The World's 10 Most-Visited Cities (And What It Costs to Spend a Day There)

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Not everyone wants to stay off the beaten path when they’re traveling. Sometimes, you want to see what all the fuss is about. If that's you, look no further than MasterCard's annual Global Destination Cities Index, a ranking of the 162 most-visited cities across the entire world. This year's list, spotted by Lonely Planet, also includes data on how much the average overnight visitor to places like Bangkok (this year's No. 1 destination) and London (No. 2) spends there per day of their trip.

Below are the top 10 most-visited destinations according to the rankings, including how many people visited for at least a night in 2017 and the average money they spent per day they were there. (Despite its origins, the rankings are based on tourism numbers, not data from MasterCard transactions.)

1. Bangkok: 20 million visitors a year ($173 per day)
2. London: 19.8 million visitors a year ($153 per day)
3. Paris: 17.4 million visitors a year ($301 per day)
4. Dubai: 15.8 million visitors a year ($537 per day)
5. Singapore: 13.9 million visitors a year ($286 per day)
6. New York: 13.1 million visitors a year ($147 per day)
7. Kuala Lumpur: 12.6 million visitors a year ($124 per day)
8. Tokyo: 11.9 million visitors a year ($154 per day)
9. Istanbul: 10.7 million visitors a year ($108 per day)
10. Seoul: 9.5 million visitors a year ($181 per day)

Five of the top destination cities are located in East Asia, two in the Middle East, two in Europe, and one in the United States. Cost doesn't seem to be a deciding factor in many visits—Paris, Dubai, and Singapore all make the top five, though they're also the most expensive cities among the top 10.

The fact that Asian destinations see so much visitor traffic isn't terribly surprising considering that East Asia has the fastest-growing tourism industry in the world. According to The Economist, a quarter of the world's tourists head to Asia and the Pacific each year. A good portion of the world's tourists come from within Asia, too—thanks in part to rising incomes, Chinese tourists in particular spend more money traveling the world than anyone else, and account for 21 percent of the world's outbound tourists.

If any of these destinations pique your interest, check out some of our travel-planning tips to help get your itinerary settled. And if your heart is set on heading to Dubai, by all means, check out our guide to putting together an affordable vacation.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

Lítla Dímun: The Smallest of the Faroe Islands Has Its Very Own Cloud

While some islands are known for their unusual geography or unique history, Lítla Dímun is notable for its weather. The island, which is the smallest of Denmark's Faroe Islands chain, is often capped by a lens-shaped cloud, making it resemble a scene from a fairytale.

According to Mental Floss's own Kerry Wolfe writing for Atlas Obscura, the cloud floating above Lítla Dímun is a lenticular cloud. This type of cloud forms when moist air flows over a protruding geological feature, like a mountain top. When the wind moving up the landmass hits the air current directly above it, a sort of wave is created on the downwind side of the mountain. The moist air falling down this wave evaporates and then condenses into a large, flying-saucer-shaped cloud atop the mountain peak as a result.

Another factor that makes Lítla Dímun distinct is that it's the only one of the 18 main Faroe Islands without human inhabitants. Visitors to the mystical location will instead find a thriving population of sheep. Originally, Lítla Dímun was home to a group of feral sheep likely dating back to the Neolithic era. But they were hunted to extinction in the 19th century. Domesticated sheep were introduced there around the same time, and today, farmers visit the island once a year to round up their flocks.

One of the few signs of human life are the ropes farmers use to scale the cliff faces bordering the island. Even if you have rock-climbing skills, Lítla Dímun may be dangerous to visit. A boat ride to the rocky shore is only possible when the surrounding sea is calm.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

15 Amazing Places You Can Tour Virtually

AndrewSoundarajan/iStock via Getty Images Plus.
AndrewSoundarajan/iStock via Getty Images Plus.

From National Parks to the Louvre, you can check out these 15 different places from the comfort of your own home.

1. The National Museum of Natural History

Outside of the Smithsonian.

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Take a look around the stunning exhibits at this Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. You have the option to tour past exhibits like “Against All Odds: Rescue at the Chilean Mine” or “Iceland Revealed,” along with what's currently on display.

2. The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal.
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You can explore the exterior of the famous Indian mausoleum with Air Pano’s virtual tour. It allows you to easily jump to different vantage points of the Taj Mahal and see them from a bird’s eye view.

3. The Great Wall of China


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Constructing this massive piece of architecture took more than 1800 years. You can visit this historical landmark without leaving your couch by heading here.

4. The J. Paul Getty Museum

Outside of the Getty Museum
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Google Arts & Culture lets you take a peek inside this art museum in Los Angeles. With the zoom feature, you can probably get even closer to the artwork than if you were to visit the Getty in person.

5. The Louvre

Le Louvre at night.
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Looking at fine art has never been so simple. On the Louvre’s website you can choose to explore several different exhibits such as “The Advent of the Artist,” “Remains of the Louvre’s Moat,” and more.

6. The Vatican's Museums

The Vatican
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Now you can skip the crowds and still tour inside the Vatican. This virtual tour allows you to see the landmark's museums such as the Pio Clementino, Raphael's Rooms, and others.

7. The Sistine Chapel

A painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
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You can't take a photo of the Sistine Chapel in person—it's not allowed—but you can tour it virtually. Click here, and look skyward to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece.

8. Route 66

A photo of Route 66.
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Route 66 was the United States’s first all-weather highway, running from Illinois to California. Now you can get your kicks on Google Street View of Route 66.

9. The Colosseum

The Colosseum
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Are you not entertained? You will be as you click around this virtual tour of this ancient arena.

10. Palace of Versailles

Inside the Palace of Versailles.

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Constructed in 1624, the Palace of Versailles contains countless rooms you could easily spend hours walking through. And now you can spend hours leisurely meandering through the halls—without the crowds—by heading here.

11. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

A volcano in a National Park in Hawaii.
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If you’ve ever wanted to journey to two of the world's most active volcanoes, now is your chance. After a short video introduction, you can take a guided virtual tour of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

12. Stonehenge

A view of Stonehenge.
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There's still a lot of mystery surrounding Stonehenge, a prehistoric stone monument near Wiltshire, England, whose construction dates back to 3000 CE. When you visit the site virtually, you can get a close-up view of the stones, zoom in on carvings, and watch educational videos about them.

13. The Musée d’Orsay

Musée D'Orsay in Paris.
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Built in an old railway station, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris is the place to go to look at work by Vincent Van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Gustav Klimt, and many other artists. Check out their work by heading here.

14. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
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If you’re sitting on your couch, do yourself a favor and take a minute to roam around Yosemite National Park. You can hike to the top of Half Dome, see Nevada Falls, and even star gaze in the park.

15. The Pyramids

The pyramids
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Survey the awe-inspiring achievement of the Great Pyramids at Giza from above.

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