If you’re like me and enjoy adding a theme to your travels, then this post is for you. While there is no shortage of unique travel destinations around the world, we’re going to look at eight unique and interesting countries that you can explore. Several reasons make each country unique and different from others, and now you can use that to create a theme.
When considering what countries to include on this list, I opted to omit dependencies (like the Faroe Islands or Greenland), places not widely recognized by everyone as independent (Transnistria or Kosovo) and those that are not independent (French Guiana or Wales). Don’t worry. That still leaves many unique countries to explore.
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Unique travel destinations and interesting countries to explore next
I am all about random facts and trivia, especially when it’s travel-related. So, I couldn’t resist putting this post together when I realized that all these countries have something interesting to make them unique travel destinations. This means things unique to them and not shared by many other countries. Let’s see what you think.
If you’re not familiar with Andorra, you’re not alone. Located in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, this tiny nation has no issues attracting tourists. Here, tourism accounts for 80% of the country’s GDP, and it is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re into hiking or hitting the slopes, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here.
It is believed that Charlemagne created Andorra after defeating the Moors. It was then ruled by the count of Urgell until 988, before transitioning under the rule of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Urgell. The principality was officially formed in 1278 and was ruled jointly by the Spanish Bishop of Urgell and the head of France until 1993.
Andorra’s first constitution passed in 1993, establishing it as an independent state. The country is part of the United Nations and enjoys a special relationship with the EU, although not a member state. The co-princes remain as the honorary heads of state, and there is a prime minister that runs the country today.
Andorra is also known for its duty-free status, culinary scene and as a banking haven. As there are no airports, you can enter the country via two entry points – a road from France and another one from Spain. Pretty quirky as far as unique travel destinations go.
You might wonder why Australia makes the list of unique travel destinations. Besides its stunning landscapes, unique wildlife, and natural attractions, a few things make this one of the many fascinating countries to explore.
Australia, for one, is not just a country. It’s also a continent, much like Antarctica, but with a permanent population. It is also the largest island in the world and the driest continent on earth. It’s not a surprise then that 90% of Australians live on the coast while the interior is a vast desert.
Under British rule, Australia was used as a penal colony. Between 1788 and 1868, more than 160,000 people were transported to New South Wales from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The “convicts” were sent to help settle and build the new colony in lieu of receiving the death penalty. Today, about 20% of the population are descended from these convicts, many of whom stayed here upon completing their sentences.
Australia’s Aboriginal culture is the oldest on earth, having inhabited the area for 40,000-60,000 years. Here you’ll also find some of the world’s most dangerous and deadly species known to man. If you thrive on adventure, exploration and curiosity, the Land Down Under is calling your name.
Want to explore more of Australia? Check out Driving the Great Ocean Road!
Liechtenstein is one of those countries you’ve probably heard of yet don’t know much about it. There are quite a few interesting facts about this tiny nation that guarantee its spot on this unique travel destinations list.
With fewer than 40,000 people, Lichtenstein is one of the smallest and least-visited countries in Europe. It has the second-highest per capita GDP of $165,028, no national debt and is the largest manufacturer of false teeth. Fun fact, it was the last country in Europe to allow women to vote – it finally happened in 1986.
It is the only country in the world with its territory being 100% in the Alpine region. It has no airport, and it’s double land-locked. This means it has no coastline and the two countries surrounding it are also land-locked. It shares this title with only one other double-locked country – Uzbekistan.
Lichtenstein has a constitutional monarchy and is a principality, meaning it’s ruled by a prince, not a king/queen. The country is named after the Lichtenstein family, who purchased the lands from the Holy Roman Emperor in the early 18th century and was part of the German Confederation until 1866.
Thanks to a property dispute, Lichtenstein didn’t recognize the Czech Republic’s (Chechia’s) existence until 2009. After WWII, properties belonging to Germans collaborating with the Nazis were seized. This included lands owned by the Lichtenstein family. These lands became part of newly created Czechoslovakia.
If you enjoy reading about unique travel destinations, you might like Visiting countries that no longer exist!
The Lichtenstein family disputed the seizure of their personal property, claiming that they were not German and didn’t collaborate with the Nazis. That didn’t sway the communist government, and no diplomatic relations between the two countries existed after that. As the lands were not reinstated when the Czechoslovakian government fell, Lichtenstein refused to recognize the newly created Czech Republic. The two finally agreed to recognize each other and try to solve the dispute in 2009.
I think everyone can agree that there is no other country on earth like North Korea. It is the most secretive nation in the world that keeps its citizen isolated from the outside world. It is a totalitarian dictatorship that makes it extremely difficult to get in or out, and everything we know about it is so bizarre that it makes your head spin.
