From the mountain villages of Cyprus to the Berber communities of Morocco, discover remote and rural villages that will take you back in time.
There are parts of the world where the very air seems different, where life moves slowly as if it were suspended in space and time. This is where some of the oldest traditions and ways of life can still be found. Whether it’s a long abandoned village, an archaeological site that tells a forgotten story or a rural town where globalization seems not to exist, visiting these places is a rare and unforgettable experience.
Read on to discover 7 timeless places you need to visit:
1. The rural villages of Troodos (Cyprus)
Stretching through the south-western part of Cyprus, Troodos is the island’s main mountain range. Home to Mount Olympus, which reaches a maximum height of 1,952m, Troodos is a popular destination for trekking and hiking. Additionally, for centuries these mountains have been dotted with religious buildings, historical sites and villages that today seem to exist outside of time. In particular, you’ll find numerous monasteries nestled among these peaks, the most famous being Kykkos and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed ten Painted Churches. The Agios Ioannis Lampadistis Monastery also has its own quiet charm and some wonderful frescoes from the Byzantine era.
To discover the traditional Cypriot way of life, we suggest visiting the mountain communities of Troodos, going as far as its most remote villages. Among these, Omodos is considered the “wine capital” of the country, where Commandaria, the oldest sweet wine in the world, is produced. Despite being a well-known destination, the village has managed to keep its traditional ways. Lefkara, where the art of silver- and lace-making has been handed down for generations, is another stop you’ll want to add to your travel itinerary. Additionally, Platanisteia has a printing museum that tells an ancient story while Lofou, the least known village, is the most untouched.
Recommended experience: Tour of the Troodos villages with a visit to the Benedictis Monastery
2. Kayakoy, the ghost village (Turkey)
Can you think of a more atmospheric setting than an abandoned village? We certainly can’t, especially if it’s surrounded by cinematic landscapes, such as gorges, pine forests and fragrant orchards. Kayakoy is an uninhabited village located 8km from the center of Fethiye, a holiday resort on the Turkish coast. In 1923 time stopped in this small village, when the last Greek-speaking inhabitants were evacuated for good, never to return. Turkish residents from the area settled at the foot of the mountain, leaving the village perched on the hill completely abandoned.
Today Kayakoy has become a real open-air museum in which you can immerse yourself in its otherworldly setting. Here, you’ll find around 500 stone house ruins and two Greek Orthodox churches. To learn more about the intricate history of the town, be sure to visit the private museum. And don’t miss the fountain in the central square, which dates back to the 17th century.
Recommended experience: Kayakoy ghost village tour and cable car to Mount Babadag
3. Palea Peritheia, the ancient Byzantine village (Corfu, Greece)
One of the best things to do in Corfu is visit the villages, with their ancient history and traditions that have remained unchanged for centuries. Agios Mattheos is one of the oldest villages and, not being a tourist resort, it’s kept much of its original spirit. Avliotes is also worth a visit for its terraced construction, which offers up beautiful views of the island. Pelekas instead is known for its location on one of the highest peaks in Corfu and its traditional Corfiot-style architecture.
Finally, if there’s only one village you see in Corfu then make it Palea Peritheia, the ancient Paritheia. This semi-abandoned village is located on the slopes of Mount Pantocrator and has a wonderfully unique atmosphere. Since the disastrous earthquake of 1953, the village has remained almost uninhabited, with the exception of an ancient family-run tavern (which makes for a delightful refreshment stop during your exploration). The architecture of the village largely dates back to the Byzantine era.
Recommended experience: Corfu tour with a visit to ancient Paritheia
4. Ormana, the hidden treasure of Antalya (Turkey)
A short distance from the city of Antalya is the village of Ormana, which sits at the foot of the Taurus mountain range. Ormana is located within an enchanting natural landscape, which makes it an ideal destination for trekking and hiking. With a little luck, you’ll also be able to spot some wild horses.
Nature aside, what this historic village is really famous for are its houses, which will take you back hundreds of years. The so-called “Button Houses” are about 300 years old and were built during the Ottoman era. The architecture of these buildings is characterized by structures of wooden beams that are repeated at regular intervals, which make the facade of the house look like a button. They were built with the wood of the Cedar of Lebanon, which is found in the Taurus mountains. You won’t be able to find anything like these buildings anywhere else in Turkey or even the world.
Recommended experience: Small group guided tour of Ormana and Altinbesik cave
5. The northwestern villages of Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain)
If on a trip to Tenerife you want to discover its wilder and more rugged side, we suggest you explore the north-western part. This area is characterized by the barren landscapes of Teno Rural Park and dotted with beautiful remote villages. Here you can stroll along streets of ancient origins, taste delicious local products, discover Canarian traditions and escape the hustle and bustle of the tourist resorts.
Garachico is an essential stop. Once the main port of Tenerife, today it’s a small fishing village with a long history. In the 18th century Garachico was almost completely destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Over the years the town recovered and today it’s a much loved destination thanks to its natural volcanic pools and unflappable charm. Another place worth visiting is the Icod de Los Vinos. One of the oldest towns on the island, it’s home to a Dracena (an endemic shrub) that is at least 300 years old. Finally, in the remote town of Santiago del Teide you can admire beautiful views and go on an excursion to the spectacular Cliffs of Los Gigantes.
Recommended experience: Tour to discover the secrets of the north west of Tenerife
6. The mountainous settlements of Kos (Kos, Greece)
Kos is one of the best islands in the Mediterranean to spend your summer vacation. In addition to the turquoise sea, warm sun and thermal springs, Kos has a hidden side where time seems to stop. Tucked away in the hinterlands far from the lively coastal resorts, you’ll find unique traditional villages where life moves at a slow amble. In particular, the village of Zia, on the slopes of Mount Dikeo, is not to be missed. Here the inhabitants can be counted on the fingers of one hand and the only houses you’ll see are traditional ones. Thanks to Zia’s privileged position, you’ll enjoy sweeping views that take in the coasts of neighboring Turkey; during sunset it’s truly spectacular. Additionally, if you want go for a picturesque walk there’s a path from the village that leads to the summit of Mount Dikeo (846m MSL). It’s also worth visiting Antimachia, with its Venetian fortress, Asfendiou, with its beautiful basilicas and Pyli, where the tomb of the hero Charmylos is located.
Lastly, head to the archaeological site of Asklepion if you want to step back in time to ancient Greece. One of the most important archaeological sites in the country, it was originally a place of healing built to spread the teachings of Hippocrates, the father of medicine. Walk through the ruins where medical history was made, stand in the shadow of the centuries-old Tree of Hippocrates and admire the remains of the temples dedicated to Asclepius and Apollo.
Recommended experience: Guided tour of the archaeological site of Asklepion, Zia and Kefalos
7. Berber villages in the Atlas Mountains (Morocco)
The mountain range of the High Atlas reaches a maximum height of 4167m above sea level with Mount Toubkal and is a popular destination for those who love trekking and hiking. The paths are inaccessible, long and completely immersed in silence and nature. What’s more, nestled in the hills are Berber villages that until recently were isolated, autonomous communities within Morocco, with completely different customs and traditions from those of the rest of the country. Here the houses are built of stone and beaten earth, electricity only arrived in 2001, the population is proud and welcoming and traditional farming techniques are handed down from generation to generation. These communities are found outside most common tourist routes, but it’s possible to get there with organized trekking groups led by expert guides.
Recommended experience: Visit to the Berber villages of the High Atlas with cooking lessons
Feel like stepping back in time? Discover rural towns and traditional villages around the world with our experiences: