The Most Charming Small Towns Around the World You Haven't Heard of

The Most Charming Small Towns Around the World You Haven't Heard of

Big cities may offer tons of attractions—but small towns have their own version of charm, culture, and beauty. In fact, you may be surprised by how many of these lesser-known destinations jump to the top of your bucket list. Sure, these towns are small in terms of square footage, but they pack a serious punch.

Besides scenic water and mountain landscapes, they boast history and are often easier to navigate as a tourist—hello, free foot travel! And if getting out in nature is your thing, you'll find pristine skiing conditions, hiking trails, and, yes, lots of beaches for lounging. Some of these destinations are more remote, so make sure you allow time for travel. Bon voyage!

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Colmar, France

Located in the Alsace region, Colmar is a small town known for its half-timbered houses. The French village has a medieval vibe along its cobblestone streets. Tourists love Little Venice, where different colored homes line the canal.

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Shirakawago, Japan

The unique gassho-zukuri farmhouses in Shirakawago Village make this a must-see for tourists in Japan. Gassho-zukuri translates to "constructed like hands in prayer." The roof resembles a Buddist monk's pressed-together hands.

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Giethoorn, Netherlands

Make sure you grab a bike for your visit to Giethoorn, because you're going to need it. The fact that this village is mostly car-free may be a bit unconventional, but taking a ride on a bike (or a canoe!) gives you an exceptional view of the city's canals, gardens, and other charms.

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Goreme, Turkey

This small town in the Cappadocia region of Turkey is full of mosques and homes in rock formations, which are coined as "fairy chimneys." It's also one of the most popular places in the world to take a hot air balloon ride.

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Hallstatt, Austria

This small town in Austria fees like a remote, lakeside paradise. The village in the mountainous Salzkammergut region features colorful 16th-century Alpine houses, snowy mountains, and enchanting alleyways.

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Hội An, Vietnam

Hội An is described as the City of Lanterns, thanks in part to its famous lantern market. The lights serve as a symbol of good fortune and love. While in Hội An, be sure to take in the architecture and, of course, nosh on some of the country's incredible cuisine.

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El Chaltén, Argentina

El Chaltén is the national capital of trekking in Argentina, so you can only imagine how scenic the town is to earn such a robust title. The world-renown treks in El Chaltén will take you through lush forests, up snow-capped mountains, and around glistening glaciers.

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Willemstad, Curacao

Tourism is big on this Caribbean island, filled with colorful, colonial architecture. The Dutch influence is prominent throughout the capital city. Willemstad has been designated a UESCO World Heritage Site.

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Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

If you're heading to the Swiss Alps, a visit to Lauterbrunnen is a must—if only for a visit to the village's towering Staubbach Falls. A sight to behold, the 300-meters-high waterfall even inspired poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to pen his famous poem, "Gesang der Geister über den Wassern."

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Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber, Bavaria

Harry Potter fans, make sure this town makes it onto your bucket list. The German fairytale village is rumored to have been an inspiration for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. This medieval town boasts a tower gate and the Tauber River.

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Penglipuran Village, Bali

One of the amazing features of Penglipuran Village is that the residents—of which there are fewer than 1,000—maintain traditional culture in their everyday lives. The bamboo forest that dates all the way back to the 18th century is a must-see.

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Reine, Norway

Considered a prime location for catching the Northern Lights, the island village of Reine is a popular spot in Lofoten. Hundreds of cod are caught on fishing trips every year, which is a major draw on the island.

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Charlottesville, Virginia

In the U.S., the term "wine country" is typically attributed to regions in California, but in Charlottesville, you'll find dozens of wineries on acres of rolling, green hills. For a truly top-rate experience, head to this town when the fall colors peak (typically in October) to enjoy your glass of Chambourcin while taking in stunning views of the foliage.

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Aqaba, Jordan

In the south of Jordan, the harbor city of Aqaba captures the warm waters of the Red Sea and a backdrop of desert hills. The Red Sea in western Asia is popular for snorkeling and diving.

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Wanaka, New Zealand

A true Alpine town, Wanaka has no shortage of lakes, rivers, and mountains. The scenic destination is even home to glaciers. When you visit, be prepared to hike, bike, kayak, ski, or even snowboard your way to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Alberobello, Italy

This small town in southern Italy is known for its unique trulli buildings, which are traditional Apulian dry stone huts topped with a conical roof. Alberobello is considered the cultural capital of the trulli of the Valle d'Itria.

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Portree, Scotland

Surrounded by rolling, green hills and a sparkling harbour, in addition to Portree's natural wonders, it's also gained quite the reputation for its art scene. The city's Aros Centre boasts a consistent schedule of plays, concerts, and film screenings.

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Bled, Slovenia

What isn't there to love about a lakeside town that's known for its picturesque geography and pastries? Located in northwestern Slovenia, Bled brings in hungry tourists from all over with its vanilla and cream-filled cremeschnitte, and then wows them with views of Lake Bled, which is surrounded by mountains and forests.

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KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

A small commune lies in the unprotected expanses at the foot of Cathedral Peak. KwaZulu-Natal, also known as "the garden province," encompasses a long shoreline beside the Indian Ocean. The scenic iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park were declared UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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Ribe, Denmark

Ribe, a town in southern Denmark, is the oldest town in Scandinavia. It has a medieval vibe that visitors can see more of at the Ribe VikingeCenter and Cathedral.

