Experiences are at the very heart of travel. Rather than souvenirs, it’s the people we met, the food we tried and the sights we saw, that stay in our memories and mean the most once we return home. So when it comes to planning our travels, more often than not we are looking for what different and authentic experiences we can have. And to give you a little inspiration, here’s our pick of the top travel experiences to have in 2019.
1. Learn how to farm rice in Laos
Just a short drive from the ancient capital of Luang Prabang, travellers will find the Living Land Farm. A thriving community enterprise, this organic farm offers visitors a unique insight into the lives of the locals.
Rice is the centre of life in Laos and at the Living Land Farm you learn all about how this staple food is produced. Local farmers explain each of the 13 stages of cultivating rice, before you get the chance to try your hand at these activities for yourself.
From choosing the seeds, to planting the rice and even ploughing a paddy with a water buffalo, visitors are in for a fun and hands-on experience. Prepare to end up muddy, but also with a fantastic understanding of what life is like as a Lao farmer.
Recommended tour: Highlights of Laos
2. Stay at a Buddhist temple in Japan
Several temples in Japan offer the chance for visitors to stay the night in temple lodgings. And one of the best places to go is Koyasan. Otherwise known as Mount Koya, this mountaintop has more than 50 temples surrounding the main monastery.
Visitors can explore the Okunoin Cemetery and pay their respects to the 200,000 tombstones that are housed there. Then follow the trails to Torodo Hall, where more than 10,000 lanterns are kept eternally lit.
Returning to your temple lodgings, you can enjoy a group dinner sampling vegetarian monk’s cuisine known as shojin ryori. In the morning, you’ll wake early to witness the spectacular Buddhist morning prayers, gaining a full insight into the traditional lifestyle of Japan’s Buddhist monks.
Recommended tour: Epic Japan Adventure
3. Hike the Nine Creeks Trail in China
Considered one of the best waterscapes in China, the Nine Creeks Trail meanders through the Misty Forest close to Hangzhou. Much-loved by the locals, this peaceful hike feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Beijing and Shanghai.
The paved path winds along streams and waterfalls, with numerous points to stop and soak up the views. The beautiful scenery has long inspired poets, as well as traditional Chinese paintings. Be sure to pack your camera. And don’t be put off by bad weather, the landscape only gets better with a little rain or mist.
Recommended tour: Essential China Adventure
4. Visit the mystical isle of Chiloe in Chile
Despite being just a short ferry ride from the mainland, the island of Chiloe is worlds apart from the rest of Chile. Blessed with both natural and cultural attractions, it makes for the perfect day trip.
Chiloe is famous for its quaint palafitos, colourful houses that are built on stilts above the water, as well as its UNESCO-listed wooden churches. And visitors must try the traditional curanto, a dish of mixed seafood and other ingredients cooked over hot stones in the ground.
The Bay of Caulin boasts a huge array of birdlife, with the Islets of Puñihuil on Chiloe’s Pacific coast being the only place in the world where Humboldt and Magellanic penguins live together. Wildlife lovers will also be thrilled by sightings of Blue Whales, which are common between January and April.
Recommended tour: Patagonian Panorama
5. Spot wildlife in the Pantanal Wetlands of Brazil
The world’s largest tropical wetland, the Pantanal covers an area of almost 195,000 square kilometres. And its biodiversity is no less impressive, boasting the highest concentration of wildlife on the continent.
Its inhabitants include giant anteaters, howler monkeys, caimans, capybaras, toucans and much more. It’s also one of the best places in the world to see jaguars. So when planning your trip to Brazil, this is definitely an experience to add to your itinerary.
Recommended tour: Natural Wonders of Brazil
6. Take a street food tour in Vietnam
One of the things Vietnam is most famous for is its delicious (and very cheap) street food. So what better way to spend an evening than taking a street food tour to sample what’s on offer?
The charming port town of Hoi An is well-known for its foodie offerings and you can explore some of its most popular local haunts on a vintage Vespa. Riding behind an experienced driver, you’ll stop at local cafes and restaurants to sample mouthwatering local food and drink.
Hoi An’s streets are packed with scooters, so if you want to experience the town’s nightlife like a local then jump on. It’s ‘all you can eat’, so make sure you’re feeling hungry!
Recommended tour: Hoi An Street Eats
7. Watch the sunrise at Vinales Valley in Cuba
Famed for its tobacco, the Vinales Valley is a lush landscape of rolling plantations and towering rock formations known as mogotes. Offering an unhurried pace of life, this destination is often a highlight for travellers visiting Cuba.
Activities in this UNESCO-listed valley range from horseriding and cycling to rock climbing and exploring its many caves. Many also choose to visit a tobacco farm and see how Cuba’s famous cigars are made.
However, simply watching the sunrise is arguably the most special experience the Vinales Valley has to offer. Bringing its spectacular scenery to life, the sun’s rays pierce through the dawn sky as the valley’s inhabitants slowly start to stir.
Recommended tour: Cuban Delights
8. Step across two continents in Iceland
When you think of Iceland, it’s most likely that magnificent waterfalls and the famous Blue Lagoon spring to mind. However, Iceland’s famous Golden Circle holds another star attraction.
Thingvellir National Park is one of the few places in the world where you can visibly see the meeting of two tectonic plates. The park contains the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasian plates are pulling apart from each other at a rate of 2 centimetres per year.
Visitors can walk across the landscape to quite literally step between the two continents. With the geology being just as fascinating to see in real life as it is to learn about.
Recommended tour: Northern Lights Discovery
9. Sail on a traditional dhow in Mozambique
One of Africa’s best-kept secrets, Mozambique offers an Indian Ocean coastline complete with untouched sandy beaches, azure waters and remote archipelagos. And one of the best ways to explore is aboard a traditional dhow.
These sailboats have been in use since 600 AD in Mozambique, with large ships only introduced in the 15th century by the Portuguese. Dhow sailing is therefore one of the oldest modes of transport on the East African coast.
Spend a day island hopping around the untouched Bazaratu Archipelago, stopping for beachside picnics and to snorkel or scuba dive. Mozambique boasts fabulous marine life, with whales, dolphins, turtles, dugongs and more residing within its tropical waters.
Recommended tour: Mozambique Adventure
10. Drive across the Wadi Rum in Jordan
Experience its surreal scenery on a 4×4 safari, with the exhilarating drive passing towering rocks, gorges and more to take you into the very heart of the desert. Then top off your visit to the Wadi Rum with a night at a remote desert camp.
You’ll not only witness one of the Wadi Rum’s magnificent sunsets, but also enjoy a traditional Jordanian dinner. Then soak up the views of the stars overhead as you sit around your desert campfire.
Recommended tour: Totally Jordan
We offer all of these experiences and more on our group tours. Take a look to find your perfect holiday.