World’s Best Cultural Tourism Destinations: 30 Cultural Trips to Take This Year

Discover the best cultural trips and immersive travel experiences our world has to offer. From Southern India to the High Arctic, here are the top 30 countries and regions for cultural tourism this year .

With many of us now on the lookout for deeper and more meaningful travel experiences , cultural tourism – travel that prioritises learning about and appreciating different ways of life – has never been more appealing.

Immersive cultural experiences give travellers an opportunity to see the world from a different perspective, form meaningful relationships, and develop new skills. They can also open the door to a slower, more sustainable type of travel that has benefits for local communities and a lighter impact on the planet.

Whether you’re a seasoned cultural traveller researching for your next trip or you’re interested in getting off-the-beaten-track but aren’t sure where to start, I hope this guide to culture and travel offers you some food for thought!

I also suggest reading these tips for socially responsible travel for advice about engaging with different cultures in a sensitive and mindful way.

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What is cultural tourism?

Cultural travel is as broad and multifaceted as culture itself – it’s difficult to pin down, and highly subjective. For me, cultural tourism is a kind of travel that prioritises activities and experiences designed to immerse you in a way of life that differs from your own.

It might involve consuming tangible cultural products (museums, archaeological sites, food , tea ) or encountering intangible cultural elements (rituals, performances, processes). As well as art, literature, religious monuments and the like, it also encompasses ways of living, values and beliefs – both historical and contemporary.

It’s almost impossible to avoid local culture when you travel. No matter your motivation, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up experiencing some aspect of local culture, even if it’s something as simple as eating local cuisine or learning a few words of the language.

Apart from these incidental encounters, cultural tourism represents a more concerted effort to engage with local culture through specialised activities. In the same way an adventure traveller might seek out a particular hiking route, for example, a cultural traveller might plan their trip around a festival.

Cultural vacations might involve:

  • Learning a new skill, for example through a cooking class or craft workshop
  • Attending a local festival or event
  • Participating in a ritual or ceremony
  • Eating local food
  • Staying with a family at a homestay
  • Immersing yourself in the local community by teaching English as a foreign language
  • Visiting a community-based tourism project
  • Visiting World Heritage Sites and immersive museums
  • Taking a locally guided tour

There’s lots more to cultural trips (as you’ll soon see), but these are some of the common elements we tend to associate with this genre of travel.

Practicing Hmong embroidery at a homestay in Sapa, Vietnam.

Pros and cons of cultural travel

Cultural travel is almost a guaranteed way to enrich your experience as a tourist. But it’s worth noting that this type of travel has both benefits and downsides for host communities.

Cultural tourism helps to encourage the preservation of culture and heritage by keeping endangered traditions alive. There might be little demand for heritage handicraft skills, for example, but outside interest (and an opportunity to earn an income) could be enough to safeguard a tradition that might otherwise have been lost.

By the same token, cultural tourism can incentivise better protections for physical heritage sites, ensuring that monuments and the like remain accessible for future generations. Cultural tourism can have far-reaching social impacts and environmental benefits when it gives rise to new social enterprises, local businesses and women-led ventures geared towards giving tourists an immersive experience.

On the other hand, there’s always a question mark around authenticity when it comes to cultural travel. If a ritual is performed for the benefit of outsiders, does it lose its meaning? Commodification of culture for tourism is a serious issue that impacts many communities and can be damaging to social and economic development more broadly.

Cultural tourism often involves travelling to more remote areas, which introduces a whole host of other pros and cons. A road constructed for the benefit of tourists is also new infrastructure for the community – but it might speed up globalisation and cultural erosion, while the very presence of tourists can worsen environmental pollution or cause rifts between different social groups.

These are complicated issues. Personally, I think cultural exchange is one of the most important aspects of travel and when managed properly and in a way that actively involves communities, the benefits can outweigh the drawbacks.

Top 30 countries & regions for cultural trips

There’s not a town, city, county or region in the world that doesn’t have something amazing to offer in terms of local culture. This makes it very hard to pick the ‘best’ places for cultural tourism.

However, each of these 30 hand-picked destinations stands out for its extravagant festivals and celebrations, rich cuisine and heritage handicrafts that give travellers a window on culture, heritage and the local way of life.

At the end of the list, you’ll find my top tips for having a more culturally immersive travel experience no matter where in the world you go.

Cultural destinations in the Americas

Antioquia Department, Colombia • Cuba • Ecuador • Big Island of Hawaii, USA • Orleans Parish, USA • Oaxaca, Mexico

Colombia’s Antioquia Department – for pueblos, bandeja paisa & Botero

A woman looks out the window of her colourful house in Jerico, Colombia.

A melange of Indigenous traditions and colonial influences, there are few destinations in the world more culturally vibrant or intriguing than Colombia.

Antioquia Department in the north-west – with the city of Medellin as its capital – has become one of the most popular destinations in the country for tourists, beloved for its exquisite landscapes, colourful small towns and coffee farming heritage.

Along with several other departments, this part of Colombia is home to the Paisas , a self-defined cultural group whose name is derived from a Spanish word meaning ‘countryman’. They speak their own dialect, eat their own cuisine, and pass down their culture through a rich tradition of music and folklore.

Modern-day Antioquian culture is defined by the region’s artists, writers and poets. And then there’s the city of Medellin itself, which has undergone a huge transformation in recent years and is now considered one of the country’s main cultural hubs.

Top cultural experiences in Antioquia

Eat Paisa cuisine: One of the biggest joys of visiting Antioquia is experiencing the food scene. Paisa cuisine is heavily influenced by the topography and way of life in the Colombian Andes – carb-heavy dishes that feature beans, rice and maize are designed to fuel bodies for back-breaking work on the land. Bandeja Paisa is by far the most popular traditional dish and a must-eat in Medellin. The Antioquian version of a ploughman’s lunch, it consists of carne asada (grilled steak), chicharrón (crispy pork rind), rice and red beans served with a slice of avocado, fried plantains, a fried egg and a corn arepa on the side. It’s not for the faint hearted!

Visit a pueblo : Colombia is renowned for its small towns with colourful painted facades and pretty flower boxes. Antioquia is home to some of the loveliest pueblos in the country, including  Jardin , Jericó and Santa fe de Antioquia, to name but a few. Developed during Spanish times, most follow the same basic town plan: A public square, a market, a church, and rows and rows of houses built in the region’s vernacular style. If you’re short on time, Pueblo Paisa in Medellin is a model village in the heart of the capital.

Shop at the San Alejo Handicraft Market: If you happen to be visiting Medellin on the first Saturday of the month, don’t miss this unique opportunity to see Colombia’s handicraft traditions on display. Vendors from across the region descend on the city to sell traditional products, including woven Wayuu bags, and artisanal foods. You can chat to the vendors and watch live demonstrations to see how these Indigenous handicrafts are produced.

Visit Comuna 13: A locally guided tour of Medellin’s Comuna 13 will allow you to delve into the city’s tumultuous recent past in a respectful and mindful way. This collection of once-notorious city neighbourhoods has become a symbol for the nation’s transformation and cultural revitalisation. Street art, music and other expressions of local creativity are all on display for visitors to enjoy.

Cuba – for Mambo, classic cars & casas particulares

A colourful car parked in front of brightly painted houses in Cuba.

The native Taino Indians called their beautiful island Cubanacán. When the Spaniards arrived in 1511, they shortened it to ‘Cuba’ and claimed it for Spain, labelling it “the most beautiful land human eyes have ever beheld.”

Ethnically, the country is a vibrant mix of Europeans, Africans brought over as enslaved workers throughout the 1700s, and a large group of Chinese imported as indentured servants. Sadly, the original inhabitants have largely disappeared.

On December 31, 1959 the Cuban Revolution succeeded in converting the country into a communist nation. Since then – and due to the mutually adversarial relationship with the United States – the island nation has existed in semi-isolation, frozen in time.

The cars that roam the streets are the same classic American models from the 1950s, and the frequently crumbling buildings have enjoyed little renovation.    

Despite Cuba’s trying history, the spirit of the people lives on and in its rich and celebrated culture. Before you go, learn the dos and don’t of visiting Cuba . 

Top cultural experiences in Cuba

Dance the night away at a musical venue: Cuba is the birthplace of dozens of musical genres including Mambo, Cha-Cha-Cha and Afro-Cuban Jazz. These Afro-European genres have contributed and enriched music categories around the world. Be sure to experience one of Cuba’s world-famous carnivals and Jazz Festivals.

Overdose on art and architecture: With nine UNESCO World Heritage sites and an amazing collection of museums, Cuba is a culture vulture’s paradise. Most are found in the capital city of Havana, but you also find little gems in the second city, Santiago de Cuba, and the perfectly preserved colonial city of Trinidad. Cuba’s architecture ranges from Spanish colonial and French Baroque to 1920s Art Deco. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana and the Bacardi Museum in Santiago to start; but don’t miss the quirky Rum Museum or the delectable Museum of Chocolate either.

Stay at a Cuban homestay: These Airbnb-type experiences are called ‘ casas particulares ‘. This is your opportunity to live with a Cuban family and delve into the culture.

Go hiking: Cuba’s national parks, biosphere reserves and 1,500 miles (2,400km) of coastline provide an opportunity to experience the outdoor culture.

By Talek from Travels With Talek

Ecuador – for jungle homestays, festivals & colada morada

The streets of Quito, Ecuador.

A country with just over 17 million people, Ecuador is an extremely culturally diverse nation and a cultural tourism destination that should not to be overlooked.

Retaining a strong influence from Spanish colonisation, with widely-celebrated Catholic festivals and traditions, there is also a diverse mix of Andean Indigenous groups and traditions that dominate the mountainous centre of the country. In the east, the influence of various Amazonian Indigenous groups and their traditions is strong.

The coast of Ecuador, meanwhile, is marked by African influence from the cultures of enslaved peoples brought during colonisation.

With such a diversity of cultures – each with their own festivals, traditional foods and more – there are plenty of immersive experiences to partake in across the country that make a trip to Ecuador a must for any cultural traveller.

Top cultural experiences in Ecuador

Visit a remote community in the Amazon rainforest: One of the most popular and fascinating cultural experiences for travellers to Ecuador is to visit an Indigenous community to learn about and experience the rich traditions. Even a jungle tour of the Amazon on a budget can be tailored to include a visit to an Indigenous community, where you’ll learn to make traditional dishes and beverages such as chicha . Tribes deeper in the Amazon that welcome visitors often offer more in-depth cultural experiences including homestays, ritual cleansings, or even ayahuasa retreats.

Celebrate Easter in Ecuador: In addition to the Indigenous traditions in Ecuador, there are many popular celebrations from the Catholic tradition that travellers can partake in. Easter celebrations during Holy Week include Quito’s parade, known as the Procesión Jesús del Gran Poder, which features thousands of purple-hooded devotes carrying crosses and statues. Make sure you enjoy a bowl of traditional Fanesca , a rich and creamy soup made with 12 grains representing the 12 Disciples.

Dress up for Día de los Difuntos : Another cultural celebration with Indigenous roots is the Día de los Difuntos or ‘Day of the Deceased’, marked on November 2nd. Ecuador celebrates by honouring the dead and visiting cemeteries. Celebrations also include preparing and eating guaguas de pan , bread in the shape of a baby filled with fruit jam, and drinking colada morada , a thick, sweet drink made with berries and fruit and thickened with blue corn flour before being served warm. These delicious treats are sold in bakeries across the country for at least a month prior to the festivities. The largest celebrations are held in Indigenous communities such as Otavalo in Northern Ecuador.

By Carley from Home to Havana

The Big Island of Hawaii – for palm weaving, stargazing & petroglyphs

Traditional Hawaiian totems on the beach.

The natural abundance of the Big Island of Hawaii, the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, is nothing short of spectacular. With eight different climate zones, three active volcanoes, and the most mesmerising waterfalls and beaches in different shades, there’s a wealth of diversity to explore on the Big Island .

This unique natural setting is also home to several important cultural sites. After all, this is the Hawaiian island where the first Polynesian settlers arrived, where the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii, King Kamehameha the Great, was born, and where the European explorers first arrived.

With such a rich heritage, it comes as no surprise that Hawaiian culture is still very much alive on the Big Island. Here are some experiences that allow you to explore the island’s heritage.

Top cultural experiences on the Big Island of Hawaii

Take a self-guided tour of the Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park: Just south of Kailua-Kona, there’s a site where the royal family and their warriors once lived. It’s very well preserved and you can still see the thatched huts, an ancient temple, wooden carvings and fishponds. But this site was more than just a royal retreat: When Hawaiians broke the law or kapu , they were condemned to death. The only option to escape their fate was reaching this sanctuary, known as the Place of Refuge. You can visit this intriguing site on a self-guided tour.

Learn the traditional Hawaiian art of weaving palm fronds: In the Hawaiian craft known as lau niu , the leaves of the coconut palm were used to thatch roofs, create baskets and even hats. There’s a handful of workshops where you can learn this traditional craft from a professional weaver. Not only does it make for a unique experience, it also allows you to craft your own handmade Hawaiian souvenir.

Go stargazing at Maunakea: In Hawaiian culture, the dormant Maunakea volcano, with its unique alpine Lake Waiau, is considered sacred. They believed the summit to be the realm of the gods and the meeting place of earth and sky. To this day, cultural rituals are performed on the slopes of Maunakea. This intriguing volcano is home to the world’s largest astronomical observatory, the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy, which hosts a regular stargazing program.

Check out the Hawaiian petroglyphs: Hawaiian petroglyphs tell the stories of ancient times and give a unique inside into the different cultural beliefs on the islands. You can find carvings of canoes, turtles, babies and more at one of the petroglyph sites that dot the Big Island, such as the Puuloa Petroglyph site in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve near the Mauna Lani Resort.

Conquer the ocean in an outrigger canoe: Step aboard a double-hull outrigger canoe and explore the shore in the same way the Polynesian settlers did centuries ago. This type of canoe features lateral support floats or outriggers fastened to one or to both sides of the hull. Learn how to paddle and work as a team as you glide along the Kona reefs teeming with fish. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a pod of dolphins.

By Sarah from CosmopoliClan

Orleans Parish – for jazz, Madi Gras & creole cooking

New Orleans city.

When it comes to cultural destinations, few cities have as much to offer as New Orleans and the surrounding parishes. Located in Southeastern USA, New Orleans is all about tradition and culture. The city’s unique heritage comes from a blend of French, Spanish, Cajun, and Creole cultures.

Combined, these groups have given birth to something truly iconic. The beautiful Mardi Gras celebrations are a remnant of the French colonial era, while the beautiful Spanish colonial architecture in Jackson Square is worthy of a walking tour .

You will also find unique Cajun cuisine served in the city’s most popular restaurants. Add in the many historical museums, southern plantation homes, and distinct architectural styles and Orleans Parish makes for the ultimate cultural destination in the US.

Top cultural experiences in New Orleans

Join a Mardi Gras parade: New Orleans is well-known for its lavish and grand Mardi Gras parades and balls. Visitors can enjoy the festivities for an entire month in the lead up to the big day. Outside of Mardi Gras, there are plenty of other festivals in New Orleans to check out as well. 

Listen to jazz: New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. The city’s Creole population gathered and celebrated in the city’s Congo Square on Sundays and thus jazz was born!

Tour a plantation home: Many southern plantation homes are located along the banks of the Mississippi. These can be seen on a road trip along the Great River Road. On a tour, you will learn about pre-Civil war life in the South and the history of slavery. Learn more about the ethics of visiting plantation homes here .

By Ketki from Dotted Globe

Oaxaca – for Indigenous cuisine, Zapotec rugs & mezcal

A church in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The state of Oaxaca is a cultural hub in Mexico. Void of resorts or even big-name hotel chains, Oaxaca is rich in flavourful cuisine, celebrations, and Indigenous revitalisation.

Located in southern Mexico, Oaxaca features a variety of different landscapes, from lush hills and forests, to dry arid deserts and blissful beaches. However, the community atmosphere of Oaxaca is what keeps people coming back, both international visitors and Mexican residents alike.

Oaxaca is known as the food capital of Mexico, with dozens of celebrity chefs. Notably, Indigenous culture is very visible in Oaxaca, with 16 recognised Indigenous groups in the state. Zapotec weaving is one of the most sought-after souvenirs in the area – and Mexico in general – and it comes from Oaxaca.

Top cultural experiences in Oaxaca

Celebrate Dia de los Muertos : Oaxaca City is a top destination for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), with its dazzling parades, intricate family altars and abundant festivities. Dia de los Muertos is a pre-Columbian tradition that honours deceased loved ones with food, drink, and merriment. So, if you happen to visit Oaxaca during a festival like Dia de los Muertos, bring comfortable shoes for fun activities throughout the day. Oaxaca City is an extremely walkable city, and you will want to explore every inch of its mural lined walls.

Eat Oaxacan cuisine: Since Oaxacan cuisine is also central to the region’s identity, sign up for a food tour with a local to learn the origins of some of the most popular dishes and what makes Oaxacan food and flavour so unique and different from other states in Mexico. Or, if you want to take a more hands-on approach, take a cooking class with a world-class chef at Casa de los Sabores and learn how to make mole and other Oaxacan staples.

Visit a Zapotec village: If you’d prefer to focus on Indigenous cuisine, take a day trip out to the Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle for a cooking class at El Sabor Zapoteco . After you finish, there are many things to do in Teotitlán del Valle , but you will probably want to get your fill of shopping at the many boutique shops for best quality Zapotec rugs.

Drink mezcal: If you’re a fan of hard drinks, Oaxaca is a great destination for mezcal tasting! Hop on any tour and view the vast agave fields as you taste mezcal throughout the day. Depending on the season, you may even get to try your hand at using the harvesting machete!

By Kay from The Awkward Traveller

Learn more: A local’s guide to the best of Mexican culture and an in-depth guide to Mayan culture in the Yucatan .

Cultural travel destinations in Europe

French Basque Country • Armenia • Sicily • Greece • Bosnia & Herzegovina • Russia • Northern Europe’s Arctic Regions • The Greater Caucasus • Andalusia, Spain

French Basque Country – for frontons , fêtes & espadrilles

Architecture in Basque Country, France.

The Basque country at the southwestern-most tip of France is one of those regions you might not guess is French – at least not at first.

The half-timbered houses are painted oxblood or green, and the Euskara (Basque) language, Europe’s oldest, is related to no other tongue. The Basques are also among the oldest ethnic groups of Europe.

Basque culture is unique and is spread among seven provinces, of which three are in France (the other four are in Spain). The Basques have their own festivals, music and dances, their own foods, games and folklore, as well as an acute sense of history and heritage.

Top cultural experiences in French Basque Country

Here are just a few cultural experiences to whet your appetite for all things Basque!

Gastronomy: The food is different from your regular French fare. For example, the Espelette pimento is spicier than seasonings you’ll find elsewhere in France, and food itself is taken to new heights here – the region has the highest number of Michelin stars per capita in the world. And let’s not forget the pintxo , the Basque equivalent of the Spanish tapas.

Fronton s: You’ll find one of these walls in every Basque village – it’s what Basques use to play their national sport, Basque pelota (known in some countries as jai alai). It’s played with a racquet-like bat which scoops up the ball. Then, a bit like squash, the players fling it back and forth against the wall, or fronton.

Family-owned businesses: Basque artisanal traditions run deep, whether it’s leatherwork, espadrilles, Basque linen or beret making. This is a region in which hand-made goods thrive and where mass-production takes a back seat. The local government makes sure family businesses are promoted and Basque know-how exported, however stiff the competition – there are special labels for family businesses, and even labels for those businesses that have been around for more than a century (and there are plenty). As a result, hand-made goods from this small region find their way around the world, symbolising not only Basque savvy but Basque determination to hang on to its heritage.

Bayonne Festival: With its one million annual participants, the Fêtes de Bayonne is France’s largest festival. It was ‘borrowed’ in 1932 from not-too-distant Pamplona in Spain, but has grown immeasurably since. Each July, visitors dress up in white clothes and red scarves (and a red beret, of course) and spend five days eating, drinking, singing Basque songs and watching Basque sports. The Festival includes bullfighting, which has a long tradition in the region, although this particular sport might be short-lived given the growing opposition to it.

By Leyla from Offbeat France

Bosnia & Herzegovina – for old bazaars, woodcarving & kahva

Bosnian coffee.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse countries in the Balkans . If you have your sights set on this lesser-visited part of Europe for your next cultural trip, it’s the perfect setting to learn about the region’s different – often competing – influences and how they’ve shaped modern life.

Bosnia is the original cultural melting pot, and Sarajevo is where it all comes to a head. The city is divided into two parts – Ottoman and European – with the sprawling Old Bazaar on one side, and the Austro-Hungarian planned portion of the capital on the other. A plaque on the pavement marks the spot where East Meets West.

But the boundaries aren’t always that clear. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s character is a combination of Bosnian, Serb and Croat, layered with Jewish, Romanian, Albanian and Turkish traditions. The vignette of a mosque’s minaret and a church bell tower rising up side by side is a perfect motif for the country’s diversity.

Top cultural experiences in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Explore Sarajevo’s Old Bazaar: One of the most beautiful Ottoman bazaars in the region (and there are a lot), just wandering the rows of picturesque wooden shops connected by cobbled streets – the sound of coppersmiths beating intricate designs onto plates ringing in your ears – is a completely immersive experience. At the kafane coffeehouses, where kahva and rakia are served with much pageantry, you get a feel for famous Bosnian hospitality.

Take a food tour of Sarajevo: Bosnians are fiercely proud of their national cuisine. Dishes such as burek (filled savoury pastry) and cevapi are a common ground and bring the country together. A food tour of Sarajevo takes you behind the scenes on some of the city’s liveliest markets and busiest restaurants while giving you an insight into the history behind some of the country’s most iconic dishes.

Visit a woodcarving master in Konjic: Sarajevo in particular has an incredibly rich art and literature scene, as evidenced in the many festivals that take place in the city throughout the year. Bosnia’s heritage handicrafts shine a light on the culture of craftsmanship that has bestowed the country with so many beautiful landmarks over the years. Woodcarving has been practiced for generations in the city of Konjic and today, visitors can tour the masters’ workshops for an up-close encounter.

See the Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards: Stećci medieval tombstones were laid during the time of the Bosnian Kingdom. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they’re found throughout the territory including in forests close to the border with Serbia . Carved from limestone, the Stećci contain motifs and inscriptions and provide a rare window onto this epoch of the country’s history that’s still shrouded in much mystery.

Greece – for markets, mythology & Orthodox Easter

Ancient Athens.

Greece is a country rich in culture, from the legacy of ancient history and mythology to traditional cuisine and celebratory festivals that still bring people together to this day. Greek nationals tend to be very proud of their history and culture , which can be seen in the well-executed museums, galleries and archaeological sites throughout the country.

Believed to be the ‘birthplace of Western civilisation’, Greece is known for its scholars, medics, architects, philosophers and politicians that shaped the way the world works today. This makes the country an excellent choice for cultural tourism as there are simply so many things to see and do that will both satiate your wanderlust while also teaching you new things.

Whether you’re interested in archaeological excavations, gastronomic tours, local festivals or ancient architecture, Greece certainly has you covered.

Top cultural experiences in Greece

Take a Mythology Tour of Ancient Athens: Athens has a whole host of archaeological sites to explore , from the Ancient Agora and Hadrian’s Library to the world-famous Acropolis and Parthenon perched on a hillside overlooking the city. One of the best ways to discover these sites is via a Mythology Tour that takes you around the best historic monuments and ruins while also giving you interesting information about the city and country’s history and mythology. This tour , suitable for all ages, gives you skip-the-line access to some of Athens’ most important landmarks along with an experienced guide to give you detailed history about how Greece became the centre of the world.

Visit the Athens Central Market: If your idea of cultural tourism involves food, you might be interested in a trip to the Athens Central Market and a local cookery class. A gastronomic experience allows you to soak up the sights and smells of the city’s biggest market, picking up local produce and souvenirs while also trying some tasty titbits along the way . You’ll then take your purchases back to the kitchen where you’ll cook up a storm using local recipes and techniques. Try classics like Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), Tzatziki and Spanakopita (spinach and feta pies) to give you a real taste of traditional Greek cuisine.

Attend the Epidaurus Festival: The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, a grand amphitheatre located on the bank of the Acropolis Complex, runs an annual summer festival of art. The festival combines modern and traditional music, theatre and dance with the picturesque Ancient Greek setting, making it a real highlight for any traveller. Over the years, the Epidaurus festival has played host to names like Frank Sinatra, Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti.

Celebrate Orthodox Easter in Greece: Easter is one of the biggest traditional festivals on the Orthodox calendar, so no matter where you are in Greece during this time, you’re sure to come across some pretty exciting celebrations! One destination that always enjoys epic Easter festivities is the island of Corfu. Local Easter traditions begin on Palm Sunday (a week before Easter) and there are different festivities each day leading up to the main event.

Palm Sunday sees a large procession of the Holy Shrine; Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday see locals preparing their Easter meals and sweet specialities, going to evening ceremonies and lighting up the town with lanterns; Maundy Thursday is egg-painting day; Good Friday features the mournful marches of the philharmonic orchestra and the procession of epitaphs; Good Saturday features an artificial earthquake(!), bell ringing, the throwing of clay pots and tossing coins into a barrel; and the whole week culminates on Easter Sunday with a celebration of the Resurrection of Christ – fireworks, marches, music and traditional family meals galore!

By Chrysoula from Athens and Beyond

Learn more: 7 awesome cultural activities in Athens .

Russia – for ballet, banyas & borscht

A gold-domed building surrounded by snowy trees in Russia.

While many may think of Russia as cold and grey, this could not be further from the truth. From the famous colourful onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral to the gilded fountains of the Peterhof Palace, Russia’s beauty is undeniable.

Russia is also a country rich in culture and filled with literature, ballet, painting and classical music.

Top cultural experiences in Russia

To really delve into Russian culture, there are a few experiences you should have whilst here.

Experience a Russian banya : One of the best cultural experiences you can have in Russia is to visit a banya . A banya is similar to a sauna. The biggest difference, though, is that a banya has high levels of humidity, while a sauna usually has dry air. They’ve been a part of Russian life for over a thousand years! You wear funny felt hats to protect your hair and ears from the heat. This also helps to regulate your body temperature, so you are able to sit in the banya for a longer period of time.

Another interesting aspect of the Russian banya is ‘flogging’ using birch twigs ( venik ). This is supposed to benefit your health and improve your immune system, and honestly, if you have someone who knows what they are doing, it does feel really good!

After you’ve gone in and out of the banya a couple times, you then cool yourself off by taking a quick, cold shower, jumping into a cold pool or tub (banyas do have these), jumping into a snowbank (seriously). Or… You can just jump in a frozen lake!

See a ballet at the Bolshoi: Seeing a ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre is one of the best things to do in Moscow and all of Russia in general. Even though ballet did not originate in Russia, Russian ballet is world-renowned, and the locals are incredibly proud of the tradition. If you can, try to see a performance of The Nutcracker or Swan Lake on the historic stage. Tickets sell out very quickly, so don’t delay in purchasing them once they go on sale!

Experience NYE: New Year’s Eve is the biggest holiday in Russia. This is because Christmas was forbidden during the Soviet years. Many traditions were moved from Christmas to the New Year, including keeping presents under the Christmas tree and visits from the Russian equivalent of Santa. Celebrations and fireworks take place across the country on December 31 – the biggest and most famous displays are in Moscow’s Red Square and Gorky Park.

Sample Russian cuisine: No trip to Russia would be complete without experiencing the local cuisine. The best Russian food and drinks to sample on your visit are: Pelmeni (a Russian dumpling filled with meat and usually topped with sour cream); borscht (a traditional Russian soup whose main ingredient is beetroot); beef stroganoff (a Russian dish made with sautéed beef in a sauce with smetana ); syrniki (essentially a cottage cheese pancake topped with jam or sour cream – SO good!); kvass (a fermented beverage made from rye bread); and caviar and vodka (alas, you can’t come to Russia and not try caviar and vodka!)

By Lindsey from Have Clothes, Will Travel

Northern Europe’s Arctic Regions – for reindeer & Sami traditions

Reindeer in the Northern Arctic.

In Europe’s high northern reaches, you will find one of the continent’s oldest and most distinct cultures, the Sami. Spread across the Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, the Sami are Indigenous people who have traditionally led a nomadic lifestyle, known for herding their reindeer between their summer and winter feeding grounds.

The origins of the Sami are largely unknown, and it is believed that they once inhabited grounds much further south. But years of persecution drove them north and forced them to decrease livestock numbers in order to maintain their way of life. 

Against all odds, they have managed to hold onto large parts of their culture, including languages, traditions and ceremonies. As the modern world has encroached further north, there have been clashes over natural resources and land, which has put the plight of the Sami at the forefront of people’s minds in recent years and led to movements to protect the people and the culture. 

Top cultural experiences in the Arctic regions

Head to Tromso for an immersive Sami experience: Today, there are plenty of ways you can learn about and experience Sami culture. During the winter months, there are many Sami experiences in Tromsø, Norway and beyond where you can educate yourself about the Sami way of life, hear stories that have been passed down through the generations, and eat traditional foods.

Shop at a Sami market: Keep an eye out for Sami markets where you can purchase handmade traditional items.

Participate in a Sami festival: Norway is known to have the largest festivals and in various Arctic cities, you will find Sami festivals on National Sami Day (February 6th). In the summer, there are also Sami music festivals, such as the one found near Murmansk in Russia.

A visit to Northern Europe’s Arctic region is one of the most meaningful cultural trips in Europe as it helps bring attention to a group of people who have spent many years marginalised in their respective modern-day societies.

By Megan from Megan Starr

Andalusia – for Moorish architecture, tapas & Flamenco

Architecture in Andalusia, Spain.

Andalusia is an autonomous region in Southern Spain, geographically bounded by Spain’s southern coast. It’s culturally vibrant and very distinctive when compared to other parts of Spain such as Catalunya.

This part of the country was ruled by the Moors for centuries, and Moorish influence is evident in the cuisine, architecture and culture. Seville, Cordoba and Granada are all among the best Spain city breaks and each serve as a good base for exploring more of the region.

Top cultural experiences in Andalusia

Marvel at the Moorish architecture: The Andalusian architecture will capture your attention as soon as you land there, and this is probably the easiest way to start digging into the region’s past and cultural evolution. Cities like Seville and Granada have major UNESCO sites that will blow your mind – the style is in no way similar to buildings in France or even northern Spain for that matter. Islamic calligraphy and intricate details are most evident at the Real Alcazar Palace in Seville, the Alhambra in Granada , and the Mezquita in Cordoba.

Go tapas hopping: People in Andalusia are known for being a more little laid back, and generally enjoy food, family and companionship. Popular ‘tapas hopping’ is best experienced in Andalusia. Tapas bars in the south cultivate a cosy atmosphere with rounds of $1 dollar beers, spinach and chickpeas, cheese, and churros. Moorish/Muslim influence can be seen in the preparation of some foods, especially marzipan, and in the use of herbs and spices such as cumin and cilantro.  

Watch a Flamenco performance: After food, flamenco is what defines Andalusia. Flamenco is a dance that is synonymous with Southern Spain and is one of the most energetic and passionate forms of dance/storytelling. Flamenco shows in Seville and other cities in Andalusia are a great way to understand and enjoy this side of Southern Spanish culture.

By Mayuri from To Some Place New

Cultural tourism destinations in the Asia Pacific

Central Australia • Timor-Leste • Sarawak, Malaysia • Cambodia • Japan • Bhutan • Kerala, India • Rajasthan, India • Uzbekistan • The Tibetan Plateau • Taiwan

Central Australia – for ancient landscapes, ochre & bush tucker

Uluru viewed from above.

The Arrernte and Anangu people have lived in Central Australia for over 20,000 years. From Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) to the MacDonnell Ranges and Alice Springs, they have made their home in one of Australia’s driest and hottest regions.

The landscape, its plants and animals permeate every aspect of their culture. The natural environment is the basis for the Creation (or Dreamtime) stories at the core of their beliefs, ceremonies and traditions.

Their relationship with the land also has a practical aspect as a source of food, shelter and medicine. The Arrernte and Anangu’s land management techniques, native foods and art have all found their ways into broader Australian life.

Today, members of the communities have roles as guides, ranges and managers of major tourism businesses. For travellers, there are many opportunities to appreciate the on-going connection the Arrernte and Anangu people have with the Central Australian landscape.

Top cultural experiences in Central Australia

Visit Uluru (Ayres Rock): You can’t go to Central Australia and not visit Uluru. It is an iconic Australian landmark and when you visit this enormous rock, you’ll find many ways to immerse yourself in Indigenous culture. At Yulara Resort you can join a free session to learn about Indigenous food, crafts and didgeridoo playing.

On your way to Uluru, stop at the Cultural Centre. There are ranger talks about the area’s wildlife, how the Anagu have lived in the area for thousands of years, and how that knowledge is used to manage the park today. There are also galleries featuring local art and craft. For something a bit different, try a Segway tour of the rock . As you cruise around the 10 km base, you get a wonderful explanation of the Creation Stories tied to many of the rock’s features, caves and waterholes.

Ochre Pits: Ochre is a natural clay that comes in a range of colours and has been used for ceremonial and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The Ochre Pits are at a site in the West MacDonnell Ranges where ochre has been collected by Arrernte men for generations. The Ochre Pits are an easy and accessible stop as you tour the gorges of the West MacDonnell Ranges. The colourful ochre cliff face is spectacular and it is quite an experience to be in the presence of a site that has been used for so long and continues to play a role in Arrernte life.

Alice Springs Desert Park: With the lives and lore of the Arrernte tied so closely to the environment, this combination of a wildlife park and botanic garden gives you a great insight into their relationship with the land. Besides the fantastic desert animal exhibits, there is a full program of keeper and cultural talks over the day. Learn about surviving in the desert, bush food and the meaning many of the animals have in the daily life of the Arrernte. The park is in Alice Springs with the West MacDonnell Ranges providing a spectacular backdrop.

By Natalie & Steve from Curious Campers

Timor-Leste – for sacred houses, tais weaving & Cristo Rei

A woman weaves a brightly coloured textile in her home in Timor-Leste.

Asia’s youngest nation, tiny Timor-Leste fought hard for its independence, first from Portugal and later from Indonesia. Holding strong to customs and beliefs is part of the resistance and against all odds, the Timorese have managed to pass down many traditions through music, dance and storytelling.

Fiestas held year-round throughout the country showcases these oral traditions, while in recent years, contemporary collectives have began building on the nation’s heritage of performance arts to process the events of the past and express their visions for the future.

There aren’t many physical reminders of Timor’s time as a Portuguese colony left – most architecture was subsequently destroyed – but the invisible influence is still there, along with the influence of the Catholic Church.

In the more remote regions, ethnic groups such as the Fataluku speak their own language and observe a fascinating array of cultural practices you won’t find anywhere else on Earth.

Top cultural experiences in Timor-Leste

Tais weaving: Timor’s ornate national textiles are storytelling objects, filled with symbols inspired by folktales and animist traditions. At the Tais market in Dili you can shop for handwoven tais scarves and tablecloths, while visiting a weaving centre such as Koperativa Lo’ud gives you a chance to see the natural dyeing and weaving process in person.

