Is Stonehenge overrated? Book offers options

Is Stonehenge overrated? Too many people at Machu Picchu? And what about the crowds at the Grand Canyon?

Is Stonehenge overrated? Too many people at Machu Picchu? And what about the crowds at the Grand Canyon?

A new book, Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives says some of the world’s most famous destinations are over-visited, overpriced and overrated.

But for every place it smacks down, the book suggests alternatives that provide comparable if lesser-known experiences.

The book’s entry on the Great Pyramids of Giza complains that “Cairo’s urban sprawl has seen houses and fast-food chains expand to the very edge of the ancient site, where an unbroken procession of tour buses spill out their charges.” Some of the alternatives — like the Pyramids of Meroe in Sudan, 230 kilometres from Khartoum — are not necessarily more appealing to the average traveller, simply because they are harder to reach, but others, like the Pyramid of Cestius, in Rome, are worth considering.

As an alternative to Stonehenge, the book suggests other ancient stone circles like Avebury, 135 kilometres from London, as well as places in Sweden and Germany. For alternatives to Petra, the ancient city carved from red sandstone in Jordan, the book recommends not just the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia, but also the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and the rock pueblos of Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.

Whether you’d honestly consider beaches in Perth, Australia, and the Outer Hebrides as realistic alternatives to Miami Beach or Cape Cod probably depends on where you live and how many flyer miles you feel like using up. But ideas from Off the Tourist Trail are thought-provoking: Isla del Sol on the border of Bolivia and Peru rather than Machu Picchu; Iguazu Falls in Argentina and Brazil instead of Niagara; Tikal, the ancient Mayan step pyramids of Guatemala, instead of Mexico’s Chichen Itza; and Bryce Canyon, Utah, instead of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

The book, a US$40 hardcover from DK Eyewitness Travel, has separate sections on cities, ruins, natural wonders, festivals, great journeys, architectural marvels, beaches, sports and activities, and arts and culture.

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