THREE SPANISH VILLAGES ON 2023 BEST TOURISM LIST
The World Tourism Organaisation has named three Spanish Villages in its list of Best Tourism Villages 2023
On 19 October 2023, World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) announced its list of Best Tourism Villages 2023. Villages are listed annually, and those who are selected have proven their use of tourism to promote local development, their integration of sustainable tourism practices, and their accredited cultural and natural assets.
Villages are selected and evaluated under the below key areas:
- Cultural and Natural Resources
- Promotion and Conservation of Cultural Resources
- Economic Sustainability
- Social Sustainability
- Environmental Sustainability
- Tourism Development and Value Chain Integration
- Governance and Prioritization of Tourism
- Infrastructure and Connectivity
- Health, Safety, and Security
Three villages from Spain were included on this year’s list, each celebrated for their exceptional and unique cultural heritages and their sustainable approach to local tourism: Cantavieja, Oñati and Sigüenza.
This extraordinary Aragonese village, the historic capital of Alto Maestrazgo (a Medieval region), is situated high up on a steep rocky outcrop and is full to the brim with monuments from the Medieval and Aragonese periods and beyond. Declared a historical-artistic site since 1981, Cantavieja’s historic quarter is designated with a Property of Cultural Interest title, and with good reason: the town is a treasure trove of fascinating buildings, including historic hermitages, the ruins of a castle destroyed during the I Carlist War, the Levantine-Gothic church of San Miguel and the old Baroque hospital of San Roque.
Travellers to Cantaviejo are able to immerse themselves in local culture and support the local community by staying in one of the many rural accommodations, including La Tarayuela, Casa Vidal, Casa Sara and 40 de Mayo. By day, visitors can hike or mountain bike in the surrounding countryside, spotting wildlife and taking in panoramic vistas of the Aragonese countryside and, by night, guests can enjoy a traditional local meal at one of the town’s many family-run restaurants.
Located in the Basque Country of northern Spain, Oñati is surrounded by lush countryside and mountains and dates back to the Medieval period. Its name in Basque references its scenic location, translating as “place with plenty of hills”. Historically a centre of learning and faith, Oñati is home to one of the oldest and most beautiful university buildings in Spain, alongside the more recent Sanctuary of Arantzazu, a key church in the region with works from artists such as Eduardo Chillida, Jorge Oteiza and Nestor Basterretxea. Amongst Oñati’s many extraordinary historical highlights include the 16th-century monastery and hospice of Bidaurreta, the Renaissance university, and the Gothic church of San Miguel, with its Baroque tower.
Visitors to Oñati are warmly welcomed to share in the local culture, which thrives to this day. On the Medieval festival of Corpus Christi Day, processions and traditional dances take place throughout the city. Active travellers are able to take to the hills on foot or by bike to discover the many trails in the vicinity, and even to discover the Aizkorri-Aratz national park, which stands out for its majestic mountains, awe-inspiring wildlife and ancient churches and roads. Guests can stay in charming locally-owned hotels and hostels, each of which display the warm, rural hospitality for which the region is famed.
The ancient town of Sigüenza is located in the lesser-explored region of Castile-La Mancha and can trace its routes back to the Roman colony of Segontia. The town has been occupied under Roman, Visigothic, Moorish and Castilian rule and its architecture and culture plays vivid testimony to the tapestry of influences that make up this unique city. The town was declared a Historic-Artistic site in 1965, with highlights for visitors including the majestic Gothic cathedral (which possesses its very own El Greco painting), the castle with roots stretching all the way back to the fifth century AD, and the 12th-century church of St James. The town can also boast a Medieval university, the University of Sigüenza, and a variety of historic monasteries, churches and religious buildings.
After visiting the town’s cultural and architectural gems, visitors can explore the impressive landscape that surrounds Sigüenza, with multiple options for excursions, hiking and cycling. Travellers can dine in one of the many restaurants situated in historical buildings throughout Sigüenza, and support the development of the local tourism economy by staying overnight in one of the town’s various ‘casas rurales’.
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