10 Most Visited Countries in the World

Posted on February 1, 2012 by

Wondering which countries are the most popular travel destinations? Each year, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) compiles a list of the most visited countries according to the number of international tourist arrivals for every country. In the last three years, European destinations like France, Spain and Italy have been leading the list, but China surpassed Spain and Italy this time, coming in at third place after France and the United States. It’s quite surprising to find Malaysia coming in as another Asian contender, while Thailand is nowhere to be found in the top 10. A pity none of the African and Middle Eastern countries have made it to the list. Here’s a look at the top 10 list compiled in 2010 (2011 is yet to be published).

1. France: 76.8 million visitors

With numerous world-known monuments and museums, it’s really no surprise that France has topped the charts over and over again. Whether you’re traveling to visit the famous Musée du Louvre or Eiffel Tower in Paris, or going wine-tasting in Bordeaux and castle-hopping in the Loire Valley, France has plenty to offer for the curious traveler. As a European country, France is also relatively compact –  it’s easy to travel from one region to the next on budget car rentals and go from city sight-seeing to relaxing on the beach within a short time frame.

Flickr photo by Frank Müller

 

2. United States: 59.7 million visitors

Stretching from California in the West to New York in the East, the United States of America covers an area of 3.79million square miles – that’s a whole lot of country to explore. The U.S. is as diverse as it is huge: with expansive national parks and vibrant cities visited by foreign tourists, local visitors and business travelers alike. We think New York City, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and San Francisco are the most visited cities in the U.S., with their array of attractions and popularity. What do you think?

3. China: 55.7 million visitors

In recent years, the number of visitors to China has skyrocketed, largely due to an increase in global business dealings and cultural exchange. A large number of companies has moved their production chains to China, so have banks and big-name franchise stores. At the same time, China is becoming more and more popular as a travel destination, with its ancient cities, historical sites and good food veering for the tourist limelight.

4. Spain: 52.7 million visitors

As a mainstay in tourism, Spain has always attracted hordes of European tourists to its shores. In summer, Costa del Sol and many of its islands are often flooded with German, British and Dutch tourists. But the country’s tourist board has also been branching out to the international market, drawing in global visitors to the cultural capital of Barcelona and traditional towns in Andalusia and Castilla la Mancha. Whatever the case, Spain makes for an excellent travel destination with its world-class cuisine, centuries-old history and vibrant, characteristic cities – whether you’re a backpacker or luxury traveler.

 

5. Italy: 43.6 million visitors

From the romantic canals of Venice to the history-rich piazzas of Rome and pebbled beaches in the Amalfi Coast, Italy’s attractions are bountiful. The country provides a diverse travel experience – no wonder it’s a dream destination for many. Italy’s one of our favorite countries in the world, and it’s obvious we’re not the only ones who have fallen for its charms. As far as tourism trends go, we predict that Italy’s tourism numbers will only keep rising.

 

6. United Kingdom: 28.1 million visitors

Although its numbers are a far cry to that of Italy, the UK also has quite a lot to offer on its shores – such as the old-world charm of England, the dramatic landscapes of Scotland and the lesser known coastline of Wales. Let’s not forget that London is a miniature world, where global cultures converge and where headquarters of almost every international company is located.

7. Turkey: 27 million visitors

Spanning across Europe and Asia, Turkey is famed for its distinctive cultures, age-old traditions and varied landscapes – ranging from the snow-peaked mountains of Nemrut to the unique valleys of Cappadocia. Historically, Turkey was home to distinctive civilizations through the centuries, with impressive Roman ruins and Ottoman architecture to bear witness. Most importantly, Istanbul is the crowd-puller, attracting business travelers and tourists alike with its extreme characteristics: with futuristic skyscrapers alongside traditional mosques and boutique hotels next to street food stands.

8. Germany: 26.9 million visitors

On UNWTO’s ranking of world tourism expenditure, Germany comes in at number one – it looks like all these money spent on boosting its tourism is well worth it. Many of Germany’s major cities are tourist magnets especially in festive season – drawing in visitors with their Christmas markets, beer festivals and summer events. Munich’s Oktoberfest itself accounts for a big percentage of the annual visitors, while Berlin and Frankfurt attract mainly European city lovers.

