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Attraction, tourism

  • Pierre Benckendorff 3  
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Attractions are a core component of tourism. They are often called “tourist attractions” because they tend to attract tourists. Attractions are the places, people, events, and things that make up the objects of the tourist gaze and attract tourists to destinations. Common examples include natural and cultural sites, historical places, monuments, zoos and game reserves, aquaria, museums and art galleries, gardens, architectural structures, themeparks, sports facilities, festivals and events, wildlife, and people. The history of attractions is inextricably linked with the development of the tourism industry. An attraction exists when a tourism system is created to designate and elevate it to the status of an attraction (Lew, 2000 ). Sectors such as transport, accommodation, and travel retail exist as part of this system because they support the desire for tourists to see attractions.

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Many attractions from ancient times are still popular today. Older attractions such...

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Benckendorff, P. 2006 Attractions Megatrends. In Tourism Business Frontiers: Consumers, Products and Industry, D. Buhalis and C. Costa, eds., pp.200-210. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

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Leask, A. 2008 The Nature and Role of Visitor Attractions. In Managing Visitor Attractions: New Directions, A. Fyall, B. Garrod, A. Leask and S. Wanhill, eds., pp.16-37. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Leiper, N. 1990 Tourist Attraction Systems. Annals of Tourism Research 17:367-384.

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Lew, A. 1987 A Framework of Tourist Attraction Research. Annals of Tourism Research 14:553-575.

Lew, A. 2000 Attraction. In Encyclopedia of Tourism, J. Jafari, eds., p. 35-37. London: Routledge.

Pearce, P. 1991 Analyzing Tourist Attractions. Journal of Tourism Studies 2:46-55.

Swarbrooke, J. 2002 The Development and Management of Visitor Attractions. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Wall, G. 1997 Tourist Attractions: Points, Lines, and Areas. Annals of Tourism Research 24:240-243.

Wanhill, S. 2008 Interpreting the Development of the Visitor Attraction Product. In Managing Visitor Attractions: New Directions, A. Fyall, B. Garrod, A. Leask and S. Wanhill, eds., pp.3-15. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

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Honggen Xiao

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Benckendorff, P. (2014). Attraction, tourism. In: Jafari, J., Xiao, H. (eds) Encyclopedia of Tourism. Springer, Cham.

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Received : 30 September 2014

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Published : 19 September 2015

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Online ISBN : 978-3-319-01669-6

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Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

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What Is A Tourist Destination

Published: November 19, 2023

Modified: December 28, 2023

by Euphemia Polson

  • Sustainability



Welcome to the world of travel and exploration! As humans, we have an innate desire to discover new places, experience different cultures, and create lifelong memories. And what better way to satisfy this wanderlust than by visiting tourist destinations around the world?

A tourist destination can be defined as a location that attracts visitors from near and far due to its unique features, cultural heritage, natural beauty, or recreational opportunities. These destinations play a significant role in the tourism industry, contributing to economic growth, job creation, and cultural exchange.

One of the defining characteristics of a tourist destination is its ability to offer a wide range of activities and attractions to cater to various interests and preferences. Whether you crave adrenaline-pumping adventures, serene nature escapes, historical landmarks, or vibrant cultural experiences, there is a destination out there that can fulfill your desires.

Another essential aspect of a tourist destination is its accessibility. It needs to have proper infrastructure, transportation options, accommodation facilities, and amenities to ensure that travelers can enjoy a comfortable and hassle-free experience. Whether it’s exploring a bustling metropolis, relaxing on a pristine beach, or embarking on a wilderness adventure, accessibility is key to attracting and satisfying visitors.

Furthermore, a tourist destination is often characterized by its cultural and historical significance. It may be home to ancient ruins, architectural marvels, traditional festivals, or museums that offer insights into the local heritage and traditions. These cultural attractions not only educate and entertain travelers but also play a vital role in preserving and promoting the destination’s identity.

Moreover, a tourist destination is not just about the physical attractions; it’s also about the overall experience. The hospitality and friendliness of the local people, the quality of services, and the availability of dining, shopping, and entertainment options all contribute to creating a memorable stay for tourists.

Definition and Characteristics of a Tourist Destination

A tourist destination can be described as a place that attracts tourists and visitors due to its unique features, attractions, and offerings. It is a location that people intentionally travel to, seeking experiences, relaxation, adventure, or cultural enrichment.

There are several key characteristics that distinguish a tourist destination:

  • Attractions and Points of Interest: A tourist destination is known for its attractions and points of interest that appeal to a wide range of travelers. These can include natural wonders, historical landmarks, museums, theme parks, iconic landmarks, and cultural sites. These attractions are often the primary reason why people choose to visit a specific destination.
  • Access and Infrastructure: A tourist destination must have the necessary infrastructure to accommodate visitors. This includes transportation options such as airports, railways, highways, and public transportation, as well as a range of accommodation options, including hotels, resorts, guesthouses, and vacation rentals. Accessible and well-maintained infrastructure is crucial in ensuring that visitors can easily travel to and within the destination.
  • Hospitality and Services: A memorable tourist destination is known for its hospitality and high-quality services. Friendly and welcoming locals, knowledgeable tour guides, and a range of services such as restaurants, cafes, and shops all contribute to creating a positive experience for tourists.
  • Cultural and Historical Significance: Many tourist destinations have a rich cultural and historical heritage that attracts visitors. These destinations may showcase local traditions, festivals, traditional arts and crafts, architecture, and archaeological sites. Visitors are often interested in immersing themselves in the local culture, learning about the history of the place, and experiencing unique traditions.
  • Recreational and Leisure Activities: Tourist destinations often offer a variety of recreational and leisure activities to cater to visitors of all preferences. These can include adventure sports, water activities, hiking and trekking trails, wildlife spotting, spa and wellness options, and shopping experiences. This ensures that tourists have ample opportunities to relax, have fun, and make the most of their time in the destination.

It is important to note that a tourist destination is not solely defined by its physical attributes, but also by the experiences and memories it provides to its visitors. The combination of attractions, accessibility, hospitality, cultural significance, and recreational offerings makes a destination desirable and memorable for tourists.

Factors Influencing the Choice of a Tourist Destination

The decision to choose a specific tourist destination is influenced by a variety of factors that differ from one individual to another. People have unique preferences, interests, and motivations when it comes to travel. Let’s explore some of the key factors that shape the choice of a tourist destination:

  • Personal Interests and Hobbies: Individuals are drawn to destinations that align with their personal interests and hobbies. Some may be nature enthusiasts and seek destinations that offer hiking trails and wildlife encounters, while others may have a preference for historical sites, art galleries, or culinary experiences. Factors such as outdoor activities, cultural offerings, or opportunities for relaxation influence the destination choice.
  • Recommendations and Word-of-Mouth: Personal recommendations from friends, family, or trusted sources play a significant role in destination selection. Positive reviews, word-of-mouth recommendations, or seeing enticing photos and experiences shared by others on social media can inspire individuals to choose a particular destination. The power of storytelling and firsthand experiences can greatly impact the decision-making process.
  • Budget and Affordability: Financial considerations are crucial when choosing a tourist destination. The cost of travel, accommodation, meals, and activities all factor into the decision. Some individuals may opt for budget-friendly destinations, while others may be willing to splurge on a luxury experience. The availability of affordable flights, deals on accommodations, and a range of cost-effective activities can sway someone’s choice.
  • Accessibility: The ease of reaching a destination is another vital factor. The proximity of a place, availability of direct flights, accessibility of transportation within the destination, and the overall travel time influence the decision. Some individuals may prioritize quick and convenient travel, while others may be willing to embark on long-haul journeys for a more unique and exotic experience.
  • Season and Weather: The time of year and climate can have a significant impact on destination selection. Some prefer warm beach destinations during winter, while others seek cooler destinations for outdoor activities during summer. Weather considerations, such as avoiding hurricane seasons or extreme temperatures, play a role in decision-making.
  • Safety and Security: The safety and security of a destination are of utmost importance to travelers. Political stability, crime rates, health risks, and natural disasters all influence the perceived safety of a place. Individuals are more likely to choose destinations that are perceived as safe and secure.
  • Cultural and Historical Significance: Many individuals are drawn to destinations that offer rich cultural and historical experiences. The opportunity to explore ancient ruins, visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites, learn about local traditions, and immerse oneself in the local culture can be a compelling factor in destination selection.
  • Special Events and Festivals: The presence of special events, festivals, or celebrations can greatly influence the choice of a destination. People may specifically plan their travel to coincide with popular events, cultural festivals, or sporting activities to get a unique and immersive experience.

It is important to note that each individual’s motivations and priorities may vary, and a combination of these factors ultimately determines the choice of a tourist destination. Understanding these influencing factors can help tourism operators and destination marketers tailor their offerings to attract and cater to the preferences and interests of potential visitors.

Popular Tourist Destinations Around the World

When it comes to popular tourist destinations, the world is filled with an incredible array of breathtaking and culturally-rich places that attract millions of visitors each year. Let’s explore some of the most renowned and sought-after destinations around the globe:

  • Paris, France: Known as the “City of Love,” Paris captivates travelers with its romantic ambiance, iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum, charming streets, and world-class cuisine.
  • Barcelona, Spain: This vibrant city on the Mediterranean coast boasts a unique blend of Gothic and modernist architecture, stunning beaches, a dynamic food scene, and a pulsating nightlife.
  • Bali, Indonesia: With its picturesque landscapes, pristine beaches, lush rice terraces, vibrant Hindu culture, and warm hospitality, Bali offers a tropical paradise for nature lovers, adventurers, and spiritual seekers.
  • New York City, USA: The Big Apple is a melting pot of cultures, famous for its skyscrapers, iconic landmarks such as Times Square and Central Park, Broadway shows, world-class museums, and diverse culinary scene.
  • Tokyo, Japan: This bustling metropolis seamlessly blends ultra-modern technology, ancient traditions, and a unique cultural experience. Visitors can explore historic shrines, enjoy vibrant street markets, and indulge in delicious sushi.
  • Rome, Italy: As the eternal city, Rome showcases ancient history through its iconic landmarks like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Vatican City. The city is also famous for its delicious cuisine and vibrant piazzas.
  • Cape Town, South Africa: Nestled between mountains and the sea, Cape Town offers stunning natural beauty, including Table Mountain and nearby vineyards, as well as cultural diversity, wildlife encounters, and beautiful beaches.
  • Sydney, Australia: With its iconic Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and beautiful coastline, Sydney is a vibrant city known for its outdoor lifestyle, stunning beaches, and thriving arts scene.
  • Machu Picchu, Peru: This ancient Incan city perched high in the Andes mountains is a bucket-list destination. Visitors can hike the Inca Trail to witness the breathtaking ruins and panoramic views.
  • Santorini, Greece: The mesmerizing beauty of Santorini’s white-washed buildings, blue-domed churches, and stunning sunsets make it a top destination for romance-seekers, photographers, and those in search of relaxation.

These are just a few examples of the countless popular tourist destinations around the world. Each destination offers unique experiences, breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and the opportunity to create unforgettable memories. Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, food lover, or adventure seeker, there’s a perfect destination waiting to be explored.

Sustainable Tourism and Its Implications for Tourist Destinations

In recent years, sustainable tourism has gained significant attention as an important aspect of travel. It focuses on minimizing the negative impacts of tourism on the environment, culture, and local communities, while maximizing the positive contributions to the destination. Let’s explore the implications of sustainable tourism for tourist destinations:

1. Environmental Conservation: Sustainable tourism promotes the preservation and conservation of natural resources and ecosystems. It encourages responsible practices such as minimizing waste, conserving energy, reducing carbon emissions, protecting wildlife, and promoting sustainable transportation options. By preserving the environment, tourist destinations can maintain their natural beauty and appeal for future generations.

2. Community Engagement and Support: Sustainable tourism fosters community involvement and benefits local residents. It emphasizes the importance of engaging with local communities, respecting their culture and traditions, and supporting local businesses. This can lead to economic development, job creation, and a stronger sense of pride and ownership among the residents. By involving the community, tourist destinations can ensure that tourism becomes a positive force for the local population.

3. Cultural Preservation and Respect: Sustainable tourism values and respects the cultural heritage of a destination. It encourages visitors to learn about and appreciate local customs, traditions, and practices. This can result in the preservation of cultural identities, the appreciation of diverse cultures, and the protection of historical landmarks and artifacts. By maintaining and celebrating their cultural heritage, destinations can provide unique and authentic experiences for tourists.

4. Economic Stability: Sustainable tourism aims to distribute economic benefits more evenly and reduce dependence on a single industry. It promotes tourism that benefits local businesses, artisans, and entrepreneurs. By supporting a diverse range of enterprises, tourist destinations can create a more resilient and stable economy that is less susceptible to economic downturns or fluctuations in visitor numbers.

5. Responsible Tourism Practices: Sustainable tourism encourages responsible behavior from both tourists and industry operators. It promotes mindful travel choices, such as choosing eco-friendly accommodations, respecting local customs, supporting ethical wildlife encounters, and engaging in sustainable activities. By adopting responsible practices, tourist destinations can mitigate negative impacts, minimize over-tourism, and create a more sustainable and balanced tourism model.

Overall, embracing sustainable tourism practices can have profound implications for tourist destinations. It can ensure the long-term viability and attractiveness of a destination, protect its natural and cultural resources, empower local communities, and provide a more enriching and authentic travel experience for visitors. By prioritizing sustainability, tourist destinations can lay the foundation for a more responsible and resilient tourism industry.

Challenges Faced by Tourist Destinations

While tourist destinations offer unique experiences and opportunities, they also face numerous challenges that need to be addressed for sustainable growth and development. Let’s explore some of the key challenges faced by tourist destinations:

1. Overcrowding and Overtourism: One of the biggest challenges faced by popular tourist destinations is the issue of overcrowding and overtourism. When a destination becomes too popular, it can lead to overcrowded attractions, strain on infrastructure, increased waste generation, and a degradation of the natural and cultural resources. This can have negative consequences for both the destination and the visitor experience.

2. Environmental Degradation: The influx of tourists can put significant pressure on the environment. This can manifest in various forms, including increased pollution, damage to ecosystems, habitat destruction, and the loss of biodiversity. The uncontrolled development of hotels, resorts, and other tourist facilities can also contribute to the degradation of natural landscapes and sensitive ecosystems.

3. Cultural Dilution and Authenticity: As tourism grows, there is a risk of cultural dilution and the loss of authenticity in tourist destinations. The commodification of traditions, the proliferation of souvenir shops selling mass-produced goods, and the homogenization of local cuisines can erode the uniqueness and authenticity that attracted visitors in the first place. Preserving and promoting local cultures and traditions in the face of tourism development is a constant challenge.

4. Seasonality and Economic Vulnerability: Many tourist destinations are highly dependent on seasonal tourism, which can lead to economic vulnerability during the offseason. Businesses and local communities may struggle to maintain a steady income and face financial hardships during periods of low visitor numbers. Diversifying the tourism product and promoting year-round attractions and activities can help mitigate this challenge.

5. Infrastructure and Resource Management: Inadequate infrastructure and resource management can hinder the development of tourist destinations. Insufficient transportation systems, a lack of waste management infrastructure, inadequate water and energy resources, and limited healthcare facilities can impact the overall visitor experience and the destination’s ability to accommodate increasing tourist numbers sustainably.

6. Balancing Tourism and Local Life: Balancing the needs and interests of both tourists and local residents is a constant challenge for tourist destinations. Tourism can bring economic benefits, but it can also disrupt the daily life and social fabric of communities. Striking a balance between preserving local traditions, maintaining a high quality of life for residents, and providing satisfying experiences for tourists is a complex challenge that requires careful planning and stakeholder involvement.

Addressing these challenges is crucial to ensure the long-term sustainability and success of tourist destinations. Implementing effective policies, involving local communities, promoting responsible tourism practices, and adopting sustainable development strategies can help overcome these challenges and create a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship between tourism and destinations.

Future Trends in Tourist Destinations

The tourism industry is constantly evolving, driven by changing consumer preferences, advancements in technology, and global trends. Let’s explore some of the future trends that are expected to shape tourist destinations:

1. Sustainable and Responsible Tourism: The focus on sustainability and responsible tourism will continue to grow. Travelers are becoming more conscious of their environmental and social impact, and they seek destinations that prioritize sustainable practices, eco-friendly accommodations, and authentic cultural experiences. In response, tourist destinations will increasingly adopt sustainable policies, reduce carbon emissions, protect natural resources, engage with local communities, and promote responsible tourism practices.

2. Technology Integration: Technology will play a significant role in shaping future tourist destinations. Advancements in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, and mobile applications will enhance the visitor experience. Travelers can expect personalized recommendations, immersive virtual tours, real-time translations, and seamless online booking systems. Destinations will also utilize data analytics to better understand tourist behavior and preferences, allowing for targeted marketing and tailored experiences.

3. Wellness Tourism: With increasing awareness of mental and physical well-being, wellness tourism is expected to grow significantly. Tourist destinations will respond by providing a range of wellness offerings, including spa retreats, meditation centers, yoga classes, and eco-friendly wellness resorts. Nature-based activities such as forest bathing, hiking, and wildlife encounters will also be integrated into wellness tourism experiences.

4. Cultural Experiences and Immersion: Authentic cultural experiences will continue to be in high demand. Tourist destinations will focus on preserving and promoting their cultural heritage, offering visitors opportunities to engage with local traditions, customs, and arts. This can include immersive workshops, cultural festivals, culinary trails, and interactions with local artisans. Destinations will work towards maintaining the authenticity of their cultural experiences while ensuring respect and fair representation of local communities.

4. Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations: Travelers are increasingly seeking unique and less-visited destinations, moving away from traditional tourist hotspots. They crave authentic experiences and the opportunity to explore lesser-known destinations, supporting local economies and reducing overcrowding in popular tourist areas. As a result, off-the-beaten-path destinations will gain attention and investment, offering distinct attractions, hidden gems, and immersive cultural encounters.

5. Sustainable Infrastructure Development: Building sustainable infrastructure will be a priority for future tourist destinations. Improving transportation networks, enhancing waste management systems, developing eco-friendly accommodation options, and investing in renewable energy sources will be key. Sustainable infrastructure development will not only reduce environmental impact but also enhance the quality of life for local residents and create a more attractive destination for visitors.

As the tourism industry continues to evolve, adapting to these future trends will be crucial for the success and sustainability of tourist destinations. Embracing sustainable practices, leveraging technology, promoting cultural immersion, and catering to the evolving needs of tourists will shape the future of tourism, creating unforgettable experiences while preserving the authenticity and natural beauty of our world’s destinations.

