South Africa voted as one of the most beautiful countries in the world

 ·17 May 2024

South Africa has cracked the top ten of the world’s most beautiful countries to visit, according to a new ranking by online trip-planning company Rough Guides.

New Zealand, has been voted as the world’s most beautiful after narrowly beating last year’s number 1, Italy.

The annual ranking was determined by votes from readers across the globe and is aimed to identify the world’s top 20 most beautiful countries.

It considered various categories determined by voters, such as the landscapes, culture, people, architecture, food, and much more.

The countries which made up Rough Guides’ 20 – 11 rankings are:

  • 20 – Japan
  • 19 – Slovenia
  • 18 – Portugal
  • 17 – Indonesia
  • 16 – India
  • 15 – Croatia
  • 14 – Argentina
  • 13 – Iceland
  • 12 – Chile
  • 11 – United States of America

Top 10

10. South Africa

Giraffes in the bush of the Kruger national park South Africa.. Photo: Fokke Baarssen

According to Rough Guides, what voters love the most about South Africa is “the diversity, culture, landscape, wine, people and food.” 

Surprisingly, South Africa was the only African country to make the top 20 (although Namibia received a fair few nominations).

“South Africa is undeniably stunning,” said travel writer Joanne Owen, adding that “many of [the voters] praised the country’s ‘sheer diversity of scenery’, and its ‘raw natural landscape, roads and ocean.'”

From the iconic Table Mountain in Cape Town to the expansive savannahs of the Kruger National Park, South Africa boasts diverse and breathtaking landscapes that include mountains, beaches, forests, and deserts.

9. Greece

Zakynthos island, Greece. Photo: Sven Hansche

In the words of one passionate respondent “the islands are truly special – the white buildings, blue domes, traditional villages, beautiful Greek beaches, and the high cliffs looking down on the incredibly blue Mediterranean Sea,” describe Greece’s beauty.

Other respondents mentioned the “wonderful locally-produced food”, and the fact that it boasts one of the richest collections of historic monuments in the world as other reasons for their vote.

8. Australia

Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia. Photo: Louie Lea

Users voted for Australia for its “beautiful diversity in culture” and “friendly, laidback people,” according to Rough Guides.

The company highlighted Australia’s renowned attractions, such as Uluru in the Northern Territory, the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney, and the picturesque beaches along the east and west coasts.

Furthermore, Australia offers vibrant rainforests, great cuisine, and the enticing opportunity for road trip adventures.

7. Norway

Reine village, Norway. Photo: Stefano Zaccaria

Users cited “the breath-taking nature and unassuming people” as some of the main reasons for their vote.

Rough Guide said that Norway captivates with its stunning fjords, vibrant Oslo, and enchanting Lapland. Its landscapes, from mountains to waterfalls, are breathtakingly pristine.

Tromsø, a cultural hub within the Arctic Circle, is ideal for northern lights tours in winter and basks in the midnight sun’s glow in summer. Additionally, the warmth and cultural richness of Norwegians add to the country’s charm.

6. United Kingdom

Village of St. Abbs, Starney Bay, Scotland. Photo: Martin Valigursky

Rough Guides used the view of one of the readers who summed up the reasons why many people voted for the UK.

 “Scottish mountains and castles, the lakes of Cumbria, the pretty Cotswolds, the rugged coastline, fine cities, rich heritage, Welsh countryside, lush forests, fabulous National Parks, great museums and galleries.”

“Boating on the river in Cambridge, the dreamy spires of Oxford, the rolling countryside of Northumbria, and the vast beaches of Norfolk. The hidden secrets of Suffolk, the tiny hamlets of Devon and hidden beaches of Cornwall. The pretty Isles of Scilly, and the Jurassic coastline of Dorset,” said the reader.

5. France

Paris landscape. Photo: Vety Maria

“The largest country in the EU, France is also one of the most varied – a country you frequently acclaimed for its ‘amazing landscapes’,” said Owen.

Rough Guide said that France boasts enchanting landscapes, from the snow-capped French Alps and lush Pyrenees to Provence’s vibrant lavender fields and the golden chateaux, not to mention the pristine beaches and exquisite cuisine.

Rising four spots in the Rough Guide’s poll, France’s “allure remains as powerful as ever, with plenty of secrets to be explored,” said the group.

4. Switzerland

Fishing village of Iseltwald on Lake Brienz, Switzerland. Photo: Boris B (Shutterstock)

Jumping nine places, Switzerland was cited for its “spectacular scenery”, with many readers discussing it beautiful lakes and mountains. 

According to the Rough Guide, adventurers should consider hiking the Eiger in the breathtaking Jungfrau region. Alternatively, people might enjoy the views more comfortably from a charming mountain train, adding that Zermatt and the Matterhorn as must-visit destinations.

Many praised Switzerland for its towns and immaculate cities, including Lausanne, Vevey, and Montreux by the lake, affluent Geneva, and the cosmopolitan city of Zurich.

3. Canada

An elk in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. Photo: Weekend Warrior

Maintaining its spot as a top 5 most beautiful country according to the poll, Canada was cited by users for its landscapes and the vastness of its “wide-open spaces”. 

“B.C. mountains draw skiers and snowboarders in their thousands, while the East Coast cities of Toronto and Montreal charm with their world-class restaurants and cosmopolitan vibe,” said Rough Guides.

2. Italy

View of the Mediterranean town of Amalfi, Italy. Photo: Proslgn (Shutterstock)

The winner of last year’s survey, users say that the country “has something for everyone.”

“From the marvelous Dolomite mountains, the tranquil Italian Lakes, the rolling vineyards of Tuscany to the sparkling Amalfi coast and the islands Sicily and Sardinia,” said Owen.

“Cities like Rome, Florence and Venice throb with romance, while Italy’s beaches and food aren’t half bad either. In fact, many of you believe it has ‘the best food in the world’,” she added.

1. New Zealand

Marlborough South Island, New Zealand. Photo: Stargrass (Shutterstock)

According to users, “the contrast in scenery between the mountains and beaches and beauty to be found in the people and culture,” is what places New Zealand at the top of the list.

“These stunning landscapes play host to thrilling outdoor adventures and awe-inspiring alternative treks,” said Owen.

“Then there’s welcoming Wellington, the laidback capital of New Zealand that offers visitors a satisfying slice of beach-city life with added art and adventure,” she added.

Read: The 13 best universities in South Africa – with four among the top 500 in the world

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter