Choosing a holiday destination
Our research found that 98% of Millennials and Gen Z book their holidays based on what they see on social media. This might be travel content from their favourite influencers or celebrities, dedicated travel accounts, or holiday posts from friends and people they follow.
Either way, this is what almost all of the 18–34-year-olds we spoke to use to decide their travel destination.
Instagram is often where people go for inspiration when it comes to holiday ideas. We surveyed the world’s most tagged landmarks on the platform and found that the Blue Domes of Santorini came out on top with 7.6 million images tagged, with the Eiffel Tower coming in second with 7.3 million.
Check out the full list below.
Expectation versus reality
Most tourist traps sell an idealised view to travellers of what a location or famous landmark is actually like. Half of Brits (51%) who have visited landmarks admit that they didn’t live up to expectations.
These places can be incredibly crowded or have a lot of surrounding mess. The polished images you see on Instagram are often unrealistic and don’t capture the full picture.
Behind the lens
We commissioned local photographers around the world – at locations including the Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera House, Big Ben, The Eiffel Tower and Santorini – to capture the difference between the perfect Instagram shot and the reality of the location.
Pictures by Parikshit Rao, a professional photographer who has shot for Time Out magazine and National Geographic Traveller.
Parikshit Rao advises:
"Countless photographs of the Taj Mahal have been captured from all angles and in all seasons, making it quite difficult to create pictures that stand out from the rest.
The most popular vantage point to get the typical Taj Mahal shot is from the raised platform within the complex – just after the marble bench popularly known as the Diana seat. With the right angle and sunlight, it’s possible to also get the Taj’s reflection in the pond.
But if you want to capture something different, travel across the Yamuna river (behind the Taj Mahal) and scout for a vantage point from where you can zoom into the Taj.
Alternatively, you could explore the lanes of Tajganj, the area outside the southern exit gate, where a few rooftop restaurants offer juxtaposed views of the Taj and this old neighbourhood, said to be home to descendants of the workers and artists who built the Taj Mahal."
Syndey Opera House
Pictures by Ben Williams, a Sydney-based professional photographer.
Ben Williams advises:
"The best time of the day generally for the best light is an hour or two just after sunrise or just before sunset.
A great place to photograph Sydney Opera House is from is right outside the Museum of Contemporary Art as you get a good angle showing the building by itself.
First thing in the morning when the sun is slightly behind the building looks great to create shadows on the subject to make the photo more dramatic and impressive.
Weather is something that can’t be controlled so it might mean you have to go out multiple times to get a good shot, clouds in the sky will make the shot look more impressive too as long as they aren’t blocking the sun."
Pictures by Ben Pipe, a professional photographer with more than 24 years' experience.
Ben Pipe advises:
"Often the best times to capture beautiful images are dawn and dusk, so either get up early, or stay late!
Photographers love the ‘Golden Hour’ for good reason - the light changes quickly and you’ll have the opportunity to capture a set of beautiful images.
After the sun has set, stay around to watch how the scene changes as twilight begins, as this can be particularly magical in a city.
Around 20 minutes after the sun passes the horizon will be the optimum time when the fading ambient light is evenly balanced with the brightening artificial lights of the urban landscape."
The Eiffel Tower
Pictures by Brett Walsh, a Paris-based photographer with over 16 years' experience.
Brett Walsh advises:
"Exposure is easily adjustable on any type of camera, including smart phones. A well exposed image will show all the detail of the landmark, whereas an underexposed image on a bright day will create a silhouette highlighting its outline.
You could also try focusing on certain sections of the tower, too. Like many other landmarks, the Eiffel Tower is full of intricate and interesting architectural elements, for example the base of the tower where you can get close to the complex lattice wrought-iron structure, so why not capture an interesting image here?"
Pictures by Dimosthenis Christopoulos, a photographer based in Santorini.
Dimosthenis Christopoulous advises:
"With so many tourists flocking to visit the iconic Blue Domes of Oia all year-round, budding photographers will have lots of competition!
Heading out early is the best way to avoid the hordes of tourists, particularly as cruise ships begin docking later in the morning.
With no restrictions in place for the number of ships that can visit the island on any given day it can become extremely busy, but reviewing the cruise ship schedule is a great way to identify a quieter time.
Even at quieter times you’ll likely need to wait for others to finish shooting at the most recognisable viewpoints, so a little bit of patience goes a long way.
When it’s your turn, try to consider those that are also waiting and avoid taking too long, but capture lots of different shots so you have multiple to choose from.
Visiting out of season, generally from the end of September to May, will give you the opportunity to capture beautiful photos without the crowds."
Cosmin Sarbu, our Head of Travel, comments:
“It’s clear from our research that so many of us now plan our holidays based on the idyllic images we see on social media. But while it can be a fantastic tool for scoping out potential destinations, it’s important you don’t believe everything you see on the likes of Instagram!
Lots of work goes on behind the scenes when it comes to capturing the beautiful photos that flood our newsfeeds and timelines, and it’s clear that sometimes the crowds and chaos that may be the reality at such famous locations are often ignored.”