Tourist destinations play a vital role in satisfying our innate curiosity to explore and discover the world. These destinations offer unique attractions, cultural experiences, and opportunities for relaxation and adventure. However, they also face challenges that require careful management and planning for sustainable growth.

Understanding the characteristics of a tourist destination, as well as the factors influencing its choice, allows us to design experiences that cater to diverse interests and preferences. By embracing sustainability, destinations can protect their natural and cultural resources, engage with local communities, and create a positive and authentic experience for visitors.

As we look ahead, future trends in tourist destinations will revolve around sustainability, responsible practices, and technological integration. Travelers are increasingly seeking destinations that prioritize environmental conservation, support local communities, offer wellness experiences, and provide authentic cultural immersion.

It is also important to acknowledge the challenges faced by tourist destinations, such as overcrowding, environmental degradation, and maintaining a balance between tourism and local life. By addressing these challenges through proper planning, infrastructure development, and stakeholder involvement, destinations can ensure a harmonious relationship between tourism and the well-being of its communities.

Ultimately, the future of tourist destinations lies in their ability to adapt and innovate. By embracing sustainable practices, leveraging technology, and focusing on diverse and unique experiences, these destinations can create memorable and meaningful experiences for travelers while preserving their natural and cultural heritage.

So, whether you dream of strolling through the romantic streets of Paris, exploring the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, or immersing yourself in the vibrant culture of Tokyo, there is a tourist destination waiting to captivate your senses and leave you with lifelong memories.


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Tours & Top Tens

25 Top Tourist Attractions in the USA

Last updated on November 19, 2023 by Touropia Editors - 21 Comments

As one of the largest and most diverse countries in the world, The United States boast an amazing amount of tourist destinations ranging from the skyscrapers of New York and Chicago, the natural wonders of Yellowstone and Alaska to the sunny beaches of California , Florida and Hawaii.

With so many tourist attractions in the USA it’s tempting to list entire cities or even states, but in this top 25 I have tried to focus on specific attractions.

25. Mount Rushmore [SEE MAP]

Mount Rushmore

Perhaps the most unmistakably American landmark is Mount Rushmore, a national memorial located in South Dakota. Constructed in the early 20th century, Mount Rushmore depicts the faces of four former American presidents, each of which is carved and blasted from the side of a rock face.

Visitors can admire the larger-than-life faces of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. The short Presidential Trail at the base of Mount Rushmore provides better views and an interesting perspective on the landmark.

24. Pike Place Market in Seattle [SEE MAP]

Pike Place Market

Overlooking the waterfront of Elliott Bay in Seattle, Washington, is the Pike Place Market. Opened in 1907, the market is now a historic, iconic part of the city. Pike Place Market is the ultimate place to shop in Seattle, because it is full of the oldest establishments in the region.

There are markets where fresh fish straight from the Puget Sound gets tossed dramatically, cheesemongers who offer tastings of locally made brie and camembert and then there is the site of the original Starbucks coffee shop.

23. Venice Beach in Los Angeles [SEE MAP]

Venice Beach

No visit to Los Angeles is complete without a trip to Venice Beach. Its canals and beaches are spectacular, but the biggest hit is undeniably the Venice Beach Boardwalk. This is a truly entertaining spot where street performers juggle, dance, sculpt and sing for passersby.

Shop for souvenirs, grab a refreshing drink and bring some small bills for a stroll on the boardwalk. After stopping to admire a live performer, many visitors tip a dollar or two to show appreciation.

See also: Where to Stay in Los Angeles

22. Mesa Verde [SEE MAP]

Mesa Verde

The Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado is home to the preserved homes of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Many of these homes, which are carved right from caves and rock faces, date back to the early 13th century.

Today, it is possible to walk beneath the overhanging cliffs and tour these ancient abodes. The Balcony House is especially well preserved, and it boasts 40 rooms that are accessible exclusively by ladder. The nearby Cliff Palace is even bigger, and it is believed to have housed more than 100 people in its 150 original rooms.

21. Faneuil Hall in Boston [SEE MAP]

Faneuil Hall

One of the most historic destinations in Boston, a city already full of heritage, is Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Also known as the Cradle of Liberty, this early 18th century structure served as a space where early leaders gathered to fight against oppression in the years before and during the American Revolutionary War.

Today, touring Faneuil Hall Marketplace means lots of opportunity to shop for local produce and desserts in the indoor and outdoor marketplace.

20. Kennedy Space Center [SEE MAP]

Kennedy Space Center

Cape Canaveral, located on the coast of Florida, boasts a lot of space-related attractions. One of the best is the Kennedy Space Center, which has been the launch site for every US human space flight since 1968 and currently operates as a launch site for unmanned rockets.

Visitors can learn more about the early pioneers into space, and they can also experience the tension and excitement over the rush to the moon. There is even the chance to participate in the Shuttle Launch Experience, which replicates the experience of space travel.

19. Navy Pier in Chicago [SEE MAP]

Navy Pier

Extending over the waters of Lake Michigan is Navy Pier, an enormous pier in the heart of Chicago’s coastal Streeterville neighborhood. Within the pier, there are countless attractions suited to the whole family.

Beautifully manicured gardens are the ideal place for a scenic stroll, and lots of souvenir shops are a wonderful way to snag gifts on a vacation to Chicago. The pier is also home to the Chicago Children’s Museum, two theaters and an abundance of excellent restaurants.

18. Great Smoky Mountains National Park [SEE MAP]

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park is the most visited in the entire country, thanks in large part to its enormous size and its incredible scenery.

Visitors can hike through old growth forest, spot hundreds of species of birds and check out the two visitor centers. Hikes can also wind through trails that lead to the waterfalls of Laurel Falls and the vistas of Clingman’s Dome.

17. River Walk in San Antonio [SEE MAP]

River Walk

In the city of San Antonio, Texas , there are few attractions more appealing than the River Walk. Also known as the Paseo del Rio, the River Walk is a network of walkways lining the San Antonio River.

Reserved for pedestrians, the revitalized area is packed with fascinating architecture, lush greenery and water views. The River Walk is a hub for dining and culinary exploration in this Texan city. It is possible to dig into Tex-Mex cuisine, upscale French fare and everything in between in this one easily navigable destination.

16. Carlsbad Caverns [SEE MAP]

Carlsbad Caverns

As the name suggests, Carlsbad Caverns is a collection of over 115 caves. Located in southern New Mexico, these caverns are carved from limestone, and it is possible for visitors to descend more than 900 feet (275 meters) below the surface of the earth on a guided tour.

The largest single cave chamber in all of North America is found here and is known as the Big Room. Within the room itself, visitors can set off on a 90-minute walk exploring the incredible underground environment.

15. Bryce Canyon National Park [SEE MAP]

Bryce Canyon National Park

Located in Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is a breathtaking display of rock formations. Technically, Bryce Canyon isn’t a canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters. Mormon settlers once called the canyon home, but now most visitors come for the awe-inspiring views and the magnificent hiking opportunities.

Sunset Point is one of the most popular vantage points, offering panoramic views of the red, yellow and orange rock formations. Queen’s Garden Trail is another favorite, because it offers green trees among the red rocks for a brilliant juxtaposition.

14. French Quarter in New Orleans [SEE MAP]

French Quarter

New Orleans, Louisiana, is made up of several unique districts, but none is so famous as the French Quarter. Also known as the Vieux Carre, the French Quarter truly explores the rich French colonial influences on the city of New Orleans . Incredible architecture abounds, with the St. Louis Cathedral being the main attraction.

The French Quarter boasts the Moon Walk, a paved walkway next to the Mississippi River, as well as Bourbon Street, the undeniable hub of nightlife, drinking and entertainment in the city.

13. Sedona Red Rock Country [SEE MAP]

Sedona Red Rock Country

A two-hour drive north of Phoenix is Sedona, Arizona. Sedona isn’t a big city, but it is a major tourist attraction in the USA thanks to its gorgeous red rock landscape. Known as Red Rock Country, this region is an outdoor lover’s dream. Countless canyons, creeks and paths encourage outdoor activity, with Cathedral Rock Trail being one of the local favorite hiking spots.

One of the most interesting spots in Sedona combines the new with the old, with the contemporary Chapel of the Holy Cross built right into the side of the red rocks themselves.

12. Walt Disney World in Orlando [SEE MAP]

Walt Disney World

Orlando, Florida , is a hub of amusement parks, but none is so popular as Walt Disney World. Many travelers don’t realize that Walt Disney World is actually made up of several distinct theme parks, including the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and the Blizzard Beach Water Park.

Visitors will be able to enjoy thrill rides, watch Broadway-quality shows and explore the nightlife, cuisine, shopping and entertainment at Disney Springs.

11. Yosemite National Park [SEE MAP]

Yosemite National Park

In the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, there is Yosemite National Park. This extraordinary destination is known the world over for its amazing scenery. Within this single park, visitors can peer off spectacular granite cliffs, admire clear waterfalls and see sequoia trees that are hundreds of years old.

Yosemite Valley is a top spot to explore in the park, because it boasts the enormous Yosemite Falls as well as the granite monolith called Half Dome.

10. White House in Washington D.C. [SEE MAP]

White House

The White House in Washington DC is the official residence and office of the President of the United States. It was built between 1792 and 1800 and first used by President John Adams.

After the 9/11 attacks it has become more difficult to visit the White House and today tours are available only for groups of 10 or more and must be requested up to six months in advance through your member of Congress or your country’s US Ambassador.

9. Denali National Park [SEE MAP]

Denali National Park

The Denali National Park and Preserve is located in Interior Alaska and contains Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. The word “Denali” means “the high one” in the native Athabaskan language and refers to Mount McKinley. In addition, the park protects an incredible wilderness area that contains grizzly bears, caribou, moose, wolves, and numerous other creatures.

8. Las Vegas Strip [SEE MAP]

Las Vegas Strip

The gambling mecca of the world, Las Vegas is situated in the midst of the southern Nevada desert landscape. Casinos can be found throughout Las Vegas, but the strip, a stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South, contains the most of them.

It features giant mega-casino hotels, decorated with lavish care and attention to detail to create a fantasy-like atmosphere. The casinos often have names and themes that evoke romance, mystery, and far-away destination.

See also: Where to Stay in Las Vegas

7. Florida Keys [SEE MAP]

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a 120 mile long chain of tropical islands curving around the base of the Florida peninsula, connected to the mainland by a series of bridges.

The most spectacular bridge, the Seven Mile Bridge in the Lower Keys, has been frequently used as a location for films including True Lies and Fast 2 Furious. US Highway 1, the “Overseas Highway” runs from Key Largo , Islamadora, Marathon, Lower Keys and finally to Key West, the most distant and most famous island.

6. Kilauea [SEE MAP]


Kilauea is the most recent of a series of volcanoes that have created the Hawaiian Archipelago. It is a very low, flat shield volcano, vastly different in profile from the high, sharply sloping peaks of stratovolcanoes.

Kilauea is one of the most active volcano on the Earth, an invaluable resource for volcanologists. Thirty-three eruptions have taken place since 1952, not including the current eruption which started on January 3, 1983 and is still ongoing.

5. Niagara Falls [SEE MAP]

Niagara Falls

Situated between the state of New York and the province of Ontario, Niagara Falls is one of the most spectacular natural wonders on the North American continent. Niagara Falls is actually three different falls, the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls.

Horseshoe Falls is located on the Canadian side while the other are located in New York. With more than 14 million visitors each year it is one of the most visited tourist attraction in the world.

4. Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco [SEE MAP]

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the strait between San Francisco and Marin County to the north.

The Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge span in the world when it was completed in 1937, and has become an internationally recognized symbol of San Francisco and California . The famous red-orange color of the bridge was specifically chosen to make the bridge more easily visible through the thick fog that frequently shrouds the bridge.

3. Yellowstone [SEE MAP]


Yellowstone National Park was the world’s first national park, set aside in 1872 to preserve the vast number of geysers, hot springs, and other thermal areas, as well as to protect the incredible wildlife and rugged beauty of the area. Yellowstone lies on top of a gigantic hotspot where light, hot, molten mantle rock rises towards the surface.

Subsequently, the park contains half of all the world’s known geothermal features, with more than 10,000 examples of geysers and hot springs. In addition, black bears, grizzly bears, deer, elk, bison and wolves can all be found within the park borders.

2. Manhattan [SEE MAP]


Manhattan is one of New York’s five boroughs and is what people most often think of when they picture New York City . It’s familiar skyline and sights have been featured a thousand times on screen. Walk in the shadow of the skyscrapers, picture the Statue of Liberty, see a Broadway show , climb the Empire State building, stroll Central Park, window shop on 5th Avenue or stagger around a museum.

1. Grand Canyon [SEE MAP]

#1 of Tourist Attractions In The Usa

The Grand Canyon is located in northern Arizona and is one of the great tourist attractions in the United States. Carved over several million years by the Colorado River, the canyon attains a depth of over 1.6 km (1 mile) and 446 km (277 miles) long.

The Grand Canyon is not the deepest or the longest canyon in the world but the overwhelming size and its intricate and colorful landscape offers visitor spectacular vistas that are unmatched throughout the world.

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Reader interactions.

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November 12, 2020 at 8:34 pm

I’ve been to almost all of these. HANDS DOWN Grand Canyon- Bryce-Tetons- Yellowstone-Glacier is the most amazing trip. I’ve been all over the world, and Yellowstone’s wildlife and the view at the Grand Canyon are by far the most epic. I love Washington State as well: Mt. Ranier, Seattle, Olympic and the anitoles- you can see a variety in a small distance.

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July 26, 2019 at 10:32 am

You should have included the historic triangle in Virginia. It includes Williamsburg (Colonial Williamsburg) Jamestown (America’s first settlement) & Yorktown (the site of Cornwallis’ surrender, effectively ending the Revolutionary War) it is literally the birth place of this great nation and is a huge tourist destination.

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May 24, 2019 at 10:31 pm

Nice article, but may I make one correction regarding Pike Place Market? As a local tour guide, it bugs me when people tell our visitors that the Starbucks at the market is the original. It isn’t, and I try to set this myth straight every chance I get. The original Starbucks was on Western Ave., and burned down in the 70s. The original owner and team moved to the present location at the market, which is how they get away with calling it original, but in reality, it is misleading the public.

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October 31, 2018 at 10:15 am

Hello!? Savannah GA is amazing. It’s like stepping back in time.

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August 17, 2017 at 7:54 pm

oh my gaawwwd. these photos are amazing and I cant wait to go back to the us so I can visit vegas. I didn’t get to last time so im really looking forward to it!!!

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September 1, 2016 at 11:10 am

I am excited to see Niagra falls soon and its my dream to see New York specially Statue of Liberty, Central park and Brooklyn Bridge. I hope that soon i shall be there.

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February 9, 2015 at 8:09 am

It makes you dream and want to go there. I’ve learned a lot on the USA thanks to your site and the like. Your publications perfectly reflect the wonderful side of the USA.

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January 30, 2015 at 12:36 am

Christina Rusia! You are right America is fabulous and offer amazing sights to see there. I have explored its major attractions and Niagara Falls and Grand Canyon are one of those places which are my ever best spots to enjoy the natural beauty. Recently I went to have some fun with friends in Nagara Falls after my pedestrian streets trip.

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October 14, 2014 at 6:04 pm

I think that america is fabulous, The sights and also the view is amazing to see and visit. I am currently in New York.

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July 24, 2014 at 11:32 pm

I visited Yellowstone National Park. This is an awesome place in USA.

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December 12, 2013 at 4:46 am

I have been very lucky myself to have visited most of these places. One of my main reasons why I love America (USA) is because of the diversity the country has to offer in terms of landscapes e.g. countryside, deserts, mountains ect. Out of the above Yellowstone and Vegas are my favourites. Niagara Falls was an sight I will never forget – waking up each morning and opening my hotel room curtains to see the falls directly below….breathtaking.

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November 30, 2013 at 7:03 am

these are great places

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September 14, 2013 at 6:17 am

Las Vegas is my final destination …….thankew. informative website

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August 20, 2013 at 5:23 pm

I think that Niagara Falls needs to be higher on the list. Who agrees?

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March 27, 2013 at 6:44 am

Niagara Falls & Manhattan is my dream….I have no word to express the beauty

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February 19, 2013 at 1:03 am

great feed back about us visitor Sp like me who is going to visit USA first time and with family it was quite difficult for me to decide where to go but after visiting this page i am clear about my trip thanks alot

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November 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm

I can say that I have been very fortunate to have visited all but one of these tourist attractions. (Alaska being the only one) Visiting Alcatraz and seeing the Golden Gate was interesting, along with watching the Geysers in Yellowstone. I live in NY (15 minutes from Niagara Falls and an easy drive to NYC) so those don’t interest me as much but after driving cross country in my early twenties, I have realized just what a beautiful country we live in. I now have three children and make it a point to travel with them. Each child gets a surprise birthday trip every year and it has proved to be not only memorable but also educational. My 11 year old has been many places, in and out of the U.S. and now is starting to understand the value of travel. Great site! 🙂

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September 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Manhattan: “… stagger around a museum”… you have you never lied. I recently visited New York, and a friend of mine and I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our initial plan was to try and see if we could make it through that one and the American Museum of Natural History. After a good 7 hours in the Met, we ended up taking a taxi to Penn Station, and slept our way back on the train to Long Island. I will say, however the exhaustion was worth it.

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August 6, 2012 at 8:52 am

A great page, I’ve been to the USA many times – Cities such as New York and San Francisco are really worth a visit – For natural wonder Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon are a must.

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August 28, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Very good collection of tourist places. I have bookmarked this page, and i will follow this blog at the time of my usa tour. Thanks.

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April 26, 2011 at 3:47 am

Fabulous photos of places to visit in the US. I have been very lucky to visit Vegas, and to have flown over the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Over the page you have photos of Alaska and Denali National Park which I plan to visit next year. When I see those photos I can hardly wait. Thanks great post.

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The World's Most-visited Tourist Attractions

Since 1971, Travel + Leisure editors have followed one mission: to inform, inspire, and guide travelers to have deeper, more meaningful experiences. T+L's editors have traveled to countries all over the world, having flown, sailed, road tripped, and taken the train countless miles. They've visited small towns and big cities, hidden gems and popular destinations, beaches and mountains, and everything in between. With a breadth of knowledge about destinations around the globe, air travel, cruises, hotels, food and drinks, outdoor adventure, and more, they are able to take their real-world experience and provide readers with tried-and-tested trip ideas, in-depth intel, and inspiration at every point of a journey.

