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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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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Cutting Edge | Bringing cultural tourism back in the game

cultural tourism in countries

The growth of cultural tourism

People have long traveled to discover and visit places of historical significance or spiritual meaning, to experience different cultures, as well as to learn about, exchange and consume a range of cultural goods and services. Cultural tourism as a concept gained traction during the 1990s when certain sub-sectors emerged, including heritage tourism, arts tourism, gastronomic tourism, film tourism and creative tourism. This took place amidst the rising tide of globalization and technological advances that spurred greater mobility through cheaper air travel, increased accessibility to diverse locations and cultural assets, media proliferation, and the rise of independent travel. Around this time, tourism policy was also undergoing a shift that was marked by several trends. These included a sharper focus on regional development, environmental issues, public-private partnerships, industry self-regulation and a reduction in direct government involvement in the supply of tourism infrastructure. As more cultural tourists have sought to explore the cultures of the destinations, greater emphasis has been placed on the importance of intercultural dialogue to promote understanding and tolerance. Likewise, in the face of globalization, countries have looked for ways to strengthen local identity, and cultural tourism has also been engaged as a strategy to achieve this purpose. Being essentially place-based, cultural tourism is driven by an interest to experience and engage with culture first-hand. It is backed by a desire to discover, learn about and enjoy the tangible and intangible cultural assets offered in a tourism destination, ranging from heritage, performing arts, handicrafts, rituals and gastronomy, among others.

Cultural tourism is a leading priority for the majority of countries around the world -featuring in the tourism policy of 90% of countries, based on a 2016 UNWTO global survey . Most countries include tangible and intangible heritage in their definition of cultural tourism, and over 80% include contemporary culture - film, performing arts, design, fashion and new media, among others. There is, however, greater need for stronger localisation in policies, which is rooted in promoting and enhancing local cultural assets, such as heritage, food, festivals and crafts. In France, for instance, the Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes , a UNESCO World Heritage site, has established a multidisciplinary team that defends the cultural values of the site, and advises the authorities responsible for the territorial development of the 300 km of the Valley.

While cultural tourism features prominently in policies for economic growth, it has diverse benefits that cut across the development spectrum – economic, social and environmental. Cultural tourism expands businesses and job opportunities by drawing on cultural resources as a competitive advantage in tourism markets. Cultural tourism is increasingly engaged as a strategy for countries and regions to safeguard traditional cultures, attract talent, develop new cultural resources and products, create creative clusters, and boost the cultural and creative industries. Cultural tourism, particularly through museums, can support education about culture. Tourist interest can also help ensure the transmission of intangible cultural heritage practices to younger generations.

cultural tourism in countries

StockSnap, Pixabay

Cultural tourism can help encourage appreciation of and pride in local heritage, thus sparking greater interest and investment in its safeguarding. Tourism can also drive inclusive community development to foster resiliency, inclusivity, and empowerment. It promotes territorial cohesion and socioeconomic inclusion for the most vulnerable populations, for example, generating economic livelihoods for women in rural areas. A strengthened awareness of conservation methods and local and indigenous knowledge contributes to long-term environmental sustainability. Similarly, the funds generated by tourism can be instrumental to ensuring ongoing conservation activities for built and natural heritage.

The growth of cultural tourism has reshaped the global urban landscape over the past decades, strongly impacting spatial planning around the world. In many countries, cultural tourism has been leveraged to drive urban regeneration or city branding strategies, from large-sized metropolises in Asia or the Arab States building on cultural landmarks and contemporary architecture to drive tourism expansion, to small and middle-sized urban settlements enhancing their cultural assets to stimulate local development. At the national level, cultural tourism has also impacted planning decisions, encouraging coastal development in some areas, while reviving inland settlements in others. This global trend has massively driven urban infrastructure development through both public and private investments, impacting notably transportation, the restoration of historic buildings and areas, as well as the rehabilitation of public spaces. The expansion of cultural city networks, including the UNESCO World Heritage Cities programme and the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, also echoes this momentum. Likewise, the expansion of cultural routes, bringing together several cities or human settlements around cultural commonalities to stimulate tourism, has also generated new solidarities, while influencing economic and cultural exchanges between cities across countries and regions.

Despite tourism’s clear potential as a driver for positive change, challenges exist, including navigating the space between economic gain and cultural integrity. Tourism’s crucial role in enhancing inclusive community development can often remain at the margins of policy planning and implementation. Rapid and unplanned tourism growth can trigger a range of negative impacts, including pressure on local communities and infrastructure from overtourism during peak periods, gentrification of urban areas, waste problems and global greenhouse gas emissions. High visitor numbers to heritage sites can override their natural carrying capacity, thus undermining conservation efforts and affecting both the integrity and authenticity of heritage sites. Over-commercialization and folklorization of intangible heritage practices – including taking these practices out of context for tourism purposes - can risk inadvertently changing the practice over time. Large commercial interests can monopolize the benefits of tourism, preventing these benefits from reaching local communities. An excessive dependency on tourism can also create localized monoeconomies at the expense of diversification and alternative economic models. When mismanaged, tourism can, therefore, have negative effects on the quality of life and well-being of local residents, as well as the natural environment.

These fault lines became more apparent when the pandemic hit – revealing the extent of over-dependence on tourism and limited structures for crisis prevention and response. While the current situation facing tourism is unpredictable, making it difficult to plan, further crises are likely in the years to come. Therefore, the pandemic presents the opportunity to experiment with new models to shape more effective and sustainable alternatives for the future.

cultural tourism in countries

hxdyl, Getty Images Pro

Harnessing cultural tourism in policy frameworks

From a policy perspective, countries around the world have employed cultural tourism as a vehicle to achieve a range of strategic aims. In Panama, cultural tourism is a key component of the country’s recently adopted Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism 2020-2025 that seeks to position Panama as a worldwide benchmark for sustainable tourism through the development of unique heritage routes. Cultural tourism can be leveraged for cultural diplomacy as a form of ‘soft power’ to build dialogue between peoples and bolster foreign policy. For instance, enhancing regional cooperation between 16 countries has been at the heart of UNESCO’s transnational Silk Roads Programme, which reflects the importance of culture and heritage as part of foreign policy. UNESCO has also partnered with the EU and National Geographic to develop World Heritage Journeys, a unique travel platform that deepens the tourism experience through four selected cultural routes covering 34 World Heritage sites. Also in Europe, cultural tourism has been stimulated through the development of cultural routes linked to food and wine , as well as actions to protect local food products, such as through labels and certificates of origin. The Emilia-Romagna region in Italy, for example, produces more origin-protected food and drink than any other region in the country. One of the regions' cities Parma - a UNESCO Creative City (Gastronomy) and designated Italian Capital for Culture (2020-2021) - plans to resume its cultural activities to boost tourism once restrictions have eased. Meanwhile, Spain has recently taken steps to revive its tourism industry through its cities inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List . In this regard, the Group of the 15 Spanish World Heritage Cities met recently to discuss the country's Modernization and Competitiveness Plan for the tourism sector. Cultural tourism has progressively featured more prominently in the policies of Central Asian and Eastern European countries, which have sought to revive intangible heritage and boost the creative economy as part of strategies to strengthen national cultural identity and open up to the international community. In Africa, cultural tourism is a growing market that is driven by its cultural heritage, crafts, and national and regional cultural events. Major festivals such as Dak-Art in Senegal, Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial in Mali, Sauti za Busara in United Republic of Tanzania, Pan-African Festival of Cinema and Television of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, and Chale Wote Street Art Festival in Ghana are just a handful of vibrant and popular platforms in the continent that share cultural expressions, generate income for local economies and strengthen Pan-African identity.

Countries are increasingly seeking alliances with international bodies to advance tourism. National and local governments are working together with international entities, such as UNESCO, UNWTO and OECD in the area of sustainable tourism. In 2012, UNESCO’s Sustainable Tourism Programme was adopted, thereby breaking new ground to promote tourism a driver for the conservation of cultural and natural heritage and a vehicle for sustainable development. In 2020, UNESCO formed the Task Force on Culture and Resilient Tourism with the Advisory Bodies to the 1972 World Heritage Convention (ICOMOS, IUCN, ICCROM) as a global dialogue platform on key issues relating to tourism and heritage management during and beyond the crisis. UNESCO has also collaborated with the UNWTO on a set of recommendations for inclusive cultural tourism recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. In response to the crisis, the Namibian Government, UNESCO and UNDP are working together on a tourism impact study and development strategy to restore the tourism sector, especially cultural tourism.

UNESCO has scaled up work in cultural tourism in its work at field level, supporting its Member States and strengthening regional initiatives. In the Africa region, enhancing cultural tourism has been reported as a policy priority across the region. For example, UNESCO has supported the Government of Ghana in its initiative Beyond the Return, in particular in relation to its section on cultural tourism. In the Pacific, a Common Country Assessment (CCA) has been carried out for 14 SIDS countries, with joint interagency programmes to be created building on the results. Across the Arab States, trends in tourism after COVID, decent jobs and cultural and creative industries are emerging as entry points for different projects throughout the region. In Europe, UNESCO has continued its interdisciplinary work on visitor centres in UNESCO designated sites, building on a series of workshops to strengthen tourism sustainability, community engagement and education through heritage interpretation. In the Latin America and the Caribbean region, UNESCO is working closely with Member States, regional bodies and the UN system building on the momentum on the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, including through Creative Cities, and the sustainable recovery of the orange economy, among others.

cultural tourism in countries

BS1920, Pixabay

In the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, tourism has the potential to contribute, directly or indirectly, to all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Tourism is directly mentioned in SDGs 8, 12 and 14 on inclusive and sustainable economic growth, sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources, respectively. This is mirrored in the VNRs put forward by countries, who report on cultural tourism notably through the revitalization of urban and rural areas through heritage regeneration, festivals and events, infrastructure development, and the promotion of local cultural products. The VNRs also demonstrate a trend towards underlining more sustainable approaches to tourism that factor in the environmental dimensions of tourism development.

