12 Underrated Cities to Add to Your Travel List

Our closely connected world has plenty of famous travel locations, but what about the lesser known ones? If you’re on the lookout for a more obscure vacation destination, you’re in luck! Here’s the scoop on 12 lesser known cities to add to your bucket list.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Articulately preserved architecture from over 1000 years ago is awaiting you in the capital of northern Laos! Visit majestic waterfalls and hidden caves on the outskirts of the city, or dive into the city center and walk from stall to stall in a farmer’s market. Explore the Wat Xieng Thong temple or observe a sunrise procession of monks. For a new cultural experience, Luang Prabang is the city to hit!

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Glasgow, Scotland

Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, was founded by a Christian missionary in the 6th century. Today, the city is a cultural hub, featuring everything from opera to churches to museums. It is also home to many music venues and clubs, and the nightlife is like no other. Take a chance on this incredibly diverse city and explore the countless opportunities it holds!

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San Sebastian, Spain

Nestled in the Igeldo, Urgull, and Ulia mountains on the Bay of Biscay, this charming city is one of the leading European cities. Elegant architecture, white sand beaches, and lively festivals are just a few of San Sebastian’s extraordinary features. Mild temperatures make beaches perfect destinations any time of year. A visit to this intriguing city is definitely the next item on your bucket list!

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ancient, architecture, Basilica of San Domenico

Narai, Japan

Once the most wealthy town in the Kiso Valley, this historic city is full of countless wonders. Stay in enchanting temple-like structures and take in the history surrounding you. Stroll down the city’s central road and observe some of the Edo period houses that Narai is famous for. You’ll feel like you stepped back in time when you visit this cultural and historic preservation site!

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San Juan, Puerto Rico

Although it was recently hit by a catastrophic hurricane that devastated much of the island, San Juan is still a premier tourist destination in the Caribbean. The city’s charming colonial architecture and colorful edifices are known worldwide! Constantly growing, San Juan has recently added malls, luxury hotels, and modern art museums to the extensive list of places to visit on the island. If you’re looking to help the recently ravaged island, the most beneficial thing you can do is take a trip to the Island of Enchantment and support their largest industry, tourism.

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Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya is often imagined as a barren savanna only accessible through extensive travel and safari jeeps. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, however, is only a direct flight away from most major US airports! Come visit Nairobi, Kenya’s largest city, founded on a swamp and often referred to as the Green City in the Sun. A lovely combination of colonial architecture and towering modern skyscrapers, this city is one of the largest business and industrial regions on the continent. Nairobi even features Nairobi National Park within the city limits and has several museums honoring Kenya’s rich history. From luxury hotels to a bustling nightlife, this rapidly growing city is sure to surprise you.

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Bergen, Norway

This international trading center is the second-largest city in Norway and is nestled between the North Sea and seven majestic mountains, giving the city the nickname “the city of seven mountains”. Initially founded at the end of the Viking age over a thousand years ago, Bergen is now one of the leaders in aquaculture and subsea technology. The city functions as a hub for shipping and is a central port of call for cruise ships. Featuring various styles of architecture ranging from Art Nouveau to classical, this rapidly urbanizing city is one you don’t want to miss!

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Lisbon, Portugal

This major global city is a prime tourist destination that many never have the chance to visit. Innovations in entertainment, arts, finance, media, and trade are made in this progressive city every day. Few are aware that Lisbon is actually the oldest city in Western Europe, and one of the oldest in the world, making it a historical destination like no other. Everyone from Julius Caesar to the hosts of the 2007 MTV Music Awards have visited this renowned city. Take a trip to Lisbon and discover Belém, where Portuguese explorers like Vasco de Gama set sail in the 15th century, and Parque das Nações, a futuristic district that puts a modern twist on Gothic architecture. Lisbon has something for everyone, so make sure to add a trip to this marvelous city to your bucket list!

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View of Cathedral

Antigua, Guatemala

Once the capital of the kingdom of Guatemala, Antigua is home to hundreds of Spanish Baroque-inspired structures dating back to the 16th century. This quaint city is much safer and tourist-oriented than the much larger Guatemala City, but still possesses the authentic city feel. Surrounded by three large volcanoes, Antigua is the perfect combination of city life, historic preservation, and the tranquility of the surrounding nature. Bargain with local artists in the market and score intricate handmade products that you won’t find anywhere else. With everything from colonial monuments to scrumptious Guatemalan cuisine to ziplining through the mountains, Antigua is the perfect destination for anyone looking to explore.

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Mumbai, India

Capital of the Indian state Maharashtra, Mumbai is a bustling island in the Arabian Sea. It is believed that the island has been inhabited since the South Asian Stone Age, before our species was even fully evolved. However, you would never know the ancient roots of this tropical city from the look of it. Mumbai is a metropolitan masterpiece, featuring stunning skyscrapers and an advanced shipping, recycling, and technology industry. Dozens of amusement parks, beaches, malls, historic forts, and museums reside on the island, making it an engaging destination for visitors. Explore the lively night scene downtown, try out one of the renowned restaurants, or discover an ancient Hindu temple during your stay in this dynamic city!

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Istanbul, Turkey

You may remember hearing about Constantinople, capital of the powerful ancient Roman Empire in the 4th century. Today, the city is the largest in Turkey and serves as a historic and cultural hub for Eastern Europe. Istanbul was named the European Capital of Culture in 2010, visible in the incredibly diverse architecture and population residing in the city. The Topkapi Palace, once headquarters of the Ottoman sultans, is open to the public as a reminder of the monumental dominance of the Ottoman Empire. Several gorgeous parks are located in the city center and display wildly diverse vegetation. Whether you’re visiting for the annual tulip festival, the tasty foreign cuisine, or a glimpse into the past, Istanbul is sure to have you in awe for your entire visit.

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cars, city, city-challenge

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Founded in 1471 as a fortress to protect Morocco from Portuguese attacks, this spectacular city is nestled in the Rif Mountains, just southeast of Tangier. A popular tourist destination in the summer, Chefchaouen has many luxury hotels and is a prime shopping location, as the local markets offer handmade handicrafts that cannot be found anywhere else. The city is painted almost entirely cerulean, an intriguing characteristic that often puzzles newcomers. Perhaps the blue paint deters the mosquitoes, or perhaps it symbolizes the sky and heavens, encouraging residents to lead a spiritual life. Whatever the reason, this picturesque azure city will certainly leave you feeling blessed as you explore the cobblestone streets.

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Although it’s always fun to visit Paris or Rome, these packed destinations lack a certain charm that some less widely known cities feature. When planning your next getaway, think outside the box and plan a visit to one of these delightful cities. Who knows, you may even find your new favorite spot!

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Chelsea Hafer is a freshman at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. In her free time, she loves to hike, ski, write, and spend time with her friends. She hopes to one day work as a travel journalist and explore the world.

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