Beautiful Small Towns and Villages from Across the World
Colmar is probably not the first place to pop into your mind when you think of France. Paris, Nice, Lyon, Bordeaux, and other more famous destinations usually outshine smaller cities and towns like the very beautiful Colmar in the north-eastern part of the country. However, there are actually plenty of good reasons to visit this place, which is also known as the “capital of Alsatian wine”.
Most of its attractions can be found in the old town, which was surprisingly well preserved over the years, even though it has seen two world wars and other dark events. Quite large for a medieval town, it attracts numerous tourists every year with its pink and yellow historic buildings, narrow streets and many shops. This is one of those places that are best explored on foot, so make sure you have enough time to really enjoy it.
Tellaro is a lovely village in Liguria, Italy. You can find it sitting quietly on the east coast of the Gulf of La Spezia. If you don’t mind going off the beaten track, then you should pay this place a visit and see why it was officially listed as one of the country’s 100 most beautiful villages. Like all similar settlement in the area, Tellaro was built with strong fortifications meant to protect its inhabitants from any aggressors that might come by sea.
The village’s main piazza holds a number of bars and restaurants, including a one-Michelin-star restaurant called Locanda Miranda. The narrow streets may be a little confusing to newcomers, but the “maze” is definitely worth exploring. There are also a couple of significant buildings worth seeing while in town, such as the Church of San Giorgio that dates back to the 16th century, and the Oratory of San Maria in Selaa, built in 1660.
This place is so wonderful, you will keep pinching yourself to make sure it’s real. The little village looks so perfect, it’s like a well-designed movie set for a lovely fairy tale film. Bibury is located some 6.5 miles northeast of Cirencester, on River Coln, which runs alongside the main street.
The honey-colored stone cottages with steep pitched roofs date back to the 17th century, but they are still in good condition today. The village’s largest building was constructed in 1633 and it is known simply as Bibury Court. Now a hotel, it is listed as a Grade I building, which in the UK means that it has a special historic and architectural significance. The picturesque little village is one of the most beautiful in the country, and Huffington Post even went so far as to call it one of “The Most Charming Towns in Europe You’ll Want to Visit ASAP”.
Popeye Village, Malta
The entire village is made up of a small group of rustic wooden houses. It is a cute little place located at Anchor Bay on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. The setting is perfect, the climate is excellent, the buildings are lovely, but the place is actually not a real village.
Popeye Village or Sweethaven Village was built between 1979 and 1980 as a film set. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it was made for the musical feature film Popeye starring Robin Williams. So what are the buildings used for today? They make up a fascinating open-air museum as well an entertainment complex for family activities.
Austria has many picturesque places to visit and Hallstatt is one of them. It is a village situated by a beautiful lake called Haalstätter See, and it has only around 1000 inhabitants (according to a 2001 census). The settlement’s history started somewhere in the prehistoric times, and it has always been known for its salt production. It also has a fascinating culture with significant Celtic influences.
A simple Google search of this village will reveal an impressive number of superb photographs. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and experts believe that this is the oldest still inhabited village in Europe. Also referred to as “The Pearl of Austria”, this magnificent little settlement is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful places in the World, with tall mountains and rocky shores permanently reflected by the lake.
With around 500 inhabitants, Bourtange is a small but very interesting village in the Netherlands, near the German border. Built in 1593 during the Dutch Revolt, it used to be a significant fortress with a bastioned pentagon shape. Its star-like plan was kept even though its defense purposes were abandoned in 1851, when the settlement became an agrarian village.
Between 1967 and 1992, however, the original design of the fortress was revived, with freshly dug ditches, new ramparts raised, and defensive barracks rebuilt. As a result, tourists feel like they have been transported back in time whenever they visit the village. Also an open-air museum, Bourtange is a must-see destination in the Westerwolde region of the Netherlands.
Hobbiton Village, New Zealand
With a completely irresistible charm, Hobbiton Village is a place of wonder and joy. The miniature village was built as a movie set for the fascinating trilogies called The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Thanks to the wise decision of the New Zealand government to keep the set intact even after the first trilogy was shot, people can now visit the village and take guided tours of it.
Visitors get to see lovely little hobbit homes, the Green Dragon Inn, the bridge, the Mill and other beautiful structures that were specifically built for the movies. The two-hour tour is fascinating and the experience is always incredibly rewarding. You can even enjoy some drinks and a light meal at the inn or the Shires Rest café.