Several countries have harnessed cultural tourism as a policy panacea for economic growth and diversification. As part of Qatar's National Vision 2030 strategy, for example, the country has embarked on a development plan that includes cultural tourism through strengthening its culture-based industries, including calligraphy, handicrafts and living heritage practices. In the city of Abu Dhabi in the UAE, cultural tourism is part of the city’s plan for economic diversification and to steer its domestic agenda away from a hydrocarbon-based economy. The Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 includes the creation of a US$27 billion cultural district on Saadiyat Island, comprising a cluster of world-renowned museums, and cultural and educational institutions designed by international star architects to attract tourism and talent to the city. Since 2016, Saudi Arabia has taken decisive action to invest in tourism, culture and entertainment to reduce the country’s oil dependency, while also positioning the country as a global cultural destination. Under the 2020 G20 Saudi Presidency, the UNWTO and the G20 Tourism Working Group launched the AlUla Framework for Inclusive Community Development through Tourism to better support inclusive community development and the SDGs. The crucial role of tourism as a means of sustainable socio-economic development was also underlined in the final communique of the G20 Tourism Ministers in October last.

cultural tourism in countries

Siem Reap, Cambodia by nbriam

On the other hand, cultural tourism can catalyse developments in cultural policy. This was the case in the annual Festival of Pacific Arts (FestPac) that triggered a series of positive policy developments following its 2012 edition that sought to strengthen social cohesion and community pride in the context of a prolonged period of social unrest. The following year, Solomon Islands adopted its first national culture policy with a focus on cultural industries and cultural tourism, which resulted in a significant increase in cultural events being organized throughout the country.

When the pandemic hit, the geographic context of some countries meant that many of them were able to rapidly close borders and prioritize domestic tourism. This has been the case for countries such as Australia and New Zealand. However, the restrictions have been coupled by significant economic cost for many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) whose economies rely on tourism and commodity exports. Asia Pacific SIDS, for example, are some of the world’s leading tourist destinations. As reported in the Tracker last June , in 2018, tourism earnings exceeded 50% of GDP in Cook Islands, Maldives and Palau and equaled approximately 30% of GDP in Samoa and Vanuatu. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the drop in British tourists to Spain’s Balearic Islands resulted in a 93% downturn in visitor numbers , forcing many local businesses to close. According to the World Economic Outlook released last October, the economies of tourism-dependent Caribbean nations are estimated to drop by 12%, while Pacific Island nations, such as Fiji, could see their GDP shrink by a staggering 21% in 2020.

Socially-responsible travel and ecotourism have become more of a priority for tourists and the places they visit. Tourists are increasingly aware of their carbon footprint, energy consumption and the use of renewable resources. This trend has been emphasized as a result of the pandemic. According to recent survey by Booking.com, travelers are becoming more conscientious of how and why they travel, with over two-thirds (69%) expecting the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options . Following the closures of beaches in Thailand, for example, the country is identifying ways to put certain management policies in place that can strike a better balance with environmental sustainability. The  UNESCO Sustainable Tourism Pledge  launched in partnership with Expedia Group focuses on promoting sustainable tourism and heritage conservation. The pledge takes an industry-first approach to environmental and cultural protection, requiring businesses to introduce firm measures to eliminate single-use plastics and promote local culture. The initiative is expanding globally in 2021 as a new, more environmentally and socially conscious global travel market emerges from the COVID-19 context.

cultural tourism in countries

Senja, Norway by Jarmo Piironen

Climate change places a heavy toll on heritage sites, which exacerbates their vulnerability to other risks, including uncontrolled tourism. This was underlined in the publication “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate” , published by UNESCO, UNEP and the Union of Concerned Scientists, which analyses the consequences of climate change on heritage, and its potential to permanently change or destroy a site’s integrity and authenticity. Extreme weather events, safety issues and water shortages, among others, can thwart access to sites and hurt the economic livelihoods of tourism service providers and local communities. Rising sea levels will increasingly impact coastal tourism, the largest component of the sector globally. In particular, coral reefs - contributing US$11.5 billion to the global tourism economy – are at major risk from climate change.

Marine sites are often tourist magnets where hundreds of thousands of annual visitors enjoy these sites on yachts and cruise ships. In the case of UNESCO World Heritage marine sites – which fall under the responsibility of governments - there is often a reliance on alternative financing mechanisms, such as grants and donations, and partnerships with non-governmental organizations and/or the private sector, among others. The West Norwegian Fjords – Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord in Norway derives a substantial portion of its management budget from sources other than government revenues. The site has benefited from a partnership with the private sector company Green Dream 2020, which only allows the “greenest” operators to access the site, and a percentage of the profits from tours is reinjected into the long-term conservation of the site. In iSimangaliso in South Africa, a national law that established the World Heritage site’s management system was accompanied by the obligation to combine the property’s conservation with sustainable economic development activities that created jobs for local people. iSimangaliso Wetland Park supports 12,000 jobs and hosts an environmental education programme with 150 schools. At the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, where 91% of all local jobs are linked to the Reef, the Coral Nurture Programme undertakes conservation through planting coral, and promotes local stewardship and adaptation involving the whole community and local tourist businesses.

cultural tourism in countries

Grafner, Getty Images

With borders continuing to be closed and changeable regulations, many countries have placed a focus on domestic tourism and markets to stimulate economic recovery. According to the UNWTO, domestic tourism is expected to pick up faster than international travel, making it a viable springboard for economic and social recovery from the pandemic. In doing so it will serve to better connect populations to their heritage and offer new avenues for cultural access and participation. In China, for example, the demand for domestic travel is already approaching pre-pandemic levels. In Russian Federation, the Government has backed a programme to promote domestic tourism and support small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as a cashback scheme for domestic trips, which entitles tourists to a 20% refund for their trip. While supporting domestic tourism activities, the Government of Palau is injecting funds into local businesses working in reforestation and fishing in the spirit of building new sustainable models. The measures put in place today will shape the tourism to come, therefore the pandemic presents an opportunity to build back a stronger, more agile and sustainable tourism sector.

Local solutions at the helm of cultural tourism

While state-led policy interventions in cultural tourism remain crucial, local authorities are increasingly vital stakeholders in the design and implementation of cultural tourism policies. Being close to the people, local actors are aware of the needs of local populations, and can respond quickly and provide innovative ideas and avenues for policy experimentation. As cultural tourism is strongly rooted to place, cooperating with local decision-makers and stakeholders can bring added value to advancing mutual objectives. Meanwhile, the current health crisis has severely shaken cities that are struggling due to diminished State support, and whose economic basis strongly relies on tourism. Local authorities have been compelled to innovate to support local economies and seek viable alternatives, thus reaffirming their instrumental role in cultural policy-making.

cultural tourism in countries

Venice, Oliver Dralam/Getty Images

Cultural tourism can be a powerful catalyst for urban regeneration and renaissance, although tourism pressure can also trigger complex processes of gentrification. Cultural heritage safeguarding enhances the social value of a place by boosting the well-being of individuals and communities, reducing social inequalities and nurturing social inclusion. Over the past decade, the Malaysian city of George Town – a World Heritage site – has implemented several innovative projects to foster tourism and attract the population back to the city centre by engaging the city’s cultural assets in urban revitalization strategies. Part of the income generated from tourism revenues contributes to conserving and revitalizing the built environment, as well as supporting housing for local populations, including lower-income communities. In the city of Bordeaux in France , the city has worked with the public-private company InCité to introduce a system of public subsidies and tax exemption to encourage the restoration of privately-owned historical buildings, which has generated other rehabilitation works in the historic centre. The city of Kyoto in Japan targets a long-term vision of sustainability by enabling local households to play an active role in safeguarding heritage by incrementally updating their own houses, thus making the city more resilient to gentrification. The city also actively supports the promotion of its intangible heritage, such as tea ceremonies, flower arrangement, seasonal festivals, Noh theatre and dance. This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the adoption of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL). The results of a UNESCO survey carried out among Member States in 2019 on its implementation show that 89% of respondents have innovative services or tourism activities in place for historic areas, which demonstrates a precedence for countries to capitalize on urban cultural heritage for tourism purposes.

Cultural tourism has been harnessed to address rural-urban migration and to strengthen rural and peripheral sub-regions. The city of Suzhou – a World Heritage property and UNESCO Creative City (Crafts and Folk Art) - has leveraged its silk embroidery industry to strengthen the local rural economy through job creation in the villages of Wujiang, located in a district of Suzhou. Tourists can visit the ateliers and local museums to learn about the textile production. In northern Viet Nam, the cultural heritage of the Quan họ Bắc Ninh folk songs, part of the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is firmly rooted in place and underlined in its safeguarding strategies in 49 ancient villages, which have further inspired the establishment of some hundreds of new Quan họ villages in the Bắc Ninh and Bắc Giang provinces.

cultural tourism in countries

Many top destination cities are known for their iconic cultural landmarks. Others create a cultural drawcard to attract visitors to the city. France, the world's number one tourist destination , attracts 89 million visitors every year who travel to experience its cultural assets, including its extensive cultural landmarks. In the context of industrial decline, several national and local governments have looked to diversify infrastructure by harnessing culture as a new economic engine. The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao in Spain is one such example, where economic diversification and unemployment was addressed through building a modern art museum as a magnet for tourism. The museum attracts an average of 900,000 visitors annually, which has strengthened the local economy of the city. A similar approach is the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), established in 2011 by a private entrepreneur in the city of Hobart in Australia, which has catalysed a massive increase of visitors to the city. With events such as MONA FOMA in summer and Dark MOFO in winter, the museum staggers visitor volumes to the small city to avoid placing considerable strain on the local environment and communities. Within the tourism sector, cultural tourism is also well-positioned to offer a tailored approach to tourism products, services and experiences. Such models have also supported the wider ecosystems around the iconic cultural landmarks, as part of “destination tourism” strategies.

