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Seven Under-Appreciated Travel Destinations

Budapest, Hungary

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!

 

Palace in Seoul

Seoul, South Korea 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.

 

The Hotel del Coronado in San Diego

San Diego, California 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 Lake from West Kelowna

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada 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.

 

The Central Market in Ljubljana

Ljubljana, Slovenia and Budapest, Hungary 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.

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.

 

The Tranquility of Narooma

Narooma, Australia from Béatrice Bernard-Poulin at Eille La Cheap

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 snorkelling, 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 harbour 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 travellers to go and discover the magic.

 

Sunset in the Pantanal

Pantanal, Brazil 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 lives 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 your most under-appreciated travel destination?

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






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What do you think about Seven Under-Appreciated Travel Destinations?

  1. Béatrice November 6, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    I agree so much with San Diego!

    Thank you for featuring Narooma, and I do hope more people go!

  2. Alouise November 6, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    Great post. I loved visiting Kelowna last year with my family – the entire area is gorgeous and can definitely be overlooked when traveling in British Columbia. I think the prairie region in Canada (parts of Alberta, as well as Saskatchewan and Manitoba) are often under appreciated by travelers. Maybe it’s because I grew up near and traveled to those regions, but I love the wide open spaces and big skies. Further to the point there are a lot of little towns in these provinces that have great quirky and odd attractions to stop at and see on a road trip.

  3. Indiana Jo November 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    Love this post. A couple of these places were already on my “to-visit” list…a few more have been added. A great way to share the world’s best secrets 🙂

  4. Lance November 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    Thanks for the comments! Totally agree that this a great way to put more places on the bucket list. I’m always surprised at the perspective my fellow travel writers take when writing about places!

  5. Cassie November 11, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    Great post and travel inspiration! The only one of these places I’ve ever been to is San Diego and I’ll agree it’s underappreciated as an urban destination–the diverse neighborhoods and craft brewery selection are wonderful! I never spend much time on the beach when I’m there, and I think lots of travelers go there just for that. The marine layer fog seems particularly thick down there so every time I’ve been it’s overcast. I REALLY want to get down to the Guadalupe Valley in Baja, as she suggests! (thanks, Elaine!)

  6. Alex November 13, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    The Pantanal has always been on my wish list for South America. Hope to make it there someday soon!

  7. Camels & Chocolate November 13, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    Of the places you listed, I’ve only been to Buda but I would DEFINITELY second that as an underappreciated, must-visit spot!

  8. Lance November 13, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    Thanks for the great comments. We’ve wanted to go to Budapest for a while and couldn’t make it work this past Spring. We’ll get there one day!

  9. Federico November 14, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    Been to several of these…I really likes Seoul though. So much to see and do in a really modern city , yet full of tradition in so many corners!

  10. Raymond @ Man On The Lam November 14, 2013 at 5:11 am #

    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!

  11. Abby November 19, 2013 at 8:45 am #

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

  12. Escape Hunter February 27, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    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:
    http://www.escapehunter.com/escapes/spain/main-valencia-010413.php

    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 March 1, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

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

  13. Alex March 21, 2014 at 5:00 am #

    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!:)

  14. Heather June 19, 2014 at 2:08 am #

    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

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