Browse most travel-focused Instagram feeds or peruse popular where-to-travel lists, and you’ll likely be presented with the usual suspects: Paris, Iceland, New York City, and the like. And while we love these major metropolises and countries, we’re also interested in the underdogs -- the mainly undiscovered destinations that offer plenty of cultural appeal without the crowds. Some of these lesser-known, and thus lesser-visited, spots have remained largely under the radar because they lie close to popular bucket-list destinations, while others have earned an unfair reputation for being unsafe or, well, boring. However, if you’re looking for booming art scenes, tasty and eclectic cuisines, and interesting neighborhoods and enclaves, then you might want to consider this list, in which we tapped in-the-know travel experts to share their favorite underrated destination for 2018.
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“Fun-in-the-sun vacations in France tend to come in two flavors: the sleepy charm of Provence, with its lavender fields and vineyards, and the full-on glitz of the French Riviera (aka Côte d’Azur). Corsica tends to be a distant third, if it’s remembered at all. But for its fans, that’s just fine. We’d rather keep this island all to ourselves. That’s not terribly hard to do, considering getting there requires leaving the mainland and setting off for that stretch of sea that’s between France and Italy. (Cruise ships do dock here, though.) Corsica has some of the most varied geography, so in this one little spot, travelers can find breathtaking beaches, towering mountains, and forests — to the delight of adventure lovers that hike, bike, and swim through these glorious surroundings. But culture-vultures will also find a charming, fiercely independent region with its own rich history spotted in its citadels, towers, ruins, and a lively port scene.” — Maria Hart, Senior Editor at Oyster
“Houston is incredible — a dynamic, under-the-radar city with an equally under-the-radar dining scene. Houston embodies what’s great about America, with a booming art scene and lots of opportunities for talented entrepreneurs looking to turn dreams into reality. Add in incredible museums, diverse food options, and a fun music scene, and you’ll quickly see that H-Town has everything, and every layer you peel off will astound you.” — Samantha Brown, TV Host of New PBS Series Places to Love
“When people think of their dream trip to Europe, it’s often London or Paris; Germany is usually further down the list, or not on there at all. But Germany is truly a magical destination — where else can you literally drive down a road called the Castle Road and seek out centuries-old castles? Famous castles include Neuschwanstein, the actual castle that inspired Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World! There’s also a Fairy Tale Route, where you can see where the Brothers Grimm were inspired to write Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and other classic children’s tales. And the festive Christmas markets with handmade gifts and gluhwein (warm mulled wine) — nobody does Christmas like Germany.” — Amanda Geronikos, Features Editor at Family Vacation Critic
“Vietnam’s not a secret any longer, with millions of tourists visiting the beautiful Southeast Asian country every year. Thankfully, neighboring Cambodia remains a hidden gem for those eager for immersion in culture, history, and food. Visit for its breathtaking temples, or head to the Gulf of Thailand coast for beautifully peaceful beaches. No matter where you go, make sure to check out the country’s famous Apsara dancers, who tell a choreographed story with their bodies, all the way down to their impossibly flexible fingers. Daring foodies can visit street markets in Siem Reap and to try dishes like fish amok or fried tarantula. A number of cruise lines offer journeys along the Mekong River, and most visit Cambodia and Vietnam. Look for an itinerary that allows you a few days on land in Cambodia before or after your cruise, so you can enjoy all the country has to offer. to see what sailings take you to Cambodia.” — Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor at Cruise Critic
“When travelers are considering a trip to Southeast Asia, they tend to look at the usual suspects — Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia — yet remains off the radar, and it has so much to offer. is set on the Tonlé Sap River and it will steal your heart, with bustling markets, sleepy cafes, hip bars, and shops selling beautiful artisanal crafts and silks. While visiting sights like the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum is difficult to do, it’s a must in order to understand a devastating, but important, piece of modern-day history. Outside the capital, an hour-long plane ride to Siem Reap transports you to the mind-blowing ancient temples of Angkor, and in the Sihanoukville Province, there are islands with stunning beaches, like backpacker-magnet Koh Rong and romantic Koh Rong Sanloem.” — Rachel Klein, Editor at Oyster
“Kansas City, Missouri, is a less-touristy alternative to Nashville. It’s a super simple weekend getaway destination: You only need a few days to explore the city, and you won’t see any of the bachelorette parties found in its Tennessee counterpart. If you’re expecting farmland, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find a well-established city (stay on the Missouri side, not the Kansas side, for the best experience). There’s some of the best barbecue to binge on in the South, alongside live jazz and rustic shops. Keep an eye out for the Prohibition-era landmarks, too.” — Rebecca Fontana, Digital Content Director at Time Out New York
“Everybody’s all about Iceland (and don’t get me wrong, Iceland is wonderful), but if you want a similar otherworldly experience without all of the crowds, head to the nearby Faroe Islands. Located between Iceland, Norway, and the U.K., the remote group of 18 islands are an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark. Expect dramatic landscapes, a warm Scandinavian culture, and puffins — lots of adorable puffins. While the bus system is extensive and easy to master, my best tip is to rent a car to get between the islands, or at least the ones connected by bridges and tunnels, anyway. For the more remote islands, you’ll need to take ferries or helicopters, but trust me, the experience is worth it.” — Stefanie Waldek, Editor at Oyster
“Everything is bigger in Texas, including cities like Dallas and Houston, but some of the Lone Star State’s best offerings come in smaller packages. That’s certainly the case for Fredericksburg, a town of around 11,000 people that’s set roughly 90 minutes by car from both Austin and San Antonio. It was founded in 1846 by German settlers, and its German roots are still evident, particularly during the popular annual Oktoberfest celebration. The charming Main Street is lined with antique shops, clothing boutiques, and eateries cooking schnitzel and sausages, plus multiple area vineyards make it a lovely wine retreat.” — Lara Grant, Editor at Oyster
“Of the former Yugoslavian nations, landlocked Serbia may not attract as much attention as, say, Croatia or Montenegro, but there are plenty of reasons why you should visit. The mountainous regions of Kapaonik, Zlatibor, Sar Planina, and Tara offer lake-side health spas in the summer and ski resorts in the winter, all for a sliver of what you’d pay in Western Europe.
