The world's most underrated & overrated sights

UNDERRATED

NINGALOO REEF

The best thing about Ningaloo Reef is that getting there can be a little tricky. If it were easier to reach, this magnificent 260-kilometre-long reef off the Western Australian coast would be as flooded with tourists as the Great Barrier Reef. As it is, visitors who make the journey via Perth to Learmonth Airport near Exmouth find a delightfully uncrowded destination. There is something magical about a place where you can stroll down to a deserted beach in the morning, slip on your flippers and within minutes be drifting over astonishingly coloured coral forests. The shoreline of the lovely Cape Range National Park is scalloped with secluded beaches, and also features dramatic gorges to explore. The headline attraction, of course, is the mighty whale sharks, which visit between March and September each year, but an encounter with one of the area's manta rays or turtles is just as memorable. See visitningaloo.com.auUJ

LADAKH

Recalibrate your concept of India by exploring the bluebird skies and Buddhist culture of Ladakh, a sparsely populated region tucked into the Himalayas. This high-altitude desert, known as Little Tibet, is best explored in summer when locals ingeniously channel meltwater into fields to miraculously conjure crops from the seemingly inhospitable earth. Intrepid types can strike out on a trek or look for the elusive snow leopard. See incredibleindia.org or shaktihimalaya.comKL

AUSTRIA'S COUNTRYSIDE

A recent meander through the rolling farmland of upper Austria was a salutary reminder that this country isn't all about Vienna, Salzburg and skiing. Rural Austria provides stunning pastoral calendar scenes of happy cows, mountain peaks, tidy villages and alpine lakes. The Danube drifts through a World Heritage valley, and Burgenland and Styria are striped with vineyards. Take time for hiking, biking and driving tourist routes, and you won't regret it. See austria.info/auBJ

FLINDERS RANGES

Walking through South Australia's Flinders Ranges is like stepping into a delicate watercolour by Albert Namatjira. There is a timeless and haunting beauty about this ancient landscape of dirt, scrub and eroded mountains that dates back 650 million years - some of the world's oldest fossils have been found here. The Flinders offers an authentic taste of the outback minus the campervans and tourist buses. Despite its isolation (Adelaide is about six hours away by car) the region offers plenty of accommodation options, including basic camping at Wilpena Pound, luxury eco-lodges at Rawnsley Park and upmarket suites at Arkaba Homestead; guests can also join a walking safari, 4WD adventure or wildlife spotting tour at the station turned conservation park. For something more laidback consider the Prairie Hotel, an old school Aussie pub which now serves wholesome country fare (don't leave without trying its Feral Mixed Grill), chilled beer and plenty of improbable yarns in the front bar. The surrounding desert has long been a popular location for moviemakers - previous hotel guests include Kate Winslet, Harvey Keitel and Phillip Noyce. Whether you want to commune with nature, tackle a mountain bike trail or just gaze up at the starts, there is nowhere better to do it than the Flinders. See southaustralia.comMC

EMILIA-ROMAGNA, ITALY

Though wedged between Tuscany and Venice, this region of northern Italy is strangely overlooked. If you're searching for a slower, more authentic, friendlier Italy, then here it still is in lovely minor cities such as Parma, Ferrara and Modena, whose modest size belies their historical importance and cultural attractions. The region is also the birthplace of Ferrari, Parmesan cheese, Parma ham, tortellini and other classic Italian goodies. Too yummy to miss. See emiliaromagnaturismo.itBJ

SARDINIA

The favoured playground for Europe's rich and famous - the sort of place you can easily find a berth for your superyacht, should you so desire - Sardinia has long flown under the radar for Australian travellers. However, this gorgeous and fiercely independent Mediterranean island not only has supermodel good looks on its side, but great cuisine, affordable accommodation and a host of charming coastal and rural towns, and deserves to be far more popular. sardegnaturismo.it/en BG

NORTH SOMERSET

Looking for an alternative to over-priced Cornwall? A little further up the Bristol Channel this much-neglected part of the West Country offers oodles of rural charm, thatched cottages, country pubs and grand manor houses. There are plenty of B&Bs and farm cottages available for rent. Coleridge Way, an 82-kilometre walking trail named after the poet, provides a delightful introduction to North Somerset, Exmoor and the Quantock Hills, linking the villages of Nether Stowey and Porlock, and continuing to Lynmouth. See visit-exmoor.co.uk or porlock.co.ukMC

FRASER'S HILL

Just two hours' drive from Kuala Lumpur, Bukit Fraser is surely one of the most unlikely travel destinations in Asia. With its cream teas, toby jugs and mock-Tudor bungalows, this colonial hill station would look more at home in an episode of Midsomer Murders than on a travel itinerary of Malaysia. This forgotten outpost of the Empire still attracts ornithologists and keen golfers but hardly anyone else - a laborious bus service keeps most visitors away. See fraserhill.infoMC

YORKE PENINSULA

First settled by Cornish miners in the 1850s, this sparsely populated farming district has all the components for a great Aussie getaway: good camping, native wildlife and plenty of outdoor adventure. The peninsula has long been a favourite holiday haunt for Adelaideans, but most interstate visitors drive right past en route to Port Lincoln. But if appreciate solitude, big skies, surf beaches and traffic-free roads, make the short trek to Little Cornwall. See visityorkepeninsula.com.auMC

