According to a 2019 rating by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Europe features 12 of the 20 most visited countries. But Asia and the Pacific, with five countries on the list, is the fastest-growing region (expect to see these countries climb the rankings in the future) (expect to see these countries climb the rankings in the future).
(20) Netherlands 19 Million most visited Visitors
Tourism continues to be a key trend for the Dutch, with many of the passengers coming from nearby nations (80 percent), followed next by the Americas and then Asia.
When people think of the Netherlands, they frequently think of Amsterdam, home to ancient canals, museums both impressive and eccentric, and a booming nightlife scene. But the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions wants visitors to realize it is so much more than its capital.
“We take individuals from Amsterdam elsewhere,” Henk Philip, a partner with Tours & Tickets, has remarked of visiting the country. “But what we really want is for people to not even go to Amsterdam, but visit other tourist destinations in the Netherlands.”
*Due to the continued interruption of the tourism industry from the COVID-19 pandemic, visitor counts are from the 2019 United Nations World Tourism Organization report.
One of the amazing sights outside Amsterdam is Kinderdijk-Elshout. The UNESCO World Heritage Site offers the pastoral landscapes and windmills the area is famous for while acting as a historically important example of early water-management methods.
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(19). Poland 19.6 Million most visited Visitors
Travelers seeking European panache without the crowds of stalwarts like Spain, France, Germany, and Italy are increasingly turning to Poland, thanks to its illustrious history (including a rich Jewish heritage), collection of medieval castles, untouched nature, and delightful cuisine (if you haven’t tried pierogis, you haven’t lived life).
Oh, and it’s Central-Eastern Europe’s home to the most UNESCO World Heritage sites – 15 cultural and one natural.
The Polish Tourism Agency states that 85 percent of visitors questioned upon their exit from the nation would suggest and return to it.
Auschwitz Birkenau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a former Nazi concentration and death camp that is horrible but vital to experience in person. A museum depicts the tale of the horrors of the camp while celebrating the lives of those who died there – over 1.1 million men, women, and children in total.
(18). Canada — 21.1 Million most visited Visitors
Canada’s tourist business is so immense, it accounted for $33.9 billion of the country’s GDP in the first nine months of 2018 alone. Most tourists come from the neighboring U.S., followed by China and the UK, which have only recently been squeezed out of their long-held No. 2 position.
Of visitors visiting the 3.8-million-square-mile country, two-thirds travel via Ontario, home to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and the dynamic, progressive metropolis of Toronto. Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal are among huge cities that get loads of attention, as do resort towns like Banff, home to one of Canada’s most stunning national parks.
More adventurous travelers seek out the country’s wide-open nature in locations like Churchill, where polar bears and beluga whales roam; Newfoundland, home to spectacular fjords, icebergs, and glaciers; and the Okanagan Valley, Canada’s equivalent to Napa with rolling vineyards and fine wine to spare.
Niagara Falls is one of the 7 Wonders of the World for a reason. The Canadian side overlooks Horseshoe Falls, having a 3,000-foot crest whose immensity can only be grasped when seen up close.
(17). Portugal 22.8 Million most visited Visitors
Portugal’s location in Southern and Mediterranean Europe has helped it become a leader in European tourism growth. (Other countries rising fast include Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Croatia.)
That growth is no coincidence. In 2017, the country created a 10-year tourism plan seeking to increase tourism earnings by 2027, and so far, it’s working. Many tourists are finding their way to Portugal’s unspoiled beaches, history-steeped castles, and Lisbon, the country’s sophisticated metropolitan core. And it’s safer than many other European nations to boot.
Portugal is likewise at the top of the rankings for European nations.
Ursa Beach is a hidden gem amid many lovely Portugal beaches. Surrounded by jagged limestone cliffs, it offers privacy and natural beauty in equal measure.
(16). Russia 24.5 Million most visited Visitors
Many variables have converged to make Russia increasingly popular among tourists.
For one thing, Central and Eastern Europe had an overall 5-percent growth in travel last year.
Plus, after the country hosted the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the Russian Federation enjoyed double-digit growth in tourist expenditure and a 10-percent boost in visits.
Finally, the country received an influx of Chinese tourists following a reform in Visa rules. (As of July 2019, an additional 53 nations can use a new e-visa online scheme, ensuring still more growth in the future months.)
Where to begin in this country encompassing an astonishing 6.6 million square miles? Moscow and St. Petersburg are of course fantastic locations to start, yet you’d also be wise to discover overlooked gems like the ancient town of Suzdal. A ride on the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway is a necessity as well.
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(15). Malaysia 25.8 Million most visited Visitors
Four Southeast Asian countries are featured on the list of the top 15 most-visited places of 2018. Malaysia is rising in popularity thanks to its natural beauties (rainforests, national parks, and wildlife abound) and attractive tropical temps, which range from 68 to 86 degrees all year round.
Of visitors to Malaysia, the bulk comes from Asia. Vision 2020, the country’s tourism plan, intends to see 30 million travelers by the decade’s conclusion.
Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur boasts not only a series of intriguing caves but a century-old Hindu temple. The temple is accessible via multicolored rainbow steps, themselves a major tourist attraction.
(14). Hong Kong 29.2 Million Visitors
Recent demonstrations and political turbulence are warding people away from Hong Kong, but it remains one of the most visited places on the planet, partly due to its popularity among business travelers. The building of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge to connect the Greater Bay has further improved Hong Kong’s tourism business by making automobile arrival an option for Asian guests.
Whether traveling for travel or business, most tourists make their way to Hong Kong’s wealth of retail malls and highly rated eateries.
More than being practical, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is awe-inspiring to behold in person. At 34 miles, it’s the longest sea-spanning bridge in the world.
(13). Greece 30.1 Million Visitors
With its rich ancient history, Greece remains a hotspot for tourists, expanding by 2 million visitors annually for the previous 3 years. In fact, one in five Greeks works in the tourism business, even during the country’s economic catastrophe.
Some, nevertheless, fear that Greece is joining the ranks of over-touristed locations, notably its small islands. The mayor of Santorini, for instance, is limiting the number of cruise passengers disembarking on the island to 8,000 people per day.
Despite contending with overcrowding, Santorini remains a must-visit: With its whitewashed buildings set on cliffs overlooking the sea, it’s exactly what you image when you think of Greece. See it before doing so gets even more difficult.
(12). Austria 30.8 Million Visitors
Austria may be the 12th-most-visited country in the world, but it’s No. 1 when it comes to per-capita tourism in Europe. Its capital, Vienna, offers an extraordinarily high standard of living.
Many thinks of Austria’s Alps, which explains why hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter are the two top vacations for visitors (enjoyed by 41 and 53 percent of visitors, respectively) (enjoyed by 41 and 53 percent of visitors, respectively). Many others spend their time mountain-biking and discovering alpine lakes.
But while the Alps are stunning, there’s so much more to see here. Austria’s tourist promotion boasts its nine unique areas to explore.
The baroque Schloss Hellbrunn palace outside Salzburg stretches back four centuries. Exploring its enormous interior is best complemented with a stroll around its charming courtyard.
(11). Japan 31.1 Million Visitors
The third-most-visited Asian location on this list had more than 30 million visitors last year. And these numbers are anticipated to climb as the country hosts the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The tourism board’s goal is to hit 40 million international visitors by 2020, which should be straightforward to fulfill. In addition to hosting the world’s largest games, Japan entices visitors with its first-rate food (Tokyo has more Michelin stars than any other city on Earth), old temples, a rich sense of history, and unusual natural features like snow-capped Mount Fiji. Outside of Asia, Americans and Australians are the nation’s largest admirers.
Japan’s cherry blossom season in early April brings magnificent beauty to the country’s surroundings. During the Hanami festival to greet spring, revelers eat, drink, sing and dance beneath the fragrant pink blossoms.
(10). The United Kingdom 36.3 Million Visitors
Made comprised of four countries (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland) that all speak English, the UK has long been a favored destination among foreign travelers. Though it dipped somewhat between 2017 and 2018, moving from No. 7 to No. 10 on the most-visited-countries list, Visit Britain expects a return this year, with tourism climbing another 6 percent.
More than half of the people that arrive in the UK head to London, recognized for its seamless blend of history and modern urbanity (not to mention its exemplary, scot-free museums) (not to mention its exemplary, scot-free museums). Wales is the least frequented of the countries – barely 2 percent of travelers make it here.
The Tower of London is a historic stronghold that holds the legendary crown jewels, including brilliant scepters and crowns dating back centuries.
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(9). Thailand 38.2 Million Visitors
Thailand makes up the largest percentage of Southeast Asia’s trips. The country received approximately 3 million more tourists in 2018 than in 2017 and experienced $6 billion in expenditure!
Renowned for being budget-friendly due to its exchange rate (1 USD = 30 THB), the nation is transitioning into a luxury vacation with more resorts and high-end offerings pushing out the backpackers and unscrupulous companies of Bangkok.
The Phi Phi Islands are so picturesque and popular that the Thai government shuttered them until 2021 to allow for recuperation from over-tourism. Plan a trip to the island for the future, and take care of the natural environment when you’re there.
(8). Germany 38.8 Million Visitors
Germany’s visitor count has been gradually growing for nine consecutive years. In 2017 and 2018, Germany even ranked 1st in the world on the Nation Brands Index for its popularity.
The country is highly beloved among other Europeans, particularly the Dutch. Travelers from the United States are the greatest market from overseas.
Both Europeans and Americans delight in the country’s thought-provoking historic sites, vibrant cities, enormous forests (they cover one-third of the nation!), and — most importantly — great beer.
Brandenburg Gate, which dates back to 1791, is the last intact town gate in Berlin. Famously, it was from here that Ronald Reagan yelled, “Mr. Gorbachov – pull down this wall!” Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the gate has become a strong symbol of unity.