Destination tourism encompasses festivals, live performance, film and festive celebrations as drawcards for international tourists and an economic driver of the local economy. Over the past three decades, the number of art biennials has proliferated. Today there are more than 300 biennials around the world , whose genesis can be based both on artistic ambitions and place-making strategies to revive specific destinations. As a result of COVID-19, many major biennials and arts festivals have been cancelled or postponed. Both the Venice Architecture and Art Biennales have been postponed to 2022 due to COVID-19. The Berlin International Film Festival will hold its 2021 edition online and in selected cinemas. Film-induced tourism - motivated by a combination of media expansion, entertainment industry growth and international travel - has also been used for strategic regional development, infrastructure development and job creation, as well to market destinations to tourists. China's highest-grossing film of 2012 “Lost in Thailand”, for example, resulted in a tourist boom to Chiang Mai in Thailand, with daily flights to 17 Chinese cities to accommodate the daily influx of thousands of tourists who came to visit the film’s location. Since March 2020, tourism-related industries in New York City in the United States have gone into freefall, with revenue from the performing arts alone plunging by almost 70%. As the city is reliant on its tourism sector, the collapse of tourism explains why New York’s economy has been harder hit than other major cities in the country. Meanwhile in South Africa, when the first ever digital iteration of the country’s annual National Arts Festival took place last June, it also meant an estimated US$25.7 million (R377 million) and US$6.4 million (R94 million) loss to the Eastern Cape province and city of Makhanda (based on 2018 figures), in addition to the US$1.4 million (R20 million) that reaches the pockets of the artists and supporting industries. The United Kingdom's largest music festival, Glastonbury, held annually in Somerset, recently cancelled for the second year running due to the pandemic, which will have ripple effects on local businesses and the charities that receive funding from ticket sales.

Similarly, cancellations of carnivals from Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands to Binche in Belgium has spurred massive losses for local tourism providers, hotels, restaurants, costume-makers and dance schools. In the case of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Brazil, for instance, the city has amassed significant losses for the unstaged event, which in 2019 attracted 1.5 million tourists from Brazil and abroad and generated revenues in the range of US$700 million (BRL 3.78 billion). The knock-on effect on the wider economy due to supply chains often points to an estimated total loss that is far greater than those experienced solely by the cultural tourism sector.

cultural tourism in countries

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain by erlucho

Every year, roughly 600 million national and international religious and spiritual trips take place , generating US$18 billion in tourism revenue. Pilgrimages, a fundamental precursor to modern tourism, motivate tourists solely through religious practices. Religious tourism is particularly popular in France, India, Italy and Saudi Arabia. For instance, the Hindu pilgrimage and festival Kumbh Mela in India, inscribed in 2017 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, attracts over 120 million pilgrims of all castes, creeds and genders. The festival is held in the cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik every four years by rotation. Sacred and ceremonial sites have unique significance for peoples and communities, and are often integral to journeys that promote spiritual well-being. Mongolia, for example, has around 800 sacred sites including 10 mountains protected by Presidential Decree, and lakes and ovoos, many of which have their own sutras. In the case of Mongolia, the environmental stewardship and rituals and practices connected with these sacred places also intersects with longstanding political traditions and State leadership.

Cities with a vibrant cultural scene and assets are not only more likely to attract tourists, but also the skilled talent who can advance the city’s long-term prospects. Several cities are also focusing on developing their night-time economies through the promotion of theatre, concerts, festivals, light shows and use of public spaces that increasingly making use of audio-visual technologies. Situated on Chile’s Pacific coast, the city of Valparaíso, a World Heritage site, is taking steps to transform the city’s night scene into a safe and inclusive tourist destination through revitalizing public spaces. While the economies of many cities have been weakened during the pandemic, the night-time economy of the city of Chengdu in China, a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy, has flourished and has made a significant contribution to generating revenue for the city, accounting for 45% of citizen’s daily expenditure.

The pandemic has generated the public’s re-appropriation of the urban space. People have sought open-air sites and experiences in nature. In many countries that are experiencing lockdowns, public spaces, including parks and city squares, have proven essential for socialization and strengthening resilience. People have also reconnected with the heritage assets in their urban environments. Local governments, organizations and civil society have introduced innovative ways to connect people and encourage creative expression. Cork City Council Arts Office and Creative Ireland, for example, jointly supported the art initiative Ardú- Irish for ‘Rise’ – involving seven renowned Irish street artists who produced art in the streets and alleyways of Cork.

cultural tourism in countries

Chengdu Town Square, China by Lukas Bischoff

Environment-based solutions support integrated approaches to deliver across the urban-rural continuum, and enhance visitor experiences by drawing on the existing features of a city. In the city of Bamberg, a World Heritage site in Germany, gardens are a key asset of the city and contribute to its livability and the well-being of its local population and visitors. More than 12,000 tourists enjoy this tangible testimony to the local history and environment on an annual basis. Eighteen agricultural businesses produce local vegetables, herbs, flowers and shrubs, and farm the inner-city gardens and surrounding agricultural fields. The museum also organizes gastronomic events and cooking classes to promote local products and recipes.

In rural areas, crafts can support strategies for cultural and community-based tourism. This is particularly the case in Asia, where craft industries are often found in rural environments and can be an engine for generating employment and curbing rural-urban migration. Craft villages have been established in Viet Nam since the 11th century, constituting an integral part of the cultural resources of the country, and whose tourism profits are often re-invested into the sustainability of the villages. The craft tradition is not affected by heavy tourist seasons and tourists can visit all year round.

Indigenous tourism can help promote and maintain indigenous arts, handicrafts, and culture, including indigenous culture and traditions, which are often major attractions for visitors. Through tourism, indigenous values and food systems can also promote a less carbon-intensive industry. During COVID-19, the Government of Canada has given a series of grants to indigenous tourism businesses to help maintain livelihoods. UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions announced that it will grant, through the International Fund for Creative Diversity (IFCD), US$70,000 dollars to Mexican indigenous cultural enterprises, which will support indigenous enterprises through training programmes, seed funding, a pre-incubation process and the creation of an e-commerce website.

Tourism has boosted community pride in living heritage and the active involvement of local communities in its safeguarding. Local authorities, cultural associations, bearers and practitioners have made efforts to safeguard and promote elements as they have understood that not only can these elements strengthen their cultural identity but that they can also contribute to tourism and economic development. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the role of intellectual property and in the regulation of heritage. In the field of gastronomy, a lot of work has been done in protecting local food products, including the development of labels and certification of origin. Member States are exploring the possibilities of geographical indication (GI) for cultural products as a way of reducing the risk of heritage exploitation in connection to, for example, crafts, textiles and food products, and favouring its sustainable development.

The pandemic has brought to the forefront the evolving role of museums and their crucial importance to the life of societies in terms of health and well-being, education and the economy. A 2019 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) examined 3,000 studies on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being, which indicated that the arts play a major role in preventing, managing and treating illness. Over the past decade the number of museums has increased by 60%, demonstrating the important role that museums have in national cultural policy. Museums are not static but are rather dynamic spaces of education and dialogue, with the potential to boost public awareness about the value of cultural and natural heritage, and the responsibility to contribute to its safeguarding.

Data presented in UNESCO's report "Museums Around the World in the Face of COVID-19" in May 2020 show that 90% of institutions were forced to close, whereas the situation in September-October 2020 was much more variable depending on their location in the world. Large museums have consistently been the most heavily impacted by the drop in international tourism – notably in Europe and North America. Larger museums, such as Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum have reported losses between €100,000 and €600,000 a week. Smaller museums have been relatively stable, as they are not as reliant on international tourism and have maintained a closer connection to local communities. In November, the Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO) released the results of a survey of 6,000 museums from 48 countries. Of the responding museums, 93% have increased or started online services during the pandemic. Most larger museums (81%) have increased their digital capacities, while only 47% of smaller museums indicated that they did. An overwhelming majority of respondents (92.9%) confirm that the public is safe at their museum. As reported in the Tracker last October, the world’s most visited museum, the Louvre in France (9.3 million visitors annually) witnessed a ten-fold increase in traffic to its website. Yet while digital technologies have provided options for museums to remain operational, not all have the necessary infrastructure, which is the case for many museums in Africa and SIDS.

cultural tourism in countries

New technologies have enabled several new innovations that can better support cultural tourism and digital technologies in visitor management, access and site interpretation. Cultural tourists visiting cultural heritage sites, for example, can enjoy educational tools that raise awareness of a site and its history. Determining carrying capacity through algorithms has helped monitor tourist numbers, such as in Hạ Long Bay in Viet Nam. In response to the pandemic, Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Museum is one of many museums that has harnessed digital technologies to provide virtual tours of its collections, thus allowing viewers to learn more about Asian cultures and histories. The pandemic has enhanced the need for technology solutions to better manage tourism flows at destinations and encourage tourism development in alternative areas.

Shaping a post-pandemic vision : regenerative and inclusive cultural tourism

As tourism is inherently dependent on the movement and interaction of people, it has been one of the hardest-hit sectors by the pandemic and may be one of the last to recover. Travel and international border restrictions have led to the massive decline in tourism in 2020, spurring many countries to implement strategies for domestic tourism to keep economies afloat. Many cultural institutions and built and natural heritage sites have established strict systems of physical distancing and hygiene measures, enabling them to open once regulations allow. Once travel restrictions have been lifted, it will enable the recovery of the tourism sector and for the wider economy and community at large.

While the pandemic has dramatically shifted the policy context for cultural tourism, it has also provided the opportunity to experiment with integrated models that can be taken forward in the post-pandemic context. While destinations are adopting a multiplicity of approaches to better position sustainability in their plans for tourism development, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

A comprehensive, integrated approach to the cultural sector is needed to ensure more sustainable cultural tourism patterns. Efforts aimed at promoting cultural tourism destinations should build on the diversity of cultural sub-sectors, including cultural and heritage sites, museums, but also the creative economy and living heritage, notably local practices, food and crafts production. Beyond cultural landmarks, which act as a hotspot to drive the attractiveness of tourism destinations, and particularly cities, cultural tourism should also encompass other aspects of the cultural value chain as well as more local, community-based cultural expressions. Such an integrated approach is likely to support a more equitable distribution of cultural tourism revenues, also spreading tourism flows over larger areas, thus curbing the negative impacts of over-tourism on renowned cultural sites, including UNESCO World Heritage sites. This comprehensive vision also echoes the growing aspiration of visitors around the world for more inclusive and sustainable tourism practices, engaging with local communities and broadening the understanding of cultural diversity.

