Who will win the World Cup of Travel?

Playing football on the beach in Rio de Janeiro Brazil

Cheers erupting; swarms of fans rising from their seats; flags waving proudly above them: think we’re talking about a football game?

Think again.

As the 2014 World Cup plays out in Brazil, 32 countries are competing head-to-head for global soccer supremacy. A little-known fact: these countries will also challenge each other on another field, for an entirely different title.

The competition? The World Cup of Travel, where countries face off for the honour of top travel destination. Just as no two countries are the same, no two countries will go down without a fight.

In the first set of round robins, eight groups, each with four countries, will compete for a spot in the quarterfinals. Things will heat up as each destination plays its strengths against the other, hoping to emerge with a slot in the quarterfinals, and eventually into the finals.

As countries are eliminated, the competition will grow even fiercer, each match more thrilling than the last.

Who will win top travel destination in 2014 and how could you win a trip in your choice of World Cup countries? You’ll have to read on to find out…

Group A – Brazil, Cameroon, Mexico, Croatia

As the host of the World Cup, Brazil is in the tourism spotlight in 2014. With stunning waterfalls, endless beaches and famous festivals, the Latin American powerhouse takes the lead with ease. Cameroon flies under the radar as a lesser known destination and is the undisputed underdog of the match. Despite playing host to a melting pot of culture and incredible natural resources, it fails to draw fans from surrounding African nations and sees an early exit in the tournament.

Meanwhile, Croatia and Mexico each make a strong case for the final spot. Mexico establishes itself as a foodie destination with endless offerings outside the all-inclusives, while Croatia’s Mediterranean coast and old-world charm are not to be overlooked. It comes down to a coin toss, but Mexico walks away with the win.

Winners: Brazil and Mexico

Flamenco dancers in Spain

Flamenco dancers in Spain – photo by Tess Follett

Group B – Chile, The Netherlands, Spain, Australia

Group B is overflowing with travel talent. Spanning three continents, this group has everything travellers could want. Chile offers a diversity of terrain, as travellers can hike the glaciers of Patagonia one day and sand board in the Atacama Desert the next. It is these beautiful and dynamic landscapes that lock them in to a top two spot.

Two strong European nations, the Netherlands and Spain may hold top spots in the football world, but the travel game is a much tougher match. The canals of Amsterdam and brilliant beer halls are fierce features of the Netherlands, but the hillsides of Northern Spain and tasty tapas make them an equal contender. Down under in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef and world class beaches have this nation on the cusp of pulling off an upset. Unfortunately the competition is just too strong.

Winners: Chile and Spain

On the streets of Kyoto Japan

On the streets of Kyoto – photo by Martine Cotton

Group C – Ivory Coast, Colombia, Japan, Greece

The only group to touchdown on four different continents, Group C features a diversity of strong contenders. While the Ivory Coast boasts some of the best natural wonders in Western Africa, it is no match for these travel superstars. As Colombia appears on travel radars across the globe, its unique homestays, old world charm and coastal vibes are repeatedly in the spotlight. Unfortunately Japan and Greece are too strong, and they advance with ease as consistent providers of top notch travel experiences.

Winners: Japan and Greece

Give way to wildlife in Costa Rica

Give way to wildlife in Costa Rica

Group D – Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

Often overlooked in South America, Uruguay is a beautiful destination couched in over 300km of coastline. They quickly become a top contender in the group with their unique European influence. Unfortunately, they find themselves in a tough spot against the established eco-paradise of Costa Rica. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Manuel Antonio National Park provide a flurry of flora and fauna that is too much for competing nations. Across the pond, England puts up a strong fight in this inter-Europe match, but the iconic Italian cuisine and clear blue Mediterranean give Italy a convincing victory.

Winners: Costa Rica and Italy

The extraordinary giant tortoise of the Galapagos Islands

The extraordinary giant tortoise of the Galapagos Islands – photo by Jane Crouch

Group E – Honduras, Ecuador, Switzerland, France

Honduras and Ecuador offer some of the world’s best snorkeling. While the Roatan Islands provide travellers the opportunity to dip into the crystal clear Caribbean waters, they are simply outmatched by the Galapagos archipelago, just a short flight from Quito. In Europe, the Swiss Alps certainly are the ideal choice for adventure travellers, but France shares these snow-tipped peaks and asserts itself as one of the most iconic travel destinations in the world, finding a place in the next round.

