There is a new hiking route in Slovenia that you must explore. It is made for culture buffs and food lovers. It is called the Juliana Trail and is a 167-mile round around the great Julian Alps. The aim is to attract visitors to these lesser-traveled areas of the Triglav National Park. There are no dehydrated foods or even tents here. The farmers here produce potent schnapps and pungent cheese, and the cattle graze freely. This beginner-friendly route has been broken into 16 stages. It mostly has flat stretches. The entire trip takes 10-16 days. Here are the journey’s highlights.
Stage 1-3: Sava Dolinka River
Start your journey in Kranjska Gora, a ski town, which is five miles away from Italy’s border. It is close to Hotel Kotnik, the place where you will find the best and oldest pizzeria in the region, Pizzeria Pino. As you hike through the grassy riverbanks to Mojstrana Town, trekkers have to option to reroute to summit Triglav. It is the highest peak (9,396 feet) in Slovenia. Stay the night in a guesthouse.
Stages 4–7: The Lakes
The lakes here are a major attraction and have some of the most beautiful views in the entire world. For the night, you could consider staying at Vila Prešeren. Its restaurant is known for serving delicate dishes as well as Slovenian wines, while you enjoy the lakefront view. The next morning, pass by Vintgar Gorge, which is a route next to cliffsides above Radovna River. Also, stop by Vodnik Viewpoint and dairy farms on the Bohinj trail.
Stages 8–10: Baška Grapa Valley
Once you near the hillsides overlooking Bača River, you will see lesser-known villages that are isolated. You will also come across abandoned bunkers from the WWII era near Vrh Bače pass, Podbrdo Village, and great views of Soča and Bača rivers.
Stages 11–16: Soča River
This is the final stretch. You will pass by many important WWI battle sites, Fort Hermann, a cliff-top that is 100 years old near Bovec, and Javorca Memorial Church, which was built by the Austro-Hungarian soldiers. Eventually, this trail dips towards Italy’s border. You will then reach Tarvisio Village and finish at Kranjska Gora. And, that is a full 167-mile loop around the Julian Alps.
We just love discovering new places to visit and these beautiful small towns in the mountains are oozing with unique charm and personality that just can’t be ignored. These destinations invite you to channel your inner Julie Andrews as you discover the fresh, crisp mountain air and outdoor activities galore. From hiking and taking in the breathtaking scenery in the summer, to skiing against a stunning white backdrop in winter, these beautiful small towns in the mountains have a lot to offer that can be enjoyed all year round.
Telluride, Colorado, USA (Elevation – 8,750 feet)
Telluride is a former Victorian mining town that is situated in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It pops up in many best-of lists that feature beautiful small towns and it’s easy to see why. It was also the backdrop to Quentin Tarantino’s western mystery movie, The Hateful Eight.
It’s a popular destination with thrill-seekers, as it’s home to one of the top ten longest vertical drops, featuring 4,425 feet of vertical skiing. Interestingly, Butch Cassidy apparently made off with $24,580 back in 1889, in what was his first bank job here!
Hallstatt Village, Austria (Elevation – 1,677 feet)
Set in Austria’s mountainous Salzkammergut region, Hallstatt is well-known for its beautiful landscape, but it’s also home to the world’s oldest salt mine — which is said to have started over 7,000 years ago. Hallstatt receives around 800,000 visitors each year, with most of them visiting in the summer.
The number of visitors may not appear to be that many at first, but considering the fact that Hallstatt has just 750 residents, 800,000 is a phenomenal number! This beautiful small town must be overrun in the summer and we can’t imagine how busy those mountain roads must get.
Banff, Alberta, Canada (Elevation – 4,537 feet)
The Rocky Mountains dominate the skyline of Banff, which is a popular resort town in the Alberta province of Canada, within the Banff National Park. Banff is Canada’s oldest national park and it’s home to some rather large wildlife including elk and grizzly bears.
Settlers first arrived in 1880 and now Banff is best known for its mountainous surroundings, nearby hot springs — and visitors flock to this beautiful small town for its outdoor sports, too. Over 1,000 miles of hiking trails, biking, scrambling, and skiing can all be enjoyed here.
