France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, and Germany are the top 5 countries in Europe that receive the most number of travelers every year — and I bet this doesn’t come as a surprise to you. The entire world really wants to visit these places and I bet that you want to see them too!
The most notable downside of this fact, however, is that they are often ridiculously crowded especially if you don’t time your visit well. Summer is usually the no-go season for such things, but surely you would want to have your own piece of ‘European sun’ without suffering the swarm of tourists.
Fortunately for you, there are still a LOT of ‘hidden gems‘ in Europe that can give you exactly what you want: an out of the ordinary destination with a fewer number of visitors abound. And through this post, I have partnered up with Expedia.com to bring to you 20 “off the beaten path” countries in Europe that are least visited!
NOTE: This post is based on World Bank‘s 2013 data for international arrivals, and the 20 countries below were on the bottom of the list. It helps to note that though you may deem a country listed below as crowded, remember that the World Bank only counts tourists who have traveled to the country for no more than 12 months (so it does not count immigrants, foreign residents, etc.). Those tourists must also spend a night on the said country, and not just make it as a day trip.
Also, you might think that most of the countries below have made it to this list because of their small geographical size, but then we can argue that Mont Saint-Michel which has an area of only 0.97 sqkm has over 3 million visitors annually! (Imagine that…)
Nevertheless, I know that there are other intricacies to take note of and other ways to make this list even more accurate (like making the # of visitors relative to the country’s population, etc.). Add the fact of how I can see it myself that the list gathered by World Bank is inadequate since places like the Faroe Islands (who can seemingly/easily be a part of this list) have no data.
Because of these and more, please take the list below with a grain of salt especially if you’re looking for concrete and utter accuracy. After all, this article is made simply for fun as a ‘good start’ for giving you ideas on places that have lesser number of tourists annually as compared to most of Europe.
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20 Least Visited Countries in Europe
#20 – Estonia
As one of the Baltic states in Northern Europe, former Soviet-occupied Estonia has been largely forgotten by the world it seems. But it’s time to make them known in the tourism industry since this nation is truly filled with a diverse mix of rocky beaches, hilltop fortresses, lush forests, and pristine lakes. Because of that and more, this is a wondrous destination for any traveler out there!
» Some Must-Sees: Tallinn Old Town, Toompea, Lahemaa National Park, Kadriorg Palace, Aegna, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 2,868,000
#19 – Albania
Photo by aakaashá / CC
After its brutal history of communism in the 90s, Albania is in a sense, still underdeveloped. But…! It is slowly rising as the ‘place to be’ in the Balkans. With an amazing array of unique attractions and the lack of tourists crowds thereof, this could definitely be your next vacation spot.
» Some Must-Sees: Rozafa Castle, Krujë Castle, Skanderbeg Square in Tirana, ruined city of Apollonia, Durrës Amphitheatre, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 2,857,000
#18 – Cyprus
After its stagnant growth in tourism in the early 2000s (due to what locals would say as a lack of marketing) this island to the south of Turkey is slowly rising up to the ranks again, and it should! Cyprus has a rich history thereby leaving it with many ancient villages, beautiful ruins, and medieval castles. And of course, it’s one of the countries in Europe where you can enjoy blissful sunshine and sandy beaches all year long! (Did you know that they have some of the cleanest beaches in Europe?)
» Some Must-Sees: Paphos, Fig Tree Bay, Tombs of the Kings, St. Hilarion Castle, Konnos Bay, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 2,405,000
#17 – Andorra
Situated between the touristy nations of France and Spain, you could guess how Andorra is on this list. Nevertheless, as a tiny independent principality, they are actually slowly doing good at least since they are known for their ski resorts and duty-free shopping. It’s geographical location also makes it one of the best countries in Europe for mountain and nature treks!
» Some Must-Sees: Lagos de Tristania, Soldeu el Tarter, Naturlandia Nature Park, Coma Pedrosa Community National Park, Lake Engolasters, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 2,335,000
#16 – Slovenia
Due to the wars on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, anything that had any relation to it gave off a negative vibe which then hindered Slovenia’s tourism. But today, with economic developments here and there, the country is slowly improving its system for attracting tourists — which shouldn’t be too hard in the years to come!
Slovenia offers a LOT of amazing landscapes (and natural spas!) in a small space. In fact, you might just end up saying that it’s one of the prettiest countries in Europe! From high Alpine peaks, rolling hills, sparkling waters — there’s something for everyone here.
