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Eastern Highlands, Zimbabwe
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The 14 most underrated travel destinations in the world

From a little-known Greek island to an English seaside city brimming with culture, these are the world’s most overlooked destinations

Edited by
Grace Beard
Written by
Time Out editors
Time Out contributors

Want to make 2023 the year you travel somewhere new? Well, we’ve got some pretty spectacular suggestions for you. We asked our global network of travel writers and editors to tell us what they think is the world’s most overlooked travel destination. The resulting list spans everything from tiny islands and seaside towns to massive lakes and whole countries – and makes for some serious travel inspo. 

What, exactly, makes a destination underrated? Are we talking about places that don’t regularly appear on top travel lists? Places that don’t get their fair share of tourism? Places that are legitimate hidden gems, off-the-tourist-trail, or offer great (or quiet) alternatives to popular spots in the same region? The destinations on this list fall into at least one of those categories. From Bali’s overlooked neighbour to an untouched area of natural beauty in Zimbabwe, these are the world’s most underrated places to travel to this year.

🏰 The most underrated travel destinations in Europe
💘 The most romantic places in the world
🌈 The most colourful places in the world

The world’s most underrated travel destinations

Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Mongolia

Known for its traditional gers (yurts), friendly nomadic people, and herds of wild horses stomping across untouched steppes, Mongolia has to be experienced to be believed. With a new international airport and affordable local-led tours, this seemingly far-flung country is more accessible than you’d expect. For a perfect introduction to the country, spend a couple of days in the capital, Ulaanbaatar – it’s surprisingly clustered and easy to explore – then take in the picture-perfect ranges and fresh mountain air of Gorkhi Terelj National Park. Stay the night under the stars in your own ger and don’t be surprised if nomadic herders stop by to welcome you.
Pailin Boonlong
Branded Content Editor, Time Out Singapore
Lake Bacalar, Mexico
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Lake Bacalar, Mexico

The tourist towns of Tulum and Cancún tend to dominate dialogue about Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, while Lake Bacalar – also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colours thanks to its forget-me-not, peacock and cyan waters – is often overlooked. It makes for a welcome change of pace, where you can take in all the beauty this corner of Mexico has to offer away from the influencers and spring breakers. Kayak to white-sand beaches, relax on the docks while spotting migratory birds, swim in cenotes and bed down in a spate of new eco-hotels, including dreamy Boca de Agua, located in its own nature reserve.
Imogen Lepere
Contributor, Mexico & Latin America
Cuenca, Ecuador
Photograph: Jon Chica/

3. Cuenca, Ecuador

For a relatively small city (although Ecuador’s third largest), Cuenca packs a mighty punch when it comes to culture. It’s an architectural beauty whose historic centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. It’s home to many artisans and artists, who showcase their work at the city’s annual arts festival, the Bienal de Cuenca. It’s a hub of traditional crafts – it’s here that the renowned Panama hat (actually called a Montecristi) is made, and travellers can visit workshops to see the intricate hat-making process in full swing. Often overlooked in favour of Ecuador’s more accessible cities like Quito or the bucket list-tickable Galápagos, Cuenca is a picturesque showstopper worth travelling up the Andes mountains for.
Laura Field
Contributing journalist, South America
Srebrenik, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Srebrenik, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Arguably Europe’s most underrated destination, Bosnia and Herzegovina is packed with charming towns, and Srebrenik (87 miles north of Sarajevo) is as charming as it gets. The King’s Town’ is home to Bosnia’s best-preserved medieval fortress, a fascinating twelfth-century structure overlooking the valley, packed with myths and legends. The peak of Majevica offers incredible views, while the relatively-recently-discovered Lake Ingram oozes romance. Add delicious food, vibrant cafés and graceful mosques, and you’ve got a darling waiting to be discovered.
John Bills
Writer, Time Out Travel
Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
Photograph: Christian Ouellet/

5. Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

A colourful beach town on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico, Cabo Rojo is home to all the white sands and turquoise seas you expect from a Caribbean getaway. It’s three hours by car from San Juan with a laidback vibe that feels light years away from the hustle and bustle of the capital. There are plenty of beaches to choose from, like Combate Beach, with a natural reserve separating the beach from the town, Buyé, an off-the-beaten-path beach you may share with local horses, and Boquerón, a lively beach village with restaurants and bars. Void of big resorts, you can find small family-owned inns and vacation rentals such as the family-friendly Combate Beach Resort or the luxury Cuatro Casitas. End your day sipping a passion fruit mojito with a view of the sunset the west coast of Puerto Rico is known for.

Jessica van Dop DeJesus
Contributor, Puerto Rico
Gippsland, Australia
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Gippsland, Australia

Located in Victoria’s eastern corner (around a 4.5-hour drive from Melbourne), Gippsland is a bountiful wonderland encompassing alpine roads, snaking waterways, fertile farmland and deserted stretches of white-sand beaches. Devastated by the bushfires of summer 2019-20 (which saw towns isolated for weeks, the local wildlife population decimated and more than 400,000 hectares of land burned) and then further impacted by the global pandemic, Gippsland’s recovery has been slow and steady. But with natural attractions aplenty, one-of-a-kind villages and a fast-growing food and drink scene that’s all about championing local produce (think seafood, cheeses, free-range meats, cool-climate wines and organic fruit), there’s truly never been a better time to visit this Victorian gem.
Leah Glynn
Melbourne Editor
Plymouth, England
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Plymouth, England

