Today’s travel options are not just about scenic getaways that provide convenient changes of scenery. Seasoned travelers now seek out vacation locales that inform and inspire them through mediums like architecture, gastronomy and art. Their dream travel destination is one that invites pilgrims to peak into its past, explore its modern society and imagine its future. Here are five culturally rich vacation destinations that have stood the test of time.
#1 Jerusalem, Israel
There is no place on earth like the land of Israel that has inspired the wisest of rulers, prophets and teachers throughout history to glorify their Creator, and Jerusalem remains the spiritual and geographical heart of the country. As the ancient capital of the biblical King David’s realm, Jerusalem has plenty to offer visitors who want glimpses into lifestyles of ancient peoples who inhabited the region millennia ago. For example, the Katros House Museum that is located in the Old City of David is the site of a home that was destroyed by fire during the Roman siege of 70 CE.
The site contains original stone furnishings, grind stones, cook ware, ovens and dishes. Travelers to Jerusalem can relive the glorious and perilous times that marked the reign of King Hezekiah as they walk through the tunnels that he had built to preserve the city’s water supply from threats made by Assyrian conquerors. Armed with a bible and a knowledgeable tour guide travelers can extend their visit beyond Jerusalem proper to explore the final resting place of the patriarchs at the Cave of Machpelah as well as holy sites like the Mount of Olives, Mount Carmel and Mount Hermon that were frequented by the prophets. Finally, nothing completes a journey to this region like a Sea of Galilee cruise that employs traditional wooden vessels that are similar to the ones that would have been used during the times of Christ.
#2 New Delhi, India
Travelers who seek an exotic vacation destination that engages visitors with flavorful cuisine and opulent architecture eventually make their way to India. New Delhi is the modern capital of India, and the city’s ancient structures reflect the assorted visitors and marauders who took up residence in the region. For example, various tombs and centers of worship are prevalent throughout New Delhi, and their architecture reflects the country’s eclectic mix of religions like Hinduism, Islam and Sikh. Visitors to the capital often feel as though they are touring one big open air museum as they simply walk around the city’s streets.
Tours of the Red Fort and the National Museum of New Delhi are needed to gain adequate context about the elaborate structures seen throughout the city. Hungry explorers also discover that they are in foodie heaven. A stroll through crowded Chandni Chowk and Chowri Bazaar gives adventurous culinary connoisseurs access to some of the tastiest street food in the world. The New Delhi spice market allows visitors to understand why ancient kingdoms around the world have always sought the most expedient trade routes to get to these coveted Indian treasures.
Food in this northern region of India is an art form, and there are culinary tours that are specifically designed to showcase the flavorful curry dishes that are traditional favorites. The city also has great lodging options such as the Oberoi New Delhi that offers visitors the royal treatment so that they can wake up feeling like a maharaja.
#3 Edinburgh, Scotland
Ancient medieval history meets modern metropolis in Edinburgh, Scotland. Swathed in mystery and distinctive traditions the city of Edinburgh has plenty to offer visitors who are interested in ancient European history. For instance, the city’s Old Town is rife with underground tunnels and hidden passageways like the Real Mary King’s Close that dates back to the 17th century. More recently, Edinburgh was dubbed “City of Literature” by UNESCO, and travelers can get reacquainted with their favorite Scottish writers like Robert Louis Stevenson at the city’s Writer’s Museum. Visitors can also catch a glimpse of the historic residences of Scottish royalty and nobility like the Palace at Holyrood House, Edinburgh Castle and Craigmillar Castle. Edinburgh takes the crown for most restaurants in the realm, and visitors can expect a great variety of dining options that include traditional fare, Asian inspired street food and Michelin rated establishments.
#4 Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto, Japan is awash in natural beauty as well as traditional Japanese culture. The city was once the country’s capital, and the Kyoto Imperial Palace is just one of the must see attractions on one’s Japan tours. History buffs also enjoy tours of Hosomi Museum that highlights Japanese relics that date back to the fourth century. Visitors can fast forward to more recent history and take in the exhibits of the National Museum of Modern Art that honors outstanding, regional 20th century artists.
Japan may very well be the birthplace of exceptional customer service, and the traditional Kyoto cuisine or Kyo-ryori dining experiences in neighborhoods like Gion are prime examples of the ancient art of service that is married to culinary craftsmanship. After sampling the beautifully appointed and subtly flavored dishes at the historic Minokou restaurant in Gion, one may spot a traditionally clad Geisha or two entering one of the city’s many tea houses. It would also be a shame to visit Japan and not admire some of the most unique architectural and interior design on the earth. With everything from Japanese engawas to their use of barn door hardware, Japan has a very admirable sense of design.
#5 Oaxaco, Mexico
Besides the exuberant atmosphere of Oaxaco that spills out into its parks and central plazas like Parque Llano and Zocala, the colorful town is known for its amazing handicrafts and traditional cuisine. For example, visitors can choose from an array of handmade leather purses, satchels and sandals as well as vibrantly hued woven textiles. However, one of the most popular Oaxaco attractions is the opportunity to attend culinary classes that teach visitors how to make traditional tamales, cheese and chocolate. During these sessions, students are also exposed to the plans that the Oaxaco culinary community have made to employ sustainable agricultural practices.