For nearly 500 years, the emperors living within Beijing's opulent Forbidden City dictated who could enter and leave. Well, the gates have opened, and tourists are pouring in to see it all for themselves. Attendance is up by 2.5 million since 2010.

The Forbidden City is a dream destination for some Americans, but most have never researched a trip to Everland or Lotte World. Yet these South Korean theme parks also rank among the world's 50 most-visited tourist attractions—beating out the Eiffel Tower (nearly 7 million), the Great Pyramids (4 million), and Stonehenge (1 million). And there are more surprises.

Where we choose to spend our vacation time says a lot about what we value. Despite—or perhaps because of—what the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) calls "global economic challenges," more travelers are hitting the road than ever. International tourist arrivals increased by five percent in 2013, according to the UNWTO. That translates to a record of more than one billion trips. With its population of 1.36 billion, China has become the second-largest exporter of tourists. Russia, now the fifth-largest outbound market, increased travel spending by 26 percent.

Like it or not, theme parks clearly have worldwide appeal. France's Disneyland Park draws about the same number of visitors (10.5 million) as Sacré Coeur, and four of the world's 20 most-visited tourist attractions are Disney parks.

Many inspiring and iconic places can't quite keep up. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum narrowly missed the top 50, as did the British Museum in London (6.7 million), the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (6.3 million), and the Roman Colosseum and Forum (5.1 million each). The Berlin Wall Memorial Site logged only 500,000 visitors in 2013, though extra crowds arrived in November 2014 for the 25th anniversary of its fall.

Accessibility can be a factor. It takes extra effort to reach Yellowstone National Park (3.2 million) or the Terracotta Army in Xi'an, China (4.8 million). And Peru's Machu Picchu has restricted tourism to help maintain the site's integrity; only 2,500 can enter per day, or 912,500 per year.

So what is the most-visited tourist attraction in the world? And can 91 million people be wrong? Read on to see the results—and an explanation of our methods for calculating it all.

Julie Bang/Travel + Leisure

The Methodology: To tally up the world's most-visited attractions, we gathered the most recent data supplied by the attractions themselves or from government agencies, industry reports, and reputable media outlets. In most cases, it was 2013 data. Attractions that don't sell tickets gave us estimates as best they could.

We defined "tourist attractions" as cultural and historical sites, natural landmarks, and officially designated spaces. So Boston's shop-filled Faneuil Hall Marketplace (est. 1742) made the cut, but not Minnesota's Mall of America, which, with 40 million annual visitors, would otherwise have tied for No. 4. Short walkways and plazas also fit our definition of tourist attractions; that disqualified the Blue Ridge Parkway. We also omitted beaches, bridges, and sites that draw almost exclusively religious pilgrims.

Reported by Kate Appleton, Rich Beattie, Adrien Glover, Lyndsey Matthews, April Orcutt, Joshua Pramis, and Ann Shields

No. 1 Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Annual Visitors: 91,250,000

Hand-painted ceramics, lanterns, intricately patterned carpets, copperware, gold Byzantine-style jewelry, and more eye-catching products vie for your attention within this 15th-century bazaar's vaulted walkways. It has since expanded and become increasingly touristy, but locals, too, are among the millions of bargain hunters. To haggle like a pro, lowball your starting offer and don't be afraid to walk away. And if it all gets overwhelming, break for a succulent doner kebab or strong cup of Turkish coffee.

Source: Grand Bazaar management

No. 2 The Zócalo, Mexico City

Jorge Castro/Travel + Leisure

Annual Visitors: 85,000,000

Formally known as the Plaza de la Constitución, the enormous Zócalo thrums with activity. It hosts military parades, cultural and political events, concerts, exhibitions, fairs, and public art installations. Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace flank this historic public square, and an imposing Mexican flag, raised and lowered daily, waves over the scene.

Source: Mexico Tourism Board

No. 3 Times Square, New York City

Annual Visitors: 50,000,000

Tourists flock to New York's neon heart for the flashing lights, Broadway shows, megastores, and sheer spectacle—including costumed characters eager to pose for photo ops. Pedestrian-only areas with café tables introduced a few years ago have made it easier and more appealing to hang out here. Times Square can even be a convenient, if chaotic, base, thanks to hotels at every price point and easy access to public transportation: subways, rails, buses, and more yellow taxis than you can count.

Source: The Times Square Alliance

No. 4 (tie) Central Park, New York City

Annual Visitors: 40,000,000

New York has larger green spaces, but none is more famous than Central Park , which stretches across nearly 850 acres of prime Manhattan real estate—an oasis for both tourists and locals. You can ride in one of the horse-drawn carriages, check out the modest-size zoo, climb to the top of 19th-century Belvedere Castle, or take a break from pounding the pavement to sprawl on the Great Lawn, gazing at the skyscrapers above.

Source: Central Park Conservancy

No. 4 (tie) Union Station, Washington, D.C.

Opened in 1907, this busy station shuttles some 12,500 passengers daily in and out of Washington, D.C. But it also handles millions of tourists who pass through to take in the impeccably mixed architectural styles throughout the colossal building: from Classical to Beaux-Arts to Baroque. More than 70 retail outlets make Union Station a shopping destination, and it's also a jumping-off point for many D.C. tours.

Source: Union Station

No. 6 Las Vegas Strip

Annual Visitors: 30,500,000

In 2013, 77 percent of Vegas tourists—30.5 million—chose to stay at hotels right on the four-mile-long Strip. And why not? Roll out of bed and onto the Strip to catch the Bellagio fountains in action, shop, gamble, and, of course, people-watch (which can get especially fun later at night). For a cool new vantage point, hop aboard the High Roller , a 550-foot-tall Ferris wheel that debuted in March 2014. It's part of Linq, a flashy 300,000-square-foot shopping and entertainment complex by Caesars.

Source: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

No. 7 (tie) Meiji Jingu Shrine, Tokyo

Annual Visitors: 30,000,000

Built more than 100 years ago to honor the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, this Shinto shrine in bustling Tokyo is a peaceful haven surrounded by a holy forest of more than 100,000 trees. Seasonal gardens feature spring azaleas, summer irises, brilliant autumn leaves on Japanese maples and ginkgos, and black pines dusted with winter snow.

Source: Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)

No. 7 (tie) Sensoji Temple, Tokyo

Tokyo's oldest temple was dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon, the most compassionate Buddha, in 628. Dramatic nighttime illumination highlights vermilion and crimson detailing in the Five-Storied Pagoda. Continuing centuries-long tradition, stalls along the temple's Nakamise Street sell food and goods to pilgrims, whose numbers swell around New Year's.

No. 9 Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario

Annual Visitors: 22,000,000

Straddling the border of the U.S. and Canada, three massive waterfalls, together called Niagara Falls , spill about 6 million cubic feet of water—from a maximum vertical drop of 165 feet—every minute. While there are about 500 taller waterfalls in the world, Niagara Falls is spectacular for its sheer power. It's also more accessible than many major falls, a short flight or drive for millions of regional tourists.

Source: Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp./Canadian Tourism Commission

No. 10 Grand Central Terminal, New York City

Annual Visitors : 21,600,00

Unlike harried commuters, visitors take their time in the main concourse of this Beaux-Arts landmark , pausing to view its glittering ceiling painted with a map of the constellations from the night sky. Shops, an annual holiday market, special events, and restaurants also attract attention. Two of the grandest venues are the Campbell Apartment, serving craft cocktails, and the historic Oyster Bar —featured on AMC's Mad Men —which shucks 2 million fresh bivalves a year.

Source: Grand Central Terminal

No. 11 Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City

Annual Visitors: 20,000,000

The Old Basilica , begun in the 16th century and completed in 1709, stands in stark contrast to the massive new basilica, designed by the Mexican architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, which was built in the mid-1970s and looks like a sports arena. It is, in fact, intended to hold 50,000 people, who come for mass—celebrated several times a day—and to see an image of the Virgin Mary that is said to have appeared on an apron in 1531.

No. 12 Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Orlando, FL

Annual Visitors: 18,588,000

The Most Magical Place on Earth is high on virtually every family's to-do list and remains the most-visited theme park on the earth. Expanded Fantasyland now includes the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train family-style roller coaster and a chance to meet Anna and Elsa from the smash-hit Frozen in the Princess Fairytale Hall near Cinderella Castle. Time-tested attractions include the Jungle Cruise and Space Mountain, the daily Disney character parade down Main Street, USA, and a fireworks spectacular that lights up the sky many nights.

Source: TEA/AECOM Global Attractions Attendance Report

See more Disney travel tips

No. 13 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston

Annual Visitors: 18,000,000

Dating back to 1742, Faneuil Hall ("the Cradle of Liberty") once hosted speeches by such greats as Samuel Adams and George Washington. Today, the downtown marketplace has more than 100 specialty shops and eateries and occupies a pedestrian-only, cobblestoned area that swarms with tourists and street performers. Each winter, Faneuil Hall also hosts Boston's tallest Christmas tree, along with festive light displays and choirs.

Source: Faneuil Hall Marketplace

No. 14 Tokyo Disneyland

Annual Visitors: 17,214,000

Disney's Tokyo outpost has become the second most-visited theme park in the world (beating out Anaheim, CA's Disneyland, which held that title in 2010). It shares the sweetness of the original parks' Fantasyland with Peter Pan's Flight and Dumbo the Flying Elephant as well as Tomorrowland's Space Mountain and Star Tours—The Adventures Continue. A musical soundtrack and other renovations have improved the Adventureland classic: Jungle Cruise Wildlife Expedition, while a new after-dark night cruise promises more surprises.

No. 15 Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA

Annual Visitors: 16,202,000

Though not as massive as its Orlando counterpart, the original Disney park , which occupies about 85 acres of land, has retro charm and some better features. Here the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction lasts almost twice as long and ends in a humid southern bayou with fireflies (instead of a gift shop). The Indiana Jones Adventure ride careens over lava, past swarms of beetles, and under that 16-foot rolling boulder. Thrill-seekers will also appreciate that the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has reopened.

No. 16 Forbidden City, Beijing

Annual Visitors: 15,340,000

It doesn't have a street address—which is only fitting for a place that was once considered the center of the universe. Nowadays, tourists swarm this 178-acre walled compound of opulent halls, gardens, and winged pavilions. Attendance is up by 2.5 million since 2010. It can easily take half a day to explore the grounds, and history buffs will appreciate the self-guided audio tour—or a hired guide.

Source: Forbidden City Palace Museum and China Odyssey Tours

No. 17 Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco

Annual Visitors: 14,289,121

Beaches, cliffs, hills, forts, and towering redwood trees make up the Golden Gate National Recreation Area , easily accessible from San Francisco. Many visitors come to embrace the outdoors, whether hiking, biking, swimming, birding, riding horses, or whale-watching. But this scenic area is also rich in history and includes landmarks like Alcatraz prison and the Presidio, an 18th-century military post. You can even base yourself within the recreation area; Cavallo Point's rooms and suites occupy restored turn-of-the-20th-century Colonial Revival buildings that overlook San Francisco Bay .

Source: National Park Service

No. 18 Tokyo DisneySea

Annual Visitors: 14,084,000

DisneySea , the companion park to Tokyo Disneyland overlooking Tokyo Bay, took inspiration from aquatic myths, legends and the lore of the sea. Divided into seven "ports of call," the park emphasizes water attractions with Venetian gondolas, a Mermaid Lagoon, a journey to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and an Aquatopia with quirky boats in a sea of rocks, whirlpools and water spouts. But it's not all fountains and bubbles—the park also has scary rides like the Tower of Terror, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull.

No. 19 Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Annual Visitors: 14,000,000

A masterpiece of Gothic architecture—all soaring buttresses, crouching gargoyles, and magnificent rose windows— Notre Dame has survived attacks of Huguenots, sansculottes, occupying armies, and questionable renovations since its completion in 1345. In spite of its often violent past, visitors flock to the cathedral for the hushed peace and reflection it provides, even in the midst of Paris.

Source: Atout France, the France Tourism Development Agency

No. 20 Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Annual Visitors: 13,000,000

Cascading three miles from the Panhandle down to the Pacific, Golden Gate Park serves as playground and haven for this diverse city. The park's offerings include museums (the de Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences), botanical wonders (the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden, a rhododendron forest, and more than 75,000 trees, among others), sporting fields and courts, playgrounds, and even a small herd of buffalo.

Source: San Francisco Recreation & Park Department

No. 21 Balboa Park, San Diego

Chelsea Loren/Travel + Leisure

Annual Visitors: 12,000,000 to 14,000,000

Balboa Park's 1,200 acres form a mini-city with 15 accredited museums, 19 gardens, nine performing arts groups, a miniature railroad, a golf course, tennis courts, lawn bowling, a gymnasium, a historic carousel, and a Super Sonic Samba School. Not to mention the world-famous San Diego Zoo , with three crowd-pleasing giant pandas. Balboa Park also features the Spreckels Organ, whose 4,518 pipes range from the size of a pencil to 32 feet tall.

Source: Balboa Park

No. 22 South Street Seaport, New York City

Annual Visitors: 12,000,000

This 12-block historic East River site in Lower Manhattan dates back to the 1600s, and its cobblestoned streets are packed with shops and restaurants. Pier 17 will reopen in 2016 after undergoing extensive renovation. Commercialism aside, the history runs deep here and is perhaps best experienced on one of the two 1800s tall-masted schooners the South Street Seaport Museum maintains. Go for a sunset sail with Gotham as a backdrop.

Source: The Howard Hughes Corporation

No. 23 San Antonio River Walk, San Antonio, TX

Annual Visitors: 11,500,000

Cypress-lined cobble-and-flagstone paths meander for four miles along both sides of the narrow San Antonio River. Locals and visitors come to the River Walk's horseshoe-shaped loop downtown to browse shops and hang out at restaurants like Boudro's for a prickly-pear margarita and guacamole prepared tableside. The Museum Reach river walk section stretches an additional 1.7 miles north, past art installations under every bridge and the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Source: San Antonio River Walk (Paseo del Rio)

No. 24 Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL

Michela Sieman/Travel + Leisure

Annual Visitors: 11,229,000

Built to honor the late Walt Disney's utopian ideal of the innovative future (the name is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), Epcot attracts guests who skew a little older than those of its neighbor, the Magic Kingdom. Restaurants are aimed at more sophisticated palates, and annual celebrations include a flower and garden show and an international food and wine festival. Perennial favorite rides like Soarin', Mission: SPACE, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends keep the kids and kids-at-heart happy. Expect visits to the Norway pavilion to spike when a Frozen -themed ride debuts in 2016.

No. 25 St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Italy

Annual Visitors: 11,000,000

One of the holiest Catholic sites, St. Peter's Basilica teems with ornate gold, marble columns, paintings of angels, iconic statues, and works created by a who's who of Renaissance artists, including Raphael, Brunelleschi, Bernini, and Michelangelo, who sculpted the marble Pietà and designed the massive dome. For a nominal fee, you can climb 320 steps to the top and soak up the most famous panorama of Rome .

Source: Italian Government Tourist Board

No. 26 Great Wall of China

Annual Visitors: 10,720,000 (Badaling and Mutianyu areas combined)

Once used as a wartime defense, the Great Wall winds "like a dragon tail" from eastern China to western, spanning some 5,500 miles. While much of what is visible today was built during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), construction began on various sections as far back as 770 B.C. Credit goes to the million slaves and prisoners of war who carried blocks of granite, bricks, stones, and dirt on their backs up to the top of the ridgelines. The Badaling section, closest to Beijing, draws the biggest crowds. Word has gotten out, inspiring some travelers to make the longer drive to the more serene Mutianyu section.

Source: National Tourism Administration of the People's Republic of China and China Odyssey Tours

No. 27 Sacré Coeur Basilica, Paris

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

Annual Visitors: 10,500,000

Sacré Coeur lures visitors to the summit of Montmartre for a litany of reasons—while some come to pray and meditate, most come for the remarkable 360-degree views of the City of Light from its highest vantage point. The construction of the basilica, which started in 1871, was intended to restore peace to a site stained by violence during the Paris Commune.

No. 28 Disneyland Park, Marne-la-Vallée, France

Annual Visitors: 10,430,000

When Disney's first European theme park opened in 1992, many French protested the "cultural imperialism" of such an American symbol opening 40 minutes outside of Paris. Today it's one of the most-visited locations in Europe. So be prepared to queue for popular rides like It's a Small World, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. A 3D ride inspired by the film Ratatouille opened in 2014; enter through a replica of Gusteau's restaurant.

No. 29 Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL

Annual Visitors: 10,198,000

Since 1998, this animal-themed park has successfully marketed Mickey Mouse and silverback gorillas under one all-inclusive "roof." If it has four legs or wings or a tail, chances are you'll find it at this zoo/museum/school theme park. Don't miss the Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, or the 14-story Tree of Life sculpture carved with some 325 animals. Fun fact: at one point park creators also wanted to include a section for mythological creatures called "Beastly Kingdom."

No. 30 Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL

Annual Visitors: 10,110,000

Disney describes this park (est. 1989) as " the Hollywood that never was and always will be ." Laid out much like a real-life motion picture studio, with a 154-acre network of streets and buildings and miniature replicas of famous landmarks, it showcases the golden age of film. But most kids make a beeline to Toy Story Midway Mania! at Pixar Place and Star Tours—The Adventures Continue.

No. 31 Universal Studios Japan, Osaka, Japan

Annual Visitors: 10,100,000

Opened in 2001 and a near twin to its Orlando sibling—albeit one with more sushi— this popular movie theme park is one of four operated by Universal in Japan. Highlights include a Jaws -like shark encounter, Jurassic Park roller-coaster ride, Sesame Street in 4-D, and now the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Interesting fact: investment banking firm Goldman Sachs is the park's largest shareholder.

No. 32 Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood, CA

Annual Visitors: 10,000,000 to 12,000,000

Nothing says Hollywood like the (literally) star-studded Walk of Fame , with each star bearing the name of a celebrity with enough cachet to be immortalized on the street. That means stars from James Dean and Marilyn Monroe to, more recently, Tina Fey and Neil Patrick Harris.

