What’s worse for tourism — being a tiny island country people haven’t heard of, or being a place that seems incredibly dangerous?
According to the U.N., France gets more tourists than any other country in the world (79.5 million last year). The U.S. was second and China was third. But you and me — we’re not frontrunners. We want to be where the people aren’t.
So which countries don’t have anyone dropping by?
A Norwegian blogger (and hardcore world traveler) figured that out using different tourism statistics and reports. And he would know — he’s visited 197 of the 198 countries in the world. The only one he’s missing is Cape Verde, and he’s going there next month.
So here are the 11 countries of the world that get the fewest visitors. Notably absent: Iraq, North Korea, Cuba, your mom.
11 | Solomon Islands (~23,000 visitors)
This is a 1,000-island archipelago in the South Pacific. Not that there’s much going on on a lot of those islands. You could easily find yourself in a Lost situation if you get stranded on the wrong one. (Or a Gilligan’s Island situation, if you happen to be traveling with the Harlem Globetrotters.)
10 | Afghanistan (~17,500 visitors)
I think it’s fairly clear why people aren’t exactly flocking to Afghanistan. Its past decade has proved that no, in spite of the traditional axiom, not all publicity is good publicity.
9 | Comoros (~15,000 visitors)
It’s amazing to me that every time I’m looking at a list of countries there manages to be one I’ve never heard of. Like, at this point, as both an obsessive researcher and obsessive nerd, I shouldn’t be caught off guard anymore. Yet here I am, trying to figure out what a Comoros is.
Comoros is another island chain, but this one is off the eastern coast of Africa, between the mainland and Madagascar. Comoros has a population of fewer than one million people, which means it’s one of the smallest countries in the world. It’s hard to access, only has a few hotels and is somewhat unstable. So it seems to only attract people who fall into the tiny Venn diagram sliver between “has the shitload of money it takes to get to a country like this” and “not afraid of potential political upheaval at any moment.”
8 | San Tome and Principe (~8,000 visitors)
This is an island country off the west coast of Africa that relies mostly on cocoa for its economy. And no, just because it’s a small, rarely-visited island country that relies on cocoa, that does NOT mean you will find an oompa loompa when you visit.
7 | Turkmenistan (~7,000 visitors)
Of all the former Soviet republics, Turkmenistan seems to be the one most wistful for the old days. (It’s considered the “second craziest country in the world.”) To get a tourist visa to Turkmenistan you have to jump through an incredible amount of hoops, which are apparently so difficult that you might actually expect to literally be expected to jump through hoops like a Russian circus bear. So this one may be tough to get on your USSR bingo card.
6 | Equatorial Guinea (~6,000 visitors)
This is a tiny country in west Africa, almost the exact same size as Massachusetts. And unfortunately, just about as friendly to visitors.
5 | Marshall Islands (~5,000 visitors)
The Marshall Islands are about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, and were under U.S. control until 1986 just in case, ya know, Japan got ideas again. They got their independence in 1986 but some of the islands are still uninhabitable because of the American nuclear testing. One of the places here that’s still probably too radioactive for you to visit: the Bikini Islands. Cinemax lied to you, man.
4 | Kiribati (~4,700 visitors)
Kiribati is an island group in Micronesia. Is this where Homer Simpson went when he decided to be a missionary to get away from paying a pledge to PBS? I can’t say for sure… but yes. Definitely yes.
3 | Tuvalu (~1,200 visitors)
Tuvalu is the most endangered country in the world (the islands are so low that if sea levels keep rising, they’ll be gone), so it’s a shame more people haven’t been there. Especially since we all visit websites that are aping off Tuvalu on a daily basis. Any website you see that’s [whatever].tv was only able to get that .tv because Tuvalu is kind enough to let non-residents register them. And by “kind enough” I mean — they made $50 million in a deal that let a company sell .tv domain names.
2 | Somalia (~500 visitors)
This is probably the most dangerous country in the world to visit right now. So avoid it, me hearties, unless you want to wind up in Davy Jones’s locker.
1 | Nauru (~200 visitors)
Nauru is a South Pacific island that’s easily the world’s smallest country — 8.1 square miles, which makes it the same size as Inverness, Florida; Waverly, Tennessee; or Jemison, Alabama. It only has one bar — and that bar has a dress code. There are two hotels, zero ATMs, and only one flight in and out per week. On the bright side, you know how you always have that regret that you didn’t “experience it all” when you go somewhere on vacation? You can drive this entire island in one hour.