Europe is coming out of yet another successful year for tourism, with many of its classic attractions drawing in visitors in flocks of millions.
Still, the continent as a whole is struggling to return back to its former glory, with foreign arrivals sitting at 3.2% below 2019 levels.
With that said, data collected throughout the year showed that there were six clear standouts in terms of tourism growth – countries whose visitor numbers reached all-time highs during 2023.
While many expected the likes of France, Spain, or Italy to lead Europe’s way in its post-pandemic recovery, the destinations that wound up with the biggest year-to-year growth were actually a bit more surprising.
Thanks to its picture-perfect beaches, centuries-old history, world-class cuisine, and Mediterranean charm, Greece climbed to unprecedented levels of popularity this past year.
While figuring out the exact recipe that contributed to the coastal nation becoming one of Europe’s fastest-growing destinations is impossible, it’s safe to assume the allure of dreamy islands like Santorini, Mykonos, and Crete helped a lot.
The same can be said of iconic sites like the Acropolis of Athens and the ancient theaters of Epidaurus, which not only provide a glimpse into the country’s storied past but also leave visitors in awe with their architectural splendor.
Nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta stood out this year as one of the region’s best-kept secrets.
Considering its rich cultural tapestry (best experienced in Valletta and the ancient Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum), Maldives-like beaches, and sheer cinematic appeal, it’s truly a mystery why the tiny European island hasn’t exploded in mainstream popularity sooner.
However, what really sets Malta apart from other idyllic beach destinations in the Mediterranean is its unique blend of European and African cultures, probably most evident in the one-of-a-kind language and attractions.
For the Turkish hospitality industry, 2023 has been the most groundbreaking year to date.
The bridge between Europe and Asia is currently experiencing what can only be described as a tourism renaissance, grabbing a well-deserved spot among the world’s most coveted destinations.
From the grandeur of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the fairytale-like landscapes of Cappadocia to the pristine shores of Antalya and Bodrum, travelers can’t seem to get enough of Turkey’s many, many wonders.
Avid travelers already know that Portugal has had a record-breaking year – the country, along with its many dreamy hotspots, has been everywhere in the news these past few months.
After all, there’s a lot to love about Portugal.
Whether you’re looking to experience the colorful neighborhoods of Lisbon, the gastronomic wonders of Porto, the volcanic landscapes of the Azores, or the golden beaches of Albufeira, one thing’s for sure – Portugal is sure to exceed all of your expectations.
And with prices staying at some of the most competitive rates in all of Western Europe, Portugal is undoubtedly one of the best-value destinations you can choose for your next getaway.
The true surprise of the report’s ranking was Montenegro, a small nation situated along the Adriatic Sea that has finally come out from the shadows of its better-known neighbors and established itself as a remarkable hotspot.
Having had the chance to explore most of the country’s attractions, all I can say is that the level of geographical diversity and natural allure crammed in such a small country is nothing short of remarkable.
From the soft-sanded beaches of Budva to the snow-covered slopes of Žabljak, Montenegro is the ultimate budget-friendly European getaway year-round.
Though one of the biggest countries in the Balkans, Serbia has just recently established itself as an international travel destination, and considering its dynamic cities, cultural vibrancy, and warm atmosphere, its placement among Europe’s top hotspots was long-due.
What the landlocked nation lacks in beachy allure, it more than makes up for with the vibrant nightlife of Belgrade, the historical allure of Novi Sad, and the lush greenery of the Tara National Park.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com