Every year, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) releases a report detailing the international tourist arrivals for every country. As a journalist, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to many of these destinations, and I’m thrilled to share my insights on the top 10 most visited countries in 2023. Let’s dive into the first three countries on the list.
Most Explored Countries
1. France: 89 million visitors
It’s no surprise that France consistently tops the charts as the world’s most visited destination. From the romantic allure of Paris to the sun-kissed beaches of the French Riviera, France offers a diverse range of experiences for every traveler.
Best Things to Do in France:
- Paris Eiffel Tower Summit: Experience the City of Lights from the top floor of Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower.
- Paris Night Tour: Choose between a captivating cabaret or a romantic dinner cruise on the Seine.
- Wine Tasting in Bordeaux: Delve into the world of French wines in the renowned Bordeaux region.
- Explore Alsace Region: Wander through picturesque, fairy-tale villages and marvel at the region’s unique architecture.
- Daytrip to Loire Valley: Discover some of Europe’s most beautiful gardens and historic châteaux.
- French Riviera Roadtrip: Drive along the scenic coastal roads, stopping at glamorous towns like Nice and Cannes.
Best Places to Stay in France:
- Le Meurice: Experience luxury at this opulent 5-star landmark hotel in Paris.
- InterContinental Bordeaux: Revel in the old-world charm of this regal hotel in Bordeaux.
- Le 1615 Luxe et Spa: A luxurious retreat in the heart of Alsace, perfect for history and architecture enthusiasts.
- Hotel Negresco: An elegant beachfront resort located in central Nice, offering stunning views of the Mediterranean.
2. Spain: 84 million visitors
Spain’s rich cultural heritage, combined with its diverse landscapes, makes it a favorite among travelers. From the bustling streets of Madrid to the serene beaches of Costa Brava, Spain promises an unforgettable journey.
Best Things to Do in Spain:
- Sagrada Familia: Marvel at Barcelona’s architectural masterpiece, designed by the legendary Antoni Gaudí.
- Madrid Tapas Tour: Dive into Spain’s culinary scene with a tapas tour in the capital.
- Daytrip to Consuegra and Toledo: Explore Spain’s rich history and culture in these two charming villages.
- Flamenco Show in Seville: Experience the passion and rhythm of an authentic flamenco performance.
- Catamaran Cruise in Ibiza: Sail into the sunset and enjoy the beauty of this iconic island.
- Visit the Alhambra: Discover the Moorish history of Spain at this stunning palace in Granada.
Best Places to Stay in Spain:
- W Barcelona: A stylish beachfront hotel offering panoramic views of the Mediterranean.
- The Principal Madrid: A contemporary hotel set in a historic building, boasting some of the best views in Madrid.
- Hotel Mercer Sevilla: A chic hotel located in Seville’s old town, perfect for exploring the city’s historic sites.
- Hacienda Na Xamena: Experience luxury at this clifftop hotel in Ibiza, with breathtaking views of the sea.
3. United States: 79 million visitors
Spanning from the Pacific to the Atlantic, the United States offers a vast array of experiences. From the iconic skylines of New York City to the natural wonders of the Grand Canyon, the U.S. is a land of endless possibilities.
Best Things to Do in the US:
- Cruise Around Statue of Liberty: Get up close to one of America’s most iconic symbols in New York Harbor.
- Empire State Building: Ascend to the observatory and enjoy panoramic views of New York City.
- San Francisco Bay Cruise: Sail under the Golden Gate Bridge and explore the infamous Alcatraz Island.
- Visit Yosemite National Park: Marvel at the natural beauty of one of America’s most beloved national parks.
- Hollywood Studio Tour: Get a behind-the-scenes look at the entertainment capital of the world in Los Angeles.
- Authentic Luau in Hawaii: Experience traditional Hawaiian culture with a luau, complete with music, dance, and food.
Best Places to Stay in the US:
- Four Seasons Resort Maui: Experience ultimate luxury on Maui, one of Hawaii’s most beautiful islands.
- The Plaza: Stay at one of the world’s most renowned hotels in New York City.
- Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square: Enjoy luxury accommodations in the heart of San Francisco.
- Casa del Mar: Relax at this oceanfront hotel in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, with stunning views of the Pacific.
4. China: 66 million visitors
China, a country with a rich tapestry of history spanning thousands of years, has rapidly become a top tourist destination. From the bustling metropolis of Beijing to the serene landscapes of Guilin, China offers a blend of ancient traditions and modern marvels.
