Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The 25 Least Visited Countries in the World

"The Burning Crater" or "The Door to Hell" in Darvaza, Karakum in Turkmenistan. Photo by Marius Arnesen.  


Are you up for going on that unique trip that almost no one has done before you? The problem might just be finding the right destination. The least visited country in the world may not be the one you would think.

I am currently conducting research through visits to all 198 countries of the world. The reason? To figure out where I eventually want to go on proper holiday. I have been to 190 countries so far (update: all 198 as of May 8, 2013 as the youngest hobby traveller) and I often wondered which countries are the very least visited ones. Remoteness, visa regulations, governments, available travel information and how many visitors I see on my travels give me a certain idea, but what do the statistics say? If they even exist. And where can I find such official statistics?

UNWTO, World Tourism Organization has a pretty good overview. Some countries, especially some of which are likely to receive very few visitors per year, are still left out, which means that the information must be found elsewhere. I have found info on the remaining ones from various sources, such as newspaper articles or independent travel reports. Do also note that such statistics will never be entirely accurate. Some countries only measure tourists arriving by air, others only track boat arrivals, yet others base their info on information from hotels. And some people on business still say that they are in a country as a tourist to avoid extra bureaucracy.


The 25 least visited countries of the world follow below. The most visited of those has 73,000 foreign tourists in a year, the least visited less than 200. That is way behind number one, France, with 79.5 million annual foreign visitors:

25. Dominica: 73,000 tourists (2011, UNWTO)

This gentleman sells coconuts next to the airport. 
Why so few?
The island nation is rather small without too many tourist facilities. The only commercial airport cannot handle big aircraft, so the nation is served by propellor planes only.

Why you may still want to visit
The jungle provides refuge for a great number of birds and animals. And the rural feel of the island nation makes it feel anything but touristy, exactly what you may be looking for.

What else
Do not confuse Dominica with Dominican Republic. Both countries are in the Carribean, but they are very different. Buy coconuts from salesmen by the road and eliminate your thirst. Just know how to haggle or you will be ripped off.


24. Chad: 71,000 tourists (2010, UNWTO)

Me with a policeman and a salesman of audio cassettes. 
Why so few?
There's political instability and unrest in this landlocked and dry country. Rebels make large parts of the country less than safe.

Why you may still want to visit
You find the biggest rocks in the world in Chad, although you should hire armed guards in 4WD vehicles to go there due to robbers that sometimes go violent. It's amazing for climbing! The capital N'Djamena is a big market town with some impressive governmental buildings.

What else
Mastercard is not accepted in Chad, so bring cash or a Visa card.


23. Central African Republic: 54,000 tourists (2010, UNWTO)

Why so few?
The landlocked country isn't really famous for much. It is one of the poorest in Africa.

Why you may still want to visit
Do go by boat on one of the many rivers in the countries. And relax in semi-modern Bangui where you'll find French cuisine and a bakery.

What else
Do not take photos of locals unless they give you permission to do so. Or risk facing a threatening mob.


22. Liechtenstein: 53,000 tourists (2011, UNWTO)

Why so few?
There's no airport in the landlocked neighbour of Switzerland and Austria. There's a heliport though, so if you are among those with a bank account here you may still come and leave airborne. Most visitors are presumably on business thanks to the secretive bank system and the low corporate taxes.

Why you may still want to visit
Amazing mountains that are great for skiing and hiking. Do not miss Balzers Castle if you're into stacked rocks.

What else
Don't stay too long here, or you may go bored. The country is tiny.


21. Djibouti: 53,000 tourists (2008, UN)

Why so few?
A dry and dirty place. There's rubbish all over the small desert country that is no one's typical destination.

Why you may still want to visit
The scuba diving is amazing, although not very affordable. There are plenty of French soldiers around if that may appeal to you. That also means a lively nightlife scene every weekend. The lowest point in Africa is also in the country. Lake Assal is 157 meters below sea level.

What else
There are some mean looking helicopters on the airport which doubles as a military airfield. You may be able to witness some action there.


20. Sierra Leone: 52,000 tourists (2011, UN)

Taxi, Sierra Leone style. 
Why so few?
Have you heard anything good about this country recently?

Why you may still want to visit
You will discover some of the most amazing beaches in Africa and great hospitality. You can find pretty much anything at the markets in Freetown.

What else
Getting to and from the airport is a pain. You will have to go by one of three boat options taking 30-60 minutes to Freetown or splash out on a chartered helicopter that may or may not be operational. One of the options involve travelling 12 kilometers by taxi to the car ferry port. I went for a two wheeled version.

My impression from 'land of the mountain lions.'




19. Tonga 45,000 tourists (2011, UNWTO)

Blowholes on the south coast of Tonga.
Why so few?
It is located in the middle of the Pacific.

Why you may still want to visit
The main island is a coral surrounded by coral reefs. The diving and snorkeling is great! And there's even a choice of airline to get here, which is unusal for island states in Oceania. Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia and Air Pacific can all take you here, making access relatively easy.

What else
It's one of the last absolute monarchies in the world. And the Tongan feasts are famous. Indulge!

Why you best explore Tonga by scooter (March, 2013).



18. East Timor: 40,000 tourists (2010, UN)

Why so few?
The UN is still very much present here, and UN aircraft largely outnumber commercial ones. The country may still not feel safe for a lot of people.

Why you may still want to visit
Fantastic scenery which is great for hiking and treking. And do not forget the scuba diving gear at home. The conditions are world class. You will also find old Portugese buildings scattered around the country and going to small villages as a foreign tourist will guaranteed make people turn heads and most likely produce smiles.

What else
Getting a visa is easy for most nationals. You get it in exchange for 30USD upon arrival at the airport in Dili.



17. Bhutan: 37,000 tourists (2011, UNWTO)

Tiger's Nest. Just do it. 
Why so few?
You have to go through a process to get a visa and travel permits to the country. And you will be required to have a guide with you while exploring the country.

Why you may still want to visit
The mountains are stunning, so are the hiking possibilities. It is also very much a Buddhist country, something that is easily recognized by temples and monsatries, many of which are worth the visit on their own. And do not forget Tiger's Nest. The monastry build on a small ledge of a mountain. It will take you an hour or two to hike up there, but it is so worth it.

What else
You will see penises painted on many buildings around the country. They are signs of good luck, but will make some westerners go totally shy and ackward. And do watch the archery competitions. The locals know how to handle their bows.


16. North Korea: 35,000 tourists (2011, Koryo Group)

Anti-American
propaganda
everywhere. 
Why so few?
Do I really need to answer this?

Why you may still want to visit
A visit to North Korea will make you redefine your definition of a country. The Truman Show, country scale, someone said. It is one of the safest countries to visit as a tourist. Crime is virually non-existent. Just ignore that everyone will think you are mad for going. It's so worth a visit.

What else
You will always be minded by two minders. Their job is to mind you and each other. Sometimes they will still need to use the facilities, so if you are lucky you may get to exchange some extra information. Do note that you will be on the receiving side of a lot of brainwashing, or should I say propaganda. North Korea is more visited than most people think, primarily because of Chinese tourists. Non-Asian visitors are rare, and I am always asked about North Korea. I am typically introduced as "the youngest hobby traveller to have visited all countries." A typical response is still; "Have you been to North Korea?" I guess the word "all" is not properly taught in school.

A piece written for Terminal U on North Korea.



15. Libya: 34,000 tourists (2008, UN)

Say no more.
Why so few?
Colonel Gadaffi didn't exactly work as a tourist magnet. He is now dead, but the unrest that has followed doesn't invite tourists either.

Why you may still want to visit
Some people like sand.

