The UN shares its ‘best tourist villages’ in the world


Tokyo? Been there. London? I’ve done it.

For travelers looking to visit a smaller, more authentic local destination, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released this year’s list of the best tourist villages.

For 2023, 55 villages have been recognized by the international organization that focuses on sustainable tourism, up from 32 last year. The first class of villages was announced in 2021 when the program launched.

The list includes small towns and villages from places as diverse as Mexico, China, Ethiopia and Italy. There is no ranking of the villages and they are all listed alphabetically in English.

The UNWTO says it recognizes “rural tourism destinations with accredited cultural and natural assets, a commitment to preserving community-based values ​​and a clear commitment to innovation and sustainability”.

The program also states that its goals include reversing the trend of rural depopulation and empowering women and children.

Dongbaek, on Jeju Island in South Korea, is famous for its camellia flowers. Jeju itself is known for Camellia Sinensis – also known as tea – but Dongbaek focuses on flowers, organizing a cooperative where locals sell camellia seeds to visitors and care for the island’s plants.

Another Asian village recognized by the UNWTO is Shirakawa, Japan. Located in Gifu Prefecture north of Nagoya, this town is loved in the winter when the peaked thatched roofs of the farmhouses are covered in snow, creating a beautiful effect.

China has four villages on this year’s list, including Xiajiang in the eastern province of Zhejiang, where locals keep traditions such as tea-making and Chinese opera alive by teaching them to visitors.

Dhordo, in the Rann of Kutch salt desert, is this year’s selected village in India. UNWTO noted that while Dhordo faced significant damage from an earthquake in 2001, the town has been able to grow and recover thanks to a well-thought-out tourism strategy.

Europe’s selections on the UNWTO list represent a combination of cultural and environmental differences.

In Spain, the village of Siguenza is a popular weekend getaway from the capital Madrid thanks to its 12th-century cathedral and easy access to the Barranco del Río Dulce Natural Park.

Slunj, Croatia received high marks for keeping traditions such as local songs and dances alive, while putting in eco-friendly hiking trails and other tourist infrastructure.

The small landlocked principality of Andorra is not as well known as its neighbors, but its village of Ordino has been recognized for its agricultural history, as well as two local festivals, Les Falles and the Feast of Sant Pere, both of which are on the UNESCO List for intangible cultural heritage.

Peru leads the list with five villages receiving recognition. Although the country is famous for Machu Picchu, Peru has made efforts to highlight other sites as a way to combat over-tourism.

Yanque, about 360 miles southeast of Lima, is the access point to the fascinating but less visited Uyo Uyo ruins and the Colca Canyon hot springs area.

Meanwhile, another Peruvian village, Chacas, is the gateway to Huascaran National Park, a UNESCO-recognized biosphere reserve.

Also on the UNWTO list are Caleta Tortel, Chile, a village of just 523 residents where many structures are made from cypress wood native to the area, and La Carolina, Argentina, which was home to a famous gold rush.

• Al Selah, Jordan
• Barrancas, Chile
• Biei, Japan
• Caleta Tortel, Chile
• Cantavieja, Spain
• Chacas, Peru
• Chavín de Huantar, Peru
• Dashur, Egypt
• Dordogne, India
• Dongbaek, Republic of Korea
• Douma, Lebanon
• Ericeira, Portugal
• Filandia, Colombia
• Hakuba, Japan
• Fig trees, Mexico
• Huangling, China
• Jalpa de Cánovas, Mexico
• Kandovan, Iran
• La Carolina, Argentina
• Lefis village, Ethiopia
• Lerici, Italy
• Manteigas, Portugal
• Morcote, Switzerland
• Mosan, Republic of Korea
• Oku-Matsushima, Japan
• Omitlan de Juarez, Mexico
• Onati, Spain
• Ordino, Andorra
• Oyacachi, Ecuador
• Paucartambo, Peru
• Penglipuran, Indonesia
• Pisco Elki, Chile
• Pozuzo, Peru
• Saint-Ursanne, Switzerland
• Sati, Kazakhstan
• Schladming, Austria
• Sehwa, Republic of Korea
• Sentob, Uzbekistan
• Shirakawa, Japan
• Siguenza, Spain
• Sirince, Turkey
• Siwa, Egypt
• Slun, Croatia
• Sortela, Portugal
• Anton am Arlberg, Austria
• Thanh Hoa, Vietnam
• Taquile, Peru
• Tokaj, Hungary
• Valeni, Moldova
• Villa da Maddalena, Portugal
• Xiajiang, China
• Zapatoca, Colombia
• Zhangana, China
• Zhujiawan, China

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