When you think of travel, you probably think of the usual suspects like France, Italy, and Spain. Sure, these countries are beautiful and worth visiting, but why not try something different? Take a break from the usual tourist destinations and head to one of these 40 unknown countries that’s begging for a visit!
1. Cook Islands
This collection of islands (15 in total) near New Zealand flaunts its white sand beaches, clear water, and luscious trees. With delicious local cuisine (make sure to try the Ika Mata dish- a treat of coconut cream, veggies, and raw fish), lagoon tours, and snorkeling with turtles and fish, visitors can’t wait to book trips to the Cook Islands. Plus, the island is budget-friendly.
2. Kingdom of Eswatini
Save a few days to explore Eswatini on your next southern Africa trip. With stunning wildlife, breathtaking mountains, and trails, you won’t want to return home. The country has many reserves for visitors to see wildlife roaming their natural habitats, such as rhinoceroses, elephants, and giraffes. If you like porridge, you’ll always have a meal in Eswatini. Popular porridge includes meat or veggie options, fermented cornmeal porridge, and mashed nut porridge.
3. Gabonese Republic
Gabon succeeds in perpetuating a healthy, sustainable ecosystem for its wildlife. The community values protecting the animals that cohabitate with the people so beaches, national parks, and rainforests are free from harm. Visitors appreciate the country’s beaches, rainforests, and mangroves. However, the country can be tricky to navigate.
4. Republic of Guinea
In West Africa, a lesser-known country to visit is the Republic of Guinea. A famous part of the country is the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, a mountain filled with chimpanzees, toads, and other native creatures. Take a day trip to visit the mosque and the markets as well. The Conakry Grand Mosque is the most beautiful and intricate mosque located in Conkary, near a botanical garden and a hospital.
5. Republic of Kiribati
The Republic of Kiribati dazzles tourists with a coral island and stretches of ocean in Micronesia (a subregion of Australia in the Pacific Ocean). Popular tourist attractions include canoeing, snorkeling, and swimming in the lagoon. This is a must-see stop for coral reef appreciators and bird watchers, as the island homes species such as the phoenix shearwater, the wedge-tailed shearwater, and the Audubon shearwater.
6. Kyrgyz Republic
What’s unique about this country is the temporary ability to assimilate into native habitats. During the summer, globe trotters are encouraged to dwell with locals in their villages and join in the daily life in the Asian country. Kyrgyzstan offers sawtooth mountain views and lakes. History hounds also favor traveling through the Kyrgyz Republic for its monuments dedicated to historical events, like the Burana Tower.
7. Principal of Liechtenstein
As one of the smallest countries in the world, Liechtenstein covers 62 miles and doesn’t have an airport. Getting to the county is tricky but not impossible. The country lies between Austria and Switzerland; its native language is German, and it is revered for its medieval architecture and modern art. Marvel at the gorgeous castles scattered throughout this mountainous, green country.
8. Republic of Moldova
Do you like wine? If so, take a break from trips to Napa Valley and save for a journey to Moldova instead. The European country boasts many vineyards, monasteries, and parks catering to tourists with every interest. If you’re someone excited about exploring wine cellars and diving into the histories behind the smushed grape drink, Moldova is the best destination for you. Waterways thread through the mountains surrounding the majestic monuments in Moldova.
9. Independent State of Samoa
Samoa contains several islands in Polynesia and has thousands of activities for tourists to enjoy, like the Giant Clam Sanctuary, Alofaaga Blowholes, and the Piula Cave Pool. Travelers can also relax along the many beaches and waterfalls scattered throughout the islands. Those interested in witnessing religious architecture will have a divine time at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. The church prides itself on French stained glass windows and domes.
10. Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe
Planted in the middle of a forest, we have Pico Cão Grande, a vertical rock extending to the sky, attracting tourists yearly. Banana Beach is an aptly named collection of small banana-shaped and larger banana-shaped beach that draws crowds from the resort but isn’t that affected by construction, conserving the clear water and white sand. Besides the volcanic monolith, check out the beaches and jungles, and learn more about the cocoa exports this country contributes to the world.
