As another year (and decade) closes, we’re looking back on the buzziest travel destinations.
Countries across the world – from Iceland to Croatia to Australia – kept tourists on their toes with exciting attractions and natural wonders. The debut of Instagram in October 2010, too, kept many of these destinations top of mind. If you didn’t take a picture of a mineral spring in Iceland, for instance, did you even go? (Yes, but no one would know it.)
But which ones stood out as the most talked-about? Here’s a look at the hottest destinations of the last decade and what’s made them so “hot” in the first place.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any “Game of Thrones” fan that Croatia was a hit this last decade. The series, which premiered in 2011, transformed the already beautiful country a must-see destination. Expedia flight data shows triple-digit increases for the country’s biggest tourist spots of Dubrovnik, Split and Zagreb since 2015.
But what about the post-“Game of Thrones” world now that the show has wrapped after eight seasons?
“As the Game of Thrones craze peters out, Dubrovnik’s time in the limelight may come to an end, but that’s not such a bad thing,” Jay Ternavan, founder and CEO of JayWay Travel tells USA TODAY. “The city’s mayor has already taken steps to reduce the number of cruise ship arrivals as they focus on quality overnight visitors.”
Fifteen years after a devastating tsunami hit southeast Asia, Thailand has recovered and made several lists of the decade’s top destinations thanks to its varied charms.
From capital Bangkok to remote resorts, tourists could go on any type of vacation they wanted in Thailand. Think beach time, ancient ruins, museums and markets.
If you asked a group of people in the past five years where they’d been itching to travel, Iceland would definitely come up. And who could blame them? From the fjords to mineral springs to geysers, travelers have been flocking to there in droves.
“Seemingly overnight, everyone all of a sudden wanted to see – or just got back from seeing – the Northern Lights from a glass igloo,” Jacob Marek, founder of IntroverTravels, a company catering to inward adventurers, tells USA TODAY. However, recent tourism figures indicate interest in visiting the country may be starting to lose some steam.
Machu Picchu saw tourism double from approximately 700,000 in 2010 to more than 1.5 million in 2018, according to Peruvian tourism data. There’s already been more than 1 million this year, without three months of statistics still to be counted.
And there’s much more to see beyond Machu Picchu: Trujillo, Mancora and Chiclayo, for instance, are ideal surfing beaches and offer great seafood.
France ranked as No. 1 on Dollar Flight Club’s top 10 destinations for the last decade . The company aggregated flight data for more than 1 million people in more than 100 countries, as well as leverages first and third-party airfare data sources.
“With (Paris’) the Eiffel Tower, Côte d’Azur, the amazing French Alps or the numerous castles and cathedrals, France is a true magnet for worldwide tourism, all year long,” Will Hatton, founder and CEO of The Broke Backpacker, tells USA TODAY.
That said, the Paris tourism industry ended the decade on a down note. Notre Dame was empty on Christmas for the first time in over 200 years following April’s devastating fire. And a nationwide labor strike crippled transit in December.
In terms of employment across all of the U.K., tourism has been the fastest-growing sector sine 2010, according to VisitBritain.org.
London specifically has been a hot destination on its own. The city includes an “unrivaled wealth of visitor attractions, historical monuments, world-class entertainment, nightlife and more,” Freddie Julius of Tourist England tells USA TODAY.
The country has been dealing with the potential impact of Brexit as well, and it remains to be seen what the ultimate fallout will be.
Thailand may have been popular earlier in the decade, but Marek says Vietnam shot up in popularity. “Southeast Asia tends to shift every decade or so,” he says. “In the aughts, Thailand was the up-and-coming destination of the decade; in the ‘teens, it was all about Vietnam.”
“With the tourism industry now accounting for nearly a tenth of the country’s GDP, the scramble is on to capture the expanding market,” Rory Linnane wrote for USA TODAY in 2016. “Main streets are dotted with tourist information centers, double-decker buses, and hostesses handing out English menus.”
Travelers could enjoy everything from spelunking to diving to kayaking.
Morocco topped the list of small group travel company Intrepid Travel’s top destinations around the world for the 2010s. The North African country is rich with history and architecture, not to mention outdoor bazaars and many a kitesurfer.
It’s also a short flight from Spain, making it an easy itinerary addition for travelers wanting to sneak in a visit.
The land down under was just under Morocco on Intrepid Travel’s top destinations list, and back in 2015, it was deemed the “ultimate dream international destination” by a survey of American consumers – and it’s not difficult to see why.
Take stunning Kangaroo Island, for instance, where kangaroos actually outnumber the human residents. And that’s not the only place where travelers could check out the country’s wildlife.
Looking ahead:12 of the trendiest international destinations you should really visit in 2020
Where else should you go? Lonely Planet names Washington, D.C., the second-best city in the world to visit in 2020