The Best Countries to Visit for 15 Unique Types of Trip

Indefinitely awarding 15 countries the titles of the best to visit for 16 unique reasons.

Subjectively but honestly rating each country on 6 criteria: cost, food, ease, friendliness, safety, and exoticness.

Our opinions are just as uninformed as anyone else’s. But at least this format might give you a better idea of where might be the best country to visit for your unique tastes.

1. Namibia


There’s not much to do in Namibia.

Only 2.5 million people live in this mostly desert country that’s 20% bigger than Texas.

But there’s a lot to see.

Here’s how a typical day goes when traveling in Namibia:

  • Wake up to gaze at the sun as it comes up over the empty horizon and makes all the rocks and sand go technicolored.
  • Drive all day gazing at peculiar and pretty desert landscapes and the surprising number of animals who survive on it (especially in Etosha National Park).
  • Gaze at an encore performance by the sun at sunset.
  • Gaze at all the stars from your campsite in the middle of nowhere.


How We Rate It

Cost :                                                                                6

Food:                                                          4

Ease:                                                                                 6

Friendliness:                                                                   6

Safety :                                                                                     7

Exoticness:                                                                                7


Hot Tips

  • Consider driving one-way from South Africa to avoid backtracking and have more time in the less-overrun south of Namibia.
  • The roads are TERRIBLE in Namibia, so it’s worth paying more for a rental car that can handle them


2. Colombia

Colombia has come so far so fast that some parts of it have yet to keep up.

This makes for a fascinating opportunity to time travel between the modern present and traditional past.

In Medellin, the top city to visit in Colombia (though Bogota is underrated), you can travel from glitzy, gringo-central El Poblado back into the pre-tourism era by simply taking a 20-minute bus ride south to Envigado.

You can also walk back in time just by hiking from an urban metro station into traditional Antioquian farmland (or by taking the urban cable car).

Drive a couple hours outside of modern cities and you’ll enter pueblos like Venecia, where men still ride horses to the bar in their traditional attire. Or jump on an hour flight to visit the raw and rustic Pacific Coast, which has no road access and only recently reopened from travel.


How We Rate It

Cost :                                                                                       7

Food:                                                3

Ease:                                                                                 6

Friendliness:                                                                            7

Safety :                                                                              6

Exoticness:                                                                        6


Hot Tips:

  • Colombia’s cool, but if you’re only going to visit one South American country, we’d recommend Peru first.
  • Colombia’s also the best country for partying with sexy people, particularly in Medellin and Cartagena.


3. Japan

Japan isn’t just a different county; it’s a different universe. 

Everything in Japan looks similar to our own universe, but different.

It’s a world where politeness is prioritized, standing out is avoided, vending machines sell everything, and cuddle cafes are an actual thing.

Japan is a truly out-of-this-world experience.


How We Rate It

Cost :                                      4  

Food:                                                                           9

Ease:                                                                    8

Friendliness:                                              6

Safety :                                                                              10

Exoticness:                                                                    9


4. Kenya

Spend enough time traveling* in Kenya and you’ll appreciate the good and the bad of Africa.

You’ll appreciate:

  • The wildness of the animals and how vulnerable we are to them.
  • The seemingly insurmountable challenge many African nations face to change from a short-term, survival-of-the-fittest mindset to a longer-term one.
  • What amazing innovations, like the M-Pesa mobile payment systems, are coming from the constraints to create hope.
  • The historical importance of coastal cities like Lamu, which retains much of its history and still relies on donkeys as the main form of transport.
  • How pleasant and organized your home country is.

(*By “traveling” we mean not spending a night hiding out in a 5-star Nairobi hotel before helicoptering straight to a luxury game lodge where you sit around as people point out animals for you.)


How We Rate It

Cost :                                                            6

Food:                                   3  

Ease:                              2  

Friendliness:                                    5   

Safety :                                             5  

Exoticness:                                                    6


5. Rwanda

Rwanda’s infamous for the horrible insanity of the 1994 genocide. Now, it’s gaining fame for being so sanitized.

