The 30 Least Visited Countries In The World
I visited every country in the world from 2007 to 2017, all 197 of them, so then it stands to reason that that journey also included going to the Least Visited Countries In The World. But what are they? And how was my experience traveling through those least visited countries? Well let’s have a look at the 30 least visited countries in the world below.
Personally, I love traveling to places that haven’t been overrun with tourists so I find lists like these fascinating. And I completely relate to other people who want to visit these places, so I hope my brief explanation about traveling through the least visited countries in the world helps.
Did you know? The 30 least visited countries, representing over 15% of the world’s countries, make up LESS THAN 0.1% of all tourism. Crazy, right?
Table of contents
- The 30 Least Visited Countries In The World
- The 30 least Visited Counries in the world list. More info on each country follows below:
- How are the tourist numbers calculated?
- Why are these countries the least visited countries in the world?
- Country by Country information, and my experience traveling there
- 29: Eritrea – 142,000 visitors per year
- 28: North Korea – around 100,000 visitors per year
- 26: San Marino – 85,000 visitors per year
- 25: St Vincent and the Grendines- 80,000 visitors per year
- 24: – Timor Leste (East Timor)- 75,000 visitors per year
- 23: Dominica – 63,000 visitors per year
- 22: Sierra Leone- 57,000 visitors per year
- 21: Tonga – 54,000 visitors per year
- 20: Djibouti – 51,000 visitors per year
- 19: Guinea-Bissau – 45,000 visitors per year
- 18: Guinea – 45,000 visitors per year
- 17: Liberia – 45,000 visitors per year
- 16: Comoros – 36,000 visitors per year
- 15: Mauritania – 30,000 visitors per year
- 14: Solomon Islands – 27,000 visitors per year
- 13: Federated States of Micronesia – 19,000 visitors per year
- 12: Afghanistan – about 20,000 visitors per year
- 11: Mali – 14,000 visitors per year
- 10: Turkmenistan – less than 9,000 visitors per year
- 9: São Tomé and Príncipe – around 8,000 visitors per year
- 8: Libya – around 6,000 visitors per year
- 7: Marshall Islands – around 6,000 visitors per year
- 6: South Sudan – 5,500 visitors per year
- 5: Kiribati – around 4,000 visitors per year
- 4: Tuvalu – 2,000 visitors per year
- 3: Equatorial Guinea – less than 1,000 visitors per year
- 2: Yemen – less than 500 visitors per year
- 1: Somalia* – less than 100* visitors per year
- OTHER LEAST VISITED COUNTRIES TO NOTE:
- Which of the Least Visited Countries in the World Would I Recommend Visiting?
- Final thoughts on the least visited countries in the world:
- How about the MOST visited countries in the world?
The 30 least Visited Counries in the world list. More info on each country follows below:
- Moldova – 145,000 visitors per year
- Eritrea – 142,000 visitors per year
- North Korea – around 100,000 visitors per year!
- Liechtenstein – 85,000 visitors per year
- San Marino – 84,000 visitors per year
- St Vincent and the Grenadines – 80,000 visitors per year
- Timor Leste (East Timor) – 75,000 visitors per year
- Dominica – 63,000 visitors per year
- Sierra Leone – 57,000 visitors per year
- Tonga – 54,000 visitors per year
- Djibouti – 51,000 visitors per year
- Guinea-Bissau – 45,000 visitors per year
- Guinea – 45,000 visitors per year
- Liberia – 45,000 visitors per year
- Comoros – 36,000 visitors per year
- Mauritania – 30,000 visitors per year
- Solomon Islands – 27,000 visitors per year
- Federated States of Micronesia – 19,000 visitors per year
- Afghanistan – about 20,000 visitors per year
- Mali – 14,000 visitors per year
- Turkmenistan – less than 9,000 visitors per year
- Sao Tome and Principe – around 8,000 visitors per year
- Libya – around 6,000 visits per year
- Marshall Islands – around 6,000 visitors per year
- South Sudan – 5,500 visitors per year
- Kiribati – 4,000 visitors per year
- Tuvalu – around 2,000 visitors per year
- Equatorial Guinea – less than 1,000 visitors per year
- Yemen – less than 1,000 visitors per year
- Somalia* – less than 2008 visitors per year
- American Samoa – 20,000 visitors per year
- Niue – less than 8,000 visitors per year
- Nauru – less than 1,000 visitors per year*
How are the tourist numbers calculated?
The numbers of visitors to the countries each year are taken from a number of sources. So to find the Least Visited Countries In The World, The World Tourism Organization published a report yearly. The World Bank does something similar too, as does Index Mundi. Our world in data is helpful too.
Why are these countries the least visited countries in the world?
The list is made up primarily of countries falling into one of four categories:
- Tiny islands in the South Pacific like Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands. Why? They’re expensive to get to.
- Countries that are currently, or have recently been, war zones like Yemen and Afghanisan. Why? Because they’re dangerous.
- Small African countries that people have never heard of like Eritrea and Comoros. Why? Difficult to get to, and people have never heard of them.
- Police States like North Korea and Turkmenistan. Why? Perceived as dangerous (they’re not) and difficult to get visas.
Country by Country information, and my experience traveling there
30: Moldova – 145,000 visitors per year
One of Europe’s few entries to the list of Least Visited Countries In The World, little Moldova is wedged between Romania and Ukraine. It’s one of Europe’s smallest countries and actually, for the hard-core country-counters out there, it’s home to an EVEN smaller ‘country’ within its borders, the little-known state of Transnistria.
A LITTLE ABOUT MOLDOVA: They speak Romanian, and Moldova is officially the cheapest (and poorest) country in Europe. Population about 2.5m. It became independent in the Soviet break-up in 1991.
THINGS TO SEE IN MOLDOVA? Moldova is best known for its charming, former-soviet capital, Chișinău. Tha combined with the endless wineries, and cognac distilleries mean it’s a great destination for booze lovers. Also, it’s one of the cheapest places in the world to travel.
