Who Needs Venice? 10 Floating Towns You Can Sail Through
10 destinations around the world where boats outnumber cars.
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You’ll be hard-pressed to find a car in Giethoorn, a water-logged village in the Dutch province of Overijssel. Instead of roads, inhabitants travel to and fro in boats on its many idyllic waterways. Those who venture here are certainly struck both by the gorgeous scenery, which includes centuries-old thatched roof homes, but also the silence — the loudest sound you’re likely to hear is the squawking of resident ducks.
Annecy, a petite town in the Rhone-Alpes region of southeast France, more than deserves its nickname, "Pearl of the French Alps." Two cafe-lined canals — initially intended as a defensive feature — cut through the old city, lending Annecy a fairytale quality that understandably attracts admirers the globe over.
Visitors to Fenghuang, a former frontier town in China’s Hunan Province, never fail to be amazed by the striking green waters that flow beneath its famous stilted houses. Tourists may cross the Tuojiang River by boat, or for the more daring, by foot — a stone path stretches across one section. Just don’t fall!
In China’s southeastern Jiangsu Province, the ancient city of Suzhou was for centuries famed for its high culture and embrace of the arts. Today it’s a modern city in every sense of the word, but Suzhou still retains ethereal pockets of a canal-centric past, which remain dotted with pagodas, romantic bridges and well-tended gardens. At night, reflections of red lanterns, which line many of the canals, illuminate the calm waters below.
Criss-crossed by a system of canals, Alappuzha is the oldest planned city in the Kerala state of southern India. Unlike other canal-based cities in the world, pristine Alappuzha hasn’t let its waterways be clogged with trash — in 2016, it was named the cleanest town in India. These days, tourists flock to this tiny town to experience a stay in one of its famous houseboats and take in views of its miraculously green paddy fields.
The city perhaps most often compared to Venice is Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. It’s an apt comparison considering Amsterdam’s more than 60 miles of 17th-century canals — more even than Venice — almost all of which are navigable by boat, not to mention its more than 1,200 bridges.