The most frequently asked question of a big traveller is probably what their favourite country is. I guess it’s a difficult question to answer for many. I have thought about this and have decided on ten countries for this article, I consider to be among my favourites, but first some honourable mentions.
Bhutan, Canada, Dominica, Fiji, Indonesia, Laos, Netherlands, Namibia, Norway, Portugal, Seychelles, Sweden, Thailand, and Vanuatu. Certain parts of the United States, the United Kingdom and Tanzania are also among my favourites. With this list, it really depends on where you draw the line on how many favourites I should mention, as I have had extraordinary experiences in countries not mentioned here.
Favourite countries to visit for enjoyment, not adventure
India is a good example. It can be one of the best countries in the world for unique travel experiences, but it can also be one of the worst countries in the world to experience. In 2014 I experienced food poisoning in the Andaman Islands and had one of the worst times of my life in India afterwards. Yes, food poisonings can happen anywhere, but there are places where I am in a kind of ‘high alert’ mode and other places (almost all of the Western world) where I can relax about it.
Most of my favourite countries are probably not the best countries in the world for adventure travel and travel off-the-beaten-path. There is a difference between enjoyable travel and having the most interesting travel experiences. If you are not looking for a list of my favourite countries but are looking for special, unique travel experiences, I would recommend researching the following countries: Afghanistan, China, Eritrea, India, Mongolia, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan and Turkmenistan instead.
All the countries I just wrote about have given me special travel experiences, but it’s not countries I consider my favourites as I didn’t enjoy them the most. I found my experiences in North Korea to be some of the most special I’ve had in my travels, but I didn’t enjoy visiting North Korea, the same way I enjoy being in Estonia. One of the things I like about number one on the list below is that it’s a great combination of being enjoyable and adventurous. You can also visit fantastic places that don’t see a lot of tourists in my favourite country as well.
My country: Denmark
I have not included my country of Denmark in the top 10 list as it probably wouldn’t be fair. I love my country for both living and travel. It is one of the best countries in the world for quality of life. For travel, there are a lot of countries with a lot more to offer, but we actually have enough for several months of travelling. We are much more than Copenhagen.
Besides our capital, we have almost 80 inhabited islands, of which I have visited more than 50, and visiting islands is something I really enjoy. Anholt, Avernakø, Bornholm, Christiansø and Livø are all well worth a visit. If you like Copenhagen, we have three other cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, Aarhus, Odense and Aalborg. They all have great attractions and food. We also have beautiful and famous castles, great national parks, theme parks and a lot more. We are a great country to visit, but unfortunately, one of the most expensive and I understand if Denmark is not at the top of your list for this reason. Okay, time for the top 10.
Spain ranked as the second most visited country in the world based World Tourism Organization’s list of tourist arrival in 2018. It’s easy to understand why Spain is popular. Excellent weather, several beautiful islands, great beaches, fantastic food, exciting cities, and many impressive sights. To that, you can add the warm Spanish hospitality and at least a decent value for money, except of course, at the tourist traps.
I have travelled a lot in Spain, and my experiences have varied a lot. I like staying away from the mass tourism spots and prefer quiet places in the countryside. That said, I have visited more than ten cities in Spain and enjoyed exploring the cities on foot. I have included Spain because of the food, countryside and amount of things to do and see. I consider Spain to be the third-best country in the world for food after Italy and France. You could travel within Spain for many years and still find things to do.
Ireland might be a quite small country and a bit expensive, but it’s one of the most exciting countries in the world for me to visit. Its capital, Dublin, is not one of my favourite cities. It is instead the countryside and the friendly people that make Ireland special for me.
Since Ireland is one of the more expensive countries, I decided to hitchhike several times in the country, but it made my adventures there even better. I found the Irish people talkative and very friendly. Ireland was also one of the countries I found most similar to Denmark, and as they speak English, Ireland feels easy and homely to travel.
Iceland is perhaps the country that feels the most like Denmark. Iceland used to be part of Denmark, and I recently read they are the only country outside Denmark with Danish as a language at schools.
