A country’s size doesn’t necessarily reveal the rich experiences and wonderful hidden gems it contains. Sure, big cities offer a wide variety of activities and experiences, but there is a lot to be discovered in countries with smaller populations.
Join us and discover the surprising amount of things to experience in some of the countries with the smallest populations around.
The world’s fourth-smallest nation, San Marino counts a mere 33,537 souls. Landlocked within Italy, San Marino is also the world’s oldest surviving sovereign state. Whereas more powerful city-states such as Genoa and Venice lost their sovereignty, San Marino managed somehow to secure its status.
You might wonder how much there is to see in such a tiny nation. Plenty! Let’s start with the three impressive fortresses – Guaita, Cesta and Montale – stretched along the long ridge of Mountain Titano. Each of them has a tower boasting grand views of the Apennines, the coastal plain and the sea as far as the Dalmatian Coast. Further stops include the Neo-Gothic Government House and the adjacent Piazza della Liberta, where you can witness the colourful ceremony of the changing of the guards.
In-between sightseeing, why not try some of the local cuisine including the mouth-watering Torta Tre Monti, a layered wafer cake inspired by the three towers of San Marino.
City-state Monaco needs perhaps no real introduction. A favourite hotspot for high-rollers and luxury seekers, this microstate on the French Riviera has one of the smallest populations in the world (around 38,400).
The main pull is Monte Carlo, a city steeped in luxury and glamour and the main hangout of those who want to be seen. Stroll along the harbour full to the brink with yachts, play a lucky hand at the famed Casino de Monte Carlo, pay your regards to the late Princess Grace in the Cathedrale de Monaco and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the Formula 1 race cars speeding along the streets (the Monaco Grand Prix is held annually at the end of May).
No matter what you do around here, you’ll be doing it in style.
Located in the Indian Ocean, east of Africa, archipelago nation Seychelles has a population of around 94,000 and is thus the smallest African country according to population. Its 115 islands house some of the world’s most exquisite beaches and ecosystems.
Imagine white-sand beaches as long as the eye can reach, topaz waters home to marvellous corals, lush hills and wildlife of all kinds and colours – from sea turtles and giant tortoises to bird sanctuaries and hermit crabs.
If you’re looking for a real-life paradise, this place comes pretty close.
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Two-island nation Saint Kitts and Nevis (located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea) might not feature high on your bucket list, but there are plenty of reasons why it should. Though it’s small both in terms of population and area, it packs a surprisingly high amount of experiences.
The larger of the two islands, Saint Kitts offers accessible rainforest hiking, volcano tours and a scenic railway called The Sugar Train that takes you along the coastline. As the name suggests, this double-decker train was originally used to transport sugar from plantations to factories.
The smaller island of Nevis is home to the Alexander Hamilton Museum, dedicated to the memory of lawyer and revolutionary Alexander Hamilton, who was born on the island and became the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. The best way to take in the tranquil beauty of the island is to hop on a bike and roll through the northern hills looking at sugar mill ruins, villages and churches.
With a population of almost 800,000, Bhutan is not as small as some other countries on this list, but it is among the smallest in South East Asia.
If you’re looking for a pristine part of the Himalayas, Bhutan is your safest bet. The Bhutanese have a sustainable approach to tourism: each visitor pays a fee of $250 per day that includes accommodation, food, transport and an official guide. So this is perhaps not the most budget-friendly destination in the area, but if you have the budget for it, there are plenty of reasons to visit.
Just to name a few: the astonishing Himalayan landscape punctured by peaks and gorges, the fortress-like monasteries, plenty of trekking trails, colourful festivals called Tshechu featuring spectacular masked dances, a highly diverse flora and fauna and Buddhist peace.
The smallest Asian nation both by area and population, the Maldives is the kind of place you’ll yearn to return to.
Let’s start with the remarkable underwater world that you’ll find here. This place is a scuba diver’s dream. Dive below the surface and you’ll find multi-coloured corals, schools of tropical fish, manta rays, turtles and the world’s largest fish, the whale shark.
On the surface, stick your feet in the ultra-soft white sand while sipping on a coconut and gazing at the green-blue waters. Don’t you wish this holiday would go on forever?
Read more: find the best scuba diving spots in Asia
Nestled between Switzerland and Austria among mighty mountain ranges, Lilliputian nation Liechtenstein might just fulfil your fairy-tale dreams. Think turret castles set against the verdant Alps, a capital city that oozes village quaintness and innumerable scenic hiking trails taking you through mountains and valleys.
Ever dreamed of standing on the border of three countries? This is your chance. If you make it up the Naafkopf Mountain you’ll be standing on the tripoint created by Liechtenstein, Austria and Switzerland.
Of course, we couldn’t leave out the smallest nation in the world – Vatican City, home to 1,000 souls.
Located within the city of Rome, the Vatican is an ecclesiastical state, meaning it is ruled by the pope. In this tiny city-state you will find some of Italy’s grandest masterpieces housed in St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums. Some of the highlights include Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes and Pietà sculpture, Bernini’s 29m-high baldachin over the papal altar and the soaring dome of the basilica, just to name a few.
The beating heart of the Vatican is St Peter’s Square, a massive space surrounded by 284 columns, with 140 saints atop the colonnades keeping an eye on the square.