It’s safe to say that after 2020 – AKA the year that just wouldn’t end – people all over the world are experiencing a collective case of major wanderlust. Fortunately, infection rates continue to decrease and vaccines are being distributed on a wide scale, so international borders are slowly but steadily beginning to reopen to travelers.
While that’s wonderful, it also means that throngs of people are flocking to well-known vacation destinations. Overwater bungalows, Caribbean islands, stunningly beautiful U.S. national parks, Iceland’s waterfalls, Santorini, and resort towns in Mexico have all seen historic tourism rates in the past year.
Here’s the thing: there’s a lot (a lot) more to this big, beautiful world than what we see on Instagram and in glossy magazines. If you’re itching to travel, you probably want to experience a bit of everything – rich history, awe-inspiring scenery, pristine beaches, adrenaline-pumping adventure, incredible food, and fascinating architecture.
I have fantastic news for you: you’ll find all that and more in Europe. To get the most bang for your buck (literally and figuratively), skip the busy tourist destinations this year and head to one of the most underrated countries in Europe instead.
The most underrated countries to visit in 2021
I asked 15 extremely well-traveled bloggers which underrated countries are at the top of their travel bucket lists this year. From whimsical castles and major foodie destinations to secluded beaches and extreme sports, the most underrated countries in Europe offer a little something for everyone.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
A real insider tip among underrated countries to visit is definitely Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Balkans. Many people know the city of Mostar in Bosnia, but the rest of the country is still largely unknown. This is a pity, because Bosnia and Herzegovina has an abundance of amazing attractions.
There are beautiful mountains and waterfalls to discover, especially the spectacular Kravica waterfalls. Another highlight is the country’s incredibly hospitable people, who are very helpful and joyfully welcome you as a tourist. In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina is known for its extremely delicious cuisine. Non-vegetarians, especially, will love the many grilled meat dishes.
As Bosnia is one of the most underrated countries in Europe, it’s excellent to take a road trip and experience the most beautiful places on your own. It’s a relatively safe destination and the roads are in good order. The capital city of Sarajevo is especially worth a visit, with its unique combination of old, magnificent Soviet buildings and glittering, hip shopping malls. Visitors will also enjoy the many mosques and churches here.
Another highlight in Bosnia is the many national parks and natural landmarks. Aside from the Kravica waterfalls, Sutjeska National Park on the Montenegrin border is spectacular. The small village of Medjugorje is a major pilgrimage destination for Catholic believers. And of course, you can’t miss a visit to the city of Mostar, internationally known for its famous Old Bridge.
By Martina & Jürgen from PlacesofJuma
Tucked away in southeast Europe under the shadow of its famous neighbors Turkey and Greece, is the small country of Bulgaria. Most people haven’t even heard of its existence and those who have rarely know much about it.
In the world of travel, Bulgaria is most famous for its summer and winter resorts, more specifically Sunny Beach and Bansko, respectively. Its capital, Sofia, and the old city of Plovdiv also make the list of common places to visit in Bulgaria.
But Bulgaria is not only about shiny clubs with cheap alcohol. Its best trait is actually its least famous one – its nature. Bulgaria’s stunning landscapes range from snowcapped peaks to the sunny coast of the temperamental Black sea, which is part of what makes it one of the most underrated countries in Europe.
Bulgaria is covered by a few distinctive mountain ranges and it’s home to the highest peaks in the Balkan Peninsula. Hiking is the locals’ favorite weekend activity and there are thousands of trails to choose from. Highlights include some of Rila’s glacial lakes, such as the Seven Rila Lakes. Another favorite is Pirin’s rugged paths, like the Koncheto Ridge of Peak Vihren, which offers scenic 360-degree views of the surrounding peaks.
There is a lot to see in any one of Bulgaria’s diverse mountains – from flower fields, lakes, and rivers to hidden monasteries and ruins of ancient fortresses. The Rila Mountains are by far the most picturesque of them all, as they are characterized by over 200 lakes scattered across the range!
A wonderful place to stay in the area is the Andela resort, which is perfectly situated at the crossroads of several hiking trails. For a more rustic backpacker experience, there are several mountain huts including the Lovna Hut in Rila National Park. Huts offer great budget options where one could try traditional Bulgarian musaka or a shopska salad with a glass of chilled rakia.
