European destinations named among world’s most beautiful tourism villages | Travel News | Travel

Lerici in Italy has been named among the list of beautiful villages in the world (Image: Getty Images)

Among the list of 54 Best Tourist Villages from around the world, crowned by the United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO), 15 small towns and villages in Europe have been crowned for their commitment to preserving rural areas and natural landscape, cultural diversity, local values and culinary traditions.

These stunning locations include a Portuguese village rich in medieval architecture and almost untouched by the modern pace of life, along with a beautiful Swiss village which sits on the banks of the Doubs River and has a rich heritage dating back to the 17th century. And unlike some of the busy tourist towns and cities in each country, these off-the-beaten-path villages see much less foot traffic each year.

The Best Tourism Villages list, which also includes an additional 40 destinations from around the globe, recognises outstanding rural tourism destinations with accredited cultural and natural assets, a commitment to preserving community-based values, and a clear commitment to innovation and sustainability across economic, social, and environmental dimensions. UNWTO also offers an upgrade programme to support other villages on their journey to meet the recognition criteria.

Scroll down to see the 15 European destinations which made the list, or use the links to jump to the relevant section. The full list of global destinations is also at the bottom of this article. 

Cantavieja, Spain

Located in Teruel, Aragon, Spain, the small town of Cantavieja sits at the top of steep rocky outcrop making it a popular destination for hikers. The town is known for its impressive silhouette against the rugged mountainous backdrop and has one of the most complete monument ensembles of Aragonese Gothic.

The ruins of a former castle remain after it was destroyed during the I Carlist War. Narrow streets wind their way through the gothic and medieval-looking houses.

Buildings of interest include the Gothic church of San Miguel, the old Baroque hospital of San Roque and manor houses such as Casa Bayle, Casa Novales and Mas Fortificado.

 Cantavieja, Spain

The small town of Cantavieja sits at the top of steep rocky outcrop (Image: Getty Images)

The nearest airport to Cantavieja is Valencia, from where you can take a three-hour and 43-minute transfer. You can fly directly to Valencia with Ryanair and Vueling Airlines, with prices starting from £26.

However, experts from Rome2Rio recommend flying into Barcelona Airport, from where the drive takes four hours and 57 minutes. Jet2 flies directly to Barcelona from some UK airports.

Ericeira, Portugal

Nestled on the western coast of Portugal is Ericeira, a seaside town which has fully embraced surf culture. Its cobbled streets and whitewashed houses sit alongside surf schools and cafes, while many trendy restaurants have popped up in recent years.

The charming town welcomes an array of creatives, surf lovers and yoga practitioners from around the world each year, and as a result, is also home to several hostels.

The closest airport to Ericeira is Lisbon Portela 

Narrow cobbled alley with white and blue houses in Ericeira old town

Ericeira old town is home to cobbled alleys and white washed houses (Image: Getty Images)

As well as the lapping waves, the town is also surrounded by near-untouched countryside and can easily be reached for a day trip from Lisbon.

The closest airport to Ericeira is Lisbon Portela. You can fly directly to Lisbon from London with British Airways, with the cheapest one-way flights under £50.  

Lerici, Italy

“Nestled in the embrace of the Mediterranean Sea, Lerici emerges as an idyllic haven, seamlessly blending nature’s beauty, cultural richness, and a commitment to sustainable progress,” said UNWTO.

This coastal village welcomes a mild climate and sits among lush hills, promising a mixture of relaxation and adventure for those who visit. 

Lerici, Italy from above

Nestled in the embrace of the Mediterranean Sea, Lerici emerges as an idyllic haven (Image: Getty Images)

Of medieval origin, the village stands proudly as the capital of the “Poets Cult” and is a vibrant hub of cultural events including the Lerici Music Festival, Lerici Pea Golfo dei Poeti literary prize, “Lerici reads the sea” festival, Lerici LibrAria literature festival, and Lerici Live summer festival.

The nearest airport to Lerici is Pisa Airport which is 57.2 km away. You can fly directly from UK airports to Pisa with Ryanair, easyJet, British Airways and Jet2. 

