Off The Grid: Small Countries, Big Influence

Travel Lists

Some people punch well above their weight. Despite their small stature and few numbers, they leave a big wake and lasting impression on the world.

The same is true of countries, especially some diminutive ones from Europe. Despite their small size and populations, the following have influenced the modern world almost as much as larger super powers. However, it’s not just about brains, these smaller nations have looks, too.


Photo: mariusz kluzniak, CC-BY

The impact of ancient Greece on human life cannot be overstated. Art, language, philosophy, democracy, athletes, comedy, drama, critical thinking and most importantly, non-runny yogurt. All these either originated or skyrocketed from here. For a coastal country the size of Mississippi with just 10 million inhabitants, that’s quite a feat. But you don’t have to appreciate Greece’s global contributions to vacation here. The mountainous mainland, timeworn architecture and sapphire beaches will do that for you.

Best time to visit: April-June



Photo: Moyan Brenn, CC-BY

Although not much bigger than Maryland, The Netherlands (commonly but incorrectly called Holland) is the world’s eighth most influential nation, according to the Global Presence Index. After the United States, it is the world’s second largest exporter of food and agricultural products. But it is not all just about economic influence. The Dutch are artistically inclined, most notably Van Gogh and Rembrandt. And they popularized tulips, one of the prettiest and most iconic flowers in the world. In addition to windmills and repetitive trance music, the country is home to the canal-filled capital of Amsterdam, one of Europe’s best-preserved, visually appealing and greatest cities. It’s also the “world’s best country” for cycling, according to Lonely Planet.

Best time to visit: May-October (April for tulips)



Denmark (pictured at top) regularly tops the “most livable” and “happiest nations on earth” lists. This Scandinavian gem is the size of West Virginia-sized and has more fun than a nation five times its size. Beer, Lego, vikings and many of the fairy tales you heard as a child all emerged from here. And, the standard of living is as high and civilized as any place on the planet.

Best time to visit: May-September



Photo: Giuseppe Milo, CC-BY

It doesn’t make any sense. For a place the size of South Carolina and with just 4 million residents, Ireland sure knows how to export itself. Irish pubs. St. Patrick’s Day. Guinness. U2. Celtic music. Boston. Anything green. Lucky charms. And that’s excluding the county’s sizable contributions to literature, science, and fun-loving (and helpful) people the world over. What’s more, Ireland is especially easy on the eyes, making it an extremely popular tourist destination. Popular attractions include Blarney Castle, Cliffs of Moher (pictured), the medieval capital of Kilkenny and County Donegal, which borders Northern Ireland to the west.

Best time to visit: May-September


Honorable mention: Portugal. After the British and Spanish, this adorable country settled and influenced much of the western hemisphere.

Photo at top: Giuseppe Milo, CC-BY

Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Follow him on Twitter.

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