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
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.
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.
Browse Viator’s Middle East and Africa nature and wildlife tours
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.
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.
Read more about budget travel
Event: Public Transportation
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Christine Cantera