The world is big, beautiful, and incredibly diverse – which is why travel is such an exciting and rewarding experience. Home to 195 countries and thousands of captivating cultures, each with its own customs, traditions, and beliefs, you could spend the rest of your life travelling and still not scratch the surface of what our wonderful world has to offer.

So, if you’re interested in learning more about the different ways people live all around the world, and discovering some of the most mysterious, isolated, or beautiful cultures, we hope you find this article inspiring.

Here are 10 unique cultures from around the world.

1. The Bajau, Southeast Asia

The Bajau, Southeast Asia

One of the most unique and mysterious cultures in the world is the Bajau. These are people who live on the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Sometimes known as ‘sea gypsies’, these people exist in a culture unlike any other – one where the concept of time has little meaning, and clocks, calendars, and birthdays don’t exist. Even their physical capabilities are like no other culture.

With no written history or official record, the story of the Bajau people remains largely a mystery, with stories passed down through word of mouth.

The Bajau people are descendants of the Malay people and have lived on the water for centuries, only coming to shore to shelter from storms, or to pick up supplies. They live on long houseboats called lepas and are thought to be the world’s last seafaring people.

Physically, the Bajau have even evolved for life on the water — and their dependence on freediving for food has led to them evolving bigger spleens, so they can hold their breath for minutes at a time, and reach depths of more than 230ft. Because the Bajau make their living primarily from fishing, most spend more than five hours a day underwater, and possess a unique control of their breath and body.

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2. Gauchos, Argentina

Gauchos, Argentina

Most of us are familiar with the idea of cowboys – but in Argentina, cowboys look quite different to those we imagine from the old American West.

In South America, Gauchos are nomadic horsemen who first emerged during the Argentine War of Independence in the early 1800s, when they fought against royalist forces who were loyal to the Spanish crown.

This was the time when the Gauchos developed their reputation for being rugged yet brave outlaws and expert horsemen, and since then, their reputation has been romanticised in the same way as American cowboys.

Today, Gauchos still prefer to shun modern living — instead choosing a wilder, more natural life among the sprawling Argentine grasslands, where they spend much of their time shearing sheep and mustering cattle.

In spite of their nomadic existence, many Gauchos have welcomed tourism, and some estancias (cattle ranches) hold their doors open to travellers. Some gauchos are happy to educate tourists about their culture and traditions — for example, by playing music, cooking, and taking travellers on horseback.

3. Kazakhs, Kazakhstan

Kazakhs, Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is a vast, multinational country in Central Asia. Once a Soviet republic, it’s bordered by the Caspian Sea in the west, and China, Russia, and Mongolia in the east.

Descendants of Mongols, the Kazakhs are semi-nomadic people who have roamed the mountains and valleys of Kazakhstan since the 15th century — and their centuries-old traditions are still treasured today.

Many Kazakh communities move several times throughout the year, and their culture includes living in yurts, which are easily transportable and collapsible.

To the Kazakhs, their yurts are far more than just dwellings; they’re a visual representation of their cultural ideology, which is a life without borders or restrictions. A life that’s in total harmony with nature.

The Kazakh connection to nature runs through many aspects of their culture. Along with taming wild horses, one of their most famous customs is hunting with eagles.

Young golden eagles are raised by Kazakh boys, and the eagles are trained to detect intruders as well as locate animals — and when the eagles are seven years old, they’re returned to the wild to breed.

Today, the annual Golden Eagle Festival, which celebrates this unique tradition, is one of the most important festivals in the country.

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4. Black Hmong, Northern Vietnam

Black Hmong, Northern Vietnam

While many cultures around the world are still very much patriarchal societies, there are some exceptions – and one of the most fascinating is Vietnam’s Black Hmong culture.

The Black Hmong people are believed to have originally come from the Yangtze River basin area in southern China, though they began to make their home in Vietnam’s mountainous north around 300 years ago.

In Black Hmong society, women are viewed as equal to men, and gender equality is an important part of their customs and culture. While men still typically take on more strenuous work, like farming and handling livestock, and women focus on embroidery, tasks are still shared out. Both men and women earn money for their families, and activities like going to the market are joint endeavours.

The Hmong are known for their colourful clothes, and often these fabrics depict myths and legends that have been passed down through generations. Whereas some Vietnamese cultures have turned to modern clothes, the Hmong honour their old traditions, and take pride in their colourful attire, of which indigo is the main colour.

Aside from embroidery, the Hmong are also masters of carpentry, blacksmithing, and silver making – and they sell their produce in local markets.

5. Sami, Sápmi

Sami, Sápmi

Known as the last indigenous people of Europe, the Sami inhabit a region of northern Scandinavia called Sápmi, which encompasses parts of the north of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia’s Kola Peninsula.

The Sami are descendants of the nomadic tribes who lived in northern Scandinavia for millennia. They speak nine different languages, although today, only three are commonly used.

The Sami culture is known for its connection to reindeer, which they believe are sacred. The entire Sami culture and economy once depended on these arctic deer, and the impact can be seen in Sami stories and songs.

While the Sami were once nomadic, moving from place to place with their deer, nowadays most families live in modern homes — and only the herders move around with their deer.

Today, the Sami are well integrated into modern society and have their own parliaments in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, as well as their own newspapers and radio stations.

Their livelihood mainly consists of fishing, farming, and hunting along the Sápmi coast and fjords, and they’re known for their colourful outfits called the Gakti, which they wear for traditional occasions and events.

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6. Quechua, Peru

Quechua, Peru

Peru might be most famous for being the home of the Inca empire, but that isn’t its only fascinating indigenous culture. The Quechua people predate the Incas, yet unlike the former empire, they’re still around today.

