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The world's most beautiful small towns

Bypass the big cities in favor of some small-town charm.

Portree's colorful harbor, Isle of Skye, Scotland © Dreamstime.com/Zhu_zhu

Colmar, France

This quaint town in France’s Alsace region is well-known for its kaleidoscopic, timbered houses and winding cobbled streets. Grand St. Martin’s church, which dates back to 1235, and the historical Unterlinden Museum are must-visits.

© AWL Images/Danita Delimont Stock

Bibury, England

A tiny village in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, Bibury sits on the banks of the River Coln. Rack Isle, a boggy expanse home to an abundance of wildfowl, and Arlington Row, a picturesque line of weavers’ cottages, are two of the main draws.

© Jenifoto406/Jenifoto406

Goreme, Turkey

This whimsical town could have been plucked straight from a fairy tale. The best way to take in Goreme is from the air—climb into a hot air balloon and fly over the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia with its elaborate caves and “fairy chimneys.”

© Corbis/Marc Dozier

Morro de São Paulo, Brazil

Life moves at a slower pace in Morro de São Paulo, a romantic village on the island of Tinharé. Embrace its car-free expanses and spend your days roaming the palm-tree clad beaches, enjoying the calm, shallow waters.

© Dreamstime.com/Kovgabor79

Essaouira, Morocco

Essaouira is a refreshing alternative to the dusty roads and labyrinthine souks of Marrakech. Watch the town’s weather-worn blue boats battle the tide, wander its winding streets, and be sure to taste the catch of the day.

© AWL Images/Nadia Isakova

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Pretty port town Lunenburg has an interesting past. Learn about its tumultuous maritime history at the celebrated Fisheries Museum, then admire the area’s famously colorful houses, before ducking into one of the many family-run restaurants.

© Dreamstime.com/Pilens

Shirakawa-go, Japan

Shirakawa-go is best-known for its Gassho-zukuri-style architecture, characterized by sloping thatched roofs. Not yet overrun with tourists, this tiny mountain village gives a unique glimpse into the lives of rural Japanese communities.

© Robert Harding Picture Library/Stuart Black

Camden, Maine, USA

Though at its best when under a canopy of fall foliage, the coastal town of Camden is picturesque year-round. Take in stunning views from the harbor or, weather permitting, enjoy the New England scenery with a hike in the Camden Hills State Park.

© Corbis/Alan Copson

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang sits at the confluence between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers in northern Laos. It's an intriguing spot thanks to its rich monastic culture and history, and its astonishing natural beauty. It also boasts a cocktail of architectural styles: elaborate stone pagodas sit alongside humble wooden houses and decorative colonial buildings.

© Robert Harding Picture Library/Philippe Michel

Bled, Slovenia

Despite its tiny size, the picturesque town of Bled is one of Slovenia’s most popular resorts. It sits at the foot of the Julian Alps, complete with a medieval fortress and museum, while the town’s charming church floats on an islet amid glassy Lake Bled.
© Dreamstime.com/Krasnevsky

Manali, India

This small Indian town runs on adrenaline. With an enchanting location at more than 1,830 m (6,000 ft) in the Himalayas, balanced on the fickle Beas River, Manali is a haven for hikers, climbers, and skiers.
© Corbis/Blaine Harrington III

Port Fairy, Australia

A lovely fishing village along the Great Ocean Road, Port Fairy is the unlikely host of one of the country’s largest music festivals: the Port Fairy Folk Festival. If you’re not here for this culture-filled event, don't worry: you can explore its many antiques stores or immerse yourself in the region’s maritime heritage.
© Alamy Images/Roger Grayson

Telluride, Colorado

Tucked in the Rocky Mountains, Telluride wholeheartedly warrants its title as a National Historic Landmark District. Nestled in a canyon, it boasts an incredible setting, and also has a handful of interesting art galleries. It’s worth timing your visit with the world-class Telluride Jazz Festival.
© Corbis/Blaine Harrington III

Picton, New Zealand

This delightful port town is the perfect place from which to explore the sunken valleys of Marlborough Sounds, with their fascinating marine life and verdant hills. The town itself has many a draw too; bask on its sandy shores, and be sure to taste fresh seafood in one of the many independent restaurants.

© AWL Images/Danita Delimont Stock

Sitka, Alaska

Spruce forests envelop this seaside town, which is given added awe by majestic Mount Edgecumbe rising behind it. The town also boasts a fascinating Russian heritage, which can be soaked up at St. Michael’s Cathedral, an imposing Russian Orthodox Church in downtown Sitka.
© Dreamstime.com/Adeliepenguin

Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Lively Portree is the heart of Skye. Once you’ve admired the pretty harbor with its multicolored houses and dined on traditional cullen skink in the town itself, venture farther into the Highlands and discover the rugged coastlines, jagged peaks, and abundant wildlife of this sublime isle.
© Dreamstime.com/Zhu_zhu

Zhouzhuang, China

Fondly nicknamed the “Venice of China,” this town is famous for its canals. A gondola ride is the best way to see the elegant stone bridges and whitewashed houses, which are beautifully lit at night.

© Dreamstime.com/Eastphoto

Reine, Lofoten, Norway

One of the dreamy Lofoten Islands, Reine is made up of rustic fishermen’s cabins perched by the water’s edge. Activities include hiking up the Reinebriggen peak (not for beginners), which towers over the village, or taking to the glittering lake on a kayak. If you’re lucky, you may even spy the Northern Lights too.
© Dreamstime.com/Hellen8

Trinidad, Cuba

The heart of this laid-back Cuban town is the Plaza Mayor, which includes the Museo Historico Municipal and the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco. Wander the cobbled streets, taking in the Colonial architecture and soaking up its old-world Spanish charm.
© Dreamstime.com/Dusanzidar

Hallstatt, Austria

It’s no wonder that Hallstatt, with its breathtaking mountain views, muted pink-and-yellow houses, and enviable lakeside setting, is pitted as Austria’s most beautiful town. A tour of its ancient salt mines is worth signing up for too.
© Dreamstime.com/minnystock

Holland, Michigan, USA

Complete with clapboard houses and neat-as-a-pin streets, Holland oozes small-town charm. In spring, locals celebrate the town’s Dutch heritage; millions of tulips line the streets (resembling the Netherlands’ bulb district) and residents come together to perform traditional dances.
© Corbis/Richard T. Nowitz

Manarola, Italy

Manarola is one of Italy’s most sought-after Cinque Terre towns. Its brilliant buildings tumble down a steep gorge to a dramatic, craggy coastline. Be sure to sample a cool glass of Sciacchetrá wine (the town’s pride and joy) during your visit.

© Dreamstime.com/Quixoticsnd
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide France
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Great Britain
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Turkey
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Brazil
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Morocco
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Canada
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Japan
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide USA
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Cambodia and Laos
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Slovenia
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide India
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Australia
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide New Zealand
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Alaska
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Scotland
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide China
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Norway
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Austria