What else
Libyans make great coffee! I also experienced them to be very friendly to foreigners, you may very well be invited to someone's home for a meal. Not to be forgotten are the breathtaking ruins of Leptis Magna, an ancient city of the Roman empire only 130 kilometers from Tripoli. There is a lot to see there, although some of it is not yet excavated.


14. Guinea-Bissau: 30,000 tourists (2011, UN)

Fisherman Mike in
the harbour of Bissau.
Why so few?
It is a country with relatively poor infrastructure. It is not well connected by Western airlines.

Why you may still want to visit
The Bijagos Islands outside Bissau is an archipelago of some twenty islands, where you may see hippos. They are pristine. Do not expect any sign of modern life. Electricity is for chickens.

What else
The fish market is Bissau will so make you wanna prepare your own food. Just try to find a kitchen. And you will enjoy the Portugese style architecture. If you're into such.



13. Mauritania: 29,000 tourists (2008, E Turbo News)

Wikimedia Commons licensed by Sebastián Losada.  
Why so few?
Reputation has it that Mauritania is only sand and nomads. There are no famous sights there.

Why you may still want to visit
The graveyeard for ships on the northern coast is amazing and will sort you out with bizarre photo opportunities! You do not want to miss out on typical desert towns and villages.

What else
Credit cards won't work. Bring cash. You can also hitch a ride with one of the world's longest trains with over 200 cars. It transports iron ore, but passangers can usually just jump on top of the cargo. Heavy, heavy fuel!


12. Federated States of Micronesia: 26,000 tourists (2008, UN)

Me posing in front of a
stereotypical Pacific view. 
Why so few?
It's far off and not very well known. United is the only airline that can take you here.

Why you may still want to visit
If you like wreck diving, this is heaven thanks to fierce battles during world war II. The country is relatively poor, but also very welcoming. Great seafood!

What else
US dollars is used as the currency, so you can leave your calculator at home. You can also visit Wall Mart in Colonia. it's a supermarket slightly less famous than it's American "competitor."





11. Solomon Islands: 23,000 tourists (2010, UNWTO)

Why so few?
Getting to and from the island nation in the Pacific is not the easiest or cheapest of tasks thanks to lack of competition. It is also a lot less famous than other neighbouring countries.

Why you may still want to visit
Scuba diving, sailing and fishing.

What else
Do not miss out on the fish market in Honiara. The yatch club there is great for a drink. Or a ride if you don't agree with planes.


10. Afghanistan: 17,500 tourists (2012, New York Times)

This is actually me in Herat. Photo by Marius Arnesen.
Why so few?
There's a war. Taliban is in it.

Why you may still want to visit
The mountains of Afghanistan are wild and beautiful. They are also hiding places for bandits and terrorists, so you may want to wait until it becomes a little more peaceful.

What else
You'll have a unique chance to try on a traditional blue burqa. I did for two minutes. Poor women! Do also remember to get your visa to the country you will return to in advance. Getting it inside Afghanistan may not be the easiest of tasks. Saying that you are in the country as a tourist will make you appear a liar, so do have a cover story  or be prepared to be declared less than smart.


9. Comoros: 15,000 tourists (2010, UNWTO)

A very popular activity in the harbour of Moroni.
Why so few?
The guidebooks say that the islands are infected by malaria carrying mosquitos. I didn't see any mosquitos. Hotels do anyhow have bed nets, you'll be fine. There are not a lot of airlines flying to Comoros either.

Why you may still want to visit
Great seafood, friendly people, vibrating markets and a beautiful coastline. And very friendly people.

What else
Try on a beauty mask. A lot of the women there wear them. The masks do certainly not work as the name suggests while being worn. Public transport doesn't really exist, so be prepared to raise your thumb. Private cars or minibuses will usually pick you up relatively soon.


8. Sao Tome & Principe: 8,000 tourists (2010, UNWTO)

It took me 40 hours on a
cargo ship to get there. 
Why so few?
It may take a while to get there.

Why you may still want to visit
It's so remote you are more or less guaranteed proper peace. And there are both stunning beaches and mountains that invite for hikes and photo oportunities. Do try the street food.

What else
Bring cash and do get your return ticket sorted before you visit. You can easily walk to the airport from Sao Tome.




7. Turkmenistan: 7,000 tourists (2007, UN)

Bring hot dogs and a very long pole. By Marius Arnesen.
Why so few?
The country is reputed to be the second craziest in the world. After, of course, North Korea.

Why you may still want to visit
Crazy is fun! And all the police officers make you feel very safe.

What else
Do visit "The Door to Hell" which is the nickname of the burning crater in Darvaza, litterally in the middle of Karakum desert. It is fantastic and well worth the 3-4 hours long drive. Just stock up on food and vodka before you go, because you will want to stay in a tent overnight near the flames. They make a comforting sound.


6. Equatorial Guinea: 6,000 tourists (2012, estimate based on World Bank figures)

Snapping any photo in Malabo
is a high risk activity. Snapping
a photo of armed military personell
was plain stupid, but I managed
to navigate fast enough by foot
to avoid anything but s
houting from them. 
Why so few?
You will need a visa to get in unless you are American. Getting a tourist visa is bureaucracy hell.

Why you may still want to visit
Have you even heard about Equatorial Guinea? It is the only Spanish speaking country in Africa and having been there gives you bragging rights.

What else
Do not openly take photographs of anything offical looking unless you fancy a serious discussion with police or people pretending to be police. This especially applies to the presidential palace.




5. Marshall Islands: 5,000 tourists (2011, UNWTO)

The crystal clear water invites you for swims.
Here at a tiny beach 100 meters from the airport.
Why so few?
Try to get there. United has a monopoly on flights and does know how to price the tickets accordingly.

Why you may still want to visit
The diving at the outer atolls is world-class!

What else
Do not expect to find cheap accommodation. There is virtually no crime there though, so you might as well sleep on the beach for free.

 Read my blog post about Marshall Islands after actually having visited (in March, 2013).




4. Kiribati: 4,700 tourists (2011, UN)

I don't think this photo needs much of a caption.
Why so few?
Most people haven't even heard about Kiribati. It is not very well covered by airlines.

Why you may still want to visit
Check out the maps and satellite photos of the islands. It's all about beach, snorkeling, diving, fishing and water sports. If you do not like any of the above, please leave the rest of us alone and go to Turkmenistan where you'll find the sand without the water.

What else
The 33 atolls of the country are so widespread that it takes 6 hours to fly from the easternmost one to the westernmost one. By a jet plane. The accumulated area of Kiribati is still only 811 square kilometers, slightly bigger than New York City (786 square kilometers).

I visited Kiribati as the second last country of the world's 198 in April, 2013. Cape Verde was last a month later.



3. Tuvalu: 1,200 tourists (2011, UN)

The kids are playing water rugby on the runway.
The country is so small that every piece of available
land is being used for multiple purposes if possible.
The country's power plant in the back.





Why so few?
The same applies to Tuvalu as to Kiribati. The nations are not connected by plane routes, although you can easily go from one to another by your own sail boat. Or you have to fly via Fiji. Only Air Pacific flies to Tuvalu and Kiribati.

Why you may still want to visit
If sea levels do continue to rise Tuvalu is the first country to disappear, so you may be in a hurry all of a sudden. Go before you will need a submarine to do so. The government is currently looking into options that include buying land elsewhere to move their people.

What else
There really isn't much to see. The nation is so flat, that you shouldn't expect anything but a stereotypical Pacific island nation with palm trees and beaches.

I recently visited Tuvalu to see what the first country to 'sink' really is like. (March, 2013)


2. Somalia: 500 tourists (2012, estimate based on news articles)

Think twice before hurting yourself there. Somalian
hospitals are not all what they are cracked up to be. 
Why so few?
War, lack of a government for many years, violent muslim extremists, sharia law. The reputation of Somalia is extremelly close to rock bottom.

