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When I think about how much beauty around the world I’ve been blessed to see across 60+ countries on 6 continents, I can’t help but have every destination flash before my eyes.
But it’s no secret that there are some places that tug at your heart just a little stronger than others.
This list might change by the year or even month, but as of January 2018, these are my current thoughts on the most-coveted question of which countries are my favorite.
And no doubt this list won’t echo the sentiments of every well-traveled person, nor is it meant to be conclusive.
So whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a beginning one, if you’re looking for some country ideas, these places have my biggest stamp of approval.
For context, the way I narrowed down this list was based on these 5 criteria:
Ease of Navigation
Affordability For Average Person
I know you’re tempted to have a quick scroll, but do take the time to read my explanations as well, so you can understand a bit more about why these countries deserve a spot on my top 10.After seeing a third of the world, here are the countries that I loved and enjoyed the most. Click To Tweet
Favorite City: Galway
Favorite Excursion: Solo pub-crawling and making friends with literally everyone in sight
I’ve been to Ireland 5x now, exploring everywhere from Dublin to Galway, Killarney to Cork, and the Ring of Kerry to the Cliffs of Moher.
It’s rich with beautiful green landscapes, ancient castles, gorgeous cliff views, and an accent that will make you lose control of your
panties senses on the spot.
When I travel to Ireland solo, it is hands down the easiest place to make friends. You could walk into a bar and the entire place will be singing along to “Wild Rover” or “Whiskey in the Jar” and there is simply no greater pub culture to be experienced.
People are always happy, drinking, dancing, and singing along to the cheekiest tunes, and it’s an atmosphere that is welcoming to any kind of traveler.
There is no better craic (pronounced like crack, but not referring to the powder) to be had.
Favorite City: Melbourne
Favorite Excursion: Driving the Great Ocean Road
As I write this from Sydney, Australia, there’s no way I could deny the absolute warmth, hilarity, and beauty my two month Aussie adventures have been.
And before my Melbourne crowd gets too big-headed about me choosing that city over Sydney, I have to say that aesthetically, Sydney is easily one of the most stunning cities in the world.
Not only for its monuments, coastlines, and endless beaches, but the surrounding areas of Kanangra and Blue Mountains deserve to be seen just as much as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
People say that Sydney is like the girl you date, but Melbourne is the one you marry 😉
I also admit to falling into the media’s trap that cast Australia as a dangerous wilderness of things that just want to eat you.
I’ve been here for two months now, and I’ve yet to see a single snake, but what I have seen are unbelievable mountains, breathtaking desert dunes, hunky men at every turn, and an overwhelmingly friendly reception overall.
Australia, though geographically disadvantaged from the rest of the world, is worth the long-haul flight. I recommend flying into a place like Thailand, Bali, or Singapore, and then booking a cheaper local flight on Jetstar or AirAsia that could be as little as $200 for a one-way ticket inbound.
I wasn’t able to make it to the west or Northern Territory, but perhaps an excuse to come back!
I’m excited to write my full recap on Australia soon, but in the meantime, please believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. This place really is a treasure.
And while it’s true it’s Oprah Winfreyly expensive, sometimes you have to pay the price to experience a country with so much to offer. And when you’re not crying over your $50 USD meals, you’ll be swooning over their public transportation system.
I cannot get over Sydney’s double-decker, seat-reversing magic on their main train lines. So good it hurts — though ironically, the locals always complain about how slow they run.
Favorite City: Cusco
Favorite Excursion: Riding dune buggies in the Huacachina Desert
I’m not ashamed to say I cried at Machu Picchu. Yes, I was also menstruating, but that’s beside the point. Stay focused, people.
That sight is so damn beautiful, surreal, and something I just felt unworthy of seeing with my naked eyes.
As you hike there early to be one of the first to witness this view, you’re met with nothing but fog and initial disappointment.
Until finally, an hour or so passes, the mist clears, and out of nowhere, you realize you’re looking down at the most coveted view in the world, and the shock and surrealness of the moment takes your breath away.
But I will say this 10x over, Peru is so much more than Machu Picchu and you’ll find even more beauty sand duning in the Huacachina Desert or roaming the streets of Cusco. The cover photo of this article was actually shot in Peru!
Peruvian cuisine is also something blessed by the Fatha Gawd Himself, because my peasant taste buds don’t deserve all that gloriousness.
Peruvian people are also very tanned, so if you’re black, expect them to stare — but it will be out of curiosity, wondering if you’re one of them, or not, lol. Enjoy and embrace it. They’re friendly!
