What drives someone to choose where to travel next? Relaxing on the beach with a good book and a piña colada or gaining a new perspective on a city or country’s culture? Almost every destination can provide aspects of both leisure and education, but the places that possess an abundance of cultural heritage have become some of the most popular and memorable locations for tourists to visit.
At Castle, we put a high value on integrating culture into travel and work. Our event management team works with clients to select destinations that will create a balance of fun and cultural experiences. As a member of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), we consult with and visit our sister agencies from around the world, providing valuable perspective on how our work is viewed and approached in different cultures.
As a Jewish young adult, I recently had the incredible opportunity of traveling to Israel with a group of my peers to experience a taste of what the country has to offer. While one goal of the ten-day trip is to reignite participant cultural heritage and identity, the program creates countless memories and friendships.
Educational travel opens your eyes to the traditions and customs that may be similar or extremely different from your own culture.
Here are five ways to integrate cultural tourism into your vacation in a meaningful way, with some background about each experience in Israel:
Overcoming endless conflict and obstacles, Israelis fought for centuries leading up to their independence in 1948. With many attempts of surrounding countries to take over, specifically noted in the Six Day War, Israel has persevered and built a strong nation their residents are proud of. Everywhere you go in Israel you can learn from the past to make sense of the present and future of the country.
Israel is rich in contemporary art, music and performance. From painting and sculpture to theater and dance, many famous creatives hail from this eclectic country. If you love the classics, you’ll want to visit Tel Aviv to check out the magnificent Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Batsheva Dance Company which produce remarkable performances. Just walking around Israel, it’s hard to miss out on the art scene with graffiti and street-art covering walls with murals and messages from local artists.
Beautiful mosaics, marble and natural stone cover the country as reminders of a place influenced by elements of surrounding cultures and the foundation in which it was built on. Ancient churches, synagogues and mosques are sprinkled throughout each town and city with astonishing architecture. Modern Israeli buildings reflect contemporary designs in urban areas which have become popular for technology hubs and high-rise apartments.
With all major religions cohabitating in a country the size of New Jersey, the opportunities to explore the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze religions are endless. It’s incredible to hear, in just one city, the sounds of prayer and ritual all together. Jerusalem is home to some of the most sacred religious landmarks for each religion – the Wailing Wall for Jews, the Dome of the Rock for Muslims and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for Christians.
My favorite part of Israel is the incredible food, with locals taking great pride in their signature dishes. From falafel and hummus to shawarma and shakshuka, the cuisine pays homage to the many traditions and cultures of Israeli residents from the surrounding regions. To satisfy your sweet tooth, you can’t go wrong with baklava, halva and kanafeh – all delicacies from the different religions represented there.
One of the best and easiest ways to take in the abundant culture of a city or country is by visiting museums. With more museums per capita than anywhere else in the world, Israel is filled with options perfect for any tourist, including The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, MadaTech, Israel’s National Museum of Technology and Space in Haifa, Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv and many more.
Exploring a city or country with locals, like the Israeli soldiers who joined my trip or a tour guide in a new place, allows for a distinct experience to see each destination through their eyes and learn directly from their lives. While each day was packed with adventure and fun activities, they were consistently integrated with cultural events and experiences. From visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, to leaving prayers in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, to climbing the hilltop fortress of Masada, each experience sparked new realizations within myself and the world around me that brought me closer to my cultural heritage and identity. Riding camels in the Negev Desert, strolling through the hustle and bustle of a shuk (open market) tasting delicious foods, and floating in the Dead Sea while admiring the landscape around me, are also notable reminders that culture is everywhere in Israel.
Access to new places across the world is expanding. Always remember to do your research before traveling to a cultural destination. Find the typical tourist spots but don’t forget about the hidden gems, too. Sometimes these are where you end up learning the most and making the best memories.