It’s always good to go off the beaten track and discover places where few other people visit.
I was researching the world’s most visited countries. But then I thought, that’s boring. Let’s find out about the world’s least visited countries.
So I found some data from the UN travel and tourism. And I’ve found out about countries that I didn’t even know existed.
These are stats from before coronavirus. Obviously during these last 12 months a lot of countries have had very few visitors. But here we’re just assuming a normal year.
What’s the least-visited country in the world?
Kiribati gets around 6,000 visitors a year. To put that into perspective, on an average day in Paris, more people visit the Eiffel Tower in a morning than visit Kiribati in an entire year.
Kiribati gets less than 1% of the visitors that Iraq does.
A thousand times more people visit Iran than visit Kiribati.
I googled some photos — and it’s a sublime-looking country. Beaches, jungle backdrops, wooden sailing boats, absolute serenity. But it’s the least visited country in the world because it’s incredibly difficult to get to.
You can imagine that obscure Polynesian islands in the middle of nowhere don’t get many tourists.
But the second least visited is the country of Moldova.
And Moldova is next to Ukraine, which gets 24 million visitors a year.
Moldova is next to Romania, which receives 8 million visitors a year.
Yet Moldova only gets 11 thousand.
I’ve since found out that Moldova has some of the largest wine cellars in the world. I have been googling and seeing photos of forests and rocky hills — it’s actually a nice-looking country.
But nobody goes to Moldova.
Not many people go to the Solomon Islands either.
You look at it and think, that’s Tom Hanks in Castaway. (Hold on. I know that was actually filmed in Fiji, because I’ve been to the island.)
In the Solomon Islands, it’s known that the locals invite tourists into their village ceremonies. And you can go crossing the ocean in a dugout canoe to a different one of the islands. So maybe that should be on your bucketlist — island-hopping in the Solomon Islands.
If you go there, you will be one of less than 25,000 people who go there every year.
These are tiny numbers when you consider more than 18 million people a year go to France.
Now, I absolutely loved it that number four of the world’s least visited countries is Tonga.
Because I’ve visited Tonga.
I did a trip to Fiji — and it was underwhelming. I wasn’t that impressed.
My next destination was going to be New Zealand, so I looked around wondering if I could visit another of those Pacific islands.
And Tonga was the best, because it’s between Fiji and New Zealand, so I was able to fly there and it didn’t cost much more.
There’s not much going on in Tonga. There are three islands, and my main memory is the plane journey flying between the islands.
As I went to check-in for the plane, they weighed me and my luggage together. So everybody who checked in for the plane got weighed with their luggage. Then we got on the plane.
It was myself, my girlfriend, and one other passenger. That was all the space there was, because it was a four-seater plane. And the pilot was an enormous bloke. He did the safety briefing, and he was great fun. He was so friendly.
What was just brilliant was that I’d never been in a plane so small before. I’d never been directly behind the pilot, seeing everything that he does.
It was beautiful and memorable to fly over those volcanic islands.
They are pretty islands, with a welcoming people. I remember enormous portions of food. I remember exploring and finding what’s thought to be one of the world’s biggest trees — it was more than 120 meters in diameter. It was incredible, that banyan tree.
I remember surf waves, and doing some kayaking.
Then I found out today that less than 50,000 people a year visit Tonga. I can really recommend it — put it on your travel bucketlist. I preferred it to Fiji.
Number five is another one in Europe.
According to the UN, it’s Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein is a tiny country in the Alps. It has outrageous mountains, a few castles, and only four hotels. Not many people spend the night.
Finally, number six of the world’s least visited countries is Djibouti.
It’s the least visited in Africa, and I thought it was interesting to find that out. I don’t think I’m going to put it on my bucketlist, but I’m adding the Solomon Islands and Lichtenstein there.
It’s great to go off the beaten track. It’s great to find destinations where you can’t have anything but an authentic experience — because visitors simply don’t go there.
By Stephen Bailey. Edited by Beatrice Becker.