“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou
You have just rung in the New Year, following your choice of superstitions (some old or some you’ve just picked up from last year’s travels) and promising to yourself that you will not overlook one single resolution.
I wish you the very best for the year ahead and if you’re wondering where to travel in the next twelve months, let me inspire you with the best destinations for cultural tourism in 2017.
Denmark and Cyprus, Home of this Year’s European Capitals of Culture
Three years ago, the European Capitals of Culture project turned 30 years old.
It’s quite the achievement to continuously promote Europe’s cultural richness and diversity. Something, I believe, most of the Europeans are proud of and that we gladly celebrate.
When the rest of the world seems to believe that the days are numbered for the continuity of a united Europe, we at the old continent are still very much inspired to maintain these events alive and well.
The beauty of this project is that it always takes us on a wonderful cultural journey to lesser-known cities, steering us away from the bigger urban clusters and introducing us to wonderful new destinations to pin on our (already) busy map.
Portugal, a Melting Pot of Cultural Diversity
After being nominated by Lonely Planet as one of the Best in Travel for 2017, if you’re thinking of postponing a trip to “Europe’s West Coast” this year you might be missing out.
Culturally diverse, a mouth-watering mixed-influenced cuisine, and some of the best wines produced locally are just some of the reasons that will pique your curiosity.
If you’ve been to Portugal before, it’s time to explore the less crowded areas like the Azores or the Southwestern Alentejo. They have become more popular over the years, but mass tourism hasn’t hit them yet (and we hope it never does).
Germany, 500 Years of the Reformation
Five-hundred years ago, the simple act of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg triggered a ripple effect that would forever change the course of religious History.
Although the official date isn’t until 31st of October, Germany is celebrating this revolutionary act, and the man behind it, throughout the year with all sorts of cultural and historical events.
This includes the Luther 500 Festival which will take you on a tour of Wittenberg (the center, of course, of the Reformation), Eisleben (birthplace and death place of Martin Luther), Wartburg castle in Eisenach (Luther’s hiding place from 1521 to 1522), Erfurt (where he studied), Torgau, and Leipzig.
Canada, 150th Anniversary of its Foundation
I can’t think of a bad thing when it comes to Canada. Sweet maple syrup, killer mountain lake views, and, of course, a Prime Minister we all loved to adopt as our own.
Known as one of the countries with the most polite people in the world (probably only surpassed by Japan), Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of its foundation in 2017.
Keeping the country’s cultural heritage and diversity in mind, Canada will have 150 celebrations happening across the country, including the National Aboriginal Day (June 21st), Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day: Fête Nationale du Québec et de la Francophonie Canadienne (June 24th), and Canadian Multiculturalism Day (June 27th).
Finland, 100 Years of Independence
2017 also marks the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence and a year jam-packed with cultural activities is planned.
Focusing on “leaving a mark by working together”, the Finnish government has even invited locals to apply and submit their own ideas for projects celebrating the centenary.
The list of confirmed events includes a tour by the Sibelius Academy and Juilliard joint symphony orchestra (with a concert in Helsinki on the 26th of August), the Stories of Finnish Art – the Ateneum collection on tour (mixing iconic pieces with lesser-known artwork, the goal is to tell the story of 100 years of independence), the exhibition Echoes – 100 Years in Finnish Architecture and Design (renown Finnish design style needs no introduction), and Gypsy Lives – Home and Back, an exhibition on the culture of Finnish Gypsies (from January 19th to February 18th).
Latvia, Winner of the Intangible Heritage Tourism Award 2016
Cultural tourism is on the rise and it won’t be just another travel trend. As people are becoming more aware of preserving local customs, there has been a rise in tour companies providing full cultural immersion experiences.
If done well and with sustainable growth in mind, cultural tourism is extremely valuable. It’s not a coincidence that UNWTO has declared 2017 as the international year of sustainable tourism for development, with cultural values, diversity, and heritage as one of the five key areas to promote tourism.
The Turaida Museum Reserve for the preservation of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Latvia won the first prize of last year’s edition of the Intangible Heritage Tourism Awards. That’s a sign that this Eastern European country is doing it right.
Popular events in Latvia include the Riga Street Food Festival (January 14th), and the Celebration of Metendiena mask festival and fair “Savor the Flavor at Valmiermuiza” (February 4th).
Rwanda, Harnessing the Power of Cultural Tourism
Africa has been the preferred tourist destination for wildlife seekers but there is a lot of room to grow in attracting cultural tourists, and the locals working in the tourism industry are paying attention to all the signs.
Rwanda is one of those countries, ready to showcase the very best in local culture and heritage. There is no shortage of traditional ceremonies and customs, traditional food, arts and crafts, and events and festivals to make you want to start planning your first (or next) African trip.
With the gruesome memory of the 1994 genocide in their recent past, Rwandans are now focused on moving forward with new heritage tourism projects.
India, a Classic Cultural Tourism Destination with Unending Twists
There’s a reason why most people who return from India never say “I’ve been to India”. With a rich culture that changes from city to city (even those within the same state) and an even more diverse cuisine, India is a country you will never fully “been to”.
A trip to India is a trip of the senses. From the chaotic traffic to the street markets, feeling the pulse of one of the world’s most ancient civilizations will change you forever.
The best way to feel the incredible India is to go with the flow and visit more offbeat destinations, but culturally diverse, like Ahmedabad (home of the Mill Owner’s Association Building, designed by Le Corbusier, whose work was classified by UNESCO as an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement) and Diu (a former Portuguese colony in the state of Gujarat with as much charm as Goa but without the tourist crowds).
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