Going on vacation is supposed to be relaxing. If you already live in a big city, you might dream of a vacation away from crowds, where you can be on your own. But if you follow travel sites, most talked deals and destinations will likely be for places where everyone wants to go. So often you end up finding crowded attractions, beaches etc. But what if you skip the most visited places in the world, and go for the least visited destinations instead?
Just to get an idea of what that means, in 2017 for example, nearly 87 million international tourists arrived in France. That same year, just 2,000 international tourists visited the South Pacific country of Tuvalu, where it’s easy to find a beach, or a whole island to yourself.
Based on the most recent data (PDF) compiled by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the list below represents the world’s least-visited countries and overseas territories. The list excludes some places that have been deemed dangerous from the US Department of State. But you’ll find gorgeous natural beauty, culture and history without having to fight long lines and crowded streets.
Least Visited Destinations
Getting to these least visited countries might not be the easiest feat, but if that’s what you’d consider a perfect vacation, then it might be worth the trouble. So let’s take a look at these 25 amazing least visited destinations listed by CNN.
Tuvalu is among the world’s most isolated nations. Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
With more than 100 tiny islands scattered across the South Pacific, the country of Tuvalu is among the world’s most isolated nations. It is number one in the list of least visited destinations. Only the main island, Funafuti, has an airport. From there, travelers continue to the outlying communities by passenger ferry. Free from the crowds that fill beaches in popular destinations like Fiji, these islands are an untouristed haven where you can watch flying fish skim the water, spend a lazy afternoon in a hammock or snorkel candy-hued coral reefs. If you’re planning a trip to Tuvalu, don’t wait: The waves that lap Tuvalu’s stilt houses have long been seen as an existential threat here, since rising seas could swamp the low-lying country.
- Why go: Stroll powdered sugar beaches at risk from rising sea levels.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 2,000
Kiribati’s beauty is matched by its remoteness. The AGE/Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images
Scatter-shot atolls and lagoons barely peek above the central Pacific waters in Kiribati, whose islands and atolls cluster into three groups: the Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands. It’s hard to overstate the isolation of these faraway isles — neighboring Fiji is relatively close at 1,394 miles away — and few travelers make the journey here. Those that do, however, will be treated to a rich tradition of hospitality. While not every visitor will secure an invitation to a traditional feast, or botaki, many have. If you’re lucky enough to attend, you might see dancers in pandanus skirts, listen to drums beating out a traditional rhythm then dine on breadfruit, taro and sprouted coconut.
- Why go: Experience a botaki in an open-air maneaba, or meeting house.
- Internationaltourist arrivals in 2016: 6,000
3. Marshall Islands
The waters around the Marshall Islands are home to spectacular scuba diving sites. Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild/Getty Images
- Why go: Scuba dive into a ship graveyard transformed into an eerie underwater playground.
- International tourist arrivalsin 2017: 6,000
Montesrrat’s landscape is shaped by volcanoes. Sebastian Widmann/dpa/AP
- Why go: See a modern-day Pompeii, then lounge on new beaches created from crumbling volcanic stone.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 8,000
The waters off Niue’s rugged coastline are used as a nursery by humpback whales. Nick Perry/AP
- Why go: Swim alongside school bus-sized whales in one of the world’s smallest countries.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 10,000
6. American Samoa
Matafao Peak dominates the skyline above Pago Pago Harbour. Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images
The Samoan fruit bat has a wingspan of up to three feet
, and the fuzzy mammals can be spotted dangling from trees or swooping through the air in search of fresh fruit and nectar.
- Why go: Hang with the endangered fruit bats of the National Park of American Samoa.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 20,000
7. Solomon Islands
Sunken seaplanes, oil tankers and submarines in the Solomon Islands .Prisma by Dukas/Universal Images Group Editorial/UIG via Getty Images
Desperate battles unfolded against a paradise-island backdrop in this South Pacific archipelago after US Marines landed on Guadalcanal Island in 1942. Decades after the last skirmish, the lush jungle holds rusting tanks, amphibious vehicles and fox holes that are a haunting reminder of that era. And the history doesn’t stop at the waterline. Sunken seaplanes, oil tankers and submarines are strewn across the ocean floor, sprouting coral formations on corroded metal sheathings. For travelers who snorkel or scuba dive, exploring the Solomon Islands is the chance to watch sea life colonize the remnants of a brutal war.
- Why go: Discover Second World War history in a vast archipelago.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 26,000
The islands of Comoros are often called the “Perfume Isles. “Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images
- Why go: Breathe the perfumed air of an island that overflows with blooms.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 28,000
9. São Tomé and Príncipe
São Tomé and Principe are a biodiversity hotspot. Ruth McDowall/AFP/Getty Images
- Why go: Search for undiscovered species in a biodiversity hot spot.
- International tourist arrivals in 2016: 29,000
10. Federated States of Micronesia
The ancient city of Nan Madol is home to grand basalt palaces and temples. Nicole Evatt/AP
- Why go: Visit an ancient ceremonial center rising from the ocean.