HOW TO GET THERE? The easiest way is actually not by airplane, but by train or bus from Odesa in Ukraine, or Bucharest in Romania.
My experience in Moldova? I visited Moldova way back in 2012, when I was a broke backpacker. I found it super easy to live off $15 a day in Moldova, and I loved partying in Chișinău every night. Friendly locals, cheap booze and cool Soviet architecture. I used Chișinău as my hop-off point to visit Transnistria too.
29: Eritrea – 142,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ERITREA: One of those countries in the world that lots of people have never heard of! With a population of almost 5 million, Eritrea isn’t tiny. About the same size as England. It is a former Italian colony, and then was ‘given’ to Ethiopia. They then had a war and tensions remain high with Ethiopia to this day.
THINGS TO SEE IN ERITREA? Eritrea is often referred to as Africa’s answer to North Korea (or Turkmenistan for that matter). Found in the horn of Africa, there is a lot of natural beauty in Eritrea and if it wasn’t for its oppressive Government, it would be quite the tourist hotspot. Scuba diving, diverse cultures, hiking in the mountains, and sharing the Danakil Depression with Ethiopia, it’s an amazing country to visit. That combined with the art deco architecture of its Capital, Asmara (a UNESCO world heritage site no less), a throwback to the Italians being here, makes it a fascinating place.
HOW TO GET THERE? The easiest way is by flight from Istanbul or Dubai. However, the visas can be very tricky, unless you know someone (cough, cough). I’m organising a trip here as soon as they re-open their borders post-Covid.
My experience in Eritrea? I blogged about traveling to Eritrea, it was my 54th and FINAL country in Africa. Through a friend, I managed to secure a visa on arrival, not an easy thing to do. And from there, I thoroughly enjoyed my time. Drinking espressos and buying gelato in Asmara was a surprise! And the tank graveyard was a particularly fascinating ‘highlight’ of my trip here. I can’t wait to go back with a group!
28: North Korea – around 100,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT NORTH KOREA: Only 28th on the list of least visited countries, yet when I tell people I’ve been to every country, it’s always the first country they ask about. It’s not difficult to visit DPRK. But equally, it remains perhaps the most closed country in the world, and tourists only see a limited amount. Your camera is confiscated at entry, and you never get to see the farms, the poverty, and of course no labour camps.
THINGS TO SEE IN NORTH KOREA: Well, for a start, you only see what you’re permitted to see. That goes without saying. Despite that reality, around 100,000 people visit North Korea each year (although admittedly, the vast majority of those tourists come from China).
The country is full of beauty, and the Juche philosophy of Kim Jung Un dictates a lot of the interesting architecture. Huge communist structures, massive posters dedicated to the Leaders, and demonising the ‘Imperilialist Americans’. Of course, the people have a tough time there, but you don’t see any of that. You do see a functioning society in the capital of Pyongyang, complete with the most beautiful subway stations imaginable.
HOW TO GET THERE: You MUST go on a designated tour, complete with North Korean tour guides. you can’t travel independently. Young Pioneer Tours and Koryo are the 2 main tour organisers.
My experience in North Korea: I’ll never forget my North Korean guide (lovely lady, English accent) talking with me, and telling me how sorry she felt for me that I had to buy my own house and my own car and my own TV, whereas her country supplied all that stuff for her.
It was my 50th country, and it was a wild one. It started off with a long train journey in from China, then I spent 4 or 5 days jumping from one prestige project to the next. HUGE monuments dedicated to the Dear Leaders. I saw the course record for a local golf course too, Kim Jung Un had apparently shot a 19. 17 hole in ones, and 1 round of 2. Madness. I blogged about traveling to North Korea here.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT LIECHTENSTEIN: it’s tiny, population 35,000! Double landlocked by Austria and Switzerland, Liechtenstein is home to GORGEOUS mountain scenery and a lot of tax-exiles, meaning it’s a great place to live (if you can afford it!)
THINGS TO SEE IN LIECHTENSTEIN: Vaduz, the Capital, is a lovely place to spend a few days, and eat over-priced but delicious food. With income tax at a world-low 1.2%, you can imagine the people that it attracts. But that doesn’t detract from the spectacular scenery, hiking and trail running in the country.
HOW TO GET THERE: Liechtenstein doesn’t have an airport. The most common entry point is from east Switzerland, just a 30-minute bus from Sargans town.
My experience in Liechtenstein: I was on an overland trip from China to Ireland without flying. I had a plan to visit every country in mainland Europe in 1 year, so Liechtenstein was next on my hitlist! I had been shocked a the prices of transport, food and accommodation in Switzerland so I was happy to escape. And then I saw the prices in Liechtenstein!
For €3.00, you can go to Vaduz’s tourist office and get a passport stamp (see pic below!)
26: San Marino – 85,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT SAN MARINO: San Marino isn’t actually in the EU, it’s landlocked by its big brother, Italy, and maintains an open border with them. Most people visit as a day trip from Pisa, Rimini or Florence.
THINGS TO SEE IN SAN MARINO: Famous for any football fans out there (like me), who routinely watch San Marino (population 27,000!) get hammered by every other normal-sized countrys in the European and World Cup Qualifiers every 2 years!
San Marino is just a few towns, with the capital, confusingly also called San Marino sitting atop of the mountain, complete with castle and castle walls. Go and explore. It’s beautiful. And, like Liechtenstein, you can get a passport stamp for a few euros at the Tourist Information centre.
HOW TO GET THERE: Pretty much everyone comes in from Rimini. From here you can get a bus for 5 Euro, and about 40 minutes.
My experience in San Marino: Along with my trip to the Vatican City, San Marino is the country I spent least time in out all my visits to all 197/197 countries. I went in the morning, from Rimini in Italy, and returned in the late afternoon/early evening.
That being said, it’s so beautiful! There’s just not much to see or do after you’ve explored the castle on top of the mountain, but the views are spectacular. There’s no border with Italy, so culturally it doesn’t feel much different. A great one for the country counters though!
