10 Unrecognized Countries That You Can Still Visit

Published 2 years ago on December 11, 2017
By Vincent

What makes a country a country? Well, for the most part, its if people are prepared to recognize it as a country which means that sometimes, due to land disputes, ethnic makeup or other various issues, some places aren't recognized as countries despite some people there wanting it to be. Here we take a look at a few of these places and see how you can visit them and why others won't recognize them.

1. Sealand

Richard Lazenby/

An interesting nation in terms of its creation, it was a man-made fortification built during the Second World War, the British government built several Fortress islands in the North Sea to defend its coasts from German invaders. However, under international law, it is only 3 miles out that would be considered British waters and many of these fortresses were illegally built 6 miles out thus in international waters and after the war, these platforms were abandoned.

Then, in the early 1960s, a wave of 'pirate' radio stations cropped up being broadcast from boats floating in and around British waters in order to circumnavigate draconian broadcasting rules that favored the BBC who were against broadcasting pop music at the time. One broadcaster tried to set up in a formal British naval base but this fell under UK jurisdiction and so he discovered these platforms that were officially in international waters and set up there. On the 2nd of September 1967, accompanied by his wife Joan on her birthday, his son Michael (14), daughter Penelope (16) and several friends and followers, Roy Bates declared the Principality of Sealand. The British government tried to prevent this from happening and destroyed the subsequent platforms and summoned Roy to court under the fact he was still a British citizen. The court decided Britain had no jurisdiction over Sealand as it was in international waters but no one has formally recognized the micronation as of yet. Officially you could go by boat or helicopter to Sealand but you will need prior consent from the residents.

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2. Greenland

When Denmark wanted an empire, like other European powers, they went out of their way to try and control all of those around them, often warring with Sweden and successfully controlling Norway and Iceland for a while but they also managed to get their hands on Greenland. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe (specifically Norway and Denmark, the colonial powers, as well as the nearby island of Iceland) for more than a millennium.

LEE Frances/

Denmark still controls Greenland and so it is officially an autonomous constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark rather than a country in its own right. Most of its population are Inuit whose ancestors began migrating from the Canadian mainland in the 13th century, gradually settling across the island and it is the least densely populated country on Earth. You can fly there and visit the island but, officially, you're visiting Denmark.

3. Palestine

A bit of a contentious one here as Palestine as a region has ling existed and it is usually considered to include the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Israel, and in some definitions, some parts of western Jordan. Long thought to be the birthplace of religions Judaism and Christianity, the area was largely occupied by an Arab population until after the Second World War when in 1947, the United Nations adopted a Partition Plan for Mandatory Palestine recommending the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states and an internationalized Jerusalem.

Roman Yanushevsky/

After the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel on 14 May 1948, neighboring Arab armies invaded the former British mandate on the next day and fought the Israeli forces claiming it as their homeland.  Israel later captured the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria in June 1967 following the Six-Day War meaning that very little of Palestine is under Palestinian control as such Palestine is recognised as a de jure sovereign state, a state in which its official government has no control. The State of Palestine is recognized by 136 UN members and since 2012 has a status of a non-member observer state in the United Nations – which amounts to a de facto, or implicit, recognition of statehood but its division and refusal of recognition by several countries still causes a lot of issues within the Middle East meaning that you can visit the region but are likely to do so as though you were entering Israel.

4. South Ossetia

South Ossetia is only a partially recognized state since it decided to declare independence in 1991. A semi-autonomous region of the then Georgian SSR (now Georgia) its independence was not recognized by the Georgian government who abolished its autonomy and tried to regain control of the area by force. This led to the 91-92 South Ossetia war which eventually ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire, signed on 24 June 1992, which established a joint peacekeeping force and left South Ossetia divided between the rival authorities.

Olga Makina/

Georgia would later try and regain control in 2004 and in 2008 with the latter being the pretext for Russia to go to war with Georgia during which Ossetian and Russian forces gained full de facto control of the territory of the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast. Afterward,  Russia, followed by Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru, recognized South Ossetia's independence but Georgia still claims it as their own and you can only enter from the Russian side in which you will need a double visa if you have to get one for Russia as well. If you are not a Russia citizen, in order to travel to South Ossetia you must receive permission from the Foreign Ministry of South Ossetia.

