Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
The World Happiness Report is a measure of happiness published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Network, ranking the happiest countries around the globe. It 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. Taking that a step further, here is a look at some of the best places to visit within those blissful nations.
YOU'RE ALL SET!
Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.
Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world. With everything from beautiful parks, beaches, friendly people and a 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. The island of Funen, also near Copenhagen, was the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen and features colorful public gardens, castles and manor houses. If you want to experience one of the happiest cities on earth, in the happiest country, head to Aarhus, set along the coast next to fjords and forests as well as Viking rune stones. Its Old Town displays traditional Danish architecture from the 16th to 19th century. 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.
Following Denmark at number two on the list, Norway has a lot to offer vacationers, with its capital city of Oslo a delight for food enthusiasts as the home to a number of Michelin-starred restaurants. Set near a fjord and surrounded by hills and forests, it offers an ideal combination of city life and easy access to the great outdoors. If you want to view the Northern Lights, head to Tromso, one of the best spots on earth to do just that – it’s also renowned for its large number of 18th-century wooden houses and strikingly beautiful natural surroundings. Dovrefjell National Park offers the chance to spot musk oxen or even reindeer in the mountain area which serves as a barrier between southern and central Norway.
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. Lucerne offers something for everyone, with an exciting city life along with a picturesque lake and soaring mountains, while Bern is ideal for history buffs as a picturesque medieval city with a history that dates back to the 12th century, as well as housing the famous ancient clock tower with moving puppets and a Gothic cathedral that rises from the Old Town.
The capital city of Netherlands, Amsterdam, attracts numerous visitors with its charming canals, cheery flower markets, bicycle-happy locals, Anne Frank House and world-class museums like Rijksmuseam, but there are many other sights to see in this country filled with magnificent fields of colorful flowers and classic windmills. Visit the ancient city of Utrecht, founded as a Roman fortress 2,000 years ago; take a canal boat cruise in Haarlem, the center of the tulip bulb-growing district; and, don’t miss The Hague, often referred to as the “Royal City by the Sea,” with its outstanding contemporary art exhibits at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis. A bike tour through the nation’s flower growing region also makes for a fun and active, unforgettable excursion.
Sweden is usually missed by those that venture through Southern or Eastern Europe, but this country that’s given the world those little Swedish Meatballs as well as the Nobel Peace Prize, has a stunning landscape, amazing cities as well as a long, rich history and culture. In North Sweden you’ll find dense, green forests and pastoral landscapes, while the southern region is filled with tiny red island cottages that are dotted across the Stockholm Archipelago. In the capital city of Stockholm, Gamla Stan is one of the largest and best-preserved medieval city centers in Europe, and it’s also home to Royal National City Park, the first urban national park in the world. At Kosterhavet Marine National Park, centered around the car-free Koster Islands, you can rent bikes and enjoy a guided tour or take a boat trip to see this marine wonderland with its beaches, rocky islands and picturesque “Koster Light.”
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. Banff National Park is ideal all year-round with its breathtaking mountain scenery, though snow sport enthusiasts will especially enjoy exploring the area on skis. In the east, you can visit North America’s oldest city, St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador, on the tip of the Avalon Peninsula. Not only does it have a rich and colorful history with lots of museums and historic sites, but you’ll find an exciting nightlife along with the chance to explore a number of world-class urban and coastal trails as well as have the chance to see many different types of whales and icebergs.
Finland isn’t all ice and snow, although sleeping in a cozy glass igloo made for two in the wintertime, viewing billions of twinkling stars in the sky above and maybe even the spectacular Northern Lights, makes the cold a lot more palpable. If you’d prefer something a bit warmer, visit the small seaside town of Hanko, Finland’s southernmost town, where you can enjoy diving, surfing or cycling. 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.
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 perpetual 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. Happiness for the mouth can be found by sampling the delectable chocolates in the city’s shops and cafes.
Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa, located in a lava field in Grindavik on the Reykjanes Peninsula which contains waters that are 98 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, is reason enough to visit, but there’s a whole lot more to this incredibly beautiful nation than that. View waterfalls like Barnafoss, Skogafoss and Glymur Falls or visit a glacier that sits atop a still active volcano at Snaefellsjokull National Park which was made famous by Jules Verne’s “A Journey to the Center of the Earth.” In the small capital city of Reykjavik, visitors will be surprised to find plenty available in the way of culture, arts and nightlife.
Australia is an expansive country, with many great destinations, including one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef, which includes the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world along with 600 continental islands, 150 inshore mangrove islands and 3,000 coral reefs. Sydney, on Australia’s southeastern coast is a modern city that’s defined by its scenic harbor and offers the chance to take a cruise under the famed Sydney Harbor Bridge and past the iconic opera house. Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city is considered its cultural capital as well as an important port, well-known for its shopping, fine restaurants and sports venues. If you’re looking to up your happiness factor, you may want to head to Wollongong where you’ll find the Nan Tien Temple which offers one-day as well as weekend retreats for enlightenment.
It may come as a surprise that the people in Israel are reportedly happier than their neighbors, but perhaps it’s because when its citizens need to recharge their spiritual batteries, all they have to do is hop on the bus to the Western Wall, a place considered as one of the holiest in the world, housing ancient Jewish temples. Visitors can also enjoy the beautiful city of Tel Aviv and its non-stop culture, events, nightlife, beaches and more. Or, head to the Dead Sea and float in its salty waters located at the lowest point on Earth. The mud is considered to be a natural beauty product, bottled and sold around the world, but here you can go in for free and cover yourself with it.
