Visiting the most visited countries, or not

The lovely Enduring Wanderlust blog just published a summary of the 10 Most Visited Countries according to recently released statistics on international tourist arrivals. I guess I’d never really given much thought to which countries would be on such a list – I’m the kind of traveller who prefers to avoid the crowds instead – but with a margin of some 16 million visitors over the next most popular, France was the most popular tourist destination in the past year.

Street art in Paris

I’ve been to France a few times – I even got engaged near the top of the Eiffel Tower – but I don’t have that romantic pull to France and all things French that so many people seem to have. In fact, I have to say that most of the countries in the top ten are not really the countries that most draw me. European countries including Spain, Italy, the UK and Germany all feature, and notwithstanding my natural attachment to Germany (after all, my son is half German!), none of these places would be on my list if I suddenly won a trip to anywhere in the world. The United States is on the list, Mexico too (one assumes that most of those visitors are from the nearby US), Malaysia, apparently due to Kuala Lumpur being a business hub, Turkey and China also make the cut.

Obviously I am not normal. My favourite trips ever are to countries not even close to the list (Russia, Finland and Tunisia, if you’re wondering). If I could go anywhere tomorrow, it would most likely be somewhere in South America or Africa (both totally unrepresented on the top ten list) or perhaps part of Asia I haven’t yet explored. Or even somewhere in my own backyard – although I can certainly understand that Australia’s distance means it won’t feature on a top ten list like that until air travel becomes miraculously cheap and instantaneous.

Strasbourg, France

So, two questions for my readers today: what is it with France? And are you normal enough to want to visit lots of countries on the top ten list?


  1. i think i have already visited most of the countries that i would like to i the top ten except for germany! the others (that i haven’t been to) don’t hugely interest me, although I would never say no if someone were offering to send me there!
    My next big wish destination would definitely be to south america or to eastern european countries 🙂
    hmmmm…one day!

  2. Thank you for coming to my blog a while back. Sorry I did not come to yours sooner but we went to Tennessee and then I have been watching the Tour de France live every day. By the way bravo to Australia – your guy Cadel Evans won the Tour and will be going on the podium tomorrow, Sunday. This is the first time an Australian wins the Tour – they will play the Australian anthem on the Champs Elysees.

    I am French so I don’t think of France as a country to visit as a tourist. Since I have been living in the US I must have gone back to Paris to visit family about 52 times. I had no idea that it was country no. 1 for tourists. I can see why though, there is so much there. Paris is wonderful but also all the other areas – the Riviera is like Italy, then the Alps and Pyrenees have great mountains, the beaches in Normandy, all the castles in the Loire Valley, etc. When I travel I like to see new places – so far I have visited 50 different countries (I am not counting the 52 times to France, nor the countries I visited more than once like Ethiopia or Egypt and others.) I have not been to Australia yet – the closest was when I was in Bali. Maybe this fall we’ll go to Australia, but I don’t know where. Thanks again for commenting on my blog, and bravo again to your champion.

  3. As your previous poster said France, being so huge has so many different regions that are so different, just like in Australia. My favourite places would probably be the Greek Islands, South Africa and the Pacific Islands.

  4. Anonymous says

    hmm, I have been to several of the “top tourist countries” and cities, and totally understand why they are as far up the lists as they are. London is one of my favorite places in the world. Paris is beautiful but in a different way…I would love to spend more time there, for the culture and history. However, I’m with you…its some of the less traveled places that really have my heart. My favorite trips so far have been to Bosnia and Croatia, Ukraine, and Sweden. I lived in Poland for a while and completely fell in love with it. Most of my friends and family don’t get it…but I don’t see why more people don’t visit Poland! it’s amazing!!

    For my next trips, I would love to 1) take a tour of scandinavia 2) travel the trans-siberian railway east to west, 3) visit serbia, montenegro, albania, and turkey.

    can’t wait to get started on those goals!!

  5. Im more like you in the sense that i would prefer going off the beaten path where there isn’t as big a crowd. My wife love people and people watching so we end up in the most populated areas. I would still love to visit France though but maybe in the off tourist season if there is one.

  6. I’m sort of always up for going anywhere, so it’s not like I’m opposed to going to any of those places! The places I most want to go to however are also in Africa and South America, so I guess I’m an odd one, too.

  7. I am like you…I am drawn to the less beaten path and South America is on my radar.

    As for France, it does draw me. I love the effortless, sophisticated style and fashion, decadent food, the wine, the certain je’ne sais quoi.

  8. holiday park says

    South America is one of the best places to visit specifically Argentina. I love travelling and I enjoy going to places that are not that famous yet.

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