5. Abkhazia

Like South Ossetia, Abkhazia was part of Soviet Georgia and after the 91-92  South Ossetia war, Georgia was once again engaged in conflict due to simmering ethnic tensions between the Abkhaz—the region's "titular ethnicity"—and Georgians—the largest single ethnic group at that time which culminated in the 1992–1993 War in Abkhazia.


Again, Russia became involved in the conflict and in August 2008, Abkhaz forces fought against Georgian forces during the Russo-Georgian War, which led to the formal recognition of Abkhazia by Russia, the annulment of the 1994 ceasefire agreement, and the termination of the UN mission there. On 28 August 2008, the Parliament of Georgia declared Abkhazia a Russian-occupied territory. You can get into Abkhazia from either the Russian or Georgian side but you must leave the country the same way you came in.

6. Transnistria

A thin strip of land between Ukraine and Moldova, officially the United Nations recognizes this as part of Moldova but in 1990, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Transnistria for short) declared independence and in 1992 tensions escalated into military actions but a ceasefire was quickly declared that year.

Lev Levin/

The capital city is Tiraspol and is one of the last places on Earth that still uses Soviet symbols, with a hammer and sickle on its flag and many Lenin statues still up around the capital.  Recognised only by three other non-United Nations (UN) states, Abkhazia, Republic of Artsakh and South Ossetia, who all have their own recognition issues. It is possible to get there by train from Ukraine but you can only stay for 24 hours, however, this period can be extended once you are inside the country.

7. The Sahrawi Republic 

Occupied by Spain until the late 20th century, Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since 1963 after a Moroccan demand but in 1976, The Sahrawi Republic was proclaimed the rightful government of the region by liberation groups made up of Sahrawi people (an ethnic group from the Western Sahara) and as such the Republic  claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara.


However, in reality, it controls about 20–25% of the territory it claims with Morroco occupying the rest of the area with tacit support from France and the United States, whilst other countries (such as Russia) tend to take a neutral position. The Sahrawi Republic maintains diplomatic relations with 40 UN states despite not being part of the UN and continues to try and boost its recognition and legitimacy in order to lay claim to the region. There is no legal border crossing to Western Sahara from Mauritania with the Algeria border also being closed. Crossing into the Morrocan controlled area from Morroco is considered moving from one part of Morrocco into an autonomous region of it and so no extra visa is needed.

8. Artsakh

The region of Nagorno-Karabakh was claimed by both the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and the First Republic of Armenia when both countries became independent in 1918 and conflict arose over the area until the Soviet Union imposed an autonomous region in the 1920s but once the USSR collapsed this conflict reemerged and when a 1994 ceasefire prevented further fighting the region declared independence.

Eva Mencnerova/

The region is considered by the UN to be part of Azerbaijan, whilst Armenia still claims it as its own. Artsakh has no functioning airport and so you must travel through Armenia to get there where it still uses Armenian drams as currency. You must have a visa for Artsakh but you can get one in Armenia'scapital of Yerevan or you can arrive at the capital of Artsakh,  Stepanakert, and head straight into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to declare your arrival.

9. Guiana

A bit different from the others on this list in the sense it does not want to be recognized as a country, Guiana (not to be confused with nearby Guyana) is actually a French prefecture in South America, effectively a colony of France and acknowledged as such with the language, passport and governance all being French but it just so happens to be in South America next to Brazil and Suriname.

Matyas Rehak/

Originally inhabited by Native Americans it became a French penal colony in 1503 and then later a slave colony and remains the only remaining European colony in South America. Nowadays fully integrated in the French central state, Guiana is a part of the European Union, and its official currency is the euro. You can fly directly from France in one of the world's longest domestic flights or can cross the border from neighboring South American countries.

10. Northern Cyprus

The island of Cyprus sits off the coast of Greece in the Mediterranean sea and has the two distinct ethnic gropus of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots but is its own independent nation despite both Turkey and Greece seeking annexation since the 1950s. In 1974 Turkey invaded the island and now holds the Northern part with a military border dividing the nation's capital of Nicosia.

Nejdet Duzen/

As such, the Republic of Cyprus considers it theirs and an occupied territory, Turkey considers the whole island theirs as does Greece. Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey whilst the rest of the UN considers it an occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus.

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