• Happiest countries

    The Happiest Countries in the World

    A few months ago, I was lying on a beach in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/costaricafamily/" target="_blank">Costa Rica</a>, under a tropical sun, still wet from a dip in the warm Pacific, an icy cup of rum punch in hand and my wife at my side. And yet, I was not happy. You see, the trip had been on the books for months, and my goal when booking had been to spend as much time as possible on a surfboard, indulging one of my great passions in one of the world’s best surf spots. A knee injury (and subsequent surgery) just prior to the trip changed all that. Now I was just…lying on the beach. Kelli noticed my melancholy mood. “Look around,” she told me. “Everyone here is glad to be here – the tourists <i>and</i> the locals. They’re so content just to be in this beautiful setting. Pura vida, as they say.” Of course, she was right, and I quickly snapped out of my funk.<br><br>Pura vida literally means “pure life”, and it’s the national motto of Costa Rica. But it could easily apply to any of the countries listed in the annual World Happiness Report. Since 2012, the United Nations Sustainable Development Network has published the report, which lists the world’s happiest countries. In a recent interview with the New York Times, report editor John F. Helliwell explained that the report is more of a reflection of contentment than what many of us might think of as sheer giddiness. Helliwell goes on to say that the World Happiness Report measures one’s overall satisfaction with life and the level of belief that your fellow citizens are looking out for one another. Happy people, argues Helliwell, “trust…and care about each other, and that’s what fundamentally makes for a better life.” And it appears, a happier life. <br><br>It goes without saying that happy countries make for great travel destinations; as it happens, Classic Journeys runs tours in 12 of this year’s top 20 Happiest Countries. Here’s a quick look at each of those.<br><br><b>19. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/prague/" target="_blank">Czech Republic</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/prague/" target="_blank"><img alt="Czech Republic lakeside town with blue cloudy skies and trees" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000ns1i" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>The end of the Cold War brought sweeping changes to eastern Europe, and no country has had a more dramatic turnaround than the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank">Czech Republic</a>. The country is now considered one of the world’s great cultural destinations, thanks in large part to its friendly, welcoming people. <br><br><b>18. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/united-states/" target="_blank">The United States</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/united-states/" target="_blank"><img alt="Hawaii coast waves crashing and hula dancer" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000ns1T" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>We tend to overlook the fact that the U.S. is a pretty amazing country; there’s plenty of reasons why millions of people come here to visit every year. The highest mountain in North America is in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/alaska/" target="_blank">Alaska</a>; the world’s most famous canyon is in Arizona. Oh, and we also have Hawaii.<br><br><b>16. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/ireland/" target="_blank">Ireland</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/ireland/" target="_blank"><img alt="Ireland farm colorful wagon horses father and son" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000ns19" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>Fun Fact – corned beef and cabbage is widely shunned in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/ireland/" target="_blank">Ireland</a>, and for good reason. The <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/irish-food/" target="_blank">food</a> there is much better than our go-to St. Patrick’s Day fare. <br><br><b>13. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/england/" target="_blank">The United Kingdom</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/england/" target="_blank"><img alt="UK England cathedral city lush trees blue skies and river with bridge" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000ns0u" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>For such a small island, the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/united-kingdom/" target="_blank">UK</a> has a huge amount to offer. The (mostly) good-natured rivalry between Scotland and England is a great way to frame a visit: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/scotland/" target="_blank">Scotland</a> is said to be the birthplace of golf, and the 600-year old St. Andrews course is the oldest and arguably the most famous in the world. England is home to two of the world’s most famous royal homes: Buckingham Palace, and Tintagel Castle – said to be the birthplace of King Arthur.<br><br><b>11. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/canada/" target="_blank">Canada</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/canada/" target="_blank"><img alt="Canada Nova Scotia lobster fisherman happy" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000ns2q" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>Having travelled extensively through <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/canada/" target="_blank">Canada</a>, I can tell you that the stories are true: Canadians are incredibly nice. I can also testify to the stunning beauty of the Canadian Rockies; British Columbia’s Provincial Parks are home to some of the world’s great scenery. Something else that most people don’t know: the only fortified city in North America (picture the walled cities you might find in France) is in Quebec. And yes, Canadians love their most famous culinary export, poutine. (It’s French fries, covered in cheese and gravy – what’s NOT to love?)