There are a million different ways to travel. Some people prefer to be pampered in a luxury resort while others don’t even care if they have running water. Some people enjoy exploring crowded cities while others would rather venture as far from civilization as possible. This list outlines 35 types of tourism. Hopefully, it inspires you to tour the world a bit differently.
One thing to keep in mind is that not all types of tourism will appeal to every traveler. Some are a bit controversial or unethical. Some are dangerous. A few might even be illegal. This article is designed to inform you of some of your options and give you some ideas for future trips.
1. Adventure Tourism
This is a broad category of tourism with multiple definitions. The overall goal of adventure tourism is to explore remote destinations and maybe take a bit of risk. Many adventure tourists participate in a physically challenging outdoor activity during their trip. Some adventure tours may require a particular set of skills.
Five different types of adventure tourism exist including:
- Travel to remote or hard to reach places- This is what I think of when I hear the words adventure tourism. I imagine traveling somewhere where few tourists go each year. West and Central Africa, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and New Guinea come to mind.
- Travel to explore different cultures- Traveling to meet people who live completely different from yourself is another type of adventure tourism. The goal here is to have a cultural exchange and maybe even experience a bit of culture shock. Tribal areas in Ethiopia, the Amazon, Angola, and New Guinea, are possible destinations. See cultural tourism for more info.
- Travel which requires physical activity- Traveling somewhere to enjoy outdoor activities or extreme sports is considered adventure tourism. The United States, New Zealand, and Canada are popular destinations for this type of trip. See extreme tourism for more info.
- Traveling somewhere dangerous- Some people believe that adventure tourism requires that you take some risk. This includes a risk of injury, disease, or encountering unfriendly locals. This is a very niche form of Adventure tourism. Parts of the Middle East, Arabia, and Africa are popular destinations for this type of traveler.
- Traveling somewhere to experience nature- Exploring rural areas or wilderness can also be considered adventure tourism. Every country has some beautiful natural landscapes. The United States, Canada, New Zealand, and much of South America are popular destinations for this type of adventure travel.
2. Dark Tourism
Dark Tourism, a relatively new term, is defined as travel to an area where death, disaster, or tragedy occurred in the past. People visit these sites mostly for historic reasons or simply out of morbid curiosity. Humans seem to have a natural interest in death and disaster. Dark tourist sites are some of the most visited places in the world.
Dark Tourism Destinations include:
- Museums- The September 11 museum in New York City or the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for example.
- Monuments- The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington D.C. or the Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, for example.
- Memorials- The Kigali Genocide Memorial in Kigali or the 911 Memorial in New York City, For example.
- Battlefields- Taking a tour of World War I, World War II, or the United States Civil War battlegrounds is a popular tourist dark tourism activity.
- Natural Disaster Sites- Visiting Pompeii in Italy or Mount St. Helens in Washington State, for example.
- Concentration Camps– Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland receives over 2 million visitors per year, making it one of the most visited dark tourism sites.
- Human-Caused Disaster Sites- Touring the Exxon-Valdez oil spill zone, for example.
- Sites Where Murders Took Place– For example, the Jack the Ripper tour in London or Lizzie Borden’s house in Fall River Ma.
- Graveyards- Visiting a celebrity’s gravesite for example.
- Catacombs- The catacombs in Paris is popular among dark tourists.
- Nuclear Disaster Sites- Chernobyl in Ukraine is one of the world’s most popular dark tourist sites.
- Shipwrecks- Wealthy tourists have visited the Titanic. There are plenty of fascinating shipwrecks anyone can dive.
- War Zones- People travel to active war zones. A good example would be taking a trip to Syria today.
- Slums- Dharavi in Mumbai or Kibera in Nairobi are some of the largest and most well known.
Some dark tourism sites are pretty controversial. Visiting war zones and slums cause ethical concerns among some groups of people. This is something to take into consideration before you go.
For more info, check out my complete dark tourism guide.
Ecotourists visit exotic destinations to view pristine, fragile, and undisturbed natural environments. Visiting places that have not been affected by human interference. The goal is to experience these places while leaving as little impact on the environment as possible.
Ecotourists aim to leave the environment as it was or better than when they arrived. The focus is on conservation. Ecotourists try to improve the well being of the environment and local people in the region. Ecotourism is quickly gaining in popularity as more and more people become interested in conservation and environmentalism.
One major benefit to ecotourism is that some of the money that tourists bring into the country is put into preserving the environment that they are visiting. This makes for a very sustainable form of tourism.
Popular Ecotourism Destinations
- Costa Rica- This is one of the most environmentally friendly countries on earth. The main draws of Costa Rica are rainforests, volcanoes, and both Pacific and Caribbean beaches. The country also has incredible biodiversity. The Costa Rican government works very hard to preserve nature and the environment through legislation and the development of sustainable forms of energy.
- Galapagos Islands, Ecuador- Made famous by Charles Darwin, the Galapagos Islands are famous for their unique wildlife. Ecuador enforces strict guidelines for visitors in order to maintain the natural environment of the islands.
- Antarctica- The least-visited continent and one of the most untouched places on earth. Antarctica is an expensive but rewarding destination for ecotourists. The best way to get there is by cruise from Ushuaia, Argentina.
- Alaska- Also called The Last Frontier, Alaska is known for its vast stretches of tundra and wildlife. Visit national parks, glaciers, fjords, and mountains in this beautiful state. Ecotourism here is becoming increasingly popular.
- The Amazon Rainforest- This rainforest has the highest biodiversity of any place on the planet. Unfortunately, it is being destroyed at an unbelievable rate. Ecotourism practiced properly can help to save this special environment, even if only in a small way. You can visit the Amazon in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, or Bolivia.
Voluntourism is a combination of tourism and volunteering. A voluntourist travels to a destination to do volunteer work. Usually for a charity organization. In their off time, voluntourists usually explore their travel destination like a normal tourist.
The volunteer work could be building homes, working in agriculture, teaching, etc. Anyone can take a volunteer vacation but you really need to have an in-demand skill for the work to be worthwhile.