See the uma lulik in Lospalos: Part of the Fataluku tradition, these sacred houses perched high on stilts symbolise the link between the dead and the living. They are sacred objects that cut an impressive profile as you pass them on the coast around far-eastern Timor.

Make the pilgrimage to Cristo Rei: Standing 27 metres tall on a hill overlooking the capital, Dili, Cristo Rei is the ultimate symbol of Timor-Leste’s piety. More than 99% of Timorese are Christian, and the church has played a huge role in shaping the island’s character post-independence. Walking the 590-step path lined with Stations of the Cross is a right of passage. At the top, views of Dili, Atauro Island and the sparkling coastline.

Sarawak, Malaysia – for ikat textiles, longhouses & forest trekking

A mosque on the water in Kuching, Malaysia.

The largest of Malaysia’s 13 states , Sarawak envelops much of Borneo. Local culture and way of life is intimately intertwined with the island’s flora and fauna and offers visitors experiences quite distinct from anything you find in Peninsular Malaysia.

Life, history, culture and spirituality is all heavily influenced by the area’s Indigenous peoples, most notably the Iban. Malaysia’s mix of Malay, Indian, Muslim, Chinese and British culture can also be felt in Kuching , the autonomous state’s biggest city and a hub for culture and the arts.

Top cultural experiences in Sarawak

Visit a museum in Kuching: The Tun Jugah Textile Museum, the Sarawak Cultural Village and the Sarawak State Museum – all in or near Kuching – offer immersive exhibits that explore Iban culture. The former is dedicated almost completely to the art of ikat weaving, a time-honoured craft tradition that’s kept alive by artisans and students who learn to dye and weave at the museum workshop.

Stay in an Iban longhouse: Travelling up river into the forest to spend the night at an Iban longhouse is an unforgettable experience. As well as sleeping in traditional quarters, you’ll get to taste home-cooked food and experience various oral traditions, including Renong singing and Ensera storytelling.

Eat Sarawak cuisine: Malaysia is a foodie’s paradise and Sarawak is no exception. In addition to the usual mix of cuisines served up at hawker markets, the state boasts many regional breakfast specialties including Sarawak laksa, kolo mee (Sarawakian noodles) and ayam pansuh (chicken cooked in bamboo).

Cambodia – for Theravada Buddhism, apsara & golden silk

A temple in Cambodia.

It’s easy to think of Cambodian culture as a relic of the past – a crumbling stupa or a cobwebbed museum display. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Khmer culture is a living, breathing thing, and it permeates everything – from underrated Cambodian cuisine to the country’s handicraft industry and the young collectives in Battambang and Kampot who are reviving the arts scene.

Many traditions and art forms almost lost during the 1970s have been brought back from the brink by artists and entrepreneurs determined to keep Cambodian culture alive.

Whether you’re interested in the legacy of the most powerful Golden Age state, the Khmer Empire, or discovering reminders of the Kingdom’s time as part of French Indochina in the beautiful colonial architecture and peppercorn plantations, it’s never been easier for visitors to get a feel for Cambodian culture.

Top cultural experiences in Cambodia

Take a Buddhism tour of Siem Reap: Spirituality plays a huge role in contemporary Cambodian life and there’s no better lens for exploring the country through. After you’ve taken in the Temples of Angkor that blend Hinduism and Buddhism, learn the ins and outs of Theravada Buddhism with an immersive Buddhism tour of Siem Reap . It’s a life-changing experience that teaches you how ancient beliefs coexist with modern society.

Watch an Apsara performance: It wasn’t so long ago that Cambodia’s national dance, Apsara, was considered an endangered art form. Artist and genocide surviver Arn Chorn-Pond has almost single-handedly revived Apsara traditions through his organisation Cambodian Living Arts. Nothing captures the Cambodian spirit like the understated but immensely beautiful performance. Nightly shows are held in Phnom Penh along with hands-on Apsara workshops that teach visitors the basic moves.

Go forest trekking in Mondulkiri: Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri in Cambodia’s far north-east are two of the country’s most remote provinces , known for their thick forests and biodiversity, including wild elephants. Ethnic minority groups including the Tampuan and the Bunong have developed sustainable tourism offerings, hosting guests at homestays and organising guided forest treks. During the tours, you get a glimpse of how people have coexisted with the forest for generations, and learn about the struggles they face today.

Seek out Khmer handicrafts: From Siem Reap’s Golden silk to Takeo cotton and clay pottery in Kampong Chhnang, every Cambodian province has its specialty crafts, many of which are still made by hand according to traditional techniques. In addition to making the perfect Cambodia souvenir , many co-ops offer tours and workshops so you can see the processes up close.

Japan – for ryokans , geisha culture & tea ceremonies

A traditional Japanese meal served at a ryokan.

For those seeking an immersive cultural travel experience, Japan offers visitors a unique look at some of the oldest and most beautiful traditions in the world.

From the historic temples and shrines found throughout the country to the many spiritual and cultural celebrations, there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to Japan to learn about the various philosophies and spiritual traditions that underpin Japanese culture. 

Top cultural experiences in Japan

Observe a temple ritual: Consider participating in some of the various rituals at Japan’s temples and shrines. This is especially beneficial if you’re visiting Japan with kids , as it helps to gain a better understanding and appreciation for Japanese customs. Many people in Japan have deep-seated beliefs in symbolism. At the temples and shrines, you can observe and participate in practices that will bring you good fortune, luck, prosperity or health.

Spend the night in a ryokan : To truly embrace Japanese culture, book a stay at a ryokan rather than a hotel. These traditional Japanese inns typically feature rooms with tatami-matted floors and communal onsens or bathhouses. Guests tend to walk around the ryokan in a yukata or lounging kimono and slippers. It is also common for guests to walk around barefoot, as it is considered unclean to wear shoes inside.

Drink matcha : A tea ceremony is another immersive experience that is unique to Japan. Although popular throughout Japan, tea ceremonies are especially prominent in Kyoto, the home of geisha culture. Geishas are treated somewhat like celebrities in Japan, and booking a geisha performance and tea ceremony can be expensive and fairly difficult to arrange. However, you can book a tea ceremony with a maiko , or geisha apprentice, for a more modest price. This one-of-a-kind ritual ceremony is sure to be one of the most memorable travel experiences you’ll have in Japan!

By Melissa from Parenthood and Passports

Bhutan – for handicrafts, thangka & fertility symbols

A Bhutanese ritual.

Most people think of the Tiger’s Nest when they think of Bhutan. But this small, mountainous nation has a wealth of cultural history to offer in addition to its ornate monasteries.

Bhutan is a nation of crafters. In every town and city you will find streetwise vendors selling all manner of clothing, kitchenware, homeware and decorations that have been made using techniques that have been taught and passed down for hundreds of years.

Likewise, if you turn your attention to the buildings, you’ll see that many of them are adorned with colourful decals and patterns, especially designs that depict the eight auspicious signs which, among other things, represent wealth, good fortune, purity and harmony.

Bhutan is the only country in the world to measure their country’s wellbeing based on Gross National Happiness as opposed to Gross Domestic Production, which makes it (un)officially the happiest country on Earth.

Best cultural experiences in Bhutan

Attend a Tshechu ceremony: The annual Tshechu ceremonies show off Bhutan’s handicraft history perfectly. Throughout the year, locals gather across the country in regional Tshechus to celebrate Bhutan’s culture by singing traditional songs and performing dances in elaborate, brightly coloured costumes. At the Tsechu celebrations, an enormous religious banner or thangka depicting the country’s founder, Guru Rinpoche, is unveiled. The thangka is the size of a three storey building, hundreds of years old, and has not faded through the centuries due to the tradition of making sure that the light of the sun never touches it, so it’s still incredibly colourful and detailed.

Visit the Choki Traditional Art School: In order to see the historical handicrafts of Bhutan in production for yourself, make sure to visit the Choki Traditional Art School. Located just to the north of the capital city of Thimpu, here you can witness the students being taught how to weave, paint and sculpt masks, clothes, models, tapestries and dioramas from Bhutan’s history. Students’ ages range from elementary through to late teens, with all levels of skill on display. The students’ creations can then be bought from the school craft shop, with the proceeds helping fund the continuation of the institute’s classes.

Spot the phallus in Punakham: Punakham is the former capital of Bhutan, and was the seat of government until 1955. Located in the north of the country, the town is notable to western tourists for one particular reason. In the 15th century, a controversial master named Lama Drukpa Kunley (also known as the ‘Divine Madman’) popularised the phallus as a means to ward off slander and provide protection for those who lived in houses that displayed it prominently. Yes, it may be taboo for most of the world, but not here – these graphic symbols of fertility and good luck are artistically painted on walls everywhere!

By Jeremy from Cultura Obscura

Kerala, India – for houseboats, tea estates & contemporary art

A houseboat in Kerala.

Dubbed ‘God’s Own Country’, Kerala is a noodle-shaped state in the Southwest of India on the Malabar Coast. It’s known for its beautiful nature – especially a series of canals known as the backwaters and the hilly terrain of the Western Ghats Mountains.

Kerala people are officially the most literate in India and have the longest life expectancy. It is often said the Keralites have the best quality of life in this part of India, and that things are a lot more advanced. This is conveyed in the increasingly popular field of ecotourism and other initiatives.

The region is a beautiful mix of influences and religions. The spice trade has flourished in the area, which brought about European colonisation. You can feel Portuguese influence to this day, especially in the town of Kochi.

Top cultural experiences in Kerala

Cruise Kerala’s backwaters on a houseboat: With the decline of goods being transported on water, Kerala’s trade boats were repurposed into houseboats, and now provide a unique immersive experience on the famous backwaters. The most popular route is between Alleppey and Kumarakom or Kolam. Spending at least one night on the backwaters is necessary for the ultimate houseboat experience.

Soak up the tea heritage in Munnar: Munnar in the Western Ghats is famous for its tea production. You can visit several tea estates in the area and enjoy a tasting. In the village of Munnar, you can also experience the peaceful coexistence of three religions. There’s a Hindu temple, a Catholic church and a mosque all within a few meters from each other. 

Attend the Muziris Biennale in Kochi: A bi-annual international exhibition of contemporary art takes place in Kochi. This is the largest festival of its kind in Asia. When the biennale is on, the whole city lives it. The main space for the festival is a large complex of empty buildings near the port. Here, art installations covering all possible mediums bring the space to life. It’s a wonderful sight and quite a modern undertaking in Kerala.

Watch the artists at work at Kerala Kalamandalam: This is one of India’s most traditional universities of art and culture. Students learn Indian performing arts, especially those typical for Kerala. When visiting, you can observe students practicing unique dances with distinct facial expressions such as the Kathakali or Ottan Thullal, learning martial arts, and playing on unique musical instruments. The school is located in Cheruthuruthy.

By Veronika from Travel Geekery

Learn more: 9 amazing cultural encounters in Kerala .

Rajasthan, India – for folk dance, thaali & camel fairs

Architecture in Rajasthan, India.

Rajasthan, the ‘Land of Kings’, is one of the most historically and culturally significant states of India. Over the centuries, Rajasthan has witnessed many rulers and many epic battles. Each built their own magnanimous fort and helped develop the region’s rich culture of art, dance and literature.

Over the past few decades, the Ghoomar dance from Jodhpur region and Kalbeliya dance of the deserts of Jaisalmer and Bikaner have become famous all over the world. Along with dance, folk music and songs relating the heroic tales of epic battles, these form an essential part of Rajasthan culture.

Against a backdrop of the vast Thar Desert, this has all shaped the culture of Rajasthan as we see it today.

Top cultural experiences in Rajasthan

Rajasthan offers travellers a plethora of unique cultural experiences .

Be a bystander at the Pushkar Camel Fair: The Pushkar Camel Fair, held every year in November, is one of the largest animal trading fairs in the world. This colourful carnival is a great opportunity for travellers to experience the charm-in-chaos of traditional melas (Indian fairs) along with a huge tribal gathering. In 2018, nearly half-a-million people visited this multi-day festival. Pushkar is only 150km from Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur, and is easily accessible by road. 

Visit Choki Dhani: A resort village merely 20km from Jaipur, Choki Dhani is the go-to place to experience a collection of Rajasthan cultural experiences. Spread across 10 acres, this uniquely designed resort-village reflects the grandeur of the Rajasthani tradition. Visitors can experience Rajasthani traditional folk dance, watch a puppet show, see skits and sketches depicting important battles, and relish a traditional Rajasthani thaali (set meal), eaten while seated on the floor.

Watch a Dharohar dance performance: The Dharohar dance show at Bagore Ki Haveli in Udaipur is a mesmerising experience in itself. This hour-long show is a combination of many traditional, tribal and folk dances local to the region along with a puppet show. One of the highlights of the show is when an 80-year-old folk dancer performs with more than 10 earthen pots stacked on her head.

By Mainak from Places in Pixel

Uzbekistan – for ceramics, Silk Road heritage & plov

Architecture in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan is an upcoming cultural destinations in Central Asia. With a new visa policy, it is now easier than ever to visit the country – and there are many good reasons to do so.

Uzbekistan was once an important part of the famous Silk Road and has a rich cultural heritage that is still visible in the beautiful Islamic architecture and historic sites throughout the country. 

Uzbekistan’s major cities including Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara were multicultural melting pots where people from all over the world exchanged goods, ideas and philosophies. The Turks, Greeks, Persians, Russians and Mongols all ruled parts of what is now Uzbekistan. Each of them left behind their own influence.

With so much history around, it’s sometimes easy to forget modern Uzbek culture, but this is just as interesting. The Uzbek people are very friendly and will give you a warm welcome to their world of delicious Uzbek food, traditional dance and music, and beautiful handicrafts.

Top cultural experiences in Uzbekistan

Taste Uzbek cuisine: One of the highlights of Uzbek culture is without doubt its food. The best way to learn more about Uzbek food is by taking an Uzbek cooking class. Tashkent is a great place to do so and also has some great restaurants where you can try the country’s national dishes. The Plov Center serves plates of the national dish to thousands of people every day – the huge steaming pots and pans outside are impressive enough to warrant a visit. 

Explore ikat and ceramic traditions: Another great cultural experience in Uzbekistan is to explore the country’s beautiful handicrafts. The Fergana valley is home to several centres of handicraft production where they still use traditional techniques. Margilon is famous for its ikat silk textiles and there are several silk factories that offer free tours to see how it’s done. The Usmanov Ceramic Workshop in Rishton also welcomes visitors for a short visit to see its pottery production and design process. 

Watch a dance performance: Traditional dance and music is an important part of Uzbek culture. Uzbek dance is an ancient art that has been perfected over hundreds of years. In Bukhara, there are almost daily performances in the Nadir Divan Begi madrasah showing the traditional dances from the different regions in the country.

By Ellis from Backpack Adventures

Learn more: Things to do in Uzbekistan for cultural travellers .

The Tibetan Plateau – for horse trekking & nomadic culture

A monastery in Tibet.

Sprawled across the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, in the remote northern tip of China’s Sichuan province, Ruoergai town and county do not appear on Google maps. To Google, this locality is known by its Tibetan name, Zoige.

After 12 hours of following your car GPS from Chengdu to Zoige, climbing onto the Tibetan Plateau , Chinese road signs welcome you to Ruoergai, 3,500 meters above sea level.

Top cultural experiences on the Tibetan Plateau

Witness nomadic culture: Remote and isolated, Zoige/Ruoergai is the best place in the world to witness the disappearing Tibetan nomadic culture. All you have to do is drive around this vast, open grassland to catch a glimpse. You’ll see white nomads’ tents with smoky chimneys scattered on the sides of the road, surrounded by herds of domestic yak and protected by the menacing Tibetan mastiffs. The nomads are mistrustful of outsiders, which is not surprising given political tensions in the region.

Go horse trekking: Yet there is a way to experience the nomadic culture first-hand here – by taking a horse-trekking adventure with the local Tibetan Horse Trekking Agency in the nearby town of Langmusi. Tours range from a day hike to the hills – the domain of the nomads – to a multi-day horseback adventure with overnight stays in nomad tents. Guides are local Tibetans, so while you may not be having extensive discussions in English, you’ll be welcome in nomadic households.

Visit the monasteries and mosques in Langmusi: Encircled by forest-covered mountains, the small sleepy town of Langmusi is inhabited by three ethnic groups: Amdo Tibetans, Han Chinese and Hui Muslims. So, even just a visit to the town is a unique cultural experience. There are two large Tibetan monasteries on the hills above the town and a Hui mosque at its centre.

The nearest airport to Langmusi is Gannan Xiahe Airport, 130 km away. From Xiahe, you can take a bus to Langmusi, or arrange a car with a driver via Tibetan Horse Trekking.

By Margarita from The Wildlife Diaries

Taiwan – for night markets, Confucianism & forbidden relics

A temple gate in Taipei, Taiwan.

An island nestled off the coast of Mainland China, Taiwan is fast becoming one of the best cultural tourism destinations in Asia.

Its long history and combination of cultural influences – including Indigenous culture, Mainland China, Korea and even Japan – make Taiwan as intriguing as it is complex. Bustling with life, amazing food and beautiful scenery, this island has it all.

Top cultural experiences in Taipei

Eat your way through the Night Markets in Taipei: The capital city of Taiwan, Taipei, offers a world of things for people to see and do . One of the most popular culturally immersive activities for visitors is to head down to the local night market, the biggest one being the Shiling Night Market. Along with delicious local foods, you can also find clothes, accessories, games, cosmetics and more. Night Markets are significant because they play a huge role in Taiwanese culture . Locals and tourists alike flock to these areas each and every day to shop and socialise.

Observe the rituals at a Taiwanese temple: Taiwan is a very religious country with most people following either Buddhism or Confucianism. Many temples are built around these religions in a very extravagant manner. Visitors can take part in the prayer ceremony, burn some incense, or just sit back and observe. If you’re interested in visiting these temples, one of the best places to start is the Songshan Ciyou Temple, which is conveniently located right next to the Raohe Night Market. 

Visit the National Palace Museum: This museum houses thousands of cultural relics, art and artefacts, including many items that were carried out of the Forbidden City in China and moved to Taiwan to protect them from destruction during the Chinese Civil War. It’s one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. Here, you can learn how the Chinese language was formed, see what kinds of ancient tools and weapons were used throughout history, and witness what life was like many hundreds of years ago.

By Wayne from Daily Tourist

Learn more: The best cultural experiences in Taiwan .

Cultural trips in Africa & the Middle East

Ethiopia • Oman • Mauritius • Morocco

Ethiopia – for coal-fired coffee, churches & injera

A man in traditional dress presents artefacts at a church in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is a country like no other. Here in North East Africa, the steaming tribal lowlands of the Rift Valley collide with the cool thin air of the Northern highlands. The fertile lands towards the West produces some of the world’s best coffee, while the wind from the East carries whispers from Arabia. It’s truly a spectacular place to visit.

Ethiopia is even more unique in terms of its cultural treasures. As the only country in Africa never to be colonised, Ethiopia is a truly African country with African culture. If you want to see lions chase and eat zebras, go somewhere else. If you want to see and experience African culture at its purest, then book your ticket to Ethiopia already!

Top cultural experiences in Ethiopia

Visit the city of Lalibela: Situated in the northern highlands, Lalibela is the most important pilgrimage site in the country for the predominantly Orthodox Christian population of Ethiopia. It is here that you’ll find eleven incredible churches completely hewn from the rock. If you see only one place in Ethiopia, make it Lalibela.

Attend Sunday Mass: The UNESCO recognised Lalibela churches still function as churches, and attending a Sunday morning service before sunrise with hundreds of pilgrims is an experience that you won’t forget. Afterwards you can join the crowds eating injera while basking in the morning sun. Be prepared for the fact that everyone will want to come and talk to you.

Hike to a remote mountain community: Hiking into the mountains surrounding Lalibela will take you to small farming communities where time has seemingly stood still. It’s also possible to visit one of these communities for a day and learn how to cook traditional Ethiopian dishes such as injera , tibs or shiro . You’ll also find a few cave churches and monasteries in these mountains. The priests will be eager to show off their ancient treasures for a small tip.

Participate in a traditional coffee ceremony: Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of coffee, and man are you in for treat! The best way to drink a cup of buna (Ethiopian coffee) is to attend a coffee ceremony. It starts off with the hostess washing green coffee beans and then roasting them in a pan over an open fire. The coals are infused with natural incense made from tree resin. You’ll see bags of these tree resin for sale in markets all over Ethiopia. Finally the coffee beans are ground and brewed in a special coffee pot called a jebena . It’s expected that guests will have at least three cups of buna, but why stop there?

By De Wet & Jin from Museum of Wander

Oman – for dhow boats, frankincense & Bedouin culture

A fortress in Oman.

Unlike some of its more glitzy neighbours who’ve traded their souqs for skyscrapers, Oman has approached cultural preservation from a different angle. It’s often called out as the most culturally ‘authentic’ country in the region .

This part of the Middle East has long been a melting pot of Arabian and East African cultures, with a strong South Asian influence. Semi-nomadic Bedouin tribes that paint the desert with their costumes and brightly coloured carpets are less accessible, but a range of tourist-friendly desert experiences allow you to brush with this part of Omani culture.

Contemporary Omani traditions are deeply tied to Ibadism and revolve around an annual calendar of Islamic festivities.

Top cultural experiences in Oman

Get lost in a souq: Perfumed by rose petals and frankincense, Oman’s souqs are a treat for the senses. Roam displays of henna and spices while getting a feel for commerce and culture. Muttrah Souq in the capital, Muscat, and the delightful Nizwa Souq are both must-visits.

Visit a dhow workshop in Sur: Not only are Oman’s wooden boats an impressive feat of engineering, they’re steeped in legend and tradition. In Sur, the home of Sinbad the Sailor, you can watch expert craftsmen fitting the vessels together without glue or nails.

Spend the night at a desert camp. The Sharqiya Sands, Oman’s slice of The Empty Quarter, is the territory of nomads. Bedouin-inspired desert camps recreate the experience of staying with a Bedouin tribe – albeit with a luxury edge! Spending the night in a desert camp involves listening to folk music, eating Omani food, while the very lodgings – the tent lined with carpets you’re sleeping in – is part of the Bedouin tradition.

Mauritius – for street food, Sega & sugarcane

A Hindu temple in Mauritius.

The island nation of Mauritius is normally associated with splendid white-sand beaches and luxury resorts – thus its inclusion on this list of cultural trips might come as a bit of a surprise.

Yes, this is an island paradise incarnate, but it also happens to be one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse countries in the region, with African, Indian, Chinese and South Asian cultures – along with layers of Dutch, French and British influence – all accounted for.

Many elements of Mauritian culture can be traced back to the island’s plantation roots and the legacy of slavery. Mauritians honour this period of history while proudly showing off their culture in everything from the cuisine to the music.

Top cultural experiences in Mauritius

Take a street food tour of Port Louis: Mauritian food, much like Mauritian society itself, combines Chinese, Indian, Creole, East African and European flavours. Must-try dishes include vindaye , an adaptation of West Indian vindaloo, Chatini (chutney) is a popular condiment and traces its roots back to British-Indian origins, briani (biryani) and creations gifted from the island’s Chinese community, such as bol renversé (a layered dish of rice, chicken, shrimp and vegetables). The best way to get a grasp of these edible delights is by joining a guided street food tour of the capital, Port Louis .

Watch a Sega performance: Recognised by UNESCO for its value to Intangible Cultural Heritage, Mauritian Sega is a performance art characterised by music, song, dance and costume. It started out as an expression of pain and loss practiced by slave communities but has morphed over time into a colourful, optimistic expression of local culture. Elaborate Sega costumes moving to the tune of Creole lyrics is a . Many hotels offer Sega performances.

Visit an old sugarcane farm: Mauritius’ history of slavery and plantation farming has left an indelible mark on the island. Visiting preserved plantation homes and crumbling sugar mills is a step back in time to the colonial period, while regenerated cane fields such as those on Frederica Reserve now serve as a sanctuary for the island’s wildlife.

Learn more: 8 ways to experience Mauritian culture .

Morocco – for riads , tajines & mint tea

Moroccan handicrafts.

By all accounts, Morocco is a beguiling destination . The most popular country to visit in North Africa, it stands out for its diversity of landscapes and cultural experiences.

Morocco is an important gateway to the rest of Africa, and has been since Roman times. Its position at the northernmost tip of the continent – with a coast shared between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean – means it’s been at the centre of conquests and various cultural overlap throughout the ages.

Today, Morocco lives with the legacies of various civilisations, including Roman, Phoenician, Jewish, Berber, Arabic, Spanish and French. Morocco has a very hospitable culture, steeped in a refined art of living. When you visit the imperial cities of Marrakech and Fes, or the coastal towns of Essaouira and El Jadida, you will notice a multitude of little details typical of Moroccan life.

This art of living and careful hospitality is very important in Morocco and, as a visitor, you can experience it in many different ways.

Top cultural experiences in Morocco

Try your hand at Moroccan cuisine: Moroccan cuisine is world-famous for its use of spices and mix of sweet and savoury flavours. Every restaurant offers a selection of delicious tajines , a stew of meat and vegetables. Couscous is on the menu every Friday and if you like sweets, you will be in heaven. Sweet biscuits mixing flower, almond and spice flavours make a delicious afternoon treat. If you’re interested in learning new skills, cooking classes are often available in traditional riads in Marrakech. Moroccan cuisine takes time and care, but the results are delicious and quite easy to recreate at home.

Shop for authentic handicrafts at a souq : Another great way to experience the heart of Morocco is to spend time in the souks. Shopping in Morocco is a fun experience and haggling for a good price is the norm. You have to engage with merchants, ask questions, make small talk and, most importantly, have fun with it! Never lose your smile and sense of humour, and it will great fun! The most spectacular shopping experience is in Marrakech due to the volume and intensity of the medina. It’s easy to get lost but that’s part of the experience too!

Sip mint tea, a Moroccan tradition: When you travel throughout Morocco, you will notice that mint tea is served everywhere. This is a pivotal element of Moroccan hospitality. Green tea is mixed with fresh mint leaves and served in little decorated glasses. There is a little bit of theatre in serving mint tea, with the brass or silver teapot held high above the glass… Traditionally, mint tea is served with a lot of sugar, but these days it is common for sugar to be served on the side, so you can dose it yourself. And you can even buy a set of decorated tea glasses in the souk as a souvenir!

By Delphine from Lester Lost

How to have a more culturally immersive travel experience anywhere in the world

It doesn’t matter if it’s a remote community or a popular city – there are things you can do to have a more enriching cultural travel experience no matter where you’re going.

Here are 10 practical tips to help you on your way.

1. Do your research before you go: Familiarise yourself with local customs and learn a bit of the history so you know what types of experiences to look out for. This guide is a great start!

2. Seek out festivals and special events: Many tourism boards feature a calendar on their website, or you can try using Facebook to find local events. Check out my four-part series about the world’s best festivals, starting here .

3. Eat local. Food is one of the easiest routes to culture. Here are my tips for eating local when you travel.

4. Stay at a homestay. Spending time with a local family will give you an invaluable insight into daily life. Here are my tips for using homestays in Vietnam.

5. Participate in a class or workshop . Trying a cooking class, handicraft workshop or any other hands-on experience is one of the easiest ways to immerse yourself in local culture. I recommend using Get Your Guide , Airbnb Experiences, Cookly or Backstreet Academy to find opportunities.

6. Learn a bit of the language. Even knowing a few basic words will show you’re interested and can go a long way to forming relationships.

7. Shop local. Support artisans and heritage skills. Here are my tips for finding authentic and meaningful souvenirs .

8. Slow down. The best cultural experiences are often spare-of-the-moment and can’t be planned in advance. Keep some flexibility in your travel itinerary for spontaneous detours.

9. Go your own way. You don’t always have to follow the pack. Venturing away from the crowds will often give you access to unique and meaningful experiences.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If in doubt, ask a local. Remember that cultural tourism is all about exchange – don’t just take, make sure you give something back in return.

Are you a cultural tourist? Which of these destinations is your favourite? What other places would you add to the list? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!

Discover the best cultural trips our world has to offer. From India to the Arctic, here are the 25 best countries and regions for cultural tourism. #Travel #Culture | Cultural travel destinations | Cultural travel photography | Cultural traveller | Slow travel destinations

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This is a very wonderful article about cultural destinations! Thank you so much for sharing!

One can easily visit India and experience the different kinds of cultures in a particular place. Tourism in India has been much more managed and safe with passage of time. Rajasthan tourism has been the most reliable and safe in India. One can enjoy all the traditional dishes and enjoy living in the palaces as a hotel room in different cities. But, whenever you are visiting to Rajasthan, India travel guide is a must because one can easily lose track of pathways in the puzzle like roads of the cities in Rajasthan. One can easily plan for a Kerala tour packages because of the minimal expenses in the state.

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Tourism Teacher

What is cultural tourism and why is it growing?

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Cultural tourism is big business. Some people seek to embark on their travels with the sole intention of having a ‘cultural’ experience, whereas others may experience culture as a byproduct of their trip. We can argue that there is some form of cultural tourism in most holidays (even when taking an all-inclusive holiday you might try to local beer, for example).

But what do we mean by the term ‘cultural tourism’? What’s it all about? In this post I will explain what is meant by the term cultural tourism, providing a range of academic definitions. I will also explain what the different types of cultural tourists are, give examples of cultural tourism activities and discuss the impacts of cultural tourism. Lastly, I will provide a brief summary of some popular cultural tourism destinations.

What is cultural tourism?

Cultural tourism is the act of travellers visiting particular destinations in order to experience and learn about a particular culture . This can include many activities such as; attending events and festivals, visiting museums and tasting the local food and drinks.

Cultural tourism can also be an unintentional part of the tourism experience, whereby cultural immersion (with the local people, their language, customs, cuisine etc) is an inevitable part of a person’s holiday.

Cultural tourism definitions

It has been suggested that tourism is the ideal arena in which to investigate the nature of cultural production (MacCannell, 1976). Tourism provides endless opportunities to learn about the way other people live, about their society and their traditions. Whether you are attending the Running of the Bulls Festival in Pamplona , visiting the pyramids in ancient Egypt , taking a tour of the tea plantations in China or enjoying the locally brewed Ouzo on your all-inclusive holiday to Greece, you will inevitably encounter some form of cultural tourism as part of your holiday experience.

The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) (1985) broadly define cultural tourism as the movements of persons who satisfy the human need for diversity, tending to raise the cultural level of the individual and giving rise to new knowledge, experience and encounters. Cultural tourism is commonly associated with education in this way, some describing it more narrowly as educational cultural tourism (e.g. Bualis and Costa, 2006; Harner and Swarbrooke, 2007; Richards, 2005).

Although a common, more specific definition has not been agreed amongst academics due to the complexity and subjectivity of the term, there do appear to be two distinct viewpoints. The first focusses upon the consumption of cultural products such as sites or monuments (Bonink, 1992; Munsters, 1994), and the second comprises all aspects of travel, where travellers learn about the history and heritage of others or about their contemporary ways of life or thought (MacIntosh and Goeldner, 1986).

Csapo (2012) pertains that the umbrella term of cultural tourism can encompass a number of tourism forms including heritage (material e.g. historic buildings and non-material e.g. literature, arts), cultural thematic routes (e.g. spiritual, gastronomic, linguistic), cultural city tourism, traditions/ethnic tourism, events and festivals, religious tourism and creative culture (e.g. performing arts, crafts).

Types of cultural tourists

In attempt to understand the scope of cultural tourism academics have developed a number of typologies, usually based upon the tourist’s level of motivation.

Bywater (1993) differentiated tourists according to whether they were culturally interested, motivated or inspired.

Culturally interested tourists demonstrate a general interest in culture and consume cultural attractions casually as part of a holiday rather than consciously planning to do so.

Culturally motivated tourists consume culture as a major part of their trip, but do not choose their destination on the basis of specific cultural experiences, whereas for culturally inspired tourists culture is the main goal of their holiday. 

A more complex typology was proposed by McKercher and Du Cros (2002), who defined tourists based upon the depth of the cultural experience sought, distinguishing them in to one of five hierarchical categories. 

The first is the purposeful cultural tourist for whom cultural tourism is their primary motive for travel. These tourists have a very deep cultural experience. 

The second category is the sightseeing cultural tourist for whom cultural tourism is a primary reason for visiting a destination, but the experience is more shallow in nature.

The serendipitous cultural tourist does not travel for cultural reasons, but who, after participating, ends up having a deep cultural tourism experience, whilst the casual cultural tourist is weakly motivated by culture and subsequently has a shallow experience. 

Lastly, the incidental cultural tourist is one who does not travel for cultural tourism reasons but nonetheless participates in some activities and has shallow experiences. 

Adapting this theory, Petroman  et al (2013) segments tourists based upon their preferred cultural activities.

The purposeful cultural tourist, described as according to Mckercher and Du Cros (2002), enjoys learning experiences that challenge them intellectually and visits history museums, art galleries, temples and heritage sites that are less known.

The tour-amateur cultural tourist is akin with the sightseeing cultural tourist above and they often travel long distances, visit remote areas, enjoy tours and wandering through the streets.

The occasional cultural tourist plays a moderate role in the decision of travelling and enjoys an insignificant cultural experience, their preferred activities being to visit attractions and temples that are easy to reach and to explore, although not to the extent that the tour-amateur cultural tourist does.

The incidental cultural tourist plays a small or no role in the decision to travel and enjoys an insignificant cultural experience, whilst visiting attractions that area within easy reach and heritage theme parks.

The last segment is the accidental cultural tourist, who plays a small or no role in the decision to travel but enjoys a deep cultural experience. This tourist type is diverse and as such has no preferred activities attributed to it. 

Importance of cultural tourism

Cultural tourism is important for many reasons. Perhaps the most prominent reason is the social impact that it brings.

Cultural tourism can help reinforce identities, enhance cross cultural understanding and preserve the heritage and culture of an area. I have discussed these advantages at length in my post The Social Impacts of Tourism , so you may want to head over there for more detail.

Cultural tourism can also have positive economic impacts . Tourists who visit an area to learn more about a culture or who visit cultural tourism attraction, such as museums or shows, during their trip help to contribute to the economy of the area. Attractions must be staffed, bringing with it employment prospects and tertiary businesses can also benefit, such as restaurants, taxi firms and hotels.

Furthermore, for those seeking a deep cultural experience, options such as homestays can have positive economic benefits to the members of the community who host the tourists.

Read also: Overtourism explained: What, why and where

Personally, I think that one of the most important benefits of cultural tourism is the educational aspect. Tourists and hosts alike can learn more about different ways of life. This can help to broaden one’s mind, it can help one to think differently and to be more objective. These are qualities that can have many positive effects on a person and which can contribute to making them more employable in the future.

Cultural tourism activities

Whether a tourist is seeking a deep cultural experience or otherwise, there are a wide range of activities that can be classified as cultural tourism. Here are a few examples:

  • Staying with a local family in a homestay
  • Having a tour around a village or town
  • Learning about local employment, for example through a tour of a tea plantation or factory
  • Undertaking volunteer work in the local community
  • Taking a course such as cooking, art, embroidery etc
  • Visiting a museum
  • Visiting a religious building, such as a Mosque
  • Socialising with members of the local community
  • Visiting a local market or shopping area
  • Trying the local food and drink
  • Going to a cultural show or performance
  • Visiting historic monuments

Impacts of cultural tourism

There are a range of impacts resulting from cultural tourism activities, both good and bad. Here are some of the most common examples:

Positive impacts of cultural tourism

Revitalisation of culture and art.

