18 Underrated Holiday Destinations to Visit for Your Year-End Trip

18 Underrated Countries to Visit Before the Year Ends

Go off the beaten track this holiday season, or any season for that matter.

Come Christmas time, travellers usually plan trips to spectacular winter wonderlands, cities made glittering with bright lights, or dreamy towns that combine both worlds. Aside from the popular countries for celebrations, what about underrated holiday destinations that travellers often miss out on?

Since most adventurers also take advantage of the snow, it makes sense that some destinations are more popular than others. But now it’s time to shine the spotlight on underrated holiday destinations around the world that are just as beautiful during the yuletide season. Read on to find out Christmas-time vacation ideas. This should be your most memorable holiday yet.

Ready to make the most out of visiting these underrated countries? Embark on an unforgettable journey and plan your trip with Pelago by Singapore Airlines, winner of the Best Online Travel Agency category at the 2023 TripZilla Excellence Awards. The online travel portal opens up a world of possibilities when you travel, taking you from iconic attractions on your bucket list to secret spots off the beaten track. 

Also read: 16 Dazzling Christmas Lights Around the World You Have to See

Must-visit underrated holiday destinations

1. Italy

underrated holiday destinations: Bari, Italy

Image credit: loloieg

Italy is one of those world-famous destinations that are just overly popular — and for a number of great reasons. But not a lot of people know that the Catholic saint who inspired Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, is actually the co-patron of the Province of Bari in Puglia. In fact, some of his relics and even his tomb are kept in the Pontifical Basilica di San Nicola to this day.

Christmas in Puglia is made even more special with yuletide delicacies such as cartellate (sweet, fried dough) and purciadducci (also known as the “poor man’s nougat”). If that’s not enough to entice you, the region is actually known for breathtaking beaches, archaeological treasures, and a rich culinary heritage. These spots stay ripe for sightseeing all days of the year as well.

Also read: 8 Hidden Beaches in Italy That Only Locals Know About

2. Bhutan

Must-visit underrated holiday destinations: Bhutan

Image credit: fotofritz16 via CanvaPro

Known for limiting the number of tourists that enter it, as well as being among the world’s happiest countries, Bhutan is quite an intriguing getaway. And although most of its population practises Buddhism (a religion declared part of the country’s sacred heritage), parts of the country still celebrate Christmas. It may not be as sparkly or as ostentatious as in other countries, but the occasional handcrafted paper decor will mark any establishment that commemorates Christmas in its own little way.

Any other time of the year, though, you can visit Bhutan’s many temples, mountains, and nature retreats. You’ll have to go through a credited tour operator since that’s how they manage tourism. But there are itineraries for every kind of traveller so you won’t be disappointed.

Also read: Bhutan Trans Trail Reopens After 60 Years for Domestic and International Travel

3. Malaysia

underrated holiday destinations: Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Image credit: Ling Tang

When talking about underrated holiday destinations, Malaysia should probably be on the list. Other than the iconic Twin Towers and KL Tower, Malaysia has so much more to offer. If celebrating the holiday season with neon lights in the bustling city isn’t your cup of tea, then go on a challenging hike at Sabah’s Mountain Kinabalu, or try out scuba diving around Pahang’s many islands. 

Regardless, there are shopping malls anywhere you go with full-on Christmas decorations. But if you want to take pictures with tall Christmas trees and go on a shopping spree with Christmas carols chanting all the time, then Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, the most populated areas of the country with most shopping malls, are still the best places to go.

Also read: 12 Dreamy Treehouses in Malaysia You Can Book on Airbnb

4. Lithuania


Image credit: Gregory Atkats 

A Baltic state that’s known for historical sites and thriving wildlife, Lithuania isn’t really what comes first in mind when you think of a European holiday. It ought to be on your list, though.

Lithuanians are known to speak one of the world’s oldest languages. In fact, it’s closely related to Sanskrit, so it would be a unique experience alone to hear the locals talk. Aside from this, Lithuania is also home to really good beer, so that ought to put everyone in a cheery mood.

In December, the country transforms into a snowy destination that’s buzzing with Christmas spirit. There’s Kūčiukai or biscuits served with poppy milk and lots of Christmas trees. Forget the 12 days of Christmas; in Lithuania, it’s customary to have at least 12 traditional dishes on the table on Christmas Eve.

