Many countries have adopted aliases or nicknames that speak to their geographical or societal characteristics. You've probably heard of "The Land Down Under," "The Emerald Isle," and "The Land of the Free," but you may not be familiar with many other country nicknames. Here are 10 country nicknames we bet you've never heard before with some highlights that make each place a special travel destination.
Sri Lanka: The Teardrop of India
Nestled on the edge of the Bay of Bengal off of the southeast coast of the Indian peninsula, Sri Lanka gets its nickname, "The Teardrop of India," from its teardrop shape. In past decades, Sri Lanka has been politically unstable and an unsafe tourist destination. With increasing political stability, this beautiful island nation offers gorgeous landscapes for visitors to enjoy. One of the best ways to take in Sri Lanka's natural beauty is by train; the train ride from Ella to Kandy is often touted as the most beautiful train ride in the world.
Ukraine: The Bread Basket of Europe
Ukraine was known as "The Bread Basket of the Soviet Union" because of its fertile black soil. The country's rich agricultural yields include wheat, barley, rye, oats, sunflowers, and beets. During Soviet rule, Joseph Stalin took crops from the Ukraine to feed the entire Soviet Union, resulting in a year-long famine, the Holodomor, which lead to in the death of millions of Ukrainians. Today's Ukraine is still suffering growing pains, but offers visitors rich historical sites, monuments, and museums that tell the story of its land and people.
France: The Hexagon
The shape of France, not including its overseas territories, fits perfectly into a hexagon, resulting in the country's nickname. While the nickname isn't used in everyday conversation, the French media and politicians frequently refer to France as L'hexagone. It's likely as you explore the French countryside, stroll the streets of Paris, or sunbathe in the south of France that you won't even think about the country's shape. Instead, you'll savor its culinary wonder, abundant museums, rich history, and varied cultural experiences.
Chile: Land of Poets
Chile's rich literary history remains a source of pride for those who call this South American country home. Two famous Chileans, Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, won the Nobel Prize in Literature. And rich tradition of other poets and writers have created a legacy leading to Chile's designation as the Land of Poets. The country's revolutionary past coupled with the backdrop of the Andes Mountains and the stunning coastline of the Tierra del Fuego certainly provide inspiration for poets, as well as ample opportunity for travelers who visit Chile.
New Zealand: Land of the Long White Cloud
The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand who have inhabited the island country since 1300. Aotearoa, the Maori word for New Zealand, translates to "the long white cloud," giving New Zealand its nickname. When you visit New Zealand, you will find no shortage of natural beauty and cultural activities; you can enjoy glaciers and beaches in the same trip. In addition to exploring the country's two largest cities, Wellington and Auckland, you will also find other activities such as whale watching and wine tasting on Waiheke Island.
South Africa: Rainbow Nation
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the first black Anglican Archbishop in Cape Town and Johannesburg, won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end apartheid. He is responsible for coining the term "Rainbow Nation" to capture the diversity of his home country. Today, South Africa still struggles with the legacy of apartheid, but much progress has been made. Visitors can learn about South Africa's history, but will spend most of their time visiting the country's incredible nature reserves, and spending time in coastal cities like Durban and Cape Town.
Madagascar: The Great Red Island
Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island, lies off Africa's east coast in the southwestern Indian Ocean. The island gets its nickname from metamorphic rock called gneiss, which decomposes into red murrum and a wide variety of other red fertile soil. Madagascar remains a favorite travel destination for adventure travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. The island's many parks are dotted with waterfalls, and distinctive species of flora and fauna, such as lemurs and baobab trees. The coastal areas also provide opportunity for diving and other water sports.
Lithuania: The Land of the Storks
Lithuanians believe storks bring harmony to families when they nest on their property. In response, the country celebrates Stork Day each year on March 25 and has declared the stork their national bird. Although once under Soviet rule, today's Lithuania, the southernmost of the Balkan states, offers visitors historical sites that hearken back to medieval times. The juxtaposition of the cosmopolitan capital of Vilnius with its medieval Old Town, and historic Gothic and baroque architecture allow visitors to immerse themselves in the culture of today's and yesterday's Lithuania.
Thailand: Land of Smiles
Thailand's nickname, "Land of Smiles," is the result of increased tourism to the region. It was a marketing campaign to attract travelers who wanted to spend time on the country's fabulous beaches and engage with friendly local Thai people. The Land of Smiles, however, is not an empty promotion. Thai people have the reputation for smiling. This is, in part, due to the cultural norm of hiding negative emotions. Regardless of the source of Thailand's nickname, you are sure to smile yourself when you visit exciting, exotic, and charming locations such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and other beach destinations.
Cyprus: The Island of Love
The tension between Greek and Turkish residents of Cyprus has been at the forefront of the island country's modern history. Yet, when it comes to its nickname, the Greeks win. According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, was born on Cyprus. This Mediterranean gem is often overlooked because of its past political stability, but its 10,000-year history, magical mythology, and picturesque landscapes make it worthy of any travel bucket list.