COVID has changed the travel industry as we know it and it is hard knowing where to visit with ever-changing rules. Figuring out the best countries to visit in 2022 for your next vacation is what I aim to solve in this post!
With COVID dragging on well into 2022, it looks like we’re going to stuck in another year of working from home and sitting on our chairs working from our laptops all day.
Despite the border closures, there are many opportunities of safe travel around the world where COVID will not hinder your enjoyment of the countries’ attractions. Many popular tourist destinations are still relatively empty to pre-COVID, and I believe now is the best time to experience the places you’ve always wanted to visit, without the massive tourist crowds.
I’ve created an easy-to-follow list of countries that are the best countries to visit in 2022 before it gets crowded, but as well as broken up the lists by continent and COVID consideration as well!
What Are the Best Countries to Visit in 2022?
Thailand – Best Country to Visit in 2022 Overall
One of the best countries to visit in 2022, if not the best. Thailand gets the largest portion of tourists in Asia. Known for having over tourism problems, now is the best time to visit to enjoy without large crowds. Check out the famous Phi Phi Islands just like you see it on TV – empty and pristine. Famous temples in the north like the White Temple (Wat Rong Khung) and Blue Temple (Wat Rong Seur Ten) usually filled with thousands of tour groups daily are now empty.
Peru – Machu Picchu is Now Empty!
World renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site Machu Picchu was so popular that they had to limit the number of daily visitors. Now’s your chance to see it – and hike nearby mountains that’s just as beautiful without the hustle and bustle you would see pre-COVID.
France – Hordes of Tourists are Now Gone
Another high contender as the best country to visit in 2022. The romantic city of Paris is known to always be overrun with tourists – pushing locals out of their favorite places to hang out. With the crowds gone, visit and see the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum with Mona Lisa or just hang out at cafes at any corner. Not interested in Paris? Even better – leaving the capital and visiting Bordeaux or Lyon will have even less crowds!
Italy – Enjoy Venice and Rome the Right Way
Great weather, food, and awe-inspiring architecture, Italy draws in many tourists every year. Rome is notorious for not being well-liked by visitors. Why? Too many tourists. The same goes with Venice. Now’s your chance to visit these famous cities without crowds. Check out the Colosseum in Rome or walk Venice’s cute canals with Gondoliers singing to their guests the proper way – with no crowds! Italy can finally be romantic again as one of the best countries to visit in 2022.
Mexico – The Party has Never Stopped
From beaches in Tulum/Cancun to culture and to-die for cuisine in Mexico City, Mexico is a must-visit country in 2022 due to its ease of entry. No complicated COVID requirements are needed, meaning you save a little extra money on COVID testing and time – time for you to enjoy your visit!
Spain – Great Weather and even Better Locals
With great weather nearly all-year-round, Spain is a must visit destination this year. Check out Barcelona with its architecture and museums, Seville’s numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, or even Madrid to enjoy its expansive party scene and hip areas.
Greece – Those giant tour groups? Gone!
There’s one place everyone knows: picturesque Santorini. While known in the past for being overrun by tourists all year round, with limited visitors due to COVID, now’s the best time to visit Santorini, Athens or even Mykonos. You can’t go wrong with any of Greece’s popular islands. Just the smaller crowds warrants Greece as one of the best countries to visit in 2022.
Croatia – Seaside exploration at its finest
World-famous Dubrovnik for its towering walls and picturesque Plitvice Lakes is usually overrun with tourists all year round. With current reduced visitors, those sites, along with Croatia’s other popular cities like Split and Hvar, are now all accessible to enjoy at a more leisurely pace. Did I mention being located off the Adriatic Sea means the country enjoys awesome temperate weather?
Morocco – Enjoy the cities at your own pace
The second most popular African country to visit after Egypt, popular cities like Marrakesh, Fes, and the “Blue City” Chefchaouen are usually crowded. If you haven’t been to Africa, this is a great country to visit as an introduction. Enjoy the Arabic-style souqs (street markets), dramatic scenery of Atlas Mountains, and a taste of the endless desert – the Sahara Desert in Merzouga.
Japan (if open) – Kyoto had an over tourism problem. Now it doesn’t
During the last decade, Japan has ballooned itself to one of the most popular tourist destinations – rightly so. With cosmopolitan cities like Tokyo and Osaka, to culture at every corner in Kyoto, legendary food enjoyed around the world like sushi, it’s a must-visit for any traveler. The increase in tourism pre-pandemic caused cities like Kyoto to have over-tourism problems. With the potential to open in 2022, now’s the chance to visit the endless red gates of Fushimi Inari and relax in a natural hot spring while viewing picturesque Mount Fuji without the crowd’s locals are used to.
