12 Amazing Galleries Every Art Lover Should Visit

So much more than décor, artistic works have long been used as modes of self-expression and cultural identity, as well as tangible historical tools that visually display the progression of society throughout the ages. Through changes and innovations in technique, mediums and subject matter, a piece of art has the ability to transport the viewer to different points in time, or alternatively (in the case of the modern movement) to different realms of consciousness, and provide some insight into a highly subjective human endeavor. For those of you that want to revel at works that are classical, weird and everything in between, here are the world’s top 10 must-see galleries.

12. Auckland Art Gallery – Auckland, New Zealand

Since opening in 1881, Auckland Art Gallery remains the largest gallery of fine and visual art in New Zealand, currently holding over 15,000 works dating from the 11th century to the present. What started out as a small collection of pieces by European masters, has now grown into the most comprehensive collection of New Zealand art, as well as distinguished pieces by Maori and Pacific Island artists. Art lovers will love how this smaller gallery contrasts with the (though beautiful) often overwhelming scale of the famous European galleries, and appreciate the chance to admire how such an architecturally split environment (the building is part renaissance and part modern) beautifully showcases such a diverse range of works.

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

11. Rijksmuseum – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Translated literally, Rijksmuseum means “state museum” and is just that, chronicling the development and progression of Dutch art and history through its vast collection of paintings, sketches, photography and applied arts. The newly updated gallery, which reopened in 2013 after a 10-year renovation, offers a unique art-viewing experience, displaying all types of pieces (i.e. paintings, sculptures, furnishings, etc) together in galleries organized by time period. Though holding a small amount of international art, including a dignified collection of Asian art, it is the works hanging in the Gallery of Honor that are the highlight of the museum. It in this corridor that you will find the masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age of painting, including Vermeer’s The Milkmaid and Frans Hals’ Portrait of a Couple, all leading to the gallery’s most treasured piece: Rembrandt’s Night Watch.

Mediagram / Shutterstock.com
Mediagram / Shutterstock.com

10. Prado Museum – Madrid, Spain

Established in 1819, the Museo del Prado in Madrid contains the single largest Spanish art collection in the world, along with notable European fine art works of the 12th-19th centuries. In fact, in addition to displaying works by Francisco de Goya, Diego Velazquez and El Greco, the Prado now also houses the largest collection of art by the Italian masters outside of Italy. A stroll through this national art museum will reveal such well-known pieces as Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation, Rubens’ The Three Graces, and Goya’s The Third of May: The Execution on Principe Pio.

The Prado Museum Madrid

9. National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art – Seoul, South Korea

Composed of several branches in the Seoul area, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art was opened in 1969 as the country’s only gallery devoted solely to works  from 1910 and onwards. The main branch, located in Gwacheon, currently houses over 7,000 works featuring well known Korean artists such as Ko-Hui Dong, Ku Boh-Ung and Kim Whan-Ki, as well as a sizeable collection of international artists like Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys and Marcus Lupertz. Art lovers will also appreciate the gallery’s commitment to discovering and showcasing the works of artists new to the contemporary art scene in its many temporary events and exhibitions.

Joymsk140 / Shutterstock.com
Joymsk140 / Shutterstock.com

8. Musee D’Orsay – Paris, France

Opened in 1986 in the former D’Orsay railway stations (originally built for the 1900 World Exhibition), the gallery contains a vast selection of fine art pieces created between 1848 and 1914. The collection is comprised mainly of works from the Louvre, the Musee du Jeu de Paume which became devoted exclusively to Impressionism in 1947 and the National Museum of Modern Art, which in 1976 trimmed its collection to only include pieces by artists born after 1870. Today, the gallery houses six unique collections in several artistic disciplines (paintings, sculpture, objets d’art, photographs, graphic arts and architecture) and is home to Renoir’s Bal du Moulin de la Galette, Manet’s Olympia and Cezanne’s The Cardplayers.

pio3 / Shutterstock.com
pio3 / Shutterstock.com

7. The National Gallery – London, England

The National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square holds the country’s national collection of art (it belongs to the people, so admission is free!) and consists of over 2,000 Western European paintings dating from the medieval period to the 19th century. The national collection was established in 1824 with the English government’s £57,000 purchase of John Julius Angerstein’s 38-piece personal collection. Originally displayed at Angerstein’s house, the Parliament agreed to construct a dedicated gallery building in 1831, doors opened at the current location in 1838. The collection greatly expanded in the early 1860s under director Charles Eastlake, and now contains several must-see works such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne and Monet’s Bathers at La Grenouillere.

