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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More cultural travel inspiration.

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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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What is cultural tourism and how to make it part of your trips

Learn all about cultural tourism and find out about amazing destinations to live cultural experiences around the world.

cultural tourism around the world

Worldpackers Worldpackers

Jan 08, 2024

cultural tourism

When you’re traveling, do you try to go beyond the surface and understand the different cultures that surround you? Then this article is for you. We will talk about the main characteristics of cultural tourism and will suggest 10 fascinating destinations with unique cultural aspects. 

We will also tell you how you can have a deeper cultural immersion than a typical tourist , mixing with locals and learning from them while you get free accommodation.

You might also like to read: 

  • 20 ways to travel more intentionally
  • 6 ways travel promotes learning and education

What is cultural tourism?

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 integral part of cultural tourism.

While a conventional tourist may seek relaxation and fun and focuses on visiting famous tourist places, the cultural tourist seeks to go beyond the superficial layer. They want to immerse themselves in local history, explore the unique customs of a region, and learn about its art and architecture. This type of experience is an opportunity to grow personally and empathize with people from different parts of the world.

Among the different types of cultural tourism, there are gastronomic tourism, rural tourism, religious tourism, ethnographic tourism, sports tourism, spiritual tourism, and voluntourism, to name a few.

understand what is cultural tourism

Characteristics of cultural tourism

A main characteristic of cultural tourism is the deep appreciation for different cultures . Travelers not only visit a place to see its natural or architectural beauties, but also to immerse themselves in its culture and understand it thoroughly.

Another important characteristic is the constant educational component that exists in this type of trip. You don't just learn about a new culture: you are also an active part of the cultural exchange while sharing your own customs and knowledge with local people.

Respect for cultural heritage is another indispensable condition for the cultural tourist, since not only the most famous tourist attractions are visited, but also places of great importance for local communities, such as natural sites with a strong mythology, ruins of ancient civilizations, or religious temples. They are spaces that house ancestral stories and traditions, which must be valued and preserved with the greatest care.

You might also be interested in:  5 actionable ways to live like a local while traveling

Importance of cultural tourism

Cultural tourism allows travelers to immerse themselves in the heart of a culture and learn about its history, customs, and traditions. But it's not just travelers who benefit from cultural tourism.

Local communities also have much to gain as this form of travel can be a powerful driver for local economic development. Income generated by tourism can be reinvested in community projects, helping improve infrastructure and boost local employment.

Role of the cultural traveler

When we embark on a cultural journey, we are much more than just passive spectators: we actively become respectful participants within these diverse communities. It is vital to understand that each culture has its own unique identity forged by centuries - sometimes millennia - of history.

As cultural travelers, our role is to learn and respect these differences. It is this open-mindedness that allows us to experience the intrinsic beauty of the varied ways in which humans interpret and express our existence .

Being a responsible tourist is central so that both parties can benefit from this exchange, since lack of respect or damage caused in the place visited can have irreparable consequences. Visiting a community with the sole objective of taking photos for social media, without being really interested in it, can ruin places in the long run.

travelers practicing cultural tourism 

10 places where you can practice cultural tourism

Cultural tourism can be practiced anywhere in the world since there are countless diverse cultures all around us. As you travel you will realize that there are many more than you thought, because even within the same country there can be dozens or even hundreds of ethnic groups with their own religion, beliefs, mythology, dialect, gastronomy and so on.

Below we will see some of the most favorable destinations for cultural tourism, but obviously the choice of where to go depends on your interests.

Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto is known as the cultural heart of Japan. With its intact Shinto shrines and ancient Buddhist temples – such as Kinkaku-ji (the Temple of the Golden Pavilion) – Kyoto offers travelers an authentic glimpse into Japan's imperial past.

Don't forget to participate in a tea ceremony and stroll through Gion, a famous geisha neighborhood full of traditional houses where the maiko learn what is necessary to become geishas.

Keep reading about Japan:

  • Japan off the beaten path: discover 6 unique non-touristy destinations
  • Japan on a budget: live like a local and save your dollars
  • How to teach English in Japan: the easiest way

Japan is an amazing country for those interested n cultural tourism

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Ubud is the cultural heart of Bali and a must-see destination for travelers looking to immerse themselves in the rich history and traditions of this mythical Indonesian island. This small town is surrounded by terraced rice fields, lush tropical forests and centuries-old Hindu temples that look like something straight out of a postcard.

Unlike the tourist bustle of Kuta, Canggu or Seminyak, Ubud offers a more authentic and immersive experience when exploring its surroundings. Here you can learn about Balinese customs, participate in craft workshops, or attend local cooking classes . In addition, its vibrant art scene will allow you to discover everything from traditional dances to contemporary art.

traveler looking at rice fields in ubud, indonesia

Dharamsala, India

Located in the northern region of India, Dharamsala is known for being the residence of the Dalai Lama and the center of the Tibetan government in exile . Here you can visit the Dalai Lama temple, where you can witness Buddhist ceremonies and better understand this ancient tradition.

Aside from its rich religious heritage, you will also find a fascinating mix of Indian cultures and Tibetan influences that are reflected in both local customs and cuisine. You can enjoy typical dishes such as momos (dumplings) or thukpa (a noodle soup), while interacting with the friendly locals.

Another must-see attraction is the Dhauladhar mountains that surround Dharamshala; perfect for those adventurers interested in hiking while enjoying spectacular panoramic views. There is also the unique opportunity to learn about traditional Ayurvedic medicine through educational workshops offered by local experts.

Keep reading:   Discover India's top 3 best ecotourism destinations

Buddhist monks in Dharamsala, India

Marrakesh, Morocco

Marrakech, in Morocco , is famous for its medina or old town, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Here you can explore labyrinths of narrow alleys filled with colorful bazaars where local artisans sell their wares.

A visit to the imposing Bahia Palace or the Saadian tombs will transport you directly to Morocco's glorious past: it’s an impressive experience of cultural tourism.

You cannot miss the opportunity to try authentic Moroccan dishes , such as couscous or a delicious tagine while enjoying the lively and hypnotizing atmosphere in Jemaa el-Fna, one of the largest and busiest markets in the world.

Marrakesh, Morocco, is another destination perfect for those interested in cultural tourism

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is an ideal destination for cultural tourism. This magical city is located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, giving it a unique mix of Eastern and Western influences.

Its ancient history has left tangible traces that you can explore during your visit. From architectural wonders such as the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace or the majestic Hagia Sophia to its bustling bazaars full of colors, aromas, and unique flavors.

Turkish culture has a lot to offer: its rich gastronomy with emblematic dishes such as kebab or baklava; its impressive ancestral religious traditions such as that of the dancing dervishes; and its palpable modernity in vibrant neighborhoods like Beyoğlu where contemporary art galleries coexist with bohemian cafes.

sunset in Istanbul, Turkey

Rome, Italy

Rome, the "Eternal City", is a living museum. From the Colosseum to the Vatican, every corner tells a fascinating story about ancient Roman civilization and its impact on our society today, making it a classic destination for cultural tourism.

You can tour the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum and admire masterpieces of Renaissance art at the Vatican Museums. Every step through Rome allows you to immerse yourself deeply in its vibrant culture and rich history.

Keep reading : The 20 best places to visit in Italy

monuments in Rome, Italy

Granada, Spain

Known for its stunning Moorish architecture and charming cobblestone streets, Granada is another perfect destination for travelers looking to have a cultural tourism experience in Europe.

This Andalusian city, in the South of Spain,  lies at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains and offers a unique mix of Moorish and Christian influences.

The Alhambra, a jewel of Islamic art with its intricate mosaics and hanging gardens, is its main tourist attraction, but there is much more in Granada. The UNESCO World Heritage neighborhood of Albayzín is full of winding streets where you can browse local shops or simply enjoy the panoramic views from one of the many viewpoints.

You also can't miss Sacromonte, famous for its gypsy caves converted into houses and even flamenco bars. Here you can experience an authentic flamenco nigh t, full of the passionate rhythm that characterizes this traditional dance from southern Spain.

the beautiful Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

Salvador is the capital of the state of Bahia and the fourth most populated city in Brazil . Founded in 1549 by the Portuguese, it was the most important center in the slave market, which over time led to an artistic culture where African expressions mixed with European and Indigenous influences.

No wonder it is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations: it combines beautiful beaches with history, festivals, and traditions , being considered the cultural capital of Brazil.

Pelourinho is the old neighborhood of Salvador de Bahía, declared a World Heritage Site. Its cobbled streets are full of historical sites, colonial architecture, museums, restaurants, bars, hotels, musicians, and capoeira.

men playing Capoeira in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

Cusco, Peru

The charm of Cusco, Peru , lies in its rich history and culture that have survived through time. This ancient Peruvian city is another perfect destination for travelers interested in cultural tourism in South America.

As the cradle of the Inca Empire, Cusco offers an unmatched experience. Here you can explore ancient Inca ruins such as the famous citadel of Machu Picchu, a must-see for any history and archeology lover.

You can also visit other historical sites such as Sacsayhuamán or Pisac. And if you are looking to immerse yourself even more in the local culture, there is nothing better than trying the exquisite Andean cuisine and participating in its colorful traditional festivals.

In addition to being a living museum full of archaeological treasures, Cusco is also known for its vibrant nightlife with numerous bars and clubs where you can enjoy folk music while mingling with locals and other international travelers.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Guadalajara, Mexico

This vibrant city, known as the birthplace of mariachi, is full of history, traditions and art that reflect the richness of Mexican culture . You can stroll through the local squares where mariachi groups perform regularly or visit the famous Degollado Theater during one of its nightly shows.

But the cultural wealth of Guadalajara goes far beyond mariachi. The towns near this metropolis are famous for their impressive craft production . Tlaquepaque and Tonalá are two perfect examples: these places are full of workshops where you can watch artists work with clay, blown glass, and other ancient techniques to create wonderfully detailed pieces.

Guadalajara also offers a wealth of cultural and historical museums, as well as well-preserved colonial buildings that tell the history of Mexico . You cannot miss visiting the Hospicio Cabañas, an architectural jewel from the 19th century and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

In addition, the city is surrounded by agave plantations, the plant that is used to produce tequila and mezcal.

You might also like : Ul timate list of the best places to visit in Mexico: the top 13

Guadalajara is one of the best places to practice cultural tourism in Mexico

Discover different cultures with Worldpackers

An excellent way to have a true cultural immersion in the places you travel is by volunteering through Worldpackers . This platform facilitates an exchange of work for accommodation which allows for transformative and budget-friendly trips.

It’s quite simple: you lend a hand in different projects for a few hours a day , and in return you get free accommodation on site. Depending on the host, you might also get other benefits such as free meals and activities.

This type of trip is super cheap, but that’s not the best part. Volunteering with Worldpackers you can meet many people with similar interests to yours and develop new skills, such as learning a language , bartending, or bioconstruction. 

From hostels in big cities to organic farms and holistic centers surrounded by nature , the possibilities are plenty. There are positions available in all of the countries mentioned in this article and much more: there are more than 140 countries available on the platform.

Keep reading : 

  • Collaborative tourism: what are collaborative travel relationships?
  • 6 types of volunteer work abroad that give you free accommodation
  • How to find volunteering opportunities around the world using Worldpackers

Worldpackers volunteers pose for photo in a desert

Did that spike your interest? Create a free profile on Worldpackers and start saving your favorite volunteering positions. And if you liked these tips on how to practice cultural tourism around the world, let us know in the comments section below! 

Join the community!

Create a free Worldpackers account to discover volunteer experiences perfect for you and get access to exclusive travel discounts!

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Volunteer trips: transform your life & impact, how do worldpackers trips work.

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Have a transformative experience and make a positive impact on the world.

If anything doesn’t go as planned with a host, count on the WP Safeguard and our highly responsive support team!

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Sarah Baxter | 29 June 2022

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal (Dreamstime)

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

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

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

Skelling Michael, Republic of Ireland (Dreamstime)

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.

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

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

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

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

Ancient Petra at night, Jordan (Dreamstime)

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.

Singing in the streets of Havana, Cuba (Dreamstime)

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

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

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.

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

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

Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales (Dreamstime)

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

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

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

Sunset at Tsodilo Hills, Botswana (Dreamstime)

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

Ruins in Caral-Supe, Peru (Dreamstime)

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

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

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.

Mayan temple, Tikal National Park, Guatemala (Dreamstime)

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

Great Temple, Abu Simbel, Egypt (Dreamstime)

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, related articles, looking for inspiration.

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cultural tourism around the world

Cultural Tourism: Definitions, Types, Advantages & Disadvantages, or Stakeholders of Cultural Tourism

Cultural tourism is a rapidly growing segment within the global travel industry, catering to individuals seeking to immerse themselves in local populations’ customs, traditions, and lifestyles. It combines the elements of leisure with an authentic experience of a destination’s unique historical, architectural, artistic, and culinary aspects. As a result, this form of tourism allows travellers to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of different societies and their cultural characteristics.

In recent years, the demand for cultural tourism has been on the rise as more people are interested in exploring foreign customs and cultural experiences beyond the typical tourist attractions. This trend fosters cross-cultural connections and mutual understanding and creates positive economic and social impacts on local communities. By preserving and showcasing their traditions, local people have the opportunity to generate income and employment while maintaining a sense of pride in their cultural heritage.

With the increasing focus on sustainability and responsible tourism practices, cultural tourism sets itself apart by emphasizing the importance of engaging with local communities, adhering to ethical standards and minimizing negative impacts on the environment. As such, it presents a viable option for tourists who wish to expand their horizons while also contributing positively to the places they visit.

