Ever craved a unique vacation? One that would have your friends drooling over your fascinating, off-the-beaten-path exploits? We decided to take a page from Robert Frost and go down the road less traveled – way less traveled. The best way to do that is by taking a look at the five least-visited countries in the world…
5. The Marshall Islands (5,000 annual visitors)
Coming in at number five on the list is the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. With only 5,000 visitors per year, the Marshall Islands are made up of 34 atolls spread out over 70 square miles. The islands boast more than 1,000 different species of fish, making this the perfect spot for avid divers. Coral reefs and sunken ships abound and you can explore on your own, or take a fishing or diving trip. One of the most popular diving spots is the sunken Japanese battleship Nagato, which led the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Since the islands are atolls (a ring shaped island), no point in the entire country is more than 100 meters from the water. The largest atoll is Majuro, which acts as the capital. There are several hotels, including the Marshall Islands Resort, shopping centers, restaurants and bars. Don’t expect major nightlife, however. This country is more about relaxing and soaking up the sun.
Flights run from Honolulu and take about four hours (17 from New York). Prices for rooms vary from about $70 per night to $250 per night.
4. Kiribati (2,700 visitors)
This island republic is also made up of atolls, and the total land mass is slightly larger than that of New York City. The country’s name, which many people have never even heard of, is pronounced KIRR-i-bas. The ‘ti’ at the end of the name makes the ‘s’ sound, even though that letter does not exist in the local language.
Kiribati, like its neighbor, the Marshall Islands, offers a wealth of diving, snorkeling and fishing. But for those who prefer to keep their heads above water, Kiribati also offers tourists a chance to explore history. The country saw some of the bloodiest battles of World War II and plenty of evidence still exists, from rusted tanks to shipwrecks to abandoned gun turrets. For those less keen on exploring on their own, there are tours to the major sites.
While all of the islands have a range of accommodation options (including some homestays), the capitol Christmas Island offers several hotels. One of the more popular properties, Captain Cook Hotel, is built on a ruined British military base from when the island was used for bomb tests. And if you’re up for some ghost hunting, you may catch the ghost of Amelia Earhart. Many argue the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) is where the famous aviatrix crashed during her now legendary last flight around the world.
3. Tuvalu (1,200 visitors)
If you are looking for a place where you can relax, sit on a pristine beach, and listen to the waves roll in, then look no further than Tuvalu. The tiny country doesn’t offer much by way of attractions or nightlife, but if you are a nature enthusiast (or just someone who loves a beautiful beach) then put Tuvalu on your list.
With just 10 square miles, (that’s smaller than the campus of Penn State University) Tuvalu is halfway between Australia and Hawaii. Tuvalu also played host to new parents William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, last year. They were the first Windsors to stay on the island, spending the night in the flat of an Australian naval diplomat who was away on leave.
Another reason to visit? The island is sinking and, if the Pacific Ocean continues to rise, it may eventually become a modern-day Atlantis.
2. Somalia (500 visitors)
Somalia is very different from the other countries on the list. It is the only country that isn’t an island, isn’t located in the Pacific, and has a sizable population. The country offers gorgeous white-sand beaches and a fascinating local culture. It is, however, on the “least visited” list for a reason, and is incredibly dangerous for tourists. In the last few years, there has been no functioning government and Westerners have been targets for kidnappers and terrorists. Recently, however, there has been an increase in safety in the capital of Mogadishu, and Turkish Airlines has opened a twice-weekly route from Istanbul. Last September, Somalia elected its first president on home soil in over twenty years, and businessman Bashir Osman is working to build a luxury beach resort. Stability is hopefully on its way in Somalia. For now, visiting may not be an option, but this could change in the future.
1. Nauru (200 visitors)
The least-visited country in the world is so tiny you can run (or walk) around the whole island. Who doesn’t want to say they’ve run around a country? Nauru is trying very hard to increase its tourism, but there isn’t much to do on the island. There are a few restaurants and bars, but choices are limited as most of the items on the island have to be imported. Fresh drinking water is especially precious and is conserved as much as possible.
Nature, however, abounds. With a population of only 19,000 and 200 visitors yearly, the beaches of Nauru are virtually untouched. Coral reefs surround the island and make for great diving. The center of the island also has an old phosphate mine that visitors can explore.
There is only one airline that flies in and out of Nauru and is operated by the country. It’s called Our Airline and, conveniently, also flies to The Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, and Kiribati. Also, the runway at the airport happens to be the main road. So if there are any cars driving at that time, traffic stops so planes can land.