Norway has been named the happiest place on Earth in a recent report released to mark the International Day of Happiness.
The World Happiness Report measures “subjective well-being”, according to an article by the BBC, which includes how happy the local people are and why. Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland were placed in the top five.
Questions in the report include: “Imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?” The average result is the country’s score. The report also looks at factors including economic strength, social support, life expectancy, freedom of choice and generosity.
They say that smiling is contagious, so what better way to boost your spirits than taking a cruise to the world’s happiest places and soak up the good vibes?
From its tranquil fjords to the energetic cities of Oslo and Bergen, Norway has something truly unique to offer every type of traveller. Its diverse landscapes and laid-back feel keep things fresh and exciting, making it no wonder its residents are always smiling!
If you’d like to sample the best of Norway’s iconic landscapes, head to one of its many fjords. Nordfjord offers dramatic scenery in western Norway, while Hardangerfjord is often called the orchard of Norway due to its many fruit trees and gardens.
Head to Lysefjord to see the iconic Pulpit Rock towering 2,000 feet over the water or why not visit Sognefjord, Norway’s largest fjord and home to sites of Viking heritage? Gierangerfjord, meanwhile, is one of Norway’s most popular fjords due to its impressive waterfalls and hiking trails.
If you’d rather get stuck in to Norwegian culture in the city, Oslo is packed full of culture, music, food and arts. The Norwegian painter Edvard Munch grew up here and donated his works to the city after his death. Head to the National Gallery to see his most famous painting, ‘The Scream’. Elsewhere in Oslo, you can see some of the best-preserved Viking ships in the world at the Museum of Cultural History.
If you can’t decide between fjords or cities, Bergen, also known as the city of seven mountains, is well worth a visit. Sitting on the west coast of Norway and surrounded by spectacular scenery, Bergen was founded over 900 years ago and has deep Viking roots. If you want to see it all, why not embark on a cruise to Norway?
Denmark offers visitors an authentic Nordic experience through a blend of unique cities and landscapes.
Its capital city, Copenhagen, draws visitors from across the globe due to its magnificent castles, pretty waterfront shops and cafes and its relaxed atmosphere.
Roaming through the city, with its cheerful appearance and laid-back vibe, it won’t take you long to understand why Denmark is listed as one of the world’s happiest countries.
One of the best ways to explore Denmark is on a bicycle. After you’ve hopped off the cruise ship, take some time to explore Denmark’s understated beaches and parks on wheels or on foot. This quirky Scandinavian country has so much to offer.
Iceland has a population of just 300,000, which probably contributes to its overall happiness. With wide open spaces, hot springs and beautiful architecture, Iceland is on many people’s travel bucket lists.
This magnificent country opens doors to all sorts of activities including skiing and hiking, as well as opportunities for total relaxation in the form of its natural hot springs. These mineral-rich springs can be found all over the country and are recommended for a peaceful dip after exploring the rugged landscape.
If you can tear yourself away from Iceland’s picture-perfect landscape, check out Reykjavik, the country’s capital city. It’s truly a sight to behold, with vibrant houses dotted across the coast and snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Reykjavik is the ideal place to get stuck in to Icelandic culture. Visit the National Museum of Iceland or one of its many galleries to learn about the country’s past and present. The city is a hub of culture for Iceland and one of the best places to sample its unique cuisine.
Whether you decide to explore Finland’s dense boreal and pine forests or the eclectic city of Helsinki, we’re confident you’ll discover why it is one of the happiest places in the world. With 37 national parks, Finland’s ethereal landscape is well-protected and respected among locals.
Many will recognise Lapland as a festive destination, but as the country’s northernmost region, it is truly spectacular at any time of year.
Finland is one of the best places to spot the Northern Lights and explore an important part of Nordic heritage.
In the eastern portion of Finland, there is more sea than land. Tens of thousands of lakes, rivers marshes and ponds offer tranquillity. Lake Saimaa, also known as the lake of a thousand islands, is one of the country’s most popular attractions. If you’re looking for a little more life among the lakes, head to the city of Savonlinna.
5. The Netherlands
Many will be familiar with the city of Amsterdam with its elegant architecture, canals and bicycle-lined bridges. But there’s so much more to this remarkable country than its capital.
Famously liberal, it’s little wonder why the Netherlands has made it into the top 10 happiest places on Earth. But it could also have something to do with its balance of towns, cities and gloriously authentic Dutch landscapes, such as the polders.
The Netherlands conjures up images of perfectly formed rows of tulips, windmills and wheels of cheese. While this is all accurate, this pretty country also has a few other tricks up its sleeve.
The cities of Leiden and Haarlem both offer all the charm of a typical Dutch town or city, such as Amsterdam, but with less of a focus on tourism. As you’re wandering along the canals, pick up a portion of patatje oorlog - French fries, peanut sate sauce, mayonnaise (optional) and crispy fried onions. If you’re looking for wide open space, look no further than the Netherlands’ sweeping beaches.
With the Northern Lights gracing its skies in the Arctic winter and the Midnight Sun warming up the land in the summer, Sweden offers a perfect blend. This combination of cheerful extremes may well contribute to Sweden’s overall happiness. With so much to enjoy in the hot and cold, there’s something for everyone.
Its mountains soar high above lakes and a dramatic coastline, which is lined with beautiful beaches not dissimilar to those of Devon in the UK – although you’d be forgiven for thinking some of Sweden’s idyllic beaches looked a lot like the Caribbean!
As well as its remarkable and often surprising natural landscape, visitors flock to Sweden’s bustling cities including Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo. Each city is filled with museums, art galleries and music venues, offering a taste of Sweden’s vibrant cultural scene. Slightly under the radar, Gothenburg is definitely worth a visit, offering world-class seafood, boutiques and architecture. If you’re looking to get away from it all, head to the Bohuslan coast, a beautifully wild section of coast with deserted islands and pretty coastal villages.
If you’re struggling to choose a cruise, you can’t go wrong with setting sail to one of the happiest places on Earth.
Image credits: Skeeze, tpsdave, Ronald van de Graaf, Monitotxi, McKay Savage, Andres Nieto Porras, Juan Antonio F. Segal