The National Gallery, London

6. Tate Modern – London, England

Another London staple, the Tate Modern is one of four museums in the Tate family and, as its name suggests, houses the UK’s national contemporary and modern art collection (dating from 1900 and later). Housed in a converted former power station in the banks of the river Thames, the gallery offers a unique experience for art lovers, displaying pieces in thematic zones rather than in typical chronological order. The themes currently on exhibit are Energy and Processes, Structure and Clarity, Poetry and Dream and Making Traces, and feature works by Picasso, Rothko and Rothschild.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

5. Uffizi Gallery – Florence, Italy

An unlikely home for fine art masterpieces, the Uffizi Gallery was originally commissioned by Cosimo de Medici in 1560 to hold the offices of the Florentine Magistrates and Judiciaries. Today, this original purpose is especially evident in the gallery’s cramped spaces which were built to accommodate just a few individuals, not the thousands that now flock through its doors each day. Nevertheless, the Uffizi is one of Italy’s best attractions, containing 45 halls that chronologically display works from the 13th to 18th centuries. Highlights of the collection are Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, and also not to be missed are the gallery’s iconic Vasari Corridor and Octagonal Tribune designed by Bernardo Buontalenti.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

4. Vatican Museum – Vatican City, Italy

Dating back to 1503, today’s Vatican Museum is comprised of a combination of pontifical museums and galleries, whose acquisitions began with Pope Julius II’s collection of sculptures. The complex now houses quite a large number of museums, exhibiting everything from Christian Antiquities to ancient tapestries and mosaics to religious and secular relics. The museum also contains a vast painting gallery (Pinacoteca) which opened in 1932 and consists of over 400 paintings displayed more or less chronologically from the 12th to 19th centuries. Undeniably, the largest draws of this museum are the incomparable pieces found within the Sistine Chapel, where visitors can admire the works of Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Rosellini and Signorelli, as well as the world famous ceiling masterpiece by Michelangelo.

Vatican Museums Rome

3. State Hermitage – St. Petersburg, Russia

As one of the world’s largest museums at over two million square feet, and housing over three million items, the State Hermitage Museum complex holds an astounding collection of fine art that is a must see for any art lover. Housed in 120 galleries in four of the Hermitage’s main buildings—the Winter Palace, Great Hermitage, Small hermitage and New Hermitage—visitors  will find the works of Matisse, Degas, Titian, and Rembrandt. The collection, which was established in 1764 by Catherine the Great, now consists of over 600,000 works of art and includes such famous paintings as Da Vinci Benois Madonna, Matisse’s Dance and Rembrandt’s Flora.

Popova Valeriya / Shutterstock.com
Popova Valeriya / Shutterstock.com

2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City, USA

The largest gallery in the United States, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the biggest attractions in NYC, drawing over six million visitors each year. And once you’ve seen it, it’s easy to see why—the current collection includes over 2,500 European paintings, the largest Egyptian art collection (outside of Egypt) and the world’s largest collection of American artistic works. The museum also boasts extensive holdings in African, Asian and Islamic Art, as well as an impressive amount of antique weapons, armor and costumes. With over two million works housed in over two million square feet of space, the Met has something for everyone, making it a must-see for art lovers of all styles and periods.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
T photography / Shutterstock.com

1. The Louvre – Paris, France

As the largest and arguably most well-known art gallery in the world, the Louvre currently houses over 35,000 artistic works and draws over eight million visitors a year. With a history dating back to the 12th century as a city fortress, and later, royal residence, the galleries of the Louvre were not used for art exhibition until 1699 when the artist residents held their first “salon”. The Museum Central des Arts (located in the Salon Carre and Grande Galerie) was opened to the public in 1793 with a growing collection of paintings that eventually expanded into other parts of the building. The site became exclusively devoted to culture in 1882, and today consists of over 650,000 square feet of exhibition space holding some of the world’s most renowned masterpieces, including Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People and Durer’s Self Portrait.

cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com
cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com

15 Amazing Libraries for Literature Lovers

Libraries are those unique cultural institutions that combine art, history and innovation to create a space for people of all ages and backgrounds to indulge in the pursuit of knowledge and exploration of literature. For book lovers, there are few things that compare to wandering amid stacks of a historically or culturally significant building and finding a rare volume of their favorite author or an ancient text pertinent to human history. Luckily, the major libraries of the world that house such exquisite collections work hard to keep them preserved and accessible to the public, and out of the hundreds of worldwide options, we’ve narrowed down the 15 institutions all literature lovers must visit at least once in their lives.

