Many people equate the word "tours" with the typical big bus excursions led by flag-toting guides that seen at every major tourist attraction around the world. But not all tours are the same. For those who want them, hop-on, hop-off and big bus tours are a great way to see a city quickly, but for those looking to go a little deeper into a destination there are plenty of tours that go far beyond the usual.
From helicopter tours to behind-the-scenes tours, and cultural tours to small-group cooking classes, no matter what your interest there's a tour that's right for you and can take your experience from "great" to "unforgettable."
We think some of these experiences are so unexpected, so unusual, so unforgettable...so downright cool, they're worth sharing.
Below, check out 20 of the coolest tours around the world!
Hold a Baby Panda in China
Let's get one thing straight. When the title of the tour includes an "option" to hold a baby panda, once you see these adorable tiny panda bears, holding one won't be an option -- it'll be a must! With this Viator Exclusive tour, you'll spend the day volunteering at the Chengdu Panda Breeding Center, seeing these rare creatures up close and personal and learning all about their lives and habits. And the best part: you can upgrade the experience to include a photo session with a baby panda that you'll actually get to hold in your arms. Will you be able to contain your glee?
Visit the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros in Malta and Croatia
You may not be able to visit the fictional land of Westeros from the HBO hit "Game of Thrones," but you can certainly see the places where the series has been filmed. Spend a day on a Viator Exclusive tour of Malta's "Game of Thrones" filming locations, including King's Landing and Red Keep or take a Viator exclusive walking tour of historic Dubrovnik in Croatia, the setting for much of King's Landing. You can also take a "Game of Thrones" shore excursion in Dubrovnik, or really get into your fandom with a three-day "Game of Thrones" Dubrovnik experience.
Tour Ancient Mayan Ruins with an Archaeologist in Mexico
Getting early access to a top tourist attraction before the crowds arrive is a pretty excellent perk of booking an exclusive tour in Mexico, but that's just the start. You can take day-long private tours of the Mayan ruins at both Chichen Itza and Tulum with a professional archaeologist, who can provide in-depth information about the ancient Mayan civilizations that once lived here. The tour gives you the perfect opportunity to let your history geek flag fly -- or to ask every question you need to ask in order to become the archeology expert at your next cocktail party.
See Paris in Style on a Vintage Citroen Ride
See the sights of one of the world's great cities from behind the windscreen of one of the world's strangest cars. Citroen's 2CV is unique, as is this Viator Exclusive private Paris tour by Citroen. You'll be chauffeured around the city by an expert local guide, who can tailor the experience to suit your interests and -- with a little car instead of a big tour bus -- can get into some of Paris' most picturesque neighborhood streets. Très romantique!
Relax on a Corona Brewery Tour in Mexico City
It may just be the quintessential kick-back-on-the-beach beer, but there's more to Corona than that. Get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into brewing the company's incredibly popular beers -- including Corona, Pacifico, and Negra Modelo -- on a Viator exclusive Corona Brewery tour and beer tasting in Mexico City. One of the big perks of joining this Viator visit to the Corona Brewery? It comes with an English translator -- all the official tours are conducted in Spanish.
Visit Versailles Like Royalty in France
The Royal Palace of Versailles is an understandably popular day trip from Paris, but fighting the crowds during the high season can make it all seem quite a bit less regal. A Viator exclusive tour of Versailles ensures a more carefree visit. Choose from either a guided walking tour of the beautiful Versailles Palace and the Court of Scents, or a visit to Versailles followed by a look at Marie-Antoinette's "Hamlet" estate and a Versailles-themed meal at a luxury restaurant in Paris.
Soar Like a Fighter Pilot Over Las Vegas
What is Las Vegas about if not over-the-top, unforgettable experiences? With this Viator exclusive tour, you'll choose one of two aerobatic planes in which to ride along on a thrilling flight over the Mojave Desert and the sparkling lights of Las Vegas. You'll flip and turn in a series of aerial stunts and then come in for a "military-style landing," both of which you'll remember for the rest of your life.
Take a Trip to Middle Earth in New Zealand
Much of New Zealand's gorgeous scenery was on display in the "Lord of the Rings" films, but one of the most charming movie sets was Hobbiton, the home of the friendly Hobbits. The rolling green hills and little round doors of the village helped the story come to life. With this Viator exclusive tour you can get early access to the Hobbiton movie set outside of Auckland before the doors open to the public -- you'll even get to have breakfast like Sam and Frodo at the Green Dragon Inn.
Indulge in an After-Hours Winery Tour and Gourmet Dinner in California
This Viator exclusive experience is ideal for the oenophile who wants to go beyond a basic wine tasting. You'll get an after-hours tour of the lovely Grgich Hills Estate winery -- which ensures special attention and no need to fight the crowds at the tasting bar -- as well as a delicious four-course gourmet meal on the Napa Valley Wine Train as it makes its way up and down the picturesque valley. The four-hour tour is exactly the sort of wine country experience that will spoil you forever, which is a wonderful thing.
