The 18 least visited countries in the world

Not every nation can be a France or a Spain, but which countries see the fewest visitors? Take a look at the world's least-visited countries below (by region and excluding war-torn nations like Syria and Afghanistan). Are you one of the few travellers who has visited one of these places?

Europe - Liechtenstein: 69,000 (up from 57,000 in 2016)

Mountain village Balzers in Liechtenstein.

Mountain village Balzers in Liechtenstein Photo: Alamy

Europe's second least visited country, with 69,000 arrivals in 2016, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), is Liechtenstein. That's a rise of 21 per cent on 2015. So what are we all missing? This German-speaking sliver between Austria and Switzerland has astounding mountain scenery, apt for hiking, mountain biking and winter sports, and Vaduz Castle, a 12th century fortress. The eponymous capital has a fine contemporary art gallery - and a postal museum.

Can I visit? Yes. See liechtenstein.li

See also: The world's smallest countries and why you should visit them

Europe - Moldova: 121,000 (up from 94,000)

<i>Hancu Monastery, in Moldova</i>

Hancu Monastery, in Moldova Photo: Alamy

Moldova received 121,000 visitors in 2016, making it Europe's third least visited nation. This former Soviet Republic sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, whose capital is Chișinău (kee-shi-now), has medieval fortresses, Roman fortifications, and Orheuil Vechi, an archaeological site with excavations showing buildings dating from the Paleolithic era.

Can I visit? Yes. Visit moldova.md/en/turism which also boasts that the Republic has 142 wineries surrounded by vineyards.

Europe - San Marino: 60,000 (up from 54,000)

<i>San Marino, Italy</i>

San Marino, Italy Photo: Alamy

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Europe's least visited nation? That would be San Marino. Only 60,000 went in 2016 to the mountainous microstate surrounded by Italian territory, up from 54,000 in 2015, but down from 75,000 the year before. What are the draws? Its historic centre, which dates back to the 13th century, with fortification towers, walls, gates and bastions, as well as 19th century neoclassical basilica and piazza, was named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008, along with Mount Titano, upon which it sits.

Can I visit? Yes. Federico Fellini International Airport in Rimini is a 40-minute drive away.

See also: 10 stunning destinations you can see in a single day

Asia - Bhutan: 155,000

<i>Tigers Nest (Taktsang Goemba), Paro Valley, Bhutan </i>

Tigers Nest (Taktsang Goemba), Paro Valley, Bhutan Photo: Alamy

Bhutan only received 209,570 tourists in 2016, its highest amount of arrivals in a year - up from just 14,000 in 2012. But the country that measures output by Gross National Happiness - more than 90 per cent of the population say they are content - has much to offer.

The Paro and Punaka valleys have been described as home to "verdant hills, crystal-clear rivers, towering mountains and a patchwork of fields where crops are still tended by plough, oxen and scythe." Its low visitor numbers may be due to difficulty of access - just a handful of pilots are qualified to land at its precipitously located airport - as well as a relatively undeveloped infrastructure.

Can I visit? Yes, but Australians must obtain a visa prior to travelling. Bhutan strictly controls international tourism and all tourist travel must be arranged through an official, government licensed tour operator. Independent travel is not possible unless you are the holder of a long term visa. See Smart Traveller for details.

See also: Bhutan - the ultimate trophy destination for adventurous travellers

Asia - Bangladesh: 125,000

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One of the world's most densely populated (but least visited) countries, often besieged by floods, Bangladesh became a nation in 1971. It suffers from deep poverty but small scale tourism exists in the form of trekking and visits to its tea plantations. It is also home to the Unesco World Heritage Site Buddhist Vihara (monastery) at Paharpur (pictured). An estimated 125,000 people visited in 2014, the most recent year for which the UNWTO has figures.

Can I visit? DFAT travel advice to Australians is to "Reconsider your need to travel to Bangladesh due to the high threat of terrorist attack and the uncertain security situation". Australians require a visa to enter and will need to contact the Bangladesh High Commision. See Smart Traveller for more details.

Asia - Timor-Leste: 66,000 (up from 62,000)

<i>Dili, Timor-Leste</i>

Dili, Timor-Leste Photo: Alamy

Our close neighbour is the least visited nation in Asia. The eastern half of the island of Timor is surrounded by coral reefs, while the interior is cloaked in primeval mountainous forest, making it prime ground for adventurous divers, snorkellers and trekkers. It also has a wealth of colonial buildings from the Portuguese era, and the Ile Kere Kere caves contain fascinating paintings, which have been dated at more than 13,000 years old.

