From UNESCO sites to air pollution, we pull together the statistics to reveal the best countries in the world for living life in the great outdoors
At Cool Camping we love the great outdoors and, for us, time outside is about much more than just weekend camping holidays. From hiking and biking, to simply getting out into the countryside and exploring new places, we know (and studies have shown) that time outdoors helps us live happier, healthier lives.
This year, we’ve not only been working hard to find the best places to camp, glamp and pitch your tent beneath the stars, but we’ve also dug through the figures and searched the statistics, to find out exactly where you should live if you really want to make the most of nature.
We can now reveal our brand new Fresh Air Living Index, ranking the best places for outdoor enthusiasts to live, 365 days of the year.
Compiled by analysing a variety of factors that we believe any right-minded outdoor enthusiast would find important, our Fresh Air Living Index identifies which countries around the world best meet the criteria, then brings every outdoor factor together in an overall ranking.
Important factors include the number of natural UNESCO sites a country has, the average level of air pollution and the number of recognised, long-distance hiking routes available to trek.
Right at the top of the list in first place was Spain, with an incredibly low air pollution score and a high rate for the attractiveness of its natural assets (which calculates to what extent international tourists visit the country mainly for its natural assets). Key features helping Spain in this regard include the Gaztelugatxe, a little islet in the bay of Biscay, and the Somiedo National Park, near the Cantabrian Mountains, which is a designated UNESCO biosphere reserve and a European Union special protection area for birds.
While a number of tiny campsites in the Somiedo National Park have featured in our guidebooks over the last decade, other European destinations topping the index include Greece, Portugal and Switzerland, which all featured in the top 10.
Ranked 21st on the list, the UK falls behind evidently wilder countries such as Norway, Australia and Chile but stands out in particular for its high levels of access. With the largest number of recognised long-distance footpaths of any country on the list, historic routes, coastal trails and by laws such as ‘the right to roam’ help give UK residents rights of way that’s the envy of many other nations.
Read on below to see the full results of our Fresh Air Living Index.
Fresh Air Living Index Results
(Full list below)
Spain was ranked as the number one destination for outdoor enthusiasts after it ranked highly in almost every category. Not only did it come third on the US News’ Adventure Rankings list, it also came 11th in the world for the number of natural World Heritage sites in the country.
Greece ranked second thanks, in part, to being 5th on the US News’ Adventure Rankings List, out of 80 countries, but also because it had a number of renowned hiking routes and an excellent air quality score. Big draws like the Acropolis, also helped it rank one of the highest for attractiveness of natural assets
Following Spain and Greece, the rest of the top 5 countries are:
3. Costa Rica
4. New Zealand
The overall results by continent are:
Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in Africa: South Africa
Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in South America: Chile
Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in Asia: Thailand
Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in North America: Costa Rica
Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in Oceania: New Zealand
The full list of results can be found below, followed by an explanation of the methodology we have used.