Belgrade, Serbia’s capital city and once the capital of all of Yugoslavia, can appear a little rough around the edges, though never charmless. If dancing till dawn (or later) is your thing, Belgrade has earned a reputation for being a bit of a party town, with makeshift clubs springing up along the river and in industrial areas.
Food and accommodations are cheap, but airfares from the U.S. can be all over the place. On the low end, it’s often possible to book something in the $500 range for travel from fall to spring, with fares jumping (as they do) for peak summer. You may have better luck searching for fares to Budapest and booking an inexpensive rail ticket to Belgrade.” — Tracy Stewart, Content Editor at Airfarewatchdog
“When you tell people that you’re going to Brazil, they will tell you about beaches, Rio, Afro-Brazilian culture, soccer, Niemeyer, and the Amazon. What they will also tell you — almost without exception — is to give the nation’s largest city, Sao Paulo, a wide pass. And that’s a major disservice. You’ll likely hear horror stories about the crime, the packs of gangs, and the general feeling that it’s all falling apart. And while there certainly is crime and a major problem with income disparities, the city feels incredibly stable, well-functioning, and dynamic on the ground. It has beautiful neighborhoods like Vila Madalena, gorgeous green spaces like Ibirapuera Park (the city’s version of Central Park), modernist architecture, an LGBT hub along Rua Frei Caneca, hipster-packed outdoor markets, indie boutiques, luxury shopping, amazing food, street life that buzzes nearly everywhere, and nightlife that is unrivaled in the Americas.
All of this alone is reason enough to spend several days exploring the massive sprawl that makes up Sao Paulo, but it also happens to be home to a booming art scene. There are numerous museums putting up contemporary art collections — like the Sao Paulo Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary Art — plus locally-owned galleries in Pinheiros and Vila Madalena, and fascinating art outposts like Choque Cultural, a cultural center that’s dedicated to the street art form and cutting-edge public works. Not enough for you? Head to the Beco do Batman — a narrow alley of commissioned street art where you might spot a funk video being shot if you’re lucky.” — Kyle Valenta, Senior Editor at Oyster
“Uruguay is often overshadowed by its flashier neighbors, Argentina and Brazil. But Porteños have known for years that this Big Sky Country of the Southern Hemisphere — easily accessible by ferry from Buenos Aires — has miles of untouched beaches and lush grasslands framed by endless blue skies.
In the southernmost capital of the Americas, Montevideo, the neighborhood of Ciudad Vieja reflects Uruguay’s evolving landscape, with elements both old and new. Crumbling facades marked with colorful graffiti and street art house vibrant restaurants cooking up dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Uruguayans toting mate and thermoses of hot water walk past hip new coffee shops. Don’t miss the Museo Andes 1972, a small but powerful museum chronicling an airplane tragedy that gripped the world nearly 50 years ago.
Those seeking luxury and the Hamptons set will find that, quite literally, in Jose Ignacio, a small beachside town located about 20 miles east of party spot Punta del Este. I loved staying at Estancia Vik, a gorgeous ranch with 12 suites — filled with artwork by Uruguayan artists — plus offerings like horse rides, kayaking, and other activities with your stay.
The three-hour drive from Jose Ignacio to the capital has noteworthy stops, including the giant hand sculpture by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal; Fundación Pablo Atchugarry, a beautiful sculpture park; and Casapueblo, a museum and hotel housed in a Gaudi-esque structure, with its undulating white facade rising precipitously above the sea.” — Robin Kawakami, Senior Travel Editor at TODAY
“Formerly part of Yugoslavia, Bosnia borders Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro, and is one of the more wallet-friendly countries in Europe. Though some bullet-studded buildings still stand in Sarajevo (the capital) and Mostar, serving as reminders of the war that ravaged the area from 1992 to 1995, the overall atmosphere is vibrant. In fact, a stroll through the cobbled streets of the Old Town will reveal beautiful churches, mosques, and a synagogue, outdoor cafes serving Bosnian-style coffee (similar to the Turkish variety), and fascinating museums and diverse architecture that shed insight into the country’s history. The surrounding hills and white minarets create a beautiful scene. Further inland, waterfalls, like Kravice, provide stunning settings for taking a dip and cooling off. Thrill-seekers will enjoy watching locals take the plunge into the emerald-hued Neretva River from the Stari Most bridge in the town of Mostar, which is also well-known for its Ottoman-era architecture.” — Alisha Prakash, Editor at Oyster
“When people go to Italy, Rome, Tuscany, and the Amalfi Coast practically have a monopoly on their time and travel dollars. And rightfully so! But travelers who venture to the southeast (the heel of Italy’s boot) are rewarded with dramatic beaches, charming villages, and a countryside as serene and lovely as its more famous (and crowded) Tuscan cousin. In fact, is the least-visited region in the country, so you can expect significantly fewer crowds — and much lower costs — than other Italian destinations.” — Anne Olivia Bauso, Associate Editor at Oyster
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