Altai: The Altai region isn’t a nation at all, but a general name for an expansive mountainous region that straddles Russia’s Altai Republic and Altai Krai, Western Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. ‘Altai’ means ‘Mountains of Gold’ and the region is notable for its wildlife (bear, lynx, glutton, Siberian stag and even reindeer and snow leopard above the tree line) and ancient nomadic tribal traditions, including eagle hunting and playing horseback rugby with live sheep. Visit the adventure tour firm Explore's website for more information: www.explore. co.uk
Nouakchott: Nouakchott is the capital of Mauritania, one of the least-visited countries on the planet despite its proximity to Morocco and, indeed, Europe. On the fringes of the Sahara desert (and only a camel’s spitting -distance from the disputed region of Western Sahara), this forgotten city is often under a layer of sand. Visit the Mountain Kingdoms website for more information: www.mountainkingdoms.com
Suriname: Suriname is one of the Guyanas (the other two are French Guyane and Guyana, formerly British Guyana), situated on the north-eastern coast of South America. The British gave the country to the Dutch in the 1667 Treaty of Breda in exchange for New York. Though the capital, Paramaribo, is rough round the edges, most of the danger lies in the extensive jungles, with wild cats, Howler monkeys, tarantulas, termites, crocodiles, piranhas, anacondas and boa constrictors all calling it home. Visit the Last Frontiers website for more information: www.lastfrontiers.com
Ouagadougou: Ouagadougou is the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa. Its name is often shortened to Ouaga – but not because it sounds funny; rather, because the name means ‘where people get honour and respect’. It’s a buzzing cultural and commercial hub, and hosts one of Africa’s most important TV and film festivals (see www.fespaco.bf). It’s a hot city – temperatures during the months of April and May can reach 45°C. Visit the Wild Frontiers website for more information: www.wild frontiers.co.uk
Funafuti: Turn right at the Marshall Islands and you’ll reach Funafuti. Not much help, is it? Funafuti, the capital of Tuvalu, is one of the many small atolls that lie in the huge swathe of ocean between Australia and Polynesia. Like most of the others, Funafuti looks like a paradisiacal cliché, but Tuvalu has substance as well as sand and sun: in July 2009 the tiny South Pacific island nation announced it wanted to be the first zero-carbon country, vowing to abandon fossil fuels and generate all of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. See the country’s official tourism website www.timelesstuvalu.com for flight information.
Tristan da Cunha: Located in the South Atlantic, 1,750 miles from South Africa and 2,088 miles from South America, the volcanic archipelago of Tristan da Cunha’s greatest claim to fame is as the ‘world’s remotest island’. Despite its Portuguese name, the archipelago is a dependency of the British overseas territory of St Helena, another lonely lump of rock 1,510 miles to the north. The island has one TV channel, limited health care and no airport; on the upside, it’s a beautifully bleak outpost and, depending on the time of the year, you may see Rockhopper penguins or albatrosses on the beaches. You might need approval from the Island Council if you want to visit. However, if it is given, as many as nine ships visit the island during the southern summer. See www.tristandc.com for shipping schedules.
Nauru: The Republic of Nauru lies in the Pacific Ocean, some 40 kilometres south of the equator, and is the world’s smallest island nation and its third smallest country (the Vatican City and Monaco take first and second place respectively). It’s survived occupation by Germany, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Japan, becoming independent in 1968. The tiny island (around 21 square kilometres) became one of the world’s wealthiest countries in the 1960s and ’70s, through exportation of phosphate; however, the industry dwindled from the 1980s, leading Nauru to resort to less wholesome measures, such as becoming a tax haven (and consequently a hotspot for money launderers). Despite there being fewer than 10,000 (mostly Micronesian) residents, there is a university campus on the island. For information on the island’s two hotels, see www.discovernauru.com.
Sana’a: Sana’a is the capital of Yemen, which is on the Arabian Gulf to the south of Saudi Arabia. Famous for its multistoreyed houses – some built more than 400 years ago – Sana’a’s Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visas and insurance can be difficult to organise so get in touch with the Yemen Consulate in Dubai for more information: www.yemenconsulatedubai.org
Nagorno-Karabakh: Nagorno-Karabakh is in the South Caucasus, between Lower Karabakh and Zangezur (if you’ve heard of them). Though legally part of Azerbaijan, most of Nagorno- Karabakh is de facto governed by the internationally unrecognised Nagorno- Karabakh Republic. Since 1988 there has been a state of war between NK and Azerbaijan, with Chechens, Ukrainian and Russian mercenaries and Afghan mujahideen helping out. The population of NK detests that of Azerbaijan, and vice versa. Good luck getting there though. At the time of writing there was a ceasefire and no flights planned between the Armenian capital, Yerevan, and the air base at Stepanakert, capital of NK. Most governments are advising against all travel to Nagorno-Karabakh and the military occupied area surrounding it, especially as some areas may be heavily landmined. Keep eyes and ears open, however, because this is one passport stamp that would give you true globetrotting credentials.