9. Malaysia: 24.6 million visitors

With a booming economy and an expanding trading industry, Malaysia is seeing a sharp increase in worldwide tourists and business travelers. The biggest draw of Malaysia is that once you’re done with business in the explosive capital city of Kuala Lumpur, you can easily hop over to the traditional seafront hotels in Penang or the secluded beaches of Terengganu or the jungles of Borneo and experience a very different side to the country.

10. Mexico: 22.4 million visitors

The miles and miles of turquoise beaches along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula lure hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The Riviera Maya, having been developed specifically for touristic purposes, is a holiday paradise. But beyond that, Mexico definitely has plenty of reasons to be on this list – its Mayan historical sites, colonial cities, and colorful festivals attract a fair amount of curious travelers despite its slightly tainted reputation.

*Source: UNWTO

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offgrid destinations and adventure travel, she scours through the world in search for a slice of undiscovered paradise. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sealions in the Galapagos and built a school in Tanzania.

83 Responses to “10 Most Visited Countries in the World”

  1. TheWorldOrBust January 31, 2012 2:17 pm
    #

    hmm i wouldn't have guessed France as being numero uno, but I guess it makes sense now that I think about it.

    • asd February 13, 2012 11:00 pm
      #

      france has been number 1 for ages

      • Dusty Rhodes October 7, 2012 12:02 am
        #

        I wouldn't go back to france for all the tea in china, they were, without a doubt, the rudest people I have ever been around, was really glad when the plane took off from Orly.

    • zoeyann May 6, 2013 8:15 pm
      #

      i thought jamaica would be there

  2. Kelly ~HipTraveler February 1, 2012 8:03 am
    #

    Nice post Nellie! enjoyed it and would have to agree with this list, since I've traveled to 9 out of 10 (and lived in 3) of these places… will have to join the throngs of tourists and head to China soon!

    With regard to your question about the U.S., I'd say… New York City, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Miami, San Francisco & San Diego.

    cheers,
    ~Kelly
    HipTraveler

    • Sunshine and Siestas February 1, 2012 2:31 pm
      #

      I have been to nine, too, and live in one. Like Nellie, I live in Spain and thank the tourists for keeping me afloat during a tough crisis! Interesting list.

    • Nellie February 5, 2012 8:18 pm
      #

      Oh yes totally forgot about Hawaii – yes I bet Hawaii\’s one of the top visited places in the United States. My personal favorite area in US is Lake Tahoe – absolutely gorgeous! I\’ve been to all ten on this list and like all of them but I can understand why some people would find a few of them surprising to be here.

  3. Laura February 1, 2012 11:56 pm
    #

    Great to see Mexico made the list! :)

  4. Lane February 1, 2012 11:57 am
    #

    The only surprises on the list were China (I didn't anticipate it ranking so high) and Mexico. With all of the bad press the country has been getting lately, I figured tourists would be scared off.

    • Nellie February 5, 2012 10:37 pm
      #

      I think China\’s attracted a lot of independent travelers after the Beijing Olympics in 2008. But let\’s keep in mind this list includes business travelers as well, so that might account for a big number of visitors to China.

    • Ivan Rivadeneyra September 1, 2012 8:07 am
      #

      China is one of the most antique enrich cultures ever, and México had a advanced civilization before the Spaniers came and, rape and destroyed the ethnicity, México has a enrich diversity in culture, talking about authenticity, China is, and México is. México has caribbean beaches, pyramids, delicious food, and much others.

      • Gloria February 12, 2013 7:53 am
        #

        I agree with you Ivan Rivadeneyra. Mexico has had a very bad reputation lately due to the press. But not everything they publish is true and all of those millions of tourist prove it that is safe to visit. Mexico has many beautiful places and historical landmarks to go see, besides, it has delicious food (World heritage by UNESCO). Los Cabos in Baja California Mexico is the place most Hollywood stars go for vacation, Cancun has one of the world's most beautiful beaches with white sands and turquoise water, you need to see it to beleive it…….