Located at 4,180 feet above sea level, Wengen is a village in central Switzerland, at the foot of the Eiger-Mönch mountain range in the Bernese Oberland. Its permanent residents are only about 1,300 people, but with tourists around, that number soars to 5,000 in the summer and 10,000 in winter. Being an alpine community, winter sports are an important part of the village and its tourism-based economy.
The first hotels were built here in the mid-19th century, with the first ski clubs appearing in the early 20th century. Soon afterwards the first ski downhill races took place in the area and every winter sports enthusiast started to learn about this once quiet farming community in Switzerland. The place is so beautiful and the views so amazing that even non-skiers can enjoy a vacation here. Wengen offers sunny days even in winter and many relaxation opportunities for everybody.
There is something utterly irresistible about islands. That is probably why most of the pictures you’ll find about Bled will show you an idyllic little island in the middle of a glacial lake. The alpine town is actually larger than that, and it is situated on the shore of Lake Bled. This is an old human settlement, with first written references to it dating back to 1004.
The little island holds proof of human habitation from the prehistoric times. Accessible by traditional flat-bottomed boats, the isle’s main point of interest is the Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church and its wishing bell that can be rung for good fortune. Another very popular attraction is the picturesque Bled Castle built high on a rocky cliff and dating back to the 17th century. The views from here are exquisite, as you can imagine. Bled offers various opportunities for exploration and fun, including hiking, fishing, swimming, wall climbing, golfing, and of course pamper sessions at the spa and wellness centers.
When looked at from a distance, Manarola’s brightly colored buildings seem to be stacked together like toys by a child. The tiny town is part of the Cinque Terre towns in Liguria, northern Italy. It is also believed to be the oldest of all, with the San Lorenzo church having been built in 1338.
One of the things for which the town is famous is its delicious wine, to which there are written references even from the Roman times. The picturesque Manarola is a very interesting destination on its own, but if you get here you should also take time to hike the trails that lead to the other four villages of Cinque Terre.
Rocky mountains soaring from water are always a wonderful sight. Reine is a small fishing village located in one such perfect place, where dramatic cliffs seem to be rising from blue bays like giants. Green meadows make the scenery even more irresistible, especially for artists and photographers.
Tourists often choose to stay in modified fishermen’s cottages for an extra sense of authenticity. Despite its remote location, Reine enjoys a lot of attention from all over the world. It is one of the most beautiful villages in Norway and it encourages its visitors to take part in various activities, such as hiking, fishing, biking, bird watching and even whale watching.
Morro de São Paulo, Brazil
Located on the Tinharé Island in Bahia, Brazil, Morro de São Paulo is one of the island’s only 5 villages. It is an excellent destination for anyone who looks for a relaxed time away from the noises of the city. Until recently cars were forbidden on the island, and walking was the best way of getting from one place to another. Today there are buggy-taxis that sometimes take tourists to more distant beaches, but walking is still the preferred way to explore the surroundings. The island can only be reached by boat or by plane, but that hasn’t stopped the development of hotels, restaurants and shops in the area.
Situated on the beautiful French Riviera, Èze is an ancient village perched on a hilltop, with superb views of the Mediterranean. The area has been populated since around 2000 BC, but the oldest surviving building in the village – Chapelle de la Sainte Croix – only dates back to 1306. Its medieval charm makes it very popular among tourists, especially honeymooners.
This is the much more reasonably priced alternative to the overhyped St Tropez and Monaco. From 1,400 feet above sea level, the French Riviera looks absolutely stunning, and the village itself is also quite impressive. The narrow streets invite you for morning walks and lead you to hidden squares, beautiful courtyards and refreshing fountains. Arts and crafts boutiques, various shops and galleries, as well as a botanical garden await you.
The slanting thatched roofs of Shirakawa-gō are one of the village’s most distinctive features. It is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a number of beautiful natural landmarks like the Three Amo Waterfalls, the Hakusui Falls, and Mount Haku. While here, you should also visit the museums that are actually repurposed historic buildings with iconic thatched roofs. Some of the old houses are still inhabited today and you can even take a tour of one called Wada House.
