The most and least visited countries in the world

I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, where tourism is a big deal. I learned to love travelling from a young age, and I’ve had the good fortune to visit places and people around the world.


I also like lists. That’s nothing to do with where or how I was brought up, I just like them.

So a list of the top 10 most visited countries in the world is incredibly appealing to me.

  1. France, 79.5 million
  2. USA, 62.3 million
  3. China, 57.6 million
  4. Spain, 56.7 million
  5. Italy, 46.1 million
  6. Turkey, 29.3 million
  7. UK, 29.2 million
  8. Germany, 28.4 million
  9. Malaysia, 24.7 million
  10. Mexico, 23.4 million

(Figures from UNWTO, via Wikipedia)


These are international tourist arrivals in 2011, and I guess the countries here aren’t that surprising. OK, China is a bit surprising, and Turkey, and Malaysia. But they can be explained, I think.

  • China is the largest part of the hugely populated Far East, so I’d guess they get a bunch of Asian arrivals.
  • Turkey, I guess, is a popular (cheap) beach holiday destination for Europeans, as well as boasting a rich historical, um, history.
  • Malaysia, um, I don’t know, Kuala Lumpur? Beaches? [Ed. Nearly 53% of visitors come from Singapore. Interesting?]

I’ve visited five of that top 10, which I suppose is about (and mathematically) average. But just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s right. Check this out:

  1. Nauru, 200
  2. Somalia, 500
  3. Tuvalu, 1200
  4. Kiribati, 4700
  5. Marshall Islands, 5000
  6. Equatorial Guinea, 6000
  7. Turkmenistan, 7000
  8. Sao Tome & Principe, 8000
  9. Comores, 15,000
  10. Afghanistan, 17,500

Honestly, I was hoping I’d visited at least one of the 10 least visited countries in the world, but no. I hadn’t even heard of all of them (Tuvalu? Doesn’t he play for the Highlanders?)

So there’s the obvious challenge: visit all of the top 10, and one of the bottom. Or the other way around if you prefer. Just go, and send pictures.



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