Some destinations will encourage local cultures and arts to be revitalised. This may be in the form of museum exhibitions, in the way that restaurants and shops are decorated and in the entertainment on offer, for example.

This may help promote traditions that may have become distant.

Preservation of Heritage

Many tourists will visit the destination especially to see its local heritage. It is for this reason that many destinations will make every effort to preserve its heritage.

This could include putting restrictions in place or limiting tourist numbers, if necessary. This is often an example of careful tourism planning  and sustainable tourism management.

This text by Hyung You Park explains the principles of heritage tourism in more detail.

Negative impacts of cultural tourism

Social change.

Social change is basically referring to changes in the way that society acts or behaves. Unfortunately, there are many changes that come about as a result of tourism that are not desirable.

There are many examples throughout the world where local populations have changed because of tourism. Perhaps they have changed the way that they speak or the way that they dress. Perhaps they have been introduced to alcohol through the tourism industry or they have become resentful of rich tourists and turned to crime. These are just a few examples of the negative social impacts of tourism.

Read also: Business tourism explained: What, why and where

Globalisation and the destruction of preservation and heritage.

Globalisation is the way in which the world is becoming increasingly connected. We are losing our individuality and gaining a sense of ‘global being’, whereby we more and more alike than ever before.

Globalisation is inevitable in the tourism industry because of the interaction between tourists and hosts, which typically come from different geographic and cultural backgrounds. It is this interaction that encourage us to become more alike.

Standardisation and Commercialisation

Similarly, destinations risk standardisation in the process of satisfying tourists’ desires for familiar facilities and experiences.

While landscape, accommodation, food and drinks, etc., must meet the tourists’ desire for the new and unfamiliar, they must at the same time not be too new or strange because few tourists are actually looking for completely new things (think again about the toilet example I have previously).

Tourists often look for recognisable facilities in an unfamiliar environment, like well-known fast-food restaurants and hotel chains. Tourist like some things to be standardised (the toilet, their breakfast, their drinks, the language spoken etc), but others to be different (dinner options, music, weather, tourist attractions etc).

Loss of Authenticity 

Along similar lines to globalisation is the loss of authenticity that often results from tourism.

Authenticity is essentially something that is original or unchanged. It is not fake or reproduced in any way.

The Western world believe that a tourist destination is no longer authentic when their cultural values and traditions change. But I would argue is this not natural? Is culture suppose to stay the same or it suppose to evolve throughout each generation? 

Take a look at the likes of the long neck tribe in Thailand or the Maasai Tribe in Africa. These are two examples of cultures which have remained ‘unchanged’ for the sole purpose of tourism. They appear not to have changed the way that they dress, they way that they speak or the way that they act in generations, all for the purpose of tourism.

You can learn more about what is authenticity in tourism here or see some examples of staged authenticity in this post.

Culture clashes

Because tourism involves movement of people to different geographical locations cultural clashes can take place as a result of differences in cultures, ethnic and religious groups, values, lifestyles, languages and levels of prosperity.

Read also: Environmental impacts of tourism

The attitude of local residents towards tourism development may unfold through the stages of euphoria, where visitors are very welcome, through apathy, irritation and potentially antagonism when anti-tourist attitudes begin to grow among local people. This is represented in Doxey’s Irritation Index, as shown below.

cultural tourist attractions

Tourist-host relationships

Culture clashes can also be exasperated by the fundamental differences in culture between the hosts and the tourists.

There is likely to be economic inequality between locals and tourists who are spending more than they usually do at home. This can cause resentment from the hosts towards the tourists, particularly when they see them wearing expensive jewellery or using plush cameras etc that they know they can’t afford themselves.

Further to this, tourists often, out of ignorance or carelessness, fail to respect local customs and moral values. 

There are many examples of ways that tourists offend the local population , often unintentionally. Did you know that you should never put your back to a Buddha? Or show the sole of your feet to a Thai person? Or show romantic affection in public in the Middle East?

Cultural tourism destinations

Whilst many would argue that cultural tourism is ingrained to some extent in travel to any country, there are some particular destinations that are well-known for their ability to provide tourists with a cultural experience.

Cultural tourism in India

It is impossible not to visit India and experience the culture. Even if you are staying in a 5 star Western all-inclusive hotel in Goa, you will still test Indian curries, be spoken to by Indian workers and see life outside of the hotel on your transfer to and from the airport.

For most people who travel to India, however, cultural tourism is far more than peeking outside of the enclave tourism bubble of their all-inclusive hotel.

Thousands of international tourists visit the Taj Mahal each year. Many more people visit the various Hindu and Buddhist temples scattered throughout the country as well as the various Mosques. Some visit the famous Varanassi to learn about reincarnation.

Most tourists who visit India will try the local dal, eat the fresh mutton and taste chai.

All of these activities are popular cultural tourism activities.

Cultural tourism in Thailand

Thailand is another destination that offers great cultural tourism potential. From the Buddhist temples and monuments and the yoga retreats to homestays and village tours, there are ample cultural tourism opportunities in Thailand .

Cultural tourism in Israel

Israel is popular with religious tourists and those who are taking a religious pilgrimage, as well as leisure tourists. I visited Israel and loved travelling around to see the various sights, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem . I’m not religious in any way, but I loved learning about the history, traditions and cultures.

Cultural tourism in New York

New York is a city that is bustling with culture. It is world famous for its museums and you can learn about anything from World War Two to the Twin Towers here.

Many would argue that shopping is ingrained in the culture of those who live in New York and many tourists will take advantage of the wide selection of products on offer and bargains to be had on their travels to New York.

You can also treat yourself to watching a traditional West End show, trying some of the famous New York Cheesecake and enjoying a cocktail in Times Square!

Cultural tourism in Dubai

Dubai might not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think of cultural tourism, but it does, in fact, have a great offering.

What I find particular intriguing about Dubai is the mix of old and new. One minute you can be exploring the glitz and glamour of the many high-end shopping malls and skyscrapers and the next you can be walking through a traditional Arabian souk.

Cultural tourism: Conclusion

As you can see, there is big business in cultural tourism. With a wide range of types of cultural tourists and types of cultural tourism experiences, this is a tourism sector that has remarkable potential. However, as always, it is imperative to ensure that sustainable tourism practices are utilised to mitigate any negative impacts of cultural tourism.

If you are interested in learning more about topics such as this subscribe to my newsletter ! I send out travel tips, discount coupons and some material designed to get you thinking about the wider impacts of the tourism industry (like this post)- perfect for any tourism student or keen traveller!

Further reading

Want to learn more about cultural tourism? See my recommended reading list below.

  • Cultural Tourism – A textbook illustrating how heritage and tourism goals can be integrated in a management and marketing framework to produce sustainable cultural tourism. 
  • Deconstructing Travel: Cultural Perspectives on Tourism – This book provides an easily understood framework of the relationship between travel and culture in our rapidly changing postmodern, postcolonial world.
  • Re-Investing Authenticity: Tourism, Place and Emotions – This ground-breaking book re-thinks and re-invests in the notion of authenticity as a surplus of experiential meaning and feeling that derives from what we do at/in places.
  • The Business of Tourism Management – an introduction to key aspects of tourism, and to the practice of managing a tourism business. 
  • Managing Sustainable Tourism – tackles the tough issues of tourism such as negative environmental impact and cultural degradation, and provides answers that don’t sacrifice positive economic growth.
  • Tourism Management: An Introduction – An introductory text that gives its reader a strong understanding of the dimensions of tourism, the industries of which it is comprised, the issues that affect its success, and the management of its impact on destination economies, environments and communities.
  • Responsible Tourism: Using tourism for sustainable development – A textbook about the globally vital necessity of realising sustainable tourism.

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Cultural attractions

cultural tourist attractions

  • 1 Architecture
  • 2 Art and antiques
  • 3 Curiosities and fringe phenomena
  • 4 Ethnic groups
  • 7 Government and institutions
  • 10 Performance
  • 11 Religion
  • 12 Science and technology

Cultural attractions allow travellers to experience mankind's physical and intellectual creations. Culture in its broadest sense is everything made by humans; however, some feats make greater impressions than others. The UNESCO World Heritage List contains some of these sites, together with natural attractions .

  • Architecture
  • Chicago skyline guide
  • Delta Works – flood protection structures in the Netherlands
  • Developmental records – the longest, the tallest, the oldest etc.
  • Fortifications
  • Grand houses
  • Le Corbusier World Heritage
  • Lighthouses
  • New Mexico Pueblos
  • The Persian Caravanserai

Art and antiques

  • Art and antiques shopping
  • Arts in Japan
  • European art
  • Modern and contemporary art
  • Murals and graffiti
  • Visual arts

Curiosities and fringe phenomena

  • Cryptozoology
  • Fringe phenomena
  • Places with unusual names

Ethnic groups

The world is populated by thousands of different ethnic and national groups, most of them without a sovereign country to call their own. An ethnicity is usually defined by language , religion and traditions, rather than geography or politics.

  • Acadia ns , the French-speakers of Canada's east coast and their cousins in Louisiana, the Cajuns
  • Amish and Mennonites
  • Indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica
  • Maya culture
  • Navajo Nation
  • Ohio prehistoric sites
  • Indigenous cultures of South America
  • Indigenous Australian culture
  • Indigenous Taiwanese culture
  • Indigenous Peoples Trail in Nepal
  • Kanak culture in New Caledonia
  • Maori culture
  • Minority cultures of China
  • Minority cultures of Japan
  • Minority cultures of Russia
  • Nordic folk culture
  • Roma culture in Europe
  • Sami culture in northern Scandinavia and Russia 's Kola Peninsula
  • Assassin's Creed Tour
  • Breaking Bad Tour
  • Game of Thrones tourism
  • Harry Potter tourism
  • Horror fiction
  • James Bond tourism
  • Literary London
  • Lord of the Rings tourism
  • The Wire Tour
  • X-Files tourism
  • Xiangqi (Chinese chess)
  • Go (weiqi, baduk)
  • Shogi (Japanese chess)

Government and institutions

  • Interesting borders
  • Legislative buildings
  • Local governments
  • Military and police ceremonies
  • Official residences
  • Spies and secrets
  • United Nations
  • Visiting company headquarters

Historical travel is a vast theme for tourism.

  • Archaeological sites
  • Ghost towns
  • History of organized labor
  • History of justice
  • In the footsteps of explorers
  • Living history museums
  • Military tourism
  • Organized crime tourism
  • Philosophy tourism
  • UNESCO World Heritage List
  • New Orleans Mardi Gras
  • Chinese New Year , Golden Week holidays in China
  • Christmas in the Philippines
  • Christmas markets
  • Day of the Dead
  • Easter travel
  • Golden Week in Japan
  • Travelling during Ramadan


  • Chinese performing arts
  • European classical music
  • Indian classical music
  • Music festivals
  • Music in Britain and Ireland
  • Musical instruments
  • Nordic music
  • Rock and roll
  • Musical theatre
  • Reenactment and live-action roleplaying
  • Salsa dancing in Latin America
  • Stand-up comedy
  • Baha'i Faith
  • Christian sites in Japan
  • Churches in Antarctica
  • Churches in Chicago
  • Churches in Ethiopia
  • Churches in South Australia
  • The Painted Monasteries , Romania
  • Wooden tserkvas of the Carpathian region
  • Imperial tombs of the Ming and Qing dynasties , China
  • Places of worship in Singapore
  • Sacred sites of China
  • Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent
  • Zoroastrianism

Science and technology

  • Aviation history in the United States
  • Hacker tourism
  • Industrial tourism
  • Maritime tourism
  • Mathematics tourism
  • Mining tourism
  • Nuclear tourism
  • Royal Flying Doctor Service tourism , Australia (RFDS tourism)
  • Science tourism
  • Space flight sites
  • Steam power
  • Underground works
  • Urban rail adventures
  • American football
  • Association football in Europe
  • Australian rules football
  • Baseball in the United States
  • Basketball in North America
  • Field hockey
  • Handball in Europe
  • Horse racing
  • Ice hockey in North America
  • Formula One
  • Motorcycle speedway
  • Olympic Games
  • Polo in Manipur
  • Rugby football
  • Spectator sports
  • Australia's big things
  • Japan's Top 3
  • Miniatures, dioramas and scale models
  • The Most Beautiful Villages of France
  • Off the beaten track in Japan
  • Pueblos Mágicos in Mexico
  • Touring prestigious and notable universities in the U.S.
  • Trams in Melbourne
  • UNESCO Creative Cities
  • UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

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16 Must-Visit Attractions in Beijing

The ornate Temple of Heaven dates back to the Ming and Qing dynasties

Travel Expert

China’s bustling capital of 21.5 million people is constantly contradicting itself. Ancient and modern, busy and serene, grey and green. You may get lost and you may get tired during a sightseeing trip to Beijing, but you will certainly not get bored.

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips , compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips .

Beijing, China’s enigmatic capital city, is packed to bursting with world-class attractions, be they historic palaces , beautiful royal gardens, solemn temples, bustling markets or modern art enclaves. Here, we recommend the top 15 things to do and see in Beijing, from traditional tourist favourites to quirky alternative sights.

1. The Great Wall

Architectural Landmark


One of the most instantly recognisable landmarks in the world, the Great Wall is believed to have been built as early as the seventh century BC, although the majority of the existing wall was constructed during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The most famous part was built by Qin Shi Huang (the first emperor of the Qin dynasty) from 220 to 206 BC. The whole wall is 21,196 kilometres (13,171 miles) long and covers the ancient northern borders of China. It was built to protect the country against invasions from the northern nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe. The most popular sections to visit include Badaling, Jiayu Pass and Shanhai Pass, but if you want more excitement, the rugged and breathtaking Simatai section of the wall is definitely the one to head for.

2. Panjiayuan Antique Market

3. 798 art district.

Art Gallery, Building, Museum, Store

Saturated with local and international galleries, arts centres and countless cool restaurants, shops and bars, 798 Art Zone is arguably China’s most famous contemporary art district. It began life as a sprawling factory complex that made military equipment and components for the Communist cause. Most of the original buildings remain, giving this modern cultural zone – one of Beijing’s trendiest areas – a distinctly dystopian edge.

people cheering on a mountain

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4. Yiheyuan (Summer Palace)

Historical Landmark


5. The Hutongs

An afternoon wandering around the hutongs (narrow alleys that snake between historic courtyard housing complexes) is the best way to appreciate the beauty of old Beijing. Hutongs once dominated Beijing, but owing to aggressive urban development initiatives most have been removed. A good handful still remain around Houhai Lake and Gulou Dajie (Drum Tower Street). An afternoon would be well spent walking or cycling through the unique collection of cafes, restaurants and shops, especially around the kooky Nanluoguxiang shopping street. Be sure to stop and appreciate the ancient drum and bell towers, Gulou and Zhonglou.

6. The Forbidden City and Palace Museum


Without doubt Beijing’s most famous attraction, the Forbidden City – which presides over the notorious Tiananmen Square – is a sprawling palace complex that was home to the emperors of China’s Ming and Qing dynasties until imperialism was abolished in 1912. The great palace, dating back to 1406, exemplifies traditional Chinese architectural styles. Some of the palatial buildings now serve as the Palace Museum, which is worth ducking into to browse more than 1 million valuable Chinese art pieces, such as paintings, ceramics, jewellery and jade. Be sure to bring your passport when you visit as foreigners won’t get in without one.

7. Wangfujing Snack Street

Market, Chinese

8. Tian Tan (Temple of Heaven)

Park, Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark


Constructed between 1406 and 1420, Tian Tan , otherwise known as the Temple of Heaven, is a complex of impressive palatial temples where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties once prayed for a good harvest. The grand and solemn buildings that make up the complex – namely the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Circular Mound Altar – can all be toured, giving visitors an insight into the ancient religious ceremonies of Daoism. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, commissioned by the same emperor responsible for Beijing’s Forbidden City, is bursting with colourful and symbolic imagery. Go check it out. Your camera will thank you.

9. Red Gate Gallery

Art Gallery

10. Dine in Quan Ju De

Restaurant, Chinese

Established in 1864, Quan Ju De has a reputation for serving the best peking roast duck in China. It monitors the breeding method of the ducks very closely and adheres to traditional cooking processes to guarantee quality and taste – only using ducks which are fewer than 100 days old and weigh more than five kilograms (11 pounds). The ducks are roasted as they have been for decades in a big doorless oven fuelled by the wood of fruit trees, turning out impeccably caramelised and crisp – those with superior palates may be able to taste a subtle fruity flavour in the meat.

11. Yonghe (Lama) Temple

Buddhist Temple, Monastery

12. Houhai Lake

Natural Feature

Part of a complex of the three northernmost ornamental lakes in Beijing known as Schichahai, Houhai was built for the pleasures of the royal Yuan family (1271-1368). Today, it is buzzing with activity from early morning to midnight, with street-side haircuts, cheap pencil portraits, al-fresco jam sessions and electric boat rides offered during the day, evolving into loud karaoke bars, fragrant street snacks and neon headgear at night. The streets around the adjoining Qianhai Lake get particularly packed on evenings and weekends, so approach with caution if you’re not a fan of crowds. Explore the majestic Gulou (drum tower) and Zhonglou (bell tower), just a few steps east, while you’re in the neighbourhood.

13. Jingshan Park

Situated at the geographical centre of Beijing, Jingshan Park served as a royal garden and hunting ground during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, complete with fruit trees, pretty pavilions and ornate palaces. It was opened to the public in 1928, providing 57 acres (23 hectares) of landscaped gardens and traditional Chinese architecture, but its unrivalled views are the real reason to visit. Take the short climb up Jingshan Hill and find yourself at the highest point in otherwise flat Beijing, a unique vantage point which looks out over the north gate of the Forbidden City.

14. Parkview Green

Shopping Mall

Parkview Green is a Chinese mall like no other. The winner of multiple green architecture awards, this forward-thinking lifestyle complex sits beside historic Ritan Park and Beijing’s tree-lined diplomatic zone, and it’s packed with shopping, dining and contemporary art. Peruse boutiques and look for touchable sculptures in between exploring the art gallery, art museum and in-mall interactive offerings. Those who really can’t get enough should consider staying at the super-chic on-site boutique art hotel.

15. Hongqiao (Pearl Market)

16. tiananmen square.

Park, Building


Tiananmen Square is located right beside the Forbidden City, known for its incredible political significance. This huge space is home to the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum of China, but the highlight is undoubtedly the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, which houses the former leader’s embalmed body in its crystal coffin. Admission is free (though bear in mind no bags or cameras are permitted inside), but long queues form very quickly each day, so aim to get there early. Recommended by Taylor J. Castelo Brancochang

This article is an updated version of a story created by Katherine Lee.

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20 of the best cultural UNESCO sites around the world

From rock-hewn cities to Welsh castles; mountaintop temples to island prisons, we celebrate the UNESCO-listed wonders that make the world a more cultured place…

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was born out of the horrors of the Second World War, with the remit of spreading peace.

The idea of designating and conserving World Heritage sites – places deemed of great import for their cultural, historical or scientific value – was ratified in 1972.

Just six years later, the first 12 were announced, ranging from Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands to Germany’s Aachen Cathedral.

Today, over one thousand sites have been listed and protected for posterity, with a new batch added each July. The variety is staggering. But the idea is that each one makes the world a more enriching, more fascinating, more united place.

Here are just some of the more remarkable cultural sites from around the globe…

1. ancient kyoto, japan.

cultural tourist attractions

The Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan (Dreamstime)

It is over 150 years since Japan ’s capital began to shift to Edo (modern-day Tokyo), but Kyoto – its imperial capital for over 1,000 years – remains the country’s cultural and spiritual heart.

Some 17 elements make up UNESCO’s Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto site, spanning the evolution of Japanese wooden architecture and landscape gardens from the tenth to the 17th centuries.

This collection includes the golden tiers of Kinkaku-ji, the Zen garden of Ryoan-ji and the towering pagoda of To-ji, Japan’s tallest. Spring visitors should head for the serene Ninna-ji, renowned for its late-blooming cherry trees, while the autumn colours are especially spectacular at the mountain-tucked Tenryu-ji.

Get there: Kyoto is around 2.5 hours by train from Tokyo.

Why? Revel in the country’s former capital

2. Lalibela, Ethiopia

cultural tourist attractions

Unique monolithic rock-hewn Church of St. George, Lalibela, Ethiopia

The medieval rock-hewn churches of this ‘New Jerusalem’ in the highlands of Ethiopia were among the first 12 sites designated by UNESCO in 1978 – a nod to their splendour.

With the help of angels (allegedly), these sunken chapels were chiselled from monolithic blocks, with windows, floors, doors and decoration subsequently carved in.

Colonnaded Bet Medhane Alem, the biggest, is more than 11.5m high; some are only accessible via tunnels or ropes. Despite its age, Lalibela remains a place of devotion, alive with pilgrims, swirling incense and hypnotic chants. It’s like stepping back 900 years.

Get there: Lalibela is a 90-minute flight from Addis Ababa.

Why? Find living faith buried in ancient architecture

3. Sambor Prei Kuk, Cambodia

cultural tourist attractions

Pre-Angkorian temple complex ruins, Sambor Prei Kuk, Kampong Thom, Cambodia (Dreamstime)

Inscribed onto the UNESCO list in 2017, the impressive, forest-cloaked complex of Sambor Prei Kuk comprises over 100 temples yet sees precious few visitors.

Predating Angkor, this archaeological site on the eastern bank of Tonle Sap lake was once capital of the Chenla Empire, which thrived in the late sixth and early seventh centuries, and helped inspire the Khmer-style architecture seen at Cambodia’s more famous UNESCO site.

Hire a guide, both for greater insight and protection again unexploded ordnance, and explore a quiet mix of still-standing temples, sandstone carvings and crumbling ruins that are slowly being swallowed by the jungle.

Get there: Sambor Prei Kuk is 30km north of Kampong Thom and 175km east of Angkor.

Why? Seek an ‘alternative Angkor’

4. Robben Island, South Africa

cultural tourist attractions

African penguins on Robben Island, Cape Town, South Africa (Dreamstime)

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in the Eastern Cape village of Mvezo on 18 July 1918 but spent 18 years, from 1964 to 1982, incarcerated on this small outcrop just off Cape Town.

Robben Island is now a living museum, where a former prisoner-turned-guide will take you on a tour. Visit the old leper graveyard, the African penguin colony, the lime quarry where Mandela and the other inmates were forced to toil, and the Maximum Security Prison, where you can walk the corridors, ascend the watchtowers and finish your explorations at Mandela’s two-metre by three-metre cell.

Get there: Robben Island is roughly a 30-to-60-minute ferry ride from Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

Why? Sail out on Mandela’s centenary

5. Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

cultural tourist attractions

Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal (Dreamstime)

The devastating earthquake of April 2015 devastated UNESCO’s Kathmandu Valley site, with the Durbar Squares of Patan, Hanuman Dhoka (Kathmandu) and Bhaktapur almost completely destroyed.

But all was not lost. UNESCO proposed a plan to restore the whole site and repairs are still underway – museums have reopened and the cracks in Boudhanath’s vast stupa have been filled.

The plan to ‘build back better’ should ensure that when the valley’s tiered temples and Buddhist shrines are finally restored, they’re still worthy of their World Heritage status.

Get there: Kathmandu is about a 12-hour flight from the UK, plus stopover.

Why? Support heritage that is slowly edging its way back from the brink

6. Rajasthan hill forts, India

cultural tourist attractions

Amer and Jaigarh Forts and Kesar Kyari Garden, Maotha Lake, Rajasthan, India (Dreamstime)

The Rajput princes knew how to live. These rulers, who flourished in northern India from the eighth to the 18th centuries, built some truly magnificent fortresses, a handful of which were jointly recognised by UNESCO five years ago.

They are a varied sextet: Jaipur’s Amer Fort (pictured), desert-flung Jaisalmer Fort and Sawai Madhopur, which sits within tiger-prowled Ranthambhore National Park, are well-known on the tourist circuit. Lesser-visited are the riverside Gagron Fort, in the Jhalawar district, and Kumbhalgarh, near Udaipur, which has walls measuring 38km long.

Top pick, though, has to be the majestic Mewar fortress of Chittorgarh, an enormous clifftop cluster of gates, palaces, towers and temples comprising the country’s biggest walled complex.

Get there: Railways connect Jaipur, Udaipur and Chittorgarh.

Why? Explore six for the price of one flight

7. Skellig Michael, Republic of Ireland

cultural tourist attractions

Skelling Michael, Republic of Ireland (Dreamstime)

Clinging onto a scatter of pyramidal rocks off the Irish coast, this Gaelic Christian monastic settlement is thought to have been founded in the sixth century.

Monks lived precipitously, moving between the hermitage, beehive-shaped huts and the man-made terraces via steep stone steps.

These remote islands was abandoned in the late 12th century, but soon became a pilgrimage site, first for Catholics, then for movie-lovers when it played the home of Luke Skywalker in the recent Star Wars films.

Get there: Skellig Michael is 12km off Portmagee, south-west Kerry; boat trips run to the islands.

Why? Take a trip to Luke Skywalker’s home

Take the quiz: How well do you know the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

8. mesa verde national park, usa.

cultural tourist attractions

Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde National Park, USA (Dreamstime)

UNESCO designated its first batch of World Heritage sites in 1978, and this cluster of Ancestral Puebloan ruins in south-west Colorado was one of that original dozen.

The only US national park focused solely on archeology, Mesa Verde comprises a massive concentration of Native American dwellings built from the sixth to the 12th centuries on a verdant plateau, 2,600m above sea level.

Within the park, 4,400 sites have been recorded, ranging from simple pits and hollows to elaborate multi-storey cliff mansions with more than 100 rooms.

Get there: Mesa Verde is located off Route 160, 14km east of Cortez; it lies around 600km south-west of Denver.

Why? Admire American and UNESCO roots

9. Troy, Turkey

cultural tourist attractions

City walls in the ruins of Troy, Turkey (Dreamstime)

The ancient Anatolian city of Troy is easily one of the world’s most famous archaeological treasures, founded in the third millennium BC by the Hittites and made a household name by Homer’s Iliad .

The ruins, rediscovered in the 1870s, are extensive, and span millennia of occupation. You can see the early defensive walls and later Greek and Roman temples; also, the surrounding plains are littered with human history, from prehistoric settlements and Ottoman bridges to monuments to the First World War Battle of Gallipoli. An incredible site.

Get there: Troy is a 45-minute minibus ride from the city of Çanakkale, which has an airport.

Why? So many people don’t believe this incredible 5,000-year-old city exists!

10. Petra, Jordan

cultural tourist attractions

Ancient Petra at night, Jordan (Dreamstime)

Jordan has suffered by Middle Eastern association in recent years and also been hit by the global pandemic.

Visitor numbers are creeping up, but it remains a good time to see the country’s headline site minus the crowds. Petra, which was carved by the Nabataeans in the third century BC, is a wonder, and more extensive than many assume.

Spend time here, squeezing through the Siq, marvelling at the Treasury, climbing up to the monastery and exploring the old city. Or better still, combine with the new 650km Jordan Trail that winds the nation.

Get there: Petra is a 2.5-hour drive south of Amman; buses run to Wadi Musa (Petra’s gateway).

Why? For a huge heritage hit without the crowds

Read next 5 ancient ruin sites to visit in Jordan, beyond Petra

11. old havana, cuba.

cultural tourist attractions

Singing in the streets of Havana, Cuba (Dreamstime)

Havana was founded in 1519 by the Spanish, and so celebrated its 500th a couple of years ago. However, years don’t pass in a regular way in this time-warp city, beloved for its dishevelled mansions, leafy plazas, salsa-swaying streets, vintage cars and general state of appealing disrepair.

Listed by UNESCO in 1982, Habana Vieja (Old Havana) is undergoing a long restoration to ensure it remains the most impressive historic city centre in the Caribbean.

Explore on foot, weaving between the five large plazas, the cathedral and out to the fortifications that protected this once-key port, including one of the largest colonial fortresses in the Americas.

Get there: Havana is around a ten-hour flight from the UK.

Why? To step back in time

12. Churches of Chiloé, Chile

cultural tourist attractions

Wooden church at sunset, Chiloé Island, Chile (Dreamstime)

The Chiloé Archipelago, south of the Chilean Lake District, was once the preserve of the native Chono and Huilliche peoples; then came the Spanish conquistadores and, from the 17th century, Jesuits and then Franciscans, eager to convert the locals.

To that end, a ring of churches was constructed across the islands; today, 70 mission churches remain, 16 of them recognised by UNESCO for their wooden architecture and neat fusion of European and local traditions.

Plan a church-hop: highlights include the tri-towered sky-blue Tenaún and 53m-long Quinchao.

Get there: Chiloé Island is around two hours from Puerto Montt airport; buses run via the Chacao Channel ferry.

Why? For a resplendent religious circuit

Read next South America trip planner: 8 incredible routes

13. prague, czech republic.

cultural tourist attractions

View from a tower window, Prague, Czech Republic (Dreamstime)

In 2018, it was 100 years since Czechoslovakia’s formation and the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Divorce, when it split peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Back then it was arguably suffering from over-tourism, but post-pandemic, this fairytale, riverside city, with its perfectly preserved UNESCO-listed centre of medieval streets and Gothic houses, will be a joy to visit.

Visit Prague ‘s castle and the Old Town Square’s 15y century astronomical clock without the crowds.

Get there: Prague is connected to many UK airports; flight time is from around two hours.

Why? See a spruced-up capital in a historic year

14. Gwynedd castles, Wales

cultural tourist attractions

Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales (Dreamstime)

After his invasion of North Wales was completed in 1283, Edward I embarked on the era’s most ambitious building project: a network of new castles, to secure the territory for the English crown.

With the UK opening up again, it’s a good time to visit the four coastal bastions encompassed in UNESCO’s ‘Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd’. This includes beautifully symmetrical Beaumaris, rock-top Harlech, the beefily fortified town of Caernarfon and the well-preserved ramparts and turrets of Conwy.

Get there: Harlech and Conwy have mainline train stations. You can link all four by walking the Wales Coast Path (a stately 1,400km).

Why? Marvel at the coastal strongholds of Wales

15. Ravenna, Italy

cultural tourist attractions

Ceiling mosaic of the Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy (Dreamstime)

Italy has more UNESCO sites than any other country, and the Emilia Romagna city of Ravenna, one-time capital of the Western Roman Empire, has eight of them, known as the ‘Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna’.

All date from the fifth and sixth centuries, and chief among them is the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, built for the sister of Emperor Honorius who made Ravenna the capital in 402 AD.

Austere outside, its interior is a kaleidoscope of rich, elegant mosaics, including a cupola sparkling with stars. Combine the sites with dips in the Adriatic and indulging in the fine regional cuisine and a glass of Sangiovese wine.

Get there: Ravenna is 70km from Bologna; trains and buses connect the two.

Why? Go mad for mosaics

16. Tsodilo Hills, Botswana

cultural tourist attractions

Sunset at Tsodilo Hills, Botswana (Dreamstime)

Safari buffs descend on Botswana for its wonderful wildlife. But less lauded is the country’s wealth of rock art.

The Tsodilo Hills have been dubbed the ‘Louvre of the Desert’ – over 4,500 paintings are clustered in a small patch of quartzite rocks in the Kalahari, in the country’s north-west.

San people view this as the site of first Creation, a place frequented by ancestral spirits, and have daubed the rocks with various figures, animals, shapes and geometric patterns. While some were painted as recently as the 19th century, others are thought to date back more than 20,000 years.

Get there: Tsodilo is a four-hour 4WD trip from the village of Shakawe, about 370km from Maun.

Why? See the highest rock art in the world

17. Caral-Supe, Peru

cultural tourist attractions

Ruins in Caral-Supe, Peru (Dreamstime)

Fellow Peruvian UNESCO site Machu Picchu might get more of the plaudits and punters, but for historical heft, Caral-Supe wins hands down.

This sacred city, once capital of the Norte Chico peoples, is around 5,000 years old, making it the oldest centre of civilisation in the Americas.

Its ceremonial pyramids were in use 500 years before the Egyptians built those at Giza. Set on an arid desert terrace above the lush Supe Valley, the extensive site incorporates both public and private buildings, including circular sunken plazas, an amphitheatre and six large pyramidal structures; the largest, the Templo Mayor, measures 150m long and 28m high.

Get there: Caral-Supe is 200km north of Lima.

Why? To go back to where it all began

18. Valletta, Malta

cultural tourist attractions

Sunrise view of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Valletta, Malta (Dreamstime)

Strategically sited Malta has been ruled by Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and the Order of the Knights of St John.

Thus its diminutive capital Valletta , perched on a hill between two natural harbours, is a dense layer cake of monuments – according to UNESCO, ‘one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world’.

The best way to get a sense of the fortified city is aboard a dghajsa (traditional boat), then visit the Baroque dazzle of St John’s Co-Cathedral and the opulent Grand Master’s Palace, a centre of power from the 16th century onwards.

Get there: Valletta is connected to many UK airports; flight time is from around three hours.

Why? So much history and culture packed into this small archipelago

Read next: Beyond Valletta: 6 of Malta’s lesser-visited gems

19. tikal national park, guatemala.

cultural tourist attractions

Mayan temple, Tikal National Park, Guatemala (Dreamstime)

The Maya ruins at Tikal – and across the Petén region – are vast.

What’s more, research this year using LiDAR laser technology, which digitally removes the forest from aerial images, indicates the ruins are far more complex than first thought, revealing previously unknown structures and links between sites that were inhabited for 1,400 years from the 6th century BC.

This all adds to the ‘what else could be here?’ frisson as you roam a Maya metropolis of temples, squares and palaces.

Get there: Tikal is around 75 minutes’ drive from the town of Flores.

Why? For a tiny taste of Maya magnificence

20. Abu Simbel, Egypt

cultural tourist attractions

Great Temple, Abu Simbel, Egypt (Dreamstime)

Rescuing the ancient Nubian temples of Abu Simbel from the rising Nile wasn’t just important for Egypt, it revolutionised the global approach to safeguarding heritage.

In 1968, the complex built for Ramses II in around 1260 BC was cut into 2,000 pieces and moved – brick by brick – to higher ground. Now it’s the headline act of a UNESCO site that includes other Nubian Monuments, such as the Sanctuary of Isis at Philae, and a powerful symbol of conservation.

Get there: Abu Simbel is 280km south of Aswan; 30 minutes by plane, about three hours by bus.

Why? Celebrate 50 years of salvation.

Check out more incredible UNESCO-listed sites around the world:

Unesco’s 18 new biosphere reserves, 17 world heritage wonders in south-east asia, 21 world heritage wonders in latin america, our favourite new unesco world heritage sites.

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32 Cultural Tourism Destinations for Unique Cultural Trips

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Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links to the products we earnestly love and recommend, meaning at no extra cost to you, we might make a teeny-weeny commission if you click on the link and decide to buy something. The money will be used to sustain this little cozy blog we call our virtual home.

As a cultural traveler, I always look for unique cultural experiences wherever I travel. Do you also believe in cultural travel or immersive travel? That being so, this round-up of the very best cultural tourism destinations in the world is sure to help you plan a soulful cultural trip.

Cultural Tourism: Introduction

I’m a sucker for meaningful travel experiences. Beach vacations don’t excite me as much as cultural trips.

What exactly is a cultural trip?