The country’s clean. And not just by African or third-world standards. By any standard. With a tradition of umuganda, mandatory community service on the last Saturday of each month (mostly cleaning), and a ban on plastic bags that’s been strictly enforced since 2006, cleanliness is part of the culture in Rwanda. 

And Rwanda’s safe. A tourist can walk around at night even in the capital of Kigali.

Rwandans might say there’s too much law and order. Heavily armed police and soldiers are all over and the justice system has a no-tolerance reputation, especially if you say something bad about the president. But as a tourist it’s hard to complain.

Even Rwanda’s most famous wildlife is civilized. You can get so close to the gorillas you can touch them and they don’t mind.

There are downsides to all this civility, sanitization, and cleanliness. Rwanda was too sanitized for our liking. Something felt off. But if you want a third-world experience minus the grit, grime, and chaos, this is the place.


How We Rate It

Cost :                                                        6

Food:                                  3  

Ease:                                                          6

Friendliness:                                    5    

Safety :                                                                       8

Exoticness:                                                          7


Hot Tips:

  • As an exception to the rule, prepare to get dirty for Volcanoes National Park, home to the Gorillas and Mount Bisoke.
  • Bring some warm clothes. Rwanda may be just south of the equator, but it’s a mile above sea level and often cloudy and rainy.


6. Sri Lanka

Most other crazy cheap countries are dirty, dangerous, and/or disorganized.

Sri Lanka is none of those. It’s just straight-up delightful.

The people are delightful. Multiple times a day a random stranger would approach you just to say “Welcome to my country!” then walk off with a smile on their face for having put a smile on yours.

The food is delightful. Kottu roti, sambol, hoppers, lemon coconut smoothies, and Chris’ all-time favorite, chocolate coconut roti taste extra delicious when you eat with your hands like the locals do.

The scenery is delightful. For a small island, Sri Lanka’s variety of jungle, safari land, mountains, tea plantations, and beaches was impressive.

Enhancing the delightfulness of all of the above is that everything costs about a quarter of what it does back home.

How We Rate It

Cost :                                                                                          10

Food:                                                       6

Ease:                                              5

Friendliness:                                                                        9  

Safety :                                                               7  

Exoticness:                                                                8 


Hot Tip:

  • Sri Lanka’s position on this best countries to visit list is endangered, so go before over-Instagrammification of the same cliche photo of travelers dangling from the side Sri Lanka’s super slow scenic train drives its delightfulness to extinction.

7. Jordan


  • The roads are in pristine condition.
  • The country is just the right size to explore without spending all your time in a car (from Amman up north to Aqaba in the far south is only a 4-hour drive).
  • Jordanians are as hospitable as their desert surroundings often aren’t.
  • The scenery is out of this world (so much so that Wadi Rum was used as the set of The Martian).

Hot Tips:

  • For a longer, 2-to-4 week road trip, South Africa is the best country .


How We Rate It

Cost :                                                                 7

Food:                                                           6

Ease:                                                                             8

Friendliness:                                                     7   

Safety :                                                                        8

Exoticness:                                                        7


8. Peru

Here’s a somewhat crazy take:

Machu Picchu so overwhelmingly shrouds potential visitor’s impression of Peru that it limits the country’s wider tourism potential.

If Machu Picchu didn’t exist (or hadn’t been discovered), Peru would be famous for so much more:

For its Amazon jungle in the east, for its high-end cuisine in Lima, for its sand dunes to the south, for its surfing beaches in the north, for its Andes mountain ranges in the middle, and for its colorful traditional culture throughout.

Peru’s awesome variety makes it the best country in the world for a month-long backpacking adventure.

You don’t even need to visit Machu Picchu.


How We Rate It


Cost :                                                                 7

Food:                                                                           8

Ease:                                                            6

Friendliness:                                               6

Safety :                                                              7

Exoticness:                                                                           9  


Hot Tips:

  • For a higher-end version of “everything,” go to South Africa, a close runner-up to Peru in terms of having everything.
  • One of  fondest memories of month-long Peru trip is floating along the Amazon on a barge from Yurimaguas to Iquitos.


9. Mexico

Other countries arguably have better fine-dining than Mexico, but nobody except royalty exclusively fine-dines when they travel.

