Thai Hai Village Is Among “Best Tourism Villages” Of 2022

Recently, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has announced a list of 32 destinations worldwide that have become the "Best Tourism Villages in 2022". Among them, the Thai Hai eco-ethnic stilt house village conservation area in Vietnam is honored to be named on the list.

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Travel has changed in many ways since the pandemic started, but one change for the better is the new push toward rural tourism. Before we were intent on ticking off yet another city break, in lockdown we started dreaming of the great outdoors — and that still hasn’t changed.

So here are 32 new rural spots to add to your list. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has drawn up its second annual list of “best” rural villages worldwide.

International visitors participate in activities at Thai Hai village (Photo: thaihai.vn).
International visitors participate in activities at Thai Hai village (Photo: thaihai.vn).

It’s a departure from the usual lists of Instagrammable places in peak tourist destinations. The UNWTO is a United Nations agency focusing on responsible tourism — so these villages have been chosen for how they’re growing visitor numbers without ruining what it is the visitors are coming to see. In a statement, the UNWTO said:

“The accolade recognizes rural destinations that are embracing tourism as a driver of development and new opportunities for jobs and income while preserving and promoting community-based values and products. The initiative also recognizes villages for their commitment to innovation and sustainability in all its aspects — economic, social, and environmental — and a focus on developing tourism in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A grand total of 32 villages across the globe made a list, out of 136 which were put forward by 57 UNTWO member states. There’s no ranking — instead, the destinations are listed alphabetically by country.

Photo: Toquoc.vn
Photo: Toquoc.vn

Each country was allowed to submit up to three villages for consideration — and only Spain succeeded in qualifying all three of its villages. Rupit, Alquézar, and Guadalupe all made the list. Its neighbor, Portugal, had one entry — Castelo Novo, one of 12 historical villages surrounded by the Serra da Gardunha mountain range.

Austria begins the list with Zell am See. A small town, rather than a village, it sits on the shore of peaceful Lake Zell, in the shadow of the Kitzbühel Alps. Its sibling, Wagrain, is a small ski resort near Salzburg.

Next up is Chile, and its entry Puqueldón — the biggest of nine villages on Lemuy island in Chile’s Chiloé archipelago. China has made it through with two villages: Dazhai, in northern Guangxi province, and Jingzhu in Chongqing, southwest China.

Photo: Ha Thu
Photo: Ha Thu

One particularly interesting addition to the list is Choke Mountain Village, an ecotourism village on Choke Mountain, about 200 miles northwest of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. The farming community uses solar energy, biogas and ecological waste management operates sustainable land management, and has introduced fair trade tourism, where visitors can buy local honey, coffee, medicinal herbs, and beer as a memento of their stay.

Called the “Best Tourism Villages” initiative, the program aims to combat rural depopulation, advance gender equality, innovation, infrastructure, and investment, and reduce regional income and development inequality — all while enacting sustainable tourism, and reducing emissions and waste. The villages on the list have a “clear commitment to innovation and sustainability in all its aspects — economic, social and environmental,” said UNWTO in a statement.

Thai Hai Reserve Area of Ecological Houses-on-Stilts Village is a conservation area in the style of stilt houses imbued with the culture of the Nung and Tay ethnic groups in Thai Nguyen. Thai Hai owns a scale of up to 25 hectares with mountains, trees, flowers, and large lakes, especially 30 stilt houses hundreds of years of age. These stilt houses were brought from ATK Dinh Hoa Thai Nguyen and have been restored in Thai Hai Village. Surrounding the stilt houses is a hilly landscape on all sides, a green space with a peaceful atmosphere.

Photo: Lu Hanh Viet Nam
Photo: Lu Hanh Viet Nam

Together, these families maintain and preserve traditional cultural features such as language, customs, rituals, and costumes. They promote the local cultural potential to form unique tourism products such as organizing traditional spiritual festivals or selecting people with relatively stable cultural knowledge and language skills to be tour guides.

Tourists visiting Thai Hai village will be staying in stilt houses with local people so that visitors can learn about their cuisine, culture or agricultural activities, animal husbandry, and handicrafts of the Tay people.

The full list, in alphabetical order, is as follows:

• Zell am See, Austria

• Wagrain, Austria

• Puqueldón, Chile

• Dazhai, China

• Jingzhu, China

• Choachí, Colombia

• Aguarico, Ecuador

• Angochagua, Ecuador

• Choke Mountains Ecovillage, Ethiopia

• Mestia, Georgia

• Kfar Kama, Israel

• Sauris Zahre, Italy

• Isola del Giglio, Italy

• Umm Qais, Jordan

• Creel, Mexico

• El Fuerte, Mexico

• Ksar Elkhorbat, Morocco

• Moulay Bouzerktoune, Morocco

• Lamas, Peru

• Raqchi, Peru

• Castelo Novo, Portugal

• Pyeongsa-ri, Republic of Korea

• Rasinari, Romania

• AlUla Old Town, Saudi Arabia

• Bohinj, Slovenia

• Rupit, Spain

• Alquézar, Spain

• Guadalupe, Spain

• Murten, Switzerland

• Andermatt, Switzerland

• Birgi, Türkiye

• Thai Hai, Vietnam

Charlotte Pho