In this post: We subjectively, naively, and unabashedly select the best 18 countries to visit for 18 types of trip and rate each from 1 to 10 on various criteria.
It makes no sense to trust some random online writer’s opinion on the best countries to visit in the world. They haven’t fully explored all of them. Plus it depends entirely on if you’re a budget backpacker, granny fanny-packer, or Gucci hand-bagger.
It also makes no sense that travel publications somehow pull new best country to visit lists out of their
a**es atlases every year. Countries don’t change that fast.
So we’ve tweaked the format:
- Indefinitely awarding 18 countries the titles of the best to visit for 18 unique reasons.
- Subjectively but honestly rating each country on 6 criteria: cost, food, ease, friendliness, safety, and exoticness.
Our opinions are just as uninformed as anyone else’s. But at least this format might give you a better idea of where might be the best country to visit for your unique tastes. (And we get to respond to comments from pissed off Filipino food-lovers.)
The Best Countries to Visit For 18 Unique Types of Trip
In no particular order, the best country to visit for:
- Experiencing a Parallel Universe
- Appreciating Africa
- Sanitized Third World
- Budget Travel
- A 7-to-10 Day Road Trip
- Connecting with Nature
- A Month-Long Adventure
- 5-Star Travel On a 3-Star Budget
- Feeling Out of Place
- Just a Few Days
- First-Time Foreign Travelers
- Understanding the World
- Getting to Know Locals
- A Long Airport Layover
- Idly Passing Time
The Best Country to Visit for Gazing Is…
There’s not much to do in Namibia.
Only 2.5 million people live in this mostly desert country that’s 20% bigger than Texas.
But there’s a lot to see.
Here’s how a typical day goes when traveling in Namibia:
- Wake up to gaze at the sun as it comes up over the empty horizon and makes all the rocks and sand go technicolored.
- Drive all day gazing at peculiar and pretty desert landscapes and the surprising number of animals who survive on it (especially in Etosha National Park).
- Gaze at an encore performance by the sun at sunset.
- Gaze at all the stars from your campsite in the middle of nowhere.
How We Rate It
- Consider driving one-way from South Africa to avoid backtracking and have more time in the less-overrun south of Namibia.
- The roads are TERRIBLE in Namibia, so it’s worth paying more for a rental car that can handle them.
The Best Country to Visit for Time-Travel Is…
Colombia has come so far so fast that some parts of it have yet to keep up.
This makes for a fascinating opportunity to time travel between the modern present and traditional past.
In Medellin, the top city to visit in Colombia (though Bogota is underrated), you can travel from glitzy, gringo-central El Poblado back into the pre-tourism era by simply taking a 20-minute bus ride south to Envigado.
You can also walk back in time just by hiking from an urban metro station into traditional Antioquian farmland (or by taking the urban cable car).
Drive a couple hours outside of modern cities and you’ll enter pueblos like Venecia, where men still ride horses to the bar in their traditional attire. Or jump on an hour flight to visit the raw and rustic Pacific Coast, which has no road access and only recently reopened from travel.
How We Rate It
- Colombia’s cool, but if you’re only going to visit one South American country, we’d recommend Peru first.
- Colombia’s also the best country for partying with sexy people, particularly in Medellin and Cartagena.
The Best Country to Visit for Experiencing a Parallel Universe Is…
Japan isn’t just a different county; it’s a different universe.
Everything in Japan looks similar to our own universe, but different.
It’s a world where politeness is prioritized, standing out is avoided, vending machines sell everything, and cuddle cafes are an actual thing.
“Weird” was the word Kim and I most often found ourselves saying while visiting Japan. In a good way. Every day, we’d see something or have an experience that wasn’t quite from our universe but made sense in this parallel one.
Japan isn’t a world we’d want to live in forever, but to visit it’s a truly out-of-this-world experience.
How We Rate It
- Japan’s not as expensive as everyone seems to think. It can be if you want to travel lavishly, but our favorite experiences in Japan included 3 USD onsen (hot springs), 25 USD twelve-course meals, 6 USD mega-ramen bowls, and 35 USD ryokan (guesthouses).
- No matter who you are or what your budget is, a one or two-week JR Rail pass is the best way to see the country.
