Lonely Planet Writer

What country has the best quality of life?

Here's a hint: it gets really cold in winter.

Mount Storetinden mirrors itself in a small lake, Lyngsalpene.

The United Nations has released its 2009 edition of the Human Development Report, which seeks to measure quality of life across the globe. This year's report contains a few surprises.

Topping the list was Norway, owing to its high standard of medical care and educational system. A close runner up was Australia, which climbed several spots to get the silver medal.

Chillier countries performed admirably, with Iceland, Canada and Ireland rounding out the top five. Perhaps when the weather's bad you have to work harder at making your country more livable.

The top Asian country was Japan, coming in at number 10. As for the countries with the highest populations, China came in at 92, India at 134 and the United States at 13. The United Kingdom continued a slow slide, dropping to 21.

Poor Africa dominated the bottom of the rankings, making up the bottom 20 countries (with the exception of Afghanistan, which came in second last at 181). The lowest quality of life? That's in Niger.

Tuareg nomads with camels in sand dunes of Sahara Desert, Arakou.

What do you think? Fair rankings, or is the UN measuring the wrong things?

The top 10

The bottom 10