Why you may still want to visit
The government has started to function again. Mogadishu is now relatively safe and businesses are thriving. Turkish Airlines has even opened a direct twice weekly route from Istanbul.

What else
Go to the beach just outside Mogadishu or visit the Bakaara market where you can even buy your own semi-genuine Somalian passport. You may not want to use it anywhere, though. Your travel experience doesn't extend beyond the Bahamas, Paris or Gran Canaria, you say? First of all; Why are you reading this blog post? Secondly, do not go to Somalia!



1. Nauru: 200 tourists (2011, Crikey)


I ran around the country and saw all the beaches. 
Why so few?
Nauru is a tiny island nation in the Pacific. The smallest republic in the world covers only 21 square kilometers. There is almost nothing to see there as most of the island (there's only one) is a large open phosphate mine. Only one airline serves the island. You also need a visa to be allowed in, and the country doesn't have many embassies abroad.

Why you may still want to visit
The beaches surrounding the island are beautiful and "proper" Pacific style. The coral reefs surrounding Nauru makes it great for diving or fishing. There are however only 10,000 people in the country, huge unemployment and virtually no nightlife. There are two hotels, one "posh" on the beach and one "in town."

What else
This is the only country in the world without a capital. Yaren is the biggest community, and therefore acts as the de facto capital. There's even an internet cafe next to the police station, so you can update your statuses. The problem is that hardly anyone even heard about the place, so you are unlikely to get any praisal. Expect "Nauru? Is that upstate?" responses. Why not run around a country?


Bucket list?

So, how about this for a bucket list? And how many have you visited? 

Too extreme? Find out why you should visit the 25 least populated countries in the world

And do not forget to take some precautions. Here are my top 20 travel tips.

Do let me know if you have been to many of these places or if you want to go. I'd love to hear from you as we seem to share an interest in slightly unusual destinations. I'm on Twitter (@garfors).

South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, may also belong here, but I have not yet  been able to find any information on tourist numbers.

And what about Tajikistan? The country had only 4,000 foreign tourists in 2000 and has appeared in travel articles as a country no one visits. However, they now claim to have had 245,000 visitors in 2012, up from 183,000 in 2011. They are either doing a great job in their tourism sector or fabricating numbers. Most visitors to the country will in any case primarily travel overland from neighbouring countries, so they are more likely to "blend-in" than western tourists. There were tourist buses on the border trying to get in from Uzbekistan when I visited in 2009. Liberia, another likely candidate for the list just missed the spot. Estimates based on UN numbers from 2008 and 2009 indicate as many as 89,000 foreign tourists per year. That's 16,000 more than country number 25 on this list and tourism is said to increase.

How about the other end of the list?

Those of you who have read so far may actually want to visit countries that are not overrun by foreign tourists. If that is the case, you should certainly avoid the top ten (2011 figures from UNWTOUN):

1. France: 79.5 million
2. USA: 62.3 million
3. China: 57.6 million
4. Spain: 56,7 million
5. Italy: 46.1 million
6. Turkey: 29.3 million
7. UK: 29.2 million
8. Germany: 28.4 million
9. Malaysia: 24.7 million
10. Mexico: 23.4 million

Another unusual journey 

Adrian (left) and me.

I am as you may have guessed sort of interested in travelling. Last year I visited five continents in one day with Adrian Butterworth, a friend and filmmaker. The manic journey was a world first, and the media went mad. World-wide.

Summarized, it goes like this.

The TV documentary is about to be finalized (March 2013). Do get in touch if you would like to see a raw edit or if you are interested in airing it. You can watch the 90 second preview here.


More travels out of the ordinary are bound to happen sooner rather than later.





257 comments:


  1. Totally loved this article! I won't come across too many people who've travelled to 190 countries, I don't think!

    Keep it going!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, I am not about to stop anytime soon. Four countries on this list remaining. Marshall Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Kiribati will all be visited over Easter. If Air Pacific wants...

    I'm glad that you liked it. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm from Guinea-Bissau. It was one of the few places I didn't have to google.

      Delete
    2. Hey I'm from Guinea-Bissau too. I actually clicked on this article because I figured Guinea-Bissau would be on the list...and it was.

      Delete
    3. You should do an article on the countries with the easiest women to have sex with.

      Delete
    4. Wow, that comment is lame ...

      Delete
    5. I agree with the request in the interest of those who will want to have sex when they travel. Also include where it is safer to have casual sex.

      Delete
    6. Hi Gunnar,

      I'd be interested in your thoughts on Tuvalu and Kiribati. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kiribati on Arorae Island from 1998-2000. I was surprised that you didn't list it as one of the island nations that will be underwater in the next 25 years because of climate change. It it untouched by tourists luckily. The people of the outer islands still have kept their culture alive. The president of Kiribati has looked into purchasing land in Fiji to move the population. I guess one I-Kiribati national tried to apply for a visa for New Zealand(I think) as a climate change refugee...and was denied. So sad...as they are not the people causing the climate change.

      Gina
      RPCV Kiribati
      Teacher

      Delete
  3. Turmenistan! Cool. I just got back from East Timor. Super interesting place. ALmost backpacker friendly. I am trying to make www.NomadicKnight.com a good travel outlet. Travel film is my hobby gone haywire. Great article.

    ReplyDelete
  4. so people don't visit dangerous countries. who knew?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very interesting list - would love to check some of these out some day!

    ReplyDelete
  6. When you say you have been to 190 countries, what are you counting? Even layovers? Or do you have some criteria. That is a lot of countries and I am envious. I have wanted to go to several on this list including Domenica, Bhutan, Micronesia and the Soloman Islands. I have been to five countries, not counting layovers, which would make it six. I want to go to them all.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear Mo Ratel,

    Stops in airports or transport legs (i.e. on a train or in a car) through a country do not count. I need to have been properly inside the country and have a story to tell from there...

    I count the 193 UN countries, the 2 UN observers (the Vatican and Palestine) plus Kosovo, Taiwan and Western Sahara. That gives a total of 198.

    I will have visited all in May, if everything goes according to plan. Best of luck travelling more. It's the best hobby ever!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, congratulations! Mauritania looks really cool to me all of a sudden. What's your secret? You must have spent a fortune on visas alone, right? Any advice for someone else who wants to hit every country?

      Delete
    2. The secret is having no wives, kids or dogs... It is a very expensive hobby, so almost everything I make is used towards it. The best advice is to try to combine visiting new countries with existing work or holiday trips. That will save you quite a bit of money. If in i.e. Johannesburg for a week long conference, you can easily visit for instance Lesotho one weekend and Mauritius the next.

      Delete
  8. You missed the islands of St Pierre & Miquelon (www.spm.pm) with 6000 to 8000 tourists annually.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those islands belong to France. They are not a country.

      Delete
  9. This is something new! I haven't even heard most of the travel destinations you have mentioned except maybe for Bhutan, North Korea and Somalia.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This was awesome, I am featuring in my Buzz post tomorrow. Especially loved the commentary. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  11. I like this a lot. Totally inspired to go and visit some of the non-african countries! I'm going to bookmark this and if I visit one of the countries (and still remember this) I will let you know!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Much appreciated. Do keep me posted, it's great to be able to inspire to travelling. Travelling makes me smile and I like to smile...

      Delete
  12. The "Burning Crater" in Turkmenistan is definitely a sight to see. If I could travel alone there, I would probably take my chances.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can indeed travel there alone. Getting a transit visa to drive/bike through the country will let you go on your own. Or hire a guide that can leave you there alone overnight and pick you up the next day in a 4WD.

      Delete
    2. Jaslyn,
      I'm a woman and I've traveled around the globe alone. I'm assuming (maybe incorrectly) that may be one of the reasons not to travel alone. We need to take more precautions than men do, but it's worth it.

