5 MOST BEAUTIFUL MOUNTAIN VILLAGES OF EUROPE
Italian artist Giovanni Segantini once called his winter residence in the Alpine village of Soglio – La soglia del paradiso, translated into Russian “gateway to paradise”. And this really appropriate description – a picturesque settlement overlooking the chestnut forests, located on a sunny terrace in the Bregaglia valley, can be called a great place for hiking routes. Neat houses, narrow streets and rose gardens give this place the look of an ideal mountain village. Only 300 people live here, the official language is Italian, but many speak German. In 2015, the media called the village the most beautiful in Switzerland.
The mountain village of Rugon, remote from civilization, is located on a high plateau with a panoramic view of Verdon, the most impressive canyon in Europe. There are fewer than a hundred people living in the village, and it is so tiny that there are not even streets in it. From Rugona you can literally go to all four sides: descend and explore the gorge or climb further into the Alps, to the ruins of the dilapidated castle and the observation deck, which overlooks the canyons, landscapes of Haute Provence and the roof of red tiles.
The sparsely populated peninsula of Snayfellsnes is located to the west of Borgafjordur, Western Iceland. The island looks like a miniature copy of the “big brother”. At the foot of Mount Stapafel is the village of Arnastapi. Lovers of hiking awaits the three-kilometer path along the coast from Arnastapi to the neighboring town of Hellnar, and 8 km from the village there is a famous volcano with an ice cap, Snayfellsjokull, which can be seen even from Reykjavik. On the coastline there are colonies of different species of birds, whales and even killer whales often come to the shore. In a small cafe, visitors will be offered “branded” fish soup, hot waffles, plus an unparalleled view of the sea. Particularly unusual is a small church surrounded by rocks.
In 1918, the Valley of Ordesa became a national park. Today it is the oldest reserve in the Pyrenees. Along the cliffs are hiking trails overlooking the mountain peaks and canyons, lakes and snowfields. The village of Torla, one of the smallest (with a population of about 400 people) in the Pyrenees, is located at the entrance to the national park. There is a hotel and two campgrounds in Torle, and an unusual church adorns the center of the settlement.
One of the best ski resorts in the German Alps is the Bavarian Oberddorf, next to it is the small Alpine village Gershtruben, which thanks to its old buildings looks like a museum. But it is not only architecture that is striking: a sawmill, a cheese factory and a mill are still working here. A chapel and several farm houses from the 17th century have recently been restored.
The Ushguli community is the main attraction of Svaneti and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Located at 2,200 meters above sea level, Ushugli is the highest settlement in Europe. Getting there is a whole adventure: three hours by car along an uneven dirt road along the Inguri River. Some sections of the road are very dangerous – in winter, for example, avalanches can descend from the mountains and the road is closed. Ushguli guests can look at the ancient Svan towers that withstood the battles with the Mongols and the low winter temperatures of the mountain region, churches, and castles. Tourists are slowly exploring this area: an open-air museum, several guest houses and cafes are working for visitors.
The small village of Hallstatt, near Salzburg, is considered one of the oldest in Europe. It is located between the rocks and the lake of the same name. The village is known for salt mines, which are already more than three thousand years old. In neat European houses live less than 1000 people. In addition to residential buildings, in Galtat there is a salt mine, a prehistoric museum, several churches. In China, by the way, they built a copy of the village – Echo Town – 1000 times larger than the original and with much higher real estate prices. Since 2012, houses are sold, but the “copy” has not yet been settled to the end.
Surrounded by olive trees, Monsaraz is the epitome of a medieval town. The main attraction is the impressive castle overlooking the village. The courtyard of the castle, an abandoned arena, is used in July as a playground for the open-air museum and for a music festival. The cultural program in the village is varied: here, they eat, and sing, and dance, and theatrical performances are organized.