A search for unusual places has made a Kyiv-born Monaco-London-based actress, artist and tour guide discover a niche market for experiences. At the age of 24, Valery Danko has opened her own tour operator company.
“I just thought it’s unfair to keep everything I found for myself therefore I wanted to create experiences that will help well-read and artsy souls to fulfill their interests and stimulate their imagination.”
After the pandemic, Danko’s themed tours made her an international name in peculiar experiences with culture festivals ordering custom-made routes to promote the lesser-known sights.
“Everyone can Google the most famous sights so my aim was to target off-the-beaten-path— secluded alleys; favorite spots of iconic people of the past; haunted villages; forgotten castles—everything you won’t find in a typical guidebook.”
She adds, “Monaco residents are sophisticated and just seeing Big Ben won’t serve the needs of a well-read traveler.”
Danko creates time-travelling experiences where the guests are taken to different periods. Starting from going back to prehistoric Britain, the land of celts and druids, switching to mysterious 19th-century Victorian era, when Britain was a birthplace for secret societies and magnificent inventions that impacted the world.
For nostalgic memories, music lovers follow the footsteps of The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix as they delve into the 1960s. Those who love Freddie Mercury and Queen experience what it was like to be a starving musician in the 80s.
“History is about people. I tell people of today stories about someone just like them but 200 years ago. It’s not for everyone, though. My experiences are like theatre, exhibition, performance, everything except for a lecture.”
She says being an actress helps make her experiences immersive. “You can see me on the screen next year in the thriller 97 Minutes where I worked alongside Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and MyAnna Buring.”
The recognition in Monaco started last year when CStar TV Chanel did a documentary about Freddie Mercury featuring Valery Danko and her original tour of the rock icon and Queen. It was shown across French-speaking countries and afterwards she had guests from Monaco who inspired her to create London bespoke tours where famous sights are mixed with quirky musical heritage.
In general Monaco-based customers have a tendency to book experiences for special occasions.
“It’s always moving for me to be a part of someone’s special day, anniversary or birthday.
Sometimes it’s very emotional. Once I had a lady with stage 4 cancer yet it didn’t stop her from making her dream come true and following the footsteps of Freddie Mercury. Her husband said that he is doing everything she wants to make her happy but the only thing that makes him happy is her.”
Valery Danko started with a few tours and later expanded into more. Currently Danko and her team offer over 40 experiences, all of them designed by Danko with the most popular being “Occult London: Secret Societies and Witchcraft,” “The Beatles + a visit to the 60s bar,” “Hidden secrets of Freddie Mercury,” and “Impressionists: following the footsteps of Monet and Turner.”
She wanted to bring the industry to the next level by offering a wide variety of themed tours.
“I love telling stories about people. Inspiring personalities, weak people, evil ones as well. I find stories make me tick and then I’m just channeling them through me.
“I cannot make anyone’s life longer but I can make it more meaningful. My only aim is to make people happy.”
A percentage of her company’s profit (Pigeon Tours) go to Ukrainian charities to support the victims of the war.