World's Happiest Countries
Feeling glum? A trip might be the ticket to cheer you up — but only if your destination is uplifting. Luckily, the ninth annual World Happiness Report was recently released, ranking 149 countries based on how happy residents say they are.
The following countries landed in the coveted Top 40. Visit one (or more), and you’re all but guaranteed to leave with a bounce in your step.
Rating: 6.19 (out of 10)
Estonia had a high GDP per capita and a high perception of social support, both of which have been found to matter when it comes to happiness.
The country is currently trying to become a tech hub, launching one of the first Digital Nomad Visa schemes in the world to attract skilled foreign workers.
*Rankings are based on a Gallup World Poll report, which asks citizens to rate their happiness and takes into account life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, perception of governmental corruption and gross domestic product per capita. This year, the response to COVID-19 was also analyzed.
A decent life expectancy and a high GDP per capita explain how Cyprus has broken into the top 40 happiest countries.
Situated on the Mediterranean, it has been a popular island destination since Ancient Greek times. Go for the beautiful sea, and stay for the delicious food.
The second Baltic country to break into the list, Lithuania is one of Europe's most underrated destinations.
Locals enjoy social support and a low perception of corruption. Add to that a decent GDP per capita, and you got yourself a recipe for citizen happiness.
Social support and freedom to make life choices make Jamaican people some of the happiest in the world.
The island is renowned for its religious devotion, upbeat calypso music and boisterous carnival celebrations.
The United States’ neighbor to the south is on the list but has slipped a few spots from recent years. Still, Mexicans rank themselves highly for social connections — and interestingly, national pride in the men’s soccer team boosted respondents’ happiness as well.
The food, the culture, the friendliness of the people and the beauty of the beaches and cities all contribute to Mexico also being one of the world's best destinations.
Brazil is a country whose ranking might be lower than you expected. After all, with its beach culture and famous Carnival, what country could be happier?
But Brazil’s residents report an economy that is not as strong as it was and an uptick of corruption.
Nevertheless, tourism in Brazil remains vibrant and the warm welcome from its people unchanged. A trip to Rio de Janeiro remains a must-do for many travelers.
The Eastern European nation of Slovakia is moving up rapidly in the happiness rankings. The country is solidly in the middle of most rankings but enjoys a particularly robust life expectancy.
Slovakia’s offerings for those seeking happiness are diverse, from beautiful mountains to climb to stunning old castles to explore. The country is an architecture buff’s dream, and wine lovers will enjoy tasting its unique varietals.
Best of all? Slovakia is one of the cheapest countries in Europe to explore.
Though it only declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo is already coming in strong in terms of citizen happiness.
The small nation continues to be under-the-radar and has the beautiful architecture of Eastern Europe without masses of tourists.
Singapore, the first Asian country on our list, is a wealthy nation where social support is strong. Plus, its residents report less corruption than in any other nation in the world.
Singapore’s charms for tourists are well known, but English-speaking and environmentally aware travelers will particularly like visiting. Most people speak English, one of the nation’s four official languages, and care for the planet is a top priority.
Changi Airport and the Gardens by the Bay are particularly great places to kick off a jaunty tour of this beautifully maintained country.
The South American country of Uruguay is not wealthy, but residents score themselves highly in social connectedness. In the rest of the areas measured, Uruguay’s scores are solidly average.
If you like the idea of walking along a gorgeous, white-sand beach, followed by exploring Art Deco buildings surrounding a stunning central plaza, make sure to add Uruguay’s capital city of Montevideo to your bucket list.
Guatemala’s economy is far weaker than other places on the ranking, but the country enjoys a slightly better rating because Guatemalans prize their social connections and rank themselves highly in that area.
Mayan ruins are the must-see attraction in Guatemala. A visit to Tikal, the ancient Mayan city, will delight lovers of history, culture and beautiful vistas.
This gorgeous country caught in the middle of Western and Eastern Europe ranks highly in terms of social support, GDP per capita and freedom to make life choices.
Travelers are also happy in Slovenia, particularly in the incredibly Instagramable Lake Bled, the most famous landmark in the country.
For a country so renowned for la dolce vita, Italy’s relatively low ranking on the Happiest Countries list may be a surprise. Italians rank themselves poorly on governmental corruption and freedom but appreciate their strong social support and life expectancy. Effects from the 2008 banking crisis moved Italy lower as well, according to the report’s authors.
