Cultural Travel

NewGrange Passage Tomb

7012 was a wonderful year of travel. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see the New Grange Passage Tomb as well as Loughcrew passage tomb in the Boyne Valley of Ireland. My Father had told me about going to the Boyne Valley, and the NewGrange Tomb with his wife Pat, who is from Ireland.  I was mesmerized by his description of the place, and the curious sense of wonder he had after going there. I read a great deal about the Boyne Valley and New Grange, and I must say, it was the highlight of 2012. Why? Because these Burial chambers were not just places to put the remains of the dead. They were remarkable feats of marking time, and precise ways to determine when the winter sun, and quarter sun events would occur, marked by the light of the sun itself. There was no technology as we rely on today, however, clearly there was a technology of the spirit that was extremely well developed.  And what is spectacular, is that these people who occupied the Boyne Valley were some of the most amazing builders, astronomers, and scientists  (if we need to identify them in the way that we think of what is amazing today.) The New Grange Passage Tomb is a place built some 3400 years ago that hosts the movement of the sun on the winter Solstice in such a way that it hits certain stones, and their symbols as if the people who were a part of this cosmology were speaking directly with light. Perhaps it was a prayer or request that the dead be received in the world of light at these exact moments of communication with the Sun. Each year, the sun rises over the Boyne Valley and sheds a beam of light through the long narrow passage at New Grange, hitting a sequential series of stones that have a language we may never know.  (Click on the image below to see the full entry to the NewGrange Passage Tomb.

If you are interested in the ancient mysteries reflected in material culture and place, you must go to the NewGrange Passage Tomb in the Boyne Valley of Ireland. There is a magnificent cultural center and museum there, and after you arrive, you are  transported on a bus to the tombs. The people of this time built many of these burial chambers and all are in relationship to one another in proximity to the sun and moon and the markers of time through the Solstices which are specific markers of time in ancient cosmologies as well as today.  Were they created for burials and ancestral communication? Were they for harvests and the rhythms of nature? We do not know the answer. What remains is a mystery that is intact, and the NewGrange Passage Tomb is a place for the spiritual seeker, the architects of the world, archeologists, and people who live in a sense of wonder about the world. Include the New Grange Passage Tomb on your list of places to see.


A Cabin in Asheville

A cabin in Asheville, NC is an experience that many people write home about. If the cabin is far enough outside of the city, you can even see the milky way. How do I know this? Because I am writing this from a cabin in Asheville on a night when I can see every star in the sky. Just 12 miles northeast of Asheville, you can experience what used to be most of the surrounding area around the city of Asheville. The Vanderbilt’s brought culture to these foreign mountains by building a railroad, and then a spectacular mansion in a more than spectacular spot. Today, the Biltmore Estate is the second largest employer in Asheville next to Mission Hospital. Why? Because it is really a masterpiece of art and culture that was built in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. Many people come to Asheville to see the Biltmore Estate, and while it is splendid, there are many more things to see and do around Asheville that are equally wonderful, and not quite as expensive. A cabin in Asheville is the perfect way to relax and survey the area.  Here’s one that might peak your interest. The sunrises are free, and inexplicably beautiful.

Interested in going to a cabin in Asheville? Check out this wonderful spot and tell them you saw it at Cultural Travel News for a special treat. Go here to see a cabin in Asheville.


Indigenous Culture and Tourism

I have been to many places the world where I felt like the first Caucasian to step foot in certain territories. The very reason that I traveled there was to see “inside” a culture without the stage of tourism. Indigenous culture and tourism is wrought with all sorts of issues, and yet, there are opportunities for cultural awareness to travel throughout the world from the people who become aware of cultural differences. The  art, language, rituals and beliefs of a culture are what give meaning to a culture. To witness this directly through cultural travel, is a gift and a privilege. Indigenous culture has been romanticized, demonized, and put through a myriad of scopes. Recently, there has been a resurgence of cultural travelers who wish to experience Indigenous culture and explore the history, song, story and beliefs. A recent article in gives an example of the increase in cultural travel to Indigenous cultures of Austrailia and  Aboriginal tourism.

