Looking for something to inspire your wanderlust or ideas of where to spend your next holiday? Check out this list of my top 10 countries…
My Top 10 Countries (2020 Edition)
I love a good list and, this being a travel blog, a yearly recap of my top 10 countries was a no brainer. After a bit of reflection at the beginning of 2019, I sat down and wrote the inaugural list, which can be read here. I think it will be quite interesting to see how the list develops over the years as I hopefully see and experience more of what the world has to offer.
So without further ado, here is the 2020 edition of my top 10 countries. The number in brackets indicates last year’s position (NE for new entry). Sadly, Singapore, Norway and England have dropped out of the top 10 to make way for three newcomers. I have a feeling I might have to expend this article into a top 15/20 in future years…
My Top 10 Countries - The List
10. Morocco (7)
As I said in last year’s review, my trip to Morocco at the end of 2017 holds particularly fond memories as I visited during what was, personally, a very low point. After spending the preceding six months in a nasty, toxic work environment, getting away from everything was revitalising.
Aside from the much needed getaway, what did I like about Morocco? It offers an unrelenting feast for the senses. Prepare for a kaleidoscope of colours and a myriad of smells and sounds whilst losing yourself in an ancient medina. Away from its cities, prepare to be blown away by the dramatic landscapes – from the high peaks of the Atlas Mountains to the sweeping sand dunes of the Sahara Desert. Be sure to include a trip to Morocco’s Atlantic coast and experience Essaouira’s laidback hedonistic charm. An evening stroll along the beach will treat you to some beautiful and vibrant sunsets. All of my Morocco content can be found here.
9. Cambodia (6)
In 2015, Cambodia was my favourite country. Before Cambodia, my experience of the world was restricted to Western Europe and the USA. Cambodia was a thrilling new experience – a country unlike any which I had visited before. It was the country that spawned my love of travel, so it will come as no surprise that Cambodia holds a particular special place in my heart. After trying street food for the first time, experiencing the warmth exuded by its people (despite all of the hardships which they have endured) and seeing some of the world’s most spectacular temples, my life would never be the same. Cambodia awoke something – a desire to see and experience as much of the world as I possibly can throughout the rest of my life. For that, I have nothing but gratitude for Cambodia.
8. Spain (NE)
2019 was the first time in ten years that I had set foot on Spanish soil and it provided two glorious city breaks. The the first was to Barcelona with my Dad, with a further trip to Madrid for a surprisingly cultured stag do. All of this had me questioning why it had been such a long exile. Spain, I can only apologise, but hopefully an eight place spot on my top 10 counties list will go a little way to making up for this oversight. Barcelona’s tapas scene alone would have been enough to rank this year. But throw in the lovely weather, Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces, some delicious wine and an excellent bar scene in Madrid, and you’re onto a winner. I can promise you one thing, it certainly won’t be another 10 years until I return…
7. Hong Kong (5)
Hong Kong is my favourite city in the world. The food scene is unparalleled. The hectic hustle and bustle is absorbing. Watching that skyline come to life, cocktail in hand, as day gives way to night, is magical. I could happily spend weeks exploring this city, preferably with my camera in hand and my stomach full of all the local delights. This way for Hong Kong articles.
6. Vietnam (4)
“Going to Vietnam the first time was life-changing for sure; maybe because it was all so new and different to my life before and the world I grew up in. The food, culture, landscape and smell; they’re all inseparable. It just seemed like another planet; a delicious one that sort of sucked me in and never let go.” These are the words of the late, great Anthony Bourdain, and I completely agree with his wonderfully spoken sentiments.
My first solo trip was to Vietnam. It’s where I learned that seeing the world solo wasn’t as scary as I’d imagined. It’s where I fell in love with the most wonderful cuisine – I urge you to go and eat as much phở, Chả Cá, Bun Cha, Bánh mì and Bánh Cuôn as your stomach can hold.
Beyond the food, the architecture of Ho Chi Min City hints back to the country’s European occupations and the museums give a detailed insight into the Vietnam War (if you find that kind of stuff interesting, check out Ken Burns’ incredible 10 part documentary ‘the Vietnam War’). Ignoring the food (I know, I know) my personal highlight might be an obvious one, but there is a reason why Ha Long Bay is so revered. I was lucky enough to spend 3 days on board the Dragon Legend (pictured below) exploring the wonder of Ha Long Bay.
5. Bolivia (3)
Bolivia is a country brimming with once in a lifetime experiences and jaw dropping landscapes. The Uyuni salt flats had been top of my bucket list for a couple of years and boy did it live up to expectations. Aside from this obvious highlight, there was La Paz – the chaotic capital city with its dramatic mountain backdrop, the mind-boggling landscapes of the Atacama Desert, taking a trip down the world’s most dangerous road and, seeing flamingos in the wild. My only regret is that we didn’t have more time in the country.
4. Nepal (NE)
I’ve come to realise that the mountains are one of my happy places, and when it comes to enjoying mountains there is no country better equipped than Nepal. Of the 14 mountains on the planet which sit at 8,000m or more, 8 can be found in Nepal (pretty greedy if you ask me). Once the rugged, untamed beauty of the mountains gets into your system, there’s no going back. Throw in the feeling of accomplishment of reaching that high peak or pass and it’s an all out addiction. For the best part of two and a half weeks I marvelled at Nepal’s sublime tapestry of landscapes as I explored the Annapurna region. It was without doubt one of the best experiences of my life.
3. Argentina (NE)
Patagonia has a strong claim to being the most visually stunning place on this planet we call Earth. Argentina has the privilege of sharing this natural wonder with Chile. If you’re into remote locations, spectacular landscapes, hiking or photography, Argentina is gong to be right up your street. Throw in as much malbec and steak (rare, obviously) and you’re onto a winner. Argentina content will be coming soon!
2. Italy (2)
As with last year, Italy just missed out on top spot. Whilst its not as exotic and far-flung as a lot of the countries on this list, Italy is bloody marvellous. So far in my life, I’ve taken three trips to Italy and could happily go back every single year. To read about my most recent trip, head over to this page. Perhaps, one day, when I have visited another handful of times and seen (and eaten) more, Italy will gracefully barge its way onto the top of this list. What is there to say about Italy? It is the destination which has everything: some of the most delicious food imaginable; dramatic landscapes; a long and interesting history; picturesque towns and cities; and some of the greatest artworks ever created.
1. Peru (1)
Holding on to top spot for the second year in a row is Peru. Machu Picchu is an obvious and must see highlight. It’s hard to explain the feeling of seeing Machu Picchu for the first time after a hard day’s hike along the Inca Trail, but I’ve tried my best in this post. My trip to Peru was was the first time in my life that I had seen mountains in person and it blew my mind (I know we have a couple in the UK, but they are pretty piddly compared to the scale of South America’s rugged topography).
But it’s not just the landscapes and Incas that make Peru such a powerhouse. The strength of the culinary scene continually surprised and impressed me. The seafood (in particular, the ceviche) was splendid. Visiting Lima? Be sure to make a reservation for lunch at La Mar and enjoy a feast of the finest seafood.
Away from Lima, I fell for the charm of Cusco – the city is so much more than a gateway to the Sacred Valley. I was fascinated to learn about the ancient history of the Sacred Valley and the ingenuity of the Incan empire. Watching the local surfers battle the Pacific waves with a beer in hand was magnificent. As was the unique, warm and friendly homestay experience on the Uros Islands. Two weeks in Peru created so many special memories and you can read more about them here.
So, those are my top 10 countries I’d love to hear what makes your list – why not drop me a comment with your favourites…