OK, in keeping with the theme of best parts and worst parts, we thought of a few more specific things to add to the list.
Best Tourist Attractions:
Though most of our favorite moments of the trip had nothing to do with the famous tourist attractions we saw, some were well worth the price and/or effort:
We kept coming back to this fascinating and hauntingly beautiful site in the heart of Buenos Aires. So much history, religion and architecture – it’s fun to get lost here!
This remote island dotted with mysterious statues is wonderfully peaceful and charming. A great place to really “get away from it all”.
The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu
Much less crowded than the section at Badaling yet still easy to access, with gondola rides up and a really fun toboggan ride down. One of the few highlights of our trip to China.
Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
This well-known World Heritage Site in Patagonia is a bit expensive, but there are few other places in the world where you can get up close to an advancing glacier and wind your way through giant icebergs in a high-speed catamaran. Lots of great hiking here, too – if you’re into that sort of thing.
A surprising absence of crowds made our visit here one of the best days of our trip, and got Olivia hooked on roller coasters!
Siem Reap was the best surprise of our trip. The temples of Angkor were awesome, and far more extensive than I realized. We spent many happy days going from site to site by tuk-tuk, but barely scratched the surface. I guess we’ll have to come back!
Worst Tourist Attractions:
Worst is probably too harsh a word, but these popular tourist draws didn’t quite live up to the hype – at least, not for us:
San Telmo Sunday Market, Buenos Aires
Construction & the summer weather probably diminished our experience, but this overcrowded flea market really wasn’t our scene.
I had high hopes for the beaches here, but they’re really polluted and not even in the same league as the best in the Caribbean. Of course, they’re a lot less expensive, too.
The Forbidden City / Tiananmen Square
Lots of cool things to see, sure – but the relentless throngs of tourists and con artists made this vast complex a total beatdown. In fact, we could’ve done without visiting Beijing at all.
Come to think of it, we had similar issues with the temples in Bangkok, too – but we loved everything else about that city.
You read that right – this “wonder of the world” was pretty cool, but so choked with hordes of tourists it was possibly the biggest disappointment of our trip. I guess our expectations were too high, or we just did it wrong. If you’re thinking about going there, I’ll tell you what we did so you can do the opposite and have a great time!
And don’t let us discourage you from visiting any of these sites if you really want to. Many people absolutely love Machu Picchu, and we’re definitely not sorry we went there (same for the others). These were just places we didn’t enjoy as much as we expected.
If we’ve learned anything about traveling, it’s that different people can visit the same place at the same time and have completely different experiences and opinions. So have fun out there!