Most of the calories us common folk consume while traveling com in the form of informal food.

Taking that into consideration, on average deliciousness per calorie eaten, Mexico is the best country to visit.

Tropical batidos, fresh ceviche, spicy candies, mouth-watering mole, tacos, tlayudas, tortas… there’s good reason Mexican restaurants can be found all over the world. And the Mexican food tastes even better in Mexico.

The best, actually.

Not the most sophisticated. Not the healthiest. The best.


How We Rate It

Cost :                                                                7

Food:                                                                                       10

Ease:                                                                           8

Friendliness:                                                              8

Safety :                                                   6

Exoticness:                                                        7


Hot Tips:

  • Don’t expect anywhere near the same quality food in neighboring Central American countries. Their food sucks in comparison. Moreover, we wouldn’t recommend visiting any Central American country until you’ve been to Mexico first.

Mexico City is our favorite city to visit in the world.


10. South Africa

They rather keep the incredibly well-maintained roads empty, not have their views of the incredible scenery marred by others’ heads and selfie sticks, maintain the exclusive feeling of the luxurious wine estates, not scare away all the wildlife, not have all their fynbos wildflowers picked, and always have tables available at their favorite restaurants.

And they want to keep it all affordable, around half the price of what it would cost in Western countries.


How We Rate It

Cost :                                                         6

Food:                                                                 7

Ease :                                                                          8

Friendliness:                                    5

Safety :                                                    6

Exoticness:                                                       7


Hot Tips:

  • Safety concerns are definitely the biggest source of discomfort in South Africa, but I also suspect the locals overstate the risk to keep pesky outsiders away. You’ll be fine if you stay out of sketchy areas, don’t walk around dark places at night, and don’t draw undue attention.
  • Instead of doing the Kruger safari + Cape Town combo that 90% of tourists get sucked into, rent a car and explore the country on your own. (But do check out our Kruger Park Safari Tips to see more animals, save money, and improve your experience.)
  • The Garden Route is nice and all (as we share in our 4-part Unearthing the Garden Route Series), but for something different and a broader South African experience, try The Hectic Route between Cape Town and Johannesburg.

11. Morocco

Morocco is not everyone’s cup of tea (…ironically, given the immense popularity of tea in the country).

Some visitors are turned off by all the attention from souk vendors, the disorienting medinas, the dirt and poverty compared to home, and cultural and language challenges.

Others love it for those same reasons. That was our verdict after living for a month in Essaouira.

Either way, what’s certain is you’ll feel out of place when you visit Morocco.


How We Rate It

Cost :                                                         6

Food                                                5

Ease :                                                         6

Friendliness:                                             6

Safety :                                                       6

Exoticness:                                                                  8


Hot Tips:

  • Ensure a positive first impression and give yourself time to acclimate to Morocco by organizing a shuttle from the airport to your hotel (or riad, the traditional Moroccan accommodation). You don’t want your first experience to be haggling with taxis or getting lost in the medina with all your luggage.
  • Get a guide on day one. Whether it be a friendly Airbnb host, an expert tour guide, or a friend of a friend, having a local show you the ropes and answer your questions at the beginning of your trip will set you up for success the rest of your time in the country.

13. Panama

I wish I could say Panama is the best country to visit for all sorts of things, but I can’t. Many other countries have better beaches, more interesting jungles, more exotic cultures, and better (WAY better) food.

What Panama does have going for it is it’s small and tons of flights between North and South America go through it, so I guess it could be the best country to visit and get to know in just a few days.

Spend one day in Panama City eating Panamanian food, another in the surrounding area and visiting the canal, and another day or few on one of the Pacific Beaches or in the Guna Yala (a.k.a. San Blas) or even Bocas del Toro. That’s enough.

How We Rate It

Cost: Cost :                                         5

Food:                                 2  

Ease :                                                              6

Friendliness:                                         5

Safety :                                                          6

Exoticness:                                           5


Hot Tips:

  • I highly recommend reading The Path Between the Seas, by David McCullough before you go to get a much deeper appreciation of the Panama Canal and the country as a whole.
  • If crazy Captain Karl is still leading his Jungle Land Panama tours, they’re a fun way to see the canal from a different perspective.
  • Further afield, the favorite weekend getaways are Santa Catalina and Playa Venao.