Wallace, Idaho, USA (Elevation – 2,730 feet)
Wallace is a charming historic village in the western United States that’s best known for its silver mining. Over 1.2 billion ounces of silver have been produced in the area since 1884, making it one of the most silver-rich areas in the world.
Local residents saved much of the town’s rich history back in the ’70s when Interstate 90 threatened to raze straight through the town. Thanks to them, many of the buildings are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and I90 runs over the town instead.
Albarracin, Aragon, Spain (Elevation – 3,878 feet)
Home to only 1,000 residents, the medieval town of Albarracin is located in the northern Spanish region of Aragon. It’s known for its mix of Moorish and medieval architecture and was voted Spain’s most beautiful village back in 2018.
It’s easy to fall in love with the atmosphere here as you walk through the town’s picture-perfect pink buildings and narrow streets that are set against a stark mountainous backdrop. The stunning backdrop is provided by the 17-mile-long Sierra de Albarracin mountain range, named after the town.
Fritzens, Tyrol, Austria (Elevation – 1,939 feet)
Fritzens is a beautiful small town, situated just east of Innsbruck, a city that has long been a world-famous winter sports destination in the Alps. Tourists are drawn to the outdoor activities offered in this region, as well as the natural beauty. It’s also famous for its Swarovski Crystal Worlds.
With just 2,000 inhabitants, Fritzens is a quaint alternative treat, ideal for those of you wanting to avoid Innsbruck city. It should be on your bucket list if you enjoy active holidays — whether you’re more attracted by the world-famous ski resorts nearby, or by the hikes and summer tours on offer.
Shirakawa-Go, Gifu Prefecture, Japan (Elevation – 1,634 feet)
Shirakawa-Go and neighboring Gokayama regions are in the remote mountains that span from Gifu to Toyama Prefectures in Japan, lining the Shogawa River Valley. Their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses are the main reason behind the area being declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995.
Gassho-zukuri translates to “constructed like hands in prayer” to describe the thatched roofs of the farmhouses that are found here. They were designed to be extraordinarily steep in order to withstand the vast amount of snow that falls in the region each winter.
North Conway, New Hampshire, USA (Elevation – 525 feet)
North Conway is a beautiful small town that’s set in the mountains and forest — yet another idyllic getaway destination that has something to offer all year round. Mount Washington provides much of the excitement with skiing trips in winter and hiking excursions in spring and summer.
The surrounding forest is especially enjoyed during leaf-viewing trips from a vintage train in the fall and outlet shopping also attracts many keen shoppers all year round. North Conway is part quintessential New England charm, combined with all the convenience of new-world outlet bargains.
Covadonga, Asturias, Spain (Elevation – 846 feet)
Located in Spain’s northern region of Asturias, Covadonga is claimed to be the place that birthed the Spanish kingdom. Originally a pagan settlement, Covadonga had evolved into a catholic religion by the medieval ages and in 722AD, was the site of the first known Christian rebellion against the Moorish rule.
It’s historical significance and stunning mountain scenery, complete with two nearby alpine lakes, make it a favored destination to tourists and Asturians alike. We highly recommend a visit to Santa Cueva before you leave, a beautiful chapel that has been carved into a mountainside cave.
Wanaka, New Zealand (Elevation – 951 feet)
Located on the South Island of New Zealand, Wanaka is considered to be the gateway to the Southern Alps’ Mount Aspiring National Park. To call it a beautiful small town is an understatement as this place offers absolutely spectacular scenery that includes snow-capped mountains and turquoise blue lakes.
It’s surprising that just one hour away from the bustling city of Queenstown, this popular ski and summer resort is surrounded by a wilderness of glaciers, beech forests, and alpine lakes. Small-town vibes are well balanced with all the buzz and excitement of a genuine alpine town.
Whitefish, Montana, USA (Elevation – 3,028 feet)
This next beautiful small town in the mountains takes us back to the USA once again, but this time to Whitefish, Montana. Whitefish is an authentic mountain town in the northern Rockies and is home to some of the world’s most beautiful mountains and incredible, unspoiled nature.
Originally known as Stumptown, Whitefish offers convenient and fast access to the hanging valleys and emerald peaks of Glacier National Park. Visitors enjoy hanging out at the resorts by day, followed by sampling some world-class cuisine, nightlife, arts, and culture by night.