In case you were wondering, there used to be just one Korea. It was annexed by Japan in 1910 and remained under Japanese rule until the end of World War II. Upon Japan’s surrender, Korea was split into North Korea (aka the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), occupied by Russia and the Republic of Korea (aka South Korea) under the USA’s control.
Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s first president, cut off his people economically and diplomatically from the rest of the world under the guise of self-reliance. Those that followed continuously created rules and regulations that don’t make sense. From a set of approved haircuts for men and women, state-controlled programming and shutting off electric power at night to state-owned everything, North Korea doesn’t seem real to many.
We do know that majority of the population is malnourished and doesn’t have access to food. There is no freedom of anything, and punishment is brutal. Everyone is watched, and any subversive behaviour is reported to authorities. In a country where political opposition results in a trip to prison camps or death, it’s not hard to see why drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid is a matter of self-preservation.
Russia makes the list of unique travel destinations for several reasons. It’s the world’s largest country by geography, located on two continents, Europe and Asia. With 11 time zones, Russia is the only country in the world with the most consecutive time zones.
Due to its sheer size, Russia has the longest railway in the world – the Trans-Siberian Railroad. It is home to the world’s deepest lake (Baikal) and has recorded some of the lowest temperatures outside the North and South poles.
The history of Russia is long and often turbulent, filled with bloodshed and death. While not as extreme as North Korea, it’s not an easy place to travel. Questionable laws, corruptions and treatment of people (from marginalized groups and political opposition) often deter tourists from going there.
We can’t talk about Russia and not mention its past as the Soviet Union. Created after the end of WWII, the communist state absorbed many other countries and ruled them with an iron fist. Out of the Soviet Union’s fall, 15 countries re-emerged, and many others saw their communist governments collapse. You can say many things about Russia, but there is no denying that there is no other country like it.
San Marino is the oldest surviving national constitution in the world, which was drafted in 1600. It is one of the smallest countries in the world, and it’s landlocked by Italy. The official language is Italian, and Euro is used as currency, although San Marino is not an EU member.
This small and mighty nation was founded by Saint Marinus, a stonemason from the island of Rab (modern Croatia), in 301 AD. It saw many invasions over the centuries without losing a single one while maintaining its sovereignty. Despite its ancient roots, stunning views, impressive architecture and culture, San Marino is the least visited country in Europe.
Whether you want to explore the Museum of Torture, climb the towers of Guaita and Cesta, or simply explore an unusual place, then San Marino is for you.
As far as unique travel destinations go, Tuvalu fits the bill. This island paradise is located in the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Australia and Hawaii. Made up of a small collection of islands, it is one of the smallest nations in the world with the smallest economy.
The Tuvalu Islands are made up of coral atolls (ring-shaped reefs) that rose out of the sea. There are only three other countries in the world entirely made up of coral atolls – the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and the Maldives. As the atolls rise only about 16 feet above sea level, the country is always in danger of disappearing. The government takes global warming seriously, teaching kids about its effects as early as six years old. There are plans to relocate Tuvalu citizens to New Zealand due to rising sea levels.
Due to Tuvalu’s size, limited resources and remoteness, the government turned the country’s code domain .tv into a significant revenue source. Despite having the world’s most liberal visa policy, there are very few people visiting. This might be due to the challenges of getting there, limited accommodation options and a cash-only system.
Polynesian settlers initially settled in Tuvalu. It then became a British Colony known as Ellice Islands. It gained independence in 1978 and joined United Nations in 2000.
Vatican City is probably not a surprising addition to the list of unique travel destinations. It is the world’s smallest sovereign state by size and population and is a country within Rome. The Vatican is an absolute monarchy ruled by the pope with its own currency, laws and powers.
It is the seat of the Catholic Church, and there is an army made up exclusively of Swiss guards. The Vatican also has the distinction of being the only country entirely designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There is a secret passage between the Vatican and the Castel Sant’Angelo, which several popes have used to escape during invasions. The unification of Italy ended the pope’s secular rule, and many of the papal lands were seized, which didn’t go over well with the pope. The dispute finally ended in 1929 with the Lateran Pacts signed by Benito Mussolini on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III. It gave the Vatican sovereign state status and compensation for the loss of Papal States, amounting to more than $1 billion in today’s money.
Want to read more about exciting cities? How about Rome, the Eternal City!
Final thoughts on unique destinations
It never ceases to amaze me how many interesting countries there are in the world. I love discovering their stories and learning about the quirky, unique and fascinating things that make them such unique travel destinations.
There will always be something unique about each country, but some are more unique than others. I tried to narrow it down to a manageable number that will also be fun to check off as you visit. Like I said in the beginning, I love adding a theme to my travels. It adds fun to travelling and turns vacations into a treasure hunt. Are there any other unique countries you would add to this list? Let me know.