Anime fans will also find this destination quite interesting, because the village gained extra fame after it was featured in the Higurashi no Naku Koro series. And for those who love mysteries and treasure hunts, the village has a legend to tell you, about a castle and a gold mine that were completely swallowed by the ground during a terrible earthquake in 1586. A $100 million treasure is said to be hidden there still.
Telč, Czech Republic
Located in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands of the Czech Republic, this is a town with roots that go back to the 13th century. It is a quiet little place with about 6,000 inhabitants and beautiful architecture of historic significance. It is actually the best preserved town from the Moravian and Bohemian Renaissance, which also made its old center a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of particular interest for tourists are the medieval chateau and the old town square.
Göreme is an internationally popular town in Turkey, mainly because of the area’s unique rock formations affectionately called “fairy chimneys”. A one-day tour of the town will take you to some really interesting places, such as underground cities, ancient churches and pottery, onyx and carpet shops. You should also visit the Göreme National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can go hiking in the area, and then return to a relaxing spa session at the local Turkish Bath with soap massages, mud face masks and revitalizing scrubbing.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Any town that sits on the edge of a lake, surrounded by mountains, is a place worth visiting. Queenstown is one such place, located by the beautiful Lake Wakatipu and with breathtaking views towards the Southern Alps. Opposite the town the Remarkables are a saw-like range of spectacular mountains, which are the most beautiful sight of the area.
Tourists of all budgets can have a great time here, but nobody should come here to relax only, because Queenstown is a party town. If you like quiet nights, you should probably stay somewhere out of town. This is also an excellent place for bungee jumping from the Kawarau Bridge. Other intense activities include white water rafting, sky diving, skiing and snowboarding, ziplining and parasailing. If you’re not a big fan of adrenalin rushes, you can go cycling, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, or even walking through the superb public gardens.
Arguably the most beautiful village in Spain, Albarracín is a national monument surrounded by rocky hills in the province of Teruel. It is a place where the Middle Ages don’t seem to have been affected by modernization. You feel transported into the past when you enter this small tourist village with amazingly well preserved old buildings. You can come here any season, as the village hosts surprisingly many cultural events all year round. Plus, the views are wonderful any time of year.
With only approximately 3,250 inhabitants, this is actually the most populous town in southern Greenland. It is also the island’s fourth largest town. Qaqortoq is a cold but lovely colonial settlement that has been continuously inhabited for at least 4,300 years. All its points of interest are easy to reach by foot, including the very alluring hot springs with approximately 100° F (or 38° C).
Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
The second largest castle in the Czech Republic is located in the beautiful town of Český Krumlov. The place hasn’t changed much since the 18th century, which makes it really popular among tourists and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town’s main attraction is the State Castle and Chateau, which is an interesting complex that can be visited for free, but which also offers guided tours for a small fee. Fun activities in the area include rafting, tubing and horseback riding.
What was once a stern Welsh stronghold is now a beautiful and colorful little town on the western side of Carmarthen Bay. The 13th century town walls are still there today, including the Five Arches gatehouse. With its 2.5 miles of sandy beaches, Tenby is a pretty busy place in the summer. The appeal of the medieval building and the almost unspoiled beaches make is quite irresistible to tourists. There are also plenty of restaurants, shops and pubs for visitors to discover in town. This is an ideal destination for family vacations, but it is also very much loved by the young and wild who love to have fun on pristine beaches.
The Huffington Post found the best way to describe Burano: “the cheeriest little island”. It is probably the most colorful place you’ll ever see, and believe it or not, the colorful symphony is actually orchestrated by the government. Building owners receive official notice telling them what hues they are allowed to use on their houses.
The small town is also famous for lacemaking, a skill that has been passed down through generations from mothers to daughter since the 1400s. Apparently Leonardo da Vinci came to the island to purchase a laced cloth for the altar at the Duomo di Milano. The lively narrow streets are dotted with lace stores, artisan kiosks and ice cream shops.
Leavenworth, Washington, USA
Leavenworth prides itself with offering “Bavarian charm and Northwest hospitality”. It is a wonderful place in Chelan County, Washington. It has approximately 2,000 inhabitants, but its’ filled with exciting opportunities for fun, recreation and relaxation. Museums, gardens, parks, wineries, spas, arcades, theaters, breweries, they all promise a lot of interesting activities.
