Small countries around the globe may not get as much tourism as some of the larger ones, but there are plenty of amazing things to see in some of the smaller nations in the world. While their larger neighbors may sometimes overshadow these countries, they are full of unique wonders and experiences for those travelers who know where to look.
Below you’ll find a list of the eight best small countries to visit in the world and some of the most exciting things you can find to do and see while there. And I can confidently say that this list is the only list you need to plan your next vacation!
See the World’s Tallest Mountain in Nepal
More people tend to visit China, the large neighbor of this small country, but there are many things in Nepal to recommend for tourists who are looking for a unique small country to visit. Whether you want to visit ancient sites and temples or scale the world’s tallest mountain, there are plenty of things to do in this mountainous land.
Here are just a few of the things you can do when you visit Nepal:
- Climb Mount Everest. The mountain is on the bucket list of every mountain climber. This treacherous climb is known as one of the most dangerous in the world, with climbers perishing every year from avalanches, falls, and oxygen deprivation. For those afraid to make the climb, the iconic mountain can be seen from many other less dangerous areas of Nepal.
- Visit the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu. This temple (known locally as Swayambhunath) has some of the best sunset views in all of Nepal, and visitors will be delighted to see the monkeys running rampant here. Hitting this attraction in the early evening can allow tourists to see the Monkey Temple’s local devotees spinning the prayer wheels and burning incense.
- Check out Bhaktapur, a city of artisans and temples. This bustling hub of craftsmanship is one of the most beautiful cities in Nepal, and people who visit can find all kinds of one-of-a-kind souvenirs in its numerous markets and alleyways. Tourists can visit Nyatapola Temple here, the largest temple ever built in Nepal, as well as any number of traditional pottery vendors.
- Join a Nepalese food tour. Nepal may not be exactly renowned for its cuisine, but this small country has some of the best local fares in all of Asia. Visitors can dine on any number of delicious treats such as Nepali samosas, lentil pancakes, dumplings, and creamy rich lassi.
Even for people who want to visit and don’t want to climb a giant mountain, the small country of Nepal has plenty to offer—stunning views, ancient temples, friendly people, and beautiful handcrafted gifts.
Small Switzerland Serves as a Gorgeous Hub of Central Europe to Visit
The Swiss Alps are one of Europe’s most iconic landscapes, but many people choose other major tourism hubs like France or Spain over Switzerland. Switzerland can be a great country to visit if you are limited on either time or money because you can experience many of the cultures of surrounding European nations as well as Switzerland’s own unique culture when you visit this quaint, snowbound nation.
Here are just a few of the things you can do when you visit Switzerland:
- Get a glimpse of the Matterhorn, the most photographed mountain in the world. This picturesque peak is one of the most phenomenal icons in the world and draws mountain climbers from across the globe to brave its heights. A high-quality digital camera can make sure you come away from Switzerland with photos that are stunning.
- Ski on the best slopes in Europe. If you enjoy snow skiing, you can’t get much better than skiing in the Swiss Alps. The height of the country of Switzerland, in general, ensures that no matter where you are, you’re sure to have a heck of a view.
- Stuff your face with the most famous chocolate in the world. Switzerland is known globally as one of the best producers of confectionaries in Europe and any other continent. Whether you treat yourself to a week of fondues or you pack your luggage with a ton of chocolate to bring home, chocolate lovers will find a lot to fall in love with Switzerland.
- Shop for a world-class watch. Switzerland has long held the reputation of being home to the world’s most prestigious watchmakers. While you can’t get an authentic Swiss-made watch in Switzerland for cheaper than you can get one elsewhere in the world, you can view some different models you might not be able to find overseas.
If you want to enjoy the beautiful scenery or take in a sip from many different cultures in one place, Switzerland is a great place to visit.
Visit the Jungle-Bound Country of Belize
Belize might only be 9,000 square miles in size, but this small Central American nation has plenty to offer for those who come to visit. Whether you want to see pristine tropical rainforests or snorkel and swim in some of the most beautiful waters in the world, Belize has something to offer for every outdoorsy adventurer.
