It's very strange but there seems to be a lot of stigma around visiting a country's most well-known sights when abroad. For some reason it's perceived that flocking to where everyone else goes and being a 'tourist' isn't how you should spend your money, but I totally disagree. I'm as guilty as the next travel obsessive for seeking out local haunts and secret gems as they do often show a side of a country that isn't as frequently seen, but there are so many reasons why I love to go to the 'main show'.
1) 'I'm really here'
So the dodgy cab ride, the far too spicy meal and the hectic streets have definitely made you feel out of your comfort zone, but seeing a famous monument just cements that feeling of 'I'm really here'. I remember seeing the famous Shanghai skyline all lit up from The Bund and being genuinely amazed that I was there, in China, seeing those famous lights. You can tell by my grin in the photo above that I was giddy with excitement.
2) You don't just see it
OK, you can look at pictures online, in magazines and on billboards, but when you're at a monument you get all the other senses as well. You can hear the excitement from others and the click of their cameras; you can smell the surroundings, from the harbourside next to Sydney Opera House to the dust of the Terracotta Warriors. It makes it a reality.
3) They're famous for a reason
Ever wondered why millions of people flock to these places? It's not just a clever marketing job, it's because they are actually worth seeing. You don't have to go up the Petronas Towers (although I highly recommend it) or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but definitely pay them a visit. You can decide how involved you want to get but don't rule them out of your itinerary entirely. You don't know what you might be missing out on.
4) They are what everyone wants to hear about
No-one wants a postcard from some back alley thrift shop in Auckland; they want Hobbiton to put up on their fridge and nothing less. People will ask if it's worth going to said famous place and you can say with authority that it was in fact a cess pit/absolutely amazing (delete as applicable). You can tell them that the Badaling entrance to the Great Wall is full of crazy tourists, however if you turn left instead of right, it's utterly peaceful. TRUE STORY.
5) They're often at the centre of the action
I tend to tick off tourist attractions in one fell swoop. Gardens by the Bay is next to Marina Bay Sands - ta-dah! Two major sights in Singapore ticked off together. Think of London: walk along the Thames and hit the Tower of London, St Paul's, the Tate, the London Eye and Houses of Parliament in one leisurely stroll. See one sight, see them all!
Don't let travel snobs pressure you into missing the must-sees. Embrace them in whatever capacity you want and they'll fit perfectly into your trip.