As a result of the crisis, the transversal component of cultural tourism has been brought to the fore, demonstrating its cross-cutting nature and alliance with other development areas. Cultural tourism – and tourism more broadly – is highly relevant to the 2030 for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs, however, the full potential of cultural tourism for advancing development – economic, social and environmental - remains untapped. This is even though cultural tourism is included in a third of all countries’ VNRs, thus demonstrating its priority for governments. Due the transversal nature of cultural tourism, there is scope to build on these synergies and strengthen cooperation between ministries to advance cooperation for a stronger and more resilient sector. This plays an integral role in ensuring a regenerative and inclusive cultural tourism sector. Similarly, tourism can feature as criteria for certain funding initiatives, or as a decisive component for financing cultural projects, such as in heritage or the cultural and creative industries.

cultural tourism in countries

Houses in Amsterdam, adisa, Getty, Images Pro

Several countries have harnessed the crisis to step up actions towards more sustainable models of cultural tourism development by ensuring that recovery planning is aligned with key sustainability principles and the SDGs. Tourism both impacts and is impacted by climate change. There is scant evidence of integration of climate strategies in tourism policies, as well as countries’ efforts to develop solid crisis preparedness and response strategies for the tourism sector. The magnitude and regional variation of climate change in the coming decades will continue to affect cultural tourism, therefore, recovery planning should factor in climate change concerns. Accelerating climate action is of utmost importance for the resilience of the sector.

The key role of local actors in cultural tourism should be supported and developed. States have the opportunity to build on local knowledge, networks and models to forge a stronger and more sustainable cultural tourism sector. This includes streamlining cooperation between different levels of governance in the cultural tourism sector and in concert with civil society and private sector. Particularly during the pandemic, many cities and municipalities have not received adequate State support and have instead introduced measures and initiatives using local resources. In parallel, such actions can spur new opportunities for employment and training that respond to local needs.

Greater diversification in cultural tourism models is needed, backed by a stronger integration of the sector within broader economic and regional planning. An overdependence of the cultural sector on the tourism sector became clear for some countries when the pandemic hit, which saw their economies come to a staggering halt. This has been further weakened by pre-existing gaps in government and industry preparedness and response capacity. The cultural tourism sector is highly fragmented and interdependent, and relies heavily on micro and small enterprises. Developing a more in-depth understanding of tourism value chains can help identify pathways for incremental progress. Similarly, more integrated – and balanced – models can shape a more resilient sector that is less vulnerable to future crises. Several countries are benefiting from such approaches by factoring in a consideration of the environmental and socio-cultural pillars of sustainability, which is supported across all levels of government and in concert with all stakeholders.

cultural tourism in countries

abhishek gaurav, Pexels

Inclusion must be at the heart of building back better the cultural tourism sector. Stakeholders at different levels should participate in planning and management, and local communities cannot be excluded from benefitting from the opportunities and economic benefits of cultural tourism. Moreover, they should be supported and empowered to create solutions from the outset, thus forging more sustainable and scalable options in the long-term. Policy-makers need to ensure that cultural tourism development is pursued within a wider context of city and regional strategies in close co-operation with local communities and industry. Businesses are instrumental in adopting eco-responsible practices for transport, accommodation and food. A balance between public/ private investment should also be planned to support an integrated approach post-crisis, which ensures input and support from industry and civil society.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the essential role of museums as an integral component of societies in terms of well-being, health, education and the economy. Digitalization has been a game-changer for many cultural institutions to remain operational to the greatest extent possible. Yet there are significant disparities in terms of infrastructure and resources, which was underscored when the world shifted online. Museums in SIDS have faced particular difficulties with lack of access to digitalization. These imbalances should be considered in post-crisis strategies.

The pandemic presents an occasion to deeply rethink tourism for the future, and what constitutes the markers and benchmarks of “success”. High-quality cultural tourism is increasingly gaining traction in new strategies for recovery and revival, in view of contributing to the long-term health and resilience of the sector and local communities. Similarly, many countries are exploring ways to fast track towards greener, more sustainable tourism development. As such, the pandemic presents an opportunity for a paradigm shift - the transformation of the culture and tourism sectors to become more inclusive and sustainable. Moreover, this includes incorporating tourism approaches that not only avoid damage but have a positive impact on the environment of tourism destinations and local communities. This emphasis on regenerative tourism has a holistic approach that measures tourism beyond its financial return, and shifts the pendulum towards focusing on the concerns of local communities, and the wellbeing of people and planet.

cultural tourism in countries

Entabeni Game Reserve in South Africa by SL_Photography

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cultural tourism in countries

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.

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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.

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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.

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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.

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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.

cultural tourism in countries

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

cultural tourism in countries

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.

cultural tourism in countries

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Sustainable Tourism

UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme

cultural tourism in countries

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 in countries

Focus Areas

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Policy & Strategy

Sustainable tourism policy and strategy development.

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Tools & Guidance

Sustainable tourism tools

cultural tourism in countries

Capacity Building

Capacity building activities.

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Heritage Journeys

Creation of thematic routes to foster heritage based sustainable tourism development

cultural tourism in countries

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 in countries

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 in countries

Sustainable Tourism Tools

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

cultural tourism in countries

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 in countries

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 in countries

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 in countries

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 in countries

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 in countries

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.

Tourism Teacher

What is cultural tourism and why is it growing?

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Cultural tourism is big business. Some people seek to embark on their travels with the sole intention of having a ‘cultural’ experience, whereas others may experience culture as a byproduct of their trip. We can argue that there is some form of cultural tourism in most holidays (even when taking an all-inclusive holiday you might try to local beer, for example).

But what do we mean by the term ‘cultural tourism’? What’s it all about? In this post I will explain what is meant by the term cultural tourism, providing a range of academic definitions. I will also explain what the different types of cultural tourists are, give examples of cultural tourism activities and discuss the impacts of cultural tourism. Lastly, I will provide a brief summary of some popular cultural tourism destinations.

What is cultural tourism?

Cultural tourism is the act of travellers visiting particular destinations in order to experience and learn about a particular culture . This can include many activities such as; attending events and festivals, visiting museums and tasting the local food and drinks.

Cultural tourism can also be an unintentional part of the tourism experience, whereby cultural immersion (with the local people, their language, customs, cuisine etc) is an inevitable part of a person’s holiday.

Cultural tourism definitions

It has been suggested that tourism is the ideal arena in which to investigate the nature of cultural production (MacCannell, 1976). Tourism provides endless opportunities to learn about the way other people live, about their society and their traditions. Whether you are attending the Running of the Bulls Festival in Pamplona , visiting the pyramids in ancient Egypt , taking a tour of the tea plantations in China or enjoying the locally brewed Ouzo on your all-inclusive holiday to Greece, you will inevitably encounter some form of cultural tourism as part of your holiday experience.

The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) (1985) broadly define cultural tourism as the movements of persons who satisfy the human need for diversity, tending to raise the cultural level of the individual and giving rise to new knowledge, experience and encounters. Cultural tourism is commonly associated with education in this way, some describing it more narrowly as educational cultural tourism (e.g. Bualis and Costa, 2006; Harner and Swarbrooke, 2007; Richards, 2005).

Although a common, more specific definition has not been agreed amongst academics due to the complexity and subjectivity of the term, there do appear to be two distinct viewpoints. The first focusses upon the consumption of cultural products such as sites or monuments (Bonink, 1992; Munsters, 1994), and the second comprises all aspects of travel, where travellers learn about the history and heritage of others or about their contemporary ways of life or thought (MacIntosh and Goeldner, 1986).

Csapo (2012) pertains that the umbrella term of cultural tourism can encompass a number of tourism forms including heritage (material e.g. historic buildings and non-material e.g. literature, arts), cultural thematic routes (e.g. spiritual, gastronomic, linguistic), cultural city tourism, traditions/ethnic tourism, events and festivals, religious tourism and creative culture (e.g. performing arts, crafts).

Types of cultural tourists

In attempt to understand the scope of cultural tourism academics have developed a number of typologies, usually based upon the tourist’s level of motivation.

Bywater (1993) differentiated tourists according to whether they were culturally interested, motivated or inspired.

Culturally interested tourists demonstrate a general interest in culture and consume cultural attractions casually as part of a holiday rather than consciously planning to do so.

Culturally motivated tourists consume culture as a major part of their trip, but do not choose their destination on the basis of specific cultural experiences, whereas for culturally inspired tourists culture is the main goal of their holiday. 

A more complex typology was proposed by McKercher and Du Cros (2002), who defined tourists based upon the depth of the cultural experience sought, distinguishing them in to one of five hierarchical categories. 

The first is the purposeful cultural tourist for whom cultural tourism is their primary motive for travel. These tourists have a very deep cultural experience. 

The second category is the sightseeing cultural tourist for whom cultural tourism is a primary reason for visiting a destination, but the experience is more shallow in nature.

The serendipitous cultural tourist does not travel for cultural reasons, but who, after participating, ends up having a deep cultural tourism experience, whilst the casual cultural tourist is weakly motivated by culture and subsequently has a shallow experience. 

Lastly, the incidental cultural tourist is one who does not travel for cultural tourism reasons but nonetheless participates in some activities and has shallow experiences. 

Adapting this theory, Petroman  et al (2013) segments tourists based upon their preferred cultural activities.

The purposeful cultural tourist, described as according to Mckercher and Du Cros (2002), enjoys learning experiences that challenge them intellectually and visits history museums, art galleries, temples and heritage sites that are less known.

The tour-amateur cultural tourist is akin with the sightseeing cultural tourist above and they often travel long distances, visit remote areas, enjoy tours and wandering through the streets.

The occasional cultural tourist plays a moderate role in the decision of travelling and enjoys an insignificant cultural experience, their preferred activities being to visit attractions and temples that are easy to reach and to explore, although not to the extent that the tour-amateur cultural tourist does.

The incidental cultural tourist plays a small or no role in the decision to travel and enjoys an insignificant cultural experience, whilst visiting attractions that area within easy reach and heritage theme parks.

The last segment is the accidental cultural tourist, who plays a small or no role in the decision to travel but enjoys a deep cultural experience. This tourist type is diverse and as such has no preferred activities attributed to it. 

Importance of cultural tourism

Cultural tourism is important for many reasons. Perhaps the most prominent reason is the social impact that it brings.

Cultural tourism can help reinforce identities, enhance cross cultural understanding and preserve the heritage and culture of an area. I have discussed these advantages at length in my post The Social Impacts of Tourism , so you may want to head over there for more detail.

