10 Tiny Countries With Enormous Natural Beauty

Clear, turquoise water laps against a palm tree-covered island in the Maldives
One of the many scenic islands that make up the Maldives.

HISHAM BINSUWAIF / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

With nearly 200 countries on Earth, the public imagination often confines our planet’s awe-inspiring formations and wildlife to those wonders located within the borders of large and powerful nations. Immense natural beauty, however, can be found in some of the world’s smallest countries. Whether one looks to the delicate coral reefs of the Maldives or the steep, cragged mountains of Liechtenstein, breathtaking vistas can be found in the most unlikely of places.

Here are 10 tiny countries, from Andorra to Niue, with enormous natural beauty and wonder.

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Lesotho

The rocky, grassy slope of a mountain with a road stretching into the background of snow-capped mountains

Faer Out / Shutterstock

The Kingdom of Lesotho, a landlocked country slightly smaller than the state of Maryland and enveloped completely by South Africa, boasts a dramatic mountainous landscape of immense appeal. Sometimes referred to as the kingdom of the sky, Lesotho sits entirely above 1,400 meters (4,593 feet). The country's peak, the summit of the mountain Thabana Ntlenyan, reaches 3,481 meters (11,423 feet) in elevation. Lesotho also lays claim to the spectacular 211-meter (692-foot) waterfall Maletsunyane Falls.

2
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Brunei

A boardwalk staircase ascends into the canopy of a tropical rainforest in Brunei

Ngotoh / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

A small Southeast Asian country, 5,765 square kilometers (3,582 square miles), located on the northern coast of the island of Borneo, Brunei has increasingly become a destination for ecotourism. Ulu Temburong National Park features vast tropical rainforests that stretch from the hilly lowlands up toward peaks like that of the country’s highest point, Bukit Pagon. Small stilt-house river villages that sit directly over the water are a common sight, even near the modern capital of Bandar Seri Begawan.

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Liechtenstein

Lush green fields in the foreground give way to small valley of quaint buildings and a towering mountain in the background

Boris Stroujko / Shutterstock

The Principality of Liechtenstein is a small German-speaking nation that appears on the map as a small dot between Austria and Switzerland and is only about one-tenth the size of Washington D.C. Known for its beautiful mountain scenery and quaint alpine villages, the country draws a large number of tourists throughout the year. Liechtenstein is home to medieval fortresses like the stunning Gutenberg Castle and breathtaking views like those found on Drei Schwestern mountain, or The Three Sisters Mountain.

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Luxembourg

A sunbeam casts light upon an autumnal wooded scene in Mullerthal, Luxembourg

Tristan Schmurr / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Another European kingdom, Luxembourg, sits between France, Germany, and Belgium, and is relatively large in size, 2,856 square kilometers (1,606 square miles), making it one of the larger nations on this list. Luxembourg’s Mullerthal region, or Little Switzerland as it is often called, offers picturesque country landscapes of rolling hills, wooded highlands, and towering rock formations, and is perhaps best experienced by hiking trail. The northern region of Éislek, or Ardennes, showcases the country’s sweeping valleys and majestic forests, dotted with the historic remains of medieval castles.

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Andorra

Blue skies with a few clouds hover above snow-capped mountains on the horizon

Leon G / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Andorra, a principality of more than 85,000 people and covering 468 square kilometers (290 square miles), is nestled in the Pyrenees mountains between Spain and France. In the southeastern region, the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley offers exceptional glacial vistas and is as noteworthy for its cultural importance as it is for its captivating beauty. The higher reaches of the valley are composed of cliffs and exposed rock glaciers that slope down to woodlands and a gorge below. The Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley was deemed a World Heritage Site in 2006 for its microcosmic display of Pyrenees mountain culture over the millennia.

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Maldives

The sun sets of a beach with silhouetted palm trees in the Maldives

Giuseppe Milo / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Dispersed along the Arabian Sea in the Indian Ocean is the breathtaking nation Maldives, consisting of islands combined into a chain of 26 atolls, or ring-shaped coral reefs. The country has a combined landmass of about 298 square kilometers (185 square miles) and its islands span a distance of 871 kilometers (541 miles). The highly protected Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve is brimming with wildlife, like manta rays, marine turtles, and the endangered tawny nurse shark, which are part of a diverse and delicate interplay between coral reef systems and the many species that live there.

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Eswatini

A large rock formation rises above a lush valley of green in Eswatini

mbrand85 / Shutterstock

Gorgeous landscapes and impressive wildlife are at the forefront of the tourism industry in the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland as of April 2018), which rests on the border between South Africa and Mozambique. Vast tracts of protected land, like Hlane Royal National Park, Mlawula Nature Reserve, and Malolotja Nature Reserve, exhibit white rhinos, lions, zebras, and elephants, among other animals native to the region. The Kingdom of Eswatini is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with nearly 500 species of birds recorded within the country, including the national bird, the purple-crested turaco.

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Niue

An arched rock formation extends over clear, tropical waters

vuorikari / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Niue, a remote tropical island in the South Pacific, is known for its elaborate cave systems, magnificent arches, and its beautiful clear waters. A small country, roughly 260 square kilometers (161 square miles), Niue features remarkable limestone cliffs that soar above the water’s surface to form the island’s central plateau. The magnificent Humpback whale migration comes to Niue annually from July to October, as mothers seek a safe location to feed their calves.

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Grenada

A lush green hill in the foreground with hills stretching back into the horizon

Chris Favero / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

North of Trinidad and Tobago, between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, lies the small island of Grenada. The tiny nation, just 344 square kilometers (213 square miles), is home to the dormant volcano Mount Saint Catherine, whose peak is the highest point on the island at 840 meters high (2,775 feet), and an active volcano called Kick ‘em Jenny that lies off the coast on the ocean floor. Grenada also lays claim to extensive nature preserves like the Grand Etang and Annandale Forest Reserves.

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San Marino

A castle sits atop a cliff looking over a vast valley town below in San Marino

Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock

San Marino, an enclave of central Italy about one-third the size of Washington D.C., features a rugged mountainous landscape of breathtaking beauty and wonder. The third smallest country in Europe, San Marino is home to the visually striking Monte Titano, or Mount Titan, which lies just southeast of the capital city of San Marino. The three towering peaks of Monte Titano house centuries-old fortresses and other notable structures, including a 19th century basilica, and the illustrious locale has been honored with the demarcation as a World Heritage Site.