14. Thailand

First-time foreign travelers have a lot to be scared about including language barriers, scams, food sickness, poor internet connection, missing Mommy, and cultural faux-pas.

For them, the best country to visit is one that minimizes those risks while still being exciting and encouraging more travel (and more “risk”) in the future. It adds a dash of spice, but not so much to leave you panting and sweating.

Thailand provides that balance.

Bangkok, in particular, is exotic and spicy, but in a friendly way. The locals are used to dealing with foreigners, they generally speak great English, the prices are low, and the food’s different but familiar. Plus, it’s easy to get to.

And if you get overwhelmed and want to escape and relax, Thailand’s resort beaches and islands are just a short flight away.

How We Rate It  

Cost :                                                                     8

Food                                                                             9

Ease :                                                                           9

Friendliness:                                                          8

Safety :                                                    7

Exoticness:                                                      8


15. The Philippines

Generally, the fewer visitors a country receives, the friendlier the locals are. They’re not used to meeting tons of foreigners, so us travelers are as much a novelty to them as they are to us.

In most cases, though, language barriers limit that friendliness to smiles and hand gestures.

Not in the Philippines.

Most Filipinos speak excellent English and most of them aren’t shy to use it to welcome you to their country, which is less overwhelmed with tourists than other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam.

Plus, for whatever reason—all the beautiful island beaches probably help—Filipinos generally have contagiously happy-go-lucky attitudes.

This makes the Philippines the best country to visit to get to know the locals.

How We Rate It

Cost :                                                                     8

Food                        1 

Ease :                                                           7

Friendliness:                                                         8

Safety :                                                       7

Exoticness:                                           6 

Hot Tips:

  • The Philippines has also got to be the best country in the world for kayaking. There are so many islands to explore and the water’s so crystal clear you can “snorkel” without even putting your face in the water. Consider a multi-day kayaking tour to experience it and escape the crowds.


16. Spain

Here’s a typical day in Spain, the best country in the world to visit for idly passing time:

  • ~9 a.m: Wake up… whenever. Later than at home. Go outside to the nearest corner for a coffee and bread or pastry for desayuno (breakfast).
  • 9 – 10 a.m: Walk around for an hour, admiring the architecture and all seemingly effortlessly stylish people who seem to be in no rush to be getting anywhere.
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m: Almuerzo, a mid-morning snack of a sandwich and a beer.
  • 11:30 a.m – 1:30 p.m: Go to a museum. Do a bit of boutique shopping. Relax at the beach.
  • 2 – 3:30 p.m: Eat a multi-course menu del dia: a hearty starter (or three), bread, a main course, dessert, and a generously-poured cup of wine (sometimes a whole bottle).
  • 4 – 5:30 p.m: A well-earned, extended siesta.
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m: Relaxing mid-afternoon snack.
  • 7 – 8:30 p.m: Wander / window-shop.
  • 8:30 – 10 p.m: Tapa bar hopping.
  • 9 – 11 p.m: Dinner (or continue with tapas).
  • 11 – late: Drinks and more tapas until you tapa-out.

And repeat.

How We Rate It

Cost :                                                    6

Food                                                                        8

Ease :                                                              7

Friendliness:                                                  7

Safety :                                                                            9

Exoticness:                                                     7


Hot Tips:

  • Rent a car. While Spain is famous for its cities, it’s most enjoyable to explore its small towns and the best way to do it is by car.
  • Keep an eye out for festivals. Spain seems to be always celebrating something. Look up festivals near where you’re going to join in the fun.
  • Avoid August. The weather’s horribly hot, the tourists are out in full force and the locals have shut up shop to go somewhere more comfortable.


What countries have you visited and loved and what type of trip would you say they’re the best for?

Even if it’s one of the countries we mentioned, but for a different type of trip, please let us know in the comments below.

If you do, we’d think you’re one of the best readers to visit our site!


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