25 of the Most Visited Places in the World: Explore with the Crowds
It's time to finally stop by these awe-inspiring places
Yes, sending you to the most visited places in the world may seem counter-intuitive, especially if you like to avoid crowds. But, these awe-inspiring destinations are popular for a reason. If you're a competitive holidayer who wants to see it all, these vacation hotspots simply must be on your travel list. Admittedly, our experts at Plum Guide may have cheated a little... this is partly a selection of the most popular places, and partly a selection of some absolute must-visits, but the two fit perfectly hand in hand. So read on for the inspiration you need to book that next getaway - as if you need any more convincing.
Golden Gate Recreation Area, San Francisco, USA
San Francisco should be visited in its own right, but once there, head to Golden Gate Recreation Area. While the name might not have the perfect ring, it's one of the USA's most popular national parks - here you fast escape the clutches of the city. The park doesn't just offer picture-perfect views of the Golden Gate Bridge, either - you can also walk amongst centuries-old redwoods, hike the dramatic coastline, and spy on whales from above.
Bangkok soars to the upper echelons of the list as the most visited city in the world. The City of Angels is more than just a gateway to Thailand's hedonistic islands - it's a destination with many contrasting faces. Here neon-lit strips sit side by side with golden temples, monks eat at street food vendors, and you can venture from a bar at the top of a skyscraper to a boat on a canal, all in a day's work.
Paris is the second most visited city in the world, so it was always going to feature quite high up this list - the French capital contains more must-see tourist attractions than most other European cities. You'll find plenty to get your tourist juices flowing - there's The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, The Palace of Versailles, and (if you like that sort of thing) there's even Disneyland Paris. We think the kids might fancy this one, and if you don't mind the crowds, this one is a no-brainer.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is often named one of the world's most beautiful (and famous) wonders. With such critical acclaim, you might worry it will disappoint, but it never fails to live up to expectations. It's one of the continent's most famous and photographed archaeological sites, and its location makes it that extra touch more magical - it sits on top of a lush green, mist-shrouded mountain. Tourists are only allowed to visit in the mornings or afternoons, to protect the natural beauty.
Las Vegas, USA
It's been claimed that Las Vegas's Strip is the most visited tourist destination in the world, receiving a whopping 39.6 million visitors a year. This is hardly surprising, considering everyone should visit Sin City at least once in their lifetime. Make a beeline for the musical Bellagio Fountain - not only do the waters dance to everything from classical tunes to pop hits, but it also offers some respite in the desert heat.
London is well known for its red buses, traditional telephone boxes, and the red suit and bearskin wearing Queen's Guards, but who can forget the plethora of iconic landmarks. There's almost too much to see and do in The Big Smoke, from visiting a show at the West End, to viewing the skyline from The London Eye, to marvelling at the stature of Big Ben. Despite its endearing nickname, London is the greenest major city in Europe, too, so enjoy a picnic in one of the many manicured parks.
Beijing is next on our list of the most visited places in the world, simply because it's home to some of the most admired tourist attractions in the world. This city is a testament to the sheer creativity and endurance of humankind. Marvel at the beauty of the Forbidden City, or take a short journey to The Great Wall of China - one of the seven wonders of the world which spans 13,000 miles. That is some serious, ingenious engineering.
Barcelona is Spain's shining star, and the country's most visited city. This is he perfect spot for those of you looking for a little bit of everything - sun, sand, sea, and culture. There are countless museums, galleries, taverns, and green spaces - not to mention some world-class architecture from Gaudí.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
When you google photographs of Iceland, an image of The Blue Lagoon is likely to come up first. Geothermal activity means you'll always find hot water in this sparkling isle - there's nothing more heartwarming than going for a warm soak in the depths of winter. The Blue Lagoon might be the most visited tourist attraction in Iceland, but if you want to enjoy a quieter spa experience, we recommend the recently opened Sky Lagoon as well.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The climate crisis is slowly bleaching our Earth's corals, so if you want to see The Great Barrier Reef, you'd better get a move on. The ecosystem is a must-see, and a must-save. This area of the world has a lot going for it - there's diverse wildlife, sandy beaches, rainforest, Aboriginal culture, and even great nightlife. If you are going to pay the reef a visit, please do it respectfully - let's make sure future generations also get the opportunity.
When it comes to ticking off ancient monuments from your travel list, Athens has to be right at the top. The Parthenon of Athens was built in the 6th century BC, yet still stands today. This monument receives around 7.2 million visitors annually, who all flock to see the marble remains of the Greek Empire - this is also considered the most important ancient site in the Western world.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Beneath the open arms of the Christ the Redeemer Statue, lies Rio de Janeiro. This colossal monument is the city's top attraction, and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World - but go beyond this stone monument to find Rio's beating heart. Explore the iconic Copacabana and Ipanema Beach, join locals doing the samba in the red-light district, and hike in lushly forested mountains fringing the city.
