As a perpetual traveller, you start to become a bit of a snob. Well, in my case, you become a massive snob. Questions that would tickle you silly by other travellers, when you first travelled, start to become irritating. For example, any time I tell people what I do for a living the first question is: “What’s your favourite country to travel to?”. I know, I know, you’re just trying to make conversation, but I wouldn’t walk into a house with octuplets and ask them which kid is their favourite, would I? Ok, maybe I would. But that’s not my point.
Thus, I’ve decided to get this all in writing. Below you’ll find a list of all the countries I’ve been. They’re listed and ranked from my favourite country to my least favourite country to travel. Now, just a quick reminder to people out there, this is a travel related post. I’m not against certain countries, or people out there. Don’t cry if your country is at the bottom of the list. You should also remember that this isn’t my recommendation for the best country to travel to, it’s my personal favourite country to travel. Also, I reserve the right to change the list and its order at any time. Furthermore, this will be an on-going post; each time I visit a new country, I’ll be placing it on this list. And from time to time, when I miss a certain destination, I might just move it up a couple spots.
Ok, without further ado, this is my ranking of my favourite countries to travel:
It’s annoying when I have to add a country to the top of this list simply because it means I have to go down and manually change the number for every other country. But, that should tell you how much I loved Norway. In fact, I think that if you were to force me to live in just one country the rest of my life, it would be here. It’s just spectacular. I love the lifestyle, I love the people, and it is just so photogenic.
Before visiting Norway, The US was #1 on this list. And, there are few places in the world with the diversity of the US. Actually, there’s nowhere in the world with the diversity of the US. From Alaska to Hawaii to Utah, there is such a range. Some of my favourite travel memories were in the USA, and there is still plenty in that country I have yet to experience. For that reason, the US is my favourite country to travel, and one of the best countries to travel to in general.
3) South Africa
Honestly, I didn’t think that much of travelling to South Africa before arriving. I had plenty of other African countries on my list I’d have rather checked off first. However, when I arrived in South Africa, I realized how brilliant this country really is. There’s no wonder it’s so visited. When I rolled my scooter into Cape Town, I felt that comfortable feeling ever traveller looks for in a destination. The Western Cape with the Garden Route, along with the Wild Coast and the interior national parks make South Africa a brilliantly diverse destination. It is a worthy Silver on my list!
My trip into Namibia was recent so maybe it feels more dramatic than it really was. However, I absolutely loved the country. Warm, friendly people, and such a wide range of things to do and see. Etosha National Park is amazing for wildlife, and then you can’t really beat the landscapes of Sossusvlei and area. The best part? Namibia is totally affordable.
5) The Philippines
I had just an incredible time in The Philippines. And, yes, the landscapes are amazing, the beaches are a plenty, the waters clear, the rice terraces awe-inspiring, and the volcanoes imposing. But, what makes a visit to The Philippines so special are the people. The people are the nicest, most friendly I’ve come across in all the countries I’ve visited. I was just in awe in how welcoming they were. It made it a very special experience.
Of course, having wonders like The Chocolate Hills, Banaue, and Palawan, and intriguing destinations like Siquijor, and Sagada didn’t hurt. There is still so much more to The Philippines I want to see. I’ve only been gone a couple months and I’m already dying to go back. The Philippines is the type of travel destination that could knock out the US on my list with another visit from me.
I’m sure this is a bit of a surprise too. However, of all the countries I travelled in Africa my experience in Mauritania sticks out the most strongly. I mean seriously, where else in the world can you stow away on an iron ore train travelling deep into the desert, passing by camels? Also, Mauritania had perhaps the friendliest people in Africa, and that says a lot!
Japan was the first non-American country I visited. I went on a school exchange when I was just 12. I returned 20 years later and it blew my mind. I can’t explain in words how great this country is. And, I feel incredibly at home in Japan. It’s beautiful, it’s really fun for photography, and as travellers, there’s a wealth to see.
8) Sierra Leone
I was a bit nervous entering Sierra Leone. All I knew about it was blood diamonds, and war. What I found instead was a beautiful swath of rain forest, very friendly people, and some of the nicest beaches in all of Africa. There is so much potential for tourism in Sierra Leone. I hope someday it achieves it. Right now, Sierra Leone might not be the best country to travel for beginners, but an improvement in infrastructure could easily propel its global tourism appeal.