Best Things to Do in China:
- Beijing Forbidden City: Step back in time and explore the imperial palace that housed Chinese emperors for over 500 years.
- Peking Opera Show: Immerse yourself in a traditional Chinese cultural experience at one of Beijing’s renowned theaters.
- Hike the Great Wall: Traverse the best-preserved sections of this ancient wonder, such as the Jinshanling segment.
- Xi’An Terracotta Army: Marvel at the life-sized terracotta warriors and horses that were buried over 2000 years ago.
- Daytrip to Mount Huangshan: Ascend this iconic mountain, known for its granite peaks, hot springs, and ancient pine trees.
- Float on Li River in Yangshuo: Experience the breathtaking karst landscapes and traditional fishing villages along the river.
Best Places to Stay in China:
- Shichahai Sandalwood Boutique Hotel Beijing: A heritage hotel that offers a taste of traditional Chinese architecture and culture.
- Wyndham Grand Xian South: A luxurious hotel that combines oriental charm with modern amenities in the heart of Xi’an.
- Alila Yangshuo: A contemporary retreat set amidst the stunning karst landscapes of Yangshuo.
- The Peninsula Shanghai: Experience opulence on the historic Bund, with panoramic views of the Huangpu River.
5. Italy: 65 million visitors
Italy, the land of art, history, and gastronomy, has captivated the hearts of travelers for centuries. From the romantic canals of Venice to the rolling vineyards of Tuscany, Italy promises a sensory feast.
Best Things to Do in Italy:
- Ancient Rome and Colosseum: Delve into the heart of the Roman Empire and explore its architectural marvels.
- Vatican City Tour: Discover the spiritual center of the Catholic world, including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
- Amalfi Coast Roadtrip: Navigate the winding coastal roads, stopping at picturesque towns like Positano and Ravello.
- Wine Tasting in Tuscany: Sip on some of the world’s finest wines amidst the idyllic Tuscan countryside.
- Daytrip to Cinque Terre: Trek through the five cliffside villages, each boasting its unique charm and breathtaking views.
Best Places to Stay in Italy:
- Aldrovandi Villa Borghese: A luxurious retreat in Rome, offering a serene oasis in the heart of the city.
- Le Sirenuse: Experience the Amalfi Coast’s glamour from this hilltop hotel in Positano.
- Castel Monastero: A rustic retreat set amidst the olive groves and vineyards of Tuscany.
- Belmond Hotel Caruso: A restored 11th-century palace perched on a cliff overlooking the Amalfi Coast.
6. Turkey: 51 million visitors
Straddling Europe and Asia, Turkey offers a unique blend of cultures, traditions, and landscapes. From the bustling bazaars of Istanbul to the ancient ruins of Ephesus, Turkey is a land of contrasts and wonders.
Best Things to Do in Turkey:
- Istanbul Bosphorus Cruise: Sail between two continents and witness the city’s iconic landmarks from the water.
- Daytrip to Pamukkale: Marvel at the stunning white travertine terraces, also known as “cotton castles.”
- Hot Air Balloon Flight in Cappadocia: Soar above the unique rock formations and fairy chimneys at sunrise.
- Visit Ancient Ruins of Ephesus: Walk through the remnants of one of the ancient world’s most significant cities.
- See Whirling Dervishes: Experience the spiritual dance of the Sufis, a mesmerizing ritual of devotion.
Best Places to Stay in Turkey:
- Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul: A luxurious hotel set in a restored Ottoman palace, offering views of the Bosphorus.
- Yunak Evleri Cappadocia: A boutique cave hotel that provides a unique lodging experience in the heart of Cappadocia.
- Richmond Ephesus Resort: A beachfront resort near the ancient city of Ephesus, perfect for history enthusiasts.
- D-Hotel Maris: A luxurious retreat on the Datça Peninsula, offering pristine beaches and panoramic sea views.
7. Mexico: 49 million visitors
Mexico, with its vibrant culture, rich history, and diverse landscapes, has long been a favorite among travelers. From the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza to the lively streets of Mexico City, this country offers a colorful tapestry of experiences.
Best Things to Do in Mexico:
- Explore Chichen Itza: Wander through the ancient Mayan city, home to the iconic El Castillo pyramid.