25: St Vincent and the Grendines- 80,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES: St Vincent is a tiny country just north of Trinidad and Tobago, with a population of just over 116,000 people. The Capital, Kingstown, is found on the main island of St Vincent, and then ‘the Grenadines’ then refers to an archipelgageo of 32 smaller islands.
THINGS TO SEE IN ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES: It’s a Caribbean island, so… beaches! Also, Carnival in July is supposed to be spectacular. You can climb the Soufriere volcano and check out Fort Duvenette and Fort Charlotte too.
HOW TO GET THERE: The most common path is flying from Trinidad (like I did) but you can also fly to Miami, Toronto and NYC once a week.
My experience in St Vincent: I flew from Trinidad to St Vincent on December 24th, Christmas Eve. I was staying in a little hotel in Kingstown, and I planned to maybe check out a swanky hotel on Christmas day, buy their Christmas buffet and go wild. Then Christmas day hit. Silence.
EVERYTHING was closed. As one of the least visited countries in the world, there were no proper hotels in Kingstown and literally, nothing was open. I couldn’t even buy a bottle of water! In the end, I took a taxi to the airport on Christmas Day afternoon and bought what I could find, a bottle of water, a bottle of coke and some cookies.
St Vincent may be beautiful, but personally, I had one of the most depressing Christmases of my life there! Let’s just say, I prefer Trinidad!
24: – Timor Leste (East Timor)- 75,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT TIMOR-LESTE (EAST TIMOR): The second ‘newest’ country in the world, declared independent from Portugal in 1976 but was not internationally recognised until 2002. The population of this small South East Asian country is about a million, and Dilli the capital, makes up the most of that.
The island of Timor used to belong solely to Indonesia, but now it’s split between West Timor (still Indonesia), and East Timor, an independent nation.
THINGS TO SEE IN EAST TIMOR: Because East Timor is in South East Asia, you can already guess how gorgeous the country is. Palm trees, beaches, cliffs etc. There is great hiking, trekking and scuba. Bu the best bet is to base yourself in Dilli, the capital, and figure it out from there. That’s the only place with any vague kind of tourist infrastructure.
HOW TO GET THERE: Visa-free if you’re from the EU (sorry Brits!), and no visa available on the land border (as I found out the hard way). The coolest way is to cross from West Timor, the most common way is to fly from Bali, Singapore or Darwin, Australia (a short 2 hours to the south).
My experience in Timor Leste (East Timor):
I tried to cross the border from Indonesia West Timor, I arrived around 4pm only to discover there was no way to get to Dilli that day. What could we do? No bus back to any town on the Indonesia side either. I was stranded at the border post until the next transport sometime tomorrow morning. In the end, a local guy took me and my buddy in, we split on his floor in his 2 room shack, drank and ate with his family.
Turned out he was a gangster and went out fighting that night, we turned down his offers to join and then as payment took his family on the public transport to Dillil the following day. Quite an introduction to East Timor!
23: Dominica – 63,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT DOMINICA: NOT to be confused with the Dominican Republic, Dominica is very much its own country within the Caribbean. With a population of under 70,000 it’s not so surprising that lots of people don’t know about Dominica, but if you’re looking for a Caribbean nation not spoiled by American cruise ship tourism, then Dominica is the place.
It was the final country in the Caribbean to be colonised by Europe, and they were the first Caribbean nation to have a female leader, who led for 15 years. Good stuff.
THINGS TO SEE IN DOMINICA: It’s much cheaper to travel here than in the Americanised nations like the Bahamas, Baradados etc The main thing to see or do in Dominica is the epic Waitukubuli National Trail, all 184km of it! They also have the Morne Trois Pitons National Park (a UNESCO world heritage site) and a charming capital, Roseau. Endless hiking and waterfalls dotted around too.
HOW TO GET THERE: One of the reasons Dominica remains quite untouched is because there are no long-haul flights, you have to fly in from Barbados or Antigua. That adds another flight and another cost. However, you save that once you’re here!
My experience in Dominica: I had no expectations whatsoever I had just spent a lot of time galavanting between St Lucia, Barbados, Bahamas etc Countries which are most certainly NOT on the list of the least visited countries in the world (I even bumped into Mick Jagger!).
I assumed Dominica would be the same vibe. WRONG. For a start, it was a fraction of the price of the other nations, and it was much less developed but not in a bad way. Untouched jungle, beaches, hikes and waterfalls. Friendly locals and no guest shops selling generic tourist trinkets. I got a cheap beach hut 20m from the water, and spend the days touring the island by var Stopping for hikes 9(and beers) with friendly locals, promising I’ll be back!
22: Sierra Leone- 57,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT SIERRA LEONE: Independent of Britain since 1961, a civil war raged all the way up to 2002, and the scars remain today. Hugely under-developed, with barely any road infrastructure, Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries on the planet. Just as they began to emerge as a potential tourism centre, Ebola broke out and set them back further still.
THINGS TO SEE IN SIERRA LEONE: Getting from A to B in Sierra Leone is difficult, but what a travel experience it provides! Freetown’s beaches are beautiful, and taking a boat around those is a great way to spend a day or 2. The same could be said for nearby Banana Island too.
True travel in Sierra Leone though is more about getting out and about and experiencing life there. That’s why I’d recommend Overlanding across the country, from Liberia to Guinea (if you’re brave enough!).
HOW TO GET THERE: The international airport is in Freetown, from here you can fly to Istanbul, Kenya, Casablanca and Paris. Making the whole world accessible pretty quickly. By land, you can take shared transport (bush taxis) across from Libera. It’s a hardcore experience!
My experience in Sierra Leone: I had a wild time getting in and out of Sierra Leone, off-road travels, taking days to get around the country. Freetown provided some respite as they had some hotels with running water ec there, and I could catch up with work.
Also, a huge highlight of my time in Sierra Leone was the beautiful Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, make sure you check it out if you make it to SL.