This one might surprise some people. But, if you look at the list, it actually makes a lot of sense. Most of my favourite countries to travel are smaller countries with a pretty undeveloped tourism scene. My favourite countries are filled with incredibly friendly people. Lesotho is all those things and so much more. This country has maybe the most beautiful landscape in all of Africa, and though it’s in the heart of one of the busiest tourism destinations on the continent, it’s extremely quiet from a tourism standpoint. Oh, and it’s home to Melatsunyane Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.
Peru is where my travel journalism career really started and, really, it’s the perfect place to do so. In Peru, there are jungles, deserts, mountains, and everything in between. Toss in the history, traditions, and sites like Machu Picchu, and it’s no wonder Peru is one of the busiest destinations on the planet. For travellers of all kind, Peru is one of the best countries to travel to in the world. I’d love to get back to Peru someday, and I’m sure I will.
Home sweet home. The truth is that aside from the west side of Canada, I haven’t spent nearly enough time at home. Still, I’d rate the west coast of British Columbia as one of my top 3 favourite places on the planet, and parts of my home province of Alberta are stunning as well. As I explore Canada a bit more, it could definitely move up on this list. I can’t imagine too many countries in the world that are better to travel to.
What can I say about Iceland that’s not already been said? Iceland is amazing. It really is. It’s one of those countries that just never disappoints. I think I could spend a year travelling Iceland and not get bored of it’s wildness, and wonders.
I was really surprised by Poland. I mean, I expected to like it. How could one not like the a country that eats perogies? But, cities like Gdansk completely stole my imagination and I’m already dying to go back and explore some of the other destinations in the country.
Portugal is one of the places I think I could probably live. It’s got a really nice climate for almost the entire year, friendly people, and a diverse multicultural population. It feels like everyone is welcome in Portugal. To top things off, it’s maybe the most photogenic country I’ve ever been. However, it was missing something to hold me, who knows what that could have been.
Guatemala has a bit of a strange hold on me. There’s nothing really about it that jumps out at me, but still it always lingers in my travel memories. Maybe it’s thanks to the time I slept on the top of one of the pyramids of Tikal, or any of the mornings in Anigua that I woke up before dawn to photography, but regardless, I’ve always had fond memories of Guatemala.
Though visited by the backpacker crowd, Bolivia is still very under-rated as a travel destination. Like Peru, Bolivia has a really wide range of things for people to see. For me, both Death Road mountain biking and visiting the Salt Flats in Uyuni rank among my favourite travel experiences of all-time.
Sure, I got robbed of all my camera gear the last time I was there, but I still love Ecuador. The Galapagos are a top 5 experience for me. Also, places like Tena, Banos, and Canoa are great destinations as well. I’ve been to Ecuador 6 times now, and I’d go back a 7th in a heartbeat. Ecuador may have fallen out of my 10 Ten thanks to South Africa, but it’s definitely still one of my favourite countries to travel to.
I really enjoyed my time in Jordan. There really is just so much wonder to that country. Places like Petra and Wadi Rum are both absolutely incredible. Toss in some other really cool attractions and places to see like the Dead Sea and the city of Aqaba and you’ve got a really nice travel destination well worth a couple weeks of your time. Moreover, the people in Jordan are so incredibly welcoming it really is a breath of fresh air. I can’t recommend Jordan enough.
I travelled Brazil from bottom to top and there wasn’t a single place I disliked. The Pantanal is one of the best wildlife viewing destinations on the planet, for starters. Of course you’ve got the carnival parties and the beaches. But you’ve also got the history of places like Salvador de Bahia and Belo Horizonte.
Note: A second visit to Brazil – and a month spent – jump Brazil up 4 spots.
Cuba was absolutely fantastic to me. My only regret with Cuba is that I didn’t get to see as much of the countryside as I would have liked to. I spent too much time in the cities. Luckily, I’ll get another chance when I visit again with my travel photography workshop to Cuba this December.
Note: A second visit to Cuba left me feeling like the charm is fading. It dropped from #8 to #19
21) Burkina Faso
In many ways, Burkina Faso surprised the hell out of me. When I travelled through Burkina, I found lots of great tourism activities and an infrastructure to handle it. The “country of honest men” was one of the easiest countries in all of Africa for me to travel through. Toss in some incredible mosques and history, and you’ve got yourself my 3rd favourite African country to travel.
China was extremely trying. But it was worth every second of the challenge. Over the two months I spent in China, I was firmly focused on finding the interesting natural landscapes that most foreign tourists don’t see. I wasn’t disappointed. From places like Zhangjiajie National Forest Park with it’s Avatar Mountains to Dunhuang and it’s singing sand dunes, there is just so much to see in this country. Of course, I think it’s one of those countries you can really only spend a couple months in before it starts to drive you crazy; but, before it does, it’s marvelous.