      Delete
  13. Thanks for a very interesting article. When he was a teenager my father used to live on Fanning Island which is part of Kiribati. He has many great stories about living on an atoll!

    I think I am very happy to NOT visit most of the places you have mentioned, but each to their own...

    ReplyDelete
  14. There's alot more to do in Afghanistan than "try on a burqa." In a place where kidnappings have skyrocketed, wearing a burqa is actually a safety shield more than a tool of oppression.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. agree, and good luck explaining purpose of your trip to immigration in the US and other western countries.

      Delete
  15. Nauru is NOT the second smallest republic. It is THE SMALLEST republic.

    In your list of countries, why have you not included Niue? Entities such as Kosovo are disputed and unrepresented in the UN, whereas the sovereign status of Niue is not.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ariana,
    Of course there is much more to do in Afghanistan than trying on a burqa. It is a fantastic country that will receive a lot of tourists as soon as peace reaches it. This short article that mentions more than 25 countries was never meant to cover everything to do in each country, just a few, often light hearted, examples of each.

    Anonymous,
    Niue is a part of New Zealand (the people voted agains independence in 1974) and is not a part of the UN despite being represented in some UN organizations. You are right about Nauru being the smallest republic. Thanks for pinpointing that out. It has now been corrected.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't Vatican City considered the smallest sovereign nation?

      Delete
    2. Nauru is the smallest Republic IF you do not count the surrounding water area that it claims jurisdiction over. If you do count the water area, then San Marino is the smallest (and oldest) Republic.

      Delete
  17. Nice post! Is Bermuda part of your 198 list?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Nope, it's a British overseas territory... I'd still love to go sometime, but I will first finish the 198 in May.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This article was one long geographical orgasm. FABULOUS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. orgasm..is good...

      Delete
  20. I've been to six countries on the list. Not bad. Especially considered i "only" visited 60-something countries in total. Too bad all those south pacific islands are so hard (e.g. expensive) to go to.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Very cool list with some surprises at both ends of the list and some that probably weren't expected either. Guess it's not unexpected that so many conflict zones appear.

    I've ticked off a few of these, really need to add a few more, thanks for complining the list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Iain! I have enjoyed 24 of the countries on the list. I will visit the last one, Kiribati, on April 1.

      Delete
    2. Mauri Gunnar!

      By now you have arrived in beautiful Kiribati. Oh...wow....you are making me homesick. Make sure to try the raw flying fish soaked in toddy vinegar. Also, the raw tuna served over rice with a sauce of fresh coconut cream, a little curry and onion. Also, breadfruit soup and fried breadfruit are quite delicious. Try the boiled toddy water and of course the moimotos(young coconuts)are amazing. Not at all like the stuff they try to sell in the store in the states.

      You've probably done your cultural research...but never sit in a mwaneaba and point your feet at someone across the way...it is impolite as your feet are the dirtiest part of your body.

      If you want to get off the bus somewhere in Tarawa..just yell out...Taioka ikai..please stop here.

      If you want to get some lovely gifts to bring home..I think there is still a Catholic Women's Center that makes handmade traditional gifts.

      For scuba diving...I believe there is still a Japanese run diving operation where they will take you out...and you stay in traditional houses on stilts overnight.

      I think you can still take a World War II tour also. Some people have found old shells on this tour. I also hope you are able to experience the traditional dancing. It helps to go to Kiribati knowing people as it is not a tourist destination....but I hope you have a lovely time.

      Tia bo moa,

      Gina (Nei Tina)

      Delete
  22. I love this list! And I am going to send it to other travelers whenever a high-and-mighty conversation about touring untouristed places arises...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great, thanks for that, Susan!

      I have now travelled to 196 of the 198 countries of the world, and I'd definately say that this list is one of the best travel lists ever, for those not too keen on spots of tourist hell...

      Delete
  23. Hei, sykla gjennom Turkmenistan i 2002, på vei fra Xian til Tabriz. Merkelig sted, så vilde kameler i ørkenen, og mange bomullsplantasjer. Så bilder av diktatoren overalt, men vil vel ikke si at det var det most crazy place after North Korea - vi kunne sykle rundt uten problemer og sove i telt (de var strengere i nabolandet Uzbekistan, der de ville ha små klistremerker for hver dag vi hadde vært der, for å bevise at vi hadde bodd i godkjente hoteller). Vet ikke om det har forandret seg mye etter at Turkmenbashi døde. Tror også det er mye usikkerhet rundt tallene, det kan jo være veldig mye trafikk av lokale fra landene rundt, for eksempel, men det regnes kanskje ikke som turisme? (Vet ikke hvor enkelt det er for dem å få visum heller). Uansett, morsom liste!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Var de i Ashgabat? Utrulege bygningar, men nesten ingen folk bortsett frå politi. Ekstremt sær atmosfære og definitivt mykje meir merkeleg enn Uzbekistan. Men eg var der i 2010.

      Delete
  24. I'm from Afghanistan. I know Afghani women. Every one of them that I've asked if they really mind where any kind of veil and they have all said no. From your pov, they may look poor, but please, ask an Afghani woman what they think about it.

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    Replies
    1. Good point! And i can see some advantages of wearing one, not having to deal with loads of guys for instance. But when asking them that, keep in mind that they have never tried anything else. I am relatively sure that many of them (not all) would chose to not wear a burqa if they could and if society accepted that.

      Delete
    2. Also, since you are an Afghani male, the women will not tell you that they hate the veil. I know women who live in the United States who are from countries where niqab or chador or even hijab is required and they do not wear it in the US of their own free will. I am sure that if they were home and asked by a male if they mind wearing a veil, those same women, would very likely say "no."

      I am an American-born, non-Muslim woman and I have worn hijab and found it beautiful and pleasant but I know that it is not a choice for many (?most) of the women who wear it.

      Delete
    3. Well, it sounds as if all muslim women are forced to wear some form of veil. This is not true for sure in most islamic countries, women do have a choice and some choose not to practice wearing veil. In my personal opinion it is a great thing, keeps lots of on-lookers away, and that, I believe, was the primary purpose of veil to begin with.

      Delete
    4. hmmm. Maybe that was the primary purpose...to keep on-lookers away...but why should women have to hide behind a veil because men can't seem to stop looking at them...something to ponder. We are all beautiful human beings. Why should one gender have to hide.

      Delete
  25. Fantastic article. Love the sense of humor. I'm definitely a "top-10" list type of traveler (love France!), but I really enjoyed reading this piece.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, David! Nice of you to say :)

      More travel list posts coming up...watch this space.

      Delete
  26. What a great article! I would actually love to visit North Korea one day ! So many beautiful countries, too bad laws or political conflicts make them so hard to visit...

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  27. Hmmm. That UNWTO List of most visited countries which put Malaysia at #9 is a little misleading. Yes, technically every Singaporean that crosses the border to buy cheap gasoline is a tourist and you DEFINITELY don't want to try to cross back into Singapore on a Sunday night. It also will include all the expats working in Bangkok who are doing visa runs. But for a SE Asian country, Malaysia has relatively few tourists, especially compared to Thailand.

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  28. I went to East-Timor five years ago. The diving was divine and the people there, so awesome! But it's always difficult to give recommendations. So much depends on the people you meet and your experiences. First time I went to Greece I was super disappointed, grouse food and unfriendly people. I said "never more". Second time (yes, I broke my promise to never go there again) I fell in love in both the food and the culture!

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  29. I went to Dominica as a medical student (one of the largest US-based medical schools is located there). There's not all that much to see there but if you like hiking, you might find some interesting sites. I would argue that the people there are not particularly eager to have tourists anyway. Most of them keep to themselves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am from Dominica and do agree with most of what you said. The main reason why we are on this list is due to the fact that the small island is always confused with its bigger brother the Dominican Republic.

