Underrated Travel Destinations Worth to Visit Once in a Lifetime

Valparaiso, Chile
Valparaíso, Chile

While big cities like Paris or Rome are probably at the top of your travel bucket list, there are plenty of off-the-radar destinations that deserve your attention.

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.

Bergen, Norway

Bergen, Norway
Bryggen, Bergen’s historic harbor district.
 Grisha Bruev / Shutterstock

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 harbor 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, Albania

Sarandë, Albania
Sarandë is equally known for its archaeological sites and beaches.
 Artur Malinowski/Flickr

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.

Anguilla

Anguilla
The British territory of Anguilla has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean.
 EQRoy/Shutterstock

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.

Valparaíso, Chile

Valparaíso, Chile
You can see a house owned by poet Pablo Neruda in this colorful city.
 Skreidzeleu/Shutterstock

In a word, Valparaíso is colorful. Chile’s second-largest city is known for its street artand 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.

Neruda expressed his love for the city in the poem “Oda a Valparaíso,” in which he observes how Valparaíso looks as if “life has always surprised [it].”

Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama, Japan

Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama, Japan
The villages are characterized by their Gassho-style farmhouses.
 Milet Miranda/Flickr

Characterized 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

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
Lake Bohinj is located in the Julian Alps.
 Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock

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 Bohinjis a nature lover’s paradise. Visitors can explore the gorgeous environs by hiking, biking, and kayaking.

“In Bohinj, we’re a day or two behind the rest of the world,” Grega Silc, a tour guide with Hike & Bike Slovenia, told BBC Travel.

Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa

Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa
Tsitsikamma’s suspension bridge.
 Marko Kudjerski/Flickr

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

Hill Country, Texas, United States
Texas Hill Country is one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the US.
 E_Cotner / iStock

One of eight recognized 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

Garni Gorge, Armenia
The Garni Gorge.
 Oleg Sidorenko/Flickr

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

Faroe Islands, Denmark
Some of the Faroe Islands’ iconic colorful homes.
 Shutterstock / Galyna Andrushko

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, colorful houses, it’s also rich in dynamic scenery, from basalt cliffs to waterfalls.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Calgary, Alberta, Canada
There’s more to Calgary than the Canadian Rockies.
 jewhyte/iStock

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 specializes 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.

Puglia, Italy

Puglia, Italy
Polignano a Mare, a town in Italy’s Puglia region.
 Bojana Brkovic/Flickr

Italy’s Puglia region, which forms the heel of the boot-shaped country, is often overlooked in favor 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

Oedo Botania, South Korea
Oedo Botania began as an outcrop of rocks.
 Steve46814/Wikimedia Commons

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

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Assateague is home to hundreds of horses.
 

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

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La Roque-Gageac is a picturesque cliff-side village along the Dordogne River.
 

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

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Liechtenstein is a principality located between Switzerland and Austria.
 

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, Nicaragua.

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León.
 

Filled with stunning beaches and uncrowded waves, as well as lower prices than many of its more well-known neighbors, Nicaragua is becoming a destination to be reckoned with.

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

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Nairn Beach is known for its sand dunes.

Located in the Scottish Highlands, Nairn Beach is one of the best beaches in the UK, according to a readers’ poll from The Telegraph.

A popular summer destination, this beach — which is known for its sand dunes and resident school of dolphins— offers sweeping views of the Moray Firth.

Extremadura, Spain

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The Roman theater in Mérida, Extremadura. 

For an off-the-beaten-path destination in Spain, check out Extremadura. This historical region in the southwestern part of the country borders Portugal and is home to the ruins of a Roman theater.

Another noteworthy site is Monfragüe, a national park known for its geological features and wildlife, including 208 species of vertebrates.

Salta, Argentina

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Salta moves to the rhythm of its famous folk music.
 

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

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The Hobart waterfront.
 

Hobart, the capital of Tasmania (an island state of Australia), offers everything from athriving 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 $200 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.

Pangkor Island, Malaysia

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Pangkor Island boasts beaches, a rainforest, and a historic fort.
 Azzudin Abdul Aziz/Shutterstock

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.

Island of Gozo, Malta

Malta’s sister island is small in size but rich in history.
 Konstantin Aksenov/Shutterstock

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.

The island was also used as a filming location for “Game of Thrones.”

Mani Peninsula, Greece

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The Mani Peninsula is often overlooked but features dramatic scenery.
 

The Mani Peninsula, one of three peninsulas that extend from Greece’s Peloponneseregion, was named one of “Europe’s hidden coasts” by The Guardian in 2017.

Often overlooked, the Mani features dramatic scenery like steep mountain foothills and abandoned stone towers.

Bukovina, Romania and Ukraine

Bukovina, Romania and Ukraine

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Bukovina is a land of mountains and green hills.
 

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.

 

Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei is an exciting culinary and cultural destination.
 Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

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

Durban, South Africa

Vetchies Beach in Durban.
 lcswart/Shutterstock

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

La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz’s aerial cable car system offers great views of the Andean scenery.
 Shutterstock

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. Travelers can sample fresh food at La Paz’s markets and go on hiking and biking excursions for under $30 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.

Ladakh, India

Ladakh, India

Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are built into the Indian Himalayas.
 Zoltan Szabo Photography / Shutterstock

In Ladakh, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are built right into the Indian Himalayas. While the high altitude and rough terrain might intimidate some travelers, the unbridled beauty of the arid mountain landscape is spectacular.

On Quora, a user describes Ladakh as “an experience of a lifetime” rather than a tourist destination. First opened to tourists in 1974, the region now attracts more than 300,000 annual visitors.

Dakar, Senegal

Dakar, Senegal

Fishing boats in Dakar.
 Shutterstock

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.

Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Guayaquil.
 Shutterstock

While often dismissed as a necessary layover en route to the Galapagos islands (another must-visit), a refreshed riverfront, as well as new hotels and restaurants popping up all over town are enticing visitors to spend more than just one night in Guayaquil.

Taranaki, New Zealand

Taranaki, New Zealand

Taranaki, a region between Auckland and Wellington, beckons hikers and foodies.
 Phillip Capper/Flickr

Situated between Auckland and Wellington on New Zealand’s west coast, Taranaki beckons hikers and foodies alike. The region’s eponymous volcano, surrounded by Egmont National Park, is a must-see.

For local dining, head to New Plymouth, where you’ll find a mix of eateries in the West End precinct. The neighborhood is also home to stylish galleries and shops.

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SEE ALSO: 27 underrated US destinations everyone should visit in their lifetime

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