This is one of the more controversial types of tourism. Before taking a volunteer vacation, you have to do your homework to make sure that your work will be worthwhile. Sometimes volunteer work can do more harm than good.
Popular Voluntourism Destinations
Volunteering opportunities can be found all over the world. Generally, you’ll find more openings in developing countries than in developed countries. A few of the most popular voluntourism destinations include:
- East and Southern Africa- You will find plenty of voluntourism opportunities in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya in schools and small farming operations.
- South and Southeast Asia- Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand are popular destinations for voluntourists.
- Central and South America- Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and Ecuador offer plenty of volunteer opportunities.
A few arguments against voluntourism include:
- It takes jobs from locals- If the work is unskilled, it is easy to find local labor. Hiring locals helps out the local economy.
- It is inefficient- Flying across the world to do a job that someone who lives there could do doesn’t make any sense. Instead of spending money on an actual project, you are spending money on travel and room and board.
- Many charity organizations are corrupt or scams- Sadly, some charities are just businesses in disguise. They charge people to volunteer. In this case, the volunteer is the customer. Sometimes nothing of value the donations get pocketed by corrupt officials.
If you do choose to do volunteer work abroad while traveling, make sure that you understand and trust the organization that you are volunteering for.
5. Domestic Tourism
Domestic Tourism is travel within the country in which you reside. This is sometimes referred to as a staycation. The classic road trip is probably the most popular form of domestic tourism. No matter where in the world you live, you can load up your car, motorcycle, or bicycle and set out on an adventure. This is an inexpensive way to explore your home country.
This type of tourism is more common in some countries than in others. For example, domestic tourism is particularly popular in my home country, the United States. Because the country is so large and diverse, you could spend a lifetime traveling domestically and still not see it all.
Domestic travel options are more limited in smaller countries. Having said that, regardless of where you live, there are probably dozens of interesting sites to visit within a couple of hours of your home.
Benefits of Domestic Tourism include:
- It’s cheaper- Many domestic tourists choose to drive to their destination. This way, the only transportation expense is gas. If you choose to fly, domestic tickets are generally cheaper than international tickets.
- You get to see another side of your country- Domestic tourism allows you to experience your home as a tourist and meet your fellow countrymen.
- It’s easier and more convenient- There is no language barrier or culture shock to deal with. You don’t need any travel documents. Much less planning is required to travel domestically.
6. Medical Tourism
Medical tourism is travel for the purpose of receiving healthcare. This type of tourism is also called health tourism. A few of the most common procedures people travel include cosmetic surgery, dental care, and cancer treatment. It is becoming increasingly common for people to travel abroad to buy prescription medications as well.
An entire industry is set up around medical tourism. For example, some doctors and dentists cater to foreigners traveling to their country for treatment. They often hire English speaking staff and may even offer hotel and food packages to make the process as easy as possible.
Three reasons to take a medical tour include:
- Treatment options may be better in another country- It is common for a person to travel from a developing country to a developed country for treatment. The reason is that many developing countries can’t offer the cutting edge medical technologies and treatments that developed countries can. Medical infrastructure is better in some countries than in others.
- A specific treatment may not be available in some countries- Some countries have stricter rules than others about which treatments are approved and considered to be safe and effective. A treatment that is not yet approved in one country but may be readily available in another. For example, people sometimes travel to receive cancer treatments that have not yet been approved or proven to be effective.
- Medical treatment may be cheaper in another country- This is probably the most common reason for medical tourism. People travel to developing countries where treatments cost less. For example, many Americans travel to Mexico for healthcare. For more information, check out my guide: Healthcare in Mexico for Americans: Visiting a Clinic, Going to the Dentist, and Buying Prescriptions in Tijuana.
Popular Medical Tourism Destinations
- The United States
- Costa Rica
7. Bicycle Tourism
Bicycle tourism is travel by bicycle. The average bicycle tourist covers about 50 miles per day, camps at night, and cooks many of their own meals. All gear is carried in panniers or bikepacking bags on the bike.
The main benefit of this type of tourism is that you get to see parts of the world between cities. Most travelers just take a bus, train, or plane* from town to town and miss out on the rural areas in between. When bicycle touring, you get to see every inch of the country that you’re touring. You can smell flowers and feel the topography of the land as you cycle up and down hills.
Bicycle touring is one of the cheapest ways to travel. Accommodation and transportation costs are cut to almost nothing because you camp every night and have your own transport with your bike. You end up saving a lot of money this way. Some frugal bicycle tourists can travel on less than $500 per month.
There are several different styles of bicycle touring. Some bicycle tourists prefer off-road riding while others prefer to stay on paved paths or roads. Off-road bicycle touring is often called bikepacking. Credit card touring is bicycle touring in comfort. Most credit card tourists pack light, stay in hotels every night, and eat most meals in restaurants. Expedition bicycle tourists travel long distances through exotic countries. Some bicycle tourists spend years crossing continents and cycling around the world.
Top Bicycle Tourism Destinations
- Pamir Highway- This is probably the top bicycle touring destination. Here, you can experience the beautiful mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
- Patagonia- Travel through the rugged south of Argentina and Chile and explore Torres del Paine, Tierra del Fuego and many other spectacular destinations in the region. The most famous roads include Ruta 40 and Carretera Austral.
- Trans America- Travel across the United States. Most cyclists ride west to east starting in Oregon.
- US Pacific Coast- Travel from Canada to Mexico through the beautiful coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California.
- Nordkapp, Norway (North Cape)- This is the northernmost point in Europe that can be accessed by road.
- Alaska to Argentina- This long-distance rouge takes you across North and South America. Most cyclists take 18-24 months to complete the route.
- Europe to Asia- This popular route takes you across Eurasia. Many cyclists start their tour in their homes in Europe and end in China or Singapore.
- Cairo to Cape Town- This hardcore trip takes you across the entire continent of Africa. Check out my guide How to Plan a Cairo to Cape Town Trip for more info.
- Round the World- A great bucket list trip for bicycle tourists. Check out my guide: How to Plan a Round The World Trip for more info.
