Mexico boasts a long history as the founder of multiple civilizations including the Olmec, Toltec, Zapotec, Maya, and Aztec. Conquered by the Spanish in 1521, Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. The combination of colonial history and multiple former civilizations gives Mexican culture a great vivacity and has endowed the country with numerous important cultural sites which nearly 30 million tourists flock to each year, making it the tenth most visited country in the world.
Occupying over one-eighth of the Earth’s inhabitable land area, Russia is by-far the largest country on Earth. Its history has been complicated, first established by the East Slavs, conquered by the Mongols, and reunified by the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The third-largest empire in history, Russia has long-been a cultural and economic megalith, especially during the 20th century. The ninth most visited country in the world, Russia brought in almost 30 million tourists in 2014 and likely more this year since the Russian ruble has depreciated significantly.
Though the sun set on the British Empire many decades ago, it hasn’t stopped the proliferation of British culture around the world and the United Kingdom from making our list as the eighth most visited country in the world with 32.6 million visitors. London – the economic powerhouse of Europe – brought in half of those numbers alone. Tourists looking for thrills beyond the fashion, museums, and overall culture of London headed further afield to the rugged serenity of the Scottish Highlands, the meadows and mountains of Wales, and the tumultuous city of Belfast: home to Titanic’s shipyard.
The second most-popular destination for migrants after the United States, Germany is also the most populous country in Europe. Coming in at #8 on our list of the most touristed countries, Germany has a compelling history spanning thousands of years. A birthplace of the Protestant Reformation, Germany boasts beautiful churches such as the ones in Cologne and Berlin and is a world leader for industry, technology, and counter-culture.
Turkey’s Istanbul – the city straddles two continents and is the largest urban area in Europe and the Middle East with over 14.4 million residents. Though over 10 million tourists visited this crossroads-of-the-world, the rest of the country drew in at least another 30 million thanks to its myriad of World Heritage Sites such as Cappadocia and Troy and its two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Italy is a favorite destination for millions of tourists (48.6 million, in fact) due to its temperate climate, extensive and dramatic coastline, strong culinary heritage, and host of archaeological sites. (It has 51 World Heritage Sites, the most of any country.) Experiencing one of the most fragmented histories of any country, Italy emerged from numerous conquests and invasions over thousands of years as the state we now know just after World War II. The Italian diaspora – largely from unindustrialized southern Italy – has fueled a global dispersion of and interest in Italian culture.
Though seven of the top ten visited cities in the world are in Asia, only one East Asian country (bar Russia) has made it onto our top 10 most visited countries list. China’s inclusion should come as no surprise. One of the original cradles of human civilization, the global powerhouse is the most populous country (1.35 billion people) on Earth. China has been cited as one of the most complex economies (for over 2,000 years) due to its cyclical history of prosperity and decline. As the world’s largest exporter (and second-largest importer), it’s no doubt China will see substantially more than 55.6 million (in 2014) tourists year-over-year in the near future.
One of only three countries boasting both Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines, Spain brought in 65 million tourists last year. Drawing in millions of tourists from its former colonies in Latin America and its position as the major European trade hub for Latin America. Such numbers have made Spain the second-largest tourism destination in the world in terms of spending: on average, each tourist spends $1,000 per visit and tourism makes up over 5% of Spain’s GDP.
Thought the United States would clinch the top spot? It’s just off, coming in at number two with nearly 75 million tourists in 2014. The world’s largest economy by GDP (both nominal and real), America is also one of the world’s most multicultural countries due to hundreds of years of immigration. Despite being the second most visited country, the United States had tourists spending more than in any other country – 177.2 billion dollars in 2014 compared to 65.2 billion in number two Spain.
Paris’ place as the fifth most visited city in the world hasn’t stopped the country of France as a whole from clinching the top spot – and by a hefty margin. Receiving almost 10 million more tourists than the U.S., France held the second-largest colonial empire in history, a major factor in her close relations with many countries and territories around the globe. Despite the 15 million who visited Paris, France holds deeper appeal for tourists in its lush wine regions, coastal resorts, and small villages dotted throughout the country, bringing in a cumulative total of 83.7 million visitors.