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17 Most Underrated International Vacation Destinations

It seems like almost everyone has gone to or is planning on going to places like Paris, Rome, Tokyo or the Mexican Riviera. While those popular travel spots certainly have their place, if you’d rather be a little bit different and enjoy a real off-the-beaten-track adventure, you’ll find lots to love about these fantastic yet underrated international vacation destinations.

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Gdansk, Poland Gdansk, Poland
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Gdansk, Poland

Gdansk is one of Poland’s coolest cities with a rich history going back a thousand years. It has an important place in Polish consciousness as the location of the start of World War II and where the fall of Communism in Central Europe began as well as being one of the most important seaports on the Baltic. Numerous visitors are drawn to its historic city center, outstanding museums, expansive beaches spread along the coast of the Gulf of Gdansk and its amber. Visit the Amber Museum in the old prison building, shop for amber jewelry or even try your luck at fossil hunting for free amber along one of the beaches. If you want an adult beverage, don’t miss No To Cyk, a trendy bar styled with old Communist memorabilia and drinks that will set you back just four Polish Zlotys –only slightly more than one U.S. dollar for any drink you order up.

Bolivia Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
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While neighboring Peru, Brazil, Chile and Argentina attract many tourists, very few head to Bolivia. While this landlocked nation will never draw beach lovers, it offers plenty of breathtaking landscapes – all largely untouched. Just some of what’s waiting to be explored include fiery-red lakes, the largest salt flats on earth, the silver mines of Potosi, some of the world’s highest volcanoes and a picturesque capital city with a laid-back atmosphere, indigenous culture and prehistoric sites. Of course, Bolivia can also boast the “world’s most dangerous road,” the roughly 40-mile road from La Paz to Coroico, winding through the lush, jungle-covered mountains.

Havana, Cuba Havana, Cuba
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Havana, Cuba

Cuba is slowly being opened up to Americans, but many people are still under the impression that it’s impossible to visit, which is why few manage to make the trip. Plan to do so sooner rather than later, before everyone discovers this gem. You may feel as if you’ve stepped back in time with 1950s cars parked in front of colonial and neo-classical architecture. A three-decade restoration project has transformed many of Old Havana’s magnificent buildings into museums, art galleries and hotels. Here, creativity abounds, almost everyone is an artist, writer, musician, dancer, painter, or poet. Wander the Plaza Viejo to enjoy street musicians, sip rum, stroll some of the most beautiful beaches on earth and meet incredibly friendly people.

The Philippines The Philippines
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The Philippines

The Philippines is made up of more than beautiful 7,000 islands that are unlike anywhere else on the planet, yet the country attracts few tourists. This diverse country offers a wide range of culturally rich experiences along with all types of outdoor recreational activities on water and on land. It has practically an endless number of natural wonders on its beautiful islands, including magnificent, world-class beaches sitting at the edge of cerulean waters, 37 volcanoes, the spectacular rice terraces of Banaue, the Underground River National Park in Palawan and the Chocolate Hills of Bohol. If that isn’t enough, you can always go swimming with whale sharks off the coast of Donsol, known as the home of what may be the largest school on earth.

Nara, Japan Nara, Japan
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Nara, Japan

Nara is often forgotten in favor of nearby Kyoto, yet it’s equally rich with ancient Buddhist temples, shrines and beautiful gardens, minus the large crowds. Stroll the narrow, winding streets of Naramchi, an old merchant district where many of the traditional wooden townhouses have been converted into restaurants and cafes. At Nara Park, you can get up close to tame deer, explore an 8th-century temple and enjoy a walk through a serene garden. As the birthplace of sake, you’ll find lots of great sake bars as well as the chance to visit Harushika, a 131-year-old brewery for a tour or tasting.

