Embrace the rhythms of cultural diversity through global music travel

Posted: August 30, 2023 | Word Count: 1,397

Do you want to travel to a new place that will leave you in awe and open your eyes in new, profound ways? When you explore the globe, you get to enjoy a kaleidoscope of cultures, where each destination offers a mesmerizing adventure of history, art and traditions passed down through the ages.

Music can be an incredibly meaningful reflection of what makes a country unique. To demonstrate just how integral music is for travelers who desire an authentic cultural experience, the United States Tour Operators Association created the “USTOA On Tour Live” music campaign. The cornerstone of the campaign is an engaging music video that showcases some of the best musical acts, festivals and culinary temptations of countries from across the globe.

Want to know the top featured destinations that will captivate all your senses? Read on about five locations that eagerly welcome travelers to experience the sights, sounds and tastes that capture the essence of their culture.


Colombian accordionist Gregorio Uribe with his song "Viva Colombia" perfectly portrays the history and culture of a country so full of life. Upbeat music, flavorful foods and ample festivals make this an exceptional destination for travelers of all ages.

If you’re looking for culture and fun, there’s no better place than the Caribbean Coast. Explore the city of Cartagena de Indias, the ideal vacation spot that offers cultural heritage, colonial architecture, stunning beaches, world-class cuisine, vibrant nightlife and numerous celebrations.

If you want to plan your trip to align with Colombia’s festivals, you’ll find there’s no shortage of options. This is a country that likes to celebrate! One of the main festivals is Barranquilla Carnival, an action-packed four-day event that honors the culture, folklore and ethnic diversity of Colombia. This important celebration occurs before Ash Wednesday, which is typically in February or March.

If music is your motivation, another unforgettable festival to attend is the Vallenato Legend Festival. Vallenato is a popular folk music genre from Colombia that traditionally features three instruments: a small drum, an accordion and the guacharaca, an indigenous instrument designed to mimic the call of the guacharaca bird. Held every April in the city of Valledupar, the festival searches for the best musicians, which sets the stage for friendly competition and a celebration of unique, cultural rhythms.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

With stunning pebbled beaches and crystal-clear waters, Croatia is a scenic escape for travelers. Make plans to visit Dubrovnik, a city in southern Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. The sights and sounds will take your breath away and the culture will leave a lasting impression.

If you’re lucky you’ll see the traditional Klapa singers that occasionally perform in the streets and squares of Dubrovnik; their energetic folk dance to upbeat rhythms will leave you smiling from ear to ear. You should also try to watch a performance from Folklore Ensemble Lindo, a music and dance ensemble that reflects the rich traditional culture, musical and dance heritage of the Dubrovnik region of Croatia.

Why is this music and dance combination so remarkable? The kolo lindo and/or poskocica is a dance that emerged in the early 19th century as a unique blend of elements from the local Dinaric dance culture and external influences from the Mediterranean and Central European dance traditions.

When visiting Dubrovnik, make time to experience other cultural delights that make this region one of a kind. For example, the highlight of Dubrovnik in the summer is impromptu concerts by the famous Croatian singer Ibrica Jusic. Visitors can watch the performance and savor prepared sweets such as candied almonds or local honey from the open-air market in Old Town called Gundulićeva Poljana.


A country proud of its musical heritage, Panamá is full of toe-tapping rhythms that feed the soul. Travelers should make time to explore inspiring live music in venues such as Selina Casco Antiguo, Rock & Folk, Teatro Escondido and El Sótano in Panama City. You may even get to enjoy the infectious drumbeats of the legendary Panamá-based Afrolatino.

Of course, musical inspiration doesn’t end at the capital city. Head to Colon for musical inspiration at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Portobelo that features Congo drumming and dance performances for tourists.

If you want to experience the indigenous music of Panamá, ask a USTOA tour operator about visiting indigenous communities. Whenever you are visiting their communities, the people will welcome you with music and chants, inviting you to dance and play their traditional instruments with them. Consider visiting the Emberá communities along the delta of the Río Chagres, the Gunas in the Guna Yala archipelago and the Ngäbe-Buglé people in the Ngäbe-Buglé Reservations in the provinces of Veraguas, Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro.

Are you a musician yourself? What if you could take a trip that is equal parts inspiration and education? The Panama Jazz Festival is a regional event centered in music education where local and international talent present concerts and masterclasses. The festival is organized by Panamanian NGO, Fundación Danilo Pérez, which promotes social change through music. Panama Jazz Festival 2024 will take place Jan. 15 through 20.


To experience the energetic music and rich culture of Perú, start by exploring Cusco. Any day of the week you can enjoy a variety of foods and drinks as well as music in bars and discos. On weekends there are even more options, including local bands that offer live music in a variety of genres, including jazz, blues, rock and more.

If seeing the traditional music of Perú is on your bucket list, try to attend a performance from The San Pedro Band. Energetic horns rejoice as the percussion beats on, making it hard to stand still when you’re listening to the rhythms of this large musical group.

You can continue being immersed in all things Perú by planning a cultural trip alongside the locals. One to keep in mind is the Pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Lord of Qoyllurit'i, in Ocongate, Quispicanchi province, which brings together thousands of devotees and faithful from many regions of the country. On religious holidays, like Corpus Christi, visitors can sometimes see 30 bands at once during the central day of the festivity.


Rituals and music go hand in hand in Türkiye, where tradition runs deep and heritage is a source of pride. Watch in wonder as the Whirling Dervishes dressed in distinctive white robes with tall conical hats symbolizing the tombstone of one’s ego twirl in unison. Accompanied by expert musicians, you’re likely to notice instruments you’ve never seen before, which entice the ears with attention-grabbing beats.

Traditional Turkish instruments are emblematic of the country's cultural identity, reflecting the blend of Turkic, Ottoman and Anatolian influences. They are frequently used in religious ceremonies, such as Sufi music and mystical gatherings, and are integral to cultural festivities, weddings and traditional dances — infusing joy and rhythm into communal celebrations.

You can visit Istanbul, known for its vibrant music scene and craftsmanship to discover local shops where these instruments are handmade. In areas like Galata and the Eminönü district you'll find a variety of shops offering traditional Turkish instruments like the oud, saz, ney and more. Additionally, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is an iconic destination with several instrument shops where you can immerse yourself in traditional Turkish music and find handmade instruments crafted by skilled artisans.

Make a dream trip your reality

Now that you’re inspired and full of wanderlust, you might be wondering how you get to these wonderful destinations. As one of the world’s leading airlines, Turkish Airlines flies to more countries and international destinations than any other airline. With its centrally located hub in Istanbul, Turkish Airlines connects countries and cultures from over 340 destinations in 129 countries spanning five continents.

When planning your trip details, consider the benefits of working with a USTOA tour operator. They can help you plan logistics, itineraries, transportation, accommodations, sightseeing and so much more. Plus, they may be able to negotiate special rates. You’ll get personal, 24/7 hands-on services from tour directors with on-the-ground knowledge, local guides and experts, and, most importantly, access to experiences travelers can’t get on their own, at any price.

Learn more about the benefits of USTOA tour operators at USTOA.com.

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