Travel trends are popular for a reason, but that doesn’t mean that crowds guarantee that a destination is worth visiting. In fact, some of the most interesting and valuable travel experiences out there include locations that the majority of people have not even heard of. Some of them are even too small to notice on a map!
Choosing to visit a country that’s less popular has its risks, but those risks can result in the most rewarding travels. Whether you want to escape the crowds or discover a little-known destination off the beaten track, here are 10 of the least-visited countries in the world.
10 New Caledonia
A tropical paradise in the South Pacific, New Caledonia encompasses a string of islands and is straddled by a picturesque lagoon—which also doubles as a World Heritage site. Far and Wide reports that New Caledonia receives just 121,000 visitors per year, and it’s hard to imagine why!
Aside from the scenic coastal views, travelers to New Caledonia can experience a melting pot of French and Melanesian cultures reflected in the local food scene. You can also hike mountains, sail, kayak, go bird-watching or even dive in the surrounding waters.
9 San Marino
A micro-nation located in Italy, San Marino is a country within a country and often flies under the radar of most travelers. One of the oldest republics on the planet and a remnant of Italy’s old city-state foundations, San Marino should be a must for history lovers, since its capital city contains a historic center that is almost 1000 years old.
San Marino is a country full of romantic cliffsides and castles and is the perfect way to experience Italian food and culture without dealing with the hordes of tourists that flood Italy every year.
8 French Guiana
French Guiana is the least-visited destination in South America, and definitely deserves a place on your travel wishlist. There are a couple of reasons to visit this French territory, including the blend of cultures you’ll be able to experience.
The capital city of French Guiana, Cayenne, naturally features a large French influence and boasts a café culture similar to what you’d find in France. At the same time, Asian cuisines, such as Vietnamese and Chinese, are also available in eateries throughout the territory. It’s a culinary experience not to be missed!
One of the least-visited countries in Europe, Moldova is easy to miss with larger nations like Romania and Ukraine bordering it on all sides. Moldova has plenty on offer for history lovers, including fortresses and fortifications from the ancient world as well as the Middle Ages.
There are also still traces of fascinating architecture and influences from the 20thcentury, during which Moldova was a Soviet entity. Moldova is also home to a famous archeological site known as Orheuil Vechi, which contains findings from the Paleolithic era, as well as an impressive 142 wineries.
Another South Pacific island nation, Vanuatu receives just over 109,000 visitors a year, according to Far and Wide. This comes down to its tricky location—direct flights to the capital Port Vila are only readily available from the Australian cities of Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.
A unique cultural experience awaits those who do make the trek to Vanuatu. Visitors have the chance to hike an active volcano, ash-board back down and then share a local beverage known as kava with a village chief. There are also relaxing isolated beaches and once-in-a-lifetime diving excursions on offer.
You’ll have to squint to see this one on a map. Liechtenstein is situated between Austria and Switzerland, and basically has all the amazing cultural and environmental wonders as its two larger neighbors, but without the crowds. In its capital city, you’ll find a postal museum and a world-class gallery of contemporary art.
Liechtenstein is home to some of the most charming castles in the world, including the 12th-century fortress known as Vaduz Castle. This German-speaking country is a fantastic spot for mountain biking, hiking, winter sports or just enjoying the storybook mountain scenery.
Located off the coast of Mozambique, Comoros is made up of a collection of tiny islands near the much more famous Madagascar. There’s often a lot of travel time required to get here since you’ll have to fly via Kenya and the island of Mayotte, but it’s worth it. Cruise ships occasionally visit too. Locals mostly speak Comoran, French, and Arabic.
Why Comoros? Traveller divulges that some of the best and most undiscovered coral reefs are located here, as are large forests where visitors can find native animals like lemurs and fruit bats.
Monaco might be more well-known than many of the other nations on this list, but it’s still among the world’s least-visited countries, receiving around 355,000 annually according to Far and Wide. Monaco takes up 200 hectares of space on the French Riviera, making it the second smallest country on the planet.
A playground filled with glamour, glitter, expensive cars, yachts and luxury resorts, Monaco is a location you have to see to believe. The cobblestone streets in the country can be traced back to the 13th century, long before it was a hotspot for the rich and famous.
2 Sao Tome & Principe
Sao Tome & Principe is the least-visited country in Africa. Made up of two islands that reside nearly 140 miles away from Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe features colonial Portuguese architecture and often seems like a gateway into the past.
There’s plenty to do on these remote, scenic islands in the present, though! The few visitors to do travel here enjoy activities like diving and fishing in the clear water. Between the months of July and October, travelers to Sao Tome & Principe can also watch humpback whales and dolphins via cruises.
1 Cook Islands
Sitting in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, the Cook Islands is as isolated as it gets. Despite the country's remoteness, it is home to a thriving modern food scene that serves up a variety of organic dishes, and an energetic nightlife that rivals that on the mainland.
The most popular activity on the islands is snorkeling, and visitors have the opportunity to come face-to-face with marine life spanning from turtles to rays to whales. Travelers can reach the Cook Islands by flying from Los Angeles, Fiji, Auckland or Sydney.