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From tiny principalities to underrated countries: Why you should try Europe’s least visited places

Is Liechtenstein and Vaduz castle on your travel bucket list?
Is Liechtenstein and Vaduz castle on your travel bucket list? Copyright Ondrej Bocek via UnSplash
Copyright Ondrej Bocek via UnSplash
By Saskia O'Donoghue
Published on Updated
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Be part of the solution to overtourism with a visit to these under-the-radar destinations.

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If you’re a keen traveller, you’ll likely have visited Europe’s most popular tourist destinations like ​​France, the UK, Italy, Spain, and Germany.

But how many of the least trodden places have you been to - or even put on your travel bucket list?

Using data from the United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO), here’s our rundown of the five least travelled countries on the continent - and why you should pay them a visit.

San Marino is packed full of natural wonders - and stunning architecture
San Marino is packed full of natural wonders - and stunning architecture Matteo Panara via UnSplash

San Marino boasts striking architecture and stunning mountain views - but very few visitors

Tiny, landlocked San Marino is technically a microstate rather than a country, landlocked and surrounded on all sides by Italy.

Just over 60 kilometres squared, it often gets overlooked by tourists because of its size. In fact, it’s the third smallest territory in Europe and the fifth smallest in the world.

Despite its petite dimensions, it does draw in some 60,000 visitors a year. That figure still makes it the least visited place on the continent.

For those who do make the journey, it boasts centuries-old, well-preserved historic architecture and an impressive mountainous region.

No visit is complete without a visit to see the Three Towers. These castle-like citadels date back to the 11th century and sit atop the three peaks of Monte Titano, San Marino’s highest.

Residents are so proud of the structures, they’re included on both the national flag and coat of arms.

Liechtenstein is home to fairytale landscapes - but just a handful of tourists have ever visited

Sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland, it’s somewhat surprising that Liechtenstein is so badly travelled.

Just 160 km squared and home to less than 40,000 people, it offers a true fairytale experience right in the heart of the Alps without the crowds.

Attracting around 69,000 tourists every year, it’s home to mediaeval castles, quaint alpine chalets and picturesque villages.

A decade ago, it was possible to rent the entire principality for a night, ‘ruling’ over it for the price of €65,000.

Sadly, that is now a thing of the past but Liechtenstein is still very much worth visiting.

In the winter, it offers uncrowded ski resorts with top notch slopes and, in the warmer months, hikers can enjoy seemingly endless hiking trails.

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For culture lovers, don’t miss a trip to the capital, Vaduz.

Home to countless museums, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein is one of the most popular, featuring impressive galleries packed with modern and contemporary art.

Liechtenstein is an Alpine wonderland whatever the weather
Liechtenstein is an Alpine wonderland whatever the weather Tienko Dima via UnSplash

Moldova is known as an Eastern European gem - but only to a select few

Due to its location between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova is facing significant challenges in developing its tourism industry, but it has plenty to offer.

Officially the least visited country - when you discount microstates and principalities - it’s also the cheapest in Europe, making it a perfect spot for budget travellers.

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Note that the UK’s and other European governments advise against all travel to Transnistria, a breakaway region which is internationally recognised as part of Moldova.

Playing host to just 121,000 visitors a year, Moldova is bursting with hidden gems undiscovered by relatively few people.

If you’re the kind of traveller who prefers to visit places off the beaten track before they get too popular, it could be the place for you.

Its vineyards and wineries are increasingly gaining recognition for their high quality, making Moldova a must-visit for wine enthusiasts.

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Elsewhere, it offers up a rich history, cities filled with Brutalist architecture and tasty Balkan-Slavic cuisine.

Curchi Monastery in Orhei, Moldova is just one example of the nation's must-see architecture
Curchi Monastery in Orhei, Moldova is just one example of the nation's must-see architectureOksana Simanovscaia via UnSplash

Monaco may be tiny but it attracts luxury and speed seekers alike

The principality of Monaco really is diminutive - just 1.98 km squared - but it punches far above its weight, thanks to world-class hotels, restaurants and, of course, playing host to the Grand Prix.

Despite property being limited and extremely expensive, its population of almost 37,000 inhabitants means it’s the world’s most densely populated country.

It’s a real melting pot, home to 125 different nationalities. Unlike the smallest state in the world - Vatican City - Monaco is known for its super-rich citizens as well as visitors seeking the high life.

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As the sovereign microstate is so pricey and out of reach to most, it’s perhaps unsurprising that it has relatively low tourist numbers - around 328,000 a year.

It is possible to visit on a budget - if you avoid the casinos and Michelin starred eateries, that is.

Free activities include a stroll around the old town, which offers stunning views out to the Mediterranean sea and the option of taking in majestic buildings like the Prince’s Palace.

The Japanese gardens are also free to enter and are perfect for a moment of zen amongst the glamour of Monaco.

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One thing not to miss? Sunbathing and swimming at the iconic Larvotto Beach - the perfect place to soak up the Riviera atmosphere.

Monaco is a playground of the rich and famous - but relatively undiscovered by tourists
Monaco is a playground of the rich and famous - but relatively undiscovered by touristsMatthias Mullie via UnSplash

Bosnia and Herzegovina has emerged from dark tourism and into a future hotspot

Situated on the Balkan Peninsula, Bosnia and Herzegovina gained worldwide notoriety during its tragic civil war in the 1990s.

After then, it was little visited and then often only by ‘dark tourists’.

As prices across Europe - especially in the Eurozone rise - many people are now discovering its charms.

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Currently only hosting around 529,000 tourists a year, this less-developed European nation has a lot to offer.

Since neighbouring Croatia adopted the Euro in 2023, visitors put off by high prices have turned instead to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Its capital, Sarajevo, is perfect for history lovers as the location of the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand - the main event that sparked World War I. The Tunnel of Hope, used during the civil war, is a touching tribute to the country’s past.

Bravery in action: Jumping off the Stari Most bridge in Mostar
Bravery in action: Jumping off the Stari Most bridge in MostarDarcey Beau via UnSplash

Closer to the Croatian border and therefore easily accessible for a day trip from Dubrovnik is Mostar.

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It has a mediaeval vibe, with tiny, winding alleys packed full of shops and market stalls selling local fare.

It’s perhaps best known for the iconic Stari Most, a reconstructed mediaeval arched bridge. Visitors can take speed boats down the river or, once a year, watch the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series which sees brave souls jump off the 20 metre high structure.

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