The Best Country to Visit for Appreciating Africa Is…
Spend enough time traveling* in Kenya and you’ll appreciate the good and the bad of Africa.
- The wildness of the animals and how vulnerable we are to them.
- The seemingly insurmountable challenge many African nations face to change from a short-term, survival-of-the-fittest mindset to a longer-term one.
- What amazing innovations, like the M-Pesa mobile payment systems, are coming from the constraints to create hope.
- The historical importance of coastal cities like Lamu, which retains much of its history and still relies on donkeys as the main form of transport.
- How pleasant and organized your home country is.
(*By “traveling” we mean not spending a night hiding out in a 5-star Nairobi hotel before helicoptering straight to a luxury game lodge where you sit around as people point out animals for you.)
How We Rate It
The Best Country to Visit for Sanitized Third World Is…
Rwanda’s infamous for the horrible insanity of the 1994 genocide. Now, it’s gaining fame for being so sanitized.
The country’s clean. And not just by African or third-world standards. By any standard. With a tradition of umuganda, mandatory community service on the last Saturday of each month (mostly cleaning), and a ban on plastic bags that’s been strictly enforced since 2006, cleanliness is part of the culture in Rwanda. When we drove around its calm, well-maintained highways (at almost too-civilized speed limits of 40km/h), we’d frequently see people picking out debris from the gravel of the side of the road.
And Rwanda’s safe. A tourist can walk around at night even in the capital of Kigali.
Rwandans might say there’s too much law and order. Heavily armed police and soldiers are all over and the justice system has a no-tolerance reputation, especially if you say something bad about the president. But as a tourist it’s hard to complain.
Even Rwanda’s most famous wildlife is civilized. You can get so close to the gorillas you can touch them and they don’t mind.
There are downsides to all this civility, sanitization, and cleanliness. Rwanda was too sanitized for our liking. Something felt off. But if you want a third-world experience minus the grit, grime, and chaos, this is the place.
How We Rate It
- As an exception to the rule, prepare to get dirty for Volcanoes National Park, home to the Gorillas and Mount Bisoke.
- Bring some warm clothes. Rwanda may be just south of the equator, but it’s a mile above sea level and often cloudy and rainy.
The Best Country to Visit for Budget Travel Is…
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka
Most other crazy cheap countries are dirty, dangerous, and/or disorganized.
Sri Lanka is none of those. It’s just straight-up delightful.
The people are delightful. Multiple times a day a random stranger would approach us just to say “Welcome to my country!” then walk off with a smile on their face for having put a smile on ours.
The food is delightful. Kottu roti, sambol, hoppers, lemon coconut smoothies, and Chris’ all-time favorite, chocolate coconut roti taste extra delicious when you eat with your hands like the locals do.
The scenery is delightful. For a small island, Sri Lanka’s variety of jungle, safari land, mountains, tea plantations, and beaches was impressive.
Enhancing the delightfulness of all of the above is that everything costs about a quarter of what it does back home.
How We Rate It
- Sri Lanka’s position on this best countries to visit list is endangered, so go before over-Instagrammification of the same cliche photo of travelers dangling from the side Sri Lanka’s super slow scenic train drives its delightfulness to extinction.
The Best Country to Visit for a 7-to-10 Day Road Trip Is…
Maybe Kim and I are biased in saying Jordan is the best country to visit for a 7-to-10 day road trip because that was the first trip we ever did together…
…. but nah.
- The roads are in pristine condition.
- The country is just the right size to explore without spending all your time in a car (from Amman up north to Aqaba in the far south is only a 4-hour drive).
- Jordanians are as hospitable as their desert surroundings often aren’t.
- The scenery is out of this world (so much so that Wadi Rum was used as the set of The Martian).
- There’s so much more to Jordan than Petra, which, for us, wasn’t even a top three highlight of our trip. Number one was wandering down a wadi, as pictured above.
- For a longer, 2-to-4 week road trip, South Africa is the best country we know of.
How We Rate It
The Best Country to Visit for Connecting with Nature is…
[Full disclosure: We’re proudly Canadian.]
Forget Canada’s cities. They’re better for living in than traveling to.
The real reason to visit Canada is to connect with nature.
