I saw this article on the Stuff website and would have to dispassionately say that this time they've got it right. Yes New Zealand is beautiful, but yes, it's also a bit boring and is not necessarily the best place to live, though a tourist will almost certainly have a good time.
It also inspires me, after having done a bit of travelling, to provide my own list of the best and most beautiful. I've still (hopefully) got a couple more countries up my sleeve in South America, so it'll be interesting to see if that changes anything.
Make comments!! On the website, rather than sending them to my email. That way other people can see what you've put too. Of course, I've never really been to Asia or Africa, so would be interested to hear comparisons from people who have, and have also done Europe/North America/Latin America like me (Paul Bryant, are you out there?).
Most beautiful country: Guatemala, by streets. New Zealand comes second, so I'm not being deliberately anti-patriotic! Guatemala, in addition to tremendous variety and constant beauty within a small space, has an undefinable feeling of magic.
Most livable country: Spain. To live somewhere, you want a combination of things: natural beauty, economic opportunity, security, friendliness, climate, vibrance, urban beauty, outdoor life, history and culture. Spain gets good ticks on most points.
Friendliest people: Argentina. This one surprised me, as I generally find travelling Argentinians a bit tiresome. But in the country itself - welcoming, educated, generally respectful, and with a touch of joie de vivre. And even paleface tourists like me get treated like normal people.
Most beautiful big city: Paris. Untouchable. Despite its awful outer ring.
Most beautiful medium-sized city: lots competing,and at this point beauty and liveability become intertwined. Some candidates are Venice, Italy; Seville, Spain; Wellington, New Zealand; Salta and Mendoza, Argentina; and Arequipa, Peru. Everywhere has its ups and downs - Venice is indescribably beautiful but very touristic - could you really live there? Wellington would win easily if it weren't for the climate and the lack of social life for 25-35 year old single people.
Most beautiful small town: La Antigua, Guatemala beats out Grenada, Spain. Volcanic cones and green hills hover over cobblestone streets and ruined baroque churches with red, purple and yellow bougainvillea climbing over the crumbled stone. The climate is delicious; at the end of the wet season you can sit under a moonlit sky and watch the lightning flashing in the hills.
Most liveable place: After much thought, London. But you *have* to have a good job and the ability to escape on holidays to the continent. I'd need to spend much more time in New York and perhaps San Francisco to make the comparison. I like the saying "If you're tired of London, you're tired of life".
Ugliest place: A tie between Newark, New Jersey and Juliaca, Peru. Neither place is actually particularly poor, but seem to share a collective disgregard for the quality of life.
Of course, many of these opinions have been formed by fleeting visits or initial impressions, so I'd welcome corrections or disagreements.