The Best Countries to Visit for a Culture-packed Holiday
Though there are countless reasons to travel — sampling new food, exploring a new destination’s natural landscape, or seeking adventure — experiencing the culture of another country is high on the list of reasons to go, and crosses into most, if not all, other aspects. After all, culture is what makes each country unique.
In their recently released 2017 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report, the World Economic Forum ranked 136 countries based on their support of and demand for cultural and business tourism. The report looked at five indicators to determine which country is doing cultural and business tourism best.
Cultural and entertainment tourism digital demand looked at the amount of traffic focused on a particular country and search terms to measure how much interest there was for cultural offerings such as performing arts events, museums, local food and entertainment parks. The number of international association meetings measured how many regularly-held meetings with at least 50 associates and a regular rotation of location occurred. The next indicator counted the number of oral and intangible cultural heritage expressions a country can claim. These heritage expressions could be instruments, artifacts or skills that are passed down generationally. The number of World Heritage cultural sites is more straight forward: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) keeps a list of sites that have universal value. Lastly, the report counted the number of large sports stadiums with the ability to host at least 20,000 spectators. This served as an easy way to measure each country’s ability to host big events.
Starting with number 15, here are the top countries to visit for cultural and business travel.
Canada plays host to many international association meetings, as well as being home to large sports stadiums. Though there aren’t many World Heritage sites, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump stands out. The site is where Native Americans from the plains used to kill buffalos for food by chasing them over the side of a cliff.
Argentina scored fairly low in the number of World Heritage sites, but what they do have is impressive. Jesuit missions, including four that make up the Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis and another campus in Córdoba, offer a view of the 17th and 18th centuries. The country also has Qhapaq Ñan, an Incan network snaking through the Andes Mountains.
13. United States
It likely won’t come as a surprise that the U.S. ranks number one in two indicators: the number of international association meetings hosted, and the number of large sports stadiums. Plenty of tourists also come for cultural and entertainment reasons.
12. Republic of Korea
Korea doesn’t have many World Heritage sites in comparison to others on the list, but they’ve ranked in second place for oral and intangible cultural heritage. That isn’t to say there are no sites to see. On top of having a great fashion scene and a vibrant nightlife, the monuments of Kaesong offer a peek into life in the Koryo Dynasty between the10th and 14th centuries, and the Koguryo Tombs are one of the few remaining pieces of the culture of the Koguryo Kingdom.
At number 11 on the list is Australia. Though they ranked very low in cultural heritage and number of World Heritage sites (93rd and 47th, respectively), the Oceanic country hosts a large number of international association meetings, has a high demand on cultural and entertainment tourism and boasts the sixth highest number of large sports stadiums in the world.
Mexico has risen significantly in the overall ranks this year, and the country’s cultural boons have helped. Mexico is in sixth place for number of World Heritage sites, and they have an abundance on offer. There’s the 16th century fortified town of Campeche, the pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan, which UNESCO calls “one of the most powerful cultural centers in Mesoamerica,” and the Hospicio Cabaña, a complex which housed people who were sick or otherwise needed help.
India performed well in oral and intangible cultural heritage and number of sports stadiums, and is ranked sixth on the list of countries with the most World Heritage sites. It’s no surprise why it did so well in the latter: between the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort of Agra, India has the culture box ticked—and that’s before taking into consideration the mountain railways, the monuments of Hampi or the paintings in the rock shelters in Bimbeka.
Brazil has a high number of large sports stadiums (after all, they did host both the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics). In the other indicators, the South American country also does fairly well, ranking tenth in both cultural and entertainment tourism demand and number of international association meetings.
7. United Kingdom
In third place for the number of international business meetings and fourth for cultural and entertainment tourism is the United Kingdom. They also have plenty of large sports stadiums—they’re in sixth place for this indicator—and do well in the number of World Heritage sites as well. With choices like the castles of King Edward in Gwynedd and Durham Castle and Cathedral, it’s hard to narrow down the best spots.
Germany ranks in second place in terms of hosting international business meetings. Though they are far down the list when it comes to oral and intangible cultural heritage, their scores for the other indicators are all high. Some of the country’s highlights include the stunning 13th century Cologne Cathedral and the 12th century Hanseatic City of Lübeck.
Italy ranks number five on the overall list, but comes in first place for number of World Heritage sites. From the canals of Venice to Pisa’s Piazza del Duomo, and from the 1st century city of Verona to the rock drawings of Valcamonica, Italy has enough cultural appeal to fill a lifetime, let alone a vacation.
With plenty of sports stadiums, high cultural and entertainment tourism demand and the second highest ranking in oral and intangible cultural heritage, Japan has lots to offer. The small island nation also has a wealth of World Heritage sites, including the shrines of Nikko and pilgrimage routes in the Kii Mountain Range.
France is number one on the list for cultural and entertainment digital demand. They also did well on the list of World Heritage sites, coming in third in that indicator as well as in the overall report ranking. The Palace of Versailles and the Notre Dame Cathedral both make UNESCO’s list, as well as the banks of the Seine River, which earned their spot for marking the evolution of Paris.
Spain got top marks in every indicator, including hosting international association meetings. Though the seven properties making up the collective works of Antoni Gaudí certainly help the list, Spain houses many other World Heritage sites as well, including the walled town of Cuenca and the Sierra de Atapuerca caves.
At the top of the list is China, and it’s easy to see why. The Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the Grand Canal, the ancient city of Ping Yao, the Great Wall—the list of World Heritage sites goes on, and on. China ranked high across the board, with top scores in business meeting and sports stadiums, and landed the number one spot for oral and intangible cultural heritage.