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World's Happiest Countries

26 March 2018

Happiness seems like it's in short supply sometimes, which is why this week's annual announcement of the World Happiness Report may seem like a nice reminder that there are plenty of wonderful places all across the globe. (We do think the UK needs to pull its socks up a little though, having only placed 19th this year.) So even if you don't live in any of the countries that feature in the top five, we've complied this list so that you can siphon off some of the happiness these destinations evoke, living vicariously through their joy - or perhaps it might inspire you to make your own emotional pilgrimage.

1 - The Nordic nations of Finland (1), Norway (2), Denmark (3), Iceland (4)
This may seem like cheating, or even sacrilege to some, lumping Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland together when each are very much individual with their own cultures, history and traditions. We could spend an entire blog post singing the praises of even just one of these countries, but it somehow doesn't seem fair to the other entrants. These Nordic nations are regulars in the top five, though there has been a bit of a switch around this year with Finland stealing the crown from next door but one neighbour, Norway.

Now, outside of travel circles Finland is a bit of enigma and perhaps some of the only things people know about it are its avant-garde capital, Helsinki, and for being the birthplace of the ever esoteric Moomins. But the Finns are as happy as proverbial Larry mainly because they consider themselves a nation of equals. Like many countries in Scandinavia they lead the way in healthcare, social housing and mobility as well as childcare and schools; factor in some absolutely incredible nature and wildlife as well as scenery that will literally take your breath away (not just in winter) and it won't be long until tourists begin to visit in much larger numbers. And it's not just geography and levels of cheerfulness that link all these destinations together, it's definitely a coincidence (though we'd love to believe otherwise) that they are all wonderful locations for spotting the Northern Lights. Though who knows, maybe such celestial magic has managed to give this part of the world some much needed perspective about what's truly important in life.

2 - Switzerland (5)
Land of Zurich bank accounts, heavenly chocolate and marvellous Alpine vistas, it's little wonder that residents of Switzerland are feeling pretty jolly. And, not that we're at all biased, they also boast some of the most famous train journeys ever created. On top of that, the Swiss still don't have to deal with the frustrations of an inefficient commuter rail system. Switzerland is where you can travel to the very top of Europe by rail or even catch the world's slowest express train, to name just a couple of the most popular experiences on offer here. Perfect powder in winter for snowboarders and skiers as well as flower-strewn meadows for hikers in the summer have also helped make it a must-visit destination for travellers.

3 - The Netherlands (6)
Staying in Europe, the Kingdom of the Netherlands holds much appeal for natives and visitors alike. Its vibrant capital, Amsterdam offers but a mere taste of all the things there are to love about this destination. From its dedication to green energy and progressive lifestyles (which along with its fantastic light have long made it an irresistible draw for artists of all persuasions), to its spectacular spring flower shows, where Tulips are of course the main attraction, as well as timeless windmills and waterways, The Netherlands has happened on an (almost) winning formula.

4 - Canada (7)
Often described as one of the last true wildernesses, Canada as a destination is certainly having its day in the sun. Its cities are diverse and at the very cutting edge of urban chic while its vast rural landscapes allow for sightings of wild roaming animals such as bears and moose, and its waters play host to a plethora of majestic marine life. If that weren't enough to whet your appetite then the Rocky Mountains resemble the playground of the gods, with rapturous peaks and valleys seemingly scattered as though abandoned by a careless toddler millennia ago. And it's not just the country that's chart-topping, Vancouver without fail makes it onto the 'best global cities to live in' year after year, and with its laidback downtown area, lush public parks and fabulous shopping experiences - it makes a great base to begin your Canadian adventure.

5 - New Zealand and Australia (8 and 10)
Any New Zealanders or Australians reading this, I apologise for forcing you to share a paragraph in this countdown. It may be that the residents of these two countries have a certain level of rivalry when it comes to their native lands, but the destinations themselves bear no such animosity. The highest entries from the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand just trumps Australia but we think they're both wonderful. From the ethereal red sands of Australia's outback and the hidden delights of the Great Barrier Reef, to the fjord-like 'sounds' of New Zealand and the cinematic backdrops that inspired many who watched the Lord of the Rings films to make a trip to the other side of the world, the joys of both these locations are the sense of surprise they induce to those who set out on an epic journey to their distant shores.