21: Tonga – 54,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT TONGA: Population 106,137. Tiny! And a Capital I bet you won’t remember, Nuku’alofa. Tonga is one of the least visited countries in the world. Tonga remains one of the last absolute monarchies in the world. Something which is a constant source of conflict within the country.
THINGS TO SEE IN TONGA: It’s a paradise island, so pretty much what you’d expect. There are multiple islands, with Tongatapu the main island. There are stunning reefs and coral, and lots of scuba opportunity. Kayaking, kite-surfing, and boat trips are popular too.
HOW TO GET THERE: Most nations don’t need to organise a visa before they come. And most people arrive, via plane of course, from Auckland or Sydney. It’s always possible from Fiji and American Samoa.
My experience in Tonga: I divide my trip to every country in the Pacific into 2 separate trips (flights get pricey, so better to break it up!). And Tonga was on my first trip. Traveling around the South Pacifics is mind-blowing.
I did it with one of my best buddies, Anthony, and I’d highly recommend doing these paradise islands with someone. Because although they’re beautiful, they’d get boring, quickly, if you’re solo. We spent 4 days with a fakaleitī (transgender tonga), and had a great time.
20: Djibouti – 51,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT DJIBOUTI: They speak both French and Arabic, English isn’t widely spoken. It’s a tiny country with a population of less than 500,000. But due to being on the coast, their port in the Gulf of Aden means money flows through here. Hence the presence of Kempinskis and Sheratons!
It’s a lot more developed than any other country in the region, with a large military presence.
THINGS TO SEE IN DJIBOUTI: The main thing is the capital, Djibouti City. Enjoy the slightly more developed surroundings, especially if you’re on a long east Africa trip. Aside from that, on the border with Ethiopia, lies Lac Assal one of the lowest, hottest, driest places on the planet. It forms part of the Danakil Depression. there’s also great Scuba in Djibouti, organisable from the capital.
HOW TO GET THERE: You can fly, and you should fly! Don’t overland from Somaliland (like me, see below!). Most people fly from Ethiopia, also possible to Dubai.
My experience in Djibouti: Getting to Djibouti was perhaps the most hard-core (worst?) travel experience of my life. I was broke, living off $20 a day, and I was traveling through Somaliland (not Somalia proper, yet) and my next country was Djibouti. Flights were about $250. Not possible.
We heard of an off-road 24 hour land cruiser journey that would take us for $50. Done. 14 people in 8 seats, 40+ degree heat, 30+ hours. No escape. Right through the desert, and no road whatsoever. It was brutal. I had never been happier to arrive in Djibouti. AND Djibouti, due to the port and the French influence was much more developed than any country I had been in for months.
A welcome respite. Air-con, restaurants, showers. Thank you, Djibouti!
19: Guinea-Bissau – 45,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT GUINEA-BISSAU: Not to be confused with Guinea, Papua New Guinea or Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau is the safest and the easiest of the Guineas!
It was a former Portugese colony and you can still see the architecture in the capital. But they’ve been indepedent since 1974. Since then though, times have been tough with civil wars and military juntas.
THINGS TO SEE IN GUINEA-BISSAU: It’s a tiny country, so the Capital, Bissau, is the main event. That said, the forests of Jemberem are gorgeous and home to native chimpanzees.
HOW TO GET THERE: I came in on the back of a motorbike for 15 hours. Not to be recommended! You can fly directly from Conakry and Dakar, that’s your best bet .
My experience in Guinea Bissau: After my 18 hour escape from the other Guinea, I was delighted to arrive in Guinea-Bissau, and the capital, Bissau. The city, whilst still run down, is a world apart from Freetown, Monrovia, Kingstown etc, the countries which precede it in Liberia, Sierra Leone etc.
So it was a welcome respite. Real hotels, decent food options, and friendlier locals. I had to shoot north to Senegal quickly as we began our non-profit journey there which grew into Mudita Adventures years later. Back where it all began!
18: Guinea – 45,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT GUINEA: A larger former French colony in West Africa, bordering Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Mali and Cote D’Ivoire. There is next to no infrastructure and getting around is tough! With a population of 10m, Guinea should have an important part in West African economics, but the turmoil and political instability has held it back ever since its independence in 1958.
THINGS TO SEE IN GUINEA: The national parks of the Upper Niger, and Mount Nimba are epic, but oh so difficult to access. Untouched wildlife in its most natural of habitats. Within Conakry, you can visit the nearby islands, the botanical gardens. Just keep your expectations to a minimum.
HOW TO GET THERE: Personally I entered by motorbike through the jungle from Sierra Leone, and on to Guinea-Bissau. You can fly with Royal Air Maroc via Casablanca, or Air France with Paris/Brussels. Much better than the road entry (but not quite as much fun!).
My experience in Guinea: Officially my least favourite country in the world. Getting in was hell, took days of off-road bribery. Once there, ended up in a Chinese hotel in Conakry for $150 a night, absolute sh*thole full of cockroaches. Conakry itself was ugly with little to see and do.
When I tried to leave, that morning, someone blew up the prison walls in the city centre and the prisoners were running free, policeman chasing them down, gunshots in the air. We were stuck in our hotel lobby until they recaptrued the prisoners. Wild times.
17: Liberia – 45,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT LIBERIA: Liberia is famous for never been ‘colonised’ during the Scramble for Africa. At least not in a traditional sense. It was founded by freed former-slaves from the US in the pre-Civil War era in the 19th century. Unfortunately, the former slaves immediately enslaved large swatches of the country.
Corruption from that point forward held Liberia back, followed by decades of civil wars with various factions claiming authority. The country now is in a mess, and the future is quite bleak. Ebola worsened things further still.
THINGS TO SEE IN LIBERIA: Even traveling to Liberia is tough. Monrovia is basically the only ccessible part of the country, with roads barely existing, in a traditional sense, outside of the shanty-capital. Monkey island, 90 minutes from the capital is probably their most famous site. Affiliated with the New York Blood Centre, they have 6 islands full of Chimpanzee groups.