15. Royal Grammar School Chained Library, Guildford, England

The headmaster’s study in Guilford’s Royal Grammar School is home to one extremely unique feature—an original chained library. The custom of chaining books originated with the idea of providing public access to valuable and important texts by affixing them to shelving in public places, an idea that eventually became the predecessor for the modern library system. This particular one in Guildford, England is one of the last remaining chained libraries in the world and houses a collection with works dating back to the 15th century, and most notably, two early editions of Newton’s Principia.

Royal Grammar School
Photo by: The Despectacled Librarian

14. Austrian National Library, Vienna, Austria

As the country’s largest library, the Austrian National Library is found within Hofburg Palace in Vienna and houses upwards of 7.4 million items. The acquisition of holdings dates back to the Middle Ages, with the permanent home at the Hofburg Palace constructed in the early 18th century, and now containing the largest collection of contemporary literature and research materials in Austria, as well as several unique collections, archives and museums. The most notable of these is the collection of Maps, one of the most comprehensive in the world, which today includes 295,000 maps, 45,000 geographic-topographic views, 700 globes and over 80,000 atlases and books of a technical nature. Also impressive is the library’s holding of manuscripts and rare books, a collection comprised of over 500,000 printed materials organized into incunabula (pre-1500s), works from the 16th to 19th centuries and items of rare, valuable and bibliophilic importance.

Radiokafka / Shutterstock.com
Radiokafka / Shutterstock.com

13. Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, Toronto, Canada

This library houses the University of Toronto’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, the acquisition of which started in 1955 under the direction of Chief Librarian Robert H. Blackburn (largely sourced from the University’s main library). The department didn’t have a permanent home until 1973 when Thomas Fisher’s descendants donated their personal collections of Shakespeare and various 20th century writers, accentuating the growing collection’s need for a designated space. The building is now home to Canada’s largest publicly accessible selection of rare books and manuscripts, consisting of over 700,000 volumes including several medieval manuscripts and a set of Pyne’s Royal Residences which was presented to the University by Queen Victoria.

Photo by: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
Photo by: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

12. Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

Located at the University of Dublin, the Trinity College Library holds Ireland’s largest collection of literature and is home to one of the country’s  biggest attractions—the incomparable Long Room. Built between 1712 and 1732, the Long Room measures over 65 meters in length and contains the institution’s 200,000 item collection of rare and early edition manuscripts and novels, including the world-famous Book of Kells  and one of the last surviving copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Also interesting to see are the marble busts of famous writers and philosophers that adorn the room, the highlight of which seems to be the one of Jonathan Swift created by Louis Francois Roubiliac.

VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com
VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com

11. Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Brazil’s Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura, known in English as the Royal Portuguese Reading Room, must be visited as much for its unbelievably stunning interior as for its extensive literary collection. Housing the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal itself, the library was built from 1880 to 1887 in the Neo-Manueline style (Portuguese answer to Neo-Gothic architecture) designed by lead architect Rafael da Silva e Castro. Today, the library houses over 350,000 rare volumes spread over three levels, topped with a wrought iron chandelier and stained-glass skylight, making it a must see for anyone who appreciates both literature and 19th century architecture.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

10. Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Connecticut, United States

Currently closed for renovation (it will reopen in September 2016) the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University houses one of the world’s largest rare book and manuscript collections. Completed in 1963, the building’s geometric architecture and innovative translucent marble “windows” allow a unique method of filtered lighting to illuminate the interior of the building while protecting its precious contents—thousands of rare manuscripts, papyri and early edition novels. The library is also home to various other literary collections acquired by the University, as well as several temporary and permanent exhibits; amid these treasured displays you can find an early printing of the Gutenberg Bible and Audubon’s Birds of America.

LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com

9. St. Catherine’s Monastery Library, South Sinai, Egypt

This Greek Orthodox Monastery, officially known as The Holy Monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai, and unofficially as Santa Katarina, is the oldest inhabited monastery in the world with origins predating the Middle Ages. Though it is worth the visit just to admire and stand in a structure that has witnessed 17 centuries of history, exploring the monastery’s cultural inheritance is a truly unique experience. Housing an extensive collection of Christian art, the site is also home to a library of over 16,000 ancient texts, including hand-written manuscripts on papyrus and scrolls, early printed books and an archive of ancient documents. While the majority of the works found here are written in Greek and are religious in nature, the library also houses a number of educational works such as lexicons, medical texts and travel accounts. Most notable holdings include several pages of the Codex Sinaiticus (4th century manuscript of the Holy Scriptures) and especially of interest for classical literature lovers, first editions of Homer, Plato and the Comedies of Aristophanes.

Photo by: Nathan Hughes Hamilton via Flickr
Photo by: Nathan Hughes Hamilton via Flickr

8. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, United States

Planned, funded and brought into being by Henry and Emily Folger, the Folger Shakespeare Library currently holds the world’s largest collection of William Shakespeare’s work, and is a must see for anyone who is a fan of Renaissance literature. Up until the building’s opening in 1932, the Folgers worked tirelessly to provide the American people with the best possible selection of the poet’s works, and personally took on all of the responsibilities involved with bringing their dream to life, including acquisitions, location scouting and structural planning. Today, the couple’s gift continues to expand, and now (in addition to the Shakespeare) houses an impressive collection of other Renaissance books, manuscripts and art, as well as being home to a world class research facility and numerous public outreach programs.

Photo by:  NCinDC via Flickr
Photo by: NCinDC via Flickr

7. Alexandria Library, Alexandria, Egypt

Opened in 2002, this new Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Egypt’s northern coast is committed to replicating the ancient versions legacy as a universal center for culture and learning. While this was originally regarded by many as an impossible task, the library has managed it, becoming a hub in Alexandria not only for literature, but for performances, art, and special events. A stunning example of modern architecture, the library complex consists of a main reading room (which has the capacity to shelve eight million volumes) and four smaller libraries—a children’s library, youth’s library, multimedia library and braille library. Also on the premises are a planetarium and several museums that exhibit everything from ancient artefacts to antiquarian texts, including a copy of the only known scroll that remains from the city’s ancient library.

RiumaLab / Shutterstock.com
RiumaLab / Shutterstock.com

6. National Library of St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy

This beautiful library in Venice’s Piazza San Marco was constructed in the mid 1500’s after Cardinal Bessarion 1468 literary donation demanded a designated library building. The two level structure, officially called the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana was designed by Jacopo Sansovino and features Doric-style arches on the ground floor and Ionic friezes and sculptures on the second, as well as decorative artworks by Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto, among other. The library is also among the oldest in the country and houses one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of classical literature and historic works. With holdings that comprise upwards of a million total items, among the library’s most treasured pieces are two manuscripts of the Iliad (5th and 6th century) and opera scores and sonatas by Francesco Cavalli and Domenico Scarlatti, respectively.

Photo by:  Iain Cameron via Flickr
Photo by: Iain Cameron via Flickr

5. Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia

With a history dating back to 1862, The Russian State Library is the country’s national library and houses the 5th largest literary collection in the world, containing over 17.5 million books. The institution also holds a renowned collection of maps, as well an extensive amount of specialized items such as journals, sheet music, sound recordings and dissertations. While obviously home to the largest selection of Russian literature in the world, the library also houses foreign works represented in over 247 languages, which comprise approximately 30 percent of the building’s 43 million item collection. The building itself is also an interesting site, with construction more or less completed by 1945, it is a perfect example of Soviet Neo-Classical architecture and offers an insightful contrast to other libraries of this magnitude.

Russian State Library

4. New York Public Library, New York City, United States

Not only is the New York Public Library a city landmark and popular tourist attraction, it is also an extremely important part of the worldwide literary family. With a collection of over 53 million items, the library is the 4th largest in the world, drawing around 18 million annual visitors. Originally founded in 1895, today’s main branch at Bryant Park was opened in 1911 with over one million volumes consolidated from the Astor and Lenox Libraries. The institution has since expanded to include 88 neighborhood branches and four resource centers, servicing approximately 17 million people and offering over 67,000 free programs yearly. Visitors to the main branch, located in Manhattan`s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, can admire the beauty of the building’s Beaux-Arts architecture and interiors and explore the collections in the General Research, Manuscripts and Archives, History and Genealogy and Rare Books Divisions (among others). This building is also home to some of the country’s most significant historic documents, including Columbus’s letter about the New World (1943) and George Washington’s original Farewell Address.

Photo by: Jeremy Keith via Flickr
Photo by: Jeremy Keith via Flickr

3. Vatican Library, Vatican City

Among the many culturally significant things to see in Vatican City, the Vatican Library is no exception. Officially established in 1448 (though acquisition began much earlier) in the Vatican Palace, the current collection tops 1.1 million items and includes ancient manuscripts, codices, classical Greek and Latin texts, and perhaps the most impressive selection of incunabula (text printed in Europe prior to 1501) in the world. Though holding a vast amount of religious texts, the library’s holdings are actually extremely diverse in scope, with notable pieces ranging from the oldest known Bible (Codex Vaticanus) to letters from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn.

Photo by: Anna & Michal via Flickr
Photo by: Anna & Michal via Flickr

2. Library of Congress, Washington DC, United States

Established in 1800, with the doors of the current building opening to the public in 1897, The Library of Congress in Washington DC is the 2nd largest library in the world, housing upwards of 158 million items. Now a national monument, the building is one of the world’s foremost research centers home to 36 million printed materials in over 460 languages as well as over 69 million manuscripts. It is also here that you will find the world’s largest selection of films, sound recordings, sheet music and maps, in addition to the most extensive holdings of rare books on the continent. Along with this amazing collection of literature, the building itself is also worth the tour, showcasing magnificent Beaux-Arts architecture with interiors and reading rooms featuring fine art, marble halls, carved hardwood, and of course, the incomparable central stained-glass dome.

Photo by: m01229 via Flickr
Photo by: m01229 via Flickr

1. The British Library, London, England

This jaw-dropping institution contains an astounding 625 km of shelving to house its 170 million+ item collection which includes over 300,000 original manuscripts (both ancient and contemporary) and 60 million patents. With figures such as these, it is no wonder that the British Library is the largest in the world, and attract over 16,000 daily visitors. The main building, located in St. Pancras in London, is England’s largest public building constructed in the 20th century and consists of over 112,000 square meters spread over 14 floors. Along with the unparalleled collection of books, maps, newspapers and musical scores, the library is home to one of the world’s most comprehensive selections of literary treasures, including the Magna Carta, The Times first edition and the audio recording of Mandela’s Rivonia trial speech.

Photo by: Andrew Gustar via Flickr
Photo by: Andrew Gustar via Flickr

World’s 10 Smallest Countries Worth Visiting

You might be wondering why you would ever want to visit some of the smallest countries in the world, other than to just get that passport stamp and bragging rights. But the fact of the matter is what these small countries lack in size they make up for in amazing things to see and do. Discover the smallest country in the world that is home to the largest Catholic Church and 5 million visitors a year. Discover a country that is still ruled by a royal family that sits atop a mountain in their castle. Find out why some of the smallest island countries are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to visit and why most travelers prefer to spend their time on these islands underwater. Tag along as we explore the world’s 10 smallest countries worth visiting.

10. Vatican City

Coming in at .2 square miles this is the smallest country on our list but the most visited with over 5 million people visiting every year. Vatican City is unique in that it is a city within a city, a walled enclave within Rome, and an internationally recognized independent state. Housing the largest Catholic Church in the world; St. Peter’s Basilica and one of the best collections of artistic masterpieces in the world; this small but mighty country is a must-visit. Did we mention that along with the 800 people who live here, the Pope just happens to reside in this tiny country?

