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Europe has an allure that no other continent can claim to possess. And with 51 independent countries, each with their own set of landmarks, natural wonders, and traditions, perhaps the great draw is the multitude of cultures and sheer diversity.

Of course, Europe is home to major destinations that dominate world tourism. The likes of London, Paris and Italy are frequented by mass tourism, and they have been written about so many times we could fill a library with their descriptions.

However away from the grandiose of commercialism and mass media slavery, Europe has many hidden gems, and authentic small villages where you can truly feel as though you’ve stumbled upon something undiscovered.

If you’re looking to take a detour from the beaten path of tourist-y Europe, the following are some of the most underrated small villages you’ll find.

Before travelling make sure you have completed all the necessary visa requirements for Europe so you don’t run into any issues once you arrive.

4 Underrated Small Villages in Europe

Assos Village, Greece

Kefalonia_Assos_Village Greec

A small village in Kefalonia, Greece, Assos Village boasts what most Greek cities have – blue waters by the beach with a wonderful warm and sunny weather all year round.

What stands out however is the feeling of being lost in time; the village has a very mystical atmosphere, with traditional Ionian architecture, and pretty colored houses on a craggy hillside.

You can watch fishing boats come in and out of the small harbour, and there’s even the remnants of a 15th century castle originally built by the Venetian army.

Built as a fortification against pirate attacks, more recently the castle was home to political prisoners who were tasked to cultivate the vineyards which local tourists now enjoy.

Photo by Spiros Rokkos from Wikimedia Commons

Riquewihr

Riquewihr France RF

One of the prettiest towns in Northern France, Riquewihr is a fortified village with 15th century half-timbered homes that look as though they belong on a postcard.

Set in a valley flanked by the Vosges Mountains and the Plain of Alsace, this fairy tale village combines old world architecture and charm with the quality of its world-famous wines (the village is surrounded by vineyards).

While appreciating the spectacular landscapes, and enjoying the spoils of the vines, there are plenty of museums that provide insight into the historic and cultural heritage of the region, including the Thieves tower, which was the former prison of Riquewihr.

Photo credit: Arnaud 25 from Wikimedia Commons

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre Italy

Not one but five villages in Italy, the Cinque Terre is truly a Holy Grail for any traveler. Five cliff-side fishing villages with multi colored pastel houses overlooking the Mediterranean sea, this is an iconic highlight of Italy.

The villages may not be the isolated hamlets they once were, as tourism quite quickly picked up on the beauty of the region, but they still retain a feeling of remote authenticity, despite being big on the tourism scene.

It doesn’t really matter which village you decide to set yourself up in since short trains rides link all five and you can quite easily hike between them. Hiking between the five villages can be done by way of the scenic Sentiero Azzurro, or Blue Trail.

The trail connects all five villages, and allows you to break up your hike into sections. Plan on around 6 hours to walk the entire route.

Cala Figuera

Cala Figuera

A resort in Mallorca mostly renowned as a fishing village, Cala Figuera has escaped the wave of commercialism that has captured the city.

It has retained most of what makes the village unique, and the fishing industry is still one of the main attractions. If you wake up early you can watch fisherman hard at work as they pull up early in the morning with fresh catch for the seafood scene.

There’s no beach here, though if you are a diving enthusiast this is the place to be. Its waters are crystal clear offering perfect visibility for a range of diverse sea life.

Photo by Dirk Vorderstraße via Wikimedia Commons

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    26 Comments

  1. ❤ this post.

  2. I think the Cinque Terre is quite well known actually …

    • Absolutely, but I think still very underrated 🙂

  3. SO many more to add to this list. Cesky Krumlov, Bruges, Annecy, Berat, Brasov, Europe is full of small town gems, these are so much more authentic too than visiting crowded cities. You’re not wrong that the European capitols are mass tourism hotbeds nowadays. It’s claustrophobic.

    • For sure you could list hundreds of amazing small towns around Europe, these are great suggestions, I’ll have to hit a couple on my next trip. Thanks for the tips! … I’m with you, I’ll take a quiet village over a busy city any day of the week 🙂

  4. More of Europe to add to my bucketlist. It grows quicker than I can travel.

  5. Riquewihr looks adorable! Like it’s straight out of the pages of a fairytale book, or something maybe from Beauty and the Beast. Wouldn’t surprise me if it was filmed there actually!

