Put these under-the-radar places on your radar.
That’s the message from Time Out regarding these 14 spots, named by the guide as the most underrated travel destinations in the world for 2023.
The list has the aim of ‘inspiring and enabling people to discover places which pack a punch in terms of food, culture and experiences but are often overlooked by travellers’, and includes Plymouth in the UK, Bray in Ireland, Burlington in Vermont, USA, and Gippsland in Australia. But how are they all ranked?
Scroll down to find out. The list is presented here in reverse order.
14. Eastern Highlands, Zimbabwe
The stunning Mutarazi Falls in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands, ranked the world’s 14th most underrated destination
‘While most travellers to Zimbabwe will make a beeline for the majestic Victoria Falls or the renowned Hwange National Park,’ says Time Out, ‘the country’s eastern border is home to a place of equally astonishing beauty that has remained relatively unknown.’
Welcome to the Eastern Highlands, formed of a trio of hilly ranges – Bvumba, Nyanga, and Chimanimani – and home to the epic Mutarazi Falls, which at 772 metres in height (2,533ft), is Zimbabwe’s loftiest waterfall. There visitors can brave a zipline and step out onto a ‘dizzying’ skywalk.
13. Bray, Ireland
Bray, 13th on the list, lies 12 miles south of Dublin and is known as the ‘Brighton of Ireland’
When the railway arrived in Bray in 1854 it became so popular, explains Time Out, that it became known as the ‘Brighton of Ireland’.
Today, this seaside town 12 miles south of Dublin ‘buzzes with cafés and restaurants’ after years of decline.
Time Out adds: ‘Stroll from the harbour along the esplanade to the 800-foot-high (243m) Bray Head, worth the hour’s climb for panoramic views from its rocky summit. Refuel at Butler & Barry on the beach, before a Guinness at ace local institution the Harbour Bar.’
12. Sao Tome and Principe
Twelfth-place Sao Tome and Principe – ‘unsung beauties of African travel’
The equatorial volcanic Atlantic Ocean islands of Sao Tome and Principe in the Gulf of Guinea, which together form Africa’s second-smallest country, ‘remain one of the unsung beauties of African travel’, says Time Out.
It adds: ‘Here lush rainforests tumble into clear tropical waters, offering a wealth of nature-based adventures. In 2024, look out for the long-awaited reopening of Bom Bom Resort on the northern tip of Principe, a tropical haven that straddles forest and coast.
11. Lombok, Indonesia
Pictured above is volcano Mount Rinjani on Lombok, ranked 11th on the list
‘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, says Time Out.
‘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 at 3,726m/12,224ft in height] offers tough climbs and epic views. For the non-hikers, lush rainforests and thundering waterfalls beckon.’
10. Karpathos, Greece
Karpathos, ranked 10th, features ‘near-deserted beaches lapped by pristine waters’
‘While tourists flock to watch the sunset in overcrowded Santorini or bronze back-to-back on Mykonos’s packed beaches,’ says Time Out, ‘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.’
9. Turku, Finland
Turku, ninth on the list, is Finland’s oldest city and is ‘teeming with medieval attractions like its castle and cathedral [above]’
Turku is nicknamed the ‘Paris of Finland’ – ‘thanks to its waterside charms on the Aura River and thriving cafe and canteen culture’.
Time Out also notes that it’s Finland’s oldest city and is ‘teeming with medieval attractions like its castle and cathedral’.
8. Burlington, Vermont
Burlington, eighth on the list, is becoming one of America’s ‘unmissable food and drink destinations’
The waterfront university town of Burlington has ‘charm’, says Time Out and a ‘bustling restaurant and bar scene’.
In fact, the guide says, it’s becoming one of America’s ‘unmissable food and drink destinations’.
Two stand-out eateries are, it says, Eastern Mediterranean-influenced Honey Road and May Day.
7. Plymouth, England
Plymouth, seventh on the list, has ‘culture in spades’ and ‘quite possibly the UK’s best outdoor pool’
Time Out’s UK Editor, Huw Oliver, explains why the city on the south coast of Devon was selected: ‘Plymouth doesn’t cross a lot of people’s minds when it comes to planning a seaside getaway or a city break, but it should: you get two for the price of one here. It’s got culture in spades, with The Box offering world-class exhibitions in a beautiful setting and the Market Hall dazzling with its “immersive art dome”.
‘And that’s not to mention all the amazing food and drink, from classic fish and chips to England’s oldest gin distillery, plus quite possibly the UK’s best outdoor pool in the Tinside Lido. It offers an idyllic weekend away, right on the stunning Devon coast, and best of all, you’ll likely have a lot of it to yourself.’
6. Gippsland, Australia
Gippsland (sixth) ‘is a bountiful wonderland’ with a ‘fast-growing food and drink scene’
‘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,’ says Time Out.
It adds: ‘[It also has] one-of-a-kind villages and a fast-growing food and drink scene that’s all about championing local produce.’
5. Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
Cabo Rojo is ‘home to white sands and turquoise seas – and is void of big resorts’
Time Out says: ‘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.
‘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.’
4. Srebrenik, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The stunning medieval fortress near fourth-place Srebrenik
‘Bosnia and Herzegovina is packed with charming towns, and Srebrenik (87 miles north of Sarajevo) is as charming as it gets,’ says Time Out.
What’s there? Bosnia’s ‘best-preserved medieval fortress’, ‘vibrant cafes’ and ‘graceful mosques’.
In summary? ‘A darling waiting to be discovered,’ says Time Out.
3. Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca (third) is where the renowned Panama hat is made
‘For a relatively small city (although Ecuador’s third largest), Cuenca packs a mighty punch when it comes to culture,’ declares Time Out. ‘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.’
What’s more, says the guide – ‘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’.
2. Lake Bacalar, Mexico
Lake Bacalar (second), on the Yucatan Peninsula, is free of influencers and spring breakers
‘The tourist towns of Tulum and Cancun tend to dominate dialogue about Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula,’ says Time Out, ‘while 30-mile-long 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.’
Mongolia is ranked the world’s most underrated destination. While there, Time Out recommends a night under the stars in a ger (above)
The No.1 most underrated place is Mongolia and ‘has to be experienced to be believed’, says Time Out.
It’s a land, the guide notes, that’s ‘known for its traditional gers (yurts), friendly nomadic people, and herds of wild horses stomping across untouched steppes’ – and is now more accessible than ever thanks to a new international airport.
Time Out adds: ‘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.’
See www.timeout.com/travel/worlds-most-underrated-travel-destinations for more.