Most underrated places around the world to explore!

We love exploring off the beaten track, there is nothing quite like stumbling across a great city, town or even area of a popular place and finding an amazing and underrated location. The real joy of travel is to explore, get lost and discover something new. To head off into the unknown and see what you come across. Underrated places might come in the form of those that no one seems to ever talk about, or that no one even knows exist…or even those places that people slate because often they haven’t given them chance or have had the wrong attitude from the offset! We teamed up with some other travellers to give a run down of the best underrated places to explore if you are looking for somewhere a little different to visit!
The most underrated places in the world, off the beaten track, Bulgaria, the nordics, Rwanda - From Gorillas to Lake Kivu, Taiwan, Peninsular Malaysia, Russia, Jakarta, Indonesia, The Sunshine Coast, Canada, Cityscape of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana at sunset. , Ruhrgebiet, Germany, tallin, estonia, Most underrated places around the world to explore!

Our pick:

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Interestingly enough this is a late entry, I am sat here in the hostel common room writing this post in Ljubljana! Even after just a few days in this city it has to be one of our all time favourites! We didn’t really know what to expect, would it be typically harsh but beautiful like many other Eastern European capital cities, or would it reflect more its closeness to places like Italy and Croatia? The truth is that it has a culture all of its own, a relaxed, creative and bohemian spirit that just captures you straight away. This green capital city is also temptingly close to the fairy tale town of Bled and the Julian Alps! Head over here before everyone finds out about it!

The most underrated places in the world, off the beaten track, Bulgaria, the nordics, Rwanda - From Gorillas to Lake Kivu, Taiwan, Peninsular Malaysia, Russia, Jakarta, Indonesia, The Sunshine Coast, Canada, Cityscape of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana at sunset. , Ruhrgebiet, Germany, tallin, estonia, Most underrated places around the world to explore!

Ruhrgebiet, Germany

My home town is located in the “Ruhrgebiet”, an industrialised region in Germany that was built on coal and the steel industry. Cities like Dortmund, Bochum and Essen come to mind.
Luckily, over the last couple of decades the “Ruhrgebiet” managed to attract more and more service industries and technology companies which makes it now a much cleaner, greener place than it used to be.
What is little known outside the region is that the “Ruhrgebiet” has these little rural pockets tucked in between the major urban centres. When you know where to look it is easy to find pretty farms with timber frame houses, fertile grain fields and lush woodlands. And sometimes you will find gems that you would otherwise associate with the romantic South of Germany.
I accidentally discovered the gorgeous Old Village of Westerholt on my last trip home and I was totally smitten by the colourful flower pots, the rural architecture and the pedestrianised cobblestone streets. A visit to Westerholt is a must-do when you are in the region.
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The Sunshine Coast, Canada

Vancouver, British Columbia, a city on everyone’s radar but take a short stunning ferry ride and you’ll discover The Sunshine Coast. Gibsons, Roberts Creek, Davis Bay, towns with beaches, lakes, hikes, and bike trails, a wonder for travellers who love the outdoors. A highlight, paddleboarding in Sechelt Inlet, your own private area! The short hike around Smugglers Cove offers views of turquoise water. Such beauty!
Two Scots Abroad Sechelt Inlet The Sunshine Coast Canada 
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Russia

The whole of Russia is way too underrated. I myself did not expect big things when I first landed in Russia. People shook their heads when they knew about my decision. Back then people in my small town still referred Russia as the Soviet Union, and the news that I am going to Russia spread like wild fire. People mostly advised me not to go. I am glad I did the right choice. It is astonishing even to myself that 5 years later I fell so in love with this country. Russia is blessed with pristine nature: snow-capped mountains, breath-taking beaches, mesmerizing greeneries, cascading waterfalls, Aurora Borealis taking over the night sky… they have it all. The architecture here are beyond impressive: candy-structured cathedrals, majestic canal city, the most beautiful metro network in the world, dazzling palaces… Russia blew me away! 

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Jakarta, Indonesia

I know so many people who have been to Bali but no one that has visited Jakarta. This, coupled with the fact that we were in the area and I love big cities, led me to visit this mega city capital of Indonesia. It has a bad reputation, but I am not exactly sure why, apart from the occasional problem with terrorism, but then so does Bali.
We spent 5 days with our kids and a had a great visit. There are just so many things to do – from visiting the old Dutch heritage areas to some fun theme parks to the massive national monument.
On top of the attractions, there’s some great food and the people are welcoming and friendly. The best part is that we barely saw another Caucasian person. There’s really no reason not to want to visit Jakarta.
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Taiwan

On my recent first trip to Taiwan, I was expecting big city sights similar to what I experienced in China (though Taiwan is not part of China).  I did find that, but I also found a quieter, less frenetic scene, especially in the countryside.  Fast, efficient trains make escaping the big city of Taipei easy, and so I enjoyed a few days in the countryside at scenic Sun Moon Lake.  My room at the Fleur de Chine hotel here had a bathtub that filled with hot springs water and a view of the large and beautiful Wenwu Temple, which I also visited.  Who knew?

