Are you looking for an inspirational list of hands-on travel experiences in East Europe? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Over the past years, there has been a big trend in tourism where travellers no longer want to participate in just the standard sightseeing tours and attend so-called ‘cultural shows’, but really feel the need to get involved in experiences that are characteristic to the destination that they are visiting. This is called Creative Travel.
In this article, you can find some of the best creative travel experiences in East Europe. Keep coming back, because this list will keep growing!
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN EAST EUROPE
Creative Travel Definition
According to the Creative Tourism Network, creative travel is considered “a new generation of tourism”, that offers visitors the opportunity to “develop their creative potential through active participation in courses and learning experiences, which are characteristic of the holiday destination where they are taken”.
From volunteer travel programs and language immersion programs to cultural immersion travel experiences and real community immersion, Creative Tourism is a way of travel that really is for everyone.
Whether you travel alone, as a couple or with a family or group of friends, there are many activities around the world where that offer educational courses and workshops, creative experiences where you get to learn different art forms or even adventure activities where you interact with the local nature and people in a fun, yet authentic way.
Complete Hands-on Travel in East Europe List
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN BULGARIA
Attend the Rose Festival
Join the most popular and visited festival in Bulgaria. Well-known for its production of rose oil essence, the Thracian valley hosts people from all over the world to celebrate the rose petals picking every late May and early June.
TIP BY: Me!
“I found this tour on Get Your Guide where you begin early in the day with rose-picking in the rose gardens around Karlovo or Kazanlak. This beautiful ritual has been celebrated for over a century and includes local singing and dancing performances.
Then you visit a distillery where you get detailed explanations of the local rose traditions, distillation process, and the importance of roses for the development of the area. After a warm lunch in a traditional restaurant in a nearby village, it’s time to visit some local sights, depending on the official program of the festival.
During the festival, you are on Karlovo main square, which is the scene for many local dances and performances in traditional costumes. You get the chance to learn a little bit about the Bulgarian traditional customs with a tasting and presentation known as “The Bread of the Bulgarians”: Ritual, Customs and Faith. In the evening, you return to Sofia.”
BOOK A SIMILAR ACTIVITY:
- From Sofia: Rose Festival Full-Day Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN CROATIA
Go truffle hunting in Istria
When most people imagine traveling to Croatia, they typically think about island hopping along the sparkling Adriatic Sea or visiting the ancient medieval city of Dubrovnik, but few people realize that Croatia is one of only two places in the world that naturally grows the illusive and highly sought after white truffle.
TIP BY: Christina, liveawilderlife.com (< read all about things to do in Rovinj, Croatia)
“During our trip to Croatia, we traveled to the dreamy seaside town of Rovinj, located in the region of Istria. The highlight of our time there was going Truffle Hunting with Karlić Tartuffi, a local truffle farm spanning three generations.
Truffle hunting is a little bit of a misnomer since the only way to find truffles is through using the exceptional sense of smell that dogs and pigs have. So really, you tag along as the dogs hunt truffles! Still it’s an amazingly fun day of traipsing through the forest looking for truffle.
The tour starts off with an introduction to the history of truffles in Croatia. From there, you trek through the Motovun forest with the dogs and watch them as they gleefully sniff around for some tasty truffles. The best part is having to get to the truffle before the dogs eat them. It’s a wonderful way to spend the day and afterwards they cook up the most amazing truffle omelet you’ll ever have!”
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
- Karlić Tartuffi (See their website >>)
MORE FOOD-RELATED TOURS IN CROATIA:
- Zagreb: 3.5-Hour Food Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Taste Zagreb: 4-Hour Food Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Food Tour: Traditional Flavors of Hvar (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Dubrovnik Traditional Food Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Split: 2.5-Hour Palace and Markets Food Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN POLAND
Take a Pierogi cooking class in Kracow
Taking a cooking class with a local is an excellent way to immerse yourself into the culture of a destination. Not only will you learn how to make a new dish in the most authentic way possible within a local home, but then you will get the reward of enjoying the fruits of your labor afterward.
TIP BY: Laura Sharples, anywheresheroams.com (< read all about her travels to Poland and beyond!)
“When I was in Krakow, Poland, I got to try my hand at making the traditional Polish food, Pierogi (also: Pirogi), and it was a truly great experience from start to finish.
To begin with, we were taken to the local farmers market where we shopped for fresh vegetables and produce, including oscypek which is a local sheep’s cheese produced by the highlanders in the Tatra Mountains. The challenge of this task was learning simple Polish expressions to enable us to haggle with the market traders.
Once we had collected all of the necessary ingredients it was time to put them all together using the traditional methods, whilst learning about the Polish culture from the local guide. Each member of the small tour group took turns practicing the preparation stages as the raw ingredients turned into Polish dumplings. Before we knew it, we were enjoying our creation which would rival others that I tried on my trip.
This tour is run by Urban Adventures and I would recommended for anyone who wants to learn something new on their trip as well as supporting local businesses.”
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
- Home Cooked Krakow by Urban Adventures (See their website >>)
TIP: Readers of The Travel Tester can get 20% Discount on this tour and any other tour from Urban Adventures! Simply choose the tour, date and time you want and go to the booking page. Then scroll all the way to the bottom and enter the code: BGTRAVELTESTER. Your discount should show up then, enjoy!