To put it simply, a cultural trip is a trip with a purpose or a goal.

It’s about experiencing, understanding, appreciating, embracing, and preserving different cultures and traditions worldwide.

It’s about getting off the beaten path & stepping out of your comfort zone.

It’s about meeting natives and forming meaningful connections.

It’s about eating local delicacies and staying in homestays.

It’s about being a part of cultural events, local festivals, and rituals .

It’s about gaining knowledge or learning a new skill.

It’s about volunteering and helping local communities thrive.

It’s about challenging preconceptions and bringing in fresh perspectives.

It’s about traveling slowly, sensibly, sustainably, and responsibly, not leaving footprints, and treading a little lighter on the planet.

It’s about not just thinking about yourself but caring about the world @ large.

Culturally immersive travel is all the more important in present times to deal with the dynamic challenges of globalization and multiculturalism.

Cultural tourism is vital in preserving culture and heritage to build a beautiful world and we, as travelers, have a social responsibility to make a positive impact on the local economy, environment, and communities whenever and wherever we travel and inspire others to do that too.

To get on with it, I collaborated with seasoned cultural travelers to bring together this guide to the best cultural destinations in the world that include exciting cultural countries that put forward experiential cultural travel experiences.

Cultural Tourism Destinations for the Best Cultural Experiences in the World

Needless to say, you can have a culturally immersive travel experience anywhere and everywhere in the world.

Each destination has a culture different than yours waiting to be explored and thus, it’s tough to choose a few, however, I’ve cherry-picked the countries that catch the eye for their strong culture and heritage and intrigue a cultural tourist.

Top Cultural Tourist Destinations in Asia

Nele van Hout from The Navigatio

torii gate shrine hakone japan

Japan is one of the most unique and culture-rich countries in the world. It’s counted as one of the leading cultural destinations in the world for a reason.

Being an island, Japan was isolated from other countries for centuries, allowing it to develop its very own unique customs and traditions.

While many influences from outside are now being introduced in the country, Japan remains a travel destination like no other.

Japan is known as a country of many contrasts. The hyper-modern side can be enjoyed in big metropolitan cities like Tokyo, where you can play video games in arcades, be checked into a hotel by a robot, sing karaoke or ride the fastest train in the world (the Shinkansen).

But it’s the traditional side where Japan really differentiates itself from the rest of the world. When visiting, you can dress up in traditional wear, the kimono, before heading over to temples there were built over a thousand years ago – some of the most famous ones can even be found inside the big cities.

In Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan, you can still find geishas to this day – these are women dressed in kimonos wearing unique white make-up who specialize in tea ceremonies and performance arts.

Here, you can (must) also take part in an official tea ceremony . Matcha (Japanese green tea) plays a big role in Japanese culture and Kyoto is the perfect place to learn about it.

When in Japan, you should consider staying in a ryokan for at least one night. This is a traditional Japanese inn, usually equipt with tatami floors (traditional straw floors) and sometimes they even have an onsen (Japanese hot springs).

They can be found all across the country, but the city of Hakone has a lot of them , including onsen. Some even come with a view of the majestic Mount Fuji .

De Wet & Jin of the Museum of Wander

china tourism cultural destinations

One of the top choices for cultural trips around the world, few places can compete with the cultural magnificence of China.

The country has a rich and diverse history that spans over 5,000 years, making it one of the oldest continuous civilizations in the world.

The staggering wealth of cultural heritage scattered across the country can make deciding where to go in China challenging. Whether looking for historical landmarks, tea culture , fantastic food, ancient and modern art, traditional medicine, minority cultures, or unique cultural experiences, China delivers like a few others.

First-time visitors to China can experience the best of Chinese culture and history in the capital, Beijing. Besides seeing the famous historical landmarks like the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace, they’ll also have many opportunities for a slice of  authentic Beijing  life.

Join the rest of Beijing and ride a bike along the wide and leafy bike lanes, or head to one of the parks to see people play chess, practice calligraphy or opera singing, or do ballroom dancing.  

No visit to China is complete without indulging in its incredible cuisine. In Beijing, that means Peking duck. For the best roast duck in Beijing, you must not miss Quanjude restaurant.

Art lovers, collectors, or those looking for a unique souvenir from China should visit Beijing’s antique market. Panjiayuan Antique Market is home to hundreds of vendors dealing in authentic Chinese antiques and replicas – the fun is finding the difference and bargaining until the price is right.

While Beijing has accommodations to suit every budget and taste, staying in a traditional hutong courtyard hotel is best if you want to immerse yourself in the real Beijing. The  Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel  in the Dongcheng district is the perfect base to see and experience the local side of Beijing.

varanasi india cultural trips

One of the oldest civilizations in the world, India has a rich, vibrant, and diverse cultural legacy that makes it the ultimate cultural tourism destination.

Over the centuries, India has been invaded several times by diverse rulers leaving an indelible mark on its cultural fabric. You can see and feel the influence of diverse cultures in architecture, traditional customs, food, dance, music, festivities, and languages. It, without a doubt, is one of the best places for culture in the world.

The Indian cultural heritage, values, and traditions have shaped the history of Asia and the world for that matter.

From ancient temples and royal palaces to majestic forts and historical monuments, the plethora of heritage sites in India showcases the cultural vitality of the country.

Each Indian state with its distinctive cultural heritage deserves a special place among beautiful cultural destinations in India, however, some states and cities take a lead for their cultural and historic stature on the world stage like Varanasi, Jaipur , Delhi , Amritsar , Madurai, Hampi, Mysore, Khajuraho, Kochi , and Rishikesh.

Among the various destinations for cultural tourism in India, Varanasi (Benaras or Kashi) is indeed the symbol of Indian culture. “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together,” penned Mark Twain.

One of the oldest living cities in the world, this sacred city on the banks of the Holy River Ganges is where people from across the world come to attain moksha (salvation). Its ancient temples, historic ghats, and revered Ganga Aarti offer unmissable cultural experiences. Without a doubt, Varanasi is one of the best cultural cities in the world.

With magnificent palaces, invincible forts, folk music, colorful festivals, and fairs – the royal cities of Rajasthan narrate the grandeur of erstwhile royals.

The unique temples of Tamil Nadu have great mythological and historical significance in Indian culture. The Meenakshi Temple in Madurai is the epitome of beauty and architecture and a must-visit for cultural buffs.

Khajuraho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Madhya Pradesh beautifully mirrors the art and creativity of ancient India. One of a kind in the world!

Kerala is a melting pot of different cultures and traditions. You can sense the Arab, Chinese, and European influences, especially in Fort Kochi. You can visit Kerala Kathakali Centre to witness traditional dances such as the Kathakali or the classic martial arts form of Kalaripayattu. Art lovers can plan around Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the biggest contemporary art festival in Asia.

No cultural trip to India is complete without taking part in one of the colorful Indian festivals . Holi and Diwali are hit among cultural tourists. And of course, gorging on traditional Indian food is part and parcel of an immersive travel experience in India.

The Mughal monuments of Delhi , the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the Indo-Portuguese architecture of Goa, the Awadhi heritage of Lucknow, the artistic and literary heritage of Kolkata, the historic temples of Bhubaneswar, the Buddhist pilgrimage of Bodh Gaya, ancient ruins of Hampi, palaces and pilgrim sites of Mysore, and on and on – India is your answer to culture fix.

And how can I talk about Indian culture and not mention its ancient healing traditions – Yoga and Ayurveda that make India a leader in holistic wellness? From Rishikesh and Narendra Nagar to Kottayam, Allepey, Palakkad, and Mysore – there are endless Yoga and Ayurveda Ashrams & Resorts in India.

For an immersive Indian culture experience, book a stay at one of the unique heritage hotels or local homestays or wellness retreats in India.

Ami Bhat of Thrilling Travel

bhutan tourism cultural destinations

Known for its commitment to Gross National Happiness, Bhutan is a place where you will find how well-balanced the concepts of well-being and spiritual values are alongside economic development. The small landlocked country located in the eastern Himalayas is a perfect combination of culture, heritage, and nature.

The history of Bhutan dates back to the 8th century when Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava, introduced Buddhism to the region. The country’s early history is characterized by the establishment of local chieftaincies, with the emergence of the Wangchuck dynasty in the early 20th century leading to the unification of the country.

It was in 2008, the country made the transition to a constitutional monarchy, with the king remaining the head of state but with a democratically elected government.

Every major town in Bhutan has a central Dzong (fort) which is not just a center of governance but also, a religious and cultural hot spot. A visit here not only allows you to appreciate the traditional Bhutanese architecture but gets you familiarized with the key customs and traditions of the country.

Besides these, there are several ancient monasteries and temples like Taktsang Monastery,  Chimi Lhakhang ( the fertility temple), and the Gangtey Monastery that one can visit.

No cultural experience is complete without a taste of the local meals. Bhutanese cuisine is known for its spiciness and use of chilies, and traditional dishes include ema datshi (chilies and cheese), phaksha paa (pork with vegetables), and momos (dumplings).

It is highly recommended that one experiences a stay in one of their traditional villages located in peaceful valleys like the Haa Valley and Phobjikha Valley. There are several farmhouses that provide authentic experiences including traditional stone baths.

Kaitlyn from Carry On Only

hoi an vietnam tourism cultural destinations trips

Vietnam is an ideal destination in South East Asia for those who wish to experience a diverse and fascinating culture. It’s a beautiful country brimming with endless cultural tourism attractions and thus, offers some of the best cultural vacations in the world.

The history of Vietnam is complex and includes significant events such as a 1000-year-long period of Chinese rule over northern and central Vietnam, a 1st century AD rebellion led by the Trung Sisters against Chinese domination, successful defense against Mongol invasion, French colonization during the 19th century, and the widely known Vietnam War.

Vietnam has a wide range of attractions that would interest culture buffs. These include the My Son Sanctuary, Cu Chi Tunnels, The Ancient Town of Hoi An (which features the Precious Heritage Art Gallery Museum , War Remnants Museum and the Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh City , the imperial city of Hue, Bac Ha Market in Lao Cai, Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi , and floating markets along the Mekong Delta.

If you want to have a complete cultural experience, then choosing a Homestay in the Sapa area is the optimal way to do it. You can get an authentic taste of the daily life of the Black Hmong by staying in The Little Hmong House .

Vietnamese locals are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality towards tourists, making it easy for visitors to connect with them and learn about their vibrant culture and way of life.

If you want to experience a magnificent culture, visiting Vietnam is a must-do on your bucket list!

Alex and Leah of Alex and Lean on Tour

angkor wat siem reap cambodia

If you’re looking for an explosion of culture, look no further than Cambodia, one of the very best cultural places in the world.

The country has endless cultural attractions that you absolutely must visit. Whether it’s the famous sunset at Angkor Wat near Siem Reap or lesser-known gems such as the Battambang Bamboo train, there’s so much to experience in Cambodia.

Angkor Wat is an absolute must-visit for anyone traveling to Cambodia. The region has tons of temples, all representing something different about Cambodian culture. 

If you’re looking to explore off the traditional touristy track, make sure to visit Battambang and stay at the beautiful Sanctuary Villa which fully blends into the environment perfectly yet still has amazing facilities!

Similarly, if you love the hustle and bustle of a city that has an abundance of great food places, Phnom Penh’s the place to be. Full of every food imaginable 

Cambodia has a very fraught history and has only recently managed to dispose of the Khmer Rouge. This truly horrific regime attempted to restructure Cambodian society which ended up slaughtering millions of innocent people in prison and killing fields. It’s still a very poor country so make sure to be conscious and respectful when you visit! 

If you’re looking to relax Cambodian-style then why not also visit the beautiful Koh Rong islands in the southwest? You’ll have the chance to swim in the turquoise sea by day and bio-illuminant plankton by night!

Dotti from Travel Oasis

dambulla cave temple in sri lanka

Sri Lanka is a fabulous destination for culture lovers. This little island is overflowing with cultural attractions due to its extensive history dating back millennia. 

The most obvious place to get a cultural fix in Sri Lanka is the cultural triangle. This region, in the center of the country, is where the Sinhalese civilization was born. It’s also where the bulk of Sri Lanka’s cultural attractions are: the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, Mihintale, the Dambulla cave temples, and the famous rock citadel of Sigiriya.

The largest of these is Anuradhapura , Sri Lanka’s first capital. It was one of the ancient world’s great metropolises at the time, with monasteries, massive dagobas, elaborate palaces, and water tanks. Many of these monuments still remain, not only as popular tourist attractions but as important Buddhist religious sites, so it’s common to see pilgrims paying visits. 

Just south of the cultural triangle is Kandy , the second-largest city in the country. Kandy is known as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka due to housing the famous Temple of the Tooth. This temple, which is open to the public, is said to hold a tooth from the Buddha and is of utmost importance to Buddhists worldwide. 

In the north of Sri Lanka is Jaffna, home to the majority of the country’s Tamil population. Jaffna is a great place to experience Sri Lanka’s Hindu culture, with shrines peppered throughout the region. The most famous is Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, which dates back to the 13th century. 

There’s no better place to stay than Ceylonima Home Stay in Anuradhapura. Run by an incredibly welcoming family who goes out of their way to provide the best experience for their guests. From giving local tips to informal cooking classes in their own kitchen, this is a cultural experience not to miss.

Linda of Muy Linda Travels

balinese dance bali culture indonesia

Indonesia is an archipelago in Southeast Asia comprising five main islands and more than 18,000 smaller islands located on ancient trading routes between Asia, and the Middle East.

With more than 300 ethnic groups, Indonesian culture is a blend of traditions, religions, and cultural practices. More than 85% of Indonesians are Muslim with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity making up the remaining numbers.  

Indonesia’s ancient religious monuments are a great place to start exploring the country’s rich history and culture. The Island of Bali has more than 10,000 Hindu shrines.

But  Indonesia’s most beautiful temples  can be found in Java. Majestic Borobudur, the largest Buddhist Temple in the world, and Prambanan Temple, the oldest and the largest of Indonesia’s Hindu Temples lie near Yogyakarta in Central Java. Both famous monuments are UNESCO world-heritage listed and recognized for their historical importance and cultural significance.   

In Central Java, the Sarasvati Hotel in Borobudur is a lovely place to stay. The elegant Dutch colonial-era building has a superb location near the entrance to the Borobudur Temple grounds. 

Indonesia has a history of Sultans that ruled local areas before and during the Dutch colonial rule. Royal Courts can be visited in Java, Bali, Borneo, and the Spice Islands. The Sultans were revered for their refinement and high culture. A highlight of visiting the Royal Palace in Yogyakarta is watching a live Gamelan and shadow puppet performance.  

In Java, the Batik Museum in Solo has a beautiful collection of traditional Indonesian Batik fabrics and sarongs, and in Bali, traditional Dance is performed regularly with evening performances in Ubud and around the island.  

Traditional Indonesian food is another way to explore the culture with dishes like, sate chicken and peanut sauce, Gado Gado, Babi Guling, Nasi Goreng, and Mi Goreng.  

Indonesia has much to offer and is a great destination for culture lovers. 

Emily from Emixglobe 

jiufen taiwan

With a long history of colonialism blended with rich aboriginal culture, Taiwan has an extremely colorful fusion of cultural heritage unique from all its East Asian counterparts.

One of the best ways to experience the various forms of Taiwanese culture is to visit the many historic streets scattered throughout Taiwan. Each historic street has its own unique history and culture associated with it.

From these streets, you’ll be able to get a glimpse of how Taiwanese people have lived throughout the centuries; from well-preserved buildings left from the Japanese colonial period to the fascinating and unique Hakka culture of Taiwan.

Some of the most beautiful and notable historic streets in Taiwan include Jiufen and Lukang Old Street, both dating back to the Qing dynasty.

Jiufen was once a prosperous mining town and many have speculated it to be the inspiration for Ghibli’s spirited away due to striking similarities. Lukang used to be the second most prominent town in Taiwan and an important seaport rich in Hakka culture.

The Aboriginal culture is also an important part of Taiwanese culture. The Aborigines have lived in Taiwan for 6000 years, and there are officially 16 recognized tribes in Taiwan, each with its own unique language and culture.

The best way to experience the Aboriginal culture is to take their villages and immerse yourself in their daily way of life and participate in festivals and events.

South Korea

Mayi from SecretMoona

deoksugung palace seoul south korea

In recent years, South Korea has undergone tremendous cultural change. Thus when considering the country, we often think of K-Pop, K-Drama, K-Food, and high-tech.

But South Korea also offers something for those interested in history and culture.  A trip to South Korea is an invitation to discover 5,000 years of history, art, and culture.

Here, Chinese and Japanese influences can be seen in the rich heritage, but Korean culture displays a particular style. Starting with Seoul, a bubbling capital where futuristic architecture brushes shoulders with ancient palaces.

You can explore Bukchon Hanok Village. Surrounded by Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, and Jongmyo Shrine, Bukchon Hanok Village is home to hundreds of traditional houses called hanok, which date back to the Joseon Dynasty.

After the capital, I invite you to visit the other major places: Busan, the maritime, Gyeongju, the historic, Andong, the traditional…

The historical treasures of Gyeongju, in particular, will take you back in time. As the ancient capital of the kingdom of Silla and often referred to as ‘ the museum without walls ,’ the city displays neither tall buildings nor modern architecture.

While there, explore the city’s royal past at Tumuli Park, a peaceful park full of tumuli (large round grassy tombs), and visit the Gyeongju National Museum. As an important cultural center, it preserves and exhibits Silla’s rich history and culture.

Other must-sees are Cheomseongdae, the oldest astronomical observatory in Asia, and the Bulguksa Temple. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bulguksa Temple is home to the oldest cave temple in the country.

If you want to experience monastic life firsthand, you can stay there as part of a temple stay program and learn sunmudo, a traditional Buddhist Korean martial art, among other things. 

Another place to explore South Korea’s cultural and historical sights is Andong. The town is known for its traditional culture, and the main attraction is the Hahoe Folk Village, a Unesco World Heritage site.

The village has large tile-roofed residences, thatched roofs houses, and old pavilions. Stroll through the narrow streets, visit the traditional houses, and explore the Hahoe Mask Museum, with its intriguing collection of Korean and international masks.

Caroline of Veggie Wayfarer

khiva uzbekistan cultural trips

A colorful treasure trove for cultural aficionados is located along the silk road in Central Asia. Uzbekistan was once at the very heart of trade between East and West, it comes therefore as no surprise that modern-day Uzbek culture is an eclectic mix of different civilizations which is reflected in the country’s architecture, music, and even cuisine.

Originally inhabited by nomadic tribes, and later ruled by a myriad of empires and kingdoms including the Samanids, Timurids, and the Khanate of Bukhara. The country was folded into the Soviet Union in the 20 th  century but regained its independence in 1991.

Luckily the gargantuan tiled mosques and traditional architecture were carefully preserved despite being depictions of an outlawed religion. Hospitality is of the utmost importance in Uzbek culture, being invited into someone’s home for a meal or a cup of tea is a common occurrence, although you might want to brush up on your Uzbek before attending.

While tourism in Uzbekistan has gained momentum in recent years, it still remains a wonderfully authentic place to visit.

Start your trip by  exploring Samarkand , with the majestic Registan Square being an absolute must-visit. Next hop on a train to Bukhara and stay with a local family at the Komil Bukhara Boutique Hotel .

End your cultural trip to Uzbekistan with little Khiva, which once held the largest slave market in all of Central Asia and was rivaled only by Bukhara in importance.

The night train from Khiva to Tashkent will bring you back to the capital, where all international airfare departs from.

Carine from We Did It Our Way

oldest church in the world etchmiadzin vagharshapat armenia

Armenia, a small country in the Caucasus, is a beautiful place with a long history & rich culture. Armenia has been on maps since the Bronze Age under different dynasties and kingdoms.

Being the first Christian nation, adopting the religion in 301 AD, many of the cultural sites in Armenia are churches.

With over 4,000 to choose from, the most notable ones are the Holy City of Etchmiadzin, where the Armenian equivalent of the pope resides, and Khor Virap, where the father of Christianity in Armenia was held captive for years.

But there’s more to do in Armenia than visit churches ! Visit the Genocide Museum to learn about the horrific genocide perpetrated by the Turks in 1915. The Areni-1 Caves, are archaeological digs where there are relics that pin Armenia as one of the birthplaces of wine-making.

The world’s oldest leather shoe was also found here, currently kept at the History Museum of Armenia in Yerevan, where there are many other museums.

Other amazing places to visit in Armenia are the Garni temple, the only pagan temple in the country, dating back to the 1st century.

Karahunj, or Zorats Karer, is suspected to be the oldest astronomical observatory in the world. Khndzoresk is an old village that has been built into the side of the mountain, with caves and ruins to explore.

Almost every night, you can attend a concert or dance show in Yerevan or Gyumri. There are also a ton of festivals and events happening almost every weekend.

A great heritage hotel is the Tufenkian Old Dilijan Guest Rooms in Dilijan. They kept the allure of the architecture of the 1800s when the city of Dilijan was known as a blossoming center of culture, commerce, and cuisine.

There are also plenty of homestays to choose from . Just be careful as your hosts will likely feed you constantly, just a little sign of how much they appreciate you! 

For these reasons and so many others, Armenia is a great place to visit for culture buffs. In 2 weeks, you can easily take in the best sights in the country.

Best Cultural Travel Destinations in Europe

Raksha Nagaraj of Solopassport

georgian wine with fresh bread, cheese, and cherry tomatoes

Located at the eastern end of the Black Sea between Russia and Armenia, Georgia is a transcontinental country belonging to both Europe and Asia.

As per Georgia’s history, the country has gone through many political changes/rulers, including the rule of the Soviet Union and it was declared independent (again) in 1991.

Georgia is especially famous for its wine culture, as the country is the oldest wine-making country in the world that dates back to 6000 years B.C.

With more than 80% of the population practicing Orthodox Christianity, Georgia is one of the most traditional and religious countries to visit.

Georgia was also the site of the Golden Fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts in the Greek mythological tale of Argonautica. There are many medieval churches around the country, including UNESCO World Heritage sites  Jvari Monastery and Bagrati Cathedral.

In fact, Georgia’s language, Mkhedruli script (alphabets), and dance are also recognized by UNESCO.

What makes the Georgians stand out is their hospitality and their respect for women. They believe that guests are Gods and make everyone feel at home and comfortable. The food in Georgia is also unique and they love their wine.

Their culture is best observed during their feast/festival called supra. During the feast, the role of the tamada/toastmaster is significant, and the culture of drinking the wine bottoms up irrespective of how big the glass/drinking horns called khantsi is.

One of the best ways to enjoy Georgian culture is by staying at a local hotel or homestay. Musmore Boutique Hotel , situated close to Liberty Square, is a budgeted hotel run by locals and is a great opportunity to interact and learn from them. The guests can also taste and try the local cuisine at the hotel.

Tamar of World by Weekend

dark church goreme open air museum cappadocia turkey

If you’re looking for a travel destination rich in cultural heritage, then look no further than Turkey (Türkiye). One of the best cultural vacation destinations, Turkey has been at a cultural crossroads for millennia, giving the country its unique east-meets-west mix of cultures.

While visiting Turkey you’ll have the opportunity to explore ancient Greek ruins, explore Byzantine rock churches, and see the world’s best examples of Ottoman architecture.

Culture buffs should be sure to visit Istanbul , where Europe and Asia collide into one mega-city. Current-day Istanbul was the seat of power for the Ottoman sultans, who ruled for 600 years and whose empire spanned across southern Europe and the Middle East.

You can learn about the Ottoman Empire by visiting Topkapi and Dolmabahçe Palaces. While touring these two stunning palaces you will enter former bedrooms, private prayer rooms, and grand rooms for entertaining, giving you a sense of the lavish lifestyle of the sultans.

Turkey’s cultural significance, however, extends far beyond the busy streets of Istanbul. The ancient city of Ephesus , near current-day Izmir, was once an important Roman city and home to roughly a quarter of a million people.

The city was most famous for the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today, the temple is in ruins aside from one free-standing column. However, the ancient city of Ephesus still contains many exemplary well-preserved ruins, making it a must-visit for travelers interested in ancient history.

Not to be overlooked by culture buffs visiting Turkey is the region of Cappadocia . Nearly 2,000 years ago, this picturesque land of fairy chimneys became home to early Christian settlers.

The settlers built churches into the rocks, chiseling out the rooms by hand. They also painted beautiful religious frescoes on the walls and ceilings, many of which can still be viewed today. The best place to see these Byzantine Christian creations is the Goreme Open Air Museum , which contains 15 rock churches.

For a unique and immersive accommodation experience in Cappadocia , be sure to stay at a cave hotel . Traditionally, many inhabitants of the valley resided in cave dwellings carved into the rocks. Today, you can experience this traditional local lifestyle, without the risk of erosion, by staying in a cave yourself!

Cris from LooknWalk

colosseum rome italy

Located in Southern Europe, La Bella Italia, together with Greece, is considered the birthplace of Western civilization. Home to 53 cultural and 5 natural UNESCO Heritage sites, as well as 14 traditions recognized as intangible cultural heritage, the largest number in the world, Italy is a must on your itinerary if you are a culture buff.

Between historical sites, art museums, and colorful traditions, your trip to Italy will be an immersive experience of its history and culture.

Italy’s history spans eons. Rome started its life as a small village in the 8 th  century BC. It grew into a republic, then an empire, spanning the entire Mediterranean basin, going as far north as Scotland and as far east as Mesopotamia and Arabia.

Reminders of this period dot Rome’s streets. Decades of war and the changes happening in nearby territories, eventually lead to the emergence of modern Italy.

When the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861, its capital was Turin. It took 9 more years until Rome became the capital. But it wasn’t until after World War II that Italy became a republic again (1946).

Today, it’s one of the most popular travel destinations in the world and most travelers choose to discover Rome’s cultural and historical heritage.

Without a doubt, your cultural itinerary in Italy should start with visiting Rome’s Colosseum. And while you are here, tour the Vatican’s Museums, and go on a day trip to explore the   ancient city of Pompeii .

If you are also into art, plan a trip to Florence, home to a large concentration of world-famous masterpieces. Visit the Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and Palazzo Vecchio. And while in the area, make sure to also check out Pisa with its famous Leaning Tower.

No cultural exploration of Italy is complete without getting to know its cuisine. Learn to make pizza in Naples or discover the secrets of orecchiette in Puglia.

When it comes to accommodation, farm stays will allow you to get immersed in the Italian lifestyle. Agriturismo Podere Campriano in the heart of Chianti, close to both Florence and Siena, is a family-owned farm that produces fantastic wine and olive oil. Aside from wonderful accommodations, they also offer cooking classes and wine tours.

Elle of Only in Germany

pergamon museum berlin germany

Dating back thousands of years, Germany or Deutschland was a pagan nation and an important center of the Holy Roman Empire . It played a significant part in the history of Europe.

Germany is a hub for culture enthusiasts, with museums, art houses, and collection centers scattered across the country. All these places narrate the story of Germany and have significant cultural importance. They are perfect for witnessing the magic of art, history, and culture.

If you are a culture enthusiast, Berlin, the capital city of Germany is one of the best cities to visit in Germany.

The Pergamon Museum on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Museum Island in Berlin houses long-buried treasures and monumental works worldwide, including Greek and Roman collections.

The Museum Brandhorst in Munich is the central venue for contemporary art, showcasing masterpieces from all over the world from the 1960s to the present.

With a host of musical theaters, opera houses, and live venues, Munich is a hub for performing arts and cultures. One must plan an evening catching traditional and classical performances at Deutsches Theater in Munich to get a dose of culture.

The Hamburg Art Hall is characterized by striking architecture, such as a historical staircase, study hall, or the atrium of the Gallery of Contemporary Art. It houses more than 150 works, including Meister Bertram and Caspar David Friedrich, and also offers a virtual tour. 

The Museum Ludwig in Cologne covers major approaches in contemporary art and the 20th century. It boasts the most extensive pop art collection in Europe, the third biggest Picasso collection in the world, one of the best collections of German Expressionism, and one of the most important collections of photography. 

The Ruhr Museum in Essen is located in the former coal preparation plant of the Zollverein colliery and provides information about the coal age to its visitors, focusing on the technical, historical, and cultural dimensions of the coal cage. Visitors can take a virtual tour of the museum and understand its history and its significance in real time. 

Germany’s museums have preserved culturally and historically significant memorabilia with the utmost care, allowing visitors to cherish a sneak peek into the world and era that went by.

Apart from museums and art galleries, palaces, castles, cathedrals, and monuments also display Germany’s rich cultural heritage. The world-famous cathedral in Cologne is a beautiful reminder of Germany’s glorious past.

Milijana from World Travel Connector

cathedral of santiago de compostela spain

Spain is one of the top countries in the world for its rich cultural heritage. 

Spain has 49 World Heritage sites! Only Italy, China, and Germany have more World Heritage sites than Spain. 

The cultural heritage of Spain goes back to prehistoric times. The Cave of Altamira near Santillana del Mar in northern Spain and its paleolithic cave painting is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

But, the highest number of World Heritage Sites in Spain is related to medieval Spain. 

The Old Cities of Santiago de Compostela, Avila, Salamanca, Toledo, and the historic center of Cordoba are among the prettiest places in Spain and are World Heritage Sites. Gorgeous Seville is among the most beautiful cities in Spain as well.

UNESCO declared Seville’s Cathedral, Alcázar, and Archivo de Indias a UNESCO World Heritage site, too. Besides that, UNESCO’s protected Alhambra Place in Granada is the most visited site in Spain. The Alhambra Palace receives 2 million visitors a year. 

For a highly culturally immersive experience, Spain visitors can sleep in Paradors (historic buildings converted into luxury hotels). The first Parador in Spain was the Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos in Santiago de Compostela. 

However, hiking Camino de Santiago is the top culturally immersive experience in Spain to seek for. Most of the mentioned World Heritage sites are on the Camino de Santiago routes. Camino de Santiago, or St James Way, is among the most famous world pilgrimage and hiking trails.

Camino de Santiago is a net of medieval routes across Spain and Europe that lead to the tomb of Apostle James the Greater in Santiago Cathedral in Spain. UNESCO proclaimed the French Route and Routes of Northern Spain of Camino de Santiago a World Heritage Site.

Camino pilgrims visit historical places. Those places hold the finest examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture in Europe. In the last decade, over 200,000 pilgrims hiked Camino de Santiago.

So, if you seek one of the top culturally immersive experiences in a lifetime, prepare your  Camino de Santiago packing list  and head to Spain! 

Aixoise from All About Aix

louvre museum paris france

France is widely regarded as one of the best destinations for culture lovers due to its rich history, stunning architecture, world-class art, and gastronomy.

It has a long and rich history, from the Roman Empire to the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the modern era.

The country is home to some of the world’s most renowned museums, including the Louvre Museum in Paris, which houses some of the most famous works of art in history, such as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.

France has numerous historic sites, such as the Palace of Versailles, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and Eiffel Tower. And that is just in Paris. 

Beyond the capital region, other ancient cities with significant contributions to French culture and heritage include Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Avignon, and Nice, to name just a few. Each of these cities has its own unique features. 

Lyon is known for its gastronomic scene, Marseille for its seafood, Strasbourg for its architecture and Christmas markets, Bordeaux for its wine culture and architecture, Avignon for its papal palace and annual theater festival, and Nice for its beaches, art museums, and markets.

And for an art-inspired stay that combines art, relaxation, and gastronomy, I highly recommend visiting the region of Provence in the south of France , the birthplace of Paul Cézanne, a world-renowned Impressionist painter. 

Just 15 km north of Aix-en-Provence and 49 km north of Marseille, you can stay at Château La Coste , renowned for its impressive contemporary art and architecture collection. This heritage hotel offers guests a scenic location amidst vineyards and olive groves, all the while providing an exceptional culinary experience, wine tastings, spa treatments, and relaxation. The French are known for their “ joie de vivre” and the south of France is the perfect place to experience it.

Jo Koni from World Wild Schooling

acropolis athens greece

Welcome to Greece, a country rich in history and culture that has captivated travelers for centuries.

Greece is located in southeastern Europe, on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula. The country has a long and fascinating history that dates back to ancient times, and its culture has influenced the world in many ways.

Greece is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, from its idyllic islands to its rugged mountains and stunning beaches. But what really makes Greece stand out is its incredible cultural heritage.

Greece has been the birthplace of some of the most important figures in art, science, and philosophy, and its ancient ruins and monuments are some of the most impressive in the world.

For visitors to Athens, the Acropolis is a must-see attraction. This ancient citadel is home to the Parthenon, one of the most iconic buildings in Greece. The Temple of Poseidon in Sounion , just a short drive from Athens, is another must-visit destination. This temple sits atop a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea, and the views are absolutely stunning.

But there’s much more to Greece than just Athens. The island of Delos, located just a short boat ride from Mykonos, is an incredible archaeological site that was once a thriving city.

The ancient theater of Epidaurus, located in the Peloponnese, is another must-see attraction. And the ancient palace of Knossos on the island of Crete is a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Minoan civilization.

For an immersive cultural experience in Greece, we recommend staying at the Kyrimai Hotel , located in the small town of Gerolimenas in the Mani region of the Peloponnese. This historic hotel has been beautifully restored and offers guests a chance to experience the traditional architecture and way of life in this part of Greece. The hotel’s restaurant serves traditional Greek cuisine made with locally-sourced ingredients.

Whether you’re interested in ancient history, breathtaking landscapes, or simply relaxing on the beach, Greece has something for everyone.

With its rich cultural heritage and welcoming people, it’s no wonder that Greece remains one of the most popular destinations in the world.

Czech Republic

Joanna from The World in My Pocket

lednice castle south moravian czech republic

The Czech Republic might be a small country in Europe, but it has such a rich culture and history.

The Czech Republic gave some very important people to the world: Frank Kafka, Sigmund Freud, and Gregor Mendel among many other notable novelists, philosophers, composers, and sportspeople.

The Czech Republic has a long history that saw the country divided between Bohemia and Moravia, as well as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Because of its history, the cultures blended and influenced the way the country is now.

In the South of the country, in Moravia, you can visit the Lednice-Vatice domain with the two castles which belonged to the Liechtenstein family. Here you can also notice the English-style landscaped gardens, which are unique in the Czech Republic.

If you are into science, it’s always a great idea to take a  day trip to Brno  and visit the museum dedicated to Mendel and his work in genetics. You will find out there that Mendel was an Augustinian friar at St Thomas Abbey, where you can see an incredible exhibition of his personal belongings.

In the West of the country, you will find the spa towns, which are now on the UNESCO Heritage list. In Marianske Lazne, you can stay at the same hotel where King Edward VII of England used to often come for treatments. You can ask at the reception of Nove Lazne to see his cabin, which has the original chair he used in the spa treatment rooms.

Diana of Travels in Poland

wawel royal castle poland

Poland has a rich cultural heritage that spans centuries and has influenced the world in countless ways. 

Poland has a long and storied history, dating back to the Piast dynasty that ruled the country. Even before then, the legend of Lech is well known in Polish history. 

Over the centuries, Poland has experienced numerous invasions, wars, and political upheavals, including the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century when the country was divided between Russia, Prussia, and Austria. 

During World War II, Poland was the center of some of the deadliest concentration camps, including Auschwitz Birkenau , which can still be visited today.

Despite this, Poland has managed to preserve its cultural identity through its traditions, customs, and artistic expressions.

