Tired of fighting the crowds? Looking for somewhere you can be alone with your thoughts? Want to visit a country where the locals will be shocked to meet a tourist? You might consider some of the world's least visited countries for your next getaway.
Some of them are wracked by poverty and conflict, others are hard to get to, others just don't get as much love as they deserve. Whatever the reason, these are the 50 least visited countries on earth, ranked from the largest to the smallest number of visitors per year.
Note: The tourism numbers we're using come from the World Bank. They're taken from the most recent year when reliable data was available, which varies by country. We're not counting war-torn countries like Libya, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan etc. where tourism is virtually impossible and has been for a long time.
Annual Visitors: 350,000
We kick off our list of least visited countries with the Seychelles.
It's a collection of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Africa and to the north of Madagascar. The main attractions here are the beaches and the water sports. You'll be guaranteed to find a spot to lay your towel in the sand, since the Seychelles only have a population of 80,000 or so. There are also many uninhabited islands to explore.
Annual Visitors: 307,000
Saddam Hussein really wanted to visit Kuwait, but that's about it. Okay, we're exaggerating, but Kuwait is the least visited country in the Middle East.
(Except for war zones).
Kuwait is a remarkably flat desert country (its highest point is only 1,000 feet above sea level). The country used to be home to a 'tank graveyard', remnants of the flight of the Iraqi army in the First Gulf War. Sadly ()? this unusual attraction has been cleared away.
Annual Visitors: 299,000
Burundi is a small landlocked country in Southeast Africa. One of the least developed nations in the world, it has the second-lowest GDP per capita ($312.46 USD). It's definitely an 'off the beaten path' kind of destination, and not advisable for travelers who are fond of creature comforts.
Furthermore, the U.S. State Department advises against visiting Burundi due to the threat of crime and political violence, noting that "violent crimes, such as grenade attacks and armed robbery, occur regularly".
Annual Visitors: 281,000
Benin is a slender West African nation to the immediate west of Nigeria. It really doesn't deserve to be one of the least visited countries, as many who have been there insist it's a great place to visit.
Benin is known for its many ruins from the Dahomey Kingdom, and as the birthplace of Voodoo. If you go, you have to visit a 'fetish market' to sample the religious wares.
Benin's tourism industry should trend upward because it's one of the safest countries in the region.
Annual Visitors: 278,000
Suriname is the smallest country in South America, on the northern coast of the continent. The population is concentrated along the coast, but a third of the country is taken up by Amazonia nature reserves. If you love the great outdoors, you'll enjoy Suriname.
However, mass tourism has yet to take hold here, so the infrastructure remains lacking. That means prices in Suriname can be surprisingly steep.
Annual Visitors: 270,000
Bermuda is part of the UK, but it's a self-governing territory so it gets its own spot on our list of least visited countries.
Bermuda is in the Atlantic at about the same latitude as the Carolinas, but far from shore.
Although it's not in the Caribbean, its climate is subtropical. Despite its small size, it has many colonial sites worth visiting, great beaches, and superb golfing.
One reason Bermuda doesn't attract more visitors is because of its heavy import tariffs, which tend to make staying here fairly pricey.
Annual Visitors: 269,000
Gabon is on the Atlantic coast of subsaharan Africa. It's not a mass tourism destination, which is a shame since it's a fairly prosperous, welcoming, and safe country.
On the other hand, its relative obscurity may be for the best, since one of the major draws is natural beauty.
The Gabonese take great pride in their natural parks, in which visitors can come face-to-face with chimps, gorillas, and elephants.
Annual Visitors: 261,000
Angola is rich in natural resources and beauty, but it is economically weak, mainly due to the four decades of civil war that wracked the country. Nevertheless, Angolans are known for their good cheer, love of music, and readiness to party at the drop of a hat.
There are, however, dangers. Power outages are frequent, cell coverage can be spotty, and there are still open minefields, a legacy of the devastating conflict.