The country, though, still offers plenty of happiness for visitors. Wine? Cheese? Pasta? Sublime views of rolling countryside? The pleasures of a walk in Rome? The artworks? The gelato? The list of reasons to visit Italy is seemingly endless.
Like Italy, Spain’s rankings have dipped in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis. Indeed, Spain is one of the countries that’s declined the most in happiness, slipping about .75 of a point since the survey started. Nonetheless, the country’s residents continue to enjoy strong social ties, relatively long lives and a general feeling that their government is not corrupt.
As the second-most visited country in the world, Spain’s tourism offerings are legendary. Add to the list an excellent assortment of ski resorts in the country’s mountainous countryside. The opportunity to say you’ve slalomed down the Pyrenees is an offer few should refuse.
26. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s people continue to rank the country highly on the Happiest Countries list. Discomfort with growing corruption does pull the scoring down, but most residents point to the robust economy as a source of contentment.
Of course, Muslims around the world think of Saudi Arabia fondly; the country is home to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city and a travel destination for millions of people.
25. United Arab Emirates
Residents of the United Arab Emirates are proud of their economy (ranking themselves fourth in the world!) and their generosity. The UAE doesn’t land higher on the list, though, because it reports relatively poor social connections.
Dubai, Dubai, Dubai. This modern UAE city is its most famous tourist attraction, with an overwhelming amount to see and do. This is a shopper’s paradise, with shopping malls that cater to every interest and whim. They say money can’t buy happiness, but maybe they’ve never been to Dubai!
Taiwan, the highest-ranking East Asian country on the list, boasts an energetic economy and strong social ties. Residents rank their freedom very low, however, reflecting ongoing difficulties with China.
What should those seeking happiness in Taiwan do? There are many choices in the capital city of Taipei, where you can visit the National Palace Museum, one of the largest museums in the world. Those who feel happiest when their bellies are full should treat themselves to the country’s cuisine, which reflects a mix of several Asian influences.
Many people would be hard-pressed to find this Mediterranean archipelago between Sicily and the North African coast on a map. But this is a place that demands attention — in part because it’s so happy.
The people of Malta rank themselves so highly that they’re pretty close to the Top 20. Malta ranks 5th in generosity and its social connectivity lands very high on the list as well.
Malta’s scenery is stunning and can be explored in many exciting ways. Consider snorkeling in the Blue Lagoon or diving around the fallen cliffs of the Azure Window. Relatively unknown and very ready to welcome you, Malta will boost your happiness, too.
In Bahrain, the economy is perceived to be in great shape, and life expectancy is high. People consider themselves generous, too — all three of which make for a happy life.
Bahrain is a small island in the Persian Gulf, with a strong Muslim culture. Visitors interested in Islamic architecture and history will find much to love here, from the impressive Al Fateh Grand Mosque to the Bahrain National Museum, where a day spent absorbing history flies by.
The bad news: France’s economic health took a downturn during the global banking crisis of 2008 and has yet to fully recover.
The good news: The French rank themselves highly in sociability. They find little corruption and life expectancy is good, which work together to keep them in the Top 25.
France’s many charms are well-recorded by some of the most famous travelers of our history. Still, the pleasure of a walk through Paris cannot be under-estimated. Stroll, stop at a café for a drink and to people-watch, then stroll some more: bliss!
Belgium’s ranking has fallen slightly, a change attributed to general economic uneasiness across Europe, as well as a perception of corruption within the Belgian government. Nonetheless, the country's robust economy and high level of social support have kept it within the Top 20 on the happiness list.
Join in the good cheer by eating and drinking with locals in this country world-renowned for its mussels, Belgian fries, waffles, chocolate and beer.
Or visit in February to experience the Binche carnival, an offbeat folk festival that showcases locals at their most goofy and gleeful. The event is marked by singing, dancing and — yes — pelting onlookers with fruit.
19. United States
The Gallup Organization reports that happiness in the United States has been on a slow decline over the years, due to “worsening health conditions for much of the population, declining social trust and declining confidence in government.”
But it's not all bad news: The U.S. still managed to land in the coveted Top 20 and boasts a particularly high ranking in generosity — which should be encouraging to tourists from within and outside of this nation filled with exciting places to explore.
18. Czech Republic
Czech Republic has been steadily moving up the rankings over the last several years.