I’ve only just arrived in Montenegro, so it could rise or fall from this spot on the list. But, upon first impression I’m absolutely head over heels for this place. The landscapes are amazing, the food is great, and the people are friendly. This is definitely the type of place I could see myself living or at least making a base for a long time.
Oh Colombia. Nowhere on this planet have I felt more at home than in Colombia. As far as travel is concerned, Colombia has plenty to do and see. However, what makes Colombia special to me is the welcoming feeling you have throughout the country. This is the one country I long to return to the most, and I wonder if it will always be that way.
A new entry as of December 2013, Bosnia-Herzegovina is such an interesting country to travel for a travel journalist with a background in Politics and Conflict Resolution. Beyond the history, the place really is beautiful. Between the natural playground of Sutjeska National Park and the engaging urban center of Sarajevo, there is a lot to grasp your hungry travel hands to in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Moreover, it’s a value destination. Food, drink and attractions are all very reasonable here.
The thing I love about Belize is that even though it’s home to perfect waters and brilliant sands, there hasn’t been a massive invasion of resorts like just north in Mexico. Places like Caye Caulker are still “owned” by the backpackers, and hopefully it will stay that way. I still need to go back and skydive over the Blue Hole, that’s definitely on my bucket list.
I always knew I’d like Croatia, and I wasn’t let down when I finally got there. The obvious attractions are still incredible. Dubrovnik might be the most photogenic city on the planet. Other places like Split and Brac Island are also really cool. Of course, the famous Plitvice Lakes is worth a visit, but is also proof that tourism infrastructure still lags way behind in Croatia. I can only assume that tourism in Croatia will continue to grow over the next couple years.
Argentina was a tough country for me to place. I love the Argentine culture. I love mate, asado, and their crazy verison of Castellano. But at the same time, I felt like something has been missing from my Argentinean experience. Still, the diversity of Argentina with its winelands, waterfalls, glaciers, cities, and Tierra del Fuego makes it one of the most diverse destinations in the world, and that alone is hard to ignore.
Oh, what to make of Mali. Though I spent 3 months in Mali, yet it still holds so much mystery to me. The fact there was a war going on meant that I could really only visit the southern portion of the country. What I found there were friendly people, incredible landscapes, and sites like Djenne which are out of this world. I’d love to get back to Mali someday, and push it higher on this list.
I think that when I look back on Mongolia I’ll have really fond memories. Staying with nomadic families, horse riding in the valleys, watching people herd their horses, it was all a little bit surreal. However, travel in Mongolia isn’t exactly easy. The roads are rough, the tours are a bit difficult to organize as an independent traveller, and the weather is extreme. Moreover, there are really only a couple months where you can even realistically travel in the country. Still, this is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and even though the distances are massive arriving at the various sights is always impressive.
I fell pretty hard for Italy on my second trip to the country. Places like Florence and Cinque Terre are some of the best places in the world for photography. And, I mean, how did it take me until age 31 to see Venice? Italy really is a photographer’s dream destination.
Oh Chile, you are so strange. From the Atacama Desert to Patagonia, Chile is such a wild stretch of the earth. There are some incredible natural sights throughout Chile, and cities like Valparaiso and Santiago grow on you too. The people of Chile are fun and friendly, but boy is their style of clothing and hair dramatically strange.
Note: Chilean Patagonia is awesome. My recent trip there was special. We’re probably running a photography workshop there soon, so stay tuned.
Vietnam started on my list at the 16th spot, but the longer I travelled there, and the farther I travelled south, the less I enjoyed it. I would like to go back to Vietnam and maybe spend more time going off the beaten path. I really liked how “real” Vietnam felt in the north, but by the time we hit the south it felt overly commercialized and the locals became far more aggressive in their sales. That all being said, I really enjoyed my time in Vietnam and it was easily my favourite country in Southeast Asia.
It’s hard for me to put Estonia this high and justify it. Especially since I left some other European countries way down on the list because I hadn’t spend much time in them. But, I really loved Estonia, even though I only saw a very small part of it. It’s the type of country I could see myself using as a base.
