The Top 20 Travel Destinations of the Year Gallery
December 21, 2017
Check out the hottest vacation spots this past year
The Top 20 Travel Destinations of the Year
The year 2017 was truly a wild one in terms of travel. From Donald Trump’s travel ban to the many controversial incidents (mostly involving bad p.r. moves by various airlines) that occurred, a lot was going on. That didn't stop people from traveling a lot anyway, though.
Last month, Euromonitor International released its annual ranking of the top tourist destinations in the world, by number of tourists visiting. As we won’t know the final number of tourists that visited each country in 2017 until January, the numbers included are projections, but they should be pretty accurate. Asia took up much of the top ten, and both China and Thailand had two cities take up spots in the top twenty. Two American cities — Miami and New York — also made the list, and perhaps it’s worth discovering what so many people see in them with a weekend getaway. The city at the top of the list should come as no surprise, as it’s been the reigning top destination for nearly a decade now.
We've detailed some reasons why these destinations are so popular — and why you should give them a visit too. Spanning just three continents, here are the top 20 travel destinations of 2017.
Home to world class cuisine from around the world, Miami is projected to have had eight million visitors by the end of the year. This capital of Latin American culture is a fantastic destination, with some of the most renowned beaches in the world, wonderful resorts, and a thriving arts scene full of music festivals and art galleries.
The capital of the Czech Republic should finish 2017 with around 8.5 million tourists having visited the city, particularly during Christmas when it’s one of the best cities in the world to visit. Prague’s famous medieval architecture is a sight for sore eyes, and in addition to its famous beer, visitors must check out Prague Castle — the biggest ancient castle in the world — and other historic sites such as the Astronomical Clock in Old Town or Josefov, the historic Jewish ghetto.
#18 Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Mecca, birthplace and hometown of Muhammad and the holiest city in Islam, is projected to end 2017 with 8.7 million visitors. That’s pretty impressive, considering that only Muslims are allowed inside this sacred city, where in addition to visiting religious sites, visitors can go hiking in the mountains, shop, or visit museums. Mecca is the destination of Hajj, the obligatory pilgrimage for all Muslims, which brought approximately two million people to the city this year.
Istanbul will have seen 8.6 million tourists this year. This old capital of the former Ottoman Empire is home to gorgeous mosques, great Turkish cuisine and possibly even religious relics such as the staff of Moses and sword of David. Istanbul is a must-see Middle Eastern destination.
#16 Guangzhou, China
Nine million people will have visited Guangzhou by the end of this year. The Chinese city has a history over 2,200 years long, with historic Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, and Muslim religious sites, including one of the country’s oldest mosques, built in 627. Guangzhou also provides plenty of beautiful parks and mountains to explore, and as a major commercial center, there’s plenty of shopping to be done at its many malls and markets.
Rome will have seen 9.6 million tourists by the end of the year. This former capital of the Roman Empire offers far too many things to list, but highlights include the Seven Hills, the Pantheon, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Vatican City, dozens of museums filled with works by the greatest artists of all time, and of course, some of the world’s best food and wine.
Tokyo will finish 2017 with around 9.7 million visitors. You can’t leave Tokyo without trying the best sushi in the world or exploring its shops full of funky fashions, anime paraphernalia, the latest electronics, and snacks in literally every flavor you can imagine. In addition to the city’s many quirky attractions, Tokyo also offers the best of traditional Japanese culture, full of Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and opportunities to participate in or observe tea ceremonies, martial arts, or calligraphy lessons.
#12 Delhi, India
Despite reports of severe smog, tourism in Delhi is finally reflecting what this ancient yet modernizing city has to offer. Whereas only 7.4 million tourists came to the Indian city last year, 2017 is projected to end with 10.26 million visitors, a whopping 37.7 percent growth. Budget-friendly and totally Instagram-worthy, Delhi is said to be over 5,000 years old, one of the oldest cities in existence. Its history is apparent in its amazing architecture, such as the Lal Qila, or Red Fort, a sandstone structure built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan of Taj Mahal fame. Other must-see sites include Humayun’s tomb, the Qutub complex, and India Gate, a monument dedicated to the fallen Indian soldiers of World War I. India’s religious diversity is apparent here as well, with stunning sights such as Jama Masjid (India’s largest mosque), the Bahá’í Lotus Temple (shaped like a lotus with 27 petals), Chattarpur Mandir, and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.
