Best Small Towns: The holidays are almost here again and one thing I wanna do this year is to go far away from a big city. (The big city can be tiring sometimes).
I initially planned to go to some resort in the middle of a jungle somewhere, but over an excellent cup of smoothies, a friend told me of her wonderful experience in a small town in another country and it sounded just like what I would want for myself; just fly away to any of the best small towns on the globe .
So I talked to some travel agent friends of mine, and they sent me a ton of the best small towns for exotic holidays scattered all over the world.
After a lil research on all these truly amazing and magical sites, I picked the best 8 according to accessibility, accommodation, transportation, history and of course great local sites to see.
These towns are so beautiful they are almost magical, something you only see in fairy tales. I was truly amazed at this discovery.
🚧 Warning : If you are looking for somewhere that still has Wi-Fi on every street corner and Uber rides at your fingertips then you are on the wrong page, my dear friend.
But if you are more rugged and share a thrill for real adventure, then together let’s explore the best small towns for a magical holiday (or any kind of getaway).
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8 BEST SMALL TOWNS FOR A GETAWAY HOLIDAY
Whispered as Europe’s best-kept secret, this came out tops in my research for the best small towns for a quiet getaway.
Lake Bled is located in Slovenia, in the North-East of the capital city of Ljubljana. With temperatures reaching icy conditions in the winter, you definitely still have that feel of Christmas in the atmosphere.
The lake is home to the Bled Castle (the oldest castle in Slovenia) and The Church of Assumption, and with a 6km long pavement around the lake, you can either take long walks or pedal around it on a bicycle (heard the bike rides are to die for).
Whichever option you choose, you get a stunning 360° view of these architectural masterpieces which are beautifully located in the middle of the lake.
Other fun things to do at the Lake Bled include but are not limited to taking hikes across the 15 hiking signposts around the town, having a sunset picnic, (learnt the sunset in bled has an almost healing effect), or simply visit the ancient Castle Bled that once housed a king and has so much history you’d instantly be transported back to the 19th century.
To get to Bled you’d have to take a bus from the capital city, and accommodation is diverse with prices starting at $10, up to $1,920 (YES! You read that right).
Oh, and lest I forget, Bled also has a campsite fit for summer, do well to check it out.
Once adjudged “the best small town in the world” by George Duhamel in 1931, this little town in the north-east of France is the pride of Alsace, boasting of a rich history dating back 1000 years.
Colmar houses remarkable Middle Age Gothic architecture, such as the Collegiate Church of St. Martin, and the Church of the Dominicans.
Other ancient houses of interest to visit include the Adolph House, the “Huselin zum Swan” house, the Koïfhus, the famous Pfister house and he “House of Heads” (it gets its name from the 111 heads and grotesque masks adorning its façade).
Feel free to try out classic Colmar meals like the Foie Gras which was invented in Strasbourg in 1780, Baeckeofe which is a dish composed of three marinated meats, with potatoes in white wine, and most definitely the Munster Cheese.
You can access Colmar by train from Gare De l’Est in Paris or by air from Strasbourg-Entzheim International Airport, Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden Airport, Bâle-Mulhouse International Airport, Zürich International Airport and Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport.
Did I mention that Colmar has a famous Christmas Market? Weill, guess I just did 😉
Dazhai is home to the Yao minorities in China and also home to the famous Rice Terraces, an ingenious rice farming irrigation system the climbs up 2400 feet of mountains, also regarded as one of the best small towns in the region.
The 66-square-km network irrigation project was begun by the ethnic Zhuang in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and finished by the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Dazhai Village is at the foot of the mountains. Further uphill, Yao people live in their two-story cabins which are nestled against the breathtaking man-made wonder (remember what i said about it being one of the best small towns?).
The layout of the village mimics the terraces fields’ symmetry, giving an appearance that the houses are stacked on top of one another, like an integrated part of the land.
A further 60-minute climb uphill will take you to Tiantouzai Village, where you will have a panoramic view of the whole area of Jinkeng Rice Terrace.
It is recommended you to have a rest in a small cafeteria ” Countryside Cafe”, I learned it’s the only place where English menu is available.
