Every country in the world has something to offer—think local cuisine, groundbreaking architecture, and much, much more. But beauty is a hard thing to quantify. However, according to the World Economic Forum in their Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report, they have ranked the world’s countries.
This is based on various factors, from safety to life expectancy—and yes, even natural resources. The latter takes into consideration details like total animal species, number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, and “attractiveness of natural assets”—and 2019’s results are as stunning as ever.
New Zealand is no stranger to breathtaking landscapes, with towering mountains, turquoise lakes, and more than 9,000 miles of windswept shores. Just look towards the resplendent fields of pink and purple lupins at Lake Tekapo; or Milford Sound, a mountainous fjord where you can live out all of your Lord of the Rings fantasies. The splendor also extends below the surface to the Waitomo glowworm caves (leave it to New Zealand to make even worms look beautiful).
Austria is the stuff fairytales are made of. Honestly, we can’t believe Disney hasn’t produced something exclusively inspired by the lakeside village of Hallstatt. The country’s slice of the Alps beckons travelers from all over the world, whether it’s to the ski slopes of Tyrol, the hiking trails of Innsbruck, or the ice caves of Eisriesenwelt Werfen. If you’re hoping to belt out some Sound of Music tunes, head directly to Hohe Tauern National Park. It’s close to Salzburg, and features that perfect combination of snow-capped mountains and rolling green hills.
Tucked away in the Alps, Switzerland is easily one of the most beautiful countries in the world, no matter when you’re visiting. Come wintertime though, it becomes a veritable wonderland, with powdery ski slopes and frozen lakes galore. For the best vantage point of the country’s natural beauty, stay in the village of Zermatt, a ski town so pristine that people actually buy bottles of air from the surrounding mountains (including Switzerland’s iconic Matterhorn mountain). Not a fan of skiing? A summer visit to Switzerland is always a good idea, where Lake Geneva’s picturesque banks and Zurich’s badi (natural swimming pools along the lakes and rivers) are waiting to host your next family vacation.
Aside from its world-class beaches (like Playa de Las Catedrales in Galicia, pictured), Spain is home to 15 national parks, including five in the Canary and Balearic Islands. Doñana National Park is home to five threatened bird species, plus scenic marshes and sand dunes. Teide National Park has the tallest mountain in the country (Mount Teide) and third tallest volcanic structure in the world (Pico Viejo).
Greece may be best known for the the architecture of Athens and coastal scenes of Santorini, but there’s a lot more to the country than its immediate associations. Each of the 6,000+ islands and islets offer swoon-worthy vistas, from the cliff-lined beaches of Zakynthos to the epic sunrises in Mykonos. Not a beach bum? Pay a visit to Epirus, the mountainous, forest-filled region in northwestern Greece.
There are plenty of reasons to head to Kenya, and we’re not just talking about its bevy of resorts and safari camps. The Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley is the ultimate place for wildlife spotting, with cheetahs, giraffes, black rhinos, and some of the highest bird diversities in the world. Mount Kenya is the second highest peak (after Kilimanjaro) and one of the most impressive landscapes in Africa, with glacial lakes and forested slopes.
The number of foreign visitors to Thailand has doubled in the past ten years, and it’s easy to understand why. There are literally hundreds of islands offering something for every type of traveler, whether it’s the lush jungles of Ko Kut or the crystal-clear diving waters of Ko Tao. To catch sight of wild elephants and tigers, dramatic waterfalls, and some of the world’s oldest rainforests, venture inland to the wondrous Khao Sok National Park.
In countries like Nepal, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and breathtaking landscapes go hand in hand. Home to eight of the world’s 10 tallest mountains (including Mount Everest, the highest point on earth), the country is famous among hikers and adventure seekers. The Gokyo Lakes comprise the world’s highest freshwater lake system, where vibrant, glacier-fed waters are surrounded by snowy peaks. Chitwan National Park is home to rare populations of rhinoceros and Bengal tigers, while Sagarmatha National Park is the place to see snow leopards and red pandas.
Home to Himalayan peaks and Indian Ocean beaches, India’s terrain can only be described as breathtaking. Kerala is easily one of the most country’s most beautiful states, with elephants and tigers, lush lagoon networks, and tea plantations. There are incredible stretches of sand even outside of Kerala, like Marina Beach in unsung Tamil Nadu, or Chandipur Beach in Orissa, where tides recede nearly three miles out to sea. The Valley of Flowers National Park is spectacular, as hundred of species of alpine flowers carpet the western Himalayas in chromatic glory.
Japan is at once serene and exhilarating, ancient and unexpected. The subtropical Ogasawara Islands offer pristine beaches, exceptional snorkeling and whale watching, and forests packed with 195 endangered bird species. Solitary Mount Fuji is the country’s most iconic landmark, rising above villages and reflecting on lakes’ surfaces. Even the cities here are bursting with natural beauty: see Kyoto’s scattering of cherry blossoms and Arashiyama bamboo forest, or the calm, grassy parks of Tokyo