Sometimes it pays to be unimaginative. Sometimes the cliches really are the best. Sometimes you have to sit back and look at something – a place, an attraction, a restaurant, a bar – and acknowledge that it's incredibly famous and annoyingly popular for a reason: it's really, really good.
There's an increasing, and understandable, tendency among experienced travellers to avoid popular places, to eschew the tourist crush and forge your own path. But there is a case to be made, sometimes, for embracing tourist hotspots. Travel doesn't always have to be a competition to find new things, to beat paths untracked. Sometimes the big, dumb, popular experiences are the most memorable.
Some of the world's finest attractions are so popular that they could justifiably fall into the category of "tourist trap". Yes, you'll have to share these places with millions of other people. You'll be badgered by touts. You'll be poked in the face with selfie sticks.
But you'll also stand in awe at the base of the majestic Taj Mahal. You'll gaze up in wonder at the forest-canopy ceiling of La Sagrada Familia. You'll be overwhelmed by the neon wonderland that is the Las Vegas Strip. You'll stare at the world's most famous art in the Louvre.
Are these experiences original? No. Are they relaxing? Not really. Are they touristy? Yes. But they're good. And sometimes, they have to be done.
THE STRIP, LAS VEGAS
WHY IT'S TOURISTY The casinos of Las Vegas are built almost entirely for the tourist trade, and there's no place with more of these colossal temples to devil-may-care hedonism than The Strip.
WHY YOU SHOULD STILL VISIT The Vegas Strip is either the best place in the world, or the worst, depending on the sort of day you're having. Still, you can't deny the attraction of this buzzing, flashing, chiming, humming place, where everyone is in party mode, and where the feeling of excess threatens to sweep you away.
BEAT THE CROWDS You can get up early and walk the Strip alone, but that's not really the point – this place should be seen in full party mode. For a break, however, visit Fremont Street in Vegas' more intimate downtown area.
THE SHOPPING MALL
THE GRAND BAZAAR, ISTANBUL
WHY IT'S TOURISTY According to some calculations, this is the most visited tourist attraction in the world, with more than 90 million visitors pouring into Istanbul's ancient marketplace every year.
WHY YOU SHOULD STILL VISIT This amazing warren of 61 covered, shop-lined streets is history in motion, an area that has been in use for the same purpose since 1455. Even if you don't plan to buy anything at the Grand Bazaar – though surely the ceramics, the lanterns, the carpets, the copperware or the jewellery will tempt you – this is a wondrous place to stroll and soak in.
BEAT THE CROWDS Early mornings are always best for beating the crowds in the bazaar, and try to avoid days when there are a lot of cruise ships in port.
THE THEME PARK
DISNEY RESORTS WORLDWIDE
WHY IT'S TOURISTY Disney's vast series of theme parks is a tourist-gobbling behemoth, with more than 120 million visitors each year streaming into the company's locations across the US, Asia and Europe.
WHY YOU SHOULD STILL VISIT Got kids? Take them to Disneyland in LA. Or Disney Park in France. Or Hong Kong Disney. Or the Epcot Center. Or Disney's Animal Kingdom. This is a company that knows how to do cheesy, happy, family-friendly good times extremely well.
BEAT THE CROWDS You may not beat the crowds, but you can skip the queues at most Disney properties with a Fastpass, which allows visitors to reserve access to attractions and entertainment in advance.
MORE Disney theme parks are located worldwide, and are open year-round. See disneyholidays.com
THE ANCIENT RUIN
THE COLOSSEUM, ROME
WHY IT'S TOURISTY There are few landmarks more recognisable than Rome's Colosseum. Visitors flock in their millions to see this almost 2000-year-old venue of gladiatorial battles, executions and dramatic re-enactments.
WHY YOU SHOULD STILL VISIT The Colosseum is incredible, in the truest sense of the word. How was this thing built? How has it survived? It's also a work of architectural beauty, as well as being one of the world's most important historic relics. You can live and breathe Roman history when you set foot in the Colosseum.
BEAT THE CROWDS Take a guided tour of the Colosseum after dark (tickitaly.com), when the temperatures have cooled and the crowds have disappeared. Alternatively, visit Roman amphitheatres in Pula, Croatia, or El Djem in Tunisia.
LA SAGRADA FAMILIA, BARCELONA
WHY IT'S TOURISTY Every visitor to Barcelona – and there's a lot of them – wants to see Antoni Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece, the spectacular Sagrada Familia. You'll have to share an experience here with tens of thousands of others.
