If we asked you to close your eyes and conjure up your happy place, odds are you’d see your toes in the sand of some hidden-away beach, or your ski tips pointed down a freshly powdered slope—or maybe your favorite sundowner in hand on the twilit savanna. The World Happiness Report, a measure of happiness, published by the United Nations offers an interesting list of possible destinations for travelers who would like to experience firsthand countries in which residents are said to be the most content.
Take a look at some of the best places to visit within those blissful nations.
Gorgeous Nature and peacefulness are the normal compositions of the air around this country. It’s almost impossible not to be happy here and it’s often referred to as the perfect destination for those who love life. In the vibrant, modern capital city of Helsinki, visitors will find lots of parks, brilliant gardens, and magnificent neo-classical buildings in Senate Square.
DO: Sleeping in a cozy glass igloo made for two in the wintertime, viewing billions of twinkling stars in the sky above and phenomenal views of the spectacular Northern Lights and the MIDNIGHT SUN. Also, you can visit the small seaside town of Hanko, Finland’s southernmost town, where you can enjoy diving, surfing or cycling.
EAT: Restaurant Day is a unique everyday event where pop-up restaurants, food fairs, and any other foodie experience can happen anywhere (from a street corner to a public beach) at any time.
STAY: Check out the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel which Blends the traditions of Lapland with modern Scandinavian design serving arctic-sourced meals at the onsite restaurant.
Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world. With everything from beautiful parks, beaches, friendly people, and rich history, it also makes it one of the best countries to visit. Explore the Danish Riviera, just north of Copenhagen, with its fantastic beaches, holiday atmosphere, museums, and castles. To truly capture what it’s like to live in Denmark, dine in a Danish home through “Dine with the Danes” which matches tourists with Danish families across the country for a home-cooked meal.
DO: The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is a Danish don’t-miss.
EAT: Noma, Relae, and Amass should be on any serious eater’s hit list.
STAY: Nimb is a nice boutique hotel set inside the famed Tivoli Gardens amusement park.
Norway is repeatedly declared Europe’s most beautiful and happiest country, so the scenery can’t help but only spark joy. Also, local academics and experts have attributed Norwegians’ happiness to social equality, a strong welfare safety net, and other social programs.
DO: The fjords are spectacular any time, but visit in warm weather to catch them in all their unexpectedly colorful glory. From spring to summer, the ones in the southwest are topped with tens of thousands of blooming fruit trees (an extra-striking picture framed by snowy peaks). Bonus points for going when the Midnight Sun casts a surreal glow over all of the above.
EAT: Do visit Europe’s first underwater restaurant called “Under”, one of its kind
STAY: Amerikalinjen hotel, Haven -highly recommended
Switzerland sits in the heart of the Alps, meaning you’ll find magnificent scenery just about anywhere you go. Skiing enthusiasts may want to head to the town of Zermatt, with its 200 miles of near-perfect slopes. In the summertime, taking a trek to the famous Matterhorn is a must for hikers. In the car-free village of Appenzell, visitors can also enjoy a quiet escape as well as an extensive network of hiking trails.
DO: Soak up some of that mineralized goodness in the pools at Bad Ragaz, or venture to the tiny village of Vals to experience the relaxation temple where the pools are fed by warm waters from the Valser Valley.
EAT: Roam in The Alpina Gstaad which is home to two Michelin-starred restaurants: the seasonal, Sommet, and the always buzzing Japanese Megu.
STAY: The rooms and suites at Zurich’s Kameha Grand come with everything from chocolate bar-inspired walls to en-suite foosball and roulette tables.
The capital city of Netherlands, Amsterdam, attracts numerous visitors with its charming canals, vibrant flower markets, bicycle-happy locals, Anne Frank House and world-class museums like Rijksmuseum, but there are many other sights to see in this country filled with magnificent fields of colorful flowers and classic windmills.
DO: Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, Lichtenstein
EAT: Do try the Dutch version pancakes at Pancake Bakery.