  5. Briana February 2, 2012 11:57 pm
    #

    Great post! I was a bit surprised to see France in such a commanding lead; I thought that with the traveling during the holidays and recent influx of Los Angeles tourists, there would be a smaller gap between 1st and 2nd place. I unfortunately have never been to France; I have only lived in the US and been on vacation in Cancun & Playa del Carmen a few years ago. I hope these countries, especially US, will take advantage of the huge monetary gains acquired from tourism. Also, I really need to travel more!

  6. Anthony @ The Culture-ist February 3, 2012 5:19 am
    #

    It’s very surprising that Thailand isn’t there. 10 years ago it’s likely Hawaii would have been a possible contender as well…I can’t get over Malaysia (we’d love to go there and almost did last summer, but had no idea how visited it is). I’d love to see their tourist demographic to find the major source of tourism there.
    Very informative post, thanks!

    • Nellie Huang February 5, 2012 10:40 pm
      #

      Thanks Anthony! Malaysia is an amazing country – it’s packed with so many natural sights. But I do agree with you that it’s in the top 10 while Thailand is not. UNWTO is pretty detailed statistics and demographics to show how they obtained the data, you might like to check out their website. Cheers.

  7. jolie February 13, 2012 10:44 pm
    #

    I thought Saudi Arabia is the most visited country in the world. As pilgrimage all over the world comes there for religious haj. hehehe…Or maybe Israel?
    Anyway, I don't like all the country that is mentioned above except (maybe) China. That's why I visit it. While other country,…naah…

  8. Lorenzo February 14, 2012 5:16 am
    #

    Wow, interesting data Nellie. I know France receives a lot of visitors but I never imagined it was the most visited place in the world.

  9. South Africa Tours February 15, 2012 8:20 pm
    #

    Any idea of African countries like South Africa. If South Africa were closer to Europe, they might have been in the top 10. It just so far for many people to travel to. Europe is easy, hop on a train and within a couple of hours you are in a different country. Go South Africa!

  10. Natalie February 18, 2012 12:12 pm
    #

    Glad to see Turkey on the list :)

  11. Zorica February 26, 2012 1:51 am
    #

    Nice list!

  12. Julia February 28, 2012 9:22 pm
    #

    Ooh, I got France right Turkey and Malaysia are surprises…

  13. Chad @RoadDogTravel March 2, 2012 10:37 pm
    #

    It's really impressive how many visitors France gets, especially when you think how much smaller it is than the next two countries on the list. I always find this kind of data interesting. Thanks.

  14. Coby Hunt March 9, 2012 5:47 pm
    #

    Turkey and Malaysia in the list and UAE not in the list Surprise me.

  15. Coby Hunt March 9, 2012 5:47 pm
    #

    Turkey and Malaysia in the list and UAE not in the list Surprise me.

  16. Coby Hunt March 9, 2012 5:47 pm
    #

    Turkey and Malaysia in the list and UAE not in the list Surprise me.

  17. Coby Hunt March 9, 2012 5:47 pm
    #

    Turkey and Malaysia in the list and UAE not in the list Surprise me.

  18. Coby Hunt March 9, 2012 5:47 pm
    #

    Turkey and Malaysia in the list and UAE not in the list Surprise me.

  19. Coby Hunt March 9, 2012 5:47 pm
    #

    Turkey and Malaysia in the list and UAE not in the list Surprise me.

  20. Coby Hunt March 9, 2012 5:47 pm
    #

    Turkey and Malaysia in the list and UAE not in the list Surprise me.

  21. Coby Hunt March 9, 2012 4:47 am
    #

    Turkey and Malaysia in the list and UAE not in the list Surprise me.

    • Ayda April 25, 2012 12:07 am
      #

      Malaysia is located near by very crowded countries and it's beautiful, I guess -I have never been.

      Turkey has two top destinations 1. İstanbul (More than 7 million) 2. Antalya (More than İstanbul since 2010, I guess) Cappadocia and Cottoncastles are other things and it has many Mediterranean, Ancient and classical Ottoman towns generally called "living museum -nothing is allowed to be changed, still" as you can see it's a true place for mid class tourists too.

