The World’s Weirdest Guided Tours
A Japanese company has given the humble guided tour a makeover by offering group tours of Tokyo in replica Mario Karts. If you fancy exploring the world’s most popular destinations in new, exciting ways, book a place on one of these weird and wonderful group tours.
Tamara Hinson is a Surrey-based freelance travel journalist who writes for newspapers such as the Telegraph and Guardian, along with in-flight publications and travel websites. She’s especially interested in getting off the beaten track and some of the more unusual destinations she’s visited include North Korea and Benin.
Mario Kart Tours, Tokyo, Japan
Visit Japan (the country that brought you cat cafes and capsule hotels) and you can sign up for a Mario Kart-themed guided tour of its capital. You’ll start by donning the costume of your favourite character (the dinosaur outfit being our personal favourite) before taking to the streets in Mario’s favourite mode of transport. The go-karts have a top speed of 55kmh and Go Pro cameras mounted on the bonnet record your Mario-themed exploration of Japan’s capital.
Hot Rod Tours, Vienna, Austria
Fancy channelling your inner racing driver? Then you’ll love Vienna’s Hot Rod Tours. Hot rods, which resemble small, motorised soapboxes, first appeared in the 1940s, when they provided wannabe racing drivers in Europe and America with an inexpensive way to experience the thrills of motor racing. Today, you can whizz around Vienna in your very own hot rod, during a daytime or night time tour. Highlights include the Danube Canal, the Parliament building and Schonbrunn Palace.
Blindfolded Tours, Toulouse, France
In an age of selfie-sticks and Instagram, there’s something incredibly refreshing about this next offering, known as Toulouse au bout des doigts (Toulouse by fingertips). The tour is designed to help visitors learn about the city through its sounds, scents and textures – whether it’s the smell of Toulouse’s traditional violet sweets, the scent of pine in the Couvent des Jacobins or the rough stone of the grand buildings surrounding the Place du Capitole.
Vampire Tour, New Orleans, US
Garlic at the ready! New Orleans’ largest and oldest walking tour focuses on the city’s French Quarter. The tours aren’t just about vampires but about the city’s darker side in general – you’ll visit the burial tomb of voodoo queen Marie Catherine Laveau and the supposedly haunted home of Anne Rice (author of The Vampire Chronicles), before checking out the St Louis cemetery, regarded as one of America’s most-haunted places. You’ll also enjoy a tipple in one of the city’s famous vampire taverns. Bloody Mary anyone?
Rolling With The Paparazzi Tour, Los Angeles, US
Sign up for this three-hour tour and you’ll team up with Los Angeles paparazzi Rick Mendoza as he chases down the city’s beautiful people. This is about as far removed from a flower-waving, scheduled guided tour as it’s possible to get – which part of LA you’ll head to and when depends entirely on the tips which come in. So you might start the tour with a glimpse of Kim Kardashian chowing down at the Ivy and finish it outside the nightclub Lindsay Lohan’s just strolled out of.
Spies Of Washington Tour, Washington DC, US
You’ll learn all about the side of Washington DC which rarely makes the news – about the hidden tunnels rumoured to connect the Russian embassy with nearby buildings and about the foreign spies sent to America’s capital on undercover missions. If you fancy exploring further afield, we recommend the longer coach tours which take in sites outside of the city, like Foxstone Park, the site of the 2001 arrest of Robert Hanssen, the FBI counterintelligence agent who betrayed his country. And no, you don’t need a license to kill to take part.
Trabant Safari, Berlin, Germany
While Italy’s known as the home of the super car, Germany is associated with something slightly less glamorous, but just as cool. Trabants were produced by East German car manufacturer VEB Sachsenring, and quickly became the most popular choice of vehicle for those living in the Eastern Bloc, making them the perfect mode of transport for a tour of Germany’s capital. Drivers keep in contact with their guide through two-way radios and the route winds through the eastern part of the city, along the Karl-Marx-Allee and East Side Gallery, the longest remaining part of the Berlin Wall.
Beer & Yoga Tour, Asheville, North Carolina, US
Beer and yoga might not sound like an obvious combination, but they’re two essential components of the Bend and Brew tours. You’ll kick things off with a yoga session as one of Asheville’s breweries, before having the opportunity to check out the machinery and sample the produce. Yoga fan Cameron Gunter was apparently motivated by a desire to combine a downward dog with his favourite drink. “People think of yogis as meditating in their caves all day,” says tour leader Michael St. Cole. “But in the real world, yogis drink beer, and beer people do yoga.” Be sure to plan ahead and check yourself into a local hotel so that you can make the most of your experience.
Beaver Safari, Sweden
The Big Five is overrated. Sign up for a beaver safari and you’ll spend the day floating through the rivers of Skinnskatteberg in search of these log-gnawing mammals. Beavers are nocturnal creatures, which is why the tours take place at sunset. Although beaver sightings are highly likely, you’re also likely to spot moose, deer, cranes and ospreys.
Corruption Tour, Prague, Czech Republic
Historic monuments and royal palaces are all well and good, but this next tour is ideal for those keen to learn about a very different side of Prague. Founder Petr Sourek created the tours as a way of highlighting the country’s huge problem with corruption. You’ll see the enormous villas purchased by politicians who made their millions from dodgy deals, and the rundown apartment building which serves as the official address of Ivo Rittig, an influential lawyer who receives a percentage of every tram and metro ticket sold in Prague – for no discernible reason…