Here are 10 of the tourist spots many say are being utterly consumed by hungry instagrammers.
There are so many beautiful, sacred places to see in the world. There are so many roads to wander and sunsets to ponder. From the beautiful, white walls of Santorini to the nearly unbelievable views from atop the highest point in Macchu Picchu, Peru, the world is full of wonder. And Instagram is capturing it all with a hashtag and wide-brimmed hat.
#Travel is one of the most popular hashtags on the ‘Gram. Over 256 million+ photos share that hashtag and of those millions and millions of photos, many of them are taken of the same spots. Over. And over. And over.
There is an entire tourist industry dedicated to #doingitforthegram, says travel agent Melissa Lonsk. “I get a lot of requests from people to go places they saw on Instagram. When I ask them for more information about their travel style, I often find the destination they are asking about would not be a good fit…Or, they got to that picture-perfect spot and are joined by everyone else on the island.”
With its black sand beaches and waterfalls to plentiful to count, Iceland has become a prime location to #doitforthegram. But many say it’s ruining the pristine beauty of this untouched island between Europe and North America.
“It’s so rude to monopolize a scenic overlook so no one else can enjoy the view or take their own photos just so you can get a new profile picture. When I was in Iceland, there was a woman yelling at other tourists to get back from an attraction so she could get the perfect drone picture without anyone else in it. I was completely floored by how obnoxious she was,” says frequent traveler and blogger Kris Morton.
Photographer Jade Broadus saw a group nearly die trying to get the perfect photo for the ‘gram. “You can drive your car up to the top of this mountain to take a picture of the black sand beaches and I watched someone almost drive their car off the ledge in order to get a photo. Half the entire car was over the ledge, the mountain dirt and rocks starting to slide down, and the car barely got towed out by a local before going over the edge.”
Pedra do Telégrafo
WHERE: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Though not quite as well-known as Christ the Redeemer (also in Rio de Janeiro), this rock formation has become a primary Insta spot due to the fact that, when cropped a certain way, it looks like people are hanging thousands of feet in the air. But all that “dangerous” beauty comes at a price. The hashtag brings up many funny and crazy photos, but the effect is wreaking havoc on a scene of natural beauty.
It was always a well-known hiking spot, says Joao H. Rodrigues, former head of PR for Brazil Tourism. “But now, because of Instagram, more people are driving there [instead of hiking] and leaving garbage and graffiti.”
Cliffs of Moher
The stunning and majestic Cliffs of Moher are at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland. They are one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of the British Isles. Writer Emily Rose Alvo visited them last year and was horrified by a group of women forcing themselves into yoga poses on the cliffs rather than enjoying the stunning views on a perfect Irish day.
“I just laughed,” says Alvo. “They were literally on the edge of a cliff working really hard to ‘gram it perfectly. There you are, carefully staging your perfect carefree I’m-so-zen yoga photo at a crowded tourist site. I can think of few things less sincere and less yogic.”
The beautiful village of Oia in Santorini, Greece is easily one of the most Instagrammable spots in the world. It’s easy to see why. Situated on cliffs overlooking the sea, the whitewashed, cubiform houses are highly photogenic and appealing, especially as the sun sets in brilliant orange and peach each evening over the Aegean. And yet not is all as lovely as it seems, says travel blogger Nate Hake.
“For the longest time, my top performing photo was a shot of Santorini at sunset that, to the viewer, looks tranquil, serene, and beautiful. The actual experience was anything but. I saw people shoving and pushing each other to get a shot amongst the crowd of hundreds of people.” And it is not just tourists and writers who feel the burn. Signs all over the island say to keep off the roofs and not to use drones. “The situation is so bad that the local elementary school has to post photos outside telling tourists not to take photographs of the children,” Hake says.
There are few places in the world as worthy of a postcard or an Instagram shot as Macchu Picchu. This Incan ruin was a 15th-century citadel for the Incan people, but its location in the Andes Mountains is mystical and stunning. Or at least it was. Until Instagram.
