Holidays aren’t a one-size-fits-all experience for everyone. For some, it means lounging around the pool by day, partying by night. For others, it’s the chance to spend quality time away with loved ones. And for many, it’s the perfect opportunity to experience new cultures.
Culture comes in many forms, from history-rich architecture to authentic cuisine. That’s why taking a holiday abroad can help you to get out of your comfort zone and explore new cultures. Here, we look at how you can turn your next holiday into a cultural experience.
Visit architectural treasures
Many destinations known for their rich cultures express this through architecture, which is often steeped in history and tradition. Some of the most well-known historical landmarks and monuments include the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Rome’s Colosseum and the instantly recognisable Parthenon in Athens.
One of the greatest examples of cultural architecture is the Taj Mahal in India. The historic monument has seen an increase in visitors, with over seven million tourists flocking to Agra to get a glimpse between 2018 and 2019. What’s more, the mausoleum was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
With its beautiful, unmatched design and rich history, it’s no wonder the Taj Mahal is considered one of the most magnificent pieces of cultural architecture in the world. If you’re interested in visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll need to apply for an Indian visa. The options for taking in the Taj Mahal are endless, including nearby hotels with stunning views from your room and a breath-taking sunset cruise past the monument.
Experience authentic, local cuisine
There are some cuisines you can only fully experience in their places of origin. Whether that’s authentic Neapolitan pizza from Naples, sushi in Japan or butter chicken in Mumbai, your taste buds travel the world with you.
These traditional dishes are integral to a country’s culture and make up a big part of your holiday experience. However, many restaurants capitalise on tourist interest to make money and as a result, it can be difficult to find truly authentic cuisine.
Doing your research on local eateries beforehand and taking online reviews into account is important to experience genuine local food. But you can also tap into your friends’ knowledge. If you’re planning a trip to Italy, you want to experience the best pizza and pasta the Mediterranean country has to offer. You might have friends who’ve been, so ask for their recommendations!
Find out about the local traditions
There’s no better way to immerse yourself in a new culture than to participate in local traditions and customs. In Spain, it’s customary to take a long, late lunch and perhaps a siesta afterwards. Some countries might have unique greetings or ways of communicating that will help you integrate into your new surroundings.
In addition to helping you adapt to and appreciate the culture you’re taking in, it can also help you ingratiate yourself with locals whose customs are important to them. In the UK, a thumbs-up is a common way to communicate you’re happy with something. But in Iran, it’s used as an insult.
A lot of countries are known for their strong spiritual origins and this can really cement your cultural experience. The Jagannath Temple in Puri, India, is renowned as one of the most genuinely spiritual locations in the world. It’s a key site of worship for both Hindus and Buddhists, and tourists can explore the 10-acre complex. It includes a museum with the 12 incarnations of Lord Vishnu and an ancient Kalpavata banyan tree, which worshippers believe makes your wishes come true.
Many tourists enjoy travelling to ‘find themselves’ through a journey of spirituality. As a result, wellness retreats have been popping up all over the world with eye-watering costs attached. But visiting well-known ‘spiritual’ locations like Kyoto, Tibet or Puri are much more authentic and will allow you to experience a spiritual culture first-hand.
No matter the purpose of your holiday – whether it’s partying, relaxing or exploring – you can always find ways to immerse yourself in the culture of the places you visit. So why not spend some time researching your next vacation to find out how you can truly appreciate the local culture?