Happiest places in the world >> ASIA
Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
632Trip End Dec 31, 2011
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This list to me looks more like recycled myth and legends.
Given that the Swiss aren't known as happy folk, that Iceland's economy has just gone broke, and Bhutan no paradise at all.
Happiest places in the world
From Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2009 - 850 trends, destinations, journeys & experiences for the year ahead.
#1. BHUTAN, THE HIMALAYAS
Getting life's priorities right is important. Policymakers in this country at the roof of the world are required to consider not only GDP (Gross Domestic Product) but also GNH - Gross National Happiness. It's seen things like tobacco and plastic bags being banned in this Himalayan kingdom - television was only allowed in 1999. Shopkeepers in the ancient capital Thimphu have even had to take down signs advertising Western soft drinks. Instead, the views are of carved temples and vivid prayer flags fluttering against a backdrop of snow-dusted mountains.
#2. MONTRÉAL, CANADA
If laughter is indeed the best medicine they should need fewer medics in Montréal. The Francophone capital of Québec has been staging one of the world's best comedy festivals every July since 1983. In between fits of the giggles wander the squares of Vieux-Montréal or explore the tree-clad gradients of Mt Royal. You can even strap on some skis, shoot down a slope and be back in time for a gourmet supper. But if you want to tell the joke about the American, the Canadian and the grizzly in one of the city's many bohemian bars, they've already heard it.
Edging in at number three in the global happiness table, Austria is another country tailor-made for natural highs. You'll be grinning from ear to ear after careering down Innsbruck's bobsleigh run - 1000m in a minute. Or bowl up in Mozart-infused Salzburg and sign up for a Sound of Music tour, then round it all off with one of the most atmospheric arrivals by rail in the world. At Hallstatt the train deposits you on one side of a crystal-clear lake, a ferry whisks you to the village clinging to the base of the mountains on the other side.
Health tops the list of things that make people content, according to the world happiness map researchers. Switzerland came in second. Which is fitting - this is a country where you can zip down ski runs in the winter, hike flower-strewn mountain passes in the spring and plunge into deep-blue lakes in August. Highlights are the breathtaking Lauterbrunnen Valley, which is graced by more than 70 waterfalls, the craggy Matterhorn and skateboard-crazy lakeside Lausanne. You can even indulge in the world-famous chocolate and fondue secure in the knowledge that you'll need those calories with all that activity!
Icelanders are the fourth most contented folk in the world and there's a wealth of warmth here despite the chilly moniker. Taking a dip in a geothermal pool tends to raise the temperature a bit - as does hiking or horse riding amid a landscape of active volcanoes, spouting geysers and vast lava fields. If you're prone to glum-inducing SAD (seasonal affective disorder), it's best to avoid the winter, when there can be as few as four hours of sunlight a day. But one of nature's most spectacular displays - the dazzling, ethereal northern lights (aurora borealis) - more than makes up for it.
The Bahamas drifts in to bag the number five spot on the world map of happiness, beating New Zealand(number 18), USA (23) and UK (41). It's no surprise; at the rate of one a day you'd need almost two years to visit each of its 700 sun-soaked islands and six years to curl your toes in the sand at its 2500 cays. Head for the less developed Out Islands for a laid-back slice of Bahamian life; watch birds atGreat Inagua (population: 924 people,80,000 flamingos) or dive in coral seas off Cat Island, famous for its pink-and-white sand.
SHANGRI-LA (1), THE HIMALAYAS
Shangri-la is a fictional paradise where the evils of the modern world are kept at bay and people live in harmony with nature and each other. This mystical kingdom was imagined by the British author James Hilton in the novel Lost Horizon. He set it in the Himalayas, doubtless inspired by a landscape where sculpted mountains prop up an impossibly blue sky. Add monasteries clinging to cliffs and rare blue poppies and you get the perfect place to contemplate Utopia and the true nature of happiness. Actually, it all sounds an awful lot like Bhutan.
SHANGRI-LA (2), USA
It's highly unlikely you'll get into this Shangri-la. It's in rural Maryland, was established in the 1940s by President Roosevelt and has now been renamed Camp David. But the spectacular scenery nearby successfully evokes idyllic high-altitude hideaways. It also opens up the Blue Ridge Parkway; a 755km drive through the Great Smoky, Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mountains - a lush panorama of log cabins and lakes, often turned a hazy 'blue' by mists. And there is even a ready-made road-trip soundtrack - chose from down-home bluegrass, John Denver's 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' or Laurel and Hardy's 'The Trail of the Lonesome Pine'.
If a positive outlook spreads contentment, visiting somewhere with an upbeat name should help. Test this theory at Happy, Texas - in this 'town without a frown' the kids go to Happy High, the first newspaper was Happy News and they even had a Happy Bank. It's also just a coyote's howl from the 193km-long and 32km-wide Palo Duro Canyon. This cinematic landscape, all vivid colours and towering rock formations, is a place for deep breaths and even deeper thinking. Rent a horse and a cabin, then drink in mind-expanding sunsets and big skies.
Academics drawing up a 'world map of happiness' recently found Denmark is the most cheerful nation on earth. The satisfied residents of this country ensured it came out top in the poll of 178 nations. Denmark's main peninsula meets an idyllic archipelago of more than 400 islands and it's easy to pick up on its positive vibe. The ancient core of Copenhagen, the capital, is a warren of streets creaking with old buildings, and framed by canals and colourful 18th-century houses. The local smørrebrød (huge open sandwiches laden with cheese and meat) will also make you smile.