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Seven Under-Appreciated Travel Destinations

Sometimes when traveling, you encounter a destination and say to yourself: “This place is amazing? How come it isn’t at the top of everyone’s travel lists?” Maybe it is a small regional destination that is just coming onto the world stage or maybe it is a massive city that is overlooked in favor of more impressive neighbors. We asked a group of fellow travel writers to name their most under-appreciated travel destinations. The responses delighted us!

Seoul, South Korea

Palace in Seoul
Palace in Seoul

From Jim Cheney at The Tripologist

When people plan trips to Asia, they often think of cities such as Tokyo, Beijing, or Hong Kong. And while all three are amazing places to visit, dismissing Seoul, South Korea would be a huge mistake. Having risen from the ashes of the Korean War 60 years ago, Seoul has transformed itself into one of Asia’s most vibrant cities. Whether you’re looking for history, culture, or even great shopping, Seoul has something for everyone.

However, what surprised me the most when I arrived in Seoul for the first time was the beautiful natural setting the city resides in. Built in a valley between several large hills, the city has spread out over the centuries to encompass those hills, meaning that fantastic hiking and scenic Buddhist temples are a short subway ride away from the city center.

Fortunately, Seoul is starting to get international attention thanks to the growing popularity of Korean pop music and dramas. What was once the hidden gem known only to Asian tourists as started to become more and more known to the world. Hopefully it won’t be underrated for much longer.

San Diego, California

Red roofs of the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego
The Hotel del Coronado in San Diego

From Elaine Masters at Trip Wellness

San Diego’s touted for its ideal weather and beaches. That’s arguable – I’ve seen too many visitors huddling beneath their beach towels or in the chilly waves to agree. Like anyplace – it shines when conditions are perfect and that may be true more days than not.

What doesn’t get mentioned are the hidden gems that lie just a bit off the usual tourist’s radar: the quirky Highway 101 / surf cities of Solana Beach, Cardiff and Encinitas about ten miles north of downtown; the pan-Asian enclave along Convoy with its foodie heaven Zion, Mitsuya and 99 Ranch markets; the trails through canyons urban and lagoon; cross-cultural treats (wine, cheese, olives, seafood and leisure – traditional and cutting edge) less than an hour away in Guadalupe Valley and diving through staggering kelp forests off from Point Loma with its iconic lighthouse.

Then there’s the music, brewery, culinary and theatrical scenes which punch up weekends no matter your tastes or age.

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Okanagan Lake from West Kelowna
Okanagan Lake from West Kelowna

From Murissa Shalapata at The Wanderfull Traveler

The Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada is quickly becoming recognized as a new wine region worthy of both your travel dollars and taste buds. From a city escape to Kelowna with stunning wineries located 15 minutes from downtown and only 45 minutes to Big White Ski Resort for the legendary Okanagan champagne powder or Naramata the small town on the beach with the option to visit 25+ wineries perched on the Naramata Bench, this valley has it all and is the all year round vacation secret Canadians are keeping to themselves.

To help you narrow it down one must see is Mission Hill Winery in West Kelowna for the stunning architecture built upon an extinct volcano, summertime dinning over the Okanagan Lake and award winning wine.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Central Market and river in Ljubljana
The Central Market in Ljubljana

From Adelina Wong at Pack Me To

Ljubljana, and all of Slovenia, is a city and country that I highly recommend to those backpacking through Europe. This small country is easily overlooked, but it is definitely worth a visit. It’s a tiny country, but it is beautiful. The capital has all the grandeur of the bigger cities in Europe, and it is much more affordable.

Explore the metelkova area for a strange, but very unique experience. Day and night are two completely different experiences. Stroll the streets along the Ljubljanica River and you’ll think you’ve been whisked away to an Italian city. Beyond the scenery, the food is heavily influenced by its neighbor to the west resulting in delicious Italian foods at extremely reasonable prices.

Budapest, Hungary

From Adelina Wong at Pack Me To

Another city often overlooked is Budapest, Hungary. Avoid the tourist crowds and get a more authentic feel of a city in Budapest. It’s grungy and a little dirty, not perfect, but that is what makes it so great. It’s a city that is still finding its identity after so many years under communist rule. Among the crumbling walls are intricately designed buildings, beautiful thermal baths, and delicious foods and pastries.

Plus the nightlife is like no other city, with fantastic ruin bars hidden in the most unlikely of places. Be sure to try palinka – older Hungarians swear by this fruit brandy and believe in its medicinal properties to cure anything.

