Top 10 Hill-Top Towns & Villages
It’s surprising just how many of the villages that feature on our holidays occupy a hill-top, making choosing our Top 10 Hill-Top Towns & Villages no easy task!
From Ronda to Rocamadour and from Croatia to Cappadocia, hill-top towns draw the eye and are a joy to explore. Discover some of our favourites here:
Motovun, Istria, Croatia
Across the Istrian Peninsula
walk leads via numerous hill-top towns and villages – lively Buje and Venetian Groznjan – though it's atmospheric Motovun that deserves a place in our Top 10 Hill-Top Towns & Villages, because it is one of the region’s best preserved medieval towns and because it commands astonishing 360-degree views which stretch as far as the Adriatic Sea. To fully appreciate its medieval charm, take a stroll along the old town walls, enjoying the views over the terracotta rooftops and across the surrounding countryside with its many pear orchards.
Puycelci, Tarn, France
The Tarn is characterised by bastides
, fortified hill-top villages – some built by the French, others by the English in the 12th century – laid out in a grid pattern around a square surrounded by covered arcades where markets were held. The most perfect – and famous – of them all, Cordes-sur-Ciel, makes a fitting finale to our Land of the Crusades walk
, but arguably lesser-visited Puycelci, a delightful village of timber-framed houses nestling behind massive ramparts where the walk begins, exudes greater charm and medieval atmosphere.
San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy
Of all our Top 10 Hill-Top Towns, San Gimignano must boast the most distinctive skyline, its fifteen medieval towers outlined against a blue sky. Astonishingly, these are but a small proportion of the 72 towers that once stood over the village – considered a sign of wealth and power, they were built in proliferation in the 12th and 13th centuries when feuds between rival noble families were at their height. You can visit the town on both our Hill-Top Towns of Tuscany walk
and our San Gimignano & the Sienese Plains cycle
Ronda, Andalucia, Spain
Ronda is another much-photographed town, not so much for its skyline but for its dramatic location. Its whitewashed houses perch on the edges of a 130-metre-deep ravine, which effectively cuts the town in two. The old Moorish quarter (La Ciudad) is the most atmospheric part of the town, with many elegant mansions among the maze of narrow streets. Also of interest are the Arab baths and the bullring, one of the earliest in Spain. Ronda is the finishing point of our White Towns & Rugged Mountains walk
Rocamadour, Dordogne, France
The village of Rocamadour
doesn’t so much sit on a hill-top as cling to a cliff, but, given that it’s one of the most extraordinary sights in France, we felt it merited a place on our Top 10 Hill-Top Towns & Villages. It has been famous since the Middle Ages, when miracles established it as a pilgrims’ goal along the path to Santiago de Compostela. The village proper occupies the lowest level, with the ecclesiastical centre above it, and a castle at the very top.
Uchisar, Cappadocia, Turkey
What makes Uchisar so extraordinary is its fortress, which occupies the highest point in the region (1,400 metres) and dominates the skyline for miles around. The fortress has been built into the square-shaped rock at the top of the village; there are no man-made structures visible on the outside, but inside a labyrinth of tunnels, staircases and chambers have been carved out of the soft tufa rock. It is well worth pausing here on our Two Faces of Cappadocia walk so as to admire the far-reaching views over the region.
Piène Haute, Alpes Maritimes, France
Surrounded by steep terraced olive groves in every direction, this isolated village sits atop a hill near the border with Italy. It's quite a walk to reach the village but well worth the effort, as the views along the valleys and over the mountains from the dramatic spur upon which it perches are quite remarkable. The shaded square in front of the church makes a delightful picnic spot on day three of our Alps to the Mediterranean walk
, during which time you are as likely to hear the locals speak Italian as French.
Norcia, Umbria, Italy
So splendid is the location of this authentic Umbrian gem – the starting point of our Sibillini Apennines & the Piano Grande walk
– that it was settled by the Romans, who built an important outpost here called Nursia. The walled town also rejoices in fame for its dried and cured meats, as well as being the birthplace of Saint Benedict (hence the church of San Benedetto, with its glorious façade). However, Norcia has also known its fair share of misfortune: the town has been ravaged by earthquakes over the centuries, which explains the tendency towards squat houses with thick walls.
Forcalquier, Provence, France
Picturesque Forcalquier features on our Scents & Flavours of Provence walk
. Its heyday came in the 12th and 13th centuries, when it was the capital of an independent state. Nowadays it is worthy of note for its weekly Monday market and for the very old examples of Gothic decoration allied with Romanesque architecture. It is well worth walking up to the citadel to admire the view across the narrow, medieval streets to the quintessential Provençal landscapes beyond.
Orvieto, Umbria, Italy
This is another town with a fascinating history, and makes a fitting starting point for our Stroll through History walk
. The 325-metre-high crag was settled by both the enigmatic Etruscans and the Romans, and it was an important stronghold of the Papal States in the Middle Ages. Its centerpiece is the cathedral – one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Italy. Underneath the town is an extensive labyrinth of passages and chambers hewn out of the rock, including a 36-metre-deep well constructed in the 16th century.
If our Top 10 Hill-Top Towns & Villages has inspired you, please contact
our friendly reservations team for more information.