What’s the most beautiful country in the world? A contentious topic that’s guaranteed to provoke thought and possibly heated debate. Given that a whole lot has changed since we last asked Rough Guides’ readers that question back in 2019, we thought it was about time we found out which destinations currently float your boat. Read on to discover the most beautiful countries in the world, as voted by you in 2022.
If you feel inspired to start planning your own 2022 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 to visit in 2022, all 100 of which are featured in this photo-packed gift book.
What you love: “Nature and landscape intertwined with history and architecture”
A stirring blend of ancient and modern, Japan kicks off our 2022 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”.
A new entry for 2022, 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.
What you love: “Good food, good wines, good weather”
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.
Top tip: based in Lisbon? Be sure to take a day-trip to scenic Sintra.
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.
What you love: “Incredible islands, mountains, seas, forests, temples and tombs – so much!”
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.
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.
What you love: “It has everything - rivers and sea, mountains and plains, excellent food and friendly people”
Boy, has Croatia captured your hearts. This new entry for 2022 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”.
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.
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.
What you love: “Almost any landscape can be found within its borders. Just amazing!”
The eighth-largest country in the world, Argentina stretches from the awe-inspiring Iguazu Falls in the north, to the wilds of the southern Tierra del Fuego.
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.
What you love: "Black sand beaches with glittering pieces of ice; lunar-like landscapes; the aurora over the snowy fields”
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.
What you love: “Diverse landscapes and bucket loads of remote, unspoilt land”
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 South America’s Pacific coast, 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.
What you love: “Its diversity of peoples, geology and landscapes”
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 in 2022 - 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). 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.
What you love: “The diversity, culture, landscape, wine, people and food”
Surprisingly the only African country to make the top 20 (though Namibia received a fair few nominations), South Africa is undeniably stunning, as revealed in our guide to its scenic beauty.
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.
The wine-growing valleys of the Western Cape enchant with their verdant hills and vintages. And let’s not forget that South Africa also offers some of the world’s best safari experiences.
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 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.
Top tip: read our Greek travel tips to make the most of your experience, and look to stay in a locally-owned hotel, such as Thessaloniki’s Blue Bottle Boutique Hotel.
To experience Greece in all its glory, take a look at our tailor-made itineraries.
What you love: “Mountains, snow, deserts, rainforests, beautiful beaches - Australia has it all”
Moving up four places, you praised Australia for its “beautiful diversity in culture" and "friendly, laidback people”.
Australia’s well-known attractions were frequently highlighted, among them Uluru in the Northern Territory, the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney, and the beautiful beaches of both the east and west coast.
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.
What you love: “The breath-taking nature and unassuming people”
From the ethereal fjords mentioned by tonnes of readers, to 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, breath-taking 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, the “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.
Explore this enchanting country on a tailor-made trip to Norway - contact our local expert to customise every detail.
What you love: “Amazing food, friendly people and the fantastic diversity"
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.
What you love: “Cultural heritage and loving people”
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 more French food for thought, discover 20 facts about France.
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.
Switzerland's “lovely towns” and “beautiful spotless cities” were also mentioned by many of you, including lakeside Lausanne, Vevey and Montreux, well-heeled Geneva, and cosmopolitan Zurich.
What you love: “Dramatic, awe-inspiring scenery and incredible wildlife”
Firmly in your top five most beautiful countries in the world for two consecutive polls, Canada sure offers a wide range of unmissable travel experiences.
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.
B.C. mountains draw skiers and snowboarders in their thousands, while the East Coast cities of Toronto and Montreal charm with their world-class restaurants and cosmopolitan vibe.
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.
What you love: “Italy has everything! It's the most complete country on earth”
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 best things to see and do here, these fun facts about Italy or our round up of Italy's most beautiful places.
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 or unforgettable Tuscany experiences.
What you love: “The contrast in scenery and beauty to be found in the people and culture”
Nudging Italy from the top spot, New Zealand’s “amazing scenery” had big impact on big numbers of you. The same goes for its “diversity of landscapes”, 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, a laidback capital 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 Rough Guide to 2022 survey and 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.
Interested in beautiful global culture? View our gallery of traditional dress from around the world.
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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 @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.