Table of Contents

Understanding cultural tourism.

Understanding Cultural Tourism

Cultural tourism is a significant and growing aspect of the global tourism industry. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO ) defines cultural tourism as the movement of people to cultural attractions away from their normal residence, with the intention of gathering new information and experiences that satisfy their cultural needs. It encompasses various activities undertaken by tourists to explore and experience different cultures, customs, and traditions.

One of the key aspects of cultural tourism is the opportunity it provides visitors to learn and engage with local communities, their history, and their way of life. This tourism is more than just visiting heritage sites or attending cultural events; it involves understanding and experiencing how people from different cultures live, express themselves through art, and maintain their traditions.

Cultural tourism fosters mutual understanding and respect between people from different cultural backgrounds. It encourages dialogue and exchange, breaking down social and cultural barriers and contributing to more tolerant societies. This form of tourism is an essential aspect of sustainable tourism development, as it seeks to preserve precious heritage for future generations while supporting economic growth for local communities.

As the tourism industry continues to grow, the demand for unique and authentic experiences increases. Cultural tourism serves to meet this demand by offering visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in various cultural settings, fostering a deeper understanding of the world and its diverse cultures.

Importance of Cultural Tourism

Cultural tourism plays a significant role in society as it helps preserve and promote the values, beliefs, traditions, and heritage that define a particular culture. It allows individuals and communities to exhibit unique perspectives on arts, rituals, folklore, music, literature, language, oral traditions, and other cultural elements. Cultural tourism serves as a bridge between societies, aiding in fostering mutual respect, tolerance, and understanding among various cultures.

Economic benefits are also apparent through cultural tourism. Visitors contribute to the local economy, supporting local businesses and sustaining host communities’ cultural products and experiences. By engaging in cultural tourism, visitors gain an authentic understanding of indigenous and local cultures, empowering them to appreciate the rich diversity and uniqueness of the world.

Furthermore, cultural tourism helps preserve cultural heritage, vital for maintaining a sense of identity and continuity for future generations. This preservation and promotion of different cultures provide a sense of pride and belonging for people who are part of those traditions. In turn, this enhances cultural exchange, allowing individuals to learn about other ways of life while appreciating their values and beliefs.

Cultural tourism also supports the sustainability of performing arts and other creative industries. Through various interactions with artists and performers, visitors can develop an appreciation for a wide range of artistic expressions, contributing to the overall vitality of the art world.

Through the development of cultural tourism, a society can showcase its cultural heritage while contributing to its economic prosperity. By embracing the importance of cultural tourism, we can foster a greater understanding, appreciation, and celebration of the rich tapestry of customs, beliefs, and traditions that make up the world’s diverse cultures.

Types of Cultural Tourism

Historical and Heritage Tourism

Cultural tourism allows travellers to immerse themselves in the history, heritage, and traditions of different places around the world. This form of tourism can be categorized into several types, each offering a unique way for visitors to experience and appreciate local cultures.

One type of cultural tourism is Historical and Heritage Tourism . This focuses on exploring sites related to a region’s past, such as ancient archaeological sites, monuments, and museums. It can instil a sense of wonder and appreciation for past civilizations’ achievements and teach travellers about the history of the places they visit.

Moving to the artistic side, Arts Tourism highlights the creative aspects of a culture. Tourists visit galleries, theatres, and concerts to experience local art, music, dance, and drama. It allows them to understand different communities’ aesthetic and expressive tendencies, opening their minds to new perspectives and forms of creativity.

Religious and Spiritual Tourism is another common form, where tourists visit religious sites, such as temples, churches, and mosques, or engage in spiritual practices like meditation and yoga. This type of cultural tourism can provide insights into various societies’ belief systems and rituals, fostering understanding and tolerance among people of different faiths.

However, culture isn’t just about history, arts, and religion but also daily life. Ethno and Indigenous Tourism involves tourists visiting and interacting with indigenous communities to learn about their customs, way of life, and unique perspectives on the world. This type of cultural tourism encourages empathy and cross-cultural understanding while emphasising respect for indigenous people’s rights and dignity.

Lastly, Culinary and Agritourism put emphasis on local food and drink traditions, as well as the agricultural practices that underpin them. This type of tourism can include attending food festivals, partaking in cooking classes or workshops, and visiting farms, vineyards, or breweries. Culinary experiences help tourists understand the richness of a region’s flavours and the relationship between local communities and their land and resources.

In summary, cultural tourism comes in various forms, appealing to different interests and tastes. It offers travellers a chance to explore and interact with diverse cultures, fostering connections and understanding among people around the world.

Forms of Cultural Tourism

Cultural tourism offers a wide range of experiences for travellers who seek to immerse themselves in different cultures, traditions, and ways of life. Various forms of cultural tourism cater to different interests and preferences.

Museums and galleries play a significant role in cultural tourism as they showcase a certain location’s history, art, and culture. Examples include art galleries displaying local and international masterpieces and museums featuring exhibits about the history and development of a specific region or theme.

Monuments and historic sites attract cultural tourists interested in exploring the past. Famous landmarks, archaeological sites, and heritage buildings tell the stories of civilizations and cultures that once thrived. UNESCO World Heritage Sites are often at the top of travellers’ lists, representing the world’s most significant cultural and natural heritage.

Architecture as a form of cultural tourism exposes tourists to varying architectural styles and meanings. Walking tours, cityscapes, and visits to iconic buildings provide a deeper understanding of a city’s architectural design’s cultural, social, and political influences.

Festivals and special events are another important aspect of cultural tourism, highlighting a particular community’s local customs and practices. These may include carnivals, parades, performances, traditional dances, and food festivals that provide a unique insight into the cultural identity of a place.

Gastronomy and cuisine play an integral role in the cultural tourism experience, as they allow tourists to savour the flavours and ingredients unique to a location. Local markets, food tours, cooking classes, and traditional restaurants all offer opportunities to appreciate the culinary heritage of a destination.

Shopping for crafts and textiles is a popular form of cultural tourism, as it allows travellers to bring home tangible memories of their journeys. Local artisans may showcase their talents through handmade textiles, pottery, jewellery, and other crafts, reflecting their community’s cultural heritage and artistic expression.

Cultural tourism encompasses diverse experiences, enabling travellers to engage with their chosen destination’s rich history, art, architecture, events, cuisine, and crafts. By exploring these varied aspects, visitors can deepen their understanding and appreciation of the world’s unique cultural landscapes.

Tangible and Intangible Cultural Attractions

Tangible and Intangible Cultural Attractions

Cultural tourism often focuses on two major aspects: tangible and intangible cultural attractions. These attractions shape a destination’s identity, providing depth and context for visitors and facilitating cultural exchange. This section will explore various facets of tangible and intangible attractions, comprehensively understanding their significance and diversity.

Tangible cultural attractions encompass elements of history, arts, and architecture that visitors can physically experience. Notable examples include monuments, visual art, and crafts that showcase local communities’ unique skills and traditions. Such attractions often reflect centuries of evolution and showcase the ingenuity of a region’s inhabitants. By visiting these sites and engaging with these art forms, travellers gain firsthand insights into the cultural heritage of their destination.

On the other hand, intangible cultural attractions comprise the non-material aspects of a culture that contribute to its unique characteristics and traditions. Music, social practices, festive events, and customs are some of the intangible elements that enrich the cultural landscape of a tourist destination. Interaction with local people plays a crucial role in understanding the region’s intangible cultural attractions, as they act as custodians of these traditions and their oral histories.

A dynamic interplay exists between tangible and intangible cultural attractions, creating a vibrant, multi-dimensional experience for tourists. For instance, the physical structure in architectural landmarks represents the tangible aspect, while the stories, legends, and rituals connected to the site contribute to its intangible allure. This symbiotic relationship reflects the essential interdependence between culture’s material and immaterial aspects.

In conclusion, tangible and intangible cultural attractions are indispensable pillars of cultural tourism. They provide an enriching experience for visitors and play a vital role in preserving and promoting a destination’s unique cultural heritage. Both aspects should be regarded with equal importance and cultivated to ensure a comprehensive and engaging experience for travellers seeking to explore a destination’s cultural offerings.

Advantages of Cultural Tourism

Cultural tourism provides a unique opportunity for individuals to immerse themselves in a particular society’s history, traditions, and customs. In doing so, they can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the diverse cultures that make up the world.

One significant advantage of cultural tourism is its potential to boost local economies. Tourist expenditures in local businesses such as hotels , restaurants, and shops can contribute to the growth and development of a region. Additionally, cultural tourism can create jobs, especially for local artisans, performers, and guides who offer authentic cultural experiences to visitors.

Another benefit of cultural tourism is the preservation and revitalization of cultural heritage. By attracting tourists interested in learning about and experiencing different traditions, communities are encouraged to preserve and maintain their cultural assets, such as historic sites, museums, and festivals. This helps ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy and learn from these valuable resources.

Cultural tourism also fosters cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. As people engage with diverse cultures, they may develop a broader perspective and a greater respect for cultural differences. This can lead to increased tolerance and harmony among different societies.

However, it is important to be aware of the potential disadvantages of cultural tourism. For instance, there may be issues related to overcrowding, environmental impact, or the commodification of cultural traditions. This makes it crucial to manage cultural tourism responsibly, ensuring it benefits both the tourists and the host communities.

Disadvantages of Cultural Tourism

Cultural tourism has gained popularity in recent years, drawing visitors from around the globe to experience and appreciate diverse cultures. However, this type of tourism also brings several disadvantages that must be considered.

One significant drawback of cultural tourism is the potential for commodification of cultures. As communities open their doors to tourists, they risk losing the authenticity and uniqueness of their cultural identity. Traditional practices and artefacts may be tailored to appeal to the tourist market, diluting their cultural significance.

Moreover, cultural tourism can put pressure on resources and spaces used by local communities. The influx of tourists may lead to overcrowding and increased competition for essential amenities. This could negatively impact the quality of life for local residents and strain the available infrastructure.

Another issue is the potential for environmental degradation resulting from cultural tourism. Some tourist activities may involve access to sensitive natural areas, leading to erosion, pollution, or disturbance of wildlife habitats. The construction of tourist facilities and infrastructure can also threaten the environment.

Lastly, cultural tourism can contribute to the unequal distribution of economic benefits. While some members of the community may profit from tourism-related businesses, others may not be able to participate in or benefit from these enterprises. This could exaggerate income disparities and create economic imbalances within communities.

In conclusion, despite cultural tourism’s numerous benefits to travellers and host communities, it is crucial to acknowledge and address its potential negative aspects. To ensure the long-term success of cultural tourism, policies and practices must be implemented that prioritize the protection of cultural and environmental resources and promote equitable distribution of economic benefits.

Cultural Tourism Destinations

Cultural Tourism Destinations

Cultural tourism is a popular type of travel that allows visitors to immerse themselves in various destinations’ history, heritage, and traditions. Throughout the world, numerous places provide rich cultural experiences for travellers. Here, we explore a few notable cultural tourism destinations.

China is a vast and diverse country with a history dating back thousands of years. One can explore the architectural wonders of the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, or the magnificent Forbidden City in Beijing. Visiting local markets and trying traditional cuisine also adds to the cultural experience in China.

India is another top destination for cultural tourism, offering many historical sites and vibrant traditions. The Taj Mahal in Agra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-see with its iconic marble mausoleum. Another popular destination is Rajasthan , where the colourful cities and the royal palaces, such as the spectacular City Palace of Jaipur, offer a glimpse into the past.

France , specifically Paris , provides visitors with rich art, architecture, and cuisine. Iconic sites such as the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Eiffel Tower showcase the country’s artistic and architectural achievements throughout history.

Similarly, Spain is renowned for its rich cultural heritage with attractions such as the Alhambra in Granada, the Park Güell in Barcelona, designed by Gaudí, and the Prado Museum in Madrid.

Turkey , especially Istanbul , offers an intricate blend of European and Asian influences, with historic sites such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Topkapı Palace. Moreover, the open-air bazaars and Turkish baths deliver an authentic cultural experience.

Italy , the birthplace of the Renaissance, is brimming with artistic and architectural masterpieces. Cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice are steeped in history, allowing visitors to marvel at landmarks like the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, or the Uffizi Gallery.

The beautiful island of Bali in Indonesia is known for its lush landscapes, Hindu temples, and vibrant arts scene, making it an excellent location for immersing oneself in the culture of the region.

Uzbekistan has gained attention recently as tourism grows along the Silk Road route. Visitors can admire the stunning architecture and mosaics of cities such as Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva, which capture the rich heritage of the ancient trading route.

In conclusion, cultural tourism invites travellers to explore fascinating destinations across the globe. While each location offers unique experiences, they provide a deeper understanding of human history, traditions, and heritage.

Stakeholders of Cultural Tourism

Stakeholders of Cultural Tourism

Cultural tourism is a multi-faceted industry that brings value to travellers in search of authentic experiences and to a myriad of stakeholders. From local communities to government bodies and from small businesses to environmental conservation efforts, cultural tourism can shape economies and lifestyles in both positive and negative ways. This guide delves into the key stakeholders in the cultural tourism sector, exploring their roles, impacts, and interconnected interests.

Tourists: The Heart of the Industry

Arguably, tourists are the backbone of cultural tourism. Whether they are history enthusiasts seeking out ancient ruins or gastronomes on the hunt for authentic local cuisine, tourists drive demand and shape the landscape of the tourism industry. They often seek enriching experiences that can offer a deep understanding of local cultures.