Also read: 30 Europe Souvenirs to Bring Home from Your Next Adventure

5. Philippines

Metro Manila, The Philippines

Image credit: Oj Serrano

They say that Christmas begins in the Philippines as early as September. This small nation in Southeast Asia is crazy about the holiday. In bustling Metro Manila, Christmas sales start earlier than anywhere else in the world. Many Filipino families also practise several yuletide traditions such as misa de gallo and noche buena. Aside from Christmas trees, bright lights, and artful depictions of the nativity, it’s also common to see the parol: a handcrafted Christmas ornament that is traditionally made of capiz shells.

But all year round, the beaches and mountains of the Philippine archipelago are a treat. If you’re looking forward to a tropical getaway, look no further.

Also read: 10 World-Class Islands in the Philippines Travellers Rave About

6. Peru

Winter season is the perfect time to visit Peru due to its chilly weather. And yes, you may get to catch a glimpse of snow, but only at the mountain peaks. As one of the underrated holiday vacations, Peru is where you should go to avoid big crowds during your winter escapade. Visit the most famous destination in the country, Machu Picchu, where the ancient ruins are well-preserved accompanied by a view of the green mountains. 

To fully enjoy the captivating scenery of Machu Picchu, try trekking up via the Salkantay trail which is not overcrowded. The view from above, especially when the mountains are covered with snow, will surely leave you in awe.

Also read: 15 Strange Destinations Around the World That Don’t Seem Real

7. Georgia

Christmas time vacation destinations: Georgia

Image credit: Denis Arslanbekov

A country located right between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Georgia is another place to go for your next winter break vacation. From nature attractions like the ancient rock-hewn town Uplistsikhe to graceful sculptures like the Ali & Nino Statue, Georgia has it all. For a wonderful Christmas vacation, visit Tbilisi, the capital of the country. Tbilisi’s Gothic buildings will make you feel like you’ve just entered an ethereal art scene. Not to mention the stunning Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi that emanates Christmas vibes all time of the year.

If you look forward to a snowy Christmas, Georgia will also not disappoint with its enchanting winter landscape.

Also read: Georgia to Allow Entry of Foreigners who Work Remotely via A Long-term Visitor Pass!

8. Vietnam


Image credit: Markus Winkler

Another one of the most underrated holiday destinations is Vietnam. Although Christmas is no longer a national holiday here, it still remains one of the main religious festivals in the country. During the festive season, major cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi are filled with bright decorations, and you might catch sight of Santa clauses riding on their bikes. 

Moreover, celebrate the New Year in Ho Chi Minh City. This capital city is arguably the best place in the country to experience thrilling nightlife, with parties, music, alcohol and fun people. 

Also read: Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh: Which City in Vietnam Should You See First?

9. Canada

Image credit: JuliaPanchyzhna via Canva Pro

A great place to visit for your winter break vacation would be Canada, another gorgeous country that some tourists often overlook. Travel to Quebec, a place full of French colonial buildings and French-speaking locals that will make you feel like you’re in France for a second. Be prepared for the abundant snowfall during winter and visit the l’Étang Baker, Quebec’s romantic heart-shaped lake to welcome the New Year. 

Toronto is also one of the best Christmas vacation destinations. Its  European-style Christmas market featuring local eateries, handcrafts, and live entertainment was the city’s most popular Christmas event before the pandemic. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of enchanting Christmas occasions, like the Holiday Night of Lights and the Canadian Tire Christmas Trail in Toronto that you don’t want to miss. 

Also read: 12 Best Cities to Live in Canada If You Want a Fresh Start

10. Bulgaria

Christmas time vacation destinations: Bulgaria

Image credit: Anton Antanasov

To experience the feeling of travelling to the popular holiday destination Greece, visit Bulgaria, a country located right above with a similar culture. Winter is beautiful in Plovdiv. The most travel-worthy Christmas-time vacation destinations in the city include the Ancient Theatre, Kapana, and the Ancient Bath. Kapana is regarded as the city’s creative district, offering traditional local dishes like the kačamak, Thracian wine, and handmade crafts. There is also a Christmas Bazaar happening in Kapana during the jolly season.

To add a little spice to your trip, visit the Seven Rila Lakes that’s only around three hours away from Plovdiv. Trek up the Rila Mountains and spend an extraordinary time immersing yourself in the spectacular nature view. 

