Olympic Medal Ceremony: Our Picks for the Best Destinations Around the World

22 May

The London 2012 Olympics doesn’t start until July 27, but we’ve already given out our medals for the Travel Olympics.

Event: Wine Tourism

Cape Winelands

Cape Winelands in South Africa

Gold Medal Winner: South Africa

International Wine Review named South Africa’s wine tourism the “best-developed in the world” due to “excellent tasting facilities and many have superb restaurants with spectacular mountain vineyard views.”

Silver Medal Winner: Australia

Australia’s wine tourism is closely integrated with its local food growers and makers, giving visitors two great tastes that go great together.

Bronze Medal Winner: Argentina

Oenophiles who are tired of the expat-riddled “Chiantishire” of Italy have been flocking to Argentina to get in on the fastest-growing wine country in the world.

Try out the wines from these regions with our South Africa wine tours, Australia wine tours, and Argentina wine tours.

Event: Wildlife Encounters

Gold Medal Winner: Tanzania

The Serengeti National Park makes Tanzania a consistent gold-medal winner, but the entire country, from Lake Victoria to the Indian Ocean, is a wildlife enthusiast’s paradise.

Silver Medal Winner: Botswana

Botswana is the best-kept secret of safaris, and is far less traveled than other well-known tourist spots throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.

Bronze Medal Winner: Kenya

Kenya’s wildlife and safari industry is a well-oiled machine that offers literally hundreds of choices for travelers on every budget.

Event: Extreme Adventures

 

Gold Medal Winner: New Zealand

New Zealand is the extreme sports capital of the world, with good reason. From high above the clouds to the depths of the sea, adrenaline junkies simply cannot get enough.

Silver Medal Winner: United States

Our gold medal winner may have invented the world’s most adored extreme adventures, but American ingenuity has made people consider jumping out of a plane to be a relaxing weekend hobby.

Bronze Medal Winner: Nepal

Mount Everest isn’t the only reason Nepal takes its place on our podium. The country has taken advantage of the world’s most adventurous travelers with amazing trekking, rafting, bungee jumping and other extreme sports.

Event: Backpacking

Dublin Temple Bar

Ireland’s beer and affordability make it an attractive destination for backpackers

Gold Medal Winner: Ireland

Ireland is like a more affordable, English-speaking Europe that has incredible history, beautiful landscapes, friendly locals, and beer. No contest.

Silver Medal Winner: Thailand

Thailand has the magical combination of decent transport, near-mystical sites and days-long beach parties that makes it a backpacker’s dream.

Bronze Medal Winner: India

From the enormous Mumbai to the more intimate Goa, backpackers have long been heading to India to get their travel on – at bargain basement prices.

Event: Public Transportation

Japan bullet train

One of Japan’s famous bullet trains

Gold Medal Winner: Japan

Almost 750,000 miles of roads, 176 airports, 250 high speed trains you can set your watch by – Japan is literally the gold standard in public transportation.

Silver Medal Winner: France

France has definitely taken a page from Japan’s playbook, at least when it comes to roads and rails. The highways are so smooth you can roller skate down them, and the SNCF rail network has made it possible to come from almost anywhere in the country and still be in Paris in time for lunch.

Bronze Medal Winner: Germany

What, we’re not going to include the land of the Autobahn on our list of medal winners? And with the fantastic national train system as well as citywide metros, even the hell that is Frankfurt Airport can’t keep Germany off the podium.

Event: Ecotourism

A Capuchin in Costa Rica

A Capuchin monkey in Costa Rica

Gold Medal Winner: Costa Rica

After years of deforestation, Costa Rica has made its top priority welcoming its millions of visitors while building environmental awareness, protecting local culture, minimizing impact and creating financial benefits for green policies and initiatives.

Silver Medal Winner: Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands have put Ecuador on the eco-tourism map, but its continuing dedication to tours that keep the country in balance puts Ecuador on our winner’s podium.

Bronze Medal Winner: Antarctica

Antarctica’s remote location has certainly helped to curb a mass influx of tourists, and the necessity of guides through its inhospitable terrain ensures that the traveling that does happen is responsible.

Event: History

Great Wall of China

There’s no better place for history buffs than China

Gold Medal Winner: China

Chinese history is not only inconceivably long, but also surprising. People come back from learning about China’s history with a different view of the world we live in today, and that’s the makings of a gold medal winner.

Silver Medal Winner: Italy

Italy has perhaps the world’s most accessible history, and also may be the only direct history that can be found in so many other countries as well. Also, a place where you can see the steps Caesar died on while ordering a gelato is a place that deserves a medal for history.

Bronze Medal Winner: Mexico

Don’t think that Mexico deserves a medal for history? Guess you’ve never made a joke about the world ending on December 21, 2012.

Event: Beaches

Bali beach

Balangan Beach in Bali. Photo credit: Nate Robert via Flickr

Gold Medal Winner: Bali

From the tony private beaches of the world’s most luxurious resorts to remote, untamed outposts almost no one visits – and everything in between – Bali is the reigning champion of this category.

Silver Medal Winner: Seychelles

The Seychelles Archipelago is another longtime winner of this category, if for nothing else than their significant contribution to the world’s best screensaver collections.

Bronze Medal Winner: Anguilla

This small island has some big beaches, and travelers quickly find that it’s insanely easy to spend the maximum amount of vacation time on them – whether it’s swimming, walking, or eating at beach-side restaurants.

Olympic Medal Ceremony: Our Picks for the Best Destinations Around the World

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