There is perhaps no phrase more common in travel writing than “off the beaten track”. It’s applied liberally to all manner of things, from the vast Mongolian Steppe to an empty bar on a Bangkok side street. Clearly, it symbolizes travel’s ultimate goal: to have fresh experiences in unspoiled places. And yet so few of us manage to find the true secluded ideal.
Our world is shrinking by the day thanks to social media and increased accessibility, it’s a wonder to discover places that are still, by and large, untouched. Dive into these 15 destinations that, according to the most recent numbers from the UN World Tourism Organization, are among the world’s least-visited. They extend from the mountains of Europe to the deep seas of the South Pacific.
It’s always smooth to visit a calm place rather than crowded. We at PoopBite have gathered more information about the least visited country from the variable sources.
357,500 Annual Visitors
Spread on just 200 hectares of the French Riviera, Monaco is, in fact, the world’s second-smallest country – only Vatican City is smaller. But what the country lacks in size it makes up for with sheer glamour.
Monaco is the ultimate playground for the rich and famous, where the glitterati sunbathes in swimsuits that cost more than cars, and high-rollers spend like it’s going out of style. The country is built up around a bay where expensive yachts are docked, elegant restaurants abound and ritzy real estate costs a pretty penny.
This is a seductive destination, with azure-colored water, gently lilting palm trees and a steep, craggy cliff that juts out into the Mediterranean Sea, called Le Rocher. History is also ever-present here; the country’s charming cobblestone streets date back to the 13th century.
290,000 Annual Visitors
Raise your hand if you know where Suriname is. Don’t worry – not many do. But once you discover this tiny country you’ll be amazed at how diverse it is. It happens to be South America’s smallest nation, veined with deep rivers, steeped in colonial Dutch history, and lush with mysterious, seemingly endless jungles. The nation has been shaped by a convergence of cultures, with African, Dutch, British, Indian, Indonesian and Chinese influences.
Cultural travelers will marvel in particular at the capital, Paramaribo, where colonial buildings flank large grassy plazas, and frenetic energy keeps markets buzzing. But Suriname has a wealth to offer adventure travelers, as well. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve covers 12 percent of the country’s land area. The reserve was established in 1998 with a $1 million donation from Conservation International. Today it is home to a large variety of flora and fauna that can only be found in this part of the world.
270,000 Annual Visitors
Heralded for its iconic pink-sand beaches, Bermuda is one of the Caribbean’s most exclusive hideaways. A small, luxurious string of dots in the Sargasso Sea, Bermuda is surrounded by spindly reefs that make it one of the world’s most impressive diving destinations. On land, visitors will be amazed by colorful sights, from pastel-colored buildings to bright frangipani flowers.
Cultural influences span everywhere from Britain and North America to Africa, Portugal, and the West Indies. Size likely has much to do with Bermuda’s low tourism numbers, as the island is just 20 miles by 2 miles. (Its priciness no doubt plays a role, too.) But this small size belies a bounty of things to do, from exploring museums and art galleries to hiking gorgeous trails to enjoying exhilarating water sports, too (of course) sunbathing on lovely beaches.
259,000 Annual Visitors
While Sultan might seem like an antiquated term or something from a Disney movie, rest assured that Sultans are alive and well in the world – specifically in the country of Brunei. One of the world’s only remaining examples of a Sultanate – a country governed by a Sultan – Brunei is a remnant of a naval empire that once ruled the entire island of Borneo and part of the Philippines.
Known for its vast supply of oil (which it’s believed will run out in the next couple decades), the tightly regulated country is filled with wild terrain, opulent palaces, water villages and scores of wildlife. Located on the island of Borneo, which is also home to Malaysia and Indonesia, Brunei’s capital is Bandar Seri Begawan, a riverside city.
Just outside the city, rainforests in Ulu Temburong National Park are teeming with probosci’s monkeys, hornbills, and crocodiles. Be aware, though, that this country is known for egregious human rights abuses. Most recently, it made headlines for implementing laws to stone adulterers and gay people to death. Until the government improves its policies, this is a nation you may want to avoid.
