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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

The World’s 13 Best Countries

The Solomon Islands aren’t too shabby.

I love reading about far-flung places, unknown cultures and countries different to my own. But I also rather enjoy reading about different places in countries closer to home. Now and then I see lists about the best countries in the world, but often these seem to have been influenced by travel campaigns, tourism boards or governments that have lobbied to get there. Other times the lists have been made by people who cannot really know, as they haven’t been to every country in the world. A few people that make such lists claim to have been to every country even if their “visit” only consist of an airport stop, a trip through it by train or a night in a hotel. I’d at best call that a technicality of a visit, and in no case would it qualify to have an opinion on what it is like being there. I am certainly not an expert on any countries in the world (perhaps with the exception of where I have lived the longest – Norway), but I have paid them all at least two visits – on average spending a week in each. That means that I have spent the night in all 198, even in the Vatican – the world’s only hotelless country. The last few months I have used a fair amount of time contemplating about what the world’s best countries are, and ended up with a list. This is obviously a super subjective one, but I am positive that you will love visiting all these countries. Careful consideration and a lot of thought has gone into this, and it turns out that 13 countries made the cut. Not an unlucky number when it comes to travel.

Why 13? The world is extremelly diverse, and each of the six inhabited continents deserves at least one country on this list. Yet, some continents consist of many more countries than others, something that I think needs to be reflected in such a list. Africa (55 countries), Asia (47) and Europe (47) are represented by three countries each. North America (23) gets two whereas Oceanaia (14) and South America (12) only get one each.

To pick one country as my favourite is impossible, there are simply way too many incredible and mind-blowing lands, cultures and people out there. I therefore present the countries on the list in alphabetical order.

Canada, North America

Just strolling around Toronto.

The second largest country in the world is naturally very diverse in terms of nature. Expect wild and rugged coasts, majestetic mountains and vast wildernesses. You will not be disappointed when it comes to the people either. Canadians are a lot more humble than their only neighbour, and come across as curious about and interested in the world outside North America. Toronto is additionally a very underestimated city.

Chile, South America

South of Punta Arenas, Chile.

The capital Santiago has changed a lot the last few years and is now fun, fun, fun. Expect a thriving nightlife and exciting restaurants that serve excellent local wine. It is quite hard to grasp that Chile is also home to something entirely different: The world’s driest desert in the north and the beautiful fjords, steep mountains, unreal glaciers and out-of-place rainforests in the south.

Denmark, Europe

Denmark, or technically the Faroe Islands.

Copenhagen, the capital, is home to an illogically high number of world-class restaurants. The Danes love to party, no wonder that they consistently are top of the list when it comes to happiness. Their life-expectancy is a bit shorter than in other Nordic countries, but they do presumably die with a smile on their faces. Mainland Denmark is flat as a pancake, but the country more than compensates with incredible Greenland and the rugged but cozy Faroe Islands.

Iran, Asia

The skiing slopes in Iran are great. The lack of other skiers is a bonus.

That skiing is even available in Iran is somewhat surprising, given that you land at an airport in the desert. The villages of Dizin and Shemshak are located in breathtaking and beautiful 3-4000 meter high mountains only two hours’ drive from Tehran, the capital. But there is so much more, and people here, not counting politicians and government officials, are among the friendliest in the world. Expect jaw-dropping hospitality.

Jordan, Asia

Unusually overbearded in Jordan.

Floating in the Dead Sea, swimming in the Red Sea, exploring the ancient sandstone city of Petra, indulging and dancing in the metropolitan capital of Amman and just awing in the wonderful moon-like valley of Wadi Rum: Jordan never stops to amaze its growing number of visitors. The only problem with going is that you will never forgive yourself for not having visited earlier.

Mozambique, Africa

In front of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique

This East African country has 2 500 kilometers of coastline. Expect beautiful beaches, great snorkeling or diving and mouth-watering seafood. Few tourists visit the northern part of Mozambique, but that is primarily due to slow buses and a lack of flights. You should certainly head there, after having explored the thriving capital of Maputo and the beach towns to the north. Beautiful Mozambique Island, Quirimbas Archipelago and Pemba await.

Solomon Islands, Oceania

There were curious and smiling kids in most villages I visited in Solomon Islands.

This is perhaps the most diverse of the small island nations in Oceania. The last few years have seen the introduction of small boutique hotels and the odd luxury resort, and you can benefit. Don’t only settle for Guadalcanal, the main island with capital Honiara and amazing surfing on the inaccessible south coast, this very green and lush country consists of over 900 other islands too.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, North America

Yes, you want to visit Saint Vincent and the Grenadines too.

Saint Where? This island nation is unknown to most, despite of its location nearby more famous Saint Lucia, Barbados and Grenada in the Caribbean. The brand new airport is capable of taking down big jetliners, something that ought attract many new visitors. You won’t go here for Kingstown, the capital, but rather for the green scenery, volcanic mountains and the amazing Grenadines archipelago where you’ll swim with turtles. The Pirates of the Caribbean where filmed here for a reason.

São Tomé and Príncipe, Africa

Yes, but of course. How to transport a chainsaw in São Tomé and Príncipe.

The world’s best chocolate, coffee to die for, an overdose of beaches in various colours and a range of great hiking possibilities are only some of the reasons to come here. Hospitality must be taught in school and they sure know how to cook.The former Portugese colony off the West Coast of Africa is perhaps one of the world’s most underestimated travel destinations. A bar on the country’s southernmost island, tiny Ilhéu das Rolas, lies on the Equator. Good enough reason for a toast.

Senegal, Africa

Sengal can sometimes be too hot to handle.

Senegal gets exactly one million visitors a year. I have no idea why not more people enjoy its endless beaches, take advantage of the gourmet restaurants in colourful Saint-Louis in the north or explore the former slave island of Goree just outside legendary Dakar, the capital. The new airport outside the city is very well connected to Europe, North America, Asia and other parts of Africa.

South Korea, Asia

On Jeju Island, south of the Korean mainland.

Seoul is one of my favourite cities in the world, for a reason. The hypermodern metropolis is always changing, and the different neighbourhoods is taking part in a constantly ongoing war of coolness. The aim is to outdo all other parts of town. Tourists and locals benefit. But South Korea is so much more. The cities of Busan and Mokpo are certainly also worth a visit, not to forget Jeju to the south. The island is however holiday heaven to Koreans, so book early.

Ukraine, Europe

In a small sculpture park in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

There are at least four must-visit cities in this large and fascinating countries: thriving capital Kiev, seaside resort Odessa, architectural wonder Lviv and cosmopolitan Kharkiv to the east. Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, should be on anyone’s itinerary too, to realize how bad it can go when humans rally screw up. Ukraine is certainly leaning towards the west, but the Russian influence is still very strong and sets the stage for heaps of interesting observations.

United Kingdom, Europe

Bob Bob Ricard, a highly recommended restaurant in London.

Brexit mess or no brexit mess, I am not judging a country by its politicians. There is just something by the atmosphere in the good, old UK. I love their sense of humour, the busy towns, the idyllic villages and the vast number of incredibly stunning places in Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. That the country has launched a cutthroat challenge to Champagne when it comes to quality bubbles is a big bonus. The Brits have even somehow finally figured out how to cook too, their cusine has taken a thousand mile step the last decade or so.

P.S. I last made a similar list in 2015 for American magazine Thrillist. Then the following 12 countries made the list: Dominica, Iceland, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Romania, Sierra Leone, Uruguay, Vietnam

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