The Quechua originally came from Peru, but they also live in the Andean highlands of Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, and Ecuador.

In Peru, Quechua is the second language after Spanish, and today, around four million people speak it.

One interesting fact about Quechua is that it was the language of the Incas, and there’s a powerful connection between the ancient Inca people and the modern Quechua. Both are known for their physical strength and the fact that their bodies adapted to life in the high altitudes of the Andes.

While the Quechua people are similar to the Incas, they’re also entirely unique. Their colourful textiles are famous for their quality and beauty, and each village in the Peruvian highlands has its own pattern that’s depicted on the villagers’ bright capes, shawls, and hats.

While some Quechua have embraced modern culture, many prefer living quietly on their land, as they have for centuries.

7. The Rabari, Western India

The Rabari, Western India

India boasts many beautiful and fascinating cultures, but one of the most unique is the Rabari (also called the Rewari or Desai).

The exact history of the Rabari isn’t known, but they’re believed to have migrated from Iran via Afghanistan around a thousand years ago. Today, the Rabari live throughout northwest India, primarily in Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan – often in tents, in camps, or in huts.

The word ‘Rabari’ means ‘outsiders’, which gives you an idea of this group’s status within Indian society, both today and throughout history.

The Rabari are a semi-nomadic group of cattle and camel herders, and they move from their village according to the seasons. Often the men keep moving in search of new grazing pastures, while the women and children stay in the villages.

Visually, the Rabari are remarkable and wear intricate jewellery, finely embroidered clothing, and striking tattoos. Rabari women see aesthetics as an expression of creativity and identity, and their designs are inspired by mythology and the environment. Men usually wear white clothes with ornate jewellery and turbans, while women adorn their bodies with eye-catching and meaningful symbols.

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8. Himba, Northern Namibia

Himba, Northern Namibia

Africa is home to many unique indigenous cultures, but one of the most intriguing is the Himba people from Northern Namibia.

This semi-nomadic tribe can be traced back to the early 1500s when they were part of the Herero tribe – but after a bovine epidemic, the cattle the tribe relied on died. While most of the Herero people moved to new regions, the Himba stayed.

The Himba’s isolated villages are unintegrated with the rest of Namibian society, and as a result, the group has a truly unique appearance. Both Himba men and women have ochre-pasted red hair that’s often worn in braids, and they wear goat-hide clothing and intricate jewellery. Himba women also have ochre-pasted skin, which protects against the hot sun and keeps the skin moist.

Due to the history of drought in Namibia, Himba women also don’t use water for washing. Instead, they take daily smoke baths to stay clean; boiling herbs in water and washing in the smoke.

Porridge is the staple meal for Himba people, and it’s eaten in both the morning and evening – sometimes supplemented by cornmeal, eggs, and wild herbs. Only on rare occasions is meat eaten.

9. Berber, Morocco

Berber, Morocco

Morocco’s Berber communities are the descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa. While they mostly live in Morocco, there are also Berber communities across Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania. They all speak different Amazigh languages that belong to the Afro-Asiatic language family linked to ancient Egyptian.

Many Berbers live and work in modern cities, but there are still many families who live high up in the Atlas Mountains, in rural villages.

Agriculture is the main economy, and men and women typically have different roles to play in society. Men travel to local towns and markets to sell their livestock and produce, while women weave blankets and work in the fields.

Historically, Berber dwellings ranged from caves to pitched-roof houses, though today, most rural Berber homes are made from red mud clay bricks.

Many traditional Moroccan dishes originate from the Berber culture, including tagines, which are meals cooked in canonical clay pots containing meat, vegetables and couscous. The Moroccan tradition of serving mint tea is also an old Berber custom.

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10. Loba, Nepal

Loba, Nepal

If you’re interested in unique cultures that have been cut off from the modern world, then you’ll almost certainly be fascinated by the Loba.

Deep in a remote region of the Nepalese Himalayas lies the ancient ‘Forbidden Kingdom’ of Mustang, a place that’s barely changed since it was established by a Tibetan warlord in the 1380s. But today, the Loba’s isolated existence hangs in the balance.

The Loba practise an early form of Buddhism, and they’re famous for their exuberant festivals, such as the three-day Tiji Festival, which is said to chase demons away.

Many Loba still believe the world is flat. But their remote home – which was once shrouded in mystery and only accessible by foot or mule – was opened to the rest of the world in 2019, due to a new highway leading from India to Tibet.

The road rips right through the core of the Loba heartland. This has been both a blessing and a curse; while the road has been a lifeline for the Loba, allowing them to get everything they need from local shops, it’s also exposed them to the modern world.

Surrounded by looming mountains and ignored by the state for years, the Loba were left to go about their ancient, quiet way of life – though, how long their cherished culture will remain intact in the developing world is yet to be seen.

Final thoughts…

Travel is one of life’s greatest adventures. Exploring new places and learning about new cultures allows us to broaden our minds and expand our perspectives. And seeing how other people live and think in different ways sometimes raises questions we have within ourselves, or gives us a new appreciation for life.

There are thousands of different cultures in the world, and many of them are widely known. Some on this list you may be very familiar with, and others may have captured your imagination in films or books. Others, however, are unique, mysterious, and shut off from the rest of the world – and in our era of globalisation, there’s no knowing how long these ancient cultures will continue to flourish.

So, if you’ve always wanted to travel to a new place to discover a fascinating new culture, there’s no time like the present.

For more travel inspiration, you can head over to the travel section of our website. Here you’ll find everything from holidays for animal lovers to how to travel on a shoestring budget.