Quick. What crosses your mind when you think about a European vacation? If you answered, “Exploring the untouched natural beauty of southern Albania, sipping coffee in Slovenia’s quaint capital Ljubljana, and visiting the Great Wall” my retort is, “No it doesn’t, no it doesn’t, and you’re mixing up your geography like you always do.” We all know that most people visit Europe because they want to see the Eiffel Tower, Roman Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa… you know what? I’m getting bored just writing that sentence. If you are into real adventure (and you most certainly are!) why not plan a trip off the beaten path, featuring countries you have probably never heard of or think are simply figments of my whimsical imagination. Here’s a list of the 8 least-visited European countries. Aside from listing how many tourists visited in 2017, we also calculate what the number would have been if you had also visited so that you feel a bit guilty.
Number of tourists that visited in 2017: 1,281,000
That number if you had also visited: 1,281,001
Serbia, which was once the ruler of the mini empire Yugoslavia, went through some rough times after the various territories that made up the country declared independence. Here’s a super weird fact: Serbia become the first country with a McDonalds to be attacked by other countries with McDonalds (NATO in 1999). But these days, Serbia is a safe country. There are mountains and beautiful lakes to visit. While its capital Belgrade is kind of drab and grey, the Bohemian neighborhood of Dorćol is kind of a happening place.
Number of tourists that visited in 2017: 1,054,000
That number if you had also visited: 1,054,001
This baby principality sandwiched between France and Germany – has a population of a bit more than half a million and contains some of the most well preserved medieval architecture in all of Europe and the country’s capital is even one of the three official capitals of the EU. And yet, it sees very few visitors. Most likely because it is really expensive and frankly once you get beyond the nice buildings there isn’t much to do there. By the way, guess what language they speak there? If your answer is Luxembourgish, good for you!
6. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Number of tourists that visited in 2017: 770,000
That number if you had also visited: 770,001
A quarter of a century after the end of the Bosnian War that saw more than 100,000 killed (the most devastating conflict since the end of WWII), a lot of people continue to stay away due to the assumption that it’s still dangerous. But having been there myself, I found it to be a peaceful and fascinating place where Muslims and Christians alike live in harmony. It’s also super cheap and their grilled meats are as good as anywhere. You can also check out some of the 1984 Winter Olympic ruins, which were hosted in the capital Sarajevo.
5. Republic of North Macedonia
Number of Tourists that visited in 2017: 510,000
That number if you had also visited: 510,001
Another of the former member states of Yugoslavia, it’s perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of Alexander the Great as well as Mother Teresa. Known as Macedonia until a few months ago (a fact that didn’t please its southern neighbor Greece, which has unrelated territory also known as Macedonia), this small, landlocked country has a lot of lakes and valleys that nature lovers would enjoy. Having been to capital Skopje, my feeling is that it’s a nice enough place to spend a single day, but more than that would be stretching it.
Number of tourists that visited in 2017: 336,000
That number if you had also visited: 336,002 (you would have gone twice)
The playground of the elite, this super tiny country that shares a coastline with France is largely avoided because there are comparatively cheaper places like nearby Nice and Genoa where visitors can enjoy the same sun that they’d get in Monaco. More than ⅓ of the people who call Monaco home are millionaires, the highest concentration in the world. Sort of fun fact: native born citizens are called Monegasque while those who were born abroad but reside there are called Monacoian.
Number of tourists that visited in 2017: 121,000
That number if you had also visited: 121,001
Try this on for size: back in 2014, it is reported that only 11,500 foreigners visited Moldova! So the current numbers are kind of a boon. Once those low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Wizz Air started offering flights to the capital Chișinău, people where like, “Where is that? 10 Euros to fly there? Sure, why the hell not?” They actually have pretty good wine and the country is generally flat, making it ideal for cycling. While you’re at it, you could visit the quirky and super Soviet breakaway Republic of Transnistria, recognized by nobody accept for other breakaway republics with links to Russia.
Number of tourists that visited in 2017: 69,000
That number if you had also visited: It’s meant to be a trick question. You wouldn’t visit Liechtenstein in a million years.
How many of you are able to correctly spell the smallest country in Europe’s name without using spellcheck? I refuse to believe you. Anyway, this landlocked micro-nation nestled between Austria and Switzerland is literally smaller than most mid-sized towns. It lacks an airport, which means your only real options are to enter by car or train. Or by horseback? It’s really one of those places you’d visit just to say you’ve been there. But do you really think this is something that’s going to impress your future grandchildren?
1. San Marino
Number of tourists that visited in 2017: 60,000
That number if you had also visited: 59,999 (two people would have chosen another place)
San Marino sounds like a fictitious place within the Grand Theft Auto universe, but it really does exist. Located entirely within Italy, this super itty bitty country is practically half the size of the little Iowa town that I grew up in. Unlike Liechtenstein, there would seem to be every reason to stop by San Marino. It’s got quaint villages surrounded by mountains and can easily be added to an Italian vacation itinerary.