Interest Pieces

The World’s Most Beautiful Villages You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

The United Nations World Travel Organization (UNWTO), has unveiled its selection of the Best Tourism Villages of 2023, recognising 54 villages worldwide that are perfect for off-the-beaten-path adventures! We have spotlighted five bucket list worthy villages, renowned for their stunning views and commitment to sustainable tourism and cultural preservation.

The UNWTO’s Best Tourism Villages is a global initiative highlighting outstanding villages around the world, where tourism plays a crucial role in preserving cultural heritage and traditions, celebrating diversity, providing opportunities, and safeguarding biodiversity.

 

Lephis, Ethiopia – Africa

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Nestled within the heart of Ethiopia’s Lephis Forest lies the lush village of Lephis. This hidden gem is renowned for its stunning waterfalls, pristine hiking trails, rich flora and fauna, and awe-inspiring panoramic views. A united and close-knit community valuing sustainability and eco-conscious living, the village of Lephis is involved in conservation efforts and ecotourism, ensuring that the natural beauty of the area is preserved for generations to come. Local artisans craft handmade souvenirs and organic products which reflect the harmony between nature and the village’s culture.

The forest is home to around 2,000 households many of which are now supported by what’s called Lephis Ecotourism Village – a community-based initiative to preserve local heritage and help the community, while encouraging tourism through the provision of tour guide services and supply of local crafts. Visitors can purchase handicrafts such as beaded jewellery and wood carvings made from local grass and bamboo, thanks to the village’s Mishike Handicraft Association, which employs both men and women.

Located just 160km south of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, this village is a haven for nature enthusiasts, eco-tourists, and adventure seekers alike.

 

Caleta Tortel, Chile – America

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In Chile’s XI region, Caleta Tortel is a historic timber port nestled between the Northern and Southern Ice Fields. It’s known for its charming Guaitecas Cypress wood boardwalks and structures. Explore the local culture through conservation activities ranging from traditional Guaitecas Cypress raft construction to immersive beekeeping experiences guided by friendly locals. Travellers can also enjoy culinary adventures with dishes made from fresh, locally-sourced and seasonal produce. Caleta Tortel offers a unique opportunity to experience the magic of tradition, nature, and local culture a sustainable way.

Biei, Japan – Asia-Pacific 

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For travellers looking for slow mornings, lazy meandering and colourful scenery, Biei, Japan is sure to delight! Located in Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, the remains a well-kept secret, renowned for its picturesque poppy, lavender and sunflower fields. These flower fields are the life blood of the local economy and inspire visitor attractions and tourism offerings. For example, travellers are invited to sample lavender-flavoured ice cream at Farm Tomita, go for a hike around the famous fields, tour various traditional houses with elaborate floral displays and even sample locally crafted, lavender-based scents! With its undulating hills and vibrant patchwork of crops, Biei is known for being a model in sustainable farming. The town’s unique approach to crop rotation ensures fertile soil, prevents continuous cropping challenges, and promotes biodiversity, a testament to its commitment to responsible agriculture. A fusion of culture and environment, Biei offers a captivating experience for travellers seeking rural charm and breathtaking landscapes whilst preserving unique ecosystems. 

Lerici, Italy – Europe

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Experience the Italian Riviera sustainably at this stunning sea-side village. Tucked along Italy’s northwest coast in the Liguria region, the village boasts pristine beaches and colourful homes without the overcrowding of other popular tourist locations such as Cinque Terre. It was recognised by the UNWTO as one of this year’s Best Tourism Villages for its commitment to the blue economy for its efforts to protect marine biodiversity. Lerici is home to the Santa Teresa Smart Bay – Italy’s first underwater laboratory for scientific research and monitoring. The pilot project enables scientists and marine biologists to monitor ocean acidification levels to protect the bay’s delicate ecosystem. The village has also banned single-use plastic and introduced solar panels among other sustainability initiatives aimed at protecting this colourful coastal village. 

Douma, Lebanon – Middle East

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Known for its warm hospitality, natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, Douma is an ancient village in Lebanon. Just 80km northeast of Beirut, the idyllic village is sure to impress with its traditional homes featuring red-tiled roofs, verdant apple and olive orchards, breathtaking views of the majestic Batroun Mountains, centuries-old churches and outdoor souk. What distinguishes Douma is its commitment to preserving architectural and cultural heritage whilst avoiding chaotic urban expansion. Villagers have preserved aspects of its cultural heritage including harvesting of local spices and traditional food preparation techniques. Owing to these practices, today Douma is now known for its culinary delights such the traditional “Raha sweet”, zaatar, olive oil, cheeses and jams sourced from local farms and vineyards. The village is additionally working to advance sustainable tourism through several new green initiatives including the use of solar panels to generate electricity for the village, planting trees and encouraging composting.

For travellers seeking out authentic local experiences, cultural immersion and one-of-a-kind destinations, check out the full list of 54 villages here.