Admit it, we’ve all experienced the fantasy of wanting to escape our everyday lives and settle down in a gorgeous, fairy tale land, where it’s all happiness and merriment. I see you shaking your head with enthusiasm already. Well, well – it is no longer a far-fetched idea. These villages look like they’ve jumped straight out of a storybook, complete with its countryside feel, quirky homes, colorful natural beauty and ever-charming people. The best part- these are all real villages that actually exist. So you know where to head when the escape bug bites.
01. Hallstatt, Austria
Hallstat features a pristine alpine landscape that is a part of the Salzkammergut Eastern Alps. Its high visual appeal combined with narrow valleys and medieval era prosperity makes it one of the most sought after Austrian hamlets. Halstatt (translating to salt settlement), an erstwhile salt settlement community is known for its picturesque perfect homes, pristine natural beauty and gorgeous Baroque-style structures. Yes you’ll be forgiven for thinking, you’re in the middle of a story-book village, it’s so perfect!
02. Rothenburg, Germany
One of Europe’s most ingeniously preserved middle age towns, this is one delightful destination. Yes, and it’s a much sought after stopover on the Romantic Road route. Nestled smack on the banks of River Tauber, its 17th century structures look almost untouched. Then there are a string of fascinating museums chronicling the nation’s rich legacy plus the iconic Town Hall, erstwhile churches and ancient mechanical figures. If nothing else, walk through the cobbled streets of the town for a first hand glimpse of Germany’s illustrious history.
03. Gokayama, Japan
Gokayama in Japan is marked as a World Cultural Heritage site for its unique nails-free construction technique. No structure in the town utilizes a nail for construction. Not just its dangerous looking mountains and plunging valleys, Gokayama is also known for its World Drama Festival. The multistoried houses here are built on what is referred to as gassho zukuri style, which gained worldwide recognition following UNESCO’s honor. Today, the homes are considered a valuable cultural asset to be passed down from one generation to another.
04. Shengsi Fishing Village
That which isn’t occupied by man is taken over by nature. Nowhere is this truer than in the case of Shengsi fishing village. This abandoned hamlet is nestled in Shengsi at the base of Yangtze River. While members of the erstwhile fishing community have set up homes on the mainland, natural resources have captured vacant spaces. Sijiao is one of the several Shengsi islands that can be used by tourists for enjoying a dip. The region hosts about 100,000 fishermen annually for its mild and gentle climate.
05. Eguisheim, France
If you fancy being surrounded by spectacular vineyards, rolling emrald hills and pretty country-side homes, Eguisheim is straight out of a picture book! From walking through its cobbled streets to witnessing its timber houses (often painstaking ornamented with fresh flowers) to visiting its magnificent historic fountains – it is sheer magic here. The quintessentially Alsace village will make you keep coming back for more with its erstwhile inscriptions and charming old-worldly appeal.
06. Gasadalur, Faroe Islands
Gasadalur houses the majestic Mulafossaur waterfall, and is juxtaposed between verdant green fields and lofty mountain ranges. Earlier, there were only a handful of ways to access this community, which didn’t include vehicles. Hike over its dramatic mountains or enjoy up, close and person encounters with about a dozen inhabitants left in the village. It is one cast-away village, which you would’ve never imagined you’ll access. Don’t forget to sample delicious local meals in the homes of these friendly and amiable locals.
07. Manarola, Italy
Manarola’s existence dates back to the 13th century, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Roman era hilltop village won’t just remind you of Asterix comics but also offers glimpses of the region’s evolution and an agricultural hotspot. Be prepared to witness pastel hued homes, vibrant flowering trees and charming, country-side shops. This beautiful sea-side town is also a popular Instagram spot, where travelers enjoy taking pictures in surreal looking backdrops.
08. Renndølsetra, Norway
Renndølsetraa is a valley village that takes the natural beauty of the Norwegian region one step ahead. Set up as the country’s foremost natural reserve, the charming village is located smack in the midst of the Trollheimen range. So what can one do here? Plenty, mountain hiking, glacier climbing and a plethora of other adventure activities. Some mountains have private cabins beneath their base, while others are wrapped in absolute wilderness. Perfect escape for those currently in an adventure-escape mode!
09. Shirakawa, Japan
If the rare Gassho type homes in this historic village don’t impress you, then the valley surrounded lofty mountains definitely will! For long this was one of Japan’s isolated and almost inaccessible villages. In the context of the region’s geographic, cultural and social evolution, the ingenious farmhouse Gassho style of homes came into existence (think growing berry trees and silkworm rearing).
10. Monemvasia, Greece
Well, Monemvasia in Greek literally translates into “single entrance” and befittingly enough, the only access to this intriguing hamlet is through a tiny causeway. The well-preserved medieval village has been carved into a rock to resemble a structure. You’ll be turning back the clock as you explore Monemvasia’s hidden alleyways, glorious churches and regal villas. Sip on the region’s famed wine, tuck into lip-smacking cuisine and enjoy a dip in its balmy waters. Yes, all Greek islands and villages are Instagram pretty, but this one pretty much takes the cake!
11. Bagnone, Italy
This striking looking Italian hamlet is popular for all the right reasons – its spectacular Apennines location, a majestic castle and charming ancient stone streets. Take a walk down in time by witnessing Bagnone’s old structures and watch tower. Then there’s a medieval bridge spanning over the wondrous Magra River. Discover little known mountainous landscapes and villages that look like they’ve jumped out of a travel brochure. There’s a weekly market here, which you shouldn’t leave without buying the famous local onions, olive oil and wines.
12. Hamnoy, Norway
Another spectacular Norwegian hamlet, Hamnoy is really as cool as it sounds! Lofoten archipelago’s most ancient fishing community is also incredibly pretty. Unspoilt natural beauty, erstwhile fishermen cabins (with all modern amenities including Wi-Fi) and lots of local museums make this a fantastic destination for tourists with varied interests. Rent a boat, ride bikes, go on a hike or enjoy fishing – Hamnoy is a bouquet of culture, nature and adventure! Then there’s the annual Feelgood Jazzfest, which is the ultimate icing on your cake.