South Korea (if open) – Korean pop culture has grown, go now!
BTS, Blackpink, K-POP, Squid Game. All of these gained an extreme amount of popularity during COVID. More people than ever are interested in Korean culture. With that in mind, pent up demand to visit the birthplace of Korean culture is higher than ever. While I would put South Korea higher up in the list as the best country to visit in 2022, it is closed. It’s highly advised to visit as soon as possible rather than later when they open as the wave of tourists will follow very soon.
The Netherlands – Explore the canals without thousands of pushy tourists
A very popular tourist city to visit from both Europeans and North Americans. With the highest percentage of people that know English (in the EU), it’s extremely easy to get around. Amsterdam, with its art, culture, and elaborate canal system is usually overcrowded with tourists all year round. With COVID, you’ll get to experience The Netherlands how you want it.
What Are the Best Countries to Visit with easy COVID Restrictions?
The country has zero restrictions on COVID vaccination status and there is no testing required for entry. Whether you’re looking for that beach life over in Tulum/Cancun or more authentic Mexican culture in Mexico City, there’s bound to be something for everyone. Definitely one of the best countries to visit in 2022 to have the pre-pandemic experience!
Just like Mexico, there are near-zero restrictions for entry! There is no vaccination or testing requirements to enter the country. Costa Rica is a nature-lovers paradise with tons of rainforests, volcanoes and other related outdoor activities. Not your style? Party it up (or relax!) on the Pacific coast in Tamarindo or over on the Caribbean side in Puerto Viejo. After visiting in November 2020, I can whole heartly say Costa Rica is one of the best countries to visit in 2022.
Spanish-speaking countries are a hit during COVID! There are near-zero restrictions on entry. One of the most popular countries in Europe to visit given its great weather. Spain has world-famous cities like Barcelona with its architecture/museums and Madrid for its expansive party scene/hip areas. Visit Valencia for a more relaxed Spanish experience mixing old and new.
If you aren’t vaccinated, you’ll need to have a COVID test result before boarding your flight, other than that, you’re good to go! Peru is well known for one thing: Machu Picchu! A haven for hikes and majestic hiking trails. Now is the perfect time to visit as you will not have to deal with the large tourist crowds that Machu Picchu draws in.
If you aren’t vaccinated, you’ll need to have a COVID test result before boarding your flight! Love architecture? You’ll love Dubrovnik and its expansive Old City that inspired Games of Thrones. More into beach life? Try Hvar – a great party town with its famous “Carpe Diem” party. Prefer something quieter? Explore any of the neighboring islands like Brac, Vis, or Korcula with a scooter at your own pace.
If you’re vaccinated, you’ll have no problem in Belgium. There are no testing requirements. Belgium is a great taste of Europe with a smaller feel. Cities like Brussels are known as the capital of the EU to small, cute towns like Bruges and Ghent with their Instagram-worthy canals and city architecture.
If you’re vaccinated, you’ll have no problem in France. Paris is a bucket list-must for any traveler. Art galleries, palaces, restaurants, small cafes, bakeries, and famous monuments like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre all in a single city. Too crowded? Take a trip out to Bordeaux, world-famous for its wine, or even Lyon, with its beautiful renaissance-style buildings and delicious local cuisine.
If you’re vaccinated, you’ll have no problem in Slovenia. One of the well-kept secrets in Europe that isn’t as popular as others in the EU. Want a less touristy (and more affordable) version of Switzerland? Check out Lake Bled with its castles, hills, lake, trails, and postcard-perfect mountain backdrop. If you’re into nature, check out Vintgar Gorge with its photogenic boardwalk in a gorge, or explore the UNESCO World Heritage Skocjan Caves. Slovenia is one of the best countries to visit in 2022.
Best European Countries to Visit
London, Edinburg, Oxford, and Cambridge. Do we need to say more? These world-renowned cities are known all around the world. With the iconic Big Ben along the River Thames, or Scotland’s hilly medieval Old Town, there’s an endless number of sights within the UK to see.
Imagine sipping coffee at a cozy while viewing the Eiffel Tower, exploring the Louvre to see internationally recognized paintings (e.g., the Mona Lisa), having some of the world’s best wine at Bordeaux, or even taking it easy in Lyon, with its beautiful renaissance-style buildings and delicious local cuisine. What’s even better: France is well positioned for you to check out its neighboring countries.
