How Experiential Travel Creates More Fulfilling Memories
Venturing far beyond the beaten path and immersing more deeply in local culture, experiential travel connects you with the soul of a place and its people. Whether constructing traditional crafts with native artisans or browsing markets for ingredients to prepare a regional dish with local chefs, this form of travel opens doors previously not on typical tourist itineraries, providing meaningful interactions with the people who make a destination so vibrant.
Lingering longer than the trip itself, experiential travel has the potential to enrich your life through the creation of lasting memories, a trend leading discerning global citizens to seek deeper connections during their time spent abroad. Though many travelers yearn for these types of experiences, it may seem difficult to find trips that go beyond the superficial. But discovering the world this way can be as simple as narrowing down your interests and seeking them in a new place, whether that entails an exploratory look into a destination’s history, people, or culture.
For travelers seeking an adventurous experience, journeys to remote destinations provide intimate access to seldom-trodden landscapes. Be it a kayaking journey among glaciers and icebergs in East Greenland or a hiking adventure through Jordan’s most ancient stretches, these trips provide the opportunity to connect with ancient and indigenous cultures harboring centuries of wisdom in some of the world’s most beautiful regions. This is true for gourmands, too, as connecting with a culture’s cuisine provides an inherently convivial experience, while aesthetes are sure to find commonality in traditional art forms depicting an area’s history. But perhaps the most experiential journey of all can be found on safari, where conservationists and locals share why the protection of our world is more vital now than ever.
No matter your travel mode of choice, you’re sure to connect with the soul of these destinations during some of our favorite experiential journeys around the globe.
Assist Conservation Efforts in Northern Zambia
Though hard to reach, a safari in Zambia lands you at the root of one of the oldest conservation stories in Africa. Venturing beyond the popular South Luangwa National Park, a 3,490-square-mile wildlife sanctuary in the country’s eastern river valley, extend your journey to Liuwa Plain National Park, a seasonally flooded savannah in western Zambia where rare African animals flourish. Its waterways border Angola and are seemingly endless, a vast expanse where zebra and wildebeest tracks etch the floor like veins pumping lifeblood from the rooted islands. Marked by the upper Zambezi Floodplain and bounded by the Luambimba and Luanginga rivers, it’s one of the wildest places on earth, completely untouched by the crowds, paved roads, and pollution that modern development entails.
First protected by King Lewanika of the Lozi tribe in the 1880s, a visit here first requires a series of charter flights until a helicopter finally delivers you to Time + Tide King Lewanika Lodge, the first and only permanent camp in the park. Although a country away, the Angolan Civil War reached Liuwa Plain before its end in 2002, spreading the practice of poaching and illegal trophy hunting in Zambia’s remote western lands. While almost every species was affected by the war, the lions of Liuwa Plain were nearly eliminated. Going beyond a typical safari, an experience here lends you the opportunity to learn firsthand from organizations like the Zambian Carnivore Programme, where a team of conservationists is working to encourage the protection of the country’s most iconic species. Join the team in the field to discover how they track and monitor animals like lions, hyenas, and cheetahs to ensure that their habitat remains a haven for their offspring to thrive.
Prepare Familial Cuisine in Southern Italy
In an idyllic region where fresh burrata and mozzarella are as plentiful as picturesque cottages and stunning Baroque palaces, it’s easy to see why the heel of Italy’s boot is experiencing an uptick in tourism. Bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Ionian Sea to the south, the region extends from the verdant Umbra Forest to the southern Salento Peninsula, forming one of Europe’s most ethereal coastal landscapes. Whether strolling ancient whitewashed towns like Lecce or staying in a conical stone trulli hut in the heart of Alberobello, immerse yourself in the cultural traditions of Southern Italy during a cooking experience at DireFareGustare, where chefs Mara Battista and Marina Saponari unveil the area’s culinary customs in a sun-soaked farmhouse engulfed by olive groves.
