top of page
  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

The World’s 25 Least-Visited Countries

Yes, that’s it. The world’s least visited country. I once ran around it.

I first wrote about the world’s 25 least visited countries in 2013, and the post has has been read millions of times. It has also been translated to several languages, republished in many countries, rewritten and plagerised. Two years have passed, and it is time for an update of what I consider the ultimate traveller’s bucket list. 

Perhaps narrowly beaten by visiting all the 198 countries in the world (I coincidentally just published “198” – my book about how I ran out of countries – in English). 

Written by: Gunnar Garfors who visited every country, set seven travel world records. On Instagram: @garfors / Twitter: @garfors.

Why countries are less visited varies, but location, travel related logistics, costs, visa availability, governements or lack thereof and degree of war usually matters. Figures on international visitors are often sparse for the least visited countries, quite a few of them lack tourism offices or governmental agencies that usually report such numbers. UNWTO, World Tourism Organization and the UN, have rather comprehensive overviews, but several countries have not contributed with official numbers. I have therefore, as in 2013, had to look elsewhere. I have used news reports, passenger numbers from airports and spoken to tourist agencies. Tourist numbers can in any case never be totally accurate as various countries count tourists differently. Some do for instance count tourists arriving by plane, others track those that stay in hotels. And there are always some people that claim to be tourists, simply to avoid the extra bureaucracy that may come with travelling on business. 

In 2013, country number 25 was Dominica with 73,000 tourists. And do you know what? Dominica is still number 25, sort of. Two countries are tied for number 25 this time around, with 78,000 tourists each. That means that you will get 26 countries for the price of 25.  What a bonus.  78,000 might sound like a lot, but it is only just over 200 visitors a day. In an entire country. Not really anything to bet your economy on. You may also be surprised to learn that North Korea is no longer among the 25 countries, with approximately 270,000 international tourists a year (most of them are Chinese).  

25. (tie) Dominica: 78,000 tourists (previous list: 25th)

Why so few?

The village of Atkinson inside Mango Hole Bay, Dominica.

A lack of tourists is one of the reasons why this is my favourite Caribbean country. The two airports here cannot take down anything bigger than commercial propeller aircraft, so most people will have to go to some transit trouble to get there. Unless they have a small private jet, of course.

Why still visit?

You can’t really go wrong visiting a place nicknamed “The Nature Island of the Caribbean”. The diverse and fantastic flora and fauna are protected by a number of natural parks, all accessible to you. Do also expect volcanic peaks and Boiling Lake. It is the second-largest hot spring in the world, only beaten by Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand.

What else? Rumours have that the lack of mainstream tourism makes Dominica one of the favourite hot spots for a number of American celebrities. Don’t be surprised if Brad Pitt says hi in Pagua Bay Bar & Grill. Then again, you might prefer to meet his wife instead.

Source: UNWTO, 2013

25. (tie) East Timor: 78,000 tourists (18th) 

Why so few?

Creative Commons licenced by yeowatzup.

I bet you do not even know which continent it’s in. East Timor is not very well connected to the rest of the world, and you have probably never even heard about any of the airlines that fly there.

Why still visit? The diving is absolutely world-class! And you can stay in luxury hotels elsewhere. I slept in a windowless shed. With a hyperactive rooster nearby.

What else? You will get your visa on arrival in the airport. Nice and easy. And do not overlook the opportunity to go by mikrolet, or minibus, at least once. They are the veins of the country and go virtually everywhere. Just don’t expect them to be on time.

Source: UNWTO, 2013.

23. (tie) Central African Republic: 71,000 (23th)

Why so few?

Creative Commons licenced by hdtpcar.

There is a civil war going on, and religious cleansing has occured on numerous occasions the last few years. It doesn’t help that the government, or what is left of it, is weak or that rebel groups are known to randomly attack the international airport in Bangui.

Why still visit? Pygmy communities are not found in many places in the world, and here you may stay in pygme villages. Combine that with a trip to Dzanga Sangha Special Reserve, complete with shy forest elephants, mountain gorillas and other wildlife, and you will have a trip of a lifetime.