<br><br><b>9. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/austria/" target="_blank">Austria</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/austria/" target="_blank"><img alt="Austria alps green mountain meadow grazing cows" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000ns30" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>It must be the Danube – it runs through both the Czech Republic and <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/europe/" target="_blank">Austria</a>, and both are in the list of top 20 Happiest Countries. To get a good sense of why Austria is such a draw, simply cue up the movie <i>The Sound of Music;</i> nearly all of the movie’s external scenes were filmed on location throughout the country.<br><br><b>8. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/new-zealand/" target="_blank">New Zealand</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/new-zealand/" target="_blank"><img alt="New Zealand two happy travelers arms outstretched on lake with mountain background" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000nrz8" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>Speaking of famous film locations, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/new-zealand-north-south-island-tours/" target="_blank">New Zealand</a> served as the setting for the classic of fantasy cinema, 1988’s Willow. A few decades before that OTHER big fantasy movie series hit the screens, producer George Lucas and director Ron Howard thought that the county’s green, rugged landscapes would be the perfect location for a swords-and-sorcery epic. <br><br><b>5. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/norway/" target="_blank">Norway</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/norway/" target="_blank"><img alt="Norway fjord town colorful houses on waterfront with mountain background and boats" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000ns06" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>It should be noted that Scandinavian countries have dominated the list of World’s Happiest Countries, routinely taking the top 5 spots year after year. This might seem unusual, since…well, the winters in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/norway/" target="_blank">Norway</a>, Sweden, Iceland and Finland are very long, and very dark. But it makes sense, and not just because Norway is the world’s second largest consumer of coffee (the average Norwegian will go through about 22 pounds of coffee a year). Adverse conditions often build strong communities, and the common thread of taking care of neighbors and fellow citizens runs through the Scandinavian democracies. Also, it helps that Norway in the summertime is beautiful and inviting; the countless fjords are a major draw, and the temperate weather makes visiting them easy and comfortable. And if the fjords aren’t enough for you, there are about 50,000 islands off the coast of Norway.<br><br><b>4. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/iceland/" target="_blank">Iceland</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/iceland/" target="_blank"><img alt="Iceland northern lights volcano and waterfall " src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000nrwJ" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>When I visited Iceland, the one thing I had to try was the locals’ favorite hot dog. I was not disappointed. Reykjavik’s BBP serves up the best hot dog you’ll ever eat (sorry, Chicago). Icelandic food straddles a very strange line, that of familiar comfort food and…well, whatever category fermented shark meat served in a shot of locally distilled grain alcohol falls under. Iceland’s reputation as both stunningly beautiful and thoroughly delightful is well-earned. Icelanders are fiercely proud of their heritage, incredibly protective of their country’s natural resources, and unabashedly welcoming to visitors. And they’re exceptionally literate – Iceland boasts the most bookstores per capita of any country in the world, and 10% of Iceland’s population has or will publish a book. <br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/private/" target="_blank"><img alt="Private luxury tours to the happiest destinations" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000001z1O4" style="height: 177px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><b>3. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/switzerland/" target="_blank">Switzerland</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/switzerland/" target="_blank"><img alt="Switzerland lake Geneva tower and town with mountain" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000nrzI" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>Ski all winter, hike all summer – it’s not hard to see why the Swiss are among the world’s happiest people. Certainly living in the literal center of the European Alps helps – the opportunities for activity alone have made Switzerland the country with the lowest obesity rate in Europe. But so too does an incredibly high standard of living – the country has one of the lowest poverty levels in Europe, universities are inexpensive, and teachers’ salaries rank well above the country’s average salary mark. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/switzerland-family/" target="_blank">Switzerland</a> has also gained a reputation as a hub of innovation; the country that invented the wristwatch has claimed the number one spot on the Global Innovation Index for the past nine years. Finally, Switzerland is both the world’s largest producer and consumer of chocolate. The country makes about 118,000 tons a year; the average Swiss citizen eats about 24 pounds annually. <br><br><b>2. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/scandinavia/" target="_blank">Denmark</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/scandinavia/" target="_blank"><img alt="Denmark green grass and trees with classic red windmill" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000ns0V" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>It’s ironic that the world’s most famous Dane, Hamlet, was known for being melancholy. Clearly his fellow Danes aren’t. <br><br><b>1. Finland</b><br><img alt="Finland world&#39;s happiest country reindeer and sami child" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000nrz3" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br>For the third year in a row, Finland is the World’s Happiest Country. The New York Times cites the Finns’ happiness with their government (91% say that they think their President is doing a good job) and law enforcement (86% indicate that they trust the police) as driving factors. The Finns seem to be less “happy”, as we might define it, and more content, and this doesn’t seem to be limited to native Finns, but included immigrants to Finland as well.<br><br>Traveling gives us a sense of perspective, of course, and a big piece of that is the empathy born from the connections we form with our international friends. These days, I find myself thinking about my travels both here in the U.S. and abroad – over the past few years, I’ve been lucky to have spent time in Colorado, New Orleans, France, Italy, Iceland, and of course Costa Rica. The Central American nation came in at #15 on the list of World’s Happiest Countries, and I’m honestly surprised it didn’t rank higher. It’s a truly idyllic place, where the veneer of all the stuff that we think is so important is stripped away by the sight of a beautiful sunset on an empty beach. The Ticos – that’s the name that Costa Ricans call themselves – I know are no doubt weathering the current storm anxiously, as we all are. I’m looking forward to my next trip, and reminding myself that la pura vida is still out there.<br><br><i>Jason Avant is a writer and editor; a frequent contributor to the Classic Journeys Blog, he’s also contributed to the James Beard Award-winning travel website Roads and Kingdoms, as well as numerous other print and digital publications.</i><br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/dates/" target="_blank"><img alt="See all departure dates luxury tours" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002PZ4M&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000001z1Np" style="height: 177px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br> 

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  • Peaceful Countries

    The World’s 10 Most Peaceful Countries

    For the last 13 years, the Institute for Economics &amp; Peace has published the Global Peace Index (GPI), the leading measure of world peacefulness. The institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human wellbeing and progress. <br><br>Classic Journeys guests are sort of experts in this already according to the way that the IEP seeks to achieves its goals by promoting a better understanding of the cultural, economic and political factors that create peace. <br><br>Promoting peace as a measurement of human wellbeing and progress, the GPI ranks 163 nations (that’s 99.7% of the world’s population) on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the most peaceful and 5 being the least. <br><br>And 2019’s GPI brings uplifting news: global peacefulness has improved for the first time in five years!<br><br>The most peaceful country on the planet retains the top spot as it has for the past 12 years and Europe is still the most peaceful region, a title it’s held since the GPI began. In fact, 17 of the 25 most peaceful countries in the world are found in Europe. <br><br>And more good news for Classic Journeys guests. There’s a definite correlation between the most peaceful countries, the happiest countries (according to the World Happiness Report) and many of the most popular countries to visit with Classic Journeys. Read on and prepare to be happy!<br><br><b>10: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/czech-republic-tours/" target="_blank">Czech Republic</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/czech-republic/" target="_blank"><img alt="Czech Republic Prague Most Peaceful Safe Country Classic Journeys" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Pm3Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000oDxk" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>GPI score: 1.375/5<br><br>Nicknamed the ‘heart of Europe’, Czechia sits right in the middle of the world’s most peaceful continent. It’s also home to thousands of fairy-tale castles, has hundreds of thermal baths and beer brewing is at the heart of its culture. <br><br>Insider tip: Don’t miss out on a tasting with artisans at a local brewery Cesky Krumlov, one of the country’s most remarkably preserved villages, now recognized as a historic site itself.