The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants has nothing on the sisterhood of the travelling women.
Over the past decade, the number of tour companies catering exclusively to female-identifying travellers has risen exponentially — thanks, in large part, to the growing cohort of solo female travellers aged 40 and up.
“More women are coming into the space in their lives where they have the time and the resources to travel. Often, it’s because of a major life transition: divorce, empty-nesting or retirement,” says Kelly Kimple, CEO of Adventures in Good Company, a women’s-only adventure tour company that’s been in operation for nearly 25 years. “We create a really safe space for these women in a small group, where there’s great camaraderie.”
According to Jenny Gray, Intrepid’s senior product manager, the industry’s growth is also being driven not just by the desire to make friends — but to connect with other women across cultures.
“We started to notice a real trend in feedback from our female customers that they were yearning for genuine, authentic connections with women on the ground, in particular in Middle Eastern destinations, where they just weren’t having that sort of interaction due to different cultural or religious reasons,” says Gray.
In response to this feedback, Gray helped to develop Intrepid’s Women’s Expeditions, which launched in 2018 They aren’t just standard itineraries that Intrepid has slapped a “women-only” label on to — they have unique inclusions that mixed-gender groups wouldn’t have access to. For example, on its 12-day trip to Iran, travellers picnic in a women-only park (one of the few places women can go outdoors without a hijab) and visit a beauty salon (considered an oasis for local women, where they can literally let their hair down).
“By choosing female-owned suppliers and businesses on the ground, we give our female travellers really special insight into the lives of local women, while giving local women employment and the opportunity to share their stories of success, challenges, and triumphs,” says Gray.
While women’s-only tours are hardly a new development, what’s changed is that many are increasingly adventure-forward. Women don’t just want another yoga retreat or spa weekend; they want the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture and to test their own personal emotional and physical limits.
In addition to Intrepid and Adventures in Good Company, here are just a handful of tour companies offering women-only itineraries that are ideal for solo travellers.
Women Want Adventure
Founded by Australian outdoor education teacher Monique Farmer, Women Want Adventure is about getting into the outdoors, with itineraries that include kayaking, canyoning, hiking, snowshoeing, and yoga escapes. Most of its trips take place in Australia and New Zealand (think kayaking on Queensland’s Hinchinbrook Island or snorkelling with whale sharks on Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef) but it also offers some international departures, such as hiking in Nepal.
Outward Bound’s Gutsy Girls Adventure in Western Australia
Don’t let the name of this tour mislead you. While Outward Bound might be known for its experiential youth programming, this 10-day programme through the coastal wilderness of Western Australia is open to female-identifying travellers aged 15 and up. However, it still incorporates the best practices of an Outward Bound experience. On a solo campout, for example, you’ll be left with a ration of food, shelter and uninterrupted time for self-reflection.
Wild Women Expeditions
Choose your own adventure — from hiking in the Canadian Rockies, to going on safari in Tanzania, to horseback riding in Iceland, the world is your oyster with Wild Women Expeditions. Although adventure is the name of the game, there are options with a range of fitness levels, with each trip clearly rated according to the level of physical activity involved.
Australian Walking Holidays’ Women’s-Only Larapinta Treks
Tackle Australia’s iconic Larapinta Trail in one of two ways: The Women’s Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort includes five days of tramping along the track’s most spectacular sections. Or, for a more laid-back version, try the Larapinta Goddess Walk, which includes daily yoga and meditation sessions. Both itineraries are led by female guides.
PureTrails New Zealand’s Ladies on Tour
Earlier this year, PureTrails — a South Island-based cycle tour business — launched the first of its women-only itineraries, assisted by a female guide. On its Alps 2 Ocean departure, women have the opportunity to not just explore Mackenzie Country’s glacial lakes and hydro canals — but to learn more about the issue of wildling pines in New Zealand and aid in their removal. The next departure is scheduled for November 2023.
JourneyWoman’s Women’s Travel Directory
If none of the above suit your interests or travel style, then visit directory.journeywoman.com. JourneyWoman — the original solo travel publication for women — has taken up the helm of the formerly NZ-based Womentravel.info site to create a comprehensive directory of travel opportunities and tours for women over 50, with a focus on expanding its inclusion of accessible, LGBTQ+ and Indigenous tours.