There’s a lot to connect to. Our homeland is a big ass place with a lot of trees, gigantic lakes, bigger oceans, mountains, plains, some bears and moose, and not many people.
No matter which part of the country you fly into, you’ll be no more than a two-hour drive away from completely escaping the sprawl of civilization and engaging in a one-on-one meeting with Mother Nature.
- Come during the months just before and after summer, June and September, to avoid huge crowds and huge prices while still enjoying good weather. Or come in the winter to understand why some Canadians (definitely not us) call it their favorite season.
How We Rate It
Your Own Town
Traveling in your own city is like cooking at home versus going out for dinner. You have to put in more work and it won’t be quite as exotic, but toss in some unusual ingredients and it can still be a novel and memorable experience.
Our post on the 5 things you need to be a tourist in your own city has the recipe.
The Best Country to Visit for A Month-Long Adventure Is…
Here’s a somewhat crazy take:
Machu Picchu so overwhelmingly shrouds potential visitor’s impression of Peru that it limits the country’s wider tourism potential.
If Machu Picchu didn’t exist (or hadn’t been discovered), Peru would be famous for so much more:
For its Amazon jungle in the east, for its high-end cuisine in Lima, for its sand dunes to the south, for its surfing beaches in the north, for its Andes mountain ranges in the middle, and for its colorful traditional culture throughout.
Peru’s awesome variety makes it the best country in the world for a month-long backpacking adventure.
You don’t even need to visit Machu Picchu.
How We Rate It
- For a higher-end version of “everything,” go to South Africa, a close runner-up to Peru in terms of having everything.
- One of my fondest memories of my own month-long Peru trip was floating along the Amazon on a barge from Yurimaguas to Iquitos.
The Best Country to Visit for Eating Is…
Other countries arguably have better fine-dining than Mexico, but nobody except royalty exclusively fine-dines when they travel.
Most of the calories us common folk consume while traveling com in the form of informal food.
Taking that into consideration, on average deliciousness per calorie eaten, Mexico is the best country to visit.
Tropical batidos, fresh ceviche, spicy candies, mouth-watering mole, tacos, tlayudas, tortas… there’s good reason Mexican restaurants can be found all over the world. And the Mexican food tastes even better in Mexico.
The best, actually.
Not the most sophisticated. Not the healthiest. The best.
How We Rate It
- Don’t expect anywhere near the same quality food in neighboring Central American countries. Their food sucks in comparison. Moreover, we wouldn’t recommend visiting any Central American country until you’ve been to Mexico first.
- Mexico City is our favorite city to visit in the world.
- Kim will kill me if I don’t mention Japan as a close runner-up for best food.
The Best Country to Visit for 5-Star Luxury on a 3-Star Budget…
🇿🇦 South Africa
Before Kim and I first came to South Africa, we hadn’t heard much hype about it aside from a couple of friends who raved about Cape Town.
Now that we’ve been in the country for four months, we think we know why:
South Africans want to keep it for themselves.
They rather keep the incredibly well-maintained roads empty, not have their views of the incredible scenery marred by others’ heads and selfie sticks, maintain the exclusive feeling of the luxurious wine estates, not scare away all the wildlife, not have all their fynbos wildflowers picked, and always have tables available at their favorite restaurants.
And they want to keep it all affordable, around half the price of what it would cost in Western countries.
How We Rate It
- Safety concerns are definitely the biggest source of discomfort in South Africa, but I also suspect the locals overstate the risk to keep pesky outsiders away. You’ll be fine if you stay out of sketchy areas, don’t walk around dark places at night, and don’t draw undue attention.
- Instead of doing the Kruger safari + Cape Town combo that 90% of tourists get sucked into, rent a car and explore the country on your own. (But do check out our Kruger Park Safari Tips to see more animals, save money, and improve your experience.)
- The Garden Route is nice and all (as we share in our 4-part Unearthing the Garden Route Series), but for something different and a broader South African experience, try The Hectic Route between Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The Best Country to Visit for Feeling Out of Place Is…
Morocco is not everyone’s cup of tea (…ironically, given the immense popularity of tea in the country).
Some visitors are turned off by all the attention from souk vendors, the disorienting medinas, the dirt and poverty compared to home, and cultural and language challenges.
