Want to holiday in peace? Try one of these destinations

Planning a holiday can be a fraught business for those who keep an eye on the news.

With the ongoing war in Syria, tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the refugee crisis in Europe, it may seem the world has descended into chaos, but this year's Global Peace Index has concluded that — although our planet is less peaceful than a decade ago — there have been improvements during the past year ... and New Zealand is up there with the most peaceful locations in the world.

The index, which ranks countries based on 23 factors including the intensity of a state's internal conflict, homicide rates, incarceration rates, external conflicts fought and relations with neighbouring countries, found that 93 countries became more peaceful in the past year, while the situation in 68 others deteriorated.

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So, which are currently the most peaceful places in the world? Pack your suitcase and head for one of these tranquil destinations ...

10th= Ireland

The peaceful Emerald Isle. Photo / 123RF
The peaceful Emerald Isle. Photo / 123RF

The Emerald Isle rated well due to its low levels of military expenditure and its political stability. It's also known for its hospitality towards tourists, so head for one of Dublin's bars to enjoy great live music before exploring the peaceful landscapes further afield.

10th= Japan

Getting around Japan is a breeze with its high-speed trains. Photo / 123RF
Getting around Japan is a breeze with its high-speed trains. Photo / 123RF

One of two Asia-Pacific states in the top 10, Japan registered low levels of violent crime, leaving tourists free to enjoy the country's delicious food, great shopping and some of the best public transport you can shake a stick at.

9. Switzerland

Mountains form a picturesque backdrop to the town of Brienz in central Switzerland. Photo / 123RF
Mountains form a picturesque backdrop to the town of Brienz in central Switzerland. Photo / 123RF

Famously neutral, this small mountainous land in the centre of Europe is on good terms with its many neighbours and has some of the best chocolate in the world to boot. Take a trip through the world's longest and deepest tunnel — opened with much fanfare last year — before taking in the magnificent alpine scenery this country's renowned for.

8. Canada

The lighthouse at Canada's Cape Enrage ... a rough coastline on an otherwise peaceful land. Photo / 123RF
The lighthouse at Canada's Cape Enrage ... a rough coastline on an otherwise peaceful land. Photo / 123RF

With low levels of violent crime and internal conflict, Canada is the most peaceful country in North America with beautiful landscapes to match. The fantastically-named Cape Enrage on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick clearly didn't get the memo, but there are plenty of serene scenes to be found elsewhere in this vast country's great outdoors.

7. Slovenia

People cross a narrow bridge over Slovenia's Vintgar Gorge. Photo / 123RF
People cross a narrow bridge over Slovenia's Vintgar Gorge. Photo / 123RF

It's hard to get your hands on a weapon in peaceful Slovenia, which is one of the reasons it's in the top 10. Enjoy a meal by the river in its beautiful capital city, Ljubljana, then join the thrill-seekers who have already discovered that this country's pristine mountains, lakes and rivers make it one of Europe's best adventure playgrounds.

6. Czech Republic

The Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary. Photo / 123RF
The Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary. Photo / 123RF

Another land-locked country that's at peace with its neighbours, the Czech Republic is home to excellent beer and some of the most beautiful medieval towns in Europe. Head to the spa town of Karlovy Vary for a relaxing soak and prepare to play castle bingo as you travel across the country.

5. Denmark

A quiet spot by the river in Odense, Denmark. Photo / 123RF
A quiet spot by the river in Odense, Denmark. Photo / 123RF

Political stability and a low-level of violent demonstrations saw Denmark maintain a spot in the top 10 for the 7th year running — all of which would no doubt please the famed Danish fable-teller Hans Christian Andersen. You can visit his former home in the city of Odense, but make sure you set aside a few days to see the charming and eminently-walkable capital city of Copenhagen.

4. Austria

Eating Sachertorte at a coffee house is a must when you're in Austria. Photo / 123RF
Eating Sachertorte at a coffee house is a must when you're in Austria. Photo / 123RF

Low homicide rates helped Austria to 4th place, but surely all the delicious apple strudels and Sachertortes consumed in Viennese coffee houses have played some part in keeping things peaceful too. Once you've eaten your fill of baked goods, head for the beautiful city of Salzburg or hit the ski slopes of the Tyrolean Alps, near Innsbruck.

3. Portugal

Colourful Pena Palace in Sintra. Photo / 123RF
Colourful Pena Palace in Sintra. Photo / 123RF

Scoring well for its levels of security and lack of violence, Portugal first entered the top 10 in last year's index and has maintained its place near the top. Sometimes overlooked by tourists headed for its larger neighbour, Spain, this beautiful country with its extensive Atlantic coastline is nevertheless beginning to be noticed. Spend a few days on the beaches of the Algarve before exploring cosmopolitan Lisbon with its famed funiculars. If you have time, a daytrip to the striking Pena Palace in Sintra is also a must.

2. New Zealand

The surrounding landscape is perfectly reflected in New Zealand's Lake Matheson. Photo / 123RF
The surrounding landscape is perfectly reflected in New Zealand's Lake Matheson. Photo / 123RF

Here in Aotearoa we scored well on almost every factor measured to claim the title of world's second-most-peaceful country. Not that that stops tourists from trying to terrify themselves by bungy jumping off bridges, skydiving and speeding through narrow canyons in a jetboat. Looking for a place where the scenery's as calm as the accolade our country's just been given? Head to Lake Matheson in Westland which is famous for its mirror-like surface.

1. Iceland

The Aurora Borealis lights up Iceland's skies. Photo / 123RF
The Aurora Borealis lights up Iceland's skies. Photo / 123RF

Its former Viking inhabitants weren't exactly known for being pacifists, but for the past 10 years, Iceland has topped the index to be named the most peaceful country in the world. A dream destination for many, this land of fire and ice in the far north of Europe is the perfect spot to relax in a thermal pool and watch the incredible Northern Lights ... while you contemplate how to solve the rest of the world's problems.