Brunei is a small Southeast Asian sultanate, an enclave completely surrounded by the much larger Malaysia. Although small, it is spectacularly wealthy due to its natural gas and oil deposits. As such, it's not a discount destination by any means. It's also not -- well, how should we put this -- not the friendliest destination for LGBTQ travelers. Homosexual acts are sometimes even punishable by death.
That's surely part of the reason it's one of the least visited countries.
Annual Visitors: 255,000
Madagascar is a huge island nation off the east coast of Africa. The most amazing thing about Madagascar is that its geographic isolation has resulted in totally unique wildlife.
90% of the islands native plant species are found nowhere else, most famously the baobab trees pictured below.
Annual Visitors: 255,000
Bhutan is a country in the Himalayas which is known for its stunning mountain scenery and its highly traditional Buddhist culture. It is, in fact, the only existing Buddhist monarchy in the world, placing an emphasis on human emphasis over money.
Bhutan is difficult to visit because tourism is highly regulated. The only way to get in is by paying $250 a day to the centralized tour agency, although that covers all expenses.
Still, this contributes to Bhutan's status as one of the least visited countries.
39. Antigua and Barbuda
Annual Visitors: 247,000
Antigua and Barbuda are on the outer northeast edge of the Caribbean. Although it's on this list, tourism is actually a primary focus of the island of Antigua. It has many high-end resorts. Barbuda, on the other hand, is less popular but also features stunning beaches.
Annual Visitors: 247,000
It's a bit surprising that Guyana is on of the world's least visited countries, since it's the only country in South America where English is the most widely spoken language. Guyana is on the Caribbean coast of the continent, with its interior dominated by pristine rainforest.
It's an ideal out-of-the-way destination for hikers and those who aren't afraid to get their legs muddy.
37. Republic of the Congo
Annual Visitors: 206,000
Not to be confused with the larger and better known Democratic Republic of the Congo, this smaller country to the east is also known as Congo-Brazzaville (after its capital city). Most of the country is jungle, with the population concentrated in a few urban areas. As a result, all the biggest attractions here are national parks and nature preserves.
36. French Polynesia
Annual Visitors: 199,000
Although technically an overseas department of France, the French Polynesian islands are about as far from Paris as you can get. This chain of islands is found about halfway between California and Australia.
Perhaps the remoteness factor is one reason why it's one of the world's least visited countries, despite the balmy climate and famous destinations like Tahiti and Bora Bora.
Annual Visitors: 193,000
Mali is a landlocked Saharan country which has had an unfortunate problem with terrorism in recent years. Which is a shame, because Mali is home to many historical sites of the Songhai Empire, though some have been destroyed by al-Qaeda.
Per the State Department: "Terrorist and armed groups continue plotting kidnappings and attacks in Mali. They may attack with little or no warning, targeting night clubs, hotels, restaurants, places of worship, Western diplomatic missions, and other locations frequented by foreigners".
Certainly that's a recipe for being one of the world's least visited countries.
34. Papua New Guinea
Annual Visitors: 179,000
Papua New Guinea is an island country just to the north of Australia. Although the people are famously friendly, the country really isn't set up for mass tourism. The is truly unexplored territory for travelers, and could prove a worthy adventure for those who aren't afraid to go their own way.
Annual Visitors: 168,000
Grenada is a small cluster of islands in the Caribbean, but there are three big main ones. Grenada is most famous for the many spices it produces (cinnamon, cloves, ginger etc).. Also, for the United States' brief invasion in 1980.
Selling points include historic forts, spice farms, and waterfalls -- as well as spectacular beaches. Nevertheless, Grenada remains among the least visited countries.
Annual Visitors: 164,000
Niger is just to the east of Mali, and has sadly suffered from some of the same problems -- namely violence and terrorism.
"Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting foreign and local government facilities and areas frequented by Westerners," according to the State Department.
It's a shame because Niger has some wonderful natural parks and attractions -- including some of the last herds of giraffes in the wild.
