One of the best parts of travelling is experiencing new cultures, traditions, and customs first-hand.
If you’re looking for a travel experience that will change your view of the world, you’re in the right place.
In this post, we’ll go over nine cultural travel experiences you need to do at least once in your life.
1. Visit Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue
Mikve Israel-Emanuel is the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas. Its congregation dates back to the 1650s and was made up of Spanish and Portuguese Jews from the Netherlands and Brazil. The community bought its first synagogue in 1674 and purchased the current one in 1730. The synagogue is breathtaking and bears a resemblance to the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam. Visiting this site gives you two attractions in one, as the Jewish Historical Cultural Museum is attached to it.
P.s. — if you’re looking for resorts in Curaçao, Sandals has just opened a brand new all-inclusive in Curaçao. The romantic resort is nestled on 3,000 acres along the Spanish Water Bay.
2. Learn to Tango in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, Argentina, is home to the tango dance — a dance filled with flavour and passion. This famous dance (it even has an emoji!) has been a significant influence in Argentina’s society and culture since the 1800s. In BA, there are so many ways to soak up the culture of the tango, from tango shows to dance venues known as milongas and even tango in the streets!
Of course, to fully immerse yourself in the culture, you need to be prepared to tango at a moment’s notice. So, we recommend taking a tango lesson or two on your first few days in beautiful Buenos Aires, then head to an authentic milonga and show off your new skills.
3. Take in the Jaw-Dropping Views from Machu Picchu
You’ve probably seen the striking beauty of Machu Picchu on your social media feeds —the World Heritage UNESCO World Heritage site has seen a steep spike in popularity thanks to Instagram (pre-Covid). Machu Picchu is an Inca citadel from the 15th century. It’s located in southern Peru on a mountain ridge that measures nearly 8,000 feet. Archaeologists believe the site was constructed for the Inca emperor Pachacuti and it remains the most familiar icon of the Inca civilization. Machu Picchu was also named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
4. Experience the Wonders of the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal means ‘Crown of the Palace.’ Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the white marble mausoleum in the Indian city of Agra in 1632 to house the tomb of his favourite wife. It also houses the body of Emperor Jahan. The Taj Mahal is enough of a sight from the outside, but the inside is even more striking.
The cost to build the Taj Mahal was 70 billion rupees — about $956 million USD today. In 1983, the Taj Mahal received UNESCO World Heritage recognition for being the “jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the world’s admired masterpieces of heritage.”
We recommend wearing comfortable shoes and dressing modestly for your visit to the Taj Mahal. Although the dress code is not enforced in the modern-day, the women’s general rule of thumb is to have their shoulders covered and wear shorts or dresses that go below the knee. Also, wear loose, light clothing because the Taj Mahal is crowded and India is hot!
5. Sing Your Heart Out in the Home of Karaoke
If you’re a karaoke lover, venture to the hometown of Karaoke — Osaka, Japan — the karaoke machine was invented here in 1971 and karaoke is still extremely popular in Japanese culture. In fact, Japan is home to more than 100,000 karaoke bars and boxes.
Feeling a little bit of stage fright? That’s what karaoke boxes are for — these are private rooms that you can rent out that contain karaoke equipment so that you can sing to your heart’s content in front of a small audience of your close friends and family — or whomever you choose!
The Japanese people love karaoke and it’s actually a preferred activity of businessmen who frequent karaoke bars after work to grab a drink and divulge their worries and concerns to the bartenders. Many karaoke bars are even open 24/7!
6. Take a Stroll Along The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is the longest structure ever built by mankind. Its original use was to protect China and prevent barbarian invasions. The wall is 13,171 miles long and took more than 2,000 years to build. Another amazing fact about the Great Wall of China is that it was built by soldiers and common people alike. They used their hands, goats, ropes, and wheelbarrows to help transport the supplies and build the wall. This a monument that absolutely has to be visited in order to fully appreciate its wonder. It may go without saying, but you ought to bring comfortable shoes to the Great Wall of China and make sure your phone has ample storage and battery power because you are going to want to snap pictures at every turn! If you want an extra epic Great Wall experience, visit at night. It’s lit up every night between the fifth and sixth watchtowers. There’s something about the mystery of the night with an illuminated path that will bring you back to simpler times. You can also picnic — and even camp! — along the Great Wall of China.
7. Celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico
Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated on the first and second of November throughout Mexico and the world. Although the holiday is tied to the Catholic Church’s celebrations of All Saints’ Day and All Soul’s Day, it has a much less solemn tone and is treated more like a celebration instead of mourning. Family and friends gather to pay respect and celebrate the lives of friends and family who have died during the multi-day celebration. People even make special foods to offer the spirits of their loved ones. They lay out favourite foods and items on an altar in their home to greet the spirits. They believe the spirits consume the essence and aroma of the foods the loved ones offer. When the spirits leave, their living loved ones consume the food and share it with their family, friends, and neighbours.
Day of the Dead is the perfect time to visit Mexico for a true cultural awakening. Although most families celebrate privately, there are many public displays and events to enjoy. In the southern region of Mexico in Oaxaca, Michoacan, and Chiapas, celebrations are more lively, colourful, and public.
Visitors to Oaxaca can witness Day of the Dead vigils and even take part in nighttime carnival-like processions known as comparsas. In Janitzio, there are elaborate Day of the Dead celebrations and rituals, including processions and music, folk dances, and all-night singing and chanting in the cemetery. But, the most impressive sight is fishermen in their boats with torches that light up the lake.
8. Take a Ride Through the Beautiful Subway Stations in Moscow
Moscow is the crown jewel of Russia, thanks to the opulent Soviet architecture that adorns the city and its immaculate streets. The beauty and detail stretch city-wide and even includes subway stations!
44 Moscow subway stations are cultural heritage sights! The subway stations were part of an ambitious underground Soviet propaganda project. Taganskaya, Komsomolskaya, Novoslobodskaya, and Kievskaya form a circular line that marks Moscow’s city centre and are the best-known stations thanks to their stained glass panels, vaulted ceilings, and intricate murals. Lenin and the 1905 Revolution are two of the most popular subjects depicted in murals.
9. Have a Picnic Under the Eiffel Tower
You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten fresh baguette, chilled champagne, and almost-too-pretty-to-eat pastries under the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.
For the full French cultural experience, buy a baguette from any boulangerie on your way to the Eiffel Tower, then get fresh cheeses and meats and pastries from a patisserie. Choose what looks good and what you want to try, then grab a bottle of champagne from a local grocery store and make your way to the Tour Eiffel.
For some extra flair, go at night and watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle every hour.
10. Make Lanterns in Vietnam
Lanterns are one of the most iconic sights in Vietnam, especially in the old town of Hoi An. The riverside at night resemble the set of a Disney movie, lit up with colour.
There are local handicraft courses you can take across the world, many of which I’m sure are a lot easier than the fiddly construction of a lantern! Either way we enjoyed it, and still have them displayed at home to this day.