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9 tiny countries with big appeal

By: Josh Lew on Nov. 21, 2013, 9 a.m.
Lesotho, Sentinel Peak

Photo: Fezekile Futhwa/Shutterstock

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Sometimes called the Kingdom of the Sky, Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa. Its nickname is an especially apt one because the country's lowest elevation is more than one-half mile above sea level. Winter snows are common in this mountain kingdom, and the main tourist activities are trekking on foot or horseback or swooshing down the slopes of one of Southern Africa's best (and only) ski resorts.

Lesotho has a unique history. It became a British protectorate after its then-king needed help to keep his lands from being swallowed up by South Africa. The country gained full independence in the 1960s, so it mostly avoided the effects of the apartheid system that marred South Africa's 20th-century history.