From bull fights, Flamenco shows, or partying it up on the island of Ibiza, you’ll enjoy the eccentric vibe found all around Spain. Barcelona and Madrid are well known for their culture and great introduction to Spain. Seville, Malaga, and Valencia, while not as large, provide a more authentic Spanish experience. So, if you’re looking for something faster paced or something a little slow, Spain has got it for you.
Oktoberfest down in Munich. A young and vibrant culture scene in Berlin. The “Manhattan” of Europe in Frankfurt. Fussen with Neuschwanstein Castle (real life inspiration for Cinderella’s castle), and many beaches on its islands in the north. Every corner of Germany is completely different for you to explore! Even better: Germany is renowned for its ease of transportation between cities, so you’ll have no problem moving from one place to another!
World-famous Venice canals, to the large Colosseum in Rome, and one of the most striking hillside villages you’ll ever see – Manarola. Italy is brimming with gorgeous landscapes along the Mediterranean Sea. Did we also mention possibly some of the best foods found in the world? Pizza, pasta and gelato are enjoyed worldwide. Your eyes and mouth will have an experience of a lifetime in Italy. One of my favorites and as well as one of the best countries to visit in 2022.
With hundreds of islands, each being unique from one another, a visit to each is a must. Santorini with its breathtaking red sunsets and its crisp white/blue villages is a bucket list for many. Mykonos, with its beaches, diverse crowds, and nightlife will attract some. Looking for more quiet time? Crete has a plethora of awe-inspiring gorges, mountains, and natural scenery. No matter what island you choose, it’ll be an unforgettable experience.
Often overlooked by its neighbors, imagine having snow-capped peaks like Austria, Mediterranean-like coastlines like Greece, or picturesque towns with mountains like Switzerland. Slovenia has this all packed within its relatively small size! You’ll be able to explore it all within a 2 hours’ drive in any direction of its capital, Ljubljana.
Vienna is a cosmopolitan city known to be shaped by well-known musicians like Mozart and Beethoven. More than two-thirds of the country is covered by the Alps, making it one of the most Instagram-worthy countries for mountains. Hallstatt is a definite favorite, rivaling Lucerne in Switzerland. Want epic drives that stand head-to-head to the fjords in Norway? Try driving the Grossglockner Road to Franz-Josefs-Hohe!
Best Asian/Oceania Countries to Visit
Take a walk in one of the largest cities in the world: Tokyo. Each neighborhood is large enough to be distinct from one another! Take in the beautiful temples in Kyoto like the endless red gates, Fushimi Inari and kick back to relax in natural hot springs in nearby Lake Kawaguchi while viewing Mount Fuji. The cherry on top? Some of the best food found anywhere in the world. Just these reasons alone make it one of the best countries to visit in 2022.
Vibrant Seoul has nearly enough for any visitor – food, culture, museums, nightlife, and everything related to Korean pop culture (think BTS, Blackpink, K-POP). Taking a step out of Seoul, Busan is for seafood lovers with one of the most picturesque villages in all of Asia: Gamcheon. Want to relax on a beach? Busan (or nearby Jeju Island) has got you covered!
While Thailand is known for its idyllic beaches, there is more to the country. Bangkok has more food than you even eat. Chiang Mai with its nearby temples can feed your temple fix. Want a relaxing change of pace? Check out Pai and its hot springs and waterfalls. Interested in outdoor rock climbing? Krabi is world-famous in the rock-climbing community. Whether it’s outdoors, city life or culture, Thailand has it all.
Visit some of the most bustling cities in Asia. Ho Chi Minh city has its French colonial landmarks and war museums with its famous “District 1” for nightlife. Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city is rich with history in its Old Quarter. Ha Long Bay has emerald-green water with endless rugged islands in every direction and finally Sapa with its rice terraces snugged within its valleys (that you can walk!). If there’s one thing you absolutely need to do in Vietnam, is to cross the street with hundreds of scooters coming right at you. It will be an unforgettable experience.
The night market capital of the world. Just in Taipei alone there are more than a dozen night markets to satisfy your cravings in every way possible. Just north of Taipei is Jioufen, known for its narrow alleyways and picturesque lanterns at every corner (that inspired the Studio Ghibli movie, Spirited Away!). Finally, if you’re into nature, take a walk in Taroko Gorge or climb/hike any of the many mountains on the island. Taiwan, despite being small, has something for everyone.
