It’s strange, but there’s no official number of countries in the world. In some regions, national borders change almost daily. By most counts — including the one recognized by the United Nations — there are (around) 195 in total. Some of those most of us have never even heard of, let alone visited. Here are four of the smallest and all the reasons why you should visit them.
The Republic of Palau is a breathtaking archipelagic nation consisting of more than 300 islands. The terrain varies widely making this a fantastic country to explore, especially for nature-loving island hoppers. Rainforest hikes, some of the world’s most incredible bird-watching, and waters teeming with more than 130 species of shark are all great reasons to visit.
Why go: Snorkeling with the millions of harmless and, thankfully, stingless jellyfish at the aptly named Jellyfish Lake is a bucket-list-worthy reason to visit Palau. The creatures’ numbers have dwindled in recent years, but it’s still a stunning place to see once in your life.
The titles of “smallest island state in the world” and “smallest independent republic” both go to Nauru. The tiny island nation is situated in Micronesia, occupying a total land mass of just eight square miles northeast of Australia. It lacks a capital city and a public transport system, so the tourism infrastructure is almost nonexistent. But, it’s a great place to escape if you want thousands of miles between you and your kin.
Why go: If you’re looking to truly get away from it all — like you’re on the lamb after a bank heist gone south — it’s easy to disappear forever among the 10,000 locals who call Nauru home.
St. Kitts and Nevis
This twin-island nation consists of (wait for it …) the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis. The topography and landscape are as beautiful and varied as any destination around the Caribbean Sea. It’s easy to relax on a stunning tropical beach in the morning, hike a volcano through the rainforest in the afternoon, and enjoy the chill, soca-infused nightlife by dinner. The laid-back culture and lack of any sense of modernity (e.g., strip malls and traffic lights) is a real draw for tourists.
Why go: Under the nation’s Citizenship-by-Investment program, foreign nationals can purchase a local passport for the low, low price of just $250,000. That includes citizenship for the buyer and their family, plus it can be passed down to future generations. What’s more: it provides for visa-free travel to more than 130 countries. Think of it as your Jason Bourne Starter Kit.
The Republic of Molossia
In the late 1970s, Kevin Baugh founded the self-proclaimed micronation of The Republic of Molossia near Dayton, Nevada. No, it’s not technically its own country, nor is it recognized by the United Nations or any major world government, but, for the purposes of this article, we’ll go along with Mr. Baugh’s lunacy for the goof. The boundaries of the “nation” encompass less than a quarter of a square mile. The population totals just seven including Mr. Baugh and his family, plus three dogs, a cat, and a rabbit. Lest you not take it seriously, they have their own national flag, national anthem, passports, and even a space program.
Why go: There’s a whole lot of weird going on in Molossia, so it’s worth a visit just for the sideshow factor. Most notable is the local currency, the valora, which is pegged to the value of Pillsbury cookie dough (yes, really).
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