Mining royalties, government grants and the persistence of culturally minded tourism operators are bringing developments in what has always been a difficult arena.

Ayers Rock Resort now has a popular indigenous activities program, and the Wilpena Pound Resort in South Australia has come under indigenous ownership, with plans for Aboriginal touring and employment.


In the Top End, the indigenous-owned Wildman Wilderness Lodge is in its second season, while the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land have won an $825,000 grant to develop a tourism master plan for the region.

In Queensland, an impressive $20 million indigenous eco-tourism development has opened at Mossman Gorge, north of Cairns, with local Aboriginal people making up the majority of employees and tours including exclusive access to indigenous land.

Another development is taking place on the Gold Coast, with Dreamworld being awarded a $1 million grant for an indigenous experience at the park.

The federal government grant will help turn the park’s existing “wildlife experience”, which includes more than 800 native animals, into an Australian Aboriginal wildlife experience.

A theme park might seem an unlikely player in cultural tourism, but Dreamworld says it has been working with indigenous clans for the past two years and has a “reconciliation action plan” to increase cultural awareness at all levels of its operations.

                                           This image of aboriginal art work is
                                           from wikipedia. Source-                           /australia2005/index.html

Istanbul and Cultural Gems

The most exotic and wonderful place I’ve ever been is Istanbul. Istanbul’s cultural sites are cultural gems that have to be experienced to be appreciated. The Ottoman architecture such as the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque are thousands of years old, and hold  secrets of a time when beauty and embellishment were relished as important cultural gems. Mosiacs that take your breath away reflect a time when every detail was considered in constructing space. This year, Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace and the Sophia Museum were among Turkey’s top places for cultural visits. Read this blurb from the “Daily News.”

Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace and Hagia Sophia Museum and Ephesus in İzmir were the three places visited tourist sites in the first half of 2012, the Culture and Tourism Ministry has said, noting that it made over a billion Turkish Liras off of entrance fees around the country.

A total of 189 museums and 131 historical sites managed by the Culture and Tourism Ministry were visited by almost 13 million people in the first half of 2012, bringing in revenue amounting to 1.08 billion Turkish Liras, it said.

Topkapi Palace- Sultan's room

Topkapi Palace- Sultan's room


Topkapi Palace- Sultan's room

Jean Baptiste Van Mour-


If you are going to Istanbul, you must visit the Topkapi Palace. It is a masterful cultural gem of Turkey. This palace, which is a centerpiece of Ottoman culture was built in 1478, by Mehmet the Conqueror. It served as the center of Ottoman culture for 380 years. Istanbul and it’s cultural gems are rich in knitting today with a time thousands of years ago. The Turkish people are warm and inviting, and have traditions of craft and textiles that span thousands of years in a language that is embedded in pattern and texture. The bazaar is not to be missed, and will transport your senses into the realm of  beauty, history and splendor! Read the whole article here.


Ireland, and New Grange

There are many ways to experience a place, whether it be Europe, Africa, Canada, or the USA. Ireland is a place that compels us to visit during the summer months when it is teeming with life. There are so many things that Ireland, oh Ireland have to offer. For instance,Ireland has some incredible Neolithic archeological remnants that are mysteries that compel one to dig further. Places such as New Grange. What is New Grange?

320px-Newgrange_at_a_distance-photo by Jimmy Harris

New Grange- Neolithic Structure, Ireland

New Grange-Second Passage- Photo by r Bkwillwm


Neolithic structures such as New Grange, Stone Henge and other structures around the world, reflect a connection to the larger planetary world. How? Each structure is aligned with the summer solstice, and the winter solstice. New Grange is constructed in such a way that the winter solstice(Dec. 21st) sheds it’s light for 17 minutes through a shaft of light between stones  and onto the chamber floor dating back as far as c.3100 to 2900 BC. The photo above reflects a bed of quartz stones that were laid in front of the second passage. The tools used to construct the stone chamber were all of stone, as metals had not yet been introduced into the world. New Grange predates Stone Henge by a thousand years. When you consider how long ago this structure was built, it is remarkable that the healing technologies of Neolithic people held such precision in connection with the sun and the planetary alignments. Additionally, the spiral was a symbol used on many of the stones there.  The Maori, indigenous peoples of the South Pacific, as well as the early remains of the people of western China in the Tarim Basin, both used the spiral as a significant symbol of communication to the Divine or afterworld.