255,000 Annual Visitors
Bhutan sits among the clouds, veiled in wisps of mystery and gossamers of magic. This Himalayan kingdom is the last of the great ones, where traditional Buddhist culture thrives in a rapidly progressing world. While Bhutan is a small nation, the reason behind its low tourism numbers is that foreign visitors are required to pay a minimum tariff of $250 per day, which makes this one of the world’s most expensive destinations.
The reason behind this is that the Bhutanese pride themselves on sustainable tourism, with a philosophy that Gross National Happiness matters more than Gross Domestic Product.
That said, this daily tariff buys you an all-expenses-paid vacation, with accommodations, food, transportation and an official guide all provided. It’s not group-style travel; visitors are able to craft their own schedules.
But backpackers tend to steer clear as the country does not cater to low-income travelers. Those who do fork over the cash will be mesmerized by the nation’s deep Buddhist ties and engaging locals, who are well informed about the world and always looking to smile and have a laugh. Be blown away by the surrounding Himalayas, where towering peaks are balanced out by plunging gorges. Impressive dzongs and monasteries cling to cliffsides, and hiking is the main activity.
255,000 Annual Visitors
More than the subject of the popular DreamWorks movies, Madagascar is an island destination off the coast of East Africa that is an absolute paradise for nature obsessives and outdoor enthusiasts. As, yes, those movies make clear, Madagascar is home to an incredible array of wildlife. Astonishingly, 5 percent of the world’s animals and plants are found here – and only here.
Get acquainted with the lemur, frogs, turtles, sharks and humpback whales, and check out hundreds of orchids and desert forests. Madagascar is the world’s fourth-largest island, but its infrastructure is somewhat lacking. The roads are atrocious and it can be expensive to get around; nonetheless, adventure travelers will find much to enjoy. Off-road driving, national park exploration, private plane adventures, kite surfing, rock climbing, and diving are just a few of the experiences to be found on the island.
247,000 Annual Visitors
Geographically South American, but undeniably Caribbean in lifestyle and spirit, Guyana is one of the world’s best-kept secrets. Historically, Guayana has made less-than-flattering headlines because of its political instability and domestic inequalities. But the people of Guyana are fiercely proud of their country and have been working to transform it, focusing in particular on making it an eco-tourism destination.
The streets of Guyana’s colonial capital, Georgetown, are home to excellent nightlife and fantastic food.
As you move outside of the city, you will be awed by the country’s Amazonian landscape, featuring magnificent waterfalls, lush jungles, sprawling savannas, and abundant wildlife. Kaieteur Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the world – 1,140 metric tons of water plummeting over an 820-foot cliff in the middle of the jungle. Deep within the Iwokrama Rainforest, visitors can test their bravery on the Canopy Walkway, a series of bridges connected by several platforms nearly 100 feet above the forest floor.
247,000 Annual Visitors
On Antigua, a laid-back vibe makes for easy R&R. The island’s sandy shores are ringed with picture-perfect crystalline water, and its capital, St John’s, boasts a magnificent harbor where the yacht crowd tends to linger. Antigua’s sister island, Barbuda, is even more mellow if you can believe it, with endless stretches of sugary sand. Birdlife here far outnumbers people.
Traditionally, the nation comprised of Antigua and Barbuda has been one of the most popular and luxurious Caribbean escapes, but Hurricane Irma in 2017 completely devastated both islands. Last year, the islands worked endlessly to rebuild, and visitors are coming back, with the summer months a particularly popular time. So don’t expect Antigua/Barbuda to be on this list for much longer.
22. French Polynesia
199,800 Annual Visitors
For island-hopping, French Polynesia can’t be beaten. Mossy peaks jut out from turquoise-colored water, while life slows to a stress-free halt.
The best-known island in the archipelago is Tahiti, where paradise is found. Picture brilliant flowers, grass skirts, blue lagoons, and an explorer’s vibe. Then there is Bora Bora, best known for its luxury resorts and honeymoon-ready amenities. Moorea also features high-end resorts, as well as verdant peaks and picturesque beaches.