<br><br><br><b>9: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/japan-luxury-tours/" target="_blank">Japan</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/japan/" target="_blank"><img alt="Japan Most Peaceful Safe Country Classic Journeys" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Pm3Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000oDxp" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>GPI score: 1.391/5<br><br>Japan falls within the top five countries for ‘Safety and Security’ and holds position three for peacefulness in the Asia-Pacific region. This awesome archipelago is also one of the most literate, environmentally friendly and all-round fascinating nations in the world. Japanese culture dates back thousands of years and the country has a legacy of technological entrepreneurship, decorous gardens and delectable cuisine. <br><br>Insider tip: When in Kyoto, make time to participate in a traditional tea ceremony. Your tea master will demonstrate how to prepare for and host a tea ceremony, and how to make a bowl of green tea in this centuries-old ritual, surrounded by the cobbled streets of the Higashiyama area, the Kodaiji Temple, the pagoda at Yasaka and the expansive Yasaka Shrine.<br><br><br><b>8: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/istria-slovenia-walking-tour/" target="_blank">Slovenia</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/slovenia/" target="_blank"><img alt="Slovenia Lake Bled Most Peaceful Safe Country Classic Journeys" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Pm3Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000oDxu" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>GPI score: 1.355/5<br><br>Slovenia hopped up two places into the top 10 this year, becoming the only newcomer on the list. The country nestles on the sunny side of the alps, bordering Adriatic Croatia, as well as Hungary, Austria and Italy. Forested hills, fairy-tale lakes and the lovely, leafy city of Ljubljana (considered Europe’s greenest capital) come together to create this tiny, charming nation. <br><br>Insider tip: Venture just outside of Ljubljana for a scenic drive to Lake Bled, a fantasy setting in real life. The Julian Alps soar in the near distance and of course there’s a medieval castle clinging to a cliff. Visit the small island on the lake where a pilgrimage church sits in picturesque isolation. Its steeple pierces the clear mountain air and inside there are remains of frescoes dating back to the 15th century. <br><br><br><b>7: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/private/" target="_blank">Singapore</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/private/" target="_blank"><img alt="Singapore Most Peaceful Safe Country Classic Journeys" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Pm3Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000oDxz" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>GPI score: 1.347/5<br><br>Singapore jumped one spot from eight to seven this year, having leaped 13 positions the year before. It’s the global number 2 in the Safety and Security domain and the second most peaceful nation across the Asia-Pacific region. Known for its thriving expat community, high standards of living and education (and of course as the location for the book and movie, Crazy Rich Asians,) this island is a blend of Chinese, Indian, Malay, British, and Arab cultures. The ‘Lion City’ has a strong food culture, public transport is excellent, the botanic gardens are UNESCO World Heritage–listed, and the climate is warm year-round. <br><br>Insider tip: Rent bikes to peddle your way around town. The city is so compact that it can be explored in a few hours. And don’t miss out on a drink on the terrace at Marina Bay Sands, with incredible views over the city. <br><br><br><b>6: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/canada/" target="_blank">Canada</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/canada/" target="_blank"><img alt="Canada Most Peaceful Safe Country Classic Journeys" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Pm3Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000oDy4" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>GPI score: 1.347/5<br><br>While it holds its position in world peacefulness, Canada’s overall score has improved since last year. North America as a region had the highest freedom of life and standard of living satisfaction in the world. Prince Harry and Meghan chose this country to escape the public eye and its natives are famously friendly. The world’s second largest and sixth most peaceful country, Canada offers awe-inspiring landscapes, comforting cuisine and a captivating mix of cultures. <br><br>Insider tip: If you find yourself in Nova Scotia, make your way to one of the acclaimed local wineries for a tasting of their award-winning wines and vistas over the Minas Basin. Then head off to Halls Harbour for a lobster lunch (lobsters are landed on a small community wharf and brought directly to the customers) and to experience the world’s highest tides that come and go every six hours.<br><br><br><b>5: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/scandinavia/" target="_blank">Denmark</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/scandinavia/" target="_blank"><img alt="Denmark Most Peaceful Safe Country Classic Journeys" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Pm3Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000oDy9" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>GPI score: 1.347/5<br><br>Denmark has been in peacefulness position five since 2017, achieving low levels of crime, combined with high levels of political stability and income equality. Terrorism impact has dropped while social trust soars. A nation once notorious for its violent Vikings, Denmark is now known one as one the most peaceful, happiest places on earth. Trust and community values are embedded deeply in Danish culture and the country’s concept of hygge has gained global renown. It promotes stepping away from the daily stress of the outside world to surround yourself with loved ones in a calming, familiar environment—slowing down and focusing on small joys. <br><br>Insider tip: Take a scenic drive to the coastal town of Rungsted to the bird sanctuary, where a walk with scattered cows and sheep leads to the simple hillside grave of Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa and one of Denmark’s major literary figures.