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Patarei Sea Fortress Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

When I arrived in Tallinn, Estonia, I had heard of an abandoned Soviet era prison that one could visit. To my utter surprise, no one – locals or travellers – could advise me in the least as to how to find it. No one seemed to have heard of it, and I was the lucky one who stumbled upon it by accident while researching Tallinn. I used Google Maps to find my way – a mere 20 minute walk from the Old City, where most travellers stay, I found the prison. I imagined I’d be on a tour there, but it was quite the opposite; there were barely any others in the giant prison at all, and I found myself able to walk anywhere I chose to, with nothing barricaded off limits, and rarely saw another soul while there, making it all the more mesmerizing. As I walked around I couldn’t help but imagine what awful people had lived within those walls, while also thinking of the innocent people trapped in such a terrible place. It was beyond amazing, and I would recommend it to anyone! As an added bonus visiting this prison, the walls have been covered in many areas with art of different types – mostly political – making it all that more strange to walk through this abandoned building. Furthermore, the place was abandoned completely – meaning everything from typewriters to prisoner records were still scattered throughout the place. It was a crazy experience, and all for 2 euro. 

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Peninsular Malaysia  

Pangkor Island on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia is an eclectic little island that is so under promoted that even the most research happy travelers often overlook it. My curiosity about the island was piqued when I spotted a few random photos on Facebook, as I had never heard of the place. Located about halfway between Kuala Lumpur and Penang, this jungle clad island is both home to an active fishing port on the east side and nearly empty golden and white sand beaches on the west side.
 
I was pleasantly surprised to discover the emerald green waters on the westerly side, clean and inviting as well as finding beautiful Hornbill birds everywhere. The small island’s cultural diversity was also refreshing with the placement of several colorful temples and the welcoming vibe of the locals. The nearest town to Pangkor Island is coastal Lumut, Perak, which is an easy 15-minute ferry ride away. Definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in the area.
Unusual Lin Je Kong Temple on Coral Beach Pangkor Island
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Bulgaria

Confession – I only went to Bulgaria because it made geographical sense to fly there and Interail my way back. I picked out the capital and left with zero expectations. What I was met with was a beautiful and clean city with plenty to do. While the city was fantastic for food, culture, museums and leafy parks it wasn’t long until we were persuaded by our couchsurfing host to head for the beach town of Varna. With a round of beers costing less than a Starbucks coffee, a beautiful beach and a buzzing nightlife with nice people, I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t on my list before.

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The Nordics

Many travel enthusiasts avoid the Nordics because of high prices, poor currency exchange rates and horror stories about how hamburgers cost $30 north of the European continent. In a quest to see as much of Europe as possible from our home in London, we finally ventured to Oslo to see how one of the world’s happiest places on earth measured up, once value was taken into account. Holy cow. Norway is seriously gorgeous. Our favorite activity of all was completely free – a morning walk around Sognsvann Lake, where locals come to run, relax and picnic. This picturesque park is within city limits though you would hardly know it. And just like that – rumours of the world’s happiest people made total and complete sense!

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Tallinn, Estonia

When I said that I am going with some friends to Tallinn, Estonia at the beginning of February a lot of people advised me against it and suggested to go there in the summer, because in the winter it’s supposedly unbearable. If I have to be honest, on our first day it was so cold and snowing all the time that we had to cut our walking tour in the middle to go warm ourselves up. But the snow was sparkling and just adding up to the beautiful view of this medieval city. Fortunately, the weather was on our side and soon we had enough sunlight for a happy exploring of the city. Walking along the cobbled streets of the old town (which is an UNESCO Heritage site), you could easily feel like you are on the set of Game of Thrones. The center of the city is surrounded by medieval defensive walls and hills that give you an amazing view of the city from above.

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 Discovering Rwanda – From Gorillas to Lake Kivu

We dreamed of seeing the Silverback Gorillas in the wild and Rwanda offered great trekking options in the Volcanoes National Park barely three hours away from Kigali. However, not only was Rwanda still recovering from tribal genocide, but the diplomatic relations between Rwanda and France were officially broken at the time of our visit. French nationals like us were advised not travel to Rwanda. After researching the political situation from local sources, we decided to pursue our trip. From the moment we arrived, we felt welcome and safe. Visa and customs were a breeze. Kigali was a busy capital with stocked markets, kids at schools and businesses of all sorts. Public buses run on time over shiny new roads, passing by cultivated green hills, aptly deserving its name of the “Land of a Thousand Hills”. Led by knowledgeable guides, the Gorilla trek was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the fees supporting both the protection of the Gorillas and the local communities. We even ventured to the shores of Lake Kivu, the only tourists strolling small fishing villages and eating at local restaurants. Overall Rwanda is a gem waiting to be rediscovered and should be highly considered for any trip to Africa.
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Pastoruri Glacier, Peru

