Part of what makes an adventure holiday so special is how we get to interact with people from other countries, people we would never have met and who help us broaden our understanding of their culture, our world, and sometimes even ourselves.
So where can you go to have meaningful interactions? Well - anywhere really, although there are certain cultures that stand out more for their hospitality - Islamic and nomadic cultures spring to mind. A lot of it is up to you too. And adventure tour operators can help with itineraries that are designed to have intimate cultural encounters that go beyond those in the travel guides.
Here are our top picks of tours that have meaningful people-to-people cultural interactions. Most of these are with Intrepid - we believe that their Original style adventures have a fantastic focus on both staying and visiting people in their homes. (Granted, these tours are not for everyone as there is a lot of free time for your own explorations and home stays are not for those looking for comfort. If you would like more comfort or even luxury, use the tours below to get ideas and we'll make it happen in style!).
Cuba - Best of Cuba
Staying at Casas Particulares, Cuba's answer to AirBnB, this trip takes you from the historical streets of Havana to the pristine shores of the Caribbean. Stroll through World Heritage cities, relive a fascinating colonial history and experience the rich heritage of music and dance that Cuba is renowned for. Prepare to be wowed as you discover Baracoa’s mountainous surrounds, visit the birthplace of salsa and admire Trinidad’s unrivalled ambience. From historic cars to fragrant cigars, and with plenty of rum and rumba in between, this adventure will take you into the heart of all things Cuban. View tour
Peru - Classic Peru
Earlier this year Pauline stayed at a home stay in Lake Titicaca and each time I speak to her she mentions it as a highlight of her travels. Visit Peru's incredible natural and historical highlights on this awesome adventure. Retrace the steps of the Incas to Machu Picchu, admire colonial cities, explore vibrant markets and meet the locals in this South American country with a difference. Return home with incredible memories of the panoramas and people of Peru. View tour
Russia - Russia Highlights
I had a delightful time on this tour meeting up with local Russians, chatting about their every day life. My, I even found myself at the home of Miss Russia (alas, she was not there but her parents were lovely). Experience the grandeur of Moscow, the beauty of Russia's ancient capitals Suzdal and Novgorod, and the grace of St Petersburg. Visit the intricately detailed cathedrals, historic monuments, age-old treasures and romantic landscapes of this great nation, and find the heart of enigmatic Russia. View tour
Morocco - Best of Morocco
Years ago I walked into a market in Nowhere, Morocco, and found myself eye-to-eye with slabs of meat on carts, vegetables and pottery and a man dressed in full Berber gear. We eyed each other up, two people from totally different worlds.
Then his cell phone rang....
Travel from the snow-capped Atlas Mountains to the endless sands of the Sahara, and from the medieval old town of Fes to the spice markets of Marrakech, the rich history and natural beauty of Morocco await. Observe the vibrant collision between old and new expressed in architecture and artwork. Learn about fallen cities and cross paths with nomadic tribes. Jump in and discover the many mysteries and legends concealed within this moody, ever-changing landscape. View tour
Jordan Real Food Adventure
When I visited Jordan I was taken aback by the friendliness of the people. A total stranger offered me the use of his phone card, a man who lived in a shack invited me in for a chicken dinner and I ended up having dinner and staying the night with a family in what seemed like a scene straight out of Lawrence of Arabia. Indeed, what better way to connect with people over a shared meal? For centuries Jordan has been a magnet for swaying influences and cultures – granting new flavours as these outsiders come and go. Phenomenally, the land itself helps its inhabitants cook and prepare meals. The sweeping deserts of Wadi Rum offer themselves to roast Bedouin feasts underground, the Dead Sea grants its salt as a world-class garnish and the country’s climate has allowed olives to grow and thrive for over 6,000 years. View tour
Iran - Iran Adventure