Local Communities: The Soul of the Destination

Local communities provide the lived experience that many cultural tourists seek. These people preserve the traditions, language, and heritage sites that form the basis of cultural tourism. Unfortunately, they can also bear the brunt of poorly managed tourism through cultural commodification and environmental degradation.

Government Bodies: The Framework Providers

Local and national governments play an instrumental role in regulating and promoting cultural tourism. They invest in infrastructure, enforce zoning laws, and facilitate public services like safety and sanitation that are vital to the tourism industry.

Tourism Boards and Agencies: The Promoters

Tourism boards, often funded by governments, are responsible for marketing a destination’s cultural assets to the world. These bodies work closely with other stakeholders to develop tourism packages, advertise local attractions, and even set guidelines for responsible tourism.

Tour Operators and Travel Agents: The Experience Curators

Specializing in delivering personalized experiences, these businesses are intermediaries between tourists and destinations. They can make or break the quality of the cultural tourism experience through their choices of local partnerships, itineraries, and guides.

Cultural Institutions: The Keepers of Heritage

Museums, art galleries, and historical sites are essential touchpoints for cultural tourists. They collaborate closely with various stakeholders to ensure that cultural assets are preserved and made accessible to the public.

Artisans and Performers: The Artistic Impressions

Artisans and performers add texture to the cultural fabric of a destination. These stakeholders benefit from increased visibility and economic opportunities , providing tourists a gateway to the authentic local culture.

Small Business Owners: The Local Economy Boosters

From restaurants and cafes to souvenir shops, small businesses see a surge in revenue when cultural tourism is thriving. They form a vital part of the local economy, providing services that enrich the tourist experience.

Academics and Researchers: The Thought Leaders

Cultural tourism is a field ripe for academic inquiry, touching upon anthropology, economics, and sociology disciplines. Research in this area can help shape policies that benefit tourists and local communities.

NGOs: The Advocates of Sustainability

Organizations that focus on cultural or environmental conservation often align with the interests of responsible cultural tourism. They act as watchdogs and advocates, ensuring that tourism practices are sustainable and ethical.

Real Estate Developers: The Infrastructure Builders

Though not directly related to the culture, real estate is essential in accommodating the influx of tourists, especially in booming destinations. They must balance business interests with responsible development.

Media: The Influencers

Media outlets, including travel bloggers and journalists, have a significant role in shaping public perception of a destination. Their storytelling can amplify the benefits or expose the pitfalls of cultural tourism.

The Environment: The Unspoken Stakeholder

Although not a traditional “stakeholder,” the environment stands to be significantly affected by tourism activities. Sustainable practices must be adopted to preserve the natural and cultural landscapes that attract visitors in the first place.

Understanding the intricate web of stakeholders in cultural tourism is the first step in creating an industry that benefits all. As cultural tourism evolves, stakeholders must actively dialogue to ensure sustainable and enriching experiences for everyone involved.

Cultural Tourism Experience

Cultural tourism experiences provide a unique opportunity for travellers to immerse themselves in the local culture, customs, and traditions of the places they visit. These immersive travel experiences enable tourists to understand the heritage and identity of the communities they encounter.

One popular way to experience cultural tourism is through homestays. These accommodations offer the chance to live with a local family, providing a firsthand glimpse into their daily lives and customs. The cultural exchange within a homestay environment can be transformative, offering insights that would otherwise remain veiled during a typical sightseeing vacation.

Another important aspect of cultural tourism is engaging with the local communities, participating in their events and festivals, and learning about their history and heritage through interactions with the people there. These experiences enable travellers to connect meaningfully with locals, fostering mutual appreciation and understanding of different cultures.

Cultural experiences often focus on different dimensions, such as:

  • Arts and crafts: Exploring local artisans’ craftsmanship and heritage by visiting workshops, galleries, and markets.
  • Cuisine: Sampling regional culinary specialities can offer a taste of local culture, traditions, and history.
  • Religious sites: Visiting places of worship offers insight into the spiritual beliefs and practices of the area.
  • Performing arts: Engaging with local music, dance, and theatre performances can reveal unique cultural perspectives and expressions.

Cultural tourism emphasizes responsible travel and encourages visitors to respect and appreciate the local customs, traditions, and the natural environment while exploring new destinations. Tourists can create unforgettable memories by connecting with people from different backgrounds and gaining a deeper understanding of their practices and values, fostering greater global empathy and cultural appreciation.

Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Sustainable Tourism

UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme

cultural tourism around the world

The UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme represents a new approach based on dialogue and stakeholder cooperation where planning for tourism and heritage management is integrated at a destination level, the natural and cultural assets are valued and protected, and appropriate tourism developed.

World Heritage and tourism stakeholders share responsibility for conservation of our common cultural and natural heritage of Outstanding Universal Value and for sustainable development through appropriate tourism management.

Facilitate the management and development of sustainable tourism at World Heritage properties through fostering increased awareness, capacity and balanced participation of all stakeholders in order to protect the properties and their Outstanding Universal Value.

cultural tourism around the world

Focus Areas

cultural tourism around the world

Policy & Strategy

Sustainable tourism policy and strategy development.

cultural tourism around the world

Tools & Guidance

Sustainable tourism tools

cultural tourism around the world

Capacity Building

Capacity building activities.

cultural tourism around the world

Heritage Journeys

Creation of thematic routes to foster heritage based sustainable tourism development

cultural tourism around the world

A key goal of the UNESCO WH+ST Programme is to strengthen the enabling environment by advocating policies and frameworks that support sustainable tourism as an important vehicle for managing cultural and natural heritage. Developing strategies through broad stakeholder engagement for the planning, development and management of sustainable tourism that follows a destination approach and focuses on empowering local communities is central to UNESCO’s approach.

Supporting Sustainable Tourism Recovery

Enhancing capacity and resilience in 10 World Heritage communities

Supported by BMZ, and implemented by UNESCO in collaboration with GIZ, this 2 million euro tourism recovery project worked to enhance capacity building in local communities, improve resilience and safeguard heritage.

Policy orientations

Defining the relationship between world heritage and sustainable tourism

Based on the report of the international workshop on Advancing Sustainable Tourism at Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites (Mogao, China, September 2009), the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session adopted the policy orientations which define the relationship between World Heritage and sustainable tourism ( Decision 34 COM 5F.2 ).

World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate

cultural tourism around the world

Providing an overview of the increasing vulnerability of World Heritage sites to climate change impacts and the potential implications for and of global tourism.

cultural tourism around the world

Sustainable Tourism Tools

Manage tourism efficiently, responsibly and sustainably based on the local context and needs

cultural tourism around the world

People Protecting Places is the public exchange platform for the World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme, providing education and information, encouraging support, engaging in social and community dialogue

cultural tourism around the world

The ' How-To ' guides offer direction and guidance to managers of World Heritage tourism destinations and other stakeholders to help identify the most suitable solutions for circumstances in their local environments and aid in developing general know-how.

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cultural tourism around the world

Helping site managers and other tourism stakeholders to manage tourism more sustainably

Capacity Building in 4 Africa Nature Sites

A series of practical training and workshops were organized in four priority natural World Heritage sites in Africa (Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) with the aim of providing capacity building tools and strategies for site managers to help them manage tourism at their sites more sustainably.

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15 Pilot Sites in Nordic-Baltic Region

The project Towards a Nordic-Baltic pilot region for World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism (2012-2014) was initiated by the Nordic World Heritage Foundation (NWHF). With a practical approach, the project has contributed to tools for assessing and developing sustainable World Heritage tourism strategies with stakeholder involvement and cooperation.

Supporting Community-Based Management and Sustainable Tourism at World Heritage sites in South-East Asia

Entitled “The Power of Culture: Supporting Community-Based Management and Sustainable Tourism at World Heritage sites in South-East Asia", the UNESCO Office in Jakarta with the technical assistance of the UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme and the support from the Government of Malaysia is spearheading the first regional effort in Southeast Asia to introduce a new approach to sustainable tourism management at World Heritage sites in Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

cultural tourism around the world

Cultural tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing global tourism markets. Culture and creative industries are increasingly being used to promote destinations and enhance their competitiveness and attractiveness.

Many locations are now actively developing their cultural assets as a means of developing comparative advantages in an increasingly competitive tourism marketplace, and to create local distinctiveness in the face of globalization.

UNESCO will endeavour to create networks of key stakeholders to coordinate the destination management and marketing associated with the different heritage routes to promote and coordinate high-quality, unique experiences based on UNESCO recognized heritage. The goal is to promote sustainable development based on heritage values and create added tourist value for the sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Journeys of the EU

Creating heritage-based tourism that spurs investment in culture and the creative industries that are community-centered and offer sustainable and high-quality products that play on Europe's comparative advantages and diversity of its cultural assets.

World Heritage Journeys of Buddhist Heritage Sites

UNESCO is currently implementing a project to develop a unique Buddhist Heritage Route for Sustainable Tourism Development in South Asia with the support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). South Asia is host to rich Buddhist heritage that is exemplified in the World Heritage properties across the region.

cultural tourism around the world

Programme Background

In 2011 UNESCO embarked on developing a new World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme.

The aim was to create an international framework for the cooperative and coordinated achievement of shared and sustainable outcomes related to tourism at World Heritage properties.

The preparatory work undertaken in developing the Programme responded to the decision 34 COM 5F.2 of the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in Brasilia in 2010, which requested

“the World Heritage Centre to convene a new and inclusive programme on World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism, with a steering group comprising interested States Parties and other relevant stakeholders, and also requests the World Heritage Centre to outline the objectives and approach to the implementation of this programme".

The Steering Group was comprised of States Parties representatives from the six UNESCO Electoral Groups (Germany (I), Slovenia (II), Argentina (III), China (IV), Tanzania (Va), and Lebanon (Vb)), the Director of the World Heritage Centre, the Advisory Bodies (IUCN, ICOMOS and ICCROM), the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Swiss Government as the donor agency.

The Government of Switzerland has provided financial support for specific actions to be undertaken by the Steering Group. To coordinate and support the process, the World Heritage Centre has formed a small Working Group with the support of the Nordic World Heritage Foundation, the Government of Switzerland and the mandated external consulting firm MartinJenkins.

The World Heritage Committee directed that the Programme take into account:

  • the recommendations of the evaluation of the concluded tourism programme ( WHC-10/34.COM/INF.5F.3 )
  • the policy orientation which defines the relationship between World Heritage and sustainable tourism that emerged from the workshop Advancing Sustainable Tourism at Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites (Mogao, China, September 2009) ( WHC-10/34.COM/INF.5F.1 )

Overarching and strategic processes that the new World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme will be aligned with include the Strategic Objectives of the World Heritage Convention (the five C's) ( Budapest Declaration 2002 ), the ongoing Reflections on the Future of the World Heritage Convention ( WHC-11/35.COM/12A ) and the Strategic Action Plan for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention 2012-2022 ( WHC-11/18.GA/11 ), the Relationship between the World Heritage Convention and Sustainable Development (WHC-10/34.COM/5D), the World Heritage Capacity Building Strategy ( WHC-10/34.COM/5D ), the Global Strategy for a Representative, Balanced and Credible World Heritage List (1994), and the Evaluation of the Global Strategy and PACT initiative ( WHC-11/18.GA/8 - 2011 ).

In addition, the programme development process has been enriched by an outreach to representatives from the main stakeholder groups including the tourism sector, national and local governments, site practitioners and local communities. The programme design was further developed at an Expert Meeting in Sils/Engadine, Switzerland October 2011. In this meeting over 40 experts from 23 countries, representing the relevant stakeholder groups, worked together to identify the overall strategic approach and a prioritised set of key objectives and activities. The proposed Programme was adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 2012 at its 36th session in St Petersburg, Russian Federation .

International Instruments

International Instruments Relating to Sustainable Development and Tourism.

Resolutions adopted by the United Nations, charters adopted by ICOMOS, decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee, legal instruments adopted by UNESCO on heritage preservation.