Follow Ancient Footsteps by Night in Rome
The Colosseum is one of Italy's top attractions, but it's typically closed to visitors at night -- unless you're one of the lucky few on an after-dark tour of ancient Rome. On this tour, you'll see the monuments of the ancient city and then get rare nighttime access to the Colosseum to see the underground chambers and walk on the same arena floor where gladiators once fought for their lives. An after-hours tour is ideal when Rome's summer heat makes midday tours uncomfortable, and special access to the Colosseum without the crowds is an enormous added bonus.
Enjoy a Convertible Tour of Breweries and Wineries in Australia
On a sunny day, it's hard to imagine a better way to visit a region's well-known breweries and wineries than in a classic Chevy convertible with the top down. But if you're not used to driving on the left side of the road as they do in Australia, you'd best leave the driving to someone else. With this tour, you'll be chauffeured by your expert local guide from Melbourne to the Yarra Valley to visit some of the region's best boutique wineries and breweries. It's a beer or wine lover's dream come true: a luxurious day of tasting with no worries about driving home!
Learn more about our Yarra Valley Beer and Wine Tours from Melbourne by Classic Convertible
Release Your Inner Rock Star in Las Vegas
When you're in Las Vegas, you don't need to wonder when the judges on American Idol will finally recognize your talent - you can become a rock star without their help. Spend a few days at Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas to learn from and rehearse with legends like Roger Daltrey, Steven Tyler, Alice Cooper, and many more. These rock n' roll masters will share the stories from the life in the business and mentor you and your bandmates and you reheard and record your very own hit.
Wander the Pope's Private Gardens in Vatican City
While the massive Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica are open to the public, the serene Vatican Gardens are only accessible with a guided tour. So to see both the museums and the historic gardens, you can book a spot on this Viator tour - it includes 90 minutes exploring the exclusive gardens, followed by three hours inside the Vatican Museums, all with an expert local guide.
See it all with a Vatican Gardens and Vatican Museums Tour
Bike Around Brooklyn for Brunch in New York City
Brooklyn is one of the hipster capitals of the U.S., and what could be more hipster than biking to brunch? On this leisurely tour of the city's coolest borough, you'll follow an expert guide who share a wealth of knowledge about Brooklyn as you bike from place to place, stopping for tasty pastries, breakfast tacos, artisanal chocolates, and coffee (among other nibbles). It's a good way to get to know the neighborhood and its hotspots in a casual way that's also delicious.
Watch a Surreal Robot Cabaret in Tokyo
Tokyo's nightlife has a growing reputation as being a bit unusual and over the top. If you can dream it up, someone is probably doing it come nightfall in Tokyo. A perfect example is the robot cabaret. Somehow, a plain cabaret club in the city's Red Light District is not enough. To up the ante, this cabaret includes performers dancing with robots, dinosaurs, ninjas, samurais, and even giant panda bears. It's over-the-top fun like nothing you've ever seen before, and it's sure to be one of your more memorable evenings in Japan.
Go to Ninja School in Tokyo
Ninjas have transitioned from figures in Japanese history into icons of pop culture, but it's safe to say while most of us have seen a ninja in a move or comic book, few of us know much about the real lives of actual ninjas. With this Viator experience in a private ninja workshop in Tokyo, you'll get a fun lesson in the life of a ninja. You'll learn the history of ninjas, uncover the secrets of these masters of stealth and disguise, practice mediation methods, and try your hand at using ninja weaponry.
Live Like an Emir for a Day in Dubai
The wealthiest oil-rich families of the United Arab Emirates live a luxurious lifestyle in Dubai, a place of glittering excess. While you're unlikely to be adopted into that lifestyle permanently, you can live like an Emir for the day with a Viator luxury desert experience in Dubai. You'll spend a day as an affluent Emirati would: riding in a vintage Land Rover through the desert, scouting for wildlife, watching a falconry display, seeing a performance of traditional dance, and enjoying a fabulous dinner at a lavish, Bedouin-inspired camp.
Get Schooled on Street Art in Berlin
The term "graffiti" has recently given way to "street art," particularly in big cities around the world where artists gain international fame for their beautiful public murals. In Berlin, street art is everywhere; some building owners even pay to have famous artists decorate their walls.
On this Viator tour and workshop, you'll learn all about the genesis and growth of Berlin's street art scene, and how that art in Berlin reflects the city's tumultuous past and its creative future. You'll check out street art from some of the city's most famous artists, learn about different types of art and techniques used to create it, and you'll learn how to make your own piece of street art to take home with you. It's the perfect souvenir from a city that serves as a canvas to some of the most interesting - and often beautiful - street art in the world.
Visit the Setting of "Downton Abbey" at Highclere Castle
The real-life castle that has become famous as the setting for PBS' hit series "Downton Abbey" is easy to visit on a day trip from London. On this small-group Viator tour, you'll see the stunning Highclere Castle as well as the charming village of Bampton that serves as Downton's village in the series. As you wander through rooms you've seen the Crawley's inhabit on television, you'll learn about the real-life Earl who still lives at Highclere Castle.
Renew Your Wedding Vows in Paris
-- Jessica Spiegel for Viator
Photo Credits: All photos courtesy of Viator