These Popular Tourist Destinations Are Actually Worth Visiting

No matter where in the world you want to go on your next vacation, you probably look at other travelers’ photos when you daydream about your trip. But lurking in many of those photos of the most iconic tourist destinations is every traveler’s nightmare: a crowd of other tourists taking selfies, fumbling with maps, and getting in the way. That’s when you start to wonder: Is your dream destination overrated? Or would seeing it in person make braving the crowds worth it?

For the amazing tourist destinations below, seeing the sights and taking in the history definitely makes the crowds worth it.

1. Acropolis

Tourist at the Parthenon

Many think of the Acropolis as the most important monument left in Greece. | anyaberkut/iStock/Getty Images

  • Location: Athens, Greece

Reader’s Digest characterizes the Acropolis, the iconic citadel in Athens, Greece, as one of the tourist destinations that’s worth visiting despite the crowds. The Acropolis sits on a rocky hill about the city. And the complex includes a variety of important, classical structures. The most well-known? The Parthenon, which Reader’s Digest characterizes as “the most important surviving monument from Greek Antiquity.” How could you skip the opportunity to witness that some of that history firsthand?

Next: Don’t skip this attraction near San Francisco.

2. Alcatraz Island

The famous Alcatraz island is seen from Pier 39 of Fishermans warf in San Francisco on October 18, 2017.

If you’re headed to San Francisco, be sure to check this out. | Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

  • Location: Off the shore of San Francisco, California

Many people think of Alcatraz Island as the ultimate tourist trap. But Reader’s Digest puts this small island — which houses a notorious former federal prison — on the list of tourist destinations that you won’t regret visiting. As the publication reports, the infamous federal penitentiary you can see on the island today “once imprisoned America’s most notorious criminals.” That includes Al Capone, James “Whitey” Bulger, and Robert Franklin Stroud, better known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz.”

Next: You can’t miss this site in Cambodia.

3. Angkor Wat

The well preserved remains of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th century

This is an absolute must-see destination. | -/AFP/Getty Images

  • Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Reader’s Digest characterizes Angkor Wat, a Cambodian temple and the largest religious monument in the world, as a tourist destination you have to see. The publication reports that Angkor Wat was originally constructed as a Hindu temple to the god Vishnu during the Khmer Empire. But toward the end of the 12th century, it became a Buddhist temple. As Reader’s Digest notes, the temple stretches to the size of an entire city,” which makes it a must-see piece of architecture.

Next: Check out this attraction the next time you go to Canada.

4. Banff National Park

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

This landscape alone is worth the trip to Alberta. | MartinM303/iStock/Getty Images

  • Location: Alberta, Canada

Next on the list of tourist destinations you definitely shouldn’t skip? Banff National Park. Traveller characterizes this destination as “the oldest and most majestic national park in Canada.” More than four million travelers visit each year. But don’t let that scare you away. You don’t want to miss the park’s mountainous terrain. And if you visit, you can see everything from the Rocky Mountains to gorgeous glaciers to ice fields to dense forests.

Next: Add this site to your Iceland bucket list.

5. Blue Lagoon

People bath in the "Blue lagoon " geothermal spa, one of the most visited attractions in Iceland in the Reykjanes peninsula, southwestern Iceland on July 5, 2014. The spa is located on a lava field.

This tourist attraction really is worth experiencing for yourself. | Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

  • Location: Grindavík, Iceland

If you’ve thought about traveling to Iceland, then you’ve probably considered visiting the Blue Lagoon, a man-made geothermal spa in southwestern Iceland. This site ranks as one of Iceland’s top attractions. And as Reader’s Digest reports, “it’s easy to see why. The sparkling turquoise pool is filled with nine million liters of warm, geothermal seawater and surrounded by volcanic lava fields. To say it’s Instagram gold is an understatement.”

Next: Don’t skip this site in Rio de Janeiro. 

6. Christ the Redeemer statue

Christ the Redeemer statue with lightening

You’d never guess this statue is actually 25 feet tall. | Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

  • Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Reader’s Digest characterizes the striking Christ the Redeemer statue that watches over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as a “tourist magnet.” But the publication still advises that this site is worth the visit. The Art Deco sculpture stretches to an imposing 125 feet tall. And it stands at the peak of the 2,300-foot Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest — itself a beautiful sight to see.

Next: You have to see this attraction in Paris. 

7. Eiffel Tower

the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

It might be touristy, but it’s still seriously impressive. | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

  • Location: Paris, France

Next on the list of tourist destinations you should actually consider visiting? The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. According to Reader’s Digest, almost 7 million visitors make the trip to this beloved landmark each year, even with all the other historical sites, cultural attractions, and beautiful things to see in the City of Lights. In fact, Reader’s Digest reports that the Eiffel Tower ranks as one of the most popular cultural attractions in the world.

Next: Make the trip to Arizona for this destination. 

8. Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

This destination is iconic for a reason. | iStock/Getty Images

  • Location: Arizona

The Grand Canyon remains one of the most iconic tourist destinations across the United States. But as Reader’s Digest reports, you definitely don’t want to use the crowds as an excuse to skip this incredible destination. The expansive canyon reaches 227 miles long. (Erosion from the Colorado River formed the canyon over millions of years.) If you make the trip to Arizona, you’ll see “once-in-a-lifetime views.” Most tourists go to the South Rim. But Reader’s Digest recommends that you also consider the trails along the North Rim.

Next: You have to see this structure in China. 