Others love it for those same reasons. That was our verdict after living for a month in Essaouira.
Either way, what’s certain is you’ll feel out of place when you visit Morocco.
How We Rate It
- Ensure a positive first impression and give yourself time to acclimate to Morocco by organizing a shuttle from the airport to your hotel (or riad, the traditional Moroccan accommodation). You don’t want your first experience to be haggling with taxis or getting lost in the medina with all your luggage.
- Get a guide on day one. Whether it be a friendly Airbnb host, an expert tour guide, or a friend of a friend, having a local show you the ropes and answer your questions at the beginning of your trip will set you up for success the rest of your time in the country.
The Best Country to Visit in Just a Few Days Is…
I lived two-and-a-half of the best years of my life in Panama City, Panama.
I loved it and I wish I could say Panama is the best country to visit for all sorts of things, but I can’t. Many other countries have better beaches, more interesting jungles, more exotic cultures, and better (WAY better) food.
What Panama does have going for it is it’s small and tons of flights between North and South America go through it, so I guess it could be the best country to visit and get to know in just a few days.
Spend one day in Panama City eating Panamanian food, another in the surrounding area and visiting the canal, and another day or few on one of the Pacific Beaches or in the Guna Yala (a.k.a. San Blas) or even Bocas del Toro. That’s enough.
How We Rate It
- I highly recommend reading The Path Between the Seas, by David McCullough before you go to get a much deeper appreciation of the Panama Canal and the country as a whole.
- If crazy Captain Karl is still leading his Jungle Land Panama tours, they’re a fun way to see the canal from a different perspective.
- Further afield, my favorite weekend getaways were Santa Catalina and Playa Venao.
The Best Country to Visit for First-Time Foreign Travelers Is…
First-time foreign travelers have a lot to be scared about including language barriers, scams, food sickness, poor internet connection, missing Mommy, and cultural faux-pas.
For them, the best country to visit is one that minimizes those risks while still being exciting and encouraging more travel (and more “risk”) in the future. It adds a dash of spice, but not so much to leave you panting and sweating.
Thailand provides that balance.
Bangkok, in particular, is exotic and spicy, but in a friendly way. The locals are used to dealing with foreigners, they generally speak great English, the prices are low, and the food’s different but familiar. Plus, it’s easy to get to.
And if you get overwhelmed and want to escape and relax, Thailand’s resort beaches and islands are just a short flight away.
How We Rate It
The Best Country to Visit to Understand the World Is…
🇺🇸 The USA
From movies to music to politics to business, America dominates global culture, whether you like it or not. And that’s exactly why it’s the best country to visit to understand the world.
If you resent America, a visit there will hopefully teach you to at least not hate Americans and find some parts of the country and their culture that you can’t help but admire.
And if you idolize America, a visit there will hopefully help you realize that it’s not all it’s caught up to be and appreciate the many advantages your home country has over it.
Either way, you’ll leave the USA with a different, and hopefully better, understanding of it and therefore the world as a whole.
How We Rate It
- Visit well-known American cities to enhance your appreciation of books, music, movies, and TV shows where they take place. From then on, references to the places in those cities that you visited will bring back fond memories from your trip.
- Wherever you go, search Facebook groups to connect with and get tips from expats from your home country.
The Best Country to Visit for Getting to Know Locals Is…
🇵🇭 The Philippines
Generally, the fewer visitors a country receives, the friendlier the locals are. They’re not used to meeting tons of foreigners, so us travelers are as much a novelty to them as they are to us.
In most cases, though, language barriers limit that friendliness to smiles and hand gestures.
Not in the Philippines.
Most Filipinos speak excellent English and most of them aren’t shy to use it to welcome you to their country, which is less overwhelmed with tourists than other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam.
Plus, for whatever reason—all the beautiful island beaches probably help—Filipinos generally have contagiously happy-go-lucky attitudes.
This makes the Philippines the best country to visit to get to know the locals.
How We Rate It
- The Philippines has also got to be the best country in the world for kayaking. There are so many islands to explore and the water’s so crystal clear you can “snorkel” without even putting your face in the water. Consider a multi-day kayaking tour to experience it and escape the crowds.
- Manila sucks. Spend as little time there as you can.
