As far as foxy cities go, the big ones are easy to reach -- they build airports there, after all. You want to see the vaulting domes and spires of Istanbul’s cathedrals? Punch in the airport code IST in Google Flights and you’re on your way, champ. Want to gawk at Osaka Castle during cherry blossom season? Why, that’s just an $800 nonstop from California to KIX. And then you can snap the same selfie as 50,000 other people. Congrats, sorta.

Much more rewarding for a discerning adventurer are those smaller nooks of ravishing beauty, often reachable only by car or boat or trail or ferry. On world maps these gorgeous villages and towns are marked only by the teeniest print, if they appear at all. They’ve managed to stay small despite their stunning beauty, and for that, they deserve a toast. None are secret, exactly, but their very size (held in check, often, by their remoteness) makes them all tricky to reach in their own ways. And yet we’re confident you’ll find ‘em absolutely worth the pursuit.

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

Population: 14,146

A small vermilion-roofed town cradled in a carpet of green sits right along an S-shaped loop of the Vltava River in Southern Bohemia. It’s but a speck on the map; yet for such a small town, Český Krumlov has managed to seal its place in history as one of the world’s most idyllic. Admire its Renaissance, Gothic, and Baroque architectural styles, the best examples of which are found in its impressive castle. Take in its old-world charm, which comes in a package of tangled streets and alleys paved with cobblestone and buildings coated with peeling paints of pale yellows, greens, and pinks. -- Michelle Rae Uy

Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Population: 2,500

Ko Phi Phi island isn’t making anyone’s list of underrated anything anymore. But the throngs of tourists that pack this Thai village don’t detract from its stunning beauty. Sure, the light tan sand, turquoise waters, and towering emerald-colored limestone cliffs don’t feel like a secluded slice of paradise as much as they once did, but that makes them no less awe-inspiring. The crowds will flock to the speedboats or Bob’s Booze Cruise, and meander to Monkey Beach where bold primates saunter up and ask for food. The beach there is the same tableau of blues and greens that’s the trademark of Thai shoreline, and the friendly primates make it a light-hearted way to take in the scenery. -- Matt Meltzer

Santa Maddalena, Italy

Population: 334

This little mountainous village in the Dolomites -- flanked by a jagged, snow-capped mountains and green rolling hills -- is the stuff of alpine dreams. South Tyrol, the region the town calls home, refers to the southern part of Austria and gives the historical context for why signs here read in German, Italian, and a local language called Ladin. The food you’ll find in the handful of restaurants is a similar cultural mix. Italy’s most scenic inland town is a snow-capped skier’s paradise in the winter. Though it’s not teeming with nightlife and doesn’t have many hotels in town, stay a few days so you can make the most of the hikes that are only a short ride away. -- Matt Meltzer

St. Ives, Cornwall, United Kingdom

Population: 11,000

This ex-fishing village has blossomed into a bite-sized capital of culture, with an acclaimed arts festival each September and a Tate gallery all of its own. But they’re just the headline acts. Four golden sand beaches line the headland, with a handy combination of Atlantic breakers on one side and sheltered turquoise waters on the other. The harbor-side “downalong” neighborhood is an enchanting labyrinth of higgledy-piggledy cottages, boutique craft stores, and artists’ studios -- lots of artists’ studios. St. Ives, you see, has something no architect can dream up, nor urban planner commission: a very special kind of light. It’s what’s been drawing creative types to the town for almost a century, from blockbuster names like Bernard Leach and Barbara Hepworth, to amateur enthusiasts wielding their first set of watercolors. -- Jonathan Melmoth

Jajce town in Bosnia

Pliva waterfall, Jajce, Bosnia | Boris Stroujko/shutterstock

Jajce, Bosnia

Population: 30,000

Bosnia has no shortage of ancient mountain towns, but none are better preserved than the stari grad of Jajce. It was the capital of medieval Bosnia, and you can still see the ancient hilltop castle, and explore the warren of curving cobbled streets splayed out below. But Jajce’s greatest asset is a natural wonder -- the 70-foot waterfall which spills over a sheer drop at the confluence of the Pliva and Vrbas rivers. In fact, Jajce is bound by water on three sides, and is a prime base for some of Bosnia’s best whitewater rafting. -- Conor O’Rourke