8. Sex Tourism
This controversial type of tourism involves traveling for the purpose of having sex in different countries around the world. People may choose to do this because prostitution isn’t legal in their home country. Some people wish to fulfill a fantasy that they can’t achieve in real life. Others travel abroad for sex because it is cheaper than in their home country. This type of tourism is much more popular among men but women participate as well.
Popular Sex Tourism Destinations
- The Netherlands
- The Philippines
- Dominican Republic
9. Motorcycle Tourism
Motorcycle tourism is travel by motorcycle. This is a great way to see the world because you always have your own transportation. This means you don’t have to rely on buses or trains. You can stop wherever you want. The absolute freedom is hard to beat. Maybe the biggest benefit of motorcycle tourism is simply the fact that motorcycles are cool. You will make friends everywhere you go.
Adventure touring bikes are probably the most popular these days due to their comfort and off-road capabilities. You can explore places that the average cruiser or touring bike can’t reach. My last bike was a Suzuki DR 650. I regret selling it.
There are drawbacks to motorcycle tourism. Getting started traveling by motorcycle is pretty expensive. You have to buy a bike, protective riding gear, and learn to ride. This sets you back a minimum of a few thousand dollars before you even hit the road.
Some countries also require that you have a carnet du passage to enter with a vehicle. This is a bureaucratic process and also costs money. Shipping the bike between countries is a hassle and expensive as well. Motorcycle tourism is generally not for budget travelers.
Traveling between continents on a motorcycle is also a hassle. It usually involves putting the bike in a crate and shipping it. You can’t just hop on a plane to your next destination.
If you are on a tight budget, there is one way that you can experience motorcycle tourism on the cheap. Starting at about $150, you can buy your own motorcycle in Vietnam and ride it around much of Southeast Asia. For a step-by-step guide to doing this, check out my Guide to buying a motorcycle and riding through Vietnam.
10. Cultural Tourism
Cultural tourism is a form of travel where the goal is to experience and learn about different country’s or people’s culture. On a culture tour, you may engage with local people’s:
- Holidays and festivals
- Food and drinks
- and more
Culture is interesting because it varies so widely. In some parts of the world, you can travel just a few miles down the road and people completely change. They may speak a different language, eat different food, and pray to different gods. Human culture is diverse. Sometimes even shocking.
Cultural Tourism Activities
- Visit museums- Learn about the history view the art of the local people.
- Try local restaurants- Sample the local food.
- Visit churches and other religious centers- Learn about the religious beliefs of the locals-
- Meet people inside their homes- See how people live day-to-day.
- Read books about the region- Lear about the origin of the local people and how their society has changed over time.
- Visit during a local holiday, festival or celebration- Experience how the locals party and celebrate.
- Study the local language- Learning a few words can help you get to know the local people and understand the culture.
Cultural Tourism Destinations
Every country has a different culture to learn about. You may find some more interesting than others depending on where you come from. A few of the most popular countries for cultural tourist to visit include:
- The United States
11. Rural Tourism
These days, most of the world’s population lives in cities. Some travelers like to take a break from fast-paced and stressful urban lifestyle and travel to slower-moving rural areas. This is rural tourism. This usually involves living a rural lifestyle.
This type of tourism has a lot of overlap with cultural tourism and ecotourism. Because rural areas don’t offer many major tourist attractions, you’ll mostly spend your time learning about and experience rural lifestyle. You’ll also spend much of your time enjoying the outdoors.
Rural Tourism Activities
- Learning about agriculture- Wine tours or working with animals for example.
- Outdoor activities- Hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, etc.
- Relaxing- Read a book, take a walk, or enjoy the sun.
- Getting to know the local people- See culture tourism.
Where to Stay in Rural Areas
Accommodation options are more limited in rural places. There just aren’t enough people to support a big chain hotel. Places you may stay include:
- B&Bs- Most rural communities have a small bed and breakfast where travelers can stay. These are usually just rooms in houses.
- Small town hotel or motel- You could stay in the nearest town or village with a hotel.
- Homestay- People living in rural areas tend to be friendly and open. Many villages welcome visitors to stay in their homes with their families.
- Camping- This is a great low-cost option. In most rural areas, you can easily find a place to pitch your tent. Many times it’s even free.
Best Destinations for Rural Tourism
Every country except for a few city-states has some rural areas where tourists can visit. Some of the more popular rural tourism destinations include:
- The United States
- Costa Rica
- Much of Africa
12. Tribal Tourism
Tribal tourism involves travel to visit tribes or indigenous people that have had little contact with the outside world. The goal is to experience the culture and lifestyle of the locals. These areas are becoming rarer and rarer as the world becomes more developed and connected. There are only a few regions left on the planet where you can take an authentic tribal tour.
Many of the world’s tribes are no longer authentic. The people wear traditional clothing and basically put on a show for tourists. They may dance and perform ceremonies that their ancestors did. While it is interesting to see, it isn’t really authentic. There are a handful of places left where you can experience a real and thriving tribal culture.
This is another controversial form of tourism. Many people argue that tourism to these regions is voyeuristic. Like looking at animals in a zoo. Some complain that visiting these tribes degrades their culture. After all, local people will be introduced to modern ways of living and thinking. These are valid points that should be considered before visiting. Is it ethical to visit tribal regions? I’ll let you decide.
Tribal Tourism Destinations
- The Omo Valley of Ethiopia- This incredibly diverse region in Southwestern Ethiopia is home to dozens of unique tribes. For a step-by-step guide to visiting, check out my guide: How to Visit the Omo Valley Independently and on a Budget. It includes everything you need to know about getting there from Addis Ababa, costs, etiquette, hotel recommendations, guides, and more.
- Papua New Guinea- The tribes of New Guinea are some of the most unique culturally. To visit, you’ll most likely have to hire a guide or join a tour group. For more information, check out this great article from Lonely Planet.
- The Amazon- To visit the tribes of the Amazon, you have several options. The best places to start are can Brazil, Peru, or Venezuela. Tours can also be organized from Colombia or Ecuador. For information on visiting the tribes of the Amazon from Ecuador, check out this article from Condé Nast Traveler.