Resolutions adopted by the United Nations

  • Report by the Department of Economics and Social Affairs: Tourism and Sustainable Development: The Global Importance of Tourism at the United Nations’ Commission on Sustainable Development 7th Session (1999)
  • Resolution A/RES/56/212 and the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism adopted by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (1999)

Charters adopted by ICOMOS

  • The ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Charter (1999)
  • The ICOMOS Charter for the Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites (2008)

Decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee

  • Decision (XVII.4-XVII.12) adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 25th Session in Helsinki (2001)
  • Decision 33 COM 5A adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 30th Session in Seville (2009)
  • Decision 34 COM 5F.2 adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th Session in Brasilia (2010)
  • Decision 36 COM 5E adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th Session in Saint Petersburg (2012)

Legal instruments adopted by UNESCO on heritage preservation in chronological order

  • Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970)
  • The Recommendation for the Protection of Movable Cultural Property (1978)
  • The Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore (1989)
  • The Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural heritage (2001)
  • The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005)

Other instruments

  • Other instruments OECD Tourism Trends and Policies 2012 (French forthcoming)
  • Programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production (In English)
  • Siem Reap Declaration on Tourism and Culture 2015 – Building a New Partnership Model

cultural tourism around the world

Decisions / Resolutions (5)

The World Heritage Committee,

  • Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/5A,
  • Recalling Decision 41 COM 5A adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017) and Decision 40 COM 5D adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016), General:
  • Takes note with appreciation of the activities undertaken by the World Heritage Centre over the past year in pursuit of the Expected Result to ensure that “tangible heritage is identified, protected, monitored and sustainably managed by Member States, in particular through the effective implementation of the 1972 Convention ”, and the five strategic objectives as presented in Document WHC/18/42.COM/5A; 
  • Welcomes the proactive role of the Secretariat for enhancing synergies between the World Heritage Convention and the other Culture and Biodiversity-related Conventions, particularly the integration of relevant synergies aspects in the revised Periodic Reporting Format and the launch of a synergy-related web page on the Centre’s website;
  • Also welcomes the increased collaboration among the Biodiversity-related Conventions through the Biodiversity Liaison Group and focused activities, including workshops, joint statements and awareness-raising;
  • Takes note of the Thematic studies on the recognition of associative values using World Heritage criterion (vi) and on interpretation of sites of memory, funded respectively by Germany and the Republic of Korea and encourages all States Parties to take on board their findings and recommendations, in the framework of the identification of sites, as well as management and interpretation of World Heritage properties;
  • Noting the discussion paper by ICOMOS on Evaluations of World Heritage Nominations related to Sites Associated with Memories of Recent Conflicts, decides to convene an Expert Meeting on sites associated with memories of recent conflicts to allow for both philosophical and practical reflections on the nature of memorialization, the value of evolving memories, the inter-relationship between material and immaterial attributes in relation to memory, and the issue of stakeholder consultation; and to develop guidance on whether and how these sites might relate to the purpose and scope of the World Heritage Convention , provided that extra-budgetary funding is available and invites the States Parties to contribute financially to this end;
  • Also invites the States Parties to support the activities carried out by the World Heritage Centre for the implementation of the Convention ;
  • Requests the World Heritage Centre to present, at its 43rd session, a report on its activities. Thematic Programmes:
  • Welcomes  the progress report on the implementation of the World Heritage Thematic Programmes and Initiatives,  notes  their important contribution towards implementation of the Global Strategy for representative World Heritage List, and  thanks  all States Parties, donors and other organizations for having contributed to achieving their objectives;
  • Acknowledges  the results achieved by the World Heritage Cities Programme and calls States Parties and other stakeholders to provide human and financial resources ensuring the continuation of this Programme in view of its crucial importance for the conservation of the urban heritage inscribed on the World Heritage List, for the implementation of the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape and its contribution to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals related to cities as well as for its contribution to the preparation of the New Urban Agenda, and further thanks to China and Croatia for their support for the implementation of the Programme;
  • Also acknowledges the results achieved of the World Heritage Marine Programme, also thanks Flanders, France and the Annenberg Foundation for their support, notes the increased focus of the Programme on a global managers network, climate change adaptation strategies and sustainable fisheries, and  invites  States Parties, the World Heritage Centre and other stakeholders to continue to provide human and financial resources to support for the implementation of the Programme;
  • Further acknowledges the results achieved in the implementation of the World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme, in particular the development of the Sustainable Tourism and Visitor Management Assessment tool and encourages States Parties to participate in the pilot testing of the tool, expresses  appreciation for the funding provided by the European Commission and  further thanks the Republic of Korea, Norway, and Seabourn Cruise Line for their support in the implementation of the Programme’’s activities;
  • Further notes the progress in the implementation of the Small Island Developing States Programme, its importance for a representative, credible and balanced World Heritage List and building capacity of site managers and stakeholders to implement the World Heritage Convention , thanks furthermore Japan and the Netherlands for their support as well as the International Centre on Space Technology for Natural and Cultural Heritage (HIST) and  the World Heritage Institute of Training & Research for the Asia & the Pacific Region (WHITRAP) as Category 2 Centres for their technical and financial supports and also requests the States Parties and other stakeholders to continue to provide human, financial and technical resources for the implementation of the Programme;
  • Takes note of the activities implemented jointly by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and ICOMOS under the institutional guidance of the World Heritage Centre, in line with its Decision 40 COM 5D, further requests the World Heritage Centre to disseminate among the States Parties the second volume of the IAU/ICOMOS Thematic Study on Astronomical Heritage and renames this initiative as Initiative on Heritage of Astronomy, Science and Technology;
  • Also takes note of the progress report on the Initiative on Heritage of Religious Interest, endorses the recommendations of the Thematic Expert Consultation meetings focused on Mediterranean and South-Eastern Europe (UNESCO, 2016), Asia-Pacific (Thailand, 2017) and Eastern Europe (Armenia, 2018), thanks the States Parties for their generous contribution and reiterates its invitation to States Parties and other stakeholders to continue to support this Initiative, as well as its associated Marketplace projects developed by the World Heritage Centre;
  • Takes note of the activities implemented by CRATerre in the framework of the World Heritage Earthen Architecture Programme, under the overall institutional guidance of the World Heritage Centre, and of the lines of action proposed for the future, if funding is available;
  • Invites  States Parties, international organizations and donors to contribute financially to the Thematic Programmes and Initiatives as the implementation of thematic priorities is no longer feasible without extra-budgetary funding;
  • Requests furthermore  the World Heritage Centre to submit an updated result-based report on Thematic Programmes and Initiatives, under Item 5A: Report of the World Heritage Centre on its activities, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.

1.   Having examined document WHC-12/36.COM/5E,

2.  Recalling Decision 34 COM 5F.2 adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3.  Welcomes the finalization of the new and inclusive Programme on World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism and notes with appreciation the participatory process for its development, objectives and approach towards implementation;

4.  Also welcomes the contribution of the Steering Group comprised of States Parties representatives from the UNESCO Electoral Groups, the World Heritage Centre, the Advisory Bodies (IUCN, ICOMOS, ICCROM), Switzerland and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in the elaboration of the Programme;

5.   Thanks the Government of Switzerland, the United Nations Foundation and the Nordic World Heritage Foundation for their technical and financial support to the elaboration of the Programme;

6.   Notes with appreciation the contribution provided by the States Parties and other consulted stakeholders during the consultation phase of the Programme;

7.   Takes note of the results of the Expert Meeting in Sils/Engadin (Switzerland), from 18 to 22 October 2011 contributing to the Programme, and further thanks the Government of Switzerland for hosting the Expert Meeting;

8.   Adopts the World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme;

9.   Requests the World Heritage Centre to refine the Draft Action Plan 2013-2015 in an Annex to the present document and to implement the Programme with a Steering  Group comprised of representatives of the UNESCO Electoral Groups, donor agencies, the Advisory Bodies, UNWTO and in collaboration with interested stakeholders;

10.   Notes that financial resources for the coordination and implementation of the Programme do not exist and also requests States Parties to support the implementation of the World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme;

11.  Further requests the World Heritage Centre to report biennially on the progress of the implementation of the Programme;

12.   Notes with appreciation the launch of the Programme foreseen at the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention event in Kyoto, Japan, in November 2012

1. Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/INF.5F.1 and WHC-10/34.COM/INF.5F.3,

2. Highlighting that the global tourism sector is large and rapidly growing, is diverse and dynamic in its business models and structures, and the relationship between World Heritage and tourism is two way: tourism, if managed well, offers benefits to World Heritage properties and can contribute to cross-cultural exchange but, if not managed well, poses challenges to these properties and recognizing the increasing challenges and opportunities relating to tourism;

3. Expresses its appreciation to the States Parties of Australia, China, France, India, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and to the United Nations Foundation and the Nordic World Heritage Foundation for the financial and technical support to the World Heritage Tourism Programme since its establishment in 2001;

4. Welcomes the report of the international workshop on Advancing Sustainable Tourism at Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites (Mogao, China, September 2009) and adopts the policy orientation which defines the relationship between World Heritage and sustainable tourism ( Attachment A );

5. Takes note of the evaluation of the World Heritage Tourism Programme by the UN Foundation, and encourages the World Heritage Centre to take fully into account the eight programme elements recommended in the draft final report in any future work on tourism ( Attachment B );

6. Decides to conclude the World Heritage Tourism Programme and requests the World Heritage Centre to convene a new and inclusive programme on World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism, with a steering group comprising interested States Parties and other relevant stakeholders, and also requests the World Heritage Centre to outline the objectives and approach to implementation of this programme, drawing on the directions established in the reports identified in Paragraphs 4 and 5 above, for consideration at the 35th session of the World Heritage Committee (2011);

7. Also welcomes the offer of the Government of Switzerland to provide financial and technical support to specific activities supporting the steering group; further welcomes the offer of the Governments of Sweden, Norway and Denmark to organize a Nordic-Baltic regional workshop in Visby, Gotland, Sweden in October 2010 on World Heritage and sustainable tourism; and also encourages States Parties to support the new programme on World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism including through regional events and the publication of materials identifying good practices;

8. Based upon the experience gained under the World Heritage Convention of issues related to tourism, invites the Director General of UNESCO to consider the feasibility of a Recommendation on the relationship between heritage conservation and sustainable tourism. 

Attachment A

Recommendations of the international workshop

on Advancing Sustainable Tourism at Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites  

Policy orientations: defining the relationship between World Heritage and tourism

1. The tourism sector

The global tourism sector is large and rapidly growing, is diverse and dynamic in its business models and structures.

Tourists/visitors are diverse in terms of cultural background, interests, behaviour, economy, impact, awareness and expectations of World Heritage.

There is no one single way for the World Heritage Convention , or World Heritage properties, to engage with the tourism sector or with tourists/visitors.

2. The relationship between World Heritage and tourism

The relationship between World Heritage and tourism is two-way:

a. World Heritage offers tourists/visitors and the tourism sector destinations

b. Tourism offers World Heritage the ability to meet the requirement in the Convention to 'present' World Heritage properties, and also a means to realise community and economic benefits through sustainable use.

Tourism is critical for World Heritage:

a. For States Parties and their individual properties,

i. to meet the requirement in the Convention to 'present' World Heritage

ii. to realise community and economic benefits

b. For the World Heritage Convention as a whole, as the means by which World Heritage properties are experienced by visitors travelling nationally and internationally

c. As a major means by which the performance of World Heritage properties, and therefore the standing of the Convention , is judged,

i. many World Heritage properties do not identify themselves as such, or do not adequately present their Outstanding Universal Value

ii. it would be beneficial to develop indicators of the quality of presentation, and the representation of the World Heritage brand

d. As a credibility issue in relation to: i. the potential for tourism infrastructure to damage Outstanding Universal Value

i. the threat that World Heritage properties may be unsustainably managed in relation to their adjoining communities

ii. sustaining the conservation objectives of the Convention whilst engaging with economic development

iii. realistic aspirations that World Heritage can attract tourism.

World Heritage is a major resource for the tourism sector:

a. Almost all individual World Heritage properties are significant tourism destinations

b. The World Heritage brand can attract tourists/visitors,

i. the World Heritage brand has more impact upon tourism to lesser known properties than to iconic properties.

Tourism, if managed well, offers benefits to World Heritage properties:

a. to meet the requirement in Article 4 of the Convention to present World Heritage to current and future generations

b. to realise economic benefits.

Tourism, if not managed well, poses threats to World Heritage properties.

3. The responses of World Heritage to tourism

The impact of tourism, and the management response, is different for each World Heritage property: World Heritage properties have many options to manage the impacts of tourism.

The management responses of World Heritage properties need to:

a. work closely with the tourism sector

b. be informed by the experiences of tourists/visitors to the visitation of the property

c. include local communities in the planning and management of all aspects of properties, including tourism.

While there are many excellent examples of World Heritage properties successfully managing their relationship to tourism, it is also clear that many properties could improve:

a. the prevention and management of tourism threats and impacts

b. their relationship to the tourism sector inside and outside the property

c. their interaction with local communities inside and outside the property

d. their presentation of Outstanding Universal Value and focus upon the experience of tourists/visitors.

a. be based on the protection and conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and its effective and authentic presentation

b. work closely with the tourism sector

c. be informed by the experiences of tourists/visitors to the visitation of the property

d. to include local communities in the planning and management of all aspects of properties, including tourism.

4. Responsibilities of different actors in relation to World Heritage and tourism

The World Heritage Convention (World Heritage Committee, World Heritage Centre, Advisory Bodies):

a. set frameworks and policy approaches

b. confirm that properties have adequate mechanisms to address tourism before they are inscribed on the World Heritage List

i. develop guidance on the expectations to be include in management plans

c. monitor the impact upon OUV of tourism activities at inscribed sites, including through indicators for state of conservation reporting

d. cooperate with other international organisations to enable:

i. other international organisations to integrate World Heritage considerations in their programs

ii. all parties involved in World Heritage to learn from the activities of other international organisations

e. assist State Parties and sites to access support and advice on good practices

f. reward best practice examples of World Heritage properties and businesses within the tourist/visitor sector

g. develop guidance on the use of the World Heritage emblem as part of site branding.

Individual States Parties:

a. develop national policies for protection

b. develop national policies for promotion

c. engage with their sites to provide and enable support, and to ensure that the promotion and the tourism objectives respect Outstanding Universal Value and are appropriate and sustainable

d. ensure that individual World Heritage properties within their territory do not have their OUV negatively affected by tourism.

Individual property managers:

a. manage the impact of tourism upon the OUV of properties

i. common tools at properties include fees, charges, schedules of opening and restrictions on access

b. lead onsite presentation and provide meaningful visitor experiences

c. work with the tourist/visitor sector, and be aware of the needs and experiences of tourists/visitors, to best protect the property

i. the best point of engagement between the World Heritage Convention and the tourism sector as a whole is at the direct site level, or within countries

d. engage with communities and business on conservation and development.