The people are friendly, and the capital is lovely, but the reason I include Iceland in this list is the stunning nature. I have been several times to Iceland, but I still have much left to experience. I prefer fewer tourists in Iceland, but travelling at the right time out of the primary season can probably improve the experience. I would like to visit Iceland ideally every few years.
In 2009 I visited Australia for the first time using primarily Couchsurfing and Tiger Airways, the low-cost carrier to get between different destinations in the country. On my first trip, I visited Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Tasmania, Sydney, Canberra, Gold Coast and Brisbane. I loved the laid-back culture, food, nature and the fantastic cities of Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane that are all among my favourites to this day. Unfortunately, it is a costly destination, but it is an extraordinary country that is undoubtedly among my favourites.
I would very much like to visit Australia many times in the future, but it’s unfortunately far away from Denmark, despite being similar in many ways.
I visited France for the first time as a 12-year-old in 2000 with my family and experienced Tour de France on Mont Ventoux that year. I have since travelled to France with my school, several trips alone and later a few trips with my girlfriend, who is now my wife. I asked her in front of the Eiffel Tower if she would marry me, and she accepted.
France has given me many memories. It’s one of the easiest and most enjoyable countries to make a road trip. I find it easy to drive in France and the countryside is fantastic with many things to do and see. France is number two on my list of best countries for food after Italy, and I have experienced some of the best meals of my life in France. There will always be things to do in France, and it’s a country I would like to visit many times in the future.
5. The Maldives
In 2010 I visited the Maldives for the first time and loved it. I have since returned several times for more experiences, and I have so far experienced around 60 private island resorts in the country. The stunning private islands with pristine beaches are why the Maldives is part of this list of my favourite countries. I’ve had some of my best experiences in all of my travels in the Maldives. You can find more information in this article: Top 10 Best Resorts in the Maldives.
Italy is a unique and extraordinary country to visit. It is my favourite country in the world for food, and it’s actually fantastic value for money in many places, except of course the tourist traps. The people are friendly and with their own unique character. There are many impressive sights, cities, towns, hotels, the trains are cheap, the culture is unique, and there is a pleasant climate overall. What’s not to like? Italy is definitely one of my favourite countries.
3. New Zealand
New Zealand is an extraordinary country that would probably take the number one spot for me if it weren’t so far away from Denmark as it is. I love New Zealand for its culture, nature, food and appreciate its safety.
I’ve had some great hitchhiking adventures here, including my first big trip that was almost 200 kilometres with six different cars before finally reaching a remote lodge that was absolutely stunning and with excellent food. I’ve had some of my best meals in New Zealand, and it’s a country I very much would like to experience a lot more in the future.
Although it might not officially be a Nordic country, for me, Estonia feels Nordic in a lot of ways, and I feel at home there. I feel Estonia is entirely different from the two other Baltic countries, Latvia and Lithuania, and is similar to Nordic countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Especially Finland, which capital is just a cheap ferry ride away from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.
I like the culture, sights (especially the old town of Tallinn), the food and the excellent value for money. Excellent because the other (in my opinion) Nordic countries are very expensive, while Estonia is a lot cheaper. You can compare the prices of accommodation and restaurants in Copenhagen and Tallinn, and you get an idea. A truly great place to be and together with Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa, probably one of the four countries that surprised me the most during my journey to every country in the world.
1. South Africa
It’s not each to pick just a few of my favourite countries, as I have a lot of favourites for different reasons. South Africa is usually the one I mention for several reasons. I’ve had some of the best days of my life in South Africa; it’s been fascinating to be there with a lot of exciting things to do. It’s a diverse country with stunning nature, world-class beaches, some of the world’s best safari experiences and my favourite city in the world, Cape Town. I’ve had a lot of fantastic food in the country, met fascinating people, and finally, I like the excellent value for money.
South Africa is not one of the safest countries to visit, but safety in South Africa is a lot about where you go. You shouldn’t go to certain areas at night in many big cities worldwide, and in all of South Africa, there are areas you shouldn’t go to at all any time of the day. I recommend doing a proper amount of research before visiting South Africa for the first time. I have spent almost five months in South Africa and visited all nine provinces. It is an absolutely fantastic country in many ways and a well-deserved number one spot on my list of the top 10 best countries in the world to visit.