Narooma, Australia

Lake at sunset
The Tranquility of Narooma

From Béatrice Bernard-Poulin at Béatrice

Narooma, New South Wales, may technically be on the east coast of Australia – the country’s most visited – but it’s not part of the country’s usual tourist circuit. Even Australians seem to prefer holidaying in Merimbula, a few hours away.

What makes it so special, then? There’s the wonderful Surf Beach, with its turquoise water and beautiful golden sand. Then there’s the golf with a view – I don’t even play golf and I wanted to go. There’s the unbelievable boardwalk – some of which rests directly on the water. There’s the snorkeling, too – getting up close with sea lions is completely unreal. And then there are the gorgeous sunsets over the lake, the perfect excuse to sit by the harbor with a few friends and a bottle of wine.

Maybe Narooma’s anonymity is part of what makes it so special… but I almost want to force travelers to go and discover the magic.

Pantanal, Brazil

Sunset in the Pantanal
Sunset in the Pantanal

From Jo Fitzsimons at Indiana Jo

Brazil is famous for the Amazon, which encourages many people into dugout canoes to explore the wildlife that waits in the jungle’s interior. What far fewer people appreciate is that Brazil is also home to another exciting habitat with toucan, jaguar and caiman residents. Under explored, the Pantanal has endless potential for adventure and wildlife spotting.

Spend a morning riding horses at a pousada (ranch) and an afternoon fishing for piranhas (strangely, the fish taste like beef when they’re cooked). The journey can be arduous involving buses, boats and off-road jeeps but is likely to be a highlight of your South America trip.

So what do we think are the most overrated travel destinations?
Our fellow travel writers have some terrific suggestions. Naturally, this got us thinking: what are our most under-appreciated travel destinations. We certainly agree with Elaine Masters that San Diego is special, but we’re biased – Laura’s sister lived there and we visit San Diego often. We also agree with Adelina that Budapest, Hungary is extremely special and a place that completely surprised us.

For the last several years, we’ve been extremely impressed with Oman. When we visited Muscat, Oman a few years ago, we were blown away by the history, the culture, the food, and the whole experience of this small nation. Earlier this year, we visited Bratislava, Slovakia and were equally surprised. We didn’t have high expectations for this city, but immediately fell in love with it.

Finally, a city we return to again and again is Nuremberg, Germany. Nuremberg is often overshadowed by its larger neighbor Munich, but the city’s medieval core and impressive city walls never disappoints.

What is the most under-appreciated travel destination? What is your vote for the best underrated travel destinations?

A final note: If you liked this article, you might also enjoy Seven Over-rated Travel Destinations!

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Thursday 19th of June 2014

Great to see San Diego (where I live) on your list. But North County (Cardiff, Solana Beach, Encintas) are MUCH further than 10 miles from downtown. I live downtown and they're over 30 miles away. Just a heads up for those thinking it will be a short venture, it can take 45 minutes or longer depending on traffic and whether you take the coast or not. :) - Heather, Life of a Traveling Navy Wife


Friday 21st of March 2014

thank you for the tips! I have seen most of them (in Europe) but I have to agree with you on San Diego! It's my favorite in California after San Fran.

Happy travelling!:)

Escape Hunter

Thursday 27th of February 2014

You are right about the under-appreciated destinations! Great tips. Indeed, Budapest and Ljubljana are both fantastic destinations. Been there, done that!

I had the same feeling of amazement when I visited Valencia in Spain last year.

A bustling big city that's cleaner than Barcelona and has a bucket load of beautiful buildings, lots and lots of great places to eat and... a huge beautiful beach. Their beach is more vast than the ones I saw in Benidorm, Alicante...

Valencia somehow gets dwarfed by Barcelona, Alicante, Malaga, Sevilla and other destinations. But it's so frenetically beautiful that I warmly recommend it to you as well (that is, if you haven't been yet).

Lance Longwell

Saturday 1st of March 2014

Actually, Budapest and Ljubljana are two of the places we haven't been. We're looking forward to visiting them!


Tuesday 19th of November 2013

Okanagan is newly on my radar. Gorgeous photos -- and places!

Raymond @ Man On The Lam

Thursday 14th of November 2013

Great list -- sadly, I've only been to one of them. :(

I'm in Santa Barbara right now and this is totally an under-appreciated destination -- mountains, sunshine, beach, and super-friendly people!

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