Each year, the United Nations World Tourism Organization collates data on international travel, revealing the most popular travel destinations around the world. Some countries, such as Croatia and Denmark, are steadily working their way up the rankings, while others such as Thailand are slipping down the list. The reasons for such variations are complex, though exchange rate fluctuations and political factors play a large part. Want to find out which places currently top the table? Here’s our rundown on the world’s eight most visited destinations and why this time you really should follow the crowd.
Coming in as the eighth most-visited nation, Germany welcomed around 28.5 million people in 2022. Some come to learn about its past, whether in the once-divided capital Berlin, Cologne with its imposing Gothic cathedral, or Bremen, which thrived in medieval times as a member of the Hanseatic League. Vineyards line the banks of rivers like the Rhine and Moselle, jostling for position against centuries-old ruined castles. In the southern state of Bavaria, from Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Mittenwald, half-timbered houses with geranium-filled window boxes and brightly painted frescoes add a fairytale quality to already pretty villages. In Munich, home of Oktoberfest, the majestic Alps rise within sight of the beer tents of the Wiesn, while further east the sylvan Black Forest is a nature-lover’s paradise.
The U.K. comes in as number seven claiming 31 million overseas visitors for 2022, making this the highest ranking it has enjoyed for several years. London is a firm favorite with international tourists – who doesn’t want to say they’ve been to Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London? Urbanites will also enjoy Bath, Oxford, and Edinburgh, while those seeking a quieter respite should visit the chocolate box villages of the Cotswolds or the Isle of Wight. Though the nation's weather can be hit and miss in comparison to other European destinations, the beaches of Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall throng with visitors in summer. The countryside is charming no matter what time of year you visit and destinations like the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, and Scottish Highlands are especially scenic.
More than 38 million foreign tourists chose Mexico for a 2022 vacation, earning this colorful nation the sixth spot on the list. Many find themselves in Mexico City, where essential experiences include a leisurely boat trip to see the floating gardens of Xochimilco and a high-energy night out watching lucha libre (freestyle wrestling). The Riviera Maya lures beachgoers with the promise of palm-lined sand, while inland, refreshing cenotes provide a place to cool off. The nation's archaeological sites, found in its forested interior, are equally hard to resist, among them Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba. The country’s past is also evident in the colonial-era architecture of places like San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Pueblo, and Taxco. And foodies shouldn't overlook Oaxaca — its food is second to none. Snack on tlayudas and memelas, work your way through seven moles and steel yourself to crunch through a plate of chapulines (fried grasshoppers).
Just under 50 million travelers came to Italy in 2022. The country boasts some of the most picturesque stretches of coastline in the world, and you won’t want to miss charming Amalfi Coast or the enchanting villages of the Cinque Terre. Inland, its lakes provide the tranquil setting for a relaxing break; Como, Maggiore and Garda are all easily reached from Milan. History buffs won’t tire of Rome or Venice the art galleries of Florence are unmatched anywhere else in the country. Outdoorsy types can swim in the limpid waters of Sardinia’s La Maddalena archipelago or ski against the breathtaking backdrop of the Dolomites. Fresh produce dominates the cuisine; foodies will be happy anywhere, but especially Bologna and Puglia. If you’re in search of la dolce vita, this is where you’ll find it.
Discovering that Türkiye is the fourth placed country with 50.5 million international arrivals in 2022 might come as a bit of a surprise. But its rich cultural heritage, reputation for affordability, and its location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia help to explain why it does so well. The country also boasts a slew of well-established beach resorts, such as those along its dazzling Turquoise Coast. Istanbul is the country’s most popular city break destination, with countless historical and cultural treasures to explore including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar. The fairy chimneys of Cappadocia and the travertine terraces of Pamukkale will delight those looking for unusual landscapes – they definitely have the wow factor. Ephesus and Troy are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The United States
The United States takes the third spot, attracting almost 51 million visitors in 2022. This nation is a key destination for visitors from across the border in Canada and Mexico, of course, but also highly attractive to tourists from Europe, Asia, and Latin America. New York’s skyscrapers, world-class museums, parks, and squares make it the top spot for overseas visitors. California’s movie-star quality, the bright lights of Las Vegas, and Florida’s sun and fun make them other impressive spots. Storied Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC provide historical context to the founding of the nation. Further west, the pueblos of New Mexico, the drama of the Rockies, and world-renowned national parks such as Yellowstone, Zion, Grand Canyon and Yosemite illustrate the country’s incredible natural and cultural diversity.
Hot on France’s heels is its next-door neighbor, Spain, which welcomed nearly 72 million foreign tourists in 2022. It too scores highly because of its versatility. When it comes to city breaks, Barcelona leads the pack with growing competition from places like Sevilla, Bilbao, Valencia, and Madrid. In summer, beachgoers flock to the Costas and the Balearic Islands to take advantage of the hot Mediterranean weather. Geography helps to extend the season, as temperatures hold up well in destinations such as the Canary Islands into late fall. But Spain has far more to offer than simply being an affordable fly and flop destination. For instance, the cooler north lures hikers, with increasing numbers of international visitors seeking out the meadows and gorges of the Picos de Europa or following the Camino de Santiago like the pilgrims of yesteryear.
European countries dominate the top ten but Fance consistently takes the top spot. The nation reported an estimated 80 million overseas visitors in 2022. That’s in part due to the enduring popularity of Paris, its top performing destination thanks to high-profile landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre. Another strength is that France is both a summer and winter destination. While the Côte d'Azur retains its allure among the glitterati, regions such as Brittany appeal to budget-conscious campers while oenophiles are drawn to the beautiful vineyards of the Loire Valley. A plethora of high altitude resorts ensures the French Alps dominate the European ski and snowboarding scene. For somewhere a little further off the beaten track, consider winsome Alsace or the bucolic countryside of the Pyrénées.