From Tokaj to Hakuba: These 54 must-visit villages lead in sustainable tourism trends

The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has recently created a list of 54 villages located around the globe for their ability to preserve cultural and natural resources while using tourism as a motor for advancement and sustainability.

While you may have heard of Tokaj, a Hungarian wine with its golden hue, you may not know about the village that gave its name to the famous nectar and to this wine-growing region, whose landscapes have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Meanwhile, the village of Hakuba in Nagano prefecture, in what are known as the Japanese Alps, has set itself the goal of becoming energy self-sufficient, in particular through the use of hydroelectric systems.

These are two of the villages recognised in the latest list for maintaining their authenticity while embracing innovative and sustainable practices.

And there are a host of other examples of villages around the world that are working to preserve their natural assets and implement strategies to maintain their cultural and culinary traditions.

Since 2021, the World Tourism Organisation has been dedicating an initiative to the development of tourism in rural areas that preserve and promote their customs and traditions.

Based on several sources including information received directly from local tourist boards, the UNWTO selected 54 villages from the 260 applications received in 2023 on the basis of various criteria, including the conservation of their cultural resources and the implementation of programmes for economic and social sustainability. There are now 74 villages in the UNWTO Best Tourism Villages Network.

While this distinction is a communication boon for these destinations, the label also is a useful tool for hikers, backpackers and other travellers in search of destinations that line up with their values in regard to respecting people and nature.

At a time when more and more cities and regions are adopting restrictive measures to regulate the number of tourists to allow the environment time to regenerate, these awards also reaffirm the important role that tourism can represent both for a local economy and for people’s livelihoods.

“Tourism can be a powerful force for inclusivity, empowering local communities and distributing benefits across regions,” explained UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

“This initiative acknowledges villages that have harnessed tourism as a catalyst for their development and well-being,” he added.

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Inspiration for future getaways

This list includes a number of good ideas for future getaways, such as a visit to the Vietnamese village of Tân Hoá, located in the north between Hanoi and Hué.

Sadly very familiar with repeated episodes of flooding, the destination is setting an example with its floating house project, designed to help the local population adapt to climatic conditions accented by the surrounding mountains and virgin forest.

In concrete terms, the wooden buildings are supported by a system of plastic floats, so that the inhabitants can endure the rainy season without fearing for their lives or livelihoods. While agriculture has long been their main source of income, the integration of Tân Hoá into tourist circuits from 2011 has enabled the population to increase their income, by offering travellers visits to the Tu Làn cave and the Lim forest, for example.

Here is the list of the 54 best villages of the year designated by the UNWTO (in alphabetical order):

  • Al Sela, Jordan
  • Barrancas, Chile
  • Biei, Japan
  • Caleta Tortel, Chile
  • Cantavieja, Spain
  • Chacas, Peru
  • Chavín de Huántar, Peru
  • Dahshour, Egypt
  • Dhordo, India
  • Dongbaek, Republic of Korea
  • Douma, Lebanon
  • Ericeira, Portugal
  • Filandia, Colombia
  • Hakuba, Japan
  • Higueras, Mexico
  • Huangling, China
  • Jalpa de Canovas, Mexico
  • Kandovan, Iran
  • La Carolina, Argentina
  • Lephis Village, Ethiopia
  • Lerici, Italy
  • Manteigas, Portugal
  • Morcote, Switzerland
  • Mosan, Republic of Korea
  • Oku-Matsushima, Japan
  • Omitlán de Juárez, Mexico
  • Oñati, Spain
  • Ordino, Andorra
  • Oyacachi, Ecuador
  • Paucartambo, Peru
  • Penglipuran, Indonesia
  • Pisco Elqui, Chile
  • Pozuzo, Peru
  • Saint-Ursanne, Switzerland
  • Saty, Kazakhstan
  • Schladming, Austria
  • Sehwa, Republic of Korea
  • Sentob, Uzbekistan
  • Shirakawa, Japan
  • Sigüenza, Spain
  • Şirince, Turkiye
  • Siwa, Egypt
  • Slunj, Croatia
  • Sortelha, Portugal
  • St.Anton am Arlberg, Austria
  • Tân Hoá, Viet Nam
  • Taquile, Peru
  • Tokaj, Hungary
  • Văleni, Moldavia
  • Vila da Madalena, Portugal
  • Xiajiang, China
  • Zapatoca, Colombia
  • Jagana, China
  • Zhujiawan, China

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