Times Square is first on our list! It’s really nothing more than a very bright, very overcrowded intersection. Although, if your idea of fun is to gawk at neon billboards and experience a complete sensory overload while negotiating super-crowded sidewalks and simultaneously trying not to get run over by a cab or city bus, then by all means, this one’s for you. If, however, you are looking for a more authentic Big Apple experience, some better suggestions include tasting your way through Chelsea Market – the ultimate indoor food paradise (and birthplace of the Oreo Cookie). Wander the tree-lined cobblestone streets of West Village, which remain virtually unchanged since the 19th century - great for shopping and cafe hopping. Check out New York's Museum Mile, a stretch of eight museums along Fifth Avenue. Or, get outdoors and explore the hidden corners of the most filmed location in the world - Central Park (super special to experience in Winter).
Between heaving crowds, snaking queues and inflated admission costs, some iconic global hot spots just don’t live up to the hype. For a more authentic experience, skip these five tourist traps and visit our alternatives instead.
If you’re expecting a quiet journey into the stillness of the desert landscape to view the Great Pyramids of Giza, think again! You’ll be one of about 5 000 people who flock there daily. To make matters worse, the pyramids are located near downtown Cairo and are set against the backdrop of a Pizza Hut, a KFC and a whole lot of litter! Although it’s possible to get away from the crowds by opting to take a camel ride or an aerial tour via helicopter, to get up close to the world famous wonder your only choice is to join the crowds. You also can't touch the Sphinx or climb the sides of the pyramids anymore. Our advice is avoid the Great Pyramids of Giza altogether and rather check out the more mind blowing, less crowded and less stressful Pyramid Fields in Dahshur. This royal necropolis is known for several pyramids, two of which are amongst the oldest, largest and best preserved in Egypt!
The ancient rocks of Stonehenge have been described as mystical and magical. But, what people don’t tell you is that it’s also wedged between two very busy roads, overrun by zealous tourists and after paying an admission cost, you’re not even allowed to get anywhere near to the prehistoric site. If you do decide to brave it, binoculars are recommended to view the monument from afar. For a dramatic alternative to Stonehenge, rather opt to visit the breathtaking Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, which are not just an extraordinary cross-shaped setting of stones but also predate England’s famous Stonehenge.
For its sheer beauty and grandeur, the Taj Mahal draws a massive global crowd. But, what the pictures don’t show, are the equally massive admission fees – in fact, prices at the Taj Mahal top the list of most ridiculous. While the locals pay small fees to enter the world famous Heritage Site, tourists are charged 20 times the normal rate with additional toll taxes for vehicle entry to and from the area. Rather than fighting for space to get a glimpse, cross over to the opposite side of the Yamuna River for the most incredible view. Although, be warned that even this free photo opportunity comes at a cost – that being, the smell of the rotting sewage and a rat infestation that surrounds the outskirts of the river. If you wish to avoid ‘The Jewel of India’ altogether, a visit to the Agra Fort is really worthwhile. It’s a huge and vastly impressive structure, the details of which are exquisite, even more so than at the Taj Mahal, whose detail is eclipsed by the whole. With an array of palace rooms, mosques, harem areas, public meeting areas, complete with crocodile-infested moat; this old seat of power for the whole empire is insanely impressive.
Local ain’t Always so Lekker
If you enjoy a Vegas-style surrounding where the lights and loud noises of the slot machines are alluring, this one’s for you. Casinos, game and entertainment rooms cling to every corner of the indoor areas, while greasy food outlets battle it out for business. Although a wonderful golf course, fake beach, wave pool, slippery slides and sunshine beckon from the outside, it isn’t easy to enjoy when a cold drink costs you triple the amount it normally would, and the service leaves much to be desired. We suggest trading in the ornate décor, plastic plants and fake animal sculptures for the real deal by staying at one of the many wonderful game lodges in the beautiful Pilanesberg area. Spot wild animals, breathe fresh air and embrace nature instead of losing all your money (and your mind) in fantasy land.