The Best Country to Visit for a Long Airport Layover Is…
🇰🇷 South Korea
Ok, we’re not being fair to South Korea here.
Undoubtedly, South Korea is the best country to visit for more reasons than an airport layover. We just haven’t been there long enough to find out.
Our only experience in South Korea so far has been an awesome 5-hour airport layover tour in Seoul.
They shuttled a group of us downtown in a bus while a (possibly unintentionally) hilarious guide shared all sorts of sometimes culturally insensitive facts, toured us around a castle, fed us, let us wander around town a bit, then brought us back to the airport.
All pretty much for free!
The strategy worked. We really want to visit South Korea now. And we wouldn’t mind another layover in Seoul airport either.
How We Rate It
- Pack something warm if you’re coming through Seoul from Southeast Asia. The layover tour actually gives out jackets, but we were still freezing when we did the tour in January.
- Taipei, Taiwan may be even better than Seoul for a 24-hour layover. On our way back from Namibia to Vancouver, we spent 24 hours there, ate 24 different foods and only spend $100 all-in.
The Best Country for Idly Passing Time Is…
Here’s a typical day in Spain, the best country in the world to visit for idly passing time:
- ~9 a.m: Wake up… whenever. Later than at home. Go outside to the nearest corner for a coffee and bread or pastry for desayuno (breakfast).
- 9 – 10 a.m: Walk around for an hour, admiring the architecture and all seemingly effortlessly stylish people who seem to be in no rush to be getting anywhere.
- 10:30 – 11:30 a.m: Almuerzo, a mid-morning snack of a sandwich and a beer.
- 11:30 a.m – 1:30 p.m: Go to a museum. Do a bit of boutique shopping. Relax at the beach.
- 2 – 3:30 p.m: Eat a multi-course menu del dia: a hearty starter (or three), bread, a main course, dessert, and a generously-poured cup of wine (sometimes a whole bottle).
- 4 – 5:30 p.m: A well-earned, extended siesta.
- 5:30 – 7 p.m: Relaxing mid-afternoon snack.
- 7 – 8:30 p.m: Wander / window-shop.
- 8:30 – 10 p.m: Tapa bar hopping.
- 9 – 11 p.m: Dinner (or continue with tapas).
- 11 – late: Drinks and more tapas until you tapa-out.
How We Rate It
- Rent a car. While Spain is famous for its cities, it’s most enjoyable to explore its small towns and the best way to do it is by car.
- Keep an eye out for festivals. Spain seems to be always celebrating something. Look up festivals near where you’re going to join in the fun.
- Avoid August. The weather’s horribly hot, the tourists are out in full force and the locals have shut up shop to go somewhere more comfortable.
The Best Country to Visit for ______________ Is…
🏳 You Tell Us!
What countries have you visited and loved and what type of trip would you say they’re the best for?
Even if it’s one of the countries we mentioned, but for a different type of trip, please let us know in the comments below.
If you do, we’d think you’re one of the best readers to visit our site!
Recapping the Best Countries to Visit for Unique Trips
- Namibia for Gazing
- Colombia for Time-Travel
- Japan for Experiencing a Parallel Universe
- Kenya for Appreciating Africa
- Rwanda for Sanitized Third World
- Sri Lanka for Budget Travel
- Jordan for 7-to-10 Day Road Trips
- Canada for Connecting with Nature
- Peru for Month-Long Adventures
- Mexico for Eating
- South Africa for Comfortable Adventure
- Morocco for Feeling Out Of Place
- Panama for Visiting in Just a Few Days
- Thailand for First-Time Foreign Travelers
- The USA for Understanding the World
- The Philippines for Getting to Know Locals
- Spain for Idly Passing Time
- Korea for Long Airport Layovers
- You Tell Us for Our Next Trip
48 thoughts on “The Best Countries to Visit for 18 Unique Types of Trip”
Love this! Can’t wait to go to Peru.
Thanks Alice! Have you got a trip to Peru planned? We’ll be curious to hear your take on how it compares to Colombia.
Europe needs you to visit.
Indeed! We’re actually considering living there this summer—maybe Spain or Georgia or… well we don’t know yet and are taking suggestions.