7. South Africa
Favorite City: Cape Town
Favorite Excursion: Sunday afternoon Braai at Mzoli’s
Colorful, chaotic, and just a little bit crazy. South Africa has something for everyone — and if you’re looking for a mini introduction into the beauty that the continent of Africa has to offer, I don’t think there’s a better country to start with than South Africa.
While most people only flock to Cape Town, I can’t say enough amazing things about the vibe and people of Johannesburg too.
Jozie will always be my fly-in point, because whether I’m making a weekend drive to Pretoria for their nightlife, or hitting a comedy club, or just out dancing in the Soweto township around The Mandela House, there is so much to feel and experience there.
South Africans also have an adorable accent and hilarious colloquialisms. They don’t really know they do it either. Saying ‘heeectic‘ to describe virtually everything or saying ‘is it?’ when the western world would usually say ‘really?’
My favorite was “YOH!!!!” And you’ll hear at least ten intonations and variations of it, which can basically express any type of emotion depending on the tone they say it with.
And then there’s “YEBO!!!” which means “YES” in Zulu, one of the official languages of South Africa.
Really get to know the people, because more than the beautiful landscapes, coastal drives, and beaches, the people really make South Africa shine as bright as it does.
6. Sri Lanka
Favorite City: Kandy
Favorite Excursion: Riding the most scenic train ride in the world through the central province
I don’t think a country has ever taken me more by surprise than Sri Lanka. Every year, I try to visit at least one underrated country and give it as much publicity and love as possible.
The sensory overload was immediate and the connection was inevitable, so I made it my task to visually convey the warmth of the people and their culture.
You’ll find they have the beauty of Bali, but with culture as rich as India’s. Their people, their monuments, and their cuisine are simply superb.
There are so many gorgeous, boutique and luxurious properties you can stay at as well. You have so much wildlife around you, a Sri Lankan safari is simply a must. And the people will welcome you with smiles wider than the wage gap between men and women in America — it’s great!
Favorite City: Wolwedans [NamibRand Reserve]
Favorite Excursion: Sunset game drives with wine
NAMIBIA! Na-freakin-mibia. Holy adventure!
If you want to experience the best of Mother Nature, go to Namibia.
If you want to sleep naked under the stars, go to Namibia.
If you want an exhilarating desert adventure, go to Namibia.
If you want to see a place that feels like Earth but looks like Mars, go to Namibia.
If you want to visit a country with over a dozen national languages, go to Namibia.
If you want to see resourcefulness personified, go to Nambia.
If you think you know what it’s like to be a nomad, go to Namibia.
If you want to hear the most beautiful language in the world, Khoekhoe, spoken by the Damara people, go to Namibia.
If you want to remember how small your problems actually are, go to Namibia.
If you want to receive some of the best hospitality in the world, go to Namibia.
Traveling through Namibia is so much better felt than “tellt”. This country is nothing like I’ve ever experienced before, and it’s one of the few places I can honestly say I can’t wait to bring my future hubby and kids to someday.
Child-like happiness in a Heaven-like environment. Pinch thee.
Favorite City: Rio de Janeiro
Favorite Excursion: Hiking to the top of Dois Irmãos
I’ve never fallen in love with a country faster than I did with Brazil.
Brasileiros, thank you for dancing with me, drinking with me, and taking me in as one of your own.
In another life, I’m pretty sure I was born there and I’ll keep bragging about its beauty until I run out of breath, because this country tackles all your senses in the best way possible.
Brazil is one of the few countries that have mastered the work-life balance to the T. Chillin’ is just a part of their lifestyle and there’s a beauty about this carefree kind of living.
People back in the U.S. usually work all year for a two-week vacation, while people in Brazil work all morning and vacation at the beach during lunch — hashtag, balance. 😂
While it’s no doubt there are some issues with colorism, Brazil’s history is a complicated one. Many people think that the U.S. had the largest import of African slaves, but it was actually Brazil.
Which is why I highly recommend a weekend trip up to Salvador de Bahía, home to the largest slave port in history, where you will see the city dripping with African influence in everything they do.
In Salvador, you can feel such pride and power about having black skin, especially in comparison to what you might feel in Rio.
Brazilian music is also some of the most eclectic and vivacious you’ll ever hear. I’m so hooked to Brazilian culture, that my 10-year visa will surely be put to good use.
Speaking of, for Americans, this is one of the few countries where you’ll need a visa to enter, so be sure to plan accordingly. I use All Star Passports for any of my visa and passport services when I’m stateside. And if you’d like to visit during Carnaval, plan on going there in mid-February!
3. Indonesia (Bali)
Favorite City: Canggu
Favorite Excursion: Countless trips to Tegalalang Rice Paddies for the quintessential Balinese photo opps
While I found myself in and out of Bali for nearly five months last year, it should come at no surprise, that my first trip of 2018, is to go back to the paradise I fell in love with for a bit, before embarking on another monster year.
