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Discover the 10 Happiest Countries in the World to Visit in 2022

Get your smile on in these cheerful destinations

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A woman standing by a large lake a green trees in a happy pose

Each year, a publication by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network publishes its findings on happiness around the world. The World Happiness Report looks at the happiest (and unhappiest) nations, as well as the factors that lead to greater happiness levels. The team behind the report uses global survey data in over 150 countries around the world, asking locals to rate their own lives and experiences in their country. So, as a result, we here at Plum Guide have taken that as inspiration, and put together our own list of the ten happiest countries that you should consider visiting this year. We pride ourselves on going above and beyond for our guests in every way, so you don't have to worry about doing all the hard research yourself - we've had our experts go through it instead. If you’re searching for a dose of serotonin, it’s time to pack your suitcase and head to some of the happiest countries in the world.

1. Finland

A view of snow-covered trees in front of a large lake from high up at sunrise in Lapland, Finland

A view of snow-covered trees in front of a large lake from high up at sunrise in Lapland, Finland

It's hard to look past Finland for this top spot, with the Scandinavian haven being voted the happiest country in the world in each of the past five years. There are several factors behind why Finland is the happiest country, including universal health care, low crime rates, low poverty levels, well-functioning public services, general trust in authority, and an emphasis on community and cooperation. Many people would describe happiness as a joyful moment of being fully present in your surroundings, and naturally, Finland is full of those little moments. Whether you’re unwinding in a sauna, dipping into a natural pool of icy water, experiencing your first Northern Lights in the magical Lapland region, or relaxing in a wooden cabin by a lake, Finland is certain to take both your breath and your stress away. In Lakeland, you’ll find a labyrinth of lakes, islands and forests, while the coastal region has windswept beaches and an easy-going island lifestyle. With its abundance of captivating natural beauty, it’s easy to see why the Finns just can't stop smiling.

Olaf's Adventure, Plum Guide home in Finland

Olaf's Adventure, Plum Guide home in Finland

2. Denmark

A view of numerous buildings in a city and boats on a canal from high up in Denmark

A view of numerous buildings in a city and boats on a canal from high up in Denmark

With its high levels of equality, a strong sense of shared responsibility for social welfare, tuition-free access to higher education, and free public health care, it comes as no surprise that Denmark is one of our top three happiest countries in the world. Perhaps another factor that plays into the happiness of the Danes is hygge (pronounced ‘hoo-gaa’), the concept of taking time to enjoy the simple things in life. When visiting Denmark, there are plenty of ways to feed your soul and get a taste of hygge - Denmark is arguably the place for slow travel. Denmark is one of the best countries for cycling, so make like a local and explore by bike. For something a little more relaxing, take in Copenhagen’s views on a canal tour. Visiting in the winter? This is the high season of hygge, when you can soak up the atmosphere of the magical Tivoli Gardens, drink mulled wine at the Christmas markets, or get cosy in the many cafes and restaurants - the city also has a rapidly developing culinary scene, a definite key to happiness in our books.

Art Circles, Plum Guide home in Copenhagen, Denmark

Art Circles, Plum Guide home in Copenhagen, Denmark

3. Iceland

A large blue iceberg in water in front of snow-capped mountains in Iceland

A large blue iceberg in water in front of snow-capped mountains in Iceland

The winters may be long and harsh, but Iceland places third in the world happiness rankings, completing the fully-Scandinavian podium - no, that's not an accident. A culture of acceptance and equality, a sense of community, transparency and justice, good health care, and quality education are just some of the factors behind the happiness in the country nicknamed the Land of Fire and Ice, and generally in Scandinavia as a whole. Named after its spectacular natural landscapes, it would be rude not to explore the magnificent fjords, glaciers, waterfalls, and volcanoes dotted around Iceland. For the adventurous, ice caving and glacier hiking is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, guaranteed to put a smile on your face. If you prefer something a little less adrenaline-inducing, relax in the natural hot pools and the famous Blue Lagoon, or live it up in the capital city of Reykjavik, renowned for its vibrant art and music scene.

4. Switzerland

A clear lake in front of green mountains and trees on a sunny day in Switzerland

A clear lake in front of green mountains and trees on a sunny day in Switzerland

In a land of chocolate and fondue, it doesn't take much to see why Switzerland is flying high in this guide to the world's cheeriest places. There’s a real sense of community and pride among the citizens here, an excellent public transport system, universal health care, a high GDP, and of course, the country’s magnificent outdoors. The famous sights and landscapes will undoubtedly give you that dose of Swiss happiness that sees the country come inside our top 5 - who can be grumpy when standing on top of the world? From hiking and whitewater rafting in the forests to skiing and sledging in the Alps, there are countless outdoor activities to enjoy all year round. Or, if you’re not an outdoorsy person, there are plenty of cities to visit, from the picturesque capital of Bern to the artsy city of Basel. Whichever way you choose to explore, make sure to schedule a relaxing dip in one of the country’s many thermal baths to understand the true meaning of 'stress-free'.

