10 Popular Travel Destinations That Were Much Better Than Anticipated

I hate traveling, but I love to travel. This paradox means I avoid any large-scale city tourism or oversubscribed natural monument. There are some places I simply had to stand beside: the Pyramids, Angkor Watt, and the Great Wall, for example.

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However, too many holidays have been ruined for me by crowds of people. Therefore, I am heartened to read that even the busiest tourism hubs retain their charm. Here are ten tourist destinations people in online discussions say transcended their expectations.

1. Rome

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I once got stuck in Rome and spent the night in the most tourist-heavy quarter of the ancient city — I didn’t enjoy being there. However, some strike it lucky on their journey. “I heard terrible things ahead of time and thought I would hate it,” says one visitor to the discussion. “I ended up loving it!”

If you do visit Rome, make sure to visit the Trevi Fountains at night. It is one of the most memorable experiences from my own travel journey. Twenty years later and I still fondly remember rounding the corner and seeing the fountains all lit up. Spectacular!

2. Madeira

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s birthplace is a jewel in the Atlantic Ocean with tropical temperatures and varied biodiversity. A Portuguese territory, Madeira is one of the best hiking islands in the world. A recent visitor says they were awed by its “depth of tourism-focused infrastructure and economic development.”

3. Budapest

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Hungary’s capital is so far from Western Europe that few tourists consider it for a holiday, but Budapest is a sophisticated metropolitan center. “Arrived and was taken with how beautiful, picturesque, and clean the city was,” comments a fan. “Loads to see and do. I was hooked straight away.”

4. Crete

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Crete is a sizeable Greek island in the middle of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The birthplace of Zeus is a hidden gem with world-class beaches and hospitality. “Was my favorite of the Greek islands I visited with exceptionally friendly people and amazing food and wine,” is a review from the thread.

5. Brussels

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British people have always been dismissive of Brussels. However, many travelers disagree about Belgium‘s capital, saying that the “food and drink are great … there is plenty to do and see.” I have never been, though I plan to visit soon — give me little Brussels over huge Paris any day.

6. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia
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Some questionable domestic policies aside, Saudia Arabia is currently a well-functioning, high-growth country. Saudi is also biodiverse — it will host the 2029 Asian Winter Games in its mountains — somehow. “People were the most open, friendly, and welcoming of any country I have been to,” shares a one-time visitor.

7. Norway

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Like countries such as Hungary or Bulgaria, Norway is less popular with mainstream tourists, but those who make it are dazzled by its epic beauty and unique customs. I went there in 1987 as a young kid. All I remember were friendly, loud people, seeing glacial mountain valleys tumbling into fjords, and dining on whale meat.

8. Stonehenge

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“I hope there aren’t any English reading this, but…” begins one dissatisfied customer, who goes on to trash Stonehenge, the 5000-year-old British wonder. “Thankfully, nearby Bath was pretty cool.”

I mean, what did they expect? A laser light show and cage dancers? Stonehenge is more about the historical gravitas, the cultural significance, and the fact that they moved those stones hundreds of miles without wheels. Bath is a lovely city, though — I won’t deny it.

9. Hanoi

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A Hanoi visitor says she lost her apprehension when she discovered Hanoi “was a city that felt really safe. While the hustle and bustle on compact streets couldn’t be avoided, I felt really comfy roaming around.” Many people have no idea how safe Vietnam is until they experience it. Robberies happen, but there is minimal street violence.

10. Napoli

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Anyone in Italy will warn you to watch your purse in Naples. Sure, it is a poor city in parts, but the town of my grandmother’s birth is the beating heart of Italian culture. “The city’s spirit made me fall in love with it, says our final commenter. “It is far from perfect, but it really has a soul. I just felt good there.”

This thread inspired this post.

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