- India- Hundreds of fascinating tribes inhabit the country.
13. Business Tourism
Business tourism is travel for the purpose of doing business. Some companies send employees abroad for meetings, conferences, consulting, negotiation, etc. While on a business tour, an employee still doing work, just away from the office or home. During time off, a business tourist may have time to visit the tourist sites of the region that they are visiting.
This type of tourism is different from being an expat, digital nomad, or living abroad because it is only temporary. Generally, a business tourist is someone who is working abroad for one year or less. Business tourists generally stay in hotels or accommodation provided by the company that they work for.
Business is conducted all over the world. This type of travel is slightly less common than it used to be because of the internet. Many meetings can be conducted online over video.
14. Birth Tourism
Birth Tourism is a controversial form of tourism where a pregnant woman travels to a foreign country to give birth to her child. The main reason for this practice is so the child obtains citizenship in the country where it was born. Once the child has citizenship, the parents will generally use it as a means of obtaining citizenship for themselves. The baby is often referred to as an anchor baby.
Laws vary from country to country. In the past, birth tourism was much more common. Laws were much less strict and allowed pretty much anyone born within the country’s borders to become citizens from birth.
These days, most countries either don’t allow birth tourism or don’t grant citizenship to children born there unless they meet specific requirements. Usually, one of the parents also has to hold citizenship in order for the child to be eligible for citizenship. Birth tourism is still common in North and South America but has been abolished in most of the rest of the world.
15. Sports Tourism
Sports Tourism is defined as travel for the purpose of watching or participating in a sporting event. This type of tourism could involve professional sports, armature sports, team sports, or individual sports. This type of tourism is one of the fastest-growing tourism sectors. Some of the world’s biggest events cater to sports tourists. These include:
- Olympics Games
- World Cup
- Super Bowl
- Grand Prix
- Tour de France
- World Series
- and many more
Anyone who travels to watch a football game, basketball game, tennis match, auto race, etc. is also considered a sports tourist.
Those who travel to participate in sports are considered active sports tourists. The players and coaches and support all fall into this category of tourist. Some tourists travel to participate in extreme sports like skydiving, mountain climbing, mountain biking, surfing, skateboarding. These are also sports tourists.
16. Slum Tourism
Slum tourism, also called ghetto tourism, involves travel to some of the poorest neighborhoods around the world. Tourists come to see what life is like for the poorest people on earth. Mostly out of curiosity.
This type of tourism is not new. It originated in the 19th century in the slums of New York and London where wealthy tourists would travel to see how the impoverished lived in the two cities. These days, slum tourism almost exclusively occurs in the developing world.
Slum tourism is another controversial type of tourism. Many people claim that it is unethical to tour slums because it basically treats people like zoo animals. You are essentially entertaining yourself by touring areas where people are living in extreme poverty. Traveling to people watch just doesn’t sit well with some.
While I understand this argument, these neighborhoods are public places where anyone is free to wander. For this reason, it’s an acceptable activity in my mind. You are simply visiting a neighborhood within a city.
Slum Tourism Destinations
- Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya- This neighborhood claims to be the biggest slum in Africa. For info on visiting, check out my guide: How to Visit Kibera Without a Tour.
- Dharavi in Mumbai, India- Maybe the world’s most famous slums and also one of the biggest. This is where the 2008 movie Slumdog Millionaire takes place.
- Favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil- For safety reasons, visiting the favelas is best done on an organized tour.
- Townships in South Africa- These are segregated communities outside of South African cities that were created during apartheid times.
- Skid Row, Los Angeles, California- This area contains possibly the largest homeless populations in the United States. Around 8000 people live in tents and in the street in this little square of downtown Los Angeles. This is one of the only slum tourism destinations in the developed world.
17. Geneology Tourism
Genealogy tourism is a type of tourism where travelers visit the places their ancestors came from. This could be recent ancestry or distant ancestry. This type of tourism is much more common in countries with a high level of emigration.
Genealogy tourism is quickly growing in popularity because of the rise in interest in DNA testing from companies like Ancestry.com and 23andme.com. For less than $100 people can find out exactly where in the world their ancestors originated. As the technology develops, these services get more and more accurate. In some cases, they can pinpoint exact villages where your ancestors lived hundreds of years ago.
Some genealogy tourists visit places where they have much more recent roots. For example, if a couple immigrated to another country before having children, their child may wish to visit their parent’s homeland later in life. This is also considered genealogy tourism. In this case, the person may have living relatives in the place that they are visiting.
18. Package Tourism (Group Tourism)
Package tourism is a type of travel where accommodation, transportation, and excursions are combined and sold in a single package. Sometimes meals, drinks, and guides are also included. This can be a private tour or a group tour. A package tour is also called a package vacation or package holiday.
The main draw of this type of tourism is the simplicity. You pay once and everything is done for you. It’s easy and stress-free. You don’t have to worry about finding a hotel, choosing a restaurant, or struggling to figure out public transportation systems. This is a style of tourism many beginner travelers choose to participate in because it requires basically zero planning.
Drawbacks to Package Tourism
- It takes away your freedom- With package tours, you’re pretty much stuck on a schedule. You can’t choose your own hotel, restaurant, or activity. Everything is pre-planned.
- Annoying people in your group- If you are traveling in a group, you may end up traveling with people that you just don’t like. Some people are entitled, some are picky, and some are just plain annoying. If you are on a private tour, however, this isn’t a problem.
- Bad guides- I have had some bad experiences with guides in my travels. Many give inaccurate facts, don’t know what they are talking about, or just don’t care about their jobs. Getting stuck with a bad guide on your packaged tour could ruin the whole trip.
- Expensive- Package tours almost always cost more than traveling independently.
Packaged Tourism Destinations
You can take a packaged tour wherever you want to go. Cruises and large resorts are popular packaged tour options. A handful of countries only allow tourists to visit if they are traveling on a packaged tour. These countries include:
- Bhutan- Most tourists must participate in a government authorized packaged tour. Prices start from $230-$290 per day and go up from there depending on the activities you choose and the style of accommodation.
