I earned a Guinness World Record for visiting all 193 countries alone. Here are my picks for 11 most beautiful countries in the world.

  • Cassandra De Pecol beat two Guinness World Records for fastest time to visit all sovereign countries.

  • She chooses the most beautiful based on the countries that bring her the most solace.

  • In Canada, the warmth and kindness of the people she met never fails to impress her.

By age 27, I completed my wanderlust dream of traveling to 193 sovereign countries as a solo female traveler, earning two Guinness World Records. I cleared the record for "fastest time to visit all sovereign countries" and "fastest time to visit all sovereign countries (female)." Guinness required I traveled to 196 countries total, all 193 sovereign plus Taiwan, Kosovo, and Palestine. It took 18 months and 10 days. By 30, I achieved another dream of becoming an Ironman. I find great fulfillment in inspiring and educating young women to get out there and pursue their passions, whatever they are.

I adore places that bring peace and serenity through nature and culture. When I think of the most beautiful places on this planet, I gravitate toward countries that have otherworldly landscapes, mountains, forests, open spaces, and beaches, and those that brought me solace while I was there. Those are the places I wish to go when I'm stressed because I know they'll bring me peace. These are my picks for the 11 most beautiful countries I've been to.

1. Mongolia

Woman with dog in Mongolia
De Pecol in Mongolia where she was followed by a husky.Cassandra De Pecol

I spent my 27th birthday in Mongolia. At the time, I was rushing around the world to break a world record for travel, but I felt burned out. I wanted nothing more than to immerse myself in a place with no cell reception or WiFi.

I set up camp in the Tuul River valley, in the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area, one of Mongolia's authentic wilderness regions that stretches to the Russian border.

Every morning, I woke up to the sun rising over the steep valleys. Each day, I'd go out exploring the riverbank, larch forests, and lush meadows. I roamed mostly alone, except for a friendly husky who followed me everywhere.

I milked cows with a local family, rode a yak and wild horses, and fell asleep under the stars. It was heaven on earth, and there was never a moment I missed the internet or cell reception.

2. Switzerland

Woman hiking in the mountains.
De Pecol went to 193 countries including Switzerland.AscentXmedia

Switzerland boasts remote and vast beauty, and its culture only adds to the allure. Every time I visit Switzerland, I head straight to the mountains — give me mountains and I'm happy. Not only are they breathtaking regardless of season, but the villages scattered among them add a charm and homey feeling that's always left me feeling positive.

The lakes are crisp, the food is fresh, the people are kind, and the air is clean. Whenever I'm in Switzerland, I hike to the highest peak I can and share the space with free-roaming cows and goats, who also seem to relish the natural beauty of the mountains.

3. Canada 

Kayaking in Canada
De Pecol explored Banff while in Canada. benedek

My mom is from Toronto, and Canada is the first country outside the US I ever visited, and it stands out for its abundant beauty.

From the French-influenced cultural richness of Quebec to the coastal allure of Vancouver, my experiences in Canada have always been extraordinary. The warmth and kindness of the people I've met whenever I visit never fails to impress me.

Among the countless breathtaking locations, the Rockies, with their awe-inspiring peaks and pristine lakes and glaciers, remain my favorite. Just before the pandemic hit in 2020, I was able to explore Banff, a town in Alberta, with my feline companion, Kishmere. I really love the town for its vast mountain ranges and pristine lakes.

4. Dominica

Woman kayaking
De Pecol went kayaking in Dominica during her trip around the world.Cassandra De Pecol

While often overlooked among Caribbean destinations such as the Bahamas and St. Lucia, Dominica is undoubtedly a gem. My stay in a stunning boutique lodge allowed me to take daily hikes down to the beach, where I kayaked through picturesque coves. But the island's allure extends far beyond its beautiful beaches. It encompasses lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and dramatic volcanic landscapes that contribute to the natural beauty.

I love the island's commitment to sustainability, and I encountered nothing but kind locals while there. It's a place on my bucket list I am eager to revisit.

5. United States

Hawaii landscape photo
De Pecol traveled to Hawaii.Matthew Micah Wright

The beauty of the United States and its territories never ceases to amaze me. Whether it's reveling in the vibrant fall foliage of the Northeast, exploring the lush rainforests of Hawaii and Puerto Rico, snorkeling in Guam, or marveling at the grandeur of Alaskan glaciers and volcanoes, there's something for everyone here.