Poland’s culture is a fusion of Slavic, Germanic, and Jewish influences. One of the most impressive cultural aspects of Poland is its architecture, with many historic buildings and landmarks still standing today. 

The Old Town of Kraków, the Wawel Castle, and the Royal Castle in Warsaw are all excellent examples of Poland’s rich architectural heritage.

Poland offers an array of experiences that celebrate its rich cultural heritage. The Wieliczka Salt Mine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit attraction. The mine is a fascinating underground labyrinth of salt chambers, tunnels, and sculptures carved out of rock salt. 

Poland is also known for famous individuals including Marie Curie, Nicholas Copernicus, and Chopin. Visitors can also explore Poland’s museums and galleries showcasing these individuals. The Chopin Museum in Warsaw is a great example of a museum dedicated to the famous composer.

Hotel Pugetow is an ideal place to stay when in Krakow. It is a heritage hotel that was built in 1874 and is part of the Puget Palace complex and has rooms where duchesses and dukes had once stayed.

Poland’s rich cultural heritage is a testament to its resilience and creativity throughout its complex history and offers a wealth of cultural experiences that are sure to captivate and inspire visitors from around the world.

Abbey of Trips on Abbey Road

traditional clothing croatia culture

Croatia is considered a cultural gem in Europe, known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and beautiful natural scenery, as well as its lively music, dance, and culinary traditions.

There are countless museums, galleries, and even UNESCO heritage sites around celebrating this beautiful Baltic country. The history here spans back over 13 centuries, at least so you just know that there are some juicy stories and history around. 

One of the best things about Croatia’s cultural history is the rich tradition of folk dance. These dances vary from region to region. One of the most popular types of folk dance in Croatia is the kolo or circle dance, which is performed during religious holidays and other special occasions.

If you are visiting during one of the major holidays you may get lucky enough to see this dance performed in the town squares. Most of the time they wear traditional clothing as well. Women with big white hats and beautiful gowns, and the men keep it simple with black suits and traditional hats. 

For places to go in Croatia  for a cultural experience one of the most visited destinations is Dubrovnik , with its well-preserved medieval walls that surround the old town.

Another popular city in Croatia is Zadar . Here you will find a mix of Roman, modern, and medieval structures throughout the beautiful southern city. And if you are looking to get outside and explore the Plitvice Lakes National Park is amazing with dozens of cascading waterfalls and hiking paths to explore. 

Plitvice Panta Rei  is near the waterfalls and would be a perfect place to get an authentic and cultural stay in Croatia. 

Amber from Amber Everywhere

swedish fika chokladboll kanelbullar cinnamon buns coffee break

Culture lovers will quickly fall head over heels for Sweden, a Scandinavian country in Europe known for its coffee breaks, an affinity for the outdoors, and lively music scene.

Although Sweden shares some similarities with its Scandinavian neighbors, you’ll find many distinct cultural practices, many of which are apparent even to a first-time visitor. 

Perhaps the most popular among Swedes and visitors alike is the fika or coffee break. Often, coffee is enjoyed with chokladboll, a small, round chocolate treat.

You’ll notice immediately that most people in Sweden speak Swedish, although they tend to also speak other languages fluently. While you may not need to speak Swedish to navigate the country as a tourist, you’ll certainly experience more of Swedish culture if you have some experience with the language.

Try to learn a few words and phrases before you go to maximize your exposure to Swedish culture on your trip. 

If you have a chance to meet or get to know Swedish people, you’ll notice that they value egalitarianism and tend to dislike boasting. Additionally, the country values the environment and the outdoors, so you’ll tend to see more organic, sustainable, or eco-friendly products in Sweden.

You’ll also find plenty of people spending their holidays exploring the outdoors, from parks near Stockholm to longer trips to Abisko.

You can experience Swedish culture and the beautiful landscapes of Lapland by staying in the STF Abisko Turiststation in the Arctic Circle. From the Turiststation, you can see the northern lights, hike in Lapland, ice climb, and generally enjoy the beautiful outdoor scenery.

Scotland, United Kingdom

Kristine of Scotland Less Explored

dornie scotland great highland bagpiper

The first images that come to mind when thinking of Scotland are kilts, bagpipes, castles, and whisky. And yes, this is part of Scotland’s culture and history but there is so much more to the country. Just like there are so many more places to explore in Scotland than in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

However, these are still great cities to visit and the Edinburgh Festival and Military Tattoo are worthy of specifically arranging a trip around. Both cities have many museums and theatre performances but to better understand Scottish culture you should also visit the highlands and islands.

Accounts of Scotland’s history often start with, unlike England, Scotland was not invaded by the Romans in the 1 st  Century AD. But sites such as Skara Brae (ruins of a village) in the Orkneys and the Callanish standing stones in the Outer Hebrides pre-date Stonehenge and even the pyramids in Egypt!

The Vikings also influenced Scotland which can be seen from the names of villages and locations. One of the most remarkable artifacts from this time is the Uig chessmen. The chess pieces are carved from walrus tusks and were found on a  beach in Uig  in 1831. They are on display at the National Museum in Edinburgh and Museum Nan Eilean in Stornoway.

Traveling through Scotland between May and September you can attend Highland Games with traditional sports such as cable toss and arts such as highland dancing accompanied by bagpipes. 

In the more remote parts of the country, you will find most of Scotland’s 1,000 castles. Many can be visited on a guided tour but the most intimate way to experience one is to stay overnight.

One of the best is Glenapp Castle Hotel south of Glasgow. As well as beautiful grounds the hotel offers great dining options and a fascinating whisky-tasting experience can be arranged. You will find whisky distilleries all over Scotland but the most authentic are on Islay or Speyside.

Top Cultural Heritage Tourism Destinations in North America

United states of america.

Dawn Robson from Culture Feasting

preservation hall new orleans traditional jazz

The United States is a cultural destination like no other. As the country grew and expanded through immigration, so did its abundant  culture .

In the Northeast, you’ll find that New York City is a tightly condensed metropolis filled with music, art, and theater. Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center will satisfy the music aficionado and there is Broadway for theater enthusiasts. With more than 6 million visitors each year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art should not be missed.

Music lovers should head South to New Orleans, Louisiana, known as the birthplace of Jazz, where every spring the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is held.  

For more live music make your way to Nashville, Tennessee, the Music City, to discover Country, Bluegrass, and Blues music at its source. Stroll through Music Row to see the recording studios of famous musicians such as Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton.

Plan a visit to Sante Fe, New Mexico, known for its abundant art scene and festivals. Uncover the culture of the indigenous people in the Southwest by visiting the Native American History Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in downtown Santa Fe. Explore the works and life of American artist Georgia O’Keefe.

To experience the art and history of the American cowboy culture visit The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Stay in a log cabin at Meadowlake Ranch just outside of Tulsa Oklahoma and participate in the many ranch activities such as horse riding and rope throwing.

From east to west, the United States is a country filled with cultural destinations waiting for you to discover.

Mal from Raw Mal Roams

chichen itza mexico

With a complex history and fascinating Mayan heritage intertwined with the colonial past, Mexico is one of the most captivating countries to visit today.

Before the Spanish colonization in the early 16th century, Mexico was home to many brilliant pre-Colombian civilizations. First was the great civilization of Teotihuacán, built between 100 B.C. and 700 A.D. near what’s today Mexico City. 

Later on, came the Mayans, which were considered the most sophisticated and advanced civilization of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The influence of their culture, language, and architecture is still present today in places like Chichén Itzá, Palenque, and Tulum.

Aztecs were the last great rulers when the Spaniards arrived. During colonial times, the Spanish left their mark on Mexico by constructing grand cities, ornate monasteries, and breathtakingly beautiful churches representing a unique blend of European style and Mesoamerican influence.

Today, the rich Mayan and colonial heritage merges with the vibrant modern culture, creating a unique blend unlike any other. There are many ways you can immerse yourself in Mexican culture. Start your journey by exploring Chichen Itza – the ruins of the most important Mayan city. If you a history buff, go ahead and also visit other grand structures such as Palenque, Coba, and Uxmal.

Delve into majestic cities such as Merida and Izamal, adorned with delightful colonial architecture, and stay in the converted haciendas such as San Miguel Arcángel Izamal.

Explore the mystical cenotes that were sacred to the Mayans. Indulge in the Mexican food that varies from region to region as you traverse this stunning country! And experience Mexico’s most important festivities, such as Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Semana Santa (Easter).

Nikki of She Saves She Travels

xunantunich mayan ruins belize

Located in Central America along the Caribbean Sea, Belize is a phenomenal country to experience for those interested in history and the Mayan civilization. The Maya lived in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize.

A few of the most culturally significant sites in Belize are the Caracol Ruins, Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, and  Xunantunich Mayan Ruins , which are all located on the western edge of Belize near San Ignacio. Visitors can spend a day exploring each of these sites. Caracol and Xunantunich are Mayan cities with rich histories. Climb the pyramids and temples and let your tour guide explain the most important plazas and structures. 

Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave (also known as the ATM Cave) is a sacred and spiritual site for the Mayans. To see the ancient artifacts, you’ll need to wade in waist-to-shoulder deep water and trek through narrow passages within the cave.

The ancient Mayan civilization is also known for a modern-day discovery: chocolate! Visitors to Belize can find a chocolate-making tour in many of the major tourist areas and large cities. Cacao farms will even show you how to make chocolate as the Mayans did, and how it’s been converted in recent history to a much sweeter version of the original.

For a unique stay in Belize, consider the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge . Experience the lush, tropical rainforest with options to hike and discover hanging bridges along the way. Located in the heart of Belize, this 600-acre property is the right mix of relaxation and adventure for your Belize vacation!

Carley Rojas Avila of Home to Havana

old havana downtown street cuba

Once considered an off-limits travel destination for travelers from the United States, policy changes in the past decade have made it easier than ever for travelers from the United States and beyond to visit Cuba.

One of the most complex and rich travel destinations in Latin America, Cuba offers everything from lush rainforests and soaring mountains to white sand beaches and world-class resorts.

One of the most interesting  things to do in Havana, Cuba  is to visit the Museo de la Revolución – Museum of the Revolution. Housed in the lavish former presidential palace, this museum houses important exhibits about the Cuban Revolution.

You can still see bullet holes on the outside of the building, maintained as a sign of the history of the taking of the palace during the Cuban Revolution. The museum’s outside patio area is home to a full-scale replica of the Granma, the ship Fidel Castro used to arrive in Cuba with a band of revolutionaries at the start of the Cuban Revolution. 

While Havana is a must on any traveler’s itinerary, make sure to head outside of Havana as well to experience another side of Cuba. The Viñales Valley is a perfect choice just a few hours west of Havana.

Stay at Finca Media Luna , an eco-farm with beautiful accommodations and delicious home-cooked Cuban food, for a great way to connect with locals and see a stunning part of Cuba.

If you’d prefer a beach getaway, the people beach resort town of Varadero is a great choice with plenty of amenities, while more remote, untouched beaches like Cayo Jutias and Playa Maguana outside of Baracoa are other great options. 

Top Cultural Destinations in South America

Martha from May Cause Wanderlust

machu pichu peru

Peru is a beautiful country for culture lovers because it has such a rich and varied cultural history. And the good news is you can explore a lot of Peru’s cultural tapestry in  two weeks in Peru .

It has been home to ancient civilizations, including the Incas, who conquered the high altitude of Peru’s mountains and plateaus with stone steps, agricultural terraces, and impressive landmarks. The most well-known is, of course, Machu Picchu, a stone citadel perched high in the Andes. But there are many other Inca ruins around Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.  

Then there’s the Nazca – an older civilization than the Incas, and more mysterious. Their legacy is the impressive Nazca lines, markings, and hieroglyphs on the desert floor, best seen from above. Scientists only have theories about their purpose and how they were constructed with such geometric regularity.

But the culture in Peru is not all a history lesson. To this day, there are pockets of preserved traditional culture, and one of the best places to experience this is Lake Titicaca. Here, island communities, still relatively isolated from the mainland, have preserved their traditional way of life.

A great way to immerse yourself in one of these cultures is a homestay on Amantani island , which is the most populated island, and known for its textiles and ceramics.

You can also do day trips from Puno to Taquile Island, also known for its textiles and its pretty archways, and the floating Uros islands, which are literally floating islands made from totara reeds.

And if you still haven’t had enough culture in Peru, modern Peru is known as a great foodie destination, with fresh, inventive cuisine and world-class restaurants.

Carley Rojas Avila of Explorers Away

ciudad perdida colombia

Don’t let the dark periods of Colombia’s recent history weigh on you; Colombia is a vibrant and rich travel destination you’ll love exploring. With its delicious and varied regional cuisines, incredible dance and music traditions, and an array of natural and man-made attractions, it’s a destination anyone can love.

One of the highlights of a trip to Colombia is a visit to Ciudad Perdida, a “lost city” deep in the mountainous jungle near Colombia’s Caribbean coast. While would-be visitors have to embark on a four-day trek through the jungle to reach the expansive ruins and terraces of this indigenous city, it’s an adventure well worth the effort.

For a slightly less adventurous itinerary but just as memorable of an experience, head to Cartagena on Colombia’s northern coast. This historic city has impressive walls and forts dating back to the Spanish colonial era, as well as glimmering new skyscrapers and white sand beaches.

Make sure to stay in one of the restored colonial boutique hotels in Cartagena, such as Casa Pestagua , considered among the  best places to stay in Cartagena  after undergoing extensive refurbishing.

Best Cultural Tourism Destinations in Africa

Andy from Explore with Finesse

traditional dance maasai kenya africa

Kenya is a great destination for culture lovers due to its rich and diverse history. Located in East Africa, Kenya has been inhabited by humans for millions of years. Today, it is home to 42 different ethnic groups, each with its own unique traditions, language, and customs.

The Maasai people, for example, are known for their vibrant traditional dress, intricate beadwork, and their distinct way of life centered around cattle herding. Other ethnic groups include the Kikuyu, Luhya, and Luo.

Kenya was colonized by the British in the late 19th century and gained independence in 1963. Because of this, many Kenyans speak English in addition to the country’s other official language, Swahili. Today, Kenya is known for its stunning landscapes, wildlife, and diverse cultural heritage.

For culture buffs, a visit to the Maasai Mara National Reserve offers an opportunity to experience the Maasai culture firsthand. Visitors can witness traditional dance performances, participate in beadwork workshops, and even stay in a traditional Maasai homestay.

Another cultural attraction in Kenya that is worth visiting is  Diani , a coastal town located south of Mombasa. Diani is known for its beautiful beaches and unique blend of Swahili and European cultures. One of the oldest mosques in Kenya, the Kongo Mosque, can be found in Diani. This was built in the 14th century by Arab explorers and is still in use today.

For an immersive cultural experience, consider staying at the Giraffe Manor . Located in Nairobi, the hotel is set on 140 acres of indigenous forest and offers guests the opportunity to interact with endangered Rothschild’s giraffes that frequently visit the property. 

Trisha Agrawal from Try Wandering More

pyramids of giza egypt

Egypt is home to the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World, the Pyramids of Giza, one of the best cultural attractions. Being an ancient civilization, its history and culture date back to 3200 BC – over 5000 years ago. Mind-boggling!

The best bit is that one can see remnants of that age today through grand Egyptian temples dedicated to multiple gods, gigantic Pyramids, towering statues of Pharaohs, beautifully painted tombs, well-preserved mummies, and fascinating hieroglyphics. You’ll be completely drawn in and dazzled!

To immerse yourself in ancient architecture, head to the Pyramids around Cairo; the marvelous temples around Luxor, especially Karnak Temple (the second largest temple in the world); the tombs at the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, and Abu Simbel near Aswan.

To see the mummies of the pharaohs and the treasures hidden in the royal tombs, visit the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization and the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Egypt is, however, more than just the Pharaonic era. It’s also about all those that came after – Persians, Greeks, Romans, Caliphates, Mamluks, Ottomans, the French, and the English.

Egypt is, therefore, a blend of cultures while being primarily Islamic. This is very noticeable in the food and architecture. Visit Alexandria and the temples of Dendera, Edfu, and Philae to learn about the Greco-Roman era. Walk through the markets and mosques in Islamic Cairo to learn about the Islamic age.

Egypt also has biblical significance. It is where Moses grew up and eventually received the Ten Commandments. It is also where the Holy Family took refuge after fleeing Bethlehem. Visit the churches and synagogues at Coptic Cairo and climb Mount Sinai to see biblical stories come to life.

While  planning your trip to Egypt , add a felucca ride or a cruise down the Nile to your itinerary to experience life along the river. Don’t miss staying at a historic hotel like Marriott Mena House in Giza that overlooks the Pyramids.

Whether you are a seasoned cultural traveler or a newbie who wants to embrace culturally conscious travel or a traveler who’s looking for a one-off-out-of-the-ordinary experience – we hear you. This hand-picked list of the best cultural holiday destinations is sure to inspire each one of you to plan your next cultural getaway.

Did we miss a destination you feel should grace this compilation? Let us know in the comments below!

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UN Tourism | Bringing the world closer

Ethics, culture and social responsibility.

  • Global Code of Ethics for Tourism
  • Accessible Tourism

Tourism and Culture

  • Women’s Empowerment and Tourism

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The convergence between tourism and culture, and the increasing interest of visitors in cultural experiences, bring unique opportunities but also complex challenges for the tourism sector.

“Tourism policies and activities should be conducted with respect for the artistic, archaeological and cultural heritage, which they should protect and pass on to future generations; particular care should be devoted to preserving monuments, worship sites, archaeological and historic sites as well as upgrading museums which must be widely open and accessible to tourism visits”

UN Tourism Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics

Article 7, paragraph 2

This webpage provides UN Tourism resources aimed at strengthening the dialogue between tourism and culture and an informed decision-making in the sphere of cultural tourism. It also promotes the exchange of good practices showcasing inclusive management systems and innovative cultural tourism experiences .  

About Cultural Tourism

According to the definition adopted by the UN Tourism General Assembly, at its 22nd session (2017), Cultural Tourism implies “A type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s essential motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume the tangible and intangible cultural attractions/products in a tourism destination. These attractions/products relate to a set of distinctive material, intellectual, spiritual and emotional features of a society that encompasses arts and architecture, historical and cultural heritage, culinary heritage, literature, music, creative industries and the living cultures with their lifestyles, value systems, beliefs and traditions”. UN Tourism provides support to its members in strengthening cultural tourism policy frameworks, strategies and product development . It also provides guidelines for the tourism sector in adopting policies and governance models that benefit all stakeholders, while promoting and preserving cultural elements.

Recommendations for Cultural Tourism Key Players on Accessibility 

UN Tourism , Fundación ONCE and UNE issued in September 2023, a set of guidelines targeting key players of the cultural tourism ecosystem, who wish to make their offerings more accessible.

The key partners in the drafting and expert review process were the ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Committee and the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) . The ICOMOS experts’ input was key in covering crucial action areas where accessibility needs to be put in the spotlight, in order to make cultural experiences more inclusive for all people.

This guidance tool is also framed within the promotion of the ISO Standard ISO 21902 , in whose development UN Tourism had one of the leading roles.

Download here the English and Spanish version of the Recommendations.

Compendium of Good Practices in Indigenous Tourism

Compendium of Good Practices in Indigenous Tourismo

The report is primarily meant to showcase good practices championed by indigenous leaders and associations from the Region. However, it also includes a conceptual introduction to different aspects of planning, management and promotion of a responsible and sustainable indigenous tourism development.

The compendium also sets forward a series of recommendations targeting public administrations, as well as a list of tips promoting a responsible conduct of tourists who decide to visit indigenous communities.

For downloads, please visit the UN Tourism E-library page: Download in English - Download in Spanish .

Weaving the Recovery - Indigenous Women in Tourism

Weaving the recovery

This initiative, which gathers UN Tourism , t he World Indigenous Tourism Alliance (WINTA) , Centro de las Artes Indígenas (CAI) and the NGO IMPACTO , was selected as one of the ten most promising projects amoung 850+ initiatives to address the most pressing global challenges. The project will test different methodologies in pilot communities, starting with Mexico , to enable indigenous women access markets and demonstrate their leadership in the post-COVID recovery.

This empowerment model , based on promoting a responsible tourism development, cultural transmission and fair-trade principles, will represent a novel community approach with a high global replication potential.

Visit the Weaving the Recovery - Indigenous Women in Tourism project webpage.

Inclusive Recovery of Cultural Tourism


The release of the guidelines comes within the context of the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development 2021 , a UN initiative designed to recognize how culture and creativity, including cultural tourism, can contribute to advancing the SDGs.  

UN Tourism Inclusive Recovery Guide, Issue 4: Indigenous Communities

Indigenous Communities

Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism

The Recommendations on Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism provide guidance to tourism stakeholders to develop their operations in a responsible and sustainable manner within those indigenous communities that wish to:

  • Open up to tourism development, or
  • Improve the management of the existing tourism experiences within their communities.

They were prepared by the UN Tourism Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility Department in close consultation with indigenous tourism associations, indigenous entrepreneurs and advocates. The Recommendations were endorsed by the World Committee on Tourism Ethics and finally adopted by the UN Tourism General Assembly in 2019, as a landmark document of the Organization in this sphere.

Who are these Recommendations targeting?

  • Tour operators and travel agencies
  • Tour guides
  • Indigenous communities
  • Other stakeholders such as governments, policy makers and destinations

The Recommendations address some of the key questions regarding indigenous tourism:

indigenous entrepreneurs and advocates

Download PDF:

  • Recommendations on Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism
  • Recomendaciones sobre el desarrollo sostenible del turismo indígena, ESP

UN Tourism/UNESCO World Conferences on Tourism and Culture

The UN Tourism/UNESCO World Conferences on Tourism and Culture bring together Ministers of Tourism and Ministers of Culture with the objective to identify key opportunities and challenges for a stronger cooperation between these highly interlinked fields. Gathering tourism and culture stakeholders from all world regions the conferences which have been hosted by Cambodia, Oman, Türkiye and Japan have addressed a wide range of topics, including governance models, the promotion, protection and safeguarding of culture, innovation, the role of creative industries and urban regeneration as a vehicle for sustainable development in destinations worldwide.

Fourth UN Tourism/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture: Investing in future generations. Kyoto, Japan. 12-13 December 2019 Kyoto Declaration on Tourism and Culture: Investing in future generations ( English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Japanese )

Third UN Tourism/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture : For the Benefit of All. Istanbul, Türkiye. 3 -5 December 2018 Istanbul Declaration on Tourism and Culture: For the Benefit of All ( English , French , Spanish , Arabic , Russian )

Second UN Tourism/UNESCO World Conference’s on Tourism and Culture: Fostering Sustainable Development. Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. 11-12 December 2017 Muscat Declaration on Tourism and Culture: Fostering Sustainable Development ( English , French , Spanish , Arabic , Russian )

First UN Tourism/UNESCO World Conference’s on Tourism and Culture: Building a new partnership. Siem Reap, Cambodia. 4-6 February 2015 Siem Reap Declaration on Tourism and Culture – Building a New Partnership Model ( English )

UN Tourism Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage  

The first UN Tourism Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage provides comprehensive baseline research on the interlinkages between tourism and the expressions and skills that make up humanity’s intangible cultural heritage (ICH). 

UNWTO Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage

Through a compendium of case studies drawn from across five continents, the report offers in-depth information on, and analysis of, government-led actions, public-private partnerships and community initiatives.

These practical examples feature tourism development projects related to six pivotal areas of ICH: handicrafts and the visual arts; gastronomy; social practices, rituals and festive events; music and the performing arts; oral traditions and expressions; and, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe.

Highlighting innovative forms of policy-making, the UN Tourism Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage recommends specific actions for stakeholders to foster the sustainable and responsible development of tourism by incorporating and safeguarding intangible cultural assets.

UN Tourism Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage

  • UN Tourism Study
  • Summary of the Study

Studies and research on tourism and culture commissioned by UN Tourism

  • Tourism and Culture Synergies, 2018
  • UN Tourism Study on Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2012
  • Big Data in Cultural Tourism – Building Sustainability and Enhancing Competitiveness (e-unwto.org)

Outcomes from the UN Tourism Affiliate Members World Expert Meeting on Cultural Tourism, Madrid, Spain, 1–2 December 2022

UN Tourism and the Region of Madrid – through the Regional Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Sports – held the World Expert Meeting on Cultural Tourism in Madrid on 1 and 2 December 2022. The initiative reflects the alliance and common commitment of the two partners to further explore the bond between tourism and culture. This publication is the result of the collaboration and discussion between the experts at the meeting, and subsequent contributions.

Relevant Links


Photo credit of the Summary's cover page:  www.banglanatak.com

7 Cultural Tourism Destinations to Visit this Year

Jan 7, 2018 2 Issue , Best of 2018 , Stories 20 comments

By Culturally Modified Staff

In this world of rapidly increasing globalization, it can feel like no place has been left culturally untouched by tourism. But those places remain. They often balance on the cusp between business-as-usual and business-is-booming—that time when the intrepid tourist can still experience them as they’ve existed for centuries, but before the masses arrive, bringing with them inevitable change. We put our heads together to share a few of our favourites.

1. Madagascar

cultural tourist attractions

Like all islands, Madagascar has its own set of conditions and it is clear that life here has evolved differently, both biologically and culturally. It’s no wonder: the island broke away from Africa about 156 million years ago and from India 100 million years later, leading to its unique flora and fauna. Only a few hundred kilometres separate rainforests from deserts and 5,000 kilometres of coastline balance pristine beaches with dangerous waters. Madagascar is considered a cultural melting pot, with migrants from areas adjacent to the Indian Ocean contributing to the country’s customs, beliefs and rituals. The Malagasy funerary practice of famadihana demonstrates the intricate evolution of ideologies surrounding death on this island. Madagascar is a dream destination for cultural tourism enthusiast. Plus, lemurs: Madagascar’s national animal is the ring-tailed lemur, a curious primate creature found nowhere else in the world.

Photo by 2Photo Pots/Unsplash

2. Lombok, Indonesia

cultural tourist attractions

Few places left on Earth feel untouched by tourism. Lombok is one of those places. The next island east of Bali, Indonesia’s economic engine, it is predominantly Islamic and loaded with perfect shorelines and lush landscapes. Lombok feels like the scooter capital of the world, and it’s not uncommon to see entire families of four to five people sharing the same ride. Like a time warp to a simpler existence, rural village life and tradition are its hallmarks. In Lombok, people size you up by asking, Where are you from? or Who are your parents? and What religion do you practise? Generally, your answers will dictate the type of conversation you will have, usually a rewarding one. The people are warm, welcoming, curious and smart, there are few crowded and modern areas, the island is mostly untouched by tourism and its scenic beauty is unparallelled. Experience Lombok before its inevitable transformation at the hands of the tourism industry.

Photo by Rick Budhwa

cultural tourist attractions

Despite being less than 65,000 square kilometres, Latvia is vastly diverse with Germany, Sweden, Poland and Russia having all had their opportunity to control this Baltic state. It’s apparent in the architecture: grand, Russian-styled homes in the west, modest farmhouses in the east, Soviet-style apartment blocks in the suburbs and 8th century structures still standing in the capital city of Riga. Latvians are likewise diverse in lifestyle and beliefs, with older generations having learned Russian in school and the younger crowd taught English and Latvian and embracing the recent onslaught of Western development. Nothing unites Latvians more than solstice celebrations surrounding Jāņi and Līgo, as well as the celebration of the harvest—a time for retreating to the country to eat, wear flower crowns and celebrate around a bonfire until the sun comes up.

Photo by Jocelyn Franks

4. Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

cultural tourist attractions

Tucked away in British Columbia, Canada’s northwest corner, Haida Gwaii (also known by its colonial name, Queen Charlotte Islands) is a hidden gem of coastal mountains, peaceful lakes and beaches that extend for miles. Still relatively untouched, this archipelago is primarily made up of two main islands—Graham Island in the north and Moresby Island in the south. Graham Island offers little more than 100 km of paved road extending from Charlotte in the south to Masset and North Beach in the north. Mid-island is Tlell, where the Indigenous-own  Haida House  is worth spending a night. There’s lots of camping for the budget traveller, particularly on North Beach, where camping on the beach is free (although  campgrounds  are also available.) Culturephiles will want to check out the  Haida Heritage Centre  in Skidegate, along with the myriad of artists and artisans that exist throughout the island.  Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site , which encompasses most of Moresby Island and protects a total 138 islands, is accessed by air or water only. Hire a guide or bring your sea kayak and visit  SG̱ang Gwaay Llnaagay , the remains of a historic Haida village complete with standing totem poles and the remains of cedar longhouses.

Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood

5. Northern Sri Lanka

cultural tourist attractions

Sri Lanka emerged from civil war in 2009 and while the southern regions are saturated with tourism, for nearly 30 years the  Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam  occupied the north, destroying much of its heritage and infrastructure. During their reign, tourism was nearly non-existent in the region. In the nine years since the war ended, northern Sri Lanka has seen accelerated tourism resulting in lags and gaps in the establishment of resorts, services and prices charged. That said, if you make the effort to visit, you will be rewarded with flavours and customs like nowhere else. Its capital, Jaffna, presents a feast for the senses.  Anuradhapura  and  Polonnaruwa , cities in North Central Province, as well as  Dambulla cave temple , are magnificent archaeological destinations.  Sigiriya , an enigmatic rocky erratic rising dramatically from the country’s central plains, is Sri Lanka’s single most dramatic sight. Plan to spend a few extra dollars visiting these sites as many are UNESCO sites and entrance fees add up. Also, use a guide and leave the driving to the locals—it’s not for the faint of heart.

Photo by Rick Budhw a

6. Chiang Mai, Thailand

cultural tourist attractions

Thailand is best known for beaches and full-moon parties, but travellers wanting to delve more deeply into local culture can catch an overnight train or bus from the capital to Chiang Mai, the northern region’s largest centre. Unlike Bangkok’s hustle, life inside this 13th century walled city has a more tempered, relaxed feeling (but beware that the usual scams still exist here). Along with a variety of  cooking classes  and  museums  to take in, Chiang Mai is known for its religious sites, with over 300 Buddhist  temples . If you’re feeling brave, rent a scooter for the day and explore: don’t miss the winding mountain road that carries you above the city’s humidity to the much cooler, and beautifully located, mountaintop temple  Wat Phra That Doi Suthep .

Photo by  Andre Mouton/ Unsplash

7. Lago Maggiore, Italy

cultural tourist attractions

Sitting in the shadow of the Swiss Alps, Lago Maggiore offers a quieter existence than its trendier neighbour to the west, Lago di Como. Straddling the regions of  Piedmont  and  Lombardy , lakeside cultural destinations on its western shores include  Santa Caterina del Sasso , a Roman Catholic monastery dating back to the 14th century, and  Rocca d’Angera , a castle that dates back even further. Across the lake,  Stresa  sits as the swinging hotspot, with upscale hotels hugging the shoreline. From Stresa, it’s a short ferry ride to the  Borromean Islands of Isola Bella, Isola Madra and Isola dei Pescatori, the largest of which is 330 metres long. The islands boast gardens, historic buildings and, in the case of Pescatori, quaint shops and restaurants accessed via narrow cobblestone walkways.

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Top 10 Cultural Experiences in Japan

Whether it's an onsen, cosplay, or sumo, there's an experience waiting for you in Japan.

Japan is a bucket lister’s paradise. It’s a place where traditional and modern cultures mix to create something incomparable. There are experiences here unlike anywhere else, but if you come unprepared, you might miss out. Here’s our list of the top 10 cultural experiences to seek out in Japan.

cultural tourist attractions

10 Visit a themed cafe

You might turn your nose up at tacky themed cafes, but the ones in Japan are in a different league altogether. There’s a cafe or restaurant for every niche interest and some that will simply make you wonder, “but why tho?” Maybe you want to pet cats or hold owls, eat while surrounded by your favorite anime characters, be served by girls in maid uniforms  in Akihabara, or dine in a prison cell. Whatever it is, you’ll get all that and a meal in Japan.

Do keep in mind, however, the controversies surrounding owl and other animal-themed cafes. Some people do consider them to be inhumane, but it’s entirely up to you whether to visit. If you’re concerned about animal welfare, there are alternative cafes that also run as shelters such as Neco Republic and Cat Guardian in Otsuka.

  • Try one of these alternative maid cafes: https://blog.gaijinpot.com/5-alternative-akihabara-maid-cafes/

cultural tourist attractions

9 Wear a kimono

These elegant pieces of traditional clothing are often passed down through the generations of a family, and new garments cost tens of thousands of yen. Even yukata , the cheaper summer version, can get expensive when you factor in all the accessories. Luckily for tourists, more and more rental shops are popping up in traditional districts like Gion  in Kyoto and Asakusa in Tokyo. These stores offer one-day or overnight rental for men and women, giving you just enough time to snap some keepsake photos around town.

  • In Kyoto? We recommend Kimono Yumeyakata: https://travel.gaijinpot.com/kimono-yumeyakata/

cultural tourist attractions

8 Sleep in a temple

Experience what it’s like to live as a monk by staying overnight at a shrine or temple. This usually involves staying in a minimalist tatami room, eating shojin ryor i (vegetarian Buddhist cuisine), and attending early morning prayers. Koyasan (Mount Koya)  in Wakayama is a popular destination for those looking for a spiritual experience, but temple lodgings can also be found around Kyoto and Nara .

  • We recommend doing a temple stay on Wakayama's Mount Koya: https://blog.gaijinpot.com/learning-the-way-of-the-monks-in-wakayama-prefecture/

cultural tourist attractions

7 Attend a fan convention

If you’re a fan of anime and manga, why not attend a convention in the place where it all started? The zealous passion of Japanese fans is unmatched, and conventions are the apex of fan culture. Comiket  is the largest comic market, held annually in August and December in Odaiba , and is focused on amateurs deal self-published comics, or dojinshi. Here, you’ll be the first to check out the up-and-coming talent.

  • We recommend Jump Festa:  https://travel.gaijinpot.com/jump-festa/

cultural tourist attractions

6 Watch a sumo match

One of Japan’s oldest sports, sumo is a martial art unlike any other. Consider observing a match even if you aren’t a sports fan, for sumo’s origins are entwined with Shintoism, and even today the matches are accompanied by traditional ceremonies. Tournaments are held in multiple locations throughout the year. In Tokyo, you can catch them at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in January, May, and September.

  • Find out exactly how to watch a sumo tournament at Ryogoku on GaijnPot Blog: https://blog.gaijinpot.com/watch-sumo-ryougoku-kokugikan/

cultural tourist attractions

5 Join a tea ceremony

The tea ceremony is about much more than drinking a cup of tea—it’s a ritual laden with secret meaning. The ceremony is a microcosm of traditional Japanese aesthetics and ideals, making it one of the best ways to experience Japanese culture. An experienced host will guide you through each step, as you sample a traditional sweet and one or more kinds of tea. Kyoto and Kanazawa are popular spots to experience a tea ceremony, and English speaking hosts are available.

  • We recommend Akasakayama Park in Niigata for a tea ceremony experience: https://travel.gaijinpot.com/akasakayama-park/

cultural tourist attractions

4 Stay at a ryokan

From capsule hotels to manga cafes, there are a lot of interesting places to spend a night in Japan. But when it comes to experiencing the pinnacle of Japanese hospitality, ryokan are unbeatable. A stay at these traditional inns usually includes a multi-course dinner and a comfortable futon. Some of the most popular destinations for ryokan in Japan are Beppu in Oita and Hakone in Kanagawa. Though they can sometimes be pricey, the level of Japanese hospitality you get at a ryokan is unmatched.

