There is a general reluctance among travelers to book excursions revolving around a single village. Nearby cities and towns attract too much, transport links may be poor, or perhaps they fear things won’t be enough.
Also, the few villages that hit the tourism mainstream are often uncomfortably crowded due to their small size – rather, it undermines the whole point of choosing a rural experience.
To solve this riddle, we turned to the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Best Tourism Villages list. It recognizes small settlements around the world that serve vacationers well, but do so in a sustainable way. Here are 10 little-known listings you should consider visiting in 2023:
Visitors to Georgia often arrive via swanky Tbilisi, with its quirky mix of Soviet architecture, wooden churches, and trendy wine bars. But escape the capital and you’ll find stunning Alpine meadows and towering peaks. Mestia, in the north of the country (not far from the Russian border, but FCDO says it’s safe to visit), is a fairytale village surrounded by mountains.
Rustic hostels and restaurants await you. There is a glass-walled visitor center adorned with fascinating Georgian folk art, perfect for soaking up the extraordinary scenery. But the main attraction is wandering through the mighty forests and climbing those snow-covered trunks.
Responsible Travel offers excursions to Mestia from £1,545 as part of a Walking tour in Group Meetings. Alternatively, take a sleeper train from the capital to Zugdidi, then a marshrutka (minibus) to Mestia – popular hiking routes are listed online on the Caucasus Trekking website.
Turned off by the seasoned crowds in Cancun and Tulum? Think Creel. It is the perfect gateway to the majestic Copper Canyon, an underappreciated Unesco world heritage site but also an attraction in its own right. It is largely occupied by the indigenous Tarahumara people, whose handicrafts can be purchased around the village.
But most visitors are here for walking, not shopping. Nearby attractions include the Monks Valley, an eerie rock formation that is Mexico’s answer to the Giant’s Causeway, and Arareco Lake, surrounded by fragrant pines. While Creel is considered safe to visit, keep in mind that the FCDO warns against travel to other parts of the Chihuahua region.
Copper Canyon Tours offers seven-day excursions in the region through its website. The epic nine-hour Chepe Express train travels from Los Mochis to Creel
This little village may be largely off the map, but it has a serious place in Spain’s national history. This is where Catholic monarchs gathered to give Christopher Columbus his fleet; He returned with the Native Americans and baptized them in the town square. It is a very peaceful place today.
The royal cloister (where an image of the Virgin Mary appears to a shepherd) remains the focal point; quiet corridors lead to an old hospital and an impressive collection of Zurbarán paintings.
Beyond, the village draws a fine line through attractive cobbled streets and shuttered windows – you could do much worse than sitting at a bar and savoring the area’s food until sunset. If activity is more your thing, Monfragüe National Park is just a tap away.
Nativus offers day trips from Cáceres to Guadalupe starting from £65. Unguided tours of the monastery start from €5
Isola del Giglio, Italy
Perhaps best known outside of Italy for its role in the 2012 Costa Concordia disaster (the cruise ship sank off shore), Isola del Giglio is a culture lover’s paradise, largely due to the annual Musical Giglio Festival that sees the beach. venue for a number of summer concerts.
At its heart is a walled medieval village, a handsome 15th-century church, a superb harbor, and there’s no shortage of handicraft shops and restaurants, many of which stand balanced on pillars of water. If you’re lucky, whales and dolphins can be spotted from the shoreline, and peregrine falcons nest inland.
There are hour-long ferries from Porto Santo Stefano to Isola del Giglio every day. Check out the Visit Tuscany website for more vacation ideas.
Castelo Novo, Portugal
There is much more to Portugal than just a city break by the sea and the beaches of the Algarve. A long way from the coast, Castelo Novo offers access to the Gardunha mountain range, along with its attractive mansions, copper-roofed churches and stark Baroque fountains.
The “new” castle, as the name suggests, was originally built in the 12th century, but was largely destroyed by an earthquake five centuries later. Visitors can wander through the ruins (admission is free) before heading to the village square for a coffee. Castelo Novo is part of Portugal’s Historic Villages route and connects 12 similarly cultured yet hidden destinations across the country.
Combine it with a trip to the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, the largest protected area in the country. Alternatively, the Historic Villages of Portugal route can be used by bike (details on the site’s website).
Kfar Kama, Israel
One of only two Circassian towns in Israel to be occupied by descendants of 19th-century exiles, Kfar Kama is noted by UNWTO as a unique multicultural center where Circassian culture is preserved and festivals are held regularly (including one every spring to celebrate its beauty). almond flower).
It is located in the center of Galilee and is easily accessible from Haifa and Tel Aviv. While its heritage is an important part of its appeal, there is also an emphasis on the modern – visitors can download an app for a self-guided cultural tour; it is also a very eco-friendly place to visit, with public transport using electric vehicles.
Kfar Kama is a two-hour drive from Tel Aviv. You can find details about the working hours of the Circassian Heritage Center on the official website.
Ksar El Khorbat, Morocco
This fortified village, built entirely of mud, should not be. In fact, it has almost completely disappeared from the remote corner of Morocco. But the remarkable structures were saved before they were crushed to dust, and a striking example of this ancient building method has been preserved.
The result is a peaceful oasis, a world away from the chaos of Marrakech. Many of the houses continue to be used by residents, but others have been converted into cozy guesthouses. There is also a rambling museum that tells the history of the area.
You can join the tours from both Fes and Marrakech; see Ksar El Khorbat website for details. Most take about four days.
At the heart of this large village on the edge of the Amazon rainforest is a rather eccentric Disney-style chateau that was built in the 21st, not the 16th century. This is the passion project of Italian businessman Nicola Felice, and curious visitors can marvel at replicas of pre-raphaelite paintings as they stroll through parts of his ersatz castle.
Considered the folkloric capital of the San Martín region, the spiritual heritage of Lamas is far more authentic. Many local Yurilamas people call the village their home and are dedicated to preserving their culture.
Many operators, such as Amazon Gold, offer day trips from Tarapoto to Lamas. Prices start at around £15.
Pyeongsa-ri, South Korea
Llamas may be eccentric, but Pyeongsa-ri has nothing. This South Korean village is entirely themed on Park Kyongni’s 16-volume novel Toji (or The Land). Written in the second half of the 20th century, the book is a winding epic; now loyal fans can experience the idyllic book-described landscapes where traditional farming methods and a slow pace of life reign.
Literary attractions include the Pak Kyongni Literature Hall and replicas of houses from the series. If you visit, be sure to grab a beer: it’s the tea cultivation that previously made the village notable.
Trains from Seoul to Guryegu take about four hours. From there, take a taxi to Pyeongsa-ri. Information about Tojithemed destinations can be found on the Hadong District website.
Skiers may already know Wagrain as a reliable destination. But summer at Wagrain is a hidden gem. Glistening in the powdery snow in winter, these high mountains are ideal for sunny hikes. Walks to Öbristkopf are popular; To the south (and nearly twice the height) Mount Gabel is covered less regularly.
Cultural life is also codified: pristine landscapes have been preserved without too much fuss by successive farmers. As Wagrain evolves as a destination, expect this legacy to be celebrated more openly.
There are regular bus services from Salzburg Airport to the resort of Wagrain. Walking paths can be found on the area’s website.