Despite the dangerously polarising effect of social media and unscrupulous politicians, we all share the same hopes and fears, the same fundamental human condition, and there's no better way to remind yourself of these universal truths than through travel. Yes, the clothing, customs, cuisine and all-round culture in your destination may be deliciously different, but they all celebrate the same basic humanity. Returning home feeling a little more connected with your fellow man has to be the greatest reward in travel...
Bushmen of the Kalahari, Botswana
The Zu'hoasi bushmen of the Kalahari Desert eke out a hunter-gatherer existence almost unchanged in the last two thousand years. We can arrange for a few privileged guests to spend time with a local tribe, learning about their way of life; from hunting to marriage and their religious beliefs, all in the company of a guide who has lived alongside them for decades. To avoid any accusations of voyeurism, it's all done incredibly sensitively, and many of our clients come away from the experience radically reassessing their world view and vowing to simplify their existence.
When to Go: You can meet the Zu'hoasi Bushmen all year around, but travel in the dry season (June to September) is best.
Timkat Festival, Ethiopia
Enkutatash, Hidar Tsion, Debre Damo; the list of Ethiopian festivals might read like the cast of a Star Wars film, but these ancient celebrations are far, far away from George Lucas's intergalactic oeuvre on the cultural spectrum. Arguably the most idiosyncratic of all is Timkat - celebrating the baptism of Jesus - where thousands of white-robed worshippers swim in the holy Fasilides' Bath in the medieval city of Gondar. Join our small group tour to experience Timkat and more of this magical country with an expert tour leader who will bring it all even more vividly to life.
When to Go: Timkat falls on the 19th or 20th of January each year. Ethiopia is generally best visited from September to February.
Longhouse Homestay, Malaysia
The Iban Tribe were some of the most revered warriors in Malaysian Borneo, fiercely defending their territory and earning a reputation as headhunters in the process. Today the Iban have left their fearsome customs behind, but retained a traditional way of life, inhabiting longhouses and communicating in the jaku Iban language. Adventurous travellers can stay overnight in an Iban longhouse, sleeping under a mozzie net in the communal area, dining (a highlight) and drinking with the tribe before bed. Prepare to leave with full bellies, lasting memories - and heads firmly attached.
When to Go: Malaysian Borneo's optimum weather coincides with our summer and stays in a traditional longhouse are best in these drier months.
Viticulture in Bordeaux, France
As a cultural destination France has got the lot, thanks to an almost unparalleled roll call of artists, composers, poets, designers and architects who have left their indelible cultural marks on this remarkably diverse country. But while we love those other art forms, is there any more closely tied to what it is to be French than the art of winemaking? Our concept of the Big Short Break could have been invented just for a trip to the Bordeaux region and the delectable Sources de Caudalie hotel, where guests can enjoy wine-based spa treatments, fine food and, of course, wine tasting. Santé!
When to Go: Any time of year is great, though perhaps the most interesting time is around the vendange (harvest) season in late summer/early autumn, when the weather is also usually excellent.
Cities of the Silk Road, Uzbekistan
Hidden in the heart of central Asia, Uzbekistan is one of our favourite off the beaten track cultural destinations. Famed for its vital location along the ancient Silk Road to Europe, as well as its magnificent turquoise tiled Persian-style mosques and mausoleums, this is a country steeped in fascinating history and striking architecture. Get to grips with both on a guided small group tour to Samarkand and the other ancient cities along the Silk Road.
When to Go: Our expert guide Amelia is leading her next Silk Road Tour between the 10th and 24th May 2019. We can also arrange tailor-made tours and recommend travelling to Uzbekistan in spring or autumn.