STAY: Do check Pulitzer Amsterdam,a boutique hotel set in a collection of 25 restored 17th- and 18th-century houses
If the islands are your happy places, this one is for you. Made up of thousands of coastal islands (the Stockholm archipelago alone has just about 30,000 of them), Sweden lets you island-hop by ferry, cruise boat, or even kayak if you’re game. Back on terra firma, the nation’s renowned museums that celebrate everything from Baroque art to pop supergroup ABBA.
DO: Stroll the cobblestoned streets of Stockholm’s medieval Old town, lined with candy-colored facades. Also, pop into the Royal Palace and the Nobel Museum.
EAT: Take a food tour to the culinary capital of Gothenburg
STAY: Salt & Sill—Sweden’s first floating hotel—a pontoon-top spread that overlooks Bohuslän’s outer archipelago.
While most countries measure prosperity in financial wealth, Bhutan measures it in the wellbeing of its people, in terms of GNP (Gross National Happiness) putting it at the heart of all its public policy. How many countries can say that?
On top of that, Bhutan- The last standing Buddhist kingdom in the world – boasts largely untouched mountainous landscapes accented by peaceful, picturesque monasteries. But most importantly, it really cares about the happiness of its people.
DO: Tiger’s Nest monastery is a must-visit and a good example of Bhutan’s cultural preservation and environmental conservation, beautifully preserved in the country’s lush valleys, and is a popular tourist site.
EAT: Bukhari at Uma by COMO and Sonam Trophel Restaurant offers delicious Thukpa, Datshi, and Momos.
STAY: Do check Zwiha Ling, which is the only wholly Bhutanese-owned hotel to have earned five stars from the tourism council.
One of the main reasons to visit Austria is its jaw-dropping scenery. With such spectacular views, including lush, green pastures, the soaring snow-capped mountains of the Alps, and clear crystal lakes, you’re likely to find yourself with a wide grin. In Vienna, designated as the world’s Capital of Classical Music, you’ll find the music at Musikverein’s famous Golden Hall is happiness for the ears. If you love the classic, “Sound of Music,” you can retrace the steps of the Von Trapp family by visiting the village of St. Glen or Mirabell Gardens.
DO: Vienna’s Belvedere Museum is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the largest existing collection of Austrian art.
EAT: The only European capital city with its own wine region (no doubt, a happiness contributor), Vienna is home to about 1,730 acres of vineyards. Visit hilltop H.P. Gobel where the chef uses fresh seasonal ingredients sourced from local farmers.
STAY: the five-star Posthotel Achenkirch in the Austrian Alps offers trail walks, skiing, horseback riding and water sports.
Canada is a vast country with a ton to explore from east to west. Vancouver, British Columbia, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, is filled with forests, beautiful parks, lively pubs, world-class restaurants, museums, and all types of shopping opportunities, with an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities just minutes away.
SEE: A quick seaplane or ferry ride off the mainland, Vancouver Island is home to everything including exploring the hiking trails or beaches, or maybe skiing or salmon fishing.
EAT: Visit Montreal’s Jean-Talon Market – chat with the artisans and cheesemakers then head to one of the onsite restaurants to continue your feast.
STAY: The Kimpton Saint George in Toronto’s quirky Annex neighborhood is a cushy and convenient base which is decorated with artwork by local makers.
The sheer otherworldliness of its landscapes—which include lava fields, crystalline ice caves, and all manner of cascading water—is worth a visit. Iceland is a pilgrimage site for foodies, culture vultures, and Game of Throne devotees.
DO: On the remote and stunning Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you can howl at the wind from atop a dramatic North Atlantic-battered cliff, get lost in the fog, and say hello to a GOT star: Kirkjufell mountain (Arrowhead Mountain), which shared the screen with Jon Snow and his men as they ventured north.
EAT: With the New Nordic cooking boom, the country’s rich, seasonal bounty has taken center stage. Check out Skál—a Michelin Bib Gourmand honoree
STAY: The Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik celebrates the destination in many ways, from locally-sourced art to the complimentary bikes to get you out and exploring.