You’ll undoubtedly base yourself in Monrovia, which is not a beautiful city by any stretch. Where cities like Kigali, Nairobi and Dakar flourish in a new modern Africa. Monrovia, and Liberia, is getting left behind.
HOW TO GET THERE: Again, I overlanded from Ivory coast, and onwards to Sierra Leone. It was TOUGH! You can fly into Morovia’s international airport from Casablanca, Brussels, Nairobi and Paris.
My experience in Liberia: I would love to put a positive spin on it, but it was a grueling experience. Ebola was still ticking over, I had just been arrested twice in the Ivory Coast the day before, and Monrovia was not the place to recover.
Most of my time here was spent chasing visas for onwards travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Which means bribes and corruption at every corner. An adventure? No doubt. Real travel? Absolutely. A place for a holiday? no thanks.
16: Comoros – 36,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT COMOROS: A small Islamic island off the east coast of Africa, between Madagascar and Tanzania, Comoros has a population of under 700,000 and definitely belongs to the ‘I’ve never even heard of that country’ group! A former French colony, people speak both Arabic and French as the official languages.
The Islamic faith stems from the Omani sailors who took it over, much like Zanzibar further north, but tourism never took off on this island, leaving Comoros as one of the poorest countries in the world.
THINGS TO SEE IN COMOROS: Cycling around the island was a highlight for me for sure, and there’s also great day treks too. The trek to Karthala volcano is the most famous of those. Finally, Lac Sale, the salt water later, is a ‘tourist attraction’ too, and the beaches in the south.
HOW TO GET THERE: You can fly in from Nairobi, Paris, Addis and Dar and Istanbul.
My experience in Comoros: I knew nothing about Comoros when I organised my flights in. I had almost visited my journey to all 54 African nations, and I had come back to the East of Africa to reach Burundi and Comoros.
I spent a few days in Moroni, on the island of Grand Comore, the Capital and main island, and I was really pleasantly surprised. Of course, the island itself is beautiful, much like Madagascar, but the tourist infrastructure is almost non-existent. People were super friendly, and the Arabic/African food blend was delicious.
15: Mauritania – 30,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT MAURITANIA: One of the largest countries in Africa, yet often unheard of, Mauritania is a desert nation. It’s an Islamic Republic, and very traditional in its beliefs BUT it’s very, very welcome, warm and friendly. It was formerly a French colony, but Arabic is the mother tongue. It borders Morocco to the north (strictly speaking, Western Sahara) but it’s considerably more rural and less developed than cosmopolitan Morocco. This is the Sahara you’ve dreamed about.
THINGS TO SEE IN MAURITANIA: The Capital Nouakchott is great, with the local markets and beaches being particularly fun. The second city of Nouadhibou, and its huge port, is of interest too.
The real gems are in the desert though, Chinguetti (a UNESCO world heritage site) and the ancient Islamic settlements. And finally, of course, the main event! Hitch-hiking on the iron ore train through the depths of the Sahara, only for those brave enough, not for the faint-hearted.
HOW TO GET THERE: Personally I overland from Senegal, which was pretty easy apart from the 6-hour wait at the border for visa processing! Next time, I’m flying in from Casablanca to Nouakchott the capital. That’s the normal way! Also, connections from Conakry in Guinea are common too.
My experience in Mauritania: I was on my ‘Cape Town to Casablanca’ overland trip in West and Central Africa. I had just come through the gauntlet of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau so the warm nature of the Mauritanians was a lovely shift.
I had a brilliant 10 days here, and the guide I used became a friend, and now he’s the guy I’m using to run my tours in Mauritania these days too! Obviously, the famous highlight is riding the iron ore train through the Sahara. The longest train in the world no less! Bu the desert itself is a marvel too of course. All-in-all a brilliant country.
14: Solomon Islands – 27,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT THE SOLOMON ISLANDS: A small south pacific archipelago very near to Papua New Guinea with a population of under 500,000. The Capital, Honiara, houses the Queen, as the Solomons are still a constitutional monarchy.
THINGS TO SEE IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS: Hiking and scuba are the main attractions, with also some WW2 artifacts to check out while you’re around. There was intense fighting between the Americans and Japanese here, so history buffs will be fascinated. Honiara, whilst not the most beautiful city, is the best base to organise any excursions to the outer islands.
HOW TO GET THERE: I flew in, like most people, from Brisbane. Also possible from Fiji and Port Moresby in PNG.
My experience in the Solomon Islands: On my South Pacific tour, I initially hit up Papua New Guinea which was an INTENSE experience, so the Solomon Islands seemed like a breeze after that. Much more beautiful, much friendlier, and much easier infrastructure to navigate.
I based myself in Honiara, and from there organised treks, waterfalls visits and city tours. It was lovely, to be honest. Paradise, and unruined my mass tourism.
13: Federated States of Micronesia – 19,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA: The States are made up of 4 major ‘groups’ of islands – Chuuk, Kosrae, Yap and the main area you’ll fly to, Pohnpei. The population is around 100,000 and the currency they use is the USD. People speak English widely and it’s super safe, if a little pricey due to how isolated it is. Pohnpei is often statistically the rainiest (inhabited) place on the planet!
THINGS TO SEE IN THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA: The remoteness of the islands is the main draw, naturally, the diving and swimming is spectacular too. As is the local traditional cultures.
If you find yourself in Pohnpei (most probably), then be sure to do the amazing Sokeh Ridge hike. You’ll pass some WW2 stuff on the way too. Then go onwards to Sokehs Rock if you can handle the steepness! Surfing, Diving and snorkeling are all easily organisble through your accommodation too. Be sure to grab a few beers on the Rusy Anchor too!
HOW TO GET THERE: Not so easy to work out dates & logistics, believe me! BUT Flights from Hawaii and Guam make it accessible. You can also fly from Brisbane and Sydney (via other islands).
My experience in the Federated States of Micronesia: I based myself in Pohnpei, so I spent all my time either swimming, drinking at the Rusty Anchor, or doing the wonderful day hikes. The Sokeh Ridge hike is gorgeous, but very, very sweaty and no shops or anything, so bring water and sunscreen (unlike me!).
