One of the most important parts of trekking is the opportunity to experience the majesty of some of the most unique cultures in the world. Everything from the food, people, art, lifestyles, and architecture differs between each of these treks. No region feels entirely the same! The nature of Alpine cultures are historically and necessarily isolated from the more global culture that is predominant in many metropolitan areas.
Revel in the difficulty of accessing the remote villages and respect the often-historic isolation of the locals. The treks often focus on regions that have successfully preserved and celebrated for their unique cultures. Everything can change even in the distance between two isolated alpine valleys. You can observe changes from the language spoken to the entire lifestyle of the residents. Here are our favorite cultural treks!
The Atlas Mountains are the dominant mountain range in Western Africa. Nestled in the heart of Morocco, these mountains rise above the historic city of Marrakesh. In Marrakesh visitors will experience a unique cornucopia of cultural experiences. Everything from lush markets or Souqs, to opulent spice stores, await the lucky visitor to the ancient city of Marrakesh.
Of particular note for an exciting side expedition in are the Saadian Tombs, the final resting place of 66 Saadian royalty. Composed of labyrinthine corridors and courtyards this ornate mausoleum boasts stunning architecture, rich history, and a beautiful Moroccan garden. Begin your journey into the mountains towards the summit of Toubkal, the highest peak in Western Africa. The cultural experience shifts from the busy markets of Marrakesh to traditional herder villages, which are as quiet as they are isolated. They are scattered through the valleys of the desolate Atlas Mountains.
Finally, the cultural trek finishes in the town of Essaouira, a port hemmed between the desert expanse and the Atlantic. Essoaria’s ancient stone walls and port, which famously was home to marauding pirates, make the town a unique cultural experience that feels as though it has fallen from the pages of your favorite fantasy novel or show. Check out our Atlas Mountains Trek here.
This trek takes you both by foot and sea kayak between the scattered Norwegian Islands of Lofoten. Travel out to secluded bays and fjords, where the sea life is thriving. The Islands truly feel like the edge of the world. The people of Lofoten have traditionally lived a rugged lifestyle, fishing for cod and braving the stiff Norwegian winters. What has arisen from this history of survival however are some of the most stunning villages in the world.
Hike between these villages following historic fisherman’s paths which scale the steep cliffs of the Arctic fjords. Along the way you will have the opportunity to witness everything from the Arctic surfing to fishermen plying their traditional trade.
The villages in the region are simple but gorgeous. They are composed of colorful buildings which stand bravely against the arctic ocean. The lifestyle here at this northern extreme is different from anywhere else in the world. Of particular note is the village of Reine, hailed as the most beautiful village in Norway. It sits on a bay surrounded by the jagged Norwegian peaks and feels as though you have stepped directly into a classic Nordic Saga.
Bhutan, Thimphu, Linshi, and Laya Trek is the definition of what we consider a cultural trek. The remote alpine villages and temples of Bhutan hold a unique historic significance in Buddhist history, as does as the still vibrant Bhutanese culture, complete with its own dishes, traditions, and lifestyle.
Some highlights of this trek include:
Laya itself is a truly unique location. It is home to the Layap people. The is a population of only a few hundred and Laya is only accessible by foot through an ancient archway.
The remote villages of Bhutan are rarely visited by Westerners. Considering how demanding some of the routes to hike into the villages are, this leaves them relatively unaffected by modernization and tourism. This journey into the heart of the Himalaya mountains will bring you through truly remote villages. Here you will see alpine Buddhist temples and the purposefully preserved Bhutanese cities.
The Ladin region of the Italian Dolomites is one of the most unique in the world and one of our most loved cultural treks. This remote section of mountains is home to the Ladin people. They are descended from Romans who speak a language which is the closest living language to Latin. The Ladin culture still reveres its historic traditions and heroes. This includes the “Ladin Joan of Arc,”. She is a famous religious hero whose likeness is scattered in carvings and statues throughout the region.
The region’s autonomous culture is particularly impressive considering the historical effort to repress it. In the 20th century the Alta Badia became a hot zone for conflict between the Italians and Austrians during World War 1. As a result, the ghosts of this conflict are still visible in the scattered ruins, bunkers, and batteries hidden among the mountains. In the First World War, multiple nation-building projects by the Austrians and Italians would replace the Ladin names for towns and locations. Now each small alpine village has a sort of triple identity.
Of particular note to the Ladin culture is the meadow of Fanes. This is a plateaued Alpine plane (altiplano) which we spend two days journeying across. In Ladin mythology, Fanes was the location of a mythological kingdom ruled by the Lady of Fanes, who according to myth still emerges from the mountains annually to judge the people of earth and whether it is time for her Atlantean kingdom to return.