Italy, USA, Australia, China etc. are all familiar to us – you don’t have to be a geography nerd to know about them. But if you know the countries on today’s list, you can give yourself a pat on the back, since I’m sure most of you have never heard about these places.
We’ll start our journey in the northern parts of South America, far from the tourist trails of Brasil, Mexico and Argentina. My favourite part about being a guru is sharing such unexplored gems with you.
Antigua and Barbuda
This island nation is perched in the northern region of South America, between the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Words such as hammock, tobacco, barbecue and canoe come from the Taino language spoken here – it has to be a holiday paradise. Motto of the country: ”Each Endeavouring, All Achieving” – sounds great, doesn’t it?
Granada will sound familiar to inhabitants of Spain and perhaps even Nicaragua. But Grenada with an ‘e’? It’s a recipe for a funny disaster, if you book a holiday in one place and end up going to another! This gorgeous island nation lies in the Caribbean, just 200 km away from the coast of Venezuela, and it’s a true paradise. What awaits you underwater will take your breath away: Jason Decaires Taylor created a sculpture park under the sea surface.
Not many people have heard about Guyana either. It’s the only English-speaking country in South America and belongs to the Caribbean, even though it’s not an island, and has one of the largest waterfalls in the world: the Kaieteur Falls are 247 metres tall (the Niagra Falls are ‘just’ 52 metres tall!). Guyanna has a motto too: ”One People, One Nation, One Destiny”.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
What sounds like a boy-band from the 1990s, is actually another island nation in the Caribbean. Johnny Depp filmed Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl here and the island was chosen the ”Best Honeymoon Island of the Year” twice – you’ll see why when you visit! Is anyone looking for a honeymoon destination?
St. Kitts and Nevis
The name of this gorgeous Caribbean Island has some girl-band potential too. The island is characterised by volcanoes, so you’ll find both white as well as black beaches here depending on which side of the island you choose – that’s what I call variety!
You’ll find this island on your way back to the mainland of South America. It’s the smallest island of the continent and perhaps even the least well-known one. There are a few peculiar things about this country: apparently the most fireworks and cars per person can be found there. Apart from that it’s also supposed to have the cleanest drinking water – right at the heart of a South American jungle.
Trinidad and Tobago
We’re back on another Caribbean island, albeit one that used to belong to the mainland and so lies only a few kilometres away from the coast. What you’ll find here is simply stunning: the largest natural asphalt deposit in the world. Yes, you read that right. 40 hectares and 10 tons of natural asphalt are supposed to be situated here. And now a bit of a tongue twister: the inhabitants of Trinidad are called the Trinidadians, those living in Tobago are called the Tobagonians and together the people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago are called the Trinbagonians.
Let’s move on to Asia, as there are still many more unknown countries apart from Thailand, Bali and China waiting for you here.
Kingdom of Bhutan
The land of donner stands lies to the north of India. Funny fact: It’s capital is one of two cities in Asia with no traffic lights. Can you imagine the chaos on the Asian roads?! Funny fact no. 2: You need some luck or are planning a family? You better paint a giant phallus on your house, since that’s the tradition here. :) If you want to see this quirky custom for yourself, you’ll have to land on one of the most dangerous airports in the world.
Federated States of Micronesia
Our trip continues to an island nation that’s the absolute divers’ paradise. The so-called ‘sea of islands’ is made up of 2000 islands. You’ll really find peace here: there’s no nightlife – everything closes at 10pm. Because of this, the country is regarded as one of the safest in the world and there are no break-ins here. There are no addresses either – just the main streets that everyone knows.
Nauru is one of the smallest nations in the world that stretches over just 21 km² and is the only republic without a capital city. There are no taxes here either – so it’s not just the south seas that are the attraction here. :) But this is also the home for the most obese people in the world. Due to the need to import food, the country has become a stronghold of obesity.
This gorgeous paradise is a truly undiscovered pearl of the Pacific. You’ll be diving with whales in crystal clear waters here and enjoying absolute solitude. But only offline – Niue is the first country in the world to offer free nationwide WiFi – a dream for every digital nomad.
