the rain to be the first to see it would have made the experience any more memborable/spirtual/enriching.

I’d much rather be blindsided by an unexpected and unknown masterpiece like Primer than disappointed by an overrated, hyperbolic blockbuster like Titanic.

Controversial Ending

Wow, these metaphors are like a cheap and nasty cocktail: Very badly mixed.

So let me clarify: I’m talking about Machu Picchu.

Are you planning your next travel adventure? See our Travel Resources page for our favourite tools and gear to help you plan the perfect trip. 

  • Share:

Enter your email to sign up for our monthly newsletter and free ebook South America Highlights.

39 Comments (1 pingbacks)

  1. Dude, I’m *so* with you. We were lucky, actually. We chose to do the 5-day Salkantay trek over the pass, so we were fit as a fiddle to do the final hike up to the ruins in the pouring rain (http://www.flickr.com/photos/annette_oneil/5149877933/). The thousands of vinyl-sheathed tourists waited until the downpour was over to come out of their overpriced cafes, so we had about ten minutes of peace. It was nice.

    I think I did MP more for “the folks back home” than myself. Is it weird that I’d find it hard to explain why I didn’t end up visiting MP after living in Cusco for months, and that’s essentially why I went? Our first abortive trip to MP, on a self-guided motorcycle tour that ended when our 250’s died in the snow at Abra Malaga, was way-the-heck more interesting, but that’s hard to explain to mom. ;)

    Also — I’m no Cheapo McChintzypants, but the prices in Aguas Calientes (for the crappiest food in Peru) filled my eyes with bitter tears. I mean. Really.


    • I can understand the difficulty in explaining to family back home why you didn’t go to some major site. Your motorbike trip sounds awesome!

      Glad we are not the only ones who were shocked by the price of the food. It would have been expensive in England.


  2. I haven’t been to Machu Picchu yet so I can’t comment. But no number of bad or disappointed comments could stop me from visiting.

    Overrated tourist attraction for me: Robben Island in South Africa. I was so looking forward to visiting the place that Nelson Mandela spent so long imprisoned in, but we were only given a cursory glance into the place. Disappointing.


  3. I’ve been to Peru twice and I have never been to Machu Picchu. Can you believe it!? I’ve had people tell me about 100 times. Why didn’t you go? Don’t you feel like you missed out? Well, one day I will go and gaze at the amazing mountaintop ruins, but if I had gone there straight away I feel that I would have missed much of the culture, surfing and other amazing experiences that I was able to be apart of during my time there.


    • I am impressed! You resisted the peer pressure. We didn’t go to the Taj Mahal in India and people can never understand it, but there’s so much more to the country! Like you said, we might go one day.


  4. Yes but the hike is amazing – I highly recommend at least a 4 day hike. We had such a great time on it that by the time we got to MP we were a bit underwhelmed (or maybe just crazy exhausted). It really would’ve seemed like a letdown without the amazing 4 days of walking to get there. I can see your point of view, but for people who haven’t been yet I say spend the money and do a 4 day trek to get there. Then MP is just icing on the cake. It’s the best money we’ve ever spent on a tour.


    • I have heard the hike is great. You have to book the Inca Trail too far in advance but we were tempted by the Salkantay alternative route. In the end we were put off by the expense and because we felt too tired at that point in our travels.


  5. Really?! We had to skip Machu Picchu due to the mudslides. Every time I see photos that other people have taken of it, I wish we had gone.

    We did a post about how the pyramids in Cairo were a bit of a letdown and took some shit for it.

    Have you seen Karl Pilkington’s ‘An Idiot Abroad’ – I think you would enjoy it… every tourist attraction is a bother to him, but he makes some good points. You should download it when you have the chance!


    • That sounds interesting, we’ll have to check it out.

      I can’t really see how the pyramids could live up to expectations really, but people do get upset about these things.


    • I have heard good things about the hike up so that may be a great experience in its own right. The train felt so sanitised, touristy and overpriced that it added to our annoyance with the whole thing. Some people do love MP, so I would keep an open mind and judge for yourself. Plus it’s the rainy season now so it’ll probably be a lot quieter.


      • I did a 4 day Machu Picchu hike and the hike itself was the experience that I remember fondly. I found Machu Picchu to be more of an anti-climax than anything once we got there, having seen other similar but smaller ruins along the way. For a truer experience and to appreciate its context more fully I think you need to do the hike.


    • If you’re going to go to Machu Picchu I can’t recommend doing the Salkantay trek enough – nor the guide we went with. It was one of the most demanding but worthwhile things either of us have ever done. Machu Picchu was alright but walking over a mountain is better.


      • We did plan to do it but unfortunately didn’t get a reply from the guide you recommended. We couldn’t face trawling though the tour agencies to find a reliable one and realised we were a bit too exhausted for it at that point in our trip. Sounds wonderful though.


  6. Could not agree more. I spent most of my time in Macchu Picchu devising escapes from the innumerable tourist traps. I fell in only one – after refusing to take the bus from the town in either direction and a couple of hours exploring, I was out of water and paid something like $10USD for a bottle of water at the snack stand. (maybe it wasn’t that much but I remember it feeling like a ridiculous amount at the time) That said…am also glad I can say “Didn’t like Macchu Picchu too much” because I have seen it with my own eyes.
    Such a treat when Simon jumps in with a post – always so funny!


    • That happened to us too! We did take snacks but after getting up up at 4am and climbing Waynu Picchu we were starving by 10am, and out of water so had to pay the ridiculous prices for a slice of pizza and a drink.


  7. I mean some attraction can be overcharged or overrated but if I see it with my eyes or visit the place. I might have a different feeling toward a place. but you’re right though.


  8. No flaming here – we wholeheartedly agree, Machu Pichu was the biggest letdown of our two RTW trips…we loved Ollantaytambo and the rest of the sacred valley though.


    • Ollayntaytambo is a cute place. We wanted to explore the Sacred Valley a bit more but Simon came down with a cold straight after MP so we just headed back to Cusco.


  9. After having seen pics of Machu Picchu for about, oh, I dunno, hundreds of times, I’m afraid that it has lost its element of excitement. But we’ll probably still see it coz we never learn our lesson and have seen every other overrated movies out there :p

    Our most overrated tourist attraction so far: the Uffizi. Eh…


    • I can understand the temptation to go and see it anyway. We don’t regret going but we just don’t feel like it was a highlight of our trip. It’s difficult to know which big tourist attractions will live up to expectations – for us Iguazú Falls did despite the crowds.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.