- North Korea- Mot tourists are required to be on a packaged tour. Tourists must be accompanied by a government minder.
- Iran- Many nationalities are required to be a part of a tour group in order to obtain a visa. Some nationalities are allowed to travel independently.
- Turkmenistan- This central Asian country requires that you travel with a guide. The only exception is if you are able to secure a transit visa.
- Antarctica- Tourists must visit with a guide.
Many travelers choose to take packaged tours to Africa. Check out my guide to overland tours vs independent travel for more info.
19. Culinary Tourism (Food Tourism)
Culinary tourism, also called food tourism, is travel for the purpose of exploring different types of food and drinks around the world. Many travelers consider a destination’s cuisine to be as important as the climate, scenery, or accommodation. The popularity of culinary tourism has exploded over the past decade.
Culinary Tourism Activities
- Trying different restaurants- Some travelers plan their trips about eating at one specific restaurant. For example, Michelin star restaurants are popular destinations.
- Taking cooking classes- Learn how to cook a new cuisine or dish at home. For example, Thai cooking classes are incredibly popular.
- Food festivals- Around the world, festivals are held to celebrate specific foods. Most large cities hold some type of annual food and drink festival. You’ll also find festivals that celebrate specific foods.
- Trying new foods- Sampling foods that you haven’t tried before is a major part of culinary tourism. This is one of my favorite things to do while traveling.
- Alcohol tasting- Including wine tasting, beer tasting, whiskey tasting, etc.
Tasting different recipes of the same foods- Some dishes have many variations around a country. Try them all to find your favorite.
Culinary Tourism Destinations
Pretty much every country has at least one decent dish to try. Having said that, some countries just have better food than others. This could be for a number of reasons. Some parts of the world have benefited from trade and migration. New people come and bring their favorite foods along with them. Over the years, fusions develop and a new cuisine is born. Some parts of the world are just lucky and have unique flavors available in their region. Some of the top countries for food tourism include:
- France- Probably the top culinary tourism destination in the world. France has some of the best restaurants in the world. The quality level of the food here is top notch. Also known for the selection of cheeses and some of the best wines in the world.
- Italy- Everyone loves Italian food.
- China- The country offers an incredibly varied and delicious cuisine. Because the country is so large, Chinese food comes in a staggering number of varieties. Dishes vary greatly from region to region.
- Thailand- Some of the best curries and excellent street food. This is a great destination for culinary tourists on a budget.
- India- This is the top destination for vegetarians. Options are endless. India has some of the best curries and spices. Street food here is also incredible. The food is also very affordable. For meat-eaters, options are a bit limited.
- Mexico- A very complex cuisine. Specialties vary by region. Try Oaxaca for the best Mexican food. For tacos, head to Tijuana. This is probably my favorite cuisine.
- Ethiopia- In general, East African food isn’t too interesting, in my opinion. Ethiopia is different. The country has a very unique and tasty cuisine.
- The United States- Due to a large amount of immigration, you can find restaurants serving pretty much any cuisine you can think of in the US. Portion sizes are also generous. San Francisco and New York are the top food tourism destinations in the country.
- Japan- Another favorite. Some of the finest seafood in the world is found in Japan.
20. Wellness Tourism
Wellness tourism is travel for the purpose of increasing your health. This could be physical health or mental health. Wellness tourism often involves some sort of spiritual activity like yoga, meditation, or prayer for example.
This is similar to medical tourism with one major difference. Wellness tourists generally don’t have anything in particular wrong with their health. They travel to maintain or improve their quality of life in general. The goal is often to prevent future health problems. This style of tourism focuses on low stress and relaxation.
Wellness Tourism Activities
- Spa treatments- Great for relieving stress and relaxation.
- Cruises- A stress-free way to see the world.
- Resort stays- As the wellness tourism industry grows, many resorts are offering wellness-related activities.
- Medical treatments- Some clinics offer alternative treatments to improve health and well-being.
- Meditation- A popular stress-relieving activity that promotes mental health.
Yoga- Promotes physical and mental health.
- Exercise- Many people don’t get enough exercise during their normal life. Vacations are a great time to develop new healthy habits. Nature hiking is a popular form of wellness exercise.
- Prayer- Wellness tourism can integrate some religious activities.
While it is generally agreed upon that vacationing is good for health and well-being, it has not yet been established whether wellness-related activities offer any benefit over normal vacation activities. Many of these activities can be fun and relaxing, but offer no benefits after the vacation is over.
Top Destinations for Wellness Tourism
Wellness tourism is currently a very niche market. North America currently has the largest wellness tourism infrastructure followed by Europe. A few top destinations include:
- British Colombia, Canada
- Costa Rica
21. Recreational Drug Tourism
Recreational drug tourism is travel for the reason of purchasing or using drugs. People travel to use drugs because they are illegal, difficult to obtain, or more expensive in their own country. This is different from medical tourism where people may travel to purchase prescription drugs. In the case of recreational drug tourism, the drugs are not for health purposes, rather just for fun.
Recreational Drug Tourism Destinations
- The United States- Particularly Colorado, California, Washington State
- Canada- Particularly British Colombia
- The Netherland- Marijuana is decriminalized.
- Peru- Ayahuasca tours in the Amazon rainforest are popular.
This is a very controversial type of tourism because many people around the world are against the use of drugs for moral, religious, or economic reasons.
22. Nautical Tourism
Nautical tourism as a type of travel involving boating. This includes both motor boating and sailing. A few popular nautical tourism activities include:
- Cruising- Travel from port to port by boat. A vacation on a cruise ship can also be considered nautical tourism.
- Sailing- If you know how to sail, you can rent a sailboat at yacht clubs around the world. Sailing lessons are also popular in warm weather destinations.
- Regattas- Travel for boat racing.
- Attending boat shows- Some tourists travel to view classic wooden boats.
