Maybe you know about them, maybe you don’t. I for one hadn’t heard of these countries before starting my quest to visit every country in the World. Let alone place them on a map! These are the seven spectacular countries you didn’t know about:
7. Marshall Islands.
The maximum altitude in the Marshall Islands is 8 meters, and hence, it’s one of the countries with more risk of disappearing due to climate change. It’s one of those destinations worth visiting before they change completely. In addition, this island nation is made up of 29 atolls and has a population of 50.000, most of which live in Majuro, the capital. Reaching this remote country in the Pacific isn’t easy, there are just a few weekly flights, but it will meet your expectations of becoming a true castaway. For this, I recommend you explore Arno Atoll, close enough to Majuro but barely inhabited so you can play Robinson Crusoe for a few days. If you end up heading out there, be sure to take your own provisions! Asides for this little bungalow you can rent for 10 euros a night, there is nothing out there!
Always in the shadow of famous neighbor Nigeria, if you have ever heard of Niger it’s highly unlikely it was for a good thing. Most streets in its capital, Niamey, are sandy. Which is understandable, due to its location in the Sahara desert, and the fact that Niger is always ranked as one of the World’s poorest countries. On the other hand, the country also boasts the World’s highest fertility rate, with over seven kids per woman, and that joy is definitely palpable wherever you go. Once you leave Niamey, life slows down and a few hours out, you will reach Kouré, a great base to explore the nearby bushes in search of wild giraffes. Thus, with a little effort, you can track a group, and respectfully walk alongside them. It’s one of the most authentic and wild experiences you will ever encounter!
Arguably the best beach destination in the World. After all, this small archipelago is surrounded by well-known holiday paradises like Zanzibar, Seychelles, and Maldives. They all take the fame, and the Comorian islands of Grand Comore, Anjouan, and Moheli remain off-bounds for most tourists. Recently, the country has gained some access with weekly flights from Nairobi, Antananarivo, and Dar es Salaam, but the islands still lack the tourism infrastructure, with just one three-star hotel. If you aren’t looking for fancy resorts and rather prefer a bit of adventure and empty heavenly beaches, Comoros is the place for you!
This former Soviet republic has the World’s third-highest average altitude. Tajikistan is a small Central Asian country locked in the Pamir Mountains between China and Afghanistan. Exploring it is relatively easy thanks to the infamous Pamir Highway, but it’s recommended to travel in a group of friends to better share the expenses of hiring the 4WD you’ll need to navigate these remote landscapes. Together with the wild outdoor scenes, you will fall in love with the locals. Unlike its neighbors which descend from Turkish tribes, Tajiks are of Persian origin. Journeying through the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan and Tajikistan are only inches away, separated by a small stream. Hence, the strong contrast between the fair-haired and green-eyed Tajiks and the burkas on the Afghan side is remarkably impressive. Both very striking realities coexist with no fences or checkpoints, just a simple river acting as a natural border.
Until very recently, the Eritrean-Ethiopian conflict was one of the longest-standing in the World. It’s resolution even garnered the Nobel Peace Prize for the Ethiopian President, Abey Ahmed. Up until then, Eritrea had remained almost completely locked out of the outside World. A North Korea of sorts in the Horn of Africa. As I explored Asmara, the capital, I couldn’t shake my amazement. I felt like I was transported to Italy in the early 1930s. Art Deco buildings from the colonial era, vintage bars with espresso machines in perfect shape, and bicycles as the most popular means of transportation. Moreover, the few cars on the streets, old Fiat classics. This quaint uniqueness paired with the warm hospitality of Eritreans makes it a very compelling destination worth visiting before it changes.
No, not the beautiful Andalusian town, but rather the Caribbean country. Christopher Columbus named it Conception, and other Spanish explorers later changed it for Granada for the similarities between the mountain chain in the island and the Sierra Nevada in the south of Spain. It’s precisely that characteristic orography and enchanting nature that make this such a special enclave. In its capital, St. George’s, green hills mix with small bays and hidden coves, all covered with colorful houses and quaint ports. It’s so photogenic and laidback, that it quickly became one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean. Locals contribute to that relaxed atmosphere and are always very keen on giving you a lift if it’s on their way!
This tiny Himalayan Kingdom squeezed between China and India, remains fairly secluded and inaccessible. Only a few weekly flights connect it to Kathmandu, Delhi, Bangkok, and Dhaka. The Bhutanese are proud of upholding their millenary traditions, their devout Tibetan Buddhism beliefs, and being the only country in the World to use Gross Domestic Happiness instead of the usual GDP. These principles also dictate their tourism policies, limiting the number of visitors they receive to ensure the sustainability of their heritage sites, nature, and culture. Traveling to Bhutan is relatively easy, but very costly, with a standard $250 fee per person and day. Despite being all-inclusive, this will hardly get you a tasty meal, since Bhutanese food mostly consists of spicy chili-cheese and bland stews and red rice.