  • Try one of these unforgettable ryokan experiences: https://blog.gaijinpot.com/3-unforgettable-ryokan-and-onsen-experiences-from-japan-expert-rob-goss/

cultural tourist attractions

3 Have a hanami

If you’re lucky enough to be in Japan when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, hanami is a must. Enjoy this simple act of setting up a picnic blanket or tarp under the cherry trees, and appreciating the view with your friends (and usually a few drinks). Locals and tourists alike flock to top blossom spots like Mount Yoshino and Himeji Castle , but hanami  can be enjoyed anywhere. It’s more about who you’re with than where you are.

  • Find the best hanami spots right here on GaijinPot Travel:  https://travel.gaijinpot.com/japan-sightseeing-essentials/cherry-blossoms-japan/

cultural tourist attractions

2 Participate in a festival

Who doesn’t love a good  matsuri (festival)? Food on sticks, colorful shows, hot summer nights. You haven’t really felt the matsuri spirit coursing through your veins until you actually join a parade, though! The Aomori Nebuta Festival  is one of the easiest major events to get involved in. The festival has organized teams of musicians and float-bearers but also relies heavily on volunteer haneto  dancers who jump and shout in front of the floats. Bon festivals are another fun way to join in, as there is usually a circle dance where everyone can follow along.

  • Check out our list of the best festivals in Japan: https://blog.gaijinpot.com/22-of-japans-most-famous-matsuri-a-travel-calendar/

cultural tourist attractions

1 Bathe in an onsen

No matter what you get up to in Japan, the best way to relax after a long day of traveling is soaking in a hot spring.  Onsen are communal baths with natural spring water where visitors bathe naked. Don’t knock it til you try it! Some like Nyuto Onsen in Akita Prefecture are hidden away in the mountains offering total seclusion. The waters are said to contain healing properties—and even if they didn’t, relaxing in the peaceful baths with your friends and family is healing enough all on its own. If you’re shy about getting naked, don’t worry, most onsen are separated by gender.

  • Some onsen don't allow tattoos. Luckily we're looking out for all you inked travelers with our list of tattoo-friendly onsen: https://travel.gaijinpot.com/japan-sightseeing-essentials/30-tattoo-friendly-onsen-in-japan/

More Trip-spiration

Top 10 japan travel destinations for 2020, where to find mixed gender onsen in japan, pokémon centers, not-so-crowded firework festivals near tokyo.

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What Is Cultural Tourism? (+ How to Plan a Cultural Trip)

By Modisha Tladi

People dancing

Cultural tourism opens the door to a world where the rich tapestry of human heritage, arts, and traditions unfolds in captivating narratives.

Join us on this thrilling journey as we delve into the multifaceted world of cultural tourism.

Ready? Let’s go!

What Is Cultural Tourism?

Cultural tourism involves travel experiences centred around immersing oneself in the cultural aspects of a destination. This type of tourism goes beyond conventional sightseeing, encouraging travellers to explore and engage with the unique customs, traditions, art, history, and daily life of a place.

Cultural tourism seeks to provide a deeper understanding of local identities, fostering mutual respect and appreciation between visitors and the communities they explore. It often includes visiting museums, attending cultural events, and interacting with local residents to gain a more authentic and enriching travel experience.

5 Types of Cultural Tourism

Embark on a voyage of discovery with various cultural tourism facets - from the echoes of history in historical tourism to the vibrant tapestry of festivals, each type promises a unique adventure.

1. Heritage Tourism

Heritage tourism invites you to navigate through the remnants of the past, allowing you to explore ancient landmarks and monuments while connecting you to the roots of civilizations. As you embark on this journey, you not only get to explore the remnants of history but also have a unique opportunity to engage with the living history of these places.

By immersing yourself in the customs, traditions, and lifestyles of different communities, you can gain a deeper appreciation for how history has profoundly shaped the present. Interacting with local residents, participating in cultural events, or even sampling traditional cuisine can enrich your understanding of the heritage you're exploring, fostering a more meaningful connection to the roots of civilizations.

2. Arts Tourism

Arts Tourism invites you to fully immerse yourself in the vibrant and creative world of arts. It provides you with the opportunity to explore a wide spectrum of artistic expressions, from traditional galleries to captivating street performances.

This form of tourism unveils the expressive soul of a culture, offering you a sensory and emotional spectacle that goes beyond the ordinary.

3. Historical Tourism

Historical Tourism takes you on an extraordinary journey where you can step directly into the footsteps of history. It offers you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the narratives of bygone eras, allowing you to witness and learn from the pivotal milestones that have profoundly shaped nations and societies.

Whether you're exploring ancient ruins, visiting historic landmarks, or strolling through well-preserved heritage sites, historical tourism offers a captivating window into the past. It allows you to connect with the struggles, triumphs, and cultural heritage of those who came before us, fostering a deep appreciation for the rich tapestry of human history.

By engaging with historical sites and artefacts, you not only gain a better understanding of the past but also carry forward the lessons and legacies that continue to influence our world today.

4. Culinary Tourism

Culinary Tourism is an inviting and delectable invitation to savour the heart and soul of a culture through its cuisine. This unique form of tourism takes you on a mouthwatering gastronomic journey, a sensory adventure that transcends borders and languages. It brings people together in a universal celebration of diversity, where food becomes the common language that bridges cultures and connects hearts.

From sampling exotic street food to dining in renowned restaurants, culinary tourism allows you to explore the intricacies of local flavours, culinary traditions, and the stories that unfold around the dining table. It's not just about tasting food; it's about immersing yourself in the culinary fabric of a region, experiencing the passion and creativity of chefs, and forging a deeper connection to the cultural tapestry of a destination through the delights of the palate.

5. Festival Tourism

Festival Tourism extends a warm invitation for you to immerse yourself in the vibrant celebrations that define different cultures around the world. It's a remarkable journey that allows you to join in the festivities and experience the very essence of life itself. This unique form of tourism is a celebration of joy, a kaleidoscope of traditions, music, dance, and cultural expressions that come together in a mesmerizing and immersive experience.

By participating in festivals, you have the opportunity to witness and embrace the heart and soul of a community. Whether it's the lively rhythms of a carnival in Brazil, the mesmerizing lantern festivals in Asia, or the colourful celebrations of local traditions, festival tourism brings you closer to the world's diverse cultures and creates lasting memories of shared moments of happiness and connection.

4 Benefits of Cultural Tourism

Beyond the surface, cultural tourism generates economic upliftment, ensures the preservation of cultural heritage, fosters cross-cultural understanding, and plays a pivotal role in community development.

Economic Impact : Cultural tourism is a driving force for economic growth, generating income and employment opportunities within communities and promoting sustainable development.

Preservation of Cultural Heritage : By attracting visitors, cultural tourism helps preserve and restore historical sites and artefacts, ensuring their legacy for future generations.

Cross-Cultural Understanding : In fostering connections between people of different backgrounds, cultural tourism promotes tolerance, empathy, and a deeper understanding of the shared human experience.

Community Development : Cultural tourism plays a vital role in community empowerment, providing opportunities for local businesses, artisans, and residents to thrive through the preservation and sharing of their cultural heritage.

4 Downsides of Cultural Tourism

The path to cultural exploration is not without hurdles. From the shadows of cultural appropriation to the threats of over-tourism, maintaining a delicate balance between authenticity and commercialization is a constant challenge.

Cultural Appropriation : Striking a balance between appreciation and appropriation is crucial to avoid the commodification of cultural elements, respecting their sacredness and significance.

Over-Tourism : The popularity of cultural destinations can lead to over-tourism, putting a strain on local resources and infrastructure, and causing environmental degradation.

Conservation Concerns : Preservation of cultural heritage must be harmonized with conservation efforts, ensuring that the influx of tourists does not compromise the integrity of historical sites.

Balancing Authenticity and Commercialization : Cultural tourism faces the challenge of maintaining authenticity while meeting the demands of a commercialized industry, requiring a delicate equilibrium for sustainable growth.

How to Plan a Cultural Trip

Successful cultural immersion requires meticulous planning - from choosing destinations resonant with cultural diversity to respecting local customs and integrating sustainability considerations into your journey.

Researching Destinations

When embarking on your travel journey, thorough research of destinations is key. Select places that resonate deeply with your cultural interests, ensuring a rich and meaningful experience that aligns seamlessly with your personal preferences.

By delving into the history, art, traditions, and local customs of potential destinations, you can tailor your itinerary to include activities and attractions that genuinely captivate your curiosity and passion. This meticulous research not only enhances your overall travel experience but also ensures that your journey becomes a profound exploration of the cultural tapestry of the world, leaving you with cherished memories and a deeper understanding of the places you visit.

Choosing Cultural Activities

When planning your travel itinerary, consider curating a diverse selection of cultural activities that cater to your interests. From visiting museums and art galleries to experiencing local performances and participating in cultural workshops, ensure that your schedule offers a well-rounded exploration of the destination's rich heritage.

By embracing a wide range of cultural experiences, you can deepen your understanding of the local customs, traditions, and historical background. This thoughtful approach allows you to engage with the destination on multiple levels, fostering a more immersive and enriching travel experience.

Respecting Local Customs and Traditions

Being a responsible traveller is not just about exploring new places; it's also about understanding and respecting the local customs, traditions, and etiquette of the communities you visit. By taking the time to learn about and embrace the cultural norms of your destination, you can forge meaningful connections with the local people and show your appreciation for their way of life.

Whether it's dressing modestly in certain regions, adopting specific greetings, or adhering to dining customs, your efforts to respect local traditions not only demonstrate cultural sensitivity but also contribute to positive and authentic interactions. This approach ensures that your travels are not only enjoyable but also leave a positive impact on the places and people you encounter, fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.

Sustainability Considerations

Prioritizing sustainability is a vital aspect of responsible travel. As a conscious traveller, it's crucial to embrace sustainable travel practices aimed at minimizing your ecological footprint and supporting initiatives that make a positive impact on the local community and environment. This entails making environmentally friendly choices like reducing single-use plastics, conserving water and energy, and opting for eco-friendly accommodations and transportation.

Additionally, seek out opportunities to engage with responsible tourism operators and support local businesses that promote sustainability and contribute to the well-being of the destination. By incorporating sustainability considerations into your travel plans, you not only enjoy a more fulfilling and authentic experience but also play a significant role in preserving the beauty and cultural heritage of the places you visit.

What Are the Future Trends in Cultural Tourism?

The future promises a harmonious blend of technology, sustainability, and emerging destinations, reshaping the landscape of cultural tourism experiences.

Technology Integration

Technological innovations stand to revolutionize your cultural tourism experiences in thrilling new ways. Imagine stepping back in time through virtual reality experiences or having real-time augmented reality guides enrich your journey. With these innovative tools, you can embark on immersive and interactive adventures that take you deeper into history and culture.

You'll have the opportunity to interact with historical figures and gain a profound understanding of the cultural context, all at your fingertips. Embrace these digital enhancements, and you'll not only enrich your travel experience but also broaden your access to cultural treasures. It's all about making your cultural exploration more inclusive and accessible, ensuring that the world's heritage remains vibrant and relevant in our digital age, just for you.

Sustainable and Responsible Tourism Practices

The future of cultural tourism is in your hands, and it lies in embracing sustainable and responsible practices. By choosing to prioritize conservation, support eco-friendly initiatives, and engage with local communities, you play a critical role in shaping the way we explore and appreciate cultural heritage. Sustainable tourism ensures that the treasures of the past are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

When you support eco-friendly initiatives, you contribute to protecting the environment and reducing your ecological footprint. Moreover, by actively engaging with the local communities, you cultivate significant relationships and create a positive impact on the places you visit. It's your commitment to these practices that will pave the way for a more responsible and sustainable future of cultural tourism, where the beauty and cultural significance of our world's heritage endure for you and generations to come.

Emerging Cultural Destinations

As you seek out enriching cultural experiences, it's crucial to stay alert to emerging destinations. These hidden treasures hold the promise of unique and authentic encounters, far from the well-trodden paths of crowded tourist hubs. By exploring these lesser-known cultural gems, you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the genuine essence of a place, interact with local communities, and discover traditions that have remained largely untouched by mass tourism.

Emerging cultural destinations not only offer a chance for personal enrichment but also contribute to sustainable and responsible tourism by dispersing the benefits of travel to previously underserved areas. So, as you plan your next adventure, consider venturing off the beaten track to uncover the cultural riches that await your exploration in these emerging destinations.

Still have some questions about cultural tourism? Let's explore a few FAQs and their answers.

5 FAQs About Cultural Tourism

Here are the answers to some common cultural tourism questions:

1. What Are Some Unique Cultural Experiences That Can Be Enjoyed on a Tight Budget?

Consider attending local festivals and events, often free or requiring a minimal entrance fee. These celebrations provide an authentic glimpse into a region's culture, from traditional music and dance performances to vibrant street parades. By mingling with locals and participating in these festivities, you can immerse yourself in the heart of the culture without breaking the bank.

Secondly, visiting local markets can offer a treasure trove of cultural encounters without significant costs. Strolling through bustling markets allows you to engage with artisans, sample diverse street foods, and haggle for unique handmade souvenirs. It's an opportunity to witness the daily life of the community, savor traditional flavours, and even pick up a few words of the local language, all within the confines of your budget.

Lastly, exploring natural wonders and scenic landscapes is often budget-friendly and offers a unique perspective on a culture's connection to its environment. Whether it's hiking through lush forests, discovering hidden waterfalls, or relaxing on tranquil beaches, these outdoor experiences can be both culturally enriching and cost-effective. Connecting with nature can provide valuable insights into the traditions and beliefs tied to the environment, making it a remarkable addition to your cultural journey on a tight budget.

2. How Do I Navigate Ethical Considerations in Cultural Tourism?

Prioritize cultural sensitivity and respect for local customs and traditions. Before visiting a destination, take the time to research and understand the cultural norms and etiquettes, including dress codes, religious practices, and social behaviours. Being aware of and adhering to these guidelines demonstrates your respect for the local culture and helps foster positive interactions with the community.

Additionally, opt for cultural experiences that directly benefit the local community. Support local artisans, craftsmen, and businesses by purchasing their products and services. Seek out responsible tour operators and guides who prioritize sustainable and ethical practices, ensuring that your tourism activities benefit the community rather than exploit it.

When visiting cultural or heritage sites, practice responsible tourism by following established rules and guidelines. Respect heritage preservation efforts by not defacing or damaging historical sites, artefacts, or natural landmarks. Be mindful of the environmental impact of your visit and adhere to Leave No Trace principles.

Engage in meaningful interactions with locals by asking for permission before taking photographs, especially of people, and always respect their privacy. Be aware of the potential impact of your presence on the local environment and culture, and strive to leave a positive and lasting impression.

3. How Can I Get Involved in Community and Cultural Tourism?

To engage in community and cultural tourism, focus on destinations that promote local involvement and sustainability. Seek out homestay programs that allow you to reside with local families and share in their daily lives and traditions. Additionally, opt for guided tours led by local experts who offer authentic insights and support the local economy.

Participate in cultural workshops, cooking classes, or music and dance performances to actively immerse yourself in the culture. These experiences not only deepen your cultural understanding but also contribute to the local community and its preservation efforts.

Consider volunteering for community projects, such as education programs or conservation initiatives, to make a meaningful impact while enjoying a more immersive cultural experience. By choosing responsible tourism options and actively participating in cultural activities, you can create memorable experiences and positively influence the communities you visit.

4. How Can I Enhance Cultural Travel With Technology?

Start by using travel apps for language translation and cultural insights. This will help you bridge communication gaps and gain a deeper understanding of local customs.

Augmented reality (AR) apps and guides offer interactive experiences at cultural sites and museums, providing in-depth information and immersive storytelling. These tools bring history and heritage to life, making your exploration more engaging.

Connect with locals through social media and travel forums, receiving recommendations for authentic cultural experiences and opportunities to meet residents during your trip.

Embrace immersive experiences like virtual reality (VR) or 360-degree videos, allowing you to explore cultural landmarks and festivals remotely. Virtual tours provide a sneak peek into destinations, inspiring your travel plans.

Use navigation and mapping apps to discover cultural neighbourhoods, locate historical sites, and find hidden gems, making your journey more convenient and enriching. By integrating technology, you can enhance your cultural travel experience and create lasting memories.

5. What Are the Most Eco-Friendly Modes of Transportation for Cultural Tourism?

Consider using public transportation like buses, trams, or trains, which have a lower carbon footprint per passenger mile compared to private cars. These options also allow you to connect with local communities and experience the culture more authentically.

Explore destinations by walking or cycling whenever possible. These emission-free modes not only reduce your environmental impact but also enable you to immerse yourself in the surroundings, engage with locals, and discover hidden cultural gems. For longer distances, consider using eco-friendly vehicles such as electric or hybrid cars. These options produce fewer emissions and promote sustainable travel practices.

Support eco-conscious tour operators that offer transportation options aligned with sustainable tourism principles, like small group tours or shared transportation. Lastly, prioritize direct flights and non-stop routes when flying, as takeoffs and landings generate more emissions. When exploring multiple destinations, plan efficient itineraries to minimize air travel and reduce your carbon footprint.

Embark on an Exciting "Cultural Discovery" Journey

In a world increasingly interconnected yet diverse, cultural tourism stands as a powerful force transcending borders. As travellers increasingly seek meaningful and authentic encounters, the significance of cultural tourism continues to grow.

And how do we ensure that cultural tourism remains a positive and enriching experience for both travellers and communities? By embracing responsible tourism practices, promoting economic development, and acknowledging the importance of preserving cultural heritage.

Ready to explore cultural tourism? Now is the right time!

Art museum


About the author.

Modisha Tladi • Founder at Epic Adventures Cape Town

Modisha is a passionate travel enthusiast who likes embarking on thrilling adventures. As an avid explorer, he finds joy in discovering new destinations and immersing in diverse cultures.

When he's not on an adventure, you'll find him listening to music, playing video games, watching action-comedy movies, writing SEO-optimized content, or doing tech SEO work on websites.

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Travels of Jenna

Cultural Tourism: 9 Easy Ways to Experience Local Culture While Traveling

by Jenna Walker

Traveling is a journey of self-discovery, and experiencing local culture is an essential part of that adventure. By immersing yourself in the traditions, flavors, and stories of the places you visit, you not only gain a richer travel experience but also contribute to the preservation of cultural diversity. Embrace the world through cultural tourism and watch your travel experiences transform into cherished memories of a lifetime.

Table of Contents

What is cultural tourism.

The easiest definition of cultural tourism is very simple but broad. Let me explain. The World Tourism Organization defines cultural tourism as an activity in which the traveler’s “motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume the tangible and intangible cultural attractions/products in a tourism destination.” Pretty simple, right? However, cultural tourism becomes somewhat of an umbrella term when you consider all the ways in which you can experience the culture of a new city, state, or country. These can include admiring art, attending festivals, visiting historical monuments and a variety of other ways you can immerse yourself in local traditions. Let’s not forget the local cuisine!

Essentially, cultural tourism is the act of creating an authentic experience with a place and its people.

Mt Vesuvius behind Pompeii Cultural Tourism.

The Importance of Cultural Tourism and Cultural Experiences

Cultural tourism is beneficial for both the traveler and the destination, providing both economic and social advantages. In fact, it is one more step we can take toward sustainable travel. By choosing cultural tourism, we can help create a positive local economic impact, bridge social gaps, and assist in the preservation of history and the culture which we are exploring. Our reward is a rich and memorable experience gained through learning and connection.

Cultural Tourism Examples

Cultural tourism involves traveling to destinations primarily to explore and engage with the local culture, traditions, history, and heritage. It offers travelers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the authentic cultural experiences of a particular region. Here are some cultural tourism examples:

10 Examples of Cultural Tourism

  • Museum Visits: Museums are excellent repositories of a destination’s cultural heritage. Travelers can explore art, history, science, and various aspects of culture through exhibitions and artifacts. Examples include the Louvre Museum in Paris, the British Museum in London, and the Vatican Museums in Rome.
  • Cultural Festivals: Attending cultural festivals and celebrations can provide an in-depth understanding of a community’s traditions and way of life. Some famous examples include the Rio Carnival in Brazil, Diwali in India, and the Oktoberfest in Germany.
  • Historical Sites: Visiting historical sites and landmarks allows travelers to delve into the past and gain insights into a destination’s history. Examples include the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu in Peru, and the Pyramids of Egypt.
  • Culinary Tourism: Sampling local cuisine is a delicious way to experience culture. Travelers can take food tours, dine at local restaurants, and even participate in cooking classes. Examples include sushi-making classes in Japan, wine tasting in Italy’s Tuscany region, and street food tours in Thailand.
  • Cultural Workshops: Participating in workshops can provide hands-on experiences related to a destination’s culture. This might include traditional dance classes, pottery making, or learning to weave textiles. For instance, travelers can learn flamenco dancing in Spain or take a sushi-making class in Japan.
  • Cultural Performances: Watching live performances, such as traditional dance, theater, or music, can be a captivating way to experience a culture. Examples include attending a Noh theater performance in Japan, a tango show in Argentina, or a traditional Irish dance performance in Ireland.
  • Religious Tourism: Visiting religious sites and participating in religious ceremonies can offer insights into a destination’s spirituality and faith. Examples include visiting the Vatican City in Rome , the Golden Temple in India, or the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
  • Art Galleries and Studios: Exploring local art galleries and studios can provide a glimpse into a region’s contemporary artistic expression. Travelers can meet local artists and view their work. Examples include the Tate Modern in London, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and galleries in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City.
  • Cultural Villages: Some destinations have cultural villages or living history museums where travelers can experience a recreated version of traditional life. Examples include Williamsburg in Virginia (USA), the Maori cultural villages in New Zealand, and the Skansen open-air museum in Sweden.
  • Language Immersion: Learning and practicing the local language can be an enriching cultural experience. Even a few basic phrases can go a long way in bridging cultural gaps. Locals often appreciate the effort, and it can lead to more meaningful interactions. If you’re heading to Italy, read this article that will help you learn a few basic Italian phrases .

person holding sliced vegetables. Try cultural experiences like taking a cooking class in a foreign country.

How to Experience Local Culture While You Travel

Traveling is more than just ticking off destinations from your bucket list; it’s an opportunity to broaden your horizons, learn about different ways of life, and create lasting memories. While visiting the iconic tourist spots can be exciting, immersing yourself in the local culture is where the true magic happens. Here are a few ways you can engage in cultural tourism as you travel:

Cultural Immersion: 9 Easy Ways to Experience Culture While Traveling

  • Meet the Locals : Engaging with the people who call your destination home is the most direct way to experience local culture. Strike up conversations at local markets, cafés, or community events. Ask about their daily lives, traditions, and favorite spots in the area. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn and how friendly people can be when you show genuine interest in their culture.
  • Explore Off-The-Beaten-Path: While famous landmarks have their allure, exploring lesser-known areas often leads to unexpected cultural discoveries. Wander through neighborhoods, visit local museums, or explore rural villages. These off-the-beaten-path experiences can be profoundly enriching.
  • Attend Local Events : Keep an eye out for festivals, cultural performances, and community gatherings. These events offer a chance to witness traditions in action and immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.
  • Try Local Cuisine : Food is a universal language. Trying local dishes is not only a gastronomic adventure but also a cultural one. Visit local eateries, street vendors, and markets to savor authentic flavors. Don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations; locals are usually delighted to share their favorite food spots.
  • Stay with Locals : Consider staying in locally owned accommodations, such as guesthouses or homestays. This provides an opportunity for deeper cultural immersion and fosters direct connections with the community.

Why You Should Try to Experience Local Culture When Traveling

Traveling is more than just ticking off destinations from your bucket list; it’s an opportunity to broaden your horizons, learn about different ways of life, and create lasting memories. While visiting the iconic tourist spots can be exciting, immersing yourself in the local culture is where the true magic happens.

5 Reasons to Engage in Cultural Experiences When Traveling

Authenticity Over Stereotypes: Local culture is the heartbeat of any destination. By diving into it, you move beyond stereotypes and gain a deeper understanding of the people, their traditions, and their values. It’s a chance to challenge preconceptions and enrich your perspective.

Memorable Experiences: While taking selfies in front of famous landmarks is fun, it’s the interactions with locals and unique cultural experiences that you’ll remember most. These memories are the ones that stay with you, often for a lifetime.

Cultural Exchange: Engaging with local culture isn’t just about what you receive; it’s also about what you give. Sharing your own culture and stories can create meaningful connections and bridge gaps, fostering a sense of global unity.

Support Local Communities: Many tourist destinations rely heavily on tourism for their livelihoods. By engaging with local culture, you contribute to the local economy, helping to sustain the traditions and lifestyles of the people you encounter.

african woman showing handicraft earthenware in local workshop. Experience local culture by stepping off the beaten path. Support local artists.

Responsible Tourism

I can’t talk to you about cultural tourism without addressing responsible tourism. It’s a wonderful thing and a deep privilege to visit historical and sacred sites and monuments. Sadly, all too often these sites are not treated responsibly. Monuments, cathedrals, and artwork are priceless in the context of history and heritage. They are also incredibly difficult and expensive to preserve.

Please don’t be that person eating your lunch on the steps and leaving trash behind. No, it isn’t ok to use your camera flash to capture that great piece of art (unless they say you can). For the love of all that is good, if taking a selfie compromises your safety, the safety of others or, most importantly, the monument itself, DO NOT DO IT.  Respect is simple. Practice it!

3 Tips for Making the Most of Your Cultural Tourism Experiences

  • Respect Local Customs : Always be mindful of local customs and traditions. Dress appropriately, observe local etiquette, and ask for permission when taking photos in sensitive areas.
  • Read and Research : Before your trip, read about the history, customs, and culture of the destination. This background knowledge will enhance your understanding and appreciation of what you encounter.
  • Travel Slowly : Rushing from one tourist attraction to another can leave little room for a cultural experience. Slow down, take leisurely strolls, and allow yourself to get lost in the streets. You’ll often stumble upon unexpected cultural gems. Here’s where you can learn more about slow travel .

Jenna Walker

Jenna Walker is a travel writer from Oklahoma who lives with her husband, two children, and three rescue pets. While out and about in the world, she loves spending time outdoors, exploring local culture, and trying new foods. Jenna knows that, often, we overlook our own backyard. You can also find her stories and guides on the website, The Oklahoma Experience.

  • 10 Oklahoma Wineries: Exploring Hidden Gems on the Chickasaw Country Wine Trail
  • Understanding the 4 Main Trusted Traveler Programs: Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, Mobile Passport, and Clear
  • What is TSA PreCheck and Should I Enroll? Understanding the Benefits of TSA PreCheck
  • 15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Pigeon Forge with Kids on a Smoky Mountain Getaway
  • 7 of the Best Things to do in Piazza Navona

About Jenna

cultural tourist attractions

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Travels Through Culture: Understanding its Influence on Tourism

By: Author Valerie Forgeard

Posted on August 1, 2023

Categories Travel

Culture has a profound influence on our travel choices and experiences. Our cultural backgrounds shape our preferences when it comes to vacation destinations. Certain destinations may hold a special appeal because they align with our cultural values, traditions, or interests. For example, someone with a strong affinity for history may be drawn to destinations with rich cultural heritage, such as ancient ruins or historical landmarks. On the other hand, someone who values adventure and outdoor activities may be more inclined to visit destinations known for their natural landscapes and outdoor recreational opportunities.

  • Cultural attractions also play a significant role in boosting tourism. Museums, art galleries, festivals, and cultural events attract tourists who are interested in immersing themselves in the local culture and experiencing its unique offerings. These attractions not only provide entertainment and educational opportunities but also contribute to the local economy by generating revenue and creating jobs.
  • Cultural exchange is another important aspect of tourism. When people travel to different countries or regions, they have the opportunity to interact with locals, learn about their customs, traditions, and ways of life. This exchange of ideas, knowledge, and perspectives can foster understanding, tolerance, and appreciation for different cultures. It can also break down stereotypes and promote cultural diversity.

However, the impact of globalization on cultural tourism is a topic of concern. As destinations become more accessible and interconnected, there is a risk of cultural homogenization. The influx of mass tourism and the influence of global trends can sometimes overshadow local cultures and traditions, leading to the loss of authenticity and uniqueness. It is essential to strike a balance between preserving cultural heritage and embracing the benefits of tourism.

  • Sustainable cultural tourism is the way forward. It involves promoting responsible tourism practices that protect and respect the cultural integrity of a destination. This includes supporting local communities, preserving historical sites, and engaging in sustainable tourism activities that minimize negative environmental and socio-cultural impacts.
  • Cultural sensitivity is also crucial when engaging in travel and tourism. It is essential to be respectful of local customs, traditions, and social norms. Understanding and appreciating cultural differences can enhance our travel experiences and create meaningful connections with the local community.
  • Culture plays a significant role in travel and tourism. It influences our travel choices, shapes our experiences, and contributes to the economic and social development of destinations. By embracing cultural diversity, practicing responsible tourism, and fostering cultural exchange, we can create a more enriching and sustainable travel experience for ourselves and the communities we visit.

Key Takeaways

  • Culinary preferences, language barriers, and cultural upbringing all significantly influence travel choices.
  • Cultural attractions, such as historical landmarks, local art and crafts, and traditional festivals, play a crucial role in tourism by providing opportunities for connection, immersion, and appreciation of different cultures.
  • Cultural exchange through travel fosters understanding, breaks down stereotypes, and promotes cultural diversity.
  • The impact of globalization on travel and tourism can lead to cultural homogenization, but embracing cultural diversity and practicing responsible tourism can create enriching and sustainable travel experiences.

Overview of Cultural Tourism

Ever thought about how your next vacation could be a thrilling dive into the heart of another culture? Welcome to the world of cultural tourism!

It’s all about immersing yourself in the customs, traditions, and ways of life of another society. This isn’t just about ticking off sights on a tourist checklist; it’s experiencing authentic local cuisine, participating in traditional dances, or hearing age-old stories firsthand from residents.

Cultural immersion is not only exciting for you as a traveler, but it also plays a crucial role in heritage preservation. Every dollar spent contributes to maintaining historical sites and supporting local artisans.

So remember, when you pack your bags for your next adventure, you aren’t just traveling – you’re helping keep cultures alive!

Influence of Cultural Background on Travel Choices

Immersed in their unique traditions and customs, individuals often select vacation destinations that reflect or contrast with their cultural upbringing. Your cultural background significantly influences your travel choices, from the destination you choose to the experiences you seek.

For instance, culinary preferences shaped by culture can lead travelers to countries renowned for specific cuisines. Language barriers might also dictate travel choices; people may opt for countries where they speak the language or are intrigued by it.

Consider this quick comparison:

Your cultural background subtly yet powerfully shapes your tourism behavior.

Cultural Attractions and Tourism

You’re about to embark on a fascinating journey exploring how historical landmarks, local art and crafts, and traditional festivals act as major cultural attractions in tourism.

Next, let’s delve into the world of local art and crafts, which offer unique insights into indigenous cultures, traditions, and lifestyles. From intricate pottery and vibrant paintings to hand-woven textiles and delicate sculptures, these artistic expressions showcase the creativity and craftsmanship of a community. Travelers are often captivated by the opportunity to witness artisans at work, learn about traditional techniques, and even purchase one-of-a-kind souvenirs that reflect the local culture.

And let’s not forget about traditional festivals, which are vibrant expressions of a culture’s heritage, beliefs, and customs. These lively celebrations bring communities together and offer tourists a chance to experience the authentic spirit of a destination. Whether it’s witnessing colorful parades, participating in traditional dances, or indulging in delicious local cuisine, these festivals create lasting memories and foster a deeper understanding of a culture’s identity.

In conclusion, cultural attractions such as historical landmarks, local art and crafts, and traditional festivals play a significant role in tourism. They provide visitors with opportunities to connect with the past, gain insights into indigenous cultures, and immerse themselves in the vibrant traditions of a destination. By experiencing these cultural attractions, tourists not only contribute to the local economy but also foster a sense of appreciation and respect for different cultures around the world.

Historical Landmarks

Historical landmarks, brimming with cultural significance, aren’t just sightseeing spots; they’re gateways into understanding a nation’s past and its people’s heritage. When you visit these sites, you’re stepping into a time capsule of human history. Preservation techniques play an essential role in maintaining their integrity for future generations to appreciate.

Landmark restoration is another key aspect that affects tourism. It can breathe new life into old structures while preserving their historical essence. Imagine witnessing the rejuvenated grandeur of a centuries-old castle or the revitalized vibrancy of an ancient mural – it’s an unmatched experience.

Therefore, culture greatly impacts travel and tourism by providing rich historical contexts through landmarks. It isn’t only about seeing beautiful places – it’s also about experiencing and appreciating diverse cultures through them.

Local Art and Crafts

Nothing’s quite like the thrill of discovering unique local art and crafts. Each piece tells a story that resonates deeply with the soul of its creator’s homeland. It’s this authenticity that makes art and crafts an integral part of travel experiences.

Consider these elements:

  • The intricate designs on hand-woven carpets reflect centuries-old traditions.
  • Pottery showcases craft marketing strategies learned through generations.
  • Paintings echo the local landscape, preserved using time-honored art preservation techniques.
  • Handcrafted silver jewellery reveals the mastery of local artisans.
  • Wood carvings depict folklore handed down through ages.

These artistic expressions offer insights into the culture’s history, traditions, and beliefs. As a traveler, you become not just an observer but also a participant in their cultural narrative.

This enriches your personal journey while fostering global understanding and respect for diverse cultures.

Traditional Festivals

Immersing yourself in local festivities isn’t just about the vibrant colors, lively music, and delicious food; it’s an extraordinary chance to step into a living piece of tradition that’s been celebrated for generations. It provides a unique insight into the culture, history, and values of the community.

Traditional festivals greatly contribute to festival economics by attracting tourists worldwide who generate substantial revenue and job opportunities. They also help preserve local crafts and traditions while promoting cultural exchange.

Festival food forms an integral part of these events. From exotic street foods to traditional home-cooked meals, each dish tells a story about their cultural heritage. Thus, participating in these festivals doesn’t only satiate your taste buds but educates you on culinary traditions too. You’ll find that culture truly affects travel experiences in profound ways!

Cultural Exchange in Tourism

Tourism isn’t just about exploring new places; it’s a vibrant platform for cultural exchange. Travelers and locals alike can share and learn from each other’s traditions, customs, and way of life. This mutual interchange is what makes travel so enriching.

Think about culinary exploration. When you taste local cuisines or even participate in cooking classes, you’re embracing a whole new culture through your palate. It’s more than just savoring different flavors; it’s understanding the people behind these dishes and their unique narratives.

Then there’s authentic immersion – experiencing daily life as locals do. Whether it’s learning traditional dances or engaging in community projects, such activities provide enlightening insights into diverse cultures that go beyond mere sightseeing. Undeniably, these experiences deepen appreciation for our shared humanity while fostering global understanding.

The Impact of Globalization on Travel and Tourism

Let’s delve into the fascinating dynamics of globalization and its impact on travel and tourism.

Picture this: multicultural cities are on the rise, offering travelers a rich tapestry of diverse cultures to explore within one location.