Here are just a few of the things you can do when you visit Belize:
- Dive the Great Blue Hole: This natural phenomenon is a UNESCO World Heritage site, making it one of the legitimate wonders of the known world. While there isn’t much wildlife to be seen in the Hole itself once divers take the plunge, the alien atmosphere of this diving site is like nowhere else on earth.
- Visit the crocodile temple in Lamanai. This ancient Mayan site is home to some of the coolest indigenous architecture in all of Belize. Visitors to Lamanai will also get the chance to visit local living reptiles such as crocodiles and iguanas.
- Go scuba diving in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. For those snorkelers and divers who have always wanted to dive one of the reefs that they’ve fantasized about on nature documentaries, this is the kind of biodiverse spot of a diver’s dreams. Visitors will have the chance to spot eels, sharks, rays, and numerous fish species in the reefs of this shallow channel.
- Visit the barrier reef at Caye Caulker. This island gives tourists access to plenty of local attractions such as restaurants, shopping centers, and a manatee preservation area (Swallow Caye). Whether the people who visit want to snorkel, dive, kayak, sail, fish, or relax with a drink, there is a little something for everyone here.
- Check out the Mayan ruins in the Cayo District. Along with getting the chance to eat delicious Central American cuisine in San Ignacio, visitors to the Cayo District can visit several different Mayan sites and the local butterfly gardens.
Belize is better suited to travelers who like to spend time outdoors since so many of its best activities take advantage of the local wilderness areas. Still, for people who visit this small country, there are plenty of adventures to be had.
Get Some of the Best Seafood in the World in Portugal
Portugal is one of my favorite countries. While more tourists may be attracted to its neighbor Spain, Portugal has plenty to offer the intrepid adventurer who comes to visit this small country, especially if you tend to adventure based on culinary delights. Portugal offers a lot for travelers who want to kick back and relax on their vacation rather than having to spend the entire trip traveling from place to place.
Many tourists are attracted to Portugal’s beautiful beaches and delicious port wine, but there is more to this small country than drinking wine on the shore.
Here are just a few of the things you can do when you visit Portugal:
- Chill out with the penguins at the Oceanario de Lisboa. This public aquarium in Lisbon is home to a wide variety of exotic animals, including otters, sharks, stingrays, and more. For those who don’t want to go deep-sea fishing off Portugal’s coast, visiting the oceanarium can be a way to get up close and personal with Portugal’s wildlife without having to go on the open ocean.
- Scale the Torre de Belem. This imposing military tower is designed in the Manueline style and is considered a World Heritage Site due to its historical importance and iconic beauty. The Torre de Belem is considered one of the most well-built fortresses in the world to visit, and touring it can offer a great view of the surrounding shoreline.
- Canoe in the shadow of a volcano at Furnas Lake. This crater lake features multicolored waters and a lush surrounding view. Tourists can either go canoeing or hike in the areas surrounding the lake. Furnas Lake also features a series of hot springs surrounded by tropical foliage and flowers.
- Get drunk in Porto. Porto is the home of the fortified wine Portugal is known for. If you want to travel cobblestone streets and eat seafood right out of the port while you’re getting a buzz on, there is no better city in Portugal. Be sure to drink plenty of water and carry some hangover cure with you, or you may spend the morning after your visit to Porto, feeling very sorry for yourself.
- Go palace-hopping in Sintra. Sintra features some of the most unbelievable architecture in all of Portugal, with multiple palaces available to visit—Pena Palace, Monserrate Palace, Sintra Palace, and the Castle of the Moors. This one spot in Portugal hosts some of the most beautiful buildings in all of Europe.
Portugal is one of the most relaxed places you can visit in Europe, so whether you want to go strolling through a castle or hang out on the beach eating octopus and drinking wine, you can find an itinerary in Portugal that will fit your preferences.