What else? It is an advantage to speak French when visiting the landlocked country. And do not photograph large groups of angry people without asking permission (then again, which of the mad men do you approach to ask?). I did, and I was very nearly lynched.

Source: UN, 2012

23. (tie) Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: 71,000 (new)

Why so few?

Wiki Commons photo.

It is the second longest country name in the world and most people can’t even remember half of it. Then again, the country with the longest name is doing just fine, tourism wise. I proudly introduce The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is no surprise, then, that the countries share a colonial history.

Why still visit? Venture outside Kingstown, the capital, and you will experience a very green and diverse country. You ought to hurry, though. A new airport is being built, and tourism numbers are expected to rise.

What else? Do not forget Vincy Mas, the carnival in late June and early July. You should not be surprised to find yourself surrounded by a lot of partying people, given its slogan: “Hottest Carnival in Caribbean”. And of course the Pirates of the Caribbean films, starring Johnny Depp, were primarily filmed here. I might also add that the country has a primarily banana based economy. It’s not a republic though, so save your jokes.

Source: UN, 2014 

22. Djibouti: 63,000 (21st)

Why so few?

Creative Commons licenced by Charles Roffey.

You mean you actually know where this country is? A lot of French soldiers certainly do, they are based there and fill up the town every weekend. Expect indecent proposals on town.

Why still visit? Albeit extremelly dry, the three regions of the country are diverse and worth a visit. Go scuba diving from the coastal plain and enjoy trips to the volcanic plateaus in the central and southern parts of the country and the mountain ranges in the north.

What else? This is one hot part of the world. Bring sun protection! You might also want to go swimming just outside the entrance to the Red Sea to cool down or to visit Lake Assal which is 157 meters below sea level, and Africa’s lowest point.  The very dry country was used as “The Forbidden Zone” in Planet of the Apes. Djibouti is the easiest point from which to enter Somaliland, a state within Somalia.

Source: UN, 2013

21. Liechtenstein: 60,000 (22nd)

Why so few?

Øystein Djupvik, Tay-young Pak and I finished our world record in Liechtestein by visiting 19 countries in just one day.

There is a hell of a lot more action in both Austria and Switzerland, the two only neighbouring countries. Liechtenstein is tiny, and there is virtually nothing going on there at night.

Why still visit? The mountainous scenery is truly fantastic! This is, after all, in the Alps, and we are talking about one of only two double landlocked countries in the world. Guess which one is the other. A hint? It is 2,806 times bigger.

What else? Liechtenstein is the world’s biggest producer of false teeth. Didn’t you always want to know?

Source: UNWTO, 2013

20. Guinea: 56,000 (new)

Why so few?

The sunset from Conakry isn’t all bad.

The infrastructure in this beautiful and lush country is not quite up to speed, although several international airlines actually fly to Conakry, the capital. Recent ebola outbreaks didn’t exactly do the country any favours, either.

Why still visit? The sunset experienced on the beaches is second to none. You might in particular want to experience it on weekends when loads of locals enjoy barbequed fish or meat and big brown bottles of Guiluxe, the local beer.

What else? You are likely to experience heart-warming hospitality. Leave your shyness at home. Or drink a few Guiuluxe to combat it. People will approach and talk to you. Your expected response is a smile.

Source: UN, 2013

19. Tonga: 45,000 (19th)

Why so few? 

Tonga action.

It is one of the very last absolute monarchies in the world. And very few people can neither spell Nuku’alofa, the capital, nor Fua’amotu, the international airport, so buying a ticket may be tricky. Opening a door may be too. To some people.

Why still visit? The people in the Pacific are renowned for their hospitality. That is of course great in itself, but even better when you know that the Tongans love their feasts with massive barbeques, drinking and dancing.

What else? One of the most unreal, secluded and beautiful beaches I have ever visited is in Tonga. Where exactly? Well, you might find out if you read “198” – my book on my visits to every country in the world.