NORTHERN ENGLAND

Everyone is familiar with the attractions of southern England, with London, Oxford and Bath, with the beaches of Cornwall and the hamlets of Surry. But what about the north? You'll find much of England's national parkland in the north, as well as exciting cities such as Manchester, York and Newcastle, plus countless major historical sites. There's also no denying that things are different up there - people are friendlier, accents are stronger, and pubs are better. See visitbritain.comBG

CRESTED BUTTE, US

Colorado has a decade's worth of fabulous ski resorts to explore, with Aspen, Vail and Telluride leading the pack. But Crested Butte has a quirky, off-beat appeal - it was once a former mining town, now full of buzzing bars and eateries - combined with outstanding powder snow and enough variety to keep skiers of any prowess happy. At the top level, it offers some of the world's most adrenaline-pumping in-bounds runs. See skicb.comBJ

GALLERIA BORGHESE, ROME

So many of Rome's attractions are perennially packed shoulder to shoulder with tourists, which makes it a welcome relief to discover that visitor numbers to the Galleria Borghese - one of city's best art galleries - are strictly capped. You'll need to book in advance to access this 16th-century villa, which houses much of the magnificent Borghese art collection, including several Bernini sculptures, Roman-era mosaics, and spectacular frescoes. See galleriaborghese.itBG

OVERRATED

DRACULA'S CASTLE

Transylvania: the name alone sends shivers up your spine, conjuring up images of a land of dark forests, vampires and werewolves. Many visitors are therefore surprised when they arrive in this Romanian region and find it is actually a scenic spot of pretty towns surrounded by verdant hills. Only a trip to the castle of the "real life Dracula" - a bloodthirsty ruler known as Vlad the Impaler, thanks to his habit of impaling his prisoners on stakes - promises an opportunity to get your gore on. Spoiler alert: you will be disappointed. The only gore on show here is found on the tacky souvenir stands which line the path leading to the castle. The castle itself has nothing to do with Vlad the Impaler, who never even set foot there. There are no gruesome relics, no gory tales to tell: just a rather tedious exhibition devoted to Romanian royals. Consider yourself warned. See bran-castle.comUJ

LITTLE MERMAID, COPENHAGEN

The Little Mermaid bronze celebrates fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen's most famous story about a mermaid who becomes human when she falls in love with a prince; the royal palace, by the way, is just along the waterfront. The famous figure isn't just surprisingly small and drab but looks rather lonely, and squats on a rock that is barely water-bound. No surprise, then, that the Mermaid is a prime target for scrambling selfie-collectors and silly tour-group photos. She's also a notable target for Danish vandals, protestors and political activists; she has twice lost her head, and twice been draped in a burqa. Still, in spite of all the bemusing hype, the Little Mermaid brings smiles to the faces of her many onlookers. What's not to like? The sea smells salty, seagulls hover, and we'd all like to believe in perky mermaids this alluring. Besides, the bronze sits on one of Copenhagen's many exhilarating waterfronts. Walk or pedal south along the promenade, perhaps with sea breezes at your back helping you along, and you can take in Amalienborg, the baroque-era residence of the royal family. Almost directly across the water is the startling Danish Opera House. See visitcopenhagen.comBJ

THE EVERGLADES

It's a long and pretty boring drive from Miami to the Everglades, Florida's answer to the Daintree. No amount of American gee-whiz enthusiasm can disguise the fact the Everglades is a dud. Sure, the airboats are fun and make a nice swishing noise but the alligators are mostly comatose and landscape is, well, repetitive. This natural wonder reveals little to the daytripper from South Beach apart from gators, gators and more gators. See nps.gov/ever/MC

SYDNEY FISH MARKET

Ask any first-time visitor to Sydney to name their favourite experience and the Pyrmont fish market is bound to raise its odorous head. What exactly is the attraction of standing around in draughty shed watching a bored man in white gumboots cut up a fish? The current site is a eyesore with ugly '70s buildings, antiquated drains, overcrowded public spaces and sweeping views of a concrete storage facility. It needs to be gutted. See sydneyfishmarket.com.auMC

MACHU PICCHU

Yep, it's stunning. But what's not mentioned is that even on the first bus of the day from your hotel at nearby Aguas Calientes, you'll be elbowing your way past crowds desperate to avoid the crowds. Later, travellers in high heels following guides with flags will risk life all around you for the perfect selfie. And bring a book for the queue for the bus ride back out again. There's as much wonder in the next valley over. CT

CHAMPS ELYSEE, PARIS

Ah, the beautiful Champs Elysee, where you can eat at McDonalds, grab an ???8 coffee from a street-side cafe, and then go shopping at H&M. Sigh. Paris' main street might once have been charming, but these days it's overly expensive and overrun with international chain stores. You're far better off going to some of the city's quieter, more authentic locales. BG

THE INCA TRAIL

It's not that the Inca Trail isn't good - it's spectacular. It's just that it's so popular it dissuades visitors to the Peruvian Andes from exploring any of the area's myriad alternatives, pathways such as the Salkantay Trail and the Choquequirao Trek that were cut by the Incas through some of the world's most amazing scenery. Both are far more peaceful and visually impressive treks than the Inca Trail. BG

Gippsland Senior
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