Tiny towns that are big on beauty
It’s almost impossible not to find a picture-perfect street in Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety. The small town in Italy’s heel – Puglia – is famous for its unusual trulli homes, built from white-washed local limestone, with conical roofs. The steps up to Piazza del Popolo reveals stunning views over the higgledy-piggledy town.
Located in Austria’s mountainous Salzkammergut region, Hallstatt is the most incredible storybook town you could’ve ever wished for. The 16th-century traditional Alpine houses are perched on a narrow cliffside, facing the Lake Hallstatt, with dramatic mountain views in the background, making it impossibly beautiful.
Deadwood, South Dakota, USA
Bibury, England, UK
English writer and designer William Morris once declared Bibury the most beautiful village in the country. A hundred or so years later the sentiment certainly seems to stand. Located in the Cotswolds, an area defined by rolling hills and green meadows, Bibury is picture-perfect. Arlington Row (pictured), a line of weavers’ cottages, is the prettiest sight, if not the most famous, in Bibury.
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Camden, Maine, USA
Nicknamed the Jewel of the Maine coast, Camden is a quintessential seaside town with a charming harbor, an old lighthouse, jagged rock bays and sunset cruises. The nearby Mount Battie showcases gorgeous views over the town, the bay and the surrounding forests.
Gokayama Historic Village, Japan
Whether a winter wonderland or a summer sunspot, the quaint town of Bled is one of Slovenia’s most famous destinations. Commanding a wondrous view over Lake Bled, tourists are drawn here year-round to experience the panoramic vistas. In summer, activities such as rafting and kayaking are popular, while skiing and snowboarding are on offer during the snowy winters.
Found along the gorgeous Algarve region of Portugal, Lagos is a town of colors: golden cliffs, azure sky, Jacaranda trees, white-washed buildings and iconic Portuguese azulejo tiles. The wine is cheap but very tasty, as is the local fare of quality steaks and delicious caldeirada de peixe (fish stew). The area boasts one of Europe’s best beaches, with the various coves and lagoons that are only accessible by boat.
Banff, Alberta, Canada
High up in nooks of the Rocky Mountains, the resort town of Banff feels like a Canadian dream. In the snow-crusted winters a variety of sports are offered and sometimes, if you’re lucky, the roofs are illuminated by the Northern Lights. Summers are multi-hued in gorgeous amber, emerald and cerulean and are usually cool, however, Banff experienced its highest temperature on record – 94.6°F (34.8°C) – in August 2018.
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Valldemossa, Mallorca, Spain
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada
One of the most well-preserved 19th-century towns in the country, it’s no surprise that Niagara-on-the-Lake has been nicknamed ‘the loveliest town in Canada’. Nestled at the meeting point of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake is also central to Canada’s wine trade with over 40 prominent wineries in the region, known as Ontario Wine Country.
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The history of Willemstad’s colored houses sounds like an urban legend, but the buildings in this UNESCO-protected crowd-free Caribbean town were initially painted in an attempt to cure a headache. Back when the Dutch ruled Curaçao, the governor was convinced his migraines were caused by the tropical sun’s rays reflecting off the whitewash buildings. All citizens were commanded to paint their homes anything but blinding white, resulting in this rainbow paradise.
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Znojmo, Czech Republic
Between Prague and Vienna, Znojmo is not only extremely picturesque with its orange-capped houses, but also a favorite for sommeliers and wine buffs. There’s a museum plus the Louka Monastery’s wine collection within the town’s limits, and the Podyjí National Park – home to Šobes, a sublime local vineyard – is just a 20-minute drive away.
Tobermory, Scotland, UK
You may recognize the bonny Scottish fishing hub as the town from the classic UK children’s TV show Balamory. The pretty port is home to the less kid-friendly Tobermory Distillery which, at the head of the bay, mainly produces a matured single malt whisky. The tiny town is also shrouded in mystery. According to legend, a gold-laden Spanish galleon ship lies undiscovered beneath the mud of the bay.
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
Founded in 1753 by the British, pretty Lunenburg in Nova Scotia is a colorful fishing town and its original brightly painted wooden houses date back to the time when the town was founded. Considered to be one of the best examples of 18th-century architecture in North America due to its preserved original layout, the town is only one of two urban communities in the continent designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Itchan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan
Before you’ve even passed through one of the four gates that guard Khiva’s inner town Itchan Kala, it’s worth stopping to admire the ancient walls: the turrets of clay-colored stone with their bold splashes of aquamarine are a striking sight. Inside, it’s something of an oasis, with peaceful archways and more than 50 historic monuments, including the iconic Djuma Mosque.
At the center of Ráquira may be its towering church steeple, but its beating heart is its artisan community. Colombia’s pottery capital, the streets are packed with an array of craft stores, injecting color into every corner of the town. This hidden-away Colombian town also hosts a bustling market every Sunday for locals to show off their wares.
Just four miles (6km) away from the south coast of Spain, the hillside town of Frigiliana overlooks the world-famous Costa del Sol. Surrounded by a lush natural park full of hiking trails and opportunities to explore the great outdoors, nature also runs wild in the town itself: vines of bougainvillea, lavender and jasmine grow freely across the walls of houses.
Just across the riverbank from Germany, the tiny Thurgau canton (Swiss administrative division) town of Dissenhofen retains its medieval feel. Typically Swiss in its appearance, its main streets are lined with multicolored homes. The town’s central tower displays a whimsical clock that has a face painted with astronomy symbols representing the 12 zodiac signs. It also has a working lunar clock, that shadows the moon’s phases.
One of Ireland’s most-loved treasures, the southern coastal town of Kinsale is famed for its exceptional restaurants where local chefs have been awarded an assortment of accolades. Besides the fanciful food on offer, Kinsale is also known for its quirky streets which are flamboyantly painted every color of the rainbow.
Up in the highlands of Bali’s Mount Batur, 2,230 feet (700m) above sea level, is Penglipuran – a traditional Balinese village. While the area has mod-cons including a supermarket and mobile phone shop, the surroundings may fool you into believing you’ve stepped into a time warp. Locals proudly look after their homes, many of which are adorned with intricate engravings and original rooftops, lining the winding pathways up to the grand temple.
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Lamu, a preserved Swahili settlement, is Kenya’s oldest continuously inhabited town. Once a hub for poetry, politics, and arts and crafts, it’s now a hubbub of trade, mosques and even a donkey sanctuary. Sunrises and sunsets are not to be missed, as the town becomes baked in rays of oranges, pinks and purples. It is a treasure trove of rooftop restaurants, friendly residents and sunny seascapes.
Located on the Costa Verde, a coastal area in the state of Rio de Janeiro known for its greenery, Paraty is one of the oldest towns in Brazil. Founded in 1667 by the Portuguese, its colorful center is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is fully pedestrianized – a further bid to preserve the town’s already immaculate historic buildings. Much of the town’s architecture, including the cobbled streets, hasn’t changed much for 250 years or more, leaving an impression you’ve traveled to a different era entirely.
Port Fairy, Victoria, Australia
A charming coastal town along the Great Ocean Road, Port Fairy is absolutely perfect in every way. Located in southwestern Victoria, it’s known for having one of the best golf courses in Australia and its Folk Festival – the country’s largest folk music festival. While its 19th-century cottages, stunning architecture and cute boutiques delight visitors.
Another embattled UNESCO town with a significant Venetian influence, the ancient fortification of Kotor is teeming with history. Due to the town’s maritime past, there is a large population of free-roaming felines in the town, and there’s even a Cat Museum in their honor. Tickled by the turquoise waters of the bay which lap up against the dramatic Adriatic coastline this is also a modern town, with Montenegro’s biggest nightclub hidden within the walls of the citadel.
In the heartland of some of the world’s finest vineyards (the sparkling Champagne region specifically), lies the fanciful French town of Troyes. Misty-eyed and enchanted by the romance of the town, visitors fall head-over-heels with the holy haunts and half-timbered buildings which inject Troyes with such a distinct sense of character.
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This scenic settlement of Iruya doesn’t look real. Burrowed in the midnight blue mountainside of the Altiplano region, the hard-to-reach rural town still manages to attract travelers from all corners of the globe, charmed by its colorful buildings and Argentinian steaks.
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Erected on an island between the Croatian coast and the Adriatic island of Čiovo, Trogir’s seductive Venetian influence makes it no stranger to the small screen, having appeared in episodes of Game of Thrones. Surrounded by 15th-century stone walls, the Romanesque-Gothic complex has been identified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Further in the town there’s a maze of fortified streets and holy buildings, while the seaside promenade glistens at night.
Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia
Evoking the atmosphere of a Greek island, this much-less traveled but equally exquisite Tunisian town of Sidi Bou Said is a delightful name to have at the tip of your tongue. Its buildings are as milky-white and cobalt blue as the sea and sky, and it’s not hard to see why the town has long attracted artists.
Set among the striking violet mountains of western Iceland, the winter wonderland of Stykkishólmur is a rural wonder. Made up of a few very well-preserved and colorful old homes in its center, it’s also an eco-town and has been labeled a European Destination of Excellence for its environmental efforts.
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The quaint town of Hamnøy sits on Moskenes, an island at the southern end of the Lofoten Archipelago in Norway, known for its dramatic scenery. The oldest fishing village in the area, Hamnøy is also considered one of the most beautiful due to the brightly painted traditional homes. The short Arctic winter days here make for a moody setting while at night the sky is illuminated by the Northern Lights dancing above.
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Rye, England, UK
Idyllic fishing towns and villages like Cudillero are hard to come by in modern-day Spain, however, this beauty in Asturias has managed to retain its timeless charm. According to a legend, the town is said to have been founded by the Vikings and historically fishing has been its main industry. A delight to look at, it’s at its best when viewed from the bay with the colorful houses towering over either side of the small port.
Picton, South Island, New Zealand
Tucked in-between towering mountains on the shore of the Grove Arm of the Cook Strait, Picton is known as the gateway to the many islands and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds. Built around a sheltered harbor, the town has an attractive seafront dotted with cafés, restaurants and art galleries. There’s a floating maritime museum and an aquarium too.
Stowe, Vermont, USA
Stowe in Vermont is the perfect small town for nature enthusiasts, art lovers and ice cream fans who’ll find the Waterbury Factory here – factory tours are on pause for now, but see the website for updates. The town is surrounded by thick forests, rivers and valleys and also the state’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield, just to the north. It’s typically host to an annual Hot Air Balloon Festival in July too – though the 2020 event was cancelled, it’s hoped that the 2021 festival will go ahead.
Dubbed the most beautiful village in Spain, the tiny town of Albarracín sits effortlessly in the hills of central Spain, overlooking the Guadalaviar River. The towering medieval walls dominate the hillside while ruins of an old Moorish alcázar sits on a clifftop above the town. With a population of just 1,054, it’s a quiet and otherworldly escape.
Helen, Georgia, USA
Would you ever expect to find a recreation of a Bavarian Alpine village deep in the South? In Helen – the northeastern Georgia town found along the Chattahoochee River – you won’t believe that you’re really in the Peach State once you pass the German-style shops and archaic horse-drawn carriages. And what’s a Bavarian town without beer gardens, bratwurst and, you guessed it, barrels of beer? This all supersizes during the Oktoberfest celebrations – one of the largest of its kind in the USA.
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Set amid rocky coastal cliffs, Manarola is one of the five small fishing towns that make up the breathtaking Cinque Terre in northwestern Italy. Easily the most recognizable of all five, the homes in the cliffside town are painted in shades of pastel blue, pink, yellow and orange. Legend says that the houses were painted in bright colors so that returning fishermen could spot their homes more easily.
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