Outdoor adventure reigns supreme, whether it’s kitesurfing, hiking, dolphin-watching, kayaking or horseback riding. For the very best of Polynesian culture, head to the island of Huahine, a tropical slice of heaven that is scarcely developed. While the beaches of French Polynesia are certainly part of the draw, the real discoveries here are found beneath the waves. This is a diver’s, snorkeler’s and swimmer’s wonderland. Surfers can enjoy their fair share of playtime, as well.
193,000 Annual Visitors
Mali is likely to welcome even fewer visitors in the coming months and years. What began as a localized conflict has since expanded into cross-border ethnic cleansing in the West African country, causing the UN to undertake one of the deadliest peacekeeping missions in its history. An oasis surrounded by harsh desert, Mali has a rich cultural heritage that makes the current state of affairs even more tragic.
Cliffside villages, vibrant music, a rich silver-jewelry tradition and a history that dates back to ancient African civilizations will await visitors when, hopefully, some semblance of peace is achieved in the future.
20. Cook Islands
161,000 Annual Visitors
Talk about the remote. The Cook Islands are a mere 15 specks scattered across 700,000 square miles of uncharted Pacific Ocean. But while the islands are spread across endless blue and take considerable effort to reach (visitors fly from Auckland, Sydney, Fiji or Los Angeles), there is an ever-present modern vibe to them. The islands tout a blossoming organic food scene, thriving cafe culture, and bustling bars and clubs, especially on the island of Rarotonga. The islands are best known for their snorkeling or diving, promising underwater adventurers the chance to meet turtles, rays and even whales.
146,000 Annual Visitors
It will become apparent almost immediately why Grenada is nicknamed “the Spice Island.” The air here smells of nutmeg, the Caribbean country’s primary export. Beyond that, Grenada is also absurdly beautiful, with green hills that roll in cloth-like folds, and beaches that stretch out into crystal-clear waters. Unbeknownst to many, Grenada is actually made up of not only the island of Grenada but six smaller nearby islands, including Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
One of the most popular activities on the island of Grenada is to snorkel the Underwater Sculpture Park – one of the first of its kind in the world, featuring 80 pieces slowly becoming encrusted with coral growth. This island is also home to silky stretches of sand along Grooms Beach and Levera Beach. You can also spend the day exploring Sandy Island, a picture-perfect reef-island surrounded by electric-blue water.
145,000 Annual Visitors
Nestled between Romania and Ukraine sits this tiny Eastern European country that is packed with charm. Slowly rising in popularity, Moldova is known for its bucolic countryside and surprising wine tours.
Visitors should begin in Chisinau, the capital city and a gourmet hub. The metropolis dates back to 1420 but was rebuilt after WWII and an earthquake that struck in 1940. Be sure to explore Cricova, an underground wine kingdom about 10 miles north of Chisinau.
This is one of Europe’s largest wine cellars (it measures about 75 miles!), and the walls are entirely lined with bottles of wine. Also near Chisinau, discover Orheiul Vechi, which sits on a rocky ridge of the Raut River. This archaeological complex is best known for the Cave Monastery, and also contains evidence from Dacian tribes that lived there over 2,000 years ago.
17. Burkina Faso
143,000 Annual Visitors
Sadly, while Burkina Faso is one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, now is not the time to visit. For years, Burkina Faso managed to escape the violence plaguing two of the six countries surrounding it – Mali and Niger. But rising tensions between ethnic groups is causing that safety to deteriorate.
When and if the devastating situation improves, Burkina Faso can be enjoyed for its natural beauty, such as the Sindou Peaks – narrow, craggy chains of natural cones that have been sculpted by the elements. Burkina Faso is also known for its culture, which is best experienced in Bobo-Dioulasso, or Bobo. The country’s second-largest city is known for its natural sights, excellent restaurants and thriving live music scene.
16. New Caledonia
121,000 Annual Visitors
New Caledonia is a French territory made up of a string of islands in the South Pacific. It’s best known for the sparkling lagoon that surrounds it, which happens to be a World Heritage site, a point of pride for locals.
But New Caledonia isn’t just a tropical paradise. It has a strong cultural component as well – its food, cafe and bar scenes reflect a beguiling blend of French and Melanesian influences.