Tourism sector:

a. work with World Heritage property managers to help protect Outstanding Universal Value

b. recognize and engage in shared responsibility to sustain World Heritage properties as tourism resources

c. work on authentic presentation and quality experiences.

Individual tourists/visitors with the assistance of World Heritage property managers and the tourism sector, can be helped to appreciate and protect the OUV of World Heritage properties.  

Attachment B

Programme elements recommended by the Draft Final Report of the Evaluation of the World Heritage Tourism Programme by the UN Foundation:

1. Adopt and disseminate standards and principles relating to sustainable tourism at World Heritage sites;

 2. Support the incorporation of appropriate tourism management into the workings of the Convention ;

 3. Collation of evidence to support sustainable tourism programme design, and to support targeting;

 4. Contribution of a World Heritage perspective to cross agency sustainable tourism policy initiatives;

 5. Strategic support for the dissemination of lessons learned;

 6. Strategic support for the development of training and guidance materials for national policy agencies and site managers;

 7. Provision of advice on the cost benefit impact of World Heritage inscription;

 8. Provision of advice on UNESCO World Heritage branding.

1. Having examined Documents WHC-09/33.COM/5A, WHC- 09/33.COM/INF.5A.1, WHC-09/33.COM/INF.5A.2, and WHC-09/33.COM/INF.5A.3 ,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 5 adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Takes note with appreciation of the activities undertaken by the World Heritage Centre over the past year in pursuit of the Committee's five Strategic Objectives;

4. Takes also note of the findings of the study undertaken by UNESCO's Internal Oversight Service on the mapping of the workload of the World Heritage Centre presented in Document WHC-09/33.COM/INF.5A.3;

5. Notes with satisfaction that the World Heritage Centre is working with the secretariats of intergovernmental committees of related conventions such as the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage , and the Convention for the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage-2001 and recommends that such cooperation be encouraged as this would further strengthen the work of the Centre;

6. Requests the World Heritage Centre to prepare a document on the World Heritage Convention and its cooperation and exchange with other conventions and programmes in the field of cultural heritage for discussion at the 34th session of the World Heritage Committee (2010);

7. Also requests the World Heritage Centre, in future reports on activities undertaken, to further strengthen the information and analysis available to States Parties by:

a) Retaining the current format to report activities and including an update on progress with implementing the Committee's decisions,

b) Describing the criteria by which the World Heritage Centre makes decisions as to which activities under the Convention it undertakes,

c) And including, on a discretionary basis, analysis of strategic issues and new directions;

8. Further requests the World Heritage Centre to produce, on an experimental basis, an indexed audio verbatim recording of the proceedings of the 33rd Session in addition to the standard summary records (as produced since the 26th session of the World Heritage Committee);

9. Notes the outline provided by the World Heritage Centre of its roles and the roles of the Advisory Bodies and agrees that this topic be further discussed at the 34th session of the Committee in 2010 under a separate agenda item;

10. Requests furthermore the World Heritage Centre to outline the forward direction of the World Heritage thematic programmes and initiatives, to enable an understanding of how these themes connect with and integrate into general programmes, and how they might be resourced;

11. Notes that the Centre already proactively engages women in its Heritage Programmes in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean as part of its gender balance policy and the provision of equal opportunity to all, and recommends that gender balance and community involvement be prioritized in the Centre's programmes;

12. Adopts the World Heritage Thematic Programme on Prehistory presented in Annex 1 of document WHC-09/33.COM/5A ;

13. Requests the World Heritage Centre to reconsider the term "prehistory", to better recognize the continuing cultures of indigenous communities, to ensure global representation in the identification and conservation of related properties, and to present a report on progress in developing an Action Plan on Prehistory and World Heritage at its 34th session in 2010;

14. Notes with concern the ongoing destruction of some of these fragile sites, including the recent destruction of the Rock Art sites of Tardrat Acacus in Libya, and requests the State Party to take immediate action and other measures as necessary to address the problem in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and to invite a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS mission;

15. Expresses its gratitude to the Governments of Bahrain, South Africa and Spain for the financial and technical support for the various international scientific encounters, and recognizes the proposal of the Government of Spain in establishing a centre for the research of Prehistory;

16. Recalling the Decision of the World Heritage Committee 31 COM.21C to carry out a programme of sustainable development concerning the conservation of earthen architecture, thanks the Governments of Italy and France for their support of the programme on earthen architecture in Africa and the Arab States in particular, and requests the potential financial donors and the States Parties to support the implementation of activities and further requests the World Heritage Centre to submit a progress report at its 35th session in 2011;

17. Takes note of the progress report on the World Heritage Tourism Programme;

18. Thanks the Governments of Australia, China, France, India, Switzerland and United Kingdom, who have worked in close collaboration with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, the World Tourism Organization and other partners, for contributing to the Initiative of Sustainable Tourism;

19. Expresses its gratitude to the Governments of Australia and China for the organization of a workshop on sustainable tourism at the World Heritage site, Mogao Caves, China, in September-October 2009 and requests that the following elements be submitted to the Committee for examination at its 34th session in 2010:

a) A report on the workshop,

b) The subsequent recommendations of the workshop regarding the adoption of best practices policy guidance, and concerning the changes proposed for the Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention ,

c) A document concerning the progress of the World Heritage Programme on Tourism;

20. Finally requests the Director of the World Heritage Centre to identify supplementary sources of funding to put into place a sufficient number of staff and resources at the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in order to continue to efficiently contribute to the resolution of problems related to World Heritage conservation.

XVII.8 The Secretariat provided the following justifications for the selection: 

  • Tourism - growing threats on World Heritage sites from tourism which, if sustainably managed could offer socio-economic development opportunities;
  • Forests - since close to 60 of the natural sites on the World Heritage List are forests and that the lessons being learned from the large-scale UNESCO-UN Foundation projects in the tropical forest sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo can serve as case studies to enrich the programme;
  • Cities - since close to 200 of the cultural sites on the List are historic centres or entire cities, and because 20% of the Fund's international assistance have served to address the challenge of urban heritage conservation;
  • Earthen structures - since some 30 of the cultural sites on the List are included in this category, and due to the particularity of conservation of earthen heritage, and threats.

XVII.10 The Committee expressed its appreciation for the clarity of the presentation and the justifications provided. Indicating strong support for the overall programming approach, the Committee however indicated the need for the programme to respond to the priorities established by the Committee and to create strong links with the results of the Global Strategy actions and Periodic Reporting. The Committee approved the four proposed themes of the programmes in this first series of initiatives and authorized the Centre to proceed in their development.

32 Cultural Tourism Destinations for Unique Cultural Trips

Photo of author

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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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17 Cultural Tourism Destinations in the World Culture-Buffs Must Visit


10. Austria

cultural tourism around the world

13. Brazil 

cultural tourism around the world

14. Singapore 

cultural tourism around the world

15. Thailand

cultural tourism around the world

17. United Kingdom

cultural tourism around the world

This post was published by Yash Saboo

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Cultural tourism & COVID19

With COVID-19 bringing global tourism to a standstill, millions of people in quarantine have been seeking out cultural and travel experiences from their homes. Culture has proven indispensable during this period, and the demand for virtual access to museums, heritage sites, theatres and performances has reached unprecedented levels.

With more than 80% of UNESCO World Heritage properties having closed down, the livelihoods of millions of cultural professionals have been seriously jeopardized. If tourism is set to contribute to the survival of the culture sector, i.e. cinemas, arts and many other segments, it should strengthen the cultural identity and branding of tourism destinations.

Despite all the challenges, the tourism and culture sectors are facing an opportunity to create new partnerships and collaboration. They are bound to jointly reinvent and diversify the offer, attract new audiences, develop new skills and support the world’s transition to the new conditions.

The recommendations outlined below have been prepared by the UNWTO Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility Department in collaboration with its international partners with competence in culture and tourism.

The information flow between sectors is key to understanding the pandemic’s impacts and devising effective responses. Specific data on the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on culture and tourism, as well as on the solutions being put in place for cultural tourism survival, will allow for more focused mitigation plans to respond to different needs and replicate good practices.


The tourism and culture sectors must continue to work together to inspire a more sustainable future for cultural tourism. Marketing strategies in tourism are highlighting local cultural expressions not only to address new audiences, but also to inspire responsible travel. Destinations and cultural sites are grappling with how to survive this period of hibernation, while planning for reopening of tourism.

The professional profiles of culture and tourism workers will require new skills for immediate actions and to take part in the recovery. Both sectors need to develop creative and inventive employment solutions to provide resilience to the workforce after decades of precarity. The existing jobs in cultural tourism should be kept and upskilled as human talent and knowledge are already there.

This crisis is an outstanding opportunity to build cross-sectoral governance models between tourism and culture key players. These models should involve tech partners to build platforms and exchange forums to coordinate actions and share information. The platforms should imply an effective communication, decision-making and agreements on setting the limits of tourism development involving cultural assets.  

The culture sector is shaping up committed global citizens and the tourists of the future, by reaching out to children & youth. The emotional bonds emerging now between citizens and cultural creators will make a difference in the years to come. The confinement can also make repeat visitors and “senior” cultural tourists support culture with patronage and solidarity actions.

Tourism success was traditionally measured by statistics highlighting visitors’ numbers, while qualitative indicators and visitors’ profile had less importance. The joint recovery of tourism and culture should align resilience policies, new priorities with the new measurement values, as well as tailor-made marketing strategies.

Destinations should address new and traditional markets & specific profiles of cultural visitors, whose interests and priorities may reshape after COVID-19 crisis. Culture will require support to survive and flourish, as it enriches the destinations’ identity and inspires tourism revival. Some cultural gatherings may be temporarily replaced by alternative products, as new scenarios unfold.


Bringing back inbound cultural tourism will be more challenging before consumers decide to travel abroad. By customizing their cultural offer, governments, destinations and cultural industries can have a more international outreach. International and cross-sectoral alliances will have a key role.

Innovation in SMEs, cooperatives and creative economy will be needed for the recovery, especially for the empowerment of women, youth & indigenous peoples. COVID-19 will heavily affect these groups as their economy is often informal, notably in emerging destinations. Their livelihoods will improve by consolidating their market access and inclusion into the cultural tourism supply chain. The shift from informal towards formal economy will benefit many communities and destinations.

The accessibility of cultural facilities, products and services should be advanced to cater better to the needs of persons with disabilities, seniors and families with small children, locals & visitors alike. Scaling up accessibility in culture benefits everyone.

The post COVID-19 recovery of cultural tourism should leave no one behind!  

Follow us on social media: #TravelTomorrow; #ShareCulture Share your experiences with us! – Email us at [email protected] The content is updated regularly with new information and resources. For further information about tourism and COVID-19, please click here To consult the statement by Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UNWTO on Tourism and COVID-19, please click here To consult measures to support travel and tourism, please click here To consult UNWTO’s webinar on recommendations for Communicating Crisis: pre, during, post COVID-19, please click here

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By Bastian Herre, Veronika Samborska and Max Roser

Tourism has massively increased in recent decades. Aviation has opened up travel from domestic to international. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of international visits had more than doubled since 2000.

Tourism can be important for both the travelers and the people in the countries they visit.

For visitors, traveling can increase their understanding of and appreciation for people in other countries and their cultures.

And in many countries, many people rely on tourism for their income. In some, it is one of the largest industries.

But tourism also has externalities: it contributes to global carbon emissions and can encroach on local environments and cultures.

On this page, you can find data and visualizations on the history and current state of tourism across the world.

Interactive Charts on Tourism

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Museums are more than places where objects are exhibited and conserved. Along with the dramatic rise in cultural tourism in recent decades, the number of museums around the world has increased from 22,000 in 1975 to 95,000 today.

Museums can play a leading role in bolstering the creative economy locally and regionally. Museums are also increasingly present in the social sphere, acting as platforms for debate and discussion, tackling complex societal issues and encouraging public participation. 

UNESCO supports developing countries using museums’ potential to foster social cohesion, notably among local communities and disadvantaged groups. During times of conflict in countries such as Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq and Mali, where museums have been threatened by looters in search of valuable objects or symbols of national identity, UNESCO has intervened to secure and rehabilitate museums. UNESCO also carries out capacity building for museum specialists in the conservation of collections and inventorying and documentation to contribute to the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural objects. 

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Museums can play a leading role in bolstering the creative economy locally and regionally.

Inside An Egyptian Museum

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  • Cultural Tourism: 20 World Cities That Cannot Be Surpassed By Any Other In 2024

23 Mar 2023

Cultural tourism relates to a city’s majestic art, fascinating architecture, age-old customs, impeccable hospitality, authentic cuisines, thriving nightlife, and many more facets. These compelling aspects make up the culture of a place that plays an influential role in developing and boosting the tourism of a particular destination.

And of all the cultural places to visit in the world, this list highlights the 20 most cultural cities in the world that are not only perfect for your next holiday but are also the most appealing places in the world.

20 Best Cultural Cities In The World

Here are the best cultural tourism destinations that you ought to visit if you want to do more than just travel. Learn a thing or two about the culture of these places.

