Demand for women-only breaks is growing. These activity trips include yoga, surfing, boot camps, and dog-sledding, from Kent to Kilimanjaro.
Top 1. Via ferrata, Italy
Desperately Seeking Adventure runs active trips for small groups of women of all ages – the oldest participant so far was 72. There are two via ferrata trips to Italy: a five-night taster around Lake Garda, with low-level routes for beginners to intermediates, and a more challenging seven-night adventure in Cortina in the Dolomites – both full-board in four-star accommodation. Alternatively, there is a six-night walking, yoga and meditation break in the Dolomites; walking and wild camping trips to the Lake District; and an expedition to Morocco to climb Mount Toubkal in the Atlas range, the highest peak in North Africa.
Top 2. Trekking, worldwide
World Expeditions is launching 21 treks for women only next year, starting with Tasmania (6 days, £1,370) and Nepal (12 days, £1,390) in March. Subsequent trips include treks along the Great Wall of China (8 days, £1,290), in the Canadian Rockies (6 days, £1,250), to Machu Picchu (7 days, £1,350) and up Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (10 days, £2,690 including entry fees). Most trips will be led by a local female guide, and accommodation is in a mix of hotels and camping on the trail. The company says that the proportion of female bookings has increased from 38% in 1996 to 54% today, and the new itineraries are designed to encourage even more women to sign up.
Top 3. Surfing and yoga, Lanzarote
Birgit and Julika, AKA the WaveSisters, run fun surf camps for women in Famara, Lanzarote. They cite studies that show women learn more quickly in an all-female environment – and they are on a mission to increase the number of female surfers (only about 10% of surfers are women). Kids are welcome, too: there is childcare for children of three and over, and surf courses for those of six and above. A typical week includes 20 hours of surf lessons and three 90-minute yoga sessions, staying in a shared apartment. The WaveSisters add: “For those who are missing the guys already: they turn up en masse on the beach, in bars and in the water.”
Top 4. Skiing, French Alps
Ski Goddess trips to Chatel in the Portes du Soleil combine intensive lessons with a fun holiday. The holiday starts at home when instructor Katie calls for a pre-trip chat, and gives techniques to practise. On the slopes, there are full days of skiing, with lots of skills and exercises in the morning. Back at the chalet, a daily video analysis session highlights each person’s strengths and weaknesses – in a friendly, supportive way. One nice touch is that a range of ski boots are brought to the chalet and Katie is always checking that everyone has the best fit, which can make all the difference to performance.
Top 5. Dog-sledding, Norway
Nature Travels, which runs outdoor and adventure holidays in Sweden, Norway and Finland, has two women-only dog-sledding tours in Trøndelag, central Norway. Amateur mushers learn how to harness a team of huskies and handle the sled, before heading off on the snow. The five-day trip includes a longer journey (up to 35km) into the wilderness where reindeer roam, and a night in a mountain cabin. Lunches are eaten outside over an open fire or in a lavvu (tipi), and accommodation is a modern chalet.
Top6. Active holidays, various countries
Walking Women started running walking holidays in 2000, and while this is still their main business, they have since branched out into all kinds of women-only trips: culture and wildlife in Rajasthan, India; bird-watching in Costa Rica; a safari in Swaziland; sailing in Turkey; and wild swimming in the Lake District. More than 1,000 women travel with them every year, the vast majority solo travellers.
Top 7. Walking, Spain
Camino Ways, which runs guided walks on the many Camino de Santiago routes across Spain, Portugal and France, started women-only trips for the first time this year. The route follows the last 100km of the Portuguese Coastal Way (which crosses into northern Spain) from Baiona to Santiago, with fantastic sea views and interesting overnight stops, including Vigo and Pontevedra. Some walkers are pilgrims; other are looking for a physical challenge or a cultural experience. Daily walks are between 15 and 28km, and accommodation is in family-run hotels and guest houses.
Top 8. Mountain biking, Scotland
Go-Where’s Mountain Lassie mountain bike weekends are three days of tight, twisty trails in the Tweed Valley, Scotland. Riders become more mountain savvy, learning how to plan big rides, read the local conditions and terrain, and carry out repairs on the trail. There are visits to the pub in the evening, and lodge accommodation close to the riding. New this year are Soul Trails – week-long biking breaks with cyclist-specific yoga. They are based on a farm in the Cairngorms national park, with rides in the local area, and also in Highland Perthshire, the Monadhliath mountains, Lochaber and Glencoe.
Top 9. Relaxing retreats, Wales
Sisterhood runs creative retreats, workshops and suppers for women. The retreats, held at a forest camp on the outskirts of Cardigan, are designed to be relaxing breaks where participants can learn new skills, reconnect with nature and eat delicious food. This month’s winter retreat is sold out but places are available on the summer retreat in June, which involves morning yoga, golden-hour photography (just after sunrise/just before sunset), foraging, fire pits, workshops and discussions. All meals are included and the glamping accommodation offers a choice of domes, cabins and lofts.
Top 10. GI Jane Bootcamp, Kent
At the opposite end of the relaxation and activity scale to the Sisterhood retreat, GI Jane Bootcamps are intense: rise and shine at 5.30am and lights out at 8pm – with barely a moment to catch your breath in between. The packed timetable includes circuit training, boxing, assault courses and Ironman drills – and to ease aching muscles, there’s a mandatory daily soak in cold water. Women endure this for three, four or seven days in Kent – though the new bootcamps in Koh Samui, Thailand, might be more tempting. Food is predictably healthy, with no alcohol, caffeine, refined carbs, processed food or sugar.