I had read some less than glowing reports about Pastoruri Glacier before visiting. One article said that it was a depressing place to visit due to the speed that it was receding. I visited anyway, and I’m glad that I did. The high altitude glacier (it’s about 5000 metres above sea level) is surrounded by the snow-capped mountains of Huascaran National Park and is fronted by a small lake full of floating ice. It might not be as grand as some of the glaciers in Patagonia but it’s still a pretty amazing place, and the fact that it will soon be gone is reason enough to visit it while you can. Another great thing about Pastoruri Glacier is that it’s a cheap and easy day trip from Huaraz, the base for much tougher hikes and treks in Huascaran National Park.

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So, what is your favourite underrated place?

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The most underrated places in the world, off the beaten track, Bulgaria, the nordics, Rwanda - From Gorillas to Lake Kivu, Taiwan, Peninsular Malaysia, Russia, Jakarta, Indonesia, The Sunshine Coast, Canada, Cityscape of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana at sunset. , Ruhrgebiet, Germany, tallin, estonia, Most underrated places around the world to explore!

Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.
  • Bernard Tan

    Thanks for sharing! I would totally love to head to Jakarta!

  • Christina

    Great list! I haven’t been to any of these places. Rwanda is really high on our bucket list. Hopefully we get to visit more of the places list here soon.

  • Akid

    This is an awesome list! I can’t believe I’ve not even been to Pangkor Island! More places to put down on the bucket list.

    • Thanks!! Yeah, it looks great there! We really have to get there ourselves one day too!

  • Gemma

    Hello from Slovenia! We agree on Ljubljana – we’ve only been here for 10 hours but it is sooo pretty. Thanks for sharing our story too!

    • Ohh, hello from one of our favourite countries in the world! Hope you had a great time there!

  • Claire

    Love this post! All of these places look stunning and I’ve added some to my bucket list. I too agree that Ljubljana (and all of Slovenia) is beautiful!

    • Thanks, yeah we’ve added some more to our bucket list from here!! it really is even better than you can imagine!! ha ha

  • Ljubljana sounds lovely!
    I personally would love to go to Iceland though. I’ve read so many articles about it, saying how beautiful it is and how friendly the people are.

    • Yeah Ljubljana is amazing, I can’t recommend it enough! Yeah Iceland is on our list, it looks amazing!

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  • I’ve been to Ljubljana – a really lovely city!

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  • Cheers to traveling

    Wow these places look beautiful! I’ll definitely have to put them on my list! Lovely photos!

  • Elena Smerichevskaya

    hello everyone. here is some useful information about one of the most fascinating places in Ukraine.
    Museum of Strategic Missile Troops
    This place is one of the unique military museums in the world. It was founded on the 30th of October,2001. A part of the missile regiment was used as a perfect location.
    the museum includes a silo for the missile SS-24, a silo-based command post for the missile launching, equipment and lots of mechanisms which are kept in original condition. Ex- missile troops officers are still working here are always ready to answer any interesting question!
    There is a shaft for the missile, which was 35 metres deep and its protective device which weight was 121 tons.
    An original command centre is a huge 45-metres-deep shaft with a metal container inside.This container was divided into 12 floors or compartments with equipment and special functions.
    But on the very lowest floors two officers were constantly on duty and were able to launch 10 missiles at the same time!
    This place also displays a nice collection of technic such as the Second World War tanks, armored carriers and many others.
    I have been working in this museum as an English speaking tour guide for more than 6 years. if you need any help in transportation to and from our museum it’s not a problem. I can help you to find a suitable car or bus and a driver. I work there without days off or holidays. feel free to contact me for booking a tour or any additional information any time of day and night . my e-mail is elena-smerichevskaya@yandex.ru or my phone number is +380952007578.
    you should definitely visit this fantastic place some day) I promise you won’t regret

  • Wow, these are all underated I agree, and many still off the radar to a majority of travelers. Great post.

  • Sandy & Vyjay

    This list is really wonderful. All the places seem to be great though people have not realized their potential. One place I can personally vouch for is Rwanda. I was there just last month and fell in love with the place. Of course the icing on the cake was the Gorilla trek, but apart from that everything else is really beautiful. A real treasure trove waiting to be discovered.

    • That is somewhere we would love to visit, the Gorilla trek sounds amazing. Thanks!

  • Darshan Thakkar

    Till date I had visited 5 county and wants to do more.. Thanks for sharing this article. I will bookmark this for sure. Also, Would like to share best hotel booking site weeklyhotels.com, for extended stay or weekly stay.