Go to Rome: eat pasta. Go to Paris: see the Mona Lisa. For us and many others, the allure of stock-standard trips abroad have long gone. While some travel experiences are classics and would be a shame to miss (visiting New York’s Empire State Building, for instance), there are plenty of other ‘must-do’s that don’t quite meet the mark. In a world where Quidditch is now classed as a sport, there’s definitely a market for seeing the world’s top cities away from the well-trodden tourist track. Here’s the most unusual travel experiences of the bunch…
Explore a bamboo forest
A stroll through Japan’s Sagano Bamboo Forest, on the outskirts of Kyoto, is a delight for the senses. Not only do the the endless towering green stalks swaying in the wind look enchanting – they sound it too. A few years back, the Japanese Ministry of Environment categorised the forest’s echoes as one of the “100 Soundscapes of Japan” that locals should hear at least once.
Get back to reality
Photo sourced via The Asian Age
Perhaps the most unusual trend of them all, reality tours show tourists the one thing they normally go out of their way to avoid on holiday: the real world. This ‘warts and all’ style tour attempts to take the sheen away from destinations for travellers by revealing the whole picture, including the hardships and struggles faced by the country’s inhabitants. A relatively new concept, tours of slums and shanty towns in particular are considered to operate in an ethical grey area, with some arguing that these reality tours are voyeuristic, rather than genuinely helpful for inhabitants. But when conducted sensitively, there’s no denying the good that comes with the influx of conscious, ethical travellers to communities.
Reality Tours and Travel, which takes visitors to Mumbai’s Dharavi district, gives 80% of post-tax profits to the agency’s own NGO, Reality Gives. The tours aim to show the positive side of the slums and break down the negative stereotypes about its people and residents. These tours don’t allow travellers to use cameras while on the tour, either.
Learn about New York during Prohibition
Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash
Contraries that we are, often we seem to like things more when we’re told we can’t have them. This was just the case during America’s Prohibition Era (1920-33) when booze was banned and gin-takers went underground (both figuratively and literally) to have their tipples’ worth. This Prohibition Era Bar tour takes groups through New York’s East Village, visiting the venues that defied the laws of the day and telling the compelling stories that shaped the decade.
Go volcano boarding
Image sourced from The Plaid Zebra
Forget snowboarding, volcano boarding is the new hot thing taking adventurers fancy. And Cerro Negro, an active volcano outside León, Nicaragua, is just the place to do it. Made up of small bits of volcanic rock, visitors have taken to riding or surfing down the volcano’s steep slopes at 30mph on a wooden sled. There’s just one catch, explorers must first hike the volcano’s 2388 feet of loose rock before they can hurtle themselves back down it.
Make friends with a kindergarten class
Getting to know the locals is one of the easiest ways to break down tourist barriers, find out about amazing hole-in-the-wall venues that you would have missed otherwise, and discover more about day-to-day life in a destination – and this quirky tour makes that first introduction all the easier. The Shanghai tour takes visitors to a neighbourhood committee, local kindergarten and a free market, and visits a Shanghainese residence too, all in a bid to help visitors uncover what it means to be a local in one of the world’s most vibrant, populated and unrelenting of cities.
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