From overlooked second cities – Bergen, Norway, and Valparaíso, Chile, to name a few – to beautiful islands such as Anguilla and Pangkor Island, Malaysia, INSIDER has you covered with unexpected spots that you’ll want to visit.
Keep reading to learn about 40 of the most underrated travel destinations around the world.
While often overshadowed by Oslo, the Norwegian capital, Bergen – the country’s second-largest city – has plenty to offer.
From the vibrant buildings that dot Bryggen, a historic harbour district and UNESCO World Heritage Site, to the spectacular views from Fløyen Mountain, which is accessible by funicular, charm and natural beauty abound. An ideal destination for watersport fans, visitors can also go kayaking and rafting through Norway’s famous fjords.
Sarandë (also spelled Saranda), a resort in the Albanian Riviera, is equally known for its archaeological ruins and its beaches.
While you’ll find the remains of a 5th-century synagogue in the town itself, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates to prehistoric times is located about 12 miles outside Sarandë. The site, Butrint, has in the course of its storied history functioned as a Greek colony, a Roman city, and a bishopric.
If you’d rather catch some rays than sightsee, some of the most popular beaches in the area include Mirror Beach, Santa Quaranta Beach, and Pulebardha Beach. “A friend’s photos of Pulebardha Beach was the impetus for my visit to Albania and it was well worth the visit,” writes a TripAdvisor user.
As an added bonus, the Greek isle of Corfu is just a short ferry ride away.
US News and World Report ranked Anguilla – a British overseas territory – as the Caribbean island with the best beaches. With an embargo on cruise ships, casinos, and even high-rise hotels, Anguilla is far from a tourist trap.
According to users on TripAdvisor, Shoal Bay is one of the best beaches on the island – and possibly in the world. “The white powder sand and turquoise water is so peaceful and beautiful. Although all the beaches on Anguilla are beautiful, in my opinion Shoal Bay East is the best,” one user raves.
In a word, Valparaíso is colourful. Chile’s second-largest city is known for its street art and eye-catching graffiti, and the rainbow of houses that dot its steep roads – among them a home owned by Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. If the incline becomes tiring, you can hop aboard one of Valparaíso’s funiculars, which offer a new perspective on the maze-like geography.
Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama, Japan
Characterised by their thatched-roof, Gassho-style farmhouses – a traditional form of Japanese architecture that evolved to withstand the elements – the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama are charmingly nestled in a river valley in central Japan.
The three villages, Ogimachi, Ainokura, and Suganuma, have been designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
While Lake Bled may have the name recognition, another body of water in the Julian Alps should also be on your radar. More remote and just as breathtaking, Lake Bohinj is a nature lover’s paradise. Visitors can explore the gorgeous environs by hiking, biking, and kayaking.
Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa
At Tsitsikamma, part of Garden Route National Park, you can get active by swimming, hiking, biking, and even abseiling (rappelling). While you’re there, be sure to look out for the dolphins and otters the park is famous for.
Hill Country, Texas, United States
One of eight recognised wine-growing regions in Texas, the Lone Star State’s Hill Country spans an incredible nine million acres and encompasses 25 counties. In addition to being one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the US, Lonely Planet included the destination in its 2017 list of the best places to visit in America.
“[The state] is making great wine, mostly from grape varieties you would find in places like Spain, southern France, and Italy,” according to James Tidwell, Master Sommelier at the Four Seasons Resort in Dallas, Texas.
Garni Gorge, Armenia
Armenia’s Garni Gorge, situated near a village of the same name, is accessible via car or on foot. The gorge is distinguished by vertical cliffs that feature well-preserved basalt columns. It’s also home to a temple that dates to the first century – possibly the world’s eastern-most Greek temple.
Faroe Islands, Denmark
Situated in the North Atlantic, halfway between Scotland and Iceland, the Faroe Islands comprise 18 volcanic islands that span 70 miles in total.
While this Danish archipelago is known for its tiny, colourful houses, it’s also rich in dynamic scenery, from basalt cliffs to waterfalls.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Calgary, a city with a cosmopolitan feel and a rural heritage, is located in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. While some only visit to experience the famous mountains, there’s much more to do – whether you’re taking in an exhibit at the Glenbow Museum, which specialises in art and artifacts from Western Canada, or checking out the local foodie scene at the Calgary Farmers’ Market.