» Some Must-Sees: Lake Bled, Vintgar Gorge, Postojna Caves, Julian Alps, Triglav National Park, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 2,259,000
#15 – Lithuania
Photo by Vaidotas Mišeikis / CC
One of Europe’s best-kept secrets in the southernmost of the three Baltic states, Lithuania is a vibrant destination that you absolutely must see. Much like Estonia, it has suffered under the rule of communism, but it has long escaped that and lately, it is slowly soaring into the radar of tourists. Besides, though its terrain is predominantly flat, there are a lot of hot spots that can capture anyone’s fancy!
» Some Must-Sees: Vilnius Old Town, Curonian Spit, Trakai Castle, Hill of Crosses, Aukštaitija National Park, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 2,012,000
#14 – Malta
A treasure trove of sorts, Malta is a small island in the Mediterranean Sea that lies just south of Sicily, Italy. With that in mind, you could imagine how it has been facing strong competition for years from other nearby Mediterranean destinations. With its size, the island can easily get crowded but it’s technically still one of the least visited countries in Europe. Nonetheless, going on a trip to this enchanting country will offer you rich historical landmarks, picturesque cliffs, hidden coves, and lovely beaches among many others.
» Some Must-Sees: Blue Grotto, Comino, Mdina Old City, Mnajdra, Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 1,582,000
#13 – Latvia
Photo by Bryan Ledgard / CC
Latvia, along with the previously-listed countries of Lithuania and Estonia, make up the 3 Baltic states and indeed all three of them have made it to this ‘least visited countries’ list. But of course, as what you might have guessed by now, they are the true blue ‘hidden gems’ of Eastern Europe! And one of the things that you shouldn’t skip out on when in Latvia are its natural assets such as the white-sand beaches of the ‘Baltic Riviera’,
» Some Must-Sees: Gauja National Park, Old City Riga, Dzintari Forest Park, Lake Engure, Turaida Castle, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 1,536,000
#12 – Montenegro
As one of the countries that suffered from Yugoslavia’s civil war in the 90s, Montenegro saw a tragic low on its tourism. But in recent years, like many other war-stricken countries, Montenegro had recovered. And though it may be a small Balkan country that is unnoticed along the Adriatic Sea, Montenegro still packs a lot of staggering medieval villages, tantalizing fjords, rugged coastline, and mystical nature to attract visitors. Truth be told, it has views that are straight out of a storybook!
» Some Must-Sees: Lake Skadar, Black Lake, Kotor Old City, Tara River Canyon, Lovćen National Park, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 1,324,000
#11 – Armenia
Straddled between Asia and Europe, Armenia is a mountainous region that can supply pleasant surprises for its visitors! It has a traumatic history in the past that might be putting off its visitors, but the nation has long put it past them. It is now peaceful, and they have even erected memorials amongst its vast eye-catching ancient vistas that are just waiting to be explored!
NOTE: As a transcontinental country, geographically speaking, this country is mostly located in Asia, but politically, they are regarded as a part of Europe due to their memberships and cultural connection. Besides it can be argued that the modern border between Asia and Europe remains to be a historical and cultural construct.
» Some Must-Sees: Geghard, Khor Virap, Tatev Monastery, Sevanavank, Mount Aragats, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 1,084,000
#10 – Luxembourg
Bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany, you could really expect that this tiny European nation that is just 84 km long has been quite unnoticed over the years. Even though it is heavily visited by business people, tourists rarely do so which is a shame since the country has so much to offer with its rolling forested hills and medieval castles.
TRIVIA: Despite its size, Luxembourg is actually among the world’s 3 richest countries!
» Some Must-Sees: Upper Sûre National Park, Brock, Mullerthal Trail, Chateau de Vianden, Vianden, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 945,000
#9 – Serbia
Photo by Milos Golubovic / CC
Serbia used to constitute the former Yugoslavia so you could imagine how hard it has been for them to attract tourists over the years. But it’s time for everyone to know that with its fascinating history, Serbia is a country full of wonders. Apart from the world-known party destination of Belgrade, Serbia is a nexus of awe-inspiring cultural sites, and vast mountains!
» Some Must-Sees: Belgrade Fortress, Petrovaradin Fortress, Great War Island, Avala, Palić Lake, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 922,000
#8 – Iceland
Who hasn’t heard of Iceland!? I found it really surprising that it’s one of the least-visited countries in Europe given its paradise-like state: dramatic hot springs, geothermal spas, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, and black sand beaches… this is a traveler’s haven!
It’s said that people presume it as expensive to travel here, and well… unfortunately it ‘generally’ is; but! Did you know that if you travel on a budget, it’s possible to spend only $60 a day here? Yep, you definitely could!
» Some Must-Sees: Blue Lagoon, Gullfoss, Golden Circle, Black Sand Beach, Reykjavik, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 800,000
#7 – Bosnia and Herzegovina
Photo by Mimmo Domenico Russo / CC
This country on the Balkan Peninsula is known for its tragic civil war in the 90s, but today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is as peaceful as can be. And despite it being one of the least-developed countries in Europe, it is a charming land full of memorable outdoor activities for everyone!
