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How hot is your world geography? These countries you’ve never heard of boast some mind-blowing facts. Their geography is fascinating, their histories eye-opening, and their natural beauty unique.
Enjoy learning about some truly intriguing places. See how many of this list you’ve heard of, and try to guess where they are if you’ve never heard of them.
1 – Benin
Our first stop takes us to West Africa and the vibrant country of Benin. Known for its tropical climate and being a huge exporter of cotton and palm oil, this French-speaking African nation is an intriguing country you’ve likely never heard of.
Named after the body of water on which it is located, the ‘Bight of Benin,’ the country’s history is a difficult one to swallow.
In the 17th century, it was referred to as the Slave Coast, due to the mass trade of African slaves to Europe. It was also a French colony until 1958.
Despite its troubles, the country became a multiple-party democracy in the 1990s, giving the Benin people hope for the future. The country is also home to the largest population of African lions in the western area of the continent.
2 – Moldova
In Eastern Europe, you’ll find the fascinating country of Moldova. There’s a reason you haven’t heard of this country: it’s the least visited in Europe.
Moldova has a few fascinating places of interest, including the capital city Chisinau, Orheiul Vechi, Soroca fortress, and Tipova monastery.
If you like wine, you will find that Moldova’s crowning jewel is Mileștii Mici, the world’s largest underground wine cellar.
Milestii Mici and Cricova wine cellars are truly incredible to behold. And while in Moldova, you will definitely want to try the delicious and unique Moldovan foods.
3 – Nauru
Sitting proudly atop the vast Pacific Ocean to the northwest of Australia is Nauru, the world’s smallest island country.
After colonial rule and then multiple rule from different countries through two world wars, it finally gained its full independence in 1968.
Nauru’s story is also not one without turmoil. Once, it had the highest GDP in the world, due to its massive phosphate resources.
However, now that those reserves have largely been mined, the country has fallen on hard times. While the beaches are pearly white and the waters blue, unemployment in Nauru is unfortunately very high.
4 – Tuvalu
Staying in the Polynesia region, we head to the paradise island of Tuvalu. The country with the smallest GDP in the world, tourism to this incredible place is rare.
Climate change, sadly, threatens this truly remarkable group of islands.
Incredibly, the Tuvalu islands only cover a total area of 10 square miles. The islands only lie 16 feet above sea level, meaning the existence of these islands hangs in the balance.
Tuvaluans are warm, kind-hearted people, and they do their best to stay positive through these difficult times.
One little beacon of light for the country is its domain, .tv. Reportedly, the country makes millions of dollars annually leasing its domain to website owners and companies worldwide.
5 – Palau
A group of islands hidden amid the vastness of the West Pacific Ocean, Palau’s ancient history dates back millennia. It lies north of Indonesia and east of the Phillippines.
Consisting of 340 islands, Palau is situated in a vast volcanic region. Unlike some of the lesser-known countries on this list, this country is more tourist-friendly.
In Palau, you can snorkel at the Rock Islands, and look for dolphins at Koror. The relics at WII relics at the beaches of Peleliu are also recommended.
Chiefs running the streets and their own postal service are just two of the many things that make Paulu a fascinating place.
6 – Kiribati
Smack right in the center of the gigantic Pacific Ocean lie the islands of Kiribati. With a tiny population of 110,000, over half of which live on the stunning ring-shaped coral reef of Tarawa, Kiribati is a truly unique country you’ve never heard of to lay eyes on.
Due to its location on the map, it’s the only country in the world that lies in all four hemispheres. And, its timezone of GMT +14 means it’s technically the country that’s the furthest ahead in terms of time. Kiribati is the first to bring in the new year.
Only gaining its independence from the UK in 1979, its flush, stunning coral reefs make it a truly beautiful place.
Sadly, climate change and rising sea levels threaten Kiribati, with some experts saying the islands could be submerged within fifty years. Talks are in place with Fiji to try and relocate the population.