Jet2 has flights on offer to Pisa from £62 from select airports, while British Airways cheapest one-way flight to Pisa starts from £41

Manteigas, Portugal

Tucked away in the Serra da Estrela mountains, Manteigas has a rich history deeply rooted in wool, shepherds’ culture and mountain living.

The village is located next to the magnificent Valley of the River Zêzere, promising high peaks and forest-covered slopes. As you might expect, the area is popular among hikers and in the winter there is also a ski village approximately seven miles east.

Local foods and supplies sit at the heart of the village’s gastronomy, making use of Serra da Estrela cheese and lamb.

Poço do Inferno in Serra da Estrela

Beautiful autumn landscape of Poço do Inferno in Serra da Estrela near the village of Manteigas (Image: Getty Images)

The nearest airport is Porto Airport, which is about a two-hour drive from the town. You can fly directly to Porto from select UK airports with AirPortugal, Ryanair, easyJet and British Airways

At the time of writing, British Airways has flights to Porto from London on offer from £44.

Morcote, Switzerland

Sat on the shores of Lake Lugano, this picturesque village is part of the Swiss Federal Inventory of sites worthy of protection. Here you can expect small alleyways and arcades of old patrician homes, along with several buildings of architectural interest including the church of Santa Maria del Sasso, the terraced cemetery and the Tower of the Captain.

“Lush forests, woodlands, and mountain trails offer a haven for nature enthusiasts, complemented by botanical gardens showcasing diverse plant species,” said UNWTO.

Morcote and a view of Lake Lugano

Morcote sits on the shores of Lake Lugano (Image: Getty Images)

“The village is not merely a historical and natural gem; it actively fosters cultural vibrancy through organized events and festivals. Adopting a multi-layered concept, Morcote invites visitors to not just ‘Visit’ but to ‘Meet’ and even ‘Live’ like a citizen.”

The closest airport to Morcote is Lugano. There are no direct flights from the UK to Lugano, but you can fly indirectly, with one or more stops

Oñati, Spain

In the southwest of the province of Guipúzcoa, in the Basque Country is Oñati, a historic and monumental village home to an array of both cultural and natural attractions. Soaring mountains and valleys surround the village, which is a fantastic destination for lovers of history, art, gastronomy and nature. In fact, Oñati in Basque means “place with plenty of hills”.

The old quarter is home to impressive buildings including Sancti Spiritus University, the church of San Miguel, the monastery of Bidaurreta or the palaces of Antia, Madinabeitia and Baruekua.

Oñati in Guipuzcoa

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Aránzazu in Oñati (Image: Getty Images)

The closest international airport to Oñati is Loiu/BIO (Bilbao). There are also airports at San Sebastian, Vitoria and Biarritz. Bilbao-Loiu airport is a drive from Oñati but is the easiest to reach with a direct flight from the UK. 

British Airways has direct flights to Bilbao from £62 at the time of writing. 

Saint-Ursanne

St-Ursanne is a small medieval town on the banks of the Doubs River and can be reached by a charming bridge. The town spreads out in a forested valley. Its medieval centre is marked by the collegiate church and its cloister dating from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Saint-Ursanne is characterised by its three gates, narrow streets and squares dotted with houses. A fountain at the centre is also topped with a statue of Saint Ursicinus.

Saint-Ursanne river

St-Ursanne is a small medieval town on the banks of the Doubs River (Image: Getty Images)

“Saint-Ursanne is known for its rich cultural diversity and heritage,” said UNWTO’s report. “The village showcases a unique blend of traditions, local customs, and artistic expressions that reflect its history and identity.”

The nearest airport to Saint-Ursanne is Basel and then holidaymakers can connect with an hourly train run by Swiss Railways. Ryanair and easyJet both offer direct flights from the UK to Basel, with current prices starting from £28 according to Skyscanner data. 

Schladming, Austria

Sat among the beautiful Niedere Tauern mountains is Schladming, a medieval town ski resort town which sets itself apart from the rest. “Unlike typical ski resorts, Schladming boasts two captivating Romanesque and Gothic churches, an 18th-century town square, and a rich history of hosting prestigious skiing competitions, including the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in 1982 and 2013,” said UNTWO.