<br><br><br><b>4: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/austria/" target="_blank">Austria</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/austria/" target="_blank"><img alt="Austria Most Peaceful Safe Country Classic Journeys" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Pm3Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000oDyE" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>GPI score: 1.291/5<br><br>A regular in the global peacefulness top five, Austria also triumphs in Mercer’s Quality of Living Ranking, which in 2019 declared Vienna the world’s greatest city to live in for the tenth time. This culturally rich country is known as Europe’s classical music capital. With mountains to ski in the winter and hike in the summer, Austrians can live a ‘resort-style’ life all year round. <br><br>Insider tip: The castle where Richard the Lionhearted was held hostage during the Crusades towers over baroque Durnstein, one of Austria’s finest villages. Hike up to explore the ruins and the incredible view of the Danube River below.<br><br><br><b>3: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/portugal-tours/" target="_blank">Portugal</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/portugal/" target="_blank"><img alt="Portugal Most Peaceful Safe Country Classic Journeys" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Pm3Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000oDyJ" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>GPI score: 1.274/5<br><br>Hopping up two places, Portugal finds itself a place as a medalist this year in position three. 2019 was a successful year for this nation, with the World Travel Awards crowning the World’s Best Tourist Destination and UNICEF electing Portugal the fifth most family friendly nation. Basking in 3000 hours of sunshine a year, Portugal has the oldest borders in Europe, a rich cultural and culinary heritage and a deliciously slow pace of life. The Portuguese are a famously family-centric, open minded population, and music and dance are a big part their identity.  Almost every village has its own dance floor, or terreiro.  <br><br>Insider tip: Board a traditional Portuguese Rabelo boat that for centuries transported people and goods along the Douro River. Make your way up the river, taking in sweeping views of its world-famous vineyards before you walk through the vineyards, explore a winery and finish the day with a tasting of the acclaimed local wines.<br><br><br><b>2: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/new-zealand-tours/" target="_blank">New Zealand</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/new-zealand/" target="_blank"><img alt="New Zealand Most Peaceful Safe Country Classic Journeys" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Pm3Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000oDyO" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>GPI score: 1.221/5<br><br>Number two in the world 2017 and number one in the Asia-Pacific region, NZ hasn’t dropped below world four in a decade. Of Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson declared, “New Zealand is not a small country but a large village”. A melting pot of Māori, Asian, Pacific Island and European traditions, Kiwis are a creative, open-minded and easy-going people. Besides low crime rates and high levels of population wellbeing and happiness, there’s no dangerous wildlife. The landscape is inspiring to say the least; ranging from mountains to caverns and bubbling springs to beaches.<br><br>Insider tip: Take the 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland to Waiheke Island. You’ll be forgiven if it looks like you’ve actually traveled thousands of miles to the Napa Valley, with its rolling hills and sweet microclimate. It also has gorgeous beaches, a laid-back and freespirited attitude, and dozens of excellent vineyards. Stop for an olive oil tasting at a family estate. <br><br><br><b>1: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/iceland/" target="_blank">Iceland</a></b><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/tag/iceland/" target="_blank"><img alt="Iceland Most Peaceful Safe Country Classic Journeys" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Pm3Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000oDyT" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>GPI score: 1.072/5<br><br>Iceland has been the most peaceful country in the world since 2008! Violent crime is virtually non-existent and the same goes for class tension, while levels of trust, wellbeing and education are impressively high. This is a one of the world’s happiest, friendliest, cleanest and most environmentally-conscious countries. In a homeland filled with waterfalls, volcanic mountains and other natural wonders, Icelanders have a close connection with nature. Children grow up rescuing baby puffins who’ve lost their way in the town and ancient folklore raises generations filled with respect and awe of their surroundings. <br><br>Insider tip: Lace up your hiking boots and go to Þingvellir National Park, where a deep tectonic rift valley offers trails where you&#39;re fully immersed in the tumbled wilderness that’s so unique to Iceland. Bonus point that this is also home to world’s oldest parliament, dating 930 AD.

