Travel is something that can get us excited, put a smile on our faces and live life to the fullest and, according to a study, there are some destinations that are more satisfied than others.
The World Happiness Report is an annual publication compiled by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, containing rankings of national happiness and analysis of its findings. So, here’s a look at the cream of the happiness crop, and what you can get up in these over-the-moon nations.
Switzerland is the first nation mentioned in this article, but the fifth happiest nation according to the UN, and why wouldn’t they be, with such a beautiful country to celebrate? If you love skiing then there’s plenty of powder white snow in the Swiss Alps to enjoy, while one of the country’s lakes such as Lake Geneva, Lake Lucerne and Lake Zurich are perfect for a relaxing, scenic getaway.
If you want to sample a slice of city life then look no further than Basel with its stunning Old Town, paper mill and river-powered longboats giving you a fun way the Rhine, or maybe check out Zurich which is home to beautiful architecture, the FIFA World Football Museum and fantastic viewpoints which are reachable by funicular and cable car.
Iceland’s natural wonders draw visitors from all over the world, but the country’s most popular destination is Reykjavik – its capital, and the biggest of only two cities. While it does have fantastic attractions such as Lutheran church Hallgrimskirkja and Videy Island, which features hiking trails and outdoor art installations, Reykjavik is a gateway to hundreds of day trips.
One of its most popular natural attractions is the Golden Circle – a sightseeing route laden with natural beauty and attractions. While a lot of the tours follow different routes, most of them will visit the main sights including Geysir, with its exploding hot springs, the awe-inspiring Gullfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which straddles the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Denmark is not only one of the cheeriest nations on Earth, but it is also home to the Happiness Research Institute and hygge – a concept of cosiness and comfortable living, with feelings of wellness and contentment.
Its main tourist destination is Copenhagen, a fairytale city embodied by its rich royal past and famous Little Mermaid statue. Here you can get your thrills at the city’s theme park Tivoli Gardens, enjoy lunch at one of Copenhagen’s favourite waterside spots, Nyhavn, or visit the commune of Freetown Christiania. If you’re looking for something away from the big city, head to Billund, home to the headquarters of toy manufacturer LEGO and the world’s first LEGOLAND Resort or try Denmark’s second city, Aarhus, which has a fantastic culinary scene and a wealth of fantastic museums and art galleries including the rainbow-coloured ARoS Museum.
Norway has also adopted hygge, but they have plenty of their own things to offer, whether you’re a fan of city breaks or natural beauty. Capital city Oslo is where you’ll be able to see sights such as Oslo Opera House, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and two versions of Edvard Munch’s The Scream at the Norwegian National Gallery as well as the Munch Museum.
If you head north of Oslo and up the west coast, you’ll quickly become acquainted with the country’s jaw-dropping scenery. The Norwegian west coast is a popular cruising and road trip route, with places such as the incredible Geirangerfjord, which has incredible hiking trails and views, and Norangsdalen Valley, which has awe-inspiring nature and frontier-like landscapes.
The title of ‘World’s Happiest Country’ goes to another Nordic nation in Finland. Finland is a favourite for families looking for a festive getaway, with Rovaniemi and Santa Claus Village in Lapland popular spots over the Christmas period. Here, your kids will be able to meet Santa Claus, while you’ll be able to take advantage of amazing winter activities including tobogganing, snow hockey, dog sledge riding and plenty of opportunities to see the night’s sky come to life with the Northern Lights.
Down south there’s the country’s largest city, and capital, Helsinki, with its low-lying buildings and coastal charm. Take a day trip to the island fortress of Suomenlinna and learn about Helsinki’s military and maritime past, take a tour of the Olympic Stadium which hosted the 1952 summer games or visit Temppeliaukio, a church built into solid rock.