I’m seeing two trends starting to converge on my travels. The first is that travellers are wanting to get a bit more in the local scene – local food, local sights, “what would a local do.” It’s hard to disagree when many classic tourist trappings are looking a bit worn. The other trend is the variety of directories and online website that are allowing very niche tours to survive. The result is that its very easy, and affordable, to find a local tour that will give you a real insight into the local scene.
Thinking on those lines, here are some of my favourite types of tours in the past year.
I’m not really an astronomy geek – the idea of having my eyeball stuck to telescope lens is not appealing – but I have been to so many cool astronomy tours that it has to top my list. This seems to be hit or miss where to get the good ones; for example, Los Angeles has a wonderful observatory (the view of the city is as good as the sky), but also I went to a jaw-dropping star-gazing lesson in New Zealand. So keep your eyes peeled and check it out – especially if you’ve got little ones who might want something a little science-y.
Really, is there any better way to connect with local culture than to try the food – and maybe a wee bevvy? I suggest on your next trip to one up your game and go for a cooking class. It’s a way to meet interesting locals and perhaps other tourists, and you not only get an education in local culture, you get a meal as well! (Tip: these are fun even if you aren’t a good cook. There are some cooking classes with less interaction, more eating.)
Music is also another great way to dig in to the local vibe. We’ve all heard of a Hawaiian luau, but my fondest travel memory ever is sitting in a dark basement in Copenhagen listening to the sweetest jazz I’ve ever heard. I didn’t even like jazz before then. It was superb – and I understand a very popular locals activity. Music is where you’ll find the heart of a destination, whether it’s the local dive in a small village or a big city scene.
Ah, who hasn’t found a bit of intrigue, even with one of those silly placards you’ll find in a historic spot. Everywhere has history – just look at the United States, one of the world’s youngest countries and yet heaps of history. My suggestion is to consider a history tour on your next trip. Now, don’t assume all history tours are boorish – I’ve been on history tours in multi-colour buses, beer-themed history tours, scary history, and even underground history. I really don’t think looking at pictures or reading placards can replace the value of a good storyteller.
Last but least, one of my favourite travel experiences is to get on a boat. Why? Because it provides perspective – literally. I’ve been to so many places where the city absolutely transforms into a different view from the water. Amsterdam, Sydney, Venice, Bruges. While some boat tours are better than others (check the reviews before opting for one with commentary, I say), the view is almost always worth it – bonus is you get to sit down for a bit!
Where do you go for local culture on your holiday?
Posted : Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 at 11:00
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.