      Before the advent of e-mails, it was a normal mishap for our mails to have gone to the Dominican Republic.

      If one really wanted to confuse the two islands any more than they are, both countries are a Republic. :-)

      Delete
  30. I looks like Nauru is right next to Kiribati (on the map). Why didn't you go to both on during the same trip? Is it not possible to do?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is, through the one plane of Our Airline, Nauru's only airline.

      I did not have the time when I visited Nauru in 2010. I will visit Kiribati on Monday, though as the second last country...

      Delete
  31. What about all teh unrecognized and partly recognized territories? I ve visited Abkhazia and Nagorno Karabakh recently and it was a lot of fun, and it definetely feels like a country

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    Replies
    1. These countries primarily recognize each other. I have been to some of them, but I don't count them towards the mission of 198 countries. They sure are interesting though, and I may visit all of them at a later stage.

      Delete
  32. Very fun articles. Congratulations on your travels.

    A group based in L.A. also keep a list that is at once much easier and much harder than your list.

    http://travelerscenturyclub.org/countries-and-territories/alphabetical-list

    You can join their club with 100 countries out of 321 places, the easy part; but out of 321 places, the hard part is to finish such a list. The Travelers Century Club counts, for example, Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Midway Island, Guam, etc. as separate places, because they are "removed from the parent country, either geographically, politically or ethnologically", and they also count airport fuel stops and the like.

    Well, even by those lax standards I'm probably never gonna make 100, having run out of money in the on-going Lesser Depression and now running out of healthy life. But I've had a great time visiting the 60 or so countries that I have.

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  33. Great article. I lived in Turkmenistan for two years, working for the Peace Corps. The Gate to Hell is cool, but there's also KoneUrgench in Dashoguz and Merv in Mary for people who are interested in history. Also, the rotating statue of Turkmenbashi has been taken down.

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  34. Very funny article, quite a few countries I had nev heard of before

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  35. no money to travel, so I collect automobile license plates from around the world. After countless letters to local papers and embassies and 15 years., I'm at 100 countries now. Could use help getting more..

    email me if you can provide some missing countries....wfcsupremecommander@yahoo.com

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    Replies
    1. I actually think that is very cool. I don't collect but I have taken photos of license plates as part of my travel records. My favorites are of the different plates for Israel and Palestine.

      Delete
  36. Inspirational post! I think you have just created a monster here,and just helped me pick my next 25 vacations! The tent near the gates of hell with a picnic sounds awesome.

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  37. I fail to understand why because someone has limited travel experience to more touristy areas, that you question why they are reading this blog. Is a less travelled person unworthy of reading about your experiences? If anything it should be encouraged they read about it to be more informed of these lesser known countries. Maybe some people will go to these countries after reading about them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kristen,

      Valid point, although that was written with a certain amount of irony. I wish that people that only go to resorts and never actually experience the countries that they visit would dare try something new. Then again, if they all do that, they'd ruin the experiences I cherish in countries that are currently less explored... ;)

      Knowing some people like that, they would never venture beyond Scandinavia, Spain and possibly the UK.

      Delete
  38. I was in Dominica years ago. It was one of the ports we visited on a cruise. I was very impressed with the beauty of the island. It was one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean, and I have been to most of them. I haven't really seen it as a destination by the cruise ships anymore, which is a shame. You're right though, it should not be confused with Dominican Republic. It's like night and day.

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    Replies
    1. Great point and 100% true

      Delete
  39. This article rocks! really ROCKS!I've seen some kind of snippet on yahoo and i really wanted to read the whole article.i wouldn't go to north korea even if you pay me(and i'm not an american). Also, you made me google some countries i've never heard in my life. Eduactional and with a smooth sense of humor! KUDOS!

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    Replies
    1. Much appreciated comments, Jocuri. Thanks!

      Delete
  40. And now you're on your way to Kiribati, or I'm sure you would've replied to all the comments above.

    I read a book (Children of Allah by Agnes Newton Keith) about her experiences in Libya. She lived there in the late 1950s, early 60s, and her teenage sons scuba-dived the sunken ruins of Libya's coast.

    They have such a lot of coastline - was that not possible (scuba diving) anymore?

    I would love to travel to some of those places! Thank you for making this herculean effort, which is probably also a lot of fun!

    Just curious, if you've been to the farthest flung territory of Norway? That little island in the South Atlantic...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amy,

      I am still in Fiji, waiting for the twice weekly plane to Kiribati. I was in Libya when the colonel was just about still alive, scuba diving wasn't the highest priority right then. Those dives sound fantastic, though! I will not rule out going there to do those and see more of the country.

      I have not been to the Bouvet Island. It's very hard to get to, just the very occasional scientific trip. Not sure if I'd be very useful to any scientist, really...

      Delete
  41. This article was delicious! I have been to a mere dozen countries but hope to see at least two new ones per year. I don't have a wife/husband, pets or kids but I also don't have the $$$ to travel much more than twice per year. I have heard of all of these countries (with the help of the Olympics) and have planned to visit five of them for one reason or the other. Thanks!!!

    Quick question- do you have ONE passport?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Best of luck with your travels!

      I have two passports, as one of them is usually in an embassy in order for it to get stamped with a visa, the other one is in my pocket while I travel. I change both of them every 18 months or so as they fill up with stamps. Norwegian passports only have 32 pages.

      Delete
  42. I like your sense of humor... "why do people visit Libia?" some people just love sand", or why so few visit N Korea? Do I have to answer this" adorably funny.

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  43. I would have liked to see those numbers and ranking relative to the population of that particular country.

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  44. Really enjoyed your article and wish I was still young enough to visit all these countries. When I travel I also like to go where no one else goes. Thanks.

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  45. I work in Equatorial Guinea and what is written in this article is true. There is plenty of natural beauty here to see and the infrastructure grows each day. The people for the most part are friendly but not always open to conversations with non-locals. The current government is trying to make EG more accessible for travelers but there are many deterrents.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Thoroughly enjoyable (lol) read! My favorite line: "Electricity is for chickens"I can't travel anywhere without a supply of lipstick, so this will be my handy "steer clear" list. Thanks for this article -- made my day and I will now be following you on Twitter!

    ReplyDelete
  47. Great article and great comments

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  48. Nice, interesting article, but hasn't the author ever heard of spellcheck?

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  49. Plains fly every week from Lisbon to S.Tomé, so it's not that difficult to get there (if you're going for, at least, one week). But I liked very much the article. Congratulations.

    Paulo Martins

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  50. great article. thanks for sharing.

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  51. Just for the record, Central African Republic IS famous for something - the greatest Pygmy music in the world. And that means some of the greatest music in the world. I, for one, want to go there!

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_nr_i_15?rh=k%3Acentral+african+republic%2Ci%3Apopular&keywords=central+african+republic&ie=UTF8&qid=1364669099

    ReplyDelete
  52. Sao Tome? Funny, Sao Tome and Principe is fasy becoming a tourisy paradise.

    Beaches, Whale watching (@ the equator, scuba diving, glorious forests...and world class hotels (http://www.africas-eden.com/Island-feeling.asp).

    I understand there are direct flights from Cameroun and other Central African nations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are direct flights from Portugal, Gabon, Angola and Cameroon. And charter flights from Paris starting in April 2013.

      Delete
  53. I nailed several in one week a few years ago! I am a WWII buff and was stationed in Japan. Flew to Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands) on Nauru Air to dive on sunken ships and tour the battlefields. The flight flew out of Guam to Nauru to refuel then stayed at Tarawa for four days. Then to the Solomon Islands. Best vacation in my life and I have literally been around the world.

