6 of the Least Touristy Countries – Hidden Gems You Should Visit

by STEVE BLOOM

The road more traveled can be easy to follow. Food, transportation and accommodations are all readily available. However, many travelers dream of seeing something few others have. With adventurous travelers making new paths every day, it can be harder to find these unique places.

However, there are many countries that don’t have as many tourists as others. And if you’re looking for that passport stamp that few others have, I would check out one of these six countries.

1. Bhutan

There are a few reasons that Bhutan isn’t as well-traveled as other countries. Until the 1960s Bhutan was only accessible on foot from Tibet or India. Even today, independent travel is prohibited. All tourists are required to travel through a package tour. There is also a $200 per day minimum spending requirement.

Bhutan is a small country in the Himalayas region and the natural scenery is beautiful. It is distinguished from other countries by being the only Vajrayana Buddhist nation in the world. The country is referred to as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. Its remoteness makes many people regard it as one of the last Shangri-La’s.

2. Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands is a string of tiny coral atolls and reefs in the middle of the Pacific Ocean about half way between Hawaii and Australia. As you probably can tell, the islands remoteness makes getting here quite hard to do. There are flights though so if you plan hard enough you’ll be able to get there.

These atolls are mostly remembered for the nuclear weapons the US tested here as late as 1958. However, the islands’ charm comes from the tropical feel of the outer islands. There are many atols that are great for WWII wreck-diving. It really is one of the few places where you can feel what it would be like to be stranded on a deserted island.

3. Rwanda

Rwanda is known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills.” Its beauty is accentuated by grassy uplands, mountains and dense jungles. These jungles include one of Rwanda’s main attractions: mountain gorillas. Rwanda is one of the best places to view these gorillas. In fact Dian Fossey spent 18 years researching them here.

Unfortunately, Rwanda is usually remembered for its recent history of mass genocide in 1994. Visitors tend to avoid traveling there due to this history. Don’t let this history stop you, since the country has come a long way since then. Today, it is relatively safe and simple to travel around.

4. Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Balkan region is still bearing the burden for the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s. The country is divided between two political entities. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is on the western side of the country, populated mostly by Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats. On the other side is Republika Srpska populated mostly by Bosnian Serbs. There has been much improvement since then.

Bosnia and Herzegovina marked a crossing point between two great empires. The Turks ruled for about 500 years before the Austria-Hungarians. These influences have left their mark on the country. The country is renowned for its stunning mountain scenery and beautiful countryside. However, it is also drawing people for its adventure sports such as rafting and mountain hiking.

5. Nicaragua

Nicaragua (along with many other countries in Central America) evokes images of civil war and strife. The war there ended 15 years ago and in its place is a rising tourism industry. It is the largest country in Central America and also its safest. One study even concluded that Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in the world.

That’s good news for people visiting Nicaragua. The beauty of the two colonial cities of Granada and Leon are breathtaking. Granada itself is a city that would take 2-3 days to walk around before you can say you saw most of the city. And since most travelers stay away, you’ll experience it all with cheap prices.

6. Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe is a small island nation in the Gulf of Guinea just west of Gabon in Africa. It consists of two islands both part of an extinct volcanic mountain range. The countries underdeveloped infrastructure and the need for a basic understanding of Portuguese discourage tourists. In the early 1980s there was only one hotel.

Today there are many more, but tourism is still slow at around only 6000 visitors a year.

Since there are so few other people, you’ll have this country more or less to yourself. That means you can explore the biodiverse jungle or dive in nearby waters. It is good place to get really fresh fruit and coffee. A wide variety of fish is also eaten including flying fish.

Have you traveled to any of these countries? Any countries that you think I should have added? Let me know your thoughts and opinions.

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Comments

  1. That’s really interesting about Bhutan, I wasn’t aware of the per day dollar requirements. Guess I better start saving now!

  2. This is a fantastic post! I love that you recommended travel to Rwanda as it really is the most amazingly beautiful country and the people are friendly too. Bosnia is definitely on my top 5 of places to go next too.

  3. Very interested in Bhutan, and I didn’t even know about Sao Tome and Principe. I have two good friends that are world travelers and have nothing but wonderful things to say about Bosnia and all of Eastern Europe.

  4. Rwanda is one of my dream countries to visit… I hope I can make it some day. What a great list! I’ve never been to any of them, but now I’m interested!

