9 Magical Mountaintop Towns Worth Trekking To Gallery
9 Magical Mountaintop Towns Worth Trekking To
There’s nothing like a destination on top of the world to make you feel, well, on top of the world. For centuries, humans have gone to great heights for gorgeous scenery or fresh mountain air. You don’t have to be a skiing or snowboarding enthusiast to appreciate what high-altitude destinations have to offer, either. All over the world, you’ll find mountainous getaways with plenty to offer in the way of food, drink, historical sites, beautiful scenery, and tons of relaxation.
While there are popular high-altitude spots like Machu Picchu or Mount Rushmore, mountain towns that have an actual population of residents or visitors have a separate charm to them. Living in, or even visiting, a town situated on a mountaintop has plenty of benefits that are apparent in the relaxed attitude of those present. Some are simply great resort towns with fantastic skiing and food, but others have a lot more to them. Some mountain areas have fantastic spa facilities, whereas others provide the chance to explore a new culture or religion amidst a serene backdrop. The high altitude can also result in improved blood flow due to decrease in oxygen, as well as fresh air for you to breathe in thanks to the lack of pollution. When thinking of a mountaintop town, you may have a picture in your head of a Colorado resort or a glitzy French or Swiss chalet, there are mountains throughout the rest of the world as well, giving rise to fantastic tourist destinations in places like northern India or the medieval villages of Italy. Find your inner peace, or your adventurous side, at these nine magical mountaintop towns that are worth the trek.
The Umbrian town of Assisi has a population of under 30,000 and is situated on Monte Subasio in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. Known as the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order here in 1208, the entire village itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore Roman ruins and medieval houses, churches, and shops full of local arts and crafts, religious items, and chocolate, as well as two medieval castles that dominate the already stunning view.
Located in the northwestern province of Asturias, Covadonga is a picturesque village nestled in the Picos de Europa mountains. It has a population of under 70, but there’s still plenty to do here with multiple religious historical sites and the presence of two lakes that bicyclists often ride by during the annual Vuelta a España race.
The French commune of Èze stretches from the French Mediterranean coast, where you’ll find Èze-sur-Mer, up to the hilltop, where you’ll find Èze-Village, a medieval village which provides a breathtaking view of the French Riviera. Walt Disney was known to spend a lot of time here, and it’s no wonder why with beautiful spots such as the Jardin botanique d’Èze, a botanical garden full of cacti and succulents, and Chapelle de la Sainte Croix (the oldest building here, dating back to 1306), as well as plenty of shops, restaurants, and art galleries.
Kōya-san was established as a monastic complex in 819, high up on Japan's Mount Kōya and away from worldly distractions by Kūkai, a monk who founded the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. With a population of just a little over 3,000 people, Kōya remains a peaceful sanctuary full of Buddhist temples and gorgeous natural scenery. This is one of the few places in the world where you can stay in a shukubo — a temple in which monks used to sleep before they were expanded for the use of pilgrims — and where you can witness a morning Buddhist ceremony and take part in a traditional monk’s meal, perfect for vegans.
Park City, Utah
Park City is a resort town where visitors can enjoy year-round, but what sets it apart from the many other resort towns of Utah is its tradition of the arts — after all, this is the host city of the annual Sundance Film Festival. Music also has a big place here, and you can watch bands play at Silver Lake in the summer or enjoy all kinds of artists at the Kimball Arts Festival, attended by over 45,000 people every year. Park City also has some top-notch restaurants that are worth checking out.
The northern Indian city of Shimla lies in the southwestern Himalayas on top of a mountain ridge with a stunning view. In the early nineteenth century, its mild climate started to draw many British officers and turned the area into a resort town of sorts, eventually becoming the summer capital of the British Raj. Today you can still find plenty of neo-Gothic and Tudorbethan colonial architecture here, and the Kalka-Shimla Railway line that will take you up to the city amidst breathtaking scenery is also a legacy of colonial rule. Shimla has still maintained its local culture, however, as demonstrated by its many festivals and local arts and crafts.
St. Moritz, Switzerland
Enjoy the glamour and glitz of St. Moritz, one of the most expensive ski resort towns in the world and frequented by the rich and famous. Located in the Albula Alps, the town is less than 10 miles from Piz Bernina, the highest peak in the Eastern Alps. Despite its altitude, St. Moritz experiences over 300 days of sunshine a year, making it particularly popular for winter sports and a great spot for enjoying the designer stores and delicious restaurant scene.
A favorite of former President Gerald Ford, Vail came into existence as the base village for Vail Ski Resort, the third largest single-mountain ski resort in the country. This Colorado town isn’t just great for winter sports, however; it has an exploding restaurant scene and multiple cultural events throughout the year, celebrating film, music, dance, and food.
Home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America and located on Whistler Mountain, Whistler is a great destination for skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, tobogganing, and snowshoeing. However, there’s more to Whistler than just winter sports, as the resort town also offers opportunities to explore the area with activities such as their Peak 2 Peak Gondola, hiking trails surrounded by snow walls, axe throwing, and enjoying the local cuisine and spas. If you’re looking for a trip closer to home, however, check out our guide to the 101 best weekend getaways in America.
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