“What was your favourite country?” – a question I am asked quite often after having travelled to over 100 countries. While many travelers consider this a rather annoying question, I don’t really have a problem with it. But still, it is very hard to find an answer to it. In this article, I have compiled a list of my top countries by category. What is the most adventurous place? Where to find the picture perfect paradise?
How does one compare a weekend in Tokyo with a week in the Pacific paradise of the Cook Islands or a winter day in Uzbekistan? It’s just not possible. Every country is so different from each other that it’s not possible to compare the entire experience in order to find a “best”. I’ve compiled a list of 10 countries that are each the best in a specific category.
Category 1 – Picture Perfect Paradise
The Cook Islands
The Cook Islands are a group of small islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. And they are a place of absolute natural perfection. Every corner on the islands looks like a perfect shot from a travel magazine. I spent one week on the wonderful main island Rarotonga.
Category 2 – Adventure
The word desert sound so boring. It sounds like a lot of sand and never changing landscapes. But the Namib Desert is much more than that. Sure, there are sand dunes but large areas of the Namib Desert are incredibly beautiful, diverse landscapes. In order to see the beauty of the country, you have to drive for hours over unpaved roads though uninhabited terrain. Absolutely adventurous and yet one of Africas safest countries!
Read my articles about everything you need to know about traveling to Sossusvlei and our adventurous and stupid drive over the gravel roads of Namibia on a 2WD to better understand what makes Namibia so unique and incredible.
Category 3 – Authenticity
Walking through the old town of Khiva and Bukhara will transport you back into the golden ages when the silk road brought wealth and international traders to this area. Every now and then, when you see a tourist among the carpet stalls, you will be reminded that you are living in a different time now. On the upside – you don’t have to ride a camel through the desert for weeks in order to get here.
I am a big fan of the Central Asian and Middle East region. Another one of my favorite countries is Iran. I especially love the friendly Persian culture.
Category 4 – The Good Life
Tapas, Siesta and Fiesta. Not many people know how to live the good life as well as the Spanish do. When I think of Spain, I see myself somewhere out in the countryside, eating tapas and drinking a good glass of wine. What more do you need?
Check out our insider guides for Seville, Barcelona and Bilbao to find out more why Spain is so amazing.
Category 5 – Beach Life
When I think of beautiful beaches, Brazil wouldn’t be the first country that comes to my mind. But a day spent at a beach in Brazil is way different that on any other beach. There will be music and you will certainly be holding a Caipirinha in your hands while you see some soccer players in the background perform incedible tricks.
Category 6 – Off the Beaten Track
I got my visa for Bangladesh back in 2012 at the consulate in Kolkata, India. At the time, there was a huge, timeworn sign inside the waiting room that read the words “Come to Bangladesh before all the tourists come”. Well, I certainly did. In the ten days I’ve spent in the South of Bangladesh, I only met one other traveller. Bangladesh is one of the least visited and at the same time most densely populated countries on Earth. An absolute must for everyone that wants to experience something totally different and with no tourism infrastructure at all.
During my visit to Bangladesh, I got to pet a wild crocodile – absolutely crazy.
Category 7 – Value for Money
This one may be a little cliché – Thailand as the cheap travel destination. There are certainly cheaper places than Thailand but in the category value for money, there is little that beats this incredible buddhist country in Southeast Asia. The only question you will be asking yourself in Thailand is “what do I want to do” rather than “what can I afford to do”. The tourism infrastructure is well established so you can just lean back and enjoy the affordable and delicious Thai food and the numerous activities in the South and the North of the countries. Check out Untoldwanderlust’s helpful guide if you want to know more about the sights and the cost of travelling in Thailand.
If you find yourself in Bangkok, read our full guide on the best day trips from Bangkok.
Category 8 – Culture
One of the most modern countries on earth while at the same time it is still deeply rooted in ancient traditions. A beautiful contrast that shows itself in the unique cuisine, the architecture and many other areas of life. Japan is much more than sushi and weird writings. There is just something about it that makes every traveller wish to return there one day. Read more here if you are looking for a perfect Japan travel itinerary.
