For many travelers, this is an essential part of every trip – making sure they take the time to fully immerse themselves in a country’s culture. Whether it be through food, music or festivities, there’s always an exciting way to embrace the unique offerings any country has to offer. Here are six of the most thrilling and fulfilling destinations that’ll satisfy your needs:
India’s religious beauty
It goes without saying that Hinduism and Islam are both common religions worldwide, but you’ll find the most predominant examples of them in India. There’s the Taj Mahal, arguably the most famous building in the world and an Islamic masterpiece, officially recognized as a World Heritage Site for being ‘the jewel of Muslim art in India’. And then there’s Delhi, a bustling and busy city that possesses some incredible hidden treasures.
Holi Festival, India © Rajesh Pamnani
Within this modernized metropolis is a wealth of historic locations that showcase the best of India, such as the tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun situated on Delhi’s east side. You’ll also discover some of the best examples of traditional Indian food in local restaurants and stalls, such as paneer and butter chicken. And, in March, the Holi Festival – a Hindu celebration also known as the ‘Festival of Love’ – is where families and friends come together in a huge ceremony of colored powder, food, drink and dancing. You’ll see people celebrating Holi worldwide, but you’ll find one of the best examples in Delhi’s Holi Cow Festival, where the day is soundtracked by the best independent music acts.
The Māori people of New Zealand
The Māori culture is prevalent throughout New Zealand to this day. You’ll notice it first in the Kiwi vernacular, as everyday conversations blend English with Māori – “kia ora” meaning “hello”, for example. Then there’s the Haka, a war dance that is nowadays performed by New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team before a match. Of course, the Māori culture being embraced and continued through everyday life in New Zealand doesn’t mean that’s all there is to offer.
Wai-O-Tapu geothermal area in Rotorua, New Zealand – Photo by anjan58
Visit the city of Rotorua, located on New Zealand’s north island, for the best opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture – after all, 35% of the town’s population is Māori. You’ll lose yourself in the naturally stunning lakes and volcanic pools of Rotorua, claimed by the Māori people with one spring being named Wai-O-Tapu – ‘Sacred Waters’. And then there are the villages, such as Whakarewarewa, where you’ll get the chance to blend in with the locals and try Māori food, learn the Haka yourself and even hear stories from the older figures in the group. If you’re looking for a more traditional approach, the Rotorua Museum has an abundance of exhibitions that you can walk through to embrace Māori history.
Japan – the old and the new
Kinkaku-Ji Temple, Japan
Nowadays, Japan is commonly known as a technological haven; the city of Tokyo is a neon metropolis, and the country itself is miles ahead of many others. However, beyond the futuristic settings of the capital city there’s still plenty of history to be found. Kyoto is the cultural and historical hotspot in Japan, with its beautiful temples and ancient gardens untouched after avoiding the bombings of World War 2. The Kinkaku-Ji Temple is arguably the most popular attraction, with its gold leaf decoration glistening in the middle of a Zen Buddhist garden.
Alongside this, Kyoto is the place to find geisha – the iconic Japanese entertainers are renowned here, and you can even dine in their presence as they provide entertainment and drinking games. Be warned, though – this is expensive! Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more balanced trip, stay in Tokyo for the best of both worlds. When you’re not experiencing all the city has to offer in the way of bright lights and technology, you can sail down the Sumida River to the Hama-rikyu Gardens, where a serene pond surrounds a teahouse serving matcha – a traditional hot drink made of finely ground and powdered green tea leaves.
It’s become more and more popular over recent years but for many, Peru isn’t an obvious holiday destination. That is until they find out about the overwhelmingly spiritual culture Peruvians have established over hundreds of years. Whether it be Lake Titicaca – the “birthplace of the Sun” according to Andean belief – or the world-renowned Machu Picchu, Peruvian culture is still very much alive and becoming a hit with tourists around the world.
Women near Colca, Peru – Photo by Pedro Szekely
Consider staying in Lima – the country’s capital – where you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to do. The National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History will provide you with a bit of backstory in regard to Peru’s pre and post-colonial days before you head out of the city into some of the more historical hotspots. Whilst you’re there, be sure to enjoy some of the incredible food that’s on offer – Peru is the birthplace of ceviche, after all!
Although Italy has tons of culture to discover in every corner of the country, it has to be said that Rome has enough to last you for a lifetime. Whether it be the gorgeous architecture, the plentiful art or the spirited festivals, you’re sure to be immersed in the cultural magic of the city without even really looking for it! Catholicism and ancient Roman history combine to provide one of the most impressive destinations you’ll ever visit in terms of history and culture.
Perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in Rome is the gigantic Colosseum, built in 80AD and home to some of the fiercest gladiator battles in its heyday. Then there’s St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City – a towering structure considered the center of the Catholic world – and, of course, St. Peter’s Square, where thousands upon thousands of people gather to hear messages from the Pope. You could even visit the Sistine Chapel, the iconic 15th-century building where the Pope himself resides.
Bird’s eye view of Rome – Photo by Luc Mercelis
Alongside all of this, of course, are the endless destinations for shopping, food and drink – Roman cuisine is chock-full of carbs, so be prepared to consume pasta and pizza by the bucket load!
They call it ‘the City of Love’, and for good reason. Whether it be through the beautifully designed architecture or the plentiful art to be seen in Paris, there’s an unmistakable air of romance wherever you go – so if you’re yet to find a significant other, this could be the place.
Notre-Dame de Paris and the River Seine – Photo by barnyz
Consider the less obvious options when in the city to truly get a feel for the culture. Food is obviously an important part of the Parisian lifestyle and Procope, the oldest restaurant in France, features iconic items such as a table where Voltaire used to drink coffee as well as a hat that Napoleon once left behind. Or take a stroll along the River Seine – a two-mile long highway that runs along it has been pedestrianized just this year.
There’s the Louvre, arguably the most famous museum in the world (and definitely the biggest), where you can see the real Mona Lisa in person. Then there are the countless landmarks you’ll want to experience – the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame… you’ll find it’s impossible to get bored in the French capital.