Special Report

Destinations Where Tourists Outnumber Locals

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8. Croatia
> International tourists: 3.78 per resident
> International tourist arrivals: 15.6 million
> Population 4.1 million

Game of Thrones fans may know that the fortress in Old Town Dubrovnik, Croatia, is the filming location of King’s Landing, but the ancient city is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most popular tourist attractions. Brimming with historic cities, ancient architecture, spectacular local fare, eight national parks, and over 400 beaches, Croatia is a popular vacation destination. The country’s mainland and islands have over 3,600 miles of coastline, only 15% of which is urbanized, with some of the best beaches solely accessible by boat.

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7. Maldives
> International tourists: 3.86 per resident
> International tourist arrivals: 1.4 million
> Population 360,000

Off the southwest coast of Sri Lanka are the Maldives, a chain of islands and ring-shaped atolls (coral reef formations that often enclose lagoons). The first three resorts in the Maldives opened in 1972, and tourism has been growing there ever since. The country has planned its tourist infrastructure around the concept of “one island, one resort.” There are now over 100 resorts, with only one per island, maintaining a private and relaxing experience for visitors. Besides swimming with whale sharks, witnessing bioluminescent phytoplankton (a “sea of stars” at night), and visiting the elaborate Grand Friday Mosque, tourists also have the option of arriving by seaplane and staying in a stilted water bungalow.

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6. Cyprus
> International tourists: 4.27 per resident
> International tourist arrivals: 3.7 million
> Population 855,000

The island of Cyprus has a rich history, having been settled for over 10,000 years. Located in the Mediterranean Sea, close to Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon, its culture and cuisine are a blend of European, Asian, and Middle Eastern. It’s a popular spot for European vacationers, with over a million tourists from the U.K. alone, as English is widely spoken. It’s reputed to have some of the cleanest beach water in Europe, and is also known for its friendly locals and ancient architecture.

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5. Malta
> International tourists: 4.94 per resident
> International tourist arrivals: 2.3 million
> Population 460,000

Another Mediterranean hot spot, Malta lies just off the southern coast of Italy. Though Maltese is the country’s main language, most residents also speak English, as the country is a former British colony. This makes it a popular destination for tourists from the U.K., Malta’s largest tourist source. A few highlights to be found are the blue lagoon of Comino Island, the ancient walled city of Mdina, and the famous Caravaggio painting, Beheading of St John the Baptist at St John’s Co-Cathedral.

Source: Bryan Ledgard / Wikimedia Commons

4. Iceland
> International tourists: 6.58 per resident
> International tourist arrivals: 2.2 million
> Population 338,000

Tourism in Iceland was nearly nonexistent in the 20th century, but after a financial crash in 2008, the country became known as a cheap place to visit, where tourists could gaze at the northern lights while bathing in a hot spring. A common layover stop for travelers headed to other European destinations from North America, Iceland capitalized on its location with a campaign offering cheaper airfare to travelers who’d make a pitstop in the country for up to a week. The eruption of an Icelandic volcano in 2010, rather than threatening the country’s image as a safe place to travel, put Iceland on the map, and the tourism industry responded with a successful marketing campaign highlighting the country’s natural beauty.

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