I don’t know about you but my favourite holidays are the ones where I’ve experienced a bit of local life. Don’t get me wrong, I love chilling out by the pool as much as anyone, but if I can also make some amazing memories that I just couldn’t get elsewhere, that’s even better. The best news is, you don’t have to go backpacking to have an authentic experience.
To help you make the most of your next destination, here are some of the things I’ve learned.
1) Trying new things doesn’t have to be a big deal
Trying something new can be the key to feeling at home when you’re on holiday. Maybe you like to try regional spa treatments or get into a local sport. For me, it’s all about the food. I love finding a delicious regional dish that I’ll talk about for months afterwards. It’s so exciting to try new flavours; and such a relief when they taste great.
My favourite revelation was how mouth-watering something as simple as a Greek salad can be. I must have eaten one every day when I went to Kefalonia, they were so fresh and cool; perfect in the midday heat.
If you’re a bit worried about what to pick (especially if you don’t speak the language), you could always Google local specialities before you go away and then look out for the ones you fancy trying on the menu.
2) You don’t have to make an effort to see local life
Order a drink, sit back and watch local life passing you by. This is especially fun if you can find a table at a pavement café in a busy part of town, like the main square on market day or at the harbour. As well as giving you more of an insight into what your destination’s really like, it’s a great chance to relax, and maybe even write some postcards if you’re old school like me.
Just make sure you don’t spend your whole time looking at things through your phone camera, it’s so much better in real life.
3) Authentic hotels come in all shapes and sizes
If you can find a hotel that’s in keeping with the local area, you’re winning before you even go on holiday. It’s the best way to get an all-round authentic experience while you’re relaxing. You’ll find all sorts of lovely places to stay in Italy, for example, from small and friendly hotels in the local style to great accommodation run by local families.
You can still have an authentic experience if you prefer to stay in a bigger hotel where there’s lots going on, though. If that sounds like you, you should definitely check out SENTIDO Hotels & Resorts. They’re in lots of great destinations and each has its own individual style. Plus they serve as much local food as they can, and even run special Discovery Walks to help you get out and explore.
If you’re looking for a recommendation, it doesn’t get much better than the SENTIDO Mallorca Palace (pictured). As well as looking completely at home on the beautiful Spanish island of Majorca, it’s a great place to sample a bit of local culture; especially if you like gin. The hotel’s special gin and tonic menu is inspired by the Majorcan’s love of the spirit.
4) Go where the locals go
This is something I just don’t do often enough but it’s still one of my favourite tips. If you want to eat real local food, eat where local people eat. If you want an authentic local night out, go to the bars off the main drag. It’s the best way to see real life, and especially brilliant if you like meeting new people.
If that’s not up your street, look out for the kind of events that bring everyone out instead. Fiestas and other big celebrations happen all through the summer in some parts of the world, like Spain. Let yourself get carried along in the party mood and you’ll really feel part of things. I can guarantee you’ll be telling the story for years to come.
5) There’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple
Much as I love a good escorted excursion (they’re such a great way to see the big sights), some of my favourite holiday memories are the times I’ve done a bit of exploring under my own steam. There’s a really simple joy in hiring a car or a bike, or catching the bus, to visit out-of-the-way towns and villages where day to day life goes on as normal, even in the height of summer.
Even popular resorts and busy towns often have an old town area where you can walk along cobbled streets and get a feel for times gone by. If you’re lucky, there might be somewhere that’s completely traditional nearby. I’m really looking forward to hopping on the bus into Ciutadella when I’m in Menorca later this year; it looks like just my kind of place. So long as we can do some aimless wandering at least one day of the holiday, I’ll be more than happy.
I’d love to hear what made you fall for your favourite holiday destinations. Do you have any great memories of authentic local experiences? Tell me your story in the comments below.