- International tourist arrivals in 2016: 30,000
South China Morning Post/South China Morning Post/South China Morning Post via Get
- Why go: Have an off-planet experience without the costly space flight.
- International tourist arrivals in 2010: 51,000
12. Sierra Leone
Tokeh beach near Freetown has bone-white sand. Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images
- Why go: Picture-postcard beach vacations way off the tourist map. Did we mention there are pygmy hippos here?
- International tourist arrivals in 2016: 54,000
Powerful rivers flow through the forests of Fouta Djallon. Tommy Trenchard / Alamy Stock Photo
- Why go: Tone your quads on a culture-bridging hike through the mountains.
- International tourist arrivals in 2016: 60,000
Tonga is famous for its hospitality. Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images
- Why go: Watch the ocean erupt from the rocky Tongan coast.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 62,000
By limiting tourism to high end resorts, Anguilla has avoided over-development. Cedrick Isham Calvados/AFP/Getty Images
- Why go: Experience high-end Caribbean cool with plenty of room to relax.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 68,000
16. Timor Leste
East Timor hosts an annual mountain bike stage race. STR/AFP/Getty Images
- Why go: Challenge yourself to the ride of a lifetime.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 74,000
17. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
These islands attract the wealthy, but have budget-friendly options. Chris Jackson/Getty Images
- Why go: String together a necklace of islands with pearl-colored beaches.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 76,000
18. San Marino
San Marino is surrounded by Italian territory. Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images
Surrounded by Italian territory on every side, the Republic of San Marino is 24 square miles of stubborn holdout. Established in the year 301, the sole remaining Italian city state is also the world’s oldest surviving republic. While the three historic towers that adorn the San Marino flag are now largely ornamental, they still keep watch over the mountainous countryside. For views that stretch from border to border, climb to the picturesque Rocca Guaita, an 11th-century tower that fortifies an already-forbidding summit — over the centuries it’s helped fend off invaders, housed the national guard and even served as a prison.
- Why go: Explore a mountaintop fortress in Europe’s least-visited country.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 78,000
Dominica has the Caribbean’s first-ever long distance hiking trail. Chris Jackson/Getty Images
- Why go: Hike a section of the first long-distance trail in the Caribbean.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 79,000
Historic castles keep watch over Liechtenstein. Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images
No one seems to mind the lack of a seacoast. Here, hiking trails navigate between stony peaks, while vineyards lap steep hillsides. Historic castles keep watch over it all. To visit the country’s most dramatic stronghold, travel to the village of Balzers, where you can set out on foot for Gutenberg Castle. Visitors can linger in the castle rose garden, which fills with princess-pink blooms during the summer months.
- Why go: Visit a fairy-tale castle in a mountain kingdom.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 79,000
East Tanna’s Mount Yasur volcano is among the world’s most active. Thierry Suzan/Figarophoto/Redux/Figarophoto/Thierry Suzan/Figarophoto/Redux
- Why go: Watch daredevil “land divers” practice the original extreme sport.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 109,000
22. St. Kitts and Nevis
The islands of St. Kitts and Nevis enjoy a slower pace of life. Chris Jackson/Getty Images
- Why go: Taste Caribbean cuisine that’s fresh from the garden and sea.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 114,000
23. New Caledonia
New Caledonia’s waters are a haven for marine life. Theo Rouby/AFP/Getty Images
- Why go: Loll in New Caledonia lagoons with a mellow herd of dugong.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 121,000
Eritrea’s capital Asmara is a design-lover’s dream. Maheder Haileselassie/AFP/Getty Images
With scenery that rolls from arid hills to the Red Sea coast, Eritrea’s natural beauty has been the backdrop for a tumultuous history. While some parts of the this east African country remain risky, there’s much to tempt travelers here.
World-class scuba diving, wonderfully diverse cultures and traditional foods are highlights of visiting the country, while the capital of Asmara is a pilgrimage place for fans of Modernist architecture. Up in the cool air of a highland plateau, the city has a remarkable collection of preserved buildings from 1893 to 1941, a period when Italy was occupying the country. From vintage cinemas to Futurist masterpieces, Asmara is a design-lover’s dream, and it’s Eritrea’s first spot on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Moldova may be the poorest country in Eastern Europe, but it has an impressive viniculture. Jen Osborne/Redux/Redux/Jen Osborne/Redux
Try to link up all the wine bars on a walk through Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, and you might find yourself in need of a glass of pickle juice. While many western wine drinkers are unfamiliar with Moldovan vintages, the tiny Eastern European country is a heavy hitter, and wine has been made here for at least 5,000 years. Using a blend of Caucasian, European and local grapes, Moldovan vintners bottle everything from dry, velvety reds to dessert-friendly ice wines.
Attend the festivities for National Wine Day
to try a little bit of everything with an enthusiastic crowd of locals.
- Why go: Learn to say “noroc!” — that’s cheers — over a glass of Moldovan wine.
- International tourist arrivals in 2017: 145,000
Let me know if you’ve been to any of these 25 least visited destinations.