World's 16 Most Picturesque Villages
When it comes to picture-perfect views and suspended-in-time charm, it really does take a village. We went out searching for the most camera-ready communities on the planet and found 16 towns that fit the bill, from a Swiss village straight out of Heidi to an antebellum masterpiece in Georgia.
Spend a few minutes in these 16 villages and you'll realize that "quaint" and "charming" aren't just adjectives, they are a way of life. You'll find the unique beauty in the stone cottages of what has been dubbed the most beautiful village in England, along cobblestone streets lined with Gothic architecture in the Bohemia valley of Czech Republic, and within the adobe walls of a spiritual town in northern New Mexico. These are all functioning towns, with residents who keep local industries alive (check out the century-old trout farm) as well as preserving the town's look, which is why there's no building "taller than a coconut tree" on a certain Hawaiian island. The locals will be happy to clue you in to the best photo ops as well. Some of the spots are easier to get to than others (we've provided detailed info on how to reach them all below), but all are worthy of taking a detour—and maxing out your camera's memory card.
Located on the River Coln in hilly west-central England, Bibury was described by 19th-century artist-writer William Morris as "the most beautiful village in England"—which is saying something in a country known for its watercolor views. Honey-colored 17th-century stone cottages, the Saxon Church of St. Mary, and a still-working 1902 trout farm are some of the ancient village's must-sees. The most photographed spot is Arlington Row, a collection of 14th-century stone buildings that were converted into weavers' cottages in the 1600s.
Getting There: The closest train station to Bibury is 12 miles away, in Kemble. Multiple trains make the 80-minute journey from London's Paddington Station (from $57 round-trip; nationalrail.co.uk). Cirencester, seven miles away, is linked to London by daily buses (from $30 round-trip; nationalexpress.com). There is no public transport directly to Bibury, but taxis are available and local hotels will often arrange transport for guests.
The ruins of the Castello di Pentefur stand guard above Savoca, a historic Sicilian village located on a hill between the cities of Messina and Taormina, on the island's east coast. Thought to be about 1,000 years old, the town was a stand-in for too-developed Corleone in The Godfather, and fans can still visit the Chiesa di Santa Lucia church on Via San Michele, where Michael Corleone was married, then trace the newlyweds' walk down to Bar Vitelli on Piazza Fossia for some cooling lemon granita. Don't miss a visit to the Cappuccini Monastery on the northern end of town to view the collection of mummified monks, some dating back to the 1700s.
Getting There: It's a little over an hour by car from the international airport in Catania to Savoca, or a scenic 40-minute drive from the popular resort town of Taormina. Many tour companies also offer day trips from Taormina, most of them with a Godfather theme ($170 for up to three people; sicilylimousineservice.com).
Thanks to an Alpine location and traditional timber chalets, Wengen is the Swiss village of your dreams and looks like something straight out of Heidi (the fact that cars have been banned here for more than 100 years also adds to the charm). The alpine mountain village has been a tourist hub since the late 1800s, when notable guests like writer Mary Shelley sang Wengen's praises (she wrote Frankenstein while traveling in Switzerland, and described the Alps as ""belonging to another earth"). Many of the belle époque hotels of the era remain, including the Hotel Bellevue (from $235 per night; bellevue-wengen.ch). The village's altitude of almost 4,200 feet attracts skiers, of course, increasing the population almost ten-fold in the winter to around 10,000.
Getting There: Since cars are not allowed, travelers coming by road must park in Lauterbrunnen and take a 15-minute train ride up to town ($3.50; swisstravelsystem.ch). Train service is available from Interlaken as well; the ride takes about 45 minutes from Wengen ($7.45; swisstravelsystem.ch).