They say that good things come in small packages and that certainly holds true when it comes to travel. Some of the world’s smallest countries also make for some of the most rewarding travel destinations.
While smaller countries may not be packed with an endless array of sights and attractions, they have a way of simplifying holidays once you arrive and allow you to find appreciation in the proven fact that having fewer choices often promotes greater happiness.
Many of the world’s smallest countries also happen to be some of the least visited thanks to factors such as their remoteness or difficulty in reaching them. In a world which is reaching a population of nearly 8 billion, it’s nice to enjoy a holiday that lacks large tourist crowds.
Let us look at some of the smallest and least visited countries around the world, focusing on sovereign states and excluding overseas and dependent territories. And remember that hard to reach destinations such as these small remote islands and seldom visited countries involve more complicated planning and transportation, making travel insurance even more essential to have.
Halfway between Australia and Hawaii is one of the smallest Commonwealth countries, that not only is very small but also sees some of the fewest visitors of any country in the world. Once referred to as the Ellice Islands, this tiny island nation made up of a mix of reef islands and atolls sees just a few thousands visitors annually and most of those are business travellers or people visiting family.
Just one island of Tuvalu, Funafuti, offers what you could call hotel facilities and you won’t find any registered tour operators, guides, or popular attractions. The Polynesian microstate also sees no cruise ships dock, leaving you with an island pretty close to pure in authentic culture.
Tuvalu’s remoteness keeps tourists away and therefore the islands have not become commercialised like other popular Polynesian islands. It is definitely a destination geared towards travellers who aren’t afraid to guide and cater for themselves.
On its 25 square kilometres of space, you will find just a few restaurants, people playing the local popular sport Te ano, and a lot of relaxation and solitude. Most of the people speak English in addition to their native tongue and the Australian dollar is used which makes it easy for us visiting Aussies.
Best to book a trip now before climate change makes Tuvalu even smaller. It is believed it could very well be completely submerged by the end of the century.
One of Europe’s smallest countries and its second-least-visited can be found tucked snugly in-between its neighbours Switzerland and Austria. Liechtenstein is a double landlocked microstate that has no airport and is a destination in which you can walk from one end to the other in just a few hours.
Liechtenstein is a destination geared for exploring on foot, its street signs displaying walking times to most of the various important places and landmarks. It is also a wonderful destination for hikers who can take advantage of its many high-altitude trails.
This German-speaking country which has no army is also a top winter sports destination being that it is in the Alps. Simply add Winter Sports Cover to your travel insurance policy to get coverage for more than a dozen types of winter sports activities.
The world’s fifth-smallest country has a very Italian feel, and it only makes sense since it’s surrounded by Italy. San Marino is a European microstate which has more vehicles than citizens and although not part of the EU does use the Euro as its currency.
San Marino is said to be the world’s oldest surviving republic, even winning the admiration of famous American President Abraham Lincoln who was granted citizenship here. Access to San Marino requires first travelling to Italy, with the tiny country being surrounded by a few Italian cities and not requiring any border check to enter or leave.
You can easily get around San Marino on foot or by public transport that includes buses and an aerial tramway. Top places to check out include the Parliament Palace (Palazzo Pubblico), the three towers or fortresses atop the Mount Titano ridge, and the many museums which include the National Museum, Museum of Curiosities, Wax Museum, Ferrari Museum, and its museum dedicated to San Marino’s history of coins and stamps.
Vatican City exists completely within the city of Rome, and while it may be the smallest independent state in the world both in terms of size and population, it receives a great deal of tourism. Nearly seven million visitors flock to Vatican City every year, many on a religious pilgrimage and others who simply want to observe some of the world’s finest art.
Home to the pope, Vatican City is also the only country which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Millions of travellers come here to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums and Gardens.
The Catholic Church displays tens of thousands of artworks that include Roman sculptures and abundant Renaissance art such as Michelangelo’s ceiling masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel. While normally charged, the museums can be visited free of charge the last Sunday of each month. Exploring the rest of Vatican City is quite easy thanks to its small size, allowing you to walk around the entire area in an hour or so.
While it may be one of the world’s smallest countries, Niue is also one of the largest coral atolls. Access to the small Polynesian island in the South Pacific is solely through Air New Zealand which operates regular flights to the remote destination.
One of the last places in the world to see the sunset each day, Niue has close ties with New Zealand, using the New Zealand dollar for its currency and its miniscule population of around 1,600 also being citizens of New Zealand.
Niue’s appeal is not measured as much by what it has but rather what it doesn’t have. You won’t find any traffic lights nor any crowds and queues. And while it may be a small island, it’s large enough to house an elephant as was proven back in 2015 when an Asian elephant bound for the Auckland Zoo was required to spend a 90-day quarantine period on the island.
While you will no longer find an elephant in Niue, you can easily spot giant humpback whales from July to October. You can also join a night-time tour in search of large nocturnal coconut crabs. Deep-sea fishing for marlin, tuna, and mahi-mahi is also popular, as is renting a vehicle and driving around the island’s coastal road.
While Niue may be one of the last places in the world to see the sunset each day, Kiribati is said to be the first in the world to see each day’s rising sun. It is one of the least visited nations thanks to its remoteness, with many people not even knowing it exists or how to properly pronounce it which is “Kiribass”.
While Kiribati may be one of the world’s smallest countries, it encompasses a massive area in the Pacific Ocean that stretches 4,000 kilometres by 2,000 kilometres in size. Collectively, it’s numerous atolls are found within all four of the world’s hemispheres.
Located roughly midway between Australia and Hawaii, Kiribati was once known as the Gilbert Islands. It uses the Australian dollar alongside its own Kiribati dollar which is pegged equally to its Aussie counterpart.
The islands are a great place to get away from it all, with popular activities that include fishing, surfing, scuba diving and snorkelling, and visiting notable World War II sites. The islands are also popular with birdwatchers.