An age old dilemma among travelers is trying to strike a balance between following a route that has been well established and passes through heavily trafficked tourist areas versus a desire to stay off the beaten path. Obviously there are pros and cons to both. Heavily trafficked tourist areas are usually there for a reason; historic sites, beautiful vistas, and well preserved landscapes. But sometimes the lure of these popular attractions can be drowned out by the hum of thousands of people snapping photos on autopilot and the commands of tour guides using bull horns to herd their groups in and out of UNESCO sites. On the other hand, off the beaten places might appeal to those looking for more silence and solitude and they can be just as magnificent, but you have to get there, and getting there might not be that easy or fit within the time frame of your travels. Travelers always seem to be comparing travel stories with one another and a common bragging point, as if it somehow validates how hard core a traveler one really is, has always been how far off the “beaten path” one has been. But what is the beaten path? Seems pretty subjective. Well, now there is some data to show exactly where the beaten and not so beaten paths around the world actually are.
Some travel minded programmers with a company based in Estonia, Bluemoon, yes there are programmers in Estonia (extra bonus points for those who can actually point out Estonia on a map), have analyzed data from the photo sharing site Panoramio and compiled a heat map showing just where people travel; an indication of the “touristiness” of the place. Panoramio, a Google spin-off, is a geolocation oriented site that uses geocoding data contained within uploaded photos to crate a layer that can be viewed in Google Earth and Google Maps. The site is pretty cool in that people can learn more about a given area by viewing the photos others have taken in particular places.
Obviously, there are some limitations with this particular analysis of the path less traveled. Not only is it contingent on people taking photos in the destinations they travel to, but it is also dependent upon them actually uploading geocoded photos to photo sharing websites. Nevertheless, the heat map is a pretty interesting tool to explore and can give some solid insights into where people travel the most, or at least where people travel the most and take photos, which might provide some information to consider when planning your next vacation or extended travels.