By Nora from Go Frame the World
Experience the best things to do in Bulgaria with these activities and tours!
When most people think of visiting Denmark, they think of the capital city, Copenhagen. Copenhagen is a beautiful city known for its crazy amount of cyclists, rainy weather, and modern Danish design. However, Denmark has even more to offer and is arguably one of the most underrated countries to visit!
Take a road trip through Denmark to experience real-life Viking ships at the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum and an amazing interactive LEGO experience at The LEGO House in Billund (the home of LEGO). Plus, see an ancient Viking burial site called Lindholm Hoje in Aalborg and experience Denmark’s beautiful western and northern coasts.
In the summertime, the quaint Danish coasts are punctuated by beautiful sand dunes covered in grass, blue skies with large, fluffy white clouds, and picturesque thatched-roof Danish summer homes. Insider tip: you’ll find multiple ice cream stands in every beach town. Be sure to try the Danish favorite — licorice-flavored — or get licorice sprinkles on top!
Denmark is full of summer homes that the Danes love to escape to all times of the year. However, to avoid as much rainy weather as possible, visit Denmark from May to September. This beautiful summer home in Løkken comes with sea views and is a perfect jumping-0ff point to explore Denmark’s gorgeous northern coast.
One unique sight on the northern Danish coast is the waves crashing together where the Baltic Sea meets the North Sea in Skagen. In that same area, you can also visit Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, located on top of a huge, picturesque sand dune. The lighthouse was recently moved as part of an amazing project to save it from falling into the sea. Skates were used to move it 70 meters (about 230 feet) inland!
By Jenessa from Destination Daydreamer
Georgia, located in the Caucasus region in the middle of Europe and Asia, is one of the most underrated countries to visit. As it used to be on the Great Silk Road connecting China with the Mediterranean world, Georgia has a very rich cultural heritage. As a consequence, the country’s architecture is varied and interesting. You will find not only beautiful Persian and charming European styles, but also some impressive brutalist Soviet style and even some modern futuristic style.
Besides its architecture, Georgia has excellent gastronomy and wine assets. Because of the country’s location at the intersection of Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, and Asia, Georgian cuisine offers a wide range of delicious meals. Try the traditional dumplings named Khinkali and the cheese-filled bread, Khachapuri. Additionally, Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world!
There are many amazing cities to visit in Georgia. First, you shouldn’t miss the capital city of Tbilisi. This city is a real gem, offering stunning architecture and many activities like the famous Sulphur baths. The glamorous city of Batumi, with its casinos and neon lights, is also well-known by tourists. Mtskheta, Georgia’s religious capital, is also well worth a visit.
To round out your stay, book a hotel room at the Moxy Tbilisi by Marriott. This 4-star hotel is modern and stylish with comfortable rooms.
By Ophelie from Limitless Secrets
Floating in the English Channel between England and France sits the small island of Guernsey, one of the most underrated countries you must visit. A small marine town, its streets and harbors are lined with maritime and political history. Guernsey is a perfect destination for a 1-2 day trip when visiting its neighboring countries. There are many short island hopper flights available, and taxis can be arranged from the airport to the center of town.
There are plenty of rural and scenic drives one can take, but I highly recommend Guernsey’s coastal views. If staying for multiple days, there are various beaches within a short drive. If you’re only in Guernsey for a short stay, St. Peter’s Port is the place to see. One of the most popular sights at the port is Castle Cornet, built in the 1800s right on the coast to defend the city.
For some fresh seafood and amazing views, head to Le Nautique Restaurant. With chic, nautical décor and an upscale dining room, Le Nautique has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the marina. Insider tip: order the amaretto parfait for dessert. A delicacy of roast bananas in pistachio sauce, it’s a favorite among restaurant guests.
There are many shops along the main street heading from the harbor as well, perfect for a sunset stroll. Whether you’re visiting for an afternoon or a couple of nights, Guernsey is a hidden gem you can’t miss.