The Czech Republic scores especially well in social support, which is no surprise for a country known for its close family ties. Its citizens also perceive very little corruption.
Want to socialize with the nation's joyful locals? Grab a pint of Pilsner Urquell — a refreshing beer first brewed in the town of Pilsen — at one of many excellent breweries. Or head here during the summer, when locals mix with visitors during a robust festival season. Celebrate everything from electronic music (Beats of Love), to theater (Prague Fringe Festival), to traditional Roma culture (Khamoro World Roma Festival).
17. United Kingdom
The United Kingdom's Brexit decision likely affected its ranking, as residents reported slightly lower satisfaction with their country than in years past.
Yet the U.K. ranks very high in social ties and generosity — number four on the list of the world’s most charitable donors, as a matter of fact — which help to make up for the shaky political ground it has been in during the past few years.
Make mateswith happy locals during a pub crawl, or by enjoying a spot of afternoon tea. And don’t forget to explore the country’s rich history, replete with castles aplenty, some of the most distinguished historic museums in the world and prehistoric monuments like Stonehenge.
16. Costa Rica
The highest-ranking Latin American country is Costa Rica. The people here are famously friendly to visitors, and they're kind to each other as well; the country’s residents rank themselves highly for social ties, helping to overcome a relatively high rating in corruption. Life expectancy in Costa Rica is also quite high.
Locals live by the mantra pura vida, meaning “pure life.” You can enjoy this ethos in action by booking a stay at one of many first-rate eco-lodges and enjoying some of the best natural attractions on earth, including volcanic hot springs, glittering beaches and rainforests bursting with exotic wildlife.
The Emerald Isle lives up to its reputation as a jovial place. The country's rankings have slightly improved due to life expectancy being up and strong social ties.
Ireland is well-known for its spirited pub culture, which is about so much more than beer (though the beer is, indeed, excellent); locals are known to sing well into the night and are famously friendly to out-of-towners.
Canada's reputation for polite, high-functioning people helped to land it in the Top 15. Canadians rank their social support particularly high, an important part of living in a country so far up north, where long winters can be isolating.
One of Canada’s finest attributes is its inclusiveness; people of many different ethnicities and backgrounds feel at home here. Explore these different cultures yourself by enjoying Montreal, where French heritage is cherished; Vancouver, to connect with a thriving Asian population at night markets and noodle shops; or Toronto, one of the most culturally diverse cities on the planet.
In Germany, social support and life expectancy are both ranked very highly. There’s little perceived corruption and the country also does well in the economic rankings. Despite unease and unrest over societal change, Germany remains a relatively happy place.
Rub shoulders with locals — while experiencing a cultural richness that has surely contributed to the national mood — by exploring one of the country’s spectacular museums. The art at the Germanic National Museum in Nurnberg, science and tech attractions at the German Museum in Munich and Cold War artifacts at the National Museum of Contemporary Germany in Bonn beckon.
Israel’s complicated and violent history might make its appearance so far up the list of happiest countries a bit of a surprise. But life expectancy here is high and social ties are very strong, according to residents. Ongoing conflicts keep it out of the Top 10, but this is still a country filled with relatively content locals.
Spirituality is, of course, a powerful part of community here, and exploring religious attractions is a must for visitors. Extraordinary sights of deep importance to the Jewish community include the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the city of Hebron, where David reigned before becoming King of Israel.
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is important to people of Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths; the site is only open to the public at certain times, but is free of charge and well worth carving out time to see.
A whopping 70 percent of Australians had donated to a charitable cause in the month before they participated in the happiness survey, proof that the country's gracious reputation is no joke.
Thanks in large part to this altruism, as well as formidable social ties, residents feel strongly about their country’s happiness level, which hasn’t much changed in survey results over the years.
Locals derive a lot of their pleasure from the great outdoors, where they spend most of their time. And why wouldn’t they? Home to the Great Barrier Reef, the Outback and an extraordinary collection of native wildlife, Australia is the place for nature-lovers to explore and visit.
This small country has it all, ranking highly in economic growth, social connectedness and life expectancy. Austrians feel that they’re free to live life as they like and don’t perceive much corruption in their government. No wonder they're so happy!
Tradition is important to locals, and makes for a rich cultural scene. Visit basically any small town or city during the Christmas season to experience a centuries-old holiday market. Or, in Vienna, grab a cup of coffee at a traditional coffeehouse with hundreds of years of history to its name.
