What’s the most beautiful country in the world? A contentious topic that’s guaranteed to provoke thought and possibly heated debate. Read on to discover the most beautiful countries in the world, as voted by you.
If you feel inspired to start planning your own travels as we count down through the top 20, you'll find more food for thought in our overview of the best places on earth, all 100 of which are featured in this photo-packed gift book.
A stirring blend of ancient and modern, Japan kicks off our countdown. High-speed trains make it easy to see a wide variety of sights during your visit - from historic Shinto temples and the serenity of Mount Fuji, to the neon-lit cities of Tokyo and Osaka, to its stunning islands. Indeed, many of you highlighted your love of Japan’s “diversity of scenery”.
To start planning your own trip to Japan, check out Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips – all 100% customisable to suit your travel tastes.
Slovenia certainly sparked your soul big style. “It has everything – mountains, lakes, plains, caves, cities, and culture”. One of you summed up Slovenia’s unique blend of culture and cuisine as feeing like a “mini Europe”.
Another gushed: “No other country compares. It's a box of jewels”. And that certainly rings true when you consider Slovenia’s “spectacular scenery”. This is land of fairy tale forests and gorgeous Slovenian lakes, alluring Adriatic coastline, and charming historic cities. With so many unmissable attractions, Slovenia is a once-visited, must-return kind of destination.
Top tip: Take a food tour of capital Ljubljana to soak up the city’s historic sights while scoffing down the best local cuisine.
Another new entry, this. In your words, Portugal’s appeal derives from it being “small country with lots of diverse regions”, with its “very friendly people” mentioned several times, too.
From lively Lisbon and picturesque Porto, to the beautiful Algarve (though Portugal’s best beaches extend beyond this stunning stretch), the country exudes charm. Portugal's restaurants are a magnet for foodie travellers and there are plenty of opportunities to escape well-trodden trails, even when visiting tourist hotspots.
Talking of which, if you’re struggling to choose which of Portugal's most popular cities to visit first, read our Porto or Lisbon? guide to help you decide. Or you could go by the country's coasts, and discovr what are the 10 best beaches in Portugal.
Planning to visit Portugal? Wine-lovers would do well to browse our Wines of Portugal and Discovering the Douro Valley trips, with plenty of other (fully customisable) itineraries to consider if, for example, you’re more into historic culture than viticulture.
Indonesia impressed Rough Guides’ readers with its range of natural landscapes and varied cultures. No surprise really, given that this nation is spread across a mind-blowing 17,508 Indonesian islands, hence the country’s incredible diversity of flora, fauna, food and customs.
Bali is known for its temples, world-class surfing – the beaches in Bali are incredible – while Lombok also boasts incredible beaches, and Borneo offers the chance to see orang-utans in the wild - how’s that for a diversity of experiences? Many of you also highlighted the “welcoming attitude of Indonesian people”.
And if you want a more authentic experience, discover Indonesia off-the-beaten-track. beyond Bali.
Top tip: hike Mount Batur at sunrise - one of our favourite things to do in Bali.
To start planning your own unforgettable Indonesian experience, take a look at Rough Guides’ Tailor-Made Trips, with options ranging from tropical rainforest treks and island-hopping adventures, to Balinese yoga retreats (or you could always create your own trip from scratch with a local expert on hand to help).
India sure ticked your boxes when it came to delivering diverse, exhilarating travel experiences. As one respondent told us, “the different areas of India offer different things – lush rainforest in the south and the beautiful Himalayas in the north”.
While it’s true to say that India can be on the overwhelming side for the first-time visitor, it’s also true that once it gets under your skin, it's very hard to let go. From the floating palaces of Jaipur and the bustle of Mumbai, to beautiful beaches, there's enough to keep you coming back for years. For more inspiration, check out the most beautiful places in India.
Top tip: love nature and wildlife. Kerala’s Pepper Trail hotel comes hugely recommended.