Can I visit? Yes. Australians are given a 30-day visa on arrival ($US30) unless arriving by land from the west. DFAT advises a "high degree of caution" due to the country's uncertain security situation.

See also: First major ship visits Timor, the world's newest cruising destination

Asia - Brunei: 219,000 (up from 218,000)

<i>Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, Brunei</i>

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, Brunei Photo: Alamy

This little country on the island of Borneo is home to lush rainforest, including in the Ulu Temburong National Park, where longboats and proboscis monkeys are among the things to be seen. It is also home to some astonishing Islamic architecture, including the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque.

Can I visit? Yes - visas are issued on arrival with a fee. DFAT notes that the nation's Sharia criminal code, which began being phased in from 2014, applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Visit bruneitourism.travel

See also: Airline review: Royal Brunei Airlines

Oceania - Kiribati: 4000

<i>Kiribati, Christmas Island</i>

Kiribati, Christmas Island Photo: Alamy

This nation is comprised of 33 coral atolls stretching along the equator. Second World War battles were fought along the shores of its capital South Tarawa - but today its principle draws for tourists include fishing, diving and private islands.

Can I visit? Yes - although it is a long way from anywhere. Visit www.kiribatitourism.gov.ki for more information.

See also: Kiribati - the hidden paradise of the Pacific

Oceania - Tuvalu: 2000

<i>Funafuti atol on Tuvalu</i>

Funafuti atol on Tuvalu Photo: Alamy

This South Pacific state, the least visited on Earth, has no armed forces, a low terror threat and little crime, and there are no political parties with politics being based on personal, family and island loyalties. Most people probably hadn't heard of it before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge paid a visit a few years ago. It is a Parliamentary Democracy and a Commonwealth Realm - Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State.

Can I visit? Yes. Visit www.timelesstuvalu.com 

Many other Pacific nations receive just a few thousand foreign visitors each year, including Marshall Islands (6,000), Niue (8,000), Solomon Islands (20,000), Tonga (54,000), Vanuatu (95,000), New Caledonia (105,000), Samoa (134,000) and Palau (138,000).

See also: Between Australia and Hawaii, the world's tiniest paradise

The Caribbean - Montserrat: 9000

<i>Little Bay, Montserrat</i>

Little Bay, Montserrat Photo: Alamy

The least visited island in the Caribbean. This British Overseas Territory is probably best known for the rather active Soufriere Hills Volcano, which covered Plymouth, the island's former capital, with debris and ash when it erupted in the 1990s. Now, the island's appeal lies in snorkelling, diving, and small town living. Telegraph Travel's Caribbean expert, Fred Mawer, recommends visiting in March, as the island is known as "The Emerald Isle" after the Irish settlers who came in the 17th century. "Its big annual event is St Patrick's Day (March 17), with entertainment and celebrations highlighting the island's Irish heritage and local culture", he writes.

Can I visit? Yes. 

See also: Montserrat's comeback after devastating volcano

The Caribbean - Anguilla: 79,000 (up from 73,000)

<i>Leeward Islands, Anguilla</i>

Leeward Islands, Anguilla Photo: Alamy

It's hard to choose among the Caribbean's most idyllic islands, but Anguilla could well be among them. Difficult access - you can't fly there direct from Britain - keep visitor numbers low; just 79,000 went in 2016, up slightly on the year before. "In the peak winter months, Anguilla is a bolt-hole of choice for well-heeled Americans, including lots of celebrities", our Caribbean expert writes.

Can I visit? Yes. 

South America - French Guiana: 199,000

<i>View of Devils Island from Isle Royale, French Guiana</i>

View of Devils Island from Isle Royale, French Guiana Photo: Alamy

The least visited destination in South America, ahead of Guyana (207,000) and Suriname (228,000), is this French Overseas Territory. South America expert Chris Moss said its capital Cayenne, is "recognisably French in its cafe-culture and its cuisine but Vietnamese and Chinese food are also on offer. The town is photogenic, with many wooden buildings still standing."

