France was the most visited country in the world with almost 85 million International tourists, but have you ever wondered which country receives the fewest visitors?
With civil wars, religious insurgency and natural disasters amongst many other reasons not to visit certain countries, it’s no surprise that quite a few countries on this list have suffered in recent years. Some other countries are simply too far away for mass tourism or have a Government that is stuck in the dark ages.
The list is compiled with statistics from the World Bank who calculate overnight stays by International visitors. *Several countries including the world’s newest nation South Sudan have been excluded for several reasons, mostly due to a lack of information from secretive Governments.
10 – São Tomé & Principe
- 2016 International visitors – 29,000
São Tomé achieved independence from Portugal in 1975, ever since it has struggled to find ways to boost the economy and now relies on exports of cocoa to help with its finances. These two tiny islands are situated in the Gulf of Guinea to the west of Gabon and south of Nigeria.
There are regular flights linking the island with its former rulers and thankfully now that the visa rules have been relaxed, I’m in no doubt that visitor numbers should start to increase to São Tomé and Principe once they discover the incredible clear waters around the islands and see the rich wildlife.
9 – Comoros
- 2016 International visitors – 26,800
It’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of this island, if you have you’re likely to either be a French national or a complete travel geek! The Comoros is an island nation off the coast of East Africa, just north of Madagascar. As one of the world’s poorest nations, it’s no wonder that the Comoros islands are so far off the tourist map, simply due to a lack of infrastructure and opportunities.
If you decide to visit you won’t be disappointed, you’ll have the opportunity to trek to the crater of the Karthala volcano or even swim with dolphins. At certain times of the year there’s potential to see giant sea turtles laying eggs on Moheli island.
8 – Soloman Islands
- 2016 International visitors – 23,200
Consisting of six main islands and over 600 smaller ones, this country is laid back, friendly and just waiting to be explored.
7 – Marshall Islands
- 2016 International visitors – 9,800
After four decades under U.S administration, the Marshall Islands were declared an independent nation in 1986. The islands are most famous for being used as a nuclear testing ground between the 1940s and 60s, some of the atolls are still off-limits and the U.S continues to compensate as a result of the testing.
The U.S still have some military presence on the islands, therefore you’ll not be able to visit everywhere you wish. Although the country has a national airline, it’s often grounded due to technical and financial issues so plan ahead and have a plan B prepared!
On the surface it might look like a tropical paradise, but some parts of these islands have become heavily polluted both on land and at sea. For me personally there’s plenty of other tropical islands that I’d rather visit before here.
6 – Equatorial Guinea
- 2012 International visitors (approximate) 6,000
Equatorial Guinea is officially the least visited country in Africa! Despite efforts to boost tourism by offering U.S/American Samoan citizens visa-free entry, this still hasn’t attracted many visitors.
This country is rather unique as it’s split into two parts, Rio Muni is on the mainland whereas Bioko is an island in the middle of the Gulf of Guinea which houses the country’s capital city Malabo. Equatorial Guinea has been colonised by both Portugal and Spain, although only recently has oil been discovered and it is bringing substantial wealth to the country.
Like many other African nations the country is now promoting itself as an Eco-friendly destination with opportunities to see incredible beaches and wildlife.
5 – Kiribati
- 2016 International visitors – 5,700
Straddling the equator, Kiribati is made up of 33 atolls which includes Christmas Island. Unless you are from New Zealand, this is a rather remote place to visit for a holiday with very few facilities!
Diving is hugely popular here, with the wrecks of ships from WWII in prime positions it’s the perfect opportunity to see marine life in the South Pacific. Kiribati is home to the world’s largest marine protected area on Phoenix Island, for obvious reasons visitor numbers are limited. However if you gain access you’ll be one of the few people to enjoy its perfect sandy beaches and beautiful blue lagoons.
4 – 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 1970’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.
3 – Tuvalu
- 2016 International visitors: 2,500
As one the countries most at risk of disappearing due to rising sea levels, Tuvalu has a huge problem! The country is the fourth smallest in the world, made up of a group of islands and atolls, although there is potential for tourism it might have to be put on hold if the country disappears.
The islands were originally a British colony, however independence was granted in 1978 but they still hold ties to the United Kingdom as demonstrated by Prince William and Kate Middleton’s visit in 2013. If you are seeking beautiful paradise beaches then Tuvalu is for you.
2 – Somalia
- 2014 International visitors: 500 (approximate)
Somalia…where do I even begin!? Well, yes for the last 25 years since independence from Britain the country has been war-torn and hasn’t had a stable Government. Several years ago Turkish Airlines became the first major airline to start flying to Mogadishu, this still appears to be an active route proving that it has potential.
Somaliland in the north is a de facto region that has been actively encouraging tourism for the last 10 years. It boasts a functioning Government and is promoting itself as the safe Somalia, although currently no Western government recommends visiting at this current time, nor do they recognise the independent country therefore I’ve included it as part of Somalia (sorry if it offends anyone!).
1 – Nauru
- 2012 International visitors: 160 (approximate)
So the title for the world’s least-visited independent country is…Nauru! Where I hear you say? Well it’s the world’s smallest independent republic, located in the South Pacific the island is quite isolated.
Nauru has the unfortunate title of being the fattest place in the world! Now that is one title you really don’t want, but why is it so bad? Well, with very little fresh produce being grown everything must be imported making it expensive and cheaper unhealthier alternatives encourage obesity.
Not to dwell on the negative but Nauru also has the highest unemployment rate in world, currently standing at 90%! Thankfully as a visitor you’ll discover tropical beaches but other South Pacific islands are much easier to get to making Nauru a task and a half, as displayed in the visitor numbers.
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