Entrance to the Basilica is free and here you will find Peter’s tomb and famous works of art such as Michelangelo’s Pieta. The Vatican museum is overflowing with art and history and is often best seen with a guided tour as it can be quite overwhelming. Here you will also find the Sistine chapel which is famous for the painted ceiling frescoes that depict the story of creation and the story of Noah. There are many hotels and B&B’s located just a short walk from the Vatican City and most visitors pair their visit here with a few days in Rome. A beautiful country with years of history behind it is our first choice for the smallest country worth visiting.

9. Monaco

Known as the playground for the rich and famous Monaco is only .7 square miles yet is home to over 32,000 residents! Located along the French Riviera this glitzy and glamorous state is home to yacht owners, superstars, and billionaires. Besides the opportunity to visit amongst the wealthiest, there are so many reasons to visit this beautiful tiny country. Among them include great weather, world-famous restaurants and nightclubs, the Grand Prix Formula 1 race, the world’s most famous casino, and exclusive shopping.

You will have to reach deep into your pockets to visit this country though, even in the off-season hotel rates are astoundingly high. Hotel de Paris is the oldest and most famous luxury hotel in the country and offers a private beach, thermal spa, and a restaurant run by the very famous Alain Ducasse. Visit one of the five casinos, attend a show at the prestigious Opera or simply gaze at the very expensive but very beautiful cars that line the streets. Visitors should head to the Old City which offers cobblestone streets, picturesque cafes, and the Prince’s Palace. Whether you can afford to stay a few days in this charming country or simply take a day trip here; it is one small country worth visiting that’s for sure.

8. Liechtenstein

Sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria is the world’s sixth smallest country rich in beauty and mountains. Liechtenstein is the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire and is still ruled to this very day by the Liechtenstein family that lives in the castle on the hill. Although this country doesn’t look like more than a dot on the map, there is plenty to see and do here in this laid back relaxing atmosphere.

Visit during the winter for some excellent intermediate skiing on Malbun and return to a place where the hills aren’t overcrowded and only a handful of chalets and hotels grace the hillside. Catch a glimpse of the historical and imposing castle Schloss Vaduz where the royal family is often spotted skiing in and out of. In the summer there are a bountiful number of hiking and cycling trails that offer spectacular views of cliffs, villages, and lush green forests. In fact, you can cycle from Switzerland to Austria through this country in just a few short hours. We suggest spending at least a few days here exploring the beauty, friendly locals, vineyards, and village-side mountains.

7. St. Kitts and Nevis

This two-island nation in the West Indies makes up 104 square miles but is packed with history, activities, beaches, and mountains. This is an island that once survived on the tobacco, indigo, and sugar industry but has since made tourism its main source of life. Visitors that travel here often have a yearning to explore, to get off the beaten path, and discover the secrets that await them.

Amongst the cruise ships that dock here, the luxury hotels and the private jet terminal are natural reminders of what this island once was. Travel along the scenic railway that was designed to transport sugar cane or head to Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park; a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers excellent views as it sits atop a volcanic peak. St. Kitts offers bustling nightlife, adrenaline-pumping activities such as zip-lining, and is the bigger of the two islands. On the other hand, if you want peace and quiet Nevis offers a handful of gorgeous beaches and a quaint capital city. It is easy to see why this small country begs to be explored and can take multiple visits to understand all it has to offer.

6. The Maldives

A trip to the Maldives is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This country is comprised of 26 coral atolls that contain 200 inhabited islands and 80 islands with tourist resorts. Visiting a resort here means your own private beach only shared with other guests of that resort. From budget guesthouse rooms to over-the-water bungalows with plasma TVs to personal butlers this country is perfect for any type of traveler. Islands offer different luxuries but all have one thing in common; the opportunity to discover an amazing underwater world.

The Maldives is for the traveler that wants to discover the underwater life; for the diver or snorkeler who longs to be in the water and is happy to curl up on the beach in between dives. From baby sharks to manta rays to thousands of colorful fish to wrecks to huge coral walls to massive caves, the opportunities are endless as to what you might see in these extremely warm waters. The white-sand beaches, crystal blue waters, and the choice of accommodations make this country worth every penny it costs to visit.

5. Palau

A global leader in protecting marine ecosystems; Palau or as it’s often known as Belau, is a group of 250 islands in the Micronesia area of Oceania. It is no surprise then that most visitors who come here prefer to spend their time underwater scuba diving. Home to famous sites such as The Blue Corner, German Channel, and Blue Holes; a visitor could dive the same spot every day and each time have a unique experience. Teeming with sharks, giant clams, coral reefs, blue holes, caves, tunnels, unique sea creatures, and an abundance of colorful fish this is the ultimate underwater playground. Make sure to snorkel in the sting-less jellyfish lake located in this country for an unforgettable experience.