Read more: Tonga is best explored on two wheels. Source: UN, 2013

18. Sierra Leone: 44,000 (20th)

Why so few?

Quality junk, anyone?

There are three realistic options getting from the only international airport to Freetown, the capital. They all include a boat on rough seas, and the risk of transforming your breakfast into fish feed.

Why still visit? The Land of the Mountain Lions will appeal to all your senses with an incredible diversity and an unmatched scenery. The temperature is pretty perfect too, it is rarely below 24 or above 30 degrees Celcius.

What else? They speak English in Sierra Leone, so you will get by easily. Its colonial past helps explain place names such as Waterloo, Man of War Bay, Pirate Bay, New England and Destruction Bay. Do note that this is the second country on this list to have had recent ebola outbreaks.

Read more: Land of the Mountain Lions. Source: UN, 2014

16. (tie) Federated States of Micronesia: 35,000 (12th)

Why so few?

This little fella wanted to hang out(side) during my dinner.

The country is often confused with Micronesia – the subregion of Oceania which also includes Nauru, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Palau. And only United’s Island Hopper service and Nauru’s Our Airline will fly you to the country.

Why still visit? Micronesia will blow your mind away when it comes to diving and surfing. There is a surfcamp in Pohnpei. Don’t expect a crowd. Divers will have a field day, especially in the state of Yap, where there are dozens and dozens of diveable wreckages from WWII.

What else? The number of tourists seem rather low, but keep in mind that there are only slightly over 100,000 inhabitants there. Visitors that count for 35 percent of the population is still a bit. Then again, there is enough mouth-watering seafood for everyone. The country does after all encompass as many as 607 islands.

Source: UN, 2014

16. (tie) Mauritania: 35,000 (13th)

Why so few?

My ride to Mauritania.

75 percent of the country is desert, and it’s spreading. Sand is more interesting than most people think, but still.

Why still visit? This is photography heaven. Just check out the blogpost of Mitchell Kanashkevich. Yeah, he slightly outshoots me with his camera.

What else? Credit cards are accepted vitually nowhere. I brought US dollars to pay for my goat meat in a small desert town. Some people come to the country to photograph a famous ship graveyard to the north, others take the opportunity to ride one of the longest trains in the world transporting iron ore on 200 or so cars. Jumping onto one of them is usually ok, just don’t wear a white dress.

Source: UN, 2103, estimate based on tourism expenditure

15.  Solomon Islands: 24,400 (11th)

Why so few?

Creative Commons licenced by

It is much less famous than neighbouring Papa New-Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and of course Australia.

Why still visit? It shouldn’t be less famous at all. Visit secluded beaches, rainforests with waterfalls, volcanoes and world-class lagoons where you can experience some of the least dived spots in the world. You should also go to the outdoor fish market in capital Honiara, buy a few kinds of super fresh fish and have one of the fish mongers cut them into pieces and you have a truly incredible and unusual sashimi meal by the sea.

What else? Malaria is actually a real threat here. Act accordingly. And fauna lovers are obliged to visit. There are over 230 types of tropical flowers here. Just don’t expect to find them all in one spot, the country consists of over 900 islands.

Source: UNWTO, 2013

14. Liberia: 24,000 (new)

Why so few?

Wikimedia Commons licenced by Erik Hersman.

What positive news did you last hear from Liberia, again? Neither stories on civil wars or ebola outbreaks qualify. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was however elected the first female president in Africa in 2006. She was reelected 5 years later, the same year she received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Why still visit? There are a lot of beaches around Monrovia, and the town of Robertsport has some of the best surfing in Africa. And do not forget to experience the ace music scene. One of the music styles is known as hip co. Expect a mixture of hip hop and Liberian English.

What else? Liberia was primarily founded by freed American slaves, and the capital Monrovia is named after James Monroe. The fifth president of the USA worked hard to help establish the new African country. It may not come as much of a surprise that there is a ban on any form of slavery in the constitution.

Source: UN, 2012, estimate based on tourism expenditure. 

13. Comoros: 21,000 (9th)

Why so few?

