The world is considered less peaceful this year than last, according to a new report. Here we highlight 10 of the most peaceful countries in which to find a tranquil escape.
“The country’s greatest single attribute is the Slovenes themselves: quietly conservative, deeply self-confident, remarkably broad-minded, especially tolerant and very, very hospitable,” describes Telegraph Travel’s Slovenia expert Steve Fallon. So it comes as no surprise that Slovenia was ranked one of the most peaceful nations in this year’s Global Peace Index.
“Tiny Slovenia has a store of attractions and activities – from Venetian coastal towns to white-water rafting – to rival a country many times its size. The incredible mixture of climates here brings warm Mediterranean breezes up to the foothills of the Alps, where it can nonetheless snow even in summer,” says Fallon. “And with more than half of its total area covered in forest, Slovenia really is one of the greenest countries in the world.”
From the snow-capped Mount Fuji to the ancient city of Kyoto (pictured), with its temples, colourful shrines and tranquil zen gardens, there are plenty of ways to experience peace in Japan.
Tokyo may be one of the world’s most densely populated cities, but “it is also a city in possession of a calm and efficient rhythm that belies its sprawling dimensions”. At least that’s according to Telegraph Travel’s Tokyo expert Danielle Demetriou, who notes that Kyoto moves to an altogether different rhythm with its “riverside cherry trees bursting into cloudlike bloom and zen gardens with raked sand and haiku-inspiring rock formations.”
The world’s second largest country is a place “where expectations are exceeded by reality – where the mountains are grander, the lakes bluer, the cities more compelling, the people friendlier,” describes Telegraph Travel’s Tim Jepson.
“Despite its size, Canada is so safe, organised and efficient that it is easily visited under your own steam”, he adds. There’s also much to see; from the Inuit lands of the tundra and frozen north to the endless forests and peaks – many still unnamed – of the Yukon. Oh, and don’t forget “the mountain, forest and lake ensemble typified by the Rockies”, says Jepson.
“Switzerland has not been involved in a war since 1847, doesn’t spend billions of pounds on the military and is widely considered the closest any nation has come to a direct democracy, where ordinary citizens can propose constitutional changes,” says Telegraph Travel’s digital editor Oliver Smith.
It’s also home to Alpine scenery, Lindt chocolate and Roger Federer, not to mention some of the cheeriest inhabitants in the world: last year the seventh most peaceful nation was also named the ‘world’s happiest’.
6. Czech Republic
Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution – the uprising that ended 41 years of Communist rule in the then-Czechoslovakia. This landlocked nation has come a long way since the revolution and it is considered one of the most peaceful countries in Europe.
“It’s easy to forget,” says Telegraph Travel’s Prague expert Will Tizard, “that Czechoslovakia emerged from the fall of the Iron Curtain with a once-jailed dissident as president.”
The country’s rich history can be traced on the streets of Prague, its capital city, which is marked by romantic medieval quarters, historic cobbled lanes and divided by the picturesque Vltava river and linked by the magnificent Charles Bridge.
Peaceful and pretty, there’s much to discover in Europe’s most westerly country. “While golfers and sunseekers flood to the southerly Algarve, swathes of the rest of Portugal remain unexplored,” says Telegraph Travel’s Portugal expert Mary Lussiana. “Regions vary enormously in their weather, cuisine, architecture and wines, so a journey from north to south yields a rich bounty of different experiences.”
“The capital, Lisbon, is a charming, cobbled city where yellow trams rattle up and down the steep, narrow streets, remains essentially 18th century, and very Portuguese in feel, without the globalisation that has enveloped many European cities,” adds Lussiana. “It has a special white light, a breeze from the Atlantic and cafés where the mournful strains of Fado can still be heard.”
4. New Zealand
“New Zealand is a remote and geologically dynamic country bestowed with diverse, often unique landscapes and wildlife,” describes Telegraph Travel’s New Zealand expert Sarah Bennett. Suffice to say the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ deserves its reputation as one of the world’s most peaceful destinations.
Telegraph Travel’s readers recently voted New Zealand the best long-haul destination in the annual Telegraph Travel Awards. Our expert is particularly fond of the North Island, which she says “dishes up great swathes of rural heartland punctuated by such diverse attractions as the ancient forests of Waipoua and Te Urewera, coastal resorts in the Bay of Islands and the Coromandel, and down-to-earth country towns.”
The mountainous home of the Alps, the Sound of Music and Mozart was found to be the third most peaceful country in the world. “This tiny landlocked European country is often overlooked by tourists,” says the Telegraph’s Ben Fogle. “But it always amazes me how picture-postcard perfect the Austrian countryside is, with its immaculate farmhouses and flower boxes oozing with colour.”
Telegraph Travel’s Vienna expert, Diane Narr-Elphee, fell in love with the Austrian capital long ago. “Whether for fast-track travel or slow-paced sightseeing…there’s a seemingly never-ending wealth of things to do and see throughout the year,” she says. “It’s also both culturally and musically one of the richest cities in the world, and has a good, lively mix of cool cafés and bars, galleries, shops and street markets.”
The Scandinavian nation was declared the ‘world’s happiest country’ earlier this year, knocking Switzerland off the top slot in the annual World Happiness Report. Its stylish capital, Copenhagen (pictured), is “one of Europe’s great capital cities” and “a design-lover’s dream where copper-spired churches blend happily with sleek newbuilds,” says Telegraph Travel’s Denmark expert Andrew Stone.
As well as being one of the world’s safest countries, in Denmark you’re seldom far from the coast and some surprisingly lovely beaches. “The timber-framed houses of harbour towns such as Faaborg and Svenborg on sleepy Odense give way to gently rolling farmland and woods”, says Stone, who reckons “sleepy, gorgeous Bornholm island is a Baltic idyll with beechwoods and fine sandy beaches.”
“The land of fire and ice is awash with glaciers, towering volcanoes and geothermal pools. Add to that Reykjavik, its hip capital, and you have a destination that provides not just otherworldly sights but also plenty of culture,” describes Telegraph Travel’s Trisha Andres.
Last year the island welcomed 1.2 million visitors and is expecting 1.6 million this year, with growing interest from travellers looking to explore its other-worldly landscape, from Northern Lights seekers to devoted fans of the new Star Wars film or the ever-popular Game of Thrones television series, both filmed at various locations across the country. No doubt visitors will also be encouraged by the fact Iceland is the world’s most peaceful nation.