Costa Rica is known for its abundance of natural beautify with miles and miles of beaches and lush jungles as well as its happy people. Part of the reason for that may be that Costa Rica is an extremely peaceful country that even did away with its army in 1949. Everywhere you go here, you’ll be welcomed with a smile and made to feel at home. It’s a fabulous destination for adventure-seekers, home to the original canopy tour that lets you travel through the jungle like a monkey as well as zip-lining tours, whitewater rafting on world-class rapids, kayaking, scuba diving, cliff diving and sky diving. Or, if you just want to relax, you can do just that with almost 1,000 miles of coastline and numerous lovely beaches.
Many people who travel to New Zealand find themselves longing to stay, so it’s no surprise that its residents are some of the happiest. Pretty much anywhere you go here, you’ll enjoy out-of-this-world scenery and friendly people. If you want to go fishing, sailing or diving, head to the Bay of Islands, a spectacular region made up of 144 islands. Milford Sound, which Rudyard Kipling dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world,” was formed by glaciers during the ice age, featuring cliffs that rise from fjords crowned by mountains and waterfalls. Auckland, New Zealand’s large city, is home to a host of multicultural bars and restaurants serving up a wide variety of cuisine as well as numerous museums and art galleries, like the Auckland Art Gallery, which features more than 15,000 works of historic, modern, and contemporary art.
The United Arab Emirates is said to be one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations, due to its year-round sun, unspoiled beaches, endless shopping, world-class hotels and eateries along with an intriguing traditional culture. In Abu Dhabi, you’ll find more than 200 islands and roughly 250 miles of pristine coastline, modern cityscapes, desert landscapes and dramatic mountain scenery along with the chance to explore former palaces, forts and one of the world’s largest mosques. Dubai offers an interesting mix of old and new, including shopping tax-free in modern malls, partying in trendy clubs and bars, staying in luxury hotels, exploring the souks or relaxing on miles of deserted beaches.
The Latin American countries that fell into the Top 20 happiest nations are not as rich as the others on the list, but make up for it with social networks and a strong sense of generosity. As a visitor you’ll notice that locals are especially friendly, and by traveling to the San Blas Islands, northwest of the mainland facing the Caribbean, you will find the gentile native people known as the Kuna, a community of proud people that have their own laws, norms and values that go with their culture. Other things to do include seeing the Panama Canal, exploring Casco Viejo, the oldest city in the Americas and checking out the ruins at Panama Viejo.
Mexico’s citizens are said to have a strong baseline for happiness based on their perception that what they have makes life enjoyable, rather than focusing on what they don’t have. In this country, visitors will find everything from breathtaking, tranquil beaches to Mayan archaeological sites and a vibrant nightlife. VisitstrongPuerto Vallarta for its outstanding blend of picturesque beaches, authentic regional cuisine and a quaint setting that sets it apart from popular tourist towns like Cancun and Cabo San Lucas. Tulum is considered the new frontier of Riviera Maya beaches – plus, it hasn’t succumbed to the mega-resort influences that have overtaken some of those more touristy cities. Here, you’ll discover some of the best-preserved Mayan ruins in the Western Hemisphere, with the cerulean waters of the Caribbean Sea providing an amazing backdrop.
While the U.S. ranks at 17th in happiness, it still offers practically an endless number of beautiful destinations, including everything from vibrant cities to vast wilderness areas. Visit San Francisco with its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific Northwest with rugged shorelines, crashing waves, soaring mountains and even lush rain forest. National Parks offer lots to all types of travelers, such as Yellowstone with itssteaming geysers, multicolored pools, bubbling hot springs, endless miles of hiking trails and an abundance of wildlife. The nation’s capital is home to fascinating museums and landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, while the sheer number of things to do in New York City puts many other cities to shame. Down in the Florida Keys, travelers can enjoy Caribbean-like waters along with a laid-back atmosphere.
Generosity and a great sense of humor are just two of the elements that result in happy Irish residents. The country is filled with vivid emerald-hued hills and towering heather-covered mountains, waterfalls, dazzling lakes and crashing seas. Just kicking back with a Guinness next to a roaring fire in a dimly-lit pub can make for a good time, though you’ll usually find plenty of great live music and conversation as well. Visit fascinating museums and go bar-hopping in Dublin, but be sure to get out in the countryside and explore places like Wicklow National Park, the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula and the Cliffs of Moher.
Luxembourg is a tiny country with lots to offer. Tour the rooms, terraces and grounds of Vianden Castle for a glimpse into a millennium’s worth of history and striking views of the countryside. Visit the hamlet of Esch-sur-Sure, perched atop a steep hill overlooking the river, dominated by a 15th century watchtower and capped by castle ruins. Take a tour of the monarch’s official home, Grand Ducal Palace in the heart of Luxembourg City, and be sure to explore the lower town of Grund, which sits on the Alzette River at the base of the former fortress surrounding the city’s old town.
Venezuela is not only home to some of the world’s happiest people, this nation is home to the highest uninterrupted waterfall on the planet, Angel Falls, which plunges nearly 2,700 feet from a table top mountain. Los Roques Archipelago National Park hosts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with its clear blue waters and pristine white sands, considered a hidden gem for divers and snorkelers. The small coastal town of Coro, a UNESCO world heritage site offers the chance to stroll enchanting pathways past colonial architecture, museums and cathedrals.