There was a period of time during my 2019-2020 travel year when I was obsessed with tiny countries. I made it my mission to visit the tiny countries that normally get passed over — many of which are the smallest countries in the world. Below, I’ll revisit the tiniest additions to my country count.
1. Vatican City
As a Papal State, Vatican City is the smallest completely independent country in the world. I visited Vatican City in April 2018 when I was in Rome for Easter. It is an enclave in the city of Rome and the country of Italy. An enclave is a portion of territory within or surrounded by a larger territory whose inhabitants are culturally or ethnically distinct.
You can read more about my trip to Vatican City here — How I Attended Easter Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.
When I visited my friend, Caroline, in Albi, France in November 2019, we planned to go to Nice. She had been there once before during study abroad, and she casually mentioned that they had gotten drinks in Monaco before going back to Nice for dinner. She threw in that detail to illustrate just how easy it was to navigate the border between France and Monaco — one of the smallest countries in the world. Of course, that just made me want to go. We ended up just going for a day when it was pouring down rain.
3. San Marino
During college, I had a friend whose family was from San Marino. She spent the better part of a summer in San Marino for a summer program. We always laughed about how random it was, but anytime it was brought up, she was firm that San Marino was its own country. This detail stuck with me, and when I was at the peak of counting countries, I decided to go to San Marino while I was transiting across Europe in late October 2019. To get there, I took a plane, train, and bus. Was it worth it? Absolutely. It was stunning; although, it wasn’t full of tourist activities. My friend was kind enough to give me some highlights (like the fortress), but it wasn’t anywhere I would plan to spend extensive amounts of time without having some deeper roots.
I visited Lichtenstein during the same period of time I visited the Maldives, San Marino, Monaco, and Luxembourg. My tiny country tour was so fun because I had to be so creative about how I was getting from place to place. Unlike European hotspots, the smallest countries in the world are often difficult to get to. To travel to Liechtenstein, I transited in and out of Switzerland on inconvenient flights and trained into the country. And for some reason, this is one of my most beloved travel photos. I had to set it up on an opposite fence post because no one was around!
5. The Maldives
I visited a local island in the Maldives after leaving Nepal in October 2019. You can read about my incredible week here — If I’m Ever Missing…Check the Maldives.
During my trip to Albi, France in November 2019, Caroline and I tried (and failed) to go to Andorra. This resulted in a second successful trip that I took with my now-boyfriend Dan. At that point, we were just friends going on an international ski trip.
You can’t go to Southeast Asia and not go to Singapore. Caroline and I visited Singapore in June 2019. This tiny country is living in the year 3000. I’d love to return and stay at the Marina Bay Sands, which was something I couldn’t quite swing right out of college.
During our 4th annual trip, my brother, Jake, and I walked across the tiny country of Luxembourg. You can read the whole story here — Year 4: Luxembourg.
9. Eswatini (Swaziland)
During a group tour I did in February 2020, I visit the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland). My most memorable experience that occurred in Eswatini was being within 10 feet or so of rhinos. Read more here — A Year Ago This Week: Remembering Maxwell and the Rhinos.
During our Year 5: Africa trip, we did a 12-hour tour from Durban, South Africa to Lesotho, which is the largest enclave country in the world. We were able to not only check off the Sani Pass but also grab a drink at the highest pub in Africa. It was a great use of a day trip!