Mountain Blossom, Plum Guide home in Switzerland

Mountain Blossom, Plum Guide home in Switzerland

5. The Netherlands

A wide shot of terraced buildings along a canal at night in Deventer, Netherlands

A wide shot of terraced buildings along a canal at night in Deventer, Netherlands

Rounding off the top 5 in our Plum Guide happiness chart, we've got the Netherlands. The Dutch consistently score highly in measures such as mental health and wellbeing, trust in public institutions, and employment satisfaction, so seeing them high up our list won't come as a surprise to many. And if for some reason this has caught you by surprise, setting foot in the land of tulips and windmills will soon have you on board. With a reputation as an open-minded, welcoming country, the Netherlands has a little bit of everything - lively cities, beautiful nature, and peaceful villages (just to scratch the surface). The 17th-century capital of Amsterdam is full of historic buildings, world-class museums, narrow streets bordering the canals, and plenty of green squares to relax in as you take a break from cycling through the city. Switch things up and immerse yourself in nature in the country’s national parks, or tune into your romantic side with a visit to the famous flower fields to really get your grin on.

My Darling Clementine, Plum Guide home in Amsterdam

My Darling Clementine, Plum Guide home in Amsterdam

6. Luxembourg

A view of Vianden's Castle standing tall above swathes of green trees, Luxembourg

A view of Vianden's Castle standing tall above swathes of green trees, Luxembourg

In terms of GDP per capita, the small country of Luxembourg ranks first in the world in official lists. This has definitely helped it place sixth in our happiness rankings, but money isn’t the be all end all - other elements such as freedom, social support, and life expectancy also have Luxembourg smiling. When it comes to European countries to visit, you may not immediately think of Luxembourg, but you’d be surprised by how much is packed into its 2,586 km². The capital is Luxembourg City, a beautiful town set over the deep gorges of Alzette and Pétrusse rivers. Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is home to a maze of tunnels, museums, and a lively food and drink scene. Don’t forget to head out of the city where you’ll find unspoilt natural landscapes full of steep valleys, lush forests, plateaus with incredible views, and quaint castles.

7. Sweden

A red cabin and tall green trees reflecting in a lake in the countryside in Sweden

A red cabin and tall green trees reflecting in a lake in the countryside in Sweden

Sweden is a constant on every list of the world's most happy places, thanks in large part to an emphasis on social equality, 16 months of paid family leave after a new birth, and free day care (the dream). It’s clear to see how this emphasis on work-life balance leads to a happier population (take note, everyone else). This balance has a huge impact on day to day life as the Swedes follow the concept of lagom, a word meaning ‘just the right amount’. Whether it’s applied to their wardrobe or their diet, having things in moderation is clearly an important factor of the happiness in this part of the world. For a taste of this lifestyle, join in fika, a time of day dedicated to slowing down and being present. This usually involves relaxing with a coffee and a baked good in one of Stockholm’s many cafes. Another happiness factor is, of course, getting out in the eye-catching nature. As well as beaches, lakes, rivers, and islands, Sweden is 70 percent forest so there are endless ways to enjoy the great outdoors.

8. Norway

A single red cabin overlooking a large lake and mountains in a fishing village in Norway

A single red cabin overlooking a large lake and mountains in a fishing village in Norway

A combination of economic well being, an economy built on responsible management of natural resources, and a well-integrated welfare system means that life in Norway is pretty good. If you enjoy a mixture of cities and nature, then Norway is, frankly, the perfect destination. Experience the vibrant cities of Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, and Stavanger, before escaping the hustle and bustle and heading into the outdoors. Breathe in the fresh mountain air, explore the wild landscapes of the fjords, take icy dips in the many beautiful lakes, and discover Norway’s breathtaking southern coast. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Norway without sampling the local food and drink. In recent years, a culinary revolution has taken place here, with local and organic ingredients finding a new place on the table.

9. Israel

A colourful domed cathedral on a sunny day in Jerusalem, Israel

A colourful domed cathedral on a sunny day in Jerusalem, Israel

Coming in at number nine, Israel has broken into our list of the top 10 happiest countries in the world. Despite ongoing military conflicts around its borders, the country scored high in official votes on life satisfaction, economics, health, social support, and generosity. Perhaps this high level of happiness has something to do with its warm weather, attractive beaches, breathtaking hills, and valleys and intriguing historic sites (it definitely does). Whether you want to live it up in Tel Aviv, visit the wineries of Galilee, bathe in the Dead Sea, or whet your palate at tables loaded with mezze, you'll always find the ideal way to enjoy Israel.

Concrete Genius, Plum Guide home in Tel Aviv

Concrete Genius, Plum Guide home in Tel Aviv

10. New Zealand

A famous willow tree standing in a large lake in front of distant mountains, Wanaka, New Zealand

A famous willow tree standing in a large lake in front of distant mountains, Wanaka, New Zealand

The Kiwis are known as a cheerful and friendly bunch, most likely due to their relatively laidback way of life, political stability, and high level of safety. A great work-life balance also leaves plenty of time to explore the unforgettable scenery all around them, which certainly plays its part. In case you’ve been living under a rock, when it comes to the natural environment, New Zealand is pretty much heaven on Earth. Across the country you’ll find untamed wilderness, majestic mountains, secluded bays, golden beaches, tranquil lakes, and fjords shrouded in mist - the stuff of fairytales. So whether you choose to kayak in Milford Sound, go skiing on Mt Ruapehu, or unwind in a naturally-heated thermal pool in the forest, you’re bound to get a taste of that happy life the Kiwis do so well.

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