While the travel industry continues to change, bending to meet the needs of ever-evolving travel trends, one thing has remained the same: Iconic landmarks reign supreme. Whether traveling on a family vacation specifically to visit the must-see locale and destination or just looking for something to see and do on your vacation, iconic sites draw us in.
Measuring iconic locales to visit can vary person to person, but, in terms of most visited, it’s safe to say these landmarks and sites can be considered the world’s most-sought after.
According to airline and hotel booking sites, Iceland is one of the hottest travel destinations in the past few years. Once on the island, visitors flock to its naturally beautiful caves and hot springs. The rising interest in Iceland drove hundreds of thousands to the iconic natural geothermal spa, The Blue Lagoon. Last year alone more than 700,000 international guests made their way to the lava field for the mineral-rich waters.
The Colosseum in Rome, Italy, stands out among a slew of iconic sites. Whether its dark history or famous image is the allure, the ancient gladiator battleground continues attracting visitors from all around the world to get a look at the ruins.
When a destination is so special and unique that droves of tourists threaten its existence just by over visiting it, you know you have an intriguing destination. Insert Machu Picchu, Peru. This South American wonder boasts incredible beauty, scenic hikes, tribal ruins and history, hence why more than 1 million made their way to its mountainside in 2016.
While on a slight decline in recent years, Stonehenge, England, still records more than 1 million visitors each year. The historic site dates back to 2,000–3,000 BC, before becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
Barcelona’s vibrant city streets and Gothic architecture have been a wonder for tourists for ages. At the sight of a mosaic tile-covered wall, you know you’re in Barcelona. Well, that, or you are anywhere within view of the Sagrada Família.
Zooming aerial shots in movies take in the epic views of São Paolo, Brazil, from the iconic “Christ the Redeemer” statue sitting atop the city. Religious pilgrims, tourists and locals trek the steep climb to its feet each year. While recent statistics say more than 1.8 million visitors are recorded annually, nearly 14,000 visitors find their way to the statue just on Easter Sunday alone.
Another historical site standing the test of time in more ways than one is the Acropolis of Athens, Greece. The ancient ruins sit along Greece’s ruggedly beautiful cliffsides, offering views from literally every direction, attracting tourists by the millions each year, and climbing.
Just the thought of tourists flocking to iconic landmarks in far-off destinations may have you thinking of the Eiffel Tower and for good reason. This impressive stature has held the hearts of individuals and tourists since it arrived in Paris, France. Perfectly set in the heart of Paris, the Eiffel Tower is a focal point of the city and transcended into an icon — 7 million annual visitors would agree.
The only iconic destination seen from space, The Great Wall of China attracts more than 10 million travelers annually. Visitors from all over the world flock to the historic site. Stretching more than 13,000 miles, travelers come to visit one of the world’s most impressive man-made structures surrounded by natural beauty.
One of the world’s first iconic sites, the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt, is still a top contender. Standing 479-feet high, 754-square-feet wide at the base and more than 3,000 years old, the stoic tomb is still a wonder to behold with nearly 15 million visitors each year, trekking (or riding camels) through the Middle Eastern desert just for a look.
Located on the border of New York and Ontario, Niagara Falls may be the most visited iconic site in the world you wouldn’t expect. This massive group of waterfalls includes 6 million cubic feet of pounding water, spraying visitors by boat looking for a closer peek at the grandness of it all. An astonishing 30 million visitors put on their ponchos and head to the Canadian and U.S. border each year.
Notice a theme here? The world’s most iconic sites, most-visited destinations and bucket-list worthy locales are all steeped in history and culture while surrounded by natural beauty. It’s safe to say this level of fame and allure stemmed from the world’s first iconic sites, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Whatever your flavor — history and culture or wildlife and nature — there is an iconic locale in this world worth seeking out every year.
The wonderful thing about Italy, which evolved from a land of many kingdoms to a unified country in the 19th century, is its buildings have transformed into boutique hotels with fascinating past lives that guests can still explore and appreciate. Whether former farm houses, monasteries, castles or full-on estates, the stays not only provide atmospheric lodging and wonderfully executed regional food, but a means to immerse oneself into a different way of life — be it one of royalty or a simple existence living off the land.
As a fan of train travel, I often choose a ride on rails over a drive or flight, especially in Europe, where I always relish the high-speed trains. In Tokyo, I once appreciated a speedy, efficient and easy-to-understand experience; but, speed isn’t the only appealing aspect of train travel. From Venice to London, on the Venice Simplon Orient Express, we traveled through the coastal cliffs of the Cinque Terra and dined in formal opulence; from Whistler to Vancouver on the Rocky Mountaineer, we sipped tea while viewing the spectacular scenery.
While considering dreamy destinations for a romantic rendezvous, Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo immediately came to mind. I convinced my late husband, Bob, to take me there after a solo trip to Monaco (via helicopter from Nice-Cote d’Azur) on my first trip to the South of France. Our stays together left such an indelibly delicious memory that I’ve returned multiple times, including in 2018 and 2019. It’s a venue I recommend at any time, especially Valentine’s Day.