Villagers grow into self-sufficient communities, earning incomes from preserving, protecting and promoting their age-old traditions and environments, while travellers get to experience local culture and cuisine, as well as bask in landscapes untouched by mass tourism.
In Southeast Asia, these include Bojo in the Philippines, Nglanggeran in Indonesia and Batu Puteh in Malaysia, which were crowned Best Tourism Villages by the United Nations’ World Travel Organization (UNWTO) in 2021.
Bojo sits only 90 kilometres away from Cebu City and is the site of the Philippines’ multi-award winning, community-based eco-tourism village.
The village’s main attraction is the Bojo River, a meandering 1.4-kilometre waterway that empties into the coral-rich Tanon Strait that separates the islands of Cebu and Negros.
Locals play a big role in preserving the area’s natural heritage by taking visitors on eco-tours along the turquoise waters of the river, which is flanked by pristine mangrove forests.
Hop on to a baroto or small wooden boat and learn about the ecology and natural history of the area, home to some 20 species of mangroves and more than 60 species of birds.
You can continue the journey to Hermit’s Cove, a stretch of white sand at the mouth of the Bojo River, where you will see turtles and myriad corals.
Nglanggeran Village, Indonesia
Set against the backdrop of Mount Nglanggeran, an extinct volcano, this village, located just 25 kilometres away from Yogyakarta, is dotted with quaint dwellings, rolling green hills and waterfalls.
Since 2017, this award-winning tourism village has welcomed visitors to experience its natural beauty and the richness of Javanese culture in its many forms.
Here, you can get acquainted with the ensemble of instruments used in traditional Javanese music, learn about performance art like Kuda Lumping and even try your hand at decorating your own wooden mask using batik techniques.
Explore the village on foot, where you’ll come across the mesmerising Kedung Kandang waterfalls and catch a glimpse of villagers tending to their cacao plantations or harvesting rice in terraced paddy fields.
Annah Rais Bidayuh Village, Malaysia
This centuries-old Bidayuh settlement, nestled in the lush jungles of Padawan, sits just an hour away from Kuching, the capital of Sarawak.
Take a tour of a longhouse built more than 170 years ago to get insights into ancient traditions that are still practised today, such as mat weaving and bamboo carving.
You can also take in the area’s scenic surroundings by taking a dip in the village’s natural hot springs, basking in the cool waters of a nearby waterfall or from a bamboo raft.
While you’re there, don’t miss out on trying some eats like midin (bracken ferns), manuk pansuh (chicken cooked in bamboo) and, of course, homemade tuak or rice wine.
Mae Kampong, Thailand
Sitting at an elevation of 1,000 metres above sea level, the century-old Mae Kampong is cradled by dense jungles and is located 52 kilometres away from Chiang Mai.
The rustic village has long been a model of community-based eco-tourism in Thailand, where visitors can spend time in homestays to experience Lanna culture, rural life and learn about the area’s natural resources.
Tea and coffee have been harvested in the village for decades, so there’s no shortage of cool cafes for younger people to sample some of Mae Kampong’s caffeine treats.
There’s plenty to do in the village, including trekking to the Mae Kampong Waterfalls and admiring Wat Mae Kampong, a quaint Buddhist temple built in the 1930s.
Vung Vieng Fishing Village, Hao Long Bay Vietnam
This floating village, ringed by karst limestone formations that jut out from the tranquil waters of Bai Tu Long Bay, has been around since the 1800s.
For centuries, fisherfolk have gathered in this village to exchange goods. Eventually, the families that settled in the area grew into a self-sustaining community, eking out a living from the rich waters around them.
While a majority of the village’s inhabitants have moved inland since 2012, many still ply their trade on these floating homes, offering visitors a glimpse into their traditional lives at sea.
Villagers use non-motorised rowing boats to take visitors around the area, where you can observe how pearls are harvested and fresh catch is hauled in for the day. There are even workshops along the floating village where you can learn the art of weaving fishing nets.
For those who opt to stay the night, the adventure includes following fishermen out to catch cuttlefish in the dark and enjoying freshly caught seafood over a hot grill on the boat.
According to airasia.com