Paraty, Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil (Elevation – 16 feet)
Ok, so the elevation of this town won’t have you wheezing, but the surrounding mountains might. Standing at a mighty 4,265 feet, the mountains of Serra de Bocaina dominate both the atmosphere and skyline in this welcome pocket of calm between the cities of Rio and São Paulo.
Mountains aren’t all you’re treated to in this town either, as you’ll also find yourself surrounded by forests, waterfalls, and a beautiful coastline — in a quaint National Historic Landmark town that’s rich in Portuguese colonial architecture, with cobbled streets and tiny doorways.
Sa Pa, Lao Cai Province, Vietnam (Elevation – 4,921 feet)
Close to the Chinese border and deep within the Hoang Lien Son Mountains of northwestern Vietnam is the town of Sa Pa, a well-loved trekking base for visitors of Vietnam. Sa Pa is an incredibly picturesque place and a favorite travel town for many.
Visitors can enjoy treks out in the steeply terraced rice fields, as well as a steep climb up the nearby Phang Xi Pang peak, which sits at over 10,000 feet high. The majority of the population here is made up of hill tribes such as the Hmong, Tay, and Dao.
Stowe, Vermont, USA (Elevation – 889 feet)
Stowe lies in a valley with Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont. Although it’s a small town by most standards (population is approximately 4,500), it’s also officially the second largest town in the state (by area) at 72 square miles.
This 200-year-old town is home to the real Von Trapp family, made famous by The Sound of Music, but more recently it’s been famed for skiing. Stowe is one of the east coast’s top cross-country skiing destinations with over 200 miles of interconnected trails to discover.
Stepantsminda, Georgia (Elevation – 5,709 feet)
Although this town is officially named Stepantsminda, it’s still commonly known by its previous name, Kazbegi. The past 20 years have seen it grow from a small village to a sprawling town and although tourists arrive by the busload in summer, it’s still easy to get away from the crowds.
The location of this valley town is simply stunning with the snowy peak of Mount Kazbek to the west. Tourists flock here for hiking and mountain biking — and if Georgia didn’t appear on your bucket list before now, we think Stepantsminda might just earn it a visit.
Bacharach, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany (Elevation – 520 feet)
Bacharach is one of the most beautiful small towns to be found along the Rhine Gorge. It’s easy to feel lost in time when you walk down the high street, as it’s all been carefully restored to give you an impression of what it might have been like during the Middle Ages.
Its considerable charms are hidden behind a 14th-century wall and the drive into the town will also take you under thick arched gateways under the rail tracks. We highly recommend a visit to Bacharach if you like castles, romance, and breathtaking scenery all rolled into one.
Aguas Calientes, Urubamba River Valley, Peru (Elevation – 6,693 feet)
Aguas Calientes enjoys the fourth highest elevation of all the beautiful small towns on this list, at a whopping 6,693 feet above sea level. The town is nestled at the bottom of a large canyon beneath the world-famous, ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu.
The ancient ruins are just an hour and a half walk away, and visitors can enjoy the pristine nature here among soaring mountains, hot springs, and cloud forests. You’ll also find wonderful eateries, shops, a craft market, and a butterfly house — as if you needed any more reasons to visit.
Eze, Cote d’Azur, France (Elevation – 1,400 feet)
Of all of the perched villages that can be discovered in the Cote d’Azur, Eze is the most impressive — as the highest seaside town in France, it looms above the coastline at 1,400 feet. Visitors need to be prepared to climb, as the stony streets wind precipitously uphill.
Eze took its name from the Egyptian goddess, Isis, as this spot was once occupied by ancient Phoenicians, who dedicated a temple to her. The streets are now packed with shops, cafes, and boutiques, but the town’s medieval character still remains to this day.
Furnas, São Miguel Island, Portugal (Elevation – 679 feet)
One of the most beautiful small towns in the mountains can be found on the island of São Miguel in the Azores. There are three spectacular lakes on São Miguel and Furnas can be found beside the most eastern one of them.
Compared to mainland Portugal, Furnas gets very few visitors, but it’s an extraordinary and authentic destination with a lot to offer. Among the mountains and rugged coastline, you’ll find unique geothermal activities, giving way to hot springs that the locals use for cooking!
