From a short list of the 200-ish countries in the world, only 10 will make it here and only 1 will be the 2016 winner! Let this annual blog post be a potential heads up for keen travellers and I'm personally proud to be doing this on a yearly basis now; so without any further ado, let's begin!
10: Ireland (new entry)Because of an incredible report from Sandboard Magazine and ultimately leading to the formation of Dune Riders Ireland, I'm giving the Republic of Ireland its rightful place on the Top 10 of Sandboarding countries this year, this small island that is not far from the mainland of the UK boasts a good reason to come here; Ireland's unique culture blended with these sand dunes will make this place a fantastic holiday not just for arts & culture, but for adventure and sport too! Whilst Ireland has a very high cost of living compared to the UK, it ranked higher than the UK on the 'World Happiness Report' with Ireland at #19 and the UK at #23.
Ireland has a slightly higher crime rate than the UK and even India; but another good thing is that Ireland is joint 6th with Germany in the Human Development Index (compared to the USA at 8th place and the UK at joint 14th with Sweden). Overall because of the formation of the new DRI unit in Ireland and for such a lovely country next to the UK, I'm happy to include Ireland on the list for the first time!
|Courtesy of: Graham Horn License: CC BY-SA 2.0 Modified: No|
9: Qatar (last year: no. 7)Qatar was featured on last year's list at Number 7, it has gone down this year primarily due to competition from the other countries on this list; crime is relatively low in the country, in 2015 the UN ranked Qatar the highest for Human Development in all of the Arab states; however cost of living is very high in Qatar compared to their neighbours and in other parts of the world, mainly because of its Oil-orientated economy.
Unlike Ireland, Qatar has sand and lots of it; another reason why Qatar makes it onto this year's list; It is become ever-so increasingly more easier to visit this country but the high cost of living and tension within the general area across many of the neighbouring countries, it didn't appeal for Qatar this time, but it is still a promising spot if you fancy coming here!
|Courtesy of: Peter Dowley License: CC BY 2.0 Modified: No|
8: Tunisia (new entry)Tunisia has seen a spike in tourism here in the last few years, because of its close proximity to Italy and the European continent, Tunisia is becoming a more desirable spot for tourists; crime is significantly higher than that of Qatar (especially for bribery and corruption), Tunisia still maintains high human development but one thing that attracts tourists here is the very low cost of living here! Prices in Tunis (the capital) are 62% cheaper than what they are in the United States and rent is 82% cheaper in Tunis than the US average.
Tunisia still has plenty of sand for a small country, but one place that I've personally been researching is 'Djerba', where sand dunes dominate the landscape and there's a lot of history here from the ancient empires and caliphates that used to rule over Tunisia; overall, if you want a good blend of history and the desert, this is a good place.
|Courtesy of: David Stanley License: CC BY 2.0 Modified: No|
7: Germany (last year: no. 4)Germany has come back to this list for another year and rightfully so, because it's a good country! The human development, population, and economy is the highest in all of the European Union. Germany welcomes tourists and is especially keen on its heritage. Germany is known for one of the lowest intentional homicide rates in the world, it also has a high cost of living as the economy is prosperous and also because it is based in Northern Europe (Northern European countries tend to be more expensive than Southern European).
There is one reason why Germany dropped a lot of places this year, Germany has one major sand dune site, Monte Kaolino (pictured); however, that's it; Germany doesn't have any other sand dune sites so the choice is extremely limited; I've been to Germany myself and there are shops to visit and good restaurants and there's always events on too (maybe a car show if you're tired of the sand dune for a day). Because Germany is a good country with good values, it would have been a lot higher in the ranks but since it's come to my attention that there's only 1 sand dune site, it's just becoming the same thing so that's why Germany's gone down this year.
|Courtesy of: H. Helmlechner License: CC BY-SA 4.0 Modified: No|
6: Uruguay (new entry)If you're a keen reader, you'll remember my post on Uruguay earlier in the year; I never knew that this country had sand dunes, I genuinely thought it was farms and city blocks and farms and city blocks. Whether the dunes are in Cabo Polonio or Punta Del Diablo, the dunes are away from bustling cities and towns so it's very peaceful for your ride! The climate doesn't make the dunes too hot in the summer and also quite tolerable in the winter months as well.
