Which country is officially the world's favourite holiday destination?

Which country is the world's favourite holiday destination?

Drum roll, please. The country that is officially the world's favourite tourist destination has been revealed - with France receiving more visitors in 2012 than any other country.

The study by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation revealed that 83 million people holidayed in France last year, which is more than its population of 66 million, reports the BBC.

It received 16 million more visitors than the US in second place, with China, Spain and Italy making up the top five.

And it's not hard to see why France came out on top. Apart from its delicious cheese and wine, sun-soaked Mediterranean beach resorts and stunning skiing spots, France has 37 sites inscribed in UNESCO's World Heritage List and features cities of high cultural interest (Paris being the foremost, but also Toulouse, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lyon, and others), and rural regions that many enjoy for their beauty and tranquillity, like the stunning lavender fields of Provence (pictured).

Small and picturesque French villages of quality heritage (such as Collonges-la-Rouge or Gordes) are promoted through the association Les Plus Beaux Villages de France ("The Most Beautiful Villages of France").

The Remarkable Gardens label also offers a list of the over two hundred gardens classified by the French Ministry of Culture.

The country is also extremely famous for its celebrity honeypot area, the French Riviera.

A host of stars own holiday homes here (Carla Bruni and the Jolie-Pitts included), while celebs flock to Cannes every year for its glittering film festival.

Meanwhile, the most visited city destination of 2012 was Bangkok, with London in second position. Paris, Singapore and New York finished the top five most-visited city destinations.

Special places to stay in rural France
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Which country is officially the world's favourite holiday destination?

A modern whitewashed hotel on the outskirts of Rivedoux Plage, Maison des Algues is "impeccably maintained", says Sawdays. There's a small cricket pitch, terraces, gardens and an outdoor pool with free bike hire for exploring the local area and its white sand beaches. From 125 Euros per room, including breakfast. For details, visit sawdays.co.uk or call +33 (0)5 46 68 01 23. 

A mere hop over the channel, the beautiful countryside of Pas de Calais is perfect for a weekend away. Check out the wild, "funky and fabulous" Maison de Plumes: think soft gold walls and glossy black woodwork, with bedrooms designed in the pattern birds' plumage (hence the name). From €99 per room per night, including breakfast. For more details, visit sawdays.co.uk or call +33 (0)3 21 41 47 85.

Hidden just behind a small sleepy village square, this fifth century converted silk farm is full of surprises. A tranquil Mediterranean garden and vast bedrooms, a shaded courtyard and pool are just some of the treats to enjoy. From €220 per room per night, including breakfast  For more details, visit sawdays.co.uk or call +33 (0)4 66 81 38 41.

This quirky 16th century merchant's house with its own salon de the, exposed stone walls and customised furniture sits on the lovely Finistiere coast. Nearby, Le Conquet bustles with fisherman and boats and a local market. Kids wil love the bunk bedded room designed like a ship's cabin. From €60 per room per night, room only. For more information, visit sawdays.co.uk or call +33 (0)2 98 89 17 79.

Peace and serenity reign supreme at this remote 17th century farmhouse-cum-eco lodge on the edge of the Lac du Pecher. It's a place for nature lovers, beautifully decorated with "gigantic views". From €140 per room per night, half-board. Visit sawdays.co.uk for more, or call +33 47120 8309.

This 300-year-old vine workers' house has been revived with no expenses spared: think original 17th century fireplaces, snow-white linen and handsome oil paintings. And the beautiful village of Beune, with its medieval streets, is just a stone's throw away. From €220 per room per night, including breakfast. Visit sawdays.co.uk  or call +33 (0)3 80 22 82 84.

A fairy-tale like castle with much to enchant, you'll love the sprawling grounds, stained glass decor and deep sofas. Oh, and it's is also singled out for its 'incredible' food. From €88 per room per night, includes breakfast – sawdays.co.uk  +33 (0)4 77 66 64 60.

Peeping through lavender shutters at sweeping landscaped gardens, this rejuvenated Provencal house offers all sorts of delights, including its own natural rock pool for taking a cool dip, a masseur in the garden, an olive grove and a chicken run. From €180 per room per night, includes breakfast – for more information, visit sawdays.co.uk +33 (0)6 30 00 62 04.

In a large park with vast pastures and woods, this 16th century chateau boasts four-poster beds, a large pool and even a treehouse room complete with chandeliers. From €110 per room per night, room only. For more details, visit sawdays.co.uk  +33 (0)5 65 67 90 62.

This classic baroque 19th-century townhouse is hidden away off a bustling street: with its quiet lawned quadrangle, opulent boudoirs and ornate fireplaces and Philip Stark bathrooms, it promises to provide a welcome retreat from the buzzing Bordeaux atmosphere when you need to relax. From 160 Euros per room per night, room only. Visit sawdays.co.uk or call + 33 (0)5 57 88 28 80.


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