Influencer photos flood Instagram, and some locations seem to show up again and again. Are these places really that amazing, or is it all just internet hype?
We asked fellow travelers and friends to give us their opinions on the most overrated Instagram destinations. Here’s what they said.
No1: Santorini, Greece
If you search for Santorini on Instagram, you’ll see peaceful, smiling faces basking in the tranquil glow of the setting sun.
But according to blogger Nate Hake from Travel Lemming, the glamorous photos couldn’t be further from the truth. The hotspots on Santorini are overcrowded, and throngs of impatient tourists elbow each other to take their turn capturing the iconic sunset shot.
Kristen Cummings from Touristish.com agrees, “There are so many pictures of women in long, flowy dresses standing on white buildings with blue domes in the background. The truth is, to get those pictures, people have to trespass and climb the residents’ roofs. It’s rude and cringy to see. They jump over barriers and past “No trespassing “ signs. Sometimes they’re blocking an entire narrow walkway because they’re trying to get an Instagram-perfect picture.”
Perched majestically on the edge of the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik tops the bucket list of many fantasy fans because it’s the setting of many of the scenes from the Game of Thrones series. Tourists flock to Croatia’s “King’s Landing” to visit the Red Keep, gaze at the House of Undying, and pretend to be guests at the Purple Wedding.
But according to Croatian native Thomas Mustac, there are much better locations to visit if you want to understand the country’s heritage and customs. Mustac suggests skipping Dubrovnik in favor of cities like Split, Zagreb, Zadar, Pula, Sibenik, Rijeka, and Osijek.
Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles, California
Generations of movie fans have grown up dreaming about the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Following our favorite actors’ footsteps and seeing their names on the stars on the Walk of Fame tops the list of most first-time visitors to LA.
But for travel blogger Kassidy Olson of kassidysjourney.com, the Walk of Fame was a huge disappointment. Kassidy’s heart sank when she saw the stars covered in dirt, garbage everywhere, and a severe shortage of parking spots. Welcome to LA, Kassidy.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Built in the 15th century, the citadel at Machu Picchu in Peru is one of the most visited archaeological sites on the planet. The ruins have been designed a UNESCO World Heritage site and included in the New Seven Wonders of the World.
But for travel blogger Sean Lau of LivingOutLau, battling the hordes of tourists at Machu Picchu was exhausting. “Nothing is less enjoyable than getting hit in the face by selfie sticks and rude people trying to skip the 30-60 minute line for a photo,” Lau says.
The Eiffel Tower, Paris
Built for the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower has captured the imagination of the city’s visitors for over a century. Having a photo taken with your honey in front of the Eiffel Tower has to be one of the world’s most romantic experiences.
But travel blogger Will Hatton from The Broke Backpacker begs to differ. As if facing the crowds and enduring an hour-long wait wasn’t enough, Hatton’s romantic bubble was burst by city police forcing him to move along while sipping champagne in the park. Better luck next time, Will.
El Caminito, Buenos Aires, Argentina
El Caminito, which means “little path” in Spanish, is the main walkway through the Boca neighborhood in Buenas Aires. The city intended for the pathway to be an open-air museum dedicated to Argentinian immigrant culture.
Visitors expect the real-life experience to be like the Instagram photos with quaint cobblestone footpaths, brightly painted tenement houses, and lively street artists. However, most visitors make a quick exit after being accosted by pushy vendors selling overpriced souvenirs and restaurant meals.
According to world traveler and founder of Petsolino, Sherry Morgan, “This tourist trap looks less like an authentic museum and more like a stale movie set.” Morgan comments that even most Buenos Aires locals advise visitors to spend less time in the area or skip El Caminito entirely.
Gates of Heaven, Lempuyang Temple, Bali
What trip to Bali, Indonesia would be complete without visiting the Gates of Heaven at the Lempuyang Temple? Instagram photos depict the gate backed by clouds and a perfect reflection in a pristine pool of water.
Unfortunately, visitors to the famous temple gate are in for a disappointment. There is no pool of water at the site. The Instagram photos are all trick shots done using a pocket mirror. A clever local entrepreneur spends his days collecting cash from visitors willing to wait for hours to get the picture for their Instagram account.
David Leiter, The World Travel Guy, who has spent considerable time in Indonesia, elaborates, “Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a scenic location, and you can take some good photos there. But the real thing doesn’t match the hype at all. It’s not worth it. There are much better spots in Bali without the crowds.”
Roy’s Peak, Wanaka, New Zealand
Roy’s Peak remains one of the most Instagrammed spots in New Zealand. But the hype may not live up to the actual experience.
Local tour guide Jess Richmond, founder of NZ Adventure Guide, says, “So many people have this hike on their must-do list for when they visit New Zealand. The walk itself is nice, but the Instagram spot everyone uses is not even the peak with the best view. I’ve seen a queue of people lining up to get the ‘famous photo,’ but if you walk further up the hill, there are actually better photo spots without all the crowds.”
Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro’s iconic landmark, Christ the Redeemer, remains one of the most photographed sites on Instagram. The nearly 100-ft tall statue is listed among the New Seven Wonders of the World.
But according to Adam Ng, founder of Trusted Malaysia, trying to get a closeup shot at the site just isn’t worth the trouble. “Instagram photos that show influencers posed gracefully in front of the statue on a star-lit night are a cruel manipulation of the reality of polluted skies and hundreds of tourists pushing in front of each other to recreate that Insta-worthy shot.”
Tegalalang Rice Terraces, Bali, Indonesia
An official UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tegalalang Rice Fields lure visitors with lush, emerald-green terraces and the chance to take a peek at authentic rural Indonesian life. However, things are changing rapidly with the surge of internet influencers.