Do yourself a favor and go to Georgia! Very inexpensive, wonderful architecture, fabulous food, amazing culture. It’s a magical place. I visited Tbilisi for 2 weeks in 2017 and I’m aching to get back there. When I go back, I’m going to give Batumi a visit.
And funky local wine, too, right? Kim and I still have it high on our to-visit list. Lots of friends and fellow digital nomads have said good things, too. Gotta get there before it’s inundated. Thanks, Ray!
You should visit Mendoza, Argentina. I was the last October there and was an incredible experience. You could visit Aconcagua park and the vineyards for drinking some wine.
I from Colombia, but that place is amazing.
Oooh, that’s a good idea Esneider. We’re actually thinking of spending the next Canadian winter in Brazil and if we do we’d most certainly try to follow your suggestion. Our time here in Cape Town has made us wine-farm-visiting addicts, so the Mendoza area sounds like a good spot for a heavy dose.
Hi I strongly recommend Singapore to people who wants to have fun, play, visit historical buildings, find out more about other things. There’s many different types of food to choose from, the locals are friendly and nice, do drop by and experience the unique way on how Singaporeans spent their day. I’m a proud Singaporean! By the way, June 19 is my birthday
Hope you guys have fun after covid!!!!
I’m Brazillian, and recently I’ve been ashamed of how little I appreciated my home country in the last few years. Brazil has EVERYTHING, from rain forest and bold hikes to european architeture and a vibrant people who will take you with our arms open. If you guys come, you will never want to leave!
You’re right, Daniele. Brazil does seem to be under the radar relative to its assets. Why? I think crime and cost (it’s more expensive than other South American countries) are big ones.
I was in Rio for Carnaval in 2012. I’d love to go back and explore the rest of the country, soon.
Best country to learn a new language, best country for off the beaten path adventure and best country for underwater diving – Indonesia (no, not Bali; that big arhipelago with thousands of islands that almost no one explores, guess most of the backpackers can’t travel without wi-fi)
That’s a really good one, Sandu. Thanks! When we get a couple more suggestions from readers, we’ll add a section to this post with yours and their input.
I’m curious about why you say Indonesia is the best country to learn a new language. Is that because Indonesian is known to be easy to learn? I do remember reading that somewhere. Or is it because once you get far enough away from Bali you’ve got to learn to get by?
Yes, it’s because the language is fairly simple, it doesn’t have past, present future tenses in the classical way. Time is very relative to the islanders 🙂 the words are not intuitive at all, but once you learn them you don’t have to bother much with sentence structure.
Also if you want to explore and have a chat with locals you need to learn the language.
Philippines’ food gets a 1? With all possible respect- f*ck you, man. Filipino food rocks, and is a huge part of our culture.
Thanks for chiming in Chrissy. No doubt Filipino food is a huge part of the culture, just as it is in any country, but I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on its quality relative to food in other countries.
Yeah u’re right. They might have missed out sampling our very own lechon de leche to give us just a rating of 1? If they’re adventurous enough, they can try our balut and see for themselves.
USA and Canada both for unique experience? I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong I love both of the countries but the culture is not that different.
You mean the Canadian and US cultures aren’t that different from each other, or they aren’t that different on a global level? In any case, I nominated Canada for its nature, not its culture, which yeah isn’t that exciting. Just friendly. And even if the American culture isn’t that interesting, it’s powerful and not always accurately portrayed abroad, hence my nomination there.
Hi Chris, thanks for that summary, I really enjoyed reading it and comparing to my own experiences so far. Looking forward to check out some of your hot tipps in the coming years! As you ask for countries you have missed out on yet (or not mentioned them) I would like to give you the following recommendations: From a professional point I would recommend you Tanzania and Uganda, as you seem to be a fan of African countries, their nature and their diversity as well as Nepal and Buthan for a very different experience of the life up in the Himalayas. (Disclosure: We offer amazing adventure trips in all of those countries on followalice.com ;). On a personal note you are definitely missing Australia. You probably have not gotten that far yet and it will not get a high rating for the costs, but its definitely worth a trip for you, as Australia has it all: Vibrant cities, great beaches, hot rainforests, empty deserts, the amazing great barrier reef, dreamy islands, friendly people, good food and so many other things.
