Last year was a record-breaking year for tourism, and once again France remained firmly on top as the most-visited country in the world by international travellers.

Travel News - LPT0218_023 (1)
The pedestrian Pont des Arts crosses the River Seine, linking the Palais du Louvre (shown) and the Institut de France.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released its “Tourism Highlights 2018 Edition”, which outlines just how many people travelled last year, and where they went. Around the world, international tourist arrivals grew by 7% – for a total of 1.3 billion international trips – making it the highest increase since 2010. Here were the top five most popular countries in 2017:

Travel News - LPT0618_055
Misty sunrise at the old stone chapel of Notre Dame de Gratemoine near Séranon, which Napoleon passed on 3 March 1815.

France - 86.9 million visitors

Once again, France is the top travel destination for people around the world. It’s not hard to see why – travellers continue to flock to Paris to indulge in culture and cuisine, the many incredible wine regions, and an endless number of historic sites.

Travel News - LPT0918_033 (1)
A young couple watch the sunset over the island of Es Vedra, in Ibiza, Spain.

Spain - 81.8 million

Spain overtook the US to become the second-most visited country in the world last year. Travellers heading to Spain find an incredibly diverse country with amazing landscapes, cuisine and of course, wine. It also boasts a number of famous islands – like Ibiza and Lanzarote – that continue to see tourists flocking year-round.

Horses grazing close to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, USA.

USA - 75.9 million

With an incredible mix of landscapes and cultures, travellers in the US can enjoy the open road as they journey along Route 66, or head to the bright lights of cities like Los Angeles or New York. There are also plenty of spots popular with adventurers, like the more far-flung states of Alaska and Hawaii.

Travel News - LPT0711_044 (1)
Imperial shopfronts in traditional hutong district in Beijing.

China - 60.7 million

China leads the world in outbound travel, but millions of people are heading into the country each year to explore. As the world’s oldest continuous civilization, there is enough to astound any history-lover, but forward-looking travellers will find much to see in its astoundingly modern cities.

Travel News - LPT0718_007 (1)
The blue dome of the Santa Maria dell'Itria, as seen from a nearby rooftop.

Italy - 58.3 million

Immortalized as a travel destination in films like Roman Holiday and Under the Tuscan Sun, Italy remains firmly in the top five most-visited places. Boasting cities like Rome, Florence, Venice and more, many people also head there to get out into the gorgeous countryside to enjoy the irresistible food and wine.

The rest of the top ten most visited countries are as follows: Mexico (39.3 million), the UK (37.7), Turkey (37.6), Germany (37.5), and Thailand (35.4).

Explore related stories

A woman jumps off a wooden platform into the blue waters in Bastimentos, Bocas Del Toro Panama.


The 10 best beaches in Panama

Feb 26, 2024 • 6 min read