The world has got a lot smaller: Not true. We like to think that with the help of modern technology – including airplanes – we’ve been there, seen it all, or are at least aware of every country and place there is to care about.
However, just a little research reveals parts of Earth long discovered and named that most of us know nothing about – it shows that even though we think it revolves around us, the world remains ‘out there’ ready for adventure travel.
So, here are ten countries to get travellers Googling…
When the CIA Factbook doesn’t even have a picture of it, you know you haven’t been there. In fact, the only people who visit are Indonesian fishermen. To find them, head due south from Timor, halfway to Australia.
Antarctica from 160˚east to 150˚ west, that’s the Ross Dependency. So bleak, only scientists go there. It’s long been claimed by New Zealand and it’s massive! Most of the 413,540 sq km is permanent ice shelf – good for lichen, moss and 18 species of penguin. The waters here are nutrient rich, and loved by seals who share their home only with icebergs and the occasional boffin.
The Pacific Ocean is around 65 million square miles of water, so there’s little surprise that it’s home to countries you won’t know. Tuvalu comprises nine atolls between Australia and Hawaii, six of which have lagoons open to the Pacific – and it sports a flag similar to the Aussie one, except with nine smaller, yellow stars.
Truly inhospitable yet stunningly beautiful, this island rejects all claims of physical ownership. Glacial cliffs keep out landing parties – a boat was found here in 1964, although nothing was seen of its crew…. Halfway between South Africa and Antarctica, its lichen and ice-covered land is on Norway’s books, but firmly remains the preserve of nature.
Recognised by Russia but claimed by Georgia, it’s a country rarely documented in the west outside of news reports. Former holiday preserve of the Soviet political elite, this land, which borders the Black Sea, has been caught in a bitter game of ping-pong between the regional powers.
Southwest of Mauritius there’s an island called Reunion – although its masters may prefer the prefix ‘La’. With a population of 800,000, this French dependency has a fiery temperament – thanks to its 3,000m high active volcano and periodic tropical cyclones. Blessed with a unique cultural mix of Portuguese, Chinese, Pakistanis and Indians, it’s an Indian Ocean melting pot in more ways than one.
Polynesia the way it used to be, apparently. Still closely linked with New Zealand and the UK, Niue is self-governing and its average year-round temperature is a tropical 27C. Thanks to this, this coral atoll is rich in wildlife, both on land and around its shores. Three hours from New Zealand and welcoming to tourists, you’ll share Niue’s waters with whales not trip boats.
Former Pacific battle zone turned travel delight, this collection of 33 Micronesian islands is for travellers, not tourists. Kiribati (pronounced ‘Kiribas’) has exclusive rights over more than three million square miles of ocean. It’s also the largest of the atolls and surrounded by barrier reefs – scuba diving and fishing everyday!
Autonomous, but completely surrounded by Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh is another post-soviet drama. Largely mountainous and forested, it will be full of natural surprises. With a population of less than 150,000 spread over 4,400 square kilometres of the South Caucasus Mountains, peaceful trekking should be a given, but given the ongoing difficulties between competing powers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, adventure tourism remains on the back-burner.
Probably the most well known of those listed, although if you’ve never travelled to China, you may have missed it. Gambling paradise and former Portuguese colony, it’s now part of the People’s Republic of China. With just 28 sq km of land off the southeast coast of China, Macau’s urbanised, westernised and often missed by travellers drawn to the brighter lights of nearby Hong Kong.
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