The more quiz nights and travelling I do, the more I realise how little I know about the world! 196 countries out there and I most probably couldn’t name half of them. I decided we needed to know more, promote a few countries that never get to be on bucket lists! I have searched the deep dark corners of the internet and found 5 countries that seriously need some extra credit!
The rain forest they call Suriname is home to only around half a million people and is almost 80% Amazon rain forest. It’s proudly the smallest country in South America and at times not so proud about being colonised by the Dutch way back when. It has long since declared independence with the Dutch who left behind their official language and a daily direct flight between Amsterdam and the capital, Paramaribo. The best attraction to see in Suriname is the leather back turtles! Galibi Nature Reserve is where you will find some of the biggest nesting beaches in the entire Atlantic for not only the huge leather back turtles but, a range of turtles. The villages surrounding the beaches are run by the locals who provide accommodation and tours.
Suriname’s incredible rain forest is home to numerous species such as the jaguar, monkeys and wild pigs. Many resorts are popping up, making it possible for people to experience and explore more! The most popular towns to visit are the capital Paramaribo and Albina, which is where you can take a boat to Galibi nature reserve (turtle heaven). Most of the population can be found along the shore in the capital. This is where they hide Saint Peter and Paul Basilica, only the biggest wooden structure in the Southern hemisphere! Best tip is that inflation isn’t their friend, so if you take Euros or Dollars to exchange you are going to be making it rain! Suriname isn’t for newbies, so if you’re looking for something different it’s definitely worth a visit.
The mysterious Eritrea is an untouched country still trying to find its feet! Although I only like to find the beauty in a country, it’s difficult to be blind by Eritrea’s teething issues! They were colonised by Italy, stolen by the British and then held hostage by Ethiopia! Even through all of this they are still considered a must see destination! Located at the horn of Africa, right along the red sea and home to over 200 little islands. The beaches are perfect for diving and snorkeling, some even spend a few days camping on the beach.
The biggest and most populated islands are Dahlak Karir and Norah! The best option you have when travelling there is to fly into Asmara International airport, Asmara is beautiful and often referred to as “little Rome”. After you are all Asmara’ed out you are going to make your way to Massawa! This is where it can get tricky, there is a steam train connecting the two cities, but it doesn’t run on a set schedule and is often charted out to tour groups. The major factor to remember is that you will need permits to move around the country. What I could gather is that you will get these once you arrive in Asmara! Once in Massawa, this will be your access point to the red sea. Here you will take a boat to the numerous islands, which on average are about 40 minutes away! This is where you will find the pristine beaches and extensive exotic marine life! Rumour has it that the Dugong (manatee type of creature) is what inspired the mermaid theory, not often seen but always good to be on the lookout for one. I personally don’t see the resemblance but who am I to question Christopher Columbus! Eritrea is the definition of “off the beaten path” but really can offer so much, if given the chance and effort!
Andorra is in more ways than one a world away from Suriname and Eritrea! I know Europeans are going to question how Andorra made an unknown list but we down here in South Africa have definitely never heard of it! You could say that Andorra is the love child of Spain and France! It has no airport, train station or army of its own, so it relies on mom and dad to stand up for them and control who gets to visit! Cobble stone roads, food fit for kings and endless snow-capped mountains are what you can expect! It’s not part of the EU but works on the Euro, so an easy stop on your Europe adventure!
Biggest attractions are the skiing resorts such as VallNord and only the biggest spa in Europe! Caldea offers 18 floors of happiness which include hot springs, outside lagoons and bubble beds (no idea what a bubble bath is but I need it). Caldea also happens to be the tallest building in Andorra! Sneaky fun fact is it’s an ideal destination for smokers! Due to very attractive duty free shops you can get smokes for next to nothing. A big problem other countries have with Andorra is cigarette smuggling; it could be their national sport the way they smuggle them into Spain and France. Andorra is a shopper’s paradise with no shortages of premium brand outlets on every street!
Moving on to Asia, I present to you Turkmenistan! A country that is covered 80% by the biggest dessert in central Asia. Also home to the biggest hand woven carpet in the world, Turkmen carpets are very well-known around the world! There is a museum you can visit with over 200 different types of carpets! If I am being completely honest the country isn’t winning any awards on being the friendliest country, they are very suspicious of tourists. The government is like those annoyingly strict parents that just can’t let go, 90% of the country is actually employed by the government. It isn’t all bad; they provide water, electricity and petrol free of charge for everyone.
A really cool tourist attraction they have and got by complete accident, is Darvaza gas crater. More commonly known as the “Gates to Hell,” it was a natural gas field that collapsed. To prevent the spread of Methane gas scientists set it a on fire and it hasn’t stopped burning since. If you get the chance to visit make it count and check out Parthian settlement of Nisa, the ancient capital of the Parthian empire.
It seems that this post came just in time! Belarus announced that it would be letting 80 countries, including England and most European countries, visit visa free for 5 days. This is a major step for the country because before February 2017 it was most probably easier to visit North Korea! Then again they are promoted as the last standing dictatorship in Europe, who still have the death penalty strongly in place. This doesn’t exactly scream, come visit me. Belarus stands for “white Russia” but Belarusian, the official language is said to be closer to Polish than Russian.
Like many countries they are victim to bad publicity and an unforgiving government! Of course they don’t mention they are also home to the incredible Bialowieza Forest. The largest primeval (ancient) forest in the world! Fun fact: you won’t find a country more flat than Belarus, the highest point is Dzyarzhynskaya mountain, a mere 345 metres above sea level! I think some countries have speed bumps higher than that! The people are incredibly friendly and their specialties are cheese and potatoes! I’m just going to leave you with one thought “potato pancakes” yes you heard me, potatoes freaking pancakes!
I really had to hold back on all the amazing things I read about these countries. They all have their own struggles but, don’t we all. It only seems worlds away because we are not flooded with information and selfies on Instagram outside important monuments. All the countries have tour companies that do really nice activities and are excited to show off their beautiful countries.
The TravelBug 🙂