When I tell people I have visited over 50 countries, they often ask me:
“So, which one is your favourite?”
Sorry to disappoint you. There isn’t just one. In fact, I would re-visit most countries without hesitation. (One notable exception is Egypt. I will never go back to Egypt.)
I often say that if I had only one favourite country, I would probably be living there right now! Nevertheless, here is an attempt at an answer, on a per-continent basis.
I really like Mexico. It offers reliable sun during the Canadian winter, has great food, and an almost infinite variety of places and attractions to visit, from colonial towns, to beaches, to archeological sites. And it’s just a short flight from Toronto so I can go for only a week if I want. I have travelled to Mexico four times already. Unfortunately, with all the bad press in recent years, I haven’t returned since 2008. But Mexico will see me again.
Argentina has continuous appeal. I’ve been twice already, for a total of 12 weeks! There is good wine, good food (think steaks, pasta in cream sauce, cakes, and ice cream), beautiful people, a huge variety of landscapes (from tropical waterfalls, to mountains, to glaciers). It has delicious cheap chocolate. And it has the tango! Oh and the seasons are reversed so you get long summer days when Canada is mired in winter. Always a plus for me.
This is tough. Greece and Italy are both real seducers. Nearly-surrounded by the sea, they offer a Mediterranean climate, beautiful men, rich ancient civilizations and history, architecture, ruins, music, hot sun in season (April to October), and, in the case of Italy, glorious food and wine. These countries have pretty much everything you may want in a destination.
Portugal is a new favourite. I have only been once but I want to go back.
Also tough. I completely fell under the charm of Bali (Indonesia) when I was there in 1995. There was something languorous, peaceful, almost mystical about the place. The luxuriant vegetation, the flowers, the colours, the gentle people in traditional garb intermingling culture, religion and art in a seamless lifestyle. The exotic gamelan music and accompanying dance performances. I wish my apartment had a secret instant tunnel to Bali for when I feel overwhelmed by Western civilization.
Laos is also a beautiful and peaceful country. And the beaches of southern Thailand are hard to beat (without saying anything of the food!). OK I’ll stop now.
I love New Zealand. I would go back there in a heartbeat. Friendly people, beautiful nature with a perfect climate for hiking and outdoor activities. The seasons are also reversed. And the carrot cake is heavenly!
I haven’t seen much of Africa yet so I don’t feel like it’s fair to pick a favourite, but I definitely want to see more of South Africa. Too bad that it takes so long to fly there.
The last word
In terms of regions, I find myself returning again and again to southern Europe, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. People and weather are warm. It’s affordable or downright cheap. There are plenty of things to see and do, and you can easily visit several countries in one trip, often overland. The food is pretty damn good too.
“Yes, but where would you go back, if you could only pick one place before you die?” asks the persistent friend.
Antarctica. No doubt about it. But that’s not a country.
What about you? What’s YOUR favourite country so far?