World's Prettiest Mountain Towns
In these small communities,
the hills are alive with enchanting views and plenty of activity.
In July 2005, Sandra
Rötzscher arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, a high desert town in the Andes Mountains of northern Chile, to find herself in a four-day
sandstorm. The rare event was “annoying and painful,” she remembers,
but once it cleared, an otherworldly landscape emerged: craggy rock formations
striated by years of sedimentary buildup, fields of geysers letting off columns
of steam from the nearby volcanoes, and salt flats populated by flocks of
flamingos. It was scenery unlike any she’d ever seen.
The first image that the
phrase “mountain town” brings to mind is usually a scene of the Swiss Alp
variety, with quaint lodges tucked beneath snow-dusted peaks. And, though many
of the world’s most beautiful mountain towns are indeed alpine (or at least
similar), gorgeous high-altitude communities exist in places more typically
associated with beaches and deserts as well, like Chile or Mexico.
Naturally, given their
location, most of the towns that made our list are ski destinations. But while
resorts like Whistler, home of the 2010
Vancouver Winter Olympics, draw plenty of snow-hounds, they also draw
off-season crowds with their scenery. Summer hikers and mountain bikers
traverse the mountains here to enjoy the sprawling panoramas of the expansive Coast Range.
Across North America, Stowe, Vermont also lures visitors year-round. Adrenaline
junkies come to take on the challenging double-black diamond trails at Stowe
Mountain Resort, while summer travelers hike and camp near its historic
buildings. But Stowe perhaps saves its most beautiful face for fall, when the
annual explosion of fall colors saturates the tree-covered Green Mountains.
The beauty in these towns
isn’t always just natural, either. Because many of them are sequestered in
remote locations, they’ve often retained ancient cultural and architectural
traditions. The Japanese villages of Shirakawa-go, for example, have a
distinctive beauty due to a unique architecture style that developed over
No matter if it’s ski season
in the Alps or autumn in Vermont, each of these communities have a special sort
of intoxicating beauty. San Pedro especially attracts people who seek out the
magical and mystical energy believed to inhabit this strangely beautiful land.
Though Sandra Rötzscher doesn’t really believe in mysticism, she was swayed by
the ethereal landscape. “The energy truly was undeniable,” she said.