What makes a country happy? The United Nations considers the answer with its annual World Happiness Report, ranking a total of 155 countries. Key ingredients for well-being include longer healthy years of life, more social support, trust in government, higher GDP per capita, and generosity.
This year’s list hosts the same top 10 countries as 2016, however some managed to jump the ranks while others fell. Most notably, Norway rose from fourth place to first this year, snatching the title from Denmark.
While the experiences of tourists were not considered specifically, the report sets a standard for blissful places to visit. After all, aren’t smiles contagious?
Here are the happiest countries in the world and some of what makes them unique.
In Sweden, the coffee break is sacred. Swedes carve out time each day to slow down and enjoy fika, a short beverage break that can be done solo or with company.
Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia
PHOTOGRAPH BY DALLAS AND JOHN HEATON, AURORA
From the packed shores of Bondi Beach to the quiet hideaways along the Great Ocean Road, Australia has a whopping 10,685 beaches.
8. NEW ZEALAND
Auckland, New Zealand
PHOTOGRAPH BY IAN TROWER, AURORA
No part of this island nation is more than 79 miles (128km) from the sea. New Zealand is also home to unique penguin species, including the yellow-eyed penguin, the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin, and the little blue penguin—the world’s smallest.
Downtown Vancouver, Canada.
PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID HANSON, AURORA
Canada’s forest cover represents 30 percent of the world’s boreal forest and 10 percent of the world’s overall forest cover. Unsurprisingly, Canada’s air quality is among the best in the world.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NATURE’S BEAUTY/AURORA
Amsterdam actually has 1281 bridges, three times as many as Venice.
Port of Helsinki, Finland
PHOTOGRAPH BY LOOK FOTO, AURORA
Finns take their soak time so seriously, there are an estimated two million saunas in the country with a population of 5.3 million.
Fraumunster Cathedral in Zurich, Switzerland
PHOTOGRAPH BY ALEX ROBINSON
According to the International Cocoa Organization, the Swiss eat an estimated 25 pounds (11 kg) of chocolate a year.
Reykjavík, Iceland in winter
PHOTOGRAPH BY GAVIN HELLIER
This country is known as “The Land of Fire and Ice” because of the glaciers and volcanoes that make up the landscape. Iceland’s Vatnajökull—Europe’s largest glacier—is a piece of ice the size of Puerto Rico.
Nyhavn Harbour, Copenhagen, Denmark
PHOTOGRAPH BY JON ARNOLD, AURORA
The city of Copenhagen was built for bicyclists. A third of Copenhageners commute to work daily on 217 miles (350 km) of paths and lanes that stretch across the city.
Aurora borealis over Tromso, Norway
PHOTOGRAPH BY NICOLAS ARMER, AURORA
Norway is a premiere destination to view the dancing lights of the aurora borealis. In ancient times, people believed the glowing lights were sent from the gods.
Source: National Geographic