Travel is one of life’s greatest and most exciting joys… but sometimes it can seem like the same countries get all the glory. While there are reasons people flock to countries like Spain, France, and Italy – and tropical, far-flung destinations like Thailand and the Caribbean – there are many under-the-radar countries that have just as much to offer.

The beauty of visiting these countries instead of the usual tourist hotspots isn’t just that you’ll save money. Away from the throngs of tourists and mass commercialisation, you’ll probably be able to enjoy a far more immersive and authentic travel experience, too, and perhaps see a side of the world you didn’t even know existed.

You don’t have to jet off to the farthest corners of the globe to discover destinations that are more off-the-beaten-track, either, as some countries are just a few hours away. So, to get you inspired – and blazing your own travel trail – here are 15 of the most underrated countries to visit in 2024.

1. Albania

Albania

For years Albania remained relatively undiscovered, with neighbour Greece hogging all the limelight – but this overlooked jewel of the Med is beginning to carve out a name for itself. The pristine sandy beaches here are mostly uncrowded by foreign tourists, and the dramatic mountains and scenic valleys are home to pretty Ottoman towns, fascinating Roman ruins, and alluring azure lakes.

This beautiful Balkan nation is wonderfully unique; while the Greek, Italian, and Turkish influences are obvious, Albania’s language, customs, and cuisine are entirely distinct. The capital, Tirana, buzzes with life, and the Ionian coastline rivals that of Croatia and Greece. Hospitable locals greet tourists warmly, unwearied by mass tourism – but it won’t be long before the crowds hit, so now’s the time to visit!

2. Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan

Located in the heart of Central Asia, Uzbekistan is one of the most underrated countries in the world. It’s also one of those places that many tourists never think about visiting, but once they do, they’ll wonder why they left it so long, and urge everyone they know to go as soon as possible! As the heart of the old Silk Route, Uzbekistan is steeped in culture and history, and has so much to offer.

Home to soaring mountain ranges, seemingly endless deserts, and atmospheric cities that contain some of the world’s most ornate Islamic buildings, you can spend weeks here and not scratch the surface. Uzbekistan’s rich cultural heritage is another draw and its historical teahouses, traditional puppet shows, and Uzbek Khorezm dance are compelling – while the friendly people are another bonus!

3. Bhutan

Bhutan

Bhutan is like nowhere else in the world. Shut off to tourists until 1974, half a century later the last great Himalayan kingdom is still shrouded in mystery. One reason for this is the country’s tourist tariff, which sees visitors paying $200 per day. However, this includes all accommodation, transport, food, and a guide, so it’s actually pretty reasonable – and there are convincing reasons for it too.

The tariff stops Bhutan from being overrun, allowing it to protect its timeless traditions, breathtaking landscape, and rare wildlife, like the enigmatic snow leopard. The villages here are home to ancient monasteries, golden-roofed temples, red-robed monks, and valleys that echo with tinkling yak bells. A carbon-negative country, Bhutan is as close to a Shangri-La as you can find in our developed world.

4. Finland

Finland

While the crowds flock to Sweden and Norway, Finland remains one of Europe’s most underrated – and enigmatic – countries. As one of the continent’s most sparsely populated countries, Finland is the perfect destination for travellers seeking peace and solitude – but it has just as much to offer intrepid explorers and culture enthusiasts, too, as well as those looking for rest and relaxation.

The jaw-dropping beauty of Lapland draws adventure lovers from all over the world and you can go snowmobiling through snow-swathed forests, ice skate on frozen lakes, and perhaps even catch the mesmerising Northern Lights. You can also learn about Finland’s fascinating Sami culture, sip glogg by the fire in cosy log cabins, and experience the thrill of leaping into a frozen pond after a sauna.

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5. Laos

Laos

Easily one of the most underrated countries in Southeast Asia, Laos is often overlooked in favour of its neighbours, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. But thanks to the lack of mass tourism here, you get much more bang for your buck – and with emerald rice fields, ancient forests, Buddhist temples, cascading waterfalls, and French colonial architecture, there’s just as much beauty to be found too.