What I find special is that each season holds its own allure. I love Vermont in the autumn for picturesque leaf peeping, the Colorado mountains in the winter for skiing, and the deserts of Arizona, California, and Utah for road-tripping during the spring.

6. Maldives

De Pecol also explored Maldives.Carl Court

The Maldives holds a special place in my top beautiful-destinations list. Not only does it have breathtaking beach settings adorned with pristine sandbanks, mesmerizing sunsets, and crystal-clear waters, but it also has a conscientious commitment to sustainability.

It's a standout choice for people seeking beauty and those who care about the environment. 

7. Costa Rica

Woman in Costa Rica
De Pecol visited the beaches of Costa Rica.Cassandra De Pecol

I could go back to Costa Rica time and time again because of its incredible natural allure, including active volcanoes, towering waterfalls, beautiful beaches, breathtaking cloud forests and rainforests; and — one of my favorite animals — monkeys, and toucans.

During the first six months of college, I spent my time in a city within the Puerto Limon district, which is where I stayed with a host family when I was 18. More recently, I explored the Gulf of Papagayo, a body of water in the Guanacaste province off the northwestern coast of Costa Rica. Each region was so different, with the east coast offering a more laid-back feel and the west coast exuding a touch of luxury.

While I cherished both experiences, the combination of these two elements is what I think makes Costa Rica magical.

8. Peru

De Pecol went to Peru and spent her birthday at Machu Picchu.CAROLINA PAUCAR

Peru stands out to me as one of South America's most captivating and enchanting countries — from the Andes' majestic peaks to the ancient marvels of Machu Picchu — where I spent my 22nd birthday — to the Amazon's rich heritage embedded in the Amazon rainforest create a unique and enchanting appeal.

After spending a couple months exploring the country, every return visit leaves me on a high from the extraordinary wonder that sets Peru apart, making its allure unparalleled.

9. New Zealand

New Zealand mountains
De Pecol visited New Zealand and explored the lakes and mountains.Jorge Fernández

During my brief visit to New Zealand, I enjoyed the warm hospitality of Auckland — the most populated city in New Zealand — marveled at the stunning fjords, skied in white-out conditions, and took leisurely strolls along the captivating harbor of Queenstown.

The country's beauty is breathtaking with lush green landscapes that seem to stretch endlessly and pristine lakes reflecting the surrounding mountains. Every part of New Zealand feels like a snapshot from a dream, with its vivid, awe-inspiring scenery.

Each moment in this captivating country is filled with the imprint of its unparalleled beauty.

10. Jordan 

Woman in Jordan
De Pecol visited Jordan where she witnessed the scattered ruins.Cassandra De Pecol

If you're looking for a treasure trove of ancient wonders, Jordan is the place. Though my visit lasted just a couple of days, every moment was filled to the brim, wandering the spellbinding city of Petra and Amman's ancient streets and exploring scattered ruins.

Jordan had me hooked from the get-go. Wadi Rum, a protected area and UNESCO World Heritage site I didn't get a chance to visit, is said to be otherworldly and it's become another addition to my bucket list.

11. South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa where De Pecol ran her Iron man.UCG

Over the last 10 years, I've been lucky enough to travel to South Africa for various reasons: a race, a convention, and my 196-country expedition. Cape Town, the capital of South Africa, located along the coast with its harmonious blend of mountains and sea, resonated deeply with my Californian soul.

It was a bridge between  my love for vast mountains and beaches. The very first time I visited Africa, the Cape of Good Hope,(located along the Atlantic  coast of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa), was the first bit of awe I'd experienced. I was totally taken aback by its roaring significance with the rough seas situated right nearby to peaceful penguins roaming the white sand beaches.

Also, racing an Ironman 70.3 for eight hours in this beautiful city left room for lots of thoughts about what I love most about South Africa as a whole.

Each destination has left its unique mark on my travel journey

Whether it was finding solitude in Mongolia, enjoying Switzerland's alpine villages, or immersing myself in the historical ruins of Petra in Jordan, these experiences have fostered in me a profound appreciation for the world's natural wonders and cultural diversity.

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