‘From cruise liners damaging the fragile streets and waterways of Venice to authorities removing love locks from Paris bridges to stop them collapsing into the Seine, over-tourism has become a very real problem…’
Tourism is the economic heart of so many destinations around the world that it can be difficult to see over-tourism as a bad thing. Why would anyone complain about visitors being attracted to their town or city?
However, when tourism starts to have a detrimental impact on your home or it simply becomes too crowded to move, it can cause resentment between residents and visitors.
Millions of us flock to the world’s most impressive sights each year but there are numerous destinations that have yet to make their mark on the map. This could be due to political unrest, safety fears, or simply that somewhere is difficult to reach. Has the time come for us to take the plunge and explore the unknown? If you’re ready for the challenge, these are some of the least visited nations in the world…
This tiny German-speaking Principality between Austria and Switzerland is home to less than 40,000 people. As Europe’s fourth-smallest country, it welcomed 77,000 visitors in 2017. Liechtenstein has no airport so visitors often arrive on a bus after flying into Zurich or Innsbruck. The capital, Vaduz, has an excellent public transport system and riding the bus is cheap. Given its location, it’s no surprise that Liechtenstein has a growing reputation for winter sports and outdoor activities, such as Alpine hiking on the network of trails running throughout the country.
Getting there: Regular trains depart from Innsbruck to Feldkirch Station, Austria and connecting buses run from Feldkirch to Vaduz.
If you’re looking for sandy beaches and friendly locals, North Korea may not be for you. If you’re interested in taking a glimpse into the most reclusive state on earth, then it might just surprise you. Contrary to popular belief, North Korea does accept foreign visitors but entry is strictly controlled by the government.
Travellers to North Korea must be part of an approved tour group. Western tourists visiting the East Asian nation are estimated at 4,000-6,000 annually. Most visitors to North Korea spend time in the capital, Pyongyang, and visit Kim Jong-Un Square, Kumsusan Palace of the Sun and Rungrado 1st May Stadium, which is the largest in the world.
Getting there: all arrangements must be made through a licenced tour operator, such as Lupine Travel in the UK or the Beijing based Koryo Tours.
East Timor is perhaps better known for its violent struggle to gain independence from Indonesia than for its tourism industry. Since establishing itself as a nation in its own right in 2002, Asia’s newest country has seen a steady increase in visitor numbers.
In 2017, it welcomed 86,000 and the government announced in early 2019 that it’s committed to increasing this to 450,000. The island – which is split between Timor Leste and Timor – is famous for its cycling tracks and the annual road race, the Tour de Timor. It’s also a haven for deep-sea divers due to its extensive coral reefs.
Getting there: Flights from the UK are available with British Airways and flights from the US and AUS with Qantas.
The Republic of Guinea-Bissau sits between Senegal and Guinea on the Atlantic coast of West Africa. In 2017, it hosted 22,000 visitors making it one of the least visited countries in the world. There’s definitely no threat of over-tourism here. The nation is home to three separate ecological zones – tidal estuaries, heavily forested areas, and the savanna – making it home to a vast array of plants and wildlife.
Specifically, the Orango Islands National Park is a sanctuary for saltwater hippos while its capital, Bissau, is famous for its colourful Portuguese architecture.
Getting there: Flights from across the UK are available with Royal Air Maroc. Flights from the US are available through TAP Portugal, and Qatar Airways flies from AUS.
Tuvalu is a cluster of nine tiny islands in the Pacific Ocean. It’s a Polynesian nation using Australian currency and it’s still a part of the Commonwealth, meaning Queen Elizabeth 11 is considered Head of State. Tuvalu tops the list of the least visited countries on earth with 2,000 visitors in 2017. One of the reasons Tuvalu isn’t threatened by over-tourism is that it can be a challenging place to get to. This is such a shame as it clearly has a lot to offer.
The island chain is popular for snorkeling and diving in the ocean, as well as swimming in the warm waters of the 11-mile long Funafuti Lagoon. Private boat tours are also available to show visitors the work undertaken at the Funafuti Marine Conservation Area where sea turtles, tropical fish, and sea birds can be viewed.
Getting there: There are no direct flights from the UK. Flights can be taken from the UK to LA, with a connection from LA to Fiji, and a further connection from Fiji to Tuvalu. From Australia, flights connect directly from Sydney.