5 places to stay that aren’t your usual hotels
Ask travellers what we love most about exploring new places and the majority of us will tell you it’s meeting local people.
We are curious to know more about their lives, we want to share a laugh or two and enjoy authentic experiences. This isn’t easy to do when your stuck in touristy hotels, so the best way to make this happen is to spend the night with someone.
No, we’re not suggesting inviting yourself into locals’ lounge rooms or initiating other ‘more intimate’ encounters, but overnighting at a homestay or family guesthouse is the making of great travel memories.
Here are 5 of our top homestays that tick all the boxes for fantastic real life experiences…
1. Puno, Peru
To get a closer look at daily life in the Lake Titicaca region, the locals of Puno make you feel very welcome on an overnight stay. Sitting on the shores of the highest navigable lake in the world, Puno is renowned as being the folklore capital of Peru, so where better to learn the local legends of the area. You can make the most of your visit by helping your host family with their daily activities, challenging the kids to game of football (look out for the home ground advantage at this altitude!) or try chatting in the local language, Quechua.
In Southern China’s picturesque Fujian province you’ll find the remarkable homes of the Hakka people. ‘Hakka’ literally means ‘guest families’, since the ethnic group migrated south and brought with them their culture and unique traditions. Hakka people live in round, walled villages or communal homes known as tulou. These earthen fortresses house many families and generations of the one clan. Now that you can reach the region by high-speed rail from Shanghai, more day-trippers are discovering the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, but few get to spend the night. This is when you gain a true appreciation of the cultural heritage and share a special evening with the friendly Hakka people.
Sailing off from Aswan in a traditional felucca sets the scene for a wonderful homestay in a Nubian village on the banks of the Nile. As soon as you disembark, kids come rushing to the boat and show off their clever acrobatics in the refreshing river water. Everyone in the village offers welcoming smiles as you walk by their brightly-coloured mud brick houses and on arrival at your home for the night the extended family are all there to greet you. The women show you how they are preparing dinner (which will prove to be one of the most delicious in Egypt!) and the girls in the group are taught how to wrap their head scarfs. It’s a rare opportunity to learn more about Nubian local life and their ancient culture – just imagine that most travellers would simply sail past these beautiful villages.
What about enjoying a homestay where the focus is on learning how to cook the region’s famous food? That’s exactly the kind of delicious experience you can enjoy in Moulay Idriss, now that non-Muslims are permitted to overnight in this pilgrimage town. On Real Food Adventure Morocco our lovely hosts will demonstrate how to make Moroccan salads as well as a hearty kefta (meatball) tajine and you can enjoy trying the town’s speciality, nougat candy. The small medina of ancient Moulay Idriss is a pleasure to explore, as the faithful gather to pay homage to the founding father of Islam in Morocco at the 8th-century mausoleum, and come sunset you’ll be treated to superb views over the plains of Volubilis below.
Chambok is a community-based tourism project that Intrepid has been supporting for years. The project was designed to give residents a financial alternative to charcoal production and what began with only 2 homes in the village now has more than 20 families welcome visitors on a rotational basis. Despite the lack of western toilets, no running water and communal sleeping arrangements, so many travellers rate this homestay as a highlight of their Cambodian adventure. Members of the Women’s Community Centre prepare the most delicious local feast for guests and in an area that was once under serious threat of deforestation, you can now enjoy wonderful jungle walks and waterfall swims.
Are there other memorable homestay experiences that you’ve enjoyed with Intrepid Travel? We’d love to hear you comments…
* Peru photo by Raelene Laver, for the Intrepid Photography Competition.