Can I visit? Yes

Central America - Belize: 386,000 (up from 341,000)

<i>Tobacco Caye, Belize</i>

Tobacco Caye, Belize Photo: Alamy

The most explored country in Central America is Belize. "As an Anglo-Mayan-Hispanic melting pot, Belize is unique," says Chris Moss. "From 1500BC it was Mayan territory. English and Scottish buccaneers arrived from 1638 onwards, using the coast as a base for operations against the Armada. The country was first christened British Honduras in 1840 and later became a crown colony. Autonomy was granted in January 1964 and in June 1973 the territory was renamed Belize; full independence was granted on September 21 1981. English is the official language and remains a lingua franca, alongside Belizean Creole, Spanish and Mayan languages." His top five attractions are the peaceful and preened island of Ambergris Caye; the 200-mile-long barrier reef often ranked just below the Red Sea and Great Barrier Reef as a dive experience; the Mayan site of Caracol; the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary; and low-key, laid-back Caye Caulker.

Can I visit? Yes, though DFAT advises a "high degree of caution" due to high crime rates.

Africa - Sao Tome & Principe: 8000

<i>Sao Tome, Africa</i>

Sao Tome, Africa

Africa's least visited country, though the UNWTO's stats for Africa are a little sparse (the figure of 8,000 relates to 2010), this nation of two islands, 225km from Gabon, is oil and cocoa rich, but tourist arrivals are virtually non-existent. Architecture from the Portuguese colonial era makes the town of Sao Tome attractive, however, and other pursuits include diving, fishing and watching humpback whales and dolphins between July and October.

Can I visit? Yes. Rainbow Tours offers itineraries rainbowtours.co.uk

Africa - Comoros: 24,000

<i>Moroni, Comoros</i>

Moroni, Comoros Photo: Alamy

This cluster of islands near Madagascar and the coastline of Mozambique has majestic volcanic scenery, some of the world's best undiscovered coral reefs for divers, and forests home to lemurs and Livingstone's fruit bats. Languages include Comoran - related to Swahili - French and Arabic. Just 24,000 visited in 2015; last year's figures are not available.

Can I visit? Yes. But you'll need to fly via Kenya and the neighbouring island of Mayotte, though cruise ships also visit. 

See also: The top 10 tropical islands to visit by ship

Africa - Sierra Leone: 74,400 (up from 24,000)

<i>Freetown, Sierra Leone</i>

Freetown, Sierra Leone Photo: Alamy

The world's fastest growing travel destination? According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), it's Sierra Leone. Just 24,000 people visited Sierra Leone in 2015; while UNWTO doesn't have complete data for 2016, that is expected to reach 74,400 for 2016 once all the sums have been done (an increase of 310 per cent).

Small numbers, of course (South Africa, the continent's biggest draw, lured more than 10 million holidaymakers last year), but it's a start.

What does Sierra Leone have to offer? "Amazing beaches, idyllic villages and smiling people," says Gunnar Garfors, who has visited every single country on Earth and rates it among his 12 favourites.

It's also an unlikely option for cycle tourism - the West Africa Cycle Challenge takes riders from Bo, Sierra Leone, to Monrovia, Liberia, raising money for the charity Street Child along the way.

Can I visit? Yes. DFAT recommends a high degree of caution due to high crime rates and potential for civil unrest.

See also: The world's fastest-growing destination will surprise you

Africa - Djibouti: 51,000

<i>Salt Reserve Lake Assal, Djibouti</i>

Salt Reserve Lake Assal, Djibouti Photo: Alamy

Djibouti recently celebrated 40 years of independence. It's a tea-loving nation where women outnumber men, and is home to the greatest tourism slogan we've ever come across: "Djibeauty". For more fun facts, follow this link.

Can I visit? Yes, but DFAT advises a high degree of caution and warns "do not travel" to the areas close to the borders with Eritrea and Somalia.

See also: How Djibouti became Africa's hottest new destination

Other rarely seen African countries include Guinea (35,000), Guinea-Bissau (44,000), Democratic Republic of the Congo (81,000), Chad (120,000), Central African Republic (121,000) and Burundi (131,000).

Middle East - Kuwait: 182,000

<i>Kuwait City</i>

Kuwait City Photo: Alamy

The least visited country in the Middle East (Afghanistan has fewer visitors - 82,000 - but is classified under "South Asia" by UNWTO), this slice of land between Iraq and Iran was invaded by Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime in 1990, ultimately leading to the first Gulf War. Today it is a much more peaceful place, home to around 6,000 British nationals, and most of the 5,000 or so who visit each year experience no problems. Attractions include a fine collection of Islamic art, the recognisable golf-ball like globes of the Kuwait Towers, and the Dhow harbour.

Can I visit? Yes - Australians can get three-month entry visa on arrival. DFAT advises a high degree of caution due to the potential for a terrorist attack. For more information, see www.visit-kuwait.com 

The Telegraph, London

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