Although some countries are not generally considered well off economically, from a tourist’s standpoint, they are rich with hidden gems, from crystalline lakes and stunning mountain vistas to remnants of an ancient civilization. Visitors to these five countries will feel as though they have unearthed a treasure chest filled with wonderful sights and attractions.
With a GDP per capita of $381.37, Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries but is home to a great wealth of must-see attractions. At Lake Malawi National Park, visitors can encounter 3,200 species of freshwater fish, including 795 species of cichlids found nowhere else on the planet. Nyika National Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with 400 avian species inhabiting the park’s 1,250 square miles.
For those who enjoy art and history, the Chongoni Rock Art UNESCO World Heritage Site features an array of rock paintings that date back millennia. Tourists searching for an offbeat experience can try their hand at mining for gemstones, interacting with local miners at mines such as Zumwanda and Nkhanga, located in the Perekezi Forest Reserve. Each year, the shores of Lake Malawi play host to the Lake of Stars music festival, showcasing musicians from across the African continent.
© Neville Nel
Despite its low GDP per capita, $411.82, Madagascar is nevertheless rich in natural diversity, as some five percent of the world’s flora and fauna can be found there and nowhere else on Earth. Visitors to the island country will have the opportunity to traverse landscapes ranging from lush rainforests to expansive deserts. Parc National de L’Isalo, the Grand Canyon of Madagascar, features stunning rock formations and peaceful desert oases, complete with pools for afternoon swimming. In the capital city of Antananarivo, visitors can browse the many shops and marketplaces for Malagasy crafts before settling in for dinner at restaurants rivaling those of Paris.
© Rod Waddington
Located on the northern coast of South America, Guyana’s GDP of $4,127.35 belies its splendor. Mount Roraima, which straddles the border of Guyana, Venezuela, and Brazil, is a sight not to be missed, as is Cuquenan Falls, a waterfall near the Venezuelan border with a spectacular 2,000-foot cascade. Tourists seeking an authentic cultural experience should visit Bartica Beach, where they can mingle with locals and party deep into the night.
© David Stanley
With a GDP per capita of $1,291.88, Kiribati may be economically poor, but as a tourist destination, it is rich in fascinating diversions nonetheless. On the island of Kiritimati, visitors can witness the annual migration of endemic red crabs traversing the island en route to their oceanic breeding grounds. Kiritimati is also known for its beautiful beaches, with calm, crystalline waters that are the perfect place to spend a relaxing day in the sun.
© Nick Hobgood
Rich in culture but steeped in tradition, Nepal is the home of Mt. Everest but also has a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be uncovered. The Thamel district in downtown Kathmandu must not be overlooked, as it is home not only to shops and restaurants, but also to the country’s most vibrant nightlife.
The temple at Swayambhunath, colloquially referred to as the “Monkey Temple”, is an eclectic mix of Hindu and Buddhist cultural influences. Chitwan National Park, located in the country’s lowlands, features wildlife such as rhinos, leopards, and Bengal tigers. Despite its low GDP of approximately $732.30, Nepal is truly a country worth discovering.
© Alexander Shafir