This is the only country that was granted independence from Brazil as Uruguay was once a province of the former Brazil, crime rates however in Uruguay are quite high, especially for vandalism, theft, and crimes involving drugs; having said that, this was the first country to legalise the sale, possession, transportation, and cultivation of Marijuana in 2013; the cost of living is only about 7% lower than the United States' average; however, the average 2 person rent in the capital (Montevideo) is roughly $708 USD (£574 GBP as of 30th December 2016), the liberal government of this country is another factor that makes Uruguay appealing to visitors; this country could have potential to go higher in the list next year if it sorts out its crime rates.
|Courtesy of: Montecruz Foto License: CC BY-SA 2.0 Modified: No|
5: Spain (last year: no. 3)Spain still maintains a strong position on our leaderboard, whilst Spain is roughly on the same level as Germany in terms of homicide rate, Spain has a very valuable tourism market and an extremely low cost of living; there are a couple of downsides however, there is a moderate level of crime (however it's getting lower if you compare this to previous years) and it's the same with its unemployment rate currently at 22.7% (at April 2015 when the last figures were available), however like the crime rate, there is a steady decline.
You've got the mainland with dunes in the South West of the country, close to the border with Portugal; the North West in the Galicia region, and you've got the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa (which are Spanish territory); this country has potential to go higher but it'll have to compete against heavyweight countries (which are higher on the list)
|Courtesy of: Efotosadis License: CC BY-SA 3.0 Modified: No|
4: USA (last year: no. 6)This year has been an eventful one for the USA, but the sandboarding scene has helped the nation gain 2 places in this years' rankings. The crime rate in the USA is lower than Uruguay's, the cost of living is a tad cheaper than the UK, as of June 2016 the USA has an unemployment rate of 4.9% but at the same time it has the strongest economy in the world and is the 3rd most populous and 4th largest country by area.
Whether the sand dunes in the South West states are you favourite, or Michigan, or even our friends at the Sand Master Park in Oregon are your best dunes; there's always a piece of the nation that's bound to have sand dunes (there are even sand dunes in the non-contiguous states of Alaska and Hawaii), the tremendous work of Dune Riders International, Sand Master Park, and the tourism companies in the USA are making this place more appealing to the sandboarding tourists, along with the countries above me, this made the list without a shadow of doubt.
|Courtesy of: US Border Patrol License: Public Domain|
3: Namibia (last year: no. 8)In my younger days, I would always want to go to Namibia for the sandboarding. Namibia has always been a notable country for sandboarding, as the country is known primarily for the Namib and Kalahari deserts; the majority of the country has a warm, desert climate and this could be a potential factor as to why Namibia is the 2nd least densely populated country in the world (behind Mongolia).
The cost of living is almost the same as it would be in the UK, so it is moderately high; the unemployment rate is 26.33% however, the beauty and worth of this high ranking is due to the sheer volume of sand dunes in Namibia itself, it has the sand dune regions of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Big Daddy Dune 7, and Sossusvlei. Namibia is a growing destination for sports enthusiasts and I personally still want to visit Namibia one day.
|Courtesy of: Katie Hunt License: CC BY 2.0 Modified: No|
2: Australia (last year's runner-up)Australia had won the list in 2014, and came second last year; this year there is no change with 2nd place! As of September 2016, the unemployment rate was 5.6%, and the 2nd lowest homicide rate in Australasia (tied with Tonga); Australia is a large country (or continent, I won't discuss that now) and the appropriately named "Great Sandy Desert" is full of sand dunes available for the sandboarding. Kangaroo Island in South Australia is an ever popular resort for sandboarding as well!
Australia has a high cost of living, and that's where the bad news ends; I have never been to Australia but it sounds like my type of country given of how the general feel is there for sports and the likeness of summer, sun, and sport in general; I'm still worried about the species of spider in Australia hence why I'm put off by it (that's the only reason though). Australia could have just as easily been the top country but that award was given too...
|Courtesy of: Turtletime13 License: CC BY-SA 4.0 Modified: No|
1: New Zealand (last year's winner)
For a 2nd year running, New Zealand takes the title of the Top place to go Sandboarding this year! New Zealand's 2 islands both have a good standard of sand dunes and this country is a fantastic spot for thrill seekers! As the north have more sand dunes than the south, it's convenient as the capital (Wellington) and Auckland are on this half of the country.
If it isn't sandboarding then bungee jumping, skydiving, and zorbing can be done here as well; it has been referred to as "Australia's Australia" and a lot of people would think it's too far on a plane from the UK; having said that, New Zealand has the lowest intentional homicide rate in Australasia (remember? Australia and Tonga were joint 2nd), in 2011 New Zealand had its lowest crime rate in 15 years making the country a lot safer than some of the others on this list. Unemployment is at 5.7% and the cost of living here is 6.74% higher than the USA's average and finally, the minimum wage in New Zealand is $15.25 NZD an hour (£8.55 GBP as of 31st December 2016)
|Courtesy of: MartinRe License: CC BY-SA 3.0 Modified: No|