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The World’s Best Tourist Attractions That Actually Live Up to the Hype

FOR MANY TRAVELERS, once a place gets hit so much it becomes a “tourist attraction,” it loses much of its attraction. Still, there are some places so epic in scale and uniqueness and cultural relevance that even if they’re blown out with other visitors, you still gotta check them out.

1. Yosemite National Park (California, USA)

Famed for its wildlife, granite rock structures, and sequoia trees wider than cars, Yosemite National Park spans over 700,000 acres in Northern California and contains 13 different campgrounds.
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2. Angel Falls (Canaima National Park, Venezuela)

The world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall at a height of 979 meters, Angel Falls inspired a setting for the Disney animated film Up.
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3. Ha Long Bay (Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam)

Ha Long Bay contains hundreds of limestone islands with thick jungle vegetation. Junks float the bay and offer multi-night accommodation for tourists.
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4. Preikestolen (Forsand, Ryfylke, Norway)

Translated as Preacher’s Pulpit or Pulpit Rock in English, Preikestolen is a steep cliff 604 meters above Lysefjordan. The hike to and from it takes 3-4 hours.
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5. Torres Del Paine National Park (Patagonia, Chile)

Torres Del Paine National Park is home to many of the glaciers, lakes, rivers, and mountains of Chilean Patagonia. The park is visited by 150,000 people a year, 60% of whom are foreigners.
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6. The Alhambra (Granada, Andalusia, Spain)

An inspiration to M.C. Escher, the Alhambra was originally a small fortress until it was converted into a royal palace by the Moors hundreds of years later. The tiles of the Alhambra contain nearly all of the 17 mathematically possible plane symmetry groups.
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7. Everglades National Park (Florida, USA)

Everglades National Park is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States. The park currently protects only the southern 20% of the original Everglades.
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8. Shwedagon Pagoda (Yangon, Burma)

Considered the most sacred Buddhist pagoda by the Burmese, Shwedagon Pagoda contains relics of the past four Buddhas. The gold on the stupa is made of actual gold plates.
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9. Lumpinee Boxing Stadium (Bangkok, Thailand)

Situated near Lumphini Park, Lumpinee Boxing Stadium hosts muay thai competitions every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. Lumpinee champions are widely considered the best of the sport.
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10. Jellyfish Lake (Eil Malk, Palau)

Jellyfish Lake’s tourists are able to snorkel with hundreds of harmless jellyfish, which do not have nematocysts strong enough to harm humans. The lake is currently the only marine lake in Palau open to tourists.
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11. Northern Lights (Northern Norway, Scandinavia)

Seen above the magnetic poles, the aurora are created due to collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter Earth’s atmosphere. Auroral displays peak roughly every 11 years.
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12. Waitomo Glowworm Caves (Waitomo, North Island, New Zealand)

The caves at Waitomo are lit up by a species of glowworm, Arachnocampa luminosa, exclusively found in New Zealand. Boat rides can be arranged that pass directly underneath the glowworms.
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13. Iguazu Falls (Foz do Iguacu, Argentina / Brazil)

Forming a boundary between Brazil and Argentina, Iguazu Falls can be viewed from both (though Brazil has the better lookouts). A boat ride can be arranged that takes visitors right underneath the falls.
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14. Casa Milá (Barcelona, Spain)

Designed by Antoni Gaudí, Casa Milá was built from 1906 to 1912. Gaudí began the sketches for Casa Milá, better known as La Pedrera, in the workshop of the Sagrada Familia.
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15. Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada)

Canada’s oldest national park, Banff comprises 6,641 square kilometers of wilderness in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. The park is most famous for its glaciers, coniferous forests, and glacial lakes.
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16. Petra (Ma’an, Jordan)

Petra, an archaelogical city carved in rock, is Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction. Smithsonian Magazine named Petra one of the “28 Places to See Before You Die.”
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17. Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, USA)

Built from 1933 to 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge is used by 110,000 people daily. According to Frommer’s, it’s the “[most photographed] bridge in the world.”
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18. Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (Bilbao, Spain)

Built of limestone, glass, and titanium, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao cost $89 million to construct. The building itself is frequently considered one of the most important works post-1980 by architecture experts.
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19. Jeita Grotto (Nahr al-Kalb, Lebanon)

Jeita is a limestone cave nearly 9km long. It can only be visited by boat, as an underground river (which provides drinking water to over a million people) runs through the cave.
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20. Angkor Wat (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. Originally intended as a Hindu, and later a Buddhist, temple, it’s oriented to the west, as opposed to most other Khmer temples.
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21. Terracotta Army (Lintong, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, China)

Over 8,000 terracotta soldiers were buried with Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Studies show that eight different face molds were used to form all the soldiers, with additional clay used to give each soldier unique features.
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22. Palace of Versailles (Ile-de-France, France)

The court of Versailles was the seat of political power in France from 1682 to 1789. The gardens of the palace contain 200,000 trees, with 210,000 flowers planted annually.
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23. Perito Moreno Glacier (Santa Cruz, Argentina)

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of Argentine Patagonia’s most popular attractions. The ice formation is 250 square kilometers, and part of the world’s third-largest reserve of fresh water.
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24. Salar de Uyuni (Potosi/Oruro Departments, Bolivia)

The world’s largest salt flat also holds 50-70% of the world’s lithium reserves, which are currently in the process of being extracted.
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25. Serengeti National Park (Mara, Tanzania)

Covering an area of 14,750 square kilometres, Serengeti National Park is most famous for its yearly migration of over 1.5 million wildebeest and 250,000 zebra.
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26. Sơn Đoòng Cave (Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Vietnam)

