My Favorite Countries to Visit 2014

I’m adding to this list after 6.5 years of non stop travel and over 40 countries later. Please note: We were only in these places on average 1-3 months. This is not meant to be a definitive resource. Just the ones I enjoyed the most. I ranked the countries based on 14 different categories:

Quality of shopping

Unique and tasty cuisine

Ease of transportation

Historical and cultural depth

Spirituality

No place like it

Cost of living

Woman friendly

# of must see sites

English spoken

Ease of making friends

Beauty

Weather

Pull to visit again

Here is the link http://tinyurl.com/kbn99vy to see the table if you are interested in seeing the nitty gritty of each country and how I scored them. I am grateful to have visited each of these places and this is a list that is just for fun and based on personal experience.

 

1) India

 

india panorama

This country pushes all of my buttons. It’s spiritual, it’s diverse, it’s exotic, it’s unique. It’s food is vegetarian-friendly (heck, it wrote the book on vegetarianism.) The clothes are gorgeous, the people are so kind, and wackiness factor means every day is an adventure. If you’re bored of India, you’re bored of life. No question, India is my favorite country.

2) Mexico

 

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We lived in Mexico City for about 9 months during Ryder’s incubation. It has all the conveniences of the States for less expense. It has amazing street food, colorful festivals, happy people, plenty of sunshine and great weather year-round. Mexico feels like home for us more than any other place we’ve been. And it will be for our son as well—he’s a citizen.

3) Guatemala

 

This country has been a favorite with travellers for decades and I was no exception. We lived in the nicest place on the most beautiful lake in the world, complete with housekeeping and babysitting, for less money than our typical apartment in a big city with no such services. We met many traveling families there, both I and Ryder had close friends nearby, there were hippies galore and plenty of vegetarian food. I learned Spanish with a tutor who came to the house—who became my friend. We went everywhere by boat and tuk tuk, and the culture was so interesting and the history both tragic and important. The only thing to keep this country from complete paradise is the crime.

driving the boat

4) Austria

 

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I have a love affair with the German language and when you can speak the language so many more doors are open to you. I want to teach my children this language one day. Not as hot on the food as Italy though. Outdoor music festivals, the comfortable life, unsurpassed public transportation—this place feels like home.

 

5) Israel/Palestine

 

wailing wall

This country seems to make the world go round. So much of present and past politics revolve around this little country. Ten days was just enough to whet my appetite for more. I love history and I love religious studies. Israel epitomizes all of this. We really were blown away by Palestinian hospitality.

6) Turkey and Kurdistan

 

 

turkey meal

Wow. This is the most under-rated country for Americans to visit IMHO. So easy to get around—just catch a bus to anywhere in the country. Ancient ruins, beautiful mosques, hospitable people, and plenty of ayran and burek made us stay in Turkey right up to the day our visas expired.

7) Italy

 

pizza

Pizza, pasta, and gelato sold on every corner. Opera, stunning architecture and a gorgeous language. I love every minute I’m in Italy. I’ve heard it described as “Disneyland for adults” and I agree. I would love to spend a year here just visiting every nook and cranny.

 

8) Ethiopia

 

ethiopia boy

Ethiopia is unlike anywhere else in Africa. The cuisine is more unique, the women more exotic-looking, the history more compelling, the people more easily befriended, the sites more diverse than anywhere else we visited on the Dark Continent. Not without its drawbacks—the poverty is not ignorable and there are plenty of problems that accompany that. In some ways we didn’t realize what an amazing experience we were having until after we’d left. Overall Ethiopia was truly an experience that I would recommend to anyone.

 

9) Vanuatu

 

BANYAN

The people here were unlike anywhere we’ve ever been. As nice or more than Indians, but not as pushy. As cool as the Tahitians, but English speaking and thus more easily befriended. Simple, straightforward, and so so loving to Ryder. Visiting this country reawakened my travel lust and gave me the vision to continue.

 

10) New Zealand

 

moon

We took a big loss on our camper and so this was probably one of our most expensive destinations—maybe even more than Australia. Yet we often speak nostalgically of our time wandering around the country, free as birds. We love the accents of the New Zealanders, and met several friends, but it’s the landscapes that will probably never compare to anywhere else we’ll ever go.

11) Scotland

 

Scotland, as my genealogical background, was no question a spiritual destination for me, but besides this, Edinburgh is that rare combination of beautiful, ancient, and very comfortable to live. Well, except for the weather. Very kid-friendly, amazing ethnic grocery stores, and English speaking.

 

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12) China

 

crowded china

I almost gave up dating Jacob to go teach English in China. My obsession was not satisfied. I want to see so much more of this amazing and diverse country. It’s like an alternative universe. Nothing is the same as the US. The biggest drawback is the language. It’s very difficult to communicate. We managed by taking photos of everything and showing it to people.

 

13) Spain

 

spainbestof

I was surprised at how much I liked Spain. The people are easy-going and good-looking, the weather is great year-round. Beautiful beaches, weekly festivals, and tons of big cities, and plenty to see all over the whole country. I’d really like to visit the north. The food is supposed to be great there.

14) United States

 

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This is completely ignoring the fact that we have all of our family here (otherwise it would be at the top of the list.) Besides that fact, the US is a very intriguing destination. Despite having road tripped all over it since my childhood, there are so many places I’d still like to see. Mount Rushmore tops the list, but I’ve never visited Portland, Santa Fe, Philadelphia, or Nashville. I love to get a trip in to a new area of the country whenever we can. I think of the US as the greatest food destination in the world—you can get anything and everything there.

15) Macedonia

 

macedonia far

Another surprise, and not a country I completely appreciated while we were there, I look back very fondly on our experience. Utterly unique—music, food, and lifestyle. Extra points because we had Jacob’s brother to show us around and make us feel at home. The second go round, we really got to know our in-law’s family, and Ryder spent time with cousins. I do believe it is his favorite country.

16) Ghana

 

ghana visa

The people here were so kind and friendly. And the place we stayed was one of our favorites. Phoenix Rising Magic Resort. I got called to be a Rastafarian here, made friends with a prostitute, visited football stadiums full of people cheering for preachers, and got introduced to black Africa. It made me ready for more.

17) Rwanda

 

rwanda hut

Pristine. Beautiful. Haunting. I don’t regret visiting here for a moment. The people still seemed shell shocked to me nearly two decades after the genocide. Not so much to do here. There aren’t even shops to buy a drink half the time if you’re out on a casual walk. It was uncomfortable to have so many armed guards everywhere (including in the bushes) and as for the bombs in public places—well, we didn’t want to stay here long. We saw the gorillas face to face here too.

18) Morocco

 

guard Morocco

This country deserves the spot right in the middle for its complex mix: it drove us crazy and made us love it at the same time. The hassle, the unsanitary conditions, the downright rudeness we experienced here was unparalleled (except for in Egypt.) Yet the food, architecture, and culture are utterly unique, and we made friends here that we’d like to see again.

19) Egypt

 

heiroglyphs

Not an easy place to live or to visit, especially when we went (immediately after the revolution.) Lots of hassle, confrontation, and traffic. Yet there’s still so much more to explore and see, with so much important history here I’m sure we’ll return.

 

20) Germany

 

Now that Austria’s on the list, Germany has dropped a fair bit. The people are more cold, and although there are still plenty of sites to see in the country, I do think we’ve seen a lot. The history, the cleanliness, the alternative culture of Berlin are all big draws. And the German lack of tact suits the likes of Jacob and I just fine. And Heiligenhaus is where this whole trip began so there’s some nostalgia to be sure.

berlin street

21) Poland

 

I really liked Poland. It has a distinct cuisine, lots of tragic history which I’m drawn to, and funky, interesting, friendly people. We couchsurfed here, and Ryder made a few friends. It’s definitely a place I’d like to return to.

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22) Greece

 

 

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Again, we visited locals here which much improved our experience. Athens was a bit of a let-down otherwise: polluted and full of shady characters. The Meteora, Santorini, and Rhodes were all travel highlights for their beauty. It was overall an all-around pleasant experience: the weather, the people, the sights.

23) Great Britain

 

church leeds

This ranks relatively highly despite its high expense and similarity to the US because of having friends here and getting experience some of the culture up close, like hen parties, curry houses and Yorkshire puddings. I love the accents and the literary history. And who doesn’t love London?

24) Indonesia

 

I was ready to love Indonesia more than I actually ended up doing. To be fair, we only really visited Bali, which for me was far too touristic and polluted and crowded. If I looked at it from another perspective, however, it really is unique as a traveling entrepreneur hub and a great place for creative energy, with its classes and music and dancing and holistic healing available.

 fotm

25) Serbia

 

First place I had culture shock in a while, this is definitely the happening place of the Balkans, with really interesting cuisine, history, and cafe culture. And the museum of Nikola Tesla, who I previously knew nothing about but who is just about the most important person who ever lived, is here. His ashes are contained here:

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26) Slovenia

 

The food here was incredible. We were only here a couple days, but the country really made a positive impression on me, in terms of beauty, food, and friendliness. Okay, so no one said it was HEALTHY food. This is all cream and cheese.

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27) Australia

 

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For me, New Zealand outranks Australia in just about every way. It’s more beautiful, the people are friendlier, it’s cheaper. But in at least one thing Australia has New Zealand beat: its healthcare. I had a difficult breathing problem fixed here that I wouldn’t have trusted a New Zealand doctor to address. The country is just too small. Sydney hasn’t been an extreme (good or bad) from our travels. It’s very comfortable, convenient, and cosmopolitan. Australia is perhaps the country most similar to the US other than Canada that we have visited.

28) Uganda

 

ugandan market

I feel like we gave Uganda a good run and have no need to go back. Although the people were less friendly than other places in Africa, and it was as corrupt or more than any place we’ve been, the amazingly budget safari we were able to go on was a plus, and white water rafting the Nile was probably a top five experience—ever.