Like neighbouring Cambodia, Laos has a painful past, the result of being caught between two wars – but its future is bright, and the locals incredibly welcoming. From the forest-clad peaks of the north to the open plains and plateaus of the south, Laos is also strikingly diverse. Capital Vientiane may lack the buzz of Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City, but it’s a great place to adjust to the slower pace of Lao life.

6. South Korea

South Korea

Its big, beautiful neighbour Japan might sweep up most of the crowds, but South Korea has just as much to offer. With a history that can be traced back 700,000 years, this is a land where the modern and ancient worlds coexist. Futuristic skyscrapers and historic temples sit side by side, and slick malls and buzzing karaoke bars are just a short stroll from old alleyways and historic street markets.

Neon-lit Seoul pulses with energy, while coastal Busan has some of South Korea’s best cuisine, as well as gorgeous mountains and beaches. History buffs will love exploring ancient Gyeongju, which was once the fourth-largest city in the world, while Seoraksan National Park has the best hiking trails in the country. And, idyllic Boseong is the green tea capital of Korea and the perfect place to kick back.

7. Montenegro

Montenegro

Montenegro may be a new country (it gained independence in 2006) but it’s fast becoming known as one of Europe’s most up-and-coming destinations. Having said that, it remains criminally underrated, getting only a fraction of visitors compared to its neighbour Croatia. While it’s small, Montenegro is surprisingly diverse and boasts glacial lakes, Norway-like fjords, rugged mountains, and dense forests.

Its coastline is also incredibly picturesque, with crystal clear waters and buzzy beach towns. But you don’t need to visit the beach to hit the water – as, in the mountains, there are blissfully blue lakes that are perfect for swimming. Hikers will want to head to Durmitor and Prokletije National Parks, where stunning trails wind past hulking mountains, and brown bears, wolves, and lynxes roam in the woods.

8. Uganda

Uganda

Uganda isn’t just one of Africa’s most underrated countries; it’s also one of the best countries in the world to visit if you’re looking for animals and adventure. While most tourists flock to Kenya, South Africa, or Tanzania for safaris, hardly any visit Uganda comparatively. But Uganda isn’t only cheaper and quieter, it’s also one of the only places in the world where you can go mountain gorilla trekking.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park are where to head to see these intelligent gentle giants – and if you’d like to take a more traditional safari, there are many parks where you can spot lions, cheetahs, giraffes, and elephants. Outdoor adventure abounds here: you can raft the Nile, swim in the shimmering Kyaninga crater lake, and hike the craggy peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains.

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9. Georgia

Georgia

Georgia regularly features in lists of the most underrated countries in the world, and there are many reasons for this. Sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, this small country is a real powerhouse when it comes to offering a truly unique travel experience. Despite its compelling history, gorgeous beaches, captivating culture, and delicious cuisine, it remains under the radar for many travellers.

Thanks to its location on the old Silk Road, Georgia has a rich cultural heritage, with Byzantine, Arab, Persian, Mongol, Turkish, and Russian influences. Capital Tbilisi is a must-visit, with a valley setting, characterful Old Town, and ornate architecture. Then, head into the towering Caucasus Mountains or the sweeping Black Sea coastline to relax – or have a soak in one of the country’s natural hot springs!

10. Estonia

Estonia

As well as being one of the most underrated countries in Northern Europe, Estonia is also one of the most unique. It’s an intriguing blend of urbanity and wilderness, old and new, crumbling castles, and tech-savvy cities. Ever since it emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, tourists have started streaming in, especially to the capital, Tallinn, which is one of the most photogenic cities in Europe.

The ancient churches and medieval streets will appeal to history buffs, while the lively bars and vibrant culture are far more modern. And, if you’re looking for rural respite, the quiet countryside is blanketed in vast forests, tranquil lakes, and wild wetlands. The hiking trails in Otepää Nature Park are also exceptional, and the island of Saaremaa is known for its pristine beaches and spas.

