When you hear the words ‘wellness travel’, there’s a good chance the images that form in your mind are meditation retreats or twice-daily yoga sessions in a rainforest. Or maybe you’ve got no idea what wellness travel would look like at all and you’re wondering what makes it different from any other kind of adventure.
While we think all travel enriches us in some way (even if it’s just because it gives us a good story to tell), there are certain travel experiences that transform our bodies and minds and leave us feeling strong, capable and content in different ways.
To us, wellness is feeling at home both in your body and in the world around you. It looks and feels a little different for everyone, so we asked our staff and travellers to share the most memorable wellness experiences from their Intrepid adventures.
“In Jordan last year we spent the night with local Bedouin family in Wadi Rum. They cooked us a traditional zarb, which is a barbecue that’s buried under the sand with hot coals and cooks for hours before being dug up. After dinner (which was amazing), we sat around a campfire and looked up at the stars and chatted to our hosts. While life has changed for them significantly in the last generation or so, they still live reasonably traditional lives. The combination of no phones or technology, the simple but unbelievably beautiful setting, and the conversations we had was a really humbling experience and was an amazing reset after a few busy days of sightseeing.” – Amy, travelling on Intrepid’s 8-day Explore Jordan itinerary.
“Summiting Kilimanjaro in the dark to reach the summit at sunrise made me feel incredible. You forget that your legs hurt and that you haven’t had a shower in days and all you feel is this sense of wonder at the world around you.” – Stacy, travelling on Intrepid’s 8-day Kilimanjaro: Marangu Route itinerary.
“I stayed at a lodge deep in the heart of Botswana’s Okavango Delta – it was so remote we could only reach it by plane! We were pretty much completely off-the-grid. No phones, no wi-fi, no emails, no TV, no electricity. Not even an alarm clock! On the way we were all talking about how nervous we were about being disconnected, but it ended up being the highlight of my trip. Dinner by candlelight, wake up calls in the form of freshly brewed coffee and a gentle call at your tent at sunrise, weather warm enough to shower outside under a sky full of stars – it was absolute bliss!” – Jenny, travelling on Intrepid’s 5-day Okavango Fly-in Safari.
“I had something like a meditative experience while on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Which is weird, because before I went, I was hoping it would be like the craziest bits of an Attenborough documentary: lots of heart-pumping action. While we did see some pretty dramatic stuff, my favourite part was an hour where we just sat quietly watching two cheetahs lazing on a rocky outcrop soaking up the sun. After the first few minutes everyone just put their cameras away and took it all in quietly, just like the cats were.” – David, travelling on Intrepid’s 8-day Serengeti Trail itinerary.
“Relaxing on a gorgeous beach in perfect weather while lunch is cooked right in front of me was pure bliss. I had plenty of experiences like this in Papua New Guinea. I was pretty nervous to travel to PNG because of everything I’d read, but I’m so glad I went for it. The people and environments were beautiful.” – Liz, travelling on Intrepid’s 9-day National Mask Festival itinerary.
“I’m not a particularly open person when it comes to nudity, and went to Japan fully expecting to skip the whole onsen thing. But when we got to the monastery we were staying at, something clicked. I realised I really wanted to immerse myself in the culture, so I stripped down, had the ‘pre-bath’ you have to take and then hopped in the steaming water with everyone else. I felt my anxiety literally being soaked from my skin and it was really liberating to be bathing with a bunch of different women; young and old and all different body types.” – Gillian, travelling on Intrepid’s 13-day Land of the Snow Monkeys itinerary through Japan.
“When I think wellness travel, I think of earning a sunrise by waking up at a ridiculous hour and trekking up the side of a mountain to witness the sun coming up. You really feel like you’re waking up with the world. Trekking up Mount Kinabalu in Borneo was like that for me.” – Lucy, travelling on Intrepid’s 12-day Sabah Adventure itinerary.
“I met a Buddhist holy man at Lempuyang Temple in Bali last year. He took us away from all the influencers trying to capture shots of the famous Heavenly Arches and up a set of stairs guarded by stone dragons. He invited us into the temple’s inner sanctum, and we sat down with him for a meditation and prayer ceremony. He dabbed rice on our foreheads, sprinkled holy water over us and gave us a red bracelet for good fortune. Incredibly intimate, spiritual and unforgettable.” – Justin, travelling on Intrepid’s 12-day Bali & Lombok: Hike, Bike & Raft adventure.
“When I was in Iceland I took part in an ‘ice and fire’ type experience at the Blue Lagoon during winter. Our group took turns dashing out of the steaming blue waters, dancing in the freezing cold until our feet went numb, and then dashing back into the warm water with a sigh.” – Andy, who visited the Blue Lagoon in free time on his Intrepid adventure in Iceland.
