There’s no denying it, January is not the jolliest time. Holiday cheer has disappeared and Blue Monday – said to be the most depressing day of the year – falls near the middle of the month. There’s an easy way to keep your spirits high though – start planning a fun-filled getaway. You can’t help but flash those pearly whites if you’re hot-air ballooning above Costa Rica or making friends with elephants in Sri Lanka. To help, here are the top serotonin-boosting experiences from around the world.
Trek through the jungle in India
Refresh yourself with a hike through the large forests and national parks of India. Trek in Mudumalai National Park alongside tigers and deer, or in the tropical Agumbe Reserve Forest, which comes alive during the monsoon months. If you want a story-worthy adventure, hike through Kanha National Park, said to be the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Float over a Costa Rican rainforest in a hot-air balloon
Soaring high above the ground in a hot-air balloon is super fun – that sense of freedom might be enough to keep you happy for the whole year. Do it in Costa Rica for the sublime vistas; here, you’ll be gliding over volcanoes and green valleys, chasing monkeys around rainforest tree-tops, or competing with birds while cruising over turquoise rivers and shimmering coasts.
Discover shimmering seas in the Maldives
Few sights are more spectacular than a bioluminescent sea. Experience this rare phenomenon in the Maldives – the Vaadhoo island in the Raa Atoll is your safest bet. Towards the end of summer, the reefs here fill with dinoflagellates – phytoplankton that emit light as a defence mechanism when the waves move. This creates an otherworldly, sparkling effect that’s bound to fill your heart with glee.
Bathe in geothermal pools in Iceland
A long, relaxing soak is an easy way to relieve stress. And there’s no better place to do it than Iceland – the hot springs here are sure to alleviate your aching muscles and help you reach a state of utter bliss. Thanks to the high volcanic activity on the island, there are plenty of natural geothermal pools, such as Landmannalaugar and Hveravellir, most of which are surrounded by endless greenery. Alternatively, try the Blue Lagoon, which is man-made but just as soothing.
Make friends with elephants in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world to go on safari. Leopards hang out in Yala National Park amid flooded lagoons and coastal dunes and rare lizards and purple-faced langurs stroll along Horton Plains. The most fascinating local attraction, though, has to be the elephants. You are likely to spot hundreds of them drinking water and eating fresh grass in Udawalawe and Minneriya national parks.
Cycle around vineyards and castles in France
Exercising is one of the surest ways to boost your serotonin levels; but what if you could do that while gazing at vast vineyards and valleys? France offers a number of two-wheeled adventures for novice and seasoned cyclists. Whether you follow the Tour de France route in the French Alps or a much simpler path among vineyards and orchards in the Loire Valley, the idyllic views are worth the effort. Want more? Join a small group on a wine and cycle tour of the medieval city of Saint-Emilion near Bordeaux.
Taste mouth-watering delicacies in Italy
If you’re a die-hard gastronome, you can’t go wrong with visiting the top foodie destinations in Italy. Pass by Bologna for the popular tagliatelle al ragù, Rome for a pasta-making class near the Trevi Fountain and Tuscany for exquisite wine paired with local flavours – if bistecca alla fiorentina, the signature steak dish of Florence, doesn’t bring you joy, we don’t know what will. For the best pizza and freshest seafood in Italy, Naples is the way to go.
Marvel at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples on a Mount Fuji hike
Japan offers a variety of scenic trails, some passing waterfalls and wildflowers, others passing volcanic craters. Among the greatest is the trek up the legendary Mount Fuji. This can take five to 10 hours to complete, with several trails to follow. Some are more challenging than others, but if you’re looking for a transcendental experience, opt for the Pilgrimage Trail; this will take you to the summit through sacred forests, home to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, and finish at the shrine of Shinto goddess Sengen-Sama.
Discover Ancient Egypt on a luxury cruise along the Nile
There’s no better way to appreciate the millennia-old history of Egypt than a five-star cruise on the Nile. Make all the necessary stops – including the Valley of the Kings, home to the tomb of Tutankhamun, and the Kom Ombo Temple, once frequented by sacred crocodiles – and admire wonders such as the Colossi of Memnon statues. Better yet, reserve a spot on Culture Trip’s small-group trip to Egypt and explore this awe-inspiring country with the help of a Local Insider.
Enjoy modern Athens on a street-art tour
Athens is best known for its ancient ruins, but the Greek capital also has a contemporary, quirky side to it; this comes through in lively cafes and bars, modern art galleries and colourful murals scattered around town. Take a street-art tour to discover the latter, along with the captivating stories behind them. Somewhere amid all the concrete of the city centre, splashes of colour turn Athens into an open-air gallery, giving you many reasons to smile.
The emerald waters and white sands of Thailand are ideal for a recharge. Bag yourself a spot in the best beach resorts in the country, and you’ll soon be sunbathing by a glam pool surrounded by palm trees. One such dreamy hotel is Phulay Bay, which sits by the Andaman Sea. You’ll stay in stylish villas with private hot tubs and drink cocktails by an infinity pool while looking over the azure waters. There’s also a luxury spa where you can treat yourself to a Thai massage amid tropical gardens. Yoga and pilates sessions are also available.
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meet our Local Insider
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WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.