There are places out there that are criminally underrated, attractions and destinations that your fellow travellers either haven't discovered or seem to be viewing in the wrong light. On the flipside, there are just as many eternally popular places out there that seem, to the Traveller team at least, to be coasting along on reputation alone, with little heed paid to travellers' actual experience.
Each year, our team casts its eye over the world to look for these anomalies, for the destinations and attractions that the reviewers have got wrong. These are the underrated and overrated we've discovered in the world of travel in 2019.
HAKUBA VALLEY, JAPAN
For many Australians, there's only one Japanese ski resort of note: Niseko. But if you're flying into Tokyo, there's another, more convenient option. Located 270 kilometres north-west of the capital, Hakuba Valley has 10 separate resorts scattered along the spectacular Japanese Alps. Not only is it easier to get to (around 3.5 hours by train and bus), but the region offers a charmingly authentic Japanese ski experience. See hakubavalley.com
FREEMONT EAST, LAS VEGAS
"Downtown" Vegas used to get a bad rap but thanks to a $US350million investment from tech entrepreneur Tony Hsieh, it's now a treasure trove of authentic restaurants and bars. Adjacent to the glitzy Freemont Street Experience, the six-block neighbourhood features historic motels, vintage neon signs and graffitied warehouses. What's conspicuous by its absence, except for a lone casino, is gambling.
INSIDE PASSAGE, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
Tell someone you plan to cruise the "Inside Passage" and most will assume you mean Alaska. But there's another Inside Passage, one that extends from Seattle in Washington in the United States to the port of Prince Rupert in the Canadian province of British Columbia. A small ship expedition cruise through these calm waters – where spirit bears lurk and killer whales roam – is like no other.
CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK, NEPAL
Once a hunting ground for Nepal's ruling class and a victim of human encroachment, this World Heritage Site – contiguous with India's Varsa National Park to the south – is becoming a haven for wildlife such as tigers, leopards, sloth bears and Indian rhinoceroses. For an ethical elephant safari, book accommodation at Tiger Tops. See tigertops.com
PICOS DE EUROPA, SPAIN
We all know the Alps, the Pyrenees, and even the Dolomites. But how about the Picos de Europa, the mind-bogglingly beautiful mountain range that forms part of the Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain? Now here's a spectacular place, a series of jagged limestone peaks that look like they're straight out of Mordor, divided by deep fissures, hemmed on all sides by smooth, grassy foothills filled with grazing cattle.
SPANISH STEPS, ROME
Of all Rome's important and beautiful cultural icons, why would you choose to spend your time at a boring old staircase?
Every day at 11am and noon, crowds gather in Munich to watch the chiming of a clock, and the whirring of a few painted figurines. It's highly underwhelming.
TIMES SQUARE, NEW YORK CITY
One of NYC's most famous attractions is filled with gawking tourists, lined with tacky shops, and it's not even a proper square.
In the lengthy queue for a ticket, you can't help daydreaming about a lion being let loose to frighten away the colossal crowds. And when finally with ticket, there are few signs and little information around to make the experience meaningful. It forces you to take a guide or a tour or book a special entry before, or after, the usual hours to see more than the backs of people's heads.
Some – Ephesus, Petra, Jerash – are fabulous, most are just a load of old stones that would need a specialist to interpret. Exciting? Not.
Nature documentaries make these fabled creatures seem fierce and dragon-sized, but they're really just somnolent, skinny lizards; a dust-covered background to Insta poses.
CONTRIBUTORS: Ben Groundwater, Brian Johnston, Catherine Marshall, Rob McFarland, Kerry van der Jagt, Sue Williams