Peace in the Nordipodes

Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, Iceland ...

Excitement in Iceland (NASA Goddard Photo and Video via Flickr)

If the tales of armed insurrection and crime rates in the last couple of blog posts have caused some to reconsider travel plans, it should be noted that it’s not all doom and gloom out there. In fact, there are destinations so safe, your primary risk might be dozing off. So, if your travel itinerary doesn’t include posing for snapshots with AK47 toting freedom fighters, you might consider visiting some of the safest countries in the world.

According to the Global Peace Index’s 2009 listings, the five destinations below are the safest places in the world. Perhaps coincidentally, four out of five of these are in the Nordic and Antipodean regions.

Number 5: Austria

A high GDP, stable government, free university education, and the rugged Alps, Austria really has it all…except for crime and violence that is. What should you worry about then? Avalanches perhaps.

Number 4: Iceland

There is an apocryphal story that Iceland acquired its name in a cheeky ploy to avoid excessive immigration. While the story might not be true, could it be possible that the icy climate keeps crime at bay? Not likely. What might be a more rational deterrent is Iceland’s enviable third place ranking on the UNDP’s human development index. Mix the country’s highly developed welfare system and universal health care with a clean and beautiful environment – notwithstanding the once in a double century ash-spewing volcanoes – and it really is a surprise that more people aren’t migrating to Iceland.

Number 3: Norway

While its fun to think of Norway as home to rampaging Vikings bent on pillaging Europe, reality is far different. Norway might better be characterized by its egalitarian social security system, universal health care, subsidized higher education, and robust economy. Chances of being attacked by Vikings: 0.

Number 2: Denmark

Is crime and social unrest a by-product of poverty and economic inequality? Ask a Dane and they might say yes. This is because Denmark has the highest level of economic equality in the world and issues of crime and social unrest are largely absent in the Kingdom. The only danger for visitors, depending on your taste buds of course, might be the pickled herring.

Number 1: New Zealand

When was the last time that you saw New Zealand on the world news? Possibly it was a story about the stunning scenery used as the backdrop in the Lord of the Rings trilogy because it certainly wasn’t a story of political unrest or crime. Respect for human rights, a strong environmental protection ethnic, high literacy, lack of corruption, press freedom, the list of positive traits just goes on and on. Congratulations New Zealand! 

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