My Top 10 Favourite Countries in the World.

After having returned from a 18 month trip earlier this week, I became the youngest Norwegian and among the ten youngest in the World to have visited every country at age 29. 

There are some countries that I would not be very eager to go back to, simply because there is not a lot to see. These are countries include Liechtenstein, San Marino, Nauru, Tuvalu and Bahrain, Kuwait, Monaco and the Vatican. The rest I would love to visit, including unsafe countries like Afghanistan, Venezuela and Syria, which could have been listed among my top ten favourites if the security situation would have been more stable.

If the criteria for this list would have been for best food I would have said Italy, Lebanon and India. If my list was based on friendliest people I would have said Iran, Sudan and Algeria and best holiday/beach destinations would be Seychelles, Maldives and Barbados. 

My top destination list on the other hand, is based on which countries can offer the best experiences for adventurous travellers like myself and are all destinations that have changed my views about the world around me:

1) Ethiopia The reason why I chose to put Ethiopia on the top of my list is because of the diversity that the country offers. Both in nature and in culture. In the south, you can find green valleys with tribal culture. In the East, you find dry desert like landscape with old, Islamic heritage, and in the North, there are hilly landscapes with some of the best-preserved rock-hewn churches in the World. Ethiopia is called the land of origins for a reason as coffee, Rastafari culture and even humanity itself originates from there. It is so unique in the way that it was never colonized, has its own written language, its own 13 month calendar and a different time system. It’s just a really fascinating place to be.

 

2) Madagascar: It’s a place like nowhere else. There are chameleons, Lemurs and Indris found nowhere else on the planet and the people are friendly too! A highlight was paddling down the Tsiribinha River, camping under massive baobab trees and ending up at relaxing beaches around Morondava.

3)Pakistan: The South is a wonderful chaotic place with colors, people and smells much like in India, but the true beauty lies in the mountainous regions in the North. There you can rent a motorbike for 5$ a day and drive among some of the tallest mountains in the World. Unlike Nepal, there are almost no tourists, so if you decide to go hiking then you are likely to have some of these mountains all to yourself.

4) Kyrgyzstan: If you want to experience a genuine nomadic culture, go horseriding, sleeping in yurts and hiking in some of the Worlds most beautiful mountains then Kyrgyzstan is the place to be. You can also experience the contrast by going clubbing in Bishkek or stay in spa resorts around Issyk Kul, which is like the Cancun of Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan also has the most easily accessible mountain over 7000meters called Lenin Peak, which I want to climb one day.

5) Sao Tome and Principe: It’s one of the least visited countries in Africa, even though it is quite accessible with direct flights from Portugal and no visas requirement for most nationalities. It lays right on the Equator with sun all year around and has some of the Worlds best cocoa beans which is produced in small quantities. It’s a true hidden gem. 

6) Brazil: Its a country where you can travel for months and always see new things. I remember going on safari in Pantanal, both on horseback and in kayaks. Unlike my safari trips in Africa, there were so many animals I had never heard about before, like the capybara and the tapirs. You can visit one of the biggest waterfalls in the World, relax on award winning beaches, go on boat trips in the Amazon and dance the nights away in some of the World’s most lively clubs.

7) Vanuatu: is an adventurers paradise. The islands are diverse and the beaches are unspoiled. Climbing on top of Mt.Yasur, which has claimed lives of tourists in the past was an experience I will never forget. The ground is shaking when the volcano erupts and sends bits of lava soaring high over your head. The island also has the World’s first underwater post office where you can dive down to send postcards home.

8) Algeria: A country that is undeservedly listed under travel warnings in many countries, as the northern part is completely safe to travel around. The people here are some of the most hospitable in the World and will really show you how welcome they are to everyone who visits. It has lots of history from both the French colonial times and the more ancient Roman Empire. The nature in the south is incredible and some of the cities in the North are built on cliffs. This place is like nowhere else.

9) Guatemala: The country in Central America with the most natural beauty and friendliest people in my opinion with the natural pools of Semuc Champey being my favourite. Guatemala has colorful Mayan markets, volcanoes for hiking and Central America’s most impressive Mayan pyramids in Tikal. 

10) South Africa: I might be a bit biased with this one as I used to live and study in Cape Town, which I believe is one of the most beautiful cities in the World. South Africa is simply a country that has everything; from good food and wine, diverse nature and wildlife, varied mountain landscape for trekking and good tourist infrastructure.

This list is only based on my own, personal experience and will change together with the development of these countries as well as the development of my own personal preference.

The more I have traveled, the less my focus have been to see different things and more about seeing things differently. Visiting these countries will for sure give you memories for a lifetime.

Written By: Jørn Bjørn Augestad.

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