Once the sun goes down, many destinations have little to offer beyond restaurants and bars. We asked Audley’s travel specialists to share their favourite night time experiences from around the world and they didn’t disappoint. From stargazing at the summit of a volcano in Hawaii to sleeping in a wildlife reserve on safari, here’s five of the best.
1. Take a private food tour in Japan’s capital city
Tokyo is a city ahead of itself, forever evolving, growing and innovating. Even if you have been before it unveils new experiences each time you visit. In the evening, the city comes alive but it can be confusing to navigate alone. With the help of a local guide, you can walk through the narrow streets to fantastic food establishments you may not have found otherwise. They will also take you to some of the best street food stalls offering tapas-style dishes of fried chicken wings and edamame beans before washing it down with a cold beer. This tour is a fun way to try the local cuisine while learning about Japanese eating etiquette and culture.
2. Visit Sikhism’s holiest city at night in India
Meaning ‘Pool of the Nectar of Immortality’, Amritsar is the holiest city in Sikhism. Its striking Golden Temple (or Sri Harmandir Sahib) is one of the city’s biggest draws both for its physical beauty and spiritual significance. The temple is home to the 1,430-page Guru Granth Sahib, (the central religious scripture of Sikhism) which is a focus of devotion during the day before being ‘put to bed’ each evening. Your local guide will explain the ritual as you watch the book carried to the Akal Takht on the first floor of the temple. Here, as chants fill the air, the book is placed upon an elaborate pillow decorated with fresh flowers. Thousands of people from all religions across India and the world travel here to watch the incredibly humbling ceremony. Visiting the gilded temple at night is a really atmospheric experience. We recommend revisiting the temple the following morning to see the contrast of it during the day. At the temple’s kitchen (or langar) around 100,000 people are fed daily. Anyone can volunteer to help prepare the food, serve or wash up and all visitors are fed a delicious hot, vegetarian meal, regardless of their beliefs or background. The community kitchen is maintained and run by Sikh volunteers but always welcome visitors. If visiting, remember to cover up appropriately, including your head. As well as a scarf, socks are recommended as the marble flooring can be hot and slippery.
3. Go stargazing at the world’s largest astrology centre in Hawaii
Hawaii’s Big Island is the youngest and largest and home to some of the world’s most active volcanoes. Underneath one of the clearest parts of the sky stands Mauna Kea, a staggering dormant volcano reaching over 9,700 metres from the ocean floor to its summit. It is known as ‘Earth’s connecting point to the rest of the Universe’ and has the world’s largest astronomical observatory at its summit. On a guided tour, you will be taken to its peak, once the sun sets you’ll be able to see the stars through some of the most advanced telescopes in modern technology. One of the onsite astronomers will explain the intricacies of what you’re seeing, both through the naked eye and with a telescope, in this elevated position it is possible to see Saturn’s rings.
4. See the Big Five at night on a ‘safari sleep out’ in South Africa
Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve shares an open border with Kruger Game Reserve and so allows the same opportunity for fantastic wildlife viewing but in a private setting. The reserve’s two rivers are a wonderful space to see big cats, elephant, waterbuck and kudu. Lion Sands Ivory Lodge is a family-owned property in the reserve offering an unusual twist. While staying here you can opt for their ‘safari sleep out’ experience in your own secluded, glass-fronted thatched villa. The experience begins when you’re dropped off with dinner waiting for you. Once you’re secured inside, you’ll spend the night on a raised platform with uninterrupted views of the bush. Here you have potential to see the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant) along with lots of other wildlife before drifting off to sleep surrounded by sounds of the reserve.
5. Take an eerie night walk with Buddhist monks in Japan
High in the forested mountains of Japan’s Kii Peninsula lies the monastic complex of Mount Koya; the secluded home of the esoteric Shingon Buddhist Sect. On the edge of the town lies the Okunoin Cemetery which you can visit at night with a local monk as your guide. They’ll teach you the tenets of their religion and take you to visit the lantern-lit mausoleum of Kobo-Daishi — the founder of Shingon Buddhism. Although he passed away over 1,000 ago, his followers believe him to be meditating to this day. You’ll see monks chanting traditional sutras by the light of many candles.
At Audley, all our specialists travel regularly in search of unique, authentic and unforgettable experiences. The specialist who plans your trip will carefully tailor it to your specific interests, tastes and budget based on their first-hand experience.