7 – Guinea-Bissau
Along the northwest coastline of Africa, you’ll find Guinea-Bissau. Portuguese is prominent throughout the country. Its geography is defined by low-lying desert and sprawling beaches that look out into the Atlantic.
But the country has endured a chequered past. Involved in the Portuguese slave trade and blighted by civil war, in 1974 a military coup overthrew the government, and Guinea-Bissau was the name given to the new republic.
Outside the capital city of Bissau, the population is dispersed across small villages that live off the land. These villagers live in beautifully crafted circular huts, with delicate thatched roofs.
While agriculture, such as rice, beans, and cashew nuts, is a key component of Guinea-Bissau’s exports, they are also known for making tasty beers and soft drinks.
8 – Djibouti
On the Eastern side of Africa, at the base of the horn of the continent, the country of Djibouti simmers amid the tropical heat.
Due to its position and proximity to the Suez Canal, Djibouti is one of the world’s most well-known and sailed shipping routes.
On the topic of water, the country is also home to Lake Assal; one of the world’s saltiest seas. The salt beds and black lava are true geographical phenomena.
The country gained its independence from France recently, in 1977. Despite its remarkable beauty, Djibouti is a poor country.
Incredibly, over three-quarters of its entire population live in one place: the capital, Djibouti City.
9 – Vanuatu
Found in the South Pacific Ocean to the northeast of Australia, this volcanic island region is made up of 83 islands.
Its natural beauty is rivaled by few, and places such as Champagne Beach in Espiritu Santo are vibrant with color.
Vanuatu is a truly unique place. One of the tribes on Tanna Island, one of the main islands, worships Prince Phillip.
Vanuatu is also seen as the birthplace of the bungee jump.
Locals on the island of Pentecost build wooden structures, up to 30m high, and climb to various heights with vines tied around their ankles.
They then jump from the tower, with the vines stopping them from hitting the floor just before impact. It’s incredible to watch and has been documented by many nature programs and filmmakers.
10 – San Marino
Swallowed by the glorious Italian countryside, the tiny microstate of San Marino lies in the northeast of Italy.
The world’s oldest republic, the handful of small fort towns that make up San Marino are packed with beauty and heritage for you to explore.
The views from the historic Guaita fortress are jaw-dropping, as are the ones from Monte Titano. A visit to see the architecture of the Palazzo Pubblico is also in order.
San Marino most definitely should be a stop for anyone who is traveling through Italy. It’s a fascinating place surrounded by idyllic Italian beauty.
11 – Guyana
Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina are all names of countries on the lips of people when they hear ‘South America.’ Few, however, are aware of the country of Guyana, bordered by Venezuela and Brazil in the north.
This is a country where Mother Nature is very much left to her own devices. Nearly three-quarters of the country is uninhabited, due to the dense rainforests.
Even the capital city, Georgetown, is isolated between the Atlantic Ocean and the rainforest wall.
The thunderous Kaieteur Falls have an almighty drop of 741 feet and are one of many incredible waterfalls and lagoons in the country.
The country’s exports are built on gold, as Guyana houses one of the largest gold mines globally.
12 – Cabo Verde
And last, but certainly not least, we come to the volcanic islands of Cabo Verde, or Cape Verde, just off the northwest coast of Africa.
Covering an area of 1557 square miles, the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century to build a slave post has led to the evolvement of a unique Portuguese-African culture through the centuries.
Despite its troubled past, Cabo Verde in recent times has become an up-and-coming tourist destination.
Mount Fago sits imposingly on the country’s horizon. It’s an active volcano, and much of the island’s geography is defined by volcanic peaks and rocky plains.
And that’s our list of twelve countries you’ve never heard of. How many did you know already? And did you guess their locations correctly?
Regardless of how many you have or haven’t heard of, one thing is certain: there are some fascinating countries on Planet Earth!
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