The official visitor numbers for every country in the world have just been released by the United Nations which reveals the top 10 most popular tourist spots on earth! So if you’re stuck for travel inspiration, why not see where everybody else is going!
Each year the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) releases their ‘World Tourism Barometer’ which charts international tourist arrivals, spend and growth. And these are the Top 10 International Tourist Arrivals for last year;
10. Malaysia, 25 million visitors (+1.3%)
Malaysia lies at the very tip of the Asian peninsula and has a diverse landscape of dense sprawling jungles, mega cities dominated by skyscrapers, idyllic tropical islands, colonial towns and of course it’s most famous resident, the endangered orangutans of Malaysian Borneo. The diverse culture oozes Malay, Indian and Chinese influence. The capital is Kuala Lumpur with a wealth of things to do such as admiring the view from the mighty Petronas Towers, sampling the authentic noodles in Chinatown, exploring the vibrant Hindu statues at the mysterious Batu Caves (pictured above) and soaking up the British colonial history. Honeymooners will appreciate the beaches and laidback vibe on Langkawi, Penang and Labuan. Climb Mount Kinabalu, experience how ancient tribes live within the jungles and witness the captivating orangutans up close at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Center at Kota Kinabalu in Borneo. Soak up the magnificent colonial architecture in Malaka and Georgetown two historic cities of the Straits of Malacca which form one UNESCO World Heritage Site.
9. Russia, 25.7 million visitors (+13.4%)
Tourism to Russia grew by over 13% last year, leading a trend of growth within central and Eastern European countries, placing it within the top 10 for the first time. Travellers were drawn to the fascinating history and culture of the two heavyweight cities of Moscow and St Petersburg. The wintersports resort of Sochi also takes center stage in January 2014 as it hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Cruising the serene rivers, lakes and canals between the two main cities reveals medieval Kremlins, ornate churches and fortified monasteries. Start your journey on the iconic Trans-Siberian Railway here as you travel across remote Siberia, traversing the Urals and stopping at remote towns along the way such as Yaroslavl, Ekaterinburg and Irkutsk.
8. United Kingdom, 29.3 million visitors (-0.1%)
Despite the magnificent Olympic Games of 2012, tourism to the UK dipped slightly pushing it down one place into the eighth most favourite destination on earth. Most tourists opt to explore historic London which is brimming with cultural sights and things to see and do 24/7. Head to the beautiful Welsh beach at Rhossili Bay near Swansea which was voted one of the best beaches on earth – surpassing even Caribbean beaches! Explore the medieval castle and cathedral in the city of Norwich in the east, which is a UNESCO City of Literature. Visit the birthplace of the Beatles and also the former European Capital of Culture city of Liverpool. Head over the border into Scotland to experience Georgian Edinburgh and historic Glasgow which will host the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
7. Germany, 30.4 million visitors (+7.3%)
Germany leapfrogged the UK to take seventh spot in the tourism table, thanks to its big-city beauties, spectacular scenery and legendary festivals (Oktoberfest anyone?) Travellers can cruise the romantic Rhine, gawp at picturesque half-timbered towns and admire more stunning castles than you can shake a stick at. But big-name cities bursting with culture and heritage is where Germany really comes into its own, from the moving Berlin Wall Memorial in the nation’s capital to that iconic festival each October, aka Oktoberfest. Then there’s the rich architecture of Hamburg, sublime classical music of Leipzig, automotive heritage of Stuttgart and spectacular Frankfurt skyline.
6. Turkey, 35.7 million visitors (+3%)
The perennial travel favourite, Turkey has oodles of rich history, superb beaches, vast mountain ranges and one of the most dynamic cities on earth; Istanbul. The UNESCO city is bursting with sumptuous Ottoman mosques, exquisite churches and fascinating museums. Don’t miss the Chora Church and Kariye Museum, Topkapi Museum and Palace and of course the stunning Hagia Sophia. The Greek, roman, byzantine and ottoman heritage is evident in the capital of Ankara and the cities of Izmir and Antalya. The of course there are the established holiday resorts of Kusadasi, Marmaris and Bodrum. Don’t miss the ancient ruins at Ephesus, ancient Canakkale and mighty Mount Erciyes volcano at Kayseri.