Nicaragua changed my life. As a lost 20-year old, I found myself reading its history in a Lonely Planet guidebook as I travelled by bus from Costa Rica. I couldn’t believe the things that happened. I was so engaged by the history that for the next 5 years of my life I dove into the history and politics of Latin America. If there was no Nicaragua, I’d likely be off coaching basketball at some Canadian high school right now.
My taste of Scotland was short, but sweet. I absolutely loved Glasgow, and enjoyed Edinburgh as well. However, the fact that I really only had a week means Scotland is a little lower on the list of my favourite countries to travel. Someday I’ll visit its rural areas and give it a chance to move up on this list.
The frist time I went to Switzerland, I was just in Bern and Adelboden Lenk skiing, but I loved what I saw. Thus, it made sense to keep coming back. Since then, I’ve lived in Lucerne and explored other places like Gruyeres and parts of The Alps region. It’s an incredible beautiful country. The one thing that drives me crazy though is the costs. Getting to places like Matterhorn Mountains for a budget traveller like me is nearly impossible.
Wow did I ever like Greece! I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed my time in Greece. It definitely would be higher on this list, I think, if I have more time in the country. I did managed to see Meteora, and Athens, but I need to go back and see some of the islands too. Fun country, great travel destination.
Ghana was basically exactly what I expected it to be. There are loads of things to do in the country. There are castles, beaches, safaris, and some ancient empires to reflect on. At the same time though, Ghana has the potential to be better, and better to tourists. For that, it’s my #25 favourite country to travel.
In the next couple years, I’m going to return to the Caribbean and travel it some more. The only experiences I have in Jamaica are that of the luxury style. It means that though you get a taste of the local culture, you are mostly guarded from it. Any time I set foot in Jamaica I wanted to dive into the local vibes, but only had my appetite whet. With some crazy adventures like Rick’s cliff diving, Jamaica has the potential to be near the top of this list, I think, I just need a chance to explore it more independently.
It’s probably not really fair to have Botswana this high considering I was only in the country for 2 days. However, my trip to Chobe National Park was my first ever real Southern African safari and for that it will always hold a massive place in my memory bank. There’s a chance I’ll be returning in August, so it could move up… or down.
The thing I learned to love about Kyrgyzstan was the freedom. You might call America the land of the free, but there’s no freedom like Kyrgyz freedom. You can just explore endlessly, and there are so many perfect open spaces. I spent 3 weeks here hiking, exploring, and just loving life. It’s such a beautiful place.
43) Costa Rica
Costa Rica was the first place I ever backpacked. As a 20-year old I wandered into this country just before the tourism boom happened. If I would have written this list a couple years ago, Costa Rica would have likely landed in 1st. However, after returning to Costa Rica a couple years ago, I realized that it’s too tame for me now. Sure, there’s some amazing natural settings, but there’s also a lack of cultural resilience, and almost a fake “pura vida” game being played with tourists instead. I will always love Costa Rica, but just as a friend.
44) Hong Kong
For me, Hong Kong is a great city. But there’s more to it than just the downtown area of Kowloon and the Island. Hong Kong has far more nature than people give it credit for. I think, too, it’s one of those cities that people could spend months, if not years, exploring without getting bored. It’s a bit busy, but if you can get beyond that, you’ll love Hong Kong.
I’m not sure Singapore can get much higher on this list just because it’s such a small destination in terms of both size and things to do. However, the tiny country really lent itself well to me. I was a huge fan of the food, the diversity of the people, and the few sights that were available. It’s a bit of a mosaic of all of Asia twisted into one city-state. It was really cool to see.
For me, Morocco was once a place that was really frustrating, but then became one of my favourites. It’s a hard place to get used to, the people can be a bit pushy, and it’s crowded. But once you get past that, the core of the country is amazing, and there’s a lot of diversity to the adventures and sights in Morocco.
I really enjoyed my short time in Hungary. Budapest is very photogenic and I had fun taking photos there for sure. Moreover, it’s quite different from many other European cities. I didn’t get the chance to explore much of the countryside, however, and I would really love to get out into the rural parts of this place!
Note: I ended up living in Budapest for a month. I loved the city. But, I haven’t had the chance to explore much outside.
After spending fairly significant time in Ireland, I’ve come to really love the people and the landscapes. I was only really in Dublin and Howth the first time. The second time I went I explored places like Cork and Limerick as well. Next time I go, I’d really like to get out along the far west coast of the country and see the wild coastline in rural Ireland.
Romania was a pleasant surprise for me. Not only are there some amazing sights in the country, but the food and the people were amazing. It’s a place I want to go back and dig deeper. I saw a lot of Romania, and there was very little that I didn’t like. I’d love to see the rest of it.
