10 of the World's Most Underrated Destinations
Catch onto these hotspots before everyone else does.
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Photo By: Tohoku Tourism Promotion/Max Poussier
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Photo By: Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau
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Located just north of the traffic-clogged streets of Tokyo, the Tohoku region of Japan is quite literally a breath of fresh air. Known for its jaw-dropping vistas, intriguing history going back centuries and beautiful cherry blossom trees, Tohoku is a much-needed escape-to-nature. Explore its untouched forests inland, or meander along the coast for breathtaking Pacific views.
El Mirador Ruins, Guatemala
Nestled deep in the Guatemalan rainforest, the ancient Mayan ruins of El Mirador were hidden for 2,000 years until their discovery in 1926. They’re much harder to get to than the tourist-swamped ruins at Tikal just 40 miles to the south, but the payoff is huge — it's rare to see ruins this untouched. To see El Mirador, you’ll have to hike in or travel by donkey. Or better yet, you can fly: Operators like Big Five Tours & Expeditions ferry visitors in via helicopter, offering an eagle eye’s view of ruins that were once home to a bustling, densely populated metropolis.
St. Petersburg, Florida
With 35 miles of white-sand beaches, St. Petersburg is the most blissed-out vacation spot you didn’t think to book. It’s sunny 361 days of the year here (yes, really), but there’s plenty else to do besides work on your tan. Check any of the 30 craft breweries in town, art-centric museums and emerging food scene, or opt for out-there activities like nighttime paddle boarding on glow-in-the-dark boards and swimming with horses.
The number of visitors to Canada’s most populous city has been steadily ticking upward of late, increasing by 17 percent over the last five years with no sign of slowing. It’s for good reason: With a white-hot food scene, a booming film industry and intriguing design and shopping scenes, Toronto is the urban escape you’ve been looking for. When you’re in town, check out The Broadview, a gorgeously renovated boutique hotel housed in a former strip club (that also happens to be a breathtaking Romanesque Revival building erected in 1891).
Tongyeong, South Korea
The scenic port city of Tongyeong encompasses a beautiful collection of islands, each with a view more gush-worthy than the last. The Hallyeohaesang National Marine Park is home to roughly 100 of them — about 30 of them uninhabited—plus 1,142 species of plants, 1,566 insect varieties and 115 types of birds.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, might be as overexposed as it gets for an it-neighborhood, but next-door Greenpoint has all the charm and slightly less of the hype. It still boasts the chicest of shopping boutiques and mustachioed hipsters, not to mention happening hotel spots like the Box House Hotel. Quirky and on-trend, the place boasts authentic (and very Brooklyn) touches like exposed brick, natural oak hardwood floors and collectible antiques.
Melbourne and Sydney may be Australia’s big urban draws, but Adelaide deserves a stop on your Outback itinerary. The fifth-most populous city on the continent, Adelaide is Australia’s wine capital; 60 percent of all exported Australian wines come from surrounding wine regions, which include Barossa, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra. The city itself is worth a trip for its handsome architecture and wealth of cafes and bars, not to mention a hopping arts scene.
Emerald Coast, Florida
Sometimes called the "Hamptons of the South," Florida’s Emerald Coast is a collection of 16 towns lining the warm waters of the Gulf Coast. Here you’ll find stunning natural beauty: world-class beaches and state parks, plus coastal forests that cover 40 percent of the entire region. The rugged natural surroundings are a beautiful backdrop to the area's many high-end accommodations, including the Pearl Hotel in Rosemary Beach and the WaterColor Inn in Santa Rosa.
Assateague Island, Virginia & Maryland
Straddling the border of Virginia and Maryland, Assateague Island is a 37-mile-long strip of barrier island perhaps best known for its local residents: packs of wild horses that happily roam the island’s beaches, marshes, bays and coves. It’s unclear from where the horses actually came — some say they’re descended from equine survivors of a wrecked Spanish galleon; others claim the horses are the progeny of horses released by 17th-century colonists attempting to skirt livestock taxes. In any case, the area is a supremely beautiful (and highly underrated) destination.