10 ways to take women-led trips that are for women only
Samburu women greet American women on Global Heart Journeys’ Women’s Journey to Kenya — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
According to every statistic, the future of travel is female. More women are traveling than ever before, and they’re not waiting around for their spouse or friends to join them. They’re going to exotic places around the world with women they’ve never met, on trips led by female guides who encourage and nurture them.
In fact, “women-only journeys” ranked as one of the most requested niche and specialty travel categories in Travel Leaders Group’s most recent travel trends survey. No wonder the number of women-only travel companies grew more than 230% in six years – and that was back in 2015.
Today, there are dozens of options for women who want to experience the world safely and in the company of future BFFs.
Here are 10 women-only travel companies to satisfy your wanderlust. Rest assured there’ll be no mansplaining and, if you forget to bring something, one of your fellow travelers is likely to have it in her purse.
Global Heart Journeys
American women and Kenyan women get to know each other through Global Heart Journeys — Photo courtesy of Paul Higdon
Linda Higdon fell in love with Africa on her first visit decades ago, and she’s been actively advocating for its women ever since.
Twice yearly, she offers her signature Women’s Journey to Kenya, a 16-day cultural immersion filled with experiences you’d never have access to as a tourist. Higdon takes you into remote villages for intimate conversations with the local women, and introduces you to female powerhouses who are fighting for women’s rights, empowering child rape victims and teaching boys to respect girls.
You’ll stay in luxury accommodations and enjoy spa treatments and game drives to replenish your soul. This is a truly unique and transformative trip that will leave you with a permanent – and personal – connection to people who live in your heart though their homes are 10,000 miles away.
Global Volunteers’ Ecuador Women’s Project — Photo courtesy of Global Volunteers
The best gift you can give someone is your time, and Global Volunteers offers you the opportunity to really make a difference in the lives of those in need in 17 different countries.
The non-profit’s newest program is an 8-day women’s-only trip to Quito led by Maggie Bjorklund, Global Volunteers’ Ecuador Country Manager. Working in conjunction with The Fundación de Damas Calderonenses or the Ladies of Calderón Foundation (FUNDAC), you’ll work, learn and live side-by-side with local women and their children.
You’ll help prepare and serve meals, play with the kids and offer psychosocial support. You’ll also get to engage with the women sharing stories, hear from leaders and visit sites important in the history of women in Ecuador.
Wild Women Expeditions
Horseback riding during a Wild Women Expeditions trip to Patagonia — Photo courtesy of Wild Women Expeditions
Jennifer Haddow founded Wild Women Expeditions in 1991, focusing on canoeing in remote Ontario waters. It has since become the world’s largest women-only travel company, offering trips to 30 countries.
In every place they visit, from Bhutan to Mongolia to New Zealand, Wild Women Expeditions supports women-run businesses and hires female guides whenever possible. Committed to creating an inclusive and diverse community, their trips attract women of all ages and skill levels, who come together to celebrate their love of adventure and the outdoors.
Two new trips in 2020 – the 18-day Annapurna Himalayan Haven Trek and the 11-day Colca Canyon Riding Adventure – are geared towards empowering guests while promoting women’s leadership in the mountains of Nepal and Peru.
A Purposeful Nomad trip to India — Photo courtesy of Purposeful Nomad
Caitlin Murray founded Purposeful Nomad with the belief that women had the power to positively change the world if they were given a way to travel safely together, trade ideas and learn from each other.
Her trips, to places like Iceland, Tanzania and Morocco, are carefully crafted to provide a destination-exclusive experience. Because social responsibility is important to her, she partners with local organizations and individuals who are deeply invested in their communities to positively impact both those communities and her travelers.
Her customizable itineraries include skill-building, skill-sharing and self-care, and allow much-needed solo time along with group time to create tight-knit, lifelong friendships.
Travelers on a Damesly trip to Antelope Canyon in Arizona — Photo courtesy of Damesly
As founder of Go! Girl Guides and the Women’s Travel Fest, Kelly Lewis has always been a pioneer in the women’s travel space. Recognizing a need for tours specifically for women with a healthy income and a desire to travel, she created Damesley in 2016, bringing together “the places you want to go with the women you want to know.”