On-land visitors will delight in the exotic birds, breathtaking flora, and diversity of the islands. From the saltwater crocodiles that can be found in the mangrove swamps to the rock islands that boast lush green jungle covering jagged limestone to the orchids that sprout everywhere -there is no shortage of beauty to be found. A range of accommodations from budget to luxury along with a number of restaurant choices and even a local brewery makes this country worth visiting.

4. Grenada

Known as the Spice Island Grenada is home to exotic plants, flowers, and an abundance of spice trees and is a major source of producing nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa. Combine that with the lush green tropical rainforests, towering waterfalls, cascading rivers, and breathtaking mountain lakes and you may never want to leave here. Coming in at 133 square miles this is one of the larger small countries on our list that is definitely worth spending your vacation time on.

Visitors will delight in the number of local fairs, festivals, and markets that take place and one should head to the fishing village of Gouyave on Fridays for an absolutely authentic local experience complete with fresh seafood, live music, and a lot of late-night partying. White sand beaches, colorful hillside towns, the first underwater statue museum, rum distillery tours, and activities such as river tubing and hiking will all likely be a part of your travels here. From luxury hotels to small guesthouses and plenty of eateries around the island; one should head to this undiscovered country for the ultimate getaway before anyone else finds out about this gem.

3. Andorra

The second-largest country on our list coming in at 180 square miles is located between France and Spain and is known for having the best skiing in the Pyrenees. For this reason alone any travelers that are looking to hit the slopes should pack their bags immediately and head to Andorra. Over the last few years, the ski resorts have invested millions of dollars to ramp up restaurants, chairlifts, gondolas, snow-making machines, and anything and everything ski-related. What awaits you in this country is some serious ski time.

The country’s capital and only town are loaded with some 2000 shops which attract a number of visitors each year and also contribute to the somewhat bad reputation this country gets as a “fuming traffic jam”. Visitors should head outside the town to discover narrow valleys, breathtaking mountains, and villages that dot the countryside. Hikers will be in paradise in the warmer months with plenty of trails ranging from beginner to expert with plenty of guided hikes available as well. Discover a rugged landscape with beautiful architecture surrounding you as you ski or hike some of the greatest mountains located in this small but mighty country.

2. Niue

A small island country located in between Tonga and the Cook Islands, Niue is small in stature but big on adventure. The best way to explore this small country is to have an open mind and let the opportunities come to you. The dense tropical forests cover most of the island with caves and limestone arches making up the remainder and dozens of walking paths allow visitors to explore the untouched beauty. You won’t find any beaches here as the shoreline is steep and rocky with coral reefs to explore instead.

Offering one of the most spectacular and extensive cave systems in the South Pacific, a popular activity is exploring these caves and the swimming pools that are often hidden within them. Swimming with whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and going on an unga (coconut crab) hunt are all reasons why this small country deserves a serious visit. Being able to hike through the rainforest with no fear of poisonous plants or animals is just one of the bonuses in this country. Spend time here and arrive as a visitor and leave as a friend as the local population welcomes you with open arms.

1. Malta

Our last remarkable small country worth visiting is extremely rich in history; not to mention beautiful and friendly. Malta is often described as an open-air museum with its fortresses, temples set on sea cliffs, walled cities, and underground tunnels. From the 17th-century capital of Valletta that is built on a plateau and offers superior views of the sea to the underground necropolis; The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum this country is full of surprises. Wind your way through the different townships in the country to discover something new at every turn.

A lot of visitors choose to sail along the coasts as the scenic caves, sunsets, and coastline offer stunning views from the water. Malta is also home to numerous note-worthy festivals that draw visitors from all over the world. The beautiful beaches and clear waters provide tranquility and relaxation and many visitors like to try their hand at diving. Underwater divers can catch glimpses of rocky reefs, caves, and an abundance of marine life in the warmer months. Malta is truly the perfect country to visit for the historian, explorer, or anyone looking to do something different on their travels.