9. Great Wall

The Great Wall of China

The Wall is absolutely mesmerizing. | Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

  • Location: China

Curious whether the Great Wall of China would prove worth the time and expense to visit? Reader’s Digest says yes! The publication notes that this sprawling series of fortifications stretches 13,000 miles along the historical border of northern China. The earliest sections of the wall date to the third century B.C. And the materials used include stone, brick, earth, and wood. As Reader’s Digest reports, “this man-made masterpiece shines as an extraordinary example of ancient defensive architecture.”

Next: Don’t skip this tourist destination in Barcelona. 

10. La Sagrada Familia

  • La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

    You have to see this church to believe its beauty. | David Ramos/Getty Images

    Location: Barcelona, Spain

Next on the list of tourist destinations you just have to see despite the crowds? La Sagrada Familia, an iconic Roman Catholic church in Barcelona. Traveller explains that Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi designed this stunning structure. Many people just want to see the outside of the church. But if you pay the modest admission fee to go inside, you’ll get an even closer look at the spectacular design on display.

Next: You won’t regret hiking to this attraction in Peru. 

11. Machu Picchu

Machu Piccu, Peru

It might be a strenuous hike, but it’s worth it. | Cris Bouroncle/AFP/Getty Image

  • Location: Peru

Traveller puts the 15th century Incan citadel of Machu Picchu on its list of iconic tourist destinations that you definitely don’t want to miss. Don’t let the popularity of this iconic site scare you away. The city sits in the Andes Mountains in Peru, and notoriously requires a pretty strenuous hike if you want to reach it. But you won’t regret making the trek to check out the iconic architecture and take in the sweeping views. as Traveller reports, “The pictures don’t do this place justice.”

Next: Don’t skip this natural wonder in New York. 

12. Niagara Falls

Fireworks set off from the Canadian side light up the sky over Niagra Falls late July 3, 2016, part of the July 4th US Independence Day celebrations, in Niagra Falls, New York

The falls look even more beautiful when they’re lit up for special occasions. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

  • Location: The border between New York and Ontario

Next on the Reader’s Digest list of tourist attractions you’ll actually want to visit? Niagara Falls, located on the border between the state of New York and the Canadian province of Ontario. You’ll definitely have to wait in line and brave the crowds to see this gorgeous natural wonder. But as Reader’s Digest puts it, “the chance to come so close to the gushing waters and powerful spray make it all worth it.”

Next: Make the trip to Jordan to see this amazing city.

13. Petra

Petra, Jordan

This ancient city is beyond beautiful. | Khalil Mazwaawi/AFP/Getty Images

  • Location: Ma’an Governorate, Jordan

If you find yourself planing a trip to the Middle East, don’t miss the opportunity to head to Jordan to see the iconic and ancient city at Petra. Traveller puts this beautiful archeological site on its list of the tourist destinations you don’t want to miss, despite the crowds and the long hike. (You’ll have to brave a 1,000-foot vertical climb to see the monastery, but you won’t ever forget the colors of the rocks and structures.) Archaeologists believe that the city could have been settled as early as 9,000 BC, and many of the structures dating to about 300 BC are still very well-preserved.

Next: Don’t skip this attraction in Paris. 

14. Sacré-Cœur

People are seen silhouetted sitting on a fence in front of the landmark church Sacre Couer in Paris late on June 21, 2016

This church is absolutely worth the trek. | Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

  • Location: Paris, France

Reader’s Digest adds the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur — informally known as Sacré-Cœur — to the list of tourist destinations worth a visit. This Roman Catholic church was consecrated in 1919, and sits on top of the hill on Montmartre. That location hints at one of the major benefits to making the trek to this site. If you take the 300 spiraling stairs to the dome, you’ll get to see what Reader’s Digest characterizes as “spellbinding panoramas of Paris.”

Next: You have to see this landmark in New York.

15. Statue of Liberty

New York City skyline with the Statue of Liberty in view

Make sure you take a trip to New York to see this iconic statue. | Spyarm/iStock/Getty Images

  • Location: New York, New York

Wondering which tourist destinations in New York will really prove worth your time? Reader’s Digest recommends the Statue of Liberty, the iconic sculpture that overlooks New York Harbor. The statue first came to the United States as a gift of friendship from France. The statue has stood in New York Harbor for more than 100 years. And as Reader’s Digest reports, “The colossal neoclassical sculpture was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel — yes, the man behind the Eiffel Tower.”

Next: Don’t skip this archaeological site in England. 

16. Stonehenge

Druids, pagans, and revellers gather at Stonehenge

You’ll have to see this bizarre landmark to believe it. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

  • Location: Wiltshire, England

Reader’s Digest characterizes Stonehenge as the most famous prehistoric monument in England — and one of the iconic tourist destinations that you should definitely visit. The origin and use of this monument have stumped archaeologists for centuries. Some believe it served as a burial ground. Others think it was a ritual sacrifice site. But the mystery remains part of the appeal for all of the people who visit each year.

Next: You have to see this monument in India.

17. Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

It might be crowded, but again, it’s so worth it. | Xantana/iStock/Getty Images

  • Location: Agra, India

Almost everybody has seen photos of the Taj Mahal, but is seeing this gorgeous mausoleum worth braving the crowds? Absolutely, according to Reader’s Digest. The publication notes that the Taj Mahal, which was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favorite wife — is “considered the greatest achievement in Indo-Islamic architecture.” Tourists and photographers alike love this iconic site for its domes, arches, inlays and reliefs, gardens, and reflecting pool.

Read more: Experts Say This Is the Most Popular Place to Visit in 2018

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