We bet you haven’t heard of most of the names that we are going to throw at you. Even globetrotters who don’t mind taking the road less travelled might have to rack their brains for these ones. We are talking about the world’s least visited countries. While on one end of the spectrum you have your France, Italy and Mexico, on the other end stand countries that boast of idyllic settings and are yet overlooked by tourists. Honestly, aren’t we all a little fed up scampering through the crowds, struggling to find a somewhat decent spot under the sun? Let’s face it. We are finally on the lookout for backpacking tales from far-off lands and explore the secret gems that few know about.
A remote island nation in the Pacific Ocean, a few hours away from north of Fiji, Tuvalu is a chain of nine islands. With a footfall of just about 2,000 visitors annually, it is completely off the tourist track. There is hardly any infrastructure or tourism facilities and there are only two flights a week, to and from the main hub Funafuti, the capital city. It has the country’s only airstrip and a dozen guest houses and homestays. The best way to get around the island is on a scooter, or hitch a ride, for less than $10. As they say, ‘when in Tuvalu, be like Tuvaluans’. Though most natives speak English, it’s always appreciated if you pick up a few words in the local language. To begin with, keep ‘talofa’ in mind (a traditional greeting in the Tuvaluan language).
An archipelago made up of nearly 1,000 tropical islands, Solomon Islands is an unspoilt gem just three hours away from Brisbane. An ideal destination for eco-tourists, adventure lovers and those seeking an underwater paradise, Solomon Islands offer an authentic island experience. Abandoning all the common stereotypes, it lets you get up close and personal with the traditional culture of the islanders. Its soaring volcanic peaks, pristine reefs and slow-paced village life is a refreshing break from the mainstream tropical getaways and is tailor-made for the intrepid traveller. With less than 30,000 visitors every year, if you’re looking for a destination off the beaten path, the buck stops right here.
A tiny island country in Micronesia, Nauru lies between Australia and Hawaii. Reports suggest that tourism has never really featured high on Nauru’s agenda. Ringed by a beautiful coral reef, the island unfortunately has been ravaged by decades of phosphate mining. Once known as the ‘pleasant island’, Narua today is on the brink of collapsing. The island holds a few unusual landmarks. Buada Lagoon is one of the few spots here that marks the X on our treasure map.
Scattered off the coast of Africa, Comoros is known for its beaches and colorful coral reefs. Often known as East Africa’s island paradise, Comoros is not your typical tropical getaway. Tucked between Mozambique and Madagascar, it boasts of a blend of Swahili and traditional Islamic influence. Also called the perfume islands, as you set foot here, the fragrance of vanilla and aroma of cloves and other spices are the first to welcome you. While the capital Moroni is known for the production of ylag-ylang essence, the other main hub Mayotte is remarkable for its quirky French colonial history.
Bordering Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname, Guyana in the northeast of South America tends to get overshadowed by its neighbours, especially in terms of tourism. While the likes of Argentina, Chile and Bolivia somehow end up on our bucket list each ear, Guyana attracts far lesser crowds. With only 3,000 visitors every year, Guyana is only for those who are daring enough to pay it a visit. Its untouched rainforests, golden beaches, savannahs and pristine rivers do make it a rather ‘unmissable spot’. With a strong Caribbean influence, the interiors of Guyana are defined by Amerindian culture. Interestingly, Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America, so any embarrassing cultural faux pas can easily be dodged.