Top 6 Destinations for Cultural Immersion

Posted on February 25, 2010 by

There are so many ways to travel. Whether you’re on a culinary tour around Italy, or ice-climbing in Patagonia, different travelers have their own style of travelling.  A cultural immersion often allows you to delve deeper into the soul of a country than a weekend holidaymaker usually would. Instead of standard sight-seeing, visitors would be meeting tribes or natives, staying with a host family and engaging in local practices.  I’ve rounded up the following destinations, perfect for culture vultures to get under a country’s skin.

1. India: Meditate in an Ashram

This spiritual land of yoga and holy ashrams definitely has charisma and plenty of culture within. Meditate in a holistic center, or dig up history at Taj Mahal or revel in the hippie’s’ playground in Goa: it’s a country packed with stories to tell and lessons to learn. Travelers could volunteer at a shelter in Mumbai, teach English in Bangalore or journey on a houseboat in Kerala – the immersion choices are endless here.

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2. China: Sleep in a Monastery

A land of spectacular natural landscapes, majestic temples, millennium-old traditions, China has so much character beneath its facade. Besides getting awed by its world-famous Tiananmen Square, Great Wall and terracotta soldiers, you can sit by the park and watch the senior citizens do tai-chi or meditate at a mountain-top monastery.

Tiananmen Square

3. Peru: Visit Indigenous Tribes

From the floating villages of Lake Titicaca to the indigenous tribes in the Andes Mountains, it is the people of Peru that give the country its strong identity.Their characteristic villages and unique way of life are the biggest draw for travelers interested in digging deeper. Its cultural capital Cuzco makes an excellent base for travelers to explore the surrounding archaeological sites, including Macchu Picchu, and also get to taste local foods, visit markets and farms.

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4. Argentina: Learn tango

Old-style European architecture, classic steakhouses, intense tango dancers, gaucho cowboys. The country is literally bursting with passion and burning with a culture so rich and vibrant. These days, students flock to Buenos Aires to learn Spanish, taking advantage of the peso. In between classes, they can learn to tango or visit the antique shops of San Telmo. Beyond the capital, you can bike between bodegas in Mendoza, watch folkloric dancing in Salta, or explore the stunning Iguazu Falls and breathtaking glaciers in Patagonia.

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5. Spain: Cook a Paella

Angst-filled flamenco dancers tap their feet into the night, night-prowlers hop from one tapas bar to the next, feeding on savory eats like paella and jamon. Spain is loud, feisty and vigorous – a country with a raging personality waiting for you to uncover and explore inside out. Hordes of students come here on study-abroad-programs to learn the language, but most return with a new outlook in life. Having a reputation for being vivadores (people who live life to the fullest), the Spaniards can influence you more than you’ll imagine.

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6. Vietnam: Cruise the Mekong River

The pearl of Indochina has a disturbing history and tragic past; but its scenic countryside, primitive tribes and performing arts often shrouds it in an optimistic glow. Besides visiting war monuments in Ho Chi Minh city, cultural enthusiasts can take a boat to see the communities of the Mekong River, listen to Vietnamese opera, sleep on a junk boat in Halong Bay or stay in the hill tribe village of Mai Chau.

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*Photos not credited are shot by myself and Alberto Molero.

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offgrid destinations and adventure travel, she scours through the world in search for a slice of undiscovered paradise. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sealions in the Galapagos and built a school in Tanzania.

6 Responses to “Top 6 Destinations for Cultural Immersion”

  1. Jessica Collet March 22, 2010 4:38 pm #

    Great post! Love the variety.

  2. GotPassport March 22, 2010 5:51 pm #

    That paella made me hungry! nice piece Nellie, as always!

  3. Sonia February 22, 2011 12:49 am #

    :) That dish isn't actually paella, It is Fideua (kinda short noodles). Paella is made with rice :) Anyway I love both. And Both worth a try!

    • Nellie February 22, 2011 7:01 pm #

      Oh yes, I actually made that fideua during a cooking class in Barcelona. Absolutely loved it!

  4. Vanessa Manning May 13, 2013 11:30 pm #

    It's plain to see why these 6 are pretty great for cultural immersion. Still, I don't think any real traveler should ever stop at or be limited to popular destinations like these. You can, after all, get a slice of culture from just about anywhere.

  5. Alex May 27, 2013 11:06 pm #

    Interesting article. I'd say that the biggest part of cultural immersion has less to do with the destination and more to do with the traveler. But, I particularly agree with the activities centered around local villages. I wouldn't necessarily think going to hippie parties in Goa would be cultural immersion unless you were referring to a foreign subculture.

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