Zhangzha, Sichuan Province, China (Elevation – 4,593 feet)
Formally known as Jiuzhaigou Town, Zhangzha is located within the Jiuzhaigou Valley, which is a long valley in southwestern China. It is a nature reserve and national park that was declared a world heritage site in 1992, and then a World Biosphere Reserve in 1997.
Originally a Tibetan settlement, the beautiful small town of Zhangzha is situated in the Min Mountains that are known for many stunning sites including multi-level waterfalls, countless snow-capped peaks ranging from 6,600 to 14,800 feet, and a multitude of colorful lakes.
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland (Elevation – 2,631 feet)
We head over to a valley in the Swiss Alps next — to the town of Lauterbrunnen. This impossibly beautiful small town in the mountains is surrounded by towering snow-capped peaks and high altitude waterfalls and, unsurprisingly, it’s a popular tourist destination in all four uniquely beautiful seasons.
The rough valley sides in Lauterbrunnen mean that you can barely get away from the stunning scenery if you tried. It’s surprisingly accessible by train and the abundance of winter and summer activities are best enjoyed in spring, when you really can have the best of both worlds.
Gasadalur, Isle of Mykines, Faroe Islands (Elevation – 187 feet)
It may not be the highest altitude on this list, but it sure is small, beautiful, and mountainous! Until fairly recently, the only way to get to Gasadalur was over the mountain path that connected it to the other villages on the Isle of Mykines.
In 2004, however, the Faroese Parliament built a tunnel that ended the days of isolation — but just 16 years later, this is still a very special place to visit. Whether you choose to hike over the mountain or drive through the new tunnel, a cozy and unique atmosphere awaits.
Wamberg, Bavaria, Germany (Elevation – 3,280 feet)
If you want to visit Wamberg, then you’ll find yourself heading some 257 miles south of the country’s capital, Berlin. Located in a region that’s best known for its sausages, brew, and leather shorts, Wamberg is best known for its unspoiled nature and peaceful atmosphere.
Most heavily characterized by its 18th and 19th-century farms, time seems to have stopped up here and the Wetterstein mountain range is blissfully breathtaking all year round. This is a must-visit for people who enjoy rustic architecture, peace, tranquility, and nature walks.
Interlaken, Switzerland (Elevation – 1,857 feet)
The appropriately named town of Interlaken is sandwiched between the Thun and Brienz lakes, in the heart of Switzerland. Frequented mostly by backpackers, Interlaken isn’t the first town in the Swiss Alps to make it to our list.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, then this beautiful small town should be high on your to-do list. as it’s best known for being the adventure capital of the country. You’ll find all manner of adventurous activities to conquer including river rafting, paragliding, bungee jumping, skydiving, skiing, and hiking across glaciers.
Leavenworth, Washington, USA (Elevation – 1,171 feet)
Although Leavenworth is most definitely in America, what you’ll find here is undeniably more of a Bavarian-style village that’s best known for its fabulous Christmas lighting ceremonies and its German-inspired brew festival, Oktoberfest.
Situated in the Cascade Mountains in the center of Washington state, it draws visitors from all over the Pacific Northwest for its proximity to plenty of ski resorts and vineyards. Leavenworth is a heavenly tourist destination, but it’s also home to a vibrant and active community all year round.
Manarola, Italy (Elevation – 230 feet)
Manarola is the oldest of five villages that form the Cinque Terre coastline in northern Italy. It’s a romantic and beautiful small town that spills down a ravine, which is always in shadow thanks to the looming peaks that keep it hidden from the sun, even at midday.
Manarola is surrounded by grapevines and is particularly famous for its sweet Sciacchetra vino, as well as an abundance of priceless medieval relics. You can enjoy some beautiful walks in the Cinque Terre National Park including the most famous of them all — which is called “The Path of Love.”
Bled, Upper Carniola Region, Slovenia (Elevation – 1,558 feet)
The town of Bled sits 1,558 feet above sea level on Lake Bled which, despite being Slovenia’s most popular tourist attraction, is still relatively unknown compared to other European destinations. As well as being under-visited, Bled is also far from being overrated.
Located on the southern foot of the Karawanks mountain range, Bled is also famous within Slovenia for its delicious vanilla and cream pastries. Visitors can ride a flat bottomed boat to the island in the middle of the glacial lake to visit the Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church.
