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Countries Inside Other Countries

There are over 190 sovereign nations in the world, and most have their own distinct borders. There are six nations, however, that are mapped out just a little bit differently. These countries are called enclaved and semi-enclaved nations. Semi-enclaved countries are mostly contained within another country but do have their own coastline. This is the case with the countries Monaco, Gambia, and Brunei. Other countries are fully enclaved, meaning their borders are 100% landlocked within a different sovereign nation and they don't have a coastline of their own. Let's take a look at these three unique countries within countries.

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Vatican City

Piazza San Pietro in Vatican City
Credit: Banauke/ Shutterstock

Vatican City is a city-state located within just 110 acres of Italy's capital city of Rome. Thanks to a deal between Pope Pius XI and Mussolini, Vatican City became its own legal country on February 11, 1929. The city-state has a unique government not seen anywhere else in the world, whereby the sitting Pope also acts as the king of the country. Its citizenship is also unique in that can only be given and taken away by the Pope. Despite being the world's smallest country, Vatican City is home to some of Europe's most famous landmarks, works of art, and awe-inspiring architecture.

St. Peter's Basilica is one of the largest churches in the world and is able to accommodate 20,000 people. It was designed by some of Europe's most famous architects, such as Michelangelo, Donato Bramante, and Carlo Maderno, between the years of 1506 and 1626. One of the basilica's most striking features is its dome, a sight to behold from far and near. If you're up for the climb, the 491 steps will bring you to spot where you can look out beyond St. Peter's Square — even much of Rome can be seen on a clear day.

Just next to St. Peter's Basilica is the Sistine Chapel. It's famous for Michelangelo's detailed ceiling frescos, such as the Creation of Adam. In this fresco, we see a depiction of God's arm outstretched, his finger just about to connect with Adam's. Michelangelo painted this and the other Genesis frescos from 1508 to 1512, and he added the Last Judgment fresco behind the altar on the west wall from 1536 to 1541. Many other prolific artists contributed to the art in and around the Sistine Chapel, such as the ornate tapestries designed by the artist Raphael.

Vatican City is home to more than just basilicas and chapels, with over half of its 100 acres covered in the often-overlooked Vatican Gardens. These ornate gardens have not only beautifully established orchards and greenery, but also feature papal shrines, art, statues, and Renaissance-era fountains.

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San Marino

San Marino Castle, also known as Guaita, on Mount Titano
Credit: MoreISO/ iStock

Also located within the borders of Italy is San Marino, a country with its own government, unique history, and a population of around 33,000 citizens and residents. It prides itself on being one of the world's oldest and smallest republics, and its full official name is The Most Serene Republic of San Marino. The name is apt, with much of its land consisting of untouched rolling green hills and the limestone expanses of Mount Titano.

Mount Titano offers beautiful views of the country. Along its ridges, you can visit the three historic towers called Rocca Guaita, Cesta Castle, and Montale. Once used to keep watch and warn of impending invasions, the towers now stand as a symbol of liberty, which is a large theme throughout the country's landmarks and museums. It's because of the country's focus on liberty that it offered Abraham Lincoln honorary citizenship in 1861.

San Marino's capital is the City of San Marino, and one of its main points of interest is the Piazza della Libertà (Liberty Square). From the square, you can view the country's very own statue of liberty, Statua della Libertà, which depicts a warrior with a crown of the nation's three towers. Visitors may also be interested in seeing the Changing of the Guard that occurs several times daily at the Palazzo Pubblico (Public Palace) in the summer months.

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The Kingdom of Lesotho

Maletsunyane Falls dropping into a canyon in Lesotho
Credit: mbrand85/ Shutterstock

The Kingdom of Lesotho, also called the Kingdom in the Sky or the Mountain Kingdom, is a country located entirely within the borders of South Africa. It gets its nicknames from its mountainous countryside and high country-wide elevation. Lesotho is the only country in the world that doesn't dip below 1000 meters above sea level. It is around 11,720 square miles, just a bit smaller than the state of Maryland, and it has a population of about 2 million. The culture in Lesotho is largely homogonous, consisting mostly of Basotho people (singular, Mosotho), with a small minority of residents from Asia and Europe. It's also worth noting that Lesotho is at the forefront of renewable energy. It has joint water and power projects with South Africa that provide most of the country's electricity through sustainable hydroelectric power.

One of Lesotho's most striking natural wonders and popular tourist attractions is the Maletsunyane Falls. The attraction is located near the city of Semonkong, "the place of smoke," in the center of the country. Maletsunyane Falls has a single drop of 630 feet, making it one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. There is a rustic lodge to stay nearby the falls. In addition to the beautiful hiking, the city offers a wealth of other activities, such as pony trekking and abseiling, or rappelling down the side of a mountain.

Lesotho's capital city of Maseru, which means "the place of sandstone," is right on the northwestern border and is the country's most urban city. The city and its surrounding area offer excellent hiking and cultural experiences all their own, with the Thaba Bosiu Cultural Village just a short drive away. Thaba Bosiu gives visitors a chance to experience and learn about life in a traditional village, explore traditional housing structures, and experience daily life among its inhabitants. Visitors can even have a visit with the village doctor and taste the traditional Sesotho beer.

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