29) New Caledonia

 

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This wouldn’t rank as highly if Jacob hadn’t lived here for two years on his mission. We really got a local experience by going back to visit his old friends. I loved the gift bags created by his friends from Wallis and Futuna, including a baby t shirt for Ryder. It is the most developed of the Pacific Islands, and the most French. Those aren’t necessarily my favorites, normally. We’ll almost definitely come back here for the nostalgia though.

30) Vatican City

 

vatican city fountain

Loved it here. Saw the Pope. It’s just not the sort of place you normally visit more than once in a lifetime.

 

31) Argentina

 

argentina sky

It puzzles me a bit why Buenos Aires is such a favorite for so many travelers. The crime is quite bad. The food is steak and pasta—not a foodie’s dream necessarily. The people are self-admittedly a bit stuck up compared to the rest of Latin America. But Iguazu Falls—worth it all and more. The cost of living here is amazing too—an apartment downtown was only $600/month.

32) Canada

 

Vancouver-Acquarium 085

There are some other places I’d like to go to in Canada: like Montreal, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island. Otherwise, Canada is pretty much like being in the States so it’s not exotic enough for me. It’s beautiful, but no me gusta the cold!

33) Northern Ireland

 

We loved the Giant’s Causeway and driving through this beautiful country, but I don’t imagine we’ll end up spending much more time here.

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34) Hungary

 

My time here was brief—but memorable. Cold fruit soup, outdoor Turkish bath, beautiful views—and a hilarious night of dancing, Budapest was a perfect little trip with friends.

dancing budapest

35) Czech Republic

 

I actually quite liked Prague this time around, but I feel like I’ve seen a fair bit of the country and feel no strong pull to return, especially considering the language barrier and the amount of tourists–the country is in vogue right now. I did get to meet my roommate’s family, and go clubbing. It was definitely a fun time.

prague pic

 

36) France

 

night empty france

I prefer the passion of the Spaniards, the soft-spokenness of the British, and even the abruptness of the Germans to the snooty sophisticated French. I have little interest in the rest of the country compared to other parts of Europe, but Paris—yes, Paris is a city of dreams. Also—don’t get why French food is considered the top cuisine. I find it boring and bland. Sorry, I know that’s shocking. I can’t help it, I just don’t get the allure.

37) Tahiti

 

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The people here were so lovely. I mean just down-to-earth, easy-going folks. The food was different and unique. But there were a couple drawbacks. First, it’s a French island. This means there’s not much to do, and it’s quite expensive. We also were not anywhere near a beach and there was no way for me to get around but walk. It was a long two and a half months. I would still love to visit Bora Bora.

 

38) Croatia

 

I liked Zagreb, it was just a little on the touristy side for me, and it was darn near impossible to find a decent restaurant.  I’ve no doubt there’s much more to be discovered here, but like the Czech Republic, it feels like it’s very in vogue right now, thus crowded, and consequently has less interest for me.

croatia

 

39) Thailand

 

tacky thailand

Seldom has a country been such a let-down as Thailand was. It is because we spent nearly all of our time in Phuket, known as the sex tourism capital of the world. And then in Bangkok, we stayed in backpacker central. So much of what I saw just seemed…tacky. Admittedly, it’s wonderfully cheap, easy to get around, and I didn’t try the street food which is supposed to be the best in the world. I just got the worst food poisoning ever there and was too afraid to try anything else. I know I really ought to give it another chance, but at this stage of the game, there’s too many other places I want to go.

 

40) Guadeloupe

 

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The people here have such a chip on their shoulder. We got kicked out of our apartment (that was a first). It’s not easy to learn French here compared to other places and there’s not a whole lot to do. Two and half months was difficult here. But the water is unbelievably blue, and always warm. There were some unique Caribbean dishes to experiment making. And it’s where Ryder first came into being, and we made a friend or two there. So maybe we will go back one day.  There are some nostalgic ties here to be sure.

41) Slovakia

 

I was only here for a day—it’s just an hour’s train ride from Vienna– but the people made an impression on me, as did the state of the schools–surprisingly poor seeming for Europe. I liked the vibe of Bratislava.

train trip to bratislava

42) Bulgaria

 

sofia church

Look, we only spent a day here so this isn’t a fair ranking. But what I saw didn’t make me want to see more. What I remember: It had some great churches and horrible traffic. Three different transgendered men hit on Jacob within 24 hours. And one taxi driver completely scammed us and he and Jacob had it out in the parking lot. I don’t know much about the food or people. I would just rather visit other places in Europe—like Macedonia right next door.

 

43) St Lucia

 

One man cussed me out to my face here. I felt there was a lot of animosity towards the tourists. An island, there isn’t much to do. One day was enough. But that day was very fun! Natural hot springs, the grand Pitons and easy getting out with a local ferry. Even with a last place mention, I’m still happy to have visited this Caribbean island. But unfortunately, I don’t even have a single picture to share of our stay.

If you have a favorite country list, please share in the comments!

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 366 awesome articles for us.

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