Source: Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board

No. 33 Pike Place Market, Seattle

Annual Visitors: 10,000,000

One of the oldest continually operating farmers' markets in the U.S. (est. 1907), this nine-acre National Historic District is famous for kitschy Seattle souvenirs, salmon-throwing fishmongers, and its "gum wall" installation art. The many seafood restaurants include Market Grill and Emmett Watson's for oysters. It's just down the street from one of the original Starbucks—complete with an early-edition logo featuring a more, er, risqué mermaid.

Source: Pike Place Market

No. 34 Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

Annual Visitors: 9,345,695

Originally Cherokee homeland, America's most-visited national park first opened in 1940 and covers some 520,000 acres of protected Tennessee and North Carolina forestland that's bisected by the Appalachian Trail. Whether hiking Chimney Tops (or any of the 800 miles of trails) or driving the super-scenic U.S. Highway 441, visitors are sure to get an eyeful of the mystical haze that inspired the park's name. To escape the crowds, park ranger Caitlin Worth recommends heading to Balsam Mountain Road, a high-elevation gravel road accessible from the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

No. 35 Musée du Louvre, Paris

Annual Visitors: 9,334,000

The world's largest museum is both the subject of ongoing architectural controversy—not everyone agrees with the 1989 addition of I. M. Pei's 69-foot-high glass pyramid entrance—and an art-lover's wonderland of some 35,000 masterworks. Throngs parade through the former 12th-century palace to see such famous highlights as Leonardo da Vinci's smiling La Gioconda , a.k.a. Mona Lisa —a painting that, rumor has it, was originally commissioned by François I to hang in his château at Fontainebleau. And the crush of visitors continues to increase, up about 10 percent since 2010. One tip: avoid peak crowds by timing your arrival to Wednesday or Friday evening, when the museum is open until 9:45 p.m.

No. 36 Navy Pier, Chicago

Annual Visitors: 8,900,000

While the USS Chicago —docked at the end of the pier—is a reminder of its World War I military past, this bustling Lake Michigan promenade now caters to civilians with a mix of carnival rides, dancing fountains, trinket stalls, an IMAX theater, and local food favorites Garrett Popcorn and Billy Goat Tavern. Don't miss the exceptional stained-glass museum featuring colorful works by Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Source: Navy Pier

No. 37 Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim, CA

Annual Visitors: 8,514,000

Cars Land, a 12-acre real-life rendition of Radiator Springs from the films that pay homage to Route 66 and retro-cars culture, remains a big draw at Disney's California Adventure . Guests "racing" in the Radiator Springs Racers attraction never know which car will get the checkered flag. Most fun, though, is still Soarin' Over California, a simulated hang-glider flight over the Golden State complete with motion, wind, and the sweet scent of orange blossoms.

No. 38 Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Annual Visitors: 8,200,000

With its dramatic cantilevered roof and harbor setting, the Sydney Opera House is easily Australia's most recognizable landmark—and its most visited. Few tourists leave Sydney without at least stopping here for a photo op. But you can do much more: go backstage for a tour, attend one of the 40-plus weekly performances, and watch the sun set over the city and Sydney Harbour Bridge from the alfresco Opera Bar. Make your grand exit on the scenic Manly Ferry, which passes right by.

Source: Sydney Opera House

No. 39 Universal's Islands of Adventure, Orlando, FL

Number of Visitors: 8,141,000

Hogwarts fans went hog wild when Islands of Adventure opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010, and the attendance numbers continue to reflect Harry's magic touch. Shops, restaurants (The Three Broomsticks), and rides are all branded with the boy wizard; nonbelievers can find rides themed with Marvel superheroes and other trademarked characters. The Jurassic Park River Adventure, for instance, is a hairy river-raft ride with a terrifying T. rex attack, set in a habitat for animatronic dinosaurs.

No. 40 (tie) Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

Annual Visitors: 8,000,000

Dinosaur fossils, a huge stuffed elephant, and an insect zoo have been wowing kids for generations (and for free). The 126-million-item collection even includes the notorious Hope Diamond. But this National Mall favorite continues to innovate, in the last few years opening the Ocean Hall and the ambitious Hall of Human Origins, where visitors come face-to-face with specimens and models of their ancestors.

No. 40 (tie) Grand Palace, Bangkok

Number of Visitors: 8,000,000

The gold-spired Grand Palace in Bangkok is one of Thailand's most important sacred sites. The riverfront complex, built in 1782, housed Thai kings for 150 years. The Outer Court serves as the visitor entrance today; the Center Court was the king's residence; and the Inner Court, the quarters of his consorts and daughters. Keep an eye out for Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, located near the Outer Court.

Source: Thailand Tourist Services

No. 40 (tie) Pier 39, San Francisco

Melissa Zink/Travel + Leisure

Of course it's corny—replete with candy shops, T-shirt emporiums, stuffed animals, and fried food—but this tourist magnet at the edge of Fisherman's Wharf offers great views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Perhaps the wooden pier's biggest attraction is the noisy community of sea lions that bark and bask on the docks. Aquarium of the Bay is by the pier's entrance.

Source: PIER 39

No. 43 Palace of Versailles, France

Annual Visitors: 7,527,122

King Louis XIV did a pretty nice job redoing a place that started out as a mere hunting lodge and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's so nice, in fact, that people willingly trade a day in Paris cafés for the experience of wandering Versailles' hallways, like the gilded Hall of Mirrors—the best place to channel your inner Sun King.

No. 44 Ocean Park, Hong Kong

Annual Visitors: 7,475,000

Sure, there are roller coasters, but this 40-acre theme park stands out for attractions that are more down to earth. There's Panda Village, where, despite the name, visitors come to see playful otters; Pacific Pier, where you can feed seals and sea lions; and the Sea Jelly Spectacular, where you can marvel at some 1,000 jellyfish, including many phosphorescent species. A mountain divides the park, which you can navigate by bus, train, even cable car. (It's a bus ride away from central Hong Kong.)

No. 45 Bourbon Street, New Orleans

Annual Visitors: 7,470,000

You'd have to be a pretty big curmudgeon for Bourbon Street not to put you in a good mood. Free-flowing music and booze might have something to do with it. Restaurants and bars pack this historic strip of the French Quarter; Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is even rumored to be haunted. Of course, if you really like crowds, grab your mask and join the Mardi Gras circus.

Source: New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau

No. 46 National Museum of China, Beijing

Annual Visitors: 7,450,000

This museum on Tiananmen Square measures 2.07 million square feet—surpassing New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art's 2 million square feet—and reopened in 2011 after a decade-long renovation. It presents 5,000 years of Chinese history, as approved by the Ministry of Culture. (In other words, don't expect much on the Great Leap Forward.) Artifacts include ancient Chinese Buddhist sculptures, a cowboy hat Deng Xiaoping wore on a visit to the U.S., and glazed pottery from the Tang dynasty. The museum also hosts temporary shows on subjects ranging from Leo Tolstoy to African art.

No. 47 (tie) Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong

Annual Visitors: 7,400,000

Hong Kong Disneyland features tried-and-true crowd-pleasers like Sleeping Beauty's castle and Space Mountain as well as the recent additions of Mystic Point (2013), Grizzly Gulch (2012) and Toy Story Land (2011), increasing the park's size in the last three years by 25 percent. What sets this park apart from the others? It was designed according to the Chinese rules of feng shui in a nod to local culture. It also has a dedicated stop on Hong Kong's efficient metro.

No. 47 (tie) Lotte World, Seoul

The world's largest indoor theme park is just the beginning of a complex that seems as big as Seoul itself. An outdoor amusement park, a folk museum, theaters, malls, an aquarium, and other venues round it out, along with—of course—plenty of karaoke machines.

No. 49 Everland, Gyeonggi-Do, South Korea

Annual Visitors: 7,303,000

Everland amusement park in South Korea has been thrilling kids since 1973 and knows how to keep them coming. The park is divided into themed sections that range from American Adventure (a rodeo experience, a wildly swinging Columbus ship) to Zoo-Topia (Amazon River ride, Safari World). It holds the record for the world's steepest wooden roller coaster.

No. 50 Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Annual Visitors: 7,000,000 to 8,000,000

The Taj Mahal is a graceful tribute to eternal love—a mausoleum that a 17th-century Moghul emperor built for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Gardens and reflecting pools with fountains lead to the mausoleum made of white marble with inlaid flower patterns made of semiprecious stones. The number of visitors has more than doubled since 2010 (when it welcomed 3 million).

Source: Department of Tourism, Government of Uttar Pradesh

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Tourism Teacher

The 21 types of tourist attractions

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The different types of tourist attractions make up an integral part of the structure of the tourism industry . People travel far and wide to visit a particular tourist attractions. Visiting said attractions could be the reason for their trip, or it could be a byproduct of their trip.

There are many different types of tourist attractions. Some are large, some are small. Some are busy, others are quiet. Some are privately owned travel and tourism businesses and others are public enterprises.

In this article I will tell you all about the different types of tourist attractions, and give you lots of examples to inspire your future travels too!

What is a tourist attraction?

Why are tourist attractions important, what is the role of tourist attractions, products and services offered by tourist attractions, national parks, entertainment parks, wildlife attractions, museums and art galleries, unique built attractions, historical or heritage attractions, spectating sport attractions, participating sport attractions, stadium tours, festivals and parades, exhibitions, entertainment venues, to conclude: types of tourist attractions, further reading.

Before we delve into the ins and outs of the different types of tourist attractions, we first need to understand what a tourist attraction is.

A tourist attraction, often also referred to as a visitor attraction, is a place of interest that is commonly visited by tourists.

A tourist attraction will usually have value to the tourist in one of the following areas-

  • Historial significance
  • Cultural value
  • Political significance
  • Natural or built beauty
  • Amusement and fun

Tourist attractions make up an important part of the visitor economy. The visitor economy comprises the activities and expenditure involved in supplying products and services for visitors by both the private and public sectors.

Tourist attractions contribute significantly to the tourism industry. They typically reap economic benefits of tourism and/or promote the local culture, heritage and environment. This can often result in increased environmental preservation- a positive environmental impact of tourism .

It is important, however, that tourist attractions are well-managed. If poor management occurs, tourist attractions can have adverse impacts on the local society, economy and (most commonly) the environment. It is imperative, therefore, that proper tourism planning is undertaken and that sustainable tourism measures are adopted when developing and managing the operations of a tourist attraction.

Tourist attractions are an important part of the tourism industry.

Some tourist attractions are there predominantly to provide entertainment, such as theme parks and zoos.

Other tourist attractions provide entertainment as well as other aspects, such as education . Examples of educational tourist attractions might include museums and exhibitions.

Other types of tourist attractions may facilitate recreation, hospitality and special events.

Types of tourist attractions

Different types of tourist attractions will offer different types of products and services.

Products and services are directed towards what the types of customer that is expected to visit will like.

Some tourist attractions offer rides or experiences. You can go snorkelling in the Atlantis aquarium in Dubai or ride Space Mountain at Disney Land, for example.

Some attractions offer information services, such as guidebooks, information boards, guided tours, interpretation and translation services and educational talks.

Some tourist attractions offer hospitality services, for example renting out areas for a wedding or a conference.

Many tourist attractions have gift shops and catering options for their customers.

Types of tourist attractions

There are many different types of tourist attractions that are found around the world.

Generally, tourist attractions can be separated into four main categories: natural, man-made, sport, events. I will discuss these four categories below.

Natural types of tourist attractions

Natural types of tourist attraction are attractions that are naturally occurring. In other words, they are not built by man.

There are many types of tourist attractions around the world that are natural. In many cases, areas surrounding natural attractions have been developed for tourism because of the natural attraction that is on offer.

Here are some of the different types of tourist attractions that are deemed natural attractions.


National park examples: Dartmoor, Brecon Beacons, Lake District, New Forest.

A national park is an area that is protected due to its cultural heritage, varied wildlife and/or beautiful countryside. National parks are popular types of tourist attractions.

There are clear boundaries showing where the park begins and ends. ,And laws exists to protect the nature and wildlife so that it can all be enjoyed by current and future generations. 

The overarching aim of a national park is for people to be able to continually benefit from everything nature has to offer, without destroying it.

There are 15 national parks in the UK.

UK national parks

Want to learn more? Take a look at my articles everything you need to know about UK national parks and the best national parks to visit in the UK .

UK national parks

My favourite national park : The Peak District

A friend of mine lives in and writes about the Peak District and I am always surprised at how many wonderful things there are to do here!

Goa beaches

Beach examples: Brighton Beach (Brighton, UK), Copacabana Beach (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Bondi Beach (Sydney, Australia), Santa Monica Beach ( California , USA).

Many people choose to go on holiday in search of a beach – meaning that beaches are popular types of tourist attractions!

Beach tourism is particularly popular amongst populations who live in predominantly cooler climates, such as Brits and Russians. Many tourists seek warm weather and soft sand and head to exotic shores to satisfy their desires.

Beaches are one of the most popular types of tourist attractions around the world.

Beaches can be busy or they can be quiet and secluded. Many beaches in popular tourist areas suffer from overtourism . The typical package holiday and the mass tourism industry are generally associated with beach tourism.

Boulders Beach

My favourite beach: Boulders Beach, South Africa

Visiting Boulders Beach was SUCH a treat! It is famous for its resident penguins and getting to see them up close was a really special experience!

types of tourist attractions

Cave examples: Blue Grotto ( Italy ), Waitomo Glowworm caves (New Zealand), Reed Flute Cave (China), Cave of the Crystals (Mexico).

There are many spectacular caves around the world and are popular natural types of tourist attractions.

Caves are natural voids in the ground. Some caves are small and other caves are large. These voids are typically created through weathering and erosion . Many caves have water inside, some of which are known as cenotes .

Caves are often home to many different species of bats, mice, rats and various insects.

Many people choose to visit caves in order to take a look at the natural formations or to undertake active pursuits, such as caving, diving and canoeing.

types of tourist attractions

My favourite cave: Manjanggul Cave

Despite its name, Manjanggul Cave is actually a lava tube, and it’s the biggest one in Asia. Located in ‘South Korea’s Hawaii’- Jeju island , this is a remarkable natural attraction to visit. This was the first, and only, time I have ever needed to use an umbrella indoors!

types of tourist attractions

Cliff examples: White Cliffs of Dover (UK), Torres del Paine (Chile), Preikestolen (Norway), The Cliffs of Moher ( Ireland ).

Cliffs are another examples of one of the popular types of tourist attractions.

A cliff is essential a land edge, whereby the land juts out above the sea. A cliff usually encompasses a steep rock face.

People may choose to visit cliffs to enjoy the scenery. They may do this by having a picnic, taking a gentle stroll or committing to a multi-day hike.

types of tourist attractions

My favourite cliff: Cape Point

Cape Point is the southeast corner of the Cape Peninsula. It is a beautiful mountainous area at the extreme most southwestern tip of South Africa . The views are stunning and it is a great place to relax for an afternoon.

view of alps mountain

Mountain examples: Mountain ranges – the Himalayas (Nepal), the Drakensburg Mountains (South Africa), the Yellow Mountains ( China ), The Canadian Rockies (Canada). Singular mountains – Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Everest (Nepal), Aconcagua (Argentina).

Mountains are some of the most popular types of tourist attractions.

A mountain is a natural elevation of the earth’s surface. A mountain usually has a peak. Mountains are bigger than hills and the top of the mountain is usually 2000m or more above sea level.

Mountains usually come in ranges (multiple mountains), but sometimes are lonesome.

Tourists choose to visit mountains for a number of reason. They may simply want to enjoy the scenery or they may be in search of cool weather. Many tourists choose to visit mountains for hiking or skiing activities.

Mountains are natural attractions that must be looked after. There have been many negative stories of erosion due to skiing and litter left behind by hikers.

types of tourist attractions

My favourite mountain: Mount Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was one of the biggest achievement of my life! The climb is physically and mentally challenging, but making it to the top was the best feeling ever!

green slope and mountains in clouds

Hills examples: Palatine Hill (Italy), Glastonbury Tor (UK), Chocolate Hills (Philipines), Anantagiri Hills ( India ).

Hills are popular areas for tourists to visit, and hills can make great types of tourist attractions.

Many people will choose to visit hills for the scenery or for active types of tourism , such as kite flying or hiking.

types of tourist attractions

My favourite hill: Glastonbury Tor

Did you know that a tor is a type of hill?

Glastonbury Tor is famous for the annual music festival and has become something of a landmark in the area. Whilst I haven’t ever attended Glastonbury festival, me and my girls did enjoy our blustering climb up to the top!

Hiking in Yunnan

Waterfalls examples: Niagara Falls (USA/Canada), Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil).

Visiting a waterfall is on many people’s travel to-do list! Many destinations have waterfalls that attract tourists.

Some waterfalls are big and others are small.

Some waterfalls are easily accessible and others are found in remote destinations.

The area around some waterfalls is very developed for tourism (such as Niagara Falls), and for others the area is not developed at all.

Goa waterfalls

My favourite waterfall: Dudhsagar Falls

Dudhsagar Falls is one of the best waterfalls in Goa , India. I loved this waterfall because it was surrounded by nature. The monkeys came to play on our walk to the falls and we could get in and swim with the huge fish that lived in the water beneath the waterfall. This was an amazing experience!

types of tourist attractions

Island examples: Malta, Bali (Indonesia), Jamaica (Caribbean), Isla of Wight (UK), Koh Samui (Thailand), Phd Quoc Island (Vietnam), Cape Verde.

Island tourism is a popular type of tourism and is an example of one of the most popular types of tourist attractions.

An island is a piece of land that is separated from the mainland by water.

Most islands have beach areas for tourists to enjoy.

Some islands are large, like Australia, and others are small, like the Gili Islands . Groups of islands are called an archipelago.

There are many islands that are popular for tourism, such as Bali, many of the islands in the south of Thailand and the Caribbean, amongst many others.

Visiting and staying on an island can often cost the tourist, and the local, more than if they were staying on the mainland. This is because of added transport costs for both people and goods. So, for example, the price of a loaf of bread is increased because the ingredients have to be put on a boat or place in order to reach the island, which costs money.

My favourite Island: Bali

Bali is the most populated tourist island in Indonesia . Popular with Australians and Chinese tourists, it also attracts visitors from around the world.

Bali is one of my happy places. I love the peaceful atmosphere- the yoga, the sound of the waves, the smell of incense. The beaches are great and the food is delicious.

I’ve been twice and I can’t wait to go back again!

old wooden barns on green hill

Example forests: Daintree Forest (Australia), Redwood National Park (USA), Sagano Bamboo Forest (Japan), Great Bear Rainforest (Canada).

A forest is one of the popular types of tourist attractions.

