Anyone seeking that elusive state of affairs known as peace on earth had better have an appetite for volcanoes, glaciers and hot springs. Iceland, the Nordic island with no standing army and the smallest population of any NATO member state, is the most peaceful country in the world, according to the annual Global Peace Index compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace.
(MORE: Icelanders Avoid Inbreeding Through Online Database)
Iceland is one of the most progressive nations on the planet: its welfare system offers health care and higher education for each of its 320,000 citizens; it is powered in large part by renewable geothermal energy (see volcanoes, above); and it was one of the first countries in the world to legalize gay marriage.
While the country has hit some thin ice — in 2008 it basically went bankrupt, prompting public riots, and in 2010 an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano wreaked travel chaos across the North Atlantic — its general reputation as a pleasant liberal paradise put it at No. 1 on the list.
Iceland is followed by Denmark and New Zealand, which tied for second place.
Out of the 158 countries listed, the war-torn East African nation of Somalia came in dead last, while Syria, which the U.N. says has devolved into civil war, dropped more than 30 places in the rankings.
For those countries on the bottom half of the leaderboard, there is still hope: the Institute for Economics and Peace reports that the world has become a more peaceful place overall for the first time since 2009.
MORE: Ex–Miss Iceland Wins $2 Million Reward for Helping Nab James ‘Whitey’ Bulger