People travel to unfamiliar places in the world for dozens of reasons. Whether it's to explore exotic cuisines and customs, experience new adventures, or simply get away and relax in a beautiful paradise, international travel creates endless opportunities. Some destinations have remained at the top of the most visited countries in the world for decades. Others have become new favorites, trendy spots for the world's globetrotters, which open up fresh, intriguing experiences in unique locales.
In 2019, more than 40.9 million people visited England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. Though no longer officially a part of the UK, tourists generally include the Republic of Ireland on their travel itineraries for trips to the British Isles. Many consider the country's highly diverse capital city, London, with its rich, 2000-year history, to be one of the greatest cities on the planet. For those traveling on a dime, the city's numerous opportunities for free access to museums, art exhibitions, and landmarks create a huge draw for international visitors. Travelers seeking historic, scenic views will find no shortage of breathtaking vistas throughout the isles, from the Scottish highlands to the spectacular Welsh coastline. And in-between, there are thousands of historical sites to explore.
More than 38 million tourists visited Thailand in 2019, exploring endless offerings of vibrant cultural experiences, from its delicious cuisine to deep-seated historical connections and spectacular scenic locales. With more than 1500 miles of coastline, Thailand is one of the top destinations for people seeking an escape to white, sandy beaches and a sunny, tropical climate. The crystal clear waters along the Andaman Coast beckon thousands of European and American visitors each year, especially from November through May. Fans of the 007 movies flock here to visit "James Bond Island," which sits just off Phang Nga Bay in the southern part of the country. Foodies find endless culinary delights in Phuket Old Town; a provincial capital loved for its colorful, ornate buildings, temples, shrines, museums, shops, and cafes.
No one can dispute that Germany is one of the most visited countries in Europe. The country has created excellent travel routes and options over the last few decades, making it a well-honed traveling mecca and a prime choice for both domestic and international travelers. In September 2020 alone, more than 1.3 million visitors arrived here, according to Germany's federal statistics office. Most arrive from other European countries, but a significant number of visitors from across the ocean plan German getaways as well. Traditional festivals are an integral part of a trip to the country, especially Munich's Oktoberfest, a two-week festival that begins in late September. Once arriving here, travelers can immerse themselves in a mesh of cultures and languages — not only German, but also Polish, Turkish, Nigerian, and Tunisian. And, they find a host of multiculturally inspired cuisines and food experiences.
People who chose to journey to Turkey in 2019 were among 45 million others who sought a getaway in this sun-drenched land that borders both the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Although its beaches are legendary, there are plenty of other Turkish sites to behold for adventure-seeking travelers. Foodies will be delighted to discover that each region of the country creates its own style of food, ranging from fresh seafood and kebabs to amazing arrays of vegetable dishes and traditional Ottoman dishes. Thousands visit the ruins of Ephesus or tour the world's largest mosaic museum in Gaziantep in Turkey's Southeastern Anatolia Region. Sightseeing shoppers love the open-air markets, like the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, which sit in the 3000-year-old city of Istanbul.
Spain hosted a record-high of 83.7 million visitors in 2019. Tourism is crucial to the country's economy, making up 12% of its gross domestic product. One of the many appealing features of a vacation to Spain is that travelers get more bang for their buck here. Costa del Sol, Mallorca, and Lanzarote are three top destinations that rate high on the affordability scale. Spain averages more than 300 days of sunshine each year, providing more days to spend on one of the country's scenic, relaxing beaches. Trendy Barcelona, the center of Catalonian culture, has colorful outdoor markets, shops, restaurants, festivals, flower and souvenir kiosks, coffee shops, and free WiFi everywhere. Travel to Madrid to see masterpieces by Francisco de Goya, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and others at the Prado Museum.
With dazzling sights, sensational food, and incredible art, it's no wonder that France continues to attract more than 80 million visitors a year. While many tourists flock to Paris for visits to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, the country has plenty of other attractive spots to explore for whatever interest you may have.
If you want to take in a unique French background while soaking in the sun, check out the French Riviera and Cannes. Conversely, if you are a history buff, you will fall in love with the Palace of Versailles or Mont-Saint-Michel, two pivotal European history settings. If you're looking for the country's ultimate wine tasting experience, you can't miss Bordeaux or Burgundy, which offer some of the best wine in all of Europe. France provides an unforgettable experience for the visitor looking to soak in a country that's rich in European history, art, and experiences.
Thrilling big cities. Vast landscapes. Possibility at every corner. These are just some of the alluring aspects that attracted 79.26 million visitors to The United States in 2019. In fact, The U.S. makes over 1 trillion dollars annually from international tourism alone. With 50 states bubbling with their own subcultures, every trip to or around the States will prove to be unique.
You'll have to spend time in New York City, the country's most popular tourist destination. NYC attracts the biggest names in art and entertainment due to its incredible amount of diversity and inspiration. Conversely, California appeals to those seeking a relaxed lifestyle, where you can enjoy an endless summer. America consists of some of the most selfie-worthy natural sights for your social media, including The Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park. The United States is a place of opportunity for both locals and visitors alike.
A country that is over 3,000 years old is bound to have something for you to enjoy! China's tourism growth has continued to increase, with over 60 million visitors in 2019. What makes the country stand out is the blend of ancient tradition and contemporary, cutting-edge technology and style.
When it comes to history, Xi'an, Nanjing, and Beijing are some of the most ancient cities worldwide. In Beijing, you will find The Great Wall and The Forbidden City, two places that have seen more history than some countries. At the same time, Beijing acts as one of the most populous metropolitans, with a nightlife that rivals New York City and Paris, ideal for dancing the night away. Shanghai also offers a similar modern feel, the largest city in China, that attracts innovative minds from all over the globe.
Mexico is the second-biggest tourist destination in North America - ask any of the 46 million people who vacationed there in 2018. The land itself has seen plenty of history, with many civilizations such as the Mayans and Aztecs originating here. As a result, the country is abundant in historical displays, which you can enjoy while sipping a sun-kissed Margherita or chowing down on a delicious enchilada.
The beaches in Mexico remain some of the country's top hot-spots. Hop to Cancun or Tulum, where you can live easy on the beautiful white sand. To gain an educational adventure, visit Chichén Itzá, or the famous Mayan ruins. Though less-visited, Guanajuato is just as spectacular a historical spot. Of course, Mexico City is a must-do, particularly the Historic center, the city's central neighborhood rife with museums and art exhibits.
It's no surprise that Italy is often ranked on lists of the world's most visited places, with 94 million tourists crossing the border annually. The country is home to innumerable classic works of art. Besides the must-see art, Italy has some of the world's most-loved food and wine, making this destination one of the best on Earth for indulging.
You can't hit Italy without seeing Rome. The Colosseum, The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain – the list of sights never ends. Also, make sure to visit Florence, where the famous David rests, among other Michelangelo work. Pompeii is also worthwhile due to its devastating history after being nearly all burned to the ground after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Lastly, if visiting vineyards is your dream, a stop to Verona will be ideal, as the area has hundreds of vineyards with the country's best wines.