Can you pinpoint Andorra, Monaco, the Vatican, San Marino and Liechtenstein on a world map? Probably not – not without a microscope that is! These countries are not just small – they are absolutely minuscule. There are few countries in the world you can see completely after climbing a mountain, such as Liechtenstein. Although you can see all of Monaco after climbing a modest hill! And the Vatican is so tiny you can easily walk around the entire country in less than an hour – with room to spare to eat an ice cream.
How is it possible that these oddities on the
map remained independent throughout history? Is it even possible for
microstates with weird or archaic languages such as Monegasque or Latin to
retain their own identity? Or are Andorra and San Marino in fact ordinary
money-laundering schemes and tax havens?
Join us on our microstate road trip in the YPT Vengabus in which we revel in the Pyrenees and the Alps, explore the medieval towers of San Marino, the Necropolis of the Vatican and gawk at the lifestyle of the exorbitantly rich in Monaco.
We’ll all see Llívia, a Spanish (ahem, Catalan) exclave in France, the Camp des Milles concentration camp from the Vichy era, the micronation of Seborga which claims independence from Italy, the UNESCO site at Cinque Terre and the birthplace of Benito Mussolini – Predappio – as well as the Italian exclave of Campione d’Italia.
And if you think the itinerary couldn’t get more packed than that, while in Rome we will be paying a visit to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the only country in the world that has no land!
We expect this tour to run but given covid-19 things can still change – do not book flight travel until we confirm the tour will go ahead. This tour is capped at 7 people for comfortable and sensible travel in our YPT Minivan, priority bookings will go to Pioneers booking the whole trip. If you are from a non-European country get in touch with us to check out the possibilities for you to join this trip.
The special YPT Micronation Minivan, or the Vengabus as we will inevitably be calling it, drives from the Netherlands, via Antwerp, Paris and Toulouse to Andorra. Want to hop on along the way? Get in touch with us!
Arrival in Andorra where the tour proper begins
Meet your fellow travellers at the hotel before we head for welcome drinks and getting to know each other.
Overnight in Andorra.
Thursday 1 April – Andorra La Vella
Today we will spend the full day in the sixth-smallest country of Europe: Andorra. We will start with a short walking tour of Andorra la Vella, the highest capital city in Europe. Along the way we’ll see landmarks like the Dali Monument, Central Park, Casa de la Vall and fine examples of Romanesque granite architecture in the historical centre.
When you’re in one of the smallest countries of the world, you can’t pass over the Miniature Museum! We will visit the museum in the Romanesque mountain village of Ordino, passing the medieval Sant Antoni de la Grella Bridge.
After lunch we’ll explore the shady past of Andorra. For a long time Andorra was known as a smugglers paradise. As a matter of fact, alcohol and tobacco are still awfully cheap! We’ll take a look at the smugglers route that connects the country with Spain. Along the way we’ll experience the beautiful nature of the Pyrenees.
Time to head for the local brewery for food and drinks!
Overnight in Andorra.
Friday 2 April – Andorra – Llívia – Aix-en-Provence – La Turbie / Monaco
Time to hit the road in our private minivan!
Near Andorra lies the Spanish enclave of Llívia. This cartographic anomaly is completely surrounded by France. But don’t expect to see many Spanish flags – Llívia is fiercely Catalan and rumour has it that this is where the independence struggle for Catalonia started. We’ll pay a quick visit to this interesting place.
We will continue our drive towards the Mediterranean Sea, stopping for lunch on the way.
Along the way we’ll stop at Camp des Milles in Aix-en-Provence. a concentration camp for artists and intellectuals in Vichy France.
We continue our drive along the French Riviera.
Dinner and overnight in La Turbie (France), on the doorstep of our second microstate, Monaco.
Saturday 3 April – Monaco
Two square kilometres of glitter and glamour: Monaco is a country for the rich ‘n’ famous.
In the morning we’ll explore the famous sights of the country, including the Formula 1 track, Royal Palace, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (where the Grimaldis are buried), Monte Carlo Casino, the botanical garden for an immense view of the country and – don’t tell anyone – a secret beach! (Feel free to bring your swimming gear.)
Free afternoon: hit the casino, visit the world famous Oceanographic Museum or stare at all the expensive cars and yachts that cruise around.
Dinner at one of the great restaurants of Monaco.
Overnight in La Turbie, France.
Sunday 4 April – Monaco – Seborga – Cinque Terre
Time to leave France behind and stay in Italy for a while. But wait, maybe not…
First stop is Seborga and some theoreticals – what’s the difference between a microstate and a micronation? We will find out in Seborga, a village stating it was never officially included in the Italian unification and therefore claims its own independence. It even has its own flag, currency and royal family. But is this unique place truly a microstate? Let’s see for ourselves.
