Traveling has always been one of my favorite things to do. Exploring new places, experiencing the culture, food and meeting the people. All of it is thrilling to me. But one thing I have never been a fan of is crowds. And many of the most popular destinations, while amazing, tend to be very crowded. So I am always looking for underrated destinations to visit.
What do I mean by underrated destinations? These are places that are incredible to visit but are a bit more off the beaten path. That receive many less visitors a year than popular places like Paris with close to 20 million visiting yearly.
So I asked a few of my travel blogger friends to share their favorite underrated destinations and why you should visit them. So if you like to travel and see amazing places but would rather avoid the masses here are 13 underrated destinations (in no particular order) that you should visit as recommended by travel bloggers:
Bulgaria by SvetDimitrov
Jaw-dropping landscapes and enthralling sea views, fascinating history and captivating dances, delectable cuisine and palatable wines – Bulgaria has it all and more.
Located in Eastern Europe, the Black Sea washes the country’s majestic coasts and smiles at its drop-dead gorgeous, golden beaches.
If you are more into mountains, you’d bе excited to hear Bulgaria teems with them.
Spa anyone? The country comes second only after Iceland in terms of the abundance and diversity of hot, mineral springs. And since Iceland is “icy” most of the time, Velingrad, lately known as “The Spa Capital of the Balkans”, is a much wiser choice for your next spa escapade. And it’s much more affordable, too!
In fact, the country is among the most affordable countries in Europe. In the last couple of years, it is enjoying a steady increase in visitors, so don’t wait too long and hop on the next flight to this Balkan gem.
Bulgaria looks forward to mesmerising you. Do you dare immerse in its enchanting beauties?
Bosnia by WanderingRedhead
Bosnia is seriously underrated and one of Europe’s best kept secrets. People may associate Bosnia with the horrific Balkans war of the 1990’s but that is the past. It gets less than half the tourists as its popular neighbor, Croatia, perhaps because it doesn’t have that sexy coast-line. What Bosnia does have is warm inviting people, rich history and culture, stunning countryside, delicious food and a vibrant capital city. Not to mention lower prices. Did I mention the food?
Mostar and its famous bridge can be visited as a day trip from Dubrovnik, but this charming place deserves more time. The Herzegovina region has ancient cities and pristine waterfalls, all with very few tourists mucking it up. Sarajevo, is infinitely interesting with it’s intriguing mix of East meets West…Istanbul meets Vienna. The hauntings of the past are there, including bullet holes in buildings, a reminder of the grisly siege, one of the longest in European history. History buffs will revel visiting the sight of the famous assassination that started World War I. Religious tolerance is notable here; a mosque, a synagogue, a Catholic cathedral and a Serbian Orthodox church all within blocks of each other. You won’t regret visiting Bosnia!
Ljubljana, Slovenia by RebeccaSnyder
The capital of Slovenia is always a must-stop on any trip through this small county, but why is it underrated? Most people give Slovenia’s capital city a quick couple of nights and then move on to their next destination, and while it’s true that you can do the most popular tourist activities in a day or two, Ljubljana makes a terrific base for day trips to castles, caves, and medieval towns all within an hour’s drive from the city.
The small city is a delightful surprise to most visitors, there’s plenty to see for a few days – walking tours, exploring the castle, the unique architecture, a quirky neighborhood – but it also makes a perfect home to come back to after an adventurous day of exploring the countryside of Slovenia. Back to stroll the beautiful banks of the river in the pedestrianized center, drop in to relax at one of the riverside cafés, or dine in one of the many top restaurants. A perfect way to end every day are the magical nights in lovely Ljubljana.
Ghent, Belgium by Jagabond
When people think of Belgium, they think of Brussels, masculine land of strong beer and fried potatoes, or maybe Bruges, a fairytale city loaded with romantic canals and friendly swans. I offer up Ghent as an alternative, which is a perfect blend of everything good in Belgium.
