09/27/2011 10:54 am ET Updated Nov 27, 2011

World Tourism Day: 12 Great Cultural Destinations (PHOTOS)

World Tourism Day, like a lot of the "holidays" declared by the United Nations sounds like a bureaucratic invention, but by putting aside a day to celebrate the upside of travel, the diplomatic community is recognizing that valuable exchanges don't need to take place in conservatively-decorated conference rooms.

This year, the theme of World Tourism Day is "Linking Cultures," a both timely and ambiguous celebration of the mutual understandings that can be born out of visits to each others' homelands -- the sort of learning that cannot be accomplish by checking off the sights in a Lonely Planet guidebook. Can a person understand India without talking to a vendor, a rug-maker, a mahout and a businessman? Probably not. The Taj Mahal may be beautiful, but it is also a terrible conversationalist.

Because cultural tourism is increasingly important in the age of globalization (and because we totally dig the UN's color scheme) we are now presenting twelve destinations perfect for the cultural tourist.