Cultural tourism can also have positive economic impacts . Tourists who visit an area to learn more about a culture or who visit cultural tourism attraction, such as museums or shows, during their trip help to contribute to the economy of the area. Attractions must be staffed, bringing with it employment prospects and tertiary businesses can also benefit, such as restaurants, taxi firms and hotels.

Furthermore, for those seeking a deep cultural experience, options such as homestays can have positive economic benefits to the members of the community who host the tourists.

Read also: Overtourism explained: What, why and where

Personally, I think that one of the most important benefits of cultural tourism is the educational aspect. Tourists and hosts alike can learn more about different ways of life. This can help to broaden one’s mind, it can help one to think differently and to be more objective. These are qualities that can have many positive effects on a person and which can contribute to making them more employable in the future.

Cultural tourism activities

Whether a tourist is seeking a deep cultural experience or otherwise, there are a wide range of activities that can be classified as cultural tourism. Here are a few examples:

  • Staying with a local family in a homestay
  • Having a tour around a village or town
  • Learning about local employment, for example through a tour of a tea plantation or factory
  • Undertaking volunteer work in the local community
  • Taking a course such as cooking, art, embroidery etc
  • Visiting a museum
  • Visiting a religious building, such as a Mosque
  • Socialising with members of the local community
  • Visiting a local market or shopping area
  • Trying the local food and drink
  • Going to a cultural show or performance
  • Visiting historic monuments

Impacts of cultural tourism

There are a range of impacts resulting from cultural tourism activities, both good and bad. Here are some of the most common examples:

Positive impacts of cultural tourism

Revitalisation of culture and art.

Some destinations will encourage local cultures and arts to be revitalised. This may be in the form of museum exhibitions, in the way that restaurants and shops are decorated and in the entertainment on offer, for example.

This may help promote traditions that may have become distant.

Preservation of Heritage

Many tourists will visit the destination especially to see its local heritage. It is for this reason that many destinations will make every effort to preserve its heritage.

This could include putting restrictions in place or limiting tourist numbers, if necessary. This is often an example of careful tourism planning  and sustainable tourism management.

This text by Hyung You Park explains the principles of heritage tourism in more detail.

Negative impacts of cultural tourism

Social change.

Social change is basically referring to changes in the way that society acts or behaves. Unfortunately, there are many changes that come about as a result of tourism that are not desirable.

There are many examples throughout the world where local populations have changed because of tourism. Perhaps they have changed the way that they speak or the way that they dress. Perhaps they have been introduced to alcohol through the tourism industry or they have become resentful of rich tourists and turned to crime. These are just a few examples of the negative social impacts of tourism.

Read also: Business tourism explained: What, why and where

Globalisation and the destruction of preservation and heritage.

Globalisation is the way in which the world is becoming increasingly connected. We are losing our individuality and gaining a sense of ‘global being’, whereby we more and more alike than ever before.

Globalisation is inevitable in the tourism industry because of the interaction between tourists and hosts, which typically come from different geographic and cultural backgrounds. It is this interaction that encourage us to become more alike.

Standardisation and Commercialisation

Similarly, destinations risk standardisation in the process of satisfying tourists’ desires for familiar facilities and experiences.

While landscape, accommodation, food and drinks, etc., must meet the tourists’ desire for the new and unfamiliar, they must at the same time not be too new or strange because few tourists are actually looking for completely new things (think again about the toilet example I have previously).

Tourists often look for recognisable facilities in an unfamiliar environment, like well-known fast-food restaurants and hotel chains. Tourist like some things to be standardised (the toilet, their breakfast, their drinks, the language spoken etc), but others to be different (dinner options, music, weather, tourist attractions etc).

Loss of Authenticity 

Along similar lines to globalisation is the loss of authenticity that often results from tourism.

Authenticity is essentially something that is original or unchanged. It is not fake or reproduced in any way.

The Western world believe that a tourist destination is no longer authentic when their cultural values and traditions change. But I would argue is this not natural? Is culture suppose to stay the same or it suppose to evolve throughout each generation? 

Take a look at the likes of the long neck tribe in Thailand or the Maasai Tribe in Africa. These are two examples of cultures which have remained ‘unchanged’ for the sole purpose of tourism. They appear not to have changed the way that they dress, they way that they speak or the way that they act in generations, all for the purpose of tourism.

You can learn more about what is authenticity in tourism here or see some examples of staged authenticity in this post.

Culture clashes

Because tourism involves movement of people to different geographical locations cultural clashes can take place as a result of differences in cultures, ethnic and religious groups, values, lifestyles, languages and levels of prosperity.

Read also: Environmental impacts of tourism

The attitude of local residents towards tourism development may unfold through the stages of euphoria, where visitors are very welcome, through apathy, irritation and potentially antagonism when anti-tourist attitudes begin to grow among local people. This is represented in Doxey’s Irritation Index, as shown below.

cultural tourism in countries

Tourist-host relationships

Culture clashes can also be exasperated by the fundamental differences in culture between the hosts and the tourists.

There is likely to be economic inequality between locals and tourists who are spending more than they usually do at home. This can cause resentment from the hosts towards the tourists, particularly when they see them wearing expensive jewellery or using plush cameras etc that they know they can’t afford themselves.

Further to this, tourists often, out of ignorance or carelessness, fail to respect local customs and moral values. 

There are many examples of ways that tourists offend the local population , often unintentionally. Did you know that you should never put your back to a Buddha? Or show the sole of your feet to a Thai person? Or show romantic affection in public in the Middle East?

Cultural tourism destinations

Whilst many would argue that cultural tourism is ingrained to some extent in travel to any country, there are some particular destinations that are well-known for their ability to provide tourists with a cultural experience.

Cultural tourism in India

It is impossible not to visit India and experience the culture. Even if you are staying in a 5 star Western all-inclusive hotel in Goa, you will still test Indian curries, be spoken to by Indian workers and see life outside of the hotel on your transfer to and from the airport.

For most people who travel to India, however, cultural tourism is far more than peeking outside of the enclave tourism bubble of their all-inclusive hotel.

Thousands of international tourists visit the Taj Mahal each year. Many more people visit the various Hindu and Buddhist temples scattered throughout the country as well as the various Mosques. Some visit the famous Varanassi to learn about reincarnation.

Most tourists who visit India will try the local dal, eat the fresh mutton and taste chai.

All of these activities are popular cultural tourism activities.

Cultural tourism in Thailand

Thailand is another destination that offers great cultural tourism potential. From the Buddhist temples and monuments and the yoga retreats to homestays and village tours, there are ample cultural tourism opportunities in Thailand .

Cultural tourism in Israel

Israel is popular with religious tourists and those who are taking a religious pilgrimage, as well as leisure tourists. I visited Israel and loved travelling around to see the various sights, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem . I’m not religious in any way, but I loved learning about the history, traditions and cultures.

Cultural tourism in New York

New York is a city that is bustling with culture. It is world famous for its museums and you can learn about anything from World War Two to the Twin Towers here.

Many would argue that shopping is ingrained in the culture of those who live in New York and many tourists will take advantage of the wide selection of products on offer and bargains to be had on their travels to New York.

You can also treat yourself to watching a traditional West End show, trying some of the famous New York Cheesecake and enjoying a cocktail in Times Square!

Cultural tourism in Dubai

Dubai might not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think of cultural tourism, but it does, in fact, have a great offering.

What I find particular intriguing about Dubai is the mix of old and new. One minute you can be exploring the glitz and glamour of the many high-end shopping malls and skyscrapers and the next you can be walking through a traditional Arabian souk.

Cultural tourism: Conclusion

As you can see, there is big business in cultural tourism. With a wide range of types of cultural tourists and types of cultural tourism experiences, this is a tourism sector that has remarkable potential. However, as always, it is imperative to ensure that sustainable tourism practices are utilised to mitigate any negative impacts of cultural tourism.

If you are interested in learning more about topics such as this subscribe to my newsletter ! I send out travel tips, discount coupons and some material designed to get you thinking about the wider impacts of the tourism industry (like this post)- perfect for any tourism student or keen traveller!

Further reading

Want to learn more about cultural tourism? See my recommended reading list below.

  • Cultural Tourism – A textbook illustrating how heritage and tourism goals can be integrated in a management and marketing framework to produce sustainable cultural tourism. 
  • Deconstructing Travel: Cultural Perspectives on Tourism – This book provides an easily understood framework of the relationship between travel and culture in our rapidly changing postmodern, postcolonial world.
  • Re-Investing Authenticity: Tourism, Place and Emotions – This ground-breaking book re-thinks and re-invests in the notion of authenticity as a surplus of experiential meaning and feeling that derives from what we do at/in places.
  • The Business of Tourism Management – an introduction to key aspects of tourism, and to the practice of managing a tourism business. 
  • Managing Sustainable Tourism – tackles the tough issues of tourism such as negative environmental impact and cultural degradation, and provides answers that don’t sacrifice positive economic growth.
  • Tourism Management: An Introduction – An introductory text that gives its reader a strong understanding of the dimensions of tourism, the industries of which it is comprised, the issues that affect its success, and the management of its impact on destination economies, environments and communities.
  • Responsible Tourism: Using tourism for sustainable development – A textbook about the globally vital necessity of realising sustainable tourism.

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32 Cultural Tourism Destinations for Unique Cultural Trips

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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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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.

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What is Cultural Tourism and Why is It Important?

What is Cultural Tourism

Tourism trends come and go. What was once deemed as a necessity in travel and tourism may not be a necessity today. So what is cultural tourism and why is it important? Let’s dive in!

How is Culture Defined?

In order to understand cultural tourism, we must first understand what constitutes culture. 

Culture is rooted in many complexities and many inner workings. On the surface level, culture can be defined through symbols, words, gestures, people, rituals and more. 

However, the core of culture is in its values. 

The way a culture perceives itself or stays preserved is through a set of shared values. 

cultural tourism in countries

Maybe its an ode to ancestry and tradition or a new breadth of 

However, the core of culture is in its values.

Whether it’s an ode to ancestry or creating a new set of values as time evolves, it can be also be held true to the 

Whether it’s an ode to ancestry or creating a new set of values as time evolves, cultural tourism is uprooted in holding and preserving cultures through traditions and heritage.  [1]

What is Cultural Tourism?

Adopted by the UNWTO General Assembly in 2017, Cultural Tourism is defined as the following: “A type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s essential motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume tangible and intangible cultural attractions/products in a tourism destination.”

