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Seven Un-Romantic Destinations

I thought it would be fun, amidst the frenzy of romantic destinations being pushed through your inbox and flooding your Twitter and Facebook feeds, to mix things up a bit…

Here are 7 places that will not put you in the mood. These are some very un-romantic destinations.

1) Arusha, Tanzania

When Dad and I arrived in Arusha (2006), the gateway to Mt. Kilimanjaro and The Ngorongoro Crater, we didn’t bother leaving the scary hotel we cooped ourselves in for the night. Every wall in town was covered in glass shards.

un-romantic destinations

Glass shard street protection

Dad says, “Where are we? Mogadishu?”

Not to worry. It was a necessary stop on the way to the infamous and amazing Ngorongoro Crater, where we saw many of the “big 5”- including rhinos.

Mt. Meru

At least we had decent views of Mt. Meru from our Arusha hotel.

If you’re taking your significant other on a romantic Tanzanian safari (there are definitely some amazing lodges in the Serengeti and near Ngorongoro Crater), bypass Arusha, if you can. If not, cuddle up in your hotel (unless you want to be adventurous).

2) Beijing, China

un-romantic destinations

Beijing’s air– not worth breathing

Alright, alright…. It would be pretty cool to scale The Great Wall with your significant other. Back in 1999, I had fun running around on top of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, but I tell you what….It was super-disgusting blowing black soot out of my nose several times a day. NOT SEXY.

I am itching to go back to China, the southern provinces in particular, but I don’t think I will ever, ever go back to Beijing. My sister is going in April. I’m excited for her. Everyone should experience The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, and the bike situation, if they can. I’m not the least bit envious, though (I am jealous of the Japan portion of their itinerary. I love that country!)

Consider passing on Beijing as vacation with your honey.

3) Salt Lake City, Utah

un-romantic destinations

Salt Lake City…So much potential!

I must follow Beijing with Salt Lake. Especially since I recently read somewhere that Salt Lake’s air quality is second only to Beijing in terms of being a health hazard (which I actually think is inaccurate. I think Los Angeles’ is worse?). Apparently, both cities have similar geographic and pollution circumstances, being in valleys where stagnant air remains trapped in a haze-like cloud.

Alan and I were just in Salt Lake last November. We had a wonderfully romantic and adventurous trip to Utah’s national parks, and it was easier to fly to SLC than Vegas. We thought the thick haze was pretty scary, though.

We visited SLC, swimming in the Great Salt Lake, back in the summer of 1999, on a road trip to Yellowstone, Arches and Mesa Verde national parks. I don’t remember the air being so terrible then. Nor when my family would fly in to Salt Lake to get to Park City for ski trips. I have friends that live in SLC. They attest that the air quality has gotten significantly worse over the last ten years or so. Hopefully the city/state can figure out a solution soon. There are so many great destinations in the surrounding areas!

4) Juarez, Mexico

un-romantic destinations

The siege of ciudad Juarez

Ironically, I went to Juarez years and years ago, as part of a big wedding weekend. We crossed the border from El Paso for a fun day trip. We did end up having fun (albeit a bit hungover from the all-day Mexican-style wedding the previous day).

Considered the most violent city in the Mexican drug wars, some 3,100 people were killed in Juarez in 2010, according to the BBC. Some parts of Mexico should be avoided on your next romantic getaway…. Speaking of…..

5) Cancun, Mexico

I can’t. I just can’t. When I hear people talking about their grand vacation to Cancun, I kind of want to run and hide in a corner. It was so fun for a debaucherous senior trip week, when all you’re focused on is drinking unlimited amounts of beer and fruity cocktails with your friends pool-side and hitting the clubs (foam party, anyone? gross) by night. But as an actual destination- a vacation for you and your partner? Uh-uh.

un-romantic destinations

C’mon lover, let’s go to the club….

Fifteen years ago, I would have suggested Cozumel, the beautiful island-turned-cruise ship bonanza. Our family used to go all the time to snorkel and SCUBA dive (before it was a big cruise port). The last time I went, ironically, was on a cruise ship. Yes, I became part of the problem.

Or you could opt for nearby Tulum. I haven’t been in twenty-some-odd years, but I’ve heard that it’s retained it’s remote sleepiness quite well. The ruins of Tulum are right on the water and are quite beautiful.