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Nungwi, Tanzania

This beach town is absolutely breathtaking thanks to its azure beaches and powder white sand. An East African gem, Nungwi is known for having the best beaches in Zanzibar. And, fortunately for your wallet, it has accommodations that fit all budgets.

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Stykkishólmur, Iceland

Although it's not as populous as the capital city of Reykjavík, there's still plenty to do and see in Stykkishólmur. It's located in west Iceland and serves as a hub for commerce. Visitors can hike to the top of Helgafell or enjoy the stunning Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall.

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Burano, Italy

You may need to adjust your eyes a bit upon taking your first glance at the town of Burano. The streets of this Venice island are lined with buildings painted turquoise, fuschia, candy apple red, and more. Here, you can't help but snap a photo—or a few dozen—for your Instagram feed.

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Hvar Island, Croatia

Stari Grad is one of the oldest towns in Europe, dating back to 400 BC. Tourists enjoy the fairytale-esque cobbled streets, waterfront, restaurants, and shopping. A highlight of the town is Tvrdalj, a castle with a fish pond that poet Petar Hektorovic owned.

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Banff, Canada

One glimpse at Banff, a resort town in Alberta, Canada, and you're bound to have your breath taken away. It's home to Lake Louise, an expansive body of water that's a nearly indescribable shade of blue. Each year, the allure of the lake, along with the mountains that rest at its edge, welcomes millions of tourists.

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Manakara, Madagascar

The small village in Madagascar is occupied by about 44,000 people (last updated in 2018). The town on the southeastern coast of the African country thrives on rice and coffee plantations.

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Assos, Greece

The city of Assos combines picturesque scenery with small town whimsy. Located on a small peninsula, it has no shortage of turquoise waters, colorful architecture, and inviting alleys. It's almost hard to believe that the village is home to only about 100 inhabitants.

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Ronda, Spain

Known as the birthplace of bullfighting, Ronda is a quaint mountaintop town with plenty to see. For the daring, there’s the towering Puente Nuevo bridge, and for those who live for a delicious feast, you'll find plenty of tapas restaurants to try.

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Nagarkot, Nepal

If you've ever dreamt of seeing Mount Everest—the world's tallest mountain—in person, Nagarkot is a great option. Known for its stunning views of the Himalayas, it also provides an equally mesmerizing panoramic view of the Kathmandu Valley. You'll definitely want to pack your hiking boots for this trip—the town is filled with trails to explore.

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Guanajuato, Mexico

You’ll find colorful, colonial architecture at nearly every turn in Guanajuato, a city in central Mexico. For true romantics, be sure to visit Callejón del Beso (Alley of the Kiss). The alley was granted this name because the balconies are close enough for a couple to reach across for a smooch.

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Tarrafal, Cape Verde

Located on the island of São Nicolau, Tarrafal is a quaint town that's within miles of stunning beaches and numerous hiking trails. Unlike some of the other islands that make up Cape Verde (which is located off the coast of West Africa), Tarrafal remains mostly untouched by tourism.

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Ilulissat, Greenland

Ilulissat is a coastal town that's best known for its breathtaking views of the Northern Lights—just keep in mind that you can't see the lights during the summer months in Greenland. Instead, opt for a trip sometime between the end of September and the middle of April.

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Margaret River, Western Australia

Pristine beaches and award-winning wineries—what isn't there to love about Margaret River? A nearly three-hour ride from Perth, Australia, it has become a popular vacation spot thanks in part to its natural wonders that include the Mammoth Cave, Yalgardup Falls, and the Blackwood River.

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Tongli, China

Nicknamed the "Venice of the East," Tongli is a charming city that's filled with winding canals. For a moment of peace, visit the town's Retreat & Reflection Garden. The enchanting garden, which dates back to 1885, was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.

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Mangue Seco, Brazil

A beach village located in the state of Bahia, Mangue Seco rests between the Real River and the Atlantic Ocean. With only a few hundred inhabitants, the fishing village consists of a small church and plenty of pristine beaches. Once you tire of the water, Mangue Seco’s sand dunes are an exciting way to get off the beaten path.

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Bundoran, Ireland

This quaint seaside town is a surfer's paradise thanks to its variety of waves—which range from two feet to reportedly over 60! If you prefer to stay dry, take a trip to Bundoran’s Fairy Bridges, a natural attraction that dates back hundreds of years.

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Sayulita, Mexico

If the crowded beaches of Cancun or Cabo are too much for you, Sayulita is waiting with open arms. This village in Mexico is home to warm ocean water, sandy beaches, and last, but certainly not least, affordable accommodations and food. Although its popular beaches are amazing, don't miss the lesser-known, hidden ones.

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Sapelo Island, Georgia

A coastal island in South Georgia, Sapelo Island is so remote that it's only accessible by aircraft or boat. In addition to quiet beaches, it's home to Hog Hammock, a historic community that dates back to the 1800s and was founded by descendants of enslaved West African people brought to the coastal islands of Georgia.

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Victoria, Seychelles

The capital city in the Republic of the Seychelles boasts spectacular beaches, like the one near Victoria, Mahe Island. The island nation, which is located in the Indian Ocean, also has impressive coral reefs and giant tortoises.

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Toujane, Tunisia

The Berber mountain village of Toujane in the Gabès Governorate caught the eye of George Lucas for a set in the Star Wars series. As a way to defend themselves from attack, the Berbers dug out settlements in the ground.

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It's time to renew your passport and pack your bags.