The main aim of cultural tourism is to improve the quality and livelihood of the local people who are committed to preserving cultural heritage and traditions. 

This can be through the purchase of locally made goods, initiatives through local food and the learning of recipes, 

This can be through the purchase of locally made goods, initiatives to learn how to cook local recipes and supporting local inbound operators who have a good knowledge of the cities they are operating in. 

This can be done through the following six aspects:

  • Handcrafted Goods and Visual Art
  • Social Practices
  • Rituals and Festive Events
  • Oral Traditions

Imagine visiting one of our destinations: Jordan, Tunisia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan or Tanzania. 

Imagine being able to experience all six of these aspects of cultural tourism all created in one package.

Where Can You Practice Cultural Tourism?

Jordan .

From the North to the South, Jordan’s landscapes and its people are ready to welcome you to each and every experience. 

In the North, experience the gastronomy of locally preserved recipes and take your hand at being able to learn how to cook yourself. 

Take your hand at handcrafted goods like making baskets out of wheat straws or learn the art of traditional weaving in Madaba. 

In the South, practice in rituals in the desert by learning about the infamous Bedouin tea, take some words and practices that are so pertinent to those in the South. 

See our packages in Jordan

Underground colonies, history and a rich culture are just waiting for you to learn about. 

Visit an artist in Gabes who has taken traditional methods of papermaking and carried it to the present today by honoring raw and organic materials pertinent to the atmosphere of Tunisia’s landscape. 

Then have an opportunity to stay in local accommodation in underground colonies which stay cool during the summer and warm in the winter.

You can also experience Amazigh history and the different languages present in Tunisia today that trace back to civilizations many years ago. 

See our packages in Tunisia


One of Central Asia’s unknown wonders

Uzbekistan is located on the Silk Road and holds centuries of history that trace back to the Islamic Golden Age. It holds a unique architectural background and since it holds history between the Persian Empire and the Soviet Union, you can see a contradiction between both styles, all in one place. 

See our packages in Uzbekistan


Where nature is a non-negotiable

With its beautiful nature, with over 2,000 lakes, Kyrgyzstan is another Central Asian wonder that holds beautiful fairytale naturescapes and semi-nomadic living. 

Kyrygz people still adhere to ancient civilizations and honor their ancestors by living in Yurts and sharing natural practices such as horseback riding and traditional old games, like Kok Boro and eagle hunting. 

See our packages in Kyrgyzstan 

Everything is “pole pole” in Tanzania

From visiting indigeneous tribes to participating in rituals to mother nature, Tanzanian people practice the “pole pole” lifestyle, which means slowly slowly in Swahili. 

With an intersection of different cultures and practiced rituals, Tanzania has become such a hub for many people to get together and enjoy the lifestyle and indigenous cultures. 

See our packages in Tanzania

Why is Cultural Tourism Important?

Cultural tourism is a travel and tourism trend that is here to stay. With more and more accessibility to the world and the people in it, there is peak interest in being able to immersively travel. 

  • Peaks an interest to immerse yourself in a particular culture
  • Creates meanings, stories and understanding between host and guest
  • Share cultural practices and be part of the preservation of cultural heritage
  • Gain a full understanding a culture without commodification 

What better way to honor a destination than by practicing in allowing something to be immortal. 

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about experiential tourism, check out this article. 

What are some cultural touristic experiences you are looking forward to trying?

A Complete List of What to Do in Tunisia

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

07 Feb 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

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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

Image Source

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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  • Hotels in Andaman
  • Hotels in Himachal
  • Hotels in Uttarakhand
  • Hotels in Rajasthan

It’s been a record-setting year for global travel – here’s how we make tourism inclusive and sustainable

A colourful market in Columbia selling bags, clothes and crafts: Inclusive and sustainable travel and tourism includes supporting micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses.

Inclusive and sustainable travel and tourism includes supporting micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses. Image:  Unsplash/Michael Barón

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  • The global travel sector is experiencing a robust recovery, with tourists increasingly spending more on travel.
  • Despite the overall positive outlook, some destinations struggle with operational challenges, including workforce issues and resource management amid rising tourist numbers and environmental concerns.
  • The travel and tourism sector’s potential for advancing socio-economic prosperity is particularly impactful through the support of micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises.

The global travel sector forecast is in and it's sunny skies ahead. Through March 2024, consumer spending on travel remains strong, and passenger traffic has soared. Empowered by a strong labour market worldwide, tourists will be on the roads, air and seas once again, with more of people’s budgets on travel.

The latest report from the Mastercard Economics Institute, Travel Trends 2024: Breaking Boundaries , reveals that 2024 has already witnessed multiple record-setting days as consumer spending on leisure travel remains strong. The data shows that post-pandemic travellers continue to seek unique experiences rooted in local cultures while increasingly prioritizing spending on memorable events across sports, music and festivals.

The Mastercard Economics Institute’s analysis reveals that travellers also seek opportunities to extend their stays, prioritizing leisure for longer. For the first 12 months between March 2019 and February 2020, a trip’s average length of stay was about four days. As of March 2024, the average length of a leisure trip has edged closer to five days, which translates into an economic boost for the destinations and communities hosting them.

Have you read?

These are the top 10 countries for travel and tourism, what is travel and tourism’s role in future global prosperity, travel & tourism development index 2024, tackling tourism’s challenges.

Yet, while the overall outlook for travellers looks bright, that’s not the case for all destinations. Some tourism hotspots and lesser-known locales are facing growing challenges around operating conditions. The World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Development Index (TTDI) 2024 highlights the ongoing constraints facing the global travel and tourism sector – including the lack of investment in skilled and resilient workforces and issues around resource management – cultural and natural – as destinations grapple with higher tourist visitor numbers and rising environmental concerns.

The report offers travel and tourism decision-makers recommendations around how the sector can take a more active role in tackling social challenges across socio-economic prosperity, peace and cultural exchange. As the industry accounts for approximately one-tenth of global gross domestic product and employment , the public and private sectors must work together to ensure future tourism development is, first and foremost, inclusive and sustainable.

Supporting the backbone of travel and tourism

As the TTDI 2024 notes, one area where the sector’s potential in advancing socio-economic prosperity can be particularly impactful is in the economic empowerment of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, more than 80% of travel and tourism businesses fall under this category.

Policies and investments promoting the adoption of digital solutions and enhancing digital skills development while improving access to credit can provide a major boost to tourism-focused MSMEs.

In Costa Rica, the Instituto Costariccense de Turismo, a member of Mastercard’s Tourism Innovation Hub , is championing such an approach to ensure increased tourist traffic results in better opportunities for MSMEs. Last year, the institute launched Tico Treasures , a platform facilitating tourist connections with Costa Rica’s Crafts with Identity programme, a group of 17 artisan collectives across the country. The platform allows visitors to discover local Costa Rican products, learn about artisan communities and then purchase and ship the goods back to their home country – all through one experience.

The programme is an example of public-private collaboration, including backing from Correos de Costa Rica, Banco de Costa Rica and the Instituto Costariccense de Turismo. Its objectives are multifold: delivering more authentic experiences for tourists, expanding citizens’ access to the digital economy and contributing to MSME resilience.

Protecting future environments

There are also novel approaches to solving destinations’ sustainability challenges underway. A key role of the Travel Foundation , a global non-government organization, is to facilitate innovative public-private collaborations in tourism that accelerate and scale sustainable solutions. One notable example is in Scotland, where the national tourism organization VisitScotland is partnering with the Travel Corporation, a global tour operator, to help decarbonize the destination supply chain. Both organizations are pooling their insights, data and expertise to support local businesses, develop new ideas for reducing carbon footprints and identify barriers to a green transition.

The learnings from this and other projects led by the Travel Foundation will be shared to influence future policy, investment and product development decisions at national and global levels. By combining public sector resources and capabilities with private sector technological expertise, travel and tourism decision-makers can enact policies and programmes that balance tourism growth with environmental protection, providing a nuanced approach that works for unique destinations.

It’s an important time for the sector – to leverage travel and tourism’s robust recovery and advance socio-economic prosperity, fuelling a more inclusive future for our treasured destinations. By accelerating collaboration between governments, destination management organizations and technology companies, we can ensure destinations, the communities that power them and the environments they inhabit are at the heart of all future tourism development.

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World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Did You Know There Are 23 Countries in North America?

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Map of Earth focusing on North America, US, Canada, Mexico and Central America

North America is the world's third largest continent by land area, bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and South America and the Caribbean Sea to the south. This incredible size means there are quite a few countries in North America .

But just how many, exactly? The answer isn't quite as straightforward as you might think.

How Many Countries Are There in North America?

Overview of the north american continent, major countries by land area, the most populated north american countries, what languages are spoken in north america, natural resources, economic importance, historical context, a cultural melting pot, tourism and natural wonders.

There are 23 countries in North America, including three in Northern America, seven in Central America and 13 in the Caribbean Sea. The regional breakdown of these sovereign states is as follows:

Northern America

  • United States

Central America

  • El Salvador

The Caribbean Sea

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • The Bahamas
  • Dominican Republic
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago

Non-sovereign States

North America also encompasses 23 dependent territories, or non-sovereign states, which include:

  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Clipperton Island
  • Federal Dependencies of Venezuela
  • Puerto Rico
  • Turks and Caicos
  • Saint Barthélemy
  • Saint Martin
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon
  • San Andrés and Providencia
  • Sint Eustatius
  • Sint Maarten
  • Virgin Islands

The North American continent occupies the northern portion of the landmass historically referred to as the New World. Its three main regions are Northern America, Central America and the Caribbean Sea (also referred to as the West Indies).

Northern America includes just three countries: Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

Canada is positioned above the U.S., while Mexico lies below it, meaning the U.S. shares a border with each of these countries. The combined land area of these three countries is 8.4 million square miles (21.8 million square kilometers), making Northern America the largest segment of North America in terms of land.

Central America is the second largest segment of North America, with a land area of 201,595 square miles (522,278 square kilometers). This specific region within Latin America consists of a narrow land connection between North and South America and encompasses seven countries. From roughly north to south, they are Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

The West Indies, located in the Caribbean Sea, consists of numerous islands, including the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic; the smaller nations of Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent; and others.

