You've probably been told at some point in your life that things are not always as they appear.
And it's generally a good idea to keep in mind how easily we can be fooled by appearances. But that lesson is never more needed than when we're scrolling through instagram.
Whether it's normal people playing with angles, makeup, photoshop, and filters to project some idealized version of themselves, or celebrities getting caught making themselves thinner, Instagram is a minefield of deceptive appearances that can mess with your head. And travelgram is no exception.
Apart from attractive faces and bodies, beautiful travel destinations are among the most popular content on the app, and among the most deceptive. The more awe-inspiring a landscape appears on social media, the more likely it is to look washed out, crowded, and smaller than you expected when you finally get there.
Whether through deceptive photo editing, or just framing images to crop out the 2,000 other people packed together to take the same picture, Instagram has a way of selling you on a version of travel that doesn't really exist. Fortunately, for every destination that's been overhyped by influencers, there's another that is either overlooked, or actually lives up to its legend.
Overrated: Antelope Canyon
Both the upper and lower section of Antelope Canyon in Arizona offer beautiful, curving contours of sandstone carved out by the rush of flood waters through narrow passages. Glowing shafts of sunlight drop from overhead, lighting up the rich colors and the intricate shapes of sandstone laid out in layers. Up above, the rich golds and reds frame sections of clear blue sky.
They're also both incredibly crowded, costly to visit, only catch those iconic shafts of sunlight around noon — when tours are generally sold out — and they rain a fine sand that will absolutely get in your eyes when you look up. They're truly beautiful slot canyons, but they're also overrated. But where should you go instead?
Overrated: Pink Sand Beaches
What could make a Caribbean beach vacation even more magical? How about a beach that's bubblegum pink?! A handful of beaches in the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Indonesia are known for their pink sand, tinged by tiny pieces of red coral and seashells.
The make for some striking photos...with a bit of tweaking. In person, however, the sand at these beaches is a light tan color, with maybe faint hint of pink at the waters edge, if you really look for it. Only when you crank up the saturation does it take on that vibrant fairytale, pepto bismol hue.
This doesn't mean you can't have a great time at the beach. That pink sand is nearly as soft and pleasant as some of the white sand beaches where it feels like you're walking in baby powder.
That, combined with the sunny weather and the warm blue waters might have you forgetting that you were expecting a fantasy land. But where should you go if you want a beach that looks as striking and different in person as it does in pictures?
Overrated: Machu Picchu
High in the Andes Mountains, 50 miles outside the small city of Cusco, Peru, you might not expect centuries-old Inca ruins to be crawling with tourists. You would be wrong.
The natural beauty of the landscape and the impressive remnants of a once-sprawling empire have combined to make Machu Picchu an incredibly popular destination for travellers who love having their picture taken and harassing Llamas. It's a truly breathtaking place, but what must have once felt like a spot frozen in time, shielded from modern civilization, has become something closer to a theme park.
So where should you go instead?
Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England is a marvel of the ancient world.
Enormous stones weighing upwards of 25 tons were transported from far away and arranged in a circle that aligns with various astronomical bodies. There remain many mysteries about both how ancient peoples managed to build it, and what role it played in their lives -- both practically and spiritually. What's not a mystery is the fact that so many people visit Stonehenge each year to experience its wonder...and most of them are at least a little bit disappointed.
For starters, the "so many people" who go to Stonehenge add up to about a million visitors each year. That's an average of close to 3,000 people each day, with a lot more than that in warmer months. And the site itself is not that big, so you will absolutely notice all those other people. The whole circle of stones is only a little wider than a basketball court is long.
Oh, and worst of all, with the exception of special occasions -- when Stonehenge is much, much busier -- the cost of admission does not include getting anywhere near the stones... But where should you go instead?
Overrated: Plitvice Lakes National Park
Croatia's Plitvice Lakes National Park has become a staple of Instatravel influencers. With walkways, boat tours and train rides leading around its tiered lakes of crystal-clear water fed by waterfalls overflowing with lush plant life, it makes for truly incredible pictures.
It's also the most popular park in Croatia, with around 1.8 million visitors every year. Those numbers can lead to long waits and heavy crowds, and the price of admission reflects that, more than tripling in the warmer months. But the real downfall of visiting Plitvice Lakes is that you're not even allowed to swim.
So while the pictures are amazing year round, you might want to skip Plitvice Lakes during summer months with heavy crowds, steep admission, and the forbidden temptation of a soothing dip in the cool waters. But where should you go instead?
Overrated: Banff National Park
Moraine Lake and Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada's Banff National Park are known for the incredible blue colors of their glacial-fed waters. But the if you've only seen those colors in pictures, you might be surprised to find out...that they're just as incredible in person.
This is not a case of deceptive photo editing. Banff really is as beautiful as it looks on Instagram. But it's also overhyped. Camp sites and hotel rooms within the park are often booked months in advance, and even the large parking lots near Lake Louise tend to fill up early in the morning. As for Lake Moraine, you'll likely have to park miles away and wait around for a shuttle.
It really is a beautiful area, but everyone knows it, so you end up sharing the area with way too many other people. So where should you go instead?
Overrated: Zhangye's Rainbow Mountains
There are a number of spots famed for their beautifully multi-colored stone and earth — Peru's Vinicunca, Mauritius' Seven Colored Earth, and Zhangye, China's incredible Rainbow Mountains. What all these places have in common, apart from being truly incredible geological natural wonders, is that none of them look nearly as dramatic in person as they do in the images that tend to get passed around online.
While it's true that the mountains' colors show more clearly after a rainstorm, even if you're lucky enough to visit at the right time, they will never look anything like they do in highly edited images that end up defining people's expectations. But if you do want to see some incredibly vibrant, colorful mountains, where should you go instead?
Overrated: Sunset at Yosemite's Glacier Point
Having a great spot to view the sunset over Yosemity Valley is not an experience you're likely to forget or regret. If that means you end up at Glacier point, you won't be disappointed, but you may find yourself distracted by the presence of hundreds of other people wth the same goal in mind.
Like a number of other lookouts in Yosemite National Park, the incredible scale and majesty of the view is somewhat compromised by its popularity. So where should you go instead?
Overrated: Christ the Redeemer
If you're ever in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, you absolutely have to see Christ the Redeemer, the 125 foot statue of Jesus holding his arms in the shape of a cross. It's undoubtedly the city's most iconic site, and you would be crazy to miss it. The good news is, it's also basically impossible to miss.
The statue was placed on peak overlooking the Rio De Janeiro, so it could be seen more or less throughout the city. As such, you can get a good view of it without going up close. And you absolutely do not need to see it up close -- despite what insane throngs of people posing around it during daylight hours seem to think.
But if you want to have a vantage point overlooking Rio De Janeiro, where should you go instead?