Le Marche, a colorful market beside the marina at Port Moselle, is a must-visit. Here, watch fishermen unload their catches of the day, or sink your teeth into fresh-baked cakes and bread. Live music is available on Saturdays and Sundays, as well. Active travelers will relish kayaking, climbing, sailing, diving or exploring the protected Blue River Park, a reserve for bird species like the native kagu.
109,000 Annual Visitors
Where? Exactly. This small cluster of roughly 80 islands in the South Pacific, off the coast of Australia and tucked somewhere between the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, and Fiji, is one of the least visited destinations on the planet. With only 109,000 annual arrivals reported, it’s about as remote a destination as one can find.
The reason for the lack of major tourism is purely based on location and flight frequency: it is far removed from other countries, and flights are limited unless you’re coming from Australia, which offers direct flights from Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne to the capital, Port Vila.
That said, those who make the effort to travel to this far-flung corner of the globe will certainly be rewarded. Adventurists will relish the deserted beaches, world-class diving, rugged coastline, and epic waterfalls. You can even hike the active volcano, Mt. Yasur.
Culture vultures will love the opportunity to drink the mystical beverage, kava, with a local village chief. And divers will forget the world above the waterline once they discover the treasures underneath the waves that can only be found in Vanuatu. It might be a trek to get here, but it is worth every long layover.
79,000 Annual Visitors
For those of you who think you know the Caribbean, think again. While you most likely have heard of (and perhaps even visited) islands like Puerto Rico, Aruba, and Jamaica, there is so much more to be tapped.
Take Dominica, for example (no, not the Dominican Republic, and pronounced Dom-in-ee-ka).
This small island defies all Caribbean stereotypes. Forget mass tourism, all-inclusive hotels, and cruise ports. This is an adventurer’s eco-luxe paradise, and one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world. Dominica’s nickname is “nature island,” and for good reason – sights include an epic coral reef, a volcano ringed with rainforest, hot springs, one of the Caribbean’s longest hiking routes, and Boiling Lake, the second-largest hot lake in the world.
Dominica sits between Guadeloupe and Martinique and has its own population of indigenous people, the Kalinago. But while it exists as one of the most off-the-beaten-path islands in the Caribbean, that could soon change. The hotel group Kempinski is opening its first resort in Dominica, and the island is going to position itself as a new luxury travel destination. It won’t be long before word gets out on this hidden gem.
79,000 Annual Visitors
Sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland is the German-speaking nation of Liechtenstein. The tiny country, just 15 miles long with a population of some 37,000 people, had more visitors than actual citizens in 2017.
Travelers who skip over Liechtenstein to visit its neighbors are seriously missing out. Peppered with mountainside castles, veined with skiing and hiking trails, and ruled by a very-much active monarchy, Liechtenstein is straight out of a storybook. Just note that the country is so small, it doesn’t even have its own airport. The best way to visit is to fly to Switzerland or Austria and take the local bus.
12. San Marino
78,000 Annual Visitors
Another nation with tourism numbers that outweigh its resident count (78,000 vs. 33,400) in San Marino, a micro-nation within north-central Italy.
This country within a country is a vestige of Italy’s former city-state network, and one of the world’s oldest republics. Known for its cliffs and castles, the most popular destination is the UNESCO-listed capital, Citta di San Marino, with a historic center that dates back nearly 1,000 years.
But while it is still one of the least-visited nations, the word is getting out. Tourism numbers have been increasing quickly, so it’s best to go now before others catch on.
11. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
76,000 Annual Visitors
With sugary beaches, swaying palms and uninterrupted views of endless turquoise sea, St. Vincent and the Grenadines are straight out of “Castaway,” if “Castaway” also included five-star hotels and yachting marinas.
One of the most tranquil and idyllic island nations in the Caribbean, this destination consists of the main island, St. Vincent, and a string of outlying islands, all of which are epically beautiful and feel a world away from reality.
The islands are certainly most famous for their beaches, but the country has plenty to do for active travelers, as well, like waterfall hikes, volcano exploration, and snorkeling. And while it certainly does cater to the rich and famous, a cheap inter-island ferry system makes it easy to navigate for those with a more modest budget.
