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The World’s 12 Best Homestay Experiences For Culturally-Curious Travelers

cooking

Cooking classes and learning about the local cuisine is often a focus of a homestay experience. Photo courtesy of thea0211.

“There’s no place like home”. This phrase is one we encounter often in Christmas carols, romance novels and cheesy TV series. At first, it seems to eliminate the incentive to travel. Why go through the trouble of packing your bags, boarding a plane and figuring out a strange place, just to find the best place is where your journey began?

Fortunately, your home is not the only place where you can feel welcomed like a family member, share home-cooked meals and swap cultural anecdotes. This collection of tours with home stays will allow you to integrate yourself in an authentic experience of a new place, where you will feel welcomed and not alone.

These trips will transport you to a whole other style of living. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a monk in Myanmar? A Polynesian sailor in Tahiti? A self-sufficient pioneer in a remote island of New Zealand? Chose from 12 opportunities to experience places others love, call home and want to share with you.

amalfi coast at dusk

Amalfi Coast at dusk. Photo courtesy of Eric Hossinger.

1. Immersive Agriturismo On The Amalfi Coast (Italy)

Join Epicure & Culture Tours — in partnership with G Adventures — on Italy‘s Amalfi Coast for a tour designed to be an authentic immersive experience. Stay in a 16th-century former monastery-turned-agriturismo surrounded by rolling hills lush with vineyards, olives and lemons and spend time interacting with a local family. Hike Amalfi’s “Walk of the Gods” past craggy cliffs, farmhouse ruins and deep valleys, and have experiences like cruising from Positano to Amalfi, exploring Pompeii with a knowledgeable guide, and visiting historic churches and colorful coastal towns. You will learn to cook like an Italian (even picking your own produce!), eat pizza where it was first created and drink lots of wine.

Full information can be found here.  Dates are September 26th – October 3rd, 2015.

Hiking through the Balkans with Locals.

Enjoy a local-guided hike from Boge, Kosovo to Hajla, Montenegro with Row Adventures. Photo courtesy of Chad Case.

2. Explore The Peaks Of The Balkans Through Kayaking And Hiking (Albania/ Montenegro)

Take the road less traveled with an eight-day hiking trip from Podgorica, Montenegro to Tirana, Albania with Row Adventures. Actively explore rivers and forests as you hike and kayak your way through the Balkan Peaks, at the triangular border of Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. Throughout your hike, you’ll meet local leaders and citizens who will expose you to an intriguing European and Eastern influences in the area. Simple accommodations in rustic inns, guest houses and home stays get you intimately acquainted with the genuine hospitality this area is famous for. Savor traditional meals prepared from locally-sourced ingredients as you learn about centuries of existence in the mountains, where people survived as shepherds and farmers. Your participation in this tour helps preserve the traditions of this area, which may lose its distinctive identity if its inhabitants continue to out-migrate to larger cities.

Full information can be found here.

Slovenian Grape harvest

Slovenian Grape harvest.  Photo courtesy of On Foot Holidays.

3. Walk And Picnic Through Hilltop Settlements (Karst, Slovenia)

Want a self-guided hike through some of the greenest landscape in Europe? Try On Foot Holiday’s 8-night hike through Karst in western Slovenia. Enjoy picnic lunches as you walk through the hilltop settlements of Stanjel and Tabor. This rocky, volcanic region contains incredible scenery, including disappearing lakes and extensive cave systems as well as fertile ground for delicious food. You will stay in farmhouses that produce their own honey, ham, fruit and wine, most notably of the Teran variety. These products are often featured in local dishes. Depending on the season, you may try Karst roast beef in Teran wine and pršut (the local prosciutto), rabbit stew, soup with locally pickled mushrooms, or venison medaillons — all finished with honey ice cream. Each day, you will walk approximately 3-5 hours to work up an appetite for your next Slovenian feast.

Full information can be found here.

Learn how to catch and cook crayfish over a beach barbecue in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Learn how to catch and cook crayfish over a beach barbecue in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand. Photo courtesy of Warrick Mitchell and Alpine Adventures.

4. Hunt And Fish Through Fjordland National Park (South Island, New Zealand)

Want to develop pioneering skills in a remote area, a three-day walk from the nearest town? Alpine Adventures will arrange an overnight tour that allows you to learn how to hunt and fish in New Zealand’s rugged South Island. You will fly over dense rainforest, glacier-carved valleys and rugged beaches as you travel to the World Heritage Area of Fjordland National Park. After a picnic lunch, you will meet your local guide: a sports photographer who worked on international yachts before returning home. He will teach you how to fish, cook you dinner at a beach bonfire and hunt possums after dark. You’ll stay in a canvas tent on the beach and share meals in the original hut where your guide grew up.  The next morning, you will learn about the area’s rich deer stalking history as you wander the remote island with a rifle.

