Unusual and Delightful Countries to Visit from A to Z

Unusual and Delightful Countries to Visit from A to Z

There are 195 countries in the world: 54 countries in Africa; 48 countries in Asia; 44 countries in Europe; 23 countries in North America; 12 in South America, and 14 countries in Oceania. Here are 26 countries (from A to Z) that you may not immediately think to visit, but they offer surprising experiences -- naturally beautiful scenery, world-famous landmarks, and luxurious hotels.

Albania, pictured above, (population = 2.8 million) on Southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, is a small country with Adriatic and Ionian coastlines and an interior crossed by the Albanian Alps. The country has many castles and archaeological sites. Capital Tirana centers on sprawling Skanderbeg Square, site of the National History Museum, with exhibits spanning antiquity to post-communism, and frescoed Et’hem Bey Mosque. How to Visit: Visit Albania Tour Operator

Bhutan, (population = 787,000) a Buddhist kingdom in Asia on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is known for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. In the High Himalayas, peaks such as 7,326m Jomolhari are popular trekking destinations. Paro Taktsang monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest) clings to cliffs above the forested Paro Valley. Where to Stay: Amankora in Paro, Six Senses Bhutan in Thimpu

Chile (population = 19.6 million) is a long, narrow country stretching along South America's western edge, with more than 6,000km/3,728 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline. A long and narrow coastal Southern Cone country on the west side of the Andes Mountains, Chile stretches over 4,300 km (2,670 mi) north to south, but only 350 km (217 mi) at its widest point east to west and 64 km (40 mi) at its narrowest point east to west, with an average width of 175 km (109 mi). Santiago, its capital, sits in a valley surrounded by the Andes and Chilean Coast Range mountains. The city's palm-lined Plaza de Armas contains the neoclassical cathedral and the National History Museum. The massive Parque Metropolitano offers swimming pools, a botanical garden and zoo. Where to Stay: explora Patagonia / explora Rapa Nui on Easter Island

Secret Bay Dominica
Secret Bay - Dominica

Dominica (population = 73,000) is a mountainous Caribbean island nation with natural hot springs and tropical rainforests. Morne Trois Pitons National Park is home to the volcanically heated, steam-covered Boiling Lake. The park also encompasses sulphur vents, the 65m-tall Trafalgar Falls and narrow Titou Gorge. To the west is Dominica’s capital, Roseau, with colorful timber houses and botanic gardens. Where to Stay: Secret Bay

Ecuador (population = 18.1 million) is a country straddling the equator on South America’s west coast. Its diverse landscape encompasses Amazon jungle, Andean highlands and the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands. In the Andean foothills at an elevation of 2,850m, Quito, the capital, is known for its largely intact Spanish colonial center, with decorated 16th- and 17th-century palaces and religious sites, like the ornate Compañía de Jesús Church. Where to Stay: Casa Gangotena in Quito / Silver Origin - Galapagos

Finland (population = 5.5 million) is a Northern European nation bordering Sweden, Norway and Russia. Its capital, Helsinki, occupies a peninsula and surrounding islands in the Baltic Sea. Helsinki is home to the 18th-century sea fortress Suomenlinna, the fashionable Design District and diverse museums. The Northern Lights can be seen from the country's Arctic Lapland province, a vast wilderness with national parks and ski resorts. Where to Stay: Hotel Kämp, Helsinki

Grenada (population = 126,000) is a Caribbean country comprising a main island, also called Grenada, and smaller surrounding islands. Dubbed the “Spice Isle,” the hilly main island is home to numerous nutmeg plantations. It’s also the site of the capital, St. George’s, whose colourful homes, Georgian buildings and early-18th-century Fort George overlook narrow Carenage Harbour. To the south is Grand Anse Beach, with resorts and bars. Where to Stay: Spice Island Beach Resort

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace BudapestView from Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest

Hungary (population = 10.1 million) is a landlocked country in Central Europe. Its capital, Budapest, is bisected by the Danube River. Its cityscape is studded with architectural landmarks from Buda’s medieval Castle Hill and grand neoclassical buildings along Pest’s Andrássy Avenue to the 19th-century Chain Bridge. Turkish and Roman influence on Hungarian culture includes the popularity of mineral spas, including at thermal Lake Hévíz. Where to Stay: Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest

Iceland, (population = 375,000) a Nordic island nation part of Europe, is defined by its dramatic landscape with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields. Massive glaciers are protected in Vatnajökull and Snæfellsjökull national parks. Most of the population lives in the capital, Reykjavik, which runs on geothermal power and is home to the National and Saga museums, tracing Iceland’s Viking history. Where to Stay: Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre

Jordan, (population = 11.3 million) an Arab nation in the Middle East on the east bank of the Jordan River, is defined by ancient monuments, nature reserves and seaside resorts. It’s home to the famed archaeological site of Petra, the Nabatean capital dating to around 300 B.C. Set in a narrow valley with tombs, temples and monuments carved into the surrounding pink sandstone cliffs, Petra earns its nickname, the "Rose City." Where to Stay: Four Seasons Hotel Amman

Kiribati, (population = 133,500) officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island country in Micronesia subregion of Oceania in the central Pacific Ocean. Its permanent population is over 119,000 as of 2020 census, with more than half living on Tarawa atoll. The state comprises 32 atolls and one remote raised coral island, Banaba. Kiribati is for travelers – those who have a passion for exploring and discovering, people who like an adventure off the tourist trail to places where few have been before, and people who want to understand a country – not just see it. Kiribati will challenge your view of how life should be and show you a less complicated way of living where family and community come first. Bonriki International Airport (TRW) is an international airport in Kiribati, serving as the main gateway to the country. Where to Stay: 19 Day Untouched Pacific Island Tour

Wat Xiengthong, Khem Khong, Luang Prabang, Laos
Wat Xiengthong, Khem Khong, Luang Prabang, Laos

Laos (population = 7.58 million) is a Southeast Asian country traversed by the Mekong River and known for mountainous terrain, French colonial architecture, hill tribe settlements and Buddhist monasteries. Vientiane, the capital, is the site of the That Luang monument, where a reliquary reportedly houses the Buddha’s breastbone, plus the Patuxai war memorial and Talat Sao (Morning Market), a complex jammed with food, clothes and craft stalls. Where to Stay: Belmond La Residence Phou Vao - Luang Prabang

Montenegro (population = 626,500) is a Balkan country in Europe with rugged mountains, medieval villages and a narrow strip of beaches along its Adriatic coastline. The Bay of Kotor, resembling a fjord, is dotted with coastal churches and fortified towns such as Kotor and Herceg Novi. Durmitor National Park, home to bears and wolves, encompasses limestone peaks, glacial lakes and 1,300m-deep Tara River Canyon. Where to Stay: Aman Sveti Stefan - Villa Miločer

Namibia, (population = 2.6 million) a country in southwest Africa, is distinguished by the Namib Desert along its Atlantic Ocean coast. The country is home to diverse wildlife, including a significant cheetah population. The capital, Windhoek, and coastal town Swakopmund contain German colonial-era buildings such as Windhoek's Christuskirche, built in 1907. In the north, Etosha National Park’s salt pan draws game including rhinos and giraffes. Where to Stay: &Beyond-Sossusvlei Desert Lodge

Oman, (population = 4.6 million) officially the Sultanate of Oman, is a country located in West Asia. It is situated on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and spans the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Oman shares land borders with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, while sharing maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan. Fly into: Muscat International Airport (MCT). Where to Stay: Six Senses Zighy Bay

Panama (population = 4.4 million) is a country on the isthmus linking Central America and South America. The Panama Canal, a famous feat of human engineering, cuts through its center, linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to create an essential shipping route. In the capital, Panama City, modern skyscrapers, casinos and nightclubs contrast with colonial buildings in the Casco Viejo district and the rainforest of Natural Metropolitan Park. Where to Stay: Waldorf Astoria Panama

Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som
Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som

Qatar (population = 2.7 million) is a peninsular Arab country in the Middle East whose terrain comprises arid desert and a long Persian (Arab) Gulf shoreline of beaches and dunes. Also on the coast is the capital, Doha, known for its futuristic skyscrapers and other ultramodern architecture inspired by ancient Islamic design, such as the limestone Museum of Islamic Art. The museum sits on the city’s Corniche waterfront promenade. Where to Stay: Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som

Rwanda, (population = 14 million) officially the Republic of Rwanda, is a landlocked country in the Great Rift Valley of Central Africa, where the African Great Lakes region and Southeast Africa converge. Located a few degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Trekking through the mountains for a face-to-face with gorillas is an epic experience. Where to Stay: Singita Kwitonda Lodge

