We may be aware that our vacation choices can have a significant impact on the environment, but we don't always know which direction to take, especially when it comes to choosing a destination.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recently published a list of villages that are developing tourism activities while preserving their natural and cultural resources, offering travellers some handy pointers.
Sustainable travel has been a subject of discussion for several years, and some travellers are now looking to choose hotels and activities, as well as destinations that are more in line with their ecological convictions.
Still, it's not always easy to get started, between the rankings listing the most eco-friendly destinations, or highlighting places to visit with minimal risk of inflicting harm.
UNWTO has released a list of the Best Tourism Villages in the world, which is not about celebrating destinations for their touristic appeal or popularity, but about highlighting those places that have identified how to benefit from tourism revenues while developing an environmentally friendly activity.
"For rural communities everywhere, tourism can be a game changer in providing jobs, supporting local businesses and keeping traditions alive," says secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili.
A total of 136 villages were put forward for consideration by 57 UNWTO lower case member state could nominate a maximum of three villages) for the 2022 edition.
From these, 32 were recognised as Best Tourism Villages.
Here's a list of three top countries with "Best Tourism Villages" to visit in 2023 as recommended by UNWTO.
A largely mountainous country in south-central Europe, Austria is one of the 18 countries listed with two villages mentioned — Zell am See and Wagrain.
Zell am See is a lakeside village situated in the Austrian Alps with 10,131 residents. Located in Salzburg county, surrounded by beautiful mountains, the town is famous for skiing in winter and hiking and biking during summertime.
The beautiful lake offers a variety of activities such as swimming, boating, stand up paddle boarding, fishing or just cooling down on hot summer days.
The goal is to continuously improve the offerings in the region for both locals and visitors.
The village also hosts various events such as the "Zell am See Town Market", where regional food from regional producers is available.
Meanwhile, Wagrain is a market town in the Pongau region of Salzburg, with a total population of approximately 3,000 people.
It is a well-known skiing area, but effectively a bi-seasonal destination that increasingly tries to draw attention to its hiking opportunities.
Wagrain is quite popular during the summer. The local mountain of Öbristkopf with an altitude of approximately 1,400m is one of Salzburg's most popular summits to conquer.
The highest spot of Wagrain can be found on the southern Gabel Mountain range and is 2,037m high.
Located on the greater island of Chiloe, Puqueldon also known as Lemuy Island is No. 3 on the best tourism villages list by UNWTO.
One of the prominent attractions in this area is the route of the Churches of Chile, a Unesco World Heritage Site where three churches, built by the Jesuits entirely out of wood, have been recognised for their exceptional universal and historical value.
Puqueldon is also home to urban coastal wetlands and the Puqueldon lagoon. The territory is a scenic corridor that joins each end of the island and features attractive natural and cultural landscapes.
The village features 16 tourist lodgings that are family micro-enterprises and these lodgings are a true representation of the rural and local values, from the decoration of interiors with local crafts for example bedspreads, to serving traditional breakfasts using local recipes and ingredients.
Puqueldon offers tourists a range of innovative experiences. With the Native Potato Route, visitors can learn about the cultivation and harvesting of potatoes by peasant women.
Two villages in China — Dazhai and Jingzhu — are also listed as the Best Tourism Villages.
A village amongst the terraces, Dazhai village, which is located in the high and cold mountainous area in northern Guangxi, with sublime mountains, streams and a forest that has a history which dates back more than 2,300 years.
It has rich tourism resources, in particular the Longji Terraces, the "Globally Important Agricultural Cultural Heritage" system.
It integrates the development of "agriculture and tourism" to promote the protection of terrace cultural heritage and agricultural production by providing cable-car sightseeing of terraces, traditional farming, wetland science education, research, and other experience programs.
The agricultural heritage of Dazhai terraces is representative of the thousand-year farming culture of ethnic groups.
It adopts the most traditional agricultural production methods, which attracts many tourists every year to watch and experience farming cultural activities such as ploughing, harvesting and rice drying.
Meanwhile, Jingzhu village has built Guiyuan Tourist Hamlet as an agriculture-based artistic pastoral complex with various ethnic features under the theme of "Garden Manor Paradise".
The village is working towards preservation of cultural heritage, including wax printing, bamboo weaving, playing wood and leaf-based musical instruments, traditional pickle making, palm fibre weaving, and traditional earthenware.
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