Two of the most visited cities in the world are in Turkey

Anastasia Kryshchuk

Two of the most visited cities in the world are in Turkey
With the recent abolition of visa requirements, the country is likely to welcome even more tourists in 2024

In November 2023, the United Nations World Tourism Organization noted that international travel will reach 90% of pre-pandemic levels, with about 975 million people travelling abroad during the year. And many of these international travellers have one common destination in mind: Turkey.

In December, Euromonitor International published its own Top 100 City Destinations Index 2023 report detailing the 10 cities in the world with the highest number of international arrivals. Surprisingly, two of the four most visited cities on Earth are located in Turkey: they are Istanbul and Antalya. This was reported by bbc.com.

"Istanbul tops the list in terms of international arrivals in 2023 with a 26% increase over last year. It is followed by London in second place (up 17%) and Dubai in third place (up 18%)," the report says.

Istanbul is an extensive metropolis with a population of 15.5 million people (the largest in Europe). More interestingly, however, is how Antalya, a city on the Turkish Riviera with 1.3 million people, was able to receive 16.5 million foreign visitors, which is more than Paris, Hong Kong, Bangkok and New York.

Antalya has long been a popular travel destination for Germans, Russians and the British, who make up the vast majority of international travel. Its turquoise waters, mild winters, hot summers and 300 days of sunshine have historically contributed to this.

With a significant increase in the number of flights available, more people from around the world can experience the beauty of Antalya. According to a report by Euromonitor International, in 2023, the number of foreign visitors to the city increased by 29% compared to 2022.

"Antalya is an important tourist centre not only for Turkey but also for the whole world. It meets the expectations of visitors with its natural beauty, rich history, waterfalls, mountains, beaches and delicious cuisine. I think people fall in love with Antalya because it offers more than just a vacation," said Banu Aydoğdu, a retired school teacher who now teaches Turkish cooking classes in the region.

However, travellers are heading not only to Istanbul and Antalya. According to the General Directorate of State Airports, in 2023, the number of domestic and international flights in Turkey increased by 16.3% compared to the same period last year, and the country seems poised to welcome even more foreign visitors this year.

In January 2024, Turkey abolished the need for travellers from the United States, Canada, and Mexico to obtain an e-visa for visits lasting less than 90 days. This recent relaxation of entry requirements is likely to only increase the number of international travellers to Turkey, which grew by 10.4% in 2023 to over 49 million visitors.

Another aspect that attracts visitors to Turkey is its growing medical tourism industry. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, around 1.2 million people visited Turkey for medical tourism in 2022, an increase of 308% over 2021.