11. Slovenia

Slovenia

Home to snow-dusted mountains, winding turquoise rivers, and Venetian-style coastline, for years Slovenia managed to remain one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. While those days are (sadly!) gone, when compared to its neighbours Italy, Austria, and Croatia, Slovenia is far less touristy – and much cheaper. And yet, its beauty, history, culture, and cuisine rival that of these more popular countries.

Thanks to its deep blue waters and soaring mountains, Lake Bled is Slovenia’s most touristy spot, and if you’re looking for adventure, you’ll find it here – trek up Mount Triglav, hike through misty forests, or kayak along sparkling rivers. The Slovenian Riviera has all the allure of the Croatian coast without the crowds, while inland, the idyllic towns of Ptuj and Maribor are where to get your culture fix.

12. Armenia

Armenia

Few countries are as ancient and complex as Armenia, and even fewer are as quite rewarding to visit. While travelling around can be challenging, it’s worth the effort and, along the way, you’ll be stunned by its indescribable beauty, awed by its rich history and culture, and charmed by its warm locals. Plus, if you’re looking for an adventure off the beaten track, you’re heading to the right place.

The capital Yerevan is an intriguing contradiction of old and new. It’s older than Rome but packed with early Soviet architecture, and its pretty parks, open-air galleries, and excellent restaurants and bars are a joy to explore. The countryside is dotted with dramatic gorges and snow-capped peaks, as well as spectacularly-placed medieval churches and monasteries that take your breath away.

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13. Ethiopia

Ethiopia

Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries in the world – and also one of the most underrated. For years, famine, drought, and political unrest meant that travel was on the back burner, but Ethiopia in 2024 will be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Teeming with ancient treasures, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and breathtaking landscapes, it’s no wonder that travellers are beginning to flock in.

As the only African country to withstand colonisation, Ethiopia has a wonderfully strong sense of identity, and locals are keen to share their captivating culture (and delicious food!) with tourists. The rock-carved churches at Tigray are unmissable, as are the Lalibela temples, while the stunning Simien Mountains and Bale Mountains are ideal for hiking. Catching a local Ethio-jazz show is a must too!

14. Uruguay

Uruguay

Tucked between Brazil and Argentina, it’s easy to understand why Uruguay is often overlooked. But, while it might be one of South America’s smallest countries, it’s also the safest – and one of the most welcoming, laidback, and culturally sophisticated too. Inland, you’ll mostly find rolling hills and lush grasslands, but along the coast, you’ll find a whole treasure trove of hidden gems well worth visiting.

The cosmopolitan capital Montevideo is creative and progressive, packed with crumbling Art Deco buildings, colonial homes, and vibrant food markets. The beautiful and charming UNESCO-listed Colonia del Sacramento is also unmissable, and the perfect place to experience everyday life, visit museums, eat and drink, and connect with friendly locals. The nearby beaches are fabulous too.

Final thoughts…

Sometimes it can seem that the world hasn’t only been explored, but overwhelmed by throngs of tourists. But this isn’t true. Exploring ancient Italian cities and idyllic Greek islands in the height of summer is one thing, but visiting the lesser-known corners of the world is quite another.

Not only will visiting these places open your mind to the true beauty and diversity of the world, but you’ll also get to enjoy a travel experience that’s completely different from anything else you’ve experienced. Plus, another perk of visiting these underappreciated countries is that they tend to be reasonably priced (if not downright cheap!), as well as being relatively uncrowded.

So, if you’re looking to go somewhere different next time you travel, we hope you’ve been inspired by the destinations in this article. After all, how many people do you know who have been to Bhutan, Uganda, Armenia, Uzbekistan, or Uruguay?

If you look beyond the usual horizons, you’ll find beautiful, bewitching countries that have so much to offer. And who knows, you might just find your new favourite travel destination too.

For tips on where to travel if you’d prefer to stay closer to home, check out our article; 13 hidden gems to explore across the UK.

Have you been to any of these countries? Or will you be adding them to your travel wish list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.