What are the best villages in the world? The World Tourism Organization drew up a list of those villages and towns that in the past year made the best use of tourism to develop the local economy, promote their culture and protect the environment.
From Ecuador to Morocco, from Italy to South Korea. The 32 villages awarded by the UNWTO are scattered around the world. They represent the ideal destination for a holiday dedicated to authenticity and slowness.
The commission of 20 experts chose the winners among the 136 locations of the 57 participating countries. They followed a series of criteria concerning:
- Cultural and Natural Resources
- Promotion and Conservation of Cultural Resources
- Economic Sustainability
- Social Sustainability
- Environmental Sustainability
- Tourism Development and Value Chain Integration
- Governance and Prioritization of Tourism
- Infrastructure and Connectivity
- Health, Safety, and Security
Therefore, they are villages, hamlets, and rural communities that have chosen tourism as a driver of development and jobs. At the same time, they preserve and promote the intrinsic characteristics of their communities and the environment in which they find themselves. The initiative also rewards the attention paid to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Here are the best villages of 2022
- Zell am See, Austria: a town of about 10,000 inhabitants not far from Salzburg, surrounded by mountains and overlooking Lake Zell.
- Wagrain, Austria: another small town in the Salzburg area, nestled in a beautiful valley. The known ski resort has a cultural association created specifically to protect and pass on the place’s culture.
- Puqueldón, Chile: rural community located on an island of the country. Its wooden churches are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Dazhai, China: a village in Shanxi province, it has been renowned for many years for its agriculture made up of terraced crops and efficient irrigation systems.
- Jingzhu, China: entered among the best villages of 2022 for its work of preserving culture and traditions. A must for its fascinating agriculture, its wax and bamboo artifacts, and its musical instruments made of wood and leaves.
- Choachí, Colombia: 40 kilometers from Bogota, the community is committing itself to reforest and protecting natural areas, as well as enhancing its traditions. Here is also the highest waterfall in the country!
- Aguarico, Ecuador: a community inhabited mostly by Kichwa and Waoran indigenous people who value tourism by preserving culture, languages, and gastronomy. Between Yasuní National Park and Cuyabeno Nature Reserve.
- Angochagua, Ecuador: visiting this village inside the Imbabura Geopark you can participate in traditional activities, cook local meals, or make clay artifacts. The inhabitants preserve the native Quichua language.
- Choke Mountains Ecovillage, Ethiopia: this Ethiopian ecovillage is one of the best villages in the world and hosts tourists from all over the world using solar energy and biogas.
- Mestia, Georgia: the village is focusing on renewable sources and is a perfect destination for those who love traditional architecture and wild nature.
- Kfar Kama, Israel: a few kilometers from Nazareth and Lake Tiberias, it is a Circassian village that protects and promotes its culture through thematic tourist itineraries and various types of projects.
- Sauris, Italy: a village in the Carnic Alps famous for its pastures, the surrounding woods, the local dialect, and the characteristic architecture.
- Isola del Giglio, Italy: island in the Tyrrhenian Sea inhabited since the Stone Age. By including it among the best villages of 2022, the UNWTO wanted to reward the administration’s commitment to maintaining its identity, avoiding depopulation, and developing tourism throughout the year.
- Umm Qais, Jordan: a beautiful village that tourists know above all for the ruins of the Roman city of Gadara and for the Al Yarmouk nature reserve.
- Creel, Mexico: at 2,330 meters, this town has been declared a “Pueblo Mágico”, an award that the Mexican government gives to villages with unique characteristics.
- El Fuerte, Mexico: another “Pueblo Mágico”, they consider it the main colonial city of western Mexico.
- Ksar Elkhorbat, Morocco: a fortified village in central Morocco, which retains many buildings dating back to the fourteenth century.
- Moulay Bouzerktoune, Morocco: overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, it is a charming fishing village also known for its organic argan-based products. Windsurfers and kitesurfers loves it.
- Lamas, Peru: between two natural parks, it is considered the traditional capital of the Peruvian Amazon.
- Raqchi, Perù: in the country’s south, it is located near an excellently preserved pre-colonial settlement. Do not miss the traditional festivals and guided visits to the archaeological site.
- Castelo Novo, Portugal: 200 kilometers northeast of Lisbon, the town features gothic buildings and medieval architecture.
- Pyeongsa-RI, South Korea: in this village, they cultivate tea and rice. They also recreated the scenes of “Toji”, a 16-volume saga written by the South Korean writer Park Gyeong-RI.
- Rasinari, Romania: Transylvania village offers rural atmospheres and excellent sheep cheeses. You can also find an ethnographic museum and the house of the poet and politician Octavian Goga.
- The old city of AlUla, Saudi Arabia: only a few years ago this village opened to international tourism, revealing more than 900 traditional buildings made of mud bricks.
- Bohinj, Slovenia: overlooking the lake, the village is located in a national park and has been home to writers, painters, and composers.
- Rupit, Spain: in Catalonia, this medieval village supports the role of women in the rural community and the use of new technologies to boost tourism.
- Alquézar, Spain: a World Heritage Site, it is located northeast of Zaragoza and preserves evidence of rock art.
- Guadeloupe, Spain: more and more committed to the protection of the local cultural tradition, it is known for its sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
- Murten, Switzerland: in the canton of Fribourg, its old town is enclosed by fortified walls. Here they’ve always promoted the culture and history of the place hosting various temporary exhibitions and sporting events.
- Andermatt, Switzerland: surrounded by mountains and lakes, the town at an altitude of 1440 meters continues to preserve local traditions and legends.
- Birgi, Türkiye: in the eastern part of the country, it has a history of 5 thousand years. It was one of the most important centers for silk weaving.
- Thái Hải, Vietnam: its raised houses have made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Those who visit it can sleep in the houses of the inhabitants and discover languages, culture, and ancient spiritual traditions.
Will you visit one of these villages in 2023?
Cover image: Mestia, Georgia, photo via Canva PRO