50) The Czech Republic
I think that if I spent a bit more time in the Czech Republic it would either go up on the list or start to slide. I really only saw Prague and Kutna Hora, so I can’t value it too high. However, what I did see I really liked. Prague is beautiful and Kutna Hora was fantastic too, but how much more is there really to see? Again, I don’t have nearly enough evidence to put it much higher. But, I’ll tell you I’d love to explore more of the small towns of this country.
I really enjoyed Spain. I did. However, there was also something a little bit strange to my Spanish experience. I guess maybe it just wasn’t I expected it to be. Still, if you’re looking for vibrant cities, Spain is a great place to check in.
Note: I’ve now spent extensive time in Spain. I love it. It feels like my home in Europe now. Next time I properly update this list, it will move up.
Unlike many of the European countries on this list, I think Slovenia actually benefits from the fact I’ve spent limited time there. I only really spent a couple days in Slovenia, and they were so good that I can’t wait to go back and explore more. I only hope that returning doesn’t mean that this country sinks a bit on the list.
I’m having a really hard time placing Oman on this list. On one hand, I feel like it could be in the top 20. Then, I shuffle through everything in the 20-50 range and have a hard time putting Oman above them. For now, I’m going to leave it here. But, it was a really special country, and one that I had really fantastic experiences in. I guess, though, when you visit 100 countries, it gets a bit difficult to place certain ones.
England used to be way down on this list. In fact, I think at one point it was in the bottom 5. However, my opinion on England has changed over the years. I used to focus way too much on the cities. And, I found them nearly as grey and drab as the weather. However, as I’ve pushed on to find the beautiful landscapes of The Lake District, Cornwall, Devon, and Dorset, I’ve learned to really love England. In fact, it should probably be higher on the list. And it may rise as I explore more.
I expected to love London and I didn’t. I expected to hate Paris, and I didn’t. Paris for me was such a brilliant experience. An off the beaten path traveller like myself usually hates these places, but Paris is one of my favourite cities in the world. Moreover, the French Riviera is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, although it’s very expensive.
After a pretty awesome road trip in Turkey, I moved this country up on my list. I liked it my first visit, but couldn’t justify having it so high on the list when I really had only seen Istanbul. Having now seen much of the country, I can safely say it’s one of my favourites in the world.
Note: Again, I need to shuffle the list to move it up.
I’ll be honest in telling you that I was completely wrong about Cambodia. I thought I would really dislike the country. I figure on crowds in places like Angkor Wat, and I was right, but it didn’t detract from it nearly as much as I thought it would. I was also pleasantly surprised by Phnom Penh which I really enjoyed. I’d go back to Cambodia, although I’m not exactly jumping at it either.
Zambia was my reward at the end of my scooter journey, and has a special place in my heart alone. I really enjoyed the Livingstone area and had a great time basing myself there for nearly a month. I’d love to get back to Zambia and explore more of the eastern portion of the country as well.
Update: I moved Zambia down from #32 to #58 after a return visit. I found the tourism industry getting extremely greedy, the bureaucracy growing, the scammers growing, and even ran into some cops trying to scam me into paying them a bribe (they hid a traffic speed change sign in their trunk). This is still a beautiful country with lots to offer, but I had a different feeling than the first time, for sure.
Austria won me over when I was doing my trip with Viking River Cruises. It wasn’t Saltzburd that got me either, in fact, I thought it was a bit over-rated. It was the countryside and the small towns and vilalges. That’s what got me.
I feel like Monaco is one of those places you need money to really enjoy. Its setting is beautiful and there are some incredible sights, but I just want to sit at a poker table wearing a tux and a monocle. Until that happens, Monaco will remain in the bottom half of my favourite countries in the world to travel.
Venezuela is frustrating. On one hand, it has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the entire world, and some incredible sights. On the other hand, it can be quite dangerous for a foreigner. Kidnappings and armed robberies are a common place. Moreover, with all the protectionist laws, especially when it comes to currency, it can be a hard place for a foreigner to be. I hope Venezuela changes the way Colombia has; I’d love to go back.
It’s no slight on Wales to be this far down the list of my favourite countries to travel to, I did like Wales. The truth is, though, there really isn’t much for me there. I loved the castles, I liked the coast line, and the people were happier than the English, or at least acted like they were.
