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 – 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 more about Transnistria 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 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.
Read more about my trip here.
9 – 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.
8 – São Tomé & Principe
- 2010 International visitors – 8,000
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.
Although there are regular flights linking the island with its former rulers, once you arrive you’ll need a visa which must be applied for prior to arrival, making a visit to São Tomé and Principe a little more complicated than you’d like it tobe. I’m sure many of the 10,000 visitors discovered the incredible clear waters around the islands and saw the rich wildlife by doing one of the magical diving trips.
7 – 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.
6 – Kiribati
- 2015 International visitors – 5,000
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.
5 – Marshall Islands
- 2012 International visitors – 5,000
After four decades under U.S administration, the Marshall Islands were declared an independent nation in 1986. The islands are probably most famous for being used as a nuclear testing ground between the 40s 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 also still has 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.
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 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.
3 – Tuvalu
- 2015 International visitors: 1,000
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.
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.