- Day of the Dead Festival: Experience this unique cultural celebration in Oaxaca, where locals honor their departed loved ones.
- Snorkel in Cancun: Dive into the crystal-clear waters and explore the stunning coral reefs and marine life.
- Tequila Tasting in Jalisco: Discover the birthplace of tequila and learn about its production process.
- Visit the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco: Enjoy a traditional boat ride through the canals, surrounded by vibrant flowers and music.
Best Places to Stay in Mexico:
- Rosewood Mayakoba: A luxurious beachfront resort in Playa del Carmen, offering private plunge pools and lagoon views.
- Hotel Matilda: A boutique hotel in San Miguel de Allende, known for its contemporary art and chic design.
- St. Regis Mexico City: Experience luxury in the heart of the capital, with panoramic views of the Paseo de la Reforma.
- Hacienda Uayamon: A historic hotel in Campeche, set amidst tropical gardens and ancient ruins.
8. Thailand: 47 million visitors
Thailand, often referred to as the “Land of Smiles,” is renowned for its golden temples, pristine beaches, and delectable cuisine. From the bustling streets of Bangkok to the tranquil islands of Phuket, Thailand promises a journey of discovery.
Best Things to Do in Thailand:
- Bangkok Grand Palace Tour: Explore the royal residence and marvel at the intricate architecture and sacred temples.
- Island Hopping in Phi Phi: Discover the turquoise waters, limestone cliffs, and vibrant marine life of these iconic islands.
- Chiang Mai Cooking Class: Learn the secrets of Thai cuisine and prepare traditional dishes with local chefs.
- Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan: Dance the night away on the sandy shores of this famous beach party.
- Visit Ayutthaya Historical Park: Delve into Thailand’s rich history by exploring these ancient ruins and temples.
Best Places to Stay in Thailand:
- Mandarin Oriental Bangkok: A legendary hotel on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, known for its impeccable service and colonial charm.
- Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai: A luxurious retreat set amidst rice fields and mountains, offering a serene escape.
- Pimalai Resort & Spa: Experience beachfront luxury on Koh Lanta, with stunning views of the Andaman Sea.
- The Siam: A boutique hotel in Bangkok, blending art deco and traditional Thai design.
9. United Kingdom: 45 million visitors
The United Kingdom, a union of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, boasts a rich tapestry of history, culture, and landscapes. From the iconic landmarks of London to the rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands, the UK offers a diverse range of experiences.
Best Things to Do in the UK:
- London Eye & Thames River Cruise: Enjoy panoramic views of the capital’s skyline and explore its iconic landmarks from the water.
- Edinburgh Castle Tour: Delve into Scotland’s history by visiting this imposing fortress atop Castle Rock.
- Stonehenge Daytrip: Marvel at the ancient stone circle and delve into its mysteries.
- Explore the Lake District: Hike through picturesque valleys, serene lakes, and rugged fells in this UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace: Discover the life and works of the Bard in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon.
Best Places to Stay in the UK:
- The Ritz London: Experience timeless luxury in this iconic hotel, known for its afternoon tea and impeccable service.
- The Balmoral, Edinburgh: A historic hotel in the heart of the Scottish capital, offering views of the castle and Old Town.
- The Lake House, Lake District: A serene retreat set amidst lush greenery, offering stunning views of the surrounding lakes and hills.
- Cliveden House: A grand stately home in Berkshire, known for its opulent interiors and historic gardens.
0. Germany: 43 million visitors
Introduction to Germany
Germany, a land of fairy tales, innovative engineering, and rich history, beckons travelers with its diverse landscapes and cultural treasures. From the vibrant streets of Berlin to the enchanting Black Forest, Germany offers a harmonious blend of the old and the new.
Best Things to Do in Germany:
- Berlin Wall & Checkpoint Charlie: Delve into the history of the Cold War and explore the remnants of the Berlin Wall.
- Neuschwanstein Castle Tour: Visit the fairy-tale castle that inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle.
- Rhine River Cruise: Sail through the heart of Germany, passing vineyards, medieval towns, and ancient fortresses.
- Oktoberfest in Munich: Join the world’s largest beer festival and celebrate Bavarian culture in style.
- Drive the Romantic Road: Navigate this scenic route, stopping at picturesque towns and historic landmarks.
Best Places to Stay in Germany:
- Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin: A luxurious hotel overlooking the Brandenburg Gate, known for its historic charm and modern amenities.
