The Best Villages to Visit in the World, According to the U.N.

Pexels // Evgeny Tchebotarev

Everyone loves exploring new local cultures and natural landscapes. Instead of spending hours in the big city, why not book a flight to a quaint destination? To help you with your choice, no other than the United Nations (the U.N.) has just released a list of the 54 best villages around the world. Read on to find out the best of the best.

The Context

This is the third annual list the U.N. has released. There were 260 applications from across five regions: Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East. Winners weren’t ranked per se, but there were 9 factors considered, including culture, nature, social sustainability, tourism development, and infrastructure.

The secretary-general of the U.N. World Tourism Organization commented on tourism being a factor that contributes to the local communities. For this reason, many of the villages in the list rely mainly on tourism for their development and well-being.

There are twenty more destinations that will have the chance to join the Upgrade Programme. It helps support destinations close to meeting the specific criteria for entering the annual list. 74 villages were added to the U.N.’s Best Tourism Villages Global Network this year, adding to the existing 190 villages that were already on the list. That’s the boring bit done, let’s get to the good stuff!

Which Continent Led the Way?

Europe was a clear winner this year. 19 European villages, including ones from Portugal and Spain, made it to the list as some of the best destinations. Ericeira in Portugal, known for its surf breaks; Sortelha, also named a National Monument; and Manteigas, located in Serra da Estrela mountains, are the representatives from Portugal. Meanwhile, Spanish villages include the historic village of Cantavieja, and the medieval Sigüenza—famous for its ancient architecture.

Pexels // Allie Feeley // Ericeira, Portugal

Of course, a beautiful Italian location is also on the list—the beautiful Mediterranean village of Lerici. There was also a debut for Moldovan town Văleni, a gorgeous village in the mountains, right next to a lake in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve! It’s definitely worth visiting for its natural landscapes and cultural heritage.

Other highlights include the African representative Lephis, in Ethiopia. It’s located near the beautiful Lephis Waterfall and was the only African village that made it to the list. And if you’re wondering where the image at the top of this article comes from, it’s a street view of Biei, a gorgeous town in Hokkaido, Japan—which was chosen for its landscapes and wildlife diversity. Pack your bags!