“I was really looking forward to kayaking to Maclaren Glacier and camping nearby overnight, but I didn’t think it was going to be the most relaxing thing ever. You don’t go to Alaskan backcountry for a luxury vacation! But we arrived and got set up in this lovely, large tent, we spent a few hours after dinner relaxing in the old-school outdoor ‘hot tub’ staring up at the sky. It was incredibly serene, with no one around except our group and this incredible wilderness stretching in every direction.” – Dom, who travelled on Intrepid’s 9-day Explore Alaska itinerary.
“A sunrise boat ride on the Ganges in Varanasi is one of the most humbling and moving things I’ve ever done while travelling. Just watching life go by, seeing the locals praying and getting ready for the day ahead… it gave me this incredible feeling of being connected to everyone and everything.” – Meg, travelling on Intrepid’s 11-day Indian Getaway itinerary.
“Finding out what my Ayurvedic mind-body type is and then learning how to select and cook food that will help me feel better was very special. I still use a lot of the stuff I learned there about which vegies and spices make me feel best.” – Maddy, who travelled on Intrepid’s 9-day India: Mind, Body, Spirit itinerary.
“I don’t think I’d ever seen the stars the way I saw them during the jeep ride we took into the Ramon Crater. Our guide would occasionally interrupt the silence to point out certain constellations or animals in the dark, but otherwise we were all perfectly content to just stare up at the sky.” – John, who travelled on Intrepid’s 8-day Holy Land Highlights itinerary.
“Spending the night in a temple was a fun and different way to relax in the middle of a pretty full-on trip while still doing something cultural. The temple was on Mt Qincheng, where an ancient philosopher started Chinese Taoism, and it was an incredible setting. After one of the deepest sleeps of my life I woke up and did tai chi with a master. China is quite a hectic place to travel and so this was perfect.” – Karen, travelling on Intrepid’s 12-day Beijing to Hong Kong Adventure.
“We’d been in Norway for about a week and our leader had already explained the concept of friluftsliv to us, but I don’t think I really understood it until we got to our cabin near the western fjords. Friluftsliv is a Norwegian word that roughly translates to ‘outdoor living’, but it’s more than that. It’s about feeling comfortable and satisfied spending time in nature, without any of the usual junk we distract ourselves with. We were hiking one of the trails near the cabin, just having such a good time in the wild. I turned to my friend and said, ‘I think this is friluftsliv!’.” – Bec, travelling on Intrepid’s 15-day Scandinavian Explorer itinerary.
“After a few days wearing a headscarf and making sure you’ve got all the right stuff covered, you really start to appreciate women’s spaces where you can just feel comfortable. I do yoga all the time at home, but there was this extra layer of safety and connection to my body during this class that was amazing.” – Amy, travelling on Intrepid’s 12-day Iran: Women’s Expedition.
“Lithuania used to be a pagan country and places like Aukstaitija still have a magical, fairy-tale feel to them. We spent a day there kayaking through this impossibly green forest until we got to an ancient site with an old wishing tree. It felt like I’d stepped into a storybook.” – Claire, travelling on Intrepid’s 19-day Highlights of Russia & the Baltics itinerary.
“Lying in a hammock after having all my knots worked out in a massage, a light breeze in the air and 27°C (80°F) weather. If that’s not wellness, I don’t know what is!” – Ben, who travelled on Intrepid’s 7-day Best of Jamaica adventure.
“I’ve always had this vision of myself enjoying a big feast on an Italian farm – preferably with a big glass of wine in one hand and a forkful of pasta in the other. It was every bit as beautiful and satisfying as I thought it would be. More, even! Being vegan and travelling means you don’t always get to indulge in food culture, so getting to live out this dream was a great feeling.” – Cara, who travelled on Intrepid’s Italy Vegan Food adventure.
“Being welcomed onto Wulma Country by the land’s Traditional Owners was an incredible way to begin my journey in Australia. It was such a moving experience and it put me in the perfect headspace to embrace the local cultures during the trip. The same day we took a cruise along the East Alligator River with a Bininj guide, who taught us about his people’s connection to the land. I’m not a religious person at all but it felt very spiritual to be in this rugged place with people whose ancestors have lived there for tens of thousands of years.” – Taylor, travelling on Intrepid’s 5-day Top End & Arnhem Land adventure.
Wellness travel isn’t all oms and eating raw veggies for a week. Check out our full range of small group adventures, all incorporating elements of wellness, here.
Feature photo by Nathan Landers.