Are you planning a trip to Tokyo? We created a personalized tool that helps you narrow down in which area of Tokyo you should stay. Check it out here.
Category 9 – Experience
I have been to Ethiopia several times but my trip to the Danakil Depression in the Northeast of the country was one of my most memorable travel experiences. I got to look down the boiling crater of Erta Ale volcano, walk over the sulphur fields of Dallol and experience the heat under the midday sun in the hottest inhabited place on Earth.
Read more: Guide to Travelling to the Danakil Depression in Northern Ethiopia – The Hottest Place on Earth
Category 10 – Diversity
Israel / Palestine
When I think of my most memorable travel experiences, a Friday afternoon in the old town of Jerusalem immediately comes to my mind. While the weekend is already in full swing at the Muslim part of town, Jews are getting ready for their prayers at the Western Wall at sunset. Seeing the orthodox Jews rush down the narrow alleys of the old town is just an incredible experience. While I was in Tel Aviv, most people told me not to go to Jerusalem on a Friday and Saturday due to the limitations in transport and food options – the experience is well worth the extra hassle. Check out our five day Israel itinerary if you want to learn more about the sights of Israel.
These are my Top 10 countries by various categories. Have you been to any of them? Do you agree with my list or do you think there should be different countries on that list? Admittedly, every person prefers different things when traveling and every list of the best countries may be different. Let me know in the comment section. Or if you like the list, why not follow me or share my content on Facebook, Twitter or Instragram? Just click on the share buttons below this article.
You should also check out my top 10 travel photos of 2017.
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10 thoughts on “Most amazing countries by category”
Love this post. Thanks for sharing your faviourites. There are some off the beaten track places on here, which I’m always inspired to visit .
Wonderful post. Personally, after Visiting all seven continents, felt Antartica visit is the topmost. Artic, machu pichu(Peru),Masai Mara (Kenya), Estonia, Tazikistan, Maldivian islands, niconoshima island(Japan), and blue lagoon(Iceland) are my top TEN. My worst experience was in Bangladesh.
*Frequent travelers from countries like India face tough time in obtaining visas. Hope people with US, Canada or Japan visas get to travel everywhere without visa hassles.
Yes, I absolutely believe you, when you vote Antarctica as one of your favourites. Unfortunately, I haven’t made it there yet… but one day I definitely will.
Solid choices, and solid writing too. I’ve only been to ~half as many countries as you (56) but have made it to 9/10 of the ones listed, the exception being the Cook Islands, so I’ll throw in my 2 cents. I get why you made separate categories, that’s reasonable. I’m one of those travelers who *does* get slightly annoyed when people keep pushing me for a response to “best country”, and I’l actually even say “for what?” but 1 country for 10 very different categories is stretching it.
As I’ve said you’ve been to over 100 countries and I’m only on my 50 something and I’d still have a hard time chopping it down so far. Just give a couple quick examples. Bangladesh from Laos in the in the “off the beaten track” category. In Authenticity: is there really anywhere on earth more “authentic” than Bhutan? Frankly a little bit surprised that one wasn’t mentioned. I’m not saying Uzbekistan is a poor choice, I’ve been there and you’re right, it is very authentic…just hard to pick one, I could name another 5 I’d choose first.
And finally “value for money” is the one I’d have to actually fully on disagree with you on. I was a tourist in Thailand 12 years ago and then lived in Bangkok for 2 years recently, 2014-2016. It was great value for the money 10 years ago, but it’s really not anymore. The prices in Bangkok have skyrocketed, the islands that used to have $2 a night bungalows on the beach have been demolished and replaced by $200+ dollar a night chain hotels and the beaches made private (more importantly the culture is completely gone, basically every southern island may as well be like Phuket a decade ago) and just about the only thing remaining is the street food is cheap and delicious and Isaan is still cheap…but I doubt many will go there. The beaches in neighboring Cambodia (not Sihanoukville, which has also been burned to the ground and rebuild into casinos and overpriced hotels, but the beaches outside it) are much “better value”.