While there are some truly tiny countries and territories here(the island of Sint Maarten is just 13 square miles, or 34 square kilometers), this region still contributes 89,290 square miles (231,336 square kilometers) of land to North America.

The largest country in North America by land area is Canada, which is also the second largest country in the world. (The largest country in the world is Russia.) Canada's land area is approximately 3.85 million square miles (9.98 million square kilometers). Its capital is Ottawa, located in the province of Ontario, and the country is known for the British, French and Indigenous influences on its culture.

Following closely behind Canada is the U.S., which is the second largest country in North America and the third largest country in the world. Its land area is about 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million square kilometers). The U.S. is known for its diverse geography, including the Appalachian Mountains and Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth .

Mexico, the third largest country on the continent, is known for its vibrant culture and capital city, Mexico City. The country covers approximately 758,449 square miles (1.96 million square kilometers). With nearly 130 million people, Mexico is home to more Spanish speakers than any other country in the world. People have been living on the land that is present-day Mexico for thousands of years, with the area's rich agricultural history potentially dating as far back as 7,050 B.C.

The combined population of all 23 of the North American countries is more than 600 million people.

The 10 most populous countries are:

  • United States : 341.8 million people
  • Mexico : 129.4 million people
  • Canada : 39.1 million people
  • Guatemala : 18.4 million people
  • Haiti : 11.9 million people
  • Dominican Republic : 11.4 million people
  • Cuba : 11.2 million people
  • Honduras : 10.8 million people
  • Nicaragua : 7.1 million people
  • El Salvador : 6.4 million people

North America's population is diverse, with a mix of Indigenous people, Latin Americans, African Americans and immigrants from all over the world. This means people speak hundreds of different languages on the continent.

In total, the number of languages spoken in North America is estimated to be around 400 , considering both Indigenous and non-Indigenous languages, although that number could potentially be even higher, especially when you consider different regional dialects .

The most common language groups in North America include the following.

Indigenous Languages

There are hundreds of Indigenous languages spoken by various Native American tribes across North America, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Central America.

European Languages

  • English : Predominantly spoken in the U.S., Canada, Belize and several Caribbean nations.
  • Spanish : Predominantly spoken in Mexico, most of Central America and some Caribbean nations.
  • French : Predominantly spoken in parts of Canada (especially Quebec), Haiti and some Caribbean territories.
  • Dutch : Spoken in parts of the Caribbean, such as Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten.

Creole and Pidgin Languages

People speak various Creole languages in the Caribbean, such as Haitian Creole in Haiti, Jamaican Patois in Jamaica, and others in countries like the Bahamas, Belize, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Other Languages

People speak many other languages in North America, mainly due to immigration, including Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, German, Italian, Korean and many more.

North America is rich in natural resources that drive its economies.

The fertile soils of the U.S., especially in the Midwest, known as the "breadbasket" of the world, produce substantial quantities of corn, wheat and soybeans. Additionally, the U.S. is rich in coal, natural gas and oil, with significant reserves in states like Texas, Alaska and North Dakota.

Canada is renowned for its vast oil sands in Alberta, which make it one of the largest oil producers globally. Besides oil, Canada has substantial natural gas reserves, timber and mineral resources, including gold, nickel and uranium.

Meanwhile, Mexico is a major producer of silver and oil, with its oil reserves primarily located along the Gulf of Mexico. The country also has significant deposits of copper, lead and zinc.

The economic influence of North America is considerable, and it contributes a significant portion to the global GDP , or gross domestic product. Canada’s economy is bolstered by its natural resources, with major industries including oil and gas, mining and forestry . The country also has a robust manufacturing sector, particularly in automotive production.

Canada's neighbor to the south, the U.S. is a global leader in technology, finance and manufacturing. Silicon Valley in California is a hub for tech innovation, home to many of the world's leading tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook. Wall Street in New York City is the epicenter of global finance, wielding influence over stock markets worldwide.

Mexico has extensive trade relations that benefit its economy, particularly agreements like the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The country also has a strong manufacturing base, especially in the automotive and electronics sectors, and its agricultural industry exports a significant amount of fruits and vegetables year over year.

North America's history is deeply intertwined with that of the British Empire and other European powers that colonized the continent .

The name "America" is derived from the explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who sailed to the Americas around 1500. After that, people began using the term "America" to mean the New World as a whole. But North America’s history spans thousands of years, beginning even earlier than that. Indigenous peoples inhabited the continent long before the Europeans made contact.

These diverse Indigenous groups, including the Iroquois, Sioux, Maya, Aztec and Inuit, developed complex societies with their own rich traditions and cultures. The arrival of European explorers in the late 15th and early 16th centuries marked the beginning of significant changes, conflicts and the oppression of the Indigenous people by the Europeans.

Colonization of the Americas

The voyages of Christopher Columbus , sponsored by Spain, initiated greater exploration of the American countries, but it also facilitated colonization by European powers, including Spain, France and Britain.

The French settled in parts of Canada and the central U.S., while the Spanish colonized large areas of the present-day U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean. The British Empire established colonies along the eastern coast of what is now the U.S. and Canada.

The cultural landscape of North America has been profoundly influenced by its colonial past and the continuous waves of immigration from around the world. The British influence is particularly strong in the U.S. and Canada, seen in the widespread use of the English language and the legal and political systems.

In Mexico and parts of the U.S., Spanish influence is everywhere, reflecting the legacy of Spanish colonization. Meanwhile, the African diaspora has also left an imprint, especially in the U.S. and the Caribbean, contributing to the music, cuisine and religious practices.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, North America became a destination for millions of immigrants from around the world in search of better opportunities, many of them escaping political hardships. This constant flow of new cultures and traditions has made North America one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world.

People often describe the U.S. as a "melting pot," where various cultures blend to create a unique American identity. Similarly, Canada promotes a "mosaic" model, celebrating multiculturalism and diversity throughout its culture.

Tourism plays a vital role in North America's economy. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Toronto, Mexico City and Havana offer a blend of historical sites and modern experiences. Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, is home to iconic landmarks like the White House, the Capitol, and numerous museums and monuments on the National Mall.

Mexico is famous for its ancient civilizations, with archaeological sites like Chichen Itza , Teotihuacan and Palenque attracting history buffs. The country's vibrant festivals, cuisine and colonial architecture also appeal to visitors.

Visitors are drawn to the continent's natural wonders, too. These include Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley) in Alaska, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Niagara Falls on the U.S.-Canada border, Yellowstone National Park in the western U.S. and the pristine beaches of the Caribbean countries like those in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

In the United States, California offers beaches in Southern California and forests and mountains in Northern California. Meanwhile, Florida is famous for its theme parks like Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, as well as the naturally beautiful Everglades .

In Canada, people flock to the Rocky Mountains for excellent skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and hiking in the summer. The Maritimes in eastern Canada are famous for their seafood and charming small towns. British Columbia is another top destination, featuring temperate rainforests, multicultural cities like Vancouver and natural spots like the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort.

The Caribbean islands are a major draw for tourists who are looking to spend time in the sun, sand and sea. Known for pristine beaches, clear turquoise waters, and excellent diving and snorkeling sites, the West Indies are a favorite among travelers for both relaxation and adventure.

We created this article in conjunction with AI technology, then made sure it was fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.

In the northeastern parts of what you might otherwise think is Canada, you'll find an archipelago that makes up the Territorial Collectivity of St. Pierre and Miquelon. The people who reside on these 93 square miles (242 square kilometers) of land are French citizens.

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First-Ever Direct Flight Between Cambodia and India Takes Off – India Report

Bulbul Dhawan , Skift

June 18th, 2024 at 11:00 PM EDT

Cambodian tourists have largely visited India for religious travel to Buddhist sites and for affordable medical treatments. With the first-ever direct flight between the two countries, more Cambodian tourists are expected to explore different destinations within the country. Meanwhile, Cambodia is hoping to attract more Indians, who are gaining importance in the region. However, much more than a direct flight is needed to attract the Indian travelers.

Bulbul Dhawan

The Skift India Newsletter is your go-to platform for all news related to travel, tourism, airlines, and hospitality in India.

The first-ever direct flight between India and Cambodia took flight over the weekend. The Phnom Penh-New Delhi service is being operated by Cambodia’s national airline Cambodia Angkor Air and it will operate four times a week. 

The move is aimed at enhancing the travel opportunities between the two countries, particularly promoting the rich spiritual heritage of Cambodia. 

When the flight was announced last month, Koy Kuong, Ambassador of the Royal Embassy of Cambodia to India, said that he was hoping the direct flight connectivity and demand for medical tourism in India would lead to the flow of tourists between the two nations to double year-on-year.

Increasing Tourism: According to an Economic Times report, in the first three months of 2024, Cambodia received 20,000 Indian tourists, marking an increase of over 25% from the same period last year. In 2023, around 69,000 Indian tourists visited Cambodia. This is up from the 2021 figure of 45,000, but still not back to the pre-Covid numbers of 75,000 Indian tourists. 

India is a key medical and religious tourism destination for Cambodians, Kuong said. He expects that more Cambodian people are likely to seek medical treatment in India due to lower cost as compared to neighboring countries. Cambodian tourists also visited India to see Buddhist sites in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. However, the direct flight connectivity is likely to boost other tourism aspects as well, he was cited as saying by PTI . 

“Before the direct flight they came either for pilgrimage or medical treatment, but now they will want to explore more. Besides religious tourism and medical tourism, they will explore places for sightseeing, and other places,” he said.

Cambodia-India Tourism Year: To boost tourism between the two countries, the tourism ministries of India and Cambodia have launched the inaugural ‘Cambodia-India Tourism Year’.

During the event, Indian tourism ministry director general Manisha Saxena said that the Cambodia-India Tourism Year would allow citizens of both the countries to explore the common culture shared by India and Cambodia.

Ixigo Lists on Indian Stock Exchanges

Online travel company Ixigo’s stock was listed on the Indian bourses on Wednesday. The company was listed on both Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and National Stock Exchange (NSE) at more than 45% above its IPO price. 

On both the stock exchanges, it hit the upper price band within the first two hours of trading. This means that Ixigo experienced heavy demand from buyers, leading to its trading being paused for the rest of the day. 

