By Katia Hetter
It's not just fun activities that make locals and tourists happy, according to the third World Happiness Report, released by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network on April 23.
People who live in the happiest countries have a longer life expectancy and more social support, experience more generosity, have more freedom to make decisions in life, perceive less corruption and have a higher gross domestic product per capita, as shown by the report.
The tiny country of Bhutan - a country very happy and famous for measuring the "gross national happiness" of its people - takes credit for focusing the world's attention on happiness: its prime minister proposed to the United Nations the idea of World Happiness Day in 2011.
When the United Nations declared March 20 as the International Day of Happiness in 2012, it recognized the relevance of "happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world." This officially designated happy date celebrated its fourth year last month.
Through the happiness report, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network hopes to motivate governments at all levels to measure and improve the happiness of their people.
"There is no single key to happiness," said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the network and professor of economics at Columbia University. "All these countries are doing well in different areas. Will it be their wealth? That's good, but that's only a small part of the story. Trust in society, have a government that has low corruption rates, a society where people are generous and willing to collaborate… all these are important aspects to achieve happiness ".
Even if you don't live in one of the 10 happiest countries in the world, a visit to these happy places will give you an idea of what the locals enjoy every day.
These are the 10 happiest places on Earth that top the list, according to the World Happiness Report.
Switzerland snatched the top spot from Denmark in 2015, moving from third place to first on this year's list of the happiest countries in the world.
Bern, the capital of Switzerland, has cobbled streets and its medieval architecture makes it clear why the ancient city was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since its founding in the 12th century, the city has spread out in a usually clean and orderly manner. In addition, the beautiful River Aare offers swimming and sailing within the city.
Looking to get out of the capital? Book a trip to Lucerne, where you can take a boat ride on the lake, ride the panoramic cable car, enjoy views over the new Dragon Ride aerial cable car, and ride the world's steepest cogwheel railway. Book the "Golden Round Trip" and enjoy all four tours - and breathtaking views of the Alps - in one day. (The railway opens again in mid-May).
No matter where you go, you will certainly be able to taste a great deal of delicious chocolate.
Nature and culture combine to make Iceland a truly happy place, so enjoyable that the small country jumped from ninth place to second this year.
Explore southern Iceland, where many of the ancient tales - called sagas - that document Iceland's 10th and 11th century history are remembered. A two-hour drive from the capital city of Reykjavik, South Iceland is home to the Vatnajökull Glacier, the 60-meter (197-foot) Skógafoss waterfall, and amazing fresh seafood (though you could probably skip the fermented shark…) It doesn't matter. Wherever you visit, you will likely find a geothermal pool or hot spring spa to soak up your weary bones after a long day of exploring. When you return to the capital, be aware that the renowned Reykjavik Annual Arts Festival will take place from May 17 to June 7.
It doesn't matter that Denmark lost first place this year and is now the third happiest country in the world.
Seeing all the things Danes have to be happy about, you won't notice the slight drop while enjoying jazz at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival in July, when you hang out with the hipsters on Queen Louise Bridge, when you do a canal tour or when you play beach volleyball in front of the Royal Danish Playhouse.
Would you rather listen to your music in the forest? Head to Smuk Fest ("The Beautiful Festival"), a rock / pop festival that takes place in the forests of Skanderborg in August.
Wherever you go, enjoy the Danish tradition of "hygge", sometimes it is also simply translated as the need for "privacy". It's actually a complex sense of intimacy, community, and satisfaction that often happens with friends and family; that makes it a happy country.
The sun never sets in some parts of Norway during the summer months, and the North Cape area is one of the best places to play when the sun is shining 24 hours a day. Visitors love golfing, walking, and even running a marathon during the months when the midnight sun prevails.
If your taste buds get carried away with traveling, head to the Norwegian capital of Oslo, a gastronomic paradise where the Michelin food guide has awarded five stars out of four restaurants: Ylajali, Statholdergaarden and Fauna (one star each) and Maeemo ( two stars).
Canada combines European flair, sensibilities, and history with the vast natural wonders of North America.
Within the French-speaking province of Quebec, a tour of the historic city of Old Quebec is a treat for any Francophile. Founded at the beginning of the 17th century, it is the only city in North America located north of Mexico, in which fortifications still exist. The historic district was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Just minutes from downtown Quebec City is the Isle of Orleans, a small island where farming and farming continue to be a way of life. If you are looking for nature, less than an hour from Quebec City, you could go on a hike along the Jacques-Cartier National Park, where the Vallée de la Jacques-Cartier glacier is located.
Seeing the strange Saimaa ringed seal is a happy event, since it adapted to fresh water after the Ice Age caused the lake that is its home to be isolated from the sea. There are only about 300 specimens and you can find them in Lake Saimaa, in eastern Finland.
But you may be luckier to see the white whooper swan, Finland's national bird, whose arrival heralds the onset of spring.
For a more urban experience, visit Helsinki Market Square and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. You can still see animals in the capital city: in mid-May, after the long winter, the cows will be taken to graze in the fields in Viikki, a Helsinki neighborhood. The locals always come together to celebrate this very important event.
7.- Netherlands (Holland)
Although nothing can match the tulips of Holland and they are most impressive in Keukenhof (known as the Garden of Europe), there are many beautiful places around the country to walk, ride a bike and welcome spring as well as its characteristic flower.
For a more majestic celebration, keep in mind that the kingdom celebrates its bicentennial this year with many festivities.
In a country that is very fond of celebrations, Swedes like to celebrate Midsommar (summer solstice) more than anything, the longest day of the year. It is a national holiday that is characterized by traditional food and dances around a Maypole.
Can't make it to the Midsommar parties? There is still much to do. Just 20 minutes from the capital city of Stockholm, the Stockholm archipelago boasts some 30,000 islands and offers countless opportunities for fun. Swimming, hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding… everything is within your reach if you book a boat trip (some boat trips include food and tours of many of the islands).
9.- New Zealand
New to the list of the 10 happiest countries, New Zealand has many reasons to celebrate. Although it has always been an attractive place to explore, the fact that Peter Jackson chose the country to shoot the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy has given New Zealand more popularity than money can buy.
The capital city of Wellington has benefited from the growth of the film industry and, as a result, has developed a lively and creative food scene.
In addition, many of the country's natural wonders have attracted international attention, including Mount Ngauruhoe, with a height of 2,291 meters (7,516 feet), which served to represent the fictional Mount of Destiny. This is part of the Tongariro National Park, called a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Great Barrier Reef, the largest collection of coral reefs in the world, is a natural phenomenon that you should not miss. Australians have fiercely denounced man-made threats against their existence (and no one is happy about that).
Once you've had a chance to explore that magical underwater kingdom, head to the state of Tasmania, an island 149 miles (240 kilometers) off the mainland coast. Tasmania's wilderness, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts one of the last remaining temperate rainforests in the world.
To see the desert up close, take a hike along the stunning 40-mile (65-kilometer) long Overland Trail. It takes about six days for hikers to tour (who have to book in advance), but day trippers can take short tours, departing from the Cradle Mountain Visitor Center and Dove Lake.