For the most committed collectors of passport stamps, micronations – small territories that proclaim their independence from internationally recognised 'neighbours' – surely represent the ultimate destination.
Whether they're breaking away with serious intent or going it alone with tongue firmly in cheek, these places exert a strange hold on the imagination of any traveller intrigued by the little-known and lesser-visited.
In this excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Secret Marvels of the World, we have some suggestions on where to go if you really, really want to earn travel bragging rights...
Back in the USSR? Not quite, but you could be forgiven for thinking so as you stand in front of Lenin's statue outside the parliament building in Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria © Pe3k / Shutterstock
Breakaway Transnistria is not recognised by neighbouring Moldova and Ukraine, or indeed anywhere, though it has border control and currency (the Transnistrian ruble). Following its pro-independence referendum in 2006, Transnistria waits to spread its wings. In the meantime, lost-in-time Soviet buildings, impressive Bendery Fortress and local brandy Kvint are good reasons to pass through.
Twelve-hour trips here don’t require paperwork; just bring your passport and register at the border.
Principality of Sealand
Sealand arguably kickstarted the new crop of micronations, many of them symbolic protests or vanity projects. Founded in 1967, Sealand occupies an offshore platform 12km from England’s east coast.
Call ahead to confirm use of the helipad to visit Sealand.
Principality of Seborga
A paperwork error gave this Italian province a stab at independence. Its sale in 1729 wasn’t registered, and it wasn’t mentioned in Italy’s 1861 Unification Act, so local Giorgio Carbone stepped up as prince.
Seborga is near the France-Italy border. The closest airport is Nice.
Republic of Užupis
Artists transformed Vilnius’ previously shabby Užupis district into a thriving bohemian enclave and declared it a republic in 1997, complete with flag, president and an army of 11.
Walk straight into Užupis from Vilnius, across the bridge on Išganytojo gatvė.
Hutt River Principality
It’s easier than you think to hobnob with royalty: Western Australia’s Hutt River Principality offers tours led daily by princes Leonard and Graeme. The principality occupies an area that’s about the same size as Hong Kong with a population of just 23, when you don’t include its 14,000 ‘worldwide citizens’.
It costs AUS$4 to obtain a visa for the principality.
Key West’s semi-serious secession from the USA was originally a protest against border patrol roadblocks. Its passports and independence celebrations proved popular. It claims four ‘conch-sulates’ outside Florida.
Visit the Conch Republic from Key West International Airport, or drive south from Miami.
Royal Republic of Ladonia
When the council managing Kullaberg Nature Reserve demanded artist Lars Vilks remove his driftwood and stone sculptures, he formed this micronation instead.
Ladonia is on Sweden’s southwest coast. You can apply for citizenship online.
Christiania broke free as a self-governing district when hippies occupied the old military barracks in 1971. It flourished as a free-thinking collective known for colourful murals and cannabis stalls.
Walk into Christiania, 2km east of Tivoli Gardens. Heed the ‘no photography’ signs.
Republic of Molossia
As much a vanity project as a micronation, Kevin Baugh – or rather ‘His Excellency, the President of Molossia’ – declared two properties and grounds to be an independent country in 1999.
Molossia is a 55km drive southeast from Reno, Nevada.
République du Saugeais
To bring in a few Euros, residents established the tongue-in-cheek Republic of Saugeais. It began as a joke, presidents are elected by ‘applause meter’, and the community shies away from full independence.
The republic is near Doubs, eastern France; customs regulations are flexible.