While I still would love to explore other islands of Indonesia, Bali gave me everything I needed and more.
To start, there’s a local app called GO-LIFE where I would regularly order 90-minute massages from a local masseuse that would not only come all the way to my villa, but it would cost a mind-boggling $5 USD at the end. Of course I heavily tipped, but the fact that I had that kind of lifestyle at my fingertips daily was magical.
All of a sudden, a lifestyle of seemingly low-level luxuries that I would never splurge on growing up, I was doing all of it and more while in Bali.
I took self-care to an astronomical level and I learned enough Bahasa (Indonesian) and even Balinese to trick the locals into thinking I had been living there for a while.
While I’m nowhere near wanting to settle down yet, Bali is the only place that came the closest to me putting that idea into practice.
I even got to collaborate with one of the most talented videographers in the game, Dakota Adan, to discover why everyone comes to Bali on a journey to seek. See the magic of our trip below!
Favorite City: Budva
Favorite Excursion: Yacht rides and sunsets around the bay
Montenegro is my favorite country in Europe, but arguably for all the wrong reasons. Everytime I visit, I’m treated like the ultimate celebrity, and I can’t help it that they just don’t see too many black tourists all year.
If I ever feel like I’m having low self-esteem, or to be quite frank, I want to be wined and dined by gorgeous men, this is where I flee to. Hashtag, keepin’ it real.
Meals on the house, VIP access to beach clubs, and skipping lines, leaving all peasant-like behavior in my previous life, I can always come here and count on the
black red carpet being laid out.
While no doubt someone will say it is never a good thing to be exoticized, as soon as my flight leaves, I’ll go back to agreeing with you. But the way this star-studded treatment is set up… *files nails*
And even though this came with its fair share of gaping stares, constant photos, and one-too-many advances, I think everyone deserves to feel like Beyonce at least once in their lifetime.
Montenegro is perhaps the most naturally-beautiful country in Europe, but for some reason, you’ll never hear Americans, Australians, or Canadians say, “I’m going on vacation to Montenegro.”
For this reason, it’s never unbearably crowded, and it’s known as a Russian Paradise, as that’s the nationality that frequents this country the most.
Montenegrins are the second tallest people in Europe, right after the Dutch, and you’ll find yourself anxious to learn Slavic words to engage with their culture deeper.
They’ve also mastered the work-life balance well, as they work hard for the summer months, and basically relax and travel for the remainder of the year, because Russians boost their economy so much.
Croatia gets an honorable mention, but Game of Thrones has skyrocketed its popularity, so if you’re looking for the same beauty, cuisine, and charm, but with less of the crowd, head right over to Montenegro and swoon my child, swooooon.
Favorite City: Tokyo
Favorite Excursion: Getting fitted in traditional Japanese kimonos and clogs
Japan might be the ONLY country I’ve been to that has 100% lived up to its hype. I have never been so blown away and impressed by so many seemingly basic aspects of their day to day life.
They say “hi!” every few seconds and no, they’re not greeting you excessively, it’s actually “hai” they’re saying which in Japanese means, “okay”. Fight the urge to say hi back when possible, ha.
Their hospitality is simply unmatched. The amount of times workers whether at airports, hotels, or restaurants came up to offer me information, carry my bag, or just let me know they’re at my service, blew me away.
They just take mindfulness of others and respect to another level. There are signs on public transport advising you to switch your phone to vibrate and refrain from talking on the phone.
In their airports they have a priority lane for people in a hurry for their flight and people don’t try to cheat the system as the other lines stayed full.
My friend dropped her pen while we were at the Sake Festival and almost on cue, three people jumped at her to make sure she was aware.
It’ll be REALLY hard not to compare every country I visit from here on out to Japan.
And don’t you dare try to tip, for it is their honor to serve you, and they will chase you down to give you your change back if you forget. Respect embodies everything they do and stand for.
Japan might be the only country in the world where you could leave your wallet on the ground of the busiest street in town and return the next day to find it still there, all money in tact and that is simply their culture.
And when it comes to lodging and accommodation in all these destinations, I recommend using HotelsCombined to compare hotel deals on all the top travel sites across the internet in order to save the most money! There are no booking fees or mark-ups, and over 400 million travelers use the site annually for their holidays and vacations. And by signing up, you can get the best deals straight to your inbox.
I hope you enjoyed this list and if you know a friend from a country on it, or even anybody who’s looking to take a getaway in 2018, share this with them!
Let me know some of your top 10 spots down in the comments below!