As the summer travel season comes to an end, it’s time to start thinking about your next adventure. And a new list of the tourist destinations quickly gaining popularity with travelers in Europe offers some prime daydreaming opportunities for off-the-beaten-path travel.
The list of the top ten fastest-growing tourist destinations in Europe, based on UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) data for 2018, includes four former Soviet states and two countries in the Balkans.
And in the top spot, there’s a tiny, gorgeous country that’s three hours’ drive from Florence. The mountainous 24-square-mile micro-nation of San Marino, surrounded on all sides by Northern Italy, was described by Lonely Planet as as a “land of clifftop castles.”
San Marino saw a more than 30% increase in visitors from 2016 to 2017, for a total of 78,000 visitors in 2017. While those visitor numbers may pale in comparison to the increasingly over-touristed juggernaut Iceland (which came in at fifth place)—and of course, it’s easier for less-popular destinations to show dramatic growth, since the percentage is based off a smaller base—it’s still a striking tourism boom for one of the world’s smallest nations. Put another way: There were more than two visitors for every permanent resident of San Marino in 2017.
Thanks to the internet and cheap airfares, travel is more accessible than ever. And as many countries and landmark cities in Western Europe grapple with the crisis of over-tourism, this list also suggests some travelers are starting to look east in Europe. That will probably come as a relief to residents of Barcelona and Venice.