Places that don’t exist – Adventures in geopolitical oblivion

You’d think the question “How many countries are there in the world?” would be an easy one to answer. But it’s not – the answer wholly depends on who you ask.

Ask the United Nations for instance, and they’ll tell you there are 193. That is, all of the states on the planet it recognises as sovereign except for the Vatican City.

Ask others and they’ll tell you that their homeland, their “nation”, deserves recognition. There are places out there that exist – in the International Relations sense of the word – only in the eyes of their people.

Grab your passport and adventure beyond the “international community” (behind the yellow fringe, as photographed by M Glasgow) with a trip to one of these unrecognised states and disputed territories.

Orthodox church on Shevchenko Street, Tiraspol, Transnistria

Orthodox church on Shevchenko Street, Tiraspol. Photo by Marco Fieber

Tiraspol, Transnistria

Tiraspol, Transnistria. Photo by Minamie’s Photo

Government building in Tiraspol, Transnistria

Government building in Tiraspol, Transnistria. Photo by inyucho

Dniestr River - Transnistria

Dniestr River. Photo by sugarmeloncom

Industrial Transnistria

Industrial Transnistria. Photo by didkovskaya


Transnistria – or Trans-Dniestr – is a small sliver of land between the River Dniester and Moldova’s border with Ukraine that has declared independence from Moldova since 1990.

Foreigners can secure a 24-hour tourist visa. Watch a BBC journalist’s journey to Transnistria on YouTube.

Taiwan High Speed Rail Train

Taiwan High Speed Rail Train. Photo by Haziq Noor Ariff

Puli and the Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan

Puli and the Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan. Photo by /luca

Cisingtan Beach, Hualien City, Taiwan

Cisingtan Beach, Hualien City, Taiwan. Photo by eazy traveler

Taipei 101, Taiwan

Taipei 101, Taiwan. Photo by daymin


The island of Taiwan sits 112 miles off the coast of China. Comparable in size to the Netherlands (or, for our readers in the US, Maryland), and with a population 23 million people, it is one of the most densely populated places in the world.

Sovereignty is disputed between the multi-party democracy that governs the island and the People’s Republic of China. According to the UN, it’s officially part of China.

UK visitors can enter for 90 days without a visa (US visitors can enter for 30 days without a visa).

Memorial by Sderot atop Hill overlooking Gaza Strip

Memorial by Sderot atop Hill overlooking Gaza Strip. Photo by David Berkowitz

Bridge connecting Israel with the West Bank/Palestine

Bridge connecting Israel with the West Bank/Palestine. Photo by Chadica

Street scene in Bethlehem, West Bank. Photo by upyernoz

Street scene in Bethlehem, West Bank. Photo by upyernoz


There are two strips of land within Israel – known as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – that are described as the Palestinian territories or occupied Palestinian territories.

Palestine is accessible by land via Israel or Jordan. No visa is required to enter Palestine on the basis that the traveller already possesses the necessary visa for Israel or Jordan.


Somaliland. Photo by yotut

Fisherman in the port of Berbera, Somaliland

Fisherman in the port of Berbera, Somaliland. Photo by Alfred Weidinger

Hargeysa, the capital of Somaliland

Hargeysa, the capital of Somaliland. Photo by Retlaw Snellac


Somaliland is a breakaway state from the anarchic war-torn Somalia. The territory is seeking self-determination as the Republic of Somaliland.

Travellers are advised to avoid Somaliland due to the high levels of crime and violence that blight the region.


Antarctica. Photo by RAYANDBEE

Kayaking in Antarctica

Kayaking in Antarctica. Photo by Polar Cruises

Penguins porpoising in Antarctica

Penguins porpoising in Antarctica. Photo by giladr


Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom have all claimed the world’s southernmost continent at one time or another.

Under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, all claims of sovereignty have been put on hold. UK visitors must apply for a permit before travelling (and US visitors must apply for a permit too – before travelling).

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…

Article by Brett Ackroyd (1166 posts)

Brett hopes to one day reach the shores of far-flung Tristan da Cunha, the most remote of all the inhabited archipelagos on Earth…as to what he’ll do when he gets there, he hasn’t a clue. Over the last 10 years, London, New York, Cape Town and Pondicherry have all proudly been referred to as home. Now it’s Copenhagen’s turn, where he lends his travel expertise to