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  54. I have been to Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia. It is beautiful. My kids mother is from there, so my kids are half Micronesian. If you go snorkeling off the coast of Moen, the main island in the lagoon, it is like an aquarium. There are diving packages to Palau and Micronesia, and they love Americans because they are part of the Compact of Free Association, which means the people can travel and work in the U.S. without a Green Card. Many of them live on Guam, which is a territory of the U.S., and a cheap flight away.

    ReplyDelete
  55. I've been to Bhutan (#17), and if anyone is reading this and doubted what Gunnar said about the penises, I can verify his claims. They make a Starbucks in New York look like an uncommon find. The people are incredibly friendly and welcoming, the politics and history are fascinating, and the views and monasteries are breathtaking. If you get a chance to go, don't turn it down. Unlike many on this list, Bhutan is very safe, "clean" in terms of disease, and there is plenty to see. Getting in is the hard part.

    ReplyDelete
  56. How about Tokelau? I bet it has even less tourists than Nauru. It doesn't have an airport, it doesn't even have a dock. Also, the government offices are not in the country, they are in Apia, Samoa. I bet it is not No. 1 on your list, because it has so few tourists you haven't even heard about it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to visit Tokelau too. It is a New Zealand territory, though, not an own country.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokelau

      Delete
  57. Gunnar Garfors, in addition to being a travel guru, you are a humor god! Thankyou for the laughs just as much as the advice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hehe, thanks for that! I will put it on my resume...

      Delete
  58. Dominican Med-Student31 March 2013 04:48

    I'm a current medical student on the island of Dominica. It's a beautiful place!!! I wonder how many of the 73,000 tourists are actually just us medical students traveling to and from the island?!?! HaHaHa!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your student body is just a tab over 1000 students. Nice try thou :-)

      Delete
  59. Cuba had 2.7 million tourists in 2011, according to UNWTO.

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  60. Great and inspiring article, Gunnar! Just think how many of those countries would be safe for a woman to travel alone in. You men have it good :)

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  61. I wonder when you've been to Brunei Darussalam before? How long? What was interesting to you there? Stumbled upon this blog from either Yahoo or MSN homepage, great stuff btw, i am so full of envy haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was in Brunei in 2010, but only for a day. I took the boat from Kota Kinabalu, walked around town and flew back to KK. Nice and quiet town, would like to go back to explore it properly...

      Delete
    2. Put me in your documentary eh haha. Visit the forest reserves next time and the wonderful mosques in the country! Get a good guide first before you do all that. Thanks for visiting my beloved country

      Delete
  62. Great article and full of humour. Thanks

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  63. About Bhutan: recently was as listed as the place where people are the happiest. Happiness is part of their constitution.

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  64. This article was amazing.
    Did you visit Haiti.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Thank you, nice of you to say!

      I was in Haiti January 2012. The country is still very much suffering from the earthquake with thousands living in tent camps.

      Delete
  65. I have been to the Solomon Islands and found it to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The people are incredibly friendly, the food is fantastic and the WWII history is amazing to see, even for non history buffs. I long to go back.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Man, when do you work? I am so envious! Greets from Macedonia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am willing to bet that I work more than most people. I just do it from whenever on my laptop and phone.

      A lot of travelling is involved for work as well, by the way. And I am currently taking my summer holiday as an extended Easter trip.

      Delete
    2. I got that reading your articles, and I still stand envious. BTW keep on the good job with the introduction of digital radio.

      Delete
  67. So my tourist visa to Afghanistan is unique. Good to know... :-)

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    Replies
    1. Wow, I am impressed! How old is that one? I had to get a journalist visa to be allowed to enter.

      Delete
  68. Well, everyone in Australia has heard of Nauru, unfortunately, because we have the embarrassment of having a refugee detention centre there. For some reason the Australian Government doesn't want to accept asylum seekers into the country and tries to export them to neighbouring countries like Nauru and Malaysia. It even pays those countries to do so and as Nauru is bankrupt, they jumped at the chance. This (and the way we neglect Aboriginal peoples) is our abiding shame. :-(

    ReplyDelete
  69. Great article!
    I have lately traveled to Republic of Moldova, Eastern Europe - and what I found was that according to estimations there are app. 7-11.000 tourists visit the country yearly. To go into more extremes - there's a small (4,163 km2) separatist territory called Transnistria in Moldova with its own currency, border guards, etc.
    Transnistria probably has less than 1000 international tourists per year and is probably the only place where you can see officers with KGB sign (written in Cyrillic letters) on their badges and symbols of USSR with Russian peacekeepers in the neighborhood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Drazsi,

      Sorry to be a party wrecker, but Moldovia has 75,000 visitors a year, according to the UN statistics. Transnistria has a lot fewer, but I still had to stand in line for half an hour to access when I visited in 2008.

      You will find KGB officers in Belarus too. The KGB office in Minsk is huge, but allegedly much bigger underground than what you can see above ground. My brother and I was chased off the stairs of the building when we did a syncronized handstand there a few years ago. Transnistria is a very interesting place, but less strange than I had anticipated. They have fast food chains there too (although not McD's).

      Delete
    2. Dear Gunnar,

      could you give a link for the UN statistics? I can believe it's true but the sources I found said the numbers between 7-11.000 (e.g. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/ST.INT.ARVL). The country didn't look like one that never saw a tourist though.
      We tried "Andy's Pizza" in Tiraspol but it was worse than McDonald's in my opinion :)
      Thanks for the rectification (no party's wrecked fortunately :D)

      Delete
  70. Hello Gunnar Garfors have you ever been in the Philippines and when?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Anonymous,

      I was in the Philippines in 2009, but only in Manila and only for few days. I have a very good friend from there, and I will visit again and explore more of the country. Where are you from?

      Delete
    2. Hello again Gunnar my name is Christian by the way I'm from Cavite, Philippines and I'm a travel agent. I hope you can visit here in the Philippines again. Tell me when is your visit here again in the Philippines so that I can be your tour guide here. I love your posts here it helps. Come here in July 12-14, 2013 in SMX Convention Center SM Mall of Asia Pasay, Manila, Philippines there will be a travel expo. And I hope I can meet you in person. And I just followed you on Twitter and I hope you will approve my friend request on Facebook. That's all take care and Thanks for the reply.

      Delete
    3. By the way here's our twitter account (@sky_peak) and my personal account (@duncmattjames) and facebook account Sky Peak thank you

      Delete
    4. By the way if you want to go to the Philippines, here are some popular tourist spots in the Philippines like Palawan (white sand beach and underground river), Bohol (Chocolate Hills and Tarsiers) and Boracay (white sand beach) I hope you will visit here again in the Philippines by the way Christian here again take care :)

      Delete
  71. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  72. Brilliant piece GG, thank you for writing it. Er, I count 4 of the 25... ten years travelling/living overseas and 60 countries or so, but barely a passport by your standards...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Chris,

      60 countries is a lot! Much appreciated feedback, btw. Thanks!

      And yes, passports fill up relatively fast. I go through two passports every 18 months or so. I need two, as one is in an embassy getting a visa, while the other is in my pocket while travelling.

      Delete
  73. Whatta great list, and you're very inspiring. I have only been to 18 countries so far, but it's counting ;)

    Since am married with kids and am traveling with them whenever possible, I could only 'afford' trips within the safety of big cities, mostly provided by the ones in the top-ten list. But it'll be interesting to visit some of these countries. Wish me luck! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 18 countries is still way above average! And that when married with kids. Good job!

      I'd say a lot of the places on this list are safer than big cities, btw. And they have kids all over the world, so taking them along should be just fine. They will even get friends in new countries, learning about other cultures in a very real manner.

      Best of luck to whichever countries you got to next!

      Delete
  74. Amazing that the Commore Islands are still on this list. It seems like nothing changed there in 50 years. i toured the islands in 1972. And the people are friendly, very friendly.

