There’s a reason — OK, many — that tourists flock to Oia on the northwestern tip of Santorini each summer, turning this sleeping little fishing village into a bonafide hot spot. Yes, the sheer number of holidaygoers draws criticism from locals and longtime visitors, but it’s hard to fault anyone for wanting to catch sight of the whitewashed Cyclades houses clinging to the cliffs, sparkling Aegean Sea, famous caldera, and sherbet-hued sunsets IRL.
Ban Rak Thai, Thailand
Located in the Bernese Oberland, the village of Grindelwald mirrors an idealized version of the cosmopolitan Swiss ski resort you’d notice on a travel brochure or postcard with snow-capped peaks, groomed slopes for all skill levels, and glimmering glaciers. When the snowy season ends, its alpine charms take center stage in the form of hiking and nature trails. Adventure seekers come to tackle the soaring summits, specifically the north face of Eiger mountain.
Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid is a peaceful and picturesque village in New York’s Adirondack Mountains that’s centered around an idyllic lake. Beyond the beauty of the water, it has rolling hills, dense forests, meadows, and a cute Main Street. An average 103 inches of powder annually transforms this glorious upstate getaway into a real-life snow globe that’s ripe for outdoor pursuits like cross-country skiing. When all that frosting melts, it’s time to hit the scenic trails for magnificent views. Don’t miss leaf peeping in the fall.
Travelers intent on breaking away from the crowds and witnessing wondrous scenery will love Bacalar, a Pueblo Mágico (or Magic Town) located near the Mexico-Belize border. The laid-back town sits on spectacular Lake Bacalar, nicknamed the Lagoon of Seven Colors for its seemingly endless shades of blue. Beyond the second-largest freshwater lake in Mexico, there are some interesting historic structures such as the 18th-century fort and San Joaquín Parish Church, as well as eco-oriented activities.
Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, Morocco
Ilulissat resembles a movie set with the Ilulissat Icefjord, soaring icebergs in Disko Bay, and multicolored houses. As much as its cinematic beauty makes visitors do a double take and question whether it might be a product of Hollywood special effects, we assure you this coastal town in western Greenland is real. Visitors can also look forward to seeing the northern lights dancing in the winter and the midnight sun come summertime.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Few places exude the whimsy and splendor of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This fairy-tale village along Germany’s fabled Romantic Road in the Franconia region of Bavaria offers frozen-in-time cobblestone lanes, intact ramparts, and medieval architecture — including half-timbered houses and a storybook castle — as well as leafy views from all sides. Day-trippers come with the enchanting territory, but even crowds don’t dim the shine.
If you were tasked with drawing a picture-perfect fishing port, it would probably end up looking a lot like Marsaxlokk. Situated in the southeastern part of Malta, this virtually untouched village treats travelers to a major dose of history and coastal charisma. Traditional Maltese luzzu boats float in the harbor, the seaside promenade is dotted with restaurants serving fresh catch of the day, and the pace of life feels wonderfully unhurried.
Some places just take your breath away after first laying eyes on them, and Frigiliana lands in that category. Somehow, against all odds, this beautiful hidden gem in the hills of southern Spain still falls under the radar and hasn’t been taken over by tourists. That’s good news for travelers keen on wandering around the warren of lovely narrow streets in the old town, hiking to the castle ruins, tasting tapas, and sipping local wine while watching the sunset in peace.
San Sebastian Bernal, Mexico
Backed by a towering volcanic rock monolith rising from the high desert and designated as a Pueblo Mágico, San Sebastián Bernal is a quaint village in the central highlands in the Mexican state of Querétaro. The cobblestone streets and colorful facades act as a mesmerizing counterpoint to the sacred boulder backdrop and vastness of the arid landscape that surrounds it in all directions. It’s a place where natural beauty, culture, and tradition coalesce in the most enchanting of ways.
The endlessly attractive alpine town of Banff is a favored ski destination and just one of the all-around prettiest places regardless of season. Besides hitting (or hiking) the slopes, travelers can admire the Rocky Mountain peaks from Banff Avenue while shopping for souvenirs, spot wildlife in Banff National Park, and soak in the hot springs. And Fairmont Banff Springs — adoringly referred to as Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies” — gives visitors a storybook setting to stay overnight.
Yes, Whitefish is a playground for outdoor recreation. But it’s the scenery that provides the backdrop for all the adventure activities that makes it so stunning. This small town in the Rocky Mountains of northwest Montana has snow-covered terrain for skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing. When summer rolls in, the photogenic hiking and biking trails, gushing rivers, and Whitefish Lake steal the show. It’s also the gateway to the glacier-carved peaks and valleys of Glacier National Park.
Byron Bay, Australia
Far from under the radar — though, to be clear, that doesn’t make it any less resplendent — Byron Bay is a coastal enclave on the far northeastern coast of New South Whales that’s well-known for its surf culture, paradise-like beaches, and booming tourism industry. It’s famously home to the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse, and humpback whales swim through the turquoise waters between June and November.
Stone Town of Zanzibar, Tanzania
A hub of distinct and interwoven cultures dating back centuries, the UNESCO-listed Stone Town of Zanzibar presents an impressively preserved example of a Swahili coastal trading port. Things remain much the same as they have for hundreds of years. That allows visitors to better appreciate the enduring charm of its labyrinthine streets, beautiful old houses, vibrant bazaars, the palace-turned-museum, mosque, cathedral, and Omani fort.