Earlier this year, the latest World Happiness Report was released in Rome to coincide with World Happiness Day.
The rankings are based on six factors: “GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business), perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity (as measured by recent donations)”.
According to their studies here are the top 20 happiest countries in the world and these are just some of the reasons why you need to visit them.
The first of several Scandinavian countries on the list and looking at the factors used it’s not hard to see why. They have world class museums, gorgeous beaches (if you go in summer!) and it is a foodie’s paradise. They also have the world’s oldest fairground which is free to enter.
The land of chocolate, cheese and watches – what’s not to love?! From Geneva and the Alps, to Zurich and the stunning countryside, Switzerland offers a wealth of history, nature, shopping and culture. Just make sure you take your credit card with you! Don’t miss the Olympic Museum in Lausanne and check out the HR Giger museum in Gruyeres after enjoying a famous Gruyere cheese fondue at a local restaurant.
Iceland is a nature lover’s paradise. As a volcanic island it has many hot springs and geysers which are spectacular to visit no matter the season. Visit the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa – it’s one of Iceland’s most visited tourist attractions and when you see it will be obvious why.
An absolute must for history buffs – where else in the world can you see a fully preserved 10th century Viking ship? Norway has a plethora of nature-based activities and attractions, not the least of which is the Northern Lights. You can also go in summer to experience the midnight sun – is it 7am or 7pm? Who knows!
Finland is great for the kids as they can meet the real Santa! Lapland is in Finland and every year thousands of families make the journey to meet Santa and his reindeer and elves in the lead up to Christmas. Finland is described as ‘Europe’s last true wilderness’ and offers a huge range of outdoor experiences in both winter and summer along the length of the country.
From bright city lights to the Rocky Mountains and grizzly bears, Canada offers a plethora of experiences for every kind of tourist. Visit the iconic Niagara Falls and Banff National Park and discover French culture in Montreal and Quebec. Take a two-week train ride across the country to experience all that Canada has to offer.
Many people think of all the ‘naughty’ things that Amsterdam has to offer when they think of the Netherlands. But there is so much more to see and do besides the red light district and smoking marijuana. Visit the Anne Frank House and the Rembrandt House Museum for some culture and don’t miss the famous tulip markets. For the beer-lovers you can book a Heineken experience and find out everything you wanted to know about brewing, before the all-important tasting session at the end of the tour.
- New Zealand
New Zealand is the land of The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. Thanks to Peter Jackson showcasing its breathtaking beauty in this film series, New Zealand is now a mecca for those looking for the ultimate escape to nature.
Popular the world over, Australia is an iconic tourist destination. You can’t miss the famous Uluru near Alice Springs, Bondi Beach in Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef. Driving the Great Ocean Road makes for a spectacular Australian road trip and for some of the best wines in the world, don’t miss the Margaret River region in Western Australia, which produces less than 5% of the wine in Australia, yet makes up over 20% of the premium wine produced in the country.
The final Scandinavian country in the top 20, Sweden is often heralded as the pinnacle of a society that functions well. Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and is well worth a visit. Like its neighbours, there are plenty of outdoor activities on offer including skiing and snowboarding, making it an ideal winter destination.
While Israel may not be top of the list for some people, if you are interested in history, this is the perfect place to visit. From iconic sites like Nazareth and Western Wall, to beautiful beaches and national parks to explore, Israel has a wealth of tourist attractions to keep everyone interested.
Made famous by the Sound of Music but with so much more to offer! Austria is an art lover’s paradise with countless art galleries and museums to see. With historic palaces and castles to boot, this is one romantic destination you don’t want to miss. Don’t forget to try the famous Sachertorte cake too!
- United States
Many people have this country on their bucket list but it would take more than a few trips to see everything! From the big city lights of New York to the laid back vibe of Los Angeles, the United States has something for everyone. Visit Florida to see the gators and pop into the theme parks and Disneyland with (or without!) the kids. Historic spots like Alcatraz, Washington DC and Gettysburg are fascinating and while Las Vegas is known as the 24-hour party town, it’s not far from Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon which offer amazing natural attractions.
- Costa Rica
With Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, Costa Rica is an underrated tourist destination. It has some of the most stunning beaches in the world and is a popular surfing spot. You can choose to volunteer at wildlife sanctuaries such as Tortuguero National Park which is famous for sea turtle nesting and help put something back into the community and experience nature first hand.
- Puerto Rico
As a small Caribbean island and an unincorporated U.S. territory, this country has a lot to offer. Popular with tourists for its white sandy beaches and amazing snorkelling, it also has a vibrant city nightlife as well as historical sites in the capital San Juan.
With its long-standing history and Bavarian culture known worldwide, Germany has many fascinating places to visit. From the capital Berlin and its Cold War history (which is still clear to this day) to the Black Forest, countryside castles and gothic cathedrals, there is much to see here. Visit during Oktoberfest if you like to party. If you love your cars, don’t miss the BMW and Mercedes museums.
With the Olympics putting Brazil firmly on the map, more and more tourists are considering it for a holiday. Rio has some of the friendliest locals and the most spectacular beaches, such as Ipanema and Copacabana. Visit during the Rio Carnival held just before Lent each year if you want to experience the party atmosphere.
Belgium is the land of beer and chocolate, and being easy to access from Europe it’s a popular destination whether for a relaxing holiday or just a short weekend break. Beautiful museums, imposing cathedrals, delicious chocolates, amazing beer and the famous Christmas markets means Belgium should be on your bucket list.
Nicknamed the Emerald Isle (and for a good reason – it rains all the time!), Ireland has without a doubt the friendliest locals you’ll ever meet. You may not be able to understand them, but they are lovely! Dublin is a gorgeous city, and being so small it is easily accessible via walking or public transport. Don’t miss the famous Guinness museum and learn to pour your own pint of Guinness. The Irish countryside is stunning and a driving holiday is highly recommended if you want to check out the pretty little towns along the way – but watch out for those sheep!
Bordered by France, Germany and Belgium, Luxembourg has everything these countries have to offer – beautiful palaces, historic cathedrals and world-class museums. Across Luxembourg City there are several interesting pieces of artwork and sculptures and lots of green parks to visit, making it ideal for a short break where you want to see lots in a few days. Don’t miss the local pastries and cakes – there are plenty of cafes to visit to try them all out!
Source: The South African