The Happiest Countries in the World
The ninth World Happiness Report is different to those that came before, responses to COVID-19 being considered alongside each population’s overall well-being, levels of positive and negative emotions, and strength of trust. Read the full report here.
It goes without saying that happy countries make for great travel destinations. And, as it happens, many Classic Journeys favorites made the list of the World’s 20 Happiest Countries in the UN’s latest edition of its World Happiness Report.
We can’t stop smiling about it!
Finland wins the title of the World’s Happiest Country for the fourth year in a row! In the Land of a Thousand Lakes, Finns are surrounded by the healing power of water. 75% of the nation is soothing forest—and thanks to Everymans’s Rights, everybody is free to roam nature. Sauna bliss is an everyday experience here, and natural wonders like the Northern Lights make a regular appearance.
Heli Jimenez, Senior Director at Business Finland said: “Finnish happiness isn’t skin deep and immediately visible – it’s deeply engrained in our being. Sustainable happiness is our superpower, and it means we tend to take life as it comes – a trait that is helping us through these challenging times. We appreciate the small things in our daily lives, such as sitting quietly on a bench and staring at the empty lake after a relaxing sauna session or taking a morning dip in the sea before starting the working day.”
Cause to jump for joy: Iceland hopped up two places this year! Its 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.
It’s ironic that the world’s most famous Dane, Hamlet, was known for being melancholy. Clearly his fellow Danes aren’t. With its culture revolving around hygge—the feeling of contentment—Denmark has everyday happiness down pat.
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. Switzerland 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 average Swiss citizen eats about 24 pounds annually.
World famous for its tulip flower fields and cheese, this country of windmills and winding canals may be pint-sized, but it sits high on the happiness rankings year after year.
Danes have hygge. The Swedes’ secret to a balanced and happy life is lagom. It means not too much, not too little—just right, encouraging people to slow down and appreciate the simple things around them.
Germany’s slick train system takes you between its soaring mountains, fairytale villages, historic towns and the NINE countries it borders with. Come around Christmas for winter wonderland markets, snowy forests and steaming gluhwein that’ll leave you grinning ear to ear.
Scandinavian countries have dominated the list of World’s Happiest Countries, routinely taking the top spots year after year. This might seem unusual, since…well, the winters in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland are very long, and very dark. But it makes sense. 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.
9: New Zealand
The Land of the Long White Cloud is the land of a lot of happiness. The nature is spectacular, down to earth locals are mighty proud of their heritage, and the sheep love it too (they far outnumber humans). No wonder film-makers flock here: New Zealand 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. Lord Of The Rings’ Peter Jackson famously said ‘New Zealand is not a small country but a large village,’ which sums it up splendidly.
It must be the Danube – it runs through both the Czech Republic and Austria, 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 The Sound of Music; nearly all of the movie’s external scenes were filmed on location throughout the country.
With historic holy sites, beautiful beaches and rich culture, Israel consistently finds itself among the world’s happiest places to live.
Australia has some of the most spectacular natural places on the planet, from pink sand beaches to the technicolor great barrier reef, and from the bush to the outback. It also has some of the cutest mammals alive—who can’t help but smile at a koala?!
“May joy and peace surround you, Contentment latch your door,
And happiness be with you now,
And bless you evermore”—Irish blessing.
Fun Fact – corned beef and cabbage is widely shunned in Ireland, and for good reason. The food there is much better than our go-to St. Patrick’s Day fare.
14: The United States
The USA has leaped up four places! On a normal year, millions of people come here to visit our cities, coast and national parks. While 2020 may have lacked international visitors, it gave Americans the chance to explore and appreciate our incredible home turf. We took trips to Bryce, Grand Canyon and Zion. We discovered amazing places on our doorstep, like Joshua Tree. Craving bucket-list experiences when destinations weren’t an option, we swapped Iceland for a Northern Lights trip to Alaska, and food and wine explorations in Greece for Washington’s balmy San Juan Islands.
Having travelled extensively through Canada, the stories are true: Canadians are incredibly nice. We 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?)
16: Czech Republic
The end of the Cold War brought sweeping changes to eastern Europe, and no country has had a more dramatic turnaround than the Czech Republic. The country is now considered one of the world’s great cultural destinations, thanks in large part to its friendly, welcoming people and spectacular architecture.
A famous Belgium proverb states “Happy nations have no history.” Maybe that’s it, or maybe it’s the chocolate, waffles, beer, and villages like this!
18: The United Kingdom
For such a small island, the UK has a huge amount to offer. The (mostly) good-natured rivalry between Scotland and England is a great way to frame a visit: Scotland 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.
East Asia’s happiest country, Taiwan is known for its night markets, delicious dumplings, quirky restaurants (from Barbie to toilet themed) and obsession with Hello Kitty. You’ll see things devoted to the cartoon character almost every way you turn, a train station and airplane included!
Vive la France! In 20th place, it’s hard to pick what makes us most happy about France: the cuisine, the wine regions, the romance, the art history, the sweeping countryside…the list goes on!
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