Italy: Cinque Terre

99 Coastal Destinations Rated: Top Rated

Score: 76

The five towns that comprise the Cinque Terre cling to steep hillsides overlooking the azure waters of the Ligurian Sea. Thanks to inaccessibility and smart planning policy, they enjoy high cultural, architectural, and ecological integrity.

Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:

"The decision to create the national park in Cinque Terre is one of the best attempts to achieve cultural, environmental, and economic sustainability in a destination that was under stress. Once poor agricultural and fishing villages, Cinque Terre were discovered in the 1990s as a beautiful destination. This led to degradation of pathways and ecosystems between the villages, and overcrowding in summer. In 1998 and 1999, this region was made into a national park and marine reserve. It is a success story and has maintained its authenticity."

"Tremendous aesthetic, cultural, and environmental appeal. Relatively well managed. You can get around easily by train. In the summer it is becoming overcrowded with daytrippers and hikers. Italy should consider a daily limit on visitors."

"One of the Mediterranean's most scenic coastal landscapes derives its appeal from the fact that it is largely closed to motor traffic. Scenic walking tracks clinging to steep coastal hillsides offer ever-changing vistas over the coast with its vineyards, forests, and five picturesque villages. So far, this national park has avoided the large-scale resort developments that have scarred the Mediterranean coastline elsewhere."