Travel agencies make a living by selling a terrible lie. The most famous landmarks around the world look completely different once you zoom out a bit further. And the sight is never pleasant!
From tourists that invade the place like locusts, to the fields of garbage photographers always need to crop out, the conclusion is only one. You’d better stay home and settle with those glossy wallpapers. The reality is disappointing!
1. The Little Mermaid
It is quite clear that most landmarks look better in some photos than in reality.
That is also the case of the Little Mermaid, the most famous sculpture of Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s enough to the see the second shot to understand that this is what you should expect from your visit to the Danish capital.
We are not exactly sure why the statue is so famous, but we can bet it has a lot to do with the fact that punks vandalized it multiple times in over one century of existence. Only the head alone “fell” several types and they even used explosives to knock down the statue altogether.
Nevertheless, Danish authorities are consequently doing restoration work, and the monument endures the trauma quite well. Expect a lot of people in the frame if you go to see the Little Mermaid and forget about taking idyllic shots like the one above.
Go to the next page if you want to see another disappointing landmark.
2. L’Arc de Triomphe
The French capital attracts millions of tourists each year, yet many of its first category objectives end up disappointing.
Take for example the Arc de Triomphe. You might look at the first image and expect an epiphany while striding under the arc.
Well, we have to tell you that the Arc sits at an intersection of many major arteries, making it one of the most crowded and polluted places in whole Paris. Taking a shot of the Arc like the attached one requires you to put some extra effort in concealing the surrounding buildings and the unstoppable flux of cars.
Seen from above, the Arc de Triomphe is particularly interesting for those obsessed about urban planning. The way streets meet in a big roundabout is a story of abuse and many demolished historic buildings.
Are you a fan of art? The next masterpiece attracting millions of tourists doesn’t look well when you zoom out!
3. Mona Lisa
We all know Mona Lisa from photos, but a visit to the Louvre might add a layer of disappointment and frustration.
The first photo is the result of using zoom lenses, and many people tend to believe that the picture is big enough to observe details. Move your eyes below, for a more realistic image of the whole “visiting the Mona Lisa” experience.
A room full of people will never let you truly have a quality time of being just meters away from the world’s most famous painting. Secondly, the art piece itself is much smaller than you initially thought and the safe distance will never allow you to get into too many details.
To add to all that an army of people will always be there to annoy you. Taking photos of themselves with the help of selfie sticks, they will make you lose patience fast and co-star in many random selfies.
Idyllic landscapes are traps for tourists. Check out the next place that looks awful once the camera goes for a wider frame!
Santorini might look like a paradise for HDR photography, but don’t expect to obtain those saturated colors without some Photoshop involved.
In fact, you have to zoom and frame your shot for quite a long time to isolate as most white house walls from the less photogenic barren surroundings.
Although most days on the Greek Island are sunny and crystal clear, you will probably never see that blue the way it is in the first photo. Santorini might be magical for those enthusiastic about ancient history and the story of Atlantis but expect more down to earth landscapes.
Don’t let yourself caught in the mirage of unrealistic expectation, elated by the marketing photo used by your local travel agency. Like every popular touristic destination, Santorini has been shaped by the need of locals to earn as much money as possible from visitors.
Check out another reason why it is not worth spending your money on expensive travels to see landmarks.
5. The Hollywood Sign
The Hollywood sign is indeed one of the most widely known landmarks in the world, but gorgeous shots like the one above can be taken only with powerful zoom lenses.
Without that, you will have to settle for a shot in which the rest of Los Angeles steals the foreground.
Yes, isolating the Hollywood sign so good might take good skills as well as having a privileged position. As we know, the letter sign has been copied in many locations around the world, somehow reducing the capacity of the original to produce the expected awe.
Few people know that before achieving its fame, the sign was used to advertise real estate up for sale in that part of the city. The sign is a sight to see, but once you are stuck in the LA traffic hours each day, you will start to hate it.
As you will see next, the wider angle tells a different story.
6. Central Park
The Central Park is one of the most visited urban parks in the world and a major attraction for anyone traveling to New York City.
Stranded in a sea of concrete, steel, and glass, Central Park is an oasis of silence for one of the most crowded cities in the world.
But Central Park acts as a refuge not only for visitors and locals but also for an impressive collection of animals and birds. Finding trees and green spaces is quite a challenge if you hit the streets of Manhattan, and therefore the Central Park poses as the lung of the city.
Putting on display memories of the geological past of the area, it offers a unique glimpse of what can found under the asphalt of New York. We love both the zoom in and the zoom out shots of the Central Park.
The urban context puts the park in the spotlight by creating a vivid contrast.
Click next to see another touristic hot spot that looks better in pictures than in real life.
7. The Forbidden City
Visiting the Forbidden City is an excellent way to know China’s past before it became the Communist Republic.
The imperial palace of the Qing and Ming dynasties is a trip back in time, to another golden era of China. Being home to 24 emperors the Forbidden City lost its imperial role with the abdication of Puyi, the last monarch to rule China.
But going outside the Forbidden City puts you back in modern time, facing some of its most daunting problems. We are afraid to even to Google the population of Beijing, not to mention facing it on a daily commute.
Crowdedness and pollution are a reality outside the Forbidden City, and if you take a shot to include Beijing, you cannot stop to wonder how the island of ancient history survived in an ocean of modernity.
On the next page, things start to look dull once you zoom out a bit.
8. Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore is an iconic place, and every patriotic American has the duty to visit it at least once in a lifetime.
Carved on the slopes of the mountain the faces of the American presidents are clear signs that the founding fathers are there to watch and make sure that democracy and freedom survive the ages.