Full information can be found here.

Your host family will cook you dinner over an open fire during your Sapa home stay.  Photo courtesy of Buffalo Tours.

Your host family will cook you dinner over an open fire during your Sapa home stay. Photo courtesy of Buffalo Tours.

5. Travel Back In Time With A H’Mong Homestay (Sapa, Vietnam)

Join Buffalo Tours for a first-hand experience of a Vietnamese ethnic-minority community. You will travel back in time when you spend a night with H’Mong people without modern conveniences. To get there, you will hike three hours through terraced rice paddies where you can watch farmers move water buffalo, woman do the laundry and children return from school. After lunch, you will meet your H’mong hosts who will tell you stories as you help them prepare dinner over an open fire. After eating, they may challenge you to a card game or offer you a drink before you retire for the evening. The next morning, your host will serve a breakfast of coffee and pancakes before you hike back to Sapa, Vietnam, traversing more terraces accented by the surrounding colorful landscape.  

Full information can be found here.

Learn to chose fabrics and cook on the side of a volcano with the Karanki community of Ecuador

Learn to chose fabrics and cook on the side of a volcano with the Karanki community of Ecuador. Photo courtesy of GoCollette.

6. Sleep On The Side Of A Volcano And Sail Through The Galapagos (Ecuador/Galapagos)

Join Collette on a ten-day tour of Ecuador and the Galapagos, where you’ll connect with multiple Ecuadorian communities and encounter unique Galapagos wildlife. Your journey begins with a train ride through the Andes Mountains, surrounded by volcanic peaks and fruit and sugar plantations. Choose between spending the night in a 300-year-old Andean hacienda or join the Karanki community of La Magdalena for a home-cooked meal and home stay on the slopes of a volcano. Immerse yourself in the daily life of these indigenous people through watching herding around the farm, tasting homemade bread and cheese, sampling medicinal teas and witnessing craftspeople making artisan textiles. After you leave Ecuador, the focus shifts to local wildlife. Spend four days cruising the islands, snorkeling to see marine iguanas and manta rays, walking by blue-footed boobies and visiting the main nesting site of Galapagos sea turtles.

Full information can be found here.

View from Amantani, Peru: site of your home stay

View from Amantani, Peru: site of your home stay. Photo courtesy of Goodluz.

7. Enjoy Andean Hospitality On A Peruvian Island (Lake Titicaca, Peru)

Real World Holiday’s Southern Cross tour will ensure that you visit all the major sites of southern Peru, while giving you the chance to stay with a local family on the island on Amantani on Lake Titicaca. The tour takes you down the coast for a boat tour of local wildlife at the “Baby Galapagos” Ballestas Islands. From there, you’ll fly over Andes foothills, explore a canyon filled with hot springs and condors then head to Lake Titicaca. Here, you can elect to stay with a local family who will cook you an Andean meal and lead you on a star-gazing stroll around the island. The next morning, explore the island on your own before heading back to the mainland and the ancient Incan city of Cusco. The remainder of your tour features Incan ruins and Peruvian valleys, ending in the Lost City of Macchu Picchu.  

Full information can be found here.  You can chose the 16-day holiday or just the home stay (1 night including lunch and dinner with the family) which costs $110.

Enjoy a gourmet meal in a Portuguese manner.  Photo courtesy of Solares de Portugal.

Enjoy a gourmet meal in a Portuguese manner. Photo courtesy of Solares de Portugal.

8. Snack On Seafood And Shellfish In Portuguese Stately Manors (Portugal)

With Solares de Portugal, stay in privately-owned manor houses, elegant country homes and rustic farmhouses throughout the country and be treated as part of the family. The owners greet you with a warm welcome and share their knowledge about nearby sites, regional gastronomy, festivals and traditions. Many homes have large yards where you can wander the gardens, fruit orchards, woodlands and vineyards that produce delicious in-house wines. Other leisure facilities can include horseback riding, a swimming pool and games room. You can create your own tour of Portugal with these accommodations or follow a pre-arranged schedule. For example, their 7-night gastronomy tour will lead you to homes in areas famous for distinct culinary dishes. When you visit coastal Douro, dine on ‘Arroz de Marisco’ rice, shellfish and fish stew, complimented by the region’s best white wines. When you visit the North, wake up to a bowl of Caldo Verde soup – a mix of shredded cabbage, potato, garlic, onion and olive oil – served with slices of good smoked ‘chouriço’ sausage or ‘salpicão’ jerky and corn bread.

