UPDATED: This article was originally published in March 2019.
Two years ago, just before International Women’s Day in 2018, Intrepid Travel launched a new range of unique expeditions, just for women.
We’ve always been firm believers that travel should be accessible to everyone. But in some destinations and cultures, there are experiences that aren’t open to regular, mixed-gender tour groups.
As a travel company, we feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to share in the customs, challenges and lives of women in Jordan, Morocco, Nepal and Kenya with female travellers from around the world over the past few years. And after the success of the first few expeditions, we realised that there were even more opportunities to immerse female travellers in local experiences.
We’re lifting the veil and really getting to know the locals – from entrepreneurs, artists, chefs, activists, domestic violence survivors, refugees and mountaineers – to find out what their lives are really like.
Here’s what you can expect travelling on a Women’s Expedition with Intrepid:
1. Take the road less travelled with an all-female group in Pakistan
Let’s be real. Pakistan hasn’t had a particularly good reputation in recent years. War, terrorism and political unrest have dominated news headlines, and until recently, the country has been largely off-limits to travellers, particularly women. However all that is starting to change. Tourism is growing – in 2018, over 1.9 million travellers visited the country, and Forbes ranked Pakistan as one of the coolest places to visit in 2019. And this year we’re excited to be running our first Women’s Expedition in the region.
Starting and finishing in capital Islamabad, this 15-day expedition – led by a female local leader – will take you into the businesses and homes of local women, like a unique female-only salon in Gulmit, the Aga Khan Foundation in Minapin, run to empower local women, and into the home of a local cook in Ghulkin, where you’ll learn to make traditional Huzai food.
Being a woman traveller in Pakistan gives you a rare opportunity to see a very different side of the country. In most parts of Pakistan, women are rarely seen outside the house, however female travellers are able to transcend the cultural barriers and experience the warm hospitality of this incredible country.
2. Discover a different side of Israel and the Palestinian Territories
There’s a lot to discover in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. And while we’re obviously biased, we think the best way for women travellers to see this relatively hidden side of life here is on our new 8-day Women’s Expedition. From the lively café culture of Tel Aviv to the West Bank city of Ramallah and onto Jerusalem, this trip promises an immersive experience into some of the region’s different cultures – all through the eyes of the women who live there.
Visit a social tourism project in Arad City, a small town on the edge of the Judean Desert, where you’ll learn about what life in the desert is really like from the community of artists who live there. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet with members of the Women Wage Peace movement, a group with pillars based on non-violence and respect, and hear about their activism on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Rahat, join a group of Bedouin women for lunch as you discuss their involvement in a grassroots Bedouin-Jewish organisation working to empower young women in the region.
3. Meet a group of amazing women – from activists to conservationists – in Nepal
Through a mix of festival celebrations, cultural experiences and time in the great outdoors, this 13-day expedition through Nepal will give you the chance to meet a range of incredible Nepalese women and appreciate the diversity of life in this part of the world.
Meet a range of female trailblazers, from chefs at a social enterprise to women campaigning to abolish Chhaupadi, the illegal but socially common practice of forbidding women from entering their homes, kitchens, schools, and temples during their menstrual cycles, as they are considered ‘impure’.
You’ll also have the chance to spend some time reconnecting with nature at a community-based tourism project (CBT) on the fringes of Chitwan National Park, which is helping to conserve wildlife in the area. Before the village was established as a CBT, women generally stayed behind the scenes. However with comprehensive skills training in hospitality, management and cooking, the women in Madi Valley are generating their own income and are empowered to decide how that money is spent.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Nepal without visiting the iconic Himalayas. Head off on a trek through the lush forests and mountain villages to see some pretty jaw-dropping views, led by an all-female mountaineering crew.
4. Explore Turkey with some incredible local women, from a skipper to a fortune teller
Turkey can be seen as quite a contradictory destination. On the one hand, you have traditional spice bazaars and ornately adorned mosques and on the other, high-speed trains and bustling cosmopolitan cities. On this women’s only expedition, you’ll discover both the traditional and modern wonders of Turkey through the lives of the women who live here.
At a local home, you’ll learn to make the perfect cup of Turkish coffee and how to read your fortune in the coffee grounds – a traditional female art form. Afterwards spend the evening in a Cappadocian cave where a local woman will cook you a Turkish dinner. Nuray’s famous Anatolian dishes have provided her with enough income to send her daughter to university.
5. Be inspired by the women breaking cultural stereotypes in India
From travelling by public transport in the female-only carriage of the Delhi Metro to exploring colourful bazaars and architectural delights of Old Delhi, this women’s only journey through India will make this sometimes-challenging destination a breeze, thanks to your female local leader.
Head out into the remote dunes of the Thar Desert and spend a night under the stars with traditional food and dance performances by the local women – while the men go off and cook dinner.
You’ll also meet the survivors of acid attacks at Sheroes Hangout, a social enterprise and café in Agra, and hear how they are breaking stereotypes and facing the world in the most beautiful ways after being ostracised from their communities.
6. Drive through Kenya with East Africa’s most famous (and first female) overland truck driver
Travel through the heart of Kenya with Becky behind the wheel, the very first female overland truck driver in all of East Africa. Along with the rest of your all-female crew, you’ll meet local Kenyan women and men from all walks of life, who will share their stories and triumphs in the struggle for gender equality.
Visit women’s-only villages like Umoja Village, a unique Manyatta founded in 1990 as a sanctuary for survivors of genital mutilation, sexual assault, and forced marriages, then join a chapati cooking class in Mwariki Village, a community project dedicated to empowering less privileged women and children.
Safaris in the Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru and Samburu National Reserve are not only opportunities to see some of Kenya’s most incredible wildlife, but also to meet some of Kenya’s female wildlife rangers and understand the challenges they face in a male-dominated industry.
We would love to open up these real-life experiences to all of our travellers, however, in order to operate in a socially responsible and culturally sensitive manner, this is simply not possible. But if you’re interested in visiting any of these incredible parts of the world and a women’s only trip isn’t for you, we have a number of regular or themed trips in these destinations too. So, be sure to check them out.
Want to head off on the trip-of-a-lifetime that will help break down barriers and offer you a deeper understanding of female culture? View our full range of Women’s Expeditions here.
Feature photo by Alex Reynolds.