74,000 Annual Visitors
Timor-Leste is relatively new, as far as countries go, having gained its independence from Indonesia in 2002. Today is known for its superb diving, ancient traditions, and exotic adventures.
Before being occupied by Indonesia, Timor-Leste was a Portuguese colony, and still boasts wonderful examples of Portuguese architecture. Learn about the country’s volatile past at the museum in the capital city, Dili, then set off for jungles, mountain villages and stunning beachscapes.
For wildlife, head to Atauro, an island about 15 miles from Dili. In 2016, Conservation International declared this island’s waters the most biodiverse in the world. Many of the reefs can be accessed from shore, or travelers can hire a charter to venture to deeper waters.
68,000 Annual Visitors
While Anguilla is scoring particularly high on this list, to be fair, its tourism numbers are usually about 14 percent higher. The island was ravaged in 2017 by Hurricane Irma, which left homes, hotels, and restaurants battered.
Anguilla spent the better part of 2018 rebuilding its tourism infrastructure, which accounts for the plummet in numbers. That said, even without the hurricane’s impact, Anguilla would likely still be on this list, as it never welcomes more than 100,000 visitors.
Of the eight Caribbean islands that were damaged in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Anguilla’s comeback story is of particular note. The hurricane impacted nearly 90 percent of Anguilla’s government buildings, but today the country is close to 100 percent back in business. The majority of its hotels, villas and vacation apartments are already up and running.
What visitors can expect are bleached beaches, brightly colored architecture, open-air beach bars where reggae music plays into the wee hours, strong cocktails and succulent barbecue, and crystalline waters straight out of a postcard.
61,000 Annual Visitors
Close your eyes and picture a Polynesian getaway. What you’re likely picturing is Tonga. Made up of more than 170 islands in the South Pacific, Tonga is heralded for its white beaches and coral reefs, blankets of the steamy rainforest, and towering limestone cliffs. The majority of its islands are uninhabited, but its main island, Tongatapu, is known for its cultural authenticity, diving, and laidback living.
A low-key vibe permeates the entire Kingdom, where tomorrow is always a good idea to get started on something. The islands are ringed with sugary sand and their waters are a playground for snorkeling, diving, yachting, and kayaking.
Low tourist numbers here likely have to do with accessibility. While there are five weekly flights from Auckland, New Zealand, and two weekly flights from Sydney, Australia, that is still quite a hike for U.S. travelers. Visitors can also fly via Fiji with connections in the U.S., Hong Kong, Australia, and Samoa.
28,000 Annual Visitors
Comoros is an island nation off the coast of East Africa, near Mozambique and Madagascar. While it is stunningly beautiful, known for lush jungles and beautiful beaches, its overall lack of tourism is due to politics. The nation has undergone around 20 coups since it gained independence from France in the 1970s, and it is one of the world’s poorest countries, with inadequate transportation and a rising population.
Still, a small tourism industry does exist, and those who take the time are rewarded with stunning natural beauty. Visitors can hike to the Karthala volcano, either as a day-tour or as an overnight trek. They can also visit Lac Sale, a saltwater lake in an old crater. Best yet, it’s possible to spot frolicking dolphins off the coast of Hahaya.
6. Solomon Islands
22,000 Annual Visitors
The waters of the South Pacific are home to the hundreds of islands that make up the Solomon Islands. Off the coast of Australia, these islands played a crucial role in World War II; Guadalcanal, a province and one of the archipelago’s largest islands, was the site of the first major offensive for Allied forces against Japan. Today, the Solomon Islands are known for their fantastic natural beauty and indigenous culture, which remains alive and well.
Dugout canoes still serve as the main mode of transportation, and economies rely on the sea and the land. Divers here find a kaleidoscope of coral colors, as well as sunken WWII wrecks. And the food – mostly sourced straight from the sea – is fresh and flavorful. To get to the Solomon Islands, visitors typically fly from Brisbane, Australia. There are also flights from Vanuatu, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea.