Each year, on the Winter Solstice, a lottery gives a group of people the rare opportunity to witness the shaft of light entering the chamber at New Grange. This is done on a lottery basis since only a few may fit inside the narrow passage that makes up the chamber at New Grange  Today, the earliest light enters the chamber 4 minutes after sunrise, but 5000 years ago, the light would have entered the chamber exactly at sunrise. Being a mound of stone and earth, the place itself is 250 feet across and 40 feet high.  There are speculations as to it’s purpose 5000 years ago. A burial ground, a place of honoring the winter and summer solstice? There are many speculations as to what the chamber’s purpose was intended for. If you are interested, perhaps you should investigate this ancient place in greater detail.



Wine, the Brancott Estate and Cultural Travel to New Zealand

The world down under, on the other side of the world from the United States is a green lush wonderland that is teeming with life. There, wine, the Brancott Estate, and cultural travel await whomever wishes to open their senses to New Zealand. In the 1970′s the valley of Marlborough was pasture land with sheep grazing. Now, it is home to some of Australia’s finest wines. A recent article in the Telegraph describes the sensory treasures of the Brancott Estate.

Until 1973, the wide green valley of Marlborough was home to herds of sheep and when the owners of Brancott Estate decided to try growing grapes here, they were treated as madmen. “The climate round here is far too cool,” they were told. Two years later, after comparing Marlborough’s conditions with those of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley in France, the mad pioneers decided to plant a few sauvignon blanc vines.

By the time I arrived in the region a decade later, the Brancott Estate vineyards had already produced delicious gooseberryish and asparagussy whites that tasted like nothing I had ever encountered elsewhere. I was so bowled over, in fact, that the 1987 sauvignon blanc was named White Wine of the Year in my 1988 Sunday Telegraph Good Wine, an extraordinary achievement for a wine produced from vines planted a dozen years earlier in a sheep paddock.

Whether you are traveling to New Zealand for one of the “Great Walks” or to see the many national parks which are unique to the areas where they are located, Australia is a destination trip that can change your view of the world. Wine, the Bancott Estate, and cultural travel to New Zealand can change the whole lens of perception about the world down under. Read the whole article about Robert Joseph and the Brancott Estate here.


Pioneers of Cultural Travel

Travel is something that is embedded in the cells, the blood, the DNA. Pioneers of cultural travel did not begin with a golden wand guiding them to unknown places. They took risks, walked through walls of fear, and took the unbeaten path to places that many would be afraid to traverse. One such pioneer of cultural travel is Jim Calio. The Huffington post has a great article about this travel pioneer.

JC: What were your goals when you started out in Africa?
GK I made a decision early on that our safaris would be about appreciating the wildlife and the scenery in the most luxurious way possible and came up with the slogan “shoot with a camera, not a gun” and we stuck with that. Early on I got an old army buddy of mine, who was a brilliant engineer, to develop a refrigerated truck so we could have ice in the bush for the gin and tonic. It was the first time this had been done and it worked brilliantly.

JC: What was the first trip you organized when you started the company?
GK: One of my first trips ever was with Jane Chapin from Adventures Unlimited. She was the exclusive travel agent for A&K. She had somehow heard of me and, when she came to Nairobi, I took her on a safari. I picked up Jane at the old Stanley Hotel and took her into Nairobi National Park. Then, in 1966, I took her off on a longer adventure. I was the guide, and we had a mobile tented camp — with ice and electric lights. She had such a wonderful time that soon she and I were operating 10 safaris a month.