The zoom in is truly astonishing, as it shows a lot of details of the faces. You can only imagine how much effort was put into this piece of work and how much back and forward was needed before you could call it complete. The overview photo gives an idea of the scale at each the project was taken and also on how it altered the surrounding landscape.
We can also see that there is plenty of space on the mountain for new faces to be added. The only thing we wonder about is who will be worthy enough to be put side by side with the legends.
We have no one worthy of Mount Rushmore running in the 2016 elections.
Are you dying to visit an ancient monument? Curb your enthusiasm! The next zoomed out photo reveals the ugly context.
9. The Acropolis
Zooming in on the Acropolis might take you back in time to the moment Athens achieved its greatest influence on the Ancient World.
The elegance of the shapes and proportions survived as a whole to impose one of the most copied and reproduced styles of architecture. The neo-classicism created many replicas of the Acropolis all around the world.
However, once we zoom out a bit, the context ruins everything. Once a great outpost of arts, science, and politics, Athens is now the capital of a nation which struggles terribly to govern itself. The majestic Acropolis is a bit anachronistic with the economic situation of Greece, a country which came inches close to bankruptcy last year.
Nevertheless, once on the Acropolis, is quite easy to isolate the Parthenon and other ancient structures from their present-day context and take guidebook shots like the one we showed first.
On the next page, we ruin another perfect landmark by showing the zoomed out photo.
10. Niagara Falls
At the border between Canada and United States, the Niagara Falls is one of the most visited landmarks in the world.
Judging by the first photo, you might assume that the waterfall resides in a pristine natural environment. Well, the second photo did the right amount of zoom out to prove you wrong.
The banks of the Niagara Falls are far from being left in their natural state and act as a disappointing. Huge buildings disturbed the landscape and added unnecessary verticality.
But we have to give authorities credit as they managed a good balance between recreational, commercial, and industrial uses of the waterfall’s potential.
Check out how each landmark looks like inside its less glamorous urban context.
11. La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is a mandatory stop while in Barcelona, and it’s easy to understand why.
The cathedral’s flamboyant exterior and interior ornamentation bear the mark of architect Antoni Gaudi. Although far from completion, the monument is impressive through its sheer scale and by the way it is capable of dominating Barcelona’s skyline.
Both shots presented here are great, and we can say that both the zoom in on the details and the zoom out showing the urban context add up to the touristic potential. It’s interesting to know that the construction of La Sagrada Familia relies on public donations to continue, with visiting fees supporting an important part of the total budget.
The best guess is that work on the cathedral will end in 2026. We have to admit that there is nothing sure about that, as groundbreaking took place 134 years ago.
Cross the next landmark off your list! It’s not worth the plane ticket!
12. The Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate is the symbol of the unified Germany and acts as a touristic hotspot for Berlin.
But the first shot gives almost no information about the real context in which the monument resides. Looking at the second photo is enough to understand that in a place like Berlin the high density of buildings spares no one.
Taking a shot in which to see only the Brandenburg Gate is quite hard to do and hundreds of tourists passing by each moment make your mission even more challenging. Although surrounded by other more modern buildings, the Brandenburg Gate emerges as the real focal point of Berlin.
The beginning of the Tiergarten Park appears on the left, marking the primary oxygen source for the city.
Prepare yourself for the next disappointment. Not even the next landmark can escape its lousy context!
Stonehenge is a place straight out of fantasy books, and you can feel the mystery flowing in the air.
No mind can devise a simple explanation why our ancestors put so much effort in carving, transporting, and arranging large blocks of rock.
We are all used with iconic shots of the Stonehenge complex, like the one on the left. Therefore, we fail to acknowledge that the monument sits in the middle of a field. As some point in history, as the land containing Stonehenge switch hands, buildings began to emerge around. That substantially reduced the impact it had on the visitors coming here for the first time.
In 1928, the National Trust purchased the surrounding land to preserve it. The landscape around Stonehenge returned to the state we know today. The biggest transformation was allowing the fields to develop wild chalk grassland vegetation, after decades of agricultural activities in the area.
Don’t let the travel agency fool you with idyllic photos. The next touristic landmark reveals the hidden truth.
14. Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is India’s jewel.
A monument built by one of its Mogul rulers to commemorate a lost wife, it is now a magnet for tourists coming from all corners of the world. The Taj Mahal reigns supreme on the list of attraction India has to offer.
The front view of the monument reveals the four towers, as well as the garden, with the implied Photoshop tuning. Many tourists discover with disappointment that the image promised by their touring agency doesn’t match reality. In a city like Agra, clear blue skies have become a rarity in recent years, mostly due to fine particle pollution.
The shores of the nearby Yamuna River are not exactly the paradise for photography. Pollution is the biggest problem India is confronting at the moment, and it’s enough to change your framing of the shot to view another face of tourism, one no one will ever advertise.
Ready for one more? The list ends by ruining another landmark. Just don’t hate us for giving you a painful reality check!
15. The Great Pyramids
We all know the three pyramid complex at Giza as one of the most enduring monuments human kind was able of producing along the centuries.
Nevertheless, the proximity of the famous landmark is far from being a barren desert where adventures can happen like in Indiana Jones. Giza is a fast growing addition to Cairo and tourism has certainly encouraged many Egyptians to establish their businesses as close as possible to the pyramid complex.
The three pyramids still have a lot of desert around them. However, no one knows how much time it will take for new hotels and other touristic facilities to claim the land.
Zooming too much out often reveals that even the most emblematic landmarks around the world cannot escape the tentacles of urbanization.