Dazhai is located in the Longsheng County, Gulin, and can be accessed by bus from the Guilin Central Bus Station to the Longsheng Bus Station and then transfer to the minibus to the Jinkeng Terraces of the Longji Terraced Field. Accommodations stars at 50 RMB.
There is a rumored charm about Jiu Fen, and this small town has become part of the travel itinerary for many making a trip to Taipei, the Taiwanese capital.
Seen by many tourists as a food hub for those craving original oriental foods, Jui Fen also has a rich history.
Did you know that the town used to be housed with only nine families during the Qing Dynasty, who would request for 9 portions of shipment every time. Their ‘9 portions’ (Jiu Fen) became the name of the town.
This also used to be a gold mining town, which led to its initial boom, making it one of the best small towns of its time.
Several of the original 9 houses still stands to this day.
Jiu Fen s is where City of Sadness, the first Taiwanese film to discuss the politically controversial 228 Incident, is based on.
Also, Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki used the downtown area as an inspiration for his successful movie Spirited Away.
You can get to Jui Fen by train from the Taipei Main Station and purchase a ticket to Riufang Station. Once out of Riufang Station go straight and turn left onto the street in front of you. Cross the street and walk down for about 5 minutes or so until you reach a bus station where you’d catch a bus to Jui Fen.
Alternatively, you can go directly by bus from the Zhongxiao Fuxing Station and go out Exit 2. Take Keelung Bus 1062 which will likely say Jinguashin on the sign, but don’t worry, it’ll take you to Jiufen.
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Portofino is the jewel of the Italian Riviera. This exclusive seaside village, situated only an hour away from the Cinque Terre was the favorite of the rich and famous during the 1950s.
Portofino is one of the best small towns seaside resorts along the Riviera providing a worthwhile holiday excursion. The crescent-shaped harbor is filled with summer yachts and odd fishing boats and lined with outlets of designer fashion stores, seafood restaurants, cafes and exclusive luxury hotels.
Attractions here include Museo del Parco, a terraced sculpture garden near the castle overlooking the harbor and filled with modern artworks, the medieval castle Castello Brown on the top of the hill with a breathtaking view over the Gulf of Portofino.
The 12th century Church of San Giorgio lies almost in the center of the promontory. Also, the Portofino Regional Park has a number of good hiking trails both along the coast and on inland routes, many offering magically scenic views.
Portofino can be reached by ferry from Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, Camogli, Cinque Terre and Genoa. I learned that the closest train station is in Santa Margherita Ligure, where there’s a bus to Portofino from the station.
South Greenland is a unique part of the Arctic Island of Greenland, with great contrasts between icy glaciers and rich green valleys.
With plenty of ice in the fiords and both giant icebergs from the local glaciers as well as enormous amounts of ”Grand Ice”, pack ice from the North Pole, dominating the region in spring and early summer.
Locals boast that this ”Wide White World” of the Grand Ice is an experience of a lifetime and also boast of it as one of the best small towns in Greenland.
Qaqortoq, often described by tourists as the most beautiful town in Greenland, with a picturesque setting, between the fiord of Qaqortoq and the lake of Tasersuaq.
The town is separated into two parts by a creek from Tasersuaq Lake. Most of the colorful houses have ”million dollar views”, giving tourists a fantastic view over the fiord or lake.
Houses with small Arctic Gardens are to be seen here and there, with flowers, small trees, and vegetable gardens.
The more than 200 years old houses in the town center, from the colonial era, has been maintained as an active part of town, with different businesses and institutions – please notice our old beautiful fountain and the stone sculptures and stone carvings, “Stone & Man”, which are scattered around town.
Numerous ruins from the Norse culture in the Middle Ages are scattered around the fiords, from the mighty church ruin in Hvalsø to small stone pens in the mountains.
Furthermore, South Greenland and the Qaqortoq region is ideal for hiking.
The town boasts of good accommodation facilities, and good food cab also experienced at the cozy restaurants scattered all over.
Welcome to one of the most charming river valleys in Europe, which has cut the longest tributary of the Rhine meandering in the Devonian rocks of the Rhenish Slate Mountains.
Mosel has a climate that makes wine thrive and is pleasing to humans, with mild winters and warm but not too hot summers making it one of the best small towns for holidays.
