By Anna Ellis •
Published: 25 Oct 2023 • 8:33
Aerial view of the beautiful town of Cantavieja in the province of Teruel. Image: Mike Workman / Shutterstock.com.
The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has unveiled its highly anticipated list of the Best Tourism Villages for the year.
Announced annually, these selected villages have demonstrated their remarkable ability to utilise tourism for the betterment of their local communities, all while embracing sustainable tourism practices and showcasing their valuable cultural and natural assets.
In a remarkable achievement, Spain’s countryside revealed its treasures as three of its villages earned a coveted spot on this year’s list.
Cantavieja, Oñati, and Sigüenza all share unique cultural heritages and are models of sustainable tourism.
Nestled atop a steep rocky outcrop, Cantavieja, the historic capital of Alto Maestrazgo, is a village steeped in history.
The town’s medieval and Aragonese legacy is preserved through a wealth of monuments, earning it the title of a historical-artistic site since 1981.
The historic quarter, with its Property of Cultural Interest designation, houses a fascinating array of buildings, including ancient hermitages, the remnants of a castle destroyed during the I Carlist War, the Levantine-Gothic church of San Miguel, and the old Baroque hospital of San Roque.
Visitors to Cantavieja can fully immerse themselves in local culture by staying in rural accommodations like La Tarayuela, Casa Vidal, Casa Sara, and 40 de Mayo.
Days can be spent hiking or mountain biking in the scenic countryside, taking in panoramic views of the Aragonese landscape.
At night, guests can savour traditional local meals in family-run restaurants.
Nestled in the lush landscapes of Basque Country, Oñati has roots dating back to the Medieval period.
The name, translating to “place with plenty of hills” in Basque, perfectly captures its scenic surroundings.
Oñati, historically a centre of learning and faith, boasts one of Spain’s oldest and most beautiful university buildings, as well as the Sanctuary of Arantzazu, a church enriched with works from renowned artists like Eduardo Chillida, Jorge Oteiza, and Nestor Basterretxea.
The town’s extraordinary historical highlights include the 16th-century monastery and hospice of Bidaurreta, the Renaissance university, and the Gothic church of San Miguel, with its striking Baroque tower.
Visitors can join in the celebration of local culture during the Medieval festival of Corpus Christi Day, where processions and traditional dances enliven the city.
Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the hills on foot or by bike, discovering the numerous trails and the majestic Aizkorri-Aratz National Park, known for its stunning mountains, captivating wildlife, and ancient churches and roads.
The town’s charming, locally-owned hotels and hostels reflect the warm rural hospitality of the region.
Situated in the lesser-explored region of Castile-La Mancha, Sigüenza’s roots extend to the Roman colony of Segontia.
This ancient town has witnessed a rich history, shaped by Roman, Visigothic, Moorish, and Castilian influences, evident in its architecture and culture.
Declared a Historic-Artistic site in 1965, Sigüenza showcases architectural marvels such as the grand Gothic cathedral, housing its very own El Greco painting, an ancient castle dating back to the fifth century AD, and the 12th-century church of St. James.
The town also takes pride in its Medieval university, the University of Sigüenza, as well as a multitude of historic monasteries, churches, and religious buildings.
After exploring the town’s cultural and architectural gems, visitors can venture into the breathtaking landscape surrounding Sigüenza, offering a plethora of excursions, hiking, and cycling opportunities.
Dining options abound in historical buildings throughout the town, supporting the growth of the local tourism economy.
Visitors can extend their stay in one of the town’s various ‘casas rurales,’ contributing to the vibrant fabric of Sigüenza’s tourism.
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Originally from Derbyshire, Anna has lived in the middle of nowhere on the Costa Blanca for 19 years. She is passionate about her animal family including four dogs and four horses, musicals and cooking.
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