    I think I would add Okinawa to the list. Most people head to mainland Japan, and skip this tiny island altogether. But Okinawa is very distinctive and has a fascinating recent history, not to mention fabulous beaches and food that makes you live to 100.

  5. Many of my friends have been to Nicaragua and loved it! Some people seem to think it is only open to humanitarians, but really, it’s not and it happens to be a lovely place.

    Other friends have visited Bosnia and loved it too. They said inhabitants are willing to talk about the war whenever asked. The architecture is quite interesting too.

    Great suggestions!

  6. I can vouch for Bhutan! it’s one of those untouristy sites which is really beautiful.

    Im not keen on Rwanda or Bosnia. But Nicaragua is on my list.

  7. @Mary R

    You’re right about Okinawa. I haven’t been there before, but I have a friend who loved it there. I’m also interested in that food that makes you live to 100.

    @Eurotrip Tips

    I was just in Nicaragua a few months ago and I was uncertain about going there since it isn’t one of those places you hear about much when it comes to traveling, but I loved it. Granada was one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to.

  8. bhutan is definitely on top of my list!!! and id love to add the philippines, surprisingly there are really less people going here…. due to some blown-out-of-proportion media coverage mishaps down south…. there are 7107 islands here… which means more choices 😉

  9. @Flip

    You’re right about the Philippines. I’ve heard about the mishaps in the south of the country especially around Mindanao, but most of the country is safe. Island nations really have a harder time getting travelers for obvious reasons, but the Philippines would be great to see. I didn’t realize there were that many islands though…wow.

  10. The Marshall Islands. My dad traveled there for what I’m pretty sure was for missile testing. It was in the Nineties, though. Perhaps he was doing something else besides actual testing of missiles at that time, if they did stop in 1958. Whatever he was doing, he really liked the island he was on – Kwajelein.

  11. Steve,

    Great selection of obscure countries to visit. For me Rwanda, was an unforgettable experience, and I hope to someday make it to Bhutan. For now due to the cost and exclusion of independent travel, I think I will hang on a little longer, to see if it eventually opens it’s doors for travelers to roam freely within what is no doubt an unbelievable country. From what I have read on Bhutan, it sounds like Nepal in the early 1900’s.

  12. @Sabina

    They still do missile testing there, but they aren’t nuclear. The big testing site there is the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site. It’s located on Kwajelein so that’s probably where your dad was working.

  13. Great list. I’d love to go to Bhutan…looks amazing. But ouch on the cost. I’ve been to Nicaragua and loved it…definitely not overrun with tourists like its neighbor, Costa Rica. Would love to check out Rwanda…perhaps some day…

  14. Rwanda? Really? I would have never thought to put this on this list. Then again, it’s because I automatically connect it with the genocide.

    My dad was adamant about me not going to Central America because of all the drugs and crime down there. To prove him wrong, I had him join me and he fell in love with it. I’m glad to hear Rwanda is recovering.

    The Marshall Islands and B&H intrigue me as well.

    • My parents were okay with me going to Central America too as long as I didn’t go to Nicaragua. I find it amazing that people see the country as being dangerous when it really isn’t. I felt completely safe there. In fact, I felt really safe in every country I went to in Central America.

  15. I am so glad you included Nicaragua in this list. It’s definitely an affordable choice for travelers and so safe. During my travels in Central America it was my favorite country by far.

    • Nicaragua was one of my favorites in Central America too. It’s so safe and secure, but people think the opposite. I think that’s a shame since the country has some really good sites to see.

  16. This is a good list…and the only one I’ve been to is Nicaragua. Rwanda and Bhutan sound enticing.
    Jason

  17. Hi Steve!
    I’ve been to Bhutan and hoping to pass through Nicaragua this summer since they have relaxed visa rules! Mozambique is another not quite explored territory thats worth a visit!
    Priyank

  18. John Brito says:

    Hello,
    Interesting you have Sao Tome and Principe on the list. Another hidden gem is Cape Verde. Im there right now and its great time! It consists of 10 islands and each has its own terrain and culture.

  19. Nicaragua is one of my favorites. Right around the corner from Rwanda is Uganda, which is also great. I’d add Colombia to this list for sure also.

  20. i can’t wait to get to bhutan. i’ve read about it from beth (wanderlust and lipstick) and it seems like such an incredible place.

  21. This is my first visit and I just wanted to stop by and say hello all

  22. Bhutan is one of my favorites, a true marvel!

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