Unique tours that promise to show you a whole new world

Bored with food tours that promise the best regional cuisine? Tired of trips to see a city’s famous artworks? Sick of setting sail for famous landmarks? Well, these unusual tours may be more for you.

Experience the daily life of a sumo wrestler
Besides visiting the Grand Sumo Tournament, there are many options for learning more about this impressive sport in Japan.

You can choose to do a sumo stable tour where the sumo wrestlers live together. They have a strict regime every day – almost every morning they practise and have serious and energetic matches you can watch.

One review said: ‘It was an amazing experience, the training took place right in front of us, so when the sumo fighters clash you feel the impact. Our guide was very informative and helpful. Truly unique.”

After the practice matches, the sumo wrestlers eat. They follow a strict diet, taking in approximately 20,000 calories each day!

The most popular food cooked and eaten by sumo wrestlers is Chanko Hot Pot, a warm soup rich in protein. Many tours include the option of trying the soup and eating with the wrestlers.

Read more: Why the Japanese diet is one of the healthiest

Tours of Chernobyl
According to reviews, time in the Chernobyl exclusion zone feels like nothing else on Earth. Visiting the deserted villages, walking through empty hospital hallways and peering into abandoned classrooms still strewn with dust-covered books and toys is a sight to behold (for some).

As unique and powerful as this image is, the site continues to be a point of immense tragedy, sadness and anger

However, it’s not about the disaster alone; on many tours, you will be able to visit and speak with some of the several thousand people who have returned and now practise subsistence farming in the immediate area.

Radiation levels are no higher than before the disaster and the area is considered safe, but you can buy a Geiger counter from the tour operator to put your mind at ease.

Apparently, if you’re going to Chernobyl for a day trip, you’re likely to receive a higher dose of radiation on your flight to and from Ukraine than you are in the zone.

But I think I’ll still stay away just in case.

Charles Manson Helter Skelter tour
What is it with our fascination for true crime?

California holidays should be about beaches, palm trees and cocktails, surely? Well, on these grisly tours, you can learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Manson family murders.

You will visit all the scenes and sites connected with the crime. You can even view crime scene photographs and listen to reconstructions of the lives of both victims and perpetrators, especially during the last hour of their lives. If gawking at tragedy seems much too grim for you, I recommend you give this one a miss and maybe pick up a book instead.

Children under12 are not allowed.

Read more: Why are we so obsessed with true crime?

A mock illegal border crossing into the US
Can you imagine paying to be chased, shot at (with blanks) and verbally abused on your holiday? That’s what you’ll get from this tour in Mexico, which offers a live simulation of what it’s like to cross the border from Mexico to the United States illegally – at night and under stressful and dangerous conditions.

Mexican actors dressed as fellow immigrants will guide you through extreme conditions: dodging fake patrol cars, crawling through barbed wire, and run-ins with violent drug smugglers and border patrollers.

It was set up with the aim of dissuading would-be migrants from illegally crossing the US border, but has become a bit of a hit among thrill-seekers.

Rubbish tip trips of London
This paid tour takes willing participants on a two-mile walk past “historic dumps and landfills”, and promises to show you the “sounds and smells of the city’s waste”. Personally, I think you can get that for free but each to their own.

It’s actually a tour designed by environmental lawyer Rosie Oliver to change people’s perspectives on waste and landfill.

Starting at Mudchute and ending at Greenwich, you will learn all about the historic tips and landfills that contributed to making London what it is today. You’ll hear all about London’s rubbish, the characters involved in collecting it and the methods used to transform it.

North Korea Labour tour
Just when you thought North Korea couldn’t be any stranger, they go ahead and promote labour tours for those visiting the country.

If you haven’t visited North Korea’s official tourism website, you may have missed the memo about these interesting labour trips, where Kim Jong-un invites tourists to help supplement his forced-labour operations by participating in rice planting, weeding, and fruit picking.

According to a report from Human Rights Watch, a significant majority of North Koreans must perform unpaid labour at some point in their lives.

So, while ‘volunteering’ sounds like a nice thing to do, there are many ethical questions raised by participating in such a repressive regime.

Read more: Should we travel to North Korea? Michael Palin says ‘yes’

Robben Island tour, Cape Town
Perhaps a tour of the most iconic of all prisons is a must for the politically minded. Robben Island has a rich but miserable history – first a prison, then a leper colony, a mental institution, a military base, a prison again, now a tourist attraction.

Highlights include viewing the cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years, visiting the limestone quarry that ruined his eyesight, and you can even view the surveillance equipment the security police used to spy on the political prisoners.

Former inmates and guards will escort you around this World Heritage-listed site explaining all there is to know.

Would you do any of these tours? Have you heard about any other weird and wonderful tours?

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Written by Ellie Baxter

Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.

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