From the Florida Keys and Nevada to Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, bands of plucky citizens across the world are declaring their parcels of land to be micronations – independent states that are not recognized by other countries or by international bodies like the United Nations.
While some do it for political reasons, others do it to promote tourism – or just for fun. So if you’re a fun-seeking tourist, you should consider paying them a visit, says Scott Forbes, author of “You Rule!: Create Your Own Country.
“It’s usually a lot of fun,” Forbes says. “You might get to meet a head of state, such as a king, queen or president, for a start, and that’s not something you can do easily in a regular country.”
Here’s a guide to micronations that welcome tourists:
1. Conch Republic, aka the Florida Keys
“We seceded where others failed” is the Conch Republic’s tongue-in-cheek motto. Forbes says the micronation was founded in 1982 when the state of Florida set up a passport checkpoint to deter illegal immigrants and drug traffickers. But many locals felt it deterred tourism, and they declared their independence. The Conch Republic has its own flag, seal, coins, stamps and passport, which you can purchase online. Next time you’re in Key West, pay a visit to its headquarters at 613 Simonton Street.
2. Republic of Molossia, Dayton, Nev.
In 1977 Kevin Baugh declared the 11 acres that contain his home and a few other properties to be an independent nation. Molossia now boasts 27 citizens – 21 Baugh family members and six dogs, according to Forbes. It also claims a navy (multiple inflatable boats), a space program (rocket launching), railroad (model train set), currency (three valora are worth a tube of cookie dough) and holidays (including Kickassia Invasion Victory Day).
Molossia is open to visitors April 15–Oct. 15 with two weeks’ notice. While visiting, you can view the presidential quarters, check out the national railway and buy stamps and coins.
3. Ladonia, Sweden
Ladonia was created in 1996 to protect a group of sculptures along southern Sweden’s North Sea shoreline. The micronation claims 17,000 citizens, though none live there permanently. Some 40,000 people visit every year to see the sculptures, which are a series of towers made from driftwood. If you visit, bring hiking shoes to get to the sculptures and look for these points of interest: the ashes of a baby white rhino from a Swedish zoo, a living pear tree and seal bones. You might even come across Ladonia’s queen and crown princess.
4. Seborga, Italy
This micronation lies near Italy’s border with France and is one of the most historic of these aspiring countries. A medieval hilltop town that re-declared its independence in the 1960s, Seborga has deep Christian roots with connections to popes as far back as 820 A.D. Over time, it became a shrine for Christian relics and home to many Christian orders. Today, Seborga has its own customs, license plates, currency (the Luigino) and constitution.
5. Free Republic of Alcatraz, Italy
Founded by artist Jacopo Fo in 2009, this micronation promotes a more sustainable lifestyle. Visitors can attend art, playwriting, theater and yoga workshops. Though there’s no charge to become a citizen, you can show your patriotism by buying T-shirts, stamps and passports – or you can learn the national anthem for free.
6. Akhzivland, Israel
A private section of beach in an ancient area of Israel declared its independence in 1952 as “Akhzivland.” Founded by Eli Avivi on the property surrounding his home, Akhzivland welcomes tourists to stay at the run-down house, enjoy the beach and have their passport stamped by Avivi. The property also houses his personal museum of artifacts found near the area, which visitors can tour for a small fee. Akhzivland is close to Akhziv National Park, which features a rocky beach, gardens and the ruins of a seaside Arab village.
7. Principality of Hutt River, Australia
A farmer in western Australia founded this micronation in 1970 after a dispute over wheat quotas, and since then he has designed his own flag, stamps and coins. “Visitors can usually meet Prince Leonard … take a tour of the principality and buy stamps, coins and locally grown wildflowers,” says Forbes. Also on site is a non-denominational chapel, tea room, swimming pool, camping area and a variety of historical displays.
8. Naminara Republic, South Korea
More than 1.5 million people a year visit this island micronation in a river not far from Seoul, says Forbes. “A scenic place, it promotes itself as a nature reserve but also as an independent state,” he says. The Naminara Republic has beautiful tree-lined roads and a theme park with rides, a roller-skating rink, swimming pools and camping areas. There also are villas and bungalows for overnight stays. To visit, you’ll need to take a ferry, pay an admission fee and secure a passport.
Lyn Mettler is an Indianapolis, Ind.-based travel writer. She is the author of The Step-by-Step Guide to Earning Your Southwest Companion Pass. You can find her at www.GotoTravelGal.com or on Twitter at @GotoTravelGal.