‘Over-tourism has become a real problem for many across the world. From cruise liners damaging the fragile waterways of Venice, to authorities removing padlocks from Paris bridges to stop them crumbling into the Seine, many cities are becoming a victim of their own success….’
Tourism is the economic heart of many destinations, so it 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 real resentment. I live in a few miles north of a very popular Welsh seaside town and can confirm that, during the summer, it can be hell for locals. While it’s great that so many people want to visit, it often comes with a lack of respect for the landscape and local facilities.
Millions of us flock to the world’s most impressive sights each year. But what about the destinations that have yet to make their mark? For many, it’s due to political unrest, safety fears, or simply that they’re 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 nations that don’t suffer from over-tourism.
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, when we visited, we arrived via Innsbruck and caught a bus. The capital, Vaduz, has an excellent public transport system and journeys are cheap. Given its location, it’s no surprise that Liechtenstein has a growing reputation for winter sports and outdoor activities. Its Alpine hiking is extremely popular and there’s a huge network of trails throughout Liechtenstein.
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. However, 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 between 4,000-6,000 annually. Most visitors to North Korea spend time in the capital, Pyongyang. The major tourist attractions there are Kim Jong-Un Square and the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. Interestingly, Pyongyang is home to the largest stadium in the world, the Rungrado 1st May.
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 better known for its violent struggle to gain independence from Indonesia than for its tourism industry. It established itself as a nation in its own right in 2002. Since then, Asia’s newest country has seen a steady increase in visitor numbers.
In 2017, it welcomed 86,000 visitors. In 2019 the government announced its commitment to growing visitor numbers to 450,000. Split between Timor Leste and Timor, the island is also famous for its cycling tracks. It hosts an 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, making it a really fascinating visit. The ecological areas comprise tidal estuaries, heavily forested areas, and the savanna, which makes it home to a vast array of plants and wildlife.
Specifically, the Orango Islands National Park is a sanctuary for saltwater hippos. In addition. the capital, Bissau, is also 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. The Polynesian nation uses Australian currency and, like Aus, is also part of the Commonwealth. Tuvalu tops the list of the least visited countries on earth with just 2,000 visitors in 2017. Tuvalu is a pretty challenging place to get to, so it makes sense it doesn’t have a massive amount of visitors. This is such a shame as it clearly has a lot to offer.
The island chain is extremely popular for snorkelling and diving. The warm waters of the 11-mile long Funafuti Lagoon are a major draw for visitors. Visitors can take private boat tours to 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 are available from the UK to LA, with a connection from LA to Fiji. Further connection are available from Fiji to Tuvalu. From Australia, flights connect directly from Sydney.