If you’re the type of traveler that enjoys exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations and would like a head start, consider this list of “secret” villages that are sure to be the highlight of your trip.
Poysdorf is a peaceful town located just south of the Czech Republic border, nestled within grapevine-laced hills that’s ideal for wine lovers. Here you’ll find the “real Austria,” where you can enjoy exploring vineyards and wine cave as well as visiting a museum dedicated to the wine and culture history of the town, Vino Versum Poysdorf. From May to October, the “open cellar” operation enables a wine grower to show you his farm and invite you to take part in wine tasting every day.
St. Mawes looks so perfect with its quaint tearooms and whitewashed, thatch cottages that you might think it’s a film set. This quiet fishing village is surrounded by the sea and gentle hills, set on the Roseland Peninsula, which was designated part of Cornwall’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for the quality of its landscape and unrivalled scenery.
Akureyri sits at the bottom of Iceland’s longest fjord, which measures 37 miles from its mouth to the bottom, surrounded by soaring, majestic mountains that are filled with thundering waterfalls, roaring rivers and lush forests. This beautiful town dubbed the “Capital of the North,” is the country’s second largest urban area, after the greater Reykjavik area, though it’s home to just a little over 17,000 inhabitants.
Gudhjem is located in Bornholm, Denmark’s sunniest region, lying way out in the Baltic Sea, renowned for its stunning chalk cliffs, lush forests, stark white beaches and a pure, ethereal light that draws artists to paint its beautiful landscapes. Gudhjem, with its steep streets and alleyways leading down to the harbor, is Bornholm’s most attractive harbor town. It’s crowned by a windmill that stands over the sloping streets and half-timbered houses.
Portmagee has been called one of the “10 Most Beautiful Villages to See in Ireland Before You Die.” Set just across the water from breathtaking Valentia Island, this sleepy fishing village boasts awe-inspiring scenery and is known for its friendly locals as well as being in an ideal spot along the Ring of Kerry route. It also hosts an outstanding bar/restaurant, The Bridge Bar, which frequently hosts traditional live music nights. More recently, Portmagee has been thrust into the spotlight as a
This fishing village on a peninsula in southwest Sweden is especially attractive with its narrow streets and charming houses with lavish gardens, but Arild’s most notable site is a public art exhibit known as Nimis, a Scandinavian version of Watts Towers in Los Angeles that features a maze of 30-foot aboveground tunnels and 45-foot-high climbing towers. Wine enthusiasts can also enjoy visiting a vineyard, or even staying in one.
Shining under the Aegean sun, this tranquil spot in the Cyclades has little if any in common with its neighbor Santorini. There are no buildings taller than two stories, no boutiques or fancy restaurants, not even a cruise ship pulling into port. The remote island of Folegandros makes a fabulous, quiet escape, with its capital town of Chora partially built right into it boasting whitewashed houses with multi-colored doors as timeless creations of traditional Cycladic architecture.
Located on the Tarnava River, Sighisoara dates back to the twelfth century. While few travelers have heard of it, from the moment you enter its fortified walls, you’re likely to fall in love with this village. It boasts cobbled streets lined with colorful, gingerbread-roofed 16th-century homes and pretty cafes that lead to its centerpiece square. Sighisoara also has an interesting history, once home to German merchants and craftsman, most notably, those who were part of the Transylvanian Saxons.
This colorful, ancient fishing village is famous for its decorative “eyed” painted boats known as Luzzus, and its large Sunday fish market which attracts hundreds of visitors and locals who are searching for the freshest catch. Filled with lots of Maltese spirt, this charming village has a rich history that dates back to the ninth century BC. It has a small, sandy beach, and St. Paul’s Bay is popular for cliff jumping as well as outstanding snorkeling and diving.
The village of Alberobello, with its unique trulli structures, looks more like something out of a Disney film than modern Italy. These conical, white limestone cottages are spread throughout the village and became popular in the 15th century for residents who hoped to avoid taxes. They are only located here in the Puglia region and many are available for rent for short stays. Alberobello also offers a number of museums and charming shops featuring local olive oils and almond treats.
Giethoorn has been called the “Venice of the North.” This dreamy village that sits about 75 miles north east of Amsterdam is especially peaceful as no cars are allowed. There are some 180 bridges which cross over the picturesque canals and the loudest sound you’re likely to hear is the quacking of a duck. Rent a boat and paddle through the 56 miles of canals, or walk the footpaths that run beside them. You’ll find lots of canal-side eateries as well as cozy thatched cottages.
Some say Albarracin is Spain’s most beautiful village. You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported directly to the Middle Ages in this sleepy little town that lies two hours from Valencia at an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet above sea level. Unspoiled by modernization, its old town is nestled against canyon walls, with bright and colorful church bell towers, creating a magnificent contrast with the golden-hued buildings.