This is the largest cave in the whole friggin’ world. Not in Vietnam. Not in Asia. The whole world. It also has a huge underground river. As if that weren’t enough reason to visit, organized tours only began in August 2013, making this one of the least spoiled attractions on this list.
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27. Christ the Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Built from concrete and soapstone, Christ the Redeemer is a 30m statue of Jesus Christ that peers over Rio de Janeiro. Situated at the top of Corcovado mountain, the statue’s armspan is 28 meters.
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28. Dead Sea (Jordan Rift Valley)

The Dead Sea, 9.6 times saltier than the ocean, is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. Herod the Great used the sea as a health resort back in the day.
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29. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Washington DC, USA)

The National Museum of Natural History is open 364 days a year and is free to the public. Its collection contains over 126 million specimens and artifacts.
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30. Santorini (Greece)

Though surrounded by water, Santorini contains no rivers and water is scarce. This island in the Aegean Sea is most famous for its cliff towns of white buildings and blue roofs.
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31. Giant’s Causeway (Country Antrim, Northern Ireland)

The most popular tourist attraction in Northern Island, the Giant’s Causeway is the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The tallest columns of the formation are 12 meters high.
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32. Plaza Mayor (Madrid, Spain)

Plaza Mayor is the central plaza of Madrid. In the past, it has been used for public executions, bullfights, markets, and soccer games.
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33. Machu Picchu (Cusco Region, Peru)

A 15th-century Inca site, Machu Picchu was unknown by locals until Hiram Bingham rediscovered the archaelogical site in 1911.
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34. Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba (Cordoba, Spain)

Originally a mosque, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba was later converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral. It’s one of the most famous examples of Moorish architecture in the world.
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35. Sydney Opera House (Sydney, Australia)

The Sydney Opera House hosts over 1,500 events yearly, which are attended by roughly 1.2 million people. Over 7 million people visit the site each year.
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36. Great Barrier Reef (Coral Sea, Queensland, Australia)

Located off the east coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system. Easily visible from above, it helps related businesses generate over $3 billion of revenue yearly.
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37. Milford Sound (South Island, New Zealand)

Considered New Zealand’s most famous tourist attraction, Milford Sound is a fjord that Rudyard Kipling named the “eighth wonder of the world.”
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38. Uluru (Northern Territory, Australia)

Uluru, also known as Ayer’s Rock, is a sandstone formation with a total circumference of 9.4km. The formation appears to change colors at different times of the day and year.
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39. Vatican City (Rome, Italy)

Vatican City is a sovereign state within Rome, which is home to several tourist attractions including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums.
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40. Hitachi Seaside Park (Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan)

Spanning 190 hectares, this public park in Japan has 4.5 million baby blue-eyes flowers, 1 million daffodils, 170 tulip varieties, and a Ferris wheel.
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41. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, USA)

Yellowstone delivers it all — grand landscapes, abundant wildlife viewing, and awesome geothermal activity. And it’s probably the only place where free-range buffalo cause traffic jams.
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42. Park Güell (Barcelona, Spain)

A failed housing development, Park Güell is now a public garden showcasing Gaudi’s, um, interesting architectural taste (the man was not afraid of color and, apparently, hated right angles). Fun fact: A whole bunch of wild parrots live in the park.
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43. The Louvre (Paris, France)

Yes, it’s crowded. Yes, it’s overwhelming. No, you can’t go to Paris and not visit the Louvre. You can’t help but feel you’re experiencing the pinnacle of Western civilization here.
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44. Avenue du Baobab (Menabe Region, Madagascar)

Nowhere on Madagascar is there such a striking concentration of the magnificent and deeply endangered Baobab tree than on the road from Morondava to Belon’i Tsiribihina.
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45. Sagano Bamboo Forest (Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan)

In the touristy yet charming Arashiyama district of Kyoto, several well-known and tidy bamboo groves make for great walking tours or rickshaw rides.
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46. Table Mountain (Cape Town, South Africa)

Always looming, Table Mountain is Cape Town’s signature attraction. Do whatever it takes to get to the summit — cable car, hike, jet pack — to snap an iconic photo of Cape Town.
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47. Tsukiji Fish Market (Tokyo, Japan)

Ever seen a 300lb bluefin tuna quartered on an industrial bandsaw? All that and then some at the world’s largest fish market, where a chaotic scene of buyers, sellers, and brokers haggle over a whole bunch of dead fish.
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48. Canals of Venice (Venice, Italy)

You’ll put up with the sometimes unpleasant smell, occasional flooding, inconsistent garbage collection, rude gondoliers, hordes of tourists, and overpriced everything because the canals of Venice simply cannot be beat. Someday you’ll be able to tell your great-grandkids about the mythical city of Venice and its wondrous canals that long ago slipped back into the sea.
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49. Koyasan (Japan)

The spiritual home of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism, Koyasan is a perfectly preserved town located on a mountaintop outside Osaka that somehow manages to keep out modern Japan. Visitors can stay at Buddhist temples that double as guesthouses.
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50. French Quarter (New Orleans, USA)

Get up early to stroll the streets at daybreak before a fresh beignet at Cafe Du Monde, or stay out late drinking Abitas at Lafitte’s — the French Quarter is an amazing experience 24 hours a day. Just remember: Bourbon Street is one of many, so explore them all.
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51. Okavango Delta (Botswana)

Every year, 11 cubic kilometers (which is to say a lot) of water floods the inland delta, bringing sweet relief to migratory herds across this arid region…and to predators looking for well-hydrated prey.
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52. Blue Lagoon (Grindavík, Iceland)

Less than an hour outside Reykjavík, the Blue Lagoon’s mineral-rich geothermal waters delight bathers and cure psoriasis. Water temperature averages about 100 degrees Fahrenheit after leaving the nearby geothermal plant where it generates clean energy.
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source: matadornetwork

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