Brodi Cole, who chronicles her family’s travels at Our Offbeat Life, visited Bali shortly before the pandemic closed the borders in Indonesia.
According to Cole, “Paid photo ops pervade the terraces now, and all the authentic charm is gone. Wannabe influencers have ruined this place so much that none of the farmers even bother farming rice anymore. They make more money posing for photos with tourists!”
Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
When first-time visitors land in New Orleans, they typically head straight to Bourbon Street to take photos for social media. The strip of concrete represents the remains of the city’s Storyville red-light district, the stomping grounds of early jazz musicians like Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver.
However, times have changed. Beaches and Weed founder and musician Cat Winske advises visitors to limit their time on New Orleans’ most famous street.
“Bourbon Street is wall-to-wall drunken tourists, cover bands, fistfights, and stinking vomit. Granted, new visitors should hit the historical sites, Preservation Hall and Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop come to mind. But after that, hightail it out of there. You‘ll have a much better time interacting with local characters and catching authentic New Orleans music if you head up to Frenchmen Street or spend the evening at one of the music clubs in Mid-City or Uptown. And you won’t have to slug through vomit all night.”
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England
The most architecturally complex prehistoric stone circle yet discovered, Stonehenge has captured the imagination of scholars for centuries. An estimated 9,000 people visit Stonehenge each day during peak season. But while Stonehenge may be impressive for archeologists and historians, the ancient site doesn’t live up to its reputation for today’s casual travelers.
San Luis Obispo Sands Inn marketing director, Mataf Khan, says, “It was very crowded, but I still made it to the end where I found the most overrated place I’ve ever been. There’s nothing attractive there. It was boring. I wasted my whole day. Just a bunch of stones!” Choua Lao from diaryofadventures.com agrees, “Stonehenge is smaller than it appears.”
The “Stairway to Heaven,” Barcelona, Spain
Located at the Montserrat Monastery, the Instagram-famous “Stairway to Heaven” is actually a sculpture by renowned Barcelona artist Josep Maria Subirachs.
According to local tour guide Marta Laurent Veciana of Forever Barcelona Private Tours, the sculpture isn’t anything special. “It’s just a few stone blocks by the tourist bus parking lot. Plus, it’s not a stairway to heaven but an homage to a medieval philosopher! Although, of course, a cute girl, a filter, and some editing can make it look outstanding.”
Marta advises that it’s dangerous to climb the sculpture like the girl who went viral on Instagram did. Unlike with Stonehenge, the blocks of Subirach’s sculpture are way bigger than you’d think, and it’s a long fall to the ground. Unfortunately, due to safety concerns, Monastery officials have placed fences around the sculpture, diminishing its charm. Sorry, Subirachs.
The Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal to house the remains of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The tomb has been designed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is included in the New Seven Wonders of the World list.
But according to Marilyn Gaskell, founder of True People Search, the monument looks nothing like it does on Instagram. Instead of the empty courtyard with lightly cloudy blue skies like we see in photos, the monument is obscured by crowds of visitors and backdropped by a hazy, gray atmosphere.
The Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles, California
The City of Angels makes our list again with its legendary Hollywood sign. Situated on Mount Lee, the 45-ft tall letters overlook the city confirming visitors that they’re in the motion picture capital of the world.
But according to blogger Aman Saxena from trip101.com, you’re better off skipping the trek to the sign. “After hiking a certain distance to get there, you’ll find that you’re not even allowed to get up close.
So, you’ll just have to find ways to appreciate this attraction from a half-mile away. Surrounded by bushes and a massive fence, the best view you’ll have of the sign is probably from the movies.”
The Maison Rose, Montmartre, Paris
The Maison Rose in the fabled area of Montmartre in Paris is in no way overrated. The eco-conscious restaurant offers fresh farm-to-table French cuisine and Italian specialties at reasonable prices and supports local farmers and artisans. However, the influencer scene at the Maison Rose has become a real nuisance.
According to The Tour Guy, Sean Finelli, who had the chance to speak with the restaurant’s owner, influencers frequently ask Maison customers to leave their seats for a few minutes, sometimes with food on the table. Then they pretend to eat there instead of actually ordering a meal.
Additionally, the staff has to constantly repaint the restaurant’s facade because influencers place their feet up the pink walls for photos, making them filthy.
Sonoma County Wildflower Fields, California, USA
Unfortunately, the Sonoma County wildflower fields present another example of how Instagram influencers can ruin a location. Encompassing nearly 60,000 acres in northern California, the Sonoma County wildflower fields dazzle visitors with shimmering golden mustard blooms, deep orange poppies, electric blue irises, purple lupines, delicate buttercups, and fragrant wild roses.
The problem lies when would-be influencers stray off the trails and stomp on the wildflowers to get the perfect Instagram shot. Doing this kills the flowers, and their seeds can’t germinate into the next generation of blossoms.
Sonoma County public relations manager Anna Yan advises photographers to get creative and capture shots while staying on the trails. Visitors can download the Sonoma County Regional Parks Wildflower Guide for a more mindful and purposeful visit. Yan also asks that influencers include a link to the county’s “Leave No Trace Seven Principles” article to encourage other photographers to approach Sonoma’s wild areas in a more sustainable way.
The Wanaka Tree, New Zealand
New Zealand makes our list again with its Insta-famous Wanaka Tree. The fascination with the Wanaka Willow started when the local tourist authority launched the Instagram campaign #ThatWanakaTree to attract more people to the area.
Unfortunately, the successful ad campaign had led to the tree being intentionally damaged on several occasions.
Matej Halouska of czechtheworld.com elaborates, “The problem with the Wanaka tree is that it’s just quite an ordinary tree in the lake. It’s possible to take a beautiful picture with the mountains in the background. However, you need very good photography skills and to be there very early in the morning because there is usually a fight for a good photo spot before sunrise.”