**Note: I’ve since made a second visit to Wales, and it should be higher. I’ll adjust it at some point.
I don’t know how I feel about Finland. And, I’m putting it here on the list to show my confusion with it. On one hand, I love the mentality of Finland. It’s free. It’s open. People have the right to roam, camp, explore, and just be. But on the other hand, I’m not sure that I love the sights I’ve seen. There lots of forest, lots of mosquitoes (in the summer at least), and it almost can feel like a giant swamp. But, there’s something endearing to it. And, I can’t put my finger on it, but I do need to get back.
64) Cote d’Ivoire
A really great country really, and the people might have the best sense of humour I’ve ever encountered. Seeing the stilt dancers was one of the top travel experiences of my life. Still, I feel like Cote d’Ivoire could offer much more than it’s giving. It’s like a son not living up to his potential. Then again, they’re still quite fresh off of war.
Let’s be fair to India. I’ve only spent time in Goa. And, to be quite honest, while the people in Goa were great, I wasn’t blown away by anything. And, I think that has a lot to do with the expectations I had. I didn’t really get the culture or chaos I was hoping for. Still, it was nice enough. I do, however, need to spend more time in the country, in particular in the north. I think when I do so I’ll get a much better gauge on the country as a whole.
Panama is a country that would have featured lower on my list had I not re-visited it. However, I love what Panama City has become. Sure, it’s more modern and dare I say “American”, but it’s also full of music and light. My recent trip across the Darien Gap too put Panama up on the list.
How frustrating is Guinea? It is naturally one of the most beautiful countries in all of Africa. It has some of the most welcoming and friendly people in the world. But yet the government, the military and the police make it a tough place for tourists. Truth is, you’re not even allowed to take photos in the country without permission. I only dream things improve in Guinea, for the sake of its beautiful people.
The tiny country of Swaziland suffers from the fact that it lies in the shadow of major tourism giants South Africa and Mozambique. However, this country packs a whole lot of punch for a place you can drive across in a couple of hours. There are plenty of good natural parks in the country, some beautiful mountains, decent infrastructure and the people are incredibly friendly. If you’re in the region, be sure to drop in on Swaziland for a couple days.
It’s overrun. Let’s just get that point out of the way. I thought it would be the partypackers and first time travellers that annoy me in Thailand the most. However, I was also incredibly surprised how aggressive many of the people were in Thailand. People talk about Thai hospitality, but I got far more in Vietnam than Thailand; hell, I got more in Haiti. I can see, however, why expats and budget travellers are drawn here: it’s cheap, it’s easy to navigate, and there are lots of other travellers to mingle with. It’s not for me, though.
To be honest, I wasn’t a fan of Indonesia at all. Bali has lots of really interesting sights, but most of them are completely overrun, and the beaches are covered in trash. On Java island, anyone in the travel industry seems to be a scammer, and rip-offs of tourist aren’t just the norm, but expected. Moreover, there is a massive trash problem everywhere in the country. Indonesia has massive potential, and it’s ranking is based almost entirely on that, but I see this country doing nothing but fading as a destination as word of it’s misgivings starts to leak out.
After visiting Mexico again this year, I probably would have given the country a bit of a bump on the list. But, I’ve revisited so many countries, and added so many new ones to this list since then, that I think it’s spot is still pretty much the same. Mexico is awesome. And while most people know of Cancun and Playa del Carmen, the true beauty is in places like Oaxaca and Chiapas. I’d love to spend more time in Mexico. It really is fantastic.
72) Northern Ireland
I can’t in good conscious put Northern Ireland higher on this list. Though I liked Belfast, and am intoxicated by the history, I just didn’t get enough of it to formulate a true opinion. I’ll come back later and update you.
I Liked Slovakia, I really did. The people were friendly, the prices were good and there was a little bit of a real ruggedness to things. However, I’m not sure there’s really that much to do or see in Slovakia. I really enjoyed Bratislava, but beyond that is there a tourism draw? I guess I’ll have to explore further to find out.
Nowhere in Africa did I get as warm a welcome as in Congo. When people would see me driving through, they would wave with one hand and then the second, as if the first alone wasn’t enough. Still with so little for tourists to do in Congo, though, it’s place on this list is limited.
As far as experience goes, Haiti was one of the best of my life. However, don’t think I’m going to plan another holiday in Haiti. It’s a frustrating country. It’s essentially occupied by NGOs and the UN claiming to be helping, but doing little to improve the situation on the ground. It’s a painful country to be in for too long.