My husband and I made the trek here last summer and for every person in the citadel who’s there to genuinely learn about Incan culture and experience the iconic views first hand, there are 15 others clamoring to get to one of three or four primary viewing spots to strike a yoga pose, throw up their hands, or otherwise mug for Instagram. As beautiful as it is, the signs all over prohibiting drones and the new regulations (as of last summer) that prohibit entry at certain times are all signs that the tourist industry driven by Instagram is changing the way people visit this world landmark.
One of the most memorable and beautiful cities in the world, Chefchaouen was founded in 1471 in the Rif mountains by Jews and Moors who were escaping Spain. No one is exactly sure why it’s blue, but it is. As far as the eyes can see. Some theorize that the color keeps the mosquitos away, but many Instagram influencers probably believe it was there just to complement their wide brim hats and ethereal dresses.
The hashtag #Chefchaouen calls up more than 250,000 photos. And none of this surprises Cassie Wilkins, a frequent traveler who visited the city last year. “One of the things that was most mind-blowing was the queues of people lining up to get their photo on specific blue steps and certain places that had become Instagram famous,” she says. “They were dressed up in fancy little dresses and faces full of makeup to get their friends to take photos of them, holding their hand from behind, taking photos of the photo on their phone screen- all the little Instagram ‘classics’ that other people do.”
WHERE: Prague, Czech Republic
Though not as Instagrammed as some others, Prague is a major tourist spot and the Tyn Church at its center is one of the biggest draws in the city.
“Quite often a tourist will just interrupt me in the middle of a discussion with my group, hand me a device and demand that I photograph them,” says Marcus Bradshaw, a tour guide in Prague. “People seem to be entirely self-absorbed and have no idea how rude it is. I laugh it off with my clients, but it really is abominable.”
Hooker Valley Track
WHERE: New Zealand
The Hooker Valley Track is the most popular short walking track within the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand. The beautiful views of snow covered mountains and a glacier lake are hard to beat in terms of travel snapshots, which, of course, means they are ever popular on Instagram, something traveler Elizabeth Knox Yamaguchi saw firsthand a couple years ago. “The hipster couple who held a long, ridiculous photo session and totally dressed up on purpose to ‘gram themselves in front of the view,” she says. “It kind of took away from my enjoyment of said view. Not to mention they hogged the view for a long time, preventing others from getting a picture without their hipster mugs in the way.”
Chiang Mai is a city in the North of Thailand, situated among the mountains. It was founded in 1296 and was capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558. It is home to many beautiful temples and is highly photogenic and lovely to visit, two factors that also serve to make it highly Instagram-friendly.
Canadian travel writer Hannah Logan was appalled last year when she saw ‘grammers completely ignoring local customs and etiquette. “I was at Doi Suthep which is a famous temple in the hills above the city. It’s very sacred to the locals,” Logan says. “Women are expected to cover knees and shoulders at the temples so most women, myself included, were walking around with sarongs or scarves over their shoulders. There were local people walking around to make sure everyone was covered up. I saw two girls probably early 20s wearing the scarves while people were nearby, but whipping them off for quick sneaky photos in front of the temples. They were wearing spaghetti strap tank tops; nothing overly sexual but definitely not in line with being respectful.”
Beautiful and contemplative, Angkor Wat was built as a temple complex in Cambodia. Originally a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it was gradually shifted into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. It is one of the most exotic and exciting landmarks in the world, thus making it a highly coveted opportunity to do it for the ‘gram.
“I lived in Cambodia for several years before coming back to Europe last summer, and I was blown away by the amount of people that wanted that ‘perfect’ shot of them at Angkor Wat,” says travel writer Cassie Wilkins. “It’s kind of crazy how people barely wait a moment to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a destination before they just edit it and tweak all the colors and put a fancy filter on to show all their friends.”