Lonely Planet Writer

Great 'meh'-xpectations: when travel disappoints

Travel is generally one of the highlights of most people's lives - whether you get to visit a new destination once a year or once a decade, the thrill never wanes.

But what about when the expected thrill underwhelms? You've saved up, you've trekked out, you see that famous monument and all that resounds in your head is a big, fat 'Is that it?'

One of our Thorn Tree forum members posed that very question: 'In all of your travels have you ever came across a place that has just not lived up to your expectations?' It's an interesting discussion, because we feel compelled to be wowed by the things we see when we travel - it's gotta be great, right? But what happens when those tourist sites just don't live up to the hype?

Some travellers said their disappointment was fuelled not so much by the sight but by tourist crowds and unexpected elements (one member remarked that Jordan's Petra left him less than excited because 'I didn't exactly expect to have it to myself, but I also didn't expect to have to smell donkey/camel shit for the entire walk through the Siq to the Treasury'). Another traveller found the 'Euro stoner tourist vibe' in Chefchaouan, Morocco made it feel like 'Disneyland for the hash crowd'. He was similarly disappointed with Prague: 'The weight of tourist money has pushed the locals out of the city center, turning what's left into a Euro-urban theme park. A beautiful city, to be sure, but now best left to postcards and a quick visit.'

But one traveller wisely noted that all of these reactions can be very subjective and many different factors can colour your reaction, including your companions, where you choose to stay or even the weather. As one traveller said of Venice, it was a case of: '...going there in June 1997 with really high expectations on an overnight train from Rome and finding swarms of tourists feeding a few gazillion pigeons in a very expensive and smelly giant sewer while feeling zombified from a terrible lack of sleep and oppressive heat. Went back there in October 2002 and had a fabulous day - amazing how a good night's rest, fewer tourists and better weather can change your outlook on life!'

So, where have you been that didn't live up to your expectations? Or, did you go somewhere expecting nothing, only to have your mind blown? Let's hear it!