Tulum, Mexico

Tulum, Mexico | Patryk Kosmider/Shutterstock

Tulum, Mexico

Population: 18,233

Though less than an hour away from the frenzies of Cancun, this small resort area in Quintana Roo flourishes like a different world entirely: unhurried, barefoot, isolated. You’ll see hammocks on balconies, bicycles on the road, vernacular houses, and shops tapping into artisanal local brands. It’s hard to talk about this tiny town without doing so in breathless tones. It’s harder still deciding which part of it to rave about to your friends -- the warm Caribbean water and quiet stretch of fine sand, the eco-friendly boutique hotels that trace its coast, or those ridiculously delicious tacos and margaritas you feasted on in your cabana at lunch. Nowhere in Mexico is sexier for nomadic millennials. Even its sunrises seem perfectly curated for morning yoga on the beach. -- Michelle Rae Uy

Shirakawago village, Japan

Shirakawago village, Japan | Sakarin Sawasdinaka/Shutterstock

Shirakawago Village, Japan

Population: 1,734

During winter, this isolated mountaintop village looks like an alpine Christmas village set along a cold, clear river. Get closer and you’ll see what at first glance looks like gingerbread houses are actually thatched-roof gassho-zukuri buildings. These structures -- whose pitched roofs are 3-foot piles of woven reeds set at angles to look like praying hands -- are why the village was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. In the winter, the piles of snow atop the buildings mix with the smell of the stoves that heat these paper-walled structures to create a winter fantasy land. In the summer, the village turns from white to deep green, and the colorful wildflowers that line the streets give the place the scent of a humid potpourri dish. The best views of the town are from the former Shiroyama Tenbodai castle site, a short hike up a hill on the edge of town. -- Matt Meltzer

Lake wanaka

Lake wanaka, new zealand | skyearth/shutterstock

Wanaka, New Zealand

Population: 6,471

Flying into Queenstown airport over the Southern Alps, make sure you snag the window seat. The airport that serves Queenstown and Wanaka is set dead in the center of this desert range, which in the winter are more spectacular than their northern namesakes. Overshadowed by adventure-sporty Queenstown, tiny Wanaka is the real gem of this region. The quiet streets of Downtown are set next to a majestic mountain lake, where families picnic and tourists swim in the shadow of the grand peaks that shine almost pink against the blue sky. For the grandest view of the city, climb up the world’s tallest waterfall via ferrata at Wildwire Wanaka’s Lord of the Rungs. Here you’ll be traversing metal rungs nearly 1,300 feet up the side of a cliff with a cascading waterfall just in front of you. -- Matt Meltzer

Alberobello, italy

Alberobello, italy | TL_Studio/shutterstock

Alberobello, Italy

Population: 11,000

One cone-hatted, gleaming limestone trullo house is remarkable enough; squeeze 1,500 of these drystone marvels into a single patch of sun-kissed Puglia, and you have Alberobello, a town with its own unique charm, as well as a World Heritage gong from the guys at UNESCO. Once you’ve seen one trullo, you’ve seen ‘em all, right? Nope. They’re painted with individual symbols for good luck -- an evil eye wards off dark spirits, a squiggly arrow is a tribute to the Roman god Saturn, and so on. Inside each trullo is a different delight: artisan craft shops, perhaps, or intimate restaurants serving Puglian barbecue and homespun orecchiette pasta. -- Jonathan Melmoth

paraty, brazil

paraty, brazil | Guaxinim/

Paraty, Brazil

Population: 35,000

If the brains behind Instagram designed a town, it would probably look a lot like Paraty, where fragrant bougainvillea spills photogenically from red-tiled roofs and the snap-ready streets are lined with some seriously hardcore door porn. But that would be weird -- so weird -- and thankfully, Paraty is not. It’s a snoozy bayside town halfway between Rio and Sao Paulo on Brazil’s Atlantic coast. Here, life moves at the pace of a horse-and-cart tottering across the cobbles (no cars allowed in the historic Old Town), and the gleaming colonial architecture is framed by palm trees swaying in the breeze. The boats bobbing in the harbor come in every shade of pretty, and they’re not just there to look good. Pick your favorite and set sail for a desert island beach nearby. -- Jonathan Melmoth