31. The Gambia
Annual Visitors: 162,000
The smallest country in Africa is also the most oddly shaped. The Gambia is a small snake of a country that surrounds the course of the river of the same name.
Perhaps the most famous attraction here is James Island — also known as Kunta Kinteh Island. As you might guess from the name, this is one of the real life settings of Alex Haley’s Roots. Visitors can take a boat and tour the island.
Annual Visitors: 146,000
Not to be confused with American Samoa, Samoa is an independent Pacific island nation. The two main islands are Upolu and Savaii. The country is notable for its national parks, amazing caverns, and picturesque waterfalls.
All conveniently located somewhere between Hawaii and New Zealand.
Annual Visitors: 145,000
Moldova is a landlocked country between Ukraine and Romania. It is likely among the world's least visited countries due to a lack of publicity, because it has lots of appeal. Not only does Moldova boast many historic Orthodox monasteries but its wineries are also numerous and underrated. It's a largely rural country with a countryside of rolling steppes.
28. Burkina Faso
Annual Visitors: 143,000
Burkina Faso is tragically under-visited. It is famous for its art and music, and its superbly welcoming people. Unfortunately, terrorist attacks in recent years have contributed to the low numbers of visitors.
In general, though, Burkina Faso is one of the safest countries in West Africa.
Annual Visitors: 142,000
It's actually a wonder that many people make it to Eritrea, a small African nation on the Red Sea. It has one of the most repressive governments in the world, and they've done everything in their power to discourage foreigners from visiting. Those who have obtained visas (or tried to) report that it's an extremely frustrating process, and would-be guests are often turned down for no apparent reason.
Annual Visitors: 125,000
Bangladesh is a well-known country, but it remains obscure from a travel perspective. Perhaps prospective visitors are turned off by the complex climate (Bangladesh has six seasons).
Perhaps it's the threat of cyclones that keeps them away.
At any rate, it's too bad, because the people are extremely friendly. They also happen to inhabit a country with striking ruins, mosques, beaches, rolling hills, and tea estates. Oh, and domestic air travel is super cheap and convenient!
Annual Visitors: 123,000
Located just to the southeast of the Philippines, the islands of Palau are a tropical paradise. The average temperature here is 82°F (28°C). This is real South Pacific paradise -- and its closer to a major continent than much else in Micronesia.
The capital city, Melekeok, has a population of 400 people!
So if you're in the market for urbane destinations, Palau isn't for you. If you're looking to rent a boat and go island hopping and/or scuba diving, however... Welcome home.
24. St. Kitts and Nevis
Annual Visitors: 122,000
St. Kitts and Nevis are in the Caribbean Sea between Puerto Rico and Trinidad. This pair of islands is unlikely to remain obscure for long. That's because they've been courting cruise liners to come and dock for some time. The countdown is on until the islands are crawling with tourists.
Perhaps the main attraction is a collection of British colonial forts, which have been painstakingly restored to original form.
Also, the locals speak English, a big plus for North American visitors.
23. New Caledonia
Annual Visitors: 121,000
An overseas territory of France, New Caledonia lies to the east of Australia. New Caledonia is a hiker's paradise, and there's lots to see since its main island is one of the largest in the South Pacific. There are hills, mountains, and waterfalls, as well as beaches galore. The diving is excellent, however you'll probably have more fun if you rent your own boat so you can go exploring.
22. Central African Republic
Annual Visitors: 120,500
Apart from the long name, the Central African Republic fails to attract visitors because of its notorious instability. As a result, the U.S. State Department advises travelers not to visit. "
"Violent crime, such as armed robbery, aggravated battery, and homicide, is common. Large areas of the country are controlled by armed groups who regularly kidnap, injure, and/or kill civilians".
There are some lovely national parks and waterfalls.
However, CAR is tricky to visit even in good times because air access is limited.
Annual Visitors: 109,000
Vanuatu is a nation consisting of 83 islands, just east of New Caledonia. It is an extremely diverse place, with many different ethnic groups. As a result, it has over 100 local native languages -- the highest density on earth.