BOOK A SIMILAR ACTIVITY:
- Warsaw: Polish Dumpling Cooking Class (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Krakow: 3.5-Hour Home Cooking Experience (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Krakow: 4-Hour Polish Food Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Wroclaw: Intimate Pierogi Cooking Class with a Local (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN RUSSIA
Visit a Sami Village in Murmansk
The Sami people are a nomadic tribe that live in parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Koala peninsula of Russia.
TIP BY: Penny, globetrove.com (< read all about her visit to the Sami village)
“One of the most interesting experiences that I have had was visiting a Sami village. We visited one close to a city called Murmansk which is in the Arctic region of Russia. The experience was wonderful. We visited the tents that lived in, ate the food that was traditionally made and even drank moss tea! Yes, you heard that right! Moss tea! And it was delicious.
One of the experiences that I really fell in love with was the interaction with reindeer. We were given some greens to feed the reindeer and they were really loved it. You had to try to hide it if you did not want them to hog it all at one shot. It was fun!
The day at the Sami village culminated with a ride of a lifetime on a snowmobile through pristine snow that was quite frankly knee deep. I know! Because I sank right into it when I tried to walk. It is definitely an experience I would recommend.”
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
- Sami Village, Husky Farm (See their website >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN SLOVENIA
Try oil tasting in Bela Krajina
For a taste of local Slovenian culture the best place to visit is Bela Krajina, in the south east of the country, bordering Croatia.
TIP BY: Roshni, thewanderlustwithin.com (< read all about visiting Slovenia)
“This quaint region is filled with local experiences but the highlight for me has to be oil tasting at Oljarna Pečarič. We organised a private tasting with the owner at the oil mill, and spent a few hours tasting more than 20 seed oils, touring the property, learning about the production of the oils and the different health benefits that each of them provide.
We soon learnt that you can make oil out of pretty much anything, including poppies, hazelnuts and grapes!
The oils were spread across a long table with fresh bread to dip into them, and we received a booklet to take home, detailing all of the health benefits. Some aided digestion, whilst others helped with arthritis and heart problems. The hardest decision was picking which oils to take home in my suitcase, I did however end up settling on pumpkin oil and walnut oil, and its changed the way I dip bread!”
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
- Oljarna Pečarič (See their website >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN TURKEY
Try Ebru Paper Marbling in Istanbul
Ebru is the ancient Turkish art of paper marbling. It is done by dropping paint into a pan of water, swirling it into designs, and then gently laying paper on top to transfer the paint to paper.
TIP BY: Dani Ward, diapersinparadise.com (< read all about visitin Istanbul with kids)
“Expert Ebru artists can create stunning works of art, with flowers being the most common theme; but even complete novices will create something that looks beautiful, just by the nature of how paint flows over water.
In Istanbul, you can take Ebru classes from masters of this ancient art. There are several options, including a fantastic art school that lies in the shadow of the Hagia Sofia. You’ll learn a new skill, and walk away with
a handful of gorgeous, unique souvenirs that you made yourself.
Ebru is an approachable art form, even if you don’t consider yourself artistic. It is a perfect date activity, but the small-group format also makes it one of my top choices to do if you visit Istanbul with a toddler or
baby in tow. Kids can relax and watch the mesmerizing paint swirl while parents learn an art form that you won’t find anywhere else in the world!”
Do You Travel to Discover Hands-On Experiences?
Let us know in the comments below what your favourite activity in this list is – and if you have any great additions to share with us. We are always adding to this page, so keep your suggestions coming! Look below for more information about creative travel and where else in the world you can have great hands-on experiences:
Creative Tourism Network
If you are looking for more creative tourism examples, then make sure to head over to the website of the Creative Tourism Network, as they are a fantastic source of information and inspiration for your upcoming travels.
The Creative Tourism Network is the international organization for the Creative Tourism development worldwide. They offer consulting and training to tourism professionals and also host the Creative Tourism Awards to reward projects, companies and destinations that foster the new generation of tourism with the active participation of tourists in creative activities.
Map of East Europe Creative Travel and Tours
Creative Traveller’s Handbook
My travel blogger friend Elena wrote a wonderful book about creative travel that I can highly recommend reading. In this inspiring handbook, she answers not only the question who creative travel is for, but she gives practical tips on how to be creative on your own travels and how to plan your next creative trip down to all the details.
Read my full review of the Creative Traveller’s Handbook >>
Creative Travel Around the World
Read our other articles:
- Creative Travel: Is This The Best Way To See The World?
- 14 Hands-on Travel Experiences In Africa You Need To Know About
- 7 Hands-on Travel Experiences In South America You Need To Know About
- 14 Hands-on Travel Experiences In South Asia You Need To Know About
- 10 Hands-on Travel Experiences In Japan You Need To Know About
- 3 Hands-on Travel Experiences in Central and East Asia You Need to Know About
- 14 Hands-on Travel Experiences in South East Asia You Need to Know About
- 4 Hands-on Travel Experiences in Central America & The Caribbean You Need to Know About
- 8 Hands-on Travel Experiences in The Mediterranean You Need to Know About
- 10 Hands-on Travel Experiences in West Europe You Need to Know About
- 8 Hands-on Travel Experiences in Oceania You Need to Know About