These are the countries many Britons have never heard of

·3-min read
Maletsunyane River valley in Lesotho
Maletsunyane River valley in Lesotho

A remarkable new poll has revealed the countries many Britons say they have never heard of.

Data collected by polling agency YouGov showed a number of far-flung nations that were unknown to large portions of the British public.

Top of the list was the African nation of Lesotho, which 44% of people in the UK said they had never heard of.

East Timor and Burkina Faso were joint second, with 41% of respondents unable to recognise their names, and Kyrgyzstan was fourth on 39%.

Other nations to make the top 10 included Myanmar, Benin, Mauritania, Buruni and Eritrea, all of which were unknown to more than a third of those polled.

Watch: Kyrgyz president resigns to avoid 'bloodshed'

Here are some facts about the least well-known nations.


Lesotho is a landlocked nation and is completely surrounded by South Africa. It is one of only three independent states completely surrounded by another country.

The tiny nation has a population of around 2 million and was ruled by the British in the 20th century before achieving independence in 1966.

More than 95% of people in the nation are Christian, the largest ethnic group are the Basotho and their main language is Sesotho.

The director of the 2018 blockbuster Black Panther has said his depiction of Wakanda was inspired by Lesotho.

East Timor

People buying food at basic outdoor fruit and food market in the city of Baucau, Timor Leste (East Timor) 10 March 2020
A street view in East Timor. (Getty)

East Timor is a country in south-east Asia that takes up the eastern portion of the island of Timor. The other part occupied by Indonesia.

It was colonised by Portugal in the 16th century and known as Portuguese Timor until 1975.

The country has a population of just over 1 million people who mainly speak either Portuguese or Tetum, although English and Indonesian are also used.

Its culture reflects its past as a former Portuguese colony, with much of the territory’s architecture and food hinting at Iberian influences.

Burkina Faso

One of France’s former west African colonies, Burkina Faso gained independence in 1960, when it was known as Upper Volta.

The name “Burkina Faso” translates as “Land of Incorruptible People” and was adopted in 1984 after a change in regime.

The Mossi are the major ethnic group in Burkina Faso and French remains the official language, although it is not widely spoken.

According to the British Foreign Office, Burkina Faso is one of 17 countries deemed to be entirely unsafe for tourists to visit because of terror attacks in recent years.

Song Kul - high alpine lake in the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a highly mountainous nation. (Getty)


Kyrgyzstan is an Asian nation that sits on the Silk Road between Europe and China. It is geographically isolated by its highly mountainous terrain and bordered by China and Kazakhstan.

Ethnic Kyrgyz make up the majority of the country's 6 million people, followed by significant minorities of Uzbeks and Russians.

The vast country was conquered by the Mongols in the 13th century. In 1876, it became part of the Russian Empire, and was part of the USSR until the 1990s.

Its most famous national drink is kumyz, or horse milk.


Myanmar, previously known as Burma, was colonised by the British in 1824 and remained under their rule until the Second World War, when Japan invaded and it became a major battleground. Burma achieved independence in 1948.

It is located at the northeast edge of Southeast Asia and borders Thailand, Laos, China, Tibet, India, and Bangladesh.

A coup took place in 1962 and the ruling junta under General Win stayed in charge of the country until 2011, officially renaming it "The Republic of the Union of Myanmar" in 1989.

Most of the country practises Buddhism and it is considered the national religion, with a monastic population of 500,000.

In more recent times Myanmar has been thrown into the spotlight by the Rohingya crisis, which has seen ethnic groups in the north of the country persecuted by government forces.

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