By Olivia from Girl With Blue Sails
One of the world’s most underrated countries to visit is Latvia. Latvia is in northern Europe and is one of the Baltic states. There aren’t many tourists who visit the country, but there is a lot to do and see in Latvia! The small European country has wonderful nature, amazing cities, and beautiful beaches.
Latvia is packed with amazing national parks. This is great for hiking! Some of the best national parks in Latvia are Ķemeri National Park and Gauja National Park, the country’s oldest and largest.
The largest city is Riga, which is also Latvia’s capital. It’s a wonderful city and spending a day in Riga is an excellent thing to do. In the old town of the city, you can explore many interesting historic places. Furthermore, Riga has many museums, monuments, and great restaurants. Looking for the best hotel in Riga Old Town? Check out the Hilton Garden Inn Riga Old Town.
Other great cities in Latvia include Liepāja, Ventspils, and Daugavpils. One great thing in all these cities is the architectural style. There are many Art Nouveau buildings in all Latvian cities, and especially in Riga.
One of the best beaches in Latvia is Jūrmala Beach, which has beautiful soft white sand. It is very close to Riga and during summer, Jūrmala Beach is a great place for swimming.
By Dymphe from Dymabroad
While the city of Valetta and the blue lagoon are two regularly-visited spots on the islands, the lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path gems are where the magic happens. Some of these include — on the main island of Malta — St. Peter’s Pool, Marsaxlokk, and Mdina. On the less-visited island of Gozo, some must-see hidden gems are Ramla Bay, Tal Mixta Cave, Basilica of Ta’ Pinu, and Xlendi Bay.
With Malta being very small, we recommend basing yourself in Valetta for your time on the main island, as this is the central bus hub. When on Gozo, staying in Victoria will provide a bus link to every landmark on the island!
For more detailed information on your Malta adventure, check out our blog, A Guide to Exploring Beautiful Malta.
When most people plan a trip to the Balkans, their first destination is usually Serbia or Croatia. However, nestled right between them lies one of the most underrated countries in Europe: Montenegro!
Montenegro may be a small and fairly new country (it became independent in 2006), yet its beautiful nature, convenient tourist infrastructure, and variety of activities mean there’s something for everyone! Most travelers start off in Montenegro’s most popular city, Kotor, before working their way around the country.
Nature lovers will enjoy hiking or exploring Durmitor National Park (also known as the ‘Montenegrin Alps’), while those looking to relax will love the beaches in Ulcinj. Of course, we can’t forget about Budva’s nightlife or the historical city of Cetinje, which was Montenegro’s first capital.
While in Montenegro, definitely try the seafood (it’s caught fresh from the sea!) and Njegusi ham, a local delicacy. I also highly recommend visiting the sweet seaside town of Perast, which is just a 15-minute drive from Kotor, either on your way to Herceg-Novi or as a day trip. We stayed at a local apartment (Apartment Mediterraneo Blue Sky) and highly recommend it.
Insider tip: If you’re planning to travel to Montenegro, don’t miss the famous Bar to Belgrade train — especially if you want to visit neighboring Serbia on your trip! The train route passes through lakes, mountains, and cities, giving you a sense of adventure. Best of all, it’s very budget-friendly; a one-way ticket costs around 20 ~ 25 EUR. Plus, you’ll add another new country to your passport!
By Luda from Adventures With Luda
As tiny as this country is, the Netherlands is one of the most underrated countries to visit, both in Europe and around the world. Most people visiting the Netherlands focus on its capital, Amsterdam, but there is much more to see in this charming European country.
Amsterdam is a stunning destination, with picturesque canals and monumental buildings, but this is actually a typical architecture style for the time period. If you want to visit Amsterdam-like canals without the crowds, there are plenty of other cities to choose from. Haarlem, Utrecht, Leiden, or Delft are near Amsterdam and have the same historical city center.
But there is more to the Netherlands than historical canal cities. Rotterdam is known for its award-winning modern architecture and street art, and the Veluwe National Park is one of the most beautiful nature reserves to visit. One of the highlights of a visit to the Veluwe is the Kröller-Müller Museum inside the park. It has one of the largest collections of Van Gogh paintings in the world!