Also read: 10 Best European Countries That Won’t Break the Bank

11. Poland

underrated holiday destinations

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Poland is one of many underrated holiday destinations oft overlooked by most people planning a Euro trip. It’s a country full of surprises, with history-bound urban centres framed by craggy mountains and deep woods. Warsaw is the nation’s capital and a must-visit destination for learning about Poland’s history in relation to the Second World War. One of the best places to check out for this is the Warsaw Uprising Museum.

Image credit: SteveAllenPhoto via Canva Pro

You can also visit the city of Krakow and enjoy the stunning expanse of Europe’s largest medieval town square: the Rynek Główny. Within, you’ll find several more historical attractions such as the 11th-century Church of St. Adalbert and the towering St. Mary’s Basilica. Every Christmas, the square becomes home to an enchanting winter market with quaint chalet-style booths selling everything from hand-painted baubles to postcards.

holiday season travel

Image credit: zbruch via Canva Pro

Another Polish city that deserves your attention is Gdansk. This romantic seaport city is the perfect place to take picturesque photos for the ’Gram, and home to the enchanting Malbork Castle.

12. Fiji

winter sun holidays

Yasawa Island | Image credit: Jay Topping via Canva Pro

Rather than a Christmas vacation surrounded by snow, how about spending the winter sun holidays in Fiji? Turquoise lagoons, sun-soaked beaches, and swaying palm trees come together to create a classic image of a tropical paradise. 

Like most people, Fijians celebrate Christmas by gathering with their loved ones alongside massive feasts of delicious food. However, they add to the festivities with performances of the traditional meke dance for women, and a spear dance for the men.

Mamanucas Island | Image credit: Jay Topping via Canva Pro

Island-hopping amidst Fiji’s Mamanucas and Yasawa Islands is also another popular holiday season travel activity. These palm-fringed islands are ringed with white-sand beaches and filled with placid lagoons, providing the perfect setting to lounge about in backpacker resorts or go on a luxury cruise. For a more adventurous experience, you can take a river rafting journey in the Namosi Highlands.

13. Sweden

Image credit: Martin Wahlborg via Canva Pro

The Swedes call Christmas Jul and it’s a favoured way for locals and visitors alike to brighten up the dark winter days. One of the best places to go for the ideal celebration is Gothenburg, also known as Sweden’s Christmas city! Expect to see dozens of merry open-air markets with lots of festive food. Avelyn, the city’s main thoroughfare, will be decked out in twinkling lights.

underrated holiday destinations

Image credit: Cristina Manieri via Canva Pro

For more winter shenanigans, prepare to brave the Swedish Lapland, which is a part of the country that lies close to the Arctic. To most people, this expanse of icy wilderness often gets counted among underrated holiday destinations, but there’s plenty to see and do. You can stay in tree hotels and ice hotels, and even go husky-sledding! On top of that, there are also great spots to go skiing and go on road trips across the magnificent Lapland landscape.

Also read: Sweden Is Asking Everyone to Stop Confusing It With Switzerland

14. Colombia

Cartagena | Image credit: atosan via Canva Pro

If you’re looking for more underrated holiday destinations to spend your winter break vacation, take a trip to Colombia! During the festive season, the city of Cartagena blooms with an incredible festive atmosphere that bucks “traditional” Christmas celebrations in the best way possible. Besides the lovely warm weather, you can go snorkelling in the Rosario Islands, or dance the night away in the clubs of Getsamani.

Tayrona National Park | Image credit: Diego Gonzalez via Canva Pro

Beyond Cartagena, you can check out the Tayrona National Park in Santa Marta to enjoy long stretches of pristine Caribbean beaches and dense rainforests with easy day-hike routes. Within the confines of the park, a kiosk sits atop a tiny island. Here, visitors can chill out and rest in hammocks.

If you’re up for a more rugged adventure, don’t miss out on a trip to Ciudad Perdida (aka Colombia’s Lost City). This series of ancient steps and terraces carved into the mountainside are the remains of a civilisation that’s even older than the legendary Machu Picchu. Be warned, Ciudad Perdida can only be reached on foot, and getting there takes three days’ worth of trekking from the village of Mamey.

15. Laos

underrated holiday destinations

Victory Gate, Vientiane | Image credit: pressdigital via Canva Pro

Most people would be hard-pressed to find Laos on the world map, but that’s exactly why it’s a perfect destination to put on your list of winter sun holidays. Visiting Laos at the tail end of the year means discovering a truly unique way of celebrating Christmas within a primarily Buddhist population. Explore the capital, Vientiane, where Christmas is celebrated in earnest through various pubs, and decorations are a must.