  • Paris – An Epitome Of Love, Romance, And Modern Art
  • Milan – The Fashion Capital Of The World
  • London – A Flawless Combo Of Cosmopolitan Culture & Old-World Charm
  • Rome – A City That Oozes Royalty, Romance, And Ruins
  • Jerusalem – An United Abode Of Judaism, Islam, And Christianity
  • Bangkok – A Fantasy Land Of Temples, Bars, And Buzzing Nightlife
  • Toronto – A True Showcase Of Unity In Diversity
  • Miami – A Dazzling City Where Beach Scenes Are Done Right
  • Singapore – A Cuisine Hybrid That Brings Flavors Of The World Together
  • Madrid – A City That Cannot Survive Without Flamenco
  • Dubai – A Skyscraper-City That Is Synonymous With Luxury
  • Rio de Janeiro – The La La Land Of Festivals & Carnivals
  • Barcelona – A City That Speaks Architecture
  • Varanasi – The Spiritual Capital Of India
  • São Paulo – An Owl City That Has Over 2000 Nightclubs
  • New York – Shining With The Empire State Of Mind
  • Tokyo – The Food Capital Of The World
  • Vienna – A City That Breathes Music, In & Out
  • Istanbul – A City That Brings Ancient Relics Back To Life
  • Shanghai – The Museum City

20. Shanghai – The Museum City


Shanghai, also known as the global financial hub, is the largest city of China, and also the most populous city in the world. It is the birthplace of Chinese cinema, and boasts of numerous cultural attractions such as national as well as regional museums, diverse architecture, fascinating art galleries, sybaritic restaurants and cafes, and a vibrant nightlife.

Major Attractions: Shanghai Museum, The Bund, Shanghai World Financial Centre, Oriental Pearl Tower, Yu Garden, and more. Best Things To Do: Experience speed on the world’s fastest train – the Maglev, rejuvenate at Disneyland Park, enjoy a peaceful walk at the Bund, and more. Best Time To Visit: October to November.

Must Read: Crazy Adventures You Need To Try At The Great Wall of China

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19. Istanbul – A City That Brings Ancient Relics Back To Life

mosques in Istanbul

Witness the old world charm while traversing through the empire city of Istanbul. Straddling across Europe and Asia, Istanbul is the world’s only transcontinental city with an amalgamation of Asian and European culture . The relics of antiquity, historical museum, bustling markets, medieval ruins, upmarket restaurants, and peppy nightclubs form a major part of cultural tourism in Istanbul.

Major Attractions: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Bosphorus, and more. Best Things To Do: Take a tour of the Bosphorous Cruise, shopping at the Grand Bazar, explore the Basilica Cistern, and more. Best Time To Visit: April to May or September to November

Suggested Read:   26 Places To Visit In Germany That Will Compel You To Stay Here Forever

18. Vienna – A City That Breathes Music, In & Out

City of Music, Vienna

Vienna is another city which adds to the charm of elegant European culture . The city of canals is known for its artistic legacy, imperial architecture, and majestic museums. Vienna’s long-lived culture of music, theatre, and opera is now accompanied by a contemporary trend of opulent coffee houses and elegant restaurants.

Major Attractions: Schonbrunn Palace, Hofburg, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Belvedere, Albertina, and more. Best Things To Do: Visit the State Opera House, explore the Tiergarten Schönbrunn zoo, enjoy riding on the Wiener Riesenrad Ferris wheel, and more. Best Time To Visit: April to May or September to October

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17. Tokyo – The Food Capital Of The World

Chef View

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Unlike other cultural destinations of the world, Tokyo’s culture is not only limited to ancient art and architecture. This metropolitan city depicts a unique blend of futuristic and traditional world with architecture ranging from historical temples to neon-lit skyscrapers. The most beckoning part of Japanese culture is their food. Tokyo has the most number of Michelin-starred restaurant than any other city in the world, thus, earning the title of ‘food capital of the world’.

Major Attractions: Tokyo SkyTree, Imperial Palace, Tokyo National Museum, Odaiba, Shinjuku Gyoen, and more. Best Things To Do: Spectate a game of Sumo Wrestling, dine out at the finest restaurants, visit the Tokyo Disneyland, and more. Best Time To Visit: March to May and October to December

Suggested Read: 15 Magical Autumn Honeymoon Places For Newlywed Couples

16. New York – Shining With The Empire State Of Mind

Empire State Building New York

New York, the most lively city of United States, is also a popular commercial, financial, and cultural cities of the world . The city houses ultramodern architectural buildings, highest number of theaters, musical concerts, and a bustling nightlife which beckon every traveler to visit this place once in a lifetime.

Major Attractions: Central Park, Empire State Building, Statue Of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and more. Best Things To Do: Attend a broadway show at Times Square, visit the Brooklyn Bridge, explore the High Line, visit the Bryant Park, and more. Best Time To Visit: April to June and September to November

Suggested Read:   8 Salzburg Hotels That Let You Experience The City’s Fine Hospitality On Your Trip

15. São Paulo – An Owl City That Has Over 2000 Nightclubs

Sao Paulo nightlife

Holding a record of maximum number of nightclubs, Sao Paulo is a city that never sleeps. The city witnesses a vast cultural diversity with sophisticated art and architecture on side and an uproaring party culture on the other. Keeping aside cultural places to visit , the Paulistanos possess an eternal love for music and theatre which reflects brightly from their culture.

Major Attractions: Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo Museum of Art, Sao Paulo Cathedral, and more. Best Things To Do: Witness the Samba Saturdays, watch a play at the Theatro Municipal de Sao Paulo, and more. Best Time To Visit: September to March

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14. Varanasi – The Spiritual Capital Of India

pilgrimage site to varanasi

Varanasi, a major pilgrimage city in India, is one of the most visited cultural travel destinations of the country. Situated on the banks of the divine Ganges river, Varanasi is one of the oldest civilised city of the world which can be best explored with personalized India tour packages . This mystical city is considered as an abode of Lord Shiva, and is of great religious importance to the Hindus who visit this place in order to repent, seek forgiveness, and to pay final respects to the departed family members.

Major Attractions: Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Panchganga Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Ramnagar Fort, Chaukhandi Stupa, and more. Best Things To Do: Witness the evening prayer ceremony at Ganga Ghat, River Rafting, explore the Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary, and more. Best Time To Visit: November To February

Suggested Read: 39 Places To Visit In Varanasi: The Best Of Culture, History, & Spirituality

13. Barcelona – A City That Speaks Architecture

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

This Spanish seaside city possesses a rich cultural heritage in the form of art and architecture which dates back to the middle ages. Barcelona is one of the most visited cultural places in the world which is not only famous for its historical past but also for its Catalan cuisine and elegant wine and dine restaurants. It is one of the most interesting cultural tourism places to visit if you want to have a holistic experience.

Major Attractions: Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Casa Mila, Gothic Quarter, La Boqueria, Museu Picasso, and more. Best Things To Do: Explore La Boqueria food market, enjoy Tibidabo Amusement Park, trek to Montjuic, cable car ride at Montserrat, and more. Best Time To Visit: May to June or September to October

Suggested Read:   This Winter, Escape To The Best Honeymoon Destinations In Europe In Winter

12. Rio de Janeiro – The La La Land Of Festivals & Carnivals

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The first thing that comes to one’s mind upon hearing Rio de Janeiro is the famous ‘Christ The Redeemer’ statue. The ‘Marvellous City’ is an important part of cultural tourism famous for its colourful lifestyle, high-spirited nightlife with music in the veins of every Carioca. The enthusiastic lifestyle of the people coupled with the golden sand beaches, and picturesque mountains make the city even more enticing.

Major Attractions: Christ The Redeemer Statue, Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana, Corcovado, and more. Best Things To Do: Santa Teresa tour, hike the Sugarloaf mountain, shopping at Ipanema, nightlife at Botafogo, and more. Best Time To Visit: December to March

Suggested Read:   Guide To Budapest: The Most Stunning City In Europe

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11. Dubai – A Skyscraper-City That Is Synonymous With Luxury

Dubai skyline

Dubai, the most sumptuous cultural tourism city, is a synonym of luxury. The lavish culture of the Emirati people reflects in their ornate architecture, extravagant hotels and resorts, and expansive malls. Being an epitome of development, Dubai is one of the most futuristic cities of the world in terms of technology, and architecture.

Major Attractions: Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah, The Ferrari Museum, Aquaventure Waterpark, and more. Best Things To Do: Desert Safari, Shopping at Dubai Mall, dune bashing, cruise the Dubai Creek, quad-biking, and more. Best Time To Visit: November to March

Suggested Read: Spending Winter In Dubai This Year Would Be The Best Decision You’d Ever Make With This Guide!

10. Madrid – A City That Cannot Survive Without Flamenco

Flamenco, Madrid

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is another city which depicts the majestic grandeur of European culture . The city’s culture is beautifully moulded in the artistic and architectural masterpieces, which is further enhanced by the culinary delights where fine art meets fine dining on the bustling streets of the city which become even more lit during the night.

Major Attractions: Buen Retiro Park, Plaza Mayor, Royal Palace Of Madrid, Museo Nacional Del Prado, Puerta del Sol, and more. Best Things To Do: Visit the Temple of Debod, do the flamenco, shopping at the flea market, explore the Almudena Cathedral, attend a theatre performance at Gran Vía, and more. Best Time To Visit: September to November and March to May

Suggested Read: 20 Remarkable Places To Visit In Madrid That Give You A Taste Of The Good Life In Spain!

9. Singapore – A Cuisine Hybrid That Brings Flavors Of The World Together

Cuisine of Singapore

One of the most tourist-friendly cities in the world, Singapore is an indispensable part of cultural tourism . This island city is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world in terms of lifestyle, language, and cuisine. It is a global financial with the most efficient transport system in the world, eco-friendly business hubs, and a plethora of national parks in Singapore . 

Major Attractions: Gardens By The Bay, Sentosa, Universal Studios, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Merlion Park, and more. Best Things To Do: Enjoy the Night Safari, go on a Singapore Zoo tour, experience the River Safari, enjoy riding on the Singapore Flyer, and more. Best Time To Visit: February to April

Suggested Read: 22 Chilling Winter Destinations In Europe That’ll Melt Your Heart

8. Miami – A Dazzling City Where Beach Scenes Are Done Right

Miami beaches

One of the leading cities of cultural tourism , Miami lures culture lovers to visit its white sand beaches, artistic beauty, and architectural jewels. This culturally diverse city is one of beckons you to capture a glimpse of its exuberant culture which reflects through its dazzling nightlife, innovative cuisines, and thrilling adventure sports.

Major Attractions: Miami Seaquarium, Jungle Island, Coral Castle, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, and more. Best Things To Do: Shopping at Lincoln Road, swim at the Venetian Pool, go bowling at the Dolphin Mall, experience skydiving, and more. Best Time To Visit: March to May

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7. Toronto – A True Showcase Of Unity In Diversity


Toronto, often called the capital of language diversity, is one of the finest example of cultural tourism . This culturally and linguistically diverse city is an exceptional example of hospitality and the number of ethnic groups that it accommodates. Other than that, Toronto is also known for its freezing winters, prodigious skyscrapers, and extensive culinary delights.

Major Attractions: CN Tower, Lake Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Casa Loma, and more. Best Things To Do: Dine at the CN Tower, enjoy sailing at Lake Ontario, explore the Canada’s Wonderland, visit the Toronto Islands, shopping at Eaton Centre, and more. Best Time To Visit: April to May and September to October

Suggested Read: 40 Best Places To Visit In Canada That Will Leave You Spellbound!

6. Bangkok – A Fantasy Land Of Temples, Bars, And Buzzing Nightlife

Temples in Bangkok Thailand

One of the most budget-friendly cultural tourism destinations , Bangkok is famous for its iconic temples, vibrant cuisine, and lively bars all over the world. The Thai culture resides in each and every aspect of the city, be it ultramodern architecture, tropical beaches, the traditional martial arts, or the much-hyped go-go bars. Apart from this, this temple land is also popular among the honeymooners who flock to Bangkok, Thailand all around the year. It is also one of the most popular cultural tourism destinations . 

Major Attractions: Phi Phi Islands, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Pattaya, Railay Beach, Wat Arun, Ko Pha Ngan, and more. Best Things To Do: Island hopping at Phi Phi Islands, scuba diving and snorkelling at Similan Islands, nightlife at Pattaya, and more. Best Time To Visit: November to April

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5. Jerusalem – An United Abode Of Judaism, Islam, And Christianity

Jerusalem city

Jerusalem, in true sense, is the quintessence of cultural tourism . It might be the only city in the world where one can hear church bells in consonance with Namaz, and the sound of the Shofar. The city’s cultural diversity is accompanied by its contrasting ancient and newfangled architecture, lifestyle, and beliefs. This city offers captivating tourist attractions ranging from museums to buildings, and restaurants and bars.

Major Attractions: Church Of The Holy Sepulchre, Dome Of The Rock, Western Wall, Mount Zion, and more. Best Things To Do: Hike the Israel National Trail, visit the Yad Vashem, shopping at Old City Market, explore the Monastery of the Cross, and more. Best Time To Visit: April to May or October to November

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4. Rome – A City That Oozes Royalty, Romance, And Ruins

Colosseum in Rome

Rome, also known as the Eternal City, is the epitome of European culture . Traversing through this city feels like travelling back in time to the middle ages. The cultural heritage of the city is restored in the ancient ruins like the age-old Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Piazza Venezia. The mesmerizing art and the bustling city life of this city render it one of the most romantic destinations in the world. It is also one of the must-see tourist places in Italy . 

Major Attractions: Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, Vatican Museum’s, St. Peter’s Basilica, Pantheon, and more. Best Things To Do: Shop at the Spanish Steps, savour the Gelatos at Giolitti, explore the Piazza Navona, visit the museum of Castel Sant’Angelo, and more. Best Time To Visit: October to April

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3. London – A Flawless Combo Of Cosmopolitan Culture & Old-World Charm

London in the evening

London, the capital city of England, depicts an amalgamation of both ancient and modern European culture . The cosmopolitan culture of the city can be estimated by the fact that one in every 3 Londoners is a foreign born. Other than that, the royal city is also known for its heritage architecture, creative art, film festivals, performing arts, and delectable cuisines.