Top Nautical Tourism Destinations
Nautical tourism is most popular during the summer and in warm weather destinations. You can go on a nautical tour anywhere where there is a body of water. This includes oceans, lakes, or rivers. The Caribbean and Mediterranean are probably the most popular regions for nautical tourism.
23. Agritourism (Agrotourism)
Agritourism is travel which involves agriculture. Generally, this means visiting a farm or ranch. This style of tourism is quickly growing as people become more and more interested in the foods they eat and where they come from. Sustainability is a big part of agritourism.
- Farm stays- This generally means staying on a farm and working. Farm work is a good way to clear the mind and learn new skills. It is also a method backpackers and budget travelers use to expand the length of their trip. Websites such as WWOOF International and Workaway allow travelers to work in exchange for room and board. Farm work is a popular option because everyone can contribute in some way.
- Buying meat, eggs, or produce directly from a farm or ranch– Some people like to know exactly where their food comes from. Traveling to purchase fresh or organic food can be made into a vacation.
- Picking fruits and veggies- Visiting a farm and harvesting your own food can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. As a bonus, you know that the food is fresh. Strawberries, pumpkins, and cherries are popular crops you can harvest.
- Working with animals- Collecting chicken eggs, milking cows, feeding pigs, etc.
- Learning new skills- Agritourism can be an educational activity. For example, you could learn about planting seeds, raising animals, harvesting produce, etc. Learning how food is made and where it comes from can be fascinating.
- Wine tasting- Visiting vineyards and learning about wines and how they are made is a popular activity in many regions throughout the world.
- Staying at a bed and breakfast- Vacationing in rural areas offers a different experience from the city. See rural tourism above for more info.
- Beekeeping- Visit an apiary and learn about how honey is made.
Popular Agritourism Destinations
Pretty much every country has agricultural regions that you can visit. A few of the best agritourism destinations include:
- The United States- Farming and ranching is a big part of American culture. The US is the top destination for agritourism.
- Canada- A large country with plenty of rural areas to explore.
- Australia- Many backpackers visit Australia on working holiday visas. They spend part of their time working on farms and ranches. This is a style of agritourism.
- France- The top wine destination in the world.
24. Religious Tourism
This is one of the most ancient forms of tourism. Religious tourism, also known as faith tourism, is travel relating to one’s faith. This could be an individual or group activity. Non-religious people can also participate in religious tourism by visiting religious sites and learning about the history of the religion.
Religious Tourism Activities
- Pilgrimages- This is a journey that is usually made for religious purposes. This is the most common type of religious tourism. It is estimated that around 300 million people participate in pilgrimages each year.
- Missionary work- Many religious require that their members take time to travel to spread the ideas of their religion.
- Faith-based vacations- This includes cruises, resorts, camps, etc which cater to people belonging to a certain religion.
- Religious conventions or rallies- Some religions hold meetings where members from around the world can get together.
- Visits to holy cities- Vatican City, Jerusalem, and Varanasi are examples of holy cities which are popular with religious tourists.
- Visits to shrines, churches, monasteries, temples, or any religious site- This is a religious tourism activity that non-religious people participate in. Everyone can appreciate the architecture of a beautiful cathedral or ancient religious structure.
Popular Religious Tourism Destinations
- Vatican City- St. Peter’s Basilica sees about 7 million visitors per year.
- Jerusalem, Israel- The Western Wall is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism.
- Mecca, Saudi Arabia- Muslims from around the world make the pilgrimage to the Great Mosque of Mecca each year for Hajj. Up to 5 million Muslims make this pilgrimage each year.
- Varanasi, India- Over 21 million religious tourists travel to Varanasi to visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple each year.
- Mexico City, Mexico- Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe receives around 20 million visitors per year.
- Paris, France- Notre Dame Cathedral receives almost 14 million visitors per year.
25. Solo Tourism (Solo Travel)
Solo Tourism is any kind of travel that is done alone. This means without a guide and without any friends or family. You organize everything by yourself including transportation, accommodation, and activities. You choose what you eat and how you organize your days. A solo tour can be a simple weekend getaway or a multi-year sabbatical.
Reasons to Travel Alone
- Getting out of your comfort zone- When you’re traveling alone, nothing is familiar. This is a great experience if you’ve fallen into a routine that you don’t enjoy.
- The feeling of independence- When traveling alone, you rely on yourself for everything. If you get into a situation, you have to find a way to get yourself out of it. This leads to a feeling of accomplishment.
- The absolute freedom- There is no one there to tell you what to do. If you feel like going out for pizza, no one can stop you. If you feel like catching a bus and heading east, that is your decision to make.
- No one else to travel with- Sometimes it’s difficult to find a travel buddy for certain trips. Rather than not going at all, you may prefer to travel alone. For example, when I went to Africa, I knew that none of my friends would have any interest in tagging along so I happily went solo.
Drawbacks of Solo Tourism
- Doing things alone- After years of solo travel, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable spending time with myself. With that being said, I still have trouble going to bars alone. I just don’t find it very fun.
- You have to be more careful- If you get sick or injured while traveling alone, it’s up to you to make sure you make it to a hospital or clinic for treatment. No one else is going to help you. For more info, check out my guide: Is Solo Travel Safe? Avoiding Crime and Scams.
- Some people think it’s strange- There is a bit of a negative stigma to solo travel. For whatever reason, some people just don’t get it.
For help deciding whether or not this type of tourism is for you, check out my guide: Solo Travel Vs. Groups Travel: My Pros and Cons List
Top Solo Tourism Destinations
- Southeast Asia- From my experience, this region contains the greatest concentration of solo travelers. Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia are all popular destinations in the region. Southeast Asia is also affordable and easy to get around. One thing I love about this destination is the street food. It allows me to enjoy the cuisine without having to eat in restaurants alone.
- Western Europe- This is another region that sees a large number of solo travelers. It’s also incredibly easy to get around with the extensive train and bus network. Hostels are available in almost every decent-sized city.
- Central and South America- These regions see a lot of tourists. They are also affordable and easy to get around.
- India- An affordable country to travel with great transportation infrastructure, world-class food, and a fascinating culture.
