As you travel around the planet in search of adventure, you’ll notice that many of the earth’s shorelines push up against some pretty spectacular mountain scenery.
And it’s in or near these geographically diverse coastal locales where you’ll come across some of the most beautiful mountain villages in the world.
From the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest to the Julian Alps in Slovenia, Morocco’s Rif Mountains, or the rugged volcanic terrain of Portugal’s Atlantic-based Azores Islands, you’ll find no shortage of arresting villages in the mountains perched alongside or atop precipitous slopes near the sea. Here are some of the best, ready for you to explore.
Cinque Terre, Italy
The Mediterranean is brimming with mountain villages close to or on the sea. The five cliffside Cinque Terre towns of Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso, Vernazza, and Riomaggiore are no exception.
The Cinque Terre Express train, passing through various tunnels, is one way to reach these different villages, while ferry or boat trip is another. You can walk the mountain trails between the towns as well, but can’t drive, as cars are banned.
Riomaggiore, celebrated for its multi-hued homes, is the largest town, built along a steep canyon. Manarola, essentially a hamlet constructed on top of a large rock above the water, is another colorful highlight here.
Wandering the villages’ ancient trails is one of the best things to do in Cinque Terre, and if you enjoy rigorous walks, the sections of the Blue Trail, or Sentiero Azzurro, that are still open will take you past vineyards, churches, towns, and rugged coastline.
For views from above, tackle one of the sanctuary hikes leading up to the different Catholic refuges, located above the villages.
Oia, Santorini, Greece
One of the most beautiful mountain villages in Greece, and the world, is Oia, on the northern tip of Santorini, in Greece’s Cyclades islands.
Oia is an arty little town, full of galleries, more stairs than you’ll ever know what to do with, lovely sun-washed white façades, blue domes, and world-class views across the Aegean.
Immerse yourself in the blue and white Cycladic architecture, stroll along the stone walkways, and relish in the natural light that makes the Cyclades islands such a popular holiday destination.
Take a ringside seat at one of the many tavernas and drink in the views as you tuck into local wine and organically produced specialties that Greece is known for.
If villages in the mountains rouse your soul, it’s hard to beat the thrills you’ll find in Banff, in Alberta, Canada. Banff is a mountain town famed for its outstanding hiking, the towering, snowy summits of Mount Cascade and Mount Rundle, and of course some of the best hot springs in the world.
The thermal springs are a huge attraction here, as it is the steep gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain, where you’ll find Banff’s steamy public mineral waters.
Banff itself is as cute as can be, great for shopping, pub life, or just roaming around. Make sure you visit Lake Louise, and the Banff Springs hotel as well, the latter a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When the weather is warm, the trekking, kayaking, and mountain biking opportunities in this part of the Canadian Rockies will keep you busy all day long.
Girdwood, not far from Anchorage, is a pretty mountain village surrounded by glaciers. The cable car ride to the summit of Mount Alyeska on the Alyeska Aerial Tram will take your breath away.
Girdwood was named after the gold prospector James Girdwood, and you too can try your hand at panning for gold here. You can also visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see some of Alaska’s charismatic fauna (bears, elk, wolves, and more) up close.
After the snow has mostly departed in spring, hikes along the trails—some easy, others more challenging— through the Chugach Mountains and the temperate rainforest, or rides along the Girdwood to Indian Bike Path will help you get in touch with the 49th state’s vast wilderness.
Flam is an enchanting Norwegian town that showcases the towering splendor of the region’s fjords and accompanying mountainous terrain.
A visit to Flam during the summer months will give you the chance to travel through the waters of Aurlandsfjord, Sognefjord, and the UNESCO World Heritage site Nærøyfjord.
You can also hop on the iconic Flam Railway (Flamsbana) to enjoy the dazzling—and steep—ride up to the Myrdal mountain railway station.
As you ascend thousands of feet to Myrdal, you’ll pass by the torrent of the Kjosfossen, one of the best waterfalls in Norway.
While you’re in the region, you’d be remiss if you didn’t check out the Brekkefossen Waterfall hike, awe at the vistas from the protruding Stegastein Viewpoint, or perhaps visit the Flam Railway Museum to immerse yourself in the history of Norwegian trains.
Kotor & Njegusi, Montenegro
Kotor, hemmed in by mountains at the end of a long fjord, and the village of Njegusi to the east, are stunning examples of Montenegrin alpine landscapes pressed up against the Adriatic Sea.
Kotor, with its blend of architectural influences, including Austrian, French, and Venetian, is a charming fortified city with ancient, precipitous city walls that snake over the hillside.
The hike to the top of Kotor’s city walls is laden with more than 1,350 steps. If seeking further elevation still, one of the best things to do in Kotor is to book a day trip to Lovćen Mountain, where you’ll be treated to more of Montenegro’s rugged topography.
On your way to Lovćen, stop by the village of Njegusi. Apart from the incredible views, wonderful honey mead, and delicious prosciutto ham on offer here, Njegusi is also home to Kod Pera na Bukoviću, Montenegro’s oldest restaurant.
While in Njegusi, you can also visit the birthplace (now a museum) of Petar II Petrović Njegoš, prince-bishop of the country in the mid-1800s.
Furnas, The Azores
When visiting a volcanic island like São Miguel in Portugal’s Azores Islands, it makes sense to spend time in a settlement full of bubbling geothermal activity like Furnas, located in the Furnas Valley, a dormant volcanic crater.