Nam Song River, Vang Vieng | Image credit: davidionut via Canva Pro

There’s also the town of Vang Vieng, which is renowned for outdoor activities like cycling, hiking, and rock climbing. It’s the perfect place for an outdoor festive celebration and is usually well-decorated, just like Vientiane. Other activities to do across Laos include taking boat rides along the Mekong River, visiting the historical Plain of Jars, and exploring the waterfalls of the Bolaven Plateau

16. Albania

Image credit: Endri Killo

Albania is another country that’s often overlooked when it comes to holiday planning. Visitors who arrive here will discover stunning landscapes, fascinating history, and welcoming locals. During Christmas, visit Skanderbeg Square in the capital city of Tirana for an incredible winter market with cosy Christmas lodges, carnival games, and roasting chestnuts.

Image credit (L-R): officek_ki via iStock; RossHelen via Canva Pro

The historical Ottoman city of Berat is yet another great place to visit in Albania. This old, fortified city is filled with murals, frescos, and historical buildings. The evenly spaced portals cut into the stone facades of Berat have earned it the title “The City of a Thousand Windows”.

Also read: The Albanian Alps: An Underrated Destination That Deserves More Travellers

17. Montenegro

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Yet another underrated Balkan nation, Montenegro has lots to offer to all who visit, especially during the Christmas season. Visit the town of Kotor — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and check out the annual Christmas Market to enjoy traditional smoked ham and cheese, njeguški steak, and brandy. 

Durmitor National Park | Image credit: Yuri Brykaylo via Canva Pro

The capital city of Podgorica also has an incredible ice rink to explore, spanning 600 metres. There are also instructors present on the rink to help newbies with their first attempts at ice skating. On top of that, you can also visit the Durmitor National Park, which is a two-hour drive from Podgorica, for some incredible natural vistas.

18. Senegal

Gorée, Dakar, Senegal | Image credit: Anton Lecock

A year-end holiday in Senegal is exactly what the doctor ordered if you want to spice up a traditional Christmas celebration. Despite being a mostly Muslim country, the Senegalese people joyfully come together each year to embrace the Christmas spirit! In the capital of Dakar, you’ll find decorated snowmen, Christmas trees with cotton balls (to make up for the lack of snow), and even traditional masks decorated with fairy lights.

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There are plenty of exciting things to do for visitors looking to take a winter break vacation in Senegal’s capital. History enthusiasts can visit the IFAN Museum of African Arts, which houses various ritual masks, instruments, and clothing that provide important insight into West African history. Besides that, you can visit Lake Retba, which lies northeast of Dakar. This pink lake holds enough salt to rival the Dead Sea and is a great place for some Insta-worthy snapshots.

Also read: 13 Tips for Packing Light for Winter Trips 

So, are you ready for something different this coming Christmas? You can even call it an extended holiday and stay until New Year’s. But the best part is that most of the countries on this list are all beautiful, underrated holiday destinations that you should see soon — regardless of the season.

About Authors

Alyosha Robillos
Alyosha Robillos

In Russia, Alyosha is a boy's name popularised by literary greats Dostoevsky and Tolstoy—but this particular Alyosha is neither Russian nor a boy. She is a writer from the Philippines who loves exploring the world as much as she likes staying at home. Her life's mission is to pet every friendly critter there is. When she isn't busy doing that, she sniffs out stories and scribbles away on the backs of old receipts. She is an advocate of many things: culture and heritage, the environment, skincare and snacking, to name a few. She will work for lifetime supplies of french fries and coffee. Or yogurt. Or cheese, preferably Brie.


Cecelia Chang
Cecelia Chang

Born in a new village in Selangor, Malaysia, Cecelia loves three things in life: Good food, good views, and good deals. She also enjoys exploring new places and experiencing new things on her travels.


Jeremiah Patrick
Jeremiah Patrick

A journeyman wordsmith wandering the creative lexicon, looking to craft a masterpiece. The only thing on par with Jerry’s love for a good story is the time he spends playing dauntingly difficult video games, reading works of fiction, and listening to horror podcasts. His mood shifts between dark brooding and cheery quips, depending on how much caffeine swirls in his system.