Lexie Alford holds the Guinness World Record for being the youngest person to travel to every country on the globe, visiting all 196 by the age of 21
Lexie Alford holds the Guinness World Record for being the youngest person to travel to every country on the globe, visiting all 196 by the age of 21. Something she learned along the way? It’s that certain countries are full of surprises.
Drawing on her experience, the 25-year-old Californian, who has nearly half a million subscribers on her YouTube channel Lexie Limitless, created a video in which she lists the top five places that astonished her the most in her travels.
She tells MailOnline Travel that some of the most surprising countries are ‘off the beaten path destinations’ and ‘are almost taboo to travel to because of what we hear about them on the news’. She remarks: ‘Going to those places myself and forming my own opinion is always so interesting.’ She adds that she often experienced the ‘most genuine kindness and hospitality from the locals’ in the places she least expected.
Lexie had a positive experience in every country listed, she reveals, saying: ‘I would return to every country in this list in a heartbeat!’ Arranged in no particular order, the countries that surprised her the most are revealed below…
Lexie describes visiting Pakistan as ‘one of the most surprising adventures of my life’. She’s pictured above in the Karakoram mountains during her trip there
Explaining why Pakistan surprised her, Lexie says in the video: ‘I love going to places that contradict everything that I’ve been told to believe about them. I honestly felt very intimidated about visiting Pakistan until the moment my passport was stamped into the country.’
She says that contrary to her expectations, she discovered ‘not only new tastes and sights but also a renewed sense of appreciation for the kindness of people in faraway places’.
What’s more, she was ‘blown away’ by the country’s ‘vast landscapes’.
Visiting Pakistan gave Lexie a ‘renewed sense of appreciation for the kindness of people in faraway places’
Lexie – who began travelling at an early age with her travel agent mother – describes travelling across the north of the country as a ‘crazy’ experience, with highlights including driving along the Karakoram Highway in the Karakoram mountains, often referred to as the ‘most dangerous road in the world’. She recalls: ‘The local driver swerved recklessly around loose gravel corners with heart-pounding 500-ft-plus drops off the side of the road.’
Lexie says that the region’s Fairy Meadows mountain meadow, which lies near the 8,126m (26,660ft) Nanga Parbat mountain, is ‘one of the most peaceful, beautiful places’ she has ever visited, adding: ‘I would have never expected it to be in Pakistan.’
Summing up the experience, she says: ‘All in all, Pakistan turned out to be one of the most surprising adventures of my life. Going to a country that’s been so badly portrayed in the media and in contrast having such fulfilling experiences was one of the most empowering opportunities I’ve had as a female traveller.’
Lexie explains that it took ‘forever’ to get her visa processed to visit Turkmenistan, and she was required to book her trip through a tour company
Lexie notes that Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, ‘holds a few Guinness World Records for the most white marble buildings’
Lexie says that it took ‘forever’ to get her visa processed to visit Turkmenistan in Central Asia, noting: ‘It’s also one of the only countries in the world you can’t visit without booking a tour with a guide company.’
She continues: ‘I have an affinity for the most bizarre off-the-beaten-path destinations. When I mention travelling to Turkmenistan, people give me this blank confused stare and then ask: “What is it – a place, a city, what?”’
The country’s capacity to surprise in part is down to its capital city, Ashgabat, which Lexie describes as ‘one of the strangest cities in the world’.
She notes that the ‘entire capital is made out of gold and marble buildings’ and it ‘holds a few Guinness World Records for the most white marble buildings and the world’s largest indoor Ferris wheel’. She adds: ‘There’s a very secretive energy in the air.’
Lexie says that a must-visit in Turkmenistan is the Darvaza crater, also known as the ‘Door to Hell’, which is a flaming natural gas pit in the middle of the desert
‘I decided to bring an extremely long pole and marshmallows to roast (above) over the open flames,’ Lexie says of visiting Turkmenistan’s Darvaza crater
Lexie explains that Turkmenistan ‘has the sixth largest natural gas reserves in the world, which is the explanation for the very apparent wealth throughout Ashgabat’.
She was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that locals were friendly and welcoming towards her. She says: ‘The very few locals I encountered while travelling throughout Turkmenistan were very excited to share their unique culture and cuisines with us.’
The YouTuber adds that a must-visit while there is the Darvaza crater, also known as the ‘Door to Hell’ – a flaming natural gas pit in the middle of the desert.
She describes the site as a ‘beautiful addition to an otherwise mysterious landscape’, adding: ‘When planning ahead for this trip, I decided to bring an extremely long pole and marshmallows to roast over the open flames. Being able to share this experience with kind and funny locals made it a memory that I would never forget.’
She concludes: ‘Although travelling in Turkmenistan is restrictive and closed off, I found myself captivated by its architectural wonders and the genuine kindness of its people.’
‘I was blown away by how much beauty there is throughout the country,’ Lexie says of Venezuela
‘For anyone that’s heard the stigma that Venezuela is too scary to travel through, that is not my experience at all,’ says Lexie.