26. Extreme Tourism
This is a type of tourism which involves travel to dangerous areas or participating in dangerous sports or events. In most cases the danger is not real, rather perceived. The goal is an adrenaline rush. Extreme tourism is very similar to adventure tourism.
Extreme Tourism Activities
- Bungee jumping
- White water rafting
- Mountain climbing
- SCUBA diving
- Shark cage diving
Top Extreme Tourism Destinations
Generally, extreme tourism activities take place in the mountains or the ocean. A few popular destinations include:
- The United States
- New Zealand
27. LGBT Tourism
Also called Gay tourism, LGBT tourism is a type of travel designed for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Unfortunately, many countries around the world are dangerous or unwelcoming to LGBT people so they must put extra care when traveling or planning a vacation for the following reasons:
- Some countries criminalize homosexuality- This is particularly common in African and middle eastern countries. For example, in Uganda, homosexuality is punishable with life in prison. When I was traveling in Ethiopia, I asked a guy how gay people are treated in the country. He explained to me that the punishment for being gay is 18 years in prison. This is basically a death penalty though because they would never survive 18 years in an Ethiopian prison.
- Some businesses do not serve gay people- Even in my home country, the United States, there are stories of bakeries refusing to make wedding cakes for gay couples. Around the world, many hotels and restaurants refuse service to gay people.
- In some regions, local people are violent against gays- This happens in many regions across the world.
Popular LGBT Tourism Destinations
- Pride parades
- LGBT friendly cities and neighborhoods
28. Experimental Tourism
In an experimental tour, destinations and itineraries are chosen based on a game, idea, or experiment. This often involves some kind of humor or chance. Examples of experimental tourism include:
- Throwing a dart at a map and going wherever it lands- This is probably the most classic example of experimental tourism.
- Walking down a street and turn in alternate directions at each corner- For example, turn left on the first corner, turn right at the next, etc.
- Going to the airport and buying the next available ticket- Another classic example.
- Going to a popular tourist site and taking a photo in the opposite direction- This gives you a different perspective of your destination.
- Traveling separately to the same city with a friend and finding each other once you arrive- This turns travel into a game of hide and seek.
- Taking a map of the region you are visiting and randomly selecting a location on the map grid then going there- Similar to throwing a dart.
- Visiting multiple locations of a particular business- For example, this experimental tourist has traveled to over 14,000 Starbucks locations around the world.
For more info on experimental tourism including its history and some more examples, check out this extensive article from Medium.com.
29. Danger Tourism
Similar to extreme tourism, danger tourism involves travel to dangerous places or participating in dangerous events or activities. In this type of tourism, there is a real risk of injury or death involved.
Examples of Danger Tourism
- Travel to regions that are at war or in states of unrest- Visiting Syria during the civil war or visiting Somalia, for example.
- Travel to regions where terrorists are known to operate- Traveling to Northern Nigeria, for example.
- Participating in extreme sports- Diving with sharks without a cage or wingsuit diving, for example.
- Travel to high crime cities or regions- Visiting Caracas, Venezuela or Tijuana, Mexico for example.
- Traveling through inhospitable regions- Antarctica or the Sahara, for example.
There is a certain level of risk in all travel. Some trips are just on another level. In a danger tour, there is some chance that you are injured or killed.
30. Suicide Tourism
This isn’t a type of tour you want to go on, but I’ll describe it anyway because it is a type of tourism that, sadly, seems to be growing. Also known as euthanasia tourism, suicide tourism is traveling with the intent of committing suicide.
The main reason people choose to travel to commit suicide is because in some countries physician-assisted suicide is legal. Some countries sell drugs over the counter that can be used to commit suicide.
Suicide Tourism Destinations
- Switzerland- The law allows the right to assisted suicide to foreigners.
- The Netherlands- Dutch law permits physician-assisted suicide in some cases.
- Mexico- A particular drug, which is manufactured to euthanize pets, is sometimes purchased by humans trying to commit suicide.
- The United States- Currently Oregon and Washington have laws that allow residents the right to euthanasia under a strict set of circumstances.
31. Disaster Tourism
Disaster tourism is travel to a location where an environmental disaster is currently occurring or has recently occurred. This disaster could be man-made or natural. Most tourists choose to visit these destinations out of curiosity. Viewing an area that has been destroyed is interesting in a morbid kind of way. Looting could also be a motivation for criminals.
Examples of Disasters
- Oil spill
- Terrorist attack
- War zone
- Nuclear accident
- Accidental explosion
This is a controversial type of tourism. There are two schools of thought when it comes to the ethics of disaster tourism. Some people believe that it is immoral for tour companies to profit off of the bad fortune of others. Also that it is voyeuristic to essentially people watch during a low point in someone’s life.
Others say that disaster is good because it allows people to see first hand what exactly is happening. This raises awareness and allows people to be empathetic to fellow human beings going through a rough time. Disaster tourism may also stimulate the local economy during a time where money is needed.
Both sides have a point. In my opinion, disaster tourism is fine as long as you aren’t adding to the suffering by making the life of the victims harder. For example, looting during a disaster situation is unacceptable.
Disaster Tourism Destinations
- The site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster- This is probably the most famous disaster tourism destination. Even though it’s been over 30 years since the meltdown, the region is still suffering from the effects of radiation. Most tourists visit the site on organized tours from Kyiv.
- New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina- Even after almost 15 years, effects from the hurricane can still be seen in the city. Organized tours take visitors to different neighborhoods to teach about the events and history of the city.
- Pompeii- The city was destroyed during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Today, over 2.5 million tourists visit each year.
- The site of the Hindenburg incident- On May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg airship blew up near Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. Today, a plaque marks the site of the accident.
32. War Tourism
War tourism is defined as recreational travel to a former or active war zone. The purpose is usually to better understand the history of a particular war or battle.
The most common form of war tourism is travel to battlegrounds from famous wars. At these sites, you’ll find plaques, museums, artifacts, and tours of the actual battle sites.
Some hardcore travelers choose to visit active war zones for the thrill and unique experience. Of course, this practice is incredibly dangerous and controversial.
