13 Tourist Traps Around the World That Are Actually Worth Visiting
While some “must-sees” are over-hyped, the iconic sights ahead are worth braving the crowds (at least once), we promise.
History and architecture buffs—particularly those with a penchant for ancient Greece—won’t want to miss a trip to the Acropolis of Athens. Situated on a rocky hill above the city, the citadel complex contains an ensemble of significant classical structures, namely the Parthenon, which is regarded as the most important surviving monument from Greek Antiquity.
2. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is a must-see-before-you-die natural wonder. Sure, waiting in line, donning a bright blue poncho, and boarding a visitor-packed boat (a.k.a the Maid of the Mist) is pretty much the definition of a touristy activity, but the chance to come so close to the gushing waters and powerful spray make it all worth it.
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3. Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is a magnificent white marble mausoleum, located on the right bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife. Renowned for its arches, domes, relief work, and precious stone inlay, it’s considered the greatest achievement in Indo-Islamic architecture.
4. Alcatraz Island
Few places are steeped in legend and lore quite like Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay. The infamous federal penitentiary that operated from 1934 to 1963 once imprisoned America’s most notorious criminals, including Al Capone, James “Whitey” Bulger, and Robert Franklin Stroud (better known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz”). “The Rock” has been the subject of countless books and films.
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5. Eiffel Tower
Paris isn’t lacking when it comes to romance, gastronomic delights, or recognizable sites. Even with all this, the Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars continues to captivate. Almost seven million visitors flock to this beloved landmark each year, making it one of the most popular cultural attractions on the planet.
6. Statue of Liberty
A gift of friendship from the people France to the United States on Oct. 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty, which has stood proudly in New York Harbor for 132 years, is an enduring emblem of freedom and democracy. Fun fact: The colossal neoclassical sculpture was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel—yes, the man behind the Eiffel Tower.
Stonehenge is the most famous prehistoric monument in England, if not the world, and yet it remains shrouded in mystery. Both its origins and use have puzzled archaeologists for centuries. Whether you believe it was a burial ground or ritual sacrifice site, you’ve got to admit the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of your Neolithic ancestors is too cool to pass up.
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8. Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is among Iceland’s top attractions—and it’s easy to see why. The sparkling turquoise pool is filled with nine million litres of warm, geothermal seawater and surrounded by volcanic lava fields. To say it’s Instagram gold is an understatement. As if its aesthetics weren’t enough, its silica-rich water and mud abound with beauty-boosting benefits.
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9. Christ the Redeemer
A cultural icon of Brazil and a symbol of Christianity across the globe, this striking Art Deco statue stands 125 feet tall with arms stretched wide open and watches over Rio de Janeiro from the peak of the 2,300-foot Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest. Keep in mind it’s a tourist magnet.
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10. Angkor Wat
Originally built as a Hindu place of worship for the god Vishnu, this massive temple complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia is the largest religious monument in the world. Just how big is it? Well, Angkor Wat is the size of an entire city!
11. Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications that sprawls 21,000 kilometres along the historical borders of northern China. Construction began in the third century B.C. under the direction of Emperor Qin Shi Huang and took more than a millennium to build. Today, this man-made masterpiece shines as an extraordinary example of ancient defensive architecture.
Consecrated in 1919, Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, commonly called Sacré-Cœur, is Roman Catholic church perched atop the hill of Montmartre. Trek the 300 spiraling stairs to the dome for spellbinding panoramas of Paris. After visiting the basilica, enjoy a picnic in the adjacent park, while listening to local musicians perform.
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13. Grand Canyon
This Natural Wonder of the World is a destination in its own right. Formed by erosion from the Colorado River over millions of years, the 395-kilometre-long Grand Canyon impresses with its immense size, layered red rocks, and once-in-a-lifetime views. The South Rim lures the majority of tourists. And while it’s not to be missed, neither are the less-frequented trails along the North Rim.
Originally published as 13 Tourist Traps Around the World That Are Actually Worth Visiting on ReadersDigest.com.