Paris, Hong Kong, Barcelona—these are exotic summer vacation spots that (if TripAdvisor is to be believed) young people usually flock to once they’re released from the shackles of exam season.

But which travel destinations don’t get the spotlight that they deserve? Members of the Fulcrum weigh in on their favourite underrated travel locations.

South Okanagan, British Columbia

South Okanagan, BC_CC_Keith Ewing_WEB

Photo: CC, Keith Ewing.

As Canadians, we’ve all heard about how beautiful British Columbia is, but there’s an underrated, little gem hidden in BC’s famous mountains: The South Okanagan.

Located in the Southern Central area of the province (only a four hour drive east of Vancouver), this region is a favourite summer vacation spot for British Columbians and Albertans alike. Outside of containing Canada’s only true desert environment, South Okanagan is also noteworthy for sporting traits similar to that of the Niagara area, one of Canada’s few fruit-growing and wine producing areas.

The area’s warm lakes are perfect for swimming and boating, something that you will easily find out by visiting charming municipalities like Penticton and Osoyoos.

So when you visit you can choose between sitting on the beaches, driving along mountain roads, exploring wineries, or eating freshly picked fruits and veggies from the numerous fruit stands in the region.

What better way is there to spend the summer?

Catherine Frasch

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland_CC_Jorge Láscar_WEB

Photo: CC, Jorge Lascar.

One of European’s youngest capitals, Helsinki is easily one of its best. Not only is the city a hotbed of innovative culture and design, but it’s also a centre of the far-from-boring Finnish history. This includes the traumatic civil war that occurred after the Finns achieved independence in 1917, and the heroic Winter War that they waged against the Soviets during World War Two.

Most of all, one of the best things about Finland is the Finns themselves. Despite the stereotype of being depressed introverts, Finns are actually wonderful people—cheerful, helpful, and amazingly nice. Finnish is also a lovely language, but Finns usually speak excellent English, so you probably won’t have to worry about that pesky language barrier.

-Nicholas Robinson

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland_CC_Sarah Stierch_WEB

Photo: CC, Sarah Stierch.

Primarily known as the land of bagpipes and kilts, Scotland often gets an unfair rap as a place of unrefined culture and Braveheart stereotypes.

While it may not be the first destination that comes to mind when planning a summer vacation, the capital city of Edinburgh is well worth a visit. From the central area of the Royal Mile to the Georgian-designed New Town, Edinburgh is filled with historic sites, fascinating museums, and superb shops and restaurants.

Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace provide interesting half or full-day excursions, while museums such as the National Museum of Scotland and the National Gallery of Scotland contain a myriad of excellent exhibits, which are entirely free to the public.

In addition, summer is the time when many festivals and events take place, including the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo and Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Bottom line, if you’re thinking about going to the UK this summer, you should definitely consider Edinburgh.

-Natasha Lomonossoff

Busan, South Korea

Busan, South Korea_CC_Mark & Emma Hambleton_WEB

Photo: CC, Mark & Emma Hambleton.

Despite its relatively small size, South Korea boasts an endless list of national treasures, with Busan being one of the most beautiful and underrated cities in the country.

Since it’s a coastal city, the sea plays an important role in shaping the local tourist scene. Haeundae Beach, Jagalchi Fish Market, and the Busan Aquarium are just a few of the splendid seaside attractions in the country’s second-largest city.

An aquarium may sound a little boring for a university student, but it was there that I got the chance to  swim in a tank with actual sharks and giant turtles.

The nightlife is also fantastic, with numerous pubs and clubs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

-Nadia Helal

Kangaroo Island, Australia

Kangaroo Island, Australia_CC_Navin75_WEB

Photo: CC, Navin75.

Places like Sydney and Melbourne are considered typical vacation spots in Australia, but if you talk to any true Aussie they will tell you the experience is not truly authentic until you visit “the bush”.

Australia is home to many unique animals and vegetation that are not found natively in any other part of the world, with the kangaroo obviously being the most famous. Kangaroo Island, located off the southern mainland, is one of the most incredible wonders of the world, where marsupials outnumber humans by a staggering 13 to 1.

The sizable island is only a 45-minute ferry ride from the mainland, and is teeming with wildlife in every corner, with kangaroos as far as the eye can see. The animals on this island also flaunt a number of unique characteristics, since they evolved separately after rising sea-levels disconnected the island from the mainland approximately 10,000 years ago.

For this once-in-a-lifetime nature experience, it’s definitely worth a trip.

Kaya Gaudet