She continues: ‘I held preconceived notions about Venezuela’s political situation, yet I discovered awe-inspiring natural wonders and encountered resilient, compassionate communities that challenged my perspective.’
Lexie says that planning her trip there ‘certainly took much more effort than other places’ – as it took her ‘months’ to get her visa processed – but she notes that ‘the best things in life aren’t always the easiest’.
The high point of her journey was visiting Angel Falls, the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall, which lies in Canaima National Park.
To reach it, Lexie flew by plane to the national park, before taking a boat ride past some ‘epic waterfalls’. After a night spent sleeping in a hammock ‘surrounded by nocturnal animals’, a hike led her to Angel Falls. The YouTuber says she’ll never forget the ‘feeling of pure discovery and adventure’ she experienced when they made it to the colossal water feature.
One of the things that stunned her the most, she reveals, was how free of travellers this world-famous landmark was. She says: ‘To my surprise, there wasn’t a single other tourist there at one of the most incredible natural wonders of the world. We didn’t even encounter any other travellers throughout our entire trip.’
Lexie says that Iceland, with its volcanoes and hot springs, feels like a ‘different landscape’
‘Iceland was synonymous with icy desolation in my mind, but it astounded me with its breathtaking beauty, dynamic landscapes, and surprisingly rich cultural heritage,’ says Lexie.
The record-breaking traveller says that the country offers ‘by far one of the most diverse terrains on Earth’, adding that exploring its landscape was the closest she had ever felt to ‘being on a different planet’.
The content creator admits that Iceland is ‘the most touristy place’ in the top five list, but says that it’s ‘touristy for very good reasons’. Recalling her travels there, she says: ‘Throughout the landscape, you’ll find everything from volcanoes and hot springs around every corner to frigid glacial lagoons and vast snowy peaks. Sunsets last for more than an hour and waterfalls pour out of every cliff.
‘Iceland is an ideal destination for travellers looking to immerse themselves in total isolation. All you need to see the country is a driver’s license and a craving for independence.’
When asked what surprised her the most about Egypt, Lexie reveals it’s that the country ‘rewards you when you travel off the beaten path’. She’s pictured above at the pyramids of Giza
Pictured left is Lexie beneath the Great Sphinx of Giza while to the right is Lexie next to the Djoser Pyramid in Al Badrashin. She says the latter is ‘often overlooked in comparison to bigger pyramids’
When asked what surprised her the most about Egypt, Lexie reveals it’s that the country ‘rewards you when you travel off the beaten path’.
She explains: ‘When I spent time in Cairo after exploring the Great Pyramids of Giza, I asked a taxi driver to take me somewhere that most tourists don’t usually visit. Since locals always know the best spots, we drove outside the city to a place called Al Badrashin.
‘We arrived at this step-shaped pyramid [the Djoser Pyramid] that has stood in the middle of the desert for nearly 5,000 years. The Djoser Pyramid is actually thought to be the oldest intact pyramid in the world.’
Lexie says that Egypt is home to ‘the most well-preserved history in the world’
She was taken aback by the ‘complete lack of tourists’ visiting the site, as she says it’s ‘often overlooked’ in favour of larger pyramids. Lexie reveals: ‘As I walked around this ancient masterpiece in the late afternoon, I was astonished that I was completely alone out there.’
She continues: ‘Experiences like this reinforce the idea that going a bit deeper into a country will reward you exponentially along the way.’
Generally, Lexie found that Egypt is home to ‘the most well-preserved history in the world’. She says that visiting sites such as the Abu Simbel temples and ‘getting to look into the faces of real mummies’ in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo is ‘like stepping through time and into the past’.
It wasn’t just the country’s wealth of history that amazed her, however. Lexie says: ‘I thought travelling in Egypt would be incredible because of the ancient monuments alone, but I was amazed by the vibrancy of its modern-day culture and the diversity of experiences you can have there like diving in the Red Sea.’
LEXIE ON BECOMING THE YOUNGEST PERSON TO TRAVEL TO ALL SOVEREIGN COUNTRIES
Lexie tells MailOnline Travel: ‘Breaking a Guinness World Record was my least favourite part of this journey.’
In order to prove she had beaten the record, she submitted nearly 7,000 pages of evidence – everything from plane tickets and passport stamps to taxi and accommodation receipts and photographs – in chronological order, she reveals.
She says: ‘I also had to have two witnesses from each country to fill out a statement verifying that I was there.’ Lexie says that this part of the process was ‘way harder’ than people imagine, as she required nearly 400 witness statements in total.
The YouTuber continues: ‘After all that mind-numbing paperwork, I’m still grateful I had the opportunity to challenge myself and complete the goal I set out to do three years earlier. More people have been to outer space than have travelled [to] every country and less than 10 per cent of these global travellers have been women.’
She adds: ‘I’m proud to be a part of this bizarre group of humans who have gotten to scratch the surface of how much there is to explore.’