There are Forrests all over the world, although the flora and fauna differs according to the geographical location, they are share one thing in common- trees!

Many tourists choose to travel to forest areas. Some travellers will visit for a short time and others may stay for days or weeks.

There are many tourist facilities and resorts that have been developed within forests . In the UK the Centre Parcs chain is probably the most well-known. These holiday parks feature chalets and villas in a forest area. There are many activities such as rock climbing and mountain biking. There are also many facilities provided such as swimming pools and restaurants.

types of tourist attractions

My favourite forest: Monteverde Cloud Forest

Visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica was a once in a lifetime experience! We were literally living in the clouds! We spent our days amongst the nature, watching the humming birds, looking for sloths and talking gentle walks through the forest.

Purpose built or man-made types of tourist attractions

Many types of tourist attractions are purpose built. This means that the attractions are not natural, and were created by man.

Man-made tourist attractions can be separated into two groups: Attractions that were made for tourism purposes and attractions that were made for other purposes but has since been used for tourism.

Purpose built types of tourist attractions are attractions that have been purposely developed for tourism. This could include a wide range of types of tourist attractions, such as a theme park, a zoo or an art gallery.

Here are some examples of man-made tourist attractions.

types of tourist attractions

Entertainment park examples: Sea World, Florida (USA), Disney Land, Paris ( France ), Wet and Wild Gold Coast (Australia), Big Fun Play Centre, Calgary (Canada),

There are many different types of entertainment parks around the world that are common examples of types of tourist attractions.

Theme parks are very popular built tourist attractions. They are built with the sole purpose of providing entertainment for visitors.

Theme parks are usually quite large. Sometimes you will pay a one-time fee to enter with unlimited access to rides. Other times you may be required to pay for individual rides. Many of the large theme parks are renowned for being busy and having long queues for rides.

Another example of an entertainment park is a waterpark.

Waterparks can be both indoors and outdoors, although outdoor waterparks are usually larger, with more rides and facilities. Holiday parks like Centre Parks offer indoor waterparks as part of their offering to tourists.

In warmer climates, such as in Spain or Florida , there are many outdoor waterparks. Waterparks often feature wave pools, lazy rivers and a variety of slides and playgrounds.

Play parks are areas that have playing equipment for children.

The facilities offered at play parks can vary widely. Some play parks may have water areas, others are completely dry. Play parks may have small rides, such as train rides. They may also have horses or donkeys to ride. There will likely be playgrounds as well as other activities such as archery or canoeing.

Soft play areas are another example of play parks. Soft play areas consist of indoor playgrounds. They usually have ball pits, slides and sometime bouncy castles. Soft play areas are popular with young children. Many countries have impressive soft play attractions such as China and Canada .

types of tourist attractions

My favourite entertainment park: Peppa Pig World

My daughters love Peppa Pig, so when we heard that there was a Peppa Pig world we knew that we just HAD to go!

Peppa Pig World is a section within a larger theme park, called Paulton’s Park. Paulton’s Park is located in the New Forest in the south of England.

agriculture animals baby blur

Wildlife attraction examples: San Diego Zoo (USA), Monkey Island, Sanya (China), Atlantis Aquarium, Dubai (UAE), Tiger Temple, Chiang Mai ( Thailand ).

There are many types of tourist attractions that involve the use of wildlife .

Some of these are natural areas, such as grazing lands when you go on a safari. However, most of these are purpose built tourist attractions.

There are many types of wildlife attractions that make use of the concept of animal tourism. Some are better managed than others. When you are visiting an animal-focussed attraction it is important that you do your research and only visit if the animals are well treated and cared for.

Zoos are a popular type of wildlife attractions.

Zoos are areas whereby animals are kept. They usually have a wide range of animals, many of which are exotic, such as lions, elephants and monkeys. Tourists are allowed to enter the venue and look at and/or interact with the animals.

Some zoos have very small cages and the treatment of the animals is poor. This is unethical and I do not recommend visiting such zoos.

Farms are similar to zoos, but they generally have larger enclosures and keep only animals that naturally live in the country. In the UK, zoos generally feature animals such as cows, goats, sheep and chickens. Some farms that allow visitors are working farms.

Aquariums are also tourist attractions that enable tourists to see wildlife.

Aquariums feature marine life, such as sharks, sting rays, turtles and a wide range of fish. Some aquariums have large tanks and allow visitors to interact with the marine life by snorkelling or diving. Other aquariums may only have small tanks for their fish, which is unethical.

Lastly, there are a number of attractions around the world that use animals as their focus.

Some destinations will transport animals to the area to encourage tourists to visit. A common example of this is monkeys.

There are attractions that use tigers or lions, such as Tiger Temple in Thailand. Here you can get up close and personal and have photos taken with the tigers.

Thailand is also well-known for its elephants, with many tourist attractions featuring elephant rides or elephant conservation.

Some destinations, such as Mexico create tourist destinations which enable you to swim with dolphins and other marine life.

If you are considering visiting an attraction like this, do your research first and make sure that the organisation demonstrates ethical practices.

Animal tourism is a controversial issue and is one that is frequently debated. Whilst these attractions can be very profitable and have positive economic outcomes, they can, if not managed sustainably , have negative impacts on the animals.

types of tourist attractions

My favourite wildlife attraction: Krabi Elephant Sanctuary

The ethical elephant sanctuary in Krabi, Thailand rescues elephants who have been mistreated in the logging or tourism trades. The sanctuary provides elephants with a better quality of life than they have previously known and allows tourists to visit to help fund their operations.

The sanctuary offer tours and allow you to get up close and personal with the elephants. Elephant riding is cruel and this is not allowed.

Museum and art gallery examples: Egyption Museum, Cairo ( Egypt ), Louvre, Paris (France), Tate Modern, London (UK), Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Netherlands).

Museums and art galleries are usually purpose-built for tourism and are also examples of types of tourist attractions.

Museums and art galleries are found all over the world. These fall into different categories of the types of travel and tourism organisations . Some museums and art galleries are publicly funded or subsidised and others are privately owned, and therefore incur a cost to the visitor.

Museums and art galleries vary considerably in size. They can also have different intentions, some are based on history, or science, or culture amongst a wide variety of other subject matter. Some museums offer niche or unusual products- I was shocked to find out on my trip to Jeju in South Korea that the island has more sex museums than any other place!

types of tourist attractions

My favourite museum: War Remnants Museum

My visit to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam is an eye-opening experience.

I didn’t know much about the Vietnam war, but what I did know had come from Western sources. This was my first exposure of informational bias. I heard about the war from the perspective of the Vietnam people, rather than the American’s. I learnt about the torture practices and the deformations caused to future children as a result of agent orange.

I will never forget the images from that day- where American tourists were walking through the museum is sheer horror, tears running down their faces as a result of what they were learning.

Now, it is important to state here that this museum has an inevitable bias too. And that the whole and true story is rarely presented by one side. What this experience taught me, was that there are two sides to every story, and our media outlets and school textbooks may not always present an objective and whole picture.

types of tourist attractions

Unique built attraction examples: The Grand Canyon glass bridge (USA), Nevis Bungy Jump (New Zealand), F1 car driving, Abu Dhabi race track (UAE).

There are many other purpose built types of tourist attractions around the world that do not neatly fit into any of the above categories.

As tourists, we desire things that are innovative, new and different. This is why many unique tourist attractions have been built around the world.

In Costa Rica they have taken advantage of the natural habitat and built extensive zip line networks through the forests.

In China they have built a large number of glass bridges. This makes for a unique and thrilling experience when visiting many of the beautiful natural areas that the country has to offer.

In Sydney they offer tourists with the opportunity to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge- now that is a cool experience!

There are also tourist attractions which facilitate a range of adrenaline-rising activities, such as sport car racing, deep sea diving, skydiving or wing walking .

types of tourist attractions

My favourite unique built attraction: Glass Bridge at Yanoda Rainforest

The glass bridge in the Yanoda rainforest, close to Sanya in China was a really cool tourist experience.

You get to walk out over the forest and admire the views from the glass bridge. This was great… but the best part was when we reached the end and the glass beneath us!! No, it didn’t actually crack, it was a simulation, my seeing the face on my husband when it happened was absolutely HILARIOUS! If only I caught it on camera…

types of tourist attractions

Heritage or historical attraction examples: Blue Mosque, Istanbul (Turkey), Buckingham Palace, London (UK), Macchu Picchu ( Peru ), Ankor Was (Cambodia).

Some man-made types of tourist attractions are not purpose built for tourism. Instead, they have been adapted for the purposes of tourism.

There are a wide range of buildings, areas and places that have historical or culturally significance. These places are often restored or protected and then displayed to tourists.

Historical or heritage-based tourist attractions include castles, famous walls, ruins, towers, monuments, religious buildings, houses and palaces.

These types of tourist attractions are often beneficial because they help to preserve cultural and heritage, which is a positive impact of cultural tourism .

types of tourist attractions

My favourite heritage and historical attraction: Pyramids of Giza

The Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt are simply incredible. Nobody knows the exact history behind why and how they were built, and that’s part of the mystery!

We climbed down into the tombs and learnt all about the Egyptian pharaohs, which was super interesting!

Sport attractions

One of the most popular types of tourist attractions are sport events. Sports attractions make up an important part of the sports tourism industry.

Whilst a sporting attraction may not always comprise a permanent infrastructure, like many of the types of tourist attractions that we have discussed so far, sporting events are most certainly attractions in their own right!

There are three main types of sport-based attractions: spectating, participating and stadium tours.

people watching soccer game

Spectating attractions examples: Football World Cup, Wimbledon Championships, Six Nations Rugby, Olympics.

Many people choose to visit sport attractions because they wish to spectate at a sporting venue. They may not realise that these are types of tourist attractions, but in actual fact, they are!

There are many different sports around the world that welcome spectators. These range from large, international events (such as the Football World Cup or Wimbledon), to small localised events (think local cricket team or school swimming competition).

types of tourist attractions

My favourite spectating sport attraction: Wimbledon

I am not a huge tennis fan, but the atmosphere at the Wimbledon Championships was fantastic!

Quintessentially British, I enjoyed drinking Pimms and eating fresh strawberries whilst watching the game. The sun was shinning too. What more could you ask for?

backlit beach dawn dusk

Participating sport attraction examples: Yoga retreat, Bali (Indonesia), golfing holiday, (Spain), diving holiday ( Egypt ), London Marathon (UK).

Other people visit sports attractions in order to participate in sport.

People may choose to participate in sport by doing a sports camp, which is particular popular with children and young people in the USA.

Other people may opt to go on a yoga holiday or a golfing trip, for example.

Other people may travel to a destination for a specific sporting event that they hope to take part in, such as a swimming competition or a running race.

There are many different sports attractions that invite tourists from around the world to participate in sport.

types of tourist attractions

My favourite participating sport attraction: Tough Mudder

The Tough Mudder race that I competed in was a day to remember! Tough Mudder is not for the faint hearted- a half marathon in knee-high mud with extraordinarily challenging obstacles such as being squeezed through a ‘birth canal’, carrying heavy rocks and diving into ice water, this was a memorable endurance!

Nonetheless, it was such an achievement when I completed in and I look back on this day with fond memories. But, it is pretty safe to say that I will not be signing up for a Tough Mudder again any time soon…!

colosseum rome italy

Stadium tour examples: Barcelona Olympic Stadium (Spain), Manchester United Stadium (UK), Maracana Stadium (Brazil), Melbourne Cricket Ground ( Australia ).

The last example of sports attractions is stadium tours.

Stadium tours are popular around the world, particularly with people who are fans of teams who were/are based at these locations.

Stadium tours are also popular if there was a particularly famous event that occurred there.

Stadium tours occur in in both active and pre-used stadiums. Tours in disused stadiums tend to run more frequently and these stadiums are often transformed into museums, which exhibitions and information displays.

types of tourist attractions

My favourite stadium tour: Barcelona

Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium is the largest in Europe, with a capacity of over 99,000 people. Whilst I m not a big football fan, it was pretty impressive to see where the players change, marvel at the many trophies on display and see the sheer size of this stadium!

Special events

There are many special events that take place around the world that be be classed as types of tourist attractions.

Special events come in all shapes and sizes and there is no end to the different types of special events that can be organised. However, the most common types of special events are either markets, festivals and parades, exhibitions or entertainment venues.

woman holding tomatoes

Market examples: Grand Bazaar, Istanbul (Turkey), Camden Market, London (UK), Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Bangkok (Thailand), Marrakesh Souks (Morocco).

There are different types of markets, which are popular types of tourist attractions. Some markets are intended for local use (i.e. fruit and vegetable markets or fish markets) and others are intended for tourists (i.e. souvenir markets).

There are many places throughout the world that are famous for their markets. Some tourists may visit especially because they wish to visit the market. And for others, visiting a market may be a byproduct of their trip.

Markets come in different sizes. Some are large and others are small. Some markets operate everyday and others are only operational on particular days of the week or month.

Markets also look different in different places. In some areas there are indoor markets and in some places they are outdoors. Some take place in the street, others in an organised venue. Some take place in more unusual locations, such as on a river!

Markets are commonly associated with the concept of bargaining or haggling. They usually specialise in produce that is grown/made locally, i.e. leather in Morocco. Some are regulated more than others and you may find counterfeit or copied products here.

types of tourist attractions

My favourite market: AP Plaza (aka Shanghai fake market)

Visiting the Yatai Xinyang Fashion and Gift Market in Shanghai is an interesting experience, even if you don’t enjoy shopping!

This market is famous for its excellent copies and fake products. Whether you want a pair of Christian Louboutins, an England football shirt or some custom-made designer glasses, you can get it all at this market. It offers good quality and excellent value for money. And you get to practice your haggling skills too…

group of people having neon party

Festival and parade examples: Harbin Ice and Snow Festival (China), Glastonbury Festival (UK), Rio Carnival (Brazil), Holiday Festival (India), Songkran (Thailand).

Festivals and parades are important components of tourism .

There are many different festivals and parades that take places at different times of the year in different countries.

Many people will travel from around the world to either spectate or take part in such events.

San Fermin

My favourite festival: San Fermin

San Fermin , commonly referred to as the Running of the Bulls is a famous festival that takes place each summer in Pamplona, Spain. Famed for its bull running and fighting, the event also has a lot more to offer- jazz classes, karaoke, all-night parties, children’s games, meals, fireworks and lots more- this event is great fun to attend.

Whilst I didn’t feel all that comfortable about the way that the bulls were treated during this event, this festival is an important cultural tourism event in Spain, and it was great to learn a little bit more about Spanish heritage and to help keep the tradition alive!

red art relaxation girl

Exhibition examples: Tate Modern, London (UK), ITB Berlin, (Germany), Tutankhamun Exhibition, Cairo ( Egypt ), Ryoji Ikeda: continuum at Centre Pompidou (France).

Another one of the major types of tourist attractions is an exhibition. An exhibition is a display of art of interesting artefacts. Exhibitions usually take place in museums or large buildings. Most commonly, exhibitions consist predominantly of artwork.

Exhibitions can be permanent, they can travel from place to place or they can be temporary.

types of tourist attractions

My favourite exhibition: International Silk Art Exhibition

I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the silk museum in Hangzhou , China. It was fascinating to see all of the garments that were created over the years and I really enjoyed learning about the history of the Silk Road.

white sydney opera house

Entertainment venue examples: Sydney Opera House (Australia), Holywood Bowl, LA (USA), Paradiso, Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Harpa Concert Hall (Iceland.

The last of the types of tourist attractions that I will discuss in this article is entertainment venues.

Entertainment venues are popular tourist attractions. There are different types of entertainment venues. Venues can be large or small. They can be permanent or temporary. They can propose built or otherwise.

Some entertainment venues have duel purpose. Or they may have been built for a different purpose than what they are used for now.

For example, The O2 Stadium, which now holds concerts and other entertainment events, was originally built as the Millennium Dome. The Millennium Dome was an exhibition centre, housing artefacts to celebrate the turn of the new millennium. However, this attracts was not successful and the building was subsequently redesigned and used for alternative means.

Likewise, following the 2012 London Olympics, there was no longer a need to have so many stadiums for public use. So West Ham United Football Club purchased the stadium and transformed it for their personal use. This was an excellent example of sustainable practice and was one of the reasons that the London Olympic bid was successful!

types of tourist attractions

My favourite entertainment venue: Joya Resident Cirque Du Soleil

Cirque Du Soleil is an inc credible acrobatics show that traditionally travels around the world using temporary entertainment venues. However, one of the few resident shows, where they have a purpose-built permanent infrastructure in place, is near Cancun in Mexico.

I thought that the venue, and the show, was absolutely fantastic. We sipped cocktails before the show with live entertainment along the purpose-built river. We then sat in the venue, which had been designed with moving stages, props and acrobatic equipment installed in order to provide for an incredible experience.

As you can see, there are many different types of tourist attractions throughout the world. Whether they are natural or man-made, large or small, all types of tourist attractions make a valuable contribution and play an important role in the tourism industry. What’s your favourite type of tourist attraction?

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17 Tourist Attractions That Travel Editors Actually Love Visiting

Afar is all about traveling deeper, but our editors also love these classic tourist attractions. here’s why we think you should visit them, too. yes, even times square..

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A few camels and their handlers, with Egyptian pyramids in background

Egypt’s pyramids are one of the most iconic—and enduring—destinations in the world.

Photo by Lyndsey Matthews

Sure, they’re crowded, popular, and well known. But that’s for a reason! How do you know which tourist attractions are truly worth it? You don’t want to spend the time and feel . . . underwhelmed. Here, AFAR’s editors rounded up the spots we love, no matter how touristy they get.

The Giza Pyramids, Egypt

Considering how close the pyramids are to Cairo—on a clear day you can see them from the top of the city’s tallest buildings—you’re really missing out if you go all the way to Egypt and skip them. Not only are they the only surviving wonder of the ancient world, but the pyramids are also so much bigger than I realized. At 449 feet, the Great Pyramid is more than half the height of the Eiffel Tower and roughly 40 stories tall. Standing at the base of this massive tomb, I was awestruck considering how humans could build something like this thousands of years ago without the technology and tools we have today.

If I were to do it again: Admittedly, I liked the cheesy camel ride photo opp way more than I thought I would. But I wish I had skipped paying extra to go inside the Great Pyramid since you have to climb one section completely hunched over in a tunnel and then there’s really nothing to see in the burial chamber itself. Add in the lack of ventilation and the humidity from everyone’s breath, and you’ll start wondering why you paid to hang out in a dark, muggy place that feels roughly 110 degrees. If you’re claustrophobic, consider this part 100 percent skippable. — Lyndsey Matthews, senior commerce editor

Times Square at dusk with many brightly lit billboards and tourists

Times Square can be hectic, but if you find the right coffee shop or bookstore, you might even feel like a local.