5. Italy, 46.4 million visitors (+0.5%)
The country of fashion, art, food and architecture offers so much diversity that you’d need years to experience it all. First up has to be the UNESCO listed city of ancient Rome, which has captured traveller’s imaginations for many years. I have just written the Top 50 things to do in Rome and struggled to limit myself! Don’t miss the obvious (for a reason) sights of The Pantheon, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and St Paul Outside the Walls. The island of Sicily is dominated by mighty Mount Etna and offers delicious authentic food and wine. It’s also home to the best beach on earth at; Rabbit Beach at Lampedusa. Sardinia lies in the Tyrrhenian Sea and offers wild natural coastlines to hike, traditional fishing villages and the cosmopolitan capital city of Cagliari. Then of course on the mainland there are the heavyweight cities of fabulous Florence, stylish Milan, romantic Venice, historic Naples and ancient Pompeii. Head north to the famous Lakes of Como, Maggiore and Lugano.
4. Spain, 57.7 million visitors (+2.7%)
Spain has been welcoming package travellers for decades, drawn to the beautiful beaches, undulating landscapes and laidback atmosphere. There are plenty of big-name cities for culture vultures, island havens for families and natural surroundings for adventurous types. The capital Madrid is bursting with stylish culture within the excellent El Prado Museum, neo-classical Cibeles plaza and the exquisite Royal Palace of Madrid. Chic Barcelona is a city break favourite with its homage to all things Gaudi – think the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia church and the iconic Park Güell. Don’t pass up the opportunity to visit historic Seville, lively Valencia, traditional Grenada and resort favourite Malaga. Don’t pass up the chance to lounge on the pristine beaches of the Canary Islands of Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria. And the Balearic Islands of Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza are just a few hours flights away too.
3. China, 57.7 million visitors (+0.3%)
The vast country of China is incredibly diverse with iconic metropolis cities bursting with skyscrapers, the iconic Yangtze River and the cultural delights of the mysterious Terracotta Warriors. The ancient capital Beijing, a former citadel, offers much to travellers looking for traditional Chinese history and heritage. There’s the world’s largest public square, Tiananmen Square, the vast complex of The Forbidden City and the exquisite The Summer Palace on Kunming lake. Head to the second city of Shanghai for a taste of the future and shop til you drop on the famous Nanjing Road. The two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau offer a real change of pace too. Hong Kong is one of my favourite places on earth wand offers a rich and varied itinerary. Don’t miss historic Guangzhou, mysterious Shenzhen and beautiful Dalian. And of course when I go back my number one priority will be to see the magical giant pandas at Chengdu Panda Research Base and the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan.
2. USA, 67 million, (+6.8%)
The United States experienced significant tourism growth last year with 67 million visitors. Most popular destinations include the buzzing metropolis of New York City, party city of Las Vegas and family-friendly Florida. Stroll Central Park, admire the Empire State Building and join a Sopranos film set tour in New York City. Live it large in Vegas (actually one of the cheapest cities in the US) but shhhh: what happens in Vegas and all that. Enjoy the west coast glamour of San Francisco, take in the sights of Chicago and soak up the rays in Los Angeles. Take in the musical heritage of Seattle, soak up the political history in Washington DC and chill on the royal beaches of Hawaii. There are plenty of adventure activities to try, such as watching the Old Faithful Geyser erupt in the Yellowstone National Park, walking (or taking a helicopter flight) over the might Grand Canyon, trying your hand as a cowboy on a traditional Texas cattle ranch or hiking the iconic Appalachian Trail.
1. France, 83 million (+1.8%)
And remaining in the number one spot for most popular tourist country on earth is France. More than 83 million people explored the incredible diverse and beautiful country. With great transport links within Europe, including a stop at the one of the big three cities; Paris, Nice and Marseille, is really easy. Paris remains the most iconic and romantic city on earth, bar none. Soak up the history at the unique Musee d’Orsay Museum, zip to the peak of the iconic Eiffel Tower and learn of the famous hunchback at the gothic Notre Dame Cathedral – the most popular tourist attraction on earth! Beautiful Nice is brimming with ornate palaces, manicured gardens and fascinating museums. Marseille is the European City of Culture 2013, Lyon is brimming with heritage and Cannes is sophisticated. Travel the château trail, cycle timeless Provence with its vast lavender and poppy fields and try canoeing on the Dordogne River.