31 Jul Seven Cities to Fall in Love With
It is easy to list the major metropolises of the world that are already part of every traveler’s bucket list. However, here are seven, more alternative towns and cities one should visit in a lifetime.
1. Cuzco, Peru
Cuzco was for almost four centuries the capital of the Inca empire (12thc. – 16thc. CE). Nowadays, it has been officially declared the Historical Capital of Peru and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The historical center of the town bears a strong Spanish influence, evident in the central Plaza des Armas (a regular square name in every Peruvian city), the cathedral, and the other buildings crammed on either side of the narrow streets. Visiting the various cafes and restaurants is a treat on its own, given the artistic creativity and ingenuity each place exhibits – not to mention the flavorful, mouth-watering dishes of the Peruvian cuisine.
Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, is a small city of fewer than 100,000 people. It lies peacefully within the pleats of the valley of the Wang Chuu River, at an elevation of 2250 – 2650m, which makes it the third highest capital in the world by altitude.
The city is not ancient, and, hence, does not offer renowned palaces or temples one cannot enjoy in other Buddhist countries. Still, it is a precious jewel, a place with an ambiance so unique and peaceful, the visitor has trouble parting with.
It only takes a few steps in the city for the visitor to understand that this is not just a flattering Persian proverb. Isfahan’s beauty, energy, and ambiance are sublime, and it really feels as if a large part of the world has been embroidered in the flying carpet the city represents.
Stroll around the Naqsh-e Jahan Square where the sophisticated elegance of Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque outweighs by far in my eyes the imposing presence of Imam Mosque; bargain with the small shop owners in the bazaar over a minakari pot; ready yourself for protracted negotiations and several cups of tea if you are interested in purchasing an Iranian carpet.
The medieval capital of Morocco, the so-called “Mecca of the West” and “Athens of Africa,” is the largest car-free urban zone in the world. The ancient city includes numerous quarters that are characterized by a prominent trade or guild: the vegetable market with baskets full of aromatic and colorful produce, and textile shops where, on traditional looms, strings from the cactus leaves are woven into what is known as the “Moroccan silk.”
5. Ubud, Bali (Indonesia)
I do not belong to the tribe that has fallen in love with Bali. Ubud, however, is a bijou of serenity, and a visitor can only be blessed there with the fortunate strokes of serendipity. The healing power of the town starts with its name, which is based on the Balinese word “ubad” meaning “medicine.” The various medicinal herbs of the region are not only available to the few initiates but, today, are included in the different recipes of fresh juices and salads, served in picturesque cafes and restaurants next to statues of happy Buddhas, ponds of peace, and lotus buds.
Every passerby – be he a conqueror or just a visitor – did not just leave a footprint. On the contrary, they all got incorporated into the essence of the city: the long frothy lace of the seashore; the Venetian-style harbor; the lush slopes and fields; the narrow alleys of the old town; the Omalos plateau; the ghosts, legends, and tales.
7. Sapa, Vietnam
The town is perched among the mountains of what is known as the “Tonkinese Alps,” next to the Chinese borders, and spreads out an array of rugged, authentic beauty.
The few streets are crowded with mini buses struggling to squeeze through the limited space, and representatives of the Black Hmong, Dao, Giay, and Tay ethnic groups, all with their district dress code, their joyful colors, and their tireless efforts to sell – admittedly charming – artifacts to the tourists. Shops with hiking gear, silversmiths, a vegetable market, and welcoming cafes and restaurants offering Vietnamese culinary delights, warm wine, a fireplace, and, unexpectedly frequently, Italian pizza and pasta, pretty much complete the picture.
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About the Author:
Konstantina S. creates travelogues that reflect memories, knowledge, and insights acquired while traveling around the world. She has 20 years of corporate experience, having always at heart an affinity for the beauty of human nature.