76) The Gambia
I have to believe that tourism in The Gambia will jump soon. There are lots of easy opportunities for tourists here including beaches and wildlife. The beauty too is that all are within an hour or so drive. However, I was annoyed by Gambia. I was hassled constantly by hustlers and people trying to sell things. There are bumsters everywhere as well, and they certainly don’t make the experience any more pleasant; well, that is unless you’re a desperately lonely 65-year old Dutch woman that is.
Guyana is another one of the countries that will fall into the category of “nice, but lacking.” It has all the potential to be a tourism destination, and no will or organization to get it there. Between Kaiteur Falls and the North Rupununi, Guyana should be drawing much higher tourism numbers.
I laugh almost every time the word Cameroon comes spilling out of my mouth. I loved the country, but man did it ever get the best of me. Between crashing my scooter, scaling a massive mountain, and dealing with visas in Yaoundé, I nearly curled up under a rock and slept until it went away. Still, the people are beautiful and the sights are very worthy. If it wasn’t so hard on me, it’d likely be up in the top 15.
Uruguay was hard for me to place on this list. I like its character and I like the people as well. But I was there for a couple weeks and felt like I had seen enough and was ready to move on. I wasn’t really inspired to dig deeper. It does, however, have the best meat in South America. Yeah, I said it Argentina.
I can’t say anything bad about Benin, it was cool. I met rastas on the coast, voodoo priests on the interior, and businessmen in the capital. I explored the Dahomey Empire and was blown away by it. But, having only spent a week in the country means it only left a tiny scratch on my travelling feet. I’d like to go back, and visit the National Parks in the north. So there’s hope for Benin to climb yet.
Latvia kind of surprised me. And, like so many of these European countries on my list, I didn’t get to see that much of it. I really only spent time in Riga. Still, it was better than I expected, though I wasn’t blown away by the variety of things to do and see, I really enjoyed the country.
It’s no coincidence that Lithuania sits just under Latvia on this list. I could really copy and paste my sentiments from Latvia to this paragraph. I was pleasantly surprised by Lithuania, but didn’t really have the chance to see enough of the country to justify putting it higher on this list.
Hmmm, Honduras. It’s like the country stuck in the middle. Guatemala to the north and both Costa Rica and Nicaragua to the south have thriving tourism markets, but Honduras is still slow. Aside from Copan and the Caribbean islands, there’s not a lot of draw to Honduras at the moment. A lot of it, of course, has to do with the safety issue. Honduras has some of the most violent cities in the world. People just don’t feel very safe in Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula, and for good reason.
Senegal and I have a love hate relationship. I loved the coast around Saint-Louis. I also loved Ile de Goree. What I didn’t love was the aggressive nature of sales people in Dakar and Ziguinchor. I couldn’t walk 5 feet without being hassled by people who didn’t understand the word no. Senegal was cool, but tense.
Of all the “unfair” placements I’ve made on this list, this is probably the most unfair. I was in Albania, but I wasn’t really. I spent my whole time in the country incredibly sick, so I saw almost none of it. Still, the people I met in the country were some of the nicest I’ve met anywhere in the world, and I’m really hoping to go back and explore a bit more.
I’ve now seen a fair bit of Germany, and I do like it. I wouldn’t say it’s a favourite or anything, but I enjoy my time there. It would be a cool place to live, but I’m less blown away by it as a place to travel.
Note: I’m currently in the South of Germany. Might need to push Germany up this list about 20 spots.
87) The Netherlands
This ranking is no ill-will against the Netherlands in general, but more a shot at myself and a bit of bad luck. When I was in Holland I just visited the touristy city of Amsterdam, and it rained the whole time I was there. It was miserable, and with the crowds it didn’t help at all. That being said, like much of Europe, I really want to get off and explore a bit more of the rural parts of the Netherlands. If I ever get the chance, I think the homeland of my Ancestors will rise on this list.
Note: I’ll be in The Netherlands in May 2017. It’s due to go up on this list.
88) Grand Cayman
Like any Caribbean Island I spent time at, I visited Grand Cayman in luxury. As such, I didn’t get to taste the real Caribbean flavour. I want to go back to the Caribbean and really immerse myself in the culture to see what it’s really like. For now, Grand Cayman finds itself near the bottom of the pile.
Stress is the name of the game in Nigeria. If there were more consistent electricity in the country I’d say Nigeria ran on stress, but they’ve got enough stress to power the world if they could harness it for electrical current. Crazy drivers, frantic sales people, and a go-go-go attitude defines Nigeria. Still, the people in Nigeria were amazing to me and I did enjoy my time there. I did, however, breathe a massive sigh of relief when I finally left.