Apart from its relative obscurity, Vanuatu may be mostly tourist-free because it's hard to get to. You can only fly in from Australia, New Zealand, or nearby islands which are all popular destinations in their own right. Otherwise, you will need a boat.
Annual Visitors: 87,000
Chad is a large landlocked country south of Libya. Also the guy who bullied me in high school.
Perhaps Chad's biggest tourism success story is Zakouma National Park. Despite concerns about poaching, you can see giraffes, elephants, buffalo, and cheetahs here in rising numbers.
Unfortunately, Chad is locked in a nearly constant state of civil war, and most western countries advise against visiting at this time.
19. San Marino
Annual Visitors: 78,000
How about a country you can explore in its entirety on foot? San Marino is a micronation surrounded by Italy, close to the Adriatic Sea.
This small country is built around (and on) Mount Titano, which provides splendid views of the surrounding countryside. The border with Italy is open, but get your passport stamped just to prove you've been here!
18. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Annual Visitors: 76,000
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a Caribbean island chain slightly north of the coast of South America. Not among the more famous island destinations, the country nonetheless relies on tourism for income. Also bananas, which grow in abundance.
The hiking here is excellent. For example, you could climb the La Soufriere Volcano. It's not an easy trek, but the view is certainly rewarding.
Annual Visitors: 74,000
Timor-Leste broke away from Indonesia in 1999. The fact that few have ever heard of it likely accounts for the lack of tourists.
Cliffy, covered in steamy jungles, and with charming villages, East Timor is definitely an adventure. It has also started to win a reputation as one of the best diving destinations in the world. Also, the coffee scene here is out of sight.
Annual Visitors: 72,000
Not to be confused with the more famous Dominican Republic, Dominca is a small island in the East Caribbean. It is best known (if known at all) for its wonderful national parks.
These protect a remarkably lush ecosystem. The island also features volcanic peaks that offer quite a view to the few who do visit.
Annual Visitors: 69,000
Liechtenstein is the most famous micronation in the world, thanks perhaps to its whimsical name. Landlocked between Switzerland and Austria, it's a beautiful, rich country surrounded by mountains. However, it's surprisingly difficult to reach, which probably explains the low number of visitors.
Annual Visitors: 63,000
Djibouti is on the coast of East Africa, between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Apart from the funny name (ji-booty) it is little known in the West.
Therefore, its place on this list is unsurprising.
Djibouti is home to Lake Assal, the second-lowest point on earth (492 feet below sea level). Otherwise, it's mainly a hot, dry country. Infrastructure isn't great, and you'll need a visa to enter for any reason.
Annual Visitors: 62,500
Tonga is an archipelago in the South Pacific. Its promising nickname? "The Friendly Islands". Its people certainly live up to that reputation.
Although not a rich country by any means, and not super well-known, there's a charming local-ness to Tonga. For example, instead of chain stores, you'll find far more small businesses here run by the inhabitants.
There are also breathtaking coral reefs just waiting to be explored.
Annual Visitors: 60,000
Guinea is a smallish West African nation which was affected by the recent ebola outbreaks. As a result, its tourism numbers surely slumped. However, that outbreak is over and it is once again possible to visit Guinea.
Sadly, the country remains underdeveloped despite its natural resources. Paradoxically, it also has some of the worst air pollution in the world. In addition, corruption is rife. Travelers can easily find themselves targeted by police or military for bribes -- or worse.
11. Sierra Leone
Annual Visitors: 55,000
Just to the south of Guinea, you'll find Sierra Leone. Although its civil war ended in 2002, some of the infamy of that conflict still clings to the country.
As a matter of fact, tourist was starting to take off before the ebola crisis scuppered that.
Sierra Leone has some of the best beaches in the world and an incredibly warm people. However, it just can't catch a break with all the bad headlines. As a result, it languishes as one of the least visited countries.