Designed for creative and professional women, Damesley’s small-group tours (they’re capped at 8 travelers) combine skill-building workshops with highly-coveted destinations, so you can be inspired to write, take photos or learn to surf in stunning locations.
The Islands + Identity trip is one of the most popular, offering sessions with a life coach in addition to hiking, snorkeling and visiting Lewis’ favorite hometown Hawaii haunts. Look for new adventures in 2020 in Japan, Nicaragua and Bali.
The Women’s Travel Group
The Women’s Travel Group in Ethiopia — Photo courtesy of The Women’s Travel Group
Phyllis Stoller founded The Women’s Travel Group so she wouldn’t have to travel solo and, for 27 years, she’s offered a safe space to thousands of women who feel the same way.
Partnering with tour companies specializing in destinations that are exotic or new to tourism, she designs trips that often include speakers and home visits to make a place come alive. Signature trips include India, East Africa and colonial Mexico, and are geared toward women of all ages.
Check out her Italy cooking and spa-fitness-yoga deals. With a 90% repeat rate, these women may become your new travel buddies.
AdventureWomen’s Best of Peru trip — Photo courtesy of AdventureWomen
A leader in adventure travel for women since 1982, AdventureWomen is owned by Judi Wineland and her daughters, Erica Landerson and Nicole Wineland-Thomson, who describe it as a “relationship company.” Women bond with like-minded women as they explore the world, challenging themselves both physically and mentally, and creating lifelong connections.
AdventureWomen will feature 40 different itineraries in 2020, including the first women-only group trips to Oman and Ladakh, India, as well as a new journey to Antarctica. Mother-daughter trips to Costa Rica, Iceland and Baja encourage all generations of female travelers to get out there and experience something new together.
Women Traveling Together ®
Debra Asberry, founder of Women Traveling Together, in China — Photo courtesy of Women Traveling Together
When Debra Asberry founded Women Traveling Together in 1997, she offered three tours. Today, the company offers more than 100 tours to all seven continents and for all activity levels.
The only women’s tour operator to own 15-passenger mini-coaches for touring the U.S. and Canada, Women Traveling Together is constantly adding new coast-to-coast itineraries. You’ll find tours such as the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, A Taste of Charleston and Bluegrass, Horses and Bourbon.
Special international tours for 2020 feature a South Africa Photo Safari and the Galapagos Islands by Private Yacht.
WHOA stands for Women High On Adventure! — Photo courtesy of WHOA Travel
Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton met while planning their first Kilimanjaro climb, and were so moved by their accomplishment, they opened WHOA (Women High On Adventure), a boutique adventure company, to create life-changing travel experiences for women.
WHOA brings together curious, fun-loving women from around the world to take on epic challenges in some of the most spectacular places on earth, always leaving a positive impact and connecting with local women. Their signature line-up includes Kilimanjaro (where they sponsor a local Tanzanian woman to share the climb with them), Peru + Machu Picchu (with a female-led crew of local mountain guides) and Everest Base Camp (where they partner with a local organization dedicated to training and employing women as porters and guides).
Those seeking less comfort zone, more independence (think trekking with an eagle huntress in Mongolia or summiting Europe’s highest mountain in Russia) should take a look at WHOAx Expeditions.
A Souljourn Yoga retreat in Peru — Photo courtesy of Souljourn Yoga
Jordan Ashley founded Souljourn Yoga as a non-profit organization to raise awareness and funds for girls’ education in developing countries through yoga. Her global retreats give women the opportunity to explore, practice and educate both on and off the mat in locations like Cape Town, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Rwanda.
Ashley chooses countries that offer a magical quality of exploration, and she highlights and juxtaposes their natural beauty with the gender inequalities and obstacles faced by the women who live there. She works with charities that specifically support, fund and help to pave a way for women, providing a rich, meaningful experience for her guests as they connect personally with girls born under very different circumstances than their own.
Gratitude, a vital part of the yoga practice, happens naturally on every trip.