The United Kingdom Has a Lot to Offer for a Small Country
The United Kingdom—that is, the land that makes up Wales, Britain, Scotland, and Ireland—may not be as popular of a destination as some other hot spots in Europe to visit, but there is plenty to see in this small island country. Rich with ancient history, the United Kingdom may be one of Europe’s smallest countries, but it birthed one of the world’s biggest empires.
Since all of these regions are packed so close together, and the entire country has access to robust mass transportation options, it’s easy to get from one end of the United Kingdom to another without too much fuss.
Here are just a few of the things you can do when you visit the United Kingdom:
- Watch a Shakespeare play performed in Shakespeare’s hometown. Tourists can sit down for a production from the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon while also visiting the Bard’s birthplace and seeing the church where his funeral was held.
- Become an honorary scholar at Oxford and Cambridge universities. These two sprawling campuses are rich with academic history and feature some of the most beautiful buildings in all of London. If you time your trip correctly, you’ll be able to cheer on one team or the other in the annual Boat Race thrown by the two universities on the River Thames.
- Attend a traditional afternoon tea in London. Nothing says high-society London like a good old-fashioned tea party, and nobody does a tea party quite like the British. Visit one of London’s many tea houses to enjoy sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, preserves, pastries, fresh berries, and of course, London’s world-famous tea.
- Grab some fish and chips in Brighton Beach. If you want to get some seaside into your holiday in the United Kingdom, Brighton Beach is one of the most popular places to visit. Many local street vendors sell fish and chips (the United Kingdom’s most common street food) and various other snacks. There are also great bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and vintage amusement parks in this area.
- Participate in a pagan ritual at Stonehenge. Each year, thousands of pagans flock to Stonehenge to participate in the Winter Solstice, as this ancient world wonder holds special religious meaning for both pagans and Druids. Ever wanted to see thousands of witches and wizards in one place? Here’s your chance.
- Hunt the Loch Ness Monster at Loch Ness. Sightings of the notorious lake serpent go back to the 16th century. And even if you don’t manage to catch a peek at this mythic monster, the views around Loch Ness will take your breath away on their own.
- Visit Westeros (or at least the filming locations for it) in Northern Ireland. A bustling tourism industry has built up around the HBO television series A Game of Thrones, and many of the places where the television show was filmed can be visited in Northern Ireland. Unique Game of Thrones tours is available in this part of the United Kingdom.
There are so many things to do in the United Kingdom; you’d be hard-pressed to do them all in one trip. You should set aside several weeks of travel to get your money’s worth traveling to this country and its various regions.
Vatican City Is the Smallest Country in the World and the Seat of the Catholic Faith
Measuring in at just 0.2 miles, Vatican City is the smallest sovereign nation on Earth people can visit. Home of the Pope and the highest-ranking clerics in the Catholic Church, the Vatican is (and for many centuries has remained) the seat of power in the Catholic Church across the globe.
Even for visitors who aren’t Christian or religious, the religious iconography and architecture found in Vatican City are out of this world and definitely worth a visit.
Here are a few of the things you can see when you visit Vatican City:
- Look up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michaelangelo’s single most famous work of art, the Sistine Chapel, is widely regarded as one of the most important pieces of European art in history. This painted ceiling took years to complete and is one of the most well-preserved frescoes left from Renaissance Italy.
- Get blessed by the Pope at St. Peter’s Square. St. Peter’s Square is the heart and soul of the Vatican. At certain times of the year, thousands of people will gather in St. Peter’s Square to listen to the Pope speak and receive his blessing.
- Take in the gardens and museums of the Vatican. The Vatican has extensive indoor museums and outdoor gardens where you can learn about the history of this ancient city and its significance to Catholicism.
Vatican City might be the smallest country on the planet, but there’s still plenty for visitors to see that they can’t see anywhere else.
Singapore Is a Hidden Gem of Southeast Asia
You’re much more likely to hear about people traveling to China or Japan than you are to hear about them visiting the small island country of Singapore, but anyone who doesn’t take a trip to Singapore at least once is missing out. Despite its tiny size, this busy nation features more than enough activities and things to see to suit any traveler.
