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Landmarks: are they really a must-see?

March 21, 2010

India, Taj Mahal at sunset. Photo by National Geographic

The question might sound provocative, I know. But over the years I’ve been increasingly asking myself what is really worth to be visited and what not. I guess the question mark started arising because year after year I began to realize how many amazing places and monuments I still haven’t seen.  And since life won’t be long enough, I know that I have to choose.

I live in Italy, probably the country that has the highest amount of landmarks. I’m amazed by seeing so many places greatly harmed and having lost a great part of their nature and characteristics. I think at Venice, full of made in China or Taiwan horrible souvenirs, at the countryside around Siena that long ago became known as the ‘Chiantishire’, at Rome and the ridiculous people dressed as Roman gladiators to please tourists willing to go back home with an ‘original’ photo.

Rome, Coliseum. Photo by Simon

Obviously this happens almost everywhere. When I visited Mexico I remember the planning to avoid the buses letting off hundreds of tourists shouting and waving. The only way to find a little peace to enjoy the archaeological sites as Tehotihuacan or Palenque was getting up before dawn or arriving at noon, when the sun (and the heat) is at its peak!I’m not quite sure landmarks are a priority any more. I’ve never visited the Taj Mahal in India, the Great Wall in China, Abu Simbel temples in Egypt and lots of other historical places considered a ‘must’ by most people.

Iceland, Westmann Islands. Photo http://www.icelandictravelmarket.is/

Maybe I’m just becoming old, but I tend to avoid historical landmarks more and more. I’m increasingly attracted by the nature and its wonders. I feel far more attracted by the volcanoes in Iceland, the wilderness in Canada, the amazing landscapes in Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. Coming back to Italy and its countless landmarks and wonders… True, Dolomites have been recently declared a natural heritage of the UNESCO. But if you like to walk just a little, you can admire and enjoy the mountains in all their beauty, in silence and solitude.

I’d love to know your view!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2010 11:25 pm

    it helps if you visit these landmarks off peak. if it is during the local holiday seasons, man.. the taj mahal or the GWC can really get stiflingly packed. I don’t like it much either when it is full of people. What you say it true, choosing the less ‘famous’ landmarks are so much better because you can really take your time to appreciate the beauty without the mad, jostling crowd to annoy you! great post my dear:)

  2. March 22, 2010 8:50 am

    Very provocative question Simon, quite impossible not to leave a reply.

    Actually many times I was disappointed visiting landmarks fully crowded with tourists from all over the world, tourists exactly like I was.

    Additionally I live close to a small town characterized by a well know landmark and when I need to be in town, I’m used to skip that monument area to avoid “shouting and waiving tourists” and the replicated small business activity associated with that.
    On the other hand it happen to me sometime to be in that area by chance during “tourists free” period (just few months a year to be honest) or at night when the lights give a different look to white marble monuments over the green grass and suddenly the landmark stands out without any compromise, providing the feeling it was built for.

    So my guess, is landmarks are worth a visit, just need to find the right time!
    Marco

  3. March 23, 2010 10:55 am

    Yes, good point Simon. Never ending question, huh? 🙂

    I think ‘the spots’ are worth to visit for just once, or checking what is this all fuzz about. if you like there too, good for you.
    Sometimes this spot, for example the great wall really suprised me. But I remember more clear about beautiful big snowflake in Iwhawon, or most delicious lamb on a stick.
    I know there’s no ‘right’ way of travel, but for me, more intimate places gave me more joys.

    It is totally up to indivisualm but yes. at the end of the travel, all I remember very clearly are those intimate moments.

    Great post. again, 🙂

    Juno.

  4. March 23, 2010 12:05 pm

    For me landmarks have been hit or miss. Sometimes (like the Taj) they amaze me and exceed my expectations while others fall well below. The only way to find out is to stop by I suppose, although I’m not the type of person that must see each one when I arrive in a new city.

  5. March 23, 2010 11:34 pm

    Simone,
    I cant imagine a trip without the landmarks. They are what we have seen on TV, in the movies and on the pages of travel magazines. They are what make us initially want to visit the destinaton and what our dreams are made of. They are familiar to us in some strange way. So much can be learned from visitng them, that’s the reason they are landmarks. That said, no one dreams of the crowds. I visit the landmarks and the natural wonders, plan well and allow time for the beauty of the destination. This way all my travel dreams are satisfied.

  6. Rosie permalink
    March 24, 2010 5:05 pm

    I think its all a personal thing. Personally I visit places like the Taj & Abu Simbel off season. As i have grown older I much prefer to be away from crowds & these days prefer to visit the smaller places not mentioned in guide books. I went to a toen not so far away from where I live. Lonely Planet & Rough Guide both say it is a must miss place! Just pass through… I found some amazing monuments untarnished by time & crowds. Wonderful…..

  7. JennaFrancisco permalink
    April 1, 2010 7:57 pm

    I was just thinking about the same thing and started writing on a very similar topic. As a student of art history, there were many places that I felt I just had to visit because we studied them in school and I felt fascinated by certain ones (Hagia Sophia, the Alhambra, etc.). I think we have to pick and choose and know that any landmark will be full of tourists and locals selling stuff.
    I had a strong experience with that when I visited Borobudur. I had always wanted to go there, but it was FULL of people!! So crowded and noisy that I just wanted to leave after about 30 minutes. 😦 The same with Christ the Redeemer in Rio. I remember the small art galleries in Rio much more fondly than visiting the more famous landmarks.
    With the planet being as beautiful as it is, there are so many less known and much more peaceful places to explore, especially those of natural beauty.

  8. April 7, 2010 12:35 am

    Interesting question. I’ve had my share of disappointing visits to crowded landmarks. But, then, I’ve also basked in the glorious beauty of others caught in an uncrowded moment. Like you, I’m drawn more and more to nature’s wonders before they disappear. I’m a quirky traveler anyway as I like off-the-beaten path locations. Maybe that attitude has come as I’ve checked off my travel list some of the important world landmarks and I’m ready to explore on a deeper level.

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