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  • View of Wachao Valley, Austria

    Between Prague and Budapest: A Walk in the Wachau

    <p>With all due respect to the capitals of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, we have become even bigger fans of the Wachau Valley. Yes, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank" title="Prague walking tour">Prague</a> is unforgettable: cobblestoned streets, all those statue-lined bridges leaping over the Vltava River. Under its historic skin, the vibe is cool and culturally hip. Budapest? It felt to us like a favorite-old-sweater of a city—graceful and grand, with great neighborhood cafes and arm-in-arm promenades along the Danube at dusk.</p> <p>And then there’s Dürnstein, nestled deep in the Wachau. Population: 450. So small you couldn’t get lost if you tried. The skyline consists of exactly one powder-blue steeple. It sits so close to the banks of the Danube that we wondered about the town planners’ wisdom. Then we learned it’s been here since at least 1192 when Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner in the ruined castle above the town.</p> <p>If he could have jumped ransom, and gone out for a vineyard walk, Richard would have had a memorable experience a lot like the one we had on our <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank" title="Walking tour of Austria, Prague and Budapest">walking tour of Austria, Prague and Budapest</a> with Martin, the local Classic Journeys guide since 1999. “The terraces are truly ancient,” he explained—no surprise given the rustic jumble of rock that holds them in place. The vineyards are narrow ribbons, practically stacked on top of each other. Martin passes through so often that the workers know him, and they greeted us very warmly as we wandered through tiny villages and the yards of old farmhouses. “This is how a Dürnsteiner sees the world,” he said. “The Wachau Valley is so big, but the grower only sees his few meters of vines.”<br><br><img alt="Wachau vineyards" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7ng&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qCX" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>It’s a fascinating insight. Microclimates affect the vineyards so that the same grape grown at different altitudes yields very different wines. We tasted the proof at a traditional <i>Heuriger</i>, a sort of in-home café where the grower can serve only his own bottles. He laid out local cheeses and sausages to show off his most recent year’s wine. Oh, did he watch us closely as we swished and sipped the Riesling and Grüner veltliner. But we had no trouble giving him a thumbs up and a big “<i>Ja</i>!” Later, Martin told us that for guests who taste these wines for the first time, it’s one of the big surprises of the week that they are so complex, refreshing—and not sweet. We gladly agreed.</p> <p>The day wound down with a glorious ferry ride on the Danube. Because it’s the river that influences every bit of local life and culture, it was a fitting way to circle back to our convent-turned-luxury-hotel. (You can only wonder what those long-ago Sisters would have thought of the fine swimming pool in the garden.) Soon enough, it was time to head for Hungary. But what a relaxing treat it was to have been Dürnsteiners for a couple of days.</p> <p>____________________________________________________________________________________________<br>For more information on Classic Journeys 8-day walking tour of Austria, Prague and Budapest, visit <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank">www.classicjourneys.com/prague </a>or call 1-800-200-3887 to speak with a Guest Services Coordinator.</p> <p>To further whet your palate for travel to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, check out the following related posts:<br>• <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/a-walking-tour-to-top-your-czech-list/" target="_blank">A Walking Tour to Top Your Czech List</a><br>• <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/say-chess-key-kroom-loff/" target="_blank">Say “CHESS-Key KROOM-Loff”</a></p>

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