Planning a trip to India but not sure where to start? Let our local experts create your perfect personalised trip.
Thrissur elephant festival, Kerala, India © Tyshchenko Photography/Shutterstock
Boy, has Croatia captured your hearts. This country had one respondent praising its “islands, mountains, wine, olive oil, history, culture, and THE SEA!”. Another stated: “Croatia is the most beautiful country I have visited”. A quick look at the 10 best beaches in Croatia makes that point perfectly.
In recent years, the emerald wildernesses and mighty mountains of Croatia’s National Parks have seen it emerge as a major adventure destination, while its heritage-rich cities (Dubrovnik, we’re looking at you) offer world-class wining and dining in out-of-this-world surroundings. Croatia has plenty to please culture vultures, too, not least in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital of cool.
Top tip: Many of you mentioned how much you love Croatian cuisine, we recommend taking a food tour whenever you decide to go - from enjoying fine wine and food in Dubrovnik, to discovering Dalmatian delights in Split.
Curious to discover more? Take the hassle out of planning by checking-out Rough Guides' tailor-made trips to Croatia. Whether you fancy epic outdoor adventures, or tasting your way round Dalmatia, our local expert can create your ideal trip.
As one reader told us, when it comes to landscapes, you’ll find "anything your heart desires" here, with a corresponding broad range of experiences to enjoy. Soak up Buenos Aires’ cosmopolitan atmosphere, learn to ride in the expanse of the Pampas, explore Mendoza’s vineyards or watch ice calving from Patagonia’s Perito Moreno Glacier.
You’ll be spoiled for choice for spectacular things to do in this “wonderful country of glaciers, waterfalls, deserts and sea”, as one of our readers shared.
Top tip: see a spectacular tango show at the luxurious Galería Güemes theatre.
To start planning your Argentinian adventure, take a look at our Argentina itineraries, all of which can be tailor-made to meet your needs.
Iceland’s raw and rugged majesty sparked an elemental, poetic response in many respondents. It’s a country you loved for its “unspoilt natural beauty”, “empty and challenging landscapes”, and “tremendous waterfalls”.
With a wealth of hot springs with health-giving properties, the chance to witness the northern lights, and a thriving foodie scene in Reykjavík, Iceland is the perfect place to get back to nature and enjoy a range of experiences in one short trip. What’s more, “the people are kind and fun”, as one of you shared.
Top tip: for an unforgettable experience,snorkel between North America and Europe at the Silfra Fissure.
Planning a trip to Iceland? Our local expert is on hand to help. Take a look at our suggested Iceland itineraries.
From its "great wine and food”, to the “range of terrain and variety of landscapes”, many of you feel that Chile “has it all”.
Stretching down the Pacific coast of South America, Chile certainly packs a lot of variety into a relatively small landmass. That’s thanks to the enormous change in latitude from north to south, from 17° below the equator to 56°S in Patagonia, well on the way to the South Pole.
Chile’s untouched aspect led to the creation of the world’s first dark sky sanctuary in the Elqui Valley. Throw in the country's world-class wines, vibrant Valparaiso, and the centuries-old moai on Easter Island, and you’ll be sure to come back for more unmissable experiences in Chile.
Top tip: given that wine was frequently mentioned as a reason to love Chile, this sommelier class in Santiago de Chile came to mind.
Need help planning your visit? Contact our local expert to create your perfect personalised trip to Chile or South America.
Since the USA is so huge, it’s impossible to cover all its beauty spots here, so you might want to read our overview of the best places to visit in the USA - or check out the weirdest places in the world, quite a few of which are in the USA.
Getting into the wilderness is one way of seeing a range of landscapes (and incredible wildlife). Don't miss out on highlights like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks. As one reader remarked, “the USA has so many staggeringly beautiful National Parks” (discover our top 40), while another praised “the majesty of the mountains, the vastness of the plains, and the lure of two oceans.”