Here you can admire the most amazing medieval view in Europe, standing on the St. Michael’s Bridge facing three wonderfully historic buildings. One of these buildings, St. Bavo’s Cathedral, houses the artistic masterpiece ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’. Cafes and pubs line Graslei and Kornlei, the old port area now occupied mostly by vibrant youths. Like castles? Visit Gravensteen in the city centre, where you can catch great views of Ghent and take your picture sitting on a throne.
July is the best month to visit, with the jazz festival immediately followed by the wild and crazy Gentse Feesten. For budget travelers, Hostel Uppelink is a nice lodging option in an ideal location.
Lucerne, Switzerland by mscgerber
At first sight Lucerne might seem like a normal European city with it’s wonderful oldtown and history and offering everything that you might expect from a small European town.
However, in my opinion, Lucerne is one of the best places in the world. It is located directly next to the “Vierwaldstättersee”, one of the most beautiful lakes in all of Europe. And being surrounded by the Swiss Alps you can take a short train ride to enjoy a breathtaking view from one of the several summits. Not only will you witness the natural beauty of Switzerland, you can combine it with a lovely hike in summer or try to ski in winter.
Lucerne also offers amazing Swiss food: With “Aeschbacher” and “Läderach” two of the best producers of chocolate selling their delicious products in Lucerne.
My secret recommendation: Stay overnight on the “Rigi” (Queen of the mountains) and enjoy the sunrise in the morning. You will never forget that moment.
Serifos, Greece by BRBtravelblog
Did you know that 10,000 tourists are visiting Santorini every day? If you are looking to avoid the sea of tourists looping between Santorini, Naxos & Hydra and want to find a quieter place, then head to Serifos instead. It is the perfect mix of traditional architecture & untouched nature.
Located in the west of the Cyclades, only 3 hours away from Athens by speedboat, this hidden gem is perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway, if you wish to relax and enjoy the Greek life. The charming island is full of white and blue houses, old windmills, churches with blue domes and has authentic cuisine and beautiful beaches.
Chora, the capital, is situated at the top of the hill and gives you breathtaking views of the island and the Aegean Sea. The mountains and their arid landscapes offer a perfect contrast with the blue waters and the white architecture. The island has several small towns, all easily accessible by bus, hiking or by car.
Rich in history, Serifos is known for its mining strike at the beginning of
the century. Now abandoned, the area around the mines provides surreal hikes with amazing viewpoints mixing nature and rusted mining bridges as well as rail cars.
Kiev, Ukraine by MakeTravelCount
If you want to see history in the making, go to Kiev, Ukraine. Although Kiev is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe, dating back to 5th century, it is finally forming an identity of its own after years of Russian rule.
The Ukrainian people are friendly, warm and very patriotic to their new country. There are signs in the metro reminding the local people to speak Ukrainian, not Russian. But I promise you will find enough locals who speak English to make it easy to get around. Oh, and Uber is exceptionally inexpensive in this city. Most rides in town were about $2.
Reasons to go to Kiev:
- Golden onion-domed churches
- Andriyivsky Descent – a Montmartre-like street with local artisans
- Beasarabsky Market – historic market selling beautiful produce and caviar
- Green parks and famous old fountains
- Depest metro station in the world – 345ft (105 meters) below ground
- Affordable – one of the least expensive capital cities in Europe
- Very few tourists
- Delicious hipster restaurants
Kingdom of Mourne, Northern Ireland by BayBreezing
About 30 miles south of Belfast and not far from the border of the Republic of Ireland is an area of County Down know as the Kingdom of Mourne. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and it has even been proposed to turn it into Northern Irelands first national park.
Here you will find Slieve Donard the highest peak in Northern Ireland. The surrounding Mourne Mountains sweep down to the sea and were the subject of a famous song praising their beauty. Wonderful forest parks can be found throughout the area such as Tollymore and Rostrevor and deep in the mountains there is the Silent Valley with its reservoirs, rivers and hiking trails.
If you like castles then the village of Dundrum has it’s very own 12th century castle with some of the best views in the country. The small seaside town of Newcastle has a variety of cafés, restaurants and traditional Irish pubs as well as accommodation ranging from the humble bed and breakfast up to the 4 star Slieve Donard Hotel & Spa. Our favourite walk is along the nearby beach and nature reserve at Murlough Bay National Nature Reserve.