Major Attractions: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Tower Of London, British Museum, Tower Bridge, Palace of Westminster, and more. Best Things To Do: Boating at River Thames, visit St. Paul’s Cathedral, witness the best skyline views from The Shard, explore the London Dungeon, and more. Best Time To Visit: May to September

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2. Milan – The Fashion Capital Of The World

Fashionable People

Take a bus tour around the streets of Milan to absorb the rich history associated with its architecture, people, and food. Dressing to impress is a way of life and a given in the fashion capital of the world. Be prepared for a classy experience in a city that’s had more than its fair share of scandals, historic moments, and iconic people who have made a big imprint on human civilization, making it a significant cultural tourism destination . 

Major Attractions: Milan Cathedral, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Sforza Castle, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Palazzo dell’Arengario, and more. Best Things To Do: Watch an Italian classic at Teatro alla Scala, explore Royal Palace of Milan, admire the modern art at Pinacoteca di Brera, and more. Best Time To Visit: April to May and September to October

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1. Paris – An Epitome Of Love, Romance, And Modern Art

Romantic couple in Paris

Paris is a city overloaded with European culture . It is the most romantic destination of the world and a hub of modern art, fashion, film festivals, cinemas, shopping and gastronomy. Another important part of Parisian culture is the French cuisine which is served in iconic restaurants and blissful bakeries.

Major Attractions: Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, The Louvre, Notre-Dame de Paris, Sacré-Cœur, Paris, and more. Best Things To Do: Visit Disneyland Paris, dine at the Eiffel Tower, explore the Tuileries Garden, shopping at Champs-Élysées, and more. Best Time To Visit: June to August and September to October

Further Read: In Pictures: 35 Most Beautiful Cities In Europe That Will Make You Want To Take The EuroTrip Now!

Are you a culture vulture? Then wait no more! Book an international holiday package with TravelTriangle to one of the most cultural cities in the world and experience the best of cultural tourism.

Disclaimer:  TravelTriangle claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on TravelTriangle, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.

Please Note:  Any information published by TravelTriangle in any form of content is not intended to be a substitute for any kind of medical advice, and one must not take any action before consulting a professional medical expert of their own choice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cultural Tourism

Which are the most famous cities in europe.

Paris, Rome, London, Madrid, Spain, and Vienna are some of the most popular cities in Europe that travellers often add to their itinerary. If you are planning a backpacking trip, you can add several more destinations from the surrounding countries.

Which is the most populous city in the world?

Tokyo is the most populous city in the world which has a population of approximately 9 million people. It is also one of the fastest developing cities in the world.

Which are the most popular cultural cities of South America?

Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the most popular cultural cities of South America. Most travellers explore these capitals before exploring other destinations in the country.

Which city is known as the fashion capital of the world?

Paris, Milan, London, and New York are known as the fashion capitals of the world.

Which city is known as the spiritual capital of India?

Varanasi is known as the spiritual capital of India. Home to some of the most popular temples and pilgrimage sites, many devotees travel to Varanasi for spiritual gatherings every year.

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The 20 Best Cultural Festivals Around the World

Cultural Festivals Around the WorldCultural Festivals Around the World

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. All hosted affiliate links follow our editorial policies .

Across the world each year, there are hundreds of cultural festivals that celebrate the unique beliefs and traditions belonging to a specific region.

For those of us who are not local to the area, visiting these festivals can be a great way to immerse ourselves in other cultures and join in on unique celebrations for a truly unforgettable experience.

So whether you’re hoping to visit these celebrations yourself or just learn more about other people’s cultural traditions, here’s an in-depth guide to the best cultural festivals around the world.

READ MORE: 20 Best Festivals in the World (For Your World Travel Bucket List)

cultural tourism around the world

Best Cultural Festivals Around the World Guide

(Arranged by continent)

  • Black-necked Crane Festival (Bhutan)
  • Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival (China)
  • Holi Festival (India/Pakistan)
  • Naadam Festival (Mongolia)
  • Songkran Festival (Thailand)
  • Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (Morocco)
  • Timket Festival (Ethiopia)
  • Ouidah International Voodoo Festival (Benin)
  • Semana Santa (Spain)
  • St. Patrick’s Day (Ireland)
  • Hogmanay (Scotland)
  • Oktoberfest (Germany)
  • Carnival (Brazil)
  • Día de Los Muertos (Mexico)
  • Inti Raymi (Peru)
  • Medellín Flower Festival (Colombia)
  • The Gathering of Nations (USA)
  • Mardi Gras (USA)
  • Toronto International Film Festival (Canada)
  • Mount Hagen Culture Show (Papua New Guinea)

Asian Cultural Festivals

festivals of different countries -Gangtey Gompa - Bhutan

1. Black-necked Crane Festival (Bhutan)

Celebrated in the courtyard of Gangtey Goemba, one of the oldest and largest Nyingmapa monasteries in Bhutan, the Black-necked Crane Festival draws in large crowds of locals to celebrate the arrival of the endangered birds .

These majestic birds are considered sacred and a symbol of longevity in Bhutan, where they are the subject of many folktales and songs. Images of the Black-necked Crane can also be found painted on the walls of temples across the country.

The birds’ arrival (after migrating from their summer home on the Tibetan Plateau) is widely celebrated because they’re believed to bring prosperity and bountiful harvests to the farms of the Phobjikha Valley.

The festival celebrating their arrival is a one-day event that takes place every November. It features various folk dances and songs, children dressed up in crane costumes and masks, and local school kids performing plays that raise awareness for environmental conservation .

This year the Black-necked Crane Festival will be held on November 11, 2021.

READ MORE: 10 Steps To Bhutan Happiness: A Nature Lover’s Travel Guide

chinese festivals - Harbin Snow & Ice Festival

2. Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival (China)

Located in Northeast China, Harbin experiences frigid winter winds blowing in from Siberia. This accounts for its Arctic climate, with daily temperatures in winter averaging to around 1.8 ºF!

While these temperatures might seem daunting, it’s also what allows the city to host one of the most famous winter festivals in the world, the Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival.

The month-long festival recently celebrated its 37th anniversary, taking place in January 5th to February 5th in 2021. The beloved event takes over the entire city, as the ice sculptures are some of the largest in the world.

There are two main exhibitions where you can explore the exquisite scenes. The first is Sun Island, which is situated along the Songhua River , from which 2- to 3-foot ice blocks are pulled to create massive displays.

Next there is the Ice and Snow World, which opens at night to reveal full-sized buildings made of ice blocks illuminated by colorful computer-controlled LED lights.

There are an array of other winter activities that you can enjoy while at the festival, including alpine skiing,  touring the ice lantern exhibitions in Zhaolin Park, and swimming in the river’s freezing waters .

READ MORE: Top 7 Things to Do in China for Nature Lovers

cultural festivals of india -Holi Festival of Colors

3. Holi Festival (India/Pakistan)

Known as  the “festival of colors” or “the festival of love,” Holi is an ancient Hindu festival that celebrates the end of winter and the triumph of good over evil. In 2021, it takes place March 28th and 29th. 

There are various legends attached to the festival. One suggests it pays tribute to the Hindu God Visnu and his follower, Prahlada, after their defeat of Prahlada’s tyrannical father, the demon King Hiranyakashipu.

Another suggests it is a celebration of the intense love Radha had for the deity Krishna, while others believe it is associated with Shiva, who is known as a powerful transformer and destroyer of evil.

On the night of the festival, which is known as Holika Dahan  or  Chhoti Holi, people gather to perform religious rituals around huge bonfires that symbolize the cleansing and forgiveness of the past.

The following day, known as  Holi, is when the celebration truly erupts. People swarm the streets of India with water guns and water-filled balloons to drench each other with, along with a vibrant array of colored powders.

The festive occasion also often includes traditional food and drinks, marching bands, and dancing that brings people together in joyous celebration.

READ MORE: 50 Fascinating Facts About Indian Culture (By Region)

different cultural festivals -Naadam Festival

4. Naadam Festival (Mongolia)

Held in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar in early July, the Naadam Festival is a combination of arts and sports that celebrate Mongolia’s National Holiday and unique nomadic culture.

The festival is believed to date back centuries to the era when Mongolia was ruled by the Qing Dynasty, and features events that were popular during the great Genghis Khaan’s era in the 13th century.

Locally known as  eriin gurvan naadam  (“the three games of men”), the event features three primary sports: wrestling, archery, and horse racing.

The competition begins after an elaborate opening ceremony with performances from various dancers, musicians, horseback riders, and other athletes.

The wrestling event features 500 to 1000+ men competing in single-elimination rounds. The archery event features male and female athletes aiming for small targets, known as  surs,  located up to 75 meters away.

The Mongolian horse race features up to 1,000 horses running 10 to 17 miles. In 2021, the extraordinary event will take place from July 11 to July 15.

READ MORE: How to Experience Traditional Mongolian Culture

Songkran Festival

5. Songkran Festival (Thailand)

The word Songkran derives from the Sanksrit word for “astrological passage,” and represents a time of strong transformation or change.

It’s a fitting name for this festival, which is celebrated April 13-15 throughout Southeast Asia , marking the beginning of the traditional New Year .

Family members who have moved away will usually return for the Songkran Festival to pay respect to their ancestors. People dress in their best clothes and clean their houses in preparation for the new year.

The mornings begin with families visiting the local Buddhist temples to offer food to the Monks. A ritual is also often performed wherein water is poured on statues of the Buddha, young children, and the elderly, symbolizing purification and cleansing.

Some regions host traditional parades and beauty contests, while others set off fireworks in an effort to ward off bad luck in the coming year. But the event that’s most well-known is the celebration in Thailand .

All major streets are shut down as swarms of people gather with water balloons and Super Soakers in hand, ready to drench anyone in sight. It is truly a wild and cheerful way to have fun and celebrate the new year!

READ MORE: The 13 Most Beautiful National Parks in Thailand

African Cultural Festivals

African festivals - Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

6. Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (Morocco)

Launched in 1994, with Morocco ‘s King Mohammed VI as its royal patron, the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music has grown to be one of the best music festivals in the world, attracting 100,000+ attendees each year.

This festival was created to showcase the ancient city of Fes’ rich traditions in arts, knowledge, and spirituality. Which is fitting since the city’s influence dates back to Medieval times, when Popes and philosophers would travel to Fes in order to study and teach.

Each year there are around 60 different concerts on offer, featuring a diverse array of musicians and poets (including icons like Björk, Patti Smith, Joan Baez, Salif Keita, and Ravi Shankar ).

The concerts are held in beautiful historical venues, including local riads and the grand courtyard of Bab al Makina, where the official ceremonies of the royal palace once took place.

The advocacy of music as a means of bringing disparate people together was recognized by the UN in 2001. They declared the Fes Festival as one of the most outstanding events contributing to the dialogue between different cultures around the world.

This year the festival will take place from June 4 to June 12.

READ MORE: Hassan Hakmoun on Morocco’s Gnawa Music & Culture

Timket celebration

7. Timket Festival (Ethiopia)

Timket (named after the Amharic word for “baptism”) is an Orthodox Christian celebration of the Epiphany to commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.

Beginning on the 18th of January, the annual festival begins with a processional. Models of the Ark of the Covenant, called  Tabots,  are taken from churches and wrapped in fine cloth and silks to be carried on the heads of priests to the river or bath.

The water is blessed at dawn, and the priests then sprinkle the crowd with it. Many participants will also submerge themselves in the water in order to symbolically renew their baptismal vows.

The second day of Timket is when the main celebrations take place. People come out in droves, marching through the streets in an exuberant display of singing, dancing, and all-around celebration.

Everyone is dressed in their finest clothes– usually white with gold crosses– carrying beautifully colored embroidered umbrellas that are believed to signify the presence of the Holy Spirit.

On the final day of Timket, which is known as the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, the Tabots are carried back to the churches, accompanied by a procession of priests and believers.

READ MORE: Why I’d Prefer to Forget Visiting the Dead Sea, Jordan

Ouidah Voodoo Festival

8. Ouidah International Voodoo Festival (Benin)

Held each year on January 10 in the West African country of Benin, the Ouidah International Voodoo Festival is the world’s largest gathering of Voodoo  (a.k.a Vodun) practitioners and devotees. It attracts nearly 10,000 people from around the world and all walks of life.

Benin is widely regarded as the birthplace of West African Vodun, which is a an ancient religion based around the belief that there are sacred spirits (known as vodun ) that govern the Earth.

There is a hierarchy of power, with major deities governing nature and society and lesser spirits in trees, streams, rivers, and rocks. There are also  vodun  dedicated to specific tribes and nations.

The Ouidah International Voodoo Festival begins with the ritualistic slaughter of a goat in honor of the spirits. Then there’s the sound of ceremonial drums, which develops into an upbeat gathering with traditional dances.

Devotees who participate may be decorated with local powder and palm oil , and women will often be dressed in vibrant colors .

There are also markets filled with wood carvings, masks, and fetishes, which are objects believed to be inhabited by spirits that have healing and spiritually significant properties.

