As we dive in to the list of best destinations for culture vultures, we acknowledge that there is perhaps is no better way to understand a destination than to be immersed in the local culture – observe the cities’ unique smells and colours, local customs and spectrum of cuisines handed down from days of yore.
With a steep history far exceeding 10,000 years, Peru boasts a rich repertoire of traditions and cultures that date back to the days of yore. This popular destination offers visitors a look at towering archaeological complexes with a grand, imposing presence, 12 Unesco world heritage sites and vast expanse of natural reserves – truly one of the most diverse countries in the world.
You may have read about much of Peru’s iconic attractions – Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and Cuzco. But did you know that there also exists a rich treasure of little-known wonders? The advancement and adoption of new technologies and infrastructure has now made these once inaccessible locations more easily navigable for explorers. Begin in Lima, the capital city, then traverse up to the northern triangle of Trujillo, Chiclayo and Chachapoyas. Along the belt, you’ll get to visit temples, fishing enclaves, historic royal graves and pyramids and even mount the horse for a galloping ride to the awe-inspiring, Gocta Waterfall.
Present-day Chinese culture is a unique marriage of ancient historic traditions and a highly-westernised, modern consumer lifestyle. Today, the two share a symbiotic relationship, one that has managed to strike a delicate balance. This is easily evident in the stark juxtaposition of tall skyscrapers of the metropolis with the age-old low-lying shophouses and iconic heritage buildings and the people’s paradoxical affinity for both typical Chinese fare like rice and noodles, with the quick and easy fix of an order of McDonald’s.
The ancient Chinese culture is more than 5000 years and through the course of sophisticated Chinese history, it has birthed a rich treasure of intricate oriental paintings, pottery and sculpture. The main religions and spiritual beliefs practised in China today are: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Many rituals, traditions and values are borne from the basic tenets of these beliefs. For example, Confucianism celebrated “Ren” (Love) and “Li” (rituals), signifying a reverence for community and social hierarchy and Buddhism underscored the requirement to attain enlightenment through an individual’s good works.
You’d be wise to visit China before the crowds swarm the country, as the world is gradually awakening to the allure of this destination. As you find yourself weaving in and out the towering skyscrapers, historic relics and old dynasty gardens, you’ll come to understand the country’s eclectic mix and charm.
Vietnam is another popular destination that is rich in history and traditions that date back thousands of years, and amongst the oldest in Southeast Asia. The people have a deep appreciation and regard for the land, their surrounding seas and the ancestors who came before them.
In Vietnam, family and clans are high-regarded, way over individualism. The clan is the single most significant unit of the the country that even in modern day, you’ll still be able to witness the continued custom of clan members staying together in traditional longhouses.
Majority of the people of Vietnam practice three major religions of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, as they are heavily influenced by their Chinese neighbours. In addition, the Vietnamese also carry out ancestor worship – it would be quite normal to see ancestor altars set up at the entrances of homes, businesses and offices.
Highlights of this country include the picturesque Halong Bay, longstanding imperial cities and also the hauntingly eerie Cu Chi Tunnels, an important relic of the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War. If you prefer the path less trodden, opt for a warm homestay along the Mekong Delta, where you can also take slow ride across the waters in a sampan boat trip and even cycle through the quaint yet beautiful countryside, yet unspoiled by throngs of tourists.
Rightly touted the world’s great crossroads, the three countries of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, make up the Caucasus. This is a significant spot of cultural diversity that shares a multitude of ethnic groups, languages and religions amongst the total population of 16.8 million people.
If you do visit the region, you’d hear a diverse spoken tongue of languages including Russian, Armenian, Azeri, Georgian, Yezidi, Abkhaz, Lezgi and so many more. Two main religions of Islam and Christianity co-exist as differences in religious beliefs are generally tolerated.
Start in Azerbaijan just off the Caspian Sea, and work your way in through the monasteries, vineyards and mouthwatering cuisine in the restaurants of Georgia before setting foot in captivating Armenia, the earliest Christian country in the world. Schedule visits to the majestic palaces, wine tastings and street art and musical performances and the heartwarming hospitality from the smiley locals.
Lebanon is a relatively small nation occupying just over 4,000 square miles. Centrally located between European nations and West Asian nations, it has a population of approximately six million residents. Most Lebanese people come from a long line of Arabic ancestry while a smaller percentage has European and Asian origins, owing to immigration in the early days of the country’s history.
You’ll be richly rewarded in Lebanon if you have some time to spare to pore over the richness its attractions has to offer. Learn about the history of the land through its Roman temples, Crusader castles and extravagant 18th-century palaces. When you have sufficiently covered Lebanon’s highlights, you can choose to book private trips of culinary tours, the Roman ruins of Tyre, and if you’re up for it, try hiking through the picturesque Qadisha Valley.