Here, a working travel writer shares her view of so-called “dream vacation spots” that are, in her view, overrated Hells on Earth. To spare her from possible reprisals from the tourist industry that she covers, we are not using her real name. The opinions of “Siena” are hers alone and don’t reflect those of Total Travel.
As a travel writer, my credo is “I’ll try almost anything once.” That open-mindedness has served me well. The huge majority of my experiences have been very much worth having. But I’ve had a few duds — destinations to be crossed off the wish list and never considered again. Most travel writers I know have their anti-favourite list of overrated places. This is mine.
More than one friend of mine calls this island “boring boring.” The reefs and water are absolutely spectacular, but how long can you stare at fish? There’s nothing else to do. The resorts are on their own private motus (islets), so there’s no nightlife, and guests aren’t looking to socialise at all as they’re all on their honeymoons. And the “France in the South Pacific” marketing is not a selling point: French Polynesia offers the worst combination of Gallic snobbishness and of island indifference. I just felt sorry for the guys who had to paddle me around on a canoe for breakfast (though they were nice to look at). And it’s expensive. If you want Polynesia, just go to Hawaii. If you want exotic, go all the way to Asia, where your money will go a whole lot further.
Look, I’ve been writing about luxury travel for more than a decade. I like glorious excess. I get that sometimes more is more. But Dubai is just too much. “The Las Vegas of the Middle East,” as Dubai is often called, is really a half-finished monument to wretched excess. Also, It’s hot. When I recently visited, there were also grim reminders everywhere of the economic crash in 2009: abandoned skyscraper skeletons with idle cranes on top, billboards advertising the Ferrari that would be thrown in along with the purchase of a luxury apartment. Still, shopping remains the most popular sport (and international draw) here, but that’s another non-selling point for me. Yes, you can ski at the Mall of the Emirates. Know where else you can ski? Mountains.
Billed as the cultural emirate, Abu Dhabi is supposed to offer a more enlightened alternative to glitzy Dubai. At least there’s no over-consumption hangover here, as the city is still filthy rich even after bailing out its flashy neighbour. And so the government has invested in the very best culture money can buy, shelling out for museum outposts and architect-designed buildings — the Performing Arts Centre by Zaha Hadid, the Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi by Frank Gehry. But for all of that, there’s no “there” there. Cities like New York and London are great because of their genuine culture, not the store-bought variety that seems to run rampant in Abu Dhabi. And you don’t have be a tree-hugger to be put off by the ecological footprint of a place where oil is easier to come by than water, wide highways are filled with 4WDs, and the space around them is filled by the most massive power lines and transformers I’ve seen — so much so that there are road signs warning drivers about the dangerous voltage overhead.
I’ll probably get hate mail for this, but there’s something I find entirely too precious about the Emerald Isle. Castles and Guinness and fiddles are completely lost on me, and I don’t care about that mythical fun factor they call “craic,” however you pronounce that. I dislike Irish pubs in the U.S. Why would I want to go to the motherland?
Roatán Island, Honduras
Yes, the diving is great. But it’s also great in nearby Belize and the largely undiscovered San Andres Islands off the coast of Nicaragua. And those places aren’t crowded with cookie-cutter apartment developments, mass-market resorts, drunken beach parties and booze cruises. And while Roatán isn’t the only place in the world with “dolphin experiences,” it’s the place where I got talked into doing one. I cringed through every awkward minute of my hour spent holding onto to the swimming animals’ fins and surfing on their snouts, but I got through it by reminding myself that it could have been worse — I could have been the dolphin.
Too. Damn. Orderly. Luxembourg is the most sensible place I’ve ever been. I hated it.
This article originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.