The is landscape is beautifully marked by millennial settlements that have not been destroyed by humans, with villages nestled in vineyards, nestled in the forests of the surrounding ridges by the river.
This is a landscape that has been causing swarming visitors since Roman times.
Mosel is a cultural area, which is one of the oldest in Germany and whose small villages were already established long before the largest cities of the Federal Republic came into existence.
This winemaking region has at least two thousand years of tradition, which grows a Riesling on its slate slopes, as it can grow anywhere else in the world.
The people of the Mosel valley, mixed with Celts, Romans, (and all who have driven their creatures or mischiefs here), among the Moselans, who have been known for generations for their hospitality, make this region into a rich cocktail of cultures.
In the pretty villages along the river bank, people greet each other on the street and the front doors do not have to be closed, because everything is a little more familiar and peaceful.
Mosel is an eclectic holiday destination in the heart of Europe, which offers hikers and water sports enthusiasts just as much as cyclists and Roman friends, such as campers and bowlers, gourmets and wine connoisseurs an experience of a lifetime.
You can get to Mosel if you’re coming from Cologne and want to enjoy a boat cruise down the Mosel River.
The easiest way is to take a train to Koblenz, about 85km (53 miles) southeast of Cologne (1 hr. by train). From Koblenz, a boat sails down the Mosel to Cochem, 51km (32 miles) southwest of Koblenz. From Koblenz, boats depart (May–Oct) at 9:45am, arriving in Cochem at 3pm.
Cappadocia (My Personal Choice of All The Best Small Towns)
You may not be a tour person but Cappadocia is much larger than you think it is. Cappadocia is a region that has 100’s of sites, villages, underground cities (not to mention a sea of hot air balloons ).
It would take you a whole week to do all the sightseeing.
Located in the Nevşehir Province in the Central Anatolian region of Turkey, Cappadocia is an area where entire cities have been carved into the rock.
At first glance, the landscape is said to appear as an abandoned alien desert with fields that look like waves frozen in time, and rocky spikes and spires protruding from the landscape like some sort of meringue set in stone.
However on a further exploration through small, winding paths, beautifully-carved homes and churches reveal an awesome wonder waiting to be discovered.
Over three million years ago a volcanic eruption deposited a blanket of ash across the 1500 square mile landscape which formed into a soft rock. This rock, slowly eaten away by wind and time, has created some spectacular forms.
But the human history of the area is said to be as rich as the geological one.
The rock is so soft that you can easily dig right into it, part of what adds to Cappadocia’s strange appearance is that carved into every hillside, spire and boulder is a home complete with windows, bedrooms, kitchens, and multiple stories connected by ladders or steps.
The pathways and structures carved from the rock hold a long history of struggle and resistance. As early as the third century, the caves and tunnels within the rock formations were being used as catacombs by Christians escaping persecution by the Romans.
By the 10th and 11th centuries, Byzantine Christian monks were building hundreds of small churches, each beautifully painted and decorated, into the hillsides as monasteries and training grounds for early Christian missionaries. (You wanna go in with your camera for these ones, trust me).
The underground city of Derinkuyu is 11 stories deep, has dozens of miles of tunnels connecting it to other underground cities, and can accommodate many thousands of people.
It is truly an underground city, with areas for sleeping, stables for livestock, pits for cooking, bathrooms, praying, even for being buried.
Today the tops of the tombs have eroded, exposing the narrow, empty graves. And Derinkuyu is not alone.
Most people didn’t live in the underground cities full time. Underneath the cities was a vast network of tunnels, forming a network of catacombs of the best small towns connecting each home in the area to the city. When the area came under attack, families would flee to their basements, rush through the dark tunnels, and gather in the underground city.
According to Wikitravel, the fastest and most comfortable way of reaching Cappadocia is using the airway. There are two main airports that you can use to reach Cappadocia. One of them is Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) located in Kayseri and nearly one hour driving to the center of Cappadocia region.
Turkish Airlines operates several direct (nonstop) flights from Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST) to Kayseri Erkilet Airport. There are also daily flights from Izmir into Kayseri via Istanbul. It’s easy to arrange a transfer or shuttle bus from Kayseri Airport to Cappadocia.
So where will you be visiting this holiday? Please share your travel destinations with us in the comment section, we’d love to hear from you.
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