Some dwarf in comparison to their gargantuan neighbors, others are still branded with a scarlet letter thanks to past global conflicts and none can compete with France‘s food scene, England’s charms or Italy’s gorgeous coastline, but nevertheless you should check out the ten least visited countries in Europe.
Almost nobody places this landlocked Eastern European country at the top of their priority list, but consider Belarus over Belize next time an enticing vacation is in the works. The Mir Castle Complex and nearby Nezvish Castle are as pretty and fascinating as any, Stalinist architecture and the KGB headquarters abound in the capital city of Minsk, and its proximity to fascinating countries like Latvia and Poland make it a within-reach detour. Yeah, it’s still a a bit repressive, but so were many European countries at one point.
The breakup of the Republic of Yugolsavia has done wonders for Croatia which currently ranks high among visitors to Europe, but the same can’t be said of neighboring Bosnia—yet. It doesn’t help that it’s all but landlocked thanks to Croatia’s unusual borders, although the seaside town of Neum is a popular resort destination. More importantly, the country is an emerging paradise for adventure seekers, including plenty of powder for skiers and snowboarders. Don’t miss Sarajevo, the country’s lively and fascinating capital.
First-time travelers to this Nordic island nation often describe a visit as the trip of a lifetime, so it’s too bad that it ranks low in comparison to its mainland neighbors. The weather does Iceland no favor (although it’s seldom unbearable) and daylight hours in winter are few and far between, yet the landscape is thrilling, including gurgling hot springs, black sand beaches, gargantuan volcanoes and so much more. Book a trip to mainland Europe via Iceland Air and arrange for a multi-day layover in Reykjavik. You won’t be sorry.
Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Liechtenstein is a tiny sliver of a country nestled between Switzerland and Austria. Only 61.78 square miles, it is not even one-ninth the size of the city of Los Angeles, making it easily a place to explore in a weekend, if not a single day. Try hiking and biking around this pint-sized Alpine country, hit the slopes in winter or spend a few days idling around its many villages, including Vaduz and Schaan.
Lilliputian Luxembourg gets the short shrift due to its tiny stature relative to its French, German and Belgium neighbors, and yet it’s a charming country with a compelling, laid-back capital perched on steep cliffs where three official languages—French, German and Luxembourgish—are spoken. An overnight stay is worth every visitor’s hard-earned vacation time, while European road trippers making a cross-continental trek should at the very least consider a few hours picnicking in its gorgeous countryside.
As the Balkan nations continue to embrace tourism in a bigger way, landlocked Macedonia should not be overlooked. Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for five centuries, Islamic buildings and mosques are part of the country’s architectural landscape as are ancient ruins, as well as baroque, Byzantine and Roman styles. Check out the Old Bazaar in the capital city of Skopje, witness the annual wedding festival in the mountain village of Galicnik or spend a few days at Lake Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Europhiles can be entirely forgiven for having never heard of Moldova. Landlocked by Romania and the Ukraine, this Eastern European country and former Soviet Republic is travel worthy mostly for its wine industry which is said to yield some of the best varietals in Europe. If the hunt for the perfect Pinot wears you thin, Chisinau is a downright bargain capital city, the country’s monasteries are astonishingly pretty, or visit the Transnistrian region where the presence of Mother Russia still looms large.
You’re never going to accidentally wind up in Monaco, an independent microstate that is tucked away in the French Mediterranean and measures just 499 acres in size. Home to the fabulously wealthy—it is estimated that nearly 30% of its tiny population are millionaires—many tourists give it a pass, but due to its close proximity to Nice, it’s certainly worth an afternoon detour, if not to gawk at the yachts and mansions, then at the very least to enjoy its 2.7-miles of coastlines or to try your luck at one of its glitzy casinos.
The fifth smallest country in the world, landlocked San Marino is roughly half the size of San Francisco and surrounded by Italy on all four sides. But don’t dismiss it outright. Its points of interest are numerous, including the dramatic 11th century Fortress of Guaita, which is situated on one of three peaks overlooking the capital city of San Marino. Other highlights include a visit to Mount Titan, the views from Cesta Tower, the Piazza della Liberta and a stroll through San Marino Nature Park.
If you like floating nightclubs, Communist-era architecture and slalom skiing, don’t overlook Serbia, a fascinating Balkan nation which has only been sovereign since 2006, and whose southern province of Kosovo declared independence in 2008. The Danube and Sava Rivers intersect in Belgrade, a capital city with more than 1.2 million residents that boasts a formidable nightlife—yes, those floating disco barges do exist—the Tesla Museum, the Belgrade Fortress and the intriguing group outing Room Escape.