Unexplored World: Top 10 Least-Visited Countries in Europe

Europe is the most visited region in the world, with famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum and Big Ben attracting more than 582 million tourists in 2014.

The definition of “Europe” is slowly being stretched beyond its traditional borders, therefore I’ve opted to make it fair by listing countries within Europe and not just the E.U. The list is compiled with statistics from the World Bank who calculate overnight stays by International visitors.

* Kosovo is therefore not included as it isn’t a recognised state by the United Nations.

10 – Luxembourg

  • 2014 International visitors: 945,000

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is the only Grand Duchy making the country not only unique but also special. For many Luxembourg is just simply a tax-haven, however the country has many fascinating sites to see including the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Grand Ducal Palace.

Luxembourg comes with a rather hefty price tag to visit, back in 2013 I hopped on a train from France to visit the capital but I decided not to stay over, it’s likely a large number of tourists do the same thing as reflected in the international arrival numbers.

Lovely Luxembourg

Lovely Luxembourg

9 – Serbia

  • 2014 International visitors: 922,000

Serbia is fast becoming the party destination of Europe, Belgrade has quickly garnered a reputation for the best nightclubs. Although the capital still reflects its former Yugoslav past, the buildings are slowly being updated to create a modern city fit for the 21st Century.

I’d highly recommend visiting Novi Sad and Nis (see what I discovered in Serbia, click here) which are a few hours drive from Belgrade, it is also one of the most affordable countries in Europe, however I’d visit soon before this changes.

Skadarlija in Belgrade

Skadarlija in Belgrade

8 – Iceland

  • 2014 International visitors: 800,000

As one of my favourite countries (as explored in my article here), Iceland is a fascinating country that has recovered quickly from its banking crisis and also managed to become a tourist hotspot. With major airlines now choosing Reykjavik as a destination, it won’t be long before the country surpasses 1 million visitors per year.

I guess the name doesn’t help but many travellers presume it will be very cold, however Iceland is a year-round destination that is best visited during winter to see its true natural beauty.

Gulfoss waterfall, luckily I caught a rainbow just at the right time.

Gulfoss waterfall, luckily I caught a rainbow just at the right time.

7 – Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • 2014 International visitors: 529,000

Tourism is booming in Bosnia, visitor numbers are increasing year-on-year and many are discovering this hidden gem. When you even mention the word Bosnia, many people automatically picture the war during the 1990’s. Although the country is still very poor, the capital Sarajevo has a unique mix of old and new that’s just waiting to be discovered.

The political situation is incredibly fragile and tensions still regularly flare up, however after almost 20 years of relative peace now is the time to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina. Discover Europe’s hidden country in my blog article here.

Beautiful Bosnia

Beautiful Bosnia

6 – FYR Macedonia

  • 2014 International visitors: 400,000

Even the country’s name is a touchy subject, whether you call it Macedonia or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia nobody can deny that the country is on the up. Visitor numbers have been slowly increasing over the last five years from 262,000 in 2010 to 400,000 in 2014, it’s highly likely down to accessibility with budget airlines now choosing Skopje as a destination.

Although the country only has one UNESCO World Heritage Site, tourists are slowly discovering Macedonia as a European destination with potential. I loved my experience here, discover why your next holiday should be in Macedonia.

UNESCO World Heritage site of Lake Ohrid

UNESCO World Heritage site of Lake Ohrid

5 – Monaco

  • 2014 International visitors: 328,000

As a playground for the rich and famous it’s no wonder that Monaco doesn’t have a huge number of overnight guests simply due to the associated price tag. Many people will only know the state because of Monte-Carlo which is part of the business district, however as one of the most densely populated countries in the world, space is at a premium.

Surrounded by France, the world’s most visited country by International tourists, it’s surprisingly to discover that Monaco isn’t visited more, however it is incredibly beautiful and well worth a day trip.

Paradise of the rich and famous.

Paradise of the rich and famous.

4 – Belarus

  • 2014 International visitors: 137,000

Fancy visiting the modern-day version of the Soviet Union? Well Belarus is for you! It’s likely the country is one of the least-visited due to the relatively strict visa regime which requires an invitation letter and specifies you should travel with a Belorussian travel agency.