Photo by James Ting on Unsplash

Times Square, New York City

As a New York City–based theater lover, I find myself in Times Square a lot. I’m not going to pretend that I always enjoy battling crowds, shuffling behind slow walkers, dodging counterfeit Mickey Mouses, and inhaling the neighborhood’s many, many smells, but it’s not a place where I can stay cynical for long. There are too many people having too much fun and falling in love with my city for the first time. How could you not get at least a little swept up in it all?

Times Square is also a neighborhood that rewards return visitation, filled with hidden spots that—despite being surrounded by Starbucks and Margaritaville and the Disney Store—will make you feel like a local. I’m thinking of the Drama Book Shop , where you might run into actors picking up a play script or a book on acting techniques; All’Antico Vinaio , the hole-in-the-wall NYC outpost of a Florentine sandwich shop, where La Paradiso (mortadella, pistachio cream, stracciatella) is probably my favorite bite in the city; and St. Kilda Coffee , a (literally) underground, Aussie-inspired café with killer merch. Ducking into a darkened doorway on some side street and discovering the places where New Yorkers go after work or after a show is the fastest way to feel like you belong here.

Grab a drink: The surrounding area has some beloved institutions for a pre- or post-show drink, including Sardi’s , which is lined with caricatures of stage greats. (The move: Head upstairs to the bar for spreadable cheese and crackers and a Manhattan.) But the place I always take out-of-towners is Jimmy’s Corner , a beloved dive bar formerly owned by Jimmy Glenn, a legendary boxing trainer who was friends with Muhammad Ali and sadly died during the pandemic at the age of 89. Order a beer and toast to his legacy. —Nicholas DeRenzo, contributing editor

Overhead view of people in terminal at Grand Central Station

Even cynical New Yorkers can’t help but admire the beauty of Grand Central.

Grand Central Terminal, New York City

Unlike my colleague Nick, I can’t stand Times Square. But I loved it when my commute used to take me through Grand Central twice a day. Yes, you have to dodge selfie-takers, but this landmark is so photogenic you can’t blame them. Even if I’m in a rush, I try to take a moment and take in the main hall’s exquisite turquoise ceiling with its golden constellations. I’m grateful that preservationists (including Jackie O.!) took the time to save this Beaux-Arts building from being destroyed, as New York’s Penn Station was, so that we could still enjoy it today.

Find the best snacks: Sure, you could grab a burger at Shake Shack in the downstairs food court. But why not treat yourself and live like the 19th-century industrialist robber barons who built Grand Central? Start with drinks at the Campbell , a cocktail lounge that used to be the private office of the Jazz Age financier John W. Campbell. After a few Manhattans, you’ll need some food. Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant is full of tourists, but it’s a New York institution for a reason. —LM

AFAR editor Michelle Baran in selfie on Grand Canal in Venice

Venice is so scenic that AFAR’s Michelle Baran can’t help snapping selfies.

Photo by Michelle Baran

Venice, Italy

People love to complain about how crowded and overrun Venice is. Why wouldn’t it be? Venice is incredible. There is no city in the world like it, a centuries-old wonderland that is either floating or sinking depending on how you think of it, where walkways and roads have been replaced with canals and vaporetti. Sadly, the fact that it is constantly under threat of floods only adds to the fragile beauty of a city that seems to defy the odds. It’s nothing less than a living, breathing outdoor museum.

How to avoid the crowds: While Venice can definitely get packed to the gills with tourists, there are less crowded times throughout the year when you can visit, such as winter. Most people remain along the city’s main thoroughfares, but there are plenty of side streets in Venice that are just as lovely as the Grand Canal. Go roaming in quieter ’hoods like Santa Croce and San Polo for a break from the masses. —Michelle Baran, senior travel news editor

Brightly colored stained glass windows in a darkened cathedral

One of the most magical parts of Barcelona’s Sagrada Família is the way the stained glass brightens its interiors.

Photo by Billie Cohen

Sagrada Família, Barcelona

When I landed in Barcelona about a week after Spain reopened to international tourists in the wake of the pandemic, the first thing I did was head to the Sagrada Família. None of the hundreds of pictures of Gaudí’s famous unfinished church and its art-nouveau-meets-dripped-sand architecture prepared me for seeing it in person. The church is stunning. Stunning. I took video after video and photo after photo, trying and failing to capture some of the unusual beauty, especially the way the stained-glass windows paint the walls with vibrant colors of light, which I could not stop looking at.

I also attempted to capture how sparse the visitors were: There was no crush of cruise passengers and very few tourists inside, and the street in front of the building was so unbelievably empty that a market had sprung up! There would never have been room for such a thing in a typical year, and there may never be again. But regardless of how many people I have to share it with next time, I cannot wait to go back. I spent about two hours inside (and my guide was patient the entire time; thanks Made for Spain and Portugal !), and every second was worth it. Explore all the nooks and crannies of the buildings, and keep your eyes open for details in unexpected places (even the doors are masterpieces), and stay long enough to be able to see how the light shifts.

Need to know: Buy your tickets ahead of time online. If you wait to buy them on-site, you’ll be waiting in a queue (or worse, you could be shut out). Online tickets are available about two months ahead of time from the official website . So as soon as you know your trip dates, make a note in your calendar to reserve your tickets—they can sell out months in advance. If the visit hooks you on the madness of Antoni Gaudí, be sure to visit his other spots, such as Park Güell and the Gaudí House Museum. The tour company I traveled with can even arrange a private visit to La Pedrera, the last residence he designed. —Billie Cohen, executive editor

City street intersection at night, with bright neon signs on buildings

Some places in Japan, like Shibuya Crossing, are known for the crowds.

Courtesy of Jezael Melgoza/Unsplash

Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo

At various intervals throughout the day, up to 3,000 people walk Shibuya Crossing, which is located in Tokyo’s thrumming commercial and financial hub. It’s widely considered the busiest intersection in the world, and if you come on a weekend after sunset, it’s easy to see why. I love crossing Shibuya during these times, when it can feel like you’re in close concert with people simply by putting one foot in front of the other. But I also love walking across the intersection when it’s at its emptiest: after midnight, when the last trains of the evening have departed, and up until 6 a.m. Too early? Not if you’re jet-lagged or just taking the long way home after some craft beer at basement bar Ant ’n Bee in Roppongi.

Get the shot: If you don’t want to descend into the masses—but do want to photograph it all the same—skip the perpetually crowded Starbucks in Tsutaya and set up in L’Occitane Café, Mag’s Park, or the passageway between Shibuya Station and Mark City. —Katherine LaGrave, digital features editor

Brown and white wooden sign reading "Old Faithful Geyser" next to a path leading toward steam erupting from the ground with evergreen trees in background

Old Faithful’s reliably dramatic display has made it a perennial favorite among Yellowstone visitors.

Courtesy of Simeon Muller/Unsplash

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

Even at the height of summer, with tour buses pulling up and scores of visitors shifting and angling for a good spot, resist the urge to think you’ve made a mistake coming to the Old Faithful geyser. As the steam begins to take a more substantial weight, the plume begins to form. It grows, bounding up and then retreating to splash on the ground around the opening before jumping up again, higher this time in a whiter and stronger column. It is a marvelous thing to behold, to hear, and even to feel, as the cooled mist from the plume is carried over on the breeze.

Insider tip: Plan ahead and book a room at the Old Faithful Inn (a 1903 log structure with balconies and bridges around the open lobby and an 85-foot-high fireplace built of river stones) so you can linger on the lodge’s observation deck with a sundowner to watch eruption after eruption. And time your visit for a new moon so you can walk out at night to see the eruption with the Milky Way shimmering behind it. —Ann Shields, AFAR contributor

The Sydney Opera House at the end of a curved walkway, filled with people

The Sydney Opera House sits at the end of a permanently buzzing waterfront promenade.

Photo by Nicholas DeRenzo

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House

When an entire nation’s identity seems bound up in a few key icons and images, it’s hard to escape the feeling when you see them IRL that they’re somehow . . . smaller. What, you mean there aren’t always fireworks going off behind Sydney Harbour Bridge ? And the Opera House , which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2023, isn’t always set against a perfect, cloudless blue sky? But here’s the thing about these two Sydney treasures: They’re not just fodder for photos. They’re fairly incredible up close, inside, on top, beneath—whether you’re strapped into a climb suit and harness, gripping the top of the Bridge (OMG the views!), or enjoying a preshow glass of wine and ricotta gnocchi in the Opera Bar overlooking the harbor. These icons are just one of the reasons Sydney made our Where to Go in 2024 list.

Go with an open mind: I’ve been to the Opera House half a dozen times—I make a point to go every time I visit Sydney—and I’ve stopped taking pictures of the exterior. I just beeline for the bar and then get tickets to whatever show catches my eye when I’m in town. The calendar is so well curated: I’ve seen touring theater, edgy modern dance, and yes, even opera. —Laura Dannen Redman, editor at large

Aerial shot of Santa Monica Beach, with waves crashing on golden sand and beachgoers casting shadows

Santa Monica is home to one of the most popular—and famous—stretches of sand in the nation.

Photo by TierneyMJ/Shutterstock

Santa Monica, California

All my British friends end up at Santa Monica when they come to L.A., as I imagine most travelers do. It’s easy to see why: In a sprawling tangle of freeways where everything is spread out (try getting from LAX to Griffith Observatory in traffic), Santa Monica is a compact, walkable, highlight-packed treat. But once you’ve had your pierful of tourists, there are plenty of ways to explore the seaside city more deeply. Skip the big box retailers of Third Street Promenade for the more independent boutiques and restaurants of Main Street. Grab a coffee and a breakfast burrito at Dogtown. Hit up Annenburg Beach House for its restaurant, pool, and splash pad.

Insider tip: There are plenty of two-hour parking lots along the beach, which gives more than enough time for a swim, surf, or stroll. Or park for longer and take the 22-mile, paved Marvin Braude hike-and-bike trail north to Will Rogers State Beach or south via Venice Beach and Marina del Ray to the coastal towns of Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. There’s a Metro station here, too, which will take you all the way to Downtown L.A. for a couple of bucks. —Tim Chester, deputy editor

A towering white marble minaret in foreground with the Taj Mahal in background, with its rounded domes and arched entryways lined with intricate inlays and carvings

It’s impossible not to be wowed by the intricate details that line nearly every surface of the Taj Mahal.

I was the idiot who did not want to see the Taj Mahal. There was so much else that I wanted to see on my short trip to India, and I figured I’d seen a million pictures of the palatial white mausoleum online, so how much better could it really be in person? And then I walked through the gate and got my first glimpse. Did I mention that I was an idiot? The marble is shining white, the inlays and paintings are gorgeous, and there is intricate detail everywhere you look. That’s what intrigued me most, the artistry at eye level.

Need to know: Do not listen to the myth that you should go at sunrise. The Taj Mahal complex only opens 30 minutes before sunrise so you’re not likely to even get inside until the sun is already up, and you’ll spend a long time standing in line with all the busloads of tourists. Instead, go after the sunrise rush (e.g., 7:30–8 a.m.), when there’s likely to be less of a queue and less of a crush. Granted, it’ll always be crowded (it’s the Taj Mahal after all) but it won’t be as overwhelming. —BC

People swimming and floating in milky blue water with a backdrop of black lava rock and steam emerging from the ground

The Blue Lagoon offers many different ways to relax, from a swim-up bar to in-water massages.

Blue Lagoon

I’ve been to Iceland a few times, and on my earlier visits, I always resisted the temptation to take a dip in the Blue Lagoon, a sprawling geothermal spa that ranks as one of the island nation’s most-visited attractions. I don’t love crowds, and the idea of half-naked public exfoliation just didn’t sound appealing. On my most recent trip to Iceland this October, I finally took the proverbial plunge, and I have to admit: I get it now. There’s something so otherworldly about the landscape, all jagged black lava rock and milky-blue water that gets its magical hue from suspended silica and algae, and you really do emerge after your soak feeling slightly reborn.

It’s easy to get in the spirit, wading around, submerged up to your shoulders, applying face masks, and ordering frozen drinks from the swim-up bar. I even booked an in-water massage, which is delivered while you’re floating on a buoyant mat under a warm, wet blanket. The setting feels practically womblike. (The Lagoon is temporarily closed as the surrounding area deals with the risk of a volcanic eruption, but I’m hoping that everything gets resolved quickly.)

Arrive hungry: I had the pleasure of staying overnight at the gorgeous Retreat at Blue Lagoon , an ultra-luxurious hotel with its own private wing of the lagoon. It’s significantly more serene, and the resort’s darkened, hushed spa is known for its multi-part Ritual, which involves using silica, algae, and minerals to exfoliate, cleanse, and moisturize. But the highlight was the resort’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Moss .

There are plenty of luxurious ingredients on the tasting menu (langoustines, caviar, sea urchin, succulent lamb), but some of the biggest pleasures are the simplest: My table couldn’t stop raving about the cod-skin crisps or the butter, which is whipped with skyr (it’s kind of like thick Icelandic yogurt) and dusted with dulse (edible seaweed) from a nearby fishing village. If they sold “SKYR BUTTER” tote bags at the gift shop, I would have bought three. — ND

Two kids sit next to reflecting pool with Lincoln Memorial in background

Share the experience of the Lincoln Memorial with your family, as AFAR’s Ann Shields did with her two kids.

Photo by Ann Shields

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

This is one tourist attraction best visited with a crowd. The monument’s place at the end of the Mall’s Reflecting Pool, as well as its white marble columns and neoclassical style give it the air of a sacred place, a kind of temple to American democracy. Visitors slow down a bit and voices drop as they walk up the steps, like pilgrims approaching a shrine. Daniel Chester French’s sculpture of the seated and contemplative Lincoln is surprisingly large and unfailingly moving to see. The full text of Lincoln’s remarkable Gettysburg Address and part of his second inaugural speech are etched in the walls of the memorial, and people actually stand still and read them, murmuring the words to their children, some weeping a little (full disclosure: me, every single time), before moving on a bit chastened and a bit inspired.

Insider tip: There is no wrong time to visit. Come during the day or at sunset or stop by late at night, as Nixon famously did in 1970. —AS

A llama sitting on bright green grass with another llama and a few travelers in background

You might spend as much time taking llama portraits at Machu Picchu as admiring the views.

Machu Picchu

The thing I love most about this centuries-old sanctuary in the Peruvian Andes is the journey to get there. You typically have to begin in Cusco, another Incan outpost situated at an elevation of more than 11,000 feet. Here, you acclimate to the high altitude among the city’s beautiful Spanish colonial architecture, charming artisan culture, and delicious eateries. You then venture by car or train through the Sacred Valley, the amazing markets, colorful Andean culture and gorgeous scenery. And then, at long last, after one final (and very scenic) train ride and an advance reservation, you finally get to enter the pièce de résistance— Machu Picchu . Try to get there early or late in the day to avoid the crowds and explore in relative solitude.

Don’t forget: Of course, you will need your selfie with that iconic backdrop, but roam the grounds for equally picturesque but lesser-known views complete with llama photo bombings. — MB

A temple complex under a gray sky, with a branch in the foreground

With the help of a guide, you too can snap pictures of the temples at Angkor Archaeological Park sans crowds.

Angkor Archaeological Park, Siem Reap

More than 1 million people visit Angkor Archaeological Park every year, and it never feels more crowded than at sunrise in front of Angkor Wat, the showpiece temple of the whole shebang. But no matter how many photos I’d seen of that moment, my heart still swelled when the sun sparked on those sandcastle turrets—and it was partly because of all the strangers I was sharing it with. We’d all schlepped here, at 5:30 in the morning, in 100-plus heat, to witness the same mini-miracle people watched when this complex was built 1,000 years ago. Sue me if I get a little choked up at humanity being suitably awed and filled with wonder.

How to avoid the crowds: Visit during the green season, late May through early September, for the best chance of avoiding crowds. It usually only rains in the afternoon, which means you’ll have all morning (the coolest part of the day anyway) to explore. Also, don’t overlook the other temples in the park: for instance, moss-covered crumbling Ta Nei, the unfinished sandstone Ta Keo, or Bayon with its smiling stone faces. With the right guide, you can clamber around many of them without another soul in sight. I recommend AsiaDesk , a company founded by an Asia-based couple who have decades of experience organizing bespoke trips in the region. My guide took me to Ta Prohm (the famous one with the giant tree roots straddling its crumbling walls) right when the park opened, and we entered via the little-used north gate. Most people will come through the east gate around midmorning, so we had the place to ourselves for quite a while. —BC

The Grand Canyon with light snowfall on beige rocks in foreground and reddish cliffs in distance

The Grand Canyon is even prettier after it snows.

Grand Canyon

There are a few places I have been in the world where my mind could not actually comprehend what my eyes were seeing. The Grand Canyon is one of those places. The scale, the depth, and the sheer beauty of this massive expanse of canyon take my breath away every single time I step up to its edge—and I have already done so numerous times in my life. It never gets old. And there’s always another reason to return: The hike down to the Colorado River and back is still on my to-do list.

My favorite time to go: I particularly love the Grand Canyon during the late fall, when its ridges are even more colorful and dramatic under moody autumn skies and sunsets. —MB

A flat-topped mountain covered in boulders and scrubby vegetation

There are more plant varieties found on Table Mountain (about 2,200) than in the entire United Kingdom.

Photo by Sarika Bansal

Table Mountain, Cape Town

If you’re a hiker in Cape Town, you’re spoiled for choice—the South African city has a famously mountain-studded coastline—but one of the best views still comes from atop highly touristed Table Mountain. I don’t even feel like I earned the sunset I took in: wind blowing my hair, the westernmost Cape Point in the distance, the Atlantic Ocean all around us, and the crescent of the city below. It was made that much better by the bottle of Stellenbosch wine in hand that we had packed on our backs on that arduous . . . five-minute cable car ride to the top. Could we have done a four-hour scramble up to the flat-top summit? Sure, and I might try it next time. (I really hope there’s a next time—Cape Town is the kind of place that begs multiple visits.)

An easier alternative: Save time for a hike to the top of Lion’s Head, the little brother to Table Mountain, and a more manageable 90-minute climb with views of the Table itself. —LDR

A night scene of towers covered in plants and lit with red lights

The “supertrees” at Gardens by the Bay look even more alien and futuristic after dark.

