Travel is an opportunity to see things you’ve never seen before, get to know people whose lives have been extremely different from your own, and get to know the world on a whole new level. Unfortunately, however, travel can also mean endless lines, crowds big enough to swallow you, and more time standing around waiting than actually experiencing the things you came all that way to experience. When your travel starts to feel more like work, you often start to imagine what it would be like if you were visiting a lesser-visited country; today, we’ve done the work for you! Europe is full of small hidden-gem countries that promise few crowds with the same stunning views, fascinating histories, and amazing food as their more popular counterparts, and we’ve collected a few of our favorite. Read on to discover the least-visited countries in Europe!
Why you should travel to lesser-visited countries
- You’ll encounter far fewer crowds and experience little to no wait times for attractions, historical sites, restaurants, and anything else you’d like to enjoy during your travels.
- Over-tourism is becoming a real problem in more popular countries – by travelling to lesser-visited countries, you give those countries a little breathing room.
- Sometimes, it’s nice to go into a trip with no expectations. If you don’t know too much about your destination, you’ll often be pleasantly surprised about the things you can see, do, and taste there.
- A visit to a country none of your friends have ever even heard of means infinite bragging rights once they hear about how amazing it is!
- Number of visitors per year: 78,000 (in 2017)
History lovers, this one’s for you: San Marino, a microstate settled within northern Italy, is one of the world’s oldest republics, and much of its original, historic architecture is still standing. San Marino is the fifth-smallest country in the world, which means there are plenty of undiscovered gems and wonderful secrets to be found here. Take a cable car ride over the main city (also called San Marino), stroll through the small mountain towns, and visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic centre of this tiny-but-mighty country.
- Number of visitors per year: 46,234 (in 2018)
For travellers looking to truly get off the beaten path and leave their lives behind them when they go on vacation, Moldova may be the best option. Once dubbed “the world’s least happy place,” the country is growing into a destination for wine tours, unspoiled countryside, green parks, and ancient churches. While Moldova’s history has been difficult, seeing civil war in 1990 before finally becoming an independent country in 1991, the future looks bright for this lesser-visited country.
- Number of visitors per year: 51,599 (in 2017)
A successor state of the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia (known as the Republic of North Macedonia officially) is a country with a complex history that travellers are only recently waking up to. Explore serene monasteries, take a plunge in the ancient Lake Ohrid (which reaches depths of 300 metres), or stroll through Skopje, the country’s capital city, and discover the Old Bazaar, a relic of the Ottoman Empire and home to your perfect souvenir from your visit to Macedonia.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Number of visitors per year: 1,307,319 (in 2017)
The nearly-landlocked country of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the country has just 20 kilometres of coast along the Adriatic Sea) was first settled by the Slavic people beginning in the 6th century. Over the centuries, the country has evolved to be a multicultural oasis perfect for travellers looking for something new on their next adventure. Following a crushing civil war in the 1990s, the country has rebuilt and become a tourist destination well worth the visit. Raft down turquoise rivers, be inspired by ancient architecture, and immerse yourself in the country’s east-meets-west vibe. Travellers interested in visiting lesser-visited countries should hurry to Bosnia and Herzegovina, though – the country is projected to have the third-highest tourism growth rate in the world until 2020.
- Number of visitors per year: 80,900 (in 2017)
At only 160 square kilometres, the principality of Liechtenstein is filled to the brim with Medieval charm, stunning views of the Swiss Alps, and traces of ancient nobility. The first farming settlements in Liechtenstein were founded around 5300 BCE, making this tiny country between Switzerland and Austria more than just a novelty; it’s a culturally-rich destination where travellers will find stunning cliff-side castles, charming villages, and untouched nature. If that wasn’t good enough, the country also has one of the world’s lowest crime rates – there hasn’t been a murder since 1997 – and you’ll find plenty of peace and quiet here. In fact, there are local rules against “holding noisy festivities” during Liechtenstein’s official lunch break from 12 to 1:30pm.
While these countries are small, they’re loaded with huge adventures! Whether you want to spend your next vacation enjoying delicious food in San Marino or trying your luck in Monaco’s casinos, these destinations are not to be missed.