Etretat, France by TravelVoila
Etretat is best known for its cliffs and the 3 natural arches. Located approximate 200km drive from Paris, you can easily add it on to a route from Mont Saint Michel back to Paris.
If in the Normandy region this is a must see destination. It is a breathtaking 20 to 30 mins hike on top of the cliffs, overseeing the rest of the coast line. Once on top, you will be rewarded with the scenic view. The wind blows, the waves splash, and the seagulls squawk.
Be sure to spend at least 2-3 hours in this area. The best time to go is near sunset. July to September has the most parking available. And after 7pm it is free to park.
Havana, Cuba by AbsoluteWanderlust
Cuba, it’s a pretty controversial place. However, that didn’t stop us adding it to our travel list for 2016. And even though we were only able to stay in this eye opening country for four days, we absolutely loved it… I think I can go as far as saying it was our favourite destination last year!
Due to the short stay, we spent all our time in Havana. This city seduces visitors with its beautiful buildings, Cuban beats and steamy weather. It’s one of the most thrilling, confusing and compelling places you’ll ever visit!. While your first impressions may be of chaos and dismay, you’ll fall in love with the rich history and simplistic lifestyle.
I highly recommend experiencing Havana as authentically as possible. Talk to the locals and live and eat local if you can!
Jordan by TravelLikeaChieff
In all honesty, I did not have high expectations for Jordan. And with everything going on in the middle east I felt a little uneasy about traveling to a country surrounded by instability. That said, my ignorance and lack of expectations were quickly overturned shortly after we arrived. There are so many reasons to visit Jordan. Hopefully I can inspire you to travel to this beautiful country.
Jerash Ruins Of Jordan – Where archeologists have found the ruins of settlements dating back to the Neolithic Age.
Kempinski Hotel Ishtar & Dead Sea – Float in the dead sea, the lowest place on earth at 400 meters below sea level, and stay at a luxury hotel.
Scenic Drives and Quirky Stops – Visit the smallest hotel in the world, stop at Fifa view, admire the red rocks and canyons along the way.
The Lost City of Petra – A.k.a. the Rose-Red City, was declared a UNESCO World World Heritage site and named one of the new 7 wonders of the world.
Wadi Rum – Drive through narrow canyons, towering cliffs, massive landslides and grottos. Try Glamping at the Discovery Bedu Camp.
Tellaro, Italy by MelBTravel
They say the best kept secret destinations to visit are usually known by the locals. So when I was visiting friends in Lerici and they took me sailing on their yacht, I was not expecting what they were about to show me.
Perched on a cliff along the Ligurian coast of La Spezia, was a picturesque small village of Tellaro. It’s colored buildings worn by the sun and the sea cocoon the small harbor that opens into the ocean. I automatically think of Cinque Terre and wonder why I had not heard of this beautiful place.
Legend has it that centuries ago, Tellaro was fodder for pirate pillaging. To protect the village and warn the locals of pirates arriving, a guard was placed in the church tower to ring the bell. One fateful night the guard on duty had fallen asleep as pirates approached the village. Tellaro’s protector, a giant octopus, sprung from the sea and climbed the church tower to ring the bells to alert the villagers, who were able to escape. As a respect to local folklore a “Festival of the Octopus”, takes place every year on the second Sunday in August to commemorate this story.
My pick – The Faroe Islands
I had a difficult time choosing a destination. Usually Scotland is top of mind for me. But I was recently introduced to The Faroe Islands and I felt it rightly deserved a spot as one of the best underrated destinations you should visit right now. The Faroe Islands are still a hidden gem that are unspoiled and delightfully uncrowded. The biggest population at the moment is actually sheep.
The Faroes will enchant you with its picturesque villages, rugged landscapes, friendly people and high quality farm to table cuisine. And the views are simply epic. Come discover for yourself, a hidden treasure of unspoiled landscapes that awaits you on your visit to the Faroes.
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So next time you are looking to plan a vacation I hope we were able to inspire you to look past London, Paris or Rome and set your sights on one of these 13 underrated destinations instead.