San Marino (population = 33,600) is a mountainous microstate in Europe surrounded by north-central Italy. Among the world’s oldest republics, it retains much of its historic architecture. On the slopes of Monte Titano sits the capital, also called San Marino, known for its medieval walled old town and narrow cobblestone streets. The Three Towers, castle-like citadels dating to the 11th century, sit atop Titano’s neighboring peaks. Where to Stay: Grand Hotel San Marino

Tuvalu, (population = 11,400) in the South Pacific, is an independent island nation within the British Commonwealth. Its 9 islands comprise small, thinly populated atolls and reef islands with palm-fringed beaches and WWII sites. Off Funafuti, the capital, the Funafuti Conservation Area offers calm waters for diving and snorkeling among sea turtles and tropical fish, plus several uninhabited islets sheltering sea birds. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the remote Pacific island country Tuvalu is the least-visited country in the world. Where to Stay: 19 Day Untouched Pacific Island Tour

Fasano Punta del Este
Fasano Punta del Este

Uruguay (population = 3.4 million) is a South American country known for its verdant interior and beach-lined coast. The capital, Montevideo, revolves around Plaza Independencia, once home to a Spanish citadel. It leads to Ciudad Vieja (Old City), with art deco buildings, colonial homes and Mercado del Puerto, an old port market with many steakhouses. La Rambla, a waterfront promenade, passes fish stalls, piers and parks. Where to Stay: Fasano Punta del Este

Vanuatu (population = 334,500) is a South Pacific Ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands that stretch 1,300 kilometers. The islands offer scuba diving at coral reefs, underwater caverns and wrecks such as the WWII-era troopship SS President Coolidge. Harborside Port Vila, the nation’s capital and economic center, is on the island of Efate. The city is home to the Vanuatu National Museum, which explores the nation’s Melanesian culture. Where to Stay: The Havannah Vanuatu

Wales (population = 3.2 million) is a country in southwest Great Britain known for its rugged coastline, mountainous national parks, distinctive Welsh language and Celtic culture. Cardiff, the capital, is a refined coastal city with a nightlife scene and a medieval castle with ornate Gothic Revival interiors. In the northwest, Snowdonia National Park has lakes, glacial landforms, hiking trails and a railway up to the peak of Snowdon. Where to Stay: Palé Hall, Relais & Châteaux

X - There is no country that begins with the letter "X" (unless Elon Musk has a secret plan to start his own country) but there is the mythical Xanadu - an idealized place of great and idyllic magnificence and beauty. The UNESCO Site of Xanadu located North of the Great Wall of China in Asia, encompasses the remains of Kublai Khan’s legendary capital city, designed by the Mongol ruler’s Chinese advisor Liu Bingzhdong in 1256. Over a surface area of 25,000 ha, the site was a unique attempt to assimilate the nomadic Mongolian and Han Chinese cultures. From this base, Kublai Khan established the Yuan dynasty that ruled China over a century, extending its boundaries across Asia. The religious debate that took place here resulted in the dissemination of Tibetan Buddhism over north-east Asia, a cultural and religious tradition still practiced in many areas today. The site was planned according to traditional Chinese feng shui in relation to the nearby mountains and river. It features the remains of the city, including temples, palaces, tombs, nomadic encampments and the Tiefan’gang Canal, along with other waterworks. How to visit: Nomadic Voyages tour

Yemen, (population = 34.5 million) is the only country that begins with "Y" but unfortunately the country is mired in a civil war with its infrastructure, health, and economy having been destroyed. So why not visit Young Island instead? Located in St. Vincent & the Grenadines (population = 103,700), Young Island is a paradise -- a private, romantic Caribbean Island resort. Fly into St. Vincent, be greeted at the dock by the resort's private water ferry and in two minutes arrive to the first of the Grenadine islands to an oasis that is all yours. Teeming with 13 acres of tropical gardens, unwind in one of only 29 charming, airy cottages. Lounge on the sun-kissed beach, explore the lush island, a national wildlife reserve, and venture out on the glistening Caribbean waters.

Royal Livingstone The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara

Zambia, (population = 20.5 million) in southern Africa, is a landlocked country of rugged terrain and diverse wildlife, with many parks and safari areas. On its border with Zimbabwe is famed Victoria Falls – indigenously called Mosi-oa-Tunya, or "Smoke That Thunders” – plunging a misty 108m into narrow Batoka Gorge. Spanning the Zambezi River just below the falls is Victoria Falls Bridge, a spectacular viewpoint. Where to Stay: The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara