Gather round, travelers, for we have something truly magnificent for you. If you’re a world traveler, there are certain destinations you must hit, else you’re missing out on cities that are great enough to draw millions upon millions of travelers annually. So, break out your 90’s wall-sized map of the world and start marking points as we look at the ten most visited vacation destinations around the globe.
Godavari Maha Pushkaram, 2015
The Godavari Maha Pushkatram, a Hindu festival worshipping the Godavari River, occurs every 144 years in correspondence with the Godavari Pushkaram cycle. You still with us? Whether you understand a word of what we said or not, you’ll likely get this next part. The 2015 festival, which was held over 11 days in July, pulled in over 110 million participants. They weren’t all gathered in one location, though, as 64 million were in the state of Telangana and the other 46 million celebrated in Andhra Pradesh. The massive festival ended on the 25th of July with an explosive fireworks and laser light show and a ballet depiction of the story of Godavari featuring over 1,000 dancers.
20 million people. That staggering number is the number of people that made the pilgrimage during Arba’een in 2013. The Shia Muslim religion observance is one of the largest pilgrimage gatherings to date and occurs 40 days after the Day of Asura. The mass of 20 million people is made up of a mingling of 40 different countries and remains not only the largest Islamic festival, but also the largest peaceful gathering. Of course, with 20 million people, there are bound to be records of incidents, such as a car bombing that killed approximately 20 Shiite pilgrims on their way back from Karbala. The following year, attendance for Arba’een dropped to approximately 17 million people.
Feast Day of Santo Nino, 2015
As World Youth Day holds the record for 2nd largest Papal gathering, there needs to be a number one. Taking that spot is the 2015 Feast Day of Santo Nino, which was celebrated in Manila, Philippines on January 18th. What was the number that surpassed the 1995 World Youth Day? According to government estimations, the crowd that attended the Concluding Eucharistic Celebration encompassed approximately 6 million people. The feast, which is also known as Fiesta Señor, is in honor of a statue of an infant Jesus. The festivities surrounding Santo Nino span multiple days, ending with the heavily attended Eucharist.
World Youth Day, 1995
First organized by Pope John Paul II in 1985, World Youth Day sees a range in attendance depending on where the event is held. The youth-focused event emphasizes unity among cultures, hoping to bring together a range of individuals regardless of where the festival is being held. Initial attendance for the event hovered around 300,000, but as it changed venues and moved from Vatican City to Buenos Aires, that number shot up to 1 million. The largest World Youth Day goes to either the 1995 event in Manila, Philippines or the 2013 Rio de Janeiro festival, with a staggering 5 million in attendance at the closing day mass. It was the first World Youth Day held in an Asian country and is known to be the 2nd largest Papal gathering.
Sao Paulo Gay Pride Parade, 2013
With an explosive attendance of over 5 million participants, the Sao Paula Gay Pride Parade of 2013 remains the largest pride parade in the world. In 2006, when participation came in at around 3 million, the parade was awarded the record by the quintessential Guinness Book of World Records. The 2.6 mile or 4.2 kilometer long gay pride parade generally falls short to only one other Sao Paula event - the Formula One race. As an interesting final note, the LGBT mobile app, Grindr, elected the parade as the best gay pride event of the world. We can think of no better authority in the world to declare such an announcement, so it must be true.
Rod Stewart Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 1994
The man has a powerful voice, but it’s still a huge surprise that his New Years Eve concert in 1994 in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro would net approximately 3.5 million attendees. The concert’s size landed it in the Guinness World Records as the largest live concert, just barely beating out Jean Michel Jarre’s celebration of Moscow’s 850th anniversary. Guinness actually lists the concert with an audience of 4.2 million, though there is speculation as to whether or not that figure includes attendees that arrived simply for the New Years fireworks display. Stewarts extravaganza rang in 1995 with a memorable set list that boomed across Copacabana Beach, causing countless women to swoon their way out of 1994.
Boston Red Sox Parade, 2004
In 2004, the Boston Red Sox took on the St. Louis Cardinals, shutting them out at four games to none. Boston Red Sox fans were in their glory while the Cardinals slunk back to train for next season. The Red Sox weren’t happy with just a victory, though; they wanted a celebration, and celebrate they did. On October 30th, 2004, 3.2 million people came together for a 7-mile parade on a cold, rainy day in Boston to celebrate the well-earned victory. Despite the weather, fans and likely some brave jeerers took to the streets as the congregation of duck boats rolled along to their final destination of Charles River. Confetti molded with rain and littered the streets along with the millions that turned out to enjoy the celebration.
Procession of Black Nazarene, 2012
Approximately 3 million devoted Catholic followers gathered around the black statue of Jesus Christ, the Black Nazarene, in hopes of making use of the statue’s alleged power to heal. The 200 plus year old celebration sees the statue on the receiving end of countless hopes and prayers for good health. The procession of 3 million walked barefoot from Rizal Park to the inner city, a walk of an estimated 3 miles. Devotion to faith pushes the mass of people to fight hunger and fatigue to ensure the procession of the Black Nazarene is completed.
Art of Living Silver Jubilee Celebration, 2006
Not all festivals need to be messes of entertainment, food, and music - sometimes, the best gatherings can be peaceful and quiet, as seen with the Silver Jubilee celebration. During the 2006 celebration in Bangalore, India, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, lead a massive meditation that encompassed over 3 million people from 150 different countries. From the stretch of February 16th through the 18th, these 3 million people eradicated all borders and became one group with a common goal - global peace and harmony. While it’s clear today that the goal was not accomplished, to see such a mass of people vying for the same goal is uplifting all on its own.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Annually
A staple of American culture, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual event in New York City that started in 1924. The parade features a myriad of spectacular floats, high-flying character balloons, and the most iconic American tradition of all - the arrival of Santa Claus. The beautiful display is only one portion of the parade’s impressive nature, though, coming in next to the sheer size of the crowd. From Central Park to Herald Square, an estimated 3 million people survey the large festive march to catch a glimpse of massive balloon replicas of Hello Kitty, Snoopy, Angry Birds, and It the Clown. Oh… sorry, that was Ronald McDonald.