Ten countries close to Australia that don't have a direct flight

In this brave new era of direct flights to Britain, Australia is increasingly linked to everywhere. But there are a few missing links in our own backyard – and these are the closest countries we've not, yet, got direct flights to.

Palau

2150km from Darwin

The closest country to Australia without a direct flight is also one of the most appealing – and for snorkellers and divers it should be pretty much top of the bucket list. Palau is surrounded by a marine sanctuary, with astonishingly clear waters, tremendous coral diversity and reef walls you can swim along with (harmless) sharks. There's also a lake full of non-stinging jellyfish to swim in and a series of highly photogenic, green-topped limestone Rock Islands to putter around in a boat. See pristineparadisepalau.com

Micronesia

2800km from Cairns

Another potential Pacific paradise that hasn't been tapped, Micronesia is split over several islands, most of which work fairly independently of each other. Capital Palikir – and we're measuring the distances between national capital and nearest major Australian gateway here – is on the reef-surrounded island of Pohnpei. There's also a lush, green interior, so mountain and waterfall hikes can be fitted in while taking a break from snorkelling. See micronesiatour.com

Tuvalu

3472km from Brisbane

With a population of just under 12,000 people, spread across nine islands, Tuvalu is about as forgotten as Pacific nations get. Fewer than 2000 people visit each year, and most of them are on business. There's one airport on main island Funafuti, with connections to the other islands undertaken by cargo ship. You can swim and snorkel from the atolls, but don't expect much in the way of tourism infrastructure. See timelesstuvalu.com

The Marshall Islands

3789km from Cairns

Spread over 29 coral atolls, the Marshall Islands is home to the world's largest shark sanctuary and an awful lot of flag-of-convenience ships. Pollution on main island Majuro means heading to the outer islands for wreck diving and coral viewing is advised. But on Majuro, Waan Aelon in Majel gives a fascinating insight into traditional canoe-building and ancient ocean navigation techniques. See visitmarshallislands.org

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Cambodia

3838km from Darwin

Tourism has boomed in Cambodia over the last decade, but evidently not enough for an airline to take a punt on a direct Aussie connection. Gritty capital Phnom Penh offers sobering Khmer Rouge history and beach resorts can be found in the south. But Siem Reap and the nearby temples of Angkor are the world class attractions. See tourismcambodia.com

Laos

4473 from Darwin

Perhaps the most underrated country in south-east Asia, Laos offers the graceful colonial throwback buildings and monk processions of Luang Prabang and the weird, ancient Plain of Jars near Phonsavan. The south offers lots of hiking to waterfalls, plus the laid-back 4000 Islands that have become a backpacker must-do. See tourismlaos.org

Myanmar

5138km from Darwin

The ultimate hipster destination a few years ago, Myanmar's stock has fallen as evidence of its grotesque human rights abuses stack up. So it's buyer beware if you decide to take an indirect flight to see the Bagan temples, the gold leaf-covered Shwedagon Paya stupa in Yangon, or check out the stilt house villages on Inle Lake. See tourism.gov.mm

North Korea

5695km from Darwin

Speaking of grotesque human rights abuses ... North Korea's tourism infrastructure is highly regimented, and not at all open to independent travellers. The only way to explore is on an organised tour, under the strict watch of government "guides". The weirdness of being inside a shut-off country is the main appeal, but don't expect Jetstar routes to Pyongyang any time soon. See koryogroup.com

The Maldives

5939km from Perth

Given the eye-watering amounts of money people going to the Maldives are prepared to spend on luxury accommodation, spas and overwater bungalows, it's perhaps surprising that there's not yet a direct link to Oz. But the Maldives is changing, with a burgeoning guesthouse scene aimed at snaffling up those who just want to dive without the trimmings. See visitmaldives.com

Bhutan

6211km from Darwin

Not quite as closed off, but still highly restricted, Bhutan deliberately targets high-end ecotourism. You need to be on an organised tour or on a custom-designed programme through an approved operator. The Himalayan kingdom's chief attractions are the mountains, cliff-side Buddhist monasteries such as Taktshang Goemba and plenty of trekking. See tourism.gov.bt

See also: The world's hottest destinations, literally

See also: Frankly, it's outrageous: Ten countries that don't get the visitors they deserve

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