Pioneers of cultural travel exist throughout history in the form of naturalists, theosophists, anthropologists, artists, dancers, and curious people. Jim Calio is one example of a person who has combined passion with an entrepreneurial spirit to create a lifetime of crafting trips for people around the world. What about you? Are you a pioneer, or a curious seeker? Read the whole article here.



Folk Art and Cultural Travel to China

Folk art is a great reason to plan travel to China. Why? Because China has a long history of the silk road, where silk and fabulous textiles were transported from place to place, and the cultivation of silk was one of China’s most valued treasures. Pingliang, one of the silk route’s places of trade is a part of the 9th China Folk Art Festival. The famous silk route spans roughly 4000 miles, and existed as trade routes between China, India, southeast Asia, Turkey, Persia, Africa, and Europe. The silk road began around 206BCE and expanded between the 5th and 8th centuries. Silk was not the only commodity traded along the silk route. Spices, teas, functional items produced by craftsmen, and religious beliefs were also ignited during the time of the silk route.

Silk Route- photo by Mayhaymate

The 9th China Folk Art Festival will be held in Pingliang, Gansu province from September 12 to September 15, according to a press briefing in Beijing on Sunday. The theme of the festival is “Beautiful Kongtong Mountain. The festival aims to combine the Chinese folk art exhibition and tourism promotion of Pingliang, located on the Silk Road.

If you’re going, do some research on Folk Art of China, and the fascinating history of the silk route. Folk art and cultural travel to China is a world that is interesting and wonderful. You will be drawn into a time and place that is reflective of ancient people long ago, and how they learned about the rest of the world through trading silk and other objects of art. Read the full article here.



The Culture of Mermaids

We all know the mythical, and sometimes strange story of mermaids. But what if the culture of mermaids is a real phenomenon? Recently, I discovered a video on utube that is really interesting. Personally, I have never thought about travel through the ocean, but what if there are species of mermaids that live in the ocean? Perhaps you should look at this yourself, and ask yourself if you believe in the culture of mermaids.


So what do you think? Do you think Mermaids are real? Do you believe that there is a culture of mermaids in the sea? There are many other cultures in the sea, why not Mermaids?


Famous People and Travel

It is interesting to hear how famous people see the world. Famous people and travel is a subject that is relatively unknown to most, but hey, they’re human beings just like us.  Many famous people get to see a vast part of the world, but I imagine it is only a glimpse, as they are in and out of places in a very short period of time. To hear how famous people perceive the world comes through snippets on the news, or magazines, and blips on the web. But what about the life behind role that famous people have to endure? What cultural perceptions do they carry back home? Take Tony Hadley for example. Hadley is an English pop singer and songwriter. Recently, the “Independent” had an article about Hadley’s life in travel.

Ideal travel companion?

Ali and my children. I’ve got five now; the eldest is 28 and the youngest is five months. They’re all beautiful and brilliant. I couldn’t think of a more perfect holiday than being with them. We go skiing every year to Morzine in France and stay at a B&B right on the slopes. I love it. If I hadn’t become a musician, I would have been a skier.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I do like the cultural aspects, but I’ve also been on several big treks with Action Medical Research. One was to Costa Rica – from the Pacific coast, through the jungle, to the Caribbean, where we endured torrential rainfall and got lost. We also went to Peru and to Venezuela, which turned out to be a bit dangerous because I almost fell off of a cliff. Luckily, someone caught me.

Martin Fry and Tony Hadley-

Martin Fry and Tony Hadley-Photo by Phil Guest


You don’t have to be famous to enjoy the cultural wonders of the world. It helps to have the funds to travel, but you can create a trip anywhere by creating the possibility in your mind, and taking action to go. There are still ways to travel on a shoestring. Ask me, I’ve been out on a thin thread to some of the far reaching places on the planet. The key is taking action. Just do it. You don’t have to be famous. Live now, go places. Read the whole article here.




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