One of the Netherlands’ main export products is tulips. They actually don’t originate from Holland, though many farmers grow these colorful flowers nowadays. Tourists usually visit the expensive Keukenhof to see the flowers blooming in April and May, but you could actually just make a small road trip around a tulip area and enjoy them for free. Goeree Overflakkee, south of Rotterdam, is one area with many tulip fields.
There are many other mostly overlooked hidden gems in the Netherlands. They include the Pyramid of Austerlitz in the forest close to Utrecht, the desert-like National Park Loonse and Drunense Duinen, the picturesque southern town of Maastricht, and the stunning castle Haarzuylens. One of the best places to stay for any of these destinations is one of the unique Airbnbs in the Netherlands, like an authentic windmill or treehouse.
By Maartje & Sebastiaan from The Orange Backpack
Romania, in Eastern Europe, is a fantastic place to visit with a great diversity of things to see and do. The eastern border of the country is the Black Sea, which has many beach resorts near the historic city of Constanta.
Also in Romania is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Danube Delta. The Danube Delta is a great place for birdwatching or adventure, as it’s a preserved river delta and haven for wildlife. A great place to stay in this area is the remote but luxurious Green Village Resort.
Another outstanding area in Romania is Transylvania, a land of mountains, countryside, and legends of vampires. The Carpathian Mountains are fantastic for hiking or, for the more adventurous, skiing. There are many pretty towns and cities in the Transylvania region including Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, and Alba Iulia. The castles in this part of Romania are fantastic, including Corvin Castle and the iconic Bran Castle of Dracula Fame.
Romania also has interesting cuisine and particularly excels in the soup department. Most restaurants serve a variety of traditional soups and excellent meat dishes. Overall, Romania is one of the most underrated countries, especially as it’s relatively cheap to visit. In fact, it’s one of the cheaper destinations in all of Europe.
By RJ from RJ on Tour
Russia is a fascinating transcontinental country spanning both eastern Europe and northern Asia. It’s rich in history and filled with colorful cathedrals, opulent palaces, art, ballet, and delicious food and drinks.
Unfortunately, Russia tends to get a bad rap as a cold, unfriendly place for travelers to visit and it is therefore one of the most underrated countries in Europe. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Well, the unfriendly place for travelers bit, anyway. Russia does, of course, get quite cold in the winter months.
Visiting in winter is an authentically Russian experience, though, especially if you visit before or during the Orthodox Christmas in January. Cities like Moscow transform into twinkling winter wonderlands, complete with ice skating rinks and astonishing light displays. It’s also a great time of year to see the famous Russian ballet, The Nutcracker, performed at the Bolshoi Theatre. You can also expect fewer crowds at popular sites like Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg and the Kremlin in Moscow. Then, to warm up, be sure to head to the local banya!
If you’re looking to splurge a little on accommodations, you must stay at the Hotel Metropol in Moscow. Not only is this one of the most historic and beautiful hotels in the country, it’s also the setting for the famous book, A Gentleman in Moscow. Insider tip: If you are unable to stay here, you can do a Gentleman in Moscow tour of The Metropol instead.
By Lindsey from Have Clothes, Will Travel
One of the most amazing, underrated places to visit in Europe is the tiny micro-country (and city) of San Marino — the oldest country in the world. It boasts breathtaking views of the Italian countryside while also being home to an impressive castle. Break away from the crowds of the cities in Italy and travel to San Marino instead.
The best thing to do in San Marino is explore the towering castle on the peak of Monte Titano. There are three towers looming over the city, dating back to the 11th century! The First Tower, Guaita, is the oldest and most famous, built in the 11th century. The Second Tower, Cesta, is on the highest peak and is home to a museum holding over 1,500 weapons dating back to the Medieval Era. The Montale, the third tower, is on the smallest summit and is not open to the public.
There are also plenty of museums to intrigue you. The National Museum dives into San Marino’s rich history, the beautiful Basilica de San Marino is a step back in time, and there’s the Torture Museum for travelers who prefer more unusual items. No matter what you decide to see and do, you’ll be glad you visited San Marino, one of the most underrated countries in Europe.
