Cliffside villages naturally offer the chance to enjoy some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. When in Europe, you won’t want to miss the chance to experience one or more of these.
Civita Di Bagnoregio, Italy (Nearby Hotels)
Travel guru Rick Steves calls Civita di Bagnoregio his favorite hill town. A “Jewel on the Hill,” this stunning gem sits atop a pinnacle that soars high above a vast canyon, and can only be reached by footbridge. The main entrance is a massive stone passageway that was carved out some 2,500 years ago, and decorated in the 12th century with a Romanesque arch. As striking as the photos of this town are, they just can’t do it justice. Stepping in feels as if you’re journeying back in time to the Middle Ages. As its sides are crumbling away, the village is often referred to as “dying,” but its soul is very much alive and well. In fact, over the last decade or so it’s experienced a small revival of sorts, with efforts to preserve this historical gem from ruin. In addition to the picturesque scenery, there are a number of delightful shops and some of the architecture spans several thousand years.
Matera, Italy (Nearby Hotels)
One of Italy’s best kept secrets, the village of Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site tucked within the cliffs of the Basilicata region. Its unique cave-like homes and structures were carved out of the limestone rocks, and other than Petra, Jordan, it is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in history. There are two neighborhoods, referred to as “Sassi,” that are made up of these stone dwellings, dating back to 15,000 BC, and many of the cave homes have been transformed into stylish eateries and hotels.
Oia, Santorini, Greece (Nearby Hotels)
Santorini is renowned for its cliffside villages, all spectacularly gorgeous, although Oia is the most famous of all, known throughout the world for its tranquility and jaw-dropping sunsets. It was constructed using traditional architecture with whitewashed buildings that carved right into the rock, highlighted by blue domed churches that line the narrow streets, as well as sun-soaked verandas. Many come to the village square that overlooks the sea to watch the sun go down over the water each night.
Meteora, Greece (Nearby Hotels)
The Greek word “meteora” means “suspended in the air,” which very aptly describes the dramatic cliffs that rise more than 1,200 feet into the sky overlooking the villages of Kalambaka and Kastraki in the north central mainland of Greece. This vast Eastern Orthodox monastic complex is unlike anywhere else in the world, but what makes the cliffs even more impressive, is the historic monasteries that are perched among them, dating all the way back to the 14th century, built by monks seeking spiritual isolation and freedom from religious persecution. Today, six monasteries remain and are open to the public, if you are willing to make the trek up to them, which is more than worth the effort for the reward as the views from here are incredibly awe-inspiring, no matter where you stand.
Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy (Nearby Hotels)
While Italy is filled with photogenic places, the seaside villages of the Cinque Terre are arguably one of its very best. Cinque Terre, which means Five Lands, is made up of Vernazza, Manarola, Riomaggiore, Corniglia and Monterosso, situated along northern Italy’s Ligurian coast, and each is equally stunning. Manarola is filled with an array of brightly colored homes that were carved right into an impenetrable wall of stone along the coast. It’s famous for its fantastic wine, particularly Sciacchetra, and the paintings of Antonio Discovolors, an artist who fell in love with Manarola and devoted much of his later works to the region. There are no cars here, no traffic lights, no screeching of tires, and no blasting horns. While you can drive to the village, you’ll have to park just outside town and then take a shuttle bus or walk in on foot.
Azenhas Do Mar, Sintra, Portugal (Nearby Hotels)
Azenhas do Mar is tucked between the ocean and the mountains, with its white houses and pools carved into the cliffs back in the 1950s. Set along the cliffs near Sintra, the village is renowned for its spectacular views and outstanding cuisine. Here you’ll have the chance to sample some of the best Portuguese fare, from fresh seafood like oysters, clams and lobster to bread soup and passion fruit mousse, as well as simply enjoy the ultimate in relaxation, gazing out at the glistening expanse of the Atlantic.
Rocamadour, France (Nearby Hotels)
Located in Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park, Rocamadour attracts over a million visitors every year, yet it has a population of just 600. It’s been considered an important pilgrimage destination for more than a thousand years – built on the site of a shrine to a Madonna, the shrine became famous for its healing powers, and it soon became a stop on the pilgrimage path to Santiago de Campostela. The rocky village is renowned for its dramatic setting, as it clings to the sides of the cliffs, with the river Alzou set below at the bottom of the gorge and all of its houses, monuments and other structures have been impeccably preserved. It also produces its own unique goat cheese and hosts a popular cheese festival, Fete des Fromages.
Pitigliano, Italy (Nearby Hotels)
This stunning Tuscan hill town sits atop a large impressive tufa rock in a dramatic position nearly 1,000 feet above a plain, with its setting enhanced by the presence of fortified walls. Often displayed on postcards and other Italy tourism items due to its striking beauty, before you even arrive into the village itself, the remarkable view of from afar, with the tall medieval houses squeezed together along the rocky spur, is among the highlights of any visit. At Piazza Cavour, admire the arches of a mighty aqueduct built in the 16th century by Gian Francesco Orsini, while the Palace of Orsini stands as a veritable fortress, constructed in a variety of styles, medieval and renaissance in particular, as a result of the different times of its expansion and restructuring.
Piodao, Portugal (Nearby Hotels)
Piodao is situated just outside Serra da Estrela natural park, considered one of Portugal’s most beautiful villages, with its houses ascending up the mountain slope, sheltered from the winds. The homes were built using materials within the hills, and all of the windows and doors are painted blue, considered an integral part of the village’s architectonic ensemble.