9 English Expressions to Describe Places - Travel ESL Vocabulary

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What’s the next best thing to traveling? Talking about travel! And this quick English lesson will help you boost your vocabulary for describing places.

We’ve also created this free English worksheet where you’ll find definitions, practice exercises, and opportunities to practice your new vocabulary with discussion questions and a writing activity.

In today’s lesson you’ll learn and practice these nine vocabulary words related to travel:

  1. Overrated/Underrated

  2. Lively

  3. Scenic

  4. Secluded

  5. Unspoiled

  6. Touristy

  7. Polluted

  8. Overdeveloped

  9. Hectic

Let’s get started!

TRAVEL ESL VOCABULARY FOR DESCRIBING PLACES

1. Overrated/Underrated

You might describe a place as overrated if it’s not as great as everyone says it is. But you might describe it as underrated if it’s a wonderful place that people don’t talk about or say good things about. You’ll probably regret spending time and money in a place that’s overrated, but taking a vacation in an underrated place usually means that you save money and have a great time. Just make sure you keep the underrated place a secret!

Examples

  • We were so excited to visit Los Angeles, but we thought it was kind of overrated.

  • If you’re looking for an underrated city in Italy, you should check out Bologna.

2. Lively

If you enjoy a lively city or area, it means you like to travel to places with energy and excitement. A lively place usually offers plenty of things to do for travellers and tourists. It’s highly likely that a lively city - like New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro - has a rich history and culture unlike any other place.

Examples

  • Mexico City is a lively metropolis with an incredible art scene.

  • This part of Lisbon is quiet during the day but lively at night.

3. Scenic

We say that a place is scenic if it provides beautiful, interesting, or unique views. We usually describe a natural landscape as scenic, but you can say that an urban setting is scenic, too, especially if it’s completely one-of-a kind. In order to get a scenic view of an area, it’s best to find a high place to look from, which is why places love to offer scenic overlooks to tourists.

Examples

  • This scenic bus tour through Napa Valley will take your breath away.

  • It’s a convenient place to live, but not very scenic.

Common structures

  • Scenic + route → We took the scenic route to London.

  • Scenic + view → You should check out the rooftop for a scenic view of the city.

4. Secluded 

We say that an area is secluded if it’s isolated or away from too many other people, especially tourists and travelers. So, if you’re looking for a secluded town to spend a weekend, it’s probably because you need some quiet time away from noise, people, or the hustle and bustle of the city. And because it might not be very lively or offer much to do, a secluded town or village tends to be better for traveling on a budget.

Examples

  • I’m just looking for a secluded place where I can do some writing.

  • It’s a beautiful village, but it’s a little too secluded for him.

Common structures

  • A secluded + getaway → This little town is perfect for a secluded getaway.

5. Unspoiled

If you're a traveler looking for an unspoiled place to visit, it means you’re looking for a place with a lot of nature, and you’re not interested in a city with a lot of urban development. If you like to take photos, you probably love an unspoiled landscape that feels untouched by people. And if you like a small town with an unspoiled feeling, you’re probably interested in rustic, historical areas that haven’t lost their history.

Examples

  • She’s looking for an unspoiled area where she can connect with nature.

  • These unspoiled beaches attract photographers from all over the world.

Common structures

  • unspoiled + landscape → It takes a couple hours to find this unspoiled landscape.

  • unspoiled + charm → This New England town is known for its unspoiled charm.

6. Touristy

You can say a place is touristy if it has too many, well, tourists. Most travellers dislike touristy cities or attractions. And if you’re a smart traveller, you probably avoid travelling to certain places during a touristy time of year, like spring or summer.

Examples

  • Even though it’s pretty touristy, I still love Amsterdam.

  • It’s a great museum, but it’s too touristy this time of year.

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7. Polluted

We describe a city as polluted if the air is full of toxic emissions from cars or factories, if the water is unfiltered and full of toxic waste or trash, or if you find garbage and litter everywhere. Most of the world’s biggest cities are polluted, unfortunately. It’s really sad to see a polluted city or area, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth your time to visit. If you visit a very polluted city, you might want to take precautions, such as drinking bottled water or wearing a face mask to avoid pollutants in the air.

Examples

  • It used to be a beautiful coastal city, but the beaches are polluted now.

  • The polluted air comes from all the scooters and nearby factories.

8. Overdeveloped

You can say that a city or area is overdeveloped if it should be natural or unspoiled, but it has been taken over by businesses or residential areas. Most coastal areas have a problem with being overdeveloped and crowded with hotels and tourist attractions. And if you prefer less crowded, noisy, or polluted places, you probably want to stay away from overdeveloped cities.

Examples

  • It used to be a great city, but it’s getting too overdeveloped.

  • Sadly, it’s just an overdeveloped island now.

9. Hectic

We might refer to a place as hectic if it’s noisy, crowded, or generally chaotic. You might also describe a place as hectic if it’s very different from your usual experience. If you visit a city with a lot of scooter traffic, for example, it might feel very hectic to you, but to the people who live there, it’s part of their everyday experience and feels normal. Still, a hectic city can be fun if there’s plenty to do, but after a while, you might want more quiet time.

Examples

  • Paris is really hectic this time of year.

  • I wasn’t prepared for the hectic traffic and crowds in Rome.

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We hope you enjoyed this quick lesson! Don’t forget to download this free worksheet to practice what you’ve learned today. If you have any questions or requests, let us know in the comments or send us a message. Thanks for reading and see you in the next post!


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About the writer

Marta is an online ESL teacher who works with students from around the world. As a writer, language nerd, and content contributor for In English With Love, her mission is to empower English learners with knowledge and positivity.


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