Hey Joel. Thanks for all the recommendations. Rather than Follow Alice (the tour company you mention) maybe we should Follow Joel!
You should visit Montenegro, skip Dubrovnik because it’s swamped with tourists. And Hike the peak of the Balkans.
Greetings from Belgium
Thanks Jonas. I had to google the Peaks of the Balkans. The snippet says it’s “a 192-km cross-border trekking trail through the Accursed Mountains of Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro.” Accursed Mountains! Fabulous name. And it’s a circular route! Yep, it’s high on our list now.
p.s. no Belgium recommendation?
The best country to visit for a diversified trip is Egypt! Usually when people think of Egypt, they imagine pyramids, sand, and a historical adventure but it got way more than that if you researched well and know where to go. I honestly cannot list everything you do there (it’s best for you if you want to know to search it yourself), but Egypt got a diverse culture, a diverse set of food, and numerous activities that vary according to the location you are in! It’s definitely worth a visit. My favorite 3 places in Egypt are Luxor, Hurghada, and Sharm El Sheikh. https://youtu.be/mfxQy5A_tHs
Awesome suggestion, Omar, thanks. What stands out in my memory from my visit to Sharm in 2010 was the contrast between the desert offshore and the colorful, teeming-with-life reefs under the surface of the sea. I only went there and Cairo. You’ve inspired me to want to go back and explore further. Thanks!
Very disappointed to read what you had to say about Spain. Theres so much more to do then just being lazy. Spain receives 82 million of foreigners a year which makes it the 2nd most visited country in the world.
Sure there is a lot more to do then drinking wine and slagging around guys…
Hola Camilla. You’re right that there’s so much more to do in Spain than be lazy. Spain just happens to be the best country to visit (in my mostly worthless opinion) for passing the time in the way I described. I can’t wait to go back soon.
Extremely impressed by your write-up because the picks I agreed with, I felt like you really hit the nail on its head; the picks I didn’t agree with, I was at first skeptical but then I read your reasons and thought, “Ok that’s fair.”
*****…With the exception of Mexico taking second place to Japan for best food!!! Even if you’re approaching the choice from a “street food”/low-end perspective I’d pick Thailand or Singapore over Mexico.*****
Lastly, and this is what I most wanted to comment on: For best country to understand the world, I nominate Israel and Palestinian territories, the place where 3 of the world’s most popular religions originated. I cannot overstate how overwhelming the crushing weight of this area’s historical/cultural significance is. You stand at site so-and-so and learn that so-and-so was believed to have happened here and think: “So…This…THIS is what inspired gorgeous massive cathedrals as far west as Peru… a rich tradition of art and literature as far north as England and Italy…terror and violence as far east as Sri Lanka…impetus for wars and governmental policies, (our very way of life!) across millennia,” and it’s all just so mind blowing! You may not resolve everything in your head by the end of your trip but at least you will have an understanding that is more nuanced and in greater depth.
Thanks Robert. I’m extremely impressed by your comment, too!
I see where you’re coming from on the best food. What about Malaysia? It’s cheaper than Singapore, has a Thai influences, but also Indian, Singaporean, Chinese, too. I was only there briefly—too briefly to include in this post—but felt it had the best food in Southeast Asia.
Fantastic suggestion on Israel and the Palestinian territories. I’m with you. I was only in Jerusalem for a day, but could feel the heaviness of the history—and the present. Honestly, I didn’t feel very welcome. No joke, I got stones thrown at me by people from two different religions that day. And I was just walking around. My only reservation with suggesting it as a place to understand the world is that it maybe gives too negative of a vibe. Didn’t you feel the separation between the people there based on religion? Whereas most everywhere else you go, even if the local culture and religion’s completely different from yours, when you get to know the people you realize they’re way more similar to you than they are different.
Iran. Had a wonderful three weeks there last year. The people are fabulously friendly and hospitable. Great diversity of countryside, hiking, cities, culture and things to see. Oh so cheap. Safe. Good, and cheap sking I believe.
Thanks Terri. Iran is right at the top of our list. If not #1, then #2. I’d like to ask you for some tips for whenever we go, if you don’t mind.