WHY YOU SHOULD STILL VISIT This might just be the pinnacle of architectural achievement, and it's not even finished. Gaudi poured so many inspired ideas into the design of this church, with its 18 towers, its three separate facades, its forest-like interior and its colourful, playful lighting. There's nothing else like it in the world.
BEAT THE CROWDS Book ahead – book online. That way you'll skip the long queues waiting for tickets and walk straight in. Also, try to visit early in the morning. It opens at 9am daily.
KATZ'S DELICATESSEN, NEW YORK
WHY IT'S TOURISTY You know that famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, when Meg Ryan is really enjoying her meal? That was shot in Katz's Deli, New York. The famous sandwich shop has featured in several more films and is well known to tourists and locals alike.
WHY YOU SHOULD STILL VISIT The food is really, really good. Katz's famous pastrami on rye is a whopping hunk of meaty deliciousness – one of New York's, if not America's, best sandwiches. In fact, the deli's full range of kosher treats is almost uniformly excellent. It's even worth navigating the infamous ticketed ordering system to get your hands on.
BEAT THE CROWDS Try to visit in the middle of the afternoon on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday to experience Katz's at its least manic.
THE LOUVRE, PARIS
WHY IT'S SO TOURISTY The Mona Lisa,Venus de Milo. Works by Michelangelo and Botticelli, by Egyptian masters and Greek legends. All of these are housed in Paris' famous Louvre, and more than 10 million people call in annually to see them. Given the museum is closed every Tuesday, that's more than 30,000 visitors a day.
WHY YOU SHOULD STILL VISIT Even if you decide to skip the Louvre's most famous works, you will still be dazzled by one of the finest collections of art in the world, from all points in history and all points of the compass. You could spend days in the Louvre and still not see everything.
BEAT THE CROWDS Do not, whatever you do, visit on the first Saturday of the month when entry is free and the crowds are insane. Best strategy is to book online; admission without pre-booked tickets is not guaranteed. If you want to risk it, arrive early and try to be one of the first in at 9am, or visit on Wednesday or Friday evening until 9.45pm, when the museum stays open late and everyone else is off having dinner. You can see how busy the museum is by downloading an app called Affluences.
THE NATIONAL ICON
THE TAJ MAHAL, AGRA
WHY IT'S SO TOURISTY This is probably the world's most famous monument to love, the mausoleum for Mumtaz Mahal, favourite wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It's incredibly beautiful and also incredibly popular, with more than 8 million visitors annually.
WHY YOU SHOULD STILL VISIT All of the photos and all of the stories you may have seen or heard about the Taj Mahal still won't prepare you for its life-affirming beauty. This really is a spectacular building, surrounded by gardens, fountains and ponds that accentuate its loveliness. Everyone should see it.
BEAT THE CROWDS You have to get in early. The grounds open 30 minutes before sunrise, and you want to make sure you're one of the first through the gate. The dawn photos will be spectacular. Alternatively, take a boat ride on the river that runs behind the Taj, the Yamuna, for excellent tourist-free views.
MORE Air India flies direct from Sydney to Delhi, with train transfers to Agra. The Taj Mahal is closed Fridays and open every other day from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes before sunset. See airindia.in; irctc.co.in; tajmahal.gov.in
THE TRAIN RIDE
THE ROCKY MOUNTAINEER, CANADA
Photo: Rocky Mountaineer
WHY IT'S TOURISTY This is no commuter train. No one is enjoying fine-dining meals and sitting under a panoramic glass ceiling as they make their way to work. The Rocky Mountaineer is a train and a journey set up purely for tourists – but that doesn't make it any less spectacular.
WHY YOU SHOULD STILL DO IT The journey from Vancouver in British Columbia to Jasper or Banff in Alberta is one that takes you through some of the most beautiful alpine scenery in the world, travelling high through the pristine Rocky Mountains, where you can spot bears, or gaze at lakes, or contemplate your next five-star meal.
BEAT THE CROWDS Numbers are capped on the train, so you never have to worry too much about crowds. Of course, travelling low season (April or October) could increase the likelihood of extra space on board.
See also: The world's 20 greatest train journeys
PASTEIS DE BELEM, PORTUGAL
Photo: Getty Images
WHY IT'S TOURISTY If you travel to Portugal, you want to eat pasteis de nata, or Portuguese tarts. And so it makes sense to go to the source, to the bakery-cafe that first popularised this legendary sweet treat: Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon.