Maybe head to Isla Mujeres. I’m not entirely sure what the tourist infrastructure is like now, but it was lovely and fairly remote 25 years ago….

un-romantic destinations

Isla Mujeres. I must have been 9 or 10 here…

Just, do me a favor, fly to Cancun as a means to get somewhere nice and romantic….and not so spring break-sleazy… (I apologize for any judgement here. Cancun might totally be your thing. It’s just not my cup of tea…)

6)  West Bank, Palestine

un-romantic destinations

The “fence” (WALL) dividing Israel and the West Bank

I, personally, find Israel and Palestine fascinating. I loved having the opportunity to travel there on a study tour while getting my masters in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on in terms of having meaningful experiences and personal growth.

un-romantic destinations

Me in the back (tall one) standing next to Saeb Erekat (yes, I’m a dork who is very excited about that fact).

It was great to go with a professor and a bunch of grad-students. However, I wouldn’t bring my husband to this region of the Middle East to enjoy quality time together. For one, crossing the country borders can be harrowing (we had a helluva time crossing after Ariel Sharon’s stroke- the story must come out on this platform one day!). Secondly, I didn’t feel so much love walking around the streets of Ramallah, a blonde American girl. I probably should have worn a hijab.

un-romantic destinations

Border check point

7) Marrakesh, Morocco

un-romantic destinations

It’s funny how Morocco conjures romantic images of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. I didn’t find it romantic at all. Interesting, yes (as my second Arab-Muslim country to visit at the time), but I found it to be a bit pesky at times. Strolling through Marrakesh’s souk, I was constantly battling with vendors who wanted to barter, or men trying to chase me and three other blonde companions (again, should have worn a hijab!). We were quite literally chased around and into a corner, even though we had a Persian man accompanying us.

Morrocan cities left me frazzled. I much preferred the remote desert or High Atlas Mountains… (All my photos from 1999’s Semester at Sea voyage are print, so I’ll eventually have to find a way to scan them to digital…)

If you’re heading to Morocco with your honey, go on a desert safari where you can stay with Berbers in tents or head to costal Essaouira, a place Jimmy Hendrix loved.

Do you have any un-romantic destinations to add?

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22 Responses to Seven Un-Romantic Destinations

  1. Laura in Cancun February 6, 2014 at 10:03 AM #

    I have to defend Cancun! Yes there’s lots of partying, but there’s lots of stuff for couples and even for families. It all depends on what resort you choose and where you go; there are plenty of romantic restaurants on the lagoon and beautiful hotels. But you’re right about one thing, Tulum and Isla Mujeres are even more romantic than Cancun. Playa del Carmen, too.

    • Lindsay February 6, 2014 at 4:20 PM #

      I knew I would get some reactions over Cancun! It is such a beautiful part of Mexico (the Yucatan). I would like to experiment and go one day with hubs, maybe give it another shot 🙂 I think if you stay in the resort, it’s probably a different experience. I’m more about local culture and isolation (from tourists), though- so it still might not be my bag 🙂

  2. Chandler February 6, 2014 at 10:20 AM #

    Thanks for making me so excited about Beijing!!! haha. I’m counting on Kyoto to more than make up for it :). Other un-romantic places hmm…Quito, Ecuador and Johannesburg, South Africa b/c you have to spend most of your time looking over your shoulder?? or smelly Bangkok? Although the boat ride through the slums was kinda romantic, ironically. Can’t think of any others!

    • Lindsay February 6, 2014 at 4:18 PM #

      Haha- I thought that would get you Chan. No, you’re going to be glad you experienced Beijing once. That’s all you need, though. I would agree about Bangkok. While I liked the culture and could see myself falling in love with the vibe there if I stayed long enough, I don’t think it was very romantic. Too much trash in the streets and too friggin hot! Hey, I was there with my husband, too- after all… I think we found it interesting- but not romantic… Quito, I’m on the fence about. Yea, probably wouldn’t consider it romantic… Johannesburg- yes! Not romantic 🙂 but soooo many other places in South Africa ARE, wouldn’t you agree?

  3. fallequinox2006 February 6, 2014 at 3:28 PM #

    For me, places that are filled with cheesy tourist attractions is a big turn-off. Basically, places that are over-built and overrun with tourists. A good example is Niagara Falls. I love the falls, but hated the town of Niagara Falls, Canada.

    • Lindsay February 6, 2014 at 4:14 PM #

      Interesting! I thought Niagra Falls town was kind of sweet. But I was only there for an hour or two 🙂 Weren’t many tourists, which was interesting. It was May. Maybe the summer sees more tourists? Lots of tourists at the falls themselves, but I loved that Maiden of the Mist boat ride! The school kids squealing over getting wet was pretty funny…

    • Michael Orobona February 14, 2014 at 7:29 PM #

      I live near there and couldn’t agree more. A spectacular force of nature – which could have been an awe-inspiring, romantic destination – overrun by tacky wax museums, heart-shaped water beds, high-rise hotels, and casinos right at the falls’ edge. You can’t take a picture without these or the hordes of unappreciative humanity. It has been ruined. The best thing that could happen to Niagara is a scouring.

