Many of the planet’s cliff-side towns were originally built in their location for some military reason. Such is the case with Bonifacio, which sits at the southern tip of the French island of Corsica. The town’s position, strung out along white limestone cliffs, not only overlooks one of the island’s best harbors but also the strategically significant straight that separates Corsica from rival island Sardinia. More recently tourism has been the force driving Bonifaciens to built holiday homes and B&Bs on the cliff’s edge where the view out across the Mediterranean Sea rather spectacular.
Castellfollit de la Roca, Spain
Castellfollit de la Roca, in the Catalonia region in the middle of Spain, has a doubly impressive location—this 1,000 person village is perched on a spit of land with cliffs on both sides. The village gets a steady flow of tourists during the day, which is exactly why you should spend the night here. On warm evenings it is blissful sitting out with a nice drink on a cliff-side terrace in Castellfollit de la Roca looking out over the Catalonian countryside. For overnights there’s one only choice of hotel: the Pensión Ca la Paula (#3 Plaça de Sant Roc, tel. 972 29 40 32, no website at the time of writing).
Ronda does not sit upon one strategically significant hilltop in the Andalusia region of Spain. It sits upon two hilltops, only 68 meters (223 feet) apart but separated by the 120 meter (400 feet) deep El Tajo Gorge. Ever since the Celts first built Ronda it has been an issue how to bridge the two sections of town. The current bridge, called the Puente Nuevo (“new bridge”), took 42 years to build and was finally completed in 1793. (For North American travelers one of Spain’s endearing qualities is that a structure over 200 years old can be called “new”). The bridge is almost as amazing as Ronda’s cliff-side setting; the interior of the structure was used as a prison and torture chamber during the Spanish Civil War and is today a museum. As for the town of Ronda, it is the birthplace of modern bullfighting and claims both Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway among its former residents. But you won’t care about that when you are standing at the town’s edge gazing out over the long drop down.
The uber-colorful Italian village of Manarola is not the most precariously placed cliff-side settlement of the five in this review. This is fortunate considering the amount of wine produced—and consumed—here. The local specialty is Sciacchetrà, a sweet dessert wine that tastes of honey and apricots. Manarola is one of five villages in the Cinque Terre area of the Italian Riviera. The other four villages, not incidentally, have rather cool cliff-side locations as well.
Al Hajjarah, Yemen
Yemen is one of Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite travel countries (though, sadly, these days the security situation there for travelers is spotty). In the western part of the country lie the Haraz mountains and the village of Al Hajjarah. The fortified clifftop center of the village was originally built by the Ottomans in the 11th century, partly for military purposes and partly to serve as a Muslim enclave for what was then a mostly Jewish village. Today, Al Hajjarah makes for a striking trekking destination. Or you can travel here from San’a in about 3 hours by shared taxi via Manakhan.
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