These guys crushed me in outdoor fussball.

Only 800,000 people live on the island nation, which has experienced 20 coups or attempted coups since 1975. That’s when the country gained independence from France.

Why still visit? How can you resist a country with an airline called Ewa Air? Ewa means “yes” in Shikomor (Comorian). The countries offer great trekking to volcanoes, diving and sailing. And do visit the colourful markets in Moroni.

What else? The African country is the world’s largest manufacturer of ylang-ylang, an oil that is used in perfume. The world smells better thanks to the Comoros.

12. Afghanistan: 13,300 (10th)

Why so few?

Expect to see a lot of donkeys at work in Afghanistan.

Regular bombings, terrorist attacks and being the home turf of Taliban might have something to do with it. War zone tourism never really did catch on.

Why still visit? The wild mountains, the beautiful scenery, the incredible history and the amazing people. And why not take the opportunity to try on a real burqa in one of the burqa shops. That ought to make you sympathize a little bit with burqa wearing women world-wide.

What else? Just make sure that you have a visa to your next destination after Afghanistan. We did not and had to stand 13 times in extremelly long and demotivating queues outside the Iranian consulate in Herat before we finally secured our permit out again. It only took three days thanks to my outrageous queue jumping which made the entire visa seeking community in Herat less than happy. I do hereby apologize.

Read more: “There are no tourists in Afghanistan” Sources: New York Times, 2012, adjusted by UN tourism expenditure numbers, 2013 

11. São Tomé and Príncipe: 10,000 (8th)

Why so few?

Fishermen outside Sao Tome.

Why still visit? There is a reason for the country’s slogan “A well kept secret!” – expect impressive Portugese colonial architecture, colourful slums on the outskirt of São Tomé, great fishing, undervalued whale watching, pristine beaches and ace trekking opportunities. And did I mention their heart-warming hospitality?

What else? The country used to be the biggest supplier of cocoa. I am not a chocolatier, but they claim to have the world’s best dark chocolate, and may very well be right. Thanks to Claudio Corallo, aka. “The chocolate king of São Tomé”. Be aware that you need a visa in advance to be let into the country, or find yourself returned by the same mode of transport that got you there. Another 40 hours on a boat would not have been very welcome, in my case. Luckily, you can now get a visa in advance from your living room. Via email.

10. Turkmenistan: 8,697 (7th)

Why so few?

“The Door to Hell” in the Karakum desert. Photo by Marius Arnesen.

This country isn’t as mad as North Korea, but it plays in the same league. They both require a mandatory tourist guide.

Why still visit? “The Door to Hell” is my favourite tourist attraction in the whole wide world. There are no tourists nearby the burning hole in the desert, which is part of the point. Do stay there in a tent overnight, near the flames or regret forever. Just bring food and vodka. Capital Ashgabat also holds the world record for having the most marble-clad buildings. Very impressive, except that virtually no one works in them.

What else? Citizens get free electricity, water and natural gas. I guess the late dictator had to do something nice to stay in power without too many problems. Saparmurat Nijazov took the name “Turkmenbashi” which means Father of all Turkmens, and he had a great number of places in the country named after him. Imagine that you were to travel with Turkmenbashi (the man) from Turkmenbashi (the airport) to Turkmenbashi (the city) during Turkmenbashi (the month) to visit Turkmenbashi (the school) in Turkmenbashi (the street) to drink Turkmenbashi (the vodka)? Probably not what you should do in a school, but you get my point.

9. Guinea-Bissau: 7,500 (14th)

Why so few?

Infrastructure is rubbish and few airlines fly there. TAP Portugal even suspended their flights to and from Bissau after local police forced the pilots to bring 74 Syrian refugees to Lisbon in 2013.

Why still visit? You just have to visit the Bijagos Archipelago of some twenty islands outside the capital. The oysters there are divine. Just do not expect any signs of modern life.

