A lot of people talk about what their favourite cities in the world are, but it’s occurred to me recently that no one ever lists their favourite towns.
These often unheard-of little places can be the hidden gems of travels abroad. Even if they’re just day trips or stop-offs to break up a long journey, they can be unexpectedly interesting and memorably endearing.
In the course of my adventures around the world, I’ve stumbled across a growing number of towns that have left me charmed and feeling lucky to have been there. Below are my top five so far. If you want to add your favourites, leave a comment or get in touch with Live For Adventure on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ (just click on the icons at the top left of the page).
1 Barichara, Colombia
Sat on a hillside and surrounded by valleys, with wonderfully neat and attractive architecture, Barichara could well be a Machu Picchu of the modern age. Its terracotta roofs and whitewashed walls are picture perfection, while the cobbled streets preserve an old fashioned and quaint atmosphere that make this town a wanderer’s paradise. Catch it on a bright day and the colours come to life, matching the welcoming nature and vibrancy of the locals. Up at the top of the town, there are several viewpoints that give stunning, unbroken vistas over the adjacent valley, reminding you that the setting is as special as the town itself.
2 Bled, Slovenia
Located beside a blue lake on the edge of the Julian Alps, with a castle overlooking the town and a beautiful church sat on a small island in the middle of the water, Bled is about as idyllic as it gets. The town isn’t actually much to shout about – just a few hotels and bars – but the fact there are mountains in the background and that you can walk around the whole lake, or even go swimming in it in the summer, makes it simply unmissable if you’re in this part of the world. When me and my friends were there, we spent hours sat on the edge of the water drinking beers, taking in the views and watching the world go by.
3 Ollantaytambo, Peru
Aside from being the most wonderfully named place I’ve ever been to, Ollantaytambo is also one of the most culturally rich and picturesque. Squashed in between soaring hills in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the town and its surrounding area is littered with centuries-old ruins at which to marvel, as well as some outstanding Andean scenery. The people in this particular part of Peru are also a joy to spend time with.
4 Glenwood Springs, Colorado, United States
I doubt this town would make anyone else’s list other than mine, but I once had to spend nine days here (I accidentally threw my debit card in a Denver bin and had to wait in Glenwood Springs for my new one to arrive from the UK) and, despite not being much to look at, it really earned its place in my affections. Its location in Colorado meant the surrounding area was riddled with hikes and cycling trails through some superb scenery, but the main appeal was in the locals. I spent several nights in the brew pub down the road from the hostel in which I was staying and got to know the regulars, who made me feel like I was part of their community. It should have been a frustrating and anxious nine days, but instead they turned out to be some of the best I’ve spent in the US.
5 Zhangmu, Tibet
Another town that is on my list more for its setting that the buildings and the people, this border post between Tibet and Nepal is one of the most remarkable places I’ve visited. It clings to a hillside in the valley of the Bhote Khosi river and has certain parts that are so steep it seems incomprehensible the town doesn’t literally fall off and into the water. I only really saw it in the evening, when the winding main road that bisects the town from top to bottom comes alive with street vendors. Surrounded by the Himalayas and virtually invisible until you’re in the town, Zhangmu is truly unique.