With its breathtaking scenery and great hiking spots, Switzerland is an unsurprising entry on list. From the quaint lakeside towns of Vevey and Montreux to Geneva’s old-money gravitas and cosmopolitan Zurich, the population centres are quite handsome too. Lakes and mountains deserve their share of the attention, whether you’re hiking the Eiger in the spectactular Jungfrau region, or enjoying the scenery from one of the punctual mountain trains that cover the country. As @g_sehringer says on Twitter: “You can’t leave out Switzerland when talking about beautiful countries – truly gorgeous”.
Where to stay
For great location in Eiger: Hotel Eiger
Best for remote alpine luxury: Aspen Alpine Lifestyle Hotel Grindelwald
Perhaps one of Europe’s most enigmatic countries, there’s a lot to love in Finland. The country is relatively flat, dotted with lakes and huge forests that seem to stretch beyond the horizon. The capital, Helsinki, is the world’s most northerly city of a million residents or more, and often features on lists of liveable cities. According to you ,“The skies, the forests, the mysticism, and just about everything else,” make it one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Where to stay
Best for a stay in an Art Nouveau castle: Glo Hotel Art
Best for families or groups: Apartment Hotel Aallonkoti
India is sometimes controversially described as “Marmite” kind of country (you either love it or you hate it), but plenty of you are enthralled by this diverse nation. It’s certainly true that India can be overwhelming for the first-time visitor. The noise, the sheer number of people, the cacophony of colours are unforgettable, and for many, once India gets under your skin it’s very hard to let go. From the floating palaces of Jaipur and the bustle of Mumbai to sprawling tea plantations, rushing waterfalls and beautiful beaches there’s enough to keep you going for years of visits. On Twitter, @Breathedreamgo says “India is culturally the most beautiful country in the world”.
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The ancient home of several great lost civilisations Mexico is not short on history or natural beauty. Visitors to the country are truly spoiled for choice. The beaches you relax on can be Caribbean or Pacific depending on your preference, while hidden swimming holes, secret ruins and a culture brimming with myth and magic are sure to captivate. Foodies will be in their element in Mexico City, Oaxaca or the Yucatan Peninsula. Via Facebook, our follower Atanska Ileva-Matova said the country offers “Beautiful nature, ancient temples, great food. So much to see and explore.”
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Small but mighty, Slovenia comes in at number 11 in your ranking of the most beautiful countries in the world. The towns here are fairy tale charming, with cobbled streets and red roofs that seem straight out of a Disney movie. The countryside is lush and often covered with pine forest, where bike trails snake through the trees. On Twitter, @RivCotSlo listed just a few of the elements that make Slovenia so special: “Mountains, forests, lakes, seashore, old towns, friendly people, and great food.”
Where to stay
Best for a piece of history in Ljubljana: Hotel Grand Union
Best for beautiful views of Lake Bled: Grand Hotel Toplice – Small Luxury Hotels of the World
There’s a lot of love for this country among our readers – and many of us have nostalgic memories of summer holidays along the coast of Wales. With beaches that could rival the Mediterranean (on sunny days at least), plus a slew of historic castles, mountains to climb, coast paths to walk, and of course, buttered welshcakes to eat, there’s a host of entertaining ways to spend your days. Twitter user @Dylan1969 recommends visiting for the castles and history, while we think a walk along the Pembrokeshire coastline followed by a hearty lunch in a cosy coastal pub is quite hard to beat.
Where to stay
Best for visiting the Gower Peninsula: The Gower Hotel
For the great experience of staying in a castle: Roch Castle
9. The United States of America
The USA such an enormous country, it’s of course impossible to cover all of the places where you’ll find beauty here. Our social follower DrewV highlighted Yosemite and Grand Canyon National Park, adding that “Much of [the USA] is protected for posterity with the world’s best national park system”. It’s true that getting into the wilderness is an appealing activity – one that provides great wildlife spotting opportunities. Of course, the USA also has gorgeous beaches galore – from the crashing Pacific waves to the riotous Jersey shore. In between, beguiling cities, deserts, and miles of open highway will stir the soul of any visitor.
Where to stay
Best for location visiting Grand Canyon: Yavapai Lodge
Best for location to Yosemite: Yosemite Creekside Birdhouse
With its black beaches, hot springs and volcanic mountains, Iceland comes in at number 8, one of top 10 most beautiful countries as chosen by you. You no doubt already know what makes Iceland so special, but we’ll list a few of the reasons anyway. A wealth of hot springs with health-giving properties, the chance to witness the elusive northern lights, and a thriving foodie scene in Reykjavik mean you can enjoy many different experiences in one short trip. The country is steeped in folklore, starting with the hidden people, or huldufólk, that many islanders believe are real, and some even build miniature houses for. Come for the “dramatic landscapes” and “uncommon beauty” says our follower @IceSif on Twitter.