- Schloss Elmau: A secluded retreat in the Bavarian Alps, offering a blend of luxury, culture, and wellness.
- Villa Kennedy, Frankfurt: A refined hotel set in a historic villa, offering a serene oasis in the heart of the city.
- Hotel Louis C. Jacob, Hamburg: Experience the elegance of this riverside hotel, known for its art collection and gourmet dining.
11. Japan: 40 million visitors
Introduction to Japan
Japan, a harmonious blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge modernity, captivates travelers with its unique culture, stunning landscapes, and delectable cuisine. From the cherry blossoms of Kyoto to the neon lights of Tokyo, Japan is a land of contrasts and wonders.
Best Things to Do in Japan:
- Tokyo Skytree Observation: Enjoy panoramic views of Tokyo’s sprawling metropolis from Japan’s tallest tower.
- Kyoto Temple Tour: Explore the ancient temples and shrines of Kyoto, including the iconic Golden Pavilion.
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial: Reflect on the tragic history and hope for peace at this UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Sushi Making Class: Learn the art of sushi-making from a master chef and savor your creations.
- Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani: Witness the famous snow monkeys as they relax in the hot springs during winter.
Best Places to Stay in Japan:
- The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo: Experience luxury in the heart of Tokyo, with breathtaking views of Mount Fuji.
- Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto: Stay in a traditional Japanese inn, known for its impeccable service and serene ambiance.
- Aman Tokyo: A luxurious urban sanctuary, offering a blend of modern design and traditional aesthetics.
- Hoshinoya Kyoto: A riverside retreat set amidst lush forests, offering a tranquil escape from the bustling city.
12. Australia: 38 million visitors
Introduction to Australia
Australia, the land Down Under, is a vast continent filled with diverse landscapes, unique wildlife, and vibrant cities. From the iconic Sydney Opera House to the rugged beauty of the Outback, Australia promises adventures like no other.
Best Things to Do in Australia:
- Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb: Ascend to the top of this iconic bridge and enjoy panoramic views of Sydney.
- Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling: Dive into the world’s largest coral reef system and marvel at its vibrant marine life.
- Uluru Sunrise Viewing: Witness the mesmerizing colors of Uluru as the sun rises over the Australian Outback.
- Kangaroo Island Wildlife Tour: Encounter native Australian wildlife, including kangaroos, koalas, and sea lions.
- Drive the Great Ocean Road: Navigate this scenic coastal route, stopping at landmarks like the Twelve Apostles.
Best Places to Stay in Australia:
- Park Hyatt Sydney: A luxurious hotel offering unobstructed views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
- Longitude 131°: Experience the Outback in style at this luxury lodge, offering views of Uluru.
- Qualia, Hamilton Island: A tropical paradise set amidst the Whitsundays, offering beachfront luxury and stunning ocean views.
- The Langham, Melbourne: Experience elegance on the banks of the Yarra River, in the heart of Melbourne’s cultural district.
How is the ranking of the most visited countries determined?
The ranking is based on the annual report released by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which details international tourist arrivals for each country.
Are these tourist numbers affected by global events such as pandemics or political unrest?
Yes, global events can significantly impact tourism. Factors like health crises, political instability, or natural disasters can influence travelers’ decisions and subsequently affect the number of visitors a country receives.
How do these countries ensure the safety and security of tourists?
Most of these countries have dedicated tourism boards and departments that work on ensuring the safety and well-being of tourists. This includes regular security updates, traveler advisories, and collaboration with local law enforcement.
Are there eco-friendly travel options available in these countries?
Absolutely! Many of these countries are promoting sustainable tourism, offering eco-friendly accommodations, tours, and activities that minimize the environmental impact and support local communities.
How do currency exchange rates impact tourism in these countries?
Currency exchange rates can influence the affordability of a destination for foreign tourists. A favorable exchange rate can make a country more attractive to visitors, leading to an increase in tourism.
Traveling is more than just visiting new places; it’s about immersing oneself in diverse cultures, histories, and experiences. The most visited countries of 2023 offer a myriad of adventures, from ancient ruins and pristine beaches to bustling cities and serene landscapes. As the world becomes more interconnected, the allure of exploring new horizons continues to grow. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or just starting your journey, these destinations promise memories that will last a lifetime. Here’s to the adventures that await!