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Visiting the Happiest People on Earth

Visiting the Happiest People on Earth

While it is typically the sights that draw tourists to specific destinations, most frequent travelers will cite the destination’s people, culture, and spirit that ultimately make for a memorable vacation. So why not consider visiting the happiest people on earth and enjoying the scenery along the way?

When it comes to the world’s happiest people, Scandinavians consistently lead the pack and, according to a new United Nations report that ranks 155 countries, this achievement remains intact. 

Norway jumped from fourth place last year to first place in the 2017 World Happiness Report, with Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and Finland rounding out the top five.

What is it that makes people in these countries so happy? All rank highly in key measures, including freedom to make life choices, generosity, healthy life expectancy, income, and good governance. Having a strong social support network also plays a big role. 

Now is a great time for travelers to get a glimpse of these happy places. Keep a look out for the small differences that make each destination unique.

Switzerland has a diverse culture with three principal languages—German, French, and Italian. Regional traditions remain important, from celebrations that mark the change of seasons to festivals in major cities like Geneva and different cuisines across this tiny country. Check out the yodeling competition in the town of Brig from June 22–25; the Geneva Festival from August 3–13, which takes place around Lake Geneva, with hundreds of free concerts; or the processions in alpine villages in September and October when cows wearing floral headdresses and jangling bells return to the valleys after a summer spent in mountainside pastures. 

Given that Denmark, Norway, and Finland are relatively close to each other, it’s easy to visit them all on one extended trip, offering travelers a chance to experience Northern Europe. 

If there’s one word that describes Danish culture, it is hygge (pronounced “hooga”), loosely translated as coziness; enjoying the good things in life with friends and family. It’s a concept that has been embraced by other Nordic countries, including Norway, Finland, and Iceland. 

A vacation is the very definition of hygge, a chance to unwind and slow down. For foodies, that can mean sampling the best of the region’s cuisine, from Scandinavian staples like fresh seafood to restaurants that pioneer “New Nordic,” with chefs using traditional ingredients in inventive ways. 

Concerts, festivals, and outdoor activities are also ways to experience Scandinavian life. 

Summertime in Denmark is a great time to take a bicycle tour of Copenhagen and end the day dining along the waterfront in Nyhavn. There are plenty of sites that will captivate, whether it is the magnificent Amelienborg Palace (comprised of four identical buildings) or the quirky “stairway to heaven” found at the top of the Church of our Savior. Epicurean adventures can be found all over this city—that has long been home to some of the world’s top-rated restaurants.

For a taste of Norway, travelers can enjoy the charming grace to be found in Oslo. Or they can head to the Peer Gynt Festival August 4–13 in the resort town of Gala, a celebration of art, music and theater that includes lakefront performances of Ibsen’s classic play, with an English audio guide. 

To understand the culture of Finland, head to the sauna. It’s a national pastime, a chance to relax and cleanse the body and mind. There are several in Helsinki, including near bustling Market Square. 

Iceland’s culture has been shaped by its geography of glaciers and volcanoes and remote location in the middle of the North Atlantic. There’s a strong sense of tradition and a bond with nature. Places like the Laugavegur hiking trail, considered one of the most scenic in the world, make Iceland an exciting option for active travelers.

For helping planning a trip to the world’s happiest countries, contact Travel Leaders COS at 800-273-0793 or

© Travel Leaders Group