5. American Samoa
20,000 Annual Visitors
Ready your camera before you embark for American Samoa, a tiny pocket of Polynesia where you can make one perfect picture after another. This series of volcanic islands is known for its rugged peaks blanketed in the brilliantly green jungle, which tumbles down to cerulean-colored waves and pristine beaches.
Visit Pago Pago, a rustic fishing town that sits on a beautiful natural harbor, or venture out to smaller villages where ancient traditions are waiting to be discovered. American Samoa Manu’a Island is said to be the beginning of Polynesia and is one of the most remote corners of this archipelago, while the National Park of American Samoa is webbed with challenging hiking trails.
You won’t find five-star hotels or fancy shopping here, but you will find a complete Polynesian paradise replete with diving, dining, yoga, and nature. American Samoa is a U.S. territory, as well, making it (relatively) easy for Americans to visit.
10,150 Annual Visitors
To the east of Tonga lies this tiny island nation in the South Pacific. In fact, it’s so tiny that it is regarded as the world’s smallest independent nation.
But just because it’s small in size doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a punch for the select few who take the time to get there. Nicknamed “The Rock,” Niue isn’t actually an island at all, but a raised coral atoll.
Keep in mind, this is not for landlubbers looking to soak up the sun. Niue was built for the bold and adventurous. In order to see the attractions, be prepared to climb, hike, swim or drive to the caves, snorkeling spots, and lagoons. There are also some of the best diving in the South Pacific just off the coast of the island.
The capital, which has a population of just 1,600, has a few mid-range guesthouses, restaurants, and a resort. Interestingly, considering its remote nature, Niue is the world’s first “Wi-Fi”’ nation, meaning it offers free wireless internet to all residents. There is just one flight in and out of Niue a week, but once you’re there you’ll feel like you’ve discovered the world’s best-kept secret.
8,100 Annual Visitors
There was a time when Montserrat was a place to see and be seen, especially after Beatles producer George Martin opened a recording studio there. But a volcanic eruption in 1995 left the lower two-thirds of this Caribbean island devastated. Today the island is still in recovery mode, but things are starting to pick up. The population is growing, and with that comes tourism, as well. Today the majority of tourists are taking day trips to enjoy hiking and birdwatching.
Visitors can get to Montserrat out of Antigua’s John A. Osborne Airport, or take the regular ferry service from Antigua. Service is not available daily, so it’s good to know the schedule before you go.
2. Marshall Islands
6,000 Annual Visitors
The Marshall Islands are an expansive chain of volcanic islands that pepper the Pacific waters between Hawaii and the Philippines. What visitors can expect are sparkling turquoise waters, some of the most epically white beaches in the world, low crime and sunshine.
The lack of tourism is simply because these islands are so hard to reach. And perhaps travelers are slightly dissuaded by the nation’s history of nuclear testing (islands, where that took place, are still off-limits).
But intrepid travelers willing to make the journey certainly won’t be disappointed. The atolls of the Marshall Islands are known for their marine life and diving, as well as diverse and colorful flora on land.
A local population of Marshallese lives here, as do descendants of past visitors and occupiers, including people from Great Britain, Russia, Germany, Japan, and the U.S.
2,000 Annual Visitors
And finally, we have Tuvalu, a tiny independent nation that is but a speck in the South Pacific. With a population of fewer than 12,000 inhabitants across nine islands, it most recently received fewer visitors than could fit inside most live-music venues. But what a treat for the 2,000 who made the journey. The thinly populated atolls are fringed with palm trees and outlined with stark white sand. Tropical fish, uninhabited islets and historic WWII sites are among the attractions to drink in.
The early settlers are thought to have come from Samoa, Tonga, and Uvea. Today, Tuvaluan and English are both spoken throughout the islands. If your interests extend beyond the beach, this might not be the island for you, as it lacks any real city infrastructure. It’s also a very flat island, but for those who enjoy snorkeling, diving or snapping photos of idyllic beachscapes, Tuvalu does not disappoint. There is one international airport, and Fiji Airways flies in and out of it every Tuesday and Thursday & in that case, you will not want to miss your flight.
Which country attracts you more? Write down in the comment section!