WHY YOU SHOULD STILL VISIT It's rare that such a famous place lives up to the hype, but Pasteis de Belem does just that. The Portuguese tarts here are out of this world. They're slightly blackened and caramelised on top, with an eggy, sweet filling resting in a cup of wafer-thin, shatter-crisp layers of fresh pastry. There's no point just ordering one – you'll want at least three to yourself.
BEAT THE CROWDS Arrive early. Doors open at 8am daily and you want to be there soon after. Alternatively, the shop is open until 11pm for late-night sweets. It's also worth trying the excellent pasteis at Manteigaria, also in Lisbon.
WAY TOO TOURISTY: EIGHT PLACES TO AVOID
TIMES SQUARE, NYC
This is one of the most visited tourist "attractions" in the world, an oblong – not even a square! – patronised by some 50 million gawkers a year. And what do they come for? Big screens with bright lights? Giant billboards? Overpriced restaurants? Sounds amazing.
PIAZZA SAN MARCO, VENICE
Venice's largest and most famous square would be truly lovely without all the people. As it stands, however, this is an extremely popular location, and it's far better to swerve it in favour of some of the island city's lesser-known attractions.
LITTLE MERMAID, COPENHAGEN
The name should be considered fair warning. Copenhagen's Little Mermaid statue really is small, and it's set in a pretty uninspiring location, and its worldwide fame still seems fairly baffling to many of those who go to see it.
AVENUE OF THE STARS, HONG KONG
If you think the Hollywood Walk of Fame is tacky – and, spoiler alert, we do – then how about a knock-off version of it in Hong Kong? The city's Avenue of the Stars honours the big names in local show business and doesn't have a lot to offer foreign visitors.
Like Piazza San Marco, Stonehenge would be great – except in this case, its popularity has forced authorities to hold tourists miles back from the formation itself, meaning your brush with this fascinating site will probably be best done with the help of binoculars.
MADAME TUSSAUDS. EVERYWHERE
You'll find outlets of the world's most famous wax model museum spread throughout Europe, Asia, North America and even Australia. The question is why you would want to give up your precious time in any of those locations to look at wax models of celebrities.
MANNEKEN PIS, BRUSSELS
OK, here's the deal: there's a small statue of a little boy and he's doing a pee. Sound like a sight you should build your day around? Of course not. And yet Brussels' Manneken Pis is so famous that people seem to think they should.
HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME, LOS ANGELES
You might be impressed with famous faces, but how about just famous names? That's all you'll find: words printed on the ground. And this part of Los Angeles is pretty unattractive. Still, that doesn't stop people from visiting.
PLACES TO AVOID THE TOURIST HORDES
ANNUAL VISITORS: 2.8 MILLION
Despite the rugged beauty of its mountain landscapes; despite its wide array of outdoor activities; despite its ancient churches and monasteries and its medieval towns; despite its thriving cities; despite its relative affordability – still, few tourists seem to make it to Romania. We're talking 2.8 million a year, compared to France's 89 million. Get there now. See romania.travel
ANNUAL VISITORS: 4.8 MILLION
This is a little-known country on the rise, a place of stunning landscapes and a rich history. Georgia, deep in the Caucasus, is home to one of the world's oldest wine cultures, to a thriving food scene, to verdant valleys and towering mountains, and to local traditions that are easy to tap into in an organic, genuine way, thanks to the lack of many other travellers to share the experience. See visitgeorgia.ge
ANNUAL VISITORS: 2.3 MILLION
Poor Sri Lanka. A year ago you would have quoted this country as one of world tourism's great success stories – and then the Easter bombings happened. Sri Lanka's monthly visitor numbers went from almost 250,000 in March this year to 40,000 in May. The country is recovering, but it's a long, slow road. For travellers seeking a welcoming destination with few other visitors, you could do far worse than this amazing island. See srilanka.travel
ANNUAL VISITORS: 529,000
You want peace and quiet? Mongolia has a population density of 1.9 people per square kilometre. Even Australia has a comparatively whopping three. And half of Mongolia's population lives in one city. This is a land of wide open spaces, where to depart Ulaanbaatar is to depart the known world, to see nomadic families roaming broad, treeless plains, and to enjoy rich cultural experiences with not a single other tourist around. See visitmongolia.com
ANNUAL VISITORS: 489,000
Belize packs a serious punch for such a modestly sized and awkwardly positioned country. Here you can explore Central American jungles or hang out on Caribbean beaches. You can scuba dive the world's second-largest barrier reef or check out ancient Mayan ruins. And you can do all of this without feeling like you're in a total tourist trap. See belizetourismboard.org