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7 Most Visited Countries in the World

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What’s so great about the most visited countries in the world, and should you bother visiting them? Absolutely. We’re convinced that so many people can’t be wrong about a place, so we’ve gathered the top seven most visited countries in the world to discover what makes them so perennially popular.

  1. Spain
  2. Italy
  3. Netherlands
  4. Portugal
  5. Ireland
  6. Greece
  7. Turkey
  8. Iceland
  9. Maldives
  10. Egypt

We’ve also taken a look at their lesser-trodden corners and picked out three hot destinations that are fast working their way to the top of the list. From sunny Spain and Greece to lively Ireland and the Netherlands, here’s the inside scoop.

1. Spain

You won’t be surprised to hear that Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world, with the mainland and its islands enticing over 83 million tourists a year. While formerly most famous for the Costa Del Sol and party destinations, these days Spain tends to be talked about for its quieter spots. Barcelona and Seville are opposites in many respects – different architecture, history, language and more – but they both draw droves of travellers for their unique charms. We recommend Spanish city breaks ‘off season’ in the spring or autumn, when you’ll still get sunshine but won’t be sweating in the sultry streets. The Costa Brava is a treasure in the northeast of the country, a smorgasbord of tiny calas (or coves) and glistening blue sea. The Massís de les Cadiretes is a particularly stunning national park on the coast, with winding roads and dreamy beaches worthy of an epic road trip. Walkers and solace-seekers might prefer to head to Galicia in the wild northwest, where the Atlantic batters a windswept coastline of glorious white cliffs.

Popular for good reason: Valencia, Seville and Barcelona

Under the radar: Galicia, Massís de les Cadiretes

2. Italy

With around 64.5 million visitors a year, Italy is definitely one of the most visited countries in the world. People naturally gravitate to Rome first, to soak in the sheer scale and significance of the history here – in between shovelling down forkfuls of spaghetti. Those who’ve ‘done’ Rome and loved it should definitely head to Florence to experience the Uffizi Gallery. Alternatively, try vibrant Bologna for more art and architecture and to taste spaghetti bolognese in its birthplace (just remember they call it ragù here). For a more authentic, off-the-beaten-track experience, make your way south to Puglia. The living is slow and the food is phenomenal in romantic locations like Matera – now famous for its appearance in the most recent James Bond film – Ostuni, a quaint, white-walled town on a hill, and the fairytale streets of Alberobello with its traditional Trulli houses. For a totally different experience, explore the mountainous north of Italy, like the Trentino region, which boasts snow-capped peaks and glistening lakes.

Popular for good reason: Rome, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast

Under the radar: Puglia, Lecce and Trentino

3. Netherlands

It’s probably thanks to Amsterdam that the Netherlands is one of the most visited countries in the world. The vibrant city, bustling with art, culture and enduring chocolate-box architecture, is doubtless one of the best city breaks out there, but there’s plenty more to see beyond the capital. If you come in tulip season (March to May), a trip to Keukenhof – the famous botanical gardens with swathes of colourful beds – is a must. If you enjoy the architecture in Amsterdam, head to its quaint and quieter neighbour Utrecht and wander up and down the canals, stopping for decadent stroopwafel and delicious beer. Rotterdam is another underrated city, boasting museums, quirky architecture and a stunning modern food hall. Great tourist activities here include taking a harbour cruise on the Pancake Boat, visiting the utterly unique yellow cube houses, and finding a waterfront spot for a drink. Art-lovers should plan their Netherlands trip to take in the Museum Voorlinden, a fabulous modern art collection set amid beautifully crafted gardens.

Popular for good reason: Amsterdam

Under the radar: Rotterdam and The Hague

4. Portugal

Whether it’s the surf paradise of the south coast, the romance of the Algarve or the colourful capital Lisbon, there’s plenty to draw you to Portugal. Lisbon is well-known for its fabulous architecture, iconic yellow trams and mouth-watering pastries. From here, tourists often take the train to the fairytale settlement of Sintra – not so much a town as a collection of quirky castles lining cobbled streets. Head to the slightly more under-the-radar Porto for a vibrant foodie break. Delicacies there range from lightly fried cod and whole octopus to the famous local speciality Francesinha – the Portuguese answer to a grilled cheese sandwich – and the many cream-filled, candy-coloured pastries lining the windows of bakeries. To see a less-busy side of the Algarve, head to Odeceixe. It’s a sleepy fishing village flanked by a winding river that meanders to the sea, but its white streets and seafood restaurants really come alive in summer.

Popular for good reason: Lisbon and Sintra

Under the radar: Odeceixe, the Tróia peninsula south of Lisbon

5. Ireland

Dublin is the most visited city in Ireland, and probably a large part of the reason it’s one of the most visited countries in the world. Whether amid the clamour of St Patrick’s Day celebrations or on any other weekend of the year, it’s a vibrant place for an evening of food, drinks and dancing. It’s also home to its fair share of museums, galleries, a castle and, of course, the Guinness brewery – worth a trip even if it’s just for the photo op. Further afield, stop by Galway, one of the prettiest and most romantic Irish city breaks, and equally alive with the country’s music-infused spirit. To experience the wild heart of the island, drive over to the Connemara National Park and take a hike through the rugged, mountainous landscape. It’s particularly spectacular in spring, with wildflowers galore and native Connemara ponies grazing on the slopes.