The former cattle-ranching capital is perhaps best known for its an annual rodeo, a 10-day event called the Calgary Stampede.
Italy’s Puglia region, which forms the heel of the boot-shaped country, is often overlooked in favour of higher-profile destinations like Tuscany. Yet Puglia has a vibe all its own, from its local wine and cuisine – think homemade orecchiette pasta – to its exquisite beaches.
You’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in Polignano a Mare, Torre Canne, and Gallipoli.
Oedo Botania, South Korea
If your idea of an island paradise resembles a garden, Oedo Botania is the place for you.
After seeking shelter on the island when it was just an outcrop of rocks, a man named Lee Chang-ho decided to develop it into a botanical garden with his wife. Located off the southern coast of South Korea, Oedo Botania is accessible only by ferry from the adjacent island of Geoje.
“Oedo is a wonderfully scenic island. The gardens are spectacular and there are an amazing amount of opportunities to take photos,” writes a TripAdvisor user.
Assateague Island, Virginia and Maryland, United States
Assateague, a barrier island shared by Virginia and Maryland, is known for the wild horses (more than 300 in total) that roam its beaches. According to folklore, the horses arrived on the island when a ship was wrecked off the coast of Virginia in the 18th century.
While you can simply enjoy the beauty of Assateague and its equine inhabitants, outdoorsy types will want to take advantage of the island’s many campsites and bike paths.
La Roque-Gageac, France
Located on the north bank of the Dordogne River, La Roque-Gageac is a picturesque cliff-side village known for its yellow houses, which were built from stone in the traditional Périgord style. The village also features a 12th-century fort and an exotic garden.
According to TripAdvisor users, a hot air balloon tour that leaves from La Roque-Gageac is a great way to see the broader Dordogne region.
Liechtenstein, one of the smallest (and wealthiest) countries in Europe, is a principality nestled between Switzerland and Austria. In the capital, Vaduz, you can see the city’s eponymous castle – the official residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein – as well as the Cathedral of St. Florin, a neo-Gothic church constructed in the 19th century.
With access to the Alps via the foothills of the Rhätikon Mountains, Liechtenstein also offers numerous hiking trails and ski slopes.
León was founded in 1524 by a Spanish conquistador, making it one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas. It was also Nicaragua’s capital until 1857, and is filled with churches, museums, and beautiful architecture. It’s a popular jumping-off point for visiting the many nearby volcanoes.
Nairn Beach, Scotland, United Kingdom
Located in the Scottish Highlands, Nairn Beach is one of the best beaches in the UK, according to a readers’ poll from The Telegraph.
Another noteworthy site is Monfragüe, a national park known for its geological features and wildlife, including 208 species of vertebrates.
Located in northwestern Argentina in the Lerma Valley, Salta is a lively city that moves to the rhythm of its famous folk music, which marries elements of Spanish musical traditions with lyrics about Argentine rural life.
The Salta province is also one of Argentina’s leading wine-growing regions, featuring some of the most extreme vineyards on the planet. Situated at lower latitudes and higher altitudes than most of the world’s vineyards, the climate is well-suited to viticulture.
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Hobart, the capital of Tasmania (an island state of Australia), offers everything from a thriving art and music scene to a wildlife preserve.
Get a culture fix at the lauded (and subversive) Museum of Old and New Art, which was opened by local mathematician and gambler David Walsh and cost $US200 million to build. “Curators from New York and Paris have marveled at how the museum flouts convention: There are no explanatory placards fixed to the walls, and visitors are encouraged to wander through the subterranean spaces at will,” the New York Times reported.
At Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, a 30-minute drive from the city, animal lovers can see marsupials ranging from koalas to kangaroos – not to mention the island’s famous Tasmanian devils.
If you’re into beer, you’ll also find Cascade, Australia’s oldest brewery, in Hobart.
Cavan Burren Park, County Cavan, Ireland
Although Cavan Burren Park only opened to the public in 2014, the site itself – which is situated atop a 1,000-foot-high limestone plateau – dates back about 340 million years. The site is also home to Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, a UNESCO-recognised area.