You’ve seen Angkor Wat, but have you seen Prambana or Borobudur Temple? These two temples are just as magnificent, and each have their distinct features. As one of the countries with the most active volcanoes in the world, the breathtaking view for Mt. Bromo is unrivaled. Finally, we have one of the most famous islands in the world: Bali. Enjoy the many Hindu temples found throughout the island and party it up in Kuta. Not interested in partying? Bali has tons of quiet corners where you can relax. Indonesia also has one of the most pristine diving opportunities in the world as you head more east toward the Komodo islands.
Visit Sydney, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Enjoy the nearby beaches just right in the city and check out the iconic Opera House. Melbourne is also not to be missed with its lively Central Business District and speakeasies hidden in plain sight. Further north, visit Cairns, the entry to the Great Barrier Reef with diving that’s unlike anywhere else in the world. With some of the friendliest people in the world, you’ll have a blast anywhere you visit in Australia.
The South Island is known for its never-ending mountains as you drive in any direction. With an extremely affordable and easy car/motor van rental industry, it’s easy to go at your own pace. Check out the fantastic drive to Milford Sound, or the famous Hooker Valley hike. Up in the north island, visit Rotorua nearby natural heated geysers run by the local indigenous people, the Māori people. If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings franchise, many of the scenes in the original trilogy were filmed in New Zealand! New Zealand is a must for any avid seekers of unbelievable natural scenery.
Best North/Central/South American Countries to Visit
The United States is best described as being 50 small countries packed into a continent, sharing the same language. Each corner of the country is different and offers something for everyone: cosmopolitan cities, deserts, oceans, rivers, mountains, volcanoes and so on. Not many countries in the world can say the same. New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, and Hawaii. These are household names all around the world.
If you’re looking for a hike of a lifetime, then Machu Picchu is a must without a doubt. Of course, there are even alternatives that are just as beautiful if you want to avoid crowds like Sacred Valley, Kuelap, or Choquequirao. Foodies will know that Peru’s capital, Lima, is home to numerous Michelin Star restaurants. Peru’s restaurant scene is not to be missed. Peru is definitely one of the best countries to visit in 2022.
One place comes to mind immediately: Patagonia. It’s famous for its spectacular landscapes: a mixture of the Andes and long stretches of rolling plains and plateaus. Just Patagonia alone is enough for weeks to explore. Iguazu Falls, the largest falls in the world, is also located at the border of Brazil. If you aren’t into the outdoor scene, then Bueno Aires is a must visit city with museums and art galleries housed in old Spanish colonial buildings.
With its unusual shape, each region experiences completely different climates. In the north, the Atacama, there are deserts. The central part experiences a climate similar to the Mediterranean and finally in the south, it is a rainy temperate-like climate. In a single trip you could be experiencing completely different climates! By neighboring Argentina, Chile has its own features of Patagonia like the popular Torres Del Paine National Park. Santiago is the country’s culture and entertainment center with endless amounts of museums, galleries, and dining options. Finally, in the far south is the last stop before Antarctica – a bucket list item for many travelers.
Known for its intense carnivals, famous beaches in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is the go-to place if you’re looking to have tons of fun. Rio, with its breathtaking views on Sugarloaf Mountain is alone to warrant a trip to Brazil. Outside its main cities, Brazil has the largest rainforest on Earth, the Amazon Rainforest. Brazil isn’t just filled with rainforest, Lencois Maranhenses National Park is a famous park known for its sand dunes. With some of the craziest parties in the cities and largest natural habitats of biodiversity, Brazil has the best of both worlds.
From beaches in Tulum/Cancun to culture and to-die for cuisine in Mexico City, Mexico is one of the most recommended places to visit in North/Central America. Relax in one of the many beaches near Tulum and then take a soak in the majestic Cenotes (caverns) surrounding the area. Fly over to Mexico City and experience what some consider the epicenter of Hispanic culture.
Being one of the largest countries on the planet, Canada has a lot to offer from coast to coast. On the east there is a little taste of French, away from France in the province of Quebec. Visit the world-renowned city of Montreal with its old quarter filled with narrow cobblestone streets with charming shops and cafes. In the west, Banff National Park in the Rocky Mountains has some of the most famous picturesque landmarks like Lake Louise. Vancouver is a thriving city with a growing Asian food scene and under an hour from some of the best hikes. Whether you’re interested in experiencing cities or the outdoors, Canada has it all.