In and around Furnas, on São Miguel’s eastern flanks, you can relax in the steaming thermal baths in Terra Nostra Park, and take in the Caldeiras, or Fumarolas das Furnas, which are boiling little ponds of volcanically heated sulfurous water. Or, go for a walk around Furnas Lake, or Lagoa das Furnas, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
While you’re in the area, check out the panoramas over the lake and green valley from the Pico do Ferro Viewpoint.
When hunger strikes, get your hands on some hearty (and meaty) Azores food, such as the Cozido das Furnas stew, slow-cooked in the earth, and piping hot due to the steam coming from the hot springs.
Around an hour east of Taipei, you’ll find the busy and densely packed mountain village of Jiufen. This little town is celebrated for its colorful tea houses.
Jiufen has also gained a lot of exposure due to its similarity to the village featured in a wildly popular Japanese anime film by director Hayao Miyazaki.
One of the first places you’ll want to stop by is Jiufen Old Street. Tea houses, trinkets, Taiwanese ceramic pottery shops, and more await you along this bustling, narrow, and often busy lane.
You’ll note decorative red lanterns all over the place. You’ll find lots of great places to try street snacks too, like sweet taro ball soup, glutinous rice cake boiled, tea eggs, deep-fried seafood, and more. Of course, the mountain and sea views here are magnificent, too.
Èze, along the French Riviera, is a stylish medieval settlement full of cobblestone paths, spilling over a lofty hilltop, high above the Mediterranean Sea.
The views from Èze, situated between Monte Carlo and Nice, are magical, to say the least. As villages in the mountains go, this is surely one of the most beautiful in Europe.
Some of the highlights here include the 18th-century Neoclassical Notre Dame de l’Assomption church, and the Jardin Exotique with its spectacular panoramas across the sea, plus its fascinating assortment of cacti and succulents. The scent of summer jasmine is always in the air, carried on the mountain breezes.
Bled, Slovenia, in the leafy Julian Alps near Koper, sits next to a high-altitude lake of the same name, both of which are pristine mountain destinations for nature lovers.
Gaze at the mist that drifts over this gorgeous European lake, revealing tiny Bled Island, with its scenic St. Mary’s Church poking above the treetops. You can visit the island by hopping on a canopy-covered boat.
If you have time, head over to Vintgar Gorge, which features a raised, snaking wooden pathway above the rushing river.
For some of the best views of the lake, town, and forested hillsides, make your way up to Bled Castle—an ancient fortress built atop a cliff—where you can also dive deeper into Slovenia’s fascinating history and culture.
Talkeetna is the quintessential Alaskan mountain village. Positioned slightly north of Anchorage, in the Mat-Su Valley, Talkeetna is a quirky, arty destination surrounded by spectacular nature, and outstanding views of the continent’s largest mountain, Denali.
Nature walks through Talkeetna Lakes Park will offer you lots of wild, lakeside beauty, too. Apart from forest trail walks and birch syrup tasting, this small settlement—which was the inspiration for a town featured in a popular TV show—is full of places to visit.
Some of the best things to do in Talkeetna include dropping in on the local brewery, stopping by different gear shops, boutiques, and art galleries, and taking in notable structures like Nagley’s Store, along Talkeetna’s Main Street, and the town’s clapboard façades.
Alberobello, Apulia, Italy
For a truly unique mountain perspective, from an architectural point of view, the village of Alberobello, in the Puglia region of Southern Italy, will offer you a sight you won’t see anywhere else.
Alberobello is renowned for its dense cluster of distinctive-looking conical-shaped trulli houses. A trullo (the singular form of trulli) abode is a white drywall structure with a conical or domed rooftop. Alberobello’s main street and the alleyways off it are lined with these enchanting structures.
Wander up to the Rione Monti neighborhood for the biggest concentration of trulli, some of which are now art galleries, souvenir shops, or boutique hotels.
Still fjords, glaciers framed by vertical mountains, tumbling waterfalls, and verdant valleys are all part of the dazzling scenery around Olden, Norway.
You’ll find Olden, north of Bergen and known for its eminently photographable red Olden Old Church, sandwiched in between the terminus of the cold waters of Nordfjord and Loen Lake.
Take the Loen Skylift for a precipitous view over the town and one of Norway’s best lakes below. Paddle out on a kayak to become better acquainted with the impressive fjord, or visit some of the glaciers, like Briksdal Glacier, and many waterfalls, like Volefossen, in and around Oldedalen Valley.
Chefchaouen, Rif Mountains, Morocco
Chefchaouen, southwest of Tangier, is a remarkably picturesque village often referred to as the “Blue City.” On a trip to this little town, in the cradle of the Rif Mountains, the first thing you’ll likely notice is the abundance of sunlit blue façades and rooftops.
As the main story goes, Jewish refugees escaping persecution in Europe arrived in this town years ago and began painting their homes blue, a trend that caught on.
After taking pictures of this blue-washed hamlet that Morocco is known for, make time to roam around Chefchaouen’s colorful souk, or main bazaar, to browse or pick up a few trinkets or some artwork.
You can then head over to the Plaza Uta el-Hammam and find a café to relax in, or else stop by the Kasbah Museum to learn more about this town’s long history.
The world is filled with gorgeous mountain villages. If you’d like to visit some of them soon, browse Celebrity’s cruises, then head off for your next adventure-filled holiday.