Perched to the north-west of Papua New Guinea is an over- and underwater world that will have you rubbing your eyes with amazement. When it comes to tourism, this island nation is still an absolute insider’s tip – only a few venture into this area. It’s also where you’ll find the secret of eternal youth: Applying the white mud of the Milky Way Lagoon to your face will make you look 10 years younger. :)
Located in the Pacific – on the International Date Line of Tonga – is Samoa. It’s a feast for the eyes, but the wildlife lovers will be disappointed. The only native animal species are lizards, snakes and a few species of birds. It makes the landscape all the more beautiful. You’ll stumble upon an interesting custom here too: Fa’afafine. When a family has too many sons, they can simply turn their youngest son into a daughter. He has to take over the daily tasks of a female member of the family, dress accordingly and so on.
Kingdom of Tonga
Just 900 km away from Samoa lies Tonga – nevertheless the islands have a 24 hour time difference and different dates. Check your hotel booking carefully if you’re going to be travelling between the two islands. But be careful: The beauty of these islands can bring tears to your eyes!
”Eight Islands for the Almighty” is the motto of the islands. Tuvalu namely translates as ‘eight islands’ – yet there are nine in the archipelago. But who’s counting? :) Apparently no one, since this is a place where you can earn $4 million for doing nothing. The smart locals namely sell their .tv Internet domain.
Two of the world’s most active volcanoes can be found on the island and are accessible for the public. In addition, bungee jumping was pretty much invented here. It’s called ‘land diving’ here: you jump down from an extremely wobbly, hand made tower. The only security measure: a liana.
You’ll find the Solomon Islands to the east of Papua New Guinea – there are about 992 of them. Thelargest saltwater lagoon in the world awaits you here. And if you’re looking for a bit of a scary adventure besides just the sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters, you’ll strike gold at the Skull Island. It houses a shrine full of skulls.
Even if Africa starts in Egypt and ends in South Africa for most of us, there are a few countries in the middle that you might not have heard about but which are in no way inferior to the classic travel destinations.
Equa-what? There are many unknown countries – but you’re bound to have heard absolutely nothing about this one. Since tourists venture out here very rarely, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb on the street. It’s for this reason that you’ll notice some scepticism against photographs here – binoculars are forbidden as well. Even though this country is no tourist hotspot, you can explore some gorgeous spots on the beach in Equatorial Guinea.
Coming here, you’ll have the chance to be the first white person that some of the children will see in their lives. You’ll be called a yovo which means ‘white person’. Benin, in the Gulf of Guinea is no typical tourist destination but there’s a lot of local hospitality to go around.
Burundi, situated in the middle of the African continent near the Victoria Falls, has a very special and famous inhabitant. That’s Gustave. He was last seen in 2008. He measured 7,5 metres in length back then, weighed nearly 900 kg and gained fame through the rumour that he killed 300 people. We don’t have to see that in person, so we?!
The smallest country on the mainland is almost completely surrounded by Senegal (apart from a small fragment of the coast), and lies in West Africa. There are a couple of tourist regions in the coastal area, however this country gained fame due to illegal sex tourism – predominantly among women. The so-called ‘bumsters’ are young locals looking for a liason with a female tourist to gain some prosperity.
If you get a chance to travel to Guinea-Bisseayu, you just can’t miss meeting a red river hog. These funny locals will definitely cross your path during a safari through west Africa.
São Tomé and Príncipe
This island state in the Gulf of Guinea is an insider’s tip for all sunbathing enthusiasts. There’s everything here: you’re surrounded by wonderful nature, the people are all relaxed and happy and you’ll spot a diverse fauna everywhere (none of which is dangerous or poisonous), and there’s a range of activities for everyone. Sounds like paradise, right?
The Comoros have found their place between Mozambique and Madagascar. It houses the Karthala Volcano with the largest crater in the world – a view that’s definitely worth it. You won’t have to fight anyone for a nice fragment of the beach – the Comoros are still an insider’s tip. :)
As you can see, you just have to grab a map atlas from time to time and tour the world. There’s still so much that the wonderful Earth has to offer that we have to look beyond our own nose to catch a glimpse of these secret treasures in time.