Talking of which, the USA has gorgeous beaches galore, spanning the crashing Pacific, the riotous Jersey shore, and the sublime Florida Keys. In between, the cities, deserts, and miles of open highway will stir the soul of any visitor.
Top tip: planning a sojourn in the Big Apple? Get your bearings by cruising around Ellis Island and Lady Liberty.
For more inspiration, check-out The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places in the USA.
Many of you praised the country’s “sheer diversity of scenery”, and its “raw natural landscape, roads and ocean”. Iconic Table Mountain and penguin-packed beaches lie just a stone's throw from Cape Town.
Top tip: set on the quayside, Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Hotel offers exceptional views of Table Mountain.
Visit South Africa with Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trip to explore exhilerating cities or take a safari (or both).
The words of one passionate respondent reveal everything you need to know about one of Greece’s greatest lures: "the islands are truly special - the white buildings, blue domes, traditional villages, beautiful Greek beaches, and the high cliffs looking down on the incredibly blue Mediterranean Sea.
Throw in the history, gracious people and we just never want to leave”. High praise, indeed. But there’s more to Greece than its impossibly idyllic islands. Many of our Greece-voting respondents mentioned the "wonderful locally-produced food”, and the fact that it boasts one of the richest collections of historic monuments in the world.
To experience Greece in all its glory, take a look at our tailor-made itineraries.
Moving up four places, you praised Australia for its “beautiful diversity in culture" and "friendly, laidback people”.
Then there’s Australia's lush rainforests, excellent food, and the thrilling possibility of road-trip adventures. Before you go, be sure to find out everything you need to know about driving in Australia, and maybe learn a little local lingo too.
Top tip: whale-watching from Hervey Bay is one of our favourite Australian experiences.
Given the country’s epic scale, it might be worth considering a tailor-made trip to Australia (which can be personalised to suit your timeframe and interests).
From the ethereal fjords mentioned by tonnes of readers to the compact capital Oslo, and “Lapland with its magical atmosphere”, there’s so much to discover in Norway. As one of you said, Norway's “landscape is fantastic.
There are mountains, fjords, waterfalls, and breathtaking views, and everything is so clean and beautiful!” Tromsø in the Arctic Circle is emerging as one of the country's top cultural hubs, and also a great place to start your northern lights excursion in the winter months.
Come summer, the glow of the midnight sun bathes everything in golden red. Norwegians have you under their spell, too. In the words of one of our readers, “people are caring and rich in culture”.
Top tip: surrounded by mountains in a UNESCO-listed town, Røros Hotell is a stunning place to stay.
To cover the UK, we’ll hand you over to one of our readers: "Scottish mountains and castles, the lakes of Cumbria, the pretty Cotswolds, the rugged coastline, fine cities, rich heritage, Welsh countryside, lush forests, fabulous National Parks, great museums and galleries.
Boating on the river in Cambridge, the dreamy spires of Oxford, the rolling countryside of Northumbria, and the vast beaches of Norfolk. The hidden secrets of Suffolk, the tiny hamlets of Devon and hidden beaches of Cornwall. The pretty Isles of Scilly, and the Jurassic coastline of Dorset”. And breathe. That’s quite some commendation.
Top tip: enhance your UK travels with Rough Guides Staycations guidebooks. You might also want to dive into the inspirational Make the Most of your Time in Britain, and discover the most beautiful places in Scotland — as voted by you.
We’ve curated a host of customisable trips to make your UK travel experiences all the more rewarding. How about embracing wild adventures in Wales or Scotland? What about discovering England’s historic highlights, or exploring the Pearls of Ireland? Or you could set off on a Great British road-trip.
The largest country in the EU, France is also one of the most varied - a country you frequently acclaimed for its “amazing landscapes”. Consider the snow-capped peaks of the French Alps, the lushness of the Pyrenees in summer, Provence's purple lavender fields, the golden stone chateaux, beautiful beaches, and sublime food.
