The excitement of seeing new places may never get old, but many travelers these days are looking for a more authentic cultural experience during their adventures. Taking a cooking class has been the go-to immersive activity to date (and a good one at that!), but there is so much more out there.
We put together this list of some of the most unique experiences around the world. Start planning your next trip around this sampling of activities guaranteed to be worth the time. You’ll not only create unforgettable memories—you might even meet a few new friends.
Kitesurf in Morocco
Morocco’s biggest tourist cities of Marrakesh and Fez are well known for their twisting medinas and snake charmers, but the country’s miles of pristine beaches often get overlooked—by everyone except kitesurfers, that is. Kitesurfing is a sport that involves a surfboard, a parachute-like kite, and a bit of upper body strength to keep the two together. Kitesurfing requires a good breeze and solidly breaking waves, which makes the coastline of Morocco one of the best places in the world to try the sport. Outfitters line the beaches, offering lessons of a few hours or courses spanning a week or more.
Weave Silk in Laos
The textiles of Southeast Asia are extraordinary and the rural nation of Laos is one of the gems of the industry here. Without the larger infrastructure and industrialization that Thailand and China have, most textiles in Laos are produced by hand on wooden looms. Start with a tour of a silkworm farm where traditional methods are still used and see the whole life cycle of this magical thread. Then book a short class, from a simple to afternoon to a several-day workshop, to learn the techniques of spinning thread from raw silk to weaving it into a small textile like a scarf or placemat.
Learn Massage in Thailand
Perhaps the two most well-known exports from “the land of smiles” are delicious food and traditional Thai massage. After checking out the street food carts and strolling the epic handicraft markets, we can’t think of a better way to immerse yourself in Thai culture than by taking a class to learn about their special form of massage.
Think of Thai massage as a cross between massage, chiropractic adjustments, and physical therapy. It’s an energetic experience that involves having the therapist manipulate the body into a wide range of poses. There are hundreds of Thai massage schools all over the country (yes, some are even on the beach) offering short 1-3 day courses up to full certifications requiring 150 hours or more.
Craft Chocolate in Ecuador
Learn all about how cacao beans become chocolate on a working farm in the lush hills of Ecuador. Study the life cycle of this sweet treat from the field to your mouth at a chocolate-making course in one of the world's top cacao producing nations. Some experiences even include staying right on the farm among the cacao trees.
Practice Ayurveda in Sri Lanka
For over 5,000 years the tenets of Ayurvedic medicine have been handed down from generation to generation in Sri Lanka (and all over India), making it one of the world’s oldest holistic wellness systems. Ayurveda is based on restoring and maintaining the balance between mind, body, and spirit. The very basic summary of treatment is a practitioner helps determine your specific body type and develops a plan of eating, exercise, and spiritual practice tailored just for you. If the modern world is stressing you out and seeing five countries in three days sounds like a nightmare, give Ayurveda a whirl. Treatments are available in short ‘spa-like’ day experiences or treatments up to a week, a month, or more.
Cheesemaking in Wisconsin
Who doesn’t love cheese? The cheese heads of Wisconsin certainly do, and they are happy to share it with anyone and everyone who is interested. With over 60 artisan cheesemakers making more than 600 various kinds of cheese, there is an enormous amount of skill across the state. Many small farms offer cheesemaking classes and workshops spanning from one-day beginner lessons to in-depth expert courses.
Make Art in Italy
Museums are a fine introduction to Italian culture and the spectacular Renaissance art that has left the whole world swooning. But after strolling the hallowed halls soaking up the works of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci, what better way to truly gain appreciation than giving art making a try? Learn from Italian masters of a different sort and book a painting, sculpture, or pottery painting class in one of the world’s most famous art destinations.
Genghis Khan Warrior Training in Mongolia
Step back to a time of the famed Mongolian warriors of Genghis Khan and learn how to be a fierce warrior yourself. Offered by a variety of tour companies, a “Genghis Khan Warrior Training” vacation offers thrill seekers the chance to undergo the training as these ancient fighters did in the days of old (or close to it). The range of experiences available include how to make and shoot a bow and arrow, horseback riding with bow and arrow shooting, weapon making, how to light fires that are sure to confuse your enemy, knot tying, herding and lassoing horses, and Mongolian wrestling techniques—all while wearing authentic garb. Top it all off with a tasting of Mongolian milk vodka and it might just be the most memorable vacation of your life.
Written by Lisa Collard for Matcha in partnership with Safari Supply.
Featured image provided by amira_a