The lively ski scene attracts holidaymakers from around the world, and there are plenty of resort and mountain dining options for them to enjoy. The old narrow streets of Schladming are lined with a large variety of restaurants, including Landstuberl Friesacher which has been named the finest steak house in the village.

View of Schladming slope

View of Schladming slope with the town of Schladming below (Image: Getty Images)

And, of course, there’s also a lively après ski scene which starts in the mountain huts. Hohenhaus Tenne by the Planai gondola station is said to be the largest après ski bar in the Alps. The resort is even home to two nightclubs.

The nearest airport to Schladming is Salzburg Airport which is 68 km away. British Airways currently has direct flight to Salzburg from £51.

Sigüenza, Spain

Sat in the province of Guadalajara, Spain, is Sigüenza. Though fairly small Sigüenza is considered a city and was declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1965. “The castle, the cathedral and the Plaza Mayor are the three must-see sights of the city, although the streets of Sigüenza are full of beautiful civil and religious buildings,” notes UNWTO.

The castle, which is now a hotel which is part of the Paradores chain, was built after the Arab invasion in the eighth century. The cathedral, meanwhile, began construction in 1130 and is Romanesque though later Gothic cannons were added.

There are three protected natural areas in the region: the Río Dulce Nature Reserve, the Río Salado Site of Community Interest and the Río Salado Salt Marshes Micro-Reserve.

Sigüenza in Spain

Sigüenza is full of beautiful civil and religious buildings (Image: Getty Images)

Gastronomy is also top of the list here, with plenty of high-quality, traditional dishes crafted from local produce.

It’s a great destination for those who like nature and culture, popular among those who enjoy hiking, climbing, canoeing, beekeeping and wine tourism. 

The nearest airport to Sigüenza is Madrid, with the village accessible by train. You can fly direct to Madrid from the UK with Ryanair, Vueling, easyJet, British Airways and Iberia, among others.

Slunj, Croatia

Slunj is a town in the mountainous part of Central Croatia on the serene banks of the Slunjčica and Korana rivers. There are some beautiful walks that tourists can enjoy taking in the scenery along the rivers, with small waterfalls and cascades dotted throughout the historical town.

Small islands of the town are connected by bridges and in parts of the village, many rentals are overwater cottages. “Slunj places a high value on preserving its cultural heritage,” noted UNWTO. “Traditional practices, including local songs, dances, and liturgical rituals, are actively promoted, contributing to the town’s unique identity.”

Slunj in Croatia

Slunj is a town in the mountainous part of Central Croatia (Image: Getty Images)

The nearest airport to Slunj is Zagreb, though this is around 78km away so you will need to connect to the village by car. You can fly direct to Zagred with British Airways from £50

Sortelha, Portugal

The historic village of Sortelha sits inside a ring of ancient walls at the heart of the Beiras region of central Portugal. The village has rich historic-Arab origins and the oldest part of the village is contained within its 13th century castle walls.

Much of the charm of Sortelha lies within its mixture of rugged vegetarian, medieval architecture and historic features.

Sortelha in Portugal

Sortelha is one of the most stunning and oldest Portuguese villages (Image: Getty Images)

Classed as a national monument, the village has earned UNESCO Biosphere Destination certification and aligns with the New European Bauhaus initiative.

This really is a destination for history buffs and it has even been used in film and television throughout the years. The closest airport to Sortelha is Viseu G. Lobato.

St Anton Am Arlberg, Austria

Tucked away among the Tyrolean Alps is the alpine village of St Anton Am Arlberg. This year-round destination offers a plethora of experiences no matter the season, with plenty of skiing to be enjoyed in the winter and hikes through nature in the summer.

“With a 14km cycle path connecting Landeck to St Anton and a proposed extension over the Arlberg pass to Vorarlberg, the village aims to enhance its connectivity to international pathways, including the Lake Constance Cycle Path and Via Claudia Augusta,” noted UNTWA.

Skiing in St Anton Am Arlberg

St Anton Am Arlberg offers plenty of skiing in the winter (Image: Getty Images)

You can fly directly to Innsbruck, with many ski resorts that offer connections to St Anton Am Arlberg. At the time of writing, Jet2 has flights under £40 to Innsbruck from select UK airports

Tokaj, Hungary

Tokaj is a historical town located in northeastern Hungary, sat at the heart of the wine district where wine of the same name is produced. “Framed by the Zemplén Mountain and cradled at the confluence of the Bodrog and Tisza rivers, Tokaj holds a unique place in the viticultural landscape,” said UNESCO.