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England’s landscapes, from the rolling hills of the Lake District to the idyllic shores of Cornwall often inspire a sense of pride and patriotism in its residents. With an extensive network of public footpaths that cover the whole country, England is a great place to explore on foot – stopping at local pubs or tearooms for refreshment whenever necessary. If you’re looking for lesser-known attractions, @BenAitken85 on Twitter thinks even the X53 bus route along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast can unearth beauty.
Read more with the latest edition of the Rough Guide to England
Indonesia comes in at number 6 in this poll, impressing readers with its range of natural landscapes and varied cultures. The island nation is spread across an mind-blowing 17,508 islands, leading to an incredible diversity in flora and fauna as well as food and local customs. More than 500 different languages are spoken in the country. Bali and Lombok are known for its temples and world-class surfing, and Lombok for its beaches, while Borneo offers the chance to see Orang Utans in the wild. On Twitter, @lukmanaul chose Indonesia for its myriad islands, while @astrie_sulastri picked out the country’s mountains and heritage.
Where to stay
Best for a beach stay on Lombok: Qunci Villas Hotel
Best for relaxing and close to good surf: Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa Bali
5. South Africa
Surprisingly the only African country to make this list, South Africa – which takes up the size of France and Spain combined – is undeniably beautiful. You’ll find the iconic table mountain and beaches where penguins roam just a stone’s throw from Cape Town. The wine-growing valleys of the Western Cape will enchant with their verdant hills (and deletable vintages). Durban is coming into its own as a must-visit destination, and of course, you’ll find some of the best safari experiences in the world in South Africa. On Twitter, @Allafrica01 says “South Africa has to rate as one of the best with all the variety from wildlife to beaches.”
Where to stay
Best for visiting downtown Cape Town: Mandela Rhodes Place Hotel and Spa
Best for visiting downtown Durban: Hilton Durban Hotel
Few countries receive as many accolades for their beauty as Italy. From the rolling vineyards of Chianti to the sparkling Amalfi coast and the mountains of Trentino, this relatively small place has a host of different landscapes. Roman ruins scatter the country, meaning you’ll feel connected to the Italy’s storied heritage everywhere you turn. Cities like Rome, Florence and Venice throb with romance, and rooftop villages will connect you with long-held traditions. Of course, the food is also beautiful, from the colours of fresh vegetables on a market stall to the green-gold of cold-pressed olive oil. On Twitter, @Turpin101 was enamoured by the lovely landscapes, while others were captivated by the history and romance of the country’s small towns.
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3. New Zealand
In third place is New Zealand. Heather Bates put it superbly on Facebook, praising the country’s rolling green hills, majestic mountains, breathtaking fjords and amazing diversity of landscape from one island to the next. Here you can taste deliciously crisp white wines in the South Island’s Marlborough Region, indulge your inner daredevil with bungee jumping in Queensland, and tap into chilled out beach-city life in Auckland. From golfing to mountain biking, outdoor adventures come as standard in this famously friendly country.
Where to stay
Best for visiting South Island’s Marlborough Region: Scenic Hotel Marlborough
Best for visiting Auckland’s North Shore: VR Takapuna
In a close call for second place is Canada: home of lumberjacks, beavers and maple syrup (if you believe everything you read). Of course, there’s much more on offer in Canada, not least its mixture of raw beauty and majestic landscapes. The Yukon Territory is a place of great wilderness, while B.C. mountains draw skiers and snowboarders in their thousands. The turquoise colours of Lake Louise are an instagrammer’s delight, while the East Coast cities of Toronto and Montreal charm with their great restaurants and cosmopolitan atmosphere. On Twitter @ToursByLocals says there are “so many beautiful places in the world, but I’m still blown away by our hometown in B.C., Canada.”
Where to stay
Best for an adventure in the Yukon: Inn on the Lake – Whitehorse
Best for visiting downtown Montreal: LHotel
And finally, we come to the world’s most beautiful country as voted by Rough Guides readers: Scotland. Who can deny that the wild beaches, deep lochs and craggy castles are some of the most wonderful and beautiful sights in the world? Add in thousands of years of history, more delicious whisky than you could taste in a lifetime and excellent golfing, hiking, and biking trails and you’ve got a very special place indeed. Well done Scotland!
Read more with the latest edition of the Rough Guide to Scotland