Ixigo’s debut on the stock exchanges is in line with its IPO performance , when investors applied for about 98 times the number of shares in its initial public offering. The company was aiming to raise $89 million from its IPO. According to its prospectus , it aims to use the proceeds from the IPO to fund working capital requirements, invest in cloud infrastructure and technology, and drive inorganic growth.

Akasa Air to Minimize Announcements During Late-Night, Early-Morning Flights

Akasa Air has launched ‘QuiteFlights’, as a part of which the airline will minimize announcements during late-night and early-morning flights. Akasa will limit the announcements to essential safety messages during flights operating between 10 pm and 6 am. It will also adjust the cabin lighting to enhance privacy and create what the airline calls a calming inflight experience. 

The low-cost airline recently began operating its third international route, connecting Mumbai with Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The daily direct flights commenced on Saturday and marked the second destination on Akasa’s network in Saudi, after Jeddah. 

Since its commencement in August 2022, the airline has expanded its network to 25 cities, of which 3 are international destinations. 

Discrimination Concerns Major Issue for Indian LGBTQ+ Travelers

After financial consideration, the biggest issue for Indian LGBTQ+ travelers is looking for destinations where they can be their authentic self, according to a report by Booking.com. Over 50% of LGBTQ+ travelers in India prefer to visit destinations where LGBTQ+ tourism is well established. 

The online travel company said that close to 80% of its respondents have booked a trip in the last year to a destination that was supportive of LGBTQ+ residents, while nearly 70% canceled a trip in the past year after they saw their destination being unsupportive of residents of the LGBTQ+ community. 

More than 60% of the respondents also stated that they had a negative flight experience with a fellow passenger directly related to their identity. Hence, over 75% of the LGBTQ+ travelers prefer selecting their seat in advance to minimize interaction with others to avoid discrimination. 

BLS International Subsidiary Acquires 55% Stake in Aadifidelis Solutions

Visa consultancy services firm BLS International has announced that its subsidiary BLS E-Services Limited has acquired a 55% controlling interest in loan distribution and processing company Aadifidelis Solutions and its affiliates. 

The acquisition is being carried out for an enterprise value of INR 1.9 billion ($22.8 million). 

BLS International joint managing director Shikhar Aggarwal said that the acquisition is a strategic move. “It will unveil a plethora of cross-selling opportunities while integrating specialized loan processing and distribution services into our portfolio.”

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Tags: acquisitions , airlines , akasa air , cambodia , in-flight , india , india outbound , india travel , inflight , international air traffic , international travel , ipo , ixigo , LGBT travel , skift india report , stock market , stocks , tourism , Travel Trends

Photo credit: The move is aimed at enhancing the travel opportunities between the two countries, particularly promoting the rich spiritual heritage of Cambodia. Julia Volk / Pexels

UN Tourism | Bringing the world closer

  • All Regions
  • 13 Nov 2018

Community Involvement Needed in Cultural Tourism’s Digital Transformation, says UNWTO Seminar

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PR No. : PR 18089

Madrid, Spain, 13 November 2018 – The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)’s International Seminar on Harnessing Cultural Tourism through Innovation and Technology and 40th Affiliate Members Plenary Session concluded with a renewed call for community participation in development of cultural tourism using cutting-edge technologies (12-14 November 2018, Hamedan, Islamic Republic of Iran).

“Technology and innovation, including ICT, can improve the quality of the tourist experience. It can improve governance, profits and the wellbeing of residents. And it can preserve intangible and tangible heritage resources for the sustainable development of cultural tourism,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili opening the event.

“The world’s diverse range of culture and heritage form the best means and ways to connect peoples of the world – but only if the rights and privileges of both host and guest populations are respected and responded to. And innovation and technology can help”, added Iranian Vice-President Ali Asghar Mounesan, who also heads the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcraft and Tourism Organization (ICHTO).

The seminar agreed that informed governance and policies surrounding uptake of new technologies and innovative practices can guide tourism development and open doors for the sector, with conservation and revitalization of cultural heritage one of its main benefits. It also highlighted that for tourism authorities, participation of, and collaboration with, the host community should be a driver for technology-driven change. It was urged that tourism development not only maximize benefits and minimize costs for greater competitiveness, but also respond to the expectations and needs of hosts and guests alike.

The seminar was organized by UNWTO, ICHTO and Alisadr Tourism Company. Alongside it, Hamedan played host to the UNWTO Affiliate Members’ 40th plenary, in which active discussions were held as UNWTO’s Affiliate Members voiced their opinions and suggestions on the Affiliate Members Department’s Programme of Work for 2019.

Useful links:

Conference website

UNWTO Affiliate Members

UNWTO Communications Department

Tel: (+34) 91 567 8100 / Fax: +34 91 567 8218 /  [email protected]

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    The role of culture becomes central in vehiculizing and allowing the mutual understanding of cultures for neighbouring countries in a clear mix between culture and cultures, the moto of the present issue in Anatolia Journal. Two papers close the volume, highlighting two relevant issues for cultural tourism.

  9. Tourism and Culture Synergies

    All Regions; 14 Mar 18 Tourism and Culture Synergies The UNWTO report on Tourism and Culture Synergies highlights the symbiotic relationship between tourism and culture and the interdependency of the two sectors. The report, undertaken through a survey of UNWTO member states and expert opinion, affirms that cultural tourism plays a major role in global tourism today.

  10. Preserving Cultural Identities for the Future of Tourism

    Preserving Cultural Identities for the Future of Tourism. All Regions; 13 Dec 2019 Kyoto (Japan), 13 December 2019 - The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Fourth World Conference on Culture and Tourism spotlights the added value of culture for destinations and focuses on the future sustainability of ...

  11. How does culture influence a Country's travel and tourism

    Our findings suggest that cultural practices at an aggregate level, represent a superior measure for culture experienced in a country vis-à-vis ideal cultural values in tourism competitiveness context, thus contributing to the knowledge body of culture (House et al., 2002; Pagda et al., 2021). This will have implications for action researchers ...

  12. Tourism Statistics

    Tourism Statistics. Get the latest and most up-to-date tourism statistics for all the countries and regions around the world. Data on inbound, domestic and outbound tourism is available, as well as on tourism industries, employment and complementary indicators. All statistical tables available are displayed and can be accessed individually.

  13. Cultural Tourism: A review of recent research and trends

    Cultural tourism as a social phenomenon and motif of study arose as a result of the Edinburgh Festival of 1947, when in the midst of the post-war period, Europe, devastated and divided by World ...

  14. What is cultural tourism and why is it growing?

    The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) (1985) broadly define cultural tourism as the movements of persons who satisfy the human need for diversity, tending to raise the cultural level of the individual and giving rise to new knowledge, experience and encounters. Cultural tourism is commonly associated with education in this way, some describing ...

  15. 32 Cultural Tourism Destinations for Unique Cultural Trips

    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.

  16. Cultural Tourism: Definitions, Types, Advantages & Disadvantages, or

    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 ...

  17. What is Cultural Tourism and Why is It Important?

    Cultural tourism is a travel and tourism trend that is here to stay. With more and more accessibility to the world and the people in it, there is peak interest in being able to immersively travel. Peaks an interest to immerse yourself in a particular culture. Creates meanings, stories and understanding between host and guest.

  18. Creating Destinations for a Better Tomorrow: UN Development Aid for

    The cultural tourism reports share a deeply invasive way of representing individual countries, their people and their culture, which is highly reminiscent of John Urry's concept of the 'tourist gaze'. 60 Thus, Urry conceptualizes the way tourists view their surroundings, which is based on a set of assumptions in the tourists' mind and ...

  19. PDF The Role and Importance of Cultural Tourism in Modern ...

    Even there are some country or space specific definitions for cultural tourism such as in Australia: Cultural tourism is defined by attendance by inbound visitors at one or more of the following cultural attractions during their visit to Australia: festivals or fairs (music, dance, comedy,

  20. Cultural Tourism: 20 Most Cultural Cities To Visit In 2023

    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.

  21. Cultural tourism & COVID19

    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 ...

  22. Role of Tourism in Sustainable Development

    In developing countries, tourism development has been used as an important strategy for increasing economic growth, alleviating poverty, creating jobs, and improving food security. Many developing countries are in regions that are characterized by high levels of biological diversity, natural resources, and cultural heritage sites that attract ...

  23. Why the US is the top country for tourism in 2024

    The index ranks countries around the world based on factors like safety and security, prioritisation of travel and tourism, air and ground travel infrastructure, natural and cultural resources and ...

  24. How we make travel and tourism inclusive and sustainable

    The World Economic Forum's Travel & Tourism Development Index (TTDI) 2024 highlights the ongoing constraints facing the global travel and tourism sector - including the lack of investment in skilled and resilient workforces and issues around resource management - cultural and natural - as destinations grapple with higher tourist visitor ...

  25. The 20 Friendliest Countries For Tourists—According To A New ...

    Greece was dubbed the second friendliest country in the world, and the most welcoming in Europe, ...[+] according to a 2024 study that analyzed Big 5 Personality data. getty. Croatia, Mexico, and ...

  26. These European countries spent the most on tourism in 2023

    Germans were the third highest spenders, racking up a total of €104 billion, and Brits the fourth with €102 billion.. Canada, Italy, India, Russia and Korea complete the list of countries that ...

  27. Did You Know There Are 23 Countries in North America?

    Mexico, the third largest country on the continent, is known for its vibrant culture and capital city, Mexico City. The country covers approximately 758,449 square miles (1.96 million square kilometers). With nearly 130 million people, Mexico is home to more Spanish speakers than any other country in the world.

  28. First-Ever Direct Flight Between Cambodia and India Takes Off

    The countries hope the Cambodia-India 'Tourism Year' will encourage people to explore the common culture between the counties. Javascript is required for this site to display correctly. search

  29. In Japan, outcry over 'xenophobic' plan to charge foreigners more for

    Ashley Harvey, a travel marketing analyst who has worked in Japan's travel sector for more than 15 years, says many of the nation's tourism hotspots are "largely underpriced" and there is ...

  30. Community Involvement Needed in Cultural Tourism's Digital ...

    Cultural and heritage attractions are key to tourism development in many countries around the world, and innovation and technology can make these attractions more accessible while preserving their essence, the seminar concluded. ... And it can preserve intangible and tangible heritage resources for the sustainable development of cultural ...