Photo Courtesy of Sojourn Bicycling & Active Vacations
Defined by the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) as “Travel that allows the traveler to maintain, enhance or kickstart a healthy lifestyle,” wellness travel continues to gain popularity globally, and travelers are enjoying an increasing number of options that go way beyond the traditional spa stay. Those options include sustainably minded tours that emphasis being active, experiencing local cultures responsibly and spending time in nature.
G Adventures and Sojourn Bicycling & Active Vacations, both WTA Members, are just two tour operators now offering travelers opportunities to “maintain” “enhance” or “kickstart” a healthy lifestyle with small groups of the like-minded.
Designing and leading trips since 2004, Vermont-based Sojourn Bicycling & Active Vacations offers close to 30 six to nine-day programs in the USA, Canada, France, Portugal, Spain, Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile and Argentina.
Bibi Mukherjee, Sojourn's Vice President of Marketing, says the boutique tour company’s distinguishing factors include “trips designed for the discerning travelers, luxury accommodations, uncongested and less traveled routes and exceedingly well-versed guides.” A slower way to travel and better for the environment, cycling, in itself, is a nod to sustainability.
Depending on the destination, activities beyond cycling may include hiking, kayaking and river rafting. Guests can participate in all activities or customize from the options available to suit their own personal preferences. Trip designers also incorporate time for rest and relaxation, yoga sessions, spa treatments or simply spending quiet time in nature.
On the Sonoran Desert trip, for instance, guests are given the opportunity to partake in a meditative nature walk around Patagonia Lake. In a recent WTA survey on Wellness Vacations, “access to nature” ranked among the top five “must haves.”
When it comes to food – truly the foundation of both wellness living and wellness travel -- tour guests have access to farm-to-table cuisine, plus, Mukherjee points out examples of culinary activities: In Vietnam, for instance, guests visit the homes of local Vietnamese families for meals prepared with ingredients from their own micro-farms. In Spain, they explore the country’s culinary pintxo (small bite-sized foods served on a stick) capital of San Sebastian. And, while on the Savannah/Charleston tour, the opportunity to enjoy the authentic and traditional Gullah Geechee Low Country Boil at a historic plantation serves as the highlight of the trip.
While the world of wellness is new to G Adventures, the Toronto-based company was one of the pioneers of “responsible tourism.” Founder Bruce Poon Tip believed from the inception, back in 1990, when it comes to travel, “social and environmental welfare is fundamentally important.” The WTA believes that “giving back” can also fall under the umbrella of wellness tourism. G Adventures’ not-for-profit partner, Planeterra, established in 2003, was designed to empower local people to develop their communities, conserve their cultures, and create humane and supportive systems for their endeavors. Planeterra manages over 85 social enterprises that benefit women, at-risk youth, and rural and indigenous communities.
G Adventures launched a wellness travel style of programs in 2019 with guided, small group tours to Colombia, Peru, Italy, Thailand, Costa Rica, India, Patagonia, Nepal and Iceland. Each destination was selected for its unique wellness aspect, and travelers will participate in local rituals such as a purification bath in Bali, a prayer ceremony with monks in Nepal and an ashram stay in India.
Ben Perlo, Managing Director, USA, says "Creating international tours focused on wellness was an exciting space for G Adventures to enter. We felt that combining experiential travel with the opportunity to recharge both mind and body, provided a unique opportunity for travelers looking to see the world to connect with different cultures, plus focus on their wellbeing."
Centered around the pillars of mindfulness, movement and nourishment, these new G Adventures wellness trips range from seven to 13 days in duration, and balance the must-see highlights of a destination with a slower more mindful pace of travel. “We designed the trips to help travelers slow down, find their balance and reconnect with the world, as well as with themselves,” says Simon Ma, brand manager of the wellness series.
Tours offers healthy cuisine centered around fresh, local and seasonal produce, and several also include market visits and farm-to-table style cooking classes. Ma says they also aim to cater to all kinds of dietary preferences. Intention setting and yoga sessions are all offered.
Sample highlights incorporated into the various tours include a meditation session next to a waterfall in Colombia, aerial yoga in Costa Rica, visiting the geothermal spas of Iceland, spending three nights in a traditional Ashram in India, hiking the Cerro Tronador of Patagonia and, in Nepal, a stay in a working monastery to take part in a traditional prayer ceremony and meditation session guided by Nepalese monks.
You’ll find other travel options to help you “maintain” “enhance” or “kickstart” a healthy lifestyle in the WTA Directory.