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Call up a photo of Singapore , and greenhouses of epic proportions will no doubt be among the first things you see. Spread across 250 acres, Gardens by the Bay is a massive feat of natural flora and man-made art: It includes more than 1.5 million plants and has 18 “supertrees,” vertical gardens that reach up to 160 feet in height and generate electricity and collect rainwater. There are three distinct parts of the garden (Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden, and Bay Central Garden) and two conservatory complexes (the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest). Before I first visited Gardens by the Bay, I expected to be underwhelmed. Photos can make anything look pretty , I thought. Surely those supertrees will be meh . Except they weren’t. Instead, it was all almost too much to take in. It still is—but in the best possible sort of way.

How to do it right: Despite being one of Singapore’s top attractions, Gardens by the Bay can feel, at times, impossibly your own. Bring a picnic and sit under the supertrees as the sun sets and they begin to glow. But be sure to book your ticket ahead of time to any indoor attractions at Gardens by the Bay, lest you waste your time standing in line—those are moments you could spend tucking into a plate of char kuay teow , after all. —KLG

This article originally appeared online in November 2019; it was updated on December 14, 2023, to include current information.

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  • What is the difference between a tourist destination and a tourist attraction?

What is the difference between a tourist destination and a tourist attraction?

  • April 3, 2023 3:05 am

Are you planning your next vacation but confused about whether to visit a tourist destination or a tourist attraction? While the terms may sound similar, they actually have different meanings. In this article, we’ll define both terms and help you understand the difference between them so you can make an informed decision on your next adventure. So, let’s get started!

Destination or Attraction? Let’s Define the Tourist Hotspots!

A tourist destination is a place that attracts visitors because of its natural beauty, cultural significance, or historical importance. Tourist destinations are usually large areas that offer a range of activities and attractions, such as beaches, national parks, and cities. The goal of a tourist destination is to provide visitors with an immersive experience that allows them to explore and discover the unique characteristics of the location.

On the other hand, a tourist attraction is a specific place or activity that draws visitors to a destination. Tourist attractions can be natural wonders, landmarks, theme parks, museums, or other notable sites. Attractions are usually smaller in scale than destinations and are designed to be experienced quickly. The goal of a tourist attraction is to provide visitors with entertainment or education in a short amount of time.

Torn Between Tourist Attractions and Tourist Destinations? Let’s Break it Down!

If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation with plenty of time to explore, a tourist destination may be the way to go. Destinations offer a variety of activities and attractions that can keep you busy for days or even weeks. Whether you’re looking to hike in the mountains, swim in the ocean, or explore a new city, a tourist destination has something for everyone.

However, if you’re short on time or just looking for a quick adventure, a tourist attraction may be the better choice. Attractions offer a unique experience that can be enjoyed in a few hours or less. Whether you want to ride a roller coaster, see a famous landmark, or learn about history, a tourist attraction can provide a fun and memorable experience.

So, the difference between a tourist destination and a tourist attraction is clear. While destinations offer a variety of activities and attractions over a larger area, attractions are specific sites or activities that draw visitors to a destination. Both can be great options depending on your travel preferences and time constraints. Whatever you choose, we hope you have a wonderful and memorable trip!

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Destinations behind a paywall? What to know about the increasing tourist fees worldwide.

tourist destination and tourist attraction

Travelers to Venice will have to pay up to witness its historic canals and islands, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

To regulate heavy tourist traffic and “protect residents,” the City of Water announced tourist groups will be capped at 25 people – about half the capacity of a tourist bus – and ban loudspeakers, which create “disturbances,” according to the Italian city. Over the summer, crowds in St. Mark’s Square, the city’s main plaza, caused bridges to back up and tourists saw overflowing trash cans. 

The city said the biggest culprits are day trippers, who don’t add much economic value to the city – like eating at local hotels or restaurants – while still putting pressure on the city’s infrastructure. In 2022, 30 million people visited the City of Canals, but only 3.2 million stayed overnight in the historic city center. 

“I refuse to visit the city during tourist season even when friends and family are staying with me because the crowds are so crazy,” Nathan Heinrich, an American writer and designer who holds dual citizenship in Italy and lives just outside of Venice, told USA TODAY.

This year, the city will trial a new day-tripper entrance fee of €5 per person ($5.44) during 29 peak days between April and mid-July. To enforce the fee, daytime visitors must register online and download a QR code, which officials will randomly ask to verify. If a traveler doesn't have the code, they can pay the tax on the spot along with an extra fine of up to €100 ($108.82).

Learn more: Best travel insurance

What to do in Hawaii? Locals weigh in on if these popular spots are worth the hype

The news makes Venice the latest popular destination to increase fees aimed at tourists. Last year, Amsterdam announced it would increase its tourist tax by 12.5%, making it the highest in Europe. Closer to home, Hawaii failed to pass a widely supported bill in May that would make tourists pay for a $50 pass to enjoy the islands’ natural beauty.

As the demand to see and experience new places only strengthens, many popular destinations are working to add or increase fees aimed at the sheer number of travelers they get.

“There are concerns about overtourism and the strain it puts on the local infrastructure, the environmental impacts and frankly, it’s just a revenue stream,” Jason Block, CEO of travel advising company and a collection of travel brands known as WorldVia Travel Group, told USA TODAY. “You look at these places that are really dependent on tourism as an industry – and especially coming out of the pandemic where they lost a lot of that revenue – they’re playing a little bit of catch up. They’re also seeing other destinations implementing without much impact to demand.”

Experts consider these fees to be the future of travel, so here’s how they are going to impact travelers. 

What are tourist taxes?

Tourist taxes are “something virtually every destination has in some shape or form” as a way to generate income from travelers, Block said. 

Nearly all destinations have a lodging tax, which is automatically added to your final hotel bill. Honolulu raised its lodging tax two years ago, adding up to 18% onto the hotel room rate. Destinations also have similar fees added onto final airline ticket prices or port charges if traveling by cruise ship.

More destinations are hiking up these fees to coincide with the increased demand. In January 2023, Aruba raised its lodging tax from 9% to 12.5%, and Amsterdam’s will go up from 7% to 12.5% this year. 

As for entrance fees like Venice’s or the upcoming electronic visa for the United Kingdom , these are newer concepts, but Block fully anticipates them to stay.  

“The lodging taxes have been there forever now, but you’re seeing places that have a separate environmental fee or levy or another line item, like an entry fee,” said Block. “You’ll see three, four, five line items. So it starts with your simple hotel transaction or a short weekend flight, a night in a hotel and activities could have a lot of different tax lines.”

Where does the tourist tax revenue go?

It’s not all bad news for travelers, Block said. 

The funds from tourist taxes are more likely than not reinvested back into the destination. While the revenue is typically aimed at improving life for the residents, it will also “make the travel experience better,” Block said. “One of the worst things you can do is pay for your dream trip to Venice and have a bad experience because the sewers are overrun or the roads are bad.”

Not so hidden. Blame social media and pent-up demand for exposing your favorite hidden vacation spot

Iceland , known for its striking natural beauty, said it would broaden its accommodation tax to help protect its environment for future generations to enjoy. The fee hike also aligns with the country’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2040. 

“Tourists are enjoying (these resources), so they should foot part of the bill,” Block said. 

How are tourist taxes going to impact travelers? 

It depends. As more places introduce more fees, there can be a growing issue with a lack of transparency, Block said. It’s crucial for travelers to look closely at the breakdown of their airfare or hotel room and not just base their budget off of the advertised price, he added. 

While these fees seem inconsequential at first, they can quickly add up. “When you add it all up for a week for a family of four, even if you’re sharing a single hotel room, that’s not insignificant,” Block said. Paris charges a flat €4 ($4.35) per person per night lodging fee, so for a family of four for seven nights, there’s an additional €112 ($121.88) onto the hotel bill. 

Despite this, many travelers are in support of these new fees if it means contributing to the destination’s sustainability. 

It's such a stunning place, with its canals and narrow alleys, but the sheer number of people visiting is putting a strain on it,” said Kayden Roberts, a digital nomad who visited in 2023. “Introducing a tourist tax here makes a lot of sense. It's not just about making money; it's about keeping Venice beautiful and preserving its cultural and historical treasures.”

Heinrich, the American designer, doesn’t think tourists will even bat an eye at the fees and continue with their travel plans. “Anyone who can afford to take a trip to Italy can most likely afford a few extra euros to take a day trip into the city,” he said.

Others are worried the increase in tourist taxes could negatively impact accessibility for travelers with lower budgets, but finding a solution is tricky. “This could be the start of a slippery slope of exclusivity that puts popular and important tourist destinations behind a paywall, said Heather Rameau, a content creator for travel brands based in Washington, D.C. “Ultimately, we all share this world and deserve access to see its beautiful places.”

“Is there a need to better regulate and control the number of people visiting popular tourist spots, especially those that have a delicate ecosystem or are at risk due to climate change or other factors? Yes,” she added. “But is charging more money the way to do it? I'm not sure.”

Where has the highest tourist taxes?

  • Amsterdam - 12.5% of the nightly lodging rate
  • Barcelona - Up to €6.25 ($6.80) per person, per night
  • Paris - around €4 ($4.35) per person, per night
  • Dominican Republic: 23% of the hotel rate is comprised of taxes
  • Antigua and Barbuda - $100 for entry/exit fee
  • Honolulu - Up to 18% of the nightly lodging rate

Chicago has a new tourist destination: The ‘Rat Hole’

tourist destination and tourist attraction

Chicago is teeming with tourist attractions: the Bean at Millennium Park, Navy Pier, the Riverwalk, Wrigley Field and the list could go on and on. But this week a new spectacle has been drawing sightseers to a tree-lined sidewalk in a residential neighborhood miles from the Loop.

They come to see the Chicago Rat Hole.

An imprint in the concrete of what appears to be a rodent has been a curiosity on West Roscoe Street for decades, but it became a destination attraction after a Chicago artist posted a photo of it on social media. The post on X, formerly known as Twitter, has since been viewed more than 5 million times and has drawn hundreds of people a day to ooh and aah , giggle and take photos at a decades-old splat mark.

“It’s like a very viscerally silly thing to see,” Winslow Dumaine, who posted the photo, told The Washington Post.

Dumaine, who moved to Chicago in 2017, first heard of the rat hole last week. On Saturday, he was heading to the Roscoe Village neighborhood to visit a shop that sells his artwork. His friend Hayley Hudson told him that, because he was in the area, he should keep an eye out for the Chicago Rat Hole.

“I didn’t know what she was talking about,” he said.

Dumaine made the trek, nevertheless, and upon seeing what his friend had been talking about, he burst into laughter.

“It’s just this perfect example of visual storytelling. You see it, and you can tell exactly what happened. It’s this thing that extends across language barriers,” he said, adding: “You could show this to someone 500 years ago, [and] they would know exactly what happened.”

Dumaine took a photo and posted it on X. Within an hour, it was well on its way to going viral, which wasn’t exactly a surprise to Dumaine. He suspected that it may be a hit. It was funny, physical and animal-related.

“Everybody just thinks it’s fun. It’s incredibly hard to find things like that: pure, funny, silly things.”

Cindy Nelson said that the imprint has been there ever since she and her husband moved to the neighborhood in 1997, and that a neighbor who has lived there since the early ’90s told her that it was there then, too. Residents who live on the block are tightknit, communicate often through group chat and are celebrating, if a little surprised at, the sudden popularity of their neighborhood marvel.

“We’re fond of the little critter,” Nelson said. “We never thought people would think it’s this exciting.”

As Nelson and her husband raised three kids across the street from the splat mark, they noticed a pattern. Someone would be walking by the imprint, notice it, look more closely at it and laugh. Then they would look up to figure out what had caused it.

Years ago, there was a “huge, old, beautiful” oak tree above the imprint, Nelson said, adding that she believes it was actually a squirrel that fell out of the tree and plunged into fresh concrete, making what would become known as a rat hole. That tree eventually got sick and was cut down, so passersby looking up at nothing but sky in recent years grew visibly confused about how the imprint was made.

Nelson and Dumaine said the Chicago Rat Hole embodies the city it’s named after. For Nelson, the cheeky, decades-old imperfection captures the way Chicagoans can laugh at themselves. Dumaine said that Chicago can have a harsh climate, citing that in 2019, it was colder than the South Pole. But Chicagoans are gritty, a quality shared by the rodent memorialized decades later on a random sidewalk.

“That rat fell in that cement, brushed himself off and went to work,” he added.

Dumaine said he posted a photo of the rat hole so others could share the joy it gave him. Although his art is admittedly “really grim, dark and morbid,” Dumaine said he’s an optimistic person who savors moments of joy whenever possible. When he saw the now-famous Chicago Rat Hole, he saw an opportunity for others to join in.

“It is a very, very small thing — it’s just a picture of a splat mark — but it’s also part of a greater philosophy of just like, let’s make as many people smile as we can.”

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Where Are People Going This Year?

tourist destination and tourist attraction

By Ceylan Yeginsu

London, Rome, Tokyo, Cancún and Las Vegas, some of the most visited destinations in 2023, are still among the top places travelers are searching to go to this year, according to the travel sites Kayak and Hopper .

Beach destinations like the Cayman Islands and French Polynesia are also trending destinations for 2024.

“Americans are looking for fun in the sun,” said Laura Lindsay, a global travel trends expert at the travel search engine Skyscanner . “Our data shows that they are seeking out destinations with equal opportunities for relaxation and outdoor adventures.”

After the extreme weather events of 2023 and overcrowding at popular destinations, travelers are also looking for cooler, less crowded spots.

Those hoping to avoid the kind of crippling heat that struck southern Europe last summer are showing interest in Scandinavian countries like Norway and Denmark, say travel advisers, and airlines like Air Canada and American Airlines are adding new routes to meet the demand.

“Two of my favorite places in the region are Bergen and Flam in Norway, with some amazing food, markets and landscapes,” said Joshua Smith, the founder of Global Citizen Journeys , a travel company that caters to millennials.

While interest in Scandinavia is rising, Mr. Smith said the priority for most of his clients is to book major destinations like Italy and France while there are still accommodations. Once places are sold out, he expects rapid growth in Scandinavia bookings.

Mr. Smith is also recommending Malta. “From its history and architecture to the food, Malta maintains the comfort of Europe with solid tourism infrastructure, but without the crowds.”

Another alternative that travel advisers recommend is Slovenia. “Because it’s less known, it is much cheaper and less crowded,” said Laurel Brunvoll, the owner of Unforgettable Trips , a Maryland-based travel agency.

While Ms. Brunvoll’s clients are eyeing destinations off the beaten path, they are also booking popular places like Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Britain. More distant destinations, including Egypt and India, are also gaining traction as well as polar excursions and world cruises, she said.

In North America, one of the most anticipated events is the total solar eclipse on April 8. Popular places to view the path of totality include the Mazatlán coast of Mexico; Cape Girardeau, Mo., with its hiking trails, bike paths and nature center; and scenic Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Texas is also expected to be an epicenter for the event and, with its range of scenery, festivals and other activities in places like Burnet, Sulphur Springs and Lampasas, could draw up to 700,000 visitors, according to the eclipse cartographer Michael Zeiler , who has been keeping track of visitation probability in various areas.

Ceylan Yeginsu is a travel reporter for The Times who frequently writes about the cruise industry and Europe, where she is based. More about Ceylan Yeginsu

Open Up Your World

Considering a trip, or just some armchair traveling here are some ideas..

Italy :  Spend 36 hours in Florence , seeking out its lesser-known pockets.

Southern California :  Skip the freeways to explore the back roads between Los Angeles and Los Olivos , a 100-mile route that meanders through mountains, canyons and star-studded enclaves.

Mongolia : Some young people, searching for less curated travel experiences, are flocking to the open spaces of this East Asian nation .

Romania :  Timisoara  may be the most noteworthy city you’ve probably never heard of , offering just enough for visitors to fill two or three days.

India: A writer fulfilled a lifelong dream of visiting Darjeeling, in the Himalayan foothills , taking in the tea gardens and riding a train through the hills.

52 Places:  Why do we travel? For food, culture, adventure, natural beauty? Our 2024 list has all those elements, and more .

16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Australia

Written by Karen Hastings Updated Jul 22, 2023

Australia is a land of dreams. According to Aboriginal legend, in the Dreamtime, the great spirits created its thriving coral reefs, luxuriant rainforests, and red-earthed deserts. Today, these spectacular ecosystems host some of the quirkiest wildlife on the planet and lure nature lovers and adventure seekers from around the globe.

A road in Western Australia

Australia is also a land of staggering contrasts and spectacular beauty. Along the coast, you can explore vibrant cities, vast sand islands, and one of the planet's most awe-inspiring natural wonders: the Great Barrier Reef. In the Outback, rugged national parks and remote deserts offer the ultimate travel adventures rich with Indigenous history.

Top it all off with a laid-back feel and friendly people, and it's no wonder Australia scores top billing on bucket lists around the world. Bring your travel dreams to life and plan the best places to visit with this list of the top attractions in Australia.

1. Sydney Opera House, New South Wales

2. great barrier reef marine park, queensland, 3. uluru-kata tjuta national park, northern territory, 4. sydney harbour bridge, new south wales, 5. blue mountains national park, new south wales, 6. melbourne's culture, victoria, 7. bondi beach, new south wales, 8. daintree national park, queensland, 9. k'gari (fraser island), queensland, 10. kakadu national park, northern territory, 11. great ocean road, victoria, 12. broome, western australia, 13. kangaroo island, south australia, 14. cradle mountain-lake st. clair national park, tasmania, 15. horizontal falls & the kimberley region, 16. train trips across the outback.

Sydney Opera House

Mention "Sydney, Australia" and most people think of the Opera House. Shaped like huge shells or billowing sails, this famous building on Sydney's Bennelong Point graces the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is one of the world's great architectural icons.

The location is stunning. Water surrounds the structure on three sides, and the Royal Botanic Gardens border it to the south.

Danish architect, Jørn Utzon won an international competition for its design but withdrew from the project after technical and financing problems. Construction was finally completed in 1973 at a cost of 10 times the original budget. By this time, Utzon had left the country, never returning to see his magnificent creation.

Today, you can enjoy a performance here, dine at one of the restaurants, or see the highlights of the Sydney Opera House on a guided tour. The structure encompasses theaters, studios, a concert hall, exhibition rooms, and a cinema.