Suriname might be one of the most culturally diverse places in the world per square km. Everything from Dutch to Portuguese to African languages are spoken here. It’s incredible. However, there’s little for tourists to do or see.
Bulgaria is actually a country I had really high hopes for. And, I wouldn’t say it let me down, but maybe I had completely unrealistic expectations after hearing so many great things and coming right from Romania which was amazing. I didn’t dislike Bulgaria, and maybe I just didn’t see enough of it, but it definitely didn’t wow me.
It’s funny. Paraguay was exactly what I needed it to be when I went: an escape. I got away from all the tourist crowds I’d been following around South America, got to Paraguay and was alone. The funny thing, however, is that one you get there you realize why there’s no tourists, there’s nothing for them to do. I enjoyed my time wasting days away drinking beers with locals by the side of the road in towns like Concepcion and Asunción, but I can’t really think of a reason to return. Oh, except for the girls, God were they beautiful in Paraguay.
I have no ill-will for Liberia, it was ok to me. However, it’s not exactly a tourism destination. Unless they every get Sapo National Park cleaned up, I see no reason to go back. Liberia is certainly not among one of the best countries to travel to.
Guinea-Bissau kicked my ass. I crashed a pedal bike and then got a nasty bit of malaria. All in a week’s work as a travel journalist, I suppose. That being said, I’d like to go back with some more money and get out and see the surfing hippos.
OK, I’ve only spent time in Dubai. And, I’ve heard good things about some of the other UAEs. But, this isn’t a list of the good things I’ve heard, just about my favourite places to travel. And, to be honest, I didn’t really understand what all the fuss about Dubai is about. Yeah, there’s some tall buildings. But, it’s a sprawling concrete pile of construction in the middle of the desert. I’m not sure I got the appeal.
Moreover, there wasn’t even a hint of real middle-eastern culture in the city. In fact, I think the whole time I was there I might have only had 1 or 2 encounters with actual locals. The city seems to have been built by the hands of Filipinos, and Indians; and you’ll see and meet far more of those people than locals as a visitor. I don’t get it. Compared to middle eastern countries I loved like Oman and Jordan, the UAE just doesn’t do it for me thus far. That said, I will make a point to go back and give more of it a shot.
Why is Togo so low on the list? See above. I got malaria for my second time in Togo. The only real thing I did in Togo was lay in bed trying to get over the mosquito carried virus. I wish I had energy to party at the beach bars, but I was in bed in a pool of sweat instead. It’s my #57 favourite country to travel, and I spent the entire time in a pool of sweat with malaria. That says more about the countries below it on the list than it does about Togo, doesn’t it.
The only reason that Gabon isn’t at the very bottom of this list is because I loved driving on their twisting, turning, empty roads. The people ruined it for me. For the most part, they were arrogant, apathetic and unwilling to lend a hand. They seemed to look down on me. Gabon has more potential than any country in Central Africa to draw tourists, but it doesn’t care. If you’re going to get treated the way I did in Gabon, I’d just say skip it.
Egypt pretty much falls under the same lines as Morocco. Aggressive people who don’t try to sell, they try to scam. There are so many amazing sights in Egypt, but they are all either clouded by the smog of Cairo or the pushy vendors. You have to get well off the tourist trail, or protected by a legion of guards to get the most out of Egypt.
99) El Salvador
I honestly don’t remember much of El Salvador except for the food, which was my favourite in Central America, and the garbage. Throughout the countryside, there was garbage everywhere. In San Salvador, the median was built with garbage. The people too weren’t the most welcoming. Still, it’s been nearly 10 years since I was there and I’ve heard lots of nice things recently, so maybe I need to go back.
100) DR Congo
How the DRC is not at the bottom of the list says a lot about French Guinana. I was basically abused at every turn in Kinshasa. I hated it there. I felt threatened there. I was paranoid there. Earlier though, I felt very lucky to have the helping hand of a lady in Bas-Congo save me from my third stint with malaria, and I actually kind of liked Lubumbashi. I’d go back to Lubumbashi, but you’d have to pay me handsomely to go back to Kinshasa.
101) French Guiana
Ugh, what can I say? French Guiana is not meant for travellers. Little to no public transportation, over-price everything, and under French control? Disaster. I didn’t hate French Guiana, and I liked the people, food, and music. But I would’t go back, not the way it is anyways.