Yet, there’s a flip side too – cultural homogenization is becoming more apparent, with local distinctiveness potentially being eroded by global influences.

The Rise of Multicultural Cities

The rise of multicultural cities has led to a vivid tapestry of different cultures, traditions, and cuisines. These cities have become major drawcards for tourists worldwide, offering an opportunity to immerse oneself in different cultures without needing to cross borders. The benefits of diversity in these cities are profound: it fosters creativity, enriches experiences, and promotes understanding among people from varied backgrounds. As one navigates through bustling markets or quiet backstreets, intercultural interactions become commonplace, allowing for insights into distinct ways of life. Multicultural cities have risen as popular tourist destinations due to their cultural richness, contributing significantly to the larger picture of how culture affects travel and tourism globally.

Cultural Homogenization

While you’re marveling at the diversity of multicultural cities, it’s essential to also consider the phenomenon of cultural homogenization. This process, often fueled by tourism, can dilute local cultures and lead to a loss of unique traditions. Cultural appropriation is one aspect of this where dominant cultures adopt elements from another culture without understanding or respect.

Intercultural communication plays a significant role in both promoting and preventing cultural homogenization. It allows people from different backgrounds to learn about each other’s customs and values. However, if not managed properly, it may contribute to the erasure of distinct cultural aspects.

Ultimately, your awareness as a traveler can help safeguard against these issues.

Sustainable Cultural Tourism

You can contribute to sustainable cultural tourism by respecting and preserving the local traditions, customs, and heritage sites of your travel destinations. Your awareness and ethical considerations can make a significant impact on the places you visit.

Here are three key ways to promote sustainable cultural tourism:

  • Respect Local Customs: Understand that each culture has its unique set of traditions that deserve respect. This includes dressing appropriately, participating in local ceremonies only when invited, and respecting sacred places.
  • Promote Community Involvement: Engage with locals in a respectful manner. Buy local products or services, which support their economy and sustain their way of life.
  • Educate Yourself & Others: Learn about the culture before visiting and educate others about these practices too.

Remember, every step counts towards sustaining our world’s diverse cultures!

The Future of Cultural Tourism

Imagine the possibilities as technological innovations and changing travel trends reshape the future of cultural tourism. You’re in for a treat as advancements like virtual reality, AI-guided tours, and sustainable travel options revolutionize your journey to explore diverse cultures.

Stay tuned, you’ll be delving into how these changes could enhance your understanding and appreciation of global heritages while also contributing positively to their preservation.

Technological Innovations

In today’s digital age, it’s fascinating to see how technological innovations are reshaping the way we explore and experience different cultures when we travel. Becoming a digital nomad is now more feasible than ever. With the right tech tools, you can work remotely while immersing yourself in a new culture, making travel less of a luxury and more of an everyday reality.

Furthermore, virtual reality tours offer an innovative approach to cultural exploration. You can now visit world-renowned museums or historic sites from your living room, getting a firsthand feel for their cultural significance without stepping foot on a plane. These advancements not only make travel more accessible but also foster greater understanding and appreciation for global cultures.

Technology truly is revolutionizing cultural tourism!

Changing Travel Trends

Let’s consider how evolving travel trends are dramatically reshaping how we engage with the world around us.

As cultural landscapes shift and merge, new patterns emerge within the realm of travel and tourism. Eco-tourism trends, for example, reflect a growing global consciousness about sustainability. You’re now more likely to seek out destinations that respect nature and contribute to local communities.

Simultaneously, solo travel is on the rise, influenced by a culture that values individual experiences and self-discovery. It’s no longer unusual for you to venture off alone, exploring new cities and cultures at your own pace.

These shifting tendencies underscore how deeply our approaches to travel are rooted in culture – revealing not only where we choose to go but also why we decide to take certain journeys.

Cultural Sensitivity and Responsible Tourism

Traveling isn’t just about snapping pretty pictures, it’s also about respecting the cultures and traditions of the places you’re visiting. In recent years, there has been growing awareness around cultural sensitivity and responsible tourism. This includes avoiding cultural appropriation – reducing a people’s culture to fashion statements or exotic props.

Your travel experience can be enriched when you approach different cultures with respect and curiosity.

Cutting Edge | Bringing cultural tourism back in the game

cultural tourist attractions

The growth of cultural tourism

People have long traveled to discover and visit places of historical significance or spiritual meaning, to experience different cultures, as well as to learn about, exchange and consume a range of cultural goods and services. Cultural tourism as a concept gained traction during the 1990s when certain sub-sectors emerged, including heritage tourism, arts tourism, gastronomic tourism, film tourism and creative tourism. This took place amidst the rising tide of globalization and technological advances that spurred greater mobility through cheaper air travel, increased accessibility to diverse locations and cultural assets, media proliferation, and the rise of independent travel. Around this time, tourism policy was also undergoing a shift that was marked by several trends. These included a sharper focus on regional development, environmental issues, public-private partnerships, industry self-regulation and a reduction in direct government involvement in the supply of tourism infrastructure. As more cultural tourists have sought to explore the cultures of the destinations, greater emphasis has been placed on the importance of intercultural dialogue to promote understanding and tolerance. Likewise, in the face of globalization, countries have looked for ways to strengthen local identity, and cultural tourism has also been engaged as a strategy to achieve this purpose. Being essentially place-based, cultural tourism is driven by an interest to experience and engage with culture first-hand. It is backed by a desire to discover, learn about and enjoy the tangible and intangible cultural assets offered in a tourism destination, ranging from heritage, performing arts, handicrafts, rituals and gastronomy, among others.

Cultural tourism is a leading priority for the majority of countries around the world -featuring in the tourism policy of 90% of countries, based on a 2016 UNWTO global survey . Most countries include tangible and intangible heritage in their definition of cultural tourism, and over 80% include contemporary culture - film, performing arts, design, fashion and new media, among others. There is, however, greater need for stronger localisation in policies, which is rooted in promoting and enhancing local cultural assets, such as heritage, food, festivals and crafts. In France, for instance, the Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes , a UNESCO World Heritage site, has established a multidisciplinary team that defends the cultural values of the site, and advises the authorities responsible for the territorial development of the 300 km of the Valley.

While cultural tourism features prominently in policies for economic growth, it has diverse benefits that cut across the development spectrum – economic, social and environmental. Cultural tourism expands businesses and job opportunities by drawing on cultural resources as a competitive advantage in tourism markets. Cultural tourism is increasingly engaged as a strategy for countries and regions to safeguard traditional cultures, attract talent, develop new cultural resources and products, create creative clusters, and boost the cultural and creative industries. Cultural tourism, particularly through museums, can support education about culture. Tourist interest can also help ensure the transmission of intangible cultural heritage practices to younger generations.

cultural tourist attractions

StockSnap, Pixabay

Cultural tourism can help encourage appreciation of and pride in local heritage, thus sparking greater interest and investment in its safeguarding. Tourism can also drive inclusive community development to foster resiliency, inclusivity, and empowerment. It promotes territorial cohesion and socioeconomic inclusion for the most vulnerable populations, for example, generating economic livelihoods for women in rural areas. A strengthened awareness of conservation methods and local and indigenous knowledge contributes to long-term environmental sustainability. Similarly, the funds generated by tourism can be instrumental to ensuring ongoing conservation activities for built and natural heritage.

The growth of cultural tourism has reshaped the global urban landscape over the past decades, strongly impacting spatial planning around the world. In many countries, cultural tourism has been leveraged to drive urban regeneration or city branding strategies, from large-sized metropolises in Asia or the Arab States building on cultural landmarks and contemporary architecture to drive tourism expansion, to small and middle-sized urban settlements enhancing their cultural assets to stimulate local development. At the national level, cultural tourism has also impacted planning decisions, encouraging coastal development in some areas, while reviving inland settlements in others. This global trend has massively driven urban infrastructure development through both public and private investments, impacting notably transportation, the restoration of historic buildings and areas, as well as the rehabilitation of public spaces. The expansion of cultural city networks, including the UNESCO World Heritage Cities programme and the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, also echoes this momentum. Likewise, the expansion of cultural routes, bringing together several cities or human settlements around cultural commonalities to stimulate tourism, has also generated new solidarities, while influencing economic and cultural exchanges between cities across countries and regions.

Despite tourism’s clear potential as a driver for positive change, challenges exist, including navigating the space between economic gain and cultural integrity. Tourism’s crucial role in enhancing inclusive community development can often remain at the margins of policy planning and implementation. Rapid and unplanned tourism growth can trigger a range of negative impacts, including pressure on local communities and infrastructure from overtourism during peak periods, gentrification of urban areas, waste problems and global greenhouse gas emissions. High visitor numbers to heritage sites can override their natural carrying capacity, thus undermining conservation efforts and affecting both the integrity and authenticity of heritage sites. Over-commercialization and folklorization of intangible heritage practices – including taking these practices out of context for tourism purposes - can risk inadvertently changing the practice over time. Large commercial interests can monopolize the benefits of tourism, preventing these benefits from reaching local communities. An excessive dependency on tourism can also create localized monoeconomies at the expense of diversification and alternative economic models. When mismanaged, tourism can, therefore, have negative effects on the quality of life and well-being of local residents, as well as the natural environment.

These fault lines became more apparent when the pandemic hit – revealing the extent of over-dependence on tourism and limited structures for crisis prevention and response. While the current situation facing tourism is unpredictable, making it difficult to plan, further crises are likely in the years to come. Therefore, the pandemic presents the opportunity to experiment with new models to shape more effective and sustainable alternatives for the future.

cultural tourist attractions

hxdyl, Getty Images Pro

Harnessing cultural tourism in policy frameworks

From a policy perspective, countries around the world have employed cultural tourism as a vehicle to achieve a range of strategic aims. In Panama, cultural tourism is a key component of the country’s recently adopted Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism 2020-2025 that seeks to position Panama as a worldwide benchmark for sustainable tourism through the development of unique heritage routes. Cultural tourism can be leveraged for cultural diplomacy as a form of ‘soft power’ to build dialogue between peoples and bolster foreign policy. For instance, enhancing regional cooperation between 16 countries has been at the heart of UNESCO’s transnational Silk Roads Programme, which reflects the importance of culture and heritage as part of foreign policy. UNESCO has also partnered with the EU and National Geographic to develop World Heritage Journeys, a unique travel platform that deepens the tourism experience through four selected cultural routes covering 34 World Heritage sites. Also in Europe, cultural tourism has been stimulated through the development of cultural routes linked to food and wine , as well as actions to protect local food products, such as through labels and certificates of origin. The Emilia-Romagna region in Italy, for example, produces more origin-protected food and drink than any other region in the country. One of the regions' cities Parma - a UNESCO Creative City (Gastronomy) and designated Italian Capital for Culture (2020-2021) - plans to resume its cultural activities to boost tourism once restrictions have eased. Meanwhile, Spain has recently taken steps to revive its tourism industry through its cities inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List . In this regard, the Group of the 15 Spanish World Heritage Cities met recently to discuss the country's Modernization and Competitiveness Plan for the tourism sector. Cultural tourism has progressively featured more prominently in the policies of Central Asian and Eastern European countries, which have sought to revive intangible heritage and boost the creative economy as part of strategies to strengthen national cultural identity and open up to the international community. In Africa, cultural tourism is a growing market that is driven by its cultural heritage, crafts, and national and regional cultural events. Major festivals such as Dak-Art in Senegal, Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial in Mali, Sauti za Busara in United Republic of Tanzania, Pan-African Festival of Cinema and Television of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, and Chale Wote Street Art Festival in Ghana are just a handful of vibrant and popular platforms in the continent that share cultural expressions, generate income for local economies and strengthen Pan-African identity.

Countries are increasingly seeking alliances with international bodies to advance tourism. National and local governments are working together with international entities, such as UNESCO, UNWTO and OECD in the area of sustainable tourism. In 2012, UNESCO’s Sustainable Tourism Programme was adopted, thereby breaking new ground to promote tourism a driver for the conservation of cultural and natural heritage and a vehicle for sustainable development. In 2020, UNESCO formed the Task Force on Culture and Resilient Tourism with the Advisory Bodies to the 1972 World Heritage Convention (ICOMOS, IUCN, ICCROM) as a global dialogue platform on key issues relating to tourism and heritage management during and beyond the crisis. UNESCO has also collaborated with the UNWTO on a set of recommendations for inclusive cultural tourism recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. In response to the crisis, the Namibian Government, UNESCO and UNDP are working together on a tourism impact study and development strategy to restore the tourism sector, especially cultural tourism.

UNESCO has scaled up work in cultural tourism in its work at field level, supporting its Member States and strengthening regional initiatives. In the Africa region, enhancing cultural tourism has been reported as a policy priority across the region. For example, UNESCO has supported the Government of Ghana in its initiative Beyond the Return, in particular in relation to its section on cultural tourism. In the Pacific, a Common Country Assessment (CCA) has been carried out for 14 SIDS countries, with joint interagency programmes to be created building on the results. Across the Arab States, trends in tourism after COVID, decent jobs and cultural and creative industries are emerging as entry points for different projects throughout the region. In Europe, UNESCO has continued its interdisciplinary work on visitor centres in UNESCO designated sites, building on a series of workshops to strengthen tourism sustainability, community engagement and education through heritage interpretation. In the Latin America and the Caribbean region, UNESCO is working closely with Member States, regional bodies and the UN system building on the momentum on the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, including through Creative Cities, and the sustainable recovery of the orange economy, among others.

cultural tourist attractions

BS1920, Pixabay

In the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, tourism has the potential to contribute, directly or indirectly, to all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Tourism is directly mentioned in SDGs 8, 12 and 14 on inclusive and sustainable economic growth, sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources, respectively. This is mirrored in the VNRs put forward by countries, who report on cultural tourism notably through the revitalization of urban and rural areas through heritage regeneration, festivals and events, infrastructure development, and the promotion of local cultural products. The VNRs also demonstrate a trend towards underlining more sustainable approaches to tourism that factor in the environmental dimensions of tourism development.

Several countries have harnessed cultural tourism as a policy panacea for economic growth and diversification. As part of Qatar's National Vision 2030 strategy, for example, the country has embarked on a development plan that includes cultural tourism through strengthening its culture-based industries, including calligraphy, handicrafts and living heritage practices. In the city of Abu Dhabi in the UAE, cultural tourism is part of the city’s plan for economic diversification and to steer its domestic agenda away from a hydrocarbon-based economy. The Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 includes the creation of a US$27 billion cultural district on Saadiyat Island, comprising a cluster of world-renowned museums, and cultural and educational institutions designed by international star architects to attract tourism and talent to the city. Since 2016, Saudi Arabia has taken decisive action to invest in tourism, culture and entertainment to reduce the country’s oil dependency, while also positioning the country as a global cultural destination. Under the 2020 G20 Saudi Presidency, the UNWTO and the G20 Tourism Working Group launched the AlUla Framework for Inclusive Community Development through Tourism to better support inclusive community development and the SDGs. The crucial role of tourism as a means of sustainable socio-economic development was also underlined in the final communique of the G20 Tourism Ministers in October last.

cultural tourist attractions

Siem Reap, Cambodia by nbriam

On the other hand, cultural tourism can catalyse developments in cultural policy. This was the case in the annual Festival of Pacific Arts (FestPac) that triggered a series of positive policy developments following its 2012 edition that sought to strengthen social cohesion and community pride in the context of a prolonged period of social unrest. The following year, Solomon Islands adopted its first national culture policy with a focus on cultural industries and cultural tourism, which resulted in a significant increase in cultural events being organized throughout the country.

When the pandemic hit, the geographic context of some countries meant that many of them were able to rapidly close borders and prioritize domestic tourism. This has been the case for countries such as Australia and New Zealand. However, the restrictions have been coupled by significant economic cost for many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) whose economies rely on tourism and commodity exports. Asia Pacific SIDS, for example, are some of the world’s leading tourist destinations. As reported in the Tracker last June , in 2018, tourism earnings exceeded 50% of GDP in Cook Islands, Maldives and Palau and equaled approximately 30% of GDP in Samoa and Vanuatu. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the drop in British tourists to Spain’s Balearic Islands resulted in a 93% downturn in visitor numbers , forcing many local businesses to close. According to the World Economic Outlook released last October, the economies of tourism-dependent Caribbean nations are estimated to drop by 12%, while Pacific Island nations, such as Fiji, could see their GDP shrink by a staggering 21% in 2020.

Socially-responsible travel and ecotourism have become more of a priority for tourists and the places they visit. Tourists are increasingly aware of their carbon footprint, energy consumption and the use of renewable resources. This trend has been emphasized as a result of the pandemic. According to recent survey by Booking.com, travelers are becoming more conscientious of how and why they travel, with over two-thirds (69%) expecting the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options . Following the closures of beaches in Thailand, for example, the country is identifying ways to put certain management policies in place that can strike a better balance with environmental sustainability. The  UNESCO Sustainable Tourism Pledge  launched in partnership with Expedia Group focuses on promoting sustainable tourism and heritage conservation. The pledge takes an industry-first approach to environmental and cultural protection, requiring businesses to introduce firm measures to eliminate single-use plastics and promote local culture. The initiative is expanding globally in 2021 as a new, more environmentally and socially conscious global travel market emerges from the COVID-19 context.

cultural tourist attractions

Senja, Norway by Jarmo Piironen

Climate change places a heavy toll on heritage sites, which exacerbates their vulnerability to other risks, including uncontrolled tourism. This was underlined in the publication “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate” , published by UNESCO, UNEP and the Union of Concerned Scientists, which analyses the consequences of climate change on heritage, and its potential to permanently change or destroy a site’s integrity and authenticity. Extreme weather events, safety issues and water shortages, among others, can thwart access to sites and hurt the economic livelihoods of tourism service providers and local communities. Rising sea levels will increasingly impact coastal tourism, the largest component of the sector globally. In particular, coral reefs - contributing US$11.5 billion to the global tourism economy – are at major risk from climate change.

Marine sites are often tourist magnets where hundreds of thousands of annual visitors enjoy these sites on yachts and cruise ships. In the case of UNESCO World Heritage marine sites – which fall under the responsibility of governments - there is often a reliance on alternative financing mechanisms, such as grants and donations, and partnerships with non-governmental organizations and/or the private sector, among others. The West Norwegian Fjords – Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord in Norway derives a substantial portion of its management budget from sources other than government revenues. The site has benefited from a partnership with the private sector company Green Dream 2020, which only allows the “greenest” operators to access the site, and a percentage of the profits from tours is reinjected into the long-term conservation of the site. In iSimangaliso in South Africa, a national law that established the World Heritage site’s management system was accompanied by the obligation to combine the property’s conservation with sustainable economic development activities that created jobs for local people. iSimangaliso Wetland Park supports 12,000 jobs and hosts an environmental education programme with 150 schools. At the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, where 91% of all local jobs are linked to the Reef, the Coral Nurture Programme undertakes conservation through planting coral, and promotes local stewardship and adaptation involving the whole community and local tourist businesses.

cultural tourist attractions

Grafner, Getty Images

With borders continuing to be closed and changeable regulations, many countries have placed a focus on domestic tourism and markets to stimulate economic recovery. According to the UNWTO, domestic tourism is expected to pick up faster than international travel, making it a viable springboard for economic and social recovery from the pandemic. In doing so it will serve to better connect populations to their heritage and offer new avenues for cultural access and participation. In China, for example, the demand for domestic travel is already approaching pre-pandemic levels. In Russian Federation, the Government has backed a programme to promote domestic tourism and support small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as a cashback scheme for domestic trips, which entitles tourists to a 20% refund for their trip. While supporting domestic tourism activities, the Government of Palau is injecting funds into local businesses working in reforestation and fishing in the spirit of building new sustainable models. The measures put in place today will shape the tourism to come, therefore the pandemic presents an opportunity to build back a stronger, more agile and sustainable tourism sector.

Local solutions at the helm of cultural tourism

While state-led policy interventions in cultural tourism remain crucial, local authorities are increasingly vital stakeholders in the design and implementation of cultural tourism policies. Being close to the people, local actors are aware of the needs of local populations, and can respond quickly and provide innovative ideas and avenues for policy experimentation. As cultural tourism is strongly rooted to place, cooperating with local decision-makers and stakeholders can bring added value to advancing mutual objectives. Meanwhile, the current health crisis has severely shaken cities that are struggling due to diminished State support, and whose economic basis strongly relies on tourism. Local authorities have been compelled to innovate to support local economies and seek viable alternatives, thus reaffirming their instrumental role in cultural policy-making.

cultural tourist attractions

Venice, Oliver Dralam/Getty Images

Cultural tourism can be a powerful catalyst for urban regeneration and renaissance, although tourism pressure can also trigger complex processes of gentrification. Cultural heritage safeguarding enhances the social value of a place by boosting the well-being of individuals and communities, reducing social inequalities and nurturing social inclusion. Over the past decade, the Malaysian city of George Town – a World Heritage site – has implemented several innovative projects to foster tourism and attract the population back to the city centre by engaging the city’s cultural assets in urban revitalization strategies. Part of the income generated from tourism revenues contributes to conserving and revitalizing the built environment, as well as supporting housing for local populations, including lower-income communities. In the city of Bordeaux in France , the city has worked with the public-private company InCité to introduce a system of public subsidies and tax exemption to encourage the restoration of privately-owned historical buildings, which has generated other rehabilitation works in the historic centre. The city of Kyoto in Japan targets a long-term vision of sustainability by enabling local households to play an active role in safeguarding heritage by incrementally updating their own houses, thus making the city more resilient to gentrification. The city also actively supports the promotion of its intangible heritage, such as tea ceremonies, flower arrangement, seasonal festivals, Noh theatre and dance. This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the adoption of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL). The results of a UNESCO survey carried out among Member States in 2019 on its implementation show that 89% of respondents have innovative services or tourism activities in place for historic areas, which demonstrates a precedence for countries to capitalize on urban cultural heritage for tourism purposes.

Cultural tourism has been harnessed to address rural-urban migration and to strengthen rural and peripheral sub-regions. The city of Suzhou – a World Heritage property and UNESCO Creative City (Crafts and Folk Art) - has leveraged its silk embroidery industry to strengthen the local rural economy through job creation in the villages of Wujiang, located in a district of Suzhou. Tourists can visit the ateliers and local museums to learn about the textile production. In northern Viet Nam, the cultural heritage of the Quan họ Bắc Ninh folk songs, part of the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is firmly rooted in place and underlined in its safeguarding strategies in 49 ancient villages, which have further inspired the establishment of some hundreds of new Quan họ villages in the Bắc Ninh and Bắc Giang provinces.

cultural tourist attractions

Many top destination cities are known for their iconic cultural landmarks. Others create a cultural drawcard to attract visitors to the city. France, the world's number one tourist destination , attracts 89 million visitors every year who travel to experience its cultural assets, including its extensive cultural landmarks. In the context of industrial decline, several national and local governments have looked to diversify infrastructure by harnessing culture as a new economic engine. The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao in Spain is one such example, where economic diversification and unemployment was addressed through building a modern art museum as a magnet for tourism. The museum attracts an average of 900,000 visitors annually, which has strengthened the local economy of the city. A similar approach is the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), established in 2011 by a private entrepreneur in the city of Hobart in Australia, which has catalysed a massive increase of visitors to the city. With events such as MONA FOMA in summer and Dark MOFO in winter, the museum staggers visitor volumes to the small city to avoid placing considerable strain on the local environment and communities. Within the tourism sector, cultural tourism is also well-positioned to offer a tailored approach to tourism products, services and experiences. Such models have also supported the wider ecosystems around the iconic cultural landmarks, as part of “destination tourism” strategies.

Destination tourism encompasses festivals, live performance, film and festive celebrations as drawcards for international tourists and an economic driver of the local economy. Over the past three decades, the number of art biennials has proliferated. Today there are more than 300 biennials around the world , whose genesis can be based both on artistic ambitions and place-making strategies to revive specific destinations. As a result of COVID-19, many major biennials and arts festivals have been cancelled or postponed. Both the Venice Architecture and Art Biennales have been postponed to 2022 due to COVID-19. The Berlin International Film Festival will hold its 2021 edition online and in selected cinemas. Film-induced tourism - motivated by a combination of media expansion, entertainment industry growth and international travel - has also been used for strategic regional development, infrastructure development and job creation, as well to market destinations to tourists. China's highest-grossing film of 2012 “Lost in Thailand”, for example, resulted in a tourist boom to Chiang Mai in Thailand, with daily flights to 17 Chinese cities to accommodate the daily influx of thousands of tourists who came to visit the film’s location. Since March 2020, tourism-related industries in New York City in the United States have gone into freefall, with revenue from the performing arts alone plunging by almost 70%. As the city is reliant on its tourism sector, the collapse of tourism explains why New York’s economy has been harder hit than other major cities in the country. Meanwhile in South Africa, when the first ever digital iteration of the country’s annual National Arts Festival took place last June, it also meant an estimated US$25.7 million (R377 million) and US$6.4 million (R94 million) loss to the Eastern Cape province and city of Makhanda (based on 2018 figures), in addition to the US$1.4 million (R20 million) that reaches the pockets of the artists and supporting industries. The United Kingdom's largest music festival, Glastonbury, held annually in Somerset, recently cancelled for the second year running due to the pandemic, which will have ripple effects on local businesses and the charities that receive funding from ticket sales.

Similarly, cancellations of carnivals from Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands to Binche in Belgium has spurred massive losses for local tourism providers, hotels, restaurants, costume-makers and dance schools. In the case of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Brazil, for instance, the city has amassed significant losses for the unstaged event, which in 2019 attracted 1.5 million tourists from Brazil and abroad and generated revenues in the range of US$700 million (BRL 3.78 billion). The knock-on effect on the wider economy due to supply chains often points to an estimated total loss that is far greater than those experienced solely by the cultural tourism sector.

cultural tourist attractions

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain by erlucho

Every year, roughly 600 million national and international religious and spiritual trips take place , generating US$18 billion in tourism revenue. Pilgrimages, a fundamental precursor to modern tourism, motivate tourists solely through religious practices. Religious tourism is particularly popular in France, India, Italy and Saudi Arabia. For instance, the Hindu pilgrimage and festival Kumbh Mela in India, inscribed in 2017 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, attracts over 120 million pilgrims of all castes, creeds and genders. The festival is held in the cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik every four years by rotation. Sacred and ceremonial sites have unique significance for peoples and communities, and are often integral to journeys that promote spiritual well-being. Mongolia, for example, has around 800 sacred sites including 10 mountains protected by Presidential Decree, and lakes and ovoos, many of which have their own sutras. In the case of Mongolia, the environmental stewardship and rituals and practices connected with these sacred places also intersects with longstanding political traditions and State leadership.

Cities with a vibrant cultural scene and assets are not only more likely to attract tourists, but also the skilled talent who can advance the city’s long-term prospects. Several cities are also focusing on developing their night-time economies through the promotion of theatre, concerts, festivals, light shows and use of public spaces that increasingly making use of audio-visual technologies. Situated on Chile’s Pacific coast, the city of Valparaíso, a World Heritage site, is taking steps to transform the city’s night scene into a safe and inclusive tourist destination through revitalizing public spaces. While the economies of many cities have been weakened during the pandemic, the night-time economy of the city of Chengdu in China, a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy, has flourished and has made a significant contribution to generating revenue for the city, accounting for 45% of citizen’s daily expenditure.

The pandemic has generated the public’s re-appropriation of the urban space. People have sought open-air sites and experiences in nature. In many countries that are experiencing lockdowns, public spaces, including parks and city squares, have proven essential for socialization and strengthening resilience. People have also reconnected with the heritage assets in their urban environments. Local governments, organizations and civil society have introduced innovative ways to connect people and encourage creative expression. Cork City Council Arts Office and Creative Ireland, for example, jointly supported the art initiative Ardú- Irish for ‘Rise’ – involving seven renowned Irish street artists who produced art in the streets and alleyways of Cork.

cultural tourist attractions

Chengdu Town Square, China by Lukas Bischoff

Environment-based solutions support integrated approaches to deliver across the urban-rural continuum, and enhance visitor experiences by drawing on the existing features of a city. In the city of Bamberg, a World Heritage site in Germany, gardens are a key asset of the city and contribute to its livability and the well-being of its local population and visitors. More than 12,000 tourists enjoy this tangible testimony to the local history and environment on an annual basis. Eighteen agricultural businesses produce local vegetables, herbs, flowers and shrubs, and farm the inner-city gardens and surrounding agricultural fields. The museum also organizes gastronomic events and cooking classes to promote local products and recipes.

In rural areas, crafts can support strategies for cultural and community-based tourism. This is particularly the case in Asia, where craft industries are often found in rural environments and can be an engine for generating employment and curbing rural-urban migration. Craft villages have been established in Viet Nam since the 11th century, constituting an integral part of the cultural resources of the country, and whose tourism profits are often re-invested into the sustainability of the villages. The craft tradition is not affected by heavy tourist seasons and tourists can visit all year round.

Indigenous tourism can help promote and maintain indigenous arts, handicrafts, and culture, including indigenous culture and traditions, which are often major attractions for visitors. Through tourism, indigenous values and food systems can also promote a less carbon-intensive industry. During COVID-19, the Government of Canada has given a series of grants to indigenous tourism businesses to help maintain livelihoods. UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions announced that it will grant, through the International Fund for Creative Diversity (IFCD), US$70,000 dollars to Mexican indigenous cultural enterprises, which will support indigenous enterprises through training programmes, seed funding, a pre-incubation process and the creation of an e-commerce website.

Tourism has boosted community pride in living heritage and the active involvement of local communities in its safeguarding. Local authorities, cultural associations, bearers and practitioners have made efforts to safeguard and promote elements as they have understood that not only can these elements strengthen their cultural identity but that they can also contribute to tourism and economic development. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the role of intellectual property and in the regulation of heritage. In the field of gastronomy, a lot of work has been done in protecting local food products, including the development of labels and certification of origin. Member States are exploring the possibilities of geographical indication (GI) for cultural products as a way of reducing the risk of heritage exploitation in connection to, for example, crafts, textiles and food products, and favouring its sustainable development.

The pandemic has brought to the forefront the evolving role of museums and their crucial importance to the life of societies in terms of health and well-being, education and the economy. A 2019 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) examined 3,000 studies on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being, which indicated that the arts play a major role in preventing, managing and treating illness. Over the past decade the number of museums has increased by 60%, demonstrating the important role that museums have in national cultural policy. Museums are not static but are rather dynamic spaces of education and dialogue, with the potential to boost public awareness about the value of cultural and natural heritage, and the responsibility to contribute to its safeguarding.

Data presented in UNESCO's report "Museums Around the World in the Face of COVID-19" in May 2020 show that 90% of institutions were forced to close, whereas the situation in September-October 2020 was much more variable depending on their location in the world. Large museums have consistently been the most heavily impacted by the drop in international tourism – notably in Europe and North America. Larger museums, such as Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum have reported losses between €100,000 and €600,000 a week. Smaller museums have been relatively stable, as they are not as reliant on international tourism and have maintained a closer connection to local communities. In November, the Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO) released the results of a survey of 6,000 museums from 48 countries. Of the responding museums, 93% have increased or started online services during the pandemic. Most larger museums (81%) have increased their digital capacities, while only 47% of smaller museums indicated that they did. An overwhelming majority of respondents (92.9%) confirm that the public is safe at their museum. As reported in the Tracker last October, the world’s most visited museum, the Louvre in France (9.3 million visitors annually) witnessed a ten-fold increase in traffic to its website. Yet while digital technologies have provided options for museums to remain operational, not all have the necessary infrastructure, which is the case for many museums in Africa and SIDS.

cultural tourist attractions

New technologies have enabled several new innovations that can better support cultural tourism and digital technologies in visitor management, access and site interpretation. Cultural tourists visiting cultural heritage sites, for example, can enjoy educational tools that raise awareness of a site and its history. Determining carrying capacity through algorithms has helped monitor tourist numbers, such as in Hạ Long Bay in Viet Nam. In response to the pandemic, Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Museum is one of many museums that has harnessed digital technologies to provide virtual tours of its collections, thus allowing viewers to learn more about Asian cultures and histories. The pandemic has enhanced the need for technology solutions to better manage tourism flows at destinations and encourage tourism development in alternative areas.

Shaping a post-pandemic vision : regenerative and inclusive cultural tourism

As tourism is inherently dependent on the movement and interaction of people, it has been one of the hardest-hit sectors by the pandemic and may be one of the last to recover. Travel and international border restrictions have led to the massive decline in tourism in 2020, spurring many countries to implement strategies for domestic tourism to keep economies afloat. Many cultural institutions and built and natural heritage sites have established strict systems of physical distancing and hygiene measures, enabling them to open once regulations allow. Once travel restrictions have been lifted, it will enable the recovery of the tourism sector and for the wider economy and community at large.

While the pandemic has dramatically shifted the policy context for cultural tourism, it has also provided the opportunity to experiment with integrated models that can be taken forward in the post-pandemic context. While destinations are adopting a multiplicity of approaches to better position sustainability in their plans for tourism development, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

A comprehensive, integrated approach to the cultural sector is needed to ensure more sustainable cultural tourism patterns. Efforts aimed at promoting cultural tourism destinations should build on the diversity of cultural sub-sectors, including cultural and heritage sites, museums, but also the creative economy and living heritage, notably local practices, food and crafts production. Beyond cultural landmarks, which act as a hotspot to drive the attractiveness of tourism destinations, and particularly cities, cultural tourism should also encompass other aspects of the cultural value chain as well as more local, community-based cultural expressions. Such an integrated approach is likely to support a more equitable distribution of cultural tourism revenues, also spreading tourism flows over larger areas, thus curbing the negative impacts of over-tourism on renowned cultural sites, including UNESCO World Heritage sites. This comprehensive vision also echoes the growing aspiration of visitors around the world for more inclusive and sustainable tourism practices, engaging with local communities and broadening the understanding of cultural diversity.

As a result of the crisis, the transversal component of cultural tourism has been brought to the fore, demonstrating its cross-cutting nature and alliance with other development areas. Cultural tourism – and tourism more broadly – is highly relevant to the 2030 for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs, however, the full potential of cultural tourism for advancing development – economic, social and environmental - remains untapped. This is even though cultural tourism is included in a third of all countries’ VNRs, thus demonstrating its priority for governments. Due the transversal nature of cultural tourism, there is scope to build on these synergies and strengthen cooperation between ministries to advance cooperation for a stronger and more resilient sector. This plays an integral role in ensuring a regenerative and inclusive cultural tourism sector. Similarly, tourism can feature as criteria for certain funding initiatives, or as a decisive component for financing cultural projects, such as in heritage or the cultural and creative industries.

cultural tourist attractions

Houses in Amsterdam, adisa, Getty, Images Pro

Several countries have harnessed the crisis to step up actions towards more sustainable models of cultural tourism development by ensuring that recovery planning is aligned with key sustainability principles and the SDGs. Tourism both impacts and is impacted by climate change. There is scant evidence of integration of climate strategies in tourism policies, as well as countries’ efforts to develop solid crisis preparedness and response strategies for the tourism sector. The magnitude and regional variation of climate change in the coming decades will continue to affect cultural tourism, therefore, recovery planning should factor in climate change concerns. Accelerating climate action is of utmost importance for the resilience of the sector.