Stepantsminda, Republic of Georgia

Stepantsminda, Republic of Georgia | eFesenko/shutterstock

Stepantsminda, Republic of Georgia

Population: 2,000

Architecture and natural beauty rarely make out this passionately. All eyes in this valley village face the hilltop 14th-century Gergeti Trinity Church and its neighboring belltower, both of which enjoy glacier-capped, 16,560-foot Mount Kazbek as their backdrop. Natural beauty aside, it’s the perfect base camp for exploring Kazbegi National Park’s hot springs, waterfalls, and acidic or carbonated lakes. You’re mere miles from the Russian border, which is not a merry conversation topic among these newly liberated, ultra-friendly Orthodox Christians. Better instead to debate white vs. red in this winery-mad country with more than 500 grape varietals and only 3.5 million souls to partake. -- Bruce Northam, American Detour


Cefalu, Sicily, Italy | Federico Scotto/moment/getty images

Cefalù, Italy

Population: 13,000

The frenzied cities of Sicily can certainly be invigorating, but if you really want to get to know the Mediterranean’s largest island, you need to visit the small towns. Chief among them is tiny Cefalù. Just an hour’s drive from Palermo, it’s a red-roofed town that clings to a rocky spit jutting out into the Tyrrhenian Sea. The gargantuan 12th-century Norman cathedral shouldlook disproportionate in comparison, but it’s dwarfed by the even huge-er granite Rock of Cefalù looming in the sky behind. Nearby, ancient Greek ruins and the volcanic Aeolian islands are tempting day trips. -- Conor O’Rourke

hallstatt, austria

hallstatt, austria | canadastock/shutterstock

Hallstatt, Austria

Population: 860

Getting to Hallstatt isn’t the easiest; the drive is dotted with distractingly quaint Austrian spa towns to tempt you off course (Bad Ischl, for one), and the tiny turn-off is comically missable. Reward yourself upon arrival, finally, with a pint of Stiegl -- which you’ll hardly touch, already too dizzied by the spectacular scenery rising on all sides. Hallstatt is an impossibly narrow, centuries-old Alpine town thought to be the oldest inhabited village in Europe. Its pastel Baroque buildings and timber homes are wedged so steeply along the foot of the Dachstein Mountains they look keen to topple over each other. You’ll envy the boats their 360-degree view of the Austrian Alps as they lazily chug across the town’s watery reflection. -- Keller Powell

Furnas, The Azores

Furnas, The Azores | Yulia_B/shutterstock

Furnas, The Azores

Population: 1,439

The world is finally wising up, and the Azores are rapidly getting more popular. It’s places like Furnas, nicknamed “The Hydropolis of the World,” that make the archipelago so appealing -- it’s built literally on top of an active volcanic crater, and is scattered with geysers, fumaroles, and hot springs. The geothermal influence even extends to the cuisine -- the local specialty is cozido, a traditional meat stew that’s cooked in the boiling waters that spew from the geysers. Expect frequent wafts of stinky sulfur gas bubbling up from underground, especially when you bathe in the therapeutic springs at Terra Nostra Botanical Garden. Your stresses will melt away, leaving behind only an unmistakable sulphuric-orange tinge on your swimsuit. -- Paul Jebara

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany | LaMiaFotografia/shutterstock

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Population: 10,930

The towns and castles along Germany’s Romantic Road are, well, as quintessentially romantic as you’d expect, but reach Rothenburg ob der Tauber (there are a few Rothenburgs; you want this one), and you’ll fall hard for the country’s best-preserved, medieval-walled town. Swoon-worthy, half-timbered pastel buildings, medieval stonework, and surprisingly non-kitschy shopping are part of this fairytale town’s signature Bavarian recipe. Take a quick dip into the dark side with a visit to the Medieval Crime Museum, which serves an exquisitely disturbing view of torture in the Middle Ages. On a lighter note, the centuries-old vineyards in the surrounding hills of Franconia guarantee fantastic local wines, to give your fairytale a happy ending. -- Paul Jebara