READ MORE: The 20 Safest Countries in Africa to Visit

European Cultural Festivals

No matter where you go around the globe, everyone loves to celebrate. And when it comes to celebration, cultural festivals, holiday festivals, music festivals, and religious festivals offer something for everyone. Our “bucket list” picks for the 20 Best Festivals in the World include Carnival, Dia de los Muertos, Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, Holi, La Tomatina, Mardi Gras, Semana Santa, Songkran, and a dozen other festivals. via @greenglobaltrvl

9. Semana Santa (Spain)

The week between Palm Sunday and Easter (commonly called Holy Week) is known in much of Latin America as Semana Santa. This is a time to commemorate the last week in the life of Christ.

Semana Santa’s celebrations in Spain vary from region to region: Festivals held in Málaga and Seville are some of the most elaborate, while those held in Valladolid and Zamora tend to be more somber.

But however they’re celebrated, the central meaning and elements of these religious festivals are mostly the same, with processionals of Catholic brotherhoods or fraternities walking through the streets.

Penitents, or  nazarenos,  march in the streets dressed in colorful robes, covering their faces and carrying processional candles or crosses.

Many walk barefoot, bound by shackles and chains: This is a testament to their devotion, because the processionals can sometimes last over 10 hours!

Along their journey, the  nazarenos carry large floats known as  pasos,  some of which have been used by the brotherhoods for centuries. These are decorated with elaborate sculptures that depict scenes from relevant passages of the Bible, like the Passion of Christ and the mourning of Virgin Mary.

READ MORE: Working Holidays In Andalusia, Spain

St. Patrick's Day

10. St. Patrick’s Day (Ireland)

The beloved celebration most Americans associate with St. Patrick’s Day actually originated as a religious occasion to honor the death of Ireland ‘s patron saint.

Born to a religious family sometime around 385 AD in Roman Britain, Saint Patrick was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Gaelic Ireland. There he worked for six years as a shepherd before escaping.

After making his way home, he ultimately became a priest. He later returned to Ireland, where he converted many pagans to Christianity by using the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity.

The St. Patrick’s Day festival has grown to be one of the most celebrated holidays around the world . In fact,  it’s actually celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. But of course experiencing it in Ireland is a truly unforgettable affair!

Every year on March 17, people throw on as much green clothing and shamrocks as they can to either join in or watch lavish parades filled with performers that march through the streets.

Dublin’s massive St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the most famous, attracting more than half a million people each year! Traditional Irish folk music fills the streets, and of course there’s plenty of food and drink to indulge in as the Lenten restrictions are officially lifted for the day.

READ MORE: One Week In Ireland (The Perfect Ireland Road Trip Itinerary)


11. Hogmanay (Scotland)

Hogmanay is Scotland ‘s New Years celebration, which lasts from December 31 to January 2.

Its origins are unclear, but the celebration gained popularity when the Church of Scotland outlawed Christmas traditions , believing that there was no basis for the holiday in the Bible.

Christmas has since been declared a Scottish holiday, but some Scots still see Hogmanay as a more important occasion. 

It’s a great celebration that begins with a massive torchlit parade and continues through street festivals, concerts, fireworks, and gathering to sing the traditional Scottish song “Auld Lang Syne.”

There are also more mellow Hogmanay traditions. Many families do a thorough house cleaning, removing old ashes in the fire and blessing the house with holy water from a local stream to prepare for the New Year.

Another tradition is known as “first footing,” wherein neighbors visit each other just after midnight with traditional food gifts such as shortbread or black bun. In return, the visitor will be gifted a small whisky.

To ensure luck in the New Year, the first footer should be a dark-haired male, as fair-haired first footers were not always welcome after the Viking invasions of ancient times.

READ MORE: Top 10 Things to Do on the Isle of Skye, Scotland


12. Oktoberfest (Germany)

Taking place in 2021 from September 18 through October 3, Oktoberfest is the largest folk festival in the world. It attracts over six million people to the Theresienwiese Fairground in Munich each year.

The Oktoberfest Festival is an important part of Bavarian culture and history .

It was first held in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of the crown Prince of Bavaria and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen through days of feasting, drinking, and horse racing.

Today, Oktoberfest is celebrated with the same joyous spirit. People come dressed in traditional Bavarian clothing– such as dirndls and lederhosen– to enjoy tons of different attractions, amusement rides, games, and plenty of music and dancing.

Of course Oktoberfest would not be the same without the food and drink, including Bretzn’ (chewy pretzels), Weisswurst (white veal sausages), Lebkuchen (heart-shaped gingerbread cookies), and of course beer.

In fact, around 2 million gallons of beer are consumed during Oktoberfest each year. Talk about a celebration!  For a celebration closer to home, Helen GA ‘s Oktoberfest is one the longest-running festivals in the USA.

READ MORE: 15 Famous Festivals in the USA

Latin American Cultural Festivals

Best Festivals Around the World -Carnival

13. Carnival (Brazil)

Between the dazzling costumes, upbeat music, spirited dancing, and overall contagious energy, it’s no wonder Carnival is widely considered to be “the greatest show on Earth.”

The vivacious event, which now draws nearly 5 million attendees each year, originally started as a religious affair for Catholics, It took place five days before the beginning of Lent, which is 40 days before Easter .

While you’ll find street parties around every corner filled with large crowds dancing to the tune of Samba, the height of Carnival today takes place at Rio’s Sambadrome.

There, over 100,000 spectators pay top dollar to watch as the city’s top 12 samba schools compete for a grand prize. Each school represents a different neighborhood that has come to showcase their insane talent and a year’s worth of hard work.

The competition has a different theme each year, but entertainment is guaranteed! While originally scheduled for February 13 through 16, unfortunately the 2021 Carnival was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns.

READ MORE: Recife, Brazil: One of the World’s Top 10 Shark Infested Beaches

Day of the Dead Cultural Mexico Festival in Mazatlan Mexico

14. Día de Los Muertos (Mexico)

Commonly known in English-speaking countries as the Day of the Dead, Día de Los Muertos (which lasts from October 31 through November 2) is one of  Mexico ‘s most important holidays.

The origin of this holiday dates back around 3,000 years to rituals that were done in honor of the dead in pre-Colombian Mesoamerica. The cultural festival has since grown to be so influential, it was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008.

On the Day of the Dead, it is believed that the border between the spirit world and physical world dissolve. During this time, the souls of the dead can return to the living world for a reunion with their loved ones.

To honor those who have passed, people build private altars (known as  ofrendas ) in their homes.On it, they put photos of the dead along with their favorite food and drink, Aztec Marigolds, and  calavareas (sugar skulls).

They’ll also visit their loved ones’ graves in order to honor their memory and leave gifts.

Other celebrations differ depending on the region. Some areas host parades and lively celebrations, while others keep it a mellow holiday more focused on the religious overtones, as it coincides with All Saint’s Day.

READ MORE: 40 Fascinating Christmas Traditions in Mexico

latin american festivals - Inti Raymi

15. Inti Raymi (Peru)

Inti Raymi is a traditional religious ceremony dating back to the Inca Empire in Peru . It honors the most esteemed deity in Inca religion– Inti, the God of the Sun.

The ceremony was established by the Inca Pachacútec in 1412. It continues to be celebrated each year on the Southern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice (June 24th), in a re-enactment designed to honor the history and culture of the ancient empire.

The celebrations begin in the morning in front of the Inca Temple of the Sun, which is known as  Korikancha.  Representatives and performers from the four  suyos  (provinces) of the former Inca Empire make their way to the large opening in front of the temple before invoking praise to the Sun God.

After a processional through the center of Cusco and a few more rituals, they begin the final part of the ceremony at the ancient archaeological site  of Sacsahuamán. There, thousands of spectators watch from the surrounding hills as the Inca leader says his final words before the ritual sacrifice of a llama.

When the Inti Raymi Festival comes to a close, the sound of horns, panpipes, and drums fill the air, with dances and performances representative of the four  suyos.

READ MORE: A Strange Shaman’s Blessing & Peruvian Amazon Village Life

hispanic festivals - Medellin Flower Festival

16. Medellín Flower Festival (Colombia)

Known as the “city of eternal spring,” Medellín hosts one of Colombia’s most important regional cultural events, the Medellín Flower Festival.

In late July and early August (2021 dates TBD), the city blooms with a vast array of vibrant and unique flowers across every balcony, terrace, and garden throughout the city .

Since it was launched in 1957, the festival has grown to include over 150 events. These include various flower competitions, folkloric performances, a horse fair, orchestra festival, classic car parade, live music shows, and more that attract thousands of locals and tourists each year.

All the different flower displays and events are truly special, but the highlight of the festival is the  Desfile de Silleteros  or “Flower Grower’s Parade.”

Local flower growers create intricate arrangements, which they mount on a  silleta–  a unique contraption that lets them carry the elaborate displays on their back.

As they march through the city streets, people join in to chant, “ Cuando pasan los silleteros, es Antioquia la que pasa ,” which translates to “When the silleteros go by, it’s Antioquia going by!”

READ MORE: Guide to the Best Attractions in Cartagena Colombia

North American Cultural Festivals

american festivals -The Gathering of Nations

17. The Gathering of Nations (USA)

For the past 37 years, the Gathering of the Nations has been an event where Native American people come together to celebrate their culture and history  through performances, dancing, singing, and camaraderie.

Unofficially launched in 1983, the event officially took on the name Gathering of Nations in 1984.

Since then it has been held each year in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It regularly attracts members of over 565 tribes from around the US and 220 from Canada, making it the largest pow-wow in the USA .

This cultural celebration always features numerous dancing, singing, and drum performances. There’s also a Miss Indian World pageant, wherein women can compete for the crown based on their personality, dancing ability, and knowledge of tribal traditions.

Attendees can also visit Stage 49, a contemporary performance space where indigenous musicians can perform in front of a large audience. Those seeking souvenirs can shop the Indian Traders Market, which features various vendors selling Native American arts and crafts .

READ MORE: 30 Facts About Tlingit Art, Culture & the History of Alaska’s Native Tribes

Mardi Gras

18. Mardi Gras (USA)

One of the most famous cultural festivals in the United States, Mardi Gras is celebrated all over the world. But nowhere is it quite as raucous as in New Orleans , Louisiana. 

Mardi Gras is a tradition dating back thousands of years to ancient  pagan celebrations of spring and fertility . When Christianity arrived in Rome, these popular traditions were incorporated into the new faith.

Mardi Gras takes place on “Fat Tuesday,” the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Basically, it’s a time where people can let loose and over-indulge before the moderation that comes with Lent.

There are masked Mardi Gras balls and lavish dinners leading up to the big day. But the highlight of the festival is the wild neighborhood street parades, which include marching bands and large floats with people decked out in extravagant costumes tossing beads into the crowd.

Another popular Mardi Gras tradition is  King Cake parties. Cakes with purple, green, and gold icing (symbolizing justice, faith, and power) are baked with a plastic baby inside, representing the baby Jesus.

Whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby in it gets the responsibility of buying the next King Cake.

Due to Covid-19, there were no Mardi Gras parades in 2021. But there were other ways to celebrate, including the Krewe of House Floats, where neighborhoods across New Orleans decorated their houses like the lavish floats that usually pass by in the streets.

READ MORE: The History & Culture of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Indians

multicultural festival -Toronto International Film Festival

19. Toronto International Film Festival (Canada)

Attracting nearly half a million attendees each year, the Toronto International Film Festival is one of the largest film festivals in the world. Its mission is “to transform the way people see the world through film.”

The festival was founded in 1976 by Bill Marshal, Dustry Cohl, and Henk Van der Kolk, and was originally just a showing of the best films from other festivals around the world for Toronto audiences.

Over time, it has grown to premiere hundreds of award-winning films in a broad variety of genres.

There are juried awards for the Best Canadian Film, Best Canadian Short Film, and Best International Short Film. But perhaps the most coveted  award is the People’s Choice, which is based on audience balloting.

The People’s Choice Award is often regarded as a predictor of a film’s future success in the Academy Awards, with movies like American Beauty, La La Land, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon , and 12 Years a Slave coming out on top in both competitions.

In 2021, the festival was held online from February 12 to 15, with film fans signing up to watch the events and movies virtually from home.

READ MORE: The Top 10 Oscar-Nominated Environmental Documentaries

Mount Hagen Culture Show

20. Mount Hagen Culture Show (Papua New Guinea)

While Papua New Guinea is the second largest island in the world, it is sparsely populated, with just 8 million residents.

But the tiny population belies a wealth of cultural diversity, with over 7,000 different cultural groups calling the island home.

It was because of this diverse population that the Mount Hagen Culture Show was created in 1961. The event serves to unify the various tribes from across the Western Highlands Province and Highlands region in order to prevent hostilities between them.

Over 100 different tribes are represented at the Mount Hagen festival, with each showcasing their own unique culture through elaborate costumes and traditional dancing and singing.

The show is an exceptionally unique display of cultural expression. And because it’s not widely known on an international level, it’s a great way for visitors to get to know the local cultures. – by Christina Maggitas

READ MORE: The 30 Best Exotic Islands to Visit (World Travel Bucket List)

About the Author

Growing up in rural south Georgia, Christina Maggitas developed a love for nature at a young age and spent the majority of her formative years outdoors. Since first visiting the Great Smoky Mountains with her family as a child, she has always admired the beauty of the Blue Ridge region and spends as much time as she can hiking north Georgia. She has a passion for writing and storytelling with the hopes of inspiring others to enjoy the great outdoors. Christina is a recent graduate at Kennesaw State University, where she is studying Journalism and Emerging Media.

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  20. Cultural Tourism : Global and Local Perspectives

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