#11 Phuket, Thailand
Twelve million people are projected to visit Phuket, a fantastic culinary destination, by the end of the year. That’s the biggest growth in tourists on the list, with 14 percent more visitors as compared to last year’s 10.6 million. Phuket is largely known for its Chinese history and culture, which makes for beautiful Thai and Chinese-influenced sites such as temples, gardens, mansions, and museums. Not far from the popular beaches, which draw many of its visitors, Phuket also offers stunning views of limestone cliffs and gorgeous bays.
#10 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, home of rice dish nasi lemak, broke the top ten with 12.8 million tourists by the end of 2017. In Kuala Lumpur, you can afford true luxury with some of the world’s most inexpensive five-star hotels as you enjoy beautiful architecture with a mix of colonial, Islamic, and East Asian influences. One of the biggest shopping spots in Asia, the city has 66 shopping malls and is a fashion hub for the region.
#9 Shenzhen, China
Approximately 12.96 million people are projected to travel to Shenzhen in 2017. A UNESCO Creative City, Shenzhen is a popular domestic destination for Chinese travelers, accounting for its high spot on the list, and it’s home to many different theme parks, nature parks, and wonderful art museums.
#8 New York City
The famous city that never sleeps is projected to have had 13.1 million visitors for 2017. Its most famous attractions, such as the Empire State Building, Times Square, One World Trade Center, and Rockefeller Plaza, are located in Manhattan, but its other four boroughs have a lot to offer in the way of museums, art galleries, historical sites, and restaurants as well. With such a multicultural population, New York is known for its multicultural cuisine, and you’d be remiss if you left without trying its famous bagels, cheesecake, falafel, gyros, and of course, pizza.
Around 14.26 million people will have visited the City of Love by the end of 2017. While we’re sure most visitors to Paris will make a stop at renowned attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, and the Louvre, we also deem it necessary to recommend the city’s many other museums, galleries, parks, and of course, restaurants featuring Parisian specialties such as snails, moules frites (steamed mussels and French fries), wild game, a treasury of pastries, and plenty of wine.
Sixteen million tourists will visit luxurious, opulent Dubai this year, partly because it's one of the world’s best shopping destinations as well as a great place to watch camel races or go dune-bashing. The fact that Dubai is one of the safest cities in the world also likely accounts for its tourism.
The special administrative region of Macau, one of the most densely populated places in the world, makes the top five this year, with a projection of 16.3 million tourists for 2017. Macau is known for its gambling, and it generates more gambling revenue than any other place in the world – seven times more than the Las Vegas strip!
The city-state of Singapore will have had about 17.6 million visitors by the end of this month. This modern and opulent destination offers a great mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indian culture, making for some of the best food, shopping, and nightlife in the world.
Coming in third place is London, with its 19.8 million visitors this year, coming to experience famous sites such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Tower Bridge, among other things. Those also visiting London have the chance to visit 2017’s best bar in the world as well as explore plenty of other culinary spots.
Home to two of 2017’s best world airlines, Bangkok will have seen 23.27 million tourists by the end of this year. Thailand has some of the best cuisine, palaces, massage spas, and cultural performances in the world, and you can get all of that right here in its capital. Go on one of the city’s many tours by bicycle or tuk tuk (Thailand’s version of the rickshaw) or take lessons in Muay Thai, a martial art, for a more physical experience.
#1 Hong Kong
For the ninth year in a row, Hong Kong was the top tourist destination in the world with a projection of 25.7 million visitors. Hong Kong’s place at the top of the list is thanks at least in part to the fact that it’s a popular destination for visitors from nearby China, one of the world’s largest and fastest growing travel demographics, but it is also known for its diverse cultural influences from around the world, as well as its beaches and street markets.
If this list has got you itching to take a trip, check out our list of the cheapest places to travel month by month.