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The World’s ‘Best Tourism Villages’ for 2023

Tokyo? Been there. London? Done that.

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

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

The list includes small towns and villages from places as diverse as Mexico, China, Ethiopia, and Italy. There’s no ranking of the villages, and they are all listed in alphabetical order 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.

Best in Asia

Dongbaek, on South Korea’s Jeju Island, is famed for its camellia flowers. Jeju itself is known for camellia sinensis – aka tea – but Dongbaek focuses on the flowers, organizing a cooperative where local residents sell camellia seeds to visitors and care for the plants on the island.

Another Asian village recognized by UNWTO is Shirakawa, Japan. Located in Gifu prefecture north of Nagoya, this town is beloved in the winter, when the pointed, thatched roofs on the village homes are covered in snow, creating a beautiful effect.

China has four villages on this year’s roster, including Xiajiang in eastern Zhejiang province, where locals keep traditions like 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. The UNWTO noted that while Dhordo faced significant damage from a 2001 earthquake, the town has been able to grow and rebuild thanks to a thoughtful tourism strategy.

Highlights in Europe

Europe’s selections to the UNWTO list represent a mix of cultural and environmental differences.

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

Slunj, Croatia got high marks for keeping traditions like local songs and dances alive while also putting in eco-friendly walking trails and other travel infrastructure.

The tiny, landlocked principality of Andorra isn’t as well-known as its neighbors, but its village of Ordino was recognized for its agricultural history as well as two local festivals, Les Falles and the Feast of Sant Pere, both of which are on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

South American stars

Peru leads the list with five villages getting recognition. Though the country is famous for Machu Picchu, Peru has made efforts to highlight other places as a way to combat overtourism.

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

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 of a cypress wood local to the area, and La Carolina, Argentina, which was home to a famous gold rush.

The full list of best tourism villages

• Al Sela, Jordan
• Barrancas, Chile
• Biei, Japan
• Caleta Tortel, Chile
• Cantavieja, Spain
• Chacas, Peru
• Chavín de Huantar, Peru
• Dahshour, Egypt
• Dhordo, India
• Dongbaek, Republic of Korea
• Douma, Lebanon
• Ericeira, Portugal
• Filandia, Colombia
• Hakuba, Japan
• Higueras, Mexico
• Huangling, China
• Jalpa de Cánovas, Mexico
• Kandovan, Iran
• La Carolina, Argentina
• Lephis Village, Ethiopia
• Lerici, Italy
• Manteigas, Portugal
• Morcote, Switzerland
• Mosan, Republic of Korea
• Oku-Matsushima, Japan
• Omitlán de Juárez, Mexico
• Oñati, Spain
• Ordino, Andorra
• Oyacachi, Ecuador
• Paucartambo, Peru
• Penglipuran, Indonesia
• Pisco Elqui, Chile
• Pozuzo, Peru
• Saint-Ursanne, Switzerland
• Saty, Kazakhstan
• Schladming, Austria
• Sehwa, Republic of Korea
• Sentob, Uzbekistan
• Shirakawa, Japan
• Sigüenza, Spain
• Şirince, Türkiye
• Siwa, Egypt
• Slunj, Croatia
• Sortelha, Portugal
• Anton am Arlberg, Austria
• Tân Hoá, Viet Nam
• Taquile, Peru
• Tokaj, Hungary
• Văleni, Moldova
• Vila da Madalena, Portugal
• Xiajiang, China
• Zapatoca, Colombia
• Zhagana, China
• Zhujiawan, China

Source : CNN Travel