Here are a few of the things you can see when you visit Singapore:
- Step into the urban jungle in the Gardens by the Bay. The engineers of the Supertree Grove, one of the most famous green structures globally, have integrated both technology and biology to create some of the most beautiful (and massive) tree sculptures in the world. They are also fully lit up at night, which makes for a spectacular view. This area of Singapore also features the Flower Dome, which is the largest greenhouse in the world.
- Go exploring in Chinatown. Singapore is full of Chinese immigrants, and the culture has taken a serious foothold in this island nation. Singapore’s Chinatown is full of delicious Chinese restaurants, street market stalls, and souvenirs galore.
- Pay your respects at Thian Hock Keng. This temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in all of Singapore. Tourists should keep in mind that photographs are forbidden in many areas of the temple, so seeing this temple in person is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you shouldn’t miss!
- Go on the world’s only night safari. This safari features a tour through a preserve full of nocturnal animals and contains more than 2,500 different animals. Visitors can either tour the reserve on foot or use one of the many guided trams.
- Stop and smell the flowers at the Singapore Botanical Gardens. This park features 314 different plants and has a free admission fee, making it one of the best activities for a visitor to Singapore on a tighter budget. If you decide to visit, you should go on a Saturday to take advantage of the free guided towards to learn all about the plants and flowers in the park.
- Hike the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. If you’ve gotten your fill of the city and need to get away from it all, the nature preserve at Bukit Timah is a great place to do a little hiking and forest bathing. Along with four trails of varying difficulty for hikers, there are also trails available for mountain bikers.
- Burn some cash at the Marina Bay Sands. This is Singapore’s most famous and iconic hotel, and it has the price tag to match. However, if you have it in your travel budget, the Marina Bay Sands can be one of your favorite spots in Singapore, with infinity pools overlooking the city, a casino, and even an art and science museum.
Singapore may not be the best destination for a tourist who doesn’t like crowds (or spending plenty of money). Still, for those who want to indulge in a rich and singular Asian culture, this island nation offers many choices for a great Asian vacation.
Grenada Is the Perfect Island Getaway
Grenada is a small island in the Caribbean that is more commonly known as the “Spice Isle” due to its historic nutmeg plantations. Compared to larger or more popular countries in the Caribbean, Grenada has a distinctly laid-back attitude that is perfect for tourists who want a mellow vacation.
Here are a few of the things you can do while you visit Grenada:
- Taste some Caribbean rum at the River Antoine Rum Distillery. This distillery has been in operation since 1785. Here you can take a tour to check out the centuries-old equipment and participate in a tasting of the distillery’s famous rum.
- Get a tan at Grand Anse. Grand Anse is the most famous of Grenada’s white sand beaches and features postcard-worthy vistas, gently waving palms, and water you can see straight through.
- Eat some “doubles” in St. George. These famous little street pastries are composed of a spicy chickpea curry wrapped in soft bread dough and can help tide you over if you start to get hungry while exploring the town.
- Commune with nature at Grand Etang National Park. This mountainous nature preserve features waterfalls, a lake, and miles of hiking trails. There are also highwire obstacle courses through the canopy for more adventurous visitors.
- Sail away on a catamaran. The island of Grenada is surrounded by charter catamarans. You could reserve a day along the shorelines of the island with a drink in one hand and the wind in your sails. Tours can either be arranged to last for a half-day, a full day, or even several days.
Life has a slower pace in Grenada, and the country is regarded as one of the Caribbean’s hidden gems. If you want to pretend like you’ve washed up on a tropical island for a few weeks, Grenada is a fantastic place to visit.
Step off the Beaten Path and Check out Some Small Countries
It’s easy to fall into the travel trap of hitting the same weathered tourist spots such as Paris, Madrid, or Rome, to give a few examples, since these cities get so much attention in popular culture.
But there are many tucked away places and small nations in the world which have just as much to offer—if not more—than their larger cousins.
Next time you go on an international trip, be sure to check out a small country you might not have considered initially. You could end up going on the trip of a lifetime!