12: Afghanistan – about 20,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT AFGHANISTAN: What can I say. For 4 decades, Afghanistan has been a mess. From the Soviet invasion to the US invasion, to the Taliban. Not much to add apart from religion has been destroying this region for far too long. And the Taliban’s outdated philosophies belong in the caves from which they recently crawled out of. Good luck to the people of Afghanistan. A beautiful country.
*In 2022, I’d imagine this will be the least visited country in the world sadly.
THINGS TO SEE IN AFGHANISTAN: It’s a spectacular country. The culture, the food, the scenery. All of it. Religious fundamentalism took it in the wrong direction in the 70s. If we can ever return, the ancient cities of Balkh, and the Buddhas of Bamiyan (destroyed by… the Taliban).
Herat in the west with its Persian influences, the Khyber Pass into Pakistan, and the amazing hiking in the Panjshir Valley. And then Kabul. A fun, open once-thriving city. One day it will all return.
HOW TO GET THERE: Right now? You can’t.
My experience in Afghanistan: Believe it or not, I took my mum when I traveled to Afghanistan for a holiday. We spent a wonderful 4 days in Kabul and the surrounding mountain areas, from the lakes to Istaliff. Sure, it was a little dangerous but I used a great company who kept us safe, and we slept in a secure compound each night.
The food was spectacular, and the local mountains and views, even more so. It’s tragic what is happening there now, and the backward outlook of the Taliban. I hope this beautiful country gets the Government it deserves, not something from the Middle Ages.
11: Mali – 14,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT MALI: Mali, a former French colony, is a huge landlocked country, mostly made up of the Sahara desert. It’s home to some of Africa’s most famous sights, including Timbuktu, but rarely are they open for tourism due to the threats of terrorism that are rife within the country.
The country is staunchly religious and struggles with development ever since its independence.
THINGS TO SEE IN MALI: This one is easy! The fastest-growing city in Africa, Bamako. Along with Djenne and Timbuktu. 2 histories, UNESCO, ancient sites. And Dogon country, home to the Bandiagara Escarpment, another World Heritage Site. Mali is legitimately one of the most fascinating countries in the world. It’s just so hard, and dangerous, to visit.
HOW TO GET THERE: You can fly in to Bamako from Paris or Casablanca, and also Istanbul. Overland is tough, but possible from Dakar by train, and Niger, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Burkina Faso by LONG-distance bus.
My experience in Mali: Al Qaeda and Tuareg rebels are EVERYWHERE across the north and central regions. Meaning Timbuktu and Djenne are simply out of bounds for all but those with a death-wish!
For me, I overlanded into Mali from Ivory Coast and we stayed for 2 days in the South East around Sikasso. after my time was up, I headed east into Burkina Faso. Even in my days there, people told me to leave as it wasn’t safe. A tough country now, and for the foreseeable future.
10: Turkmenistan – less than 9,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT TURKMENISTAN: Central Asia’s answer to North Korea. That’s the long and short of it. It’s surrounded by Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan. And the traditional Turkmen culture is beautiful, nomadic shepherds roaming the plains. However, the country SHOULD be rich.
Extensive oil and gas has been sourced, and spent, by their dictator former leader Niyazov and current Berdimuhamedov, and its created a weird country. Futuristic buildings in Ashgabat, the capital, huge statues dedicated to himself but the countrys people in poverty.
THINGS TO SEE IN TURKMENISTAN: Turkmenistan is a former stop off on the old Silk Road which means its steeped in history. The 2 main attractions for tourists are undoubtedly the crazy buildings in Ashgabat, and the Darvaza Flaming Crater – a sinkhole discovered that they tried to ‘burn off’. But when they lit it to burn it off, in in 1971, it burned and still continues to burn to this day! It’s often referred to as the ‘Gates to Hell’/
HOW TO GET THERE: The visa is harder than the flights. You can fly from many mainstream airports (Dubai, London, Istanbul etc) but the visa is the tricky bit. Go with a private tour, and they can sort that out for you.
My experience in Turkmenistan: Amazing! I had been rejected for the visa twice, so I was worried Turkmenistan was going to jeapordise my journey to every country in the world. Finally, a tour company managed to secure my visa and I was off! I spent 4 days here, traveling around the interesting Capital, Ashgabat, and then camping out at the famous Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan.
I had dreamed of going there for years, so ticking it off my bucket list was a great feeling, even if I spent the whole night FREEZING in my tent beside the burning crater.
9: São Tomé and Príncipe – around 8,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE: A small island off the west coast of Africa, and another one of those “I’ve never even heard of that country” group. First colonised by Portugal way back in the 15th century, prior to which they were both uninhabited , it’s been independent since 1975, and democratic since 1991. It has a population of just 170,000 and they speak Portugese. Cocoa keeps the country going, but they hope tourism is their next big ticket. Fingers crossed.
THINGS TO SEE IN SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE: It’s an island paradise. The 2 islands, Sao Tome being one, Principe being the other, offer a host of tourist activities, but the infrastructure means you have to earn the experiences.
Obo National park on Sao Tome with the endemic birds and epic waterfalls, and then the beaches on Principe are 2 huge attractions. Fort Sao Sebastiao is the Portugese fort, home to the museum there too.
HOW TO GET THERE: Visa on arrival, amazing! The easiest way to get here is via Lisbon, Portugal. You can also connect in Ghana, and Cape Verde.
My experience in São Tomé and Príncipe: Coolest country in Africa? Very possibly. Sao Tome and Principe is a BRILLIANT country to visit. Safe, beautiful, accessible, easy visa, friendly people, it has everything reayd to explode on the tourist scene. Beaches, jungles, cool architecture.
8: Libya – around 6,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT LIBYA: Well, Libya is… complicated. Historically, it’s been part of the Roman Empire, the Greeks, the Persians, the Turks and of course the Arabs. Then in the 20th century, the Italians took it, and in the 2nd half of the 20th century, Gaddafi took over as a dictator until 2011. Since he fell, it’s bordered on being a failed state, with ISIS and various factions clamoring for control.