Pangkor Island, Malaysia
While the beaches are the main draw on Pangkor Island, which is located off the coast of Malaysia in the Perak region, you can also explore a historic Dutch fort, a Taoist temple, and a rainforest.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, United States
Whether you hike, bike, or camp out, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy nature in this resort town, especially in Cades Cove, a broad valley abundant in wildlife.
Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
While Prague may steal the spotlight, Český Krumlov – a small, Medieval town about two hours from the Czech capital by car – boasts fewer crowds and plenty of old-world charm, not to mention a castle that houses an opulent Baroque theatre.
The historic center of this fairy tale town, which was built in the 13th century, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Island of Gozo, Malta
Gozo, Malta’s sister island, is small in size but rich in history. The nine-mile-long Mediterranean island contains 46 churches and a megalithic temple complex called Ġgantija, whose name is derived from the Maltese word for “giant.”
According to tradition, Gozo is said to be Ogyia, the island from Greek mythology where the nymph Calypso held Odysseus captive.
Apostle Islands, Wisconsin, United States
The 21 landforms that comprise Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands are surrounded by the crystal clear water of Lake Superior.
Boasting shipwrecks, sea caves, and miles of trails, you can explore these islands by diving, kayaking, or hiking.
Mani Peninsula, Greece
Often overlooked, the Mani features dramatic scenery like steep mountain foothills and abandoned stone towers.
Travel + Leisure has called Helsinki “Europe’s most underrated design capital.” The Finnish metropolis is full of impressive architecture, like a Modernist concert hall and a meditation space located inside a curved, wooden structure. This city is so committed to good design that there’s even a museum dedicated to it.
Located 18 miles outside Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, Sintra is famous for its multi-hued, Instagram-friendly buildings – like Pena Palace, a 19th-century castle built in the Romanticist style.
The city’s gardens are just as glorious as its architecture. The flowers and plants on display at the Quinta da Regaleira estate, which TripAdvisor users describe as “mystic” and “memorable,” are especially notable.
Bukovina, Romania and Ukraine
In Bukovina, a historic region that borders Romania and Ukraine, the Carpathian Mountains and a vast expanse of green hills make for a breathtaking landscape.
If these natural features weren’t picturesque enough, Bukovina’s painted monasteries and churches – decorated with ornate frescoes from the 15th and 16th centuries – are stunning examples of Byzantine art. A handful of the churches were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1993.
If you’re planning a trip to Asia, you might consider large cities like Beijing or Tokyo. But you should add Taipei to your list too.
From the bustling food markets that form the hub of the city’s nightlife to museums such as the National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine and the National Palace Museum, Taiwan’s capital is an exciting culinary and cultural destination in its own right.
Durban, South Africa
The beachside paradise of Durban is only about an hour from Johannesburg, but far less crowded.
The off-the-beaten-path spot is a draw for surfers thanks to massive waves, and appeals to thrill-seekers thanks to being home to the world’s largest swing.
La Paz, Bolivia
Sitting at an elevation of between 10,650 and 13,250 feet above sea level, La Paz is the world’s highest administrative capital. To view the gorgeous Andean scenery from above, take a ride on Mi Teleférico, the city’s aerial cable car system.
Named a “best value” city by Lonely Planet, La Paz is enjoyable no matter your budget. Travellers can sample fresh food at La Paz’s markets and go on hiking and biking excursions for under $US30 a day. Even if you spring for a trendy hotel or dine at upscale restaurants, you’ll still be spending less than you would in pricier locales.
In Ladakh, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are built right into the Indian Himalayas. While the high altitude and rough terrain might intimidate some travellers, the unbridled beauty of the arid mountain landscape is spectacular.
Whether you want to surf or experience the local music scene, Dakar – Senegal’s capital – could be the place for you.
“Senegal is another emerging west African destination, thanks to its great beaches for surfing, music venues, culture, and food,” a travel expert told Business Insider.
Taranaki, New Zealand
For local dining, head to New Plymouth, where you’ll find a mix of eateries in the West End precinct. The neighbourhood is also home to stylish galleries and shops.
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