The World’s Friendliest Countries: Iceland Ranks No. 1

Although we’ve got an exciting tropical island adventure planned for September, the hubs and I have been longing to return to Iceland (not the supermarket) and explore more of the country. But before we do that we have quite a few more countries to cross off our bucket list.

Daily Mail

Map from: Daily Mail

Last month, the World Economic Forum published The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013, which assesses 140 economies worldwide based on the strength of their travel and tourism sector. Not surprisingly, Iceland ranked number one as the world’s friendliest countries toward foreigner visitors.  Also not surprising, New Zealand came in second.  We loved our time down under and would love to visit Oz and New Zealand again, but if we had to choose between Iceland and New Zealand for a return trip, it would definitely be Iceland.   I’ve always thought Iceland was an underrated travel destination, and now I’m a bit worried that flocks of tourists will ruin the very reason why we fell in love with country to begin with (selfish, I know).

The top ten friendliest countries for tourists are:

  1. Iceland 
  2. New Zealand 
  3. Morocco 
  4. Macedonia 
  5. Austria
  6. Senegal
  7. Portugal
  8. Bosnia and Herzegovina 
  9. Ireland 
  10. Burkina Faso

And the winners for not so friendly:

  1. Mongolia (shame, though I’d still love to visit someday)
  2. Bulgaria 
  3. Slovak Republic 
  4. Pakistan 
  5. Iran
  6. Latvia 
  7. Kuwait 
  8. Russian Federation 
  9. Venezuela 
  10. Bolivia 

China ranked 130 on the list and the U.S. came in at 102.  The U.K. ranked 55, below Cyrpus at 48, which was surprising to me, and Finland ranked 31. Do you disagree with the WEF’s rankings? What is the friendliest country you’ve visited and what do you think is the least ideal place to go on holiday?

New Zealand in Pictures

I can’t believe that come the 28th January, we’ll have been home an entire month! And this will probably mark the end of all my holiday postings from down under (sniffle).  Here are some of my favourite snaps of our whirlwind road trip around South Island.  We definitely hope to be back soon.  And I know I’ve said it before, but do put this on your list of travel destinations and experience the beauty of New Zealand with your own eyes!


(Much of Christchurch’s CBD is still closed to pedestrians.)

(Kiwi Road Sign)


(Lake Matheson, Fox Glacier)

(Silver Fern Koru)

(View from rest stop on our way to Queenstown)

(More scenery along the way to Queenstown)


(Kiwi Queesntown)

(Quadricycling in Te Anau)

(Milford Sound)

(Church in Dunedin)

(Moreaki Boulders)


South Island’s Hidden Gem

If there is anything ‘lacking’ about South Island, New Zealand, sadly I must say it’s the food.   However, that’s where New Zealand’s sole French Settlement and the oldest colonial town in the South Island make up for it all.

Although only about an hour’s drive from Christchurch, you definitely have to work to get to Akaroa.   Had we not randomly picked it out on our tourist map, we may have missed this beautiful hidden gem, tucked way in the hilltops beyond road after winding road.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for tastiness and what better way to enjoy good food than with picturesque views?  And of course there’s more to do in Akaroa than enjoy possibly the best food in South Island.

(Little Bistro, serving the best food in South Island!  But of course, it’s French!)

It seems to be the running theme of our holiday, but had we had more time we would’ve definitely gone on a hike and perhaps done some sea kayaking.  This just means we’ll have to go back again soon!

Aotearoa: The Land of the Long White Cloud

Aotearoa (Maori for New Zealand) is home to some of the most pristine scenes of nature.  I highly recommend putting it on your list of travel destinations and giving yourself lots of time to explore!

I have never seen such expansive fields of wild lavender…

…mysterious snow-capped mountains in summer…

 …and so many sheep!  I reckon it’s true that there are more sheep than people on South Island.

If there’s one thing other than the beautiful landscape that sticks in my mind, it would have to be the possums; the dead ones, to be exact.  The pour souls are even referred to as ‘New Zealand’s little speed bumps’.  We saw a dead possum nearly every other kilometer! And the ironic thing is although they’re considered pests (pronounced peests), possum fur is extremely expensive, even more so than lambswool.

Road kill jokes aside,  although we only had eight short days to take in all of South Island, we were able to get a good survey of the land and loved it so much we plan on making a return visit soon.  And the next time we’ll definitely plan for more than eight days and hope to also explore the North!

