The fastest-growing travel destination in Europe is a tiny country most Americans have probably never heard of

If you haven’t heard of San Marino, you’re probably not alone.

At 23.6 square miles, it’s one of the world’s smallest countries. It has no coastline and boasts a population of 33,400. It lists postage stamps and coins amongst its important sources of revenue.

It’s also, however, the top-growing travel destination in Europe.

San Marino’s boundaries are entirely within Italy.
Google maps.

New data from the UN World Tourism Organization indicates that tourism in 2017 in San Marino grew by 31.1% year-over-year. That’s compared to an 11.2% growth in Italy, which surrounds the country of San Marino.

Also topping the list are the perhaps similarly unexpected destinations of Georgia in second place (27.9% growth), Macedonia in sixth (23.5% growth), Azerbaijan in seventh (20% growth), and Bosnia and Herzegovina in ninth (18.66% growth).

As Bloomberg reported, San Marino recorded 78,000 tourism arrivals in 2017 — more than two tourists per resident. That number pales in comparison to the whopping 86.9 million international tourists who visit France each year. While tourism hubs like France and Spain are more outright popular with tourists, as already-popular tourist destinations, those countries simply stand to exhibit lower year-over-year growth.

So, what exactly does one do in San Marino?

Lonely Planet bills the microcountry as a “land of clifftop castles.” The historic center of the city and Mt. Titano are on the UNESCO Heritage List, and the latter awards panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. One of the iconic landmarks in the country is Guaita, the First Tower of San Marino, which dates back to the 11th century and served as a prison that closed in 1970.

As Business Insider previously reported, San Marino ranks amongst the richest countries in the world. In 2017, the tiny country reported a GDP per capita of $61,169. For comparison, that puts it just behind the USA, which has a GDP per capita of $62,152.

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