Touring the interior of the Sydney Opera House is rewarding, but its striking architecture is perhaps best appreciated from a distance. One of the best sites to photograph this top Sydney tourist attraction is Mrs Macquarie's Chair in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Better still, hop aboard a harbor cruise or ferry and capture a photo from the water as you glide past.

In 2023, the Sydney Opera House is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a packed calendar of special events. During your visit, be sure to check out the newly renovated Concert Hall, part of an almost $300-million "Decade of Renewal."

Author's Tips: If you're visiting Sydney in late May/early June, you can see the white sails of the opera house light up after dark at the Vivid Sydney festival each year.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

You can't leave Australia without seeing the Great Barrier Reef. This World Heritage-listed natural wonder is one of the largest living structures on the planet . It's so vast, you can see it from outer space. For divers, snorkelers, island aficionados, and nature lovers, it's a bucket list destination .

In 1975, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was established to protect its fragile ecosystems. These include more than 3,000 coral reefs; 600 continental islands, including the beautiful Whitsunday group ; 300 coral cays; and inshore mangrove islands.

One of the seven wonders of the natural world , the park stretches for 2,300 kilometers along the state of Queensland, on Australia's east coast (that's about the distance between Mexico and Vancouver).

Snorkelers on the Great Barrier Reef

Not surprisingly, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the best places to visit in Australia for diving and snorkeling. The astounding array of marine life includes soft and hard corals, more than 1,600 species of tropical fish, sharks, dugongs, dolphins, turtles, rays, and giant clams. Prefer to stay dry? You can see the reef from underwater viewing stations and glass bottom boats.

Travelers have many options for visiting the Great Barrier Reef . You can cruise around the islands, hop aboard a sightseeing flight, take day trips to the islands, or snorkel and dive the reefs. On the mainland, the main launching points for tours are Cairns , Port Douglas , and Airlie Beach .

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Deep in the heart of Australia's Red Centre, Uluru ( formerly Ayers Rock ), is one of the most photographed natural wonders in the country. The striking red monolith forms the centerpiece of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park , a World Heritage Site jointly managed by Parks Australia and the traditional landowners, the Aṉangu people.

Uluru, meaning "shadowy place" in the local Aboriginal dialect, rises to a height of 348 meters from the surrounding plain. Most of its bulk is hidden beneath the Earth's surface.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Also in the park, about a 30-minute drive from Uluru, are the red dome-shaped rocks called Kata Tjuta (formerly called the Olgas). Equally impressive as their more famous neighbor, and often less crowded, they should not be missed while you are in the park. You can admire their beauty on the 2.6-kilometer-return trek to Walpa Gorge or the 7.4-kilometer Valley of the Winds circuit.

Prime time for photographing these striking landforms is at sunset, when visitors gather to watch the colors of Uluru and Kata Tjuta transform in the shifting light.

Note: In 2019, the Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park board outlawed climbing Uluru out of respect for the Anangu people, the traditional owners. The best way to appreciate these sacred sites is on walks led by Aboriginal guides and rangers.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Along with the Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of Australia's top architectural icons. Affectionately called "the Coathanger," this impressive feat of construction is the largest steel arch bridge in the world . It was completed in 1932, 40 years before the Sydney Opera House.

Rising 134 meters above the harbor, the bridge spans 500 meters, connecting Sydney's North Shore to the central business district. In addition to the pedestrian path, two railway lines extend over the bridge, as well as eight lanes for road traffic, and the direction of each lane can be switched to accommodate traffic flow.

One of the top things to do in Sydney is a guided ascent to the top of the bridge. Standing on its summit, connected only by a carabiner, you can breathe in spectacular 360-degree views of the harbor and city. It's a great way to truly appreciate the layout of the city as you gaze out over the fingers of water that snake their way into beautiful blue bays.

For an overview of the bridge's history and construction, visit the museum on the southeastern pier.

Fun fact: Paul Hogan, of Crocodile Dundee fame, worked as a painter on the bridge before rocketing to international stardom.

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Sydney

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains National Park

A UNESCO World Heritage Site , beautiful Blue Mountains National Park is a hiker's paradise and a popular day trip from Sydney . It lies an easy 81-kilometer drive west of the city.

Named for the blue haze emanating from the many eucalyptus trees, this stunning park protects more than 664,000 acres of wilderness. On a visit here, you can explore dramatic gorges, waterfalls, Aboriginal rock paintings, and 140 kilometers of hiking trails.

Blue Mountains National Park

The most famous attractions in Blue Mountains National Park are the towering sandstone rock formations called the Three Sisters . Other highlights include the Katoomba Scenic Railway , the world's steepest, which whisks passengers down the Jamison Valley through a cliff-side tunnel into an ancient rainforest; and the Skyway, Scenic Cableway, and Scenic Walkway, which all offer elevated views of the dense forests.

Hiking, abseiling, rock climbing, mountain biking, and horseback riding are all popular things to do in the park.


Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, is a popular stop on many Australian itineraries — especially for culture vultures. Galleries, theaters, restaurants, shops, and its distinctly European feel are the main draws of this sophisticated city on the Yarra River.

It's also a green city, with parks, gardens, and open spaces occupying almost a third of its total area.

The cultural highlights of Melbourne are many. Gape at the masterpieces at the National Gallery of Victoria , watch a performance at Arts Centre Melbourne , or head to Federation Square . Here, you can browse Australian artworks at the Ian Potter Gallery and learn about the nation's screen culture at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) .

Feel like getting back to nature? Follow the Aboriginal Heritage Walk at the Royal Botanic Gardens . And if sports culture is top of your agenda, catch a game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground . In summer, cricket is the sport of choice; in winter, it's Australian Rules football.

Melbourne is also rich in history. You can see it in the Grand Victorian buildings funded by the Gold Rush, and you can feel it as you shop in the elegant arcades and Queen Victoria Market , which has been selling goods to Melburnians for over a century.

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Melbourne

Bondi Beach

Bronzed bodies, blond sand, backpackers, and surf — throw it all together and you get one of the world's most famous beaches. Only 15 minutes by car from Sydney's city center, Bondi Beach is a great spot for a taste of Sydney's beach culture. Bask on the golden sands, surf the breaks, or take a cool dip on a hot summer's day (but stay between the flags).

Few cities in the world lay claim to such an enticing slice of sand and sea so close to the city. No wonder it's one of Sydney's best beaches . And you'll find some history here, too: Bondi hosts one of the oldest Surf Life Saving Clubs in the world .

Away from the shore, you'll find plenty of things to do in Bondi. Take a stroll along the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk. It begins at the southern end of the beach and follows the coastline for six scenic kilometers along sandstone cliffs. You can also hunt for bargains at the Sunday markets or swim some laps in the ocean pool. And if you work up an appetite, you'll find plenty of cafés and restaurants nearby.

One of the best places for a meal with a view at Bondi Beach is the famous Icebergs dining room. The menu spotlights modern Italian cuisine, and you can enjoy a meal of fresh-cooked fish watching the waves wash over the ocean pool.

Icebergs, Bondi Beach

Bondi also has a wild side. Crowds of tourists and locals gather here to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year. It's a favorite spot for travelers.

A word to the wise: If you're taking a dip at Bondi, make sure you swim between the red and yellow flags. Strong rip tides often sweep unsuspecting swimmers out to sea, especially at the southern end of this kilometer-long strand. There's a reason the Aussies made a reality TV show called Bondi Rescue .

Daintree National Park

A Wet Tropics World Heritage Area , Daintree National Park in Far North Queensland is among the most ancient ecosystems on Earth. The area belongs to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people, and many of its natural features hold great spiritual significance.

The park encompasses two main sections: Mossman Gorge, where crystal-clear waters gush over granite boulders, and Cape Tribulation, one of the most beautiful places to visit in Australia. Here, rainforest meets reef along the white sandy beaches of the Coral Sea. This stunning stretch of coast is one of the few places in the world where two of the planet's richest ecosystems converge.

The park's astounding biodiversity includes more than 18,000 plant species and a vast array of animal species, including the cassowary, crocodile, giant blue Ulysses butterfly, and the secretive Bennett's tree kangaroo.

The resort town of Port Douglas just south of the park, is a great base to arrange wilderness safaris into the park.

Aerial view of K'Gari (Fraser Island)

World Heritage-listed K'Gari (Fraser Island) is one of the most unique places to visit in Australia. Sitting between Bundaberg and Brisbane off Australia's east coast, this is the largest sand island in the world . Here, you'll find seemingly endless stretches of sand and sea, turquoise lakes, emerald rainforests, rippling dunes, and fascinating wildlife.

Looking for an adrenaline rush? A 4WD trip along its surf-thrashed shores is one of Australia's top outdoor adventures . Along windswept Seventy Five Mile Beach , you can see the rusted hulls of shipwrecks, the colored sandstone cliffs of The Cathedrals , and the bubbling fish-filled rock pools called Champagne Pools .

Thirty years ago, you could drive for miles and not see another soul. Today the beach can feel like a sandy highway, with a steady stream of 4WD vehicles and tourist buses plying the sands.

Venturing inland on the rugged tracks is a good way to escape the beach traffic during the peak summer months. Highlights include crystal-clear freshwater creeks and lakes, some fed by springs, others perched amid towering sand dunes; and ancient rainforests filled with an amazing diversity of plants and animals.

Lake McKenzie in the middle of K'Gari (Fraser Island)

Sharks, dolphins, and whales swim these waters, and on land, you can see dingoes, bats, sugar gliders, and more than 300 species of birds.

Nature lovers will find plenty of other things to do on K'Gari Fraser Island . Hop aboard a whale watching trip, take a sunset cruise, hike the rainforest trails at Central Station , float down Eli Creek, or soar over the striking landscapes on a scenic flight.

Access to Fraser Island is by ferry from Rainbow Beach and Hervey Bay , the two main gateway towns. Four-wheel drive vehicles are essential, as the island has no sealed roads.

Kakadu National Park

When it comes to wilderness areas, Kakadu National Park showcases the best of Australia. Covering more than 19,840 square kilometers in the Northern Territory, it's the second-largest national park in the world .

Within its borders, you can explore monsoon rainforests, mangrove swamps, rivers, gorges, ancient rock paintings, wetlands, and waterfalls.

Kakadu is also home to an astounding diversity of wildlife. In addition to the many mammals, reptiles, and fish, more than 300 different species of birds make their home here, and both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles lurk in the wetlands.

To explore the park's diverse ecosystems, hop aboard a cruise along the waterways, or hike the vast network of trails. You can also take a scenic flight.

Visiting Kakadu National Park from Darwin is easy during the dry season. It's about a three-hour drive from the Northern Territory capital. In the wet season (Nov-April), many roads and attractions close due to heavy flooding, but the waterfalls and wetlands can be at their best.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Australia's Northern Territory

Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road is one of the world's top scenic drives. Built to provide employment during the Depression, the road stretches for 300 kilometers along Australia's rugged southeast coast, winding along plunging sea cliffs. It stretches from the surfing town of Torquay to the town of Allansford , near Warrnambool .

One of the top attractions of Great Ocean Road is Port Campbell National Park . This is where you can see the wind- and wave-sculpted rock formations known as the Twelve Apostles , London Bridge , the Arch , and Loch Ard Gorge . From the air, these rock formations look like giant puzzle pieces adrift along the coast, lashed by the pounding surf of the Southern Ocean.

You'll find plenty of rewarding things to do along Great Ocean Road. Stop by the Australian National Surfing Museum at Torquay, surf the famous swells at Bells Beach, linger in the seaside resort of Lorne, or go whale watching in Warrnambool .

Nature lovers will also enjoy exploring the eucalyptus forests, fern-filled rainforests, hiking trails, and waterfalls in Otway National Park .

Author's Tip: If you're short on time, my favorite way to experience Great Ocean Road is on a helicopter ride along the coast. Gazing down at the giant rock formations carved from the coast by wind and water is a humbling experience. Lashed by the pounding surf of the Southern Ocean, the rock formations look like giant puzzle pieces adrift on a turbulent sea.

Broome and the Kimberley region

Broome, in Western Australia's north, was once the pearl capital of the world. Today, it's a booming tourist town and the gateway to the spectacular Kimberley region.

Broome's star tourist attraction is Cable Beach. This seemingly endless stretch of white sand and turquoise water is one of Australia's best beaches , and riding camels at sunset is one of the most popular things to do here.

Tourists also flock to Town Beach to witness the Staircase to the Moon. This phenomenon occurs during certain conditions between March and October, where the moonlight creates an optical illusion of steps leading to the moon.

Other Broome highlights include the red cliffs of Gantheaume Point, and the Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park, where you can get up close to crocs, cassowaries, and kangaroos. If you're looking for things to do in town, you can brush up on some local history at the Broome Historical Museum or catch a movie in a deck chair under a star-studded sky at Sun Pictures.

Pearl farm tours, whale watching trips, and Kimberley adventures are also high on the things-to-do list in Broome.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Western Australia

Kangaroo Island

Nature takes center stage at Kangaroo Island. On this unspoiled island off South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula, kangaroos hop along the powdery shores, sea lions and penguins frolic in the crystal-clear waters, and koalas cling to the fragrant eucalyptus trees.

Diving is also excellent. You can spot sea dragons in the temperate waters, and dive shipwrecks off the island's coast.

Kangaroo Island's top attractions are made by Mother Nature. See the striking, wind-sculpted rock formations, known as the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch in Flinders Chase National Park . Explore vast cave systems. Surf towering dunes and look for wildlife on scenic hiking trails along soaring sea cliffs and through pristine forests.

Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island

Foodies, too, will be in heaven. Creamy cheeses, Ligurian honey, and fresh seafood grace the plates in local restaurants.

To get here, you can fly direct to the island from Adelaide, or catch a ferry from Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Kangaroo Island is recovering well from the 2020 bushfires. In fact, several new eco-friendly lodges are slated to open here in 2023.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in South Australia

Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park

Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park is one of Tasmania's tourism treasures and a nirvana for nature lovers. Sparkling lakes, serrated dolerite peaks, alpine heathland, and dense forests characterize the raw, glacier-carved wilderness here. One of the park's most distinctive features is the 1,616-meter Mount Ossa , the highest point in Tasmania.

As you might expect, hiking here is fantastic. Favorite trails include the Weindorfer Walk , a six-kilometer loop through dense forests, and Lake Dove Walk , with breathtaking vistas of Cradle Mountain (1,545 meters). Stand on the summit of Cradle Mountain, and you can soak up stunning views of the central highlands. Experienced hikers can also tackle the famous 80-kilometer Overland Track , which runs south from Cradle Valley to stunning Lake St. Clair , Australia's deepest lake.

While you're exploring the park, keep an eye out for Tasmanian devils, wombats, wallabies, pademelons, and platypus among the many species of weird and wonderful wildlife.

Mitchell Falls in the Kimberley Region

Adventures abound in the Kimberley. Covering Australia's northwest corner, this remote and rugged region of red rocks, gaping gorges, scorched deserts, and cliff-fringed coast is ripe for exploring.

One of the top adventures in the Kimberley is the Horizontal Falls. Powerful tides of up to 11 meters gush through two narrow gorges, creating this jaw-dropping phenomenon. Hop aboard a jet boat and zoom across the sea through the seething falls.

Broome is the gateway. From here, you can soar along scarlet sea cliffs and gaze down upon the 800-plus islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago. Fly farther north to the wild beaches of Cape Leveque, and visit remote pearl farms and Aboriginal communities. Take a 4WD safari along the Gibb River Road , one of Australia's most famous 4WD tracks.

The Kimberley is also home to the spectacular Mitchell Falls and UNESCO-listed Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park . These spectacular beehive-shaped rock formations were only discovered in 1983. Hike the trails, visit sacred Aboriginal ceremonial sites and rock paintings, or soar over the park on a scenic flight and visit the Argyle Diamond mine.

The Ghan train traveling through the Outback

Driving through the Outback can be tough logistically — the distances are vast across this sun-scorched desert region, and you can drive for days without seeing another soul. But gliding through on a luxury train makes exploring Australia's red-hot heart a breeze. It's also a great way to see multiple Aussie attractions in one trip.

You have several train trips to choose from depending on where you want to go. One of the best is the Indian Pacific , Australia's longest train journey. This four-day luxury train trip travels between Perth, Adelaide, and Sydney, whisking you across three states in four days.

Highlights include the Blue Mountains, Broken Hill's art galleries, South Australia's pink lakes, the seemingly neverending Nullabor Plain, and a series of mouthwatering foodie experiences. You can also upgrade your experience with a post-trip tour of vibrant Perth.

Hop aboard The Ghan for another iconic Aussie train trip. From the comfort of a luxury cabin, you can gaze out on the elemental beauty of the desert, while you traverse some of the most remote areas in Australia, including the opal-mining town of Coober Pedy and the Flinders Ranges. Choose between three different routes : Adelaide to Darwin (three days and two nights), Adelaide to Alice Springs (two days and one night), or Darwin to Alice Springs (two days and one night). All these trips can also be taken in reverse.

And if a shorter trip is more your style, opt for the Spirit of the Outback . This 26-hour journey travels from Brisbane to Longreach , in Outback Queensland, where you can delve into some Aussie nostalgia at heritage mining towns like Blackwater and Emerald and visit the Stockmen's Hall of Fame in Longreach.

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10 Very Intense Tourist Attractions

Posted: December 14, 2023 | Last updated: December 26, 2023

12 Intensely Gruesome Tourist Attractions, If You’re Into That Sort Of Thing

12 Intensely Gruesome Tourist Attractions, If You’re Into That Sort Of Thing

10. Explorer, tourist attraction, and four burials: Floyd Collins' legacy.

10. Explorer, tourist attraction, and four burials: Floyd Collins' legacy.

9. Calling the lost, from the Phone of the Wind.

9. Calling the lost, from the Phone of the Wind.

8. Mummified monk, complete with false teeth and geckos.

8. Mummified monk, complete with false teeth and geckos.

7. Walk on glass, learn about mummies.

7. Walk on glass, learn about mummies.

6. A creepy collection of death and torture.

6. A creepy collection of death and torture.

5. A macabre vacation destination.

5. A macabre vacation destination.

4. Head preserved in formaldehyde, thumb and urinary tract too.

4. Head preserved in formaldehyde, thumb and urinary tract too.

3. A morbidly fascinating look at medical history.

3. A morbidly fascinating look at medical history.

2. Honorable sacrifice, tragic end.

2. Honorable sacrifice, tragic end.

1. Six million souls, buried in Paris.

1. Six million souls, buried in Paris.

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