These 13 'Ghost Nations' May Not Appear on Your Map — but You Can Still Visit
Many intrepid travelers like to venture off the beaten path — but for those who want to take things a step further, it’s possible to travel somewhere that doesn’t even exist.
Not every mass of land that calls itself a country is necessarily so. These places are referred to as partially recognized states, dependent territories, or constituent countries, depending on their status and recognition on the world stage.
And although their nonexistence may only be a technicality, it’s pretty cool to get a stamp in your passport from a place that not everybody thinks is real. That being said, travelers should exercise caution before booking a trip to some of these ghost nations. Although most are safe destinations, not all promise political stability.
In 2016 there were more than 500,000 people on this strip of land between Moldova and Ukraine, according to Wired. In 1990, the area declared independence from Moldova because the country broke away from the Soviet Union. At the time, Transnistria was home to many Russians and Russian speakers, so they decided to form their own country with allegiance to Russia.
Top tourist attractions in Kosovo include 13th-century Serbian monasteries and hiking in the Dinaric Alps.
The Republic of Artsakh
The people of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic — also known as the Republic of Artsakh — expressed their desire for statehood “in the independence referendum on December 10, 1991 and the constitutional referendums on December 10, 2006 and February 20, 2017.” According to their website, eight US states and one Australian state, as well as the Basque Parliament adopted resolutions to support the Republic of Artsakh.
The U.N. considers the area to be part of Azerbaijan, although it’s controlled by ethnic Armenians.
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey. To the rest of the world, the state is part of the Republic of Cyprus under Turkish occupation. A U.N.-controlled buffer zone separates Northern Cyprus from the rest of the island, according to CNN.
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
Sometimes referred to as SADR or Western Sahara, this self-declared state claims authority over territory that is currently occupied by Morocco, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The independence and validity of SADR has been recognized by many countries from time to time, but the controversy continues.
Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 although, on the world stage, it’s recognized as an autonomous region, according to a 2017 BBC article. Despite its unofficial status, Somaliland has a tourism scene, with people coming from around the world to visit the Laas Geel cave paintings which some archaeologists believe are at least 5,000 years old.
Taiwan (Republic of China)
One of the most famous international tiffs is that between Taiwan and China. At the center of the political conflict is the civil war which broke out in China in 1927. Communist revolutionaries took over the mainland in 1949 and Chinese nationalists fled to Taiwan, which they still controlled.
The self-ruled island sees themself as a separate country, while mainland China seeks a full reunification.
Republic of South Ossetia
After declaring independence from Georgia in 1991, the Republic of South Ossetia is now a partially-recognized state. In 2008, the state was the site of a war between Georgia and Russia and today it is only recognized by some countries — including Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Syria.
Although the Faroe Islands are technically part of Denmark, they have operated as an independent nation since 1948. The 18 islands are located between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic, about halfway between Norway and Iceland. Travelers flock to the archipelago for its charming cottages and picturesque moors.
The Cook Islands describe themselves as being “like Hawaii 50+ years ago, but with all of the modern conveniences.” The independent 15 islands operate in free association with New Zealand — basically everything besides defense and foreign affairs are decided by the country itself. The islands are located in the middle of Polynesia, a 10-hour flight from Los Angeles.
There are only around 1,600 people on the island of Niue, making it one of the smallest independent nations in the world. Like the Cook Islands, Niue operates in free association with New Zealand and uses the New Zealand dollar. It’s known as the “Rock of Polynesia” and sits in the middle of Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Islands.
Made up of 6,700 small islands, the Åland Islands are an autonomous Finnish province — although their only land border is with Sweden. About 60 of the islands are inhabited and everybody who lives there speaks Swedish. The province has its own flag, taxation system, and even its own postage stamps.