Women-only travel can mean yoga on the beach or hiking the Himalayas. And while the range of adventures of women-only travel is wide, these trips share some common threads. If you're looking for a travel experience that offers more than the view through a tour bus window; if you've reached a life crossroads and want to push yourself out of your comfort zone; or if you want to connect with women not only in your group but in the cultures you travel to, these adventures are for you.
These tour companies stress social responsibility and sustainable travel, working with local tour guides and building relationships in the places they visit.
"You can't just show up to sell women stuff. You have to be participating in the communities and engaged in their issues," Canada-based Wild Women Expeditions Jennifer Haddow told Travel + Leisure. "Clients respond to authenticity."
"Men have been taking sporting trips and fishing trips and hunting getaways for ages," Mollie Fitzgerald, the owner of Frontiers International Travel, told the New York Times, "and it's finally time for women to have the equal amount of hall passes so to speak."
Here are a smattering of adventures to choose from.
This company has been around since 1999 offering trips around the world for women only. Venture beyond Havana's city streets on a trip to Cuba; a hike of Bulgaria's mountains and monasteries; or a two-week tour of Mongolia that includes healing hot springs and nomadic hospitality.
One of the oldest women-only travel groups, AdventureWomen doesn't think of itself as a travel company. "AdventureWomen is a relationship company, empowering women to build new connections with other women and discover more about themselves through travel," the company says. Trips include hiking the Scottish Highlands, river-rafting in the Pacific Northwest, drumming with nuns in Bhutan, and trekking through the Andes to Machu Piccu before visiting master women weavers.
Damesly combines travel and adventure with skill-building, career development, and personal growth. "Our hands-on workshops feature women who lead the way in their fields. It's all of the information you'd get in a stuffy conference, limited to a group of 20 or less, with the world as the backdrop," the company says. From writing workshops and horseback riding in Colorado to an "islands and identity" trip in Hawaii where you can expect to "get to the heart of what's keeping you from actualizing the things you know you want to pursue and come together to help you get crystal clear about your heart's calling," the company says.
Intrepid Travel launched their women-only tours when they noticed how much mixed-gender groups were missing out on in traditional countries. Guided by local women tour leaders in Morocco, Iran, and Jordan, "these expeditions will help break down barriers of traditional tourism in these countries, offering a deeper understanding of female culture in each destination," the company says. Learn the ancient art of henna from Bedouin women in Jordan, cook in the home of an Iranian woman hijab-free, and in Morocco visit women's artist cooperative empowering its weavers.
This Portland-based company offers tiers of trips, from US-based weekends exploring the City of Roses to longer international excursions to whitewater raft through the Canadian Rockies and explore local cave communities in Vietnam. "Go ahead and take a break from being the CEO of your friends and family while traveling," says the company. "We got ya."
There are plenty of glowing, five-star reviews for the trips offered by REI's women-only travel arm, including South African safaris, hiking in the Greek isles, to climbing California's Mount Shasta. "I met amazing women from all different backgrounds and got through physically challenging moments with them," writes one reviewer. "Our reward was the amazing views we got to see."
Founded after a life-changing hiking to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, WHOA Travel now offers women-only trips not only to the "roof of Africa," but a cultural adventure through the Indian state of Rajasthan and a trek through the Himalayas to the base camp of Mount Everest. "With every adventure we take, we give back by connecting with local women to make a positive impact," the company says. That trip to Nepal? WHOA partners with Take on Nepal, a local organization that trains and employs young women from Batase village as porters and guides. "This opportunity, which is traditionally seen as exclusively for men, gives young women valuable paid work, skills, and life experience that will lead them towards a brighter future filled with more hope and independence."
Expect more than your average momento on these trips. On a trip with AdventureWomen to Tanzania, one tour group met with 12 women from a local Masai community. Through interpreters, the women spoke for two hours about everything from female genital mutilation to divorce.
"By the time it was finished, it was the biggest gift for me," one participant told the New York Times. "At the end of the day we all want the same things: to have work, to provide for our family, to have a family."