Top 10 – Countries

Very often I am asked what my favourite country is.

But how do you compare countries like Ethiopia and Bolivia? Or how do you compare Australia to China? Countries are so very different. Different cultures, people, food, flora and fauna.

Obviously any favourite list will be purely subjective. If you are mostly after beaches you will probably favour beach countries in your list.

I think many people who ask me this question are simply thinking ‘this guy has visited them all – now he can tell me where to go’ – but obviously it depends what YOU like.

I like adventure travel much more than going to the beach . I like passionate people. I love getting off the beaten path meeting and documenting tribal people and strange ceremonies. So of course my list will reflect that. But also – like most people – I like beautiful nature, picturesque cities and good food. Somehow it must be all boiled in.

To try and make a fair comparison my list below shows my overall favourite country pr continent. ‘Favourite country’ meaning a country that is overall good for travelling (not living). Trying to factor in a bit of everything – sights, people, food, nature, ambience.

South America

1. Argentina

Passion. Romance. Nature. Argentina has so much; The worlds southernmost city. The spectacular National Parks Los Glaciares and Perito Moreno in the Tierra Del Fuego. Wathcing whales and Sea Lions near Peninsula Valdez. And the sublime capital Buenos Aires – one of my favourite cities in the world. There you will find people dancing tango at public squares, great steaks and red wine and some of the most passionate people you will meet everywhere – just go watch a game at the ‘Bombanera’ football stadion in La Boca if you want to know what I mean.

2. Colombia

Maybe the sights of Colombia do not quite match those of Bolivia and Brazil, but it has made this list for its passionate people. How can people in a country that has seen so much trouble be so happy? In Colombia you can explore ‘The Lost City’, check out the amazing beaches at Tayrona National Park, party the night away in Bogotá, Cali og Medellin. Catch a cock-fight or just wander around between the photogenic colonial buildings of Cartagena. Or take a boat from there to one of the many spectacular ‘Playa Blancas’. Additionally Colombia may have the prettiest girls in the world..

Runner-ups:

  • Brazil (Beach, Jungle, Caiperinhas and Rio – one of the most beautifully situated cities in the World),
  • Bolivia (The salt lake of Salar De Uyuni, pink flamingoes, surreal Altiplano landscapes, beautiful colonial cities, a silver mine in on of the world’s highest cities)
  • Peru (Cusco, The Inca Trail, Lake Titicaca, Local indian influence, Nasca, Ica, Sandboarding)

North America

1. Cuba

Maybe my overall favourite for travel photography in the world. Old american cars, salsa, cigars and rum. It is like time has stood still in Cuba since the 1950’s. You can stay in Casa Particulares (homestays), eat lobster, dance the night away. And visit the worn but majestic capital Havana.

2. USA

Land of hope and dreams. Home to some of the Worlds best Natural Parks – Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon, Arches etc. And of course iconic cities New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco etc. Obviously the land of the brave, home of the free needs to make this list.

Runner-ups: Dominica – My Caribbean favourite – great nature, interesting colonial style capital, nice people.

Europe

1 . Ireland

I am not sure where you will find a better mix of modern and traditional than in Ireland. Dublin is hip, modern and cosmopolitan yet filled with cozy traditional pubs. In the countryside people will still impromptu stand up and sing a song or play their violin in the local pub.

2. France

I have always loved France. The food, the culture, the confidence of its people, the architecture. Paris may be crowded with tourists but it is still – if any – the city of love.

Runner-ups: Italy, Denmark (incl Faroe Islands and Greenland), Greece, Great Britain, Iceland

Africa

1. Ethiopia

Omo valley has more tribal people than any other place on earth. A spectacular place to stay and see remarkable ceremonies. In the north you can see the Danakil Depression (hottest place on earth), the Simien Mountains and the rock-hewn churches of Tigray and Lalibela. Addis Abeba is a cheap and cheerful african megacity. And in Unesco-listed Harar you can still to this day hand feed wild hyenas.

2. Namibia,

World class self drive safari in Etosha, meeting the Himba and Herero people in the north, Hiking the Fish River Canyon in the south. Visiting the spectacular sand dunes of Sossusvlei. Throw in the Skeleton Coast, the ghost city of Kolmanskop and the Epupa waterfalls and you will understand why this country is so high on many travel photographers lists.

Runners-up: Madagascar, South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Rwanda.

Asia

1. Indonesia

Wonderful beaches, great food, curious and welcoming people. Diverse and very different islands. You can visit the orangutangs in Sumatra and Borneo, visit the Borobodur temple or the Mt Bromo volcano in Java, watch rice terraces from a rented MC in Bali, laze away on the beaches in the Gili-islands, visit a Komodo dragon in the Komodo Island and hang out with indigenous people with penis sheaths in the indonesian province of Papua.

2. Cambodia

The temples of Angkor Wat are perhaps my world wide number one favourite tourist attraction. I first visited in 1996 where the Khmer Rouge were still active and the army therefore had stationed soldiers in a ring around the complex to protect the temples. Now the tourist have come but the size of the khmer temples and the fact that jungle and trees grow right out of the ruins feels out of this world. Add in the beaches of Sihanoukville, the stilted houses (up to 6 meter tall) of Kampong Phluk and the Killing Fields and prison of Pnomh Penh.

Runner-ups: Iran, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Pakistan, China, Maldives.

Oceania

Traditional destinations Oceania:

1. Australia

You know the drill: World class beaches, Koalas in the wild, Ayers rock, Sydney Harbour, Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island – the worlds largest sand island, wild kangaroos. BBQ with friendly locals.

2. New Zealand

You also know this drill: Landscape so beautiful it was used when filming ‘Lord of the rings’, skiing, kayaking, glaciers, geysers and beaches all within a few hours drive. Friendly people in cozy Auckland and charming Christchurch and all the adrenaline activites you can think of in the area around Queenstown.

Off the beaten track destinations Oceania:

1. Vanuatu

The worlds most accessible active volcano Mt Yasur can be found at Tanna Island. Tribal people can be found on most islands. In Tanna Island the most traditional of these is the Yakel tribe. Here it is possible to smoke pot with the almost naked chief in a treehouse 20 meters above the ground. Where else would you experience something like that. At the Pentecost Island you can watch Naghol – traditional ‘bungee jumping’ from a wooden platform using tree vines tied around the ancles.

2. Papua New Guinea

Tribal people galore. Meet them at sing-sing annual festivals or just go visit them in their villages. The Asaro Mudmen and the Huli Wigmen must be some of the most impressive looking tribal people in the world. Also a place with great nature – home of the cassowary and the bird of Paradise.

Antarctica

Not a country – only a continent. Still a nice place. Almost all visitors go on a cruise and sleep on the boat – since there is no ground accomodation (except for for research people).

Overall list

Rating countries without grouping them pr continent I find very hard. If I should still give it a try – even though it may not make much sense – I would probably come up with something like this:

  1. Ethiopia
  2. Cuba
  3. Australia
  4. USA
  5. Argentina
  6. France
  7. Namibia
  8. Vanuatu
  9. Ireland
  10. Indonesia
  11. Cambodia
  12. Papua New Guinea
  13. New Zealand
  14. Madagascar
  15. Italy
  16. Denmark (including Faroe Islands and Greenland)
  17. Colombia
  18. Iran
  19. Sri Lanka
  20. Maldives
  21. Great Britain
  22. Pakistan
  23. South Africa
  24. Tunisia
  25. Myanmar
  26. China
  27. Brazil
  28. Phillippines
  29. Bolivia
  30. Vietnam