If there is one thing I will always carry along as a cherished travel experience, it is the people in Iran. From chats over a water pipe, cooking with a family and eating the meal while sitting on the floor, to staying at a farm house high up in the mountains. Welcome to the hidden world of Iran. Travel through this fascinating country to discover refined Islamic cities, colourful bazaars, ancient Persian ruins, fascinating nomads and shimmering deserts. Whether you're relaxing in a teahouse in Tehran, enjoying guided tours of ancient cultural sites, or breaking bread with nomads on the harsh Iranian plateau, the warmth and hospitality of the Iranian people is endearing and the profound beauty of their land is mesmerising. View tour
India - Classic Rajasthan
In India I have lasting memories of staying in an old mansion in the middle of the countryside. Late afternoon we set off on a village jeep safari, driving along rutted tracks in to hamlets that seldom see any foreigners. We had a ball chatting with the local women and children. The enchanting northern province of Rajasthan is awash with all the colours of India. On our classic adventure we discover the grisly history of massive forts and the opulence and splendour of Maharajahs' palaces. Stroll bustling markets, search for the elusive Bengal tiger, enjoy a sunset camel safari and soak up the culture of the local people. This is truly the essence of Rajasthan. View tour
Cambodia - Best of Cambodia
Home stays are a wonderful way to get some good home-cooked local food and interact with real every-day people and nowhere is this done better than in Cambodia. Experience the best of Cambodia on a journey to the heart of the country and get to know the people, landscape, customs and cuisine that make Cambodia so incredible. Travel to the French-colonial elegance of Battambang and on to the time-worn grandeur of Angkor Wat. Travel to Cambodia's remote south to discover the magical country of the Khmers. Along the way, spice up the adventure with temple sunsets, get a glimpse at Cambodia's brutal history and escape to idyllic beach getaways. Indulge in heritage and culture on this fascinating tour through the best of Cambodia. View tour
Thailand - Beautiful Northern Thailand
Head to a small Thai village and stay in the home of some local friends. There will be plenty of time to experience the quiet village life before sampling a traditional northern Thai khantohk dinner. Not only that, but this evening you’ll also enjoy a traditional Thai musical performance from our local friends’ children's band. Staying here is a true privilege and a chance to experience the real Thailand, something very few travellers are able to do. View tour
Vietnam - Northern Vietnam Adventure
The remote mountains of northwest Vietnam are home to some of South-East Asia’s most rugged terrain, beautiful scenery and colourful hill tribes. Experience breathtaking mountain views and meet friendly locals along the way. If you want to get a taste of remote Vietnam, this is the trip for you. View tour
Myanmar - Best of Myanmar
Travel to Myanmar to a unique community lodge to experience a pioneering community-based tourism initiative in Myanmar. Discover a country of mythical landscapes, ancient treasures and some of the friendliest folk you’ll ever meet. From golden-gilded Buddhas in Yangon and the magical temples of Bagan to the tranquillity of Inle Lake, Myanmar will excite, impress and intrigue you. A visit to Myanmar is to experience the South-East Asia of twenty years ago, full of rarely seen sights and generations of stories just waiting to be told. View tour
Indonesia - Bali & Lombok Adventure
Travel through Bali and Lombok blending gorgeous beaches, great food and rich cultures with Indonesia’s warm weather and sapphire seas. This trip is guaranteed to leave you enthralled as you walk, cycle, snorkel, hike and swim through pristine environs and discover the allure of these two unique islands. Both Bali and Lombok are famous for their beauty and welcoming spirit, which you will experience at every turn of this trip. View trip
Japan - Backroads of Japan
Neil and Ana did this trip this spring and came back with glowing reports of staying in a ryokan that had been in the same family for six generations. This walking tour wanders around the cultural barrier and into territory that Japanese hold sacred. Accompanied by expert leaders, you will hike through places of natural beauty and hinterland sites of deep significance. View trip
Mongolia - Wild Mongolia
Mongolia holds a special spot in my heart. Driving over the steppe (roads are few and far between) you'll stumble on nomad encampments and invariably you will be invited in for a meal, drink, music or a chat. Hidden from the world for so long, it is hard to imagine that this secluded country once created the largest land empire ever known. Unmatched geographical diversity, pristine grasslands, crumbling ruins and roaming herdsmen riding tough Mongolian horses - experience it all on this journey through a land that time forgot and travellers are now discovering. View trip