Where Are the Most Scenic Destinations in the World?

Published: 2nd August 2023, last updated: 13th November 2023
The Most Scenic Destinations in the World

Key Takeaways

  • The United States, Germany, and Switzerland are the most scenic countries in the world.
  • 13 of the world’s top 20 most photographed national parks are in the U.S. 
  • 44% of people can’t visit their dream destination due to inflation.
  • 1 in 5 people say social media impacts their travel interests and makes them want to travel more.
  • Italy and Japan are the countries people want to travel to the most.

The Quest for the World’s Prettiest Places

Sick of staring at the walls of your office cubicle or your admittedly underwhelming apartment decor? Whether you hope to travel any time soon or are always on the lookout for travel bucket list contenders, we’ve got you covered. We recently set out to find the most earth-shatteringly beautiful destinations on the planet. With a little help from technology and over 1,000 survey participants, we created a unique meta-ranking to reveal the world’s most gorgeous and breathtaking destinations.


Which Countries Are the Most Scenic?

We understand that “scenic” can be a bit subjective, so we settled on five main variables and nine sub-variables to root out the most beautiful countries worldwide. Feast your eyes on our winners ranked by everything from photo popularity to traveler reviews.

In a global beauty pageant that pitted 177 countries against each other, the top three most beautiful countries in the world turned out to be the United States, Germany, and Switzerland. Our first-place winner, the United States, racked up an impressive 152,000 TripAdvisor forum topics mentioning its “scenic” beauty. While Germany came in second overall, it scored No. 1 in terms of photo popularity, proving it’s a solid place to snap a selfie.

With a third-place beauty rank, Switzerland proved that it has far more to offer than great cheese and pocket knives. With an impressive array of national parks and a high environmental quality, it’s no wonder that the home of the Alps is so popular among travelers. At the other end of the spectrum was the Solomon Islands, which rolled in 177th in our beauty rankings. Regardless, we’d like to thank the islands for playing our game and assure potential suitors that they have a really great personality. 


Scenic Subcategory Winners

Now that we’ve revealed our overall winners, it’s time to highlight the winners of various subcategories. Whether you’re on the hunt for national park-packed countries or destinations with pristine air quality, these are the countries most likely to float your boat. 

Metaranking infographic for the most scenic destinations in the world

If national parks are your thing, look no further than the United States, where you’ll find 29 to choose from. But if you’re more into UNESCO World Heritage Sites — destinations deemed of remarkable value to humanity — Italy may be the dream destination for you. 

While some of our categories are pretty straightforward, others may have left you perplexed. Fear not, because here you’ll find a handy breakdown of the terms we used from Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) to create our country scores: 

  • Ecosystem Vitality: A fancy term that measures how well a country preserves, enhances, and protects its natural ecosystems.
  • Biodiversity and Habitat: A measure of how well a country protects its species, biome, water, and other natural resources.
  • Environmental Performance Index: This is a country’s “overall” environmental ranking when you consider dozens of different factors, from the number of fisheries and protected areas to policies on climate change and waste management.

Countries that rank well in these subcategories have a solid track record for not bulldozing and building condos on every available plot of land. Protecting the environment matters to these countries, which usually makes them delightful places to seek out natural beauty.


Picture Worthy Parks

Natural parks have a way of showing off a country’s beauty at its finest. That’s why we combed through Flickr to find out which national parks around the world pose for the most pictures.

Infographic of Flickr analysis for the most photographed national parks

As mentioned above, the United States is killing it on the national park scene. So it tracks that the country is home to 13 of the top 20 most photographed national parks in the world. Yosemite National Park is the world’s most photographed national park with its nearly 1,200 square miles of waterfalls, geysers, soaring cliffs, and tree-lined meadows waiting to be experienced. Coming in second place was Zion National Park, while our third most photo-friendly award went to the snow-covered peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Lest the U.S. hog all the glory, South Africa’s Kruger National Park ranked fourth, proving it had the stuff epic safaris are made of. Meanwhile, Canada’s Banff National Park took sixth, boasting plenty of pristine peaks all its own. Rwanda also ranked among the top 10 most photographed national parks. Its Volcanoes National Park is home to stunning rainforests and some of the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world.


The Stuff Dream Destinations Are Made Of

What makes for the perfect dream destination? We decided to ask over 1,000 Americans to find out. 

Infographic that explores the top factors influencing destination choice according to American Travelers

When it comes to the top dream destinations, Italy and Japan tied for first place, each pulling in 24% of the votes. The U.K. and France tied for second, while Australia came in a close third. So why aren’t international airports flooded with travelers? Anyone who has looked into the price of an international plane ticket lately can likely tell you the answer.

As 63% of our survey participants can attest, the price of travel these days isn’t cheap. Then, of course, there’s inflation to consider, a factor that also proved a barrier to 44% of our would-be travelers. But even as the price of air travel continues to soar, 20% of participants said that social media has only increased their desire to get out and see the world.


Dare To Dream Big

From the national parks of the United States to the allure of Italy and Japan, the world is full of epic travel adventures. Even if inflation has currently got you down, you can’t put a price on the hope of someday visiting your dream destination. We hope we’ve given you a few tips on where to seek out the world’s most scenic places. Whether you decide to start a travel savings account or just a really great Pinterest vision board, we wish you all the best in your pursuit of the world’s most beautiful places.

Methodology

We created a meta-ranking to score countries on their scenic beauty. Scores were based on the following categories and weighted as shown below:

  • Photo popularity score (25%)
    • Number of “everyone’s photos” on Flickr
  • Traveler reviews (25%)
    • Number of posts on TripAdvisor forums for “scenic”
  • National Parks and Heritage Sites Score (20%)
  • Landscape beauty score (15%)
    • Ecosystem vitality (measures how well countries are preserving, protecting, and enhancing ecosystems and the services they provide) (5%)
    • Biodiversity and habitat (Yale EPI) (5%)
  • Environmental quality score (15%)
    • Air quality data (Yale EPI)
    • Water resources data (Yale EPI)
    • Overall environmental performance index

Final scores were scaled by 1.5. We also surveyed 1,006 Americans to uncover people’s perspectives on the most beautiful and scenic locations, their dream travel destinations and more.

About Highland Titles

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