“This UNESCO World Heritage site, designated in 2002, is not merely a town but a living testament to the common cultural heritage of humanity, celebrated through its ancient winemaking traditions.”

Vineyard in Tokaj

Tokaj is a famous wine region (Image: Getty Images)

The wider Tokaj-Hegyalja wine-producing district is made up of a mosaic of villages, home to historic cellars, museums and plenty of stunning viewpoints to lap up the surrounding scenery.

The nearest airport to Tokaj is Kosice Airport which is 62.4 km away. Other nearby airports include Debrecen and Budapest.

Văleni, Moldova

Nestled around Beleu Lake is Văleni, a picturesque village surrounded by hills and valleys, including the protected Văleni Golden Hills. The village’s history traces back to fishermen from the Carpathian mountains and it is the home of the Legend of Petru Rareș and the UNESCO-recognized HORA dance.

“Văleni offers a unique tourism experience, blending cultural immersion, Moldovan wine tasting, and natural adventures,” said UNTWO.

“Described as a ‘hidden gem’, the village has created over 80 accommodation places, reshaping its economy from unsustainable agriculture to sustainable practices.” 

The nearest international airport to Văleni is Iaşi International Airport, though you will then need to connect to the village. You can fly directly to Iaşi International Airport with Wizz Air from Malta

Vila da Madalena, Portugal

Nestled in the heart of Pico Island, Madalena Village is renowned as one of the ten wine-growing regions designated as a UNESCO Heritage Site. Madalena also holds the title of Azores’ wine capital.

Tradition also sits at the heart of the village, including Holy Ghost festivities and folklore. The village also has a rich whaling heritage, and is applauded by UNTWO for its “commitment to the well-being of cetaceans and the preservation of its whaling heritage”.

Pico island

Madalena is on the island of Pico (Image: Getty Images)

The closest airport to Madalena is Pico, from where a bus runs to the village. There are no direct flights from the UK to Madalena, but you can reach the area with one stop.

Skyscanner data shows the cheapest flights, including connections, can start from £160

Full list of Best Tourist Villages from around the world

  • Al Sela, Jordan
  • Barrancas, Chile
  • Biei, Japan
  • Caleta Tortel, Chile
  • Cantavieja, Spain
  • Chacas, Peru
  • Chavín de Huantar, Peru
  • Dahshour, Egypt
  • Dhordo, India
  • Dongbaek, Republic of Korea
  • Douma, Lebanon
  • Ericeira, Portugal
  • Filandia, Colombia
  • Hakuba, Japan
  • Higueras, Mexico
  • Huangling, China
  • Jalpa de Cánovas, Mexico
  • Kandovan, Iran
  • La Carolina, Argentina
  • Lephis Village, Ethiopia
  • Lerici, Italy
  • Manteigas, Portugal
  • Morcote, Switzerland
  • Mosan, Republic of Korea
  • Oku-Matsushima, Japan
  • Omitlán de Juárez, Mexico
  • Oñati, Spain
  • Ordino, Andorra
  • Oyacachi, Ecuador
  • Paucartambo, Peru
  • Penglipuran, Indonesia
  • Pisco Elqui, Chile
  • Pozuzo, Peru
  • Saint-Ursanne, Switzerland
  • Saty, Kazakhstan
  • Schladming, Austria
  • Sehwa, Republic of Korea
  • Sentob, Uzbekistan
  • Shirakawa, Japan
  • Sigüenza, Spain
  • Şirince, Türkiye
  • Siwa, Egypt
  • Slunj, Croatia
  • Sortelha, Portugal
  • Anton am Arlberg, Austria
  • Tân Hoá, Viet Nam
  • Taquile, Peru
  • Tokaj, Hungary
  • Văleni, Moldova
  • Vila da Madalena, Portugal
  • Xiajiang, China
  • Zapatoca, Colombia
  • Zhagana, China
  • Zhujiawan, China

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