11 new hands-on travel experiences to try in 2024

written by Stefan Prince December 4, 2023
woman applying henna tattoo to another woman's hand

From indigo dying to taiko drumming, with these new encounters, you’ll go home with more than a souvenir from duty-free. 

Sometimes getting the feel of a place comes down to rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. Trying new things – like cooking local dishes and DIYing some traditional crafts – is a great way to connect with other cultures. You could give indigo dying a go in El Salvador, spin a potter’s wheel in Poland or take a taiko drumming class in Japan. Whether you create a unique gift or some unforgettable memories, you don’t want to miss learning about these local traditions from around the world.  

1. Learn ancient Maya pottery techniques in Guatemala 

The Maya people are known for creating crafted ceramics without the help of a pottery wheel, a practice that dates as early as 2000 BC. While machines eventually caught up, Maya pottery making is still being practised in the mountain town of Santa Apolonia. What better way of keeping that history alive than by giving it a go for yourself? On Intrepid’s Maya Encounter, watch local women demonstrate the age-old technique, then roll up your sleeves and try it for yourself.  

2. Take a chance on taiko with the family in Japan

We’re all about marching to the beat of your own drum, and in Tokyo the family will have the chance to do just that. As you explore the neon lights of Japan’s capital during the Japan Highlights Family Holiday, you’ll have the chance to discover the duality of this modern city by learning a traditional Japanese instrument. Used since the 6th century, taiko drums have evolved from a means of communication to the star of their own show. At your class, experts will give a demonstration before handing the bachi (drumsticks) over to you.

3. Learn about henna from the pros in Morocco 

For centuries, henna tattooing has been used to commemorate all sorts of significant moments. You may have already seen hands adorned with intricate designs, but as you uncover Morocco you’ll be able to experience this art form with a local expert. After exploring the M’Goun Valley in the Atlas Mountains, a local henna artist (known as a naquasha) will teach the group about henna – where it comes from, how it’s made, and its tradition in Morocco. She will then adorn your hands and feet with her artwork.  

4. Experience a true-blue indigo dying demo in El Salvador

Before the arrival of artificial dyes, indigo was a booming business in El Salvador. Luckily, there are still a few local craftspeople keeping the tradition alive. The cultural hub of Suchitoto is regarded as one of the best places in the world to produce indigo, which you’ll visit as you journey through Central America. Visit a local designer transforming tradition into modern design and learn the history of the indigo trade. Watch a dying demonstration, then try it for yourself. To decide who takes the creation home, the group holds a raffle.  

5. Give Polish pottery a spin in Poland 

Thanks to rich clay deposits around the town, Boleslawiec quickly became the centre of Poland’s pottery industry. These days, the town even lends its name to the ceramics made recognisable by their distinctive blue polka-dotted designs. In the nearby city of Wroclaw – which is steeped in 1000 years of history – the Highlights of Southern Poland trip gives you the opportunity to join a pottery-making workshop. You’ll have your own chance to give the potter’s wheel a spin and try your hand at moulding your own unique creation.  

6. Potter around Fes’ pottery markets 

Fes has held a special place in the Moroccan pottery tradition, establishing itself as a ceramic centre as early as the 15th century. Now, it’s your turn to leave your (artist’s) mark. The Best of Morocco Family Holiday sets the scene with a tour of the Fes El Bali medina, where you can watch traditional potters hard at work and then head to a pottery class of your own. A skilled craftsman will help you to put together your piece. See your ideas come to life using the traditional methods of sculpting and modelling the clay – the kids will love getting their hands dirty. 

7. Take part in a cultural weaving class at Kakadu in Australia 

Australia’s Top End is home to ancient First Nations rock art, incredibly scenic natural pools and rust-coloured natural wonders. On the final morning of your adventure through the Best of the Top End & Kakadu National Park, you’ll leave with a lasting memory of the people and place by participating in a weaving class. A First Nations woman will teach you the craft and tell stories about the significance of weaving in the local culture. At the end of the session, you’ll have a creation of your own to take home. 

8. Get the kids to create Costa Rican chocolate  

Head to Central America to create core family memories on the Best of Costa Rica Family Holiday. You’ll have a chance to meet the Terraba community – an Indigenous group who have survived off the land for more than 500 years. Here, the women are the teachers responsible for passing information, and from the matriarchs you’ll learn how to carve your own wooden mask. The kids will also love the chance to participate in some chocolate-making (and maybe sneak a bite or two). 

9. Build igloos and memories in Finland 

A family holiday won’t quite get as magical as a trip to see Finnish Lapland in winter. For starters, you’ll get to visit Santa’s Village in Rovaniemi – the official home of Santa Claus. Then, head into the heart of Finland’s snow-dusted woodlands. Not only will you get whisked around by dog sled, but a local trapper will also share a taste of the Lapland lifestyle. The kids will feel like true adventurers as they follow tracks in the snow, identify flora and fauna and even learn how to build an igloo. 

10. Thumka in a Bollywood dance lesson in India 

The chance to learn dance moves like thumkas with your hips is too good to pass up. In earlier Bollywood films, dances were based on mythological stories taken from Hinduism and Buddhism. Today, Bollywood dance is also influenced by hip-hop, jazz and even Arab and Latin forms. On the Northern India Family Holiday Comfort trip, get all warmed up with a walking tour through Jaipur’s streets, then head to your dance class to learn some new moves. It’ll be sure to tire the kids out and you will have a lot of fun creating these memories together.  

11. Connect with Country in Mandingalbay in Australia 

Immerse yourself in Australia’s First Nations traditions and teachings that have been passed down from generation to generation. As you embark on an adventure to the Great Barrier Reef, you’ll first take part in a smoking ritual and Welcome to Country ceremony.  Led by elders of the Mandingalbay clan of the Yidinji Nation, this experience begins with a traditional welcome, which may involve either a smoking ceremony or the marking of traditional paint on your face. Then learn about bush tucker, traditional tools and culturally significant sites as you walk along a rainforest trail. 

See more of what’s new at Intrepid in 2024 with The Goods.

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