      UAE, and countries like UAE takes rich tourists "only". There are not so many rich to visit UAE per year. France takes rich tourists just like UAE for example but France is a beautiful country for mid class people too.

    • viruzora July 10, 2013 7:32 pm
      #

      UAE did not even make it to the top on Middle East Countries Most Visited. KSA did.

  22. Lucky5zal March 14, 2012 4:58 pm
    #

    It's suprised me lots to notice that Malaysia has been listed as the Top 10..it's must be SMALL COUNTRY BUT BIG HEART..!! perhaps…

  23. DrukefromCanada March 27, 2012 10:35 am
    #

    Wow I'm surprised Malaysia is in the list. Definitely my next destination and then I'll go back to Mexico I love that country.

  24. Tarmizi April 1, 2012 9:14 pm
    #

    Glad Malaysia made it into the list

  25. MarkS April 12, 2012 12:17 pm
    #

    I know France is a great place to visit and have been there a couple times but I am so surprised that Italy is only 5th on the list. I have so many more friends and family that have gone to Italy then France. I am glad that so many people come to the USA to see all we have to see.

    • jbob October 10, 2012 2:32 pm
      #

      Americans have this weird fascination with Italy over everywhere else in Europe. More Europeans prefer to visit France over Italy.

  26. Simon P April 14, 2012 12:27 pm
    #

    I've been to them all except China. But I must say I'm a little surprised that Turkey made the list. I had no idea it was so popular! I visited last year and it' almost felt like it was off the beaten track – at least compared to France, Italy, Spain or the UK.

  27. adeola damilare April 25, 2012 9:58 pm
    #

    These cities are explosive,i would have guess 4/10 rightly.

  28. Rebelfone May 1, 2012 6:26 pm
    #

    Interesting data!
    Spain, Italy, USA, UK, Germany were expected. They definitely should have been in the list.

  29. dean May 1, 2012 6:58 pm
    #

    India is a brilliant destination for the lonely traveller as i have found in the past, nice article tho.

  30. Blog Varna May 7, 2012 8:58 pm
    #

    Great post !
    It is also very nice to visit some of the not so high-rated smaller countries in Central Europe or Asia during the high tourist season, at the time the most visited countries and cities are full with tourists and you have to wait on lines for the museums and pay higher prices.
    And Spain and Italy for example off the high season ( late Autumn ) are just wonderful and much more quiet and cheap.

  31. iamatticusfinch May 11, 2012 11:11 pm
    #

    Where is Philippines? Anyway, USA FTW!

    I am also a writer, and I specialize in writing regarding Orlando travels. Here is my post: http://tourshereandthere.wordpress.com/2012/04/22…. If you are interested, I hope that you will share this post among your readers, or use my post as a springboard to your blog. I will be delighted to read it. Please keep me updated!

    Ps, I followed you on twitter!

  32. Amresh Kumar May 17, 2012 5:34 pm
    #

    Very nice post and great information you are providing here and your words are to good so i love to reading thanks for sharing such a nice blog.

  33. Nasr Adam June 9, 2012 12:22 am
    #

    Egypt deserve to be of those 10 countries, but it had no luck many hands from hole world play against that .
    But one day I think it will be the first , but it need mush work to fix that .

  34. Arianwen June 27, 2012 11:27 pm
    #

    Interesting stats! I have just Mexico and China left to visit…does that make me very ordinary?!

  35. singaporeonevisa July 10, 2012 5:54 pm
    #

    Amazing list of the top ten most visited countries in the world. These places are truly amazing and one should visit them at least once, to learn about the different cultures and enjoy the beauty of these places. Well I was hoping that Singapore would be there in the list as it is among the most sort after tourist destinations in the South East Asian region.

  36. metalik July 11, 2012 10:05 pm
    #

    hope to see Morocco soon in the top 20 or 10 as it is a very beautiful diverse country

  37. Surminga July 15, 2012 9:55 pm
    #

    Surprising, thought US would have been number 1

  38. Trujillo Villas July 17, 2012 7:49 pm
    #

    It's great to see that Spain is so high on the list! Spain has such a wider variety of places to visit it really is a holiday destination for all. Young couples can get lost in the romanticism of Madrid whilst the warm weather and beautiful countryside make it great for families or groups on driving holidays.