Anyway all that it’s a good list, I like the article. I’ll throw in a few favorites of my own in no particular order:
Uganda, Nicaragua, Laos, Nepal, Italy, America, (stone me if you want, it’s one of the best tourist destinations on earth) Chile, and Hungary.
Thanks for your comment. I do have the same issue as you do with picking one “best country”. But I do feel a special attachment to some of them – the ones listed above and some others as well. So when people ask me why I think these countries are special I came up with the “categories”. So I didn’t think of categories and then fit 10 countries into it but I thought about 10 countries that are special to me and then thought about what makes them special for me.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been to Bhutan yet but I guess it would be a great fit for the authenticity category. I may just have to rewrite the list some day. But positive experiences are always the gap between expectation and perceived reality. And since I didn’t have such high expectations towards my trip to Uzbekistan I was absolutely amazed by what I experienced there in terms of sights and culture. That’s also what makes these “best countries” lists so subjective. Someone may get sick in an amazing country and not feel like it’s special at all.
About value for money: I have lived in Bangkok for 6 months 6 years ago and yes, things have changed a lot. It’s definitely not the cheapest country there is. But my intention with the category “value for money” wasn’t to find the cheapest country but more in a mainstream sense a place where you can find a good tourism infrastructure for a reasonable price. It’s definitely not as authentic and cheap as neighboring countries but you can get a “luxury holiday” for a good price. I also prefer places off the eaten track that lack any Western comforts but Thailand is a good place for people who don’t want to miss out on that but still don’t want to pay prices like in the Caribbean or Southern Europe.
Thanks again for the amazing comment – it’s good to get some insights from other travelers. And I wouldn’t stone you for putting the U.S. on the list as the nature there has good so much to offer. Unfortunately, I haven’t really had the time so far to properly explore it.
Thank you for the thoughtful reply. I think once you visit Bhutan you’ll agree with me, but then the main reason it’s so authentic is they make it so expensive and prohibitive to visit, so the people aren’t
“contaminated”. “Gross National Happiness” is a term I’d never heard before visiting Bhutan.
I wrote some long stuff about Thailand but it’s pointless, you’ve lived in Bangkok so you get it. I’d just recommend you fly into BKK and then either head to Myanmar or Laos or Cambodia (if you want beaches). Beer Lao is easily the best SE asian beer, Otres Beach(es) in Cambodia are much better and less crowded than even the “undiscovered” beaches in Thailand, and should you want culture on the cheap check on Bagan in Myanmar.
Again, no hate on the list (though if you haven’t spent a month plus in the USA, China, or India I’d say you can’t say much because they’re so huge) because I like it.
I posted on another thread and you were kind enough to respond to it but I won’t so as to not waste your time. If I may offer one cliche piece of advice from traveler to traveler: I have no idea how old you are but you’re racking up those stamps pretty quickly. I just turned 30 and have spent most of my life studying and working and I’m still at half your mark. Part of me is jealous but honestly most of me is impressed but also glad because I didn’t spend even MORE time abroad (have you ever felt this way?) now that I’m on the other side of the world from my home.Anyway really cool site and I hope you hit every one of those 197 countries!
This post literally has me wanting to book a flight asap. I have seen so little of the world and there is so much beauty out there. Maybe Cook Islands should be next for me as they’re not that far from Australia
Wow, you’ve been to so many incredible places, the Cook Islands look stunning and are definitely on my travel list for the next few years. A friend of mine from work is obsessed with Uzbekistan and he says he’s never travelled anywhere that he’s found as inspiring and authentic as there – I’d never even heard of it before but he’s honestly changed my mind. I also love the sound of Ethiopia, it’s great to read a post with a few more lesser-known spots! Another fantastic in-depth post! Shan xoxo
I love the Japanese culture. It’s so rich in vibrant history and the Japanese people are some of the quirkiest people. I can’t wait to come back to Japan.
Oh, no. Sad to say I’ve only been to two of these places. I need to get back to traveling. I’ve always wanted to see as many countries as possible, but you may have pushed a few places up my list in order of priority.