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Home Travel Opinion | Booking.com has named the world’s 10 most welcoming cities, places it says are iconic, stunning, enchanting etc. We’ll have to take their word for it

Opinion | Booking.com has named the world’s 10 most welcoming cities, places it says are iconic, stunning, enchanting etc. We’ll have to take their word for it

by Staff

Still, we can’t think of a better way of assessing something as nebulous as a welcome, and presumably many of the people who left positive reviews would have been happy with the overall vibe of the city as well as their digs – so perhaps there is some merit to the list.

Somewhere over the rainbow: Arraial d’Ajuda, Brazil, makes the list of most welcoming cities. Photo: Shutterstock

Another plus is that Destinations Known hasn’t been to any of the cities – well, towns mostly – listed. None; and some, we’re ashamed to admit, we couldn’t even point to on a map. And that’s perhaps illustrative in itself; you have to go well off the beaten track to find the warmest of welcomes.

The nearest city on the list to Hong Kong is Japan’s Fujikawaguchiko, a resort town in, and a gateway to, the foothills of Mount Fuji – itself a super attractor that visitors will have to start paying 2,000 yen (US$13.50) to climb from this summer.

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As with almost all travel-related press releases, Booking.com’s list uses a smorgasbord of clichés: “hidden gems”, “rich heritage”, “breathtaking scenery” and the like.

Fujikawaguchiko, therefore, is “Situated at the base of the iconic Mount Fuji and is renowned for its stunning views”. The town “offers the perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural richness”.

The only other Asian city on the list is Jaisalmer, in Rajasthan, India.
Jaiselmer, in Rajasthan, India, was one of two Asian cities to make the list, along with Fujikawaguchiko, in Japan. Photo: Shutterstock

Known as the Golden City because of its many buildings constructed of yellow sandstone and the sand of the surrounding Thar Desert, Jaisalmer has all the temples and forts you’d expect from a “spectacular sight” in Rajasthan.

As is usual with travel-related surveys, Europe punches above its weight, with cities in Greece, Portugal, Switzerland and France all getting a nod in this list, the latter perhaps a surprise to those visitors who have endured one of Paris’ famously frosty receptions.

Ermoupoli is “the stunning capital of Syros, a Greek island in the Cyclades, in the Aegean Sea”.

Ermoupoli, the capital of the Greek island of Syros, made the list. Photo: Shutterstock

As well as its warm welcome and warm weather, Ermoupoli is distinguished by “its Venetian heart”, whatever that means. Presumably it isn’t considering introducing a €5 (US$5.40) entry fee for day trippers, as the real Venice has done.

Viana do Castelo is an “enchanting coastal town […] nestled in northern Portugal and just under an hour’s drive from Porto International Airport”. It is also, we’re told, a “mecca for surfing, kitesurfing and windsurfing”.

Viana do Castelo, in Portugal, is described as an “enchanting coastal town” by Booking.com. Photo: Shutterstock

In the heart of the Swiss Alps and more than 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) above sea level, Grindelwald is “surrounded by iconic peaks like the Eiger and Jungfrau” and “the mountain retreat is a year-round haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers”.

A gateway to the vineyards and olive groves of France’s Gard region, Uzès is “a picture perfect town in the centre of the Provence region (sic) in southern France.

Characterised by its medieval style, cobblestone streets and historic charm, the village exudes elegance and a rich cultural heritage.”

Uzès is described as a “picture perfect” gateway to the vineyards of France’s Gard region. Photo: Shutterstock

Booking.com’s Top 10 of welcoming cities/towns is rounded out with the following four:

Arraial d’Ajuda, in Brazil, is “a charming town situated south from Porto Seguro, known as one of the best beach destinations in Brazil. It’s a perfect destination for […] travellers who want to rest and recharge when travelling in 2024”.

Daylesford, Australia, is not quite as unknown as some of the others on the list, having been mentioned in the pages of the South China Morning Post several times.

Daylesford, Australia, is known for its forests and lakes. Photo: Shutterstock

Natural mineral springs, a vibrant arts scene and spas galore define this “idyllic town” less than 110km from Melbourne.

“The area’s landscape, made up of serene lakes and lush forests, makes it the perfect destination for those seeking rest and relaxation.”

In southeastern Utah, Moab is “a true outdoor enthusiast’s paradise and the perfect place to discover a variety of landscapes that are among the most beautiful in the United States”.

With no light pollution, Moab, Utah, is described as a “perfect” stargazing spot. Photo: Shutterstock

Its glittering welcome and skies clear of light pollution are a draw – “perfect”, even – for stargazers.

Just across the Gulf of California from the resort city of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico’s Mazatlán is a “perfect beach destination for travellers [who] want to escape from the crowds”.

So there you have it, 10 places where you’re likely to receive a warm welcome. Nothing’s guaranteed – or perfect – though, so don’t blame us if you visit one and get the cold shoulder; we’ve never been.

The Mexican resort city of Mazatlán makes Booking.com’s list. Photo: Shutterstock

Bloom or bust

Last year, tourists who had timed a visit to Japan to get the best out of the country’s cherry blossoms – the blooming of which moves in a “front” northwards, as spring is sprung – were wrong-footed by a historically early blooming. And with records dating back to AD812, we do mean “historically”.

The problem was, of course, climate breakdown; as the world warms, so the cherry trees blossom earlier.

Cherry blossoms in full bloom over Tokyo’s Meguro River, in March, 2023. Photo: AFP

This year’s dates will probably be as early as those of last year – possibly beginning around March 17 – and the Earth Communication Provider website is doing its level best to keep on top of things, issuing regular updates.

At the time of writing, the 11-day window for an almost guaranteed view of pink drifts of cherry-tree petals – mostly of the Yoshino variety – is forecast to begin in Fukuoka on March 21; in Osaka on March 25; in Tokyo on March 23; and in Sendai on April 3.

Good luck if you’re heading over to Japan in the next few weeks.

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