Up four places from our previous poll, it’s clear that France's allure remains as powerful as ever, with plenty of secrets to be explored - it’s perfectly possible to get off the beaten track in Paris for example in charming France’s youngest city - Montpellier. For more French food for thought, discover 20 facts about France.
Top tip: located in the heart of Paris, the Résidence Charles Floquet is an elegant place to lay down your head.
Jumping an impressive nine places, you adored Switzerland for its “spectacular scenery”, with many readers waxing lyrical about its lakes and mountains. Read our guide to the best outdoor experiences in Switzerland to discover excellent ways to appreciate the country’s beauty.
While adventurers will want to hike the Eiger in the spectacular Jungfrau region, you might prefer to soak up the scenery from a quaint mountain train. Then there's the iconic area of Zermatt and the Matterhorn.
Top tip: offering panoramic views of the North Face of the Eiger and the Wetterhorn, staying at Sunstar Hotel and Spa Grindelwald is an unforgettable experience.
Many of you remarked on its epic landscapes and the vastness of its “wide-open spaces”. If you think Canada’s “mountain scenery is amazing”, as one as one respondent enthused.
Then there’s the otherworldly Bay of Fundy, hailed as one of the most remarkable places on earth. Talking of offbeat attractions, Canada's Spotted Lake features in our gallery of seriously weird places around the world.
Top tip: for an experience you’ll talk about for years, try your hand at ziplining at the Niagara Falls.
To enjoy Canada in all its exhilarating wonder, take a look at our tailor-made trip itineraries - curated by local travel guides and fully customisable.
Italy, winner of our previous survey, just missed out on bagging first place this time round. Many of you applauded the fact that it “has something for everyone”, from the marvellous Dolomite mountains, the tranquil Italian Lakes, the rolling vineyards of Tuscany to the sparkling Amalfi coast and the islands Sicily and Sardinia.
Cities like Rome, Florence and Venice throb with romance, while Italy’s beaches and food aren't half bad either. In fact, many of you believe it has “the best food in the world”. Given that Italy has so much to offer, it might be worth reading our guide to the 20 best beaches in Italy these fun facts about Italy or our round up of Italy's most beautiful places.
Top tip: when visiting “magical Venice” (as one of you described it), book a boat trip to the islands of the Venetian lagoon. Or take a look at 15 unforgettable things to do in Tuscany to see why this region never fails to inspire.
Want to experience Italy with fresh, authentic eyes? Our customisable trips are curated by a local expert, and cover the entire country. And if you are planning on your own, check out the best time to go, and in-depth guides such as the best areas to stay in Rome.
Nudging Italy from the top spot, New Zealand’s “amazing scenery” had big impact on big numbers of you. The same goes for the “diversity of landscapes” in New Zealand, especially the “contrast in scenery between the mountains and beaches”.
These stunning landscapes play host to thrilling outdoor adventures and awe-inspiring alternative treks. Given that so many of you loved the “wide open spaces”, you might want to read up on New Zealand's best road-trip routes. Then there’s welcoming Wellington, the laidback capital of New Zealand that offers visitors a satisfying slice of beach-city life with added art and adventure.
Top tip: Looking for peace and panoramic views? We love Trinity Wharf Tauranga hotel in the beautiful Bay of Plenty.
Book a tailor-made trip to New Zealand to discover why it’s captured the hearts of so many Rough Guides’ readers.
For more opinion and insight from the Rough Guides’ community, read the results of our sustainable travel survey. And remember, whenever you’re thinking of heading, there’ll be a Rough Guide to inspire and support every step of your journey.
If you're inspired to seek out more beautiful places, take a look at our guide to the most beautiful places you've never heard of. And, if you're travelling with kids, you might want to discover the most magical places to visit with children before they grow up.
Interested in beautiful global culture? View our gallery of traditional dress from around the world.
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Header image: magical Milford Sound, New Zealand © Shutterstock
Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her