Best African/ Middle East Countries to Visit
Experience an African Safari in the famous Kruger National Park where you’ll get a chance to see the famous “Big Five” (the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and African buffalo) and have your very own National Geographic experience. On the west, visit Cape Town with its breathtaking views along where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean. Cape Town has two mountains just in its city limits that you can climb (or take a cableway) for the best possible views. A trip to South Africa is not a trip without trying delicious Braai – their version of BBQ. As a country with a majority of its inhabitants that speak English, you won’t have any problem enjoying your trip!
Experience the Namib Desert with its red sand dunes, endless deserts and as well as the famous Deadvlei clay pan of skeletal remains of centuries-old trees. As you drive further to the north, experience a dramatic change from desert to jungle. A drive to Etosha National Park, a famous park with lions, rhinos, and elephants is a must! You are highly likely to see these animals plus giraffes on the road there! As a very sparse country, Namibia is enjoyed by those who like to take their time.
With the large Okavango Delta, Botswana is filled to the brim with national game reserves. Driving along any of the roads in Botswana will result in seeing elephants on the road as they have the largest elephant population in the world. Take a traditional mokoro (dugout canoe) to a local’s camp and join them in the “bush” as you follow herds of elephants, wildebeests and kudus. In the northeast, check out the famous Victoria Falls, second only to Iguazu Falls. Botswana is a must visit for those who want to experience real wildlife encounters up close.
Have a taste of Africa mixed with Arabic and a sprinkle of French and you get Morocco. Visit Marrakech and Fes with their historic medina quarters filled to the brim with food vendors, spice and textile souks (street markets), snake charmers and folk dancers! The blue city Chefchaouen rivals’ sights like Greece’s Santorini or South Korea’s Gamcheon. Finally, take a step into the endless Sahara Desert where you can stay overnight in Merzouga. With no light pollution you’ll be able to see the whole Milky Way in the desert! Morocco is a fantastic introduction to Africa for newcomers and experienced travelers.
One of the safest countries to travel to despite its neighboring country reputation, you’ll find some of the friendliest locals in the world. Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World is a magnificent monument to see. The Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, is an experience on its own. You will always float due to its buoyancy! Finally, experience true Bedouin (name of the local people) hospitality by staying overnight in Wadi Rum – a desert. You’ll experience glamping in style and enjoying food and drinks provided by your hosts. If you had one Middle Eastern country to visit, Jordan would be for sure an enjoyable and safe experience.
A country usually not on people’s radar has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Middle East. Explore the many mountains and Wadi valleys like Wadi Damm with its sparkling water pools or Wadi Shab with its emerald water nestled between valleys that you can swim in! Did you know that you can camp nearly anywhere in Oman? Take a trip out to the Wahiba Sands where you can camp and enjoy the endless sand dunes and stargazing with your 4×4. Oman is an easy country to explore that’s not well known to others that should be on anyone’s list! Since its still under the radar, Oman is one of the best countries to visit in 2022.
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Dubai is a city on its own that doesn’t seem to make sense. Located in the middle of the desert but has luxury shopping malls, modern architecture and lively nightlife scene, it’s something to behold. Take a trip through the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood to see what Dubai was before then jump over to see the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. The Jumeirah Mosque is a must see as it is the only one open to non-Muslims. Dubai, and if you have time, Abu Dhabi, is worth a short stopover to experience both new and old, in the middle of a desert.
World famous Egypt is well known for its unbelievable archaeological and cultural finds. Cairo alone hosts the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Outside, go along the Nile River and experience one of the most important rivers in ancient history. Going along the river alone allows you to experience multiple monuments like Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. History buffs will find Egypt a must visit.
Conclusion: Travel in 2022 and Beyond
2018 was a record year for travel, reaching 1.4 billion international travelers. 2019 beat that with 1.5 billion travelers. If you’ve travelled during 2019 you would’ve felt how crowded it was in many places around the world. With the sudden shock in tourism thanks to COVID, places that experienced over tourism are now empty and open for you to explore!
The best countries to visit in 2022 include Thailand, Peru, Italy, Japan, and South Korea based on popularity and over tourism before COVID.
With proper due diligence and strategic planning, you’ll for sure find a new country to explore no matter what it is you’re looking for with the current lockdowns.
If you’re still stuck at home and can’t travel due to border restrictions, let me help you on navigating working from home! Whether it’s buying a new laptop, chair, or desk, I’ve done the research and laid the groundwork, so you don’t have to!