What else? Do not miss out on old Portugese architecture or cooking inspired by the former colonist. To get in fast and easy, pick up your visa at the consulate in Ziguinchor in Senegal, just across the border. The operation will set you back 5 minutes. You are then not far from Varela, a tiny coastal village in a national park to the very north of Guinea-Bissau. Expect close to zero tourists, despite an Italian hotel with food to match.

Source: UN, 2012, estimate based on tourism expenditure

8. Libya: 6,250 (15th)

Why so few?

Tobruk, Libya.

Gaddafi may be gone, but his legacy lives on through embassy attacks and bombings. And it didn’t help much that Tripoli International Airport closed down after bombings in 2014, either. All flights were suspended, and there are now only a handful of flights to and from smaller Mitiga International Airport. You mean you wouldn’t fly with Libyan Airlines, Afriqiyah Airways or Buraq Air? Well, neither will most tourists.

Why still visit? You can finally get a visa on arrival. And there is plenty on offer, although you may want to wait until the security situation improves.

What else? There is hope, or so the Libyan government believes. I mean, they actually do have a Minister of Tourism. Ms. Ikram Bash Imam must have one of the most challenging jobs in the world.

Source: UN, 2010, estimate based on tourism expenditure and stipulated decline, 2014

7. Kiribati: 6,000 (4th)

Why so few?

Meet Kaure, allegedly the only taxi driver in Kiribati.

1. Virtually no one has even heard about the Pacific paradise. 2. Fewer still knows how to pronounce the name of the country.

Why still visit? There are loads of possibilities to fly to Kiribati. You can take a plane from Nauru or Marshall Islands once every two weeks. Yeah, or from slightly more famous Fiji, which has two weekly departures to South Tawara, the capital. And you can of course visit Christmas Islands from Fiji or Hawaii. It is in theory 6 hours by plane between Christmas Island and South Tawara, but the islands are not connected by flight.

What else? The letter “s” does not exist in Kiribati, but the sound “s” does. So, to pronounce “s” you write “ti” or “tu”. “Kiribati” is therefore pronounced “Kiribass”. “T” followed by any other letter than “i” or “u” is pronounced “t” as normal. Piece of cake.

Read more: A country less travelled Source: UNWTO, 2013

6. Equatorial Guinea: 5,700 (6th)

Why so few?

This is the worst country on this list to get a visa to, unless you are actually a US citizen. They are excempt. You mean your are not a US citizen? Do accept my apologies. You will have to go through agonizing bureaucratic pain. Or not ever get too see Equatorial Guinea.

Why still visit? Equatorial Guinea is without a doubt bucket list material. And there is very little tourism infrastructure here, so you will be snorkeling all by yourself from one of the nice beaches, given that you bring your own fins and mask.

What else? Do not take any photos, unless you fancy sleeping in a prison cell or bribing a police officer. The country is ruled by Dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, although he prefers President as his title. The distribution of the massive oil wealth is extremelly unequal, it has one of the world’s worst human rights track records and is allegedly very involved in human trafficking.

Read more: The 15 hardest countries to visit Source: Wikipedia, estimate based on airport arrivals, 2009, then stipulated, 2014

5. South Sudan: 5,500 (new)

Why so few?

Women in front of the White Nile.

There is a civil war in the newest country in the world, and tourists are not commonplace. James, the receptionist in my hotel, virtually died from excessive laughter when I told him I was in Juba as a tourist.

Why still visit? James is probably still laughing. And he is particularly generous, even in the hotel bar, when he is in a good mood.

What else? Photography is actually illegal in South Sudan. So, leave your phone in your pocket or excercise extreme caution when snapping those forbidden shots. Two huge police officers were less than impressed when I snapped a couple of photos in the capital, and I had to delete them under their careful supervision. “Consider yourself lucky you are Norwegian,” they said. I assume that was a thank you given the large number of Norwegian NGOs that operate in the country.

Source: Logcluster, estimate based on number of flights, 2013

4. Marshall Islands: 4,600 (5th)

Why so few?

The sunsets in Majuro are pretty decent.

Because you didn’t know that the country actually exists. It is located in the middle of the Pacific, and includes the Bikini Atoll. So, at least you sort of heard about the country.