Housed in Masseria San Pietro, near the cliffside town of Polignano a Mare, the classes impart generations of recipes passed down from the two chefs’ families, and during an afternoon cooking demonstration, you can learn the intricacies of the region’s plant-centric dishes like how to bake fresh focaccia or prepare light-and-airy ricotta mousse with decadent cotto di fichi (fig syrup). Perhaps the most experiential portion of the class is when students learn the art of hand-rolling orecchiette, one of the region’s most famous pastas. This dish, named for its resemblance to a little ear, is made with a labor of love, as generations often join to hand- roll the pasta, sharing stories and recipes to safeguard the family’s ancestral practice for generations to come. Believed to have origins as far back as the 12th century BC, the chefs pair the storied pasta with Puglia’s extra virgin olive oils, regional cheeses like pallone di gravina and canestrato, and organic Pugliese wines made from susumaniello, an ancient red wine grape grown in Salice Salentino and Brindisi, creating one of the rarest wines in the world.
Practice Indigenous Art Forms in the Andes Mountains of Peru
From the dawn of the Incan Empire in the early 1400s, the indigenous Quechua culture has flourished in the high-altitude realms of the vast Andes Mountains in Peru. Taking refuge in Cusco—once considered the navel of the world in Quechuan culture—the town now offers access to stunning treks up the rainbow-hued Vinicunca mountain and visits to storied Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan citadel looming above the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Though the region’s natural landscapes and ancient sites offer a window into the mysterious culture of the Incas, few art forms provide more insight into the culture than textiles woven on a backstrap loom, a practice that offered a means for the Quechua to memorialize their lives in weavings. Serving as social status symbols for the oratorical culture, textile traditions became a way to identify a person’s village of origin and life experience.
Today, textiles are just as important as they were centuries ago, a belief that led indigenous Quechua master weaver Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez to open the Centro de Tejedoras de Chinchero, a weaving center set 30 minutes outside of Cusco. Built to empower artisans in 10 communities within the region, nearly 40 women and 30 girls meet every week in the open-air courtyard to practice natural dyeing techniques and ancestral Incan textile designs, such as ñawi awapa, the traditional ribbon of Chinchero that depicts an all-seeing eye of protection. A pioneer of her craft, learn from Alvarez during a custom textile workshop. During the process of making your own weaving, Alvarez can share how she and her fellow weavers resurrected sustainable natural dyeing practices by surveying Quechua elders to salvage the names and regional origins of dyes, delivering every color of the rainbow.
Trace a Cultural Route in Jordan
Tracing the ancient King’s Highway on the eastern rim of Jordan’s Great Rift Valley, the Jordan Trail runs for 400 miles from the Fertile Crescent in the north to the Arabian Desert and the Red Sea in the south. Taking over 40 days to complete— the route touches four biospheres and 52 villages and is split into eight sections—the Jordan Trail weaves through a land both the Romans and Nabatean architects of Petra once used for trade. When you hike the Dana-to-Petra portion of the trail, immerse yourself in ancient Berber culture on a six-day journey crossing the region’s most impressive scenery, from undulating valleys and sandstone mountains to oases where funnel-shaped oleanders bloom. In an area spanning the rise and fall of some of the world’s most prolific empires, discover how Jordan’s cultural traditions are as vibrant today as they were centuries ago.
Taking you to rural villages where Bedouin camps are the only refuge near old shepherd trails and over spectacular canyons, the Jordan Trail is a chance to explore the country’s diverse landscapes and discover the country’s reverential history. The route encompasses Byzantine ruins, the vast canyon of Wadi Mujib, the Crusader castle Kerak, Dana Biosphere Reserve, biblical sites like the purported birthplace of the prophet Elijah, and the striking rock formations and remote sandy plains of Wadi Rum. The journey culminates in a backdoor entrance to the Rose City, where hikers are rewarded for their efforts with the first glimpse of the spires of Petra’s famed monastery, one of the many temples and tombs the ancient Nabateans carved into stone over 2,000 years ago.