By Pamela from The Directionally Challenged Traveler
Tucked in the middle of Europe, it often surprises me that Slovakia gets much less attention than its more popular neighbours: Austria, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
Just a one-hour train ride from Austria’s imperial capital of Vienna, Slovakia’s capital city, Bratislava, is one of the prettiest cities in Europe and an absolute delight to visit. Venturing further than Bratislava, you’ll find the mountainous and sparsely populated country full of natural wonders and hidden gems.
For fans of cobbled streets, fanciful castles, cathedrals, delightful old town roads, cheap yet delicious restaurants, and a bridge shaped like a UFO, Bratislava is a great place to start your Slovakia exploration. It’s a foodie’s paradise, so make sure to try some of the country’s signature dishes. A must-try is Slovakia’s national dish, bryndzové halušky, which consists of dumplings with sheep’s cheese. Though it sounds a little disconcerting, it’s actually quite tasty!
Make sure to visit Bratislava’s beautiful red and white castle, Michael’s Gate, in the Old Town. While you’re there, hunt the streets for funky little statues, including a little man poking out of a manhole cover!
Outside of the capital, Slovakia doesn’t stop giving! There are yet more beautiful castles — including the largest fortified castle in Europe! — snow-covered ski trails, and countless hiking opportunities. Check out the Tatras Mountains and the Slovak Paradise National Park, both of which are full of spellbinding trails. A history and nature lover’s dream, Slovakia is easily one of the most underrated countries to visit.
By Alice from Adventures of Alice
Sweden doesn’t receive nearly as much hype or attention as its Nordic neighbors. And while you may have heard about Stockholm or Gothenburg, many people are not so familiar with the coastal town of Malmö. Located in southern Sweden and just a short train ride across the Oresund’s bridge from Copenhagen, Malmö is Sweden’s third-largest city and a must-visit for foodies — and by far one of the most underrated countries in Europe.
Malmö has an extremely diverse population with over 190 nationalities and about 180 languages spoken. The multicultural influence of the city’s inhabitants isn’t only heard, it can also be seen in a number of ways…especially when it comes to the food.
When you think of Swedish food, your mind might immediately jump to meatballs, but Malmö is actually most well-known for its falafel. There is still much debate amongst locals over where to find the best falafel in the city, but a common favorite is Varnhems Falafel. This is a great spot to grab a cheap, delicious, vegan-friendly bite to eat.
No matter what type of cuisine you choose, nearly every restaurant in the city offers vegetarian-friendly options, and many have menus that are exclusively vegan. Some, like Slottsträdgårdens Kafè, even source ingredients from their own urban gardens!
When you inevitably find yourself in a food coma, you’ll need a place to lay your head. A stay at the Clarion Hotel Malmö Live is a must. This hotel is centrally located and has a skybar and restaurant with the best sunset views of the city.
By Kirstie from Hall Around the World
Wales is often overlooked in favor of a trip to Scotland or England’s capital, London, when people visit the UK. But this is a mistake. Wales has so much to offer and is unquestionably one of the most underrated countries in the world. It has many secluded beaches, quaint towns, castles, adventures, and best of all, very few tourists.
Although it is small, Wales is a unique country with many great things to do. You could visit several times and never once be bored! Discover the island of Anglesey and explore the unspoiled nature of Snowdonia National Park, where you can climb Mount Snowdon, the country’s tallest mountain. Then step back in time at the UNESCO Conwy Castle and enjoy the coastal Pembrokeshire National Park. And don’t miss driving through old villages such as Tenby or seeing Wales’ capital, Cardiff.
One of the best-kept secrets of Wales is that it’s a place full of adventure. For example, you can ride on the fastest zipline in the world and skydive over Swansea. It is also a popular destination for kayaking, rafting, and cycling (try the Celtic Trail!).
Finally, one of the best things you can do in one of Europe’s most underrated countries is adventure through Waterfall Country (The Brecon Beacons). Try gorge walking through the falls or quad-biking in the forest. The list is endless; make sure you have a traditional Welsh Cake with a cup of tea to rest afterward.
By Rachel from Average Lives
Looking for more things to do in Wales? Check out these unique activities!
So there they are — 15 of the world’s most underrated countries! Have you been to any of these places? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to pin this post for your trip planning! Safe travels!