(7). Mexico 41.4 Million Visitors
Mexico broke its tourist record in 2018 and brought in more than $20.3 billion doing so. Travelers to the country spent, on average, approximately $500 while visiting, most of whom came from the United States and Canada. UK residents served as Mexico’s most prolific overseas tourists.
Postcard-perfect beaches remain a big lure here, but the country’s tourist authority has also effectively highlighted its ancient history, cultural institutions, diversified cuisine, and natural wonders beyond the seashore, like butterfly sanctuaries, canyons, and waterfalls.
Chichen Itza, the ancient Mayan village, is a UNESCO World Heritage site dating back to A.D. 750 to 1200.
(6). Turkey 45.7 Million Visitors
In 2016, tourism in Turkey plummeted 30 percent, a slump linked to political difficulties and terrorist assaults. But passengers started returning in 2017, and in 2018, the number of visitors surged roughly 22 percent.
Istanbul experienced a record number of tourists last year, inviting travelers to discover its East-meets-West cultural sites, vibrant bazaars, and massive mosques.
But it’s the coastal city of Antalya in the south that’s really been growing. More than 12.4 million visited this Mediterranean area last year, and the Culture and Tourism Ministry is expecting 2019 will break the 50-million-visitors threshold.
Antalya’s Old Town has Ottoman mosques, Roman towers, and an old port dotted with vibrant modern-day eateries. Splendid beaches also await in the vicinity. (No wonder travelers are pouring to Antalya in droves!)
(5). Italy 62.1 Million Visitors
Tourism is so big in Italy that long queues at places like St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Colosseum in Rome are all but assured, even if you’ve booked reservations in advance. Statistics show Italy’s tourist growth is above the European average, with Rome attracting roughly 27 million of its visitors.
Europeans travel to Italy the most: Germans make for 14 percent of visitors, with French and UK travelers making for 3 percent apiece. Americans are the greatest overseas market, also at 3 percent.
Outside the masses of Rome, Italy also has the rolling vineyards of Tuscany, the creative pedigree of Florence, the natural wonders of the Amalfi Coast, and the canals of Venice among its embarrassment of riches.
Get away from the throngs by visiting Sicily’s ancient monuments and cool beaches. Go now before it becomes overrun too; Sicily recorded a more than 7 percent rise in tourism last year.
(4). China 62.9 Million most visited Visitors
Not only does China get more visitors than most of the world, but its own residents account for 10 percent of all world travelers. It is projected that 20 percent of the Chinese population — 300 million people — would get passports by 2027. Chinese tourists also spend more than any other country, nearly tripling that of No. 2 — a stunning $277 billion!
Those outside China who make their way to the country experience everything that comes with being the world’s longest continuous civilization, from communities stretching back thousands of years to ancient monuments like the Great Wall. Plus, the nation’s cuisine, as economical as it is flavorful, can’t be beaten.
Zhaoxing Village is flanked by mountains and touts five drum towers signifying five good manners in Chinese tradition: compassion, righteousness, civility, wisdom, and trust.
(3). The United States 79.6 Million Visitors
Considering the United States covers 3.8 million square miles, nearly as huge as all of Europe, it’s simple to see why it’s the third-most-popular tourist destination on Earth.
The country’s combination of radically diverse attractions doesn’t hurt either, including some of the most renowned cities in the world (New York City, LA, Chicago) and a growing national-park system.
Get a glimpse of the country’s natural frontiers by exploring Utah’s Mighty 5: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reed, and Zion national parks.
(2). Spain 82.7 Million most visited Visitors
Many news outlets are reporting on the excessive over-tourism observed in Barcelona, which achieved a record 8 million tourists in 2018. But it reflects barely a tenth of the travelers that visit this huge country that also boasts the cultural powerhouse of Madrid and the flamenco capital of Seville, as well as pristine countryside and magnificent beaches.
The nation’s major tourist groups are from Germany and Britain, though tourists from these countries are increasingly traveling to Turkey and Greece instead. In their place, Americans are filling the empty beds, with roughly 3 million people coming from the U.S. last year – an 11.8 percent surge.
Unfortunately, the rush of people has residents on edge, and the Spanish are regarded to be developing “tourist anxiety,” especially in Barcelona and the Catalan republics.
Forget the tourist hubs and travel the Camino de Santiago, known as “The Way,” for a journey across northern Spain.
(1). France 89.4 Million most visited Visitors:
More people are visiting France than any other country on the globe, and the government has a 100-million-visitors objective by 2020. Think they’ll hit it? We do, too, especially considering it hosted the FIFA Women’s World Cup earlier this year.
Not only does France receive the biggest number of tourists, but they make the most off of them too. Tourism brought approximately $62 billion last year!
Get your visit in while you can. Tourism is undoubtedly likely to expand, especially when France hosts the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
Mont Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Northern France, is a sight absolutely like no other: a medieval abbey situated atop a solitary island.
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