Five women-only holidays in Asia next year, from the adventurous to the indulgent

From Bhutan to Borneo to Bali, explore the ecology, environment, culture and cuisines of some of Asia’s most sought after destinations in the company of fellow women – a growing travel sector

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 5:31am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 5:30am

As more women travel without partners or friends, the number of tours offering them a safe environment, with company along the way, has surged.

“There is something special about sharing your adventures with like-minded women,” says Sue Badyari, CEO of World Expeditions. The company has recently launched some special packages after a jump in the ratio of women on their tours from 38 per cent in 1996 to 54 per cent in 2015.

“The shared experience away from family and work pressures can allow you to take some time for yourself, push personal boundaries and make some great lifelong friendships along the way,” Badyari says.

Here are some women-only tours being organised around in Asia in 2017.

The Natural Beauty of Borneo

Canadian Debbie Lloyd, a 38-year travel industry veteran, launched a female-only travel company in 2002 after a suggestion from a passenger on a cruise she was leading in 1999. Today’s Woman Traveller offers a wide range of tours for women of all ages, including Vietnam and Cambodia, India, Cuba and Portugal. Borneo, the latest addition to its itinerary, boasts unspoiled sandy beaches, the oldest bio-diverse rainforests that are home to rare flora and fauna, including orangutans. The 21-day adventure takes in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Kuching and Mulu, delving deep into the region’s countryside and historic cities, towns and villages. It also includes cooking classes, snorkelling, lazing on the beach, spotting orangutans, sun bears and proboscis monkeys, a stay at Selingan Turtle Island, jungle treks and caving.

Departure: August 1

Women’s Bali Indulgence

A 12-day break by Australian-based Lyn Taylor’s Adventure Travel avoids tourist traps such as Kuta and Legian, with the first two nights at Sanur beach. Participants will visit galleries and the Bali Safari Marine Park, and venture into rugged jungle on a truck to spot indigenous species. Spare time can be on the beach or indulging in beauty treatments. The mountain and cultural retreat, Ubud, warrants three nights and there are half-day tours for mountain biking, hiking to remote villages and visiting ancient pagodas. Two nights are spent at the spiritual Sidemen Valley, home to a string of Hindu temples and famous for the paddies that flank the valley. Morning excursions take in markets and artisans, a cooking class and hikes. Afternoons are free for guests to enjoy spas or yoga sessions and aqua classes led by Taylor, who is also an accredited fitness instructor.

Departure: August 20

Journey to Bhutan

Women Traveling Together was founded in the US in 1997, after a group of women in their 40s didn’t want holidays on their own. Pre-reservations are now being taken for next year and a planned eight-night trip to the Himalayan kingdom between China and India. Bhutan, known for jaw-dropping beauty and charming people, is steeped in spirituality “Gross national happiness” is promoted by the king. The tour, which includes meetings with monks, farm visits, hiking, rafting, cooking and relaxing at hot stone baths, also offers a glimpse into the lives of Bhutanese women, both urban and rural.

Departure: October 1

Holi Himalayan

Three Nepalese siblings who were running a guest house in Pokhara – the gateway town to the Annapurna trekking route in the Himalayas – decided in 1994 to start training female guides. “Trekking is an adventure and [guiding] was considered a male profession,” says eldest sister, Lucky K. Chhetri. “There was no choice to trek with women trekking guides.” Of the few women who did venture on treks, several told the sisters of sexual and physical harassment. “As women, we started thinking of a solution.” Holi Himalayan is one of several treks operated throughout the year by 3 Sisters Adventure Trek, which was founded in 1998. The 12-day hike to Annapurna Base Camp is not for the faint-hearted and goes through picturesque villages to the centre of the Annapurna range. Watching the sun set and rise surrounded by 8,000-metre peaks is special. Departure: October 9

Women’s Vietnam Charity Challenge

This 10-day adventure is one of World Expeditions’ top choices among its 21 new women-only itineraries. It combines trekking through the small villages of unspoilt northern Vietnam with raising funds and awareness for good causes. Starting in Hanoi, exploring the city’s bustling market streets, the tour takes in the Mai Chau highlands and Red River Delta, homestays in ethnic minority villages, and the emerald waterways and iconic rugged islands of Halong Bay, where two nights are spent on a traditional junk boat. As well as must-see spots, the well-trodden tourist trail is left behind with hikes and kayaking. Departure: November 17