Top 10 Most Popular Travel Destinations
With so many incredible places across the globe to explore, deciding where to visit can feel overwhelming. Certain destinations stand out from the rest, consistently drawing travelers year after year. These countries offer iconic sights, fascinating culture and history, mouthwatering cuisine, breathtaking scenery, and endless opportunities for adventure. From European classics to Asian hotspots, desert oases to tropical paradises, the most visited places in the world have universal appeal.
France, the most visited country in the world, attracted over 89 million international visitors in 2018 alone. The capital Paris is on almost every traveler's wishlist, with iconic sites like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre Museum, and incomparable cafe culture. Meandering walks along the Seine and Champs-Élysées never disappoint. Outside Paris, travelers flock to the lavender fields and rustic villages of Provence, the vineyards and medieval castles of the Loire Valley, and the glittering resorts of the French Riviera. Foodies indulge in buttery croissants, cheeses, crepes, macarons, and fine French dining. Marseille, Nice, Lyon, and Toulouse all tempt with their own unique charm. France's diversity of landscapes, from the Pyrenees Mountains to the white cliffs of Normandy and cosmopolitan port city of Marseille, means there is endless exploring to be done.
With over 80 million annual visitors, Spain is a favorite European destination. Visitors lose themselves in the spectacular architecture, lively festivals, vibrant nightlife, and mouthwatering tapas of cities like Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville. Must-see sights include Barcelona's colorful La Sagrada Familia basilica, Madrid's Prado museum showcasing artistic masterpieces, and the royal Alcázar palace in Seville. Bullfighting aficionados can catch a traditional corrida, while music lovers prefer a flamenco show or singing contest festival. Travelers also flock to Spain's islands like the Balearics and Canaries for pristine beaches and scuba diving. Hiking trails in national parks like Picos de Europa immerse you in nature. With 48 UNESCO World Heritage Sites spread across its autonomous regions, Spain guarantees a trip full of diversity.
3. United States
The USA welcomed over 78 million international visitors in 2017. New York City's iconic skyscrapers, constant buzz, world-class shopping and dining make it a perennial favorite. Art lovers traverse the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Guggenheim, while Broadway musicals and Central Park offer evening entertainment. On the West Coast, Los Angeles' Hollywood glamour and theme parks like Disneyland attract families and celebrities alike. Miami's palm-fringed beaches, pulsing nightclubs and Cuban culture entice beachgoers and party people. Outdoor enthusiasts frequent national parks like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone to hike, camp and spot wildlife. Music fans follow routes like the Blues Trail or Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tour. From road tripping down Route 66 to skiing in Colorado, the possibilities across the 50 states seem endless.
China garnered over 60 million visitors for its rich history, culture and natural beauty. Walking the Great Wall gives unforgettable views, while the Forbidden City, Terracotta Warriors and historic water towns like Zhouzhuang immerse you in centuries of history. In contrast, Hong Kong and Shanghai dazzle with glittering skyscrapers and nonstop energy. Chinese cuisine shines with Peking duck, dim sum, noodles and tea. Scenic landscapes like the limestone karsts of Guilin and ethereal mountains of Zhangjiajie feel surreal. With a high-speed rail system connecting major cities, it's easy to experience the diversity across this vast country. Whether you seek ancient Buddhist temples, bustling urban epicenters or remote villages, China promises adventure.
Italy enchants over 58 million annual visitors with its history, art, architecture, music and cuisine. In Rome, visitors can explore relics of the Roman Empire like the Colosseum and Pantheon. Rome's piazzas and trattorias are perfect for sampling Italian specialties like pizza, pasta, and gelato. The canals and ornate Byzantine palaces of Venice create a romantic atmosphere, while Tuscany's villages and vineyards offer a taste of rustic Italy. For archaeology buffs, Pompeii's excavated ruins provide a glimpse into ancient life halted by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. From Sicily’s Greek temples to Lake Como’s aristocratic villas, the diversity across Italy’s regions gives travelers endless reasons to return.
Straddling Europe and Asia, Turkey seamlessly blends flavors from both continents. Over 39 million annual visitors discover Istanbul's monumental mosques, Grand Bazaar, and Ottoman-era bathhouses. Cappadocia's whimsical fairy chimneys set the scene for hot air ballooning, while powdery beaches along the Turquoise Coast tempt sunbathers. Ephesus and other Hellenistic ruins testify to Alexander the Great’s conquest. Fans of Biblical history can visit sites like the limestone travertines of Pamukkale and the purported house of the Virgin Mary near Selçuk. Turkey’s natural beauty shines through in places like Cappadocia’s underground cities and the travertines of Pamukkale. With 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and varied landscapes, Turkey is an unmissable destination.
Mexico enchants over 39 million travelers every year with its azure waters, Maya ruins, colonial cities, desert landscapes and vibrant culture. The Riviera Maya offers beach resort relaxation and eco adventures like swimming in cenotes. Nearby, Chichén Itzá and Tulum give a glimpse of the Maya's architectural legacy. Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas immerse visitors in indigenous traditions, while Mexico City, founded by the Aztecs in 1325, balances history with chic eateries and galleries. Baja California's beaches, Banderas Bay's upscale resorts, and Cabo San Lucas' nightlife attract partiers. For something different, the monarch butterfly reserves andfriendly Pueblos Mágicos continue charming all who visit this diverse nation.
Over 38 million travelers visit Thailand annually to experience the country's tranquil Buddhist culture and tropical beaches. In Bangkok, visitors are awed by the Grand Palace's glittering spires and indulge in flavorful Tom Yum Goong soups and curries. The northern city of Chiang Mai tempts with ancient pagodas and elephant encounters in the jungle. Southern Thailand's famous islands like Phuket and Krabi offer rock climbing, kayaking, and diving opportunities for adventure seekers, while the monthly Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan is sought out by nightlife aficionados. From lush rainforests to remote hill tribes and floating markets, Thailand captivates travelers with its diversity.
Germany enchanted over 39 million visitors in 2017 with its storied castles, historic towns, Oktoberfest celebrations and thriving art scene. Berlin's museums and contemporary galleries stand in contrast to well-preserved medieval towns like Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Gothic cathedrals like Cologne's. Munich pulls in crowds for its enormous beer halls and seasonal festivals. Along the Rhine River, hilltop castles and terraced vineyards paint an idyllic portrait of the German countryside. For hikers and nature lovers, the Black Forest and Bavarian Alps offer mountain vistas and crisp air. From hip Berlin to charming Heidelberg, Germany's blend of natural beauty and old-world culture continues attracting travelers.
10. United Kingdom
The United Kingdom welcomed over 36 million international visitors in 2017. London provides enough museums, palaces, historic pubs, West End shows and literary sites to fill any travel itinerary. Must sees include the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and the British Museum. Hidden gems scattered across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland entice visitors to venture further. Edinburgh's medieval Old Town and famous Fringe Festival contrast beautifully with the Scottish Highlands' windswept hills and lochs. In Wales, hikers traverse mountain trails and photograph seaside cliffs like those at Isle Anglesey. Marveling at Giant's Causeway's hexagonal columns and sampling whiskey at centuries-old distilleries makes Northern Ireland shine. With so much natural beauty and cultural variety across its regions, the UK promises endless possibilities.