Least visited destinations in the world
To go boldly into the unknown. To plant a flag in new territory. To be the first outsiders in an undiscovered village. Or to simply find a vacation spot where the tour groups are nowhere to be found. These travel goals are becoming increasingly harder as the world gets smaller and the base of global tourists grows ever larger.
But it’s not impossible. Dozens of countries open to tourism just don’t attract much. Factors why vary, but countries with little tourism generally have two things in common: a history of violence and instability, plus a dearth of tourist infrastructure. Few reasons deter travelers more than the possibility of military coups, social unrest, and violent crime. And small, undeveloped nations struggle just to provide basic services to their citizens, let alone paved highways and concrete hotels for tourists.
Yet, adventurous travelers are always looking for the next big place to visit, free from tour buses, hordes of guide-led groupies, and aggressive trinket-sellers. To discover these places, Stacker crunched the numbers from the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) 2019 report, which included tourism data from 2017 or 2018 for 187 countries and territories. Tourist arrivals were not available for 29 countries.
Tourism positively impacts jobs, economic growth, peace and security, environmental protection, and cultural preservation, according to UNWTO. The number of international tourist arrivals grew by 7% from 2016 to 2017—the highest growth since 2010. While it may be no surprise France takes the #1 spot for the most popular countries for international tourists, followed by the U.S. and Spain, some globetrotters may prefer to travel the road less traveled.
From Niue to Brunei, read on to learn more about the world’s least-visited places—and add a few dozen destinations to your own travel bucket list.
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#50. Turks and Caicos
- 2017 tourist arrivals: 416,000
- Change in arrivals from 2016: -8.2%
TripAdvisor named Turks and Caicos’ Grace Bay Beach as the world’s best in its 2018 Travelers’ Choice Awards. It’s easy to see why once you set your eyes upon the pristine, ultra-fine sand and clean, turquoise water. So why don’t more people visit? The islands are tiny and can be quite expensive.
#49. St. Maarten
- 2018 tourist arrivals: 178,000
- Change in arrivals from 2017: -55.8%
A visit to this unique island will net you two trips in one, as you can explore both Saint-Martin, the island’s French side, and Sint Maarten, the island’s Dutch side. Unfortunately, the island suffered significant damage in 2017’s Hurricane Irma, but is slowly and surely on the way to recovery for the 2019 tourist season.
#48. Saint Lucia
- 2018 tourist arrivals: 396,000
- Change in arrivals from 2017: 2.5%
Postcard-perfect, this lush, tiny island is well known for the dramatic pitons that rise from its center. The island’s two airports receive international flights from Canada, the U.S., and Europe, making it easily accessible for visitors.
#47. Trinidad and Tobago
- 2018 tourist arrivals: 375,000
- Change in arrivals from 2017: -4.9%
This oil-rich twin-island nation has seen a marked decrease in tourists for several years, which is largely attributed to the island’s lack of investment. For those who make the trip, the island retains its many unique Creole traditions and cuisines, including a boisterous annual carnival held in Trinidad’s capital, Port of Spain.
- 2018 tourist arrivals: 362,000
- Change in arrivals from 2017: 3.4%
Tricky to get to from many parts of the world, Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands off the coast of Africa. The country is best known for its rich natural reserves and is home to rare animals like the Aldabra tortoise as well as abundant coral reefs.
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- 2018 tourist arrivals: 347,000
- Change in arrivals from 2017: -2.2%
This independent city-state is the world’s second smallest country, but with its glitz and glamour, Monaco is anything but understated. You can visit Monaco for the world-famous Formula One Grand Prix, flashy casinos, and stunning beaches. It’s also considered a secretive tax-haven for the uber-rich.
#44. British Virgin Islands
- 2018 tourist arrivals: 192,000
- Change in arrivals from 2017: -42.5%
Hurricane Irma battered the British Virgin Islands in 2017, causing more than $3 billion in damage. This island experienced a sharp decrease in tourism revenue due to the storm, and is slowly but surely rebounding.
- 2017 tourist arrivals: 299,000
- Change in arrivals from 2016: 59.9%
The U.S. Department of State minces no words in its warning on this landlocked African nation: “Violent crimes, such as grenade attacks and armed robbery, occur frequently.” Violence and inadequate law-enforcement resources earned Burundi the second-highest travel warning—a level 3 “reconsider travel” alert, a designation the department expanded on Jan. 21, 2020 to include health warnings after extensive measles, yellow fever, and malaria outbreaks. Overpopulation has driven deforestation of much of the country, so wildlife watchers should continue opting for Burundi’s conservation-minded neighbor, Tanzania.
- 2018 tourist arrivals: 295,000
- Change in arrivals from 2017: 5%
While the overall country has the lowest level 1 warning from the U.S. Department of State, specific locations like Pendjari and W parks received a level 3 warning for fears of kidnapping and terrorism. This is unfortunate because since 2015 Benin officials have prioritized increasing tourism to Pendjari National Park, one of the continent’s best places to see a West African lion.
- 2018 tourist arrivals: 287,000
- Change in arrivals from 2017: 15.9%
English-speaking Guyana is known for its impressive British colonial architecture, including the wooden St. George’s Anglican Cathedral. It’s also home to an ecologically diverse rainforest, making up nearly 80% of the country. Still, election-fueled political unrest has occurred periodically throughout the years, affecting tourism to South America’s only English-speaking country.
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