When it comes to discussions about enclaves and exclaves you get into a whole web of travel geekery. Some people (like myself) are obsessed with them. But what exactly are they?
An enclave is a territory – or a part of a territory – that is entirely surrounded by the territory of another state. The Vatican City and San Marino are good examples, both being completely surrounded (‘enclaved’) by Italy.
An exclave is a portion of a state or territory geospatially separated from its main part by surrounding alien territory, which is of more than one state. The Russian territory of Kaliningrad fits this criterion, being surrounded by both Poland and Lithuania (and the Baltic Sea).
There are then a ton of other statuses that out-geek even me, such as a pene-enclave or a true enclave, which we’re not even gonna go into today.
There are also national enclaves, which are countries completely surrounded by ONE other country’s land. There are three of these: San Marino, the Vatican City, and Lesotho.
I’ll finish the geek-fest with this little gem: there’s also “temporary enclaves”. When the trial of the Lockerbie bombers took part in the Netherlands, the court was temporarily declared British territory, so that Scots law could get applied. The British were nice and gave it back, though.
So, onto the meat and potatoes of this article! Here’s our 5 best exclaves/enclaves, as well as how to visit them.
5) Akrotiri and Dhekelia
Oh, them crazy Brits and their colonies! Akrotiri and Dhekelia are two remnants of British colonial times that are located in the Republic of Cyprus, and have been held as military bases since Cyprus gained independence in 1960. They’re so huge they take up a massive 3% of the land area of Cyprus. Their existence is somewhat controversial, and there has been more than one attempt to get them out. But as things currently stand, they are a full-on British colony with unique laws from Cyprus and the UK. And yes: they count as visiting a country. Take that, ‘193’ nerds.
How can you visit Akrotiri and Dhekelia? Pretty damned easily: you go to Cyprus and then just go there. Obviously you can’t just go and play on British tanks, but the majority of the area is just villages where people live. I have been and I count this as a country.
4) Campione d’Italia
Campione d’Italia is one of the coolest ones on this list, and one that I initially discovered when I read the book “Mr Nice”, by the now-late Howard Marks.Campione d’Italia is officially Italian territory, but is completely surrounded by the Swiss canton of Ticino. And what to do if you’re surrounded by Switzerland?Well you make casinos and have banks that give accounts to dodgy drug dealers of course! They use the Swiss Franc rather than the Euro, didn’t support Mussolini during WW2 and kinda just do their own thing. This place is cool in so many ways.
How can you visit Campione d’Italia? Again, being part of the European Economic Area, you won’t need passports to traverse around Campione d’Italia and it can be reached via Italy – or Switzerland, seeing that it is surrounded by said nation.
Cabinda – also spelt Kabinda – was formerly known by its colonial overlords as Portuguese Congo, and is somewhat a controversial one: though they are an Angolan exclave and province, many from here would rather they had independence. This took a turn for the nasty when, during the African Cup of Nations in 2010, the Togo football team took fire from members of the catchily-named ‘Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda Military Position’. The separatists spent 20 minutes shooting at the bus, with multiple deaths and injuries.
How can you visit Cabinda? Visas to Angola have notoriously been some of the hardest in the world to obtain, but in 2018 they introduced an e-visa, which means it is easier, at least technically, to visit Angola. There are flights from Luanda, and you can go overland from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its less democratic neighbor, the boringly-named Republic of the Congo.
2) Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic
The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is a landlocked exclave of Azerbaijan that borders Armenia, Iran, and Turkey, and thus during the cold war was the border between Socialist Utopia and Capitalist Running Dogs. Initially in 1990 they declared independence from the Soviet Union (not as part of Azerbaijan), but decided it would be easier if Azerbaijan could support them. They have been greatly affected by the Armenian-Azerbaijan War, and part of their territory is now de facto part of Armenia.
How can you visit the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic?
Azerbaijan is visa-free to a whole host of nations, so crossing overland from Turkey or Iran isn’t too much hassle. Azerbaijan also has oodles of natural resources money, so there are flights here.
When the people that started the good old USSR first started nation-building, it really wasn’t on anyone’s agenda that they might, at some point, have to give some nations unhappy independence. Although Kaliningrad has always been a bit of an exclave of the Russian SSR, it really didn’t matter when the Soviets were running the CCCP. Post-USSR Kaliningrad now exists as a bit of Russia not connected to Russia – like Sakhalin, but that is a whole other story. Kaliningrad has changed hands a lot of times, with the Germans being the previous owners, before Russia/USSR got her as part of the war spoils.
How can you travel to Kaliningrad? Well the great news is that unlike the rest of Russia, which is a bastard to get a visa for, Kaliningrad can be visited for up to 48 hours visa-free, which is enough time to see the place. There’s also a road through Estonia where you technically have to drive through Kaliningrad and thus Russian territory. Yes country collectors, it counts.