    • For sure. I actually don’t know where the recent film was shot, but I can definitely see the resemblance. It really is a fairy tale city, I love this part of France 🙂

  6. Just returned from a short trip to Mostar, Sarajevo and Montenegro which I would love to share with fellow Trippers.I love travelling by local bus, trains etc to keep the cost down and to see more of the Country I am visiting and Bosnia Herzegovina was no exception. Flew to Dubrovnik on a low cost airline from UK and fortunately the owner of the B & B Garden Villa we were staying in picked us up, only stopped over for one night as Croatia was a previously visited country and spent the evening in the Old Town, which as usual was stunning. The next morning we took the bus to Mostar, also for one night, it was enough for us and the first surprise when we arrived at Motel Demaldino was they allowed us a choice of rooms and an upgrade, we were also invited to put our luggage in the room,although it had not yet been cleaned, take the key, so we could enjoy a full day in Mostar. A short 5 minute walk took us to the little old “”crooked bridge”” in the Old Town which was almost as stunning as the Old Bridge, and a few minutes from there we were in the midst of all the cobbled stoned walkways and the beautiful Old Bridge. We had a look around the cemetary which is also very central and thoroughly enjoyed our day. There are loads of restaurants to choose from, which were well situated overlooking the Bridge and River, we stopped a couple of times for “”one scoop of icecream cone””- it was hot albeit in October, wandered into areas of the new town and after dinner went back to our really comfortable hotel to put our feet up enjoy some TV and ready ourselves for the train trip to Sarajevo the next morning. I had heard that people in South East European countries were friendly and helpful, this was not the case with us we found them to be very unfriendly, no ready smiles or chats as most of the locals cannot speak English. The hotel staff were all very friendly and spoke English well and very helpful regarding assistance around the town. Having said that I would recommend the town and the hotel we used, definately not to be missed.

    • Hi Merilyn, thanks for sharing your experience, I’m so glad you enjoyed your time in South Eastern Europe. Definitely a lot more authentic here, but yes when you start getting into smaller villages I found too that there was more of a language barrier than in the main hubs and cities.

      I really loved Mostar too, I visited almost 10 years ago now though so would love to get back at some stage soon. I remember being so fascinated by the Old Town as we explored for the day, it really is a stunning place!

      Happy travels, thanks for your comment 🙂

  7. Cinque Terre was one of the highlights of our Europe trip.

    • Ours too! Glad to hear you had a fabulous time 🙂

  8. Ghent in Belgium is beautiful too. There’s a fabulous free walking tour that takes you through the highlights of the city that we absolutely loved. Such a beautiful charming place, so underrated too.

    • Thanks for the tip Quinton, I’ll have to add it to my list 🙂

  9. I could travel to Europe and never come back.

    • I approve of such a plan 😀

  10. There are so many beautiful old villages in France. Some more you may like to consider are Rocamadour, Sarlat, St.Circ Lapopie, Domme, Autoire, Monpazier, and Beynac.

    • Thanks for the tips Taryn! I’ll have to get back for some more time exploring France 🙂

  11. Everyone’s favorite could be vastly different, but these are a good 4. Hadn’t heard of Cala Figuera. Good work.

    • Absolutely Louis, there are so many hundreds of small towns throughout Europe that everyone will have a different list. Glad we could introduce you to Cala Figuera 🙂

  12. So many small villages and towns in Europe that it really doesn’t much matter which direction you go in. Road tripping is a great way to be able to take them all in yourself and go off your own timetable, just make sure you GET OFF THE AUTOROUTES and travel along the smaller roads to see what’s there. I can pretty well guarantee that you’ll see plenty of pleasant little villages with nary a tourist in sight.

    • Taking a car and just driving is an incredible way to experience Europe for sure, but you make an excellent point about avoiding the highways. I think the whole charm of Europe is in it’s traditional villages and small towns that remain hidden from the typical tourist trail 🙂

  13. Years ago we went to a number of truly isolated off the beaten track villages in Italy. What we found was that the ones that were not on the tourist screen were pretty much deserted; you couldn’t even buy a cup of coffee or find lunch. The ‘beautiful villages’ and other gorgeous little treasures ARE the essence of touristy.

    • Sounds like it was a bit hit or miss for you then on that trip, I agree it’s about finding the balance, because yes, you want to be able to find accommodation and something to eat, but not have it to the point where tourism has become the whole economy. I think the above towns are really great examples of the balance, maybe you’ll be able to hit some on your next trip and let us know what you think 🙂

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