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  75. I've actually been to Liechtenstein, in 1984. You are right, not much there. Women had just been granted the right to vote a few days before I arrived.
    One word: Mali. If tourism stats could even be found, I bet it would make it to this list.

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  76. You forgot to mention that some people might not be interested in visiting Nauru because Australia has basically turned it into an island prison for asylum seekers, as part of the so-called Pacific Solution.

    Because, you know, despite our vast amounts of land and non-replacement level fertility rate we're not big enough to take a handfull of displaced peoples and have to "detain" them for years in a jail on the tiniest republic in the the world.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Interesting list, but I can suggest some additions. According to Caribbean Tourism Organization stats released in March 2013, there are three nations that reported even fewer tourist arrivals in 2012 than Dominica which comes in at 25 on your list. They were:

    1. Montserrat 4,498
    2. Anguilla 64,698
    3. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 74,364

    Here's the source document: http://www.onecaribbean.org/content/files/13MARCH2013Lattab12.pdf

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Montserrat and Anguilla are both British overseas territories.

      Delete
  78. Very insightful reading. Thanks although I cant help but notice dude is leaning over a little bit on the last photo as if hes tired of all of that traveling.
    -Comedian missy wilson

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    Replies
    1. Hahaha...I don't do tired! Too much energy...
      ;)

      Delete
  79. Hi Gunnar,

    This article is very exciting!
    Congratulaton!

    ps: I want to see "The Door to Hell"

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    Replies
    1. Oh, you so should! That place i unreal, in the middle of the desert. I am glad you enjoyed the read, thanks!

      Delete
  80. Hi i'm from Dominica (#25 on the list). You forget to say that we are the land of 365 rivers, The land where Pirates of the Caribbean "dead mans chest" was filmed, The land with the largest boiling lake in the world, and the list goes on.

    http://www.dominica-weekly.com/quick-facts-about-dominica/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a great thing that you mention those! I couldn't list everything under each country, though. That would have vastly increased the piece which is already pretty long. 365 rivers...nice!

      Delete
  81. I love this article! My family is from Dominica, and I have had the opportunity to live there for a few years as a child. If you take the time you can experience the amazing beauties this island has to offer such as the boiling lake, sulphur springs, emerald pool, botanical gardens, etc.

    All I want to do is travel. Hopefully one day I can say I did 198 countries so I can determine a proper holiday! Truly amazing! I need to follow you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just do it, as Nike would have said. You only live once, so sign up for newsletters from airlines near you to be the first to know about amazing travel offers.

      And feel free to follow me on Twitter (@garfors) or Facebook (the only Gunnar Garfors).

      Delete
  82. I know theyre not UN members but they do belong to other organixations, Pacific Islands Forums etc so why not pop into Tokelau, Niue and Cook Islands. I visited Tokelau many times some years ago. Then you had to charter a ship to get there, but I had a government behind me. Today you still have to go over the reef to reach the shore. Still no airports, harbours and I'm not certain about roads and vehicles. None when I used to visit regularly. Unforgettable.

    ReplyDelete
  83. Hi Gunnar, really enjoyed your post!
    I used to know a girl who was from the Marshall Islands, so I was quite pleased to see them on the list.
    I'd be interested to know how many people visit Kyrgyzstan, there is a documentary on TV in the UK at the moment with a young girl who moved to Yorkshire from there :)
    So now that you've been to all 198 countries, what's your plan?

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  84. They had 1.3 million visitors in 2010, according to UNWTO. Is her name Kirstin?

    Still the last country to go, after that I will still travel to places less travelled and keep writing about them. Can't stop now :)

    ReplyDelete
  85. Have you been to South Sudan?
    I have been there, but not as a tourist. Fascinating place, very friendly people. Lots of foreign business people and NGO workers there but tourists?

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  86. I was there last April. Yes, very fascinating place and surprisingly good food...

    Not many tourists. The hotel manager almost went ballistic when I told him I was there as a tourist :)

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  87. Hi Gunnar,

    I have a question, I am interested in traveling to Guatemala, mainly to see the archaeological sites of Tikal, El Mirador and Aguateca but my husband was reading the US travel advisory which stated that the crime rate is very high and many tourists have been targets even in touristy areas in daylight. What was your experience there and do you recommend it for traveling? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Guatemala is a great country with hospitality right up there at the top. They are however experiencing increased crime, which is bad. I wouldn't think thwice of going there again, whether you should go depends on your travel experience. If you have 'been around' and know how to travel in a less developed country, go for it. If not, I'd go with a personal guide (not very expensive) or a group (if you don't mind travelling in groups - I presonally hate it) Just remember to always look like you know what you are doing and where you are going. Nothing attracts crime more than a clearly lost tourist.

      Delete
  88. I have been to Afghanistan before the Russians invaded although I enjoyed the tongue in cheek nature of this article right now not too many of the countries featured would be on top of my bucket list. Happy travels.

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  89. Hi Gunnar,

    I am interesting in travelling to as many countries as possible. How do you go about doing this with limited funds ($3000)? Any advice would be great! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  90. You can cover a lot of countries in Europe by train. 30 countries through one interrail pass: http://www.interrail.eu/

    Then sleep for free on people's sofas: couchsurfing.org

    Alternatively travel by bus in South America. Also cheap, but relatively long distances.

    Best of luck! :)

    ReplyDelete
  91. I've only been to two - North Korea (twice) and East Timor. Both were fascinating, but I'd recommend East Timor to anyone adventurous, and North Korea not as much.

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  92. Liechtenstein is a lovely little country, modern and clean while retaining quaint cobbled street towns.

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  93. Re: Libya
    "Why you may still want to visit
    Some people like sand."

    A bit of a short-shrift. The sand indeed is spectacular. The Libyan Sahara holds ancient volcanos, an underground city, breathtaking rock art (from pre-desert times, with giraffes, crocodiles and more). Mountains, soaring dunes, desert lakes, Berber caves...

    The country has 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites, and many of the most magnificent Roman and Greek sites anywhere in the world. (Not just Leptis Magna).

    The longest Mediterranean coastline (admittedly, in need of some tourist upgrade), and yes, some extremely friendly and welcoming people.

    No doubt things need to settle down before tourism can finally take off, but it has huge potential.

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  94. Oh my gosh I have actually been to number 22 on a contiki tour lol! I didn't get to appreciate it much seeing as that's where I found out my credit card was missing. Oh well at least I can say I've visited one on your list! Best post ever :)

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  95. i am not sure if you ve been to St Helen ? and Trisatan de cuna

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    1. I have not. Any tips of what to do there?

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  96. Dominica is beautiful!! It was a cruise port for Carnival and a few other major lines and I had the chance to stop there on two different itineraries. Great food, nice people and cool snorkeling in 'champagne' bubbles right off the coast. Not many stereotypical caribbean beaches though.

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  97. Hey Gunnar, this is really impressive! What are your top ten favorite places? I'm very curious :)

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    1. Hello Sanaz,

      This is a very difficult question to answer as every place amazes me in one way or another.

      I will still give you some countries I really like:

      Madagascar
      Japan
      South Korea
      Ireland
      Iceland

      Kyrgyzstan
      Dominica
      Paraguay
      Lesotho
      and of course Norway (despite my slight bias)

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    2. Gunnar, Thank you for this wonderful list! I will keep these countries in mind while preparing for my next vacation LOL
      And I'm so so glad you mentioned Norway ;) I haven’t been to every country, but Norway is my favorite destination so far. Hope to visit your beautiful country soon!
      Greetings from Vienna (Hope you’ve been here!?)

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  98. Your blog posts are really impressive. One day I really hope I can explore these places and write about them too.

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  99. Comoros is a nice destination, another reason to visit it is his traditions. The celebrations of great marriage are awesome

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  100. Very cool! I've always said that there's no place I wouldn't like to go. This list confirmed that.