  39. ankit dulal July 30, 2012 5:23 am
    #

    Nepal is best country.Welcome Nepal. Birthplace of lord buddha and Land of Mount everest (highest peak of world).

  40. country lover August 16, 2012 4:16 pm
    #

    as expected…MALAYSIA in the list ..The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural.. i really love MALAYSIA …

    MALAYSIA BOLEH !

  41. Sophie August 31, 2012 10:16 pm
    #

    Wow, didn't know France would be number one. I do love it there though :)

  42. Hasnul Abdul Hamid September 5, 2012 9:56 pm
    #

    Malaysia is truly Asia

  43. Gina September 11, 2012 4:08 pm
    #

    France surprised me! I would have thought Italy is the most visited Europe country.

  44. SimonWood September 14, 2012 12:50 am
    #

    I know Malaysia is the best location in the world..it's a beautiful country n people

  45. 1 malaysia October 21, 2012 2:12 am
    #

    proud to be malaysian

  46. rahul October 23, 2012 5:49 am
    #

    @dean,u said absolutely a correct statement

  47. Pony Tonie November 5, 2012 6:43 pm
    #

    India is rightfully not included in the top ten list.
    It’s one of the filthiest countries in the whole entire world.

  48. claire November 25, 2012 5:51 am
    #

    so terrible

  49. Ar Raafi' December 26, 2012 10:01 am
    #

    come to Malaysia everybody!

  50. Michael December 29, 2012 11:44 am
    #

    I have been to 4 out of 10. There are too many interesting places for you to visit in China. YOu may plan your trip depending in your expectation of your trip.

  51. Larry February 20, 2013 9:27 am
    #

    I was surprised that the list included Malasya but not Thailand… Including Mexico is understandable, it has been one of the most visited countries in the world for years – despite all the bad press it gets (undeservedly) because it really has it all: fantastic beaches, exhilarating cities, incredible nature parks and yummy food (not the tex-mex version).

  52. Fred Bradley April 3, 2013 12:56 am
    #

    It's pretty obvious why these countries receive so many visitors ever year. With all those sites to explore, it would be shocking if they only got half of those tourist numbers.

  53. Arthur Crawford May 6, 2013 11:10 pm
    #

    I knew France was popular, but not to that magnitude. It makes me wonder a little bit if the country has enough accommodations for close to $77-million tourists.

  54. @ManInvested May 13, 2013 2:00 pm
    #

    Seems like Puerto Rico was left out of the US category. And the list is missing Singapore altogether…recount maybe :)

  55. Gozalina July 18, 2013 11:45 pm
    #

    I impress. It is an up to dated article which is based upon auto vehicle, not only the vehicle but also contain its services stations and a small data which is essential. It is true that all consumers' wants are always changes according to their needs. Basically in hill station peoples prefer to take vehicle in rental basis for enjoying their holiday. Keeping this point in front of eye all automobile sectors are continuing changes and new inventions. The automobile market is variable due to changes and customers' need.

  56. james October 22, 2013 4:44 pm
    #

    China is not the third at all. Its Spain

  57. muhammad October 26, 2013 11:17 pm
    #

    I think no country can have as much visiters in the world as Saudi Arabia.For annual Hajj plgrimage,about 2 million muslims from foriegn countries visit saudia for about 30 days.Then there are Umrah ritual visitors all over the year who come only for fifteen days and almost equal to the number of Hajj pilgrims.This makes about 4 million umrah pilgrims every monnth.Its strange that Saudia is not even written in the above list

  58. masse November 5, 2013 11:57 am
    #

    INDONESIA??

  59. Nellie June 22, 2012 11:02 pm
    #

    Thanks for the very kind comments! It is interesting to see which country does well in tourism and which dont – I particularly like seeing European countries on this list. Im thinking of writing one of the least visited countries soon – stay tuned for it!

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