Back from the Land Down Under

After being on eight flights in three weeks between home, Australia and New Zealand, we’re back on land and already feeling nostalgic for our recent adventures. We’d been planning our holiday since August and I can’t believe it’s now all in the past!  We’re absolutely knackered from all our travelling so I think we’ll be staying put for the next few months.  But what a fantastic way to end 2011!

I’ll be updating this blog with stories from our recent travels soon, so please check back for new posts!  Blogging this year has been a challenging but fun experience. Thank you all for visiting and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy reading my posts in the year to come!  I wish you all a very happy and safe holiday and a fabulous new year!

The Underwater Swimmer

Swimming used to be one of my favourite sports.  But one day, my body decided to break free from all words associated with agility and coordination, and overnight I transformed from a graceful swimmer to a complete and utter klutz on land and in water.  Even a hippo could swim more elegantly than me.

That said, I continued to swim, knocking my poor head into the pool wall as I misjudged every flip turn (which to be honest, I never quite mastered) and then there was the challenge of learning to swim underwater.  It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, which eventually led me to quit swimming.  For eighteen years, due to my extreme buoyancy, I was unsuccessful in mastering this seemingly easy technique.  That is…until last weekend!

I started out a bit clumsily and nearly choked on water as I came up from my first failed attempt.  I had my head in the water but it seemed the more I stroked (or whatever its is called, perhaps like a breast stroke motion?) the more buoyant my bottom became and I started to feel a draft.

It didn’t quite feel like my entire body was underwater and sure enough I popped my head up to see that I had basically been at the surface the entire time looking like quite the fool.   All that effort and my bottom was still in the air!  I started to wonder if  I would ever be able to overcome my extreme buoyancy.  I mean if a giant hippo or polar-me-bear can swim underwater, why can’t I?

Then little by little, with the patient and gentle guidance of Mr. Hubs, I learned how to swim underwater.  It took a few tries, but I eventually caught on, and in the end I managed to do it repeatedly on my own!  Next weekend scuba.  Cairns just got even more exciting…

C is for…

C is for Christmas!  Christmas is without a doubt my favourite holiday of the year.  I associate Christmas with a time to spend with family and friends, Christmas markets, popping open a Christmas cracker, lots of tastiness and cuddling up in front of a warm fire.

This year we’ll be spending Christmas in Te Anau, New Zealand, and instead of bundling up for cold weather we’ll be going on a kayaking adventure.  We hope to get a true taste of a Kiwi Christmas.  I hear the leisurely activity of choice is beach cricket and the typical Kiwi Christmas dessert is pavlova.

I’ve already had a look about for some restaurants where we can have a nice Christmas dinner but not sure if much will be open. Hopefully our hotel will have something nice available!

When I think of New Zealand…

Following in the spirit of my previous post, I thought I may as well make a list for New Zealand.  New Zealand has been on my destination wishlist for several years now, and I’m well excited to be going on a “road trip” around South Island.

When I think of New Zealand, I think of…

  • Kiwis
  • Flight of the Concords
  • kiwifruit
  • sheep
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Aotearoa
  • Māori
  • extreme sports
  • magical scenes of nature
  • Christchurch
  • Queensland
  • glaciers
  • Milford Sound
  • All Blacks
  • rugby
  • haka
  • kia ora
  • super friendly people

Gearing up for Oz and New Zealand

We’ve finally booked our (belated) honeymoon to Australia and New Zealand!  Following our adventure through the desert, this will be the biggest holiday we’ll  have been on to date.   Three weeks of freedom and relaxing in the sun, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, abundant harvests from the sea, a trek through the Daintree Rainforest, who wouldn’t be excited?

Oh wait,  I do know one person in the world that wouldn’t fancy a great adventure Down Under.  That would be Sir Smart, who recently declared (with a bit of lazy paraphrasing of Samuel Johnson) that Oz is like England forty years ago and that the best thing in Australia is the departure lounge back toward home!  But I digress…

We’ll visit Cairns and Sydney first, then spend the final week exploring the South Island of Aotearoa.  We plan to make a counter-clockwise loop around South Island, starting off in Christchurch and hence, a total of EIGHT hotel bookings for the entire holiday.  It was a lot of work but we’re SO excited!

We have a few things on our “to do” list: snorkeling, rain forest tour, Taronga Zoo, Orana Wildlife Park, sea kayaking, and of course we’d like to sample some bush tucker and try as many local delights as possible.  Although there are a few more months before the trip, we’re gearing up for it by learning as much as we can about each area.  So if you have any suggestions of your favourite local restaurants and must-sees (or avoid-like-the-plague) in any of the places we’ll be visiting, please let me know!