Whether your next vacation is to a big city, the beach or someplace rural, why not make the trip more fulfilling by soaking up the destination’s culture? “Getting exposed to local culture is enriching and shows us a world beyond ourselves,” said Ashish Sanghrajka, the president of Big Five Tours & Expeditions, a Stuart, Fla.-based travel company specializing in custom cultural immersion trips.
But he cautions that without thoughtful planning, a cultural getaway can be canned and touristy instead of authentic. Here, are his top tips for taking a vacation with a true cultural sensibility.
Also, in developing countries, village tours, although popular, can be inauthentic. Explore small villages on your own instead. In Rajasthan, in India, for example, Mr. Sanghrajka likes staying in countryside properties and biking through the nearby villages.
CHOOSE SMALL HOTELS THAT ARE LOCALLY OWNED Chains and large, splashy properties won’t give you a glimpse into the local culture, but staying at a small hotel owned by locals and situated in a former home, historic building or residential part of town will. Mr. Sanghrajka, for example, recently stayed at Saruni Samburu, a safari camp in northern Kenya that is owned by a couple who live onsite and hire their staff from the local Samburu tribes. Since such hotels don’t have big marketing budgets, you’ll have to do some legwork to find them — peruse travel blogs and books or ask a travel adviser.
SKIP THE OBVIOUS BEACHES Steer clear of Caribbean destinations where cruise ships dock and go for lesser-known islands and peninsulas where there are opportunities to partake in culture and enjoy the ocean, too. One example is Mancora, a town on Peru’s northwest coast, which has good snorkeling and surfing but is also near Chulucanas, a town known for pottery made with pre-Incan techniques.
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