The 5 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.

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 neighbor to an untouched area of natural beauty in Zimbabwe, these are the world’s most underrated places to travel to this year. 

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 BoonlongBranded Content Editor, Time Out Singapore

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Lake Bacalar, Mexico

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.

Cuenca, Ecuador

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 FieldContributing journalist, South America

Srebrenik, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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 BillsContributor, travel

Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

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 DeJesusContributor, Puerto Rico

Gippsland, Australia

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