If the Devon city of Plymouth were any smaller, it’d be considered a jewel of a day-trip destination. If it were any bigger, it simply couldn’t be overlooked. Perhaps because of its middling size, it’s slipped under the radar, and that’s pretty unfair, if you ask us. Like art? The Box is a brilliant, recently opened gallery that celebrates local artists. Like architecture? You’ll be dazzled by the newly done-up Market Hall, which also has its own ‘immersive art dome’. Like swimming? Few pools are more spectacular than the Tinside Lido. Like gin? England’s oldest distillery is smack bang in the historic city centre. Book a room at the Bistrot Pierre B&B, in the revamped Royal William Yard, and you’ve lined up pretty much the perfect weekend away.
Huw Oliver
UK Editor
Burlington, Vermont
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Burlington, Vermont

Burlington’s charm as a waterfront University town is established, but with five Vermont chefs and eateries recently selected as semifinalists for the 2023 James Beard awards, it’s becoming one of the country’s unmissable food and drink destinations. From pastry chef Amanda Wildermuth’s tahini sundae at the Eastern Mediterranean-influenced Honey Road, to spicy brussels sprouts with a cult following thanks to chef Mojo Hancy-Davis’s farm-to-table menu at May Day – plus a rotating selection of craft beers from the small experimental brewery Foam Brewers – Burlington’s restaurant and bar scene is bustling.

Laura Osborne
Editor, Time Out Canada
Turku, Finland
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Turku, Finland

There’s a longstanding rivalry between the Finnish cities of Turku and Helsinki – and rightly so. Turku, the country’s second city and historic capital (a title it gave up in 1812) is every bit as spectacular as Helsinki. Nicknamed the ‘Paris of Finland’ thanks to its waterside charms on the Aura River and thriving café and canteen culture, Turku is also Finland’s oldest city (teeming with medieval attractions like its castle and cathedral) and a hub for green innovation. Our tip: go on a local produce-tasting tour on an electric boat and soar down the Aura in style.
Ed Cunningham
News Editor, Time Out UK and Time Out London
Karpathos, Greece
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Karpathos, Greece

While tourists flock to watch the sunset in overcrowded Santorini or bronze back-to-back on Mykonos’s packed beaches, Greeks in the know take the four-hour ferry ride from Rhodes to the tiny Dodecanese island of Karpathos. Do the same and you’ll find yourself chilling on a string of near-deserted beaches lapped by pristine waters and frequented by Mediterranean monk seals. Lap up local food in the tavernas of Olympos, a mountain village that feels frozen in time, where women still wear colourful traditional outfits and donkeys are the only traffic.
Heidi Fuller-Love
Contributor, Mediterranean
Lombok, Indonesia
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Lombok, Indonesia

Considering how crowded the beaches can get in neighbouring Bali, it’s astonishing that more people don’t make the short trip over to the island of Lombok. The south’s white-sand beaches see more slow-moving buffalo than traffic, while Instagrammers are a rare breed in the east’s terraced rice fields. Up north, the majestic Mount Rinjani (Indonesia’s second tallest active volcano) offers tough climbs and epic views. For the non-hikers, lush rainforests and thundering waterfalls beckon. And with the island recovering from the double blow of a large earthquake and the pandemic, there’s never been a time when your visit will be more appreciated.

Leyla Rose Contributor, Indonesia
São Tomé and Príncipe
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. São Tomé and Príncipe

Cast adrift in the Gulf of Guinea off West Africa, the volcanic islands of São Tomé and Príncipe together make up the second-smallest country in Africa, and remain one of the unsung beauties of African travel. A declared UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, here lush rainforests tumble into clear tropical waters, offering a wealth of nature-based adventures. There’s a rich cultural landscape to discover too, from the island’s history as the world’s largest cacao producer to charming overnight stays in traditional plantation rocas. In 2024, look out for the long-awaited reopening of Bom Bom Resort on the northern tip of Príncipe, a tropical haven that straddles forest and coast.
Richard Holmes
Contributor, South Africa
Bray, Ireland
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. Bray, Ireland

It was the arrival of the railway in 1854 that made Bray, just twelve miles south of Dublin, so popular it became known as the Brighton of Ireland. After years of decline, its mile-long Victorian seafront now buzzes with cafés and restaurants. Stroll from the harbour along the esplanade to the 800-foot high Bray Head, worth the hour’s climb for panoramic views from its rocky summit. Refuel at Butler & Ba​​rry on the beach, before a Guinness at ace local institution the Harbour Bar.
Stephen Emms
Contributor, Time Out Travel
Eastern Highlands, Zimbabwe
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Eastern Highlands, Zimbabwe

While most travellers to Zimbabwe will make a beeline for the majestic Victoria Falls or the renowned Hwange National Park, the country’s eastern border is home to a place of equally astonishing beauty that has remained relatively unknown. Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands comprise the three hilly ranges of Bvumba, Nyanga, and Chimanimani. It’s home to Mutarazi Falls, Zimbabwe’s highest waterfall, where you can zipline and attempt the dizzying skywalk; Mount Nyangani, the region’s highest peak and holy grail for hikers; and further to the south, the quiet, mist-laden Bvumba Mountains. With its steep hills, cool winds and scenic drives, this is Zimbabwe’s answer to the moors of Scotland.

Harriet Akinyi Contributor, Africa
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