Tourism in Asia is simply booming, however there’s some countries that make visiting almost impossible. Some countries like China and India attract millions of visitors but others struggle to bring in the hordes.
The list is compiled with statistics from the World Bank who calculate overnight stays by International visitors.
* North Korea has been excluded from my list as I was unable to find any accurate statistics, however I can imagine the numbers are relatively low especially for 2014/15 when the country closed its borders for several months.
10 – Nepal
- 2016 International visitors: 753,000
Nepal has just experienced its most difficult year due to the tragic earthquake, however for such a small country it experiences a large number of visitors.
It’s most famous attraction is of course Mount Everest, with many explorations starting in Nepal it is no wonder that many Western tourists are attracted to this Himalayan wonderland.
9 – Tajikistan
- 2015 International visitors: 414,000
Central Asia’s poorest country, Tajikistan is most famous for having the Silk Road pass through it. Sadly many people couldn’t pinpoint it on a map, although the country should be more famous for its stunning scenery.
8 – Mongolia
- 2016 International visitors: 404,000
A true wilderness, Mongolia is vast and currently doesn’t have a huge amount of infrastructure. However this is quickly changing with many natural resources being discovered and companies investing in the country.
A large number of visitors come via the Trans-Siberian railway which cuts straight through the country between China and Russia. Mongolia has the potential to become an Asian giant, currently you can still discover many residents living a nomadic lifestyle. Immerse yourself into Mongolian life and stay in a ger (pictured below).
7 – Brunei
- 2016 International visitors: 219,000
Officially the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace is an incredibly rich country with just under half a million inhabitants. Thanks to natural gas and petroleum this tiny nation has been able to flourish, the Sultan of Brunei is one of the richest men in the world.
Surrounded by Malaysian Borneo, Brunei’s population is a devoutly muslim nation which strictly enforces Islamic culture and this may be a shock to you if you are used to Western tradition.
6 – Bhutan
- 2016 International visitors: 210,000
Bhutan is like nowhere else in the world, it controls tourist numbers by having a “High Value, Low Impact” policy. This basically translates as “no backpackers”, however it has ensured that the country remains the last traditional Buddhist Kingdom.
Nestled high up in the Himalayas, Bhutan is a unique destination that requires you to travel on an official package that can cost between $200-$250 per day depending on the time of year you visit. However this fee includes accommodation, food, transport and a guide so altogether it works out roughly the same as a visit to any other Asian nation.
5 – Papua New Guinea
- 2015 International visitors: 184,000
Although not strictly part of Asia, I’ve included PNG in this list. Unless you live in Australia, even just getting here will be an adventure!
Scientists are often fascinated by PNG due its isolation, many species of flora and fauna exist nowhere else in the world. This fascination also extends to the people too, with stories of cannibalism right up until recently, it’s no wonder travellers are now finally discovering Papua New Guinea.
4 – Bangladesh
- 2014 International visitors: 125,000
I was really shocked to find Bangladesh received such low visitor numbers, the country is surrounded by India, one of the most populated countries in the world! I’ve personally never investigated visiting the country due to the horror stories I’ve heard, however whilst researching for this article I’ve discovered so many things that I didn’t know you could see, but is certainly tempting me to go explore.
The Sundarbans is the largest mangrove swamp in the world and are also a UNESCO World Heritage site, you’ll discover true natural beauty with wildlife including the Royal Bengal Tiger.
3 – Timor-Leste (East Timor)
- 2016 International visitors: 66,000
A former Portuguese colony nestled away at the end of the Coral Triangle, this tiny nation has seen a very turbulent recent history including being invaded by its neighbouring giant Indonesia.
In 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste was finally born and independence was granted. As you can imagine the country’s infrastructure is still being rebuilt and tourism is in its infancy, however for the intrepid traveller you’ll find magical beaches with incredible scuba diving opportunities. One of the key things to note about Timor-Leste is that this is one country in Asia that still issues a visa on-arrival, unlike most others on this list.
2 – Turkmenistan
- 2012 International visitors: 8,697
Turkmenistan is one of the most secretive states in the world, finding accurate information is incredibly difficult. I was able to obtain statistics from an official Government report from 2012 which stated that tourism to the country dropped by 1,000 people from the previous year, sadly there doesn’t appear to be any more up to date figures.
Of all the Stan’s, Turkmenistan is the most difficult to visit due to its strict visa entry requirements. However once you are in the country you’ll discover an unexplored environment with practically no other tourists! Perfect for the adventure traveller.
1 – Afghanistan
- 2013 International visitors: 3,500 (approximately)
This is no real surprise, Afghanistan is still in theory a war zone and Western Governments continue to advise against all travel to the country. However, back in the 70’s Afghanistan was a tourism hub for hippies attracting more than 100,000 visitors each year.
Pioneering tourists are still visiting, although it’s unlikely any tour groups will be seen in the country anytime soon due to the ongoing conflicts. If the country does open up you’ll discover natural beauty with rugged terrain and snow-capped mountains.
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.