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Eight countries where most visitors miss the best attraction

Eight countries where most visitors miss the best attraction

Grand Canyon National Park, United States.

In journalism, it’s known as “burying the lede”. You have this great angle, this amazing, attention-grabbing piece of information that will ensure everyone wants to read your story, and you bury it. You place that gem deep in the middle of the story, lost in a sea of boring details, never to be found or read.

It’s a rookie error, a classic stuff-up. You don’t recognise that piece of information for what it is, and it gets lost. It fades into the background.

This is a phenomenon that can be applied to the tourism world, too: travellers can sometimes miss the true highlight of a country. It gets buried. While in some countries the most well-known attraction is definitely the finest – in Chile, for example, it’s Patagonia; in Cambodia it’s Angkor Wat – there are countries that “bury the lede”, where the true highlight is overshadowed by something more famous.

For these countries, you have to look a little closer, you have to dig all the way down into the middle of the story to find the real deal.

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What it’s known for: LA/New York City

What it should be known for: National parks

The cityscapes of the US pale in comparison to the beauty and the diversity of the national parks.

What comes to mind when you picture the USA? Probably the Hollywood sign, or maybe Disneyland. Possibly the Statue of Liberty, or the Manhattan skyline. It might even be Las Vegas or San Francisco. All of those cityscapes, however, pale in comparison to the beauty and the diversity of the USA’s national parks, which range from Yosemite to Yellowstone, Zion to Denali. The Americans invented the whole concept of national parks, and they do these natural reserves incredibly well.


What it’s known for: Machu Picchu

What it should be known for: The food


Frejoles Andinos from Maido restaurant, Lima, Peru.

Machu Picchu is amazing, don’t get me wrong. Even with the tourist hordes and the unpredictable weather, this is one of the world’s great sights, an ancient city perched high in the Andes. However, that’s not the best thing about Peru. The best thing about Peru is the food scene, a gastronomic culture that varies from city to city, that utilises ingredients from underwater to high altitude, from desert to rainforest, and is cooked and eaten with true passion across the country. You could easily visit Peru for the food alone.


What it’s known for: Bavaria/Oktoberfest

What it should be known for: Berlin


Berlin Wall.

Most backpackers’ first trip to Germany either involves Oktoberfest, or, if it’s the wrong time of year, at the very least a tour of Munich’s beer halls. Germany is famous for this stuff: for huge glasses of great beer, for great pubs, for moustachioed drinkers in their leather pants toasting the world. And all that is amazing. But it’s not as good as Berlin. Berlin is one of the world’s great cities, an edgy counter-cultural hub that’s also home to an extensive network of museums and galleries, plus historical sights recognisable the world over. Even a Bavarian beer garden can’t compare.


What it’s known for: Mega-resorts, shopping malls

What it should be known for: Deira


The street market in Deira.

Anyone who turns their nose up at the idea of Dubai or Abu Dhabi, who says they have no interest in glitzy resorts and plastic-fantastic shopping malls, hasn’t been to an area like Deira. Deira, in the heart of old Dubai, is not glitzy. It’s not at all fantastic. What it is, is a hub for immigrants from all over the Middle East and South Asia, a bustling, thriving city-within-a-city where you can find incredibly good food for a small price, plus immerse yourself in a diverse culture that’s genuine and organic.


What it’s known for: Cancun/Cabo

What it should be known for: Mexico City


Colourful walls and gates in the historic Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City. Coyoacan’s tree-lined cobblestone streets, colonial-era estates hidden behind high walls and several interesting churches, museums and artisan markets make it one of the most pleasant places to visit in the capital.

Spring break! That’s what Mexico is best known for, right? It’s the boozy beach parties in Cancun; it’s the celebrity holiday homes in Cabo San Lucas. This is a place to hang out with American college students and get loose. Except, it doesn’t have to be. Though it’s not as well known as a tourist destination, Mexico City is the place to visit in this country, a sprawling megalopolis with a brash manner but a kind heart. Feast on street food; check out the art galleries; go to a lucha libre wrestling bout; dance the night away. You’ll have a ball.


What it’s known for: St Petersburg

What it should be known for: Moscow


Sunset view of Kremlin and Moscow river in Moscow.

St Petersburg has the looks. The former seat of the Tsars is spectacularly beautiful, with its gilded palaces and gold-spired churches, its languid waterways and world-class museums. But still, Moscow is where it’s at. Moscow is big and scary, it’s filled with drab apartment blocks and imposing Soviet-era headquarters. But it also has character, it has soul. It has the Kremlin and Red Square. It has the Bolshoi and Gorky Park. St Petersburg feels like a city of the past, but Moscow feels like a hub of the present. That’s the attraction for me.


What it’s known for: Beachside idyll

What it should be known for: Delicious food


Sri Lankan food is dished up in no-frills eateries where smorgasbords of curries and rice, sambals and chutneys

Plenty of Australians are clueing in to the charms of Sri Lanka now, drawn by the beach resorts and the laid-back atmosphere, the bargain prices and the beautiful locales. It’s only once you get there, however, that you realise what the premier attraction is: food. Sri Lankan food is amazingly good, and amazingly cheap. It’s dished up in no-frills eateries where smorgasbords of curries and rice, sambals and chutneys cost a dollar or two. And the short eats – the spicy, deep-fried snacks served at all hours of the day – are the icing on the foodie cake.


What it’s known for: Islands

What it should be known for: Countryside


You can find beaches anywhere in the world – but there’s only one place you’ll find rural Thailand.

Everyone knows the Thai islands. They’ve heard about Full Moon Parties, about Phuket, about diving at Koh Tao and about the beaches of Koh Phi Phi. And all of those are great destinations. What’s even better, however, as a tourism experience and a cultural immersion, is to head north, into the countryside, into the rural areas. This, for me, is the real Thailand, the small, friendly towns, the rice paddies, the temples, the mountains. You can find beaches anywhere in the world – but there’s only one place you’ll find rural Thailand.

This article originally appeared on Traveller.

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