Popular for good reason: Dublin, Galway

Under the radar: Connemara and the Wild Atlantic Way

6. Greece

With its literally thousands of islands, each with a unique coastline and an enticing number of sunshine hours, you can’t really go wrong wherever you pick for a holiday in Greece. Its friendly culture, delicious food and pleasantly warm sea have made it unwaveringly popular for a beach break. With white villages and iconic blue roofs – not to mention an epic sunset – Santorini is now thoroughly Instagram-famous and a stunning island for your first trip. If this isn’t your first time in the isles, perhaps head to Naxos, known for its exquisite, soft-sand beaches, or to Corfu for lush green hills and crystal-clear blue sea. Sifnos is a quieter and less-discussed foodie haven where rich casseroles, stewed lamb and chickpeas, creamy-centred croquettes and tempura calamari grace many a menu.

Popular for good reason: Santorini, Corfu, Crete, Rhodes

Under the radar: Sifnos, Ammouliani, Halki

7. Turkey

On a trip to Turkey, most tourists skip the wild and wonderful Istanbul and head straight for the idyllic coast. It’s an understandable choice to make given the amazing facilities, water sports and fabulous sea temperatures around popular resort stretches like Side and Fethiye. If you do stay in the cultural capital, though, you’ll find a wealth of history and architecture and a rainbow of colours in every direction. From the glorious mosques to the Grand Bazaar, and from the opulently tiled Topkapi Palace to the fragrant and noisy street markets, it’s an experience for all the senses. Romantic types, meanwhile, might want to head to Cappadocia. It’s hard to know what’s more impressive here: the alien-esque towers of rocks rising from a Mars-like desertscape, the endless glow of sunset, the luxury hotels built into caves, or the balloons that fill the sky like magic lanterns. It’s certainly a once-in-a-lifetime must.

Popular for good reason: Cappadocia, Marmaris, Side, Bodrum

Under the radar: Istanbul, Ephesus and Konya

8. Iceland

While not yet one of the most visited countries in the world, Iceland is certainly on the way up. The Land of Fire and Ice is understandably popular for its enchanting icescapes, luxurious hot springs, and a chance to glimpse the natural wonder of the Northern Lights. October to March is usually the best time for the spectacle, making this period high season in Iceland. You might want to take a trip to the Blue Lagoon or escape the crowds on a private jeep tour or glacier expedition. Volcano tourism is also a big attraction here, with your chance to see the earth’s grandest pyrotechnic displays up close. Although less popular, summer is a phenomenal time to visit this northern isle, as many of its epic trails only open up once some of the snow melts, giving way to a breath-taking glacier-carved landscape with unrivalled hiking opportunities.

Popular for good reason: Northern Lights season

9. Maldives

The magic of the Maldives has been drawing in honeymooners for years, but lately the country has been gaining more widespread appeal among tourists. The nation represents the picture-perfect image that comes to mind when you say ‘tropical island’ and, adding to their charm, you can only reach the islands by speedboat or seaplane from Malé International Airport. With piercingly blue sea, pure-white beaches and palm trees galore, it’s a true fantasy destination, and most of the islands are resorts in themselves. You can choose places with beachfront rooms or the now-famous water-villas, built in the lagoons on stilts and with steps down to the warm sea. While you’re here, it would almost be rude not to try diving or snorkelling, given the rainbow of sea life right on your doorstep, and there are plenty more water sports to experience, from thrilling jet-skiing to serene paddleboarding.

Popular for good reason: Kandolhu, Kuramathi

Under the radar: Biyadhoo for value, Kagi Maldives Spa Island

10. Egypt

While formerly best-loved for its beach resorts, tourists are re-opening their eyes to the possibilities of modern Egypt. This is, after all, the one-time heart of the ancient world and home to the only surviving Great Wonder. The pyramids, Giza and the tombs should obviously be top of your to-see list, but a cruise down the Nile – even just for a day – is also a fabulous idea, to take in the sheer scale and atmosphere of it all. The Grand Avenue of the Sphinxes is a 1.7-mile-long road lined with around 700 sphinxes, connecting the two temples Karnak and Luxor – it’s quite the spectacle. The new Grand Egyptian Museum will also open in 2022, ready to enthral eager history fans with its halls of treasures. Of course, if you’ve had enough of ancient history, whizz out to the Red Sea for epic diving experiences and elegant sandy beaches, or take a jeep safari in the desert.

Popular for good reason: Grand Egyptian Museum and Pyramids

Under the radar: Grand Avenue of the Sphinxes

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