Fly and flop…that’s the beauty of the annual summer beach holiday. But read on if you want something more to show for your time in a far flung country than tan lines.

School might be out for summer, but there’s still a world of things to learn on holiday, during your time away from the classroom, the housework, commuting and emails. This time next week you could be on your way to becoming a bona fide wine taster, or floating weightlessly underwater, eye to eye with the tropical fish, or haggling for a handmade rug in perfectly pronounced Arabic.

New skills can be picked up on holiday in the most inspiring places on the planet, from a secluded beach at sunset to a traditional rustic kitchen on a mountainside. Enquire at your hotel for details of workshops or day classes in the area. Search online for local tutors or tour operators who run short courses for tourists, or head to the nearest scuba diving school or water sport centre. Even a notice in the window of a café could kick start your new hobby.

Hopefully one of these ideas will strike a chord and inspire you to learn something new on your summer holiday.

1) Belly dancing in Turkey – Learn how to shimmy and hip snap like a professional, from a Turkish belly dancing teacher in your beach resort or the city of Istanbul. Then find a local class when you return home from your holiday.

2) Scuba dive in Egypt – In awe of Jacques Cousteau? Then why not learn the basics of scuba diving in the Red Sea? Scuba beginners couldn’t pick a better place for their first Try Dive than the Egyptian resorts of Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab or Marsa Alam, where the warm waters are calm, clear and brimming with delicate coral and brightly coloured sea life. Book a taster dive through your hotel or a PADI-approved diving school, for a low-hassle, low-cost way to dip your toe into the deep. Children must be aged 10 and over. The next step is the Open Water course, which takes under a week. You need to spend time and effort (mental and physical) to absorb the textbook and pass various diving skills tests, so perhaps this course is best done during a two-week holiday.

Diving at Islands, Dahab - Exiting

3) Tapas-making taster in Spain – Yes, you could create these Spanish snacks from a cookery book back home. But why not shop for hams, cheeses, chillies and chorizo at a rural market and then prepare traditional tasty bite-size dishes in the kitchen of an Andulcian finca, surrounded by rolling hills and olive trees? The UK website Go To Learn {} features Spanish cookery classes in Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia and Granada, for example.

4) Henna hand painting in Goa – Indian weddings are exquisite affairs with brides dressed in glorious saris and gold jewellery, with intricate patterns drawn in henna on their hands and feet. Treat yourself to a henna kit from Anjuna’s flea market, for example, and get creative. Practice the traditional Indian body art patterns (called mehendi) on holiday and back home.

Henna painting

5) Stellar stargazing in the Canary Islands – Learn to spot summer constellations like Pisces and The Plough with the precision of Patrick Moore. The Canaries are said to be one of the best places in the world to train your telescope on the night sky. Not only are Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote a world away from the light pollution of the UK’s cities and towns, they also have a year-round view of every constellation in the northern hemisphere, plus some of those in the southern hemisphere. Take a coach trip with a qualified astronomer to stargaze from the silent, pitch-black darkness of Teide National Park in Tenerife.

6) Travel photography in Morocco – Often left disappointed by your holiday snaps? Why not become a student of shutter speed, get creative with composition and turn your zoom lens on the magical landscape and sights of Morocco. Shifting desert sands, romantic riads and maze-like Marrakech make Morocco a favourite destination with professional travel photographers. Check online for specialist courses led by experts, or grab a good photography book and use your new skills on location.

Photographer in action

7) Take up yoga in Ibiza – Believe me, the Balearic island of Ibiza is as much about yoga stretches and sun salutations as it is about super clubs and superstar DJs. Yoga beginners can join anything from an hour-long intro class to a week long course. The ancient practice is taught in the open-air (on beaches, on flat rocks overlooking the sea, in shaded valleys) and in yoga centres and retreats dotted around the island, particularly in the northern region … and also on the neighbouring islet of Formentera. Search online before your fly. Also look out for yoga teachers’ adverts in the windows of organic, veggie or new-age style cafés in villages such as Sant Juan or at Benirrás Beach.

Jennie On The Shore [Re-edit]

Photo credits: Steve & Jem Copley, Wm Jas,Urville Djasim, Mish Sukharev

Kelly Pipes is a writer and editor who has worked in travel and travel publishing for the last ten years, and has enjoyed every single minute of it. Alongside other projects she shares off-beat travel news and authentic travel experiences on her own blog, Sandwagon.

Posted : Wednesday, August 17th, 2011 at 11:00
Category : How To...
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