    I don't travel nearly as much as I'd like to. But I am proud to say that I've been to two of the places on your list: Lichtenstein and Dominica. Boy, I suddenly feel like I'm a real world traveler! :)

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  101. Is Aruba, Curacao, Guadeloupe, Isle of Man, Christmas Island, Cocos Island included?

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  102. No, none of those are countries. 193 UN countries, 2 UN observers (Vatican, Palestine) and 3 countries acknowledged by a number of UN countries (Kosovo, Western Sahara, Taiwan).

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  103. I like this list :) I'm very proud of having been to Tonga earlier this year. Isn't it just divine?

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  104. WOW! Great summery! And I'm sure, I won't et foot in any of these Countries. Buthan, maybe, because I like the people and religion. But I have no sence in travelling into any of the other countries.
    I think you need good preperation with your Visa. Have fun travelling! :)
    Cheers,
    Kevin

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  105. I love the article, but "least visited countries" is a bit misleading. What are the least visited countries, in number of tourists *per capita*? That's a slightly more interesting statistic, I think. If a country with a population of 200 gets a measly 200 visitors per year, that's still a booming tourist location!

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    1. I see your point, but both the total number of tourists and the size of the country matters. The number of tourists per capita is a different article...

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  106. Wow, thank you for this article, it's very helpful! Even though I'm not planning to travel to any of these countries quite yet! I don't think there is a country in the world that I wouldn't visit if I had the chance. Imagine coming home saying "Yeah, I just spent a few days in North Korea". Totally awesome.

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  107. Amazing article... Maybe next time you could enjoy visiting Ecuador...... Amazing country in the middle of the World :)

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  108. Gunnar, I really like your style. We travel full time with three children, and while hitting every country isn’t our goal, love exploring new places, and find that those we enjoy the most are often less visited. To the comment above- I suspect fewest tourists per capita might be a closer measure of countries we enjoy. One of our blog followers recommended your list here as a source for inspiration, and indeed it is! In particular, it has me looking into a few African countries that were otherwise off our radar (we are in SE Asia, sloooowwwly heading west).

    Our limitations: we live on a sailboat, with a very small budget… it leaves a lot of places we are unlikely to visit, but opens up opportunities to see others that few people can readily reach as tourists (like Sao Tome & Principe!).

    We do tend to be in out of the way places, like yourself, so come find us on the good ship Totem for a cup of tea and travel talk sometime! Now that you’ve hit the countries, maybe some out of the way protectorate- say, Chagos, or maybe St Helena before that 747 airstrip goes in?

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    1. Thanks a lot for your message! You should certainly visit Sao Tome and Principe. Do you have a blog or some other way of finding out where you are? In that case you may suddenly see me on Totem, I am not hard to ask...

      St. Helena is not out of the question. The only certainty is that I will never stop travelling...

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  109. I got excited just by reading this article, especially about "Why not run around a country?". Haha! I've visited two countries so far, and planning to see more. I am from the Philippines, please watch the video below to know a bit more about my beautiful country. :)

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10200825776748505&set=vb.158001084338487&type=3&theater

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  110. Very nice information. Really excited to read and planning to visit a few of these.Thank you for sharing.

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  111. This interesting topic is discussed with great seriousness, I learned a lot from these few lines in any case, thank you give time to your readers.

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  112. Excellent list and article!

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  113. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  114. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  115. Next year, I plan to undertake an around the world cycle tour, I have planned to include some of these countires in my trip, namely Liechtenstein, Bhutan, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Turkmenistan and Equatorial Guinea. I will hopefully cycle through 94 countries, visa-permitting of course. I will be setting up a website and writing about my journey in the near future. Nice article by the way.

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  116. It's appropriate that a Norwegian would travel to so many places. I mean your Viking ancestors went to every continent (except for South America, Antarctica and Australia) in longships long before Columbus discovered the Americas. I thought you might want to check out these links as places even you might find intriguing.
    http://unexploredearth.wordpress.com/page/4/
    http://top-10-list.org/2010/10/17/top-10-unexplored-earth-places/

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  117. Great article. By the end of the year I will have been to 50 countries including Afghanistan. I lived there for two years when I was a kid. And yes that dates me a bit! It was the late 1970s before the Russian invasion.It was a wonderful place. I feel so sad for the Afghan people who have been through hell these past thirty years. I also lived in the Cook Islands as an Australian Volunteer. The pacific islands are also amazing. The people are so friendly and its very beautiful. I'm sure the other pacific islands are similar. Hopefully I will one day I too will visit. I also really want to go to Bhutan.

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  118. This is really nice. Thanks for your information.
    Electric Bikes Chennai

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  119. What would be the best means of traveling from the US to the Door to Hell in Turkmenistan? Also, any surrounding countries worth a visit? Would love to make a trip out there.

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  120. you should have included de facto former USSR independent states that are not UNO members : Transdniestria, Abkhazia, south Ossetia
    So that makes 201 countries in my book!

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  121. Graham Hughes became the first to travel to all 201 countries without flying http://www.theodysseyexpedition.com/about/graham-hughes

    flying to 5 continents in one day is just an excerise in pollting the world..... nothing exceptional and just a waste of money.

    Interesting article on the 25 least visited though.

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  122. My husband and I are always keen to see a new country - we've been to seven on your list -Dominica, Liechtenstein, Bhutan, Micronesia, Afghanistan, Comoros and Turkmenistan.
    Saw this article shared on facebook. Will now look at more of your blog entries.
    We blog our trips on www.travelpod.com/members/diannemurray

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  123. How about Moldova? Only 8000 visitors in 2010 (the most recent stats I could find). I certainly felt like the only tourist in Chisinau last winter...
    Thanks for the inspiring article. Bhutan, here I come!

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  124. I have been to Bhutan, Somalia, Djibouti, Central African Republic and Sudan (though strangely not on list as North Sudan)
    Heading to Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone, hopefully to the Pacific ones at some stage for the diving! Great list, love it!

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  125. you forgot South Sudan you have to go down there now to complete your list, it's independent from North Sudan (aka Sudan) since last year.

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    1. South Sudan's been an independent country since July 9, 2011. I was in both Sudans in 2012.

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  126. Thanks for posting this useful information. This was just what I was on looking for. I'll come back to this blog for sure! I bookmarked this blog a while ago because of the useful content and I am never being disappointed.

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  127. I toured the south Pacific on a boat and one of the stops was Tonga! we even met the king and took part in a lavish ceremony! It was fantastic :) Enjoy it! Traveling is such a wonderful gift! I only have 62 countries on my list so far, but I am working on it :) Safe travels to you Gunnar!

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  128. Where does the Liberia statistic come from? ("Estimates based on UN numbers from 2008 and 2009 indicate as many as 89,000 foreign tourists per year.") I live in Liberia and have done some work with the Ministry of Tourism and they record just under 4,000 tourists to Liberia in 2012. Last I checked, the UNWTO did not have data for Liberia on number of visitors. So I'm curious to know where the 89,000 came from.

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    1. Hi Katie,

      I tried to get in touch with the Ministry, but I never received a reply. The estimate is based on tourism revenues posted by the UN and calculated into tourist numbers, based on average revenues per tourist in nearby countries. I would be happy to receive official Liberia numbers, though, if you are able to get hold of them from the Ministry.

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  129. Dear Gunnar Garfors,

    You may have explained this before but this is the first article I have read from you. I wish to travel the world someday but how do you do it? Do you pay for every single trip, do you get sponsored, or what? I've always wondered how to manage the funds in traveling the world and I'm hoping you don't have a couple mansions :( (meaning the only way to do it is being rich). Thanks, and this article was really cool!

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    1. It's all about priorities. I spend everything I make on travelling. And I travel as inexpensively as possible. No sponsorships. Unfortunately. :)

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