      • Lindsay February 14, 2014 at 8:10 PM #

        Wow, I didn’t realize Niagra was such a tacky tourist trap! I feel like Jim Carrey in Truman Show now! I just saw the pretty surface, one-hour version! Thanks for the comment, Michael!

  4. Lillie B. February 6, 2014 at 10:30 PM #

    Am I mean for nominating Cairo? The pyramids were on my bucket list, so I don’t regret going. However, some of the neighborhoods off the beaten track remixed me of my time in Iraq. No bueno.

    • Lindsay February 7, 2014 at 11:49 AM #

      Not at all, Lillie! I’m also glad I got to see the pyramids, see the Egyptian museum… ride some camels… BUT- we had an armed escort because of the recent violence against western tourists- and Cairo itself left a little to be desired.. 🙂 Now, a cruise down the Nile with the hubs, that might be a different story!

  5. atravelingb February 6, 2014 at 10:33 PM #

    Your description of Cancun could not be more accurate! I feel exactly the same…maybe it was because I had the same debaucherous senior trip, but I just laughed out loud. Nothing romantic about it for me either.

    Also, the Beijing bike situation is unreal! I’ve heard about it, but never seen a picture. I understand now why it would be a one and done!

    • Lindsay February 8, 2014 at 8:16 PM #

      Yea, I think a lot of us have had that Cancun experience! And Beijing- yea- I still say go once… ALthough someone recently told me Beijing isn’t as bad anymore (air quality), so who knows?

  6. karisabroad February 7, 2014 at 3:39 PM #

    You’re so right about Cancun!! It’s full of spring breaker types and drunks. It’s just not nice! I LOVED Isla Mujeres though! So colorful and pretty -although there were a bit too many cheesy souvenir shops for my liking.

    • Lindsay February 7, 2014 at 9:11 PM #

      I like it when people agree with me 😉 You know, I need to go back to Isla Mujeres and Tulum, because I was pretty young when I was last there. The problem is that there are so many other places I’ve never been on my list!

  7. rsheffer February 8, 2014 at 3:06 AM #

    We ran away from a sleazy hotel in Belgium got in thd car and drove to Holland.I think it was Brussels a horrid city – but I love the movie ” Bruges” 🙂

    • Lindsay February 8, 2014 at 8:13 PM #

      Funny! I actually liked Brussels, but we had a sweet apartment above a waffle restaurant (it smelled so good!) in the middle of everything! We also used it as a base to explore Bruges, Ghent, Luxembourg… In Bruges is a great movie 🙂

  8. Laura February 11, 2014 at 5:09 PM #

    Awesome concept 🙂

    • Lindsay February 11, 2014 at 11:19 PM #

      Thanks, Laura! I thought I’d mix it up a little bit 🙂

  9. Michael Orobona February 14, 2014 at 7:19 PM #

    I’d add Las Vegas. I have so many friends and acquaintances who gush about a trip there or countdown the days. Unvaryingly tacky; porn-industry brochures lying everywhere; cheap booze if you’re gambling – it’s just Spring Break for adolescent-minded adults or an accessible place to workout bingo wings for the blue-rinse set. The high rollers – the only people with a semblance to Ian Flemingesque intrigue – play in separate areas so they don’t need to mingle with the masses. Strange, there’s so much to see send do in the rest of Nevada, but few people go there (Reno, a run-down junior version) doesn’t count.

    • Lindsay February 14, 2014 at 8:19 PM #

      I see your point with Vegas. I used to love going with friends when I was in college. It was like this socially acceptable adult playground with limitless possibilities- for trouble! I loved trouble in my early 20’s! No, but seriously, I don’t gamble. Just love the shows (i.e. circ du soleil), fancy-fun clubs, fancy-fun restaurants, and the opulence of it all. I really like amusement parks- so the rides and Disney like hotel compounds reeled me in. Not to mention the fabulous pools (Bellagio- and water park at Mandalay Bay!). So many fun up-all-nights, both with girlfriends and solo. I caught a Primus show once while there with my mom on a business trip. It was definitely a place to go with friends, maybe to meet guys- but not a place I have on my list to go with my husband!

      • Michael Orobona February 14, 2014 at 9:38 PM #

        I do have fond memories of some of the buffets, and you can usually rely on the weather.


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