Full information can be found here.

Myanmar

Myanmar. Photo courtesy of Jacada Travel.

9. Stay With Monks In Myanmar (Pan Hone, Mynamar)

If you have been dreaming about a local way to experience a country that has recently opened up to tourism, try a Myanmar tour arranged by Jacada Travel. They will customize an itinerary for you, many of which include home stays. For example, spend 9 days trekking in Pan Hone and Namp Pan, staying and enjoying meals with hospitable Burmese natives. Feast on authentic Mandalay dishes, such as mee shay (rice noodles with meat sauce), mohinga (rice and fish soup) and nan gyi thohke (rice noodles with chicken curry). You can also spend a night in the Pa Laung hill tribe village, where a translator will facilitate your interactions with villagers sharing their ancient traditions. Finally, join monks staying in a monastery. Rise at 4 AM to help them wash an 11½ foot tall Buddha with scented water then brush its gold overlaid teeth.

Full information can be found here.

Sail through Polynesia, making new friends and learning new things along the way

Sail through Polynesia, making new friends and learning new things along the way. Photo courtesy of Lionel Gouverneur and Aranui 3 cruises.

10. Take a Crash Course In French Polynesian Culture From Marquesan Sailors (Papeete, Tahiti)

Board the MS Aranui 3 to travel through 800 miles of the spectacular Marquesas Islands, accompanied by a Polynesian crew. Unlike many cruises where the crewmen do not associate with the guests, this colorful crew is encouraged to befriend guests, which facilitates a cultural interchange. Along the way, you’ll savor Marquesan meals including barbecued rock lobster, poisson cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and soaked in coconut milk), curried goat, breadfruit, taro and sweet red bananas. Make on-shore stops to hike past waterfalls, lagoons and jungle ruins as well as visit a pearl farm, meet local artisans and tour museums. An onboard lecturer ensures your trip is educational in addition to enjoyable and socially satisfying.

Full information can be found here.

SSCA group shot TIF edited

11. Forage For Wild Food (Asheville, NC, USA)

Join “No Taste Like Home”  for a wild food foraging adventure. This Asheville-based eco-tour company will teach you about finding, cooking and using these handpicked ingredients in medicine, brewing, crafting and more. On a short walk, their expert guides show you how to safely identify, appreciate, and savor 12-30 varieties of wild plants, mushrooms, and other extreme cuisine. After “shopping” in the forest for ingredients, you can bring them to a local restaurant to prepare for free. To elongate your time in the mountains of Western North Carolina, chose from a variety of home stays in the surrounding area.

Full information can be found here and home stay options here.

Rice planting with host families

Rice planting with host families. Photo courtesy of Himalayan Quests.

12. Yak Farming On The Flanks Of The Annapurna (Nepal)

Many trekkers hike through the Annapurna region of Nepal, but few venture off-the-beaten-track. Himalayan Quests integrates hiking with home stays,  cooking classes and local festivals together in an immersive, multifaceted experience. This tour is best for people of moderate fitness level with a real sense of adventure, who can embrace basic conditions to experience mountain life in Nepal. The tour guide ensures that your visit benefits the local communities and often caries rice and food to supplement local subsistence-style farming. Along the way, visit a village-weaving workshop, paper making workshop and cheese making factory. You will spend a night at a yak farming project on the edge of the Annapurna. The trek culminates with a visit to the sacred Khayer Lake (4,500m), a peaceful place surrounded with shrines, rhododendron plants and towering Annapurna peaks.

Full information can be found here.

Have you ever experienced a homestay? What was it like? Please share in the comments below.

Also Check Out:

Experience The Amalfi Coast Like A Local

Earth Lodge: A Soul-Finding Farmstay In The Mountains Of Guatemala

Wellness Travel: Top Fourteen Yoga Fusion Retreats

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Katie Foote is a doctoral student who travels the world any chance she can get. Physics trips to India, Taiwan, Brazil and Singapore funded her first international travels and since then, she's been hooked and found ways to travel the world on a graduate student budget (cheap!). She seeks out off-the-beaten-path destinations and tries to authentically experience new places through a local lens. When she's not doing physics or globe-trotting, she likes to swim, do yoga, experiment with multicultural cuisine and activities, where she currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina. Check out Katie's blog to follow her adventures around the world.
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  1. Pingback: Alpine Adventures tour named one of the World's 12 Best Homestay Experiences | Alpine Adventures

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