Are these the best countries in the world?

Do you find it difficult to name just one when someone asks you about your favourite country? Obviously, a lot of factors come into it when deciding on your number one destination; do you focus on the food, the culture, the activities, the landscape or the people?

Luckily Conde Nast Traveller isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions and the results of their 33rd Readers’ Choice Awards are in.

From the European classics that crop up time and time again to those destinations a bit off the beaten path, these countries obviously struck a chord with travellers and stayed in their hearts throughout a tough year when travel was almost impossible.

Here are the winning countries as voted for by the readers of Conde Nast Traveller in The Readers’ Choice Awards 2020.

10. Mexico

puerto vallarta mexico

Mexico has it all: fabulous beaches, ancient ruins, dynamic cities packed with colonial architecture, and a rich culture all topped off with delicious food. Between seeing the sights and sampling the cuisine, you can indulge in some sophisticated shopping or wander the wide, tree-lined boulevards stopping at museums and galleries along the way.

9. Vietnam

golden bridge in vietnam

Vietnam is slowly shaking its tag of being a backpacker haven and is appearing on more and more traveller’s must-see lists. With more than 3000 kilometres of coastline, Vietnam offers some of the best beaches in the world and a countryside of rolling hills and rice terraces provides tranquillity away from the energetic cities.

8. South Africa

iconic cape town south africa coastline

One of Africa’s most dynamic countries offers such an extensive variety of activities and opportunities that it has to be on the list. From wild safaris and beach parties to relaxing strolls through vineyards. Stunning national parks and chic hotels are also on offer.

7. Thailand

Elephants in Chiang Mai Elephant Nature Park Thailand

When you think of Thailand it’s easy to think of gap years and backpackers, but it’s now attracting travellers across the board. Home to a combination of incredible street food, bustling cities, historical sites and, of course, the mighty Thai massage, Thailand can only be described as energetic. Adventure is sure to be found in the jungle-covered spots off the coast, but Chiang Mai and Bangkok are there to offer culture and comfort.

6. Indonesia

man with surfboard on beautiful beach with high rocks Uluwatu spot Bali island Indonesia

Indonesia is quickly establishing itself as the place to be for holidaymakers and nomads alike. The mix of sleepy, sun-drenched beaches, rich history, and world-renowned surfing is probably what keeps people coming back for more.

5. Greece

view of acropolis and parthenon in greece

In recent years, Greece seems to be continually recovering from one crisis after another, but the country is bouncing back.

Greece has been a major tourist destination since the 1970s and people have always been attracted by its rich culture and history, reflected in part by the 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites scattered across the country. Throw in its long coastline with crystal-clear water, rugged mountains and green valleys, and it’s obvious why it’s number five on the list.

4. Japan

Boatman punting the boat at river Arashiyama in autumn season along the river in Kyoto Japan

It pays to remember that Tokyo isn’t the only place to visit in Japan (although it is arguably the best city in the world), there’s so much more to see. From relaxing country onsens to rural towns with incredible architecture, Japan offers many unique experiences.

Being one of the world’s oldest civilisations means it has an interesting blend of Eastern traditions and Western modernity with a stunning and diverse history.

3. Portugal

Successful small restaurant owner standing behind the counter of a small coffee shop in the city center of Lisbon in Portugal

With dramatic landscapes, beautiful beaches, a strong gastronomy scene and a rich history, Portugal has a lot going on. Escape the creative, bustling cities with a trip to the Alentejo wine region but, be warned, between the vineyard vistas and chic boutique hotels, you might not want to leave.

2. Sri Lanka

Happy smiling woman looks out from window traveling by train on most picturesque train road in Sri Lanka

This tiny island nation, otherwise known as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’, offers a myriad of charms to those willing to explore. Visit countless sacred sites, swim in boundless crystal blue waters, and wander picturesque jade green tea estates. The island nation is also full of post and pre-colonial history and contains eight UNESCO World Heritage sites.

On the other hand, if a wellness resort in a tropical climate with sandy beaches and incredible cuisine is your idea of a good time, Sri Lanka has that too.

1. Italy

panorama of the beach in Vernazza with colorful buildings and mountains in the background

Culture, history, food, wine, lakes, beaches, mountains, ancient ruins, Italy really does have it all. Every region is distinct and has its own charm, attractions, and cuisines, making it an ideal destination for all, and a perennial favourite destination.

While Rome seems to just be one large archaeological dig that continues to discover its 2800 years of history, art capital Venice is becoming an expert at showcasing that history in an inspired and modern way.

Even the sparkling wine region, Prosecco, is finally stepping more into the limelight, as the area’s steep, thriving vineyards were recently recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

What is your favourite country to visit? How many of those on the list have you visited?

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Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
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