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.
Sweeping Mediterranean views and tons of medieval charm have made this cliff-top town a popular stop on the French Riviera. Thanks to its key location near Nice, Eze was coveted by various invaders over the centuries, and this tangled history is reflected in its architecture—from the baroque church's Egyptian cross dating back to the Phoenicians to the Genovese-style bell turret on the 14th-century Chapelle de la Sainte Croix. Not surprisingly, the fairy-tale village was a favorite of Walt Disney's.
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
One of the oldest villages in the Czech Republic, Cesky Krumlov is set in a valley in Bohemia south of the Blansko Forest and circled by the Vltava River. The village grew up around the 13th-century Gothic castle of the Lords of Krumlov, which has 40 buildings and palaces, gardens, and turrets and today is a major performing arts location. The cobblestone streets of Cesky Krumlov's Old Town are lined with Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance buildings housing art galleries, cafes, and quaint B&Bs. One of the best ways to experience the town is to take a ride down the Vltava on a wooden raft ($24, en.ceskykrumlov-info.cz).
Getting There: Prague, about 110 miles away, is connected to Cesky Krumlov by a three-hour bus ride ($10 each way; jizdnirady.idnes.cz).
The iconic "fairy chimney" rock formations of Cappadocia surround the village of Göreme in Turkey's Central Anatolia region. First settled back in Roman times, the town (which has gone by several names throughout history) is today best known for its national park/open-air museum, which features some of the best-preserved examples of ancient cave churches and monasteries. The town itself has several "pigeon houses" carved right into the rocks. There are also funky cave hotels like the Kelebek Hotel, where 18 of the 35 rooms are carved into the cave (from $53; kelebekhotel.com). Nearby Uchisar offers a great view of Göreme from its hilltop castle, the highest point in the valley.
Getting There: There are regular flights from Istanbul to Kayseri, about 43 miles from Göreme. Shuttle service is available from the airport (about $13 each way; goreme.com) and most hotels can arrange transfers.
Chimayó, New Mexico
An aura of mysticism and spirituality surrounds Chimayó, a tiny New Mexican village located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains about half an hour north of Santa Fe. Settled by the Spanish in the late-1600s, the village became known for its weaving, farming, and livestock raising, all of which are still practiced today. In the 1800s, residents claimed that miraculous healings were happening near a recently unearthed crucifix, and in 1816 the Santuario de Chimayó chapel was constructed to mark these occurrences. Visitors—many looking to be healed—still come in droves to the chapel, which also serves as the end point for an annual pre-Easter pilgrimage.
Getting There: Chimayó is about 30 minutes north of Santa Fe and 75 minutes south of Taos.
Though there are technically several residential communities on Molokai, the island has a total population of just about 8,000, making it pretty much a village itself. Home to Hawaii's longest continuing fringing reef and the world's highest sea cliffs, Molokai is often called "the real Hawaii"—there are no stoplights, there is a law against buildings "taller than a coconut tree," and more than half the residents are native Hawaiian. Activities include taking a mule ride in Kalaupapa National Historic Park, checking out the 19th-century mission-style churches and the state's longest pier in main town Kaunakakai, and strolling on three-mile-long, white-sand Papohaku Beach.