It all sounds a bit too “North Korea” for me, although things are slowly changing it’s unlikely that a huge number of tourists will be visiting discovering Belarus anytime soon due to a lack of things to attract them.

St.Elizabeth monastery, Minsk. Photo source: Wikipedia

St.Elizabeth monastery, Minsk.
Photo source: Wikipedia

3 – San Marino

  • 2014 International visitors: 70,000

Landlocked by Italy, San Marino is an incredibly tiny country which is said to be the third smallest in Europe (beaten only by Holy See City and Monaco). I would predict that due to its size and accessibility from Italy many tourists simply don’t stay overnight and this is reflected in the international visitor figures.

The capital, San Marino is situated 657m above sea level on top of Mount Titano providing incredible views overlooking the Adriatic sea which is a mere 10km away.

Fortress of Guaita in San Marino

Fortress of Guaita in San Marino

2 – Liechtenstein

  • 2014 International visitors: 52,000

Nestled between Switzerland and Austria, the Principality of Liechtenstein is only 62 square miles but has somehow managed to become one of the richest countries in the world.

The Prince of Liechtenstein is Europe’s wealthiest monarch and one of richest head’s of state. Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein is a fascinating place to explore, the castle that overlooks the city is simply stunning. Sadly you’re unable to get inside but it’s worth the climb up to see the panoramic view overlooking the city.

Have you ever fancied owning a country? Well according to reports you can hire the country for one night from $70,000!

Alpine heaven in Liechtenstein

Alpine heaven in Liechtenstein

1 – Moldova

  • 2014 International visitors: 11,500

Officially the poorest country in Europe, Moldova is about as far off-the-beaten track as you can get in Europe. Not only does it include the worlds largest underground winery but it also houses a breakaway region called Transnistria (discover it in my blog article, click here).

Although I’m almost certain the country receives more tourists than 11,500 per year, the majority of these aren’t included in the figures due to not staying overnight as the majority will be from neighbouring countries including Romania or Ukraine.

When I visited in 2014 (click here to read my article) I discovered a fascinating place still stuck in the Soviet-era, this is unlikely to change anytime soon although with the country torn between the E.U and Moscow it’s anyone’s guess what will happen in the future to Moldova.

An old Air Moldova plane at Chisinau Airport

An old Air Moldova plane at Chisinau Airport

Further Information

So now you’ve discovered the least-visited countries in Europe, you may also want to read the least-visited in AsiaAfricaCentral/South America and the Caribbean and the World.

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from any of my trips please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

10 thoughts on “Unexplored World: Top 10 Least-Visited Countries in Europe

    • It sure is, it’s the most un-European place I’ve visited in the region and is truly fascinating! Although there’s no well-known tourist sites it makes it all the more interesting to explore and discover.

  1. Liechtenstein is not off the beaten track. I just got back from there and it’s a) definitely touristy and b) not all that interesting. Pretty villages and mountains but you get better in Switzerland and great castles but you can’t enter EITHER of the main ones.

    The only reason the numbers are so low is because of its tiny size and because they only count people staying in hotels, despite being so tiny that I’d imagine a lot of tourists don’t sleep there but come on day trips from Switzerland or Austria (I did).

    In contrast, Ukraine is (was… I’m thinking pre war) according to the numbers one of the most visited countries on the planet but most of its huge numbers of tourists are Russians who just go to lie on rubbishy crowded beaches in the parts which are basically (and now almost are) Russia anyway. This means that actual foreign tourists going to see the sights feel far more off the beaten track than in Liechtenstein.

    Moral is: Take these figures with a pinch of salt – they don’t tell us much.

    • Geoff, thanks for the comment. As the article states the figures are based on overnight stays and therefore might not reflect current opinion of which countries might have more visitors than other. Also within the article I don’t state that Liechtenstein is off-the-beaten track, it’s a fantastic place to visit and I admit I didn’t stay overnight because the country was so small I didn’t need to (as reflected in the stats).

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