Riomaggiore, Italy

Riomaggiore, Italy | javen/shutterstock

Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre, Italy

Population: 1,500

Each of northwest Italy’s famed Cinque Terre (Five Towns) is individually stunning. But why not see them all? A rugged but very-worth-it trail hike takes between seven and 10 hours and sees a ton of traffic in the summer months. Your final stop in the southwest will be postcard-perfect Riomaggiore, where you can post up and watch the shadows shift against the sapphire-blue sea and the red, yellow, and pink buildings. Feast on a much-deserved spaghetti alle vongole as clusters of children play “jump if you dare” from atop the seaside cliffs. -- Shylie Rimmer

suzdal, russia

suzdal, russia | Pavel Suhov/Shutterstock

Suzdal, Russia

Population: 10,500

The smallest of the towns in the “Golden Ring” around Moscow shines by far the brightest. Never has an onion looked more appealing than the star-peppered one atop the 13th-century Nativity Cathedral, just one of Suzdal’s spellbinding sights. Ogle at ancient frescoes in the Monastery of Saint Euthymius, or stroll across a dandelion-dotted meadow to the ornately carved, all-wood Transfiguration Church (be very careful with those candles). It’s a hoof-clopping, breeze-rustling kind of town, and the only hum you’ll hear comes from the local bees -- by the way, don’t leave without trying the sweet honey mead. How, you might wonder, has Suzdal preserved this bucolic bliss? Thank the blundering local council: They lost a bid to route the Trans-Siberian railway through the town in the 1840s, and Suzdal escaped industrialization, modernization, and most of the 20th century’s nasty bits. -- Jonathan Melmoth

Eze, France

Eze, France | Arthur R./Shutterstock

Eze, France

Population: 3,000

On the coast between Nice and Monaco, you’ll find this endearing medieval village carved into a 1,400-foot-high mountain. The winding cobblestone streets are filled with historical statues from the 1700s and quaint sandstone boutiques festooned with radiant flowers. A trip to Eze isn’t complete without a visit to the botanical garden (Jardin Exotique d’Eze) overlooking the tiny town. Filled with cacti and surrounded by dramatic 360-degree views of the enchanting Cote d’Azur, the garden brings to life that captivating feel that is unique to the French Riviera. Locals will tell you to grab a sunset drink at Chateau Eza for the best view of the Mediterranean, and who better to trust on matters of beauty? -- Shylie Rimmer

Port Douglas, Australia

Port Douglas, Australia | Martin Valigursky/Shutterstock

Port Douglas, Australia

Population: 3,200

Humid, breezy Port Douglas could easily double as the Caribbean, where mountains shine five shades of green and cascade into dreamy blue waters. This town might be on the the mainland but it still operates on island time, set to a chorus of English you’re not completely familiar with. Intermingling with wealthy vacationers you’ll find backpackers and dive bums shouldered up at the Ironbar Saloon, preparing to hike the Daintree Rainforest or dive the Great Barrier Reef. And once you’re ready to move along, the hour-long drive to Cairns along the Captain Cook Highway is a stunning, tropical version of the Pacific Coast Highway. -- Matt Meltzer

Simiane la Rotonde village

Simiane la Rotonde village, France | StevanZZ/shutterstock

Simiane-la-Rotonde, France

Population: 568

Simiane-la-Rotonde is a photographer’s dream. The tiny hilltop village in Provence is one of France’s “Cités de Caractère” due to its rich architectural heritage, and boasts incredible views of lavender fields unfolding beneath the medieval castle. The glass industry helped it prosper in the 17th century, and walking through the cobbled streets today, it doesn’t feel like much has changed since. Enjoy a peaceful stroll down through the narrow, winding, flower-filled streets, drop into a 500-year-old market hall, and seek out one of the few stores for a little souvenir -- the village is famous for essential oils. -- Emilie Thyebaut

Source : Thrillist