Most Underrated Travel Destinations Right Now 

Let’s update that wish list.

After a few epidemic years, the list of places you’d like to see once the world is once more accessible has become improbably long. Should the next vacation be to a city all the way across the world or a favorite tropical beach? Your desire to return to France, where you may spend your days indulging in pastries and copious amounts of wine on a patio, has been fueled by your Emily binge in Paris.

We’re all for sticking with what we know and love, but if you’re seeking for a different kind of adventure (because you’ve already crossed off so many items on your bucket list), why not visit somewhere that won’t be featured in as many of your friends’ Instagram posts? 

We conducted a survey of our extensive network of travel writers and editors to find out which underrated nations they believe everyone should visit (but which are not at risk of overtourism). The comments range from remote African coastlines to music-rich island nations with rugged terrain, as well as topics like underwater safaris and vampires in between.

Panama 

Ironically, Central America’s “hub” is also the region that receives the least attention from tourists. At the intersection of two continents and two oceans, Panama is a tropical paradise brimming with magnificent beaches, towering cliffs, and a vibrant culture. You can forget about that well-known canal with just that.

Costa Rica, Panama’s desired neighbor to the north, is frequently contrasted with Panama and preferred over it. (Confession: I first did that too.) However, Panama actually outperforms CR in a number of areas. The San Blas Archipelago alone contains a maze of nearly 400 outlying islands, almost all of which are unnamed, uninhabited, and/or entirely made of coral. It also has even more secluded mountain and island retreats. And as the commercial hub of Central America (cough, Panama City! ), Panama maintains a higher degree of internet connectivity than Costa Rica. In other words, it’s perfect for individuals with wanderlust who are determined to take the less-traveled routes yet still need to stay connected. Lisa Newman

Kyrgyzstan 

In Kyrgyzstan, you’re most likely perched atop a mountain. About 80% of the nation is made up of the Tian Shan mountain range, which means “Heaven Lake” in Mandarin Chinese. The majority of this range is at least 1,000 meters above sea level. Although its geological characteristics differ from peak to peak, the area is united by an amazing, heart-stopping beauty. You can travel the nation on foot or by horseback, living in yurts and eating stews to embrace the nomadic lifestyle. And if all of that sounds almost mythical, you’d be amazed to learn just how amazing the nation is. But first, you have to realize it even exists.

From its city of Bishkek to the vast countryside that makes up the majority of its landscape, where eagles fly and livestock grazes, this Central Asian nation rewards exploration and effort. The enormous, circular tents in Kyrgyzstan have felt or skin interiors and are typically heated with iron burners powered by dried cow dung. Laying down in one of them feels like slipping into the warmest fleece-lined pants in the world after a 12-mile trip up and down three dozen different types of rocks. – Michelle

South Africa 

350 miles off the coast of Senegal, Cape Verde appears to be at sea but is actually 350 miles off the coast of Africa. It has everything you would expect from a tropical beach paradise, including colonial towns, sparkling beaches, and shipwrecks in the clear waters. This ought to be on every traveler’s list solely from an aesthetic standpoint. However, the island country’s multicultural features are what deserve to be at the very top of that list.

When the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century, Cape Verde was dry and uninhabited. Since then, it has endured great hardships to create a truly modern culture across ten breathtaking islands, each with its own personality. Today, it’s where you may find the hearty and nutty stews of Senegal, the Portuguese’s colonial past, Brazil’s party-loving attitude, Ghana’s democratic mentality, and French wine knowledge. Everything is set to the national music genre of Morna, which combines joy, grief, struggle, and celebration into a complex that permeates this place’s complicated beauty, pointing both to the struggles of its history and the hope of its future. Iverson, Becki.

Ecuador 

Over the past 20 years, neighboring countries Peru and Colombia—the former with its award-winning cuisine and the latter with its pristine beaches—have really accelerated in the fight for tourists. Little Ecuador, located between the two and roughly one-fifth the size of the two taken together, should not be disregarded, nevertheless. The advantage of Ecuador is that it is very simple to navigate. Ecuador has its own style of ceviche (with popcorn! ), and its coastline is swimmable. The dollar is used as the currency. Andean Spanish: slow and clear.

Come here to be in awe of Quito’s vibrant architecture, the expansive indigenous market of Otavalo, the soaring mountain of Cotopaxi, and the fluttering forests of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. Ecuador is a small country with a variety of landscapes; you won’t miss anything there. It’s perfect for people with FOMO. Swim in the Amazon basin, observe blue-footed boobies, and indulge in as many empanadas as you like. Then go further: Go to a small town like Loja or a metropolis like Cuenca where you may explore old pre-colonial buildings, enjoy the beauty of an Ecuadorian center plaza, and go on hikes in the nearby countryside. — Naomi Tomky

Montenegro 

Nowadays, Croatia’s neighbor receives most of the attention, but Montenegro is just as beautiful and less crowded by cruise ships. Although it is slightly smaller than Connecticut, this tiny country on the Adriatic feels enormous and you can do a great deal in a short period of time. With some of Europe’s most stunning and rowdy beaches and an oceanfront party culture that can lean posh like Ibiza or sloppy like Cancun, this lush coastline is home to some of the continent’s most exciting beaches. Hop between historic Venetian villages like Budva, Kotor, and Perast, each boasting fortifications from the 15th century, gorgeous red-tiled roofs, and mouthwatering beach eateries.

After you’ve gotten your fill of the sun and sand, explore the less-visited eastern interior of the nation to find breathtaking mountain ranges, beautiful lakes, and untamed forests. You can hike through the magnificent Biogradska Gora National Park or whitewater raft down the famous Tara River Canyon. In the winter, the park is home to some of the most reasonably priced ski slopes in Europe. All of this is available for the typical Balkan price of $1.75 for a local draft. Danny Cole

Nepal 

This stunning small Himalayan monarchy, wedged between China and India, is more than just a brief pit stop on the globe-trotting circuit. Nearly half of the population speaks English, which lessens the culture shock of being plopped into a city as wonderfully chaotic as Kathmandu and makes the dollar go a long way. Although the majority of the population is Hindu, there are numerous Buddhist pilgrimage sites that provide visitors a chance to experience the country’s vibrant spirituality.

The historic city of Bhaktapur, not far from the busy capital, is home to a beautiful collection of religious sites that make for the ideal day trip for quiet reflection before you explore the rural cliffside settlements of the Annapurna range, sip yak butter tea in the Pokhara trekking region, or try to climb the renowned peaks of Mt. Everest. While mountaineering is the main activity for the majority of Western tourists, there are other lesser-known locations like the secluded Chitwan National Park where you can see one-horned rhinos, monkeys, and if you’re lucky, leopards and tigers — all while riding on an elephant, if that’s your thing. — Jay Gentile

Belize 

The sound of colourful birds breaking the stillness in your bungalow in Belize is the ideal wake-up call in a region where every day is a new adventure. Want to take a swim in a secret waterfall? In the Great Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole that can be seen from space, try out your diving talents. Discover deteriorating Mayan ruins? Obtain a shaman’s blessing? Hike amidst monkeys and jaguars? All of these activities are available in Belize, and as English is the official language, both short and lengthy trips can take advantage of them.

While you’re here, be sure to go snorkeling at Silk Cayes, a little island 22 miles off the coast that has nothing but a few palm trees and a grill. You will float over tropical fish swimming around the Belize Barrier Reef and coral in all different colors (the largest reef system in the Northern Hemisphere). After a filling lunch prepared by your guides, you can snorkel once more, this time with nurse sharks and loggerhead turtles. Jonathan Sweet