» Some Must-Sees: Stari Most, Kravice Falls, Bascarsija, Neretva River, Jahorina, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: Tourists Per Year: 529,000
#6 – Republic of Macedonia
Photo by Diego Delso / CC
One of the cheapest countries in Europe and the Former Yugoslavia Republic, I was appalled to know from a friend that I know in Macedonia that living here is cheaper than living in my home country, the Philippines (as per cost of living). Anyhow, it’s contested that there’s a lack of key attractions here, hence its low tourism. However, Macedonians boast about their rich nature, and that is rightly so since the country is truly speckled with natural beauty.
So yeah, low cost of living and awe-inspiring sights? I’m in for that!
» Some Must-Sees: Lake Ohrid, National Park Galicica, Mountain of Vodno, Old Bazaar in Skopje, Marovo Lake, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 400,000
#5 – Monaco
The world’s second smallest country (with Vatican being the first), the sovereign ‘microstate’ of Monaco stands as one of Europe’s least visited countries and it could be primarily attributed to how it is shaped to accommodate a special league of visitors that comprise mostly of the wealthy and powerful (and also because most tourists just make it as a day trip). But fret not! There are a number of attractions that can suit us regular folks and can make us stay more than a day.
» Some Must-Sees: Oceanographic Museum, Monte Carlo Harbor, Casino Square, Jardin Exotique de Monaco, Monaco Grand Prix, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 328,000
#4 – Belarus
Photo by Alexxx Malev / CC
Known as Europe’s “last dictatorship”, this could be the reason why it is one of the least visited countries in Europe. But what one might not know is that it’s perfectly safe here as long as you stay street smart and as long as you mind their country’s rules. Add the fact that there are several attractions to see: Stalinist architecture, grand fortifications and primeval forests!
» Some Must-Sees: Minsk, Białowieża Forest, Mir Castle, Brest Fortress, Khatyn Memorial, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 137,000
#3 – San Marino
At 60 sqkm (even smaller than Luxembourg), San Marino is one of the world’s smallest and oldest republics that is surrounded by the mammoth: Italy. With a preserved historic architecture and an impressive mountainous region, wouldn’t it be a great experience to visit this lesser-known destination before all the other tourists start streaming in soon?
» Some Must-Sees: Mount Titan, Guaita, Cesta Tower, Palazzo Pubblico, De La Fratta, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 70,000
#2 – Liechtenstein
Photo by Mathias Erhart / CC
Sandwiched between the well-known countries of Austria and Switzerland, it is no wonder that Liechtenstein is one of the overlooked countries in Europe. But its fairytale-like landscape is something that should really not be missed. Just think of medieval castles, alpine chalets, and charming villages and you’re in for a treat!
TRIVIA: For a price of $70,000 a night, you could actually rent and rule the entire country while taking a maximum of 150 guests with you, complete with customized street signs and a temporary currency. Must be nice to be rich!
» Some Must-Sees: Vaduz Castle, Liechtenstein National Museum, Ski Region of Malbun, Postage Stamp Museum, Augstenberg, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 52,000
#1 – Moldova
Photo by Clay Gilliland / CC
The world’s 2nd least visited (with Kiribati as the first) and Europe’s least visited country, one would wonder why Moldova isn’t a hit with the tourists… and there’s a number of reasons why: it’s ‘remote’, it is located between Ukraine and Romania, and it’s still struggling after it gained its independence from the disassembly of the Soviet Union in the 90s (tourism hasn’t taken off that much).
But if you’re a traveler who really wants to explore an unspoiled ‘off the beaten path’ destination, Moldova is the place for you! Though the cities aren’t much of a hit, they have very good vineyards and wineries here, so it’s a haven for winos too.
» Some Must-Sees: Stefan cel Mare Park, Milestii Mici, Dendrarium Park, Victory Memorial and Eternal Flame, Pădurea Domnească, and more~
» Tourists Per Year: 11,500
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Past tragic wars partnered with either a small total area size or a non-strategic geographical location may have kept and stalled the growth in tourism for these countries, but their beauty speak volumes — and it’s time for you to check them out!
Besides, aren’t you ecstatic about how there are tons of epic underrated destinations in Europe that few others have gone to? And that a lot of people have not thought of? Because I absolutely am!
NOTE: The list above was based on the World Bank‘s data as of 2013 for international arrivals.
How about you?
- What do you think about this list? Were you surprised at some of the countries that were listed here? Or did you expect it?
- Will you be visiting some of these least visited countries in Europe?
- Or have you already been to one? How was your experience?
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