Galway, Ireland Galway, Ireland
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Galway, Ireland

Most people tend to visit Ireland’s capital city or take a scenic drive through the southwest, but few manage to enjoy the pleasures on one of the Emerald Isle’s greatest cities. Located on the west coast just an hour from the Shannon Airport, Galway has a medieval meets modern vibe and is home to more than 70 pubs that offer the chance to drink a pint while enjoying everything from traditional Irish tunes at Tigh Neachtains, to rock and folk. As a city by the sea, you can expect the freshest fish, including renowned oysters, to indulge in with your Guinness. If you’re here in September, you won’t want to miss The Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival, though you’ll find a hot food scene at any time of the year.

Taipei, Taiwan Taipei, Taiwan
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Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei is one of Asia’s nicest capital cities – and a city of contrasts where tranquil parks are encircled by hectic streets and traditional markets sit next to trendy boutiques. You’ll find acres and acres of green space, a convenient public transportation system and a wealth of outdoor adventures, including hiking in the surrounding mountains, soaking in Beitou Hot Springs and exploring Yangmingshan National Park, famous for its cherry blossoms, sulfur deposits, fumaroles, hot springs and hiking trails, including the tallest dormant volcano in the country, Seven Star Mountain. Many argue that Taipei’s biggest attraction is its food. The city has some 20 streets dedicated to snacking alone, and every time you think you’ve found the very best, there always seems to be another eatery that surpasses it.

Newfoundland, Canada St Johns
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Newfoundland, Canada

What’s not to love about Newfoundland? While it may not be for those who want to spend their days lounging on the sand and soaking in the sun, this large Canadian island off the east coast of the North American mainland offers breathtaking scenery, quaint villages, unspoiled wilderness, world-class fishing and the opportunity to see a very diverse range of wildlife. Here you’ll have the chance to spot moose, caribou, lynx, black bear and even a polar bear, among a long list of other creatures. Head out on a boat or kayak tour, and you’ll have a good chance of getting up close and personal with whales. Humpbacks are commonly spotted, though orcas, minke whales and finbacks can also be seen. In North America’s oldest city, St. John’s, visitors can explore fantastic museums, visit significant historical and cultural sites, or take part in lively nightlife. George Street has the most pubs and bars per capita of any other street on the continent, with two blocks devoted to music and debauchery.

Granada, Nicaragua Granada
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Granada, Nicaragua

Granada is a colorful city with some of the most well-preserved architecture in Nicaragua. Founded in 1524, it’s also the oldest city in Central America, with its distinctive, neoclassical sunny yellow cathedral constructed in 1583. Wander the streets, gazing at the beautiful Spanish colonial-style structures, mostly awash in greens and pale yellows, topped with orange clay roof tiles, and be sure to stop for a bite to eat at one of the kiosks in the town square serving delicious vigoron, a local pork and cabbage dish.

Mozambique Mozambique
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Thousands of tourists are drawn to neighboring South Africa, though only a small slice head to Mozambique, mostly made up of fisherman and scuba divers. Discover an unspoiled, undeveloped land that includes 1,500 miles of rugged coastline edge by world-class coral reefs fantastic for diving as well as swimming and snorkeling. In the Quirimbas archipelago, you’ll find the largest protected marine area in Africa. Mozambique is also home to several game reserves, lots of wildlife and an increasing number of luxurious accommodations to stay in that are less commercial and more affordable than other African nations.

Albania Saranda's City Port, Albania
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This small, often misunderstood Balkan state is located across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, directly above Greece. Once a communist-run country, Albania is now an open, friendly nation with striking terrain and a flourishing nightlife. Here you can explore everything from 7th-century ruins to 13th-century towns and often be the only one visiting. Can you imagine taking a guided tour of the largest amphitheater in the Balkans by one of the archaeologists who actually excavated the site? Here you can do just that and more. The country is filled with ancient castles set stop hills, along the shores of the Adriatic and in the middle of fields, while its beautiful beaches even that rival those of its better-known neighbors like Greece, Italy, and Croatia.

