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Introducing: Intrepid Travel's Urban Adventures

Posted by at 03:46 on Monday 16 August 2010

Egyptian Spice Market, Sultanahmet, Istanbul. Photo: John SannaeeEgyptian Spice Market, Sultanahmet, Istanbul. Photo: John SannaeeIntrepid Travel - the small group adventure holiday company - has launched a series of guided city day tours.

The new Urban Adventures programme offers the chance to get under the skin of some of the world’s great cities (such as Amsterdam, London and Barcelona) as well as lesser known gems, such as Thessaloniki (Greece) and Cappadocia (Turkey).

Tours last from a couple of hours to a full day, and use the services of local guides to provide a wealth of information about a city from a local perspective.

According to Intrepid: "Urban Adventures are unique because they are designed to give travellers a unique insight into the destination as well as support local communities; their culture and the environment."

A tasty meal with a local family in Istanbul. Photo © John SannaeeA tasty meal with a local family in Istanbul. Photo © John SannaeeOn my recent trip to Turkey (see A tour of the highlights of Turkey), I sampled Intrepid’s ARCHIVED: Old & New Istanbul’ Urban Adventure, starting at the city’s busy Taksim Square – a place many tourists will find themselves at some point – where I learnt not only about its historical and political importance to the city but also the importance of a particular corner as a meeting point for locals. This was followed by a trip to a traditional teahouse, a beautiful little den that could easily be walked passed, squeezed onto a side street between international high street brands and rows of similar looking bars and cafés. Thanks to the local guide, I had the chance to taste delicious Turkish coffee in a café frequented by locals (unlike some of the tourist-orientated and marked-up options close to the Blue Mosque), and have my fortune told from the coffee grounds in the traditional manner.

A Whirling Dervish Ceremony, Bursa. Photo © John SannaeeA Whirling Dervish Ceremony, Bursa. Photo © John Sannaee

Over the last 20 years, Intrepid Travel has built up a formidable reputation in the field of adventure travel in destinations across the world. Aiming to provide holidays that are fulfilling and enlightening as well as being enjoyable, they take small groups on tours that take in off the beaten track locations as well as popular sites, offering the chance to get as much of an insight into a place and its culture as possible in a relatively short space of time. A cornerstone of Intrepid’s approach is interaction and involvement with local communities, whom they cooperate with extensively in all the countries that they run trips to, often offering tourists the chance to meet and talk with locals in settings outside of the traditional customer service dynamic.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the Urban Adventure programme is the opportunity, offered in many of the itineraries, to dine with a local family in their own home. Of course, you can taste a country’s cuisine in its restaurants for a reasonable price, but the experience of talking with a local family, receiving their hospitality and gaining an insight into the culture of a country that the Urban Adventure gives you is something far more special.

In Istanbul I dined at the home of two Kurdish families, seated on the floor in the traditional manner, and they were eager to discuss both their and our cultures. Later, in the city of Bursa, I ate a wonderful meal with a local musician and his family, who explained to us their Sufist beliefs, and I later had the chance to watch a genuine Whirling Dervish dance ceremony – an act of religious devotion that most definitely was not put on for tourists – something that was a privilege to be able to see up close, and something I definitely would not have even known there was the possibility of doing were it not for the Urban Adventures programme. This is the heart of what Intrepid are trying to achieve: cultural understanding and a true taste of life in another city... through the eyes of the locals.

Local musician Murat performs traditional music in Bursa. Photo © John SannaeeLocal musician Murat performs traditional music in Bursa. Photo © John Sannaee

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