The town center is modeled after Bavarian villages, which is definitely its most attractive feature. Festivals and other fun events keep locals and visitors entertained all year round, which means that there is no wrong season for visiting Leavenworth.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Some call it the most delightful town in Vietnam, and we can’t find any good reason to argue against that. Hoi An is an amazingly well preserved typical South-East Asian trading port from the 15th century. Its beautiful old town is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is almost completely unaffected by pollution and other curses of our modern times. Exploring this town’s many interesting attractions is a reward in itself.
Gruyères is a medieval town in the district with the same name in Switzerland. It is best known for the Gruyère cheese that is made here and which plays a significant role in the region’s tourism, with the cheese factory being open to visitors. Also of particular importance is a medieval castle that holds two museums inside. The castle was built between 1270 and 1282, but even though it started its existence as a fortress, it gradually lost its defensive features and became an imposing residence. The town can be visited bot in summer and in winter, and the nearby Mont Moléson is often climbed by tourists, especially in the warmer months.
Riomaggiore is another lovely village from the Cinque Terre region in Liguria, Italy. We’ve already talked about the smaller Manarola village, but this is actually the first one of the five settlements that visitors see when they come from La Spezia. It is essentially a cluster of tall and colorful houses perched on the rocky hills by the Mediterranean Sea. The place is quite famous for its local vine, so you might want to give that a try.
Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia
This is essentially a blue-and-white village. Sidi Bou Said is located in northern Tunisia and it attracts many tourists with its picturesque charm. The houses are all white with blue windows and blue roofs, making the small settlement a lovely sight from a distance. Three hours are more than enough to visit all the streets and neighborhoods, but the task can be quite tiresome during the busy tourist season (summer). You can visit an old traditional house which was turned into a museum and called simply the Family House to get a better sense of how people love here.
Juzcar is a small blue town in the province of Málaga, Spain. Originally, the town had typically Mediterranean whitewashed buildings and was known as one of the White Towns of Andalusia. In spring 2011, Sony Pictures painted the buildings blue for the premiere of the Smurfs movie, using 1,100 gallons of paint for the project. This changed the town’s tourist activity dramatically, as people came in big numbers to see the unique blue settlement.
If Juzcar was used to receiving around 300 tourists in a year, after its “Smurfication” it was visited by a whopping 80,000 people in only six months. When Sony offered to repaint the buildings white, the citizens thanked the company politely and said that they preferred the new face of their town as well as its newfound popularity.
Camden is a town in Knox County, Mine, whose population always increases dramatically during the summer time. It is an excellent spot for outdoor activities, offering various fishing, sailing, canoeing, biking, hiking, horseback riding and golfing opportunities. There are also many sightseeing attractions in the area, so if you come here make sure you have plenty of time to go and explore. The experience is always deeply satisfying.
Being located by a volcano and a beautiful blue lake, Pucón attracts numerous visitors during the warm season. You can find it in the Province of Cautín, Chile, boasting superb views and quite a few tourist attractions. Volcanic caves, lakes, national parks and of course volcanoes make Pucón a very interesting destination. Tourists come here to hike, explore canopy trails, go fishing, bird watching, horseback riding, rafting and more. Winter is also a good time to visit the place, because that’s when the thermal baths are most interesting, and also because that’s when people can go snowboarding and skiing on the Villarrica volcano.
Off the south coast of Iceland there is a wonderful place called Vestmannaeyjar. It is a town and archipelago with many uninhabited islands and a population of only about 4200 people. The town’s attractions are all within walking distance, so exploring the place on foot is not only possible, but also recommended.
Tourists are always curious to see the most recent lava field in the area, which formed after the eruption of the Eldfell volcano in 1973. The event destroyed a significant part of the settlement and resulted in a full evacuation of all inhabitants to mainland Iceland. Ironically, the tragic event was also what put the archipelago back on the map for international tourism.
The Garmisch-Partenkirchen area in Bavaria, Germany has a very interesting history. Originally two separate towns, they were unified by Hitler in 1936 with the sole purpose to host the Winter Olympics. The dictator would not allow Germany to be passed over by the International Olympic Committee simply because the host town did not have the required number of accommodation options.
He thus forced the unification of Garmisch and Partenkirchen and eventually got what he wanted, which were the Winter Olympics into his beloved country. The newly founded town has remained an important destination for sports enthusiasts, offering many skiing, hiking and biking opportunities. The views here are amazing, but even the town itself is lovely, boasting beautifully decorated houses and public buildings.