Happy Holidays! The Happiest Holiday Destinations

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
As the New Economicas Foundation releases its 2012 Happy Planet list, we explore the top three countries and look at what they have to offer UK holidaymakers.....

The New Economics Foundation has just released the 2012 Happy Planet, a celebration of the world's happiest countries. In contrast to the UN's Happiness Report, which ranks countries by economic power and wealth, this version gauges happiness by life expectancy, well-being and the ecological footprint.

The top three countries on the list are Costa Rica, Vietnam and Colombia, which are all perfect holiday destinations for different reasons and we've picked the best for each:

1) Costa Rica

Central America's ecological heartland, Costa Rica, is a haven for naturalists and eco-warriors seeking lush rainforests, unspoilt beaches and steaming, active volcanoes. Costa Rica has pledged to become the world's first carbon neutral country by 2021 - a goal not so out of reach for a country that produces 99% of its energy from renewable sources and has reversed deforestation.

Costa Rica is abundant in rich, tropical rainforests and enjoys fantastic surf sites dotted along its Pacific and Caribbean shores. Head inland and you'll find active volcanoes, cloud forests and white water rivers.

The number one attraction here has to be the Arenal Volcano, which puts on a mighty show for its many annual spectators. During the day you'll see smoke billowing from its crater, and at night you can watch glowing molten lava roll thickly down its slopes. If you're lucky, the clouds might part enough for you to catch a glimpse of glowing rocks being thrown into the air.

2) Vietnam

Snaking around the other two of South East Asia's once war torn lands, Laos and Cambodia, Vietnam is a vibrant and exciting country with great history and beautiful landscapes. From deep jungles to bustling city centres, there's something for everyone.

Explore the Chinese and French influences in the ancient capital city in the north, Hanoi, and enjoy the chaos that spills from young and fun southern Ho Chi Minh City, often still called Saigon, with thousands of mopeds scurrying along its 'roads' while carrying the world and its wife on the back.

If you're looking for a more relaxing perspective on Vietnam, visit the country's beautiful and idyllic coastal resort Nha Trang, on the South Central coast. Here you can bask on pristine white beaches and scuba dive or snorkel in clear blue seas.

3) Colombia

From beautiful secluded beaches and dense jungles to breathtaking mountains and exciting and modern cityscapes, Colombia is a destination begging to be discovered. It seems more Britons are doing so, as in 2011 the number of British visitors to the country increased by 40% - thanks in part to the increased publicity of the Hay Festival in popular fishing town Cartagerra.

Enjoy the colonial delights of the capital city, Bogota, visit the city's gold museum, and wander around historic streets sampling its fine art and culture. Of course, a trip to Colombia wouldn't be complete without exploring the Coffee Triangle, part of the Paisa region, where you can go on guided tours around the coffee plantations and vast valleys, a haven for any coffee lover.