This island getaway is perfect for jet-setters looking to escape the hustle of their everyday lives. In Tuvalu, one of the world’s tiniest countries, sit back and tan on a hammock, galivant through the many beaches, bike through the island, and meet the locals. While this country offers beautiful landscapes and getaways for visitors, the island only accepts cash, so plan accordingly.
The best part of Turkmenistan is an open, burning, gas-filled crater formerly referred to as the Gates of Hell. After a trip to the fiery ruins, visit the Silk Road to see the infamous archaeological ruins. For other must-see spots, check out the Independence Monument, or gaze at the Moment of Neutrality, two monuments reflecting Turkmenistan’s independence and neutral standing.
13. Kingdom of Tonga
This Polynesian kingdom has 170 islands blossoming with rainforests, beaches, and many coral reefs. The idyllic landscape resembles the settings of many island films, especially with the numerous caves and waterfalls across the island. Humpback Whales populate Tonga’s waters, especially during the summer and fall months. You can hop on a whale-watching tour or swim with the whales. Fun fact, Tonga is one of teh only remaining places where you can swim with Humpabacks. Don’t miss the foxes flying through the trees, either.
14. Republic of Tajikistan
Are you a fan of long drives featuring the most beautiful backdrops in the world? Then Tajikistan is the place for you. The Asiatic plateau earned its nickname, the Roof of the World, thanks to its endless mountain peaks and valleys. Plus, this country leads the contest for the greatest hydroelectric generation in the world. Tajikistan utilizes the streams in the mountains to bring power to the country.
Take a whitewater raft excursion down the Tara River Canyon in Montenegro. This gem sits beside Croatia, although far fewer people trek to the coastline in this European country. If you’re not a beach fan, head to the Montenegrin mountains for a day of skiing. Kolasin 1450 and 1600 are large ski resorts, attracting most snowsport tourists each year. The combined Kolasin resorts offer skiing, rock climbing, horse riding, and tours to the Tara Canyon and Moraca Rivers.
Estonia mixes looks from a futuristic fairy tale and a medieval village with vibrant-colored places of worship and clean-cut buildings. Tourists adore visiting Estonia due to the kind nature the locals express toward nomads. That charm is just a sliver of what makes this country one of the best to visit in the world. The Europian delight hosts multiple festivals throughout the year, such as the Night of Ancient Parties and the Craft Beer Festival.
17. Union of the Comoros
Comoros is a dazzling seaside African country with white sand beaches and water so clear you’ll see your reflection. Aside from the beach life, the island is home to rare species, including Livingstone’s Fruit Bat and several kinds of scops owls. If you’re genuinely looking for a thrill, take a look at the active volcano Mount Karthala.
18. Republic of Vanuatu
Kava, the popular soothing drink found in coffee shops and kava bars, originated in the Republic of Vanuatu. Explorers can tour underwater shipwrecks and World War II sites while in this South Pacific country. The world’s only underwater post office can also be found on this Pacific island. A huge benefit of traveling to Vanuatu is that the country permits most travelers to enter the country sans visa.
Loads of globe trotters make the trek to Mongolia in search of a nomadic, free wandering experience. Rekindle with yourself and friends in Mongolia. With wild horses, friendly locals, and multiple tours throughout the impeccable country, Mongolia is a fabulous vacation spot for those looking for less crowded countries to explore. Make sure to visit the Genghis Khan Statue and Gorkhi Terelj National Park.
20. Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
This is a newer country, as it gained independence from Portugal nearly 50 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it lacks sightseeing stops or adventurous activities. A huge pull for tourists is the vast marine life and whale-watching opportunities that Timor-Leste offers. The Cristo Rei of Dili statue on the peak of Cape Fatucama in Dili is another site not to be missed. Climbers scale sets of stairs decorated with awe-inspiring religious murals as they journey to the top of the steps.
21. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
This Carribean island may be tiny, but it packs character in its 26 km. Yachts float on the cerulean water, and locals and tourists sail and snorkel through the various bays and beaches in the Caribbean. My friend still keeps a photo of the turtle she spotted while snorkeling in St. Vincent as her phone’s background. For the adrenaline chasers, St. Vincent and the Grenadines hosts one of the most active volcanoes in the Caribbean, although the last eruption occurred in 1979.
22. Republic of Mauritiu
The Republic of Mauritius is the birthplace of the now-extinct Dodo bird. Although you won’t catch one strolling down the beach, existing in a place where an extinct bird is a symbol changes a person. Between the gloriousness of the Indian Ocean and the forests of Madagascar, we have Mauritius, a coastal island made up of many extravagant resorts. Beyond the resorts lies Black River Gorges National Park, a picturesque location for picnicking, hiking, and bird-watching.
Part of Luxembourg’s appeal is its size. The tiny country is nestled between Belgium, France, and Germany and is cushioned by mountains, forests, and cliffs. For architecture appreciators, Luxembourg is the best destination thanks to its medieval designs, sitting on the edge of looming cliffs. A particular cliff to check out is Chemin de la Corniche, or Walls of the Corniche, a path erected into the mountainside.
Calling all foodie jetsetters. Have you ever indulged in Albanian cuisine? The country in the Balkans favors a Mediterranean diet made up of fruit, veggies, nuts, and seafood, but a main dish in the culture is Tavë Kosi, a casserole mix of lamb, yogurt, eggs, and rice baked to a golden crisp. Albania’s scenic view overlooks the Adriatic and Ionian Seas for a delightful glimpse of clear blue water.
Georgia caters to every visitor who prances through its cobblestone paths. Beaches sideline the Black Sea, the country has an established wine country that dates back thousands of years, and Georgia has a mystical monastery called the Vardzia Cave Monastery. The Vardizia Cave Monastery serves as a place of worship carved into the Erusheti Mountain, complete with dazzling architecture and stunning artwork.
26. Commonwealth of Dominica
Are you someone who boiled water to achieve the perfect bath temperature as a kid? Or someone needing the hot tub to exceed the designated maximum temperature? If any of those speak to you, you’ll want to visit the country that is home to the second-largest hot spring in the world. The heat from Boiling Lake bubbles up into a vapor that surrounds the hot water, inviting swimmers into an ever-calming environment.
Many residents in this Southeast Asian country practice Islam, and the buildings dedicated to worship are not to be missed. The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque lives in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, and appears to be floating, as it is resting atop a manmade lagoon and flowerbeds. After witnessing the remarkable temples, snag a fishing rod and head to Kampong Ayer, a floating fishing village.
If you like New Orleans for its voodoo origins, take note of Benin. The West African country celebrates its history in voodoo with an annual Voodoo Festival. The nation doesn’t shy away from its history of enslaved people, with many museums relaying honest truths and depictions of the past. Maybe you’re not interested in learning more about voodoo. In that case, how about renting a canoe and sailing down Lake Nokoué?
Are there any sailors out there? Since Guernsey lies between France and England, plan a mini trip from your mainstay to learn about the country’s rich maritime history. Enjoy the beautiful nautically-influenced architecture, especially St. Peter Port. Of course, maritime towns specialize in their local seafood, so order some fresh fish to end the perfect night. Guernsey fosters a reputation for delivering fabulous dairy to its residents, as well as the Guernsey gâche, or sweetbread.
30. Republic of Malta
Although Malta is a lesser-known gem, the country has significant historical roots. Dozens of rulers resided in the Mediterranean, including the Romans, Moors, Knights Hospitaller, French, and British people. Wanderers absorb the beauty surrounding the Blue Grotto, delve into the island’s history at the Malta historical center, and snorkel through the Blue Lagoon.