Kotor, Montenegro Bay of Kotor
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Kotor, Montenegro

While its neighbor Dubrovnik, Croatia gets lots of attention, Kotor is a walled city that’s every bit as photogenic but receives far fewer visitors. The Bay of Kotor looks as if a Norwegian fjord was plopped right down on the edge of the balmy Adriatic coast. Its medieval Old City, built between the 12th and 14th centuries, is accessed through a narrow passage from the sea, with steep wooded hills descended to small villages set atop the flat ground between the shore and slope. With a backdrop of mountains and sapphire-blue waters along with a rich history and cultural monuments like the 17th-century clock tower and town gates, the 12th-century Tryphon Cathedral and numerous palaces, Kotor should be on every traveler’s must-see list.

The Marshall Islands The Marshall Islands
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The Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands have been ranked as one of the top five least visited countries in terms of tourism, despite the practically endless number of breathtaking islands and atolls set among crystal clear blue waters, the amazing diving and snorkeling, and a rich culture. While you shouldn’t expect much in terms of traditional tourist options, the isles are fabulous as an off-the-beaten-path destination where you can enjoy staying in a cozy bed and breakfast and even hire a boat to take you to a remote island. No matter where you are here in these isles, you’ll find pristine, isolated beaches, free from crowds and pollution.

Bhutan Bhutan
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Getting to Bhutan is challenging and expensive, but worth it if you can make the trek. Tourism arrived less than 40 years ago, with the hermit kingdom preserving its rich cultural identity throughout its decades of isolation. On the streets, traditional dress is still the preferred attire, while native Dzongka-style architectural features continue to grace every building and Buddhism colors just about every aspect of life. Taktsang Palphug, aka the Tiger’s Nest, is the highlight for many. Perched on the edge of a cliff, more than a half-mile above the rice fields of Paro, the 320-year-old monastery is considered one of the kingdom’s most sacred religious sites.

Puebla, Mexico Puebla Mexico
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Puebla, Mexico

Surrounded by volcanoes and towering snow-capped peaks, Puebla is the home of the battle that spawned Cinco de Mayo and the origin of some of Mexico’s most famous cuisine yet, for some unknown reason, tourists often pass it by. The city has a well-preserved history with over 5,000 colonial buildings gracing the landscape with a fantasy of Baroque towers, Moorish domes and kaleidoscopic tiles. On the main plaza, the Puebla Cathedral, built in 1575, is the home of the country’s tallest church towers. Don’t miss the Artists’ Quarter, Barrio del Artista, a block once occupied by a former colonial market which now houses galleries and workshops where visitors can watch artists at work and buy their finished products.

Iceland Iceland
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While Iceland is becoming increasingly popular with travelers due to its appearance in a number of films and television shows like “Game of Thrones,” “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” “Stardust,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and countless others, it’s still remains a vastly underrated destination. Pictures just can’t do it justice – this country is a place unlike any other, and for outdoor enthusiasts who want to get away from it all, it’s truly unbeatable. Soak in the Blue Lagoon, explore fjords in the north and gaze at rainbows and waterfalls, found at nearly every turn.

The Azores Flores Island, Azores
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The Azores

Few have heard of, let alone visited the Azores, made up of nine volcanic islands, scattered across the mid-Atlantic. It’s one of the world’s greatest whale-watching destinations, with almost a third of all known cetaceans recorded in the waters of this archipelago. The mild climate makes the island ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, particularly for those who like to hike. Take the five-hour trek to the peak of volcanic Mount Pico or enjoy a more gentle stroll along coastal paths and around crater lakes. The craggy landscape is also riddled with underground caves, some of which can be descended into, where stunning pools and waterfalls await. But it’s not just scenery and incredible outdoor adventures that await, the Azores are becoming popular with foodies due to the extraordinary quality of seafood and dishes featuring all sorts of fresh, local ingredients, paired with outstanding wines from Azores vineyards.

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