9. New Zealand
New Zealand’s been in the spotlight lately for its swift and efficient COVID-19 response. It’s no wonder that they rank their social connectedness very highly. Life expectancy is excellent as well, ranking New Zealand at number nine.
Social cohesion comes in part from a thriving indigenous Maori culture. Foreigners are welcome to experience this cultural dynamic first-hand by joining in a hangi feast, featuring food cooked in the earth and wrapped in flax leaves, or watching a haka war dance.
Tiny Luxembourg scores big on contentment.
The secret to its success lies in its gross domestic product per capita, which is quite high, landing the country second on that sub-list. Add in sterling marks for social networks and a lack of corruption, and you can see why locals have much to be happy about.
The report doesn’t note this, but we have to think the country’s healthy love of wine has something to do with its good spirits, too; as of a couple years ago, it boasted the most wine consumption per capita of any country in the world.
You can take advantage of its viticulture scene by visiting the Valley of Moselle, home to rolling vineyards and superb bottles of Riesling, Pinot gris, Gewurztraminer and more.
The first of the famous happy Scandinavian countries on the list is Sweden. Sweden’s scores in generosity, life expectancy, economic growth and lack of corruption are all stellar.
Swedes live by the principle of lagom, which translates to “just the right amount” and emphasizes simplicity and balance. Embrace this happy-making philosophy by enjoying Sweden’s serene outdoors, traveling with a light touch (consider a camping trip) and making time for wellness.
Though it has fallen a bit from its higher rankings of previous years, Norway is still almost within the Top 5. Norwegians have strong social ties and a trend of increasing economic growth and life expectancy certainly help as well.
Wildlife-viewing is a must in this country that boasts some of the most exotic creatures, in astounding abundance, on earth. Make friends with moose, reindeer, arctic foxes, puffins, walruses and more.
While there’s no survey to confirm it, we’re guessing these and other wild animals are pretty happy, too.
Netherlands scores well across the categories, though it’s never at the very top. It’s undoubtedly a happy place with strong social ties among its residents.
The Dutch are famous for their love of the outdoors and sustainable living. Embrace both by renting a bike to take in the sights, from the canals of Amsterdam to historic windmills and fields of colorful tulips beyond. A feeling of utter joy is ensured.
Iceland is the highest ranked country for social connections — befitting for a country where almost every resident is related to a dozen more people living there. Given Iceland’s economic struggles in recent years, it’s not a surprise that residents perceive corruption in the government as a problem. Still, the country remains in the same place as it was in last year’s survey.
Locals and visitors alike find their bliss by connecting with nature. Geysers, hot springs, volcanoes, waterfalls and glaciers (covering more than 10 percent of the nation’s surface!) are just the beginning of what you can explore in this gorgeous island-country.
Switzerland ranks relatively low in social support ranking, but is overall a well-run and contented place.
As is common with countries on this list, residents here respect tradition while welcoming progress. Get a taste of the former by enjoying traditional Swiss music (yodeling and accordion-playing are historic favorites), crafts (watchmaking is a time-honored custom) and sports (flag-throwing is a must-watch).
For the latter, head to a big city like Bern, Geneva or Zurich to explore cutting-edge architecture and modern-art galleries.
Danish people rank themselves fourth in social support and don't perceive governmental corruption as an issue. A resilient economy and excellent life expectancy factor into Danes’ overall happiness as well.
Where Swedes have lagom, Danes famously have hygge, a winning philosophy focused on the virtues of coziness and enjoying good things with good people. (Danes are even pushing for the concept of hygge to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status!)
Embrace the joys of hygge by cozying up with a cup of coffee at a Copenhagen cafe, taking a stroll along the beach or eating with locals where they live; Danes regularly open up their homes to visitors for hosted dinners.
At last, the happiest country in the world — Finland!
The Finnish people ranked themselves so highly in social support that they came in second in the world, with outstanding economic growth and life expectancy to boot. Finland’s so happy, actually, that Gallup notes that the Finnish are “significantly ahead of other countries in the Top 10.”
We have to imagine that the country is also blissed out because it's so easy to access nature at its most unbridled. Locals love to explore the country's spectacular national parks and landscapes ranging from snow-capped peaks to tranquil lakes.
To ensure your own happiness, we suggest you do the same. Time to get out the Finnish phrasebook and book a flight.