THINGS TO SEE IN LIBYA: A lot! Due to its varied history, i’s one of the most important countries in the region. From the world-famous epic Roman ruins of Leptis Magna, to Ghat the home of prehistoric rock paintings, Libya has it all. And of course the huge Sahara in the south. The problem is, it’s so difficult to access at the moment.
HOW TO GET THERE: Getting a visa is almost impossible but flights from Tunisia, Istanbul and Egypt are the easiest ways to fly in.
My experience in Libya: My story about visiting Libya is a long one indeed. It involved a huge leap of faith, and a hero by the name of Muad, whose father played a large role in the turnover of Gaddafi. I stayed with their family, they got me into the country without a visa, the whole thing was pretty wild. And they were such a beautiful family. Thank you Muad, you made my dream come true. READ THE BLOG POST HERE.
7: Marshall Islands – around 6,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT THE MARSHALL ISLANDS: A country compromising of a group of small islands in the Pacific islands. Kind of the middle of nowhere lost somewhere between Australia and Hawaii! The population is under 60,000 and although it’s historically been under US administration, it’s been independent since 1986. They still use the USD.
THINGS TO SEE IN THE MARSHALL ISLANDS: Transport between islands is limited, so most likely you’ll find yourself in the capital, Majuro. In terms of things to see and do in the Marshall Islands, there’s not so much! A couple of guest house can organise snorkel and scuba trips. It’s island life, without the tourism. From Majuro, the beaches are the main attraction. Eneko Island is a small atoll accessible from the main island too, which is good. And then you have Majuro peace park too, a memorial to WWII.
HOW TO GET THERE: Almost everyone can come without prior organisation of a visa, which is great. You have to fly via Fiji.
My experience in the Marshall Islands: From all my trips across the countries in the Pacifics, The Marshall Islands were a little underwhelming. The beaches were pretty dirty, and there was little to do. Anything you wanted to organise cost a lot. Personally, with places like Vanuatu, Palaua, even Fiji etc, the only ‘reason’ to visit the Marshall Islands would be if you too want to visit every country in the world..
6: South Sudan – 5,500 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT SOUTH SUDAN: South Sudan is officially the newest country in the world, independent of Sudan proper since 12011. Perhaps the most dangerous country you can visit, it’s almost lawless.
THINGS TO SEE IN SOUTH SUDAN : Juba, the capital, is limited but they have great national parks in Boma and Nimule. That being said, it’s probably better to stick to other African countries if safaris are your thing.
HOW TO GET THERE: NOTE: E-visas are now possible! You can fly in from Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Dubai or Uganda.
My experience in South Sudan: I spent 3 days in Juba, and it as pretty wild. Riots were breaking out, and there was a 9pm curfew every day. Photographs were illegal in the whole country, and there was a huge UN presence. We were advised by my hotel to be back by 4pm each day. Scary stuff. And everything is wildly expensive, $30 a meal etc!
5: Kiribati – around 4,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT KIRIBATI: First of all, don’t be an idiot like me and pronounce is wrong the whole time you’re there. It’s pronounced – Kiri-BaSS. Population 100,000 and the Capital city, Tarawa is home to the international airport. It’s the first country on the side of the dateline, meaning it sees New Years first every year. Pretty cool. Despite being an island paradise, poverty is widespread, and it struggles to have any kind of domestic market. It was uninhabited until the European’s discovered it.
THINGS TO SEE IN KIRIBATI: It’s the paradise that the Marshall Islands isn’t. The islands are spectacular. But it’s flat, really flat, and there’s nothing to do but walk or swim. So be prepared to entertain yourself!
HOW TO GET THERE: Expensive flights for sure, but you can easily connect with Nadi, Fiji and also to Brisbane, Australia.
My experience in Kiribati: I LOVED my time in Kiribati. I ran the islands every day, and I met a group of New Zealanders who were building new roads here as a part of an Aid programme. We had beers each night, as the sunset in paradise. Lovely. Because of the aid programme, there are a few ‘acceptable’ guest houses (overpriced, but acceptable). Getting around would have been tough for me without those guys, so cheers boy!
4: Tuvalu – 2,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT TUVALU: The 4th smallest country in the world. Tuvalu has a population of just 11,000 people. The capital is Funafuti and it still uses a constitutional monarchy. They use the Australian dollar as their currency. Historically there were part of the British empire, but they’ve been independent since 1978. They’re often in the media due to rising water levels, risking the existence of the islands, and their country, entirely.
A lot of ‘every country in the world’ chasers cheat Tuvalu. You can fly via Kiribati and Fiji, and it connects onwards, so you can either stay for up to a week (with nothing to do, as it’s so small) or you can land in the country, get stamped in, and go straight back on the airplane 15 minutes later. Personally, I would call that cheating.
THINGS TO SEE IN TUVALU: You’ll stay in the capital, Funafuti, and spend most of your time reading, sunbathing, walking and maybe drinking a few beers. That’s the height of the adventure in this tiny, flat county! My advice? Try to visit with a friend!
HOW TO GET THERE: You can fly via Fiji. And weekly via a hopper from Kiribati.
My experience in Tuvalu: It’s so small, there’s not much to see. The local culture is beautiful, and crime is next to non-existent. You can see endless palm trees, beaches and lagoons though. And plenty of sunshine!
3: Equatorial Guinea – less than 1,000 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT EQUATORIAL GUINEA: A small island nation of Africa’s west coast, Equatorial Guinea is a former Spanish Colony. It should be rich due to their natural resources but they have a cruel despot in charge, so he (and his awful son) drive Bentleys and fly jets around the world while the country suffers inconceivable poverty. One of the largest oil producing nations on the planet AND the most corrupt countries in the world.
THINGS TO SEE IN EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Frustratingly, it’s BEAUTIFUL. Illachi waterfalls are breathtaking. Annobon island is paradise. Corisco island even more so. But oh so tricky to get around. You need to organise a tour, trust me!