31. Republic of San Marino
Indulge in Italy’s charm without the swarms of tourists. Interestingly enough, San Marino is the oldest country in the world and has multiple museums dedicated to preserving its history. The country has three towers, two for visitors to explore. The first tower yields an unparalleled view over Italy’s gorgeous countryside, while the second tower proffers a medieval museum that displays weapons circa that era.
32. Slovak Republic
The Slovak Republic is a fantastic vacation destination for foodies who love to travel and try new things. The national dish of Slovakia is Bryndzové halušky, a potato dumpling stuffed with sheep’s cheese and meat. Other food dishes include potato pancakes and bean soup. Slovakia has a fabulous array of castles for guests to navigate, as well as hiking trails through the Tatras Mountains.
33. Principality of Andorra
If leaving the mall stirs anxiety in you, you’ll adore the Principality of Andorra for its duty-free (tax-free) shopping. Splurge on luxury handbags, watches, and jewelry without the sweat of tax. Skiiers and snowboarders rejoice in the snow-capped mountains throughout Andorra. Winter sports resorts are easily found in the European Pyrenees Mountain Range. And if you need a rest day after the strenuous days of skiing, book an appointment in one of the world-class spas.
34. Republic of Suriname
Because many countries surround Suriname, it pulls cultural inspiration from Guyana, French Guiana, and Brazil. Guests who visit the capital, Paramaribo, relish its Dutch architecture and the native history in the Surinaams Museum. Suriname homes several species of wild animals, upticking the interest of animal enthusiasts. Sloths, anteaters, and the Guinean Squirrel Monkey occupy the republic. For religious architecture, trek to the Saint Peter and Paul Basilica.
35. Republic of the Marshall Islands
Islands make up most of this list, and for good reason—but the Marshall Islands provide a different experience than the rest. Years ago, the U.S. conducted nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands’ Bikini Atoll. Not only do bikinis and Bikini Bottom from the popular cartoon Spongebob emerge from this historical event, but scuba divers also plunge into the water to look at shipwrecks and the remnants of the testing site each year.
36. Kingdom of Bhutan
Bhutan is not visited as frequently as other countries worldwide due to its daily tourist tax and remote location. The number of tourists allowed to see this country yearly is strictly regulated. Still, those who can obtain a visa are welcomed by such sites as Paro Taktsang, a Buddhist monastery built 10,000 feet above sea level on a cliffside. Instead of basing the country’s success on revenue and output, they use a system otherwise known as the Gross National Happiness scale, which measures well-being and mood instead of profit.
The best way to get to Montserrat is by train or cable car. Take the transportation from Barcelona for a swift, one-hour ride. At one time, volcanic eruptions ravaged Montserrat, piling the city with ash. Years later, globetrotters pay to see the aftermath of the destruction. Tours take guests to a decrepit church and hotel covered in soot. After the tour, head to the volcanic beaches for a sun soak.
38. Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands welcome a diverse collection of marine and plant life, where some species are only found on the islands. Striped dolphins, pygmy killer whales, and dugongs are among the marine life swimming through the Solomon Islands. Also, when scuba diving, you may encounter an active underwater volcano. Similar to the Marshall Islands, the U.S. Marines fought on the Solomon Islands, leaving behind weapons of war at the bottom of the sea. Scuba divers swim past tanks, planes, and coral-enshrouded machinery.
39. New Caledonia
New Caledonia is the place to go if you are fascinated with marine life. You can snorkel and scuba dive beside sharks, turtles, dugongs, and giant fish, all while knowing that the country’s people strive to uphold the health and safety of their marine life to the highest standards. On the flip side of the Earth, Mount Koghi proffers a breathtaking view of New Caledonia’s lush forests and the capital, Noumea.
The Caribbean island of Anguilla specializes in hospitality. The island restricts visitors by only allowing tourists to lodge in high-end resorts. While the bank statement may pack a punch, you won’t fight for a seat at the beach or battle a mom over the last beach chair due to the limited intake of tourists. Descend into the limestone caves spread throughout the Carribean paradise, and take a look at native birds and turtles waltzing through the wilderness.
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