War Tourism Destinations
- WWI Battlegrounds- Including Verdun, Somme, Ypres, and more.
- WWII Sites- Including the site of the D day landing in Normandy, Oradour-Sur-Glane in France, Warsaw Ghetto, Concentration camps, Anne Frank’s House, Oscar Schindler’s factory in Krakow, and many more.
- US Civil War Battlegrounds- Including Fort Sumter, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, and more.
- Active war zones- A few possible destinations include Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Some sources also consider parts of Mexico to be active war zones in the war on drugs.
33. Urban Exploration Tourism
Urban exploration is a type of tourism that involves exploring man-made structures. Usually, these are places that have been abandoned and left to sit for long periods without any upkeep. These sites are in a state of ruin and decay. Urban exploration can also involve visiting sites that are just hidden or difficult to access.
This type of tourism usually involves trespassing and can result in fines or punishment. There can be some danger involved as well. Dilapidated buildings may not be structurally sound. It would be easy to fall and injure yourself. You could inadvertently expose yourself to asbestos as well as toxic chemicals and gasses. There is a high level of risk involved.
Urban Exploration Tourism Destinations
- Abandonments- Visiting abandoned places of any kind including houses, factories, asylums, amusement parks, schools, etc. are all forms of urban exploration tourism. For example, some tourists visit Detroit to view the large number of homes and factories that were abandoned during the population decline of the city. Japan also has a large amount of abandoned infrastructure due to its rapid industrialization and economic decline of the late 80s and early 90s. The Salton Sea in California is another popular destination to view abandoned homes, roads, and other infrastructure.
- Rooftops- Some urban explorers climb to the top of buildings and structures to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the area. These structures could be in use or vacant.
- Catacombs- A number of cities have underground catacombs including Paris, Odessa, Rome, and Naples. Explorers usually find an entrance and visit parts of the tunnels that are not open to tourists.
- Tunnels- Utility and transit tunnels are popular areas for urban explorers to visit. They seek out an access location, enter the tunnel, and begin exploration. Many large institutions like hospitals and universities have utility tunnels. Large cities have transit tunnels where underground trains run. These tunnels could be in use or abandoned.
- Sewers and storm drains- This type of urban exploration involves finding an entrance to a city’s underground water and waste management system.
34. Budget Tourism (Budget Travel)
Budget tourism involves travel on a low budget. Limiting your budget can be done for the purpose of adventure or simply due to a lack of funds. Budget tourism proves that you don’t have to be wealthy to travel.
Backpackers are the most common type of budget tourist. This style of travel involves traveling by public transportation and staying in hostel dorms most nights. Bicycle tourists, hitchhikers, vagabonds, campers, and hikers can also be considered budget tourists.
The budget depends on where you’re traveling and how many comforts you’re willing to give up. Some travelers can get by on $5-$10 per day. This is what I would consider budget travel. Other travelers consider $100 per day to be a low budget. The average budget tourist probably spends somewhere around $1000 per month on average.
A few ways to cut your travel budget include:
- Hitchhiking- This is a great way to cut your transportation budget. In much of the world, it’s easy to get a free ride between cities. In some places, you’re expected to help with gas money.
- Wild camping- If you travel with a shelter and sleeping bag, you can sleep for free in many places around the world. Sometimes this is legal and sometimes it’s not.
- Foraging- If you’re familiar with the local flora, you can harvest many types of berries, mushrooms, nuts, etc. This can help you cut your food budget.
- Couchsurfing- Another great way to cut your accommodation budget. Several websites exist which can help you find a host including Couchurfing.com and Warmshowers.org.
- Walking and Cycling- Cut your transportation budget by traveling under your own power.
- Cooking your own food- It’s much cheaper to buy groceries and cook for yourself than to eat in restaurants. Even if you don’t have a kitchen, you can cook up some basic meals in your hotel room.
Budget Tourism Destinations
- India- This is the ultimate budget tourism destination. Shoestring travelers can get by on as little as $15 per day while maintaining a comfortable diet and lifestyle.
- Southeast Asia- This is the top destination for budget tourists. It’s fairly easy to get by on $15-$20 per day and live in relative comfort. The cheapest countries in the region include Cambodia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia are also very affordable to travel.
- Central America- This is another incredibly affordable region. It’s possible to get by on around $20 per day in most of the region. Some of the cheaper countries include Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Costa Rica and Panama are not budget destinations.
- Eastern Europe- This region isn’t the cheapest but it offers excellent value. Some of the cheaper countries include Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, Albania, and Macedonia.
- Africa- This is probably the cheapest continent to travel if you’re willing to forego many modern comforts and skip the expensive tours. Some of the cheapest countries include Ethiopia, Uganda, Malawi, Egypt, Morocco, and Ghana.
35. Space Tourism
This type of tourism involves travel to space for recreational purposes. This could mean orbital, suborbital, or lunar space.
So far, only a handful of people have traveled to space recreationally. Between 2001 and 2009, the Russian Space Agency allowed civilians to travel to the International Space Station in a Soyuz spacecraft. This is no longer an option.
At this time, there are no available space tourism options but there are a few companies working on it. Within the next few years, aerospace companies like Boeing, Space X, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic plan to begin offering recreational trips into space.
Final Thoughts on the Different Types of Tourism
Traditional vacations to a resort or the beach are great but sometimes it’s nice to try something a bit different. Hopefully, this list of 35 types of tourism helps you expand your horizons while planning your next big trip.
One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t need to plan your whole trip around one type of tourism. For example, maybe you’re a foodie but you also want to give surfing a try. You can be a food tourist and extreme tourist in the same trip. Simply choose a destination that allows you to do both. Mexico would work great for this example.
I’m pretty open-minded. Personally, I always like to try something different when I travel. I believe that tourists should be able to go anywhere they want, see anything they want, and do anything they want as long as they don’t harm anyone or cause any damage to the natural environment. I always try to choose a destination that allows me to experience something that I’ve never experienced before.
What are your favorite types of tourism? Share your experience in the comments below!
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