After traveling to 41 countries so far – here are my picks for 5 countries that are underrated and absolutely should be added to your travel bucket list today!
For those of you who have read some of my other articles, this is probably no surprise to you. For those of you who haven’t, I am about to sell to you why you should visit Guatemala ASAP.
To begin, it is stunningly beautiful. Think of the most picturesque places you have been and many places in Guatemala will match or even exceed that picture in your head. Whether you opt to visit the Spanish baroque stye architecture in Antigua or head up from Guatemala City to Lake Átitlan, you are in for a treat.
Not only is Guatemala breath-taking due to the scenery, there are also many beautiful outdoor activities that will literally take your breath away, like hiking up a volcano or cliff jumping.
If you aren’t sold yet, I will add in that Guatemalan people are incredible! They are so friendly and welcoming. My first day in Antigua, I didn’t have any cash to pay for my coffee (rookie mistake) and the person working at the café smiled, gave me my coffee, and said I could come back to pay anytime! Talk about the honor system!
And, the menu del día was to die for. So, in summary, happy eyes, happy body, happy belly, and happy heart. Go to Guatemala.
#2 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Coming in at number 2 on the list is Bosnia and Herzegovina. If you are anything like I was before I visited, you are probably wondering where in the world Bosnia and Herzegovina even is. And for that matter, is it 2 countries or 1?
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country located in the Balkans in Europe. Formerly a part of Yugoslavia, it is home to beautiful nature and lots of rich history. For the history buffs out there, Sarajevo may ring a bell. Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was the location of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that launched World War 1. Interestingly enough, many people don’t know much about this assassination. I was fortunate to go on a walking tour here, where I learned that actually the first attempt to kill the Arch Duke failed. Interested, you can read more here.
Perhaps my favorite place in the entire city, is the line indicating East and West. At this marker, if you look one direction, it appears as though you are in Western Europe (think Austria). If you look the other direction, you may think that you are in Turkey. It is a very incredible experience. Depending on your preference, take off and explore the various parts of the city. I personally loved sitting down for a nice cappucino in the East side of the city.
In addition to its rich history, it was also the home of the 1998 Winter Olympics making it a great, cheaper, and less crowded destination for winter sports.
Outside of the capital city, there is another relatively popular midevil looking city called Mostar, often recognized by it’s iconic bridge. Fun fact about the bridge, you can jump off of iti! And if you are thinking, heck no, that sounds like a bad idea, you are probably right. In the hostel I stayed in, there were several visitors who had left notes about making the jump, including a smiling guy with a broken arm. But if you are crazy enough, here is some inspiration from a Redbull competition where they actually add a lot more height to the bridge.
#3 The Philippines
Okay so I admit that I only went to one island in the Philippines but my experience there was enough for me to propel in to number 3 on my list of most under-rated countries that I have visited. I visited Cebu and the days I spend there were some of the happiest and brightest of my life.
I truly feel like I met the happiest and nicest people there. I also felt as though I had some of the most memorable moments of my life. Let me break them down:
- Swimming with Whale Sharks – The sheer size of the whale sharks was incredible. Diving down and seeing one of these massive mammals swimming at me was humbling.
- Canyoneering – This was my first experience with cliff jumping and will probably always be my favorite. So what exactly is canyoneering? Canyoneering is a combination activity involving hiking, swimming, and jumping of cliffs through a progression of waterways. I still vividly remember my 60 ft. cliff jump where my feet hit the bottom of the lake beneath.
- Catching a ride on a motorbike with a local to Osmeña Peak – Out of everything I did, this might have been the most special. From the town closest to Osmeña peak, there were always a few locals ready with their motorbikes to take tourists like me up to the entrance of Osmeña peak. The road swerved through small homes and fields as we climbed up closer to the entrance. The entrance was a small little building where we paid just a little to enter and climb to the peak (also the highest point in the Philippines) This was one of the moments I felt like I had mad it in life.
Colombia has a bad rap resulting from its tumultuous history. But when you travel there, you will be surprised to find that it is nothing like what you may picture.
Let’s start with Medellin. Medellin is a green city thriving with hip restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. It is a massiive city with lots of places you can visit including taking a tour of the once infamous
Colombia has debatably the best coffee in the world. I am not here to sway you one way or another, but the coffee is pretty dang good. And there are several regions in Colombia where you can go and learn all about how it’s made. My personal stop was in Salento. A quiet town in the Mid – South of Colombia. There, my group went to a coffee farm where we got a full tour and demonstration before getting to enjoy some of the most incredible coffee of my life.
But don’t let the coffee vibe fool you, if you can’t tell yet from the rest of the article, I am always in search of an outdoor thrill. In Salento, that involved a horseback ride through the forest, wading through a river to a waterfall with slick rocks, and riding back in the darkness with only the stars and maybe a couple hundred fireflies to guide the way.
If you still aren’t sure, maybe Cartagena would be of more interest to you? Located on the northern coast of Colombia, Cartagena looks and feels like a port city straight out of a Pirates of the Carribean movie. It has huge fortifyinig castle walls surroundinig parts of the city that today are home to some great bars with wonderful views. Get lost walking through the bright colored and flower filled streets.
Beware though – it may be the hottest place you will ever visit. Plan accordingly.
This one may surpise some people who are thinking that Singapore absolutely isn’t under-rated, but hear me out. Many people go to Singapore for 2 days, explore the infamous Marina Bay Sands Hotel, and leave thinking – it was nice but I wouldn’t go back because I saw everything. Not only this, you may even hear people refer to Singapore as “The City Without a Soul”.
As someone who spent 4.5 months studying in Singapore, including taking a class called “The Changing Landscapes of Singapore”, I respectfully disagree. In fact, there is a lot to Singapore beneath it’s shiny and futuristic skin. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to Gardens by the Bay and losing myself staring into the lights that are perfectly synced to whichever is the song of the hour. And the whole bay area is mind-blowing, especially when you think that they reclaimed all the land to do it.
But, there is more. Venture outside of the center to surrounding neighborhoods such as Little India and Kapum Glam and you will get a glimpse into the diversity and culural richness that is hiding under the pretty exterior. Beyond that, Singapore is the Garden City. Take a walk through the botanical gardens or venture to Pulau Ubin to immerse yourself in the nature.
Let your pre-conceptions about what your trip to Singapore could be as you walk into a hawker center and help yourself to some of Singapore’s signature dishes like chicken satay, chicken and rice, and chili crab. Compliment it with cane juice or one of the other various freshly squeezed juices readily available and very cheap.
So there you have it. My opinion on the Top 5 most under-rated Countries that I have visited.