2023 Fresh Air Living Index: The Best Countries for Outdoor Enthusiasts to Live In

We make no secret of the fact that we love nature. There’s nothing quite like being in the great outdoors, taking joy from the surrounding landscapes and breathing in the fresh, crisp air.

It appears that we’re not alone in this either, with research from Hilton revealing that 50% of travellers want any 2023 travels to address their mental or physical wellbeing. And if you’re an outdoor enthusiast like us, then you’ll want to experience the joy of nature all year-round, not just during a weekend Hipcamping trip. That’s why we have updated our Fresh Air Living Index for 2023, ranking the best countries in the world for outdoor enthusiasts to live in and travel to in 2023.

We compiled this by analysing a variety of factors that outdoor enthusiasts deem important and then identifying which countries around the world rank best. Factors include each country’s number of natural UNESCO sites, air pollution levels, quality of green spaces and parks, and the percentage of areas protected for conservation.

Right at the top of the list in first place is New Zealand, which is no surprise thanks to its incredibly low air pollution score and high quality of green spaces to enjoy. The other countries making up the top five are Norway, Australia, Austria, and Iceland, respectively. Read on to find out the full results of our Fresh Air Living Index for 2023.

Results

1. New Zealand

New Zealand is the No. 1 destination for outdoor enthusiasts with high rankings in nearly every category. Of the entire study, the country ranked the highest in the attractiveness data point, which calculates to what extent international tourists visit the country mainly for its natural assets. This is hardly surprising, though, considering New Zealand boasts incredible landscapes of crystal-clear fjords, plunging cliffs, and raging waterfalls.

The country also scored impressively well for the quality of its green spaces and parks, which, of course, aligns with the above. New Zealand’s air pollution is also low, with an average of 6 PM2.5 concentration levels (μg/m³), meaning the fine inhalable particles in the air are generally under 2.5 micrometres. This is considered healthy with little to no risk from exposure.

2. Norway

Norway ranked second in the study. Of the top three, Norway scored the highest (and fifth overall) for environmental sustainability, a pillar that measures the general sustainability of an economy’s natural environment, protection of natural resources, and vulnerability to—and readiness for—climate change. 

This Nordic country also scored the highest of the top three for its Natural Tourism Digital Demand, which measures the total online search volume related to a range of nature-related terms including beaches, gardens, natural wonders, and camping.

3. Australia

Rounding out the top three is Australia. Not only did it rank fifth overall for the quality of its green spaces, but Oz also came in second overall (and first in the top three) for its low air pollution levels of an average of 5.7 PM2.5 (μg/m³). Like in New Zealand, these numbers mean Australia’s air quality is healthy with little to no risk from exposure. 

Australia also ranked the highest in the top three for its number of natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites with a total of 14, including Uluru, an immense monolith at the heart of Central Australia, and the Great Barrier Reef, part of the world’s richest coral reef ecosystem that runs along 2,000 kilometres of coastline.

Some interesting findings

The country with the highest environmental sustainability ranking?

Switzerland scored the highest with a score of 5.63/6 for the general sustainability of its natural environment, protection of natural resources, and vulnerability to— and readiness for—climate change. 

The country with the most natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites? 

China scored highest for the number of natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites with a total of 15. The World Heritage Committee considers these areas to have outstanding universal value, especially due to their status as natural, rather than manmade.

The country with the lowest air pollution level?

Finland has the lowest air pollution levels in the world, according to this study, with an average 5.5 PM2.5 concentration level (μg/m³), which is considered healthy with little to no risk from exposure. 

The country with the highest quality of green parks and spaces?

Slovenia ranks highest for the quality of its parks and green spaces with an impressive score of 86/100.

The country with the highest percentage of protected areas?

Luxembourg ranked highest with 51.3% of the country designated as protected areas. These are clearly defined geographical spaces that are recognized, dedicated, and managed to achieve long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values. 

The country with the highest natural tourism digital demand?

Austria ranked first for having the highest natural tourism digital demand, which measures the total online search volume related to nature-related terms, including beaches, gardens, natural wonders, and camping. 

Results by continent

  • Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in Africa: Kenya
  • Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in Europe: Norway
  • Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in South America: Brazil 
  • Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in Asia: Japan
  • Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in North America: Costa Rica
  • Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in Oceania: New Zealand

Methodology

To compile the Fresh Air Living Index, we used the following methodology, analysing every country on the below factors.

  • Environmental Sustainability Ranking
  • Natural UNESCO Sites
  • Attractiveness
  • Air pollution levels
  • Quality of green parks and spaces
  • % of area that is protected
  • Natural tourism digital demand

Hipcamp used a variety of credible sources to find data for each of the above categories and then ranked countries from first to last based on this data. We then added the scores together to calculate total scores before ranking countries based on this final overall score. Countries where a full dataset was not available were omitted from the index.

Data was gathered in October 2022. The full dataset and source list, including World Economic Forum and World Bank data, are available upon request.


Let’s get you outside

Now that you know which countries rank best for outdoor enthusiasts, it’s time to plan your next camping trip.

Hipcamp is an online marketplace where you can list, discover, and book campsites and accommodations on private and public land. Hipcamp is your go-to guide to getting outside. If you’re a landowner, Hipcamp creates new revenue streams for your business, which can help conserve your land and keep it wild. #FindYourselfOutside #LeaveItBetter

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