First best country for everything: India. After that, you can’t miss with Turkey, Syria and Tajikistan. I love Chile, close second- Argentina. Try an island: go to Ponape. Africa favorite: Senegal or Ghana (esp. far north). Missing Indonesia is criminal, another- better world. I think perhaps you should stop your blog and travel another twenty years, then comment. You’re obviously astute and fun, but a touch innocent.
Thanks, Stuart, for all the recommendations. What are each of these countries “the best” to visit for? We’ve been to some of the countries you mention, and enjoyed them all for one reason or the other, but they didn’t wow us for a specific reason like the ones we featured. (Or maybe we got tired or writing…)
Senegal is high on our list of yet-to-visit. Syria… maybe in these times it’s a bit much for innocent us?
I’d recomend Iceland
4 its super hot springs
Its marine life
And star gazing like the northern lights.
Hospitality is also a great plus…
I could go on but I’d let you figure some stuff out..
You missed Australia the vast land
Has so much to offer words can’t do it right…
But I’ll try..
Marine life, great barrier reef, horse back riding…motor sports ..Rock climbing..sheep shering…etc….there is just a lot …it doesn’t cost so much people are ultra friendly… but it’s hot..
This is my last after that lol stop
As there are lots of wonderful places on this planet.
Israel is a conflict area that right now is not as funny as it should be. But..
Historical travel.. eye opener.
Hiking, food …..leisure and people.
Cost effective etc…
Thanks for the recs, Adean. The way you structured your comment is almost poetic!
Pakistan is without a doubt the best place for time travel.
Some competition for Colombia, eh? Nice! Kim and I’ll have to visit Pakistan sometime to see how it compares. Thanks for the suggestion, Arabela.
Interesting ideas and perspectives.
I like a bit of adventure travel away from just the main touristy sites.
It’s a big world out there.
Absolutely. The main point of this post is everywhere in the world is the “best” for something, especially if you visit it with a sense of adventure and open mind.
I find your perspective interesting, but some of your ratings absolutely lose me. Rating the United States a “5” for food is just silly. I would contend that the United States has the best food in the world. I’ve been to over a hundred countries and have a culinary background, and no place has ever exceeded the best of what the States has to offer. I’ve had sushi on the West Coast which rivals anything in Tokyo. I’ve had Italian food in NYC that put Florence to shame. And I’ve had Mexican food in Texas which would be revered south of the border. French. Peruvian. Thai. Ethiopian. Indian. Chinese. You name it. What makes the United States’ cuisine so special is not merely its own unique contributions (e.g. BBQ, contemporary American, etc), but the contributions of its immensely talented immigrants. The States is a melting pot of culinary tradition and excellence. McDonald’s and KFC may be national icons, but they’re certainly not the benchmark for American cuisine.
You’re probably right Billy. If I had to only eat from one country’s restaurants for the rest of my life, it’d be the US. Most variety by far. And top-notch everything… if you splurge on it.
The thing is, when I travel I don’t only go fine-dining. I’m in one city at a time, not picking and choosing the best of each part of the country. And even if the sushi in the West is indeed better than Tokyo, the restaurant experience is not the same. Overall, the quality of my food experience from a trip to the US is an average meh compared to that of other countries. Completely subjective.
Pakistan! you should visit Pakistan once in a lifetime at least for the following reasons:
– It is the country where you can interfere with natural sports like climbing over the world’s second highest mount. K2
– you can visit the highest plains on Earth
– the 5th biggest masjid in the world, Faisal Masjid, located in the green capital of Pak, Islamabad
– World’s highest ATM, located at the Pak-China border
– Saif-ul-Malook, the crystal clear lake of Pakistan, located in Naran-Kaghan Valley,
– Pakistan has the best and the most enthusiastic national anthem known as Qaumi Taranah. go and search and listen!
– there’s a lot more but i will cut short
The world’s highest ATM! You’ve convinced me, haha. Seriously, though, we’d love to visit. Thanks for the suggestion, Maham.
Have you been to Malaysia
Diversity culture and nature
King of fruit
Hey Salmy. I have! Way back in 2008. Agree with everything you say. We thought the food was the best in SEA because of the diversity, like you mention. Gotta go back to get a better understanding of it and add it to the list!
Tanzania is without a doubt the best place for time travel.
Oh yeah. Whereabouts specifically would you recommend going?