Along the way we’ll have a stop for a proper Italian lunch.
We continue our drive towards Cinque Terre. This is one of the most famous sights in Italy, and when we cruise down along the Ligurian coast, you can clearly see why! Colourful houses, right next to the sea.
Along the way we’ll make a quick stop at Il Gigante, an impressive piece of art, right next to the sea.
Upon arrival there’s free time to explore Cinque Terre – or go for a good glass of Italian wine with food.
Overnight in Cinque Terre.
Monday 5 April – Cinque Terre – Rome
Once again we hit the road with our minivan, driving onwards to Rome.
At the town of Rosignano we will stop at a beautiful picturesque white beach alongside bright turquoise water. It looks just like the Caribbean – until you turn around and look at the chemicals factory behind you. Yes, if you fancy a seaside holiday full of mercury, cadmium and lead, Spiagge Bianche is the perfect Mediterranean beach for you!
We’ll make a few short photo stops and have a lunch break in between.
Arrival in Rome. We’ll head for pasta or pizza and some wine or beers.
Tuesday 6 April – Rome – Vatican
Time for our next microstate: the smallest country in the world! Did you ever walk around an entire country? No? Today is the day!
After the 45 minute walk we’ll head to the dark side of the Vatican, a tour of the Vatican Necropolis
This afternoon you can explore more of the Vatican or other famous sights in Rome. If you’ve been here before, you can join us for optional visits to Villa Torlonia (former bunker of Mussolini), Chiese di Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte (church with famous fresco’s and a chamber made of human bones) or the Pyramid of Cestius.
Late in the afternoon we will be paying a visit to the only country in the world with no territory – the Sovereign Military Order of Malta – a place for country collectors that you do not want to miss!
We say goodbye to Group A and welcome Group B! This can be done with a great Italian welcome and goodbye meal.
Overnight in Rome.
Wednesday 7 April – Rome – Orvieto – Montepulciano – San Marino
Today we’ll drive north through the amazing scenery of Tuscany. Along the way we’ll make a few stops for photos.
Our first stop is the historical town of Orvieto. Below this city lies a complex of 440 caves that has served different purposes throughout history: you’ll find wine cellars, refrigerator cells and WWII bomb shelters. We’ll have a tour through one of the caves.
For lunch we’ll stop at the picturesque town of Montepulciano. A typical mountain village in the middle of Tuscany.
We’ll leave Tuscany and slowly reach our final destination for the day, the microstate of San Marino. Infamous for its soccer team and Eurovision artists, but famous for being the oldest constitutional republic in the world.
Upon arrival we’ll head straight for dinner and drinks.
Overnight in San Marino.
Thursday 8 April – San Marino
We will spend the whole day exploring the republic of San Marino, the third smallest country in Europe. After breakfast we will start with a walking tour through the country.
Along the way we will visit famous sights as Cava dei Balestrieri, the Basilica di San Marino, Palazzo Publico and Guaita, Falese and Montale – the three famous towers guarding Monte Titano.
After the walk we take the cable car downhill, before we head for lunch.
In the afternoon we’ll have an optional San Marino wine tasting.
After the tasting we head for a true San Marino dinner.
Overnight in San Marino.
Friday 9 April – San Marino – Predappio – Feldkirch
It’s going to be a long day of driving. An hour after leaving San Marino we’ll make a stop in Predappio.
This town has been (in)famous for being the hometown of Benito Mussolini. We will visit his family tomb and his birthplace. Weirdly enough, they have been turned into tourist attractions, with dubious ultra-right ‘souvenir’ shops where various images of fascist leaders are on display.
We’ll continue our way north for another 6 hours. After a quick lunch stop we will reach Switzerland.
Before that however we will pay a visit to Campione d’Italia, an Italian exclave surrounded by Swiss territory. Home to Europe’s largest casino up to 2018, this exclave is another must for those like us obsessed with georgraphic anomalies.
Overnight in Feldkirch, Austria.
Saturday 10 April – Liechtenstein – Feldkirch
Welcome to Liechtenstein! This microstate is wedged between Austria and Switzerland in the middle of the Alps. Today we’ll have a full day to explore this country.
We’ll start the day with a visit to the National Museum to learn more about the history of this tiny country.
Next we’ll explore the capital Vaduz. While Vaduz isn’t great on tourist attractions we’ll check out the Vaduz Castle and Old Rhine Bridge.
After lunch we’ll go for an easy hike around the Alps. Here you’ll have grand vistas of the entire Principality.
Our final farewell dinner in Liechtenstein, expect proper celebrations at the end of our Microstate adventure!
Overnight in Feldkirch, Austria.
Sunday 11 April – Feldkirch – The Netherlands
End of tour.
The YPT Microstate Minivan drives back north, towards Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Cologne and finally the Netherlands. If you want to join us for another day, let us know!