HOW TO GET THERE: If you manage to secure a visa (good luck, almost impossible) then you can fly from Lagos, London or Paris. If you’re from China or US though, it’s visa-free. Reemmeber? Corruption.
My experience in Equatorial Guinea: Formerly, along with Saudi Arabia and Angola, the HARDEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD TO VISIT! Saudi and Angola have since opened up their countries a little with the confirmation of tourist visas, but Equatorial Guinea remains a closed book. Why? CORRUPTION.
2: Yemen – less than 500 visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT YEMEN: A country embroiled in a civil war, adjacent to Saudi Arabia. Friendly and warm hosts but a country decimated by more powerful countries and their respective agendas. Historically, it was under Ethiopian, then Persian rule. And then under the Ottomans, and finally the British. Until independence in 1990.
THINGS TO SEE IN YEMEN: The civil war (a proxy war between Iran and Saudi) has ruined the country, it’s a humanitarian crisis and the world has turned its back. Yemen used to be an amazing tourist destination, and now it’s almost inaccessible. Previously Sanaa was a gem of a destination. The old city in Sanaa is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one I dream of visiting.
And then, of course, the real gem of Yemen, Socotra. Which, thankfully, is still safe and accessible. Join me in 2022 if you’re keen – email@example.com for more info.
HOW TO GET THERE: It’s tough, visas and transport. For Socotra, via Cairo or Abu Dhabi BUT flights can only be booked in cash. So you need to know people. For the mainland, the visas are super tough, and the trip is dangerous. I feel like it’s better for me not to explain how to do it.
My experience in Yemen: Visiting Socotra Island is my favorite travel experience EVER. It took me 4 days on a cement boat, hitchhiking, bribing government officials and I became the only tourist inYemen for a long while. Crazy times. Since then, I now run tours to Socotra each year, to showcase beautiful Socotra to more people. And share the love of it, and it’s beautiful locals, with them too.
1: Somalia* – less than 100* visitors per year
A LITTLE ABOUT SOMALIA: Often seen as the most dangerous country in the world to visit. The country is pretty much a failed state, and the country is now essentially divided into 3 nations – Somaliland, Puntland and Somalia proper.
Somaliland in the north is a self-declared country, and while many people visit Somaliland and count it as visiting Somalia, it’s a little disingenuous considering Somaliland has its own currency, government, flag etc. Including Somaliland, Somalia would be third on the least visited countries in the world list, but visiting Somaliland ISN’T visiting Somalia, so we don’t count it. If we consider truly visiting Somalia, then there are less than 100 visitors to Somalia every year. More like 20 or so.
THINGS TO SEE IN SOMALIA: Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are in the Horn of Africa. But your trip will start, and be centered around Mogadishu. Here you can visit local markets, the scene of Black Hack Down (eeek), and a few of the other cultural sights. It’s all very on edge, and subject to change. Your armed guards will keep you right, and you’ll sleep in a safe compound overnight. And it’s all very, very expensive.
HOW TO GET THERE: Visas are actually easy. And the flights are generally via Istanbul.
My experience in Somalia: I, too, originally was too scared to visit the real Somalia. So I visited Somaliland and counted it as Somalia (and deep down I knew I was cheating!). the guilt on my ‘every country; journey ate me up. So I bit the bullet (bad turn of phrase, all things considered) and organised my travel to Somalia.
It’s expensive, dangerous, and truth be told, a little reckless. Anyway, I spent 4 days in Mogadishu and the surroundings. In that time, Al Qaeda attacked a compound, the airport was attacked and my flight was cancelled, and I heard AK47s shooting each night. Legitimately scary. I had to be rushed out of the local fish market by my guards as they heard about risks. All this, and the beach was beautiful. Happy to get out though. Wow. Definitely an ego-centric trip, and one that is difficult to truly justify.
OTHER LEAST VISITED COUNTRIES TO NOTE:
Naura is often labelled the ‘least visited country in the world‘, but I can’t add it to my list. When I was there, true, there were few TOURISTS. However, due to Australia using Naura as a base to filter their illegal immigrants, there are tens of thousands of foreigners on the island. Perhps even more. In fact, there are more foreigners than locals! So it wuld be disingenuous to list it as number one. Sure, there are less than 1000 ‘tourists’ per year, but there are countless people visiting daily. So it skips the list.
Niue*, the Cook Islands*, and American Samoa*
These 3 destinations also often feature as some of the least visited countries in the world BUT none of them make my official list. Why? Simple, none of them are actually countries. Niue and the Cook Islands, despite being autonomous, belong to New Zealand. American Samoa, similarly, belongs to the USA. I’ve yet to be to Niue or the Cook Islands but I hope to visit next year. American Samoa? I visited a few years ago, cool place. Like Samoa, but Americanised, as you might expect (Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks amidst a paradise island!)
Which of the Least Visited Countries in the World Would I Recommend Visiting?
Now that’s is a good question! Ok, in order here are the countries I would recommend visiting from the list of the least visited countries in the world:
- Yemen (specifically Socotra Island)
- Turkmenistan (Gates of Hell is insane)
- Sao Tome and Principe (island paradise)
- Dominica (untouched Caribbean)
- Moldova (cheapest country in the world to travel)
- Eritrea (beautiful country and you’ll be the only tourists there!)
- North Korea (fascinating, safe and quite easy)
- Federated States of Micronesia (the true south Pacific)
Final thoughts on the least visited countries in the world:
This took A LOT longer than I planned to write. But wow I enjoyed it. Reminiscing about all my crazy travels to the least visited countries in the world has been quite emotional. When you’re on the journey to every country, you lose sight of how difficult, how special, how unique each place is. But to look back, it’s amazing. It’s such a privilege to have been able to visit these places, and I hope I’ve inspired you guys to perhaps consider visiting some of these too. Thailand, France, the US get enough tourist dollars. Let’s have an adventure and spread the love a little more. Enjoy folks.
How about the MOST visited countries in the world?
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