Yubeng, Yunnan Province, China (Elevation – 9,840 feet)
Yubeng is a Tibetan village that sits at the foot of Meili Snow Mountain in the Yunnan Province of China. At the highest elevation yet, the village has two halves (Upper and Lower Yubeng), which are separated by a canyon. This is truly a paradisaical destination for trekking enthusiasts.
When you’re in Upper Yubeng Village, make sure you get up early in order to appreciate the sun shining on the golden mountain. Hike out to the emerald green Ice Lake, the sacred waterfall, and through canyons, rivers, and meadows.
Seydisfjordur, Iceland (Elevation – 2,034 feet)
Seydisfjordur was once a hidden gem, but more tourists have been putting Iceland on their must-visit list over the last few years, which has bumped up levels of tourism to this town considerably. It’s still well worth a visit, though!
As Iceland’s most picturesque town and cultural center, Seydisfjordur is home to less than 700 residents. You’ll notice the incredibly artsy and quirky atmosphere almost immediately — if you’re able to take your eyes off the stunning scenery that’s all around you.
Villa La Angostura, Argentina (Elevation – 2,854 feet)
Villa La Angostura has been nicknamed “The Garden of the Patagonia.” It’s relaxed, charming, cozy, and surrounded by the Patagonian mountains. It has long been a favored spot by wealthy Argentinians and recently has been attracting more international tourists.
It boasts a beautiful lakefront location and is home to many outdoor activities that include boating, kayaking, fishing, and sailing on the water — as well as horseback riding, hiking, and biking off the water. You’ll probably struggle to find time to relax among all the fun to be had!
Torla, Aragon, Spain (Elevation – 3,478 feet)
Torla is home to just 200 residents and is set high up in the Pyrenees mountain range in southern Spain. The Torla region actually borders southern France too, but lacks any road connections with it, so access is from Spain only.
Torla is known to nature lovers from around the world that flock here for the tranquility it offers, as well as the stunning views and abundance of walking trails. The trails are not for the light-hearted, however, as some climb to nearly 11,000 feet in altitude.
Girdwood, Alaska, USA (Elevation – 150 feet)
Nestled in the Chugach Mountains is the beautiful small town of Girdwood, Alaska. Girdwood is located around 35 miles east of Anchorage, but it hasn’t always been a town in the mountains. Originally situated at sea level, the earliest site of Girdwood was sunk in a 1964 earthquake.
Girdwood is a perfect getaway resort-style town with one of Alaska’s nicest ski resorts, which boasts sapphire-blue skies all year round, even during its shortest winter days. It’s a popular destination for Alaskans and “outsiders” alike that enjoy the large variety of outdoor activities it offers.
San Pietro, South Tyrol, Italy (Elevation – 3,714 feet)
You’ll find San Pietro nestled in the Val di Funes, a beautiful valley in the Dolomites region of northern Italy. In summer, the area is dominated by expansive green meadows filled with flowers along with iconic views of the Geisler and Odle mountains — a photographer’s dream.
With over 100 kilometers of ready-made itineraries, it has the longest network of Nordic walking paths and the winter here attracts many keen snowshoers. This 15-mile long valley is well-known for being one of the most scenic places in northern Italy.
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (Elevation – 7,900 feet)
San Pedro de Atacama is a beautiful small town in the Andes mountains in Chile. Nestled in at a massive 7,900 feet, it’s our third highest town to feature and a small number of visitors do experience discomfort from the altitude, often in the form of dizziness and headaches.
Don’t let that put you off, though, as not only are you spoiled with breathtaking mountain scenery — but you’re also at the entrance to the driest desert on Earth. Its dramatic landscape includes desert, salt flats, volcanoes, geysers, and hot springs. It’s impressive.
Aspen, Colorado, USA (Elevation – 7,660 feet)
Named after the abundance of Aspen trees that can be found in the area, Aspen in Colorado has the third-highest elevation of all of our beautiful small towns in the mountains. Aspen is a world-famous skiing destination with many gorgeous resorts like The Little Nell (pictured).
But like the other mountain towns featured here, Aspen has a lot more to offer than meets the eye — with a rich history and beautiful scenery that lends itself to activities such as fly-fishing and hot-air ballooning and a jammed-packed diary of events to keep you going throughout the year.