The key role of local actors in cultural tourism should be supported and developed. States have the opportunity to build on local knowledge, networks and models to forge a stronger and more sustainable cultural tourism sector. This includes streamlining cooperation between different levels of governance in the cultural tourism sector and in concert with civil society and private sector. Particularly during the pandemic, many cities and municipalities have not received adequate State support and have instead introduced measures and initiatives using local resources. In parallel, such actions can spur new opportunities for employment and training that respond to local needs.

Greater diversification in cultural tourism models is needed, backed by a stronger integration of the sector within broader economic and regional planning. An overdependence of the cultural sector on the tourism sector became clear for some countries when the pandemic hit, which saw their economies come to a staggering halt. This has been further weakened by pre-existing gaps in government and industry preparedness and response capacity. The cultural tourism sector is highly fragmented and interdependent, and relies heavily on micro and small enterprises. Developing a more in-depth understanding of tourism value chains can help identify pathways for incremental progress. Similarly, more integrated – and balanced – models can shape a more resilient sector that is less vulnerable to future crises. Several countries are benefiting from such approaches by factoring in a consideration of the environmental and socio-cultural pillars of sustainability, which is supported across all levels of government and in concert with all stakeholders.

cultural tourist attractions

abhishek gaurav, Pexels

Inclusion must be at the heart of building back better the cultural tourism sector. Stakeholders at different levels should participate in planning and management, and local communities cannot be excluded from benefitting from the opportunities and economic benefits of cultural tourism. Moreover, they should be supported and empowered to create solutions from the outset, thus forging more sustainable and scalable options in the long-term. Policy-makers need to ensure that cultural tourism development is pursued within a wider context of city and regional strategies in close co-operation with local communities and industry. Businesses are instrumental in adopting eco-responsible practices for transport, accommodation and food. A balance between public/ private investment should also be planned to support an integrated approach post-crisis, which ensures input and support from industry and civil society.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the essential role of museums as an integral component of societies in terms of well-being, health, education and the economy. Digitalization has been a game-changer for many cultural institutions to remain operational to the greatest extent possible. Yet there are significant disparities in terms of infrastructure and resources, which was underscored when the world shifted online. Museums in SIDS have faced particular difficulties with lack of access to digitalization. These imbalances should be considered in post-crisis strategies.

The pandemic presents an occasion to deeply rethink tourism for the future, and what constitutes the markers and benchmarks of “success”. High-quality cultural tourism is increasingly gaining traction in new strategies for recovery and revival, in view of contributing to the long-term health and resilience of the sector and local communities. Similarly, many countries are exploring ways to fast track towards greener, more sustainable tourism development. As such, the pandemic presents an opportunity for a paradigm shift - the transformation of the culture and tourism sectors to become more inclusive and sustainable. Moreover, this includes incorporating tourism approaches that not only avoid damage but have a positive impact on the environment of tourism destinations and local communities. This emphasis on regenerative tourism has a holistic approach that measures tourism beyond its financial return, and shifts the pendulum towards focusing on the concerns of local communities, and the wellbeing of people and planet.

cultural tourist attractions

Entabeni Game Reserve in South Africa by SL_Photography

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What is Cultural Tourism?

cultural tourist attractions

Tourism across the world is getting an impetus because there is so much that people want to see and experience. In fact, visiting another country is one of the best ways to learn about the culture and language of that country. However, of late, people are indulging in cultural tourism that has given tourism a whole new meaning.

Pin- What is Cultural Tourism

It also enables local communities to accept their culture as cultural tourism is a major driver for growth. So, communities go out of their way to celebrate and promote their culture as it makes them different from other communities. A good example is the carnival celebrated in Rio de Janeiro and Goa before Lent begins. While in Rio it is a raucous celebration where locals and tourists party and indulge in everything under the sky, in Goa, the mainstay of the event is a parade followed by dances and feasts.

Why Should Countries Focus on Cultural Tourism?

Cultural tourism benefits local communities. Some of the benefits of cultural tourism that government and local tourism bodies should be aware of include the following:

  • Cultural tourism has a positive economic impact on the destination and can help underserved communities to thrive and flourish
  • The money that this form of tourism bring in can be used within local communities for social good
  • It helps preserve the local culture while allowing communities to emphasize the uniqueness of their culture to differentiate it from other locations
  • It helps destinations market themselves and compete with more competitive locales on an even footing

Popular Countries for Cultural Tourism

As countries realize the importance of cultural tourism and how it can drive local economies, they are focusing on building cities and towns that can attract overseas visitors to experience and savor culture like never before.

No doubt France leads the field of cultural tourism, with Paris being the hub of European culture. People from across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas visit Paris for retail therapy at the Champs Elysees. With the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral burned down, Paris still is home to gastronomy and art. People usually come to visit the Eiffel Tower, spend time at the Louvre and enjoy Arc de Triomphe. Of course, if you are in France during the Cannes Film Festival, you will be able to enjoy a unique experience.

Cambodia Clothing and Culture

China too is steeped in history and traditions that are fascinating and appealing. Many overseas visitors, particularly from the US, the UK, Europe, and Australasia throng Shanghai. It is a global financial hub and is the largest city in the country. It is the best place to experience the history and culture of this nation. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll at the Bund, learn about the local history at the Shanghai Museum, and enjoy peace at the Yu Garden. There are numerous art galleries and restaurants that can fill the time in between these cultural attractions.

Turkey has always been at the forefront of cultural tourism, in particular Istanbul, which straddles Asia and Europe. Some of the best places to enjoy a cultural experience include Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, and the Bosphorus. Even shopping and browsing through the Grand Bazaar can be a cultural experience. Istanbul fascinates cultural lovers from Asia, the UK, Europe, Australia, Canada, and the USA. People come here to check out the architecture and learn about the Ottoman Empire.

Indian girl playing holi

Cultural tourism is incomplete without a visit to India, the land of the Ganges, Taj Mahal, Varanasi, and Qutub Minar. Every city in India offers a unique cultural experience to visitors. Whether you want to experience the religious culture or historical culture, India has a lot to offer. It is one of the primary reasons that people from across the globe flock to India. You can visit Varanasi to experience Hinduism or spend time in Bodh Gaya, the tiny hamlet in Bihar where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. The art of weaving in Rajasthan and saree weaving in Andhra Pradesh also offer insights into the local culture.

Culture tourism is a win-win experience. The visitors enjoy the rich heritage and learn about the local cultures and traditions while local communities enjoy development without forsaking their cultural values and beliefs.

Having read the information provided here, you can book cruises online for Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, or Carnival Cruises if you want to have fun with your family and loved ones.

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Spain Guides

12 Top Cultural Attractions In Spain Worth Visiting

You Need To Experience

Spain has a rich cultural heritage spanning centuries that is reflected in its many artistic, architectural, and historical attractions.

Though diverse in nature, these cultural sites offer you a  deep insight into traditions, creativity, and moments that shaped the country.

Of the architectural structures, the ornate Gothic cathedrals like Barcelona's La Sagrada Familia and the Burgos Cathedral stand out in exquisitely carved detail and soaring spires.

Plaza Cibeles Madrid

The Alhambra Palace and fortress complex in Granada remains a breathtaking remnant of Moorish architecture and design.

The aqueducts of Segovia and Tarragona provide impressive examples of Roman engineering and construction.

Medieval castles dot the countryside from the fairytale spires of Cinderella's castle in Segovia to the imposing stone ramparts of the Alcazar of Segovia .

Cities like Cordoba contain remnants of Roman temples, Moorish mosques, medieval churches, and more in just small areas, creating visually stunning complexes.

Modernist architecture also thrived in Spain, best exemplified by the surreal works of Antoni Gaudi around Barcelona. Beyond buildings, unique landscapes like the Piqueos of Cuenca where homes are carved into colourful cliffs or the salt flats and lagoons of Cabo de Gata reflect the indelible interaction between nature and human ingenuity.

Spain's art legacy shines through seminal works by legends like Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Diego Velazquez whose paintings now fill the halls of history museums like the Prado , Thyssen, and Reina Sofia .

Religious paintings and altarpieces adorn cathedrals while vivid tilework and intricate Mudejar ceilings colour palaces and castles.

Top Cultural Attractions in Spain

  • Sagrada Familia Gothic Church - Barcelona
  • Alhambra Palace  -  Granada
  • Roman Aqueduct  - Segovia
  • The Kingdon of Asturias
  • The Great Mosque - Cordoba
  • The Royal Monastery - San Lorenzo de Escorial
  • Flamenco Dancing - Andalucia
  • El Prado Museum - Madrid
  • The Guggenheim Museum - Bilbao
  • Historic City of Toledo
  • Mount Teide - Tenerife
  • The City of Arts & Science - Valencia

1. Sagrada Familia– Barcelona

Sagrada Familia Church Barcelona

The Sagrada Familia is a stunning Roman Catholic Church and the most visited attraction in Spain each year.

This is one of the most  popular cultural attractions in Barcelona  and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The church’s biggest attraction is its highly unique architecture, which is a combination of Gothic and modern. Despite being a church, the Sagrada Familia displays a very different façade than the traditional houses of worship.

The interior is even more impressive with the floor plan containing five aisles and resembling a Latin cross. The columns of the church are specially designed to look like trees and branches.

Attracting more than 2.5 million people every year, the Sagrada Familia offers access to different parts of the church including the Museum, Shop, Nave, Crypt, Nativity and Passion Towers.

» For places to stay check out  accommodation in Barcelona

2. Alhambra Palace – Granada

Alhambra Palace Granada

Located in the  Andalucian city of Granada , Spain, the Alhambra is a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Spanish Property of Cultural Interest. Is it any wonder the site is visited by millions every year?

Originally built as a fortress, the Alhambra Palace has a very strong cultural significance for Spain. It was originally built in 889 and reinforced around the 11th century by the Moorish King. Later, the Sultan of Granada turned it into a Royal Palace, further adding to the grandeur of the building.

If you only ever get one chance to visit one of Spain’s top attractions then it should be the Alhambra.  Its true beauty and allure will become apparent once you are there in person.

The splendour of this world-renowned Arab palace never ceases and to think that not so many years ago it was used by the homeless and poor as a place to shelter until it was fully restored to its former glory.

» For places to stay check out  accommodation in Granada

3. Segovia Roman Aqueduct

Aqueduct Segovia Spain

Segovia – Castilla Leon

A symbol of Rome’s influence in Spain, the Segovia Aqueduct is generally believed to be built around the first century. There’s no readable inscription found around the structure, which makes it hard to determine.

What’s sure though is that the Aqueduct is an important piece of history and serves as a landmark of Segovia. The Aqueduct is featured on the city’s coat of arms and is continuously preserved despite the fact that it is no longer functional.

Made of granite blocks, the structure started to decay around the 19th century, therefore preventing it from properly storing water.

» For places to stay check out  accommodation in Segovia

4. The Kingdom of Asturias

La Vega Beach Asturias

The Kingdom of Asturias rose and fell in a span of decades, but the architecture they left behind remains a wonderful symbol of Spanish heritage.

The region is home to several churches with pre-Romanesque architecture. Some of these include the San Miguel de Lilio, the Cathedral of San Salvador, Santa Maria del Naranco and more. The structures themselves aren’t that big, but the design and details are exquisite. It is said that the churches are symbols of the monarchy’s artistic nature.

One of the most popular structures built by an Asturian monarch is the La Foncalada. Although not necessarily a church, the La Foncalada managed to land on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. It is built on top of a spring and is meant to serve as a source of potable water.

What’s interesting about this fountain is that it is built not for aesthetic reasons but for functional ones. Today, it is the only standing structure from the Middle Ages that functions as civil architecture.

» For places to stay check out  accommodation in Asturias

5. La Mezquita – The Great Mosque of Cordoba

La Mezquita Cordoba

Cordoba is a charming city located in the heart of  Andalucia , Spain’s most southerly province situated between the great cities of  Seville  and Jaen.

The City of Cordoba was founded by the Romans in the 2 nd Century and became one of the most important cities under the guidance of the emperor Augustus.

The great era of Cordoba came in the 8 th century when it was conquered by the Moors. They constructed the great Arab Mosque which dates back to 784 A.D and became a World Heritage site in 1984.

The Moorish Kings built over 300 palaces, mosques and public buildings erected to rival the marvels of Constantinople and Damascus. In the 13 th  Century Cordoba was recaptured by King Ferdinand III who turned the great mosque into a Catholic cathedral

A visit to Andalucia would not be the same without exploring the  historic city of Cordoba .  Not only can you visit the spectacular great mosque but also so many interesting places such as the famously decorated garden patios, the Zoco craft market, Casa Andalusi, the Jewish quarter and the Roman Bridge which spans the Guadalquivir River.

» For places to stay check out  accommodation in Cordoba

6. The Royal Monastery  – San Lorenzo de Escorial

San Lorenzo de Escorial

The town of San Lorenzo is located around 50 kms North West of Spain’s capital Madrid, situated close to Mount Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range.

The Town is home to the impressive Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo, a monastery created by King Philip II to commemorate the victory of the battle of San Quentin in 1557 over France.

The stunning structure took over 20 years to build and within time became the burial ground of all the Spanish Monarchs, a tradition which remains to this day.

The scale of the San Lorenzo Monastery can only truly be appreciated when you actually visit the site.  It is just a short train or car ride to San Lorenzo and well worth visiting if you ever find yourself staying in Madrid or the surrounding area.

Visits to the  Real Monasterio del Escorial in the past were deeply regulated, Recently though they have become more relaxed, entrance tickets can be purchased on the day at the entrance ticket hall.

» For places to stay check out  accommodation in Escorial

7. Flamenco   Music and Dancing

Flamenco Dancing Spain

A wonderful symbol of Spanish culture, Flamenco is something that all tourists look forward to when visiting the country.

What’s great about this cultural attraction is that it can be watched the whole year round and practically anywhere.

Flamenco is a type of Spanish music containing different elements including singing, dancing, hand clapping, and guitar. You can probably recognise Flamenco immediately thanks to the long, outstanding dresses worn by the women dancers, typically in flamboyant colours of red and blue.

The dance became so popular that it was declared one of the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2010.

Characterised by the emotional intensity of the steps and flaring passion between partners it is now taught and practised all over the world.

There are many places in Spain where you can see Flamenco in action. The venues are called " Tablaos" with the most famous being located in Seville and Granada.

» Experience a Flamenco show in Sevillle .

8. El Prado Museum – Madrid

El Prado Museum Madrid

The Prado Museum is located in central Madrid and is recognised as home to one of the finest collections of European art.

You will find works of art by the great masters including Goya, Rubens, Velazquez and El Greco.

The museum currently houses around 8.000 drawings, 7,500 paintings and almost 5.000 prints.

Constructed to house the National History Cabinet by architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785 on order from King Charles III El Prado museum is considered to be one the best of its kind and has become one of the most visited sites in Spain.

The Museum is open most days from 10 am to 8 pm, and if you are on a tight budget you can get free entry between 6 pm and 8 pm daily.

» For places to stay check out  accommodation in Madrid

9. The Guggenheim Museum – Bilbao

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum is an architectural masterpiece located in the northern city of Bilbao in Basque country .

Created by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry the museum opened in 1997 and is home to a large selection of prominent and contemporary works of art.

The showstopper though is the curvy titanium-clad building that houses the museum and is now a firm favourite place to visit in Spain.

And whilst visiting Bilbao you can take the opportunity to explore the rest of this historic city including the Casco Viejo (Old Town), on the banks of the Nervión River. Centred around Las Siete Calles, the seven original streets that date back to the 1400’s,  a vibrant area both day and night and a perfect area to stroll around.

The museum is open weekdays from 10 am to 8 pm ( Closed Mondays ) Check the Guggenheim website for full details.

» For places to stay check out  accommodation in Bilbao

10. The Historic City of Toledo

Toledo Spain

Toledo is a beautiful and historic Spanish city located just 70km south of Madrid  and is the capital of the Castille La Mancha region.

The city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 and is an absolute must-visit if you wish to discover the rich artistic and cultural history of Spain.

The  city of Toledo  is surrounded by the meandering Tajo River and is truly a beautiful sight, especially at night when its twinkling lights and beautifully lit buildings and monuments can be seen from afar.

There is so much to see and visit in Toledo you will not be disappointed. Popular sites and attractions in Toledo include the Alcazar, the great defences wall, the El Greco Museum, the Santa Domingo Monastery, the San Martin bridge with its two towers and the 15 th  Century San Juan de los Reyes Monastery.

» For places to stay check out  accommodation in Toledo 

11. Mount Teide – Tenerife

Mount Teide Tenerife

Mount Teide is a living breathing volcano located on the Canary Island of Tenerife . If you visit Tenerife it would be hard to miss from one point to another around the Island, however, it looks even better up close and the area around Teide is spectacular with its unique moonlike landscape.

Mount Teide is Spain’s highest peak, rising to 3718 metres above sea level. This impressive volcano is a testament to how nature’s violent side can create such monsters or beauty beneath perfect blue skies.

The terrain that surrounds Teide National Park is equally astounding, rivers of fossilised lava flow embrace the hillsides like melted candle wax and unique landscapes have been used in classic films such as Clash of the Titans and One Million Years BC.  Its unworldly terrain is also a favourite place for scientists looking to test out space vehicles destined for other parts of our galaxy.

For great holiday snaps, stunning scenery and unworld-like landscapes a visit to Mount Teide is a must and well worth the effort

» For places to stay check out  accommodation in Tenerife

12. The City of Arts and Science – Valencia

Arts & Science Valencia

Valencia is one of the largest cities located on the mid-western Eastern coast of mainland Spain. The impressive City of Arts and Science is an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex that will keep you occupied for days on end. Fastly becoming one of the most important tourist destinations in Spain the complex is made up of three main water-themed areas.

There is a fascinating Aquarium which houses the largest marine and aquarium park in Europe. An Oceanographic centre is situated mainly underground and houses a marshland, wetland areas and mangrove swamps. There is also a Dolphinarium, one of the largest in Europe with a seating capacity for over 2.000 people and holds around 23 million litres of water!  As you would expect the Dolphinarium provides great entertainment for all the family.

The City of Arts and Science is open most days and entrance to the various attractions starts at around 8€ per person. Click here for more information and buy tickets .

» For places to stay check out  accommodation in Valencia

  • About Author
  • Latest Posts

Matt Robson

Hey there! I'm Matt, your friendly neighbourhood explorer extraordinaire! For the past 15 years, I've been gallivanting around Spain, soaking up all its wonders and uncovering hidden gems like a modern-day Indiana Jones (minus the hat and whip, unfortunately). So, buckle up, amigos! It's time to dive straight into the heart and soul of Spain. Welcome to my world of Spanish wonders!

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Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Gaming and Ministry of Sport

Supporting and delivering tourism and cultural experiences, and championing participation in sport and recreation activities across Ontario.

  • Tourism regions
  • Tourism research statistics
  • Resource-based tourism
  • Tourism Regional Economic Impact Model
  • Tourism signs on Ontario’s roadways
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  • Resources for artists
  • Cultural media industries
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  • Sport and recreation
  • Rowan’s Law : Concussion safety
  • Provincial sport organizations and multi-sport organizations
  • Sport Hosting Program
  • Amateur combative sports
  • Rules and regulations for professional combative sports

We help Ontario's economy and quality of life through strategic support and investment by:

  • working with the tourism industry and regional tourism organizations to support businesses and attract international investment
  • investing in festivals and events across the province
  • promoting the arts and the creative economy
  • funding public libraries and community museums
  • supporting community projects and engagement
  • promoting a culture that values sport and physical activity
  • supporting growth of the sport sector through investments that increase tourism and provide athletes of all abilities and circumstances the opportunity to participate in sport at all levels
  • Contact form
  • Tel : 416-326-9326
  • Toll-free: 1-888-997-9015
  • TTY : 416-325-5807
  • Toll-free TTY : 1-866-700-0040

Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Gaming and Ministry of Sport 6 th Floor, 438 University Avenue Toronto, Ontario M5G 2K8

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Agencies, boards and commissions

The ministry operates and manages the following historical attractions:

  • Discovery Harbour
  • Fort William Historical Park
  • Sainte-Marie among the Hurons

The ministry oversees the following provincial agencies and provincially funded organizations:

  • Art Gallery of Ontario
  • Destination Ontario
  • McMichael Canadian Art Collection
  • Metro Toronto Convention Centre
  • Niagara Parks Commission
  • Ontario Arts Council
  • Ontario Creates
  • Ontario Trillium Foundation
  • Ottawa Convention Centre
  • Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Royal Ontario Museum
  • Science North
  • St. Lawrence Parks Commission


The ministry administers the following legislation:

  • Ontario Heritage Act , in respect of clauses 70(1)(a) and (e) as they relate to museums
  • Public Libraries Act
  • Ontario Trails Act
  • Accommodation Sector Registration of Guests Act, 2021 , responsibility for which, when it comes into force, will be shared with the Solicitor General
  • Art Gallery of Ontario Act
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  • McMichael Canadian Art Collection Act, R.S.O.
  • Metropolitan Toronto Convention Centre Corporation Act
  • Ministry of Citizenship and Culture Act , in respect of culture matters
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  • Ontario Wine Week Act
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  • Poet Laureate of Ontario Act (In Memory of Gord Downie), 2019
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  • Royal Botanical Gardens Act, 1989 (private act)
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  • Special Hockey Day Act, 2018
  • St. Lawrence Parks Commission Act
  • Status of Ontario’s Artists Act



20 unusual US attractions to add to your bucket list

Posted: 20 June 2024 | Last updated: 20 June 2024

<p>The United States offers life-altering experiences and incredible sights in every state. Out of the countless tourist attractions across the country, there are some that are truly iconic. From culture-rich to downright chilling, each of these locations should be included on your bucket list of required American experiences to have before you die.</p><p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/182207?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=157826en-en_selected"> The world's top 20 safest airlines</a></p>

The United States offers life-altering experiences and incredible sights in every state. Out of the countless tourist attractions across the country, there are some that are truly iconic. From culture-rich to downright chilling, each of these locations should be included on your bucket list of required American experiences to have before you die.

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This house was a 36-year renovation project funded by the Winchester gun fortune. Legend has it that Mrs. Winchester thought she was being haunted by people who had been killed by the Winchester guns.

Winchester Mystery House - San Jose, CA

She continued building and renovating until she died. At the time of her death, the house had 160 rooms, 40 bedrooms, 10,000 windows, and 2 basements.<p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/208737?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=157826en-en_selected"> Celebrities who have been blackmailed for crazy reasons</a></p>

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The house was built out of the tombstones of union soldiers killed during the Civil War.

The Tombstone House - Petersburg, VA

During the prohibition era, corrupt city officials used underground service tunnels to sell and move booze, as well as throw illegal parties.<p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/231915?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=157826en-en_selected"> The oldest historical pictures of Australia on the internet</a></p>

The Underground Tunnels of LA - Los Angeles, CA

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This abandoned subway station is rumored to be a secret escape route for US presidents and other important figures.

Track 61 - New York, NY

This beach was used as a garbage dump until 1967, when awareness grew about keeping the oceans clean. Over the years, the pounding Pacific Ocean left behind a beach of sea glass.<p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/240989?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=157826en-en_selected"> Prince William and George's sweetest father and son moments</a></p>

Glass Beach - Fort Bragg, CA

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This house is the only structure left standing with direct ties to the 1692 witch trials. It was home to Jonathan Corwin, one of the judges.

The Witch House of Salem - Salem, MA

This abandoned amusement park was built on an ancient Native American burial ground.<p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/309039?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=157826en-en_selected"> The lost roles: All the films Brad Pitt almost starred in</a></p>

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park - Rock, WV

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It was shut down in 1966 after two children died on the property. Visitors to the neglected park report experiencing paranormal activity.

The Bell Witch Cave - Adams, TN

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One day, she saved the life of one of the children after they got stuck in a hole in the cavern. There have been reports of strange phenomena occurring on the farm.

The Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, CO

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This lab, used for product testing and development, is an anechoic chamber that absorbs 99.9% of sound.

The Quietest Place on Earth - Minneapolis, MN

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If you throw a coin into this fountain, you will receive a blessing from the Force instead of good luck.

Yoda Fountain - San Francisco, CA

This curiosity shop, selling bizarre and morbid items, was started by a couple who collected human teeth.<p>You may also like:<a href="https://www.starsinsider.com/n/424116?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=referral_description&utm_content=157826en-en_selected"> Amazing images of beautiful and enigmatic owls </a></p>

Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities - Chicago, IL

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They sell a variety of items, including human teeth, preserved animal fetuses, bones, used hearing aids, taxidermy, and creepy ancient medical devices.

Area 51 - Groom Lake, NV

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Theories range from a site for time travel research, to a secret lab where the government works with aliens to engineer alien technology on Earth. There have even been reported UFO sightings in the area.

Institute of Illegal Images - San Francisco, CA

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The collection includes 33,000 LSD blotter sheets, and is rumored to be larger than that of the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

Voodoo Doughnut and Wedding Chapel - Portland, OR

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When the shop first opened, it offered Nyquil-glazed and Pepto-Bismol infused doughnuts to late-night party goers, but was forced to stop selling them by the FDA.

Psychiatry: An Industry of Death Museum - Los Angeles, CA

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The museum, funded by the Church, displays the worst psychiatric treatments used over the years, including lobotomies, straitjackets, abuse of psychiatric patients, etc.

Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum - Fall River, MA

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Guests can stay in the room where the Borden's were murdered and visit the recreated crime scene in the living room.

Bodie State Historical Park - Bridgeport, CA

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This site gave birth to the Atomic Age. Trinity was the name of the first atomic device ever detonated.

Trinity Atomic Bomb Site - Socorro, NM

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The bomb dropped on Nagasaki during World War II three weeks later was Trinity's "cousin."

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  1. Cultural Tourism: 17 Places in the World Culture-Buffs Must Visit

    cultural tourist attractions

  2. Cultural Tourism: 20 Most Cultural Cities To Visit In 2023

    cultural tourist attractions

  3. 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites In India That You Must Visit

    cultural tourist attractions

  4. The Top 11 Cultural Destinations in Vietnam from the North to the South

    cultural tourist attractions

  5. 10 Best Japan Tourist Attractions 2020

    cultural tourist attractions

  6. 30 Best Destinations in the World for Cultural Tourism

    cultural tourist attractions


  1. The Most Underrated Foodie Destinations in Europe #culturetrip

  2. Wonders of the World you can visit with Culture Tip

  3. (สามสาวพาเที่ยว) Cultural tourist attractions, World Heritage City, Luang Prabang, Laos

  4. Top 10 Must-See World Attractions

  5. Jingzhou Ancient City of Historical and Cultural Tourist Spot

  6. Bestselling trips #culturetrip


  1. 30 Best Destinations in the World for Cultural Tourism

    World's best unique & underrated travel destinations. # Bosnia & Herzegovina # Colombia # Greece # Mauritius # Morocco # Oman # Spain # Taiwan # Timor. Discover the best cultural trips our world has to offer. From India to the Arctic, here are the 30 best countries and regions for cultural tourism.

  2. What is cultural tourism and why is it growing?

    The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) (1985) broadly define cultural tourism as the movements of persons who satisfy the human need for diversity, tending to raise the cultural level of the individual and giving rise to new knowledge, experience and encounters. Cultural tourism is commonly associated with education in this way, some describing ...

  3. China's Top 15 Must-Visit Attractions: Historical, Cultural, Scenic & More

    15-Day Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Huangshan and Shanghai Tour China's Ancient Cities and Celebrated Mountains. 6. The Li River in Guilin & Yangshuo — China's Most Celebrated Scenery. The Reflection of the Limestone Peaks in the Li River. The karst landscape along the Li River has captured the heart of artists.

  4. Exploring 15 of the World's Top Cultural Destinations in 2024

    1. Kyoto, Japan - Explore the Ancient City. Image Credit: Shutterstock / f11photo. In Kyoto, you're immediately immersed in a city deeply rooted in history. As you explore, you'll encounter landmarks like the Kinkaku-ji, or Golden Pavilion, a testament to Japan's ancient architecture.

  5. What is cultural tourism and how to make it part of your trips

    Cultural tourism is a form of travel that focuses on exploring and appreciating the unique traditions, history, and practices of a place. It is not just about visiting museums or attending festivals, but also delving deeply into the everyday aspects of local life. Authentic local food, local markets, and even casual chats with locals are an ...

  6. Most Popular Cultural Attractions in the World

    Murano, Burano, and Torcello. A half-day boat tour offers guests the opportunity to explore three of the most distinguished destinations in the Venetian Lagoon, from the master glassblowers of ...

  7. Cultural tourism

    Cultural tourism in Egypt in the 19th century. Tourists at Hearst Castle, California. Tourists taking pictures at the khmer Pre Rup temple ruins, an example of cultural tourism.. Cultural tourism is a type of tourism in which the visitor's essential motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume the cultural attractions and products offered by a tourist destination.

  8. Cultural attractions

    Cultural attractions allow travellers to experience mankind's physical and intellectual creations. Culture in its broadest sense is everything made by humans; however, some feats make greater impressions than others. The UNESCO World Heritage List contains some of these sites, together with natural attractions.

  9. Best Cultural Places to Visit in the World

    Cuba. U.S. citizens still need to jump through a few hoops to visit Cuba, but as visitors from around the world know, this island offers some amazing opportunities for cultural exchange. Havana is a mix of old-world architecture and of-the-moment culture.

  10. 16 Must-Visit Attractions In Beijing

    Beijing, China's enigmatic capital city, is packed to bursting with world-class attractions, be they historic palaces, beautiful royal gardens, solemn temples, bustling markets or modern art enclaves. Here, we recommend the top 15 things to do and see in Beijing, from traditional tourist favourites to quirky alternative sights.

  11. 9 Must-Visit Cultural Hot Spots in the USA

    7. New Orleans, Louisiana. In the southern region of the US, lies a coastal city with a culture all its own. For one of the most culturally rich experiences in the country, plan a trip to New Orleans. Known for jazz music, Creole cuisine, a unique dialect, multicultural roots and of course, the world-renowned Mardi Gras Festival, New Orleans is ...

  12. 20 of the best cultural UNESCO sites around the world

    5. Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal (Dreamstime) The devastating earthquake of April 2015 devastated UNESCO's Kathmandu Valley site, with the Durbar Squares of Patan, Hanuman Dhoka (Kathmandu) and Bhaktapur almost completely destroyed. But all was not lost.

  13. 32 Cultural Tourism Destinations for Unique Cultural Trips

    It's a beautiful country brimming with endless cultural tourism attractions and thus, offers some of the best cultural vacations in the world. The history of Vietnam is complex and includes significant events such as a 1000-year-long period of Chinese rule over northern and central Vietnam, a 1st century AD rebellion led by the Trung Sisters ...

  14. Tourism and Culture

    This webpage provides UN Tourism resources aimed at strengthening the dialogue between tourism and culture and an informed decision-making in the sphere of cultural tourism. It also promotes the exchange of good practices showcasing inclusive management systems and innovative cultural tourism experiences.. About Cultural Tourism. According to the definition adopted by the UN Tourism General ...

  15. 7 Cultural Tourism Destinations to Visit this Year

    Madagascar is a dream destination for cultural tourism enthusiast. Plus, lemurs: Madagascar's national animal is the ring-tailed lemur, a curious primate creature found nowhere else in the world. Photo by 2Photo Pots/Unsplash. 2. Lombok, Indonesia. Few places left on Earth feel untouched by tourism. Lombok is one of those places.

  16. Cultural Tourism: 17 Places in the World Culture-Buffs Must Visit

    And an appealing culture will eventually compel you to travel and experience it for yourself. This subset of tourism is known as Cultural Tourism. So here are the eight best destinations in the world for the culture chasers. 1. Italy Source Italy brims with popular attractions, all having a significant link with its culture. The Colosseum in ...

  17. Top 10 Cultural Experiences in Japan

    6Watch a sumo match. One of Japan's oldest sports, sumo is a martial art unlike any other. Consider observing a match even if you aren't a sports fan, for sumo's origins are entwined with Shintoism, and even today the matches are accompanied by traditional ceremonies. Tournaments are held in multiple locations throughout the year.

  18. What Is Cultural Tourism? (+ How to Plan a Cultural Trip)

    Cultural tourism involves travel experiences centred around immersing oneself in the cultural aspects of a destination. This type of tourism goes beyond conventional sightseeing, encouraging travellers to explore and engage with the unique customs, traditions, art, history, and daily life of a place. Cultural tourism seeks to provide a deeper ...

  19. Cultural Tourism: 9 Easy Ways To Experience Local Culture While

    3 Tips for Making the Most of Your Cultural Tourism Experiences. Respect Local Customs: Always be mindful of local customs and traditions. Dress appropriately, observe local etiquette, and ask for permission when taking photos in sensitive areas. Read and Research: Before your trip, read about the history, customs, and culture of the destination.

  20. Travels Through Culture: Understanding its Influence on Tourism

    Key Takeaways. Culinary preferences, language barriers, and cultural upbringing all significantly influence travel choices. Cultural attractions, such as historical landmarks, local art and crafts, and traditional festivals, play a crucial role in tourism by providing opportunities for connection, immersion, and appreciation of different cultures.

  21. Cutting Edge

    Bringing cultural tourism back in the game The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped cultural tourism in its tracks. Throughout 2020 international arrivals plunged by 74% worldwide, dealing a massive blow to the sector, which faces ongoing precarity and unpredictability. Amidst international travel restrictions, border closures and physical distancing measures, countries have been forced to impose ...

  22. What is Cultural Tourism?

    Cultural tourism is a type of tourism that allows the tourist to participate in local cultural activities, like festivals and rituals. As a result, the tourist can enjoy a genuine cultural exchange with the locals. ... There are numerous art galleries and restaurants that can fill the time in between these cultural attractions. Turkey has ...

  23. Top Cultural Attractions In Spain

    Flamenco Dancing - Andalucia. El Prado Museum - Madrid. The Guggenheim Museum - Bilbao. Historic City of Toledo. Mount Teide - Tenerife. The City of Arts & Science - Valencia. 1. Sagrada Familia- Barcelona. The Sagrada Familia is a stunning Roman Catholic Church and the most visited attraction in Spain each year.

  24. Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Gaming and Ministry of Sport

    Working to improve quality of life and promoting economic growth by supporting and delivering tourism and cultural experiences, supporting the arts and cultural industries and championing participation in sport and recreation activities across Ontario.

  25. Best Things To Do Near Me

    Top things to do and attractions near me. Explore the best things to do around the world on Tripadvisor to get recommendations and read reviews from those who have been there before. From family-friendly activities and adventure excursions to city tours, museums and iconic attractions, discover amazing experiences near and far to start planning ...

  26. 20 unusual US attractions to add to your bucket list

    Out of the countless tourist attractions across the country, there are some that are truly iconic. From culture-rich to downright chilling, each of these locations should be included on your ...

  27. Explore the Book of Kells Like Never Before

    This experience allows visitors to delve into one of Ireland's greatest cultural treasures and top tourist attractions. Believed to have been created around AD 800, the Book of Kells contains the four gospels of the Bible, transcribed by monks on lavishly decorated pages full of intricate and elaborate artistry.

  28. Contextual factors and efficiency gains in Italian tourist destinations

    Regarding the role of contextual factors as sources of efficiency gains, the cultural attractions, cultural public expenditures, and the rule of law increase technical efficiency of Italian provinces, whilst provinces with higher income and higher pollution receive negative gains. ... cultural tourism and the economics of health sector. She has ...