Winners: Ecuador and France

remarkable Iran

Remarkable Iran – photo by Reza Poorhoseini

Group F – Bosnia, Iran, Argentina, Nigeria

It should come as no surprise that Argentina takes the top seed in this group. The real battle ensues when Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria face off for the final spot. These four countries are often considered small players, but appear vastly underrated as they hold their own on the field.

Bosnia is home to stunning mountain landscapes and Sarajevo is quickly becoming a cultural hot spot in Europe, but not quite soon enough to ensure a victory. Despite being geographically diverse and filled with unique wildlife, Nigeria joins neighbouring Cameroon with an early exit in the tournament. This paves the way for a major Group F upset as Iran advances to the Round of 16.

The Iranian culture is rich and this country has so much to offer as a destination. Visitors can trade their hotel for a homestay as one of many immersive travel experiences. Keep an eye on this vibrant competitor in the later rounds.

Winners: Argentina and Iran

Playful kids in Ghana

Playful kids in Ghana – photo by Rachel Banfield

Group G – Portugal, USA, Germany, Ghana

The United States truly has strengths in numbers, offering world-class cities, dramatic coastlines, diverse cultures and countless national parks. Portugal packs a punch with their Mediterranean climate, bountiful beaches and rich heritage, but they are unable to keep up in this fast paced group.

Germany presents a fascinating fusion of old and new and, although Berlin is a hub of all things hip and happening, it is West Africa’s shining star that scores the game-winning goal here. Ghana features world famous markets and a diversity of wildlife rivaling the continent’s best. This colorful country is alive with spirit and will meet future competitors with enthusiasm and energy.

Winners: United States and Ghana

Celebrations in Russia

Celebrations in Russia – photo by Jessica Toop

Group H – South Korea, Belgium, Russia, Algeria

South Korea appears to be making a comeback on traveller radars. Enchanting temples and historic treasures propel them into an early lead, but the competitors in this group refuse to surrender to South Korea’s charms.

While Belgium asserts itself as one of Europe’s elite, they fall short when finding a way to distinguish themselves from neighbouring nations.

One of the tournaments biggest players, Russia, contends on size alone. Spanning over two continents and boasting one of the most epic travel journeys, the Trans-Mongolian Railway, Russia cruises to victory.

Carving out a huge upset in the final group stage, Algeria plays to the beat of their own drum. In Algeria, the Sahara rules, where the desert and dunes play perfectly with the country’s bustling cities. A beautifully complex nation, Algeria seems to have no trouble getting visitors to fill the seats!

Winners: Russia and Algeria

Find out what happens when the competition heats up and the field narrows for the round of 16!

Tell us who you think should win the World Cup of Travel

As the world goes soccer mad for 4 weeks, Intrepid is tapping into the football fever with a competition that will have you screaming “GOALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL” faster than Neymar out-running a fullback. All you have to do is tell us which World Cup country deserves to be the winning destination, then you could WIN a trip in your choice of selected World Cup countries! Enter here today!

About the author

Michael Sadowski - Michael was hooked on travel at the age of 16 after spending a week playing soccer and eating roti in rural Trinidad. He maintains his best purchase to date was renting a stilt home for himself in a small fishing village outside Hong Kong. Michael currently works with the Intrepid Marketing Team in Canada, living life one hashtag at a time.

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I think Colombia will be the winner <3

Fabricio olsson / Reply

Brasil!!!! Of course!!!


I’m tempted to say The Netherlands. But history also shows that no Eueopean country has won the world cup in South America… so I’m going to say Colombia =)


Prajuap Sa-Ingram / Reply

I think the Netherlands will the world cup this time!!!

Gloria Bernero / Reply

First of all, the country in Group C is NOT COLUMBIA IT IS COLOMBIA….
I think the Netherlands will win the World Cup.

Hi Gloria,
Thanks for spotting our typo and you could be right on two fronts, since Netherlands are travelling very nicely.
But for who will win the World Cup of Travel, we’ll have to see 🙂
Happy adventures,
Sue, Intrepid editor.



Awesome! Brilliant idea and wonderful execution!

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