Annual Visitors: 43,800
To the north of plain old Guinea, Guinea-Bissau makes it three in a row for West Africa.
The lack of tourists here is to be expected. Guinea-Bissau is almost unheard of in the West, and it's one of the poorest countries in the world.
As a result, drug smugglers have largely taken over the place. They use Guinea-Bissau as a stop off for cocaine moving from South America to Europe. Crime and violence are therefore tragically commonplace here.
Annual Visitors: 30,000
Mauritania is a large country in the Sahara, just south of Morocco. It's mostly desert, although there is an alluring strip of coastline. As a result, it's a great place to visit if you want to experience dunes and arid rock formations. Perhaps the most famous is the Adrar rock formation.
Or at least it would be if it were safer.
The State Department notes that "terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting places frequented by Westerners".
8. São Tomé and Príncipe
Annual Visitors: 29,000
São Tomé and Príncipe is a small island nation of the Atlantic coast of Central Africa.
This is truly undiscovered territory, although tourism has been slightly up in recent years. Those who have made the trip describe it as a laid back, friendly, wooded nation with a number of nearly vertical peaks and volcanic plugs towering above the trees.
As a result of the low tourism, São Tomé and Príncipe is a great place to get away from it all. If you're willing to make the trek, that is.
Breakfast at an ecolodge in São Tomé and Príncipe.
Annual Visitors: 28,000
We go now to a sting of islands off the east coast of Africa. Comoros is comprised of three main isles. Unfortunately, it is one of the poorest nations on earth. But that doesn't mean it's cheap; nearly everything has to be imported, raising costs.
On the main island of Grande Comore, the biggest attraction is Karthala, the crater of a great volcano.
6. Solomon Islands
Annual Visitors: 25,700
The Solomon Islands are to the east of Papua New Guinea in the Coral Sea. Diverse and beautiful, the Solomon Islands is surprisingly one of the least visited countries.
Perhaps the reason is the relative difficulty of reaching them. Or maybe it's the high crime rate. On the other hand, the persistent ethnic tensions at play here may make it one of the world's least visited countries.
5. American Samoa
Annual Visitors: 20,000
An overseas territory of the United States, American Samoa is about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. Perhaps this isolation is the reason for the lacklustre tourism. There's plenty to do and see in this island paradise. Of special note is its marine sanctuary and the National Park of American Samoa.
The beach of Ofu is also spectacular, with high cliffs that drop directly into the untouched sand.
Annual Visitors: 8,200
An obscure Central Asian former Soviet Republic, Turkmenistan kept the whole Stalin vibe long after the Cold War ended. Since that time, it has been the private kingdom of a series of infamous dictators with their own weird cults of personality. To the extent Westerners have heard of it, the press has therefore not been positive. That's more than enough to explain its status as one of the least visited countries, I'm afraid.
3. Marshall Islands
Annual Visitors: 6,000
The Marshall Islands are basically in the middle of the Pacific, making them difficult to reach. However, the presence of nuclear fallout likely also keeps the tourists away.
Formerly a territory of the United States, the Marshall Islands was the site of nuclear testing, most notably at Bikini Atoll. As a result, many islands remain off-limits, both due to continued American military presence and the lingering effects of nuclear discharge.
Annual Visitors: 5,800
To the southeast of the Marshall Islands and even more in the middle of nowhere, Kiribati is definitely isolated. Although certainly beautiful and tropical, and populated by friendly locals, these islands are not for resort goers. You'll find few amenities here, since the islands of Kiribati are so spread out and not built for lazing tourists.
Annual Visitors: 2,500
The South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu reigns as the king of the least visited countries on earth. On the other hand, it's one of the smallest countries in the world as well with only 16 square miles of land. So I guess that makes sense.
The only way to fly in is from Fiji, and travelers report that this flight service is extremely unreliable. Therefore if you visit Tuvalu, you may be forced to stay well beyond your intended departure date.
And if you visit, you had better really love the beach; sadly, there's not much else to see in terms of geography or architecture.