Why still visit? Divers unite. There are over 1,000 different kinds of fish and 250 types of coral around the islands. That makes this the fishiest country in the world. No pun intended. I also woke up between Laura and Rita every morning, and you can too! Laura in the west is the best beach on Majuro while Rita is an area on the other side of the atoll.

What else? The US performed 67 tests of nuclear bombs here between 1946 and 1958. That includes the biggest nuclear test ever performed, codenamed Castle Bravo, a dry fuel thermonuclear hydrogen bomb. The Atomic Energy Commission regarded Marshall Islands “by far the most contaminated place in the world” in 1956.

Read more: Fishing paradise, diving heaven Source: UN, 2012

3. Tuvalu: 1,200 (3rd)

Why so few?

The propeller plane from Fiji Airways arrives twice a week and is the only fast way to get in or out. There is also the very occasional cargo slash passenger ship (with empashis on cargo) between Fiji and Tuvalu.

Why still visit? This country is one of a kind. People are more genuine and more welcoming than in most other places and everything seems more authentic than what is the case in ‘the real world’. The friendliness I experienced in Tuvalu is second to none, expect plenty of offers to ride on the back of random people’s mopeds.

What else? Do not forget cash if you ever visit this fascinating country. You mean you have a Black AmEx card? Platinum Visa? Superduper Mega Diamond MasterCard Plus? It just doesn’t matter. This is one of a very few countries in the world where no credit cards are accepted. Bring Australian dollars. Or a begging cup.

Read more: The ‘Sinking’ Country Source: UN, 2013

2. Somalia: 400 visitors (2nd)


Why so few? There is a reason why Mo Farah runs so fast.

Why still visit? Mogadishu is now considered relatively safe and a lot of businesses have opened or reopened. Several tour companies will sort you out the invitation needed to get a visa on arrival (and they all offer guides with armed guards).

What else? Terror group al-Shabab is doing its best to take over the country. The government has luckily made progress the last few years, and now several foreign airlines have put Mogadishu on its route maps. Somaliland in the north is formally a part of Somalia, and is the only way to visit the country unless you want your mom to never speak to you ever again (then again, this can be a bonus if the similar effect is achieved for your mother-in-law).

Source: Estimate based on interviews with Somalian tour companies, 2014

1. Nauru: 160 visitors (1st)

Why so few?

Nauru; country with a view.

When did you last see a guide book with Nauru on it? The country is tiny, and comes with less than 10,000 inhabitants on 21 square kilometers. Only Our Airline serves the country with its old Boeing 737.

Why still visit? It is the least visited country in the world! And you can run around it.

What else? There are only two hotels in the country, virtually no nightlife and a number of refugees that have been deported from Australia. The country doesn’t even have a capital, although Yaren – the biggest village – acts like one.

Read more: The Run Around Country Source: Crikey, 2011

Who’s out?


But what about the three countries that were on my former list? North Korea (270,000), Chad (100,000) and Bhutan (125,000) all report an increase in tourist numbers.

Syria would presumably be a likely candidate for the list, but the country had over 5 million visitors in 2011 and tourism numbers have reportedly dropped “over 95 percent“. A decline of 98 percent still means over 100,000 tourists in the war-struck and terrorist plagued country.

Of course, you are much more likely to visit countries not on this list. 

The most popular country has 529,375 times more foreign visitors than Nauru. And a slightly better selection of hotels. 

The least original countries to visit

The other end of the list provides us with no huge surprises compared to last time, although Spain has passed China and Germany has passed the UK. Russia and Thailand has also made the top ten by replacing Malaysia and Mexico.

1. France 84.7 million tourists 2. USA 69.8 million tourists 3. Spain 60.7 million tourists 4. China 55.7 million tourists 5. Italy 47.7 million tourists 6. Turkey 37.8 million tourists 7. Germany 31.5 million tourists 8. United Kingdom 31.2 million tourists 9. Russia 28.4 million tourists 10. Thailand 26.5 million tourists

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page