Great Smoky National Park, Tennessee, USA
The fondly named Smokies are not only the most visited natural park in Tennessee, but in the whole of the United States. Visitors flock here to hike the forested slopes, and swim in ice-cold waterfalls - this wilderness harbours more biodiversity than any other national park in America. But the exciting facts don't stop there - this mountain range is also amongst the oldest on the planet. Formed more than 200 million years ago, some of these peaks would have once stood taller than Everest.
Cape Town, South Africa
When it comes to the world's most visited natural wonders, Table Mountain in Cape Town appears very high on the list. This vibrant city spreads like a carpet below a uniquely shaped mountain, whose top is as flat as a pancake - no wonder this iconic landmark is the country's most photographed attraction. Every year millions of people take the cable car to the top, but if you want a cheaper way to experience the city's centrepiece, embark on a hike up. Just be sure to take it easy on the knees on the way down.
Niagara Falls, Canada
Niagara Falls is undoubtedly one of the most unique waterfalls in the world (and, unsurprisingly, the most photographed). It stands out not simply for the drama of rushing water, but also because of its location - the falls sit next to a neon-lit city. The backdrop to this hotspot is a quagmire of casinos and motels that wouldn't look out of place in Las Vegas. And of course, it's a must-visit for those looking to see all the world's major tourist hotspots.
The Island of the Gods draws travel influencers, surfers, and sun-seekers alike. Bali is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world - this tropical paradise has everything from sandy beaches, to otherworldly temples and rice fields.
The Lake District, UK
According to various sources, The Lake District is the world's 8th most popular national park - the landscape here is England at its brilliant best. You will find the country's highest mountain and deepest lake, not to mention spectacular scenery of sparkling water from craggy hilltops. If you thought this park was just for retirees, think again - there are some challenging hikes and hidden gems to be found, so truly has something for everyone.
When you envision Sydney, one image likely flashes into your mind - a building shaped like sails, and a bridge arching impressively in the background. Sydney's glorious harbour is made iconic by The Sydney Opera House, one of the world's standout examples of architecture. If you want to tick one of Australia's most popular experiences off your list too, then definitely have a go at climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge. Just don't look down.
New York, USA
Despite its notoriety, New York is, according to various sources, only 7th on the list of the world's most visited cities. Needless to say, we think it should be higher - the Big Apple has too many iconic landmarks to count. You have Central Park, Times Square, The Empire State Building, and of course Lady Liberty - the list is endless. A long weekend is not enough - if you're looking to make the most of the city, you simply must stay for at least a week.
Egypt reveals an ancient landscape, almost mythical in its mystery. A trip here is a history buff's dream, and if seeing the world's most visited historical monuments is an aim for you, then Egypt is a must-visit. Discover the Valley of the Kings, where Tutankhamun's tomb was unearthed, and see the temples off the Nile. Of course, a trip isn't complete without seeing Egypt's most popular landmark, the three Pyramids of Giza. What's so exciting about this country, is that there are still more treasures to be uncovered, too - perhaps you're the next Howard Carter.
Since we're talking about the world's most popular monuments, the list wouldn't be complete without The Taj Mahal - the iconic site attracts roughly eight million visitors annually. Tourists visit with the hope of catching a glimpse of the largest tomb in the world. No, this incredible example of architecture isn't a palace - it is a mausoleum of white marble built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, in memory of his favourite wife.
Rome is the most visited city in Italy, with around nine million international visitors a year. The cultural hotspot has been attracting European pleasure-seekers for decades - a must-visit destination in The Grand Tour (the 17-19th century version of a Gap Year). The Italian capital is brimming with history and classical style, housing Europe's most outstanding landmarks, from the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the world's smallest state, Vatican City.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Vast networks of roads leading to this wildlife haven make it the most accessible and visited national park in Africa. Yes, you may have to wait in line to see lions, but this location will still surprise you when it comes to biodiversity. If you're looking to tick off the Big Five (lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalo, and leopards), then you've come to the right place. Buckle up, and get your binoculars at the ready.
The Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA
The Grand Canyon may have had millions of photos taken of it, but not one of them does it justice - trust us. This natural wonder needs to be experienced in the flesh to be believed. The sheer scale of it means you won't be jostling elbows to get the perfect picture, and you'll be able to capture the canyon's fiery tones and blue shadows at any angle.
Rounding off this guide to the most visited places in the world, we have Singapore. This hotspot wouldn't look out of place in a sci-fi movie, and a utopian one at that. It has been building its reputation as a natural city, and the concrete jungle is giving way to a decidedly green one - you can find skyscrapers that look more like forests in the sky than concrete tower blocks. Make a beeline to the botanical gardens - they're amongst the finest in the world.