Ten beautiful countries & fabulous trip itineraries, for midlife women dreaming of travel
My travel plans screeched to a halt in the spring of 2020, like most peoples. I cancelled two special holidays and settled in at home with back issues of AFAR magazine. While I haven’t travelled internationally (other than a trip to Canada for my mother’s birthday) all those glossy photo spreads inspired me to assemble a list of dream destinations – the places I most want to visit when it’s safe to travel again. I hope this might offer some travel inspiration for other women who are planning for future travel.
To make our travel dreaming feel a little more tangible, I’ve selected a group tour for women, to correspond with each of the 10 countries on the list. I’ve picked tours with interesting itineraries and extra-special cultural experiences, because those are the things that make a trip unforgettable for me.
Four of the countries are places I’ve visited and would love to return to. The others are the places I most want to go – destinations I’ve moved to the top of a long bucket list. Of the 10 trips, six are tours for women only.
This is about dream trips, not budget travel, so some of the tours are once-in-a-lifetime type vacations (i.e. expensive). But there are also three itineraries under US$3000. The destination is often the largest predictor of cost: Japan and Africa are typically very expensive. Guatemala is more affordable.
Of course, organized group travel if not for everyone. If you would prefer planning a custom itinerary, these countries and tours might just kickstart your travel dreaming. I often look at organized tours for inspiration when planning my own trip.
Travel for me has always been about more than taking a vacation; it’s about how I feel when I visit new places: inspired and alive. It was such fun to create this list; the biggest challenge was limiting it to ten destinations (in other words, part two – coming soon.)
Ten Dream Destinations
& travel tours for women
I was in the midst of planning a trip to Morocco when the coronavirus upended travel in the spring of 2020. Needless to say, I am fascinated by Morocco and can’t wait to get there and explore the colourful medinas, the stunning riads of Marrakech and the rolling dunes of the Sahara. Morocco offers a remarkable variety of cultural experiences and dramatic landscapes within a single country.
The tour: Morocco with the Sahara - The Women’s Travel Group
13 days/$3050 (tour for women) Check for available dates
The Morocco with the Sahara tour covers all of the exotic places and experiences that make Morocco so enticing: exotic cities such as Fes and Marrakech, exploration of the country’s diverse culture and a trip to the Sahara – including an optional overnight in a Berber tent (yes please).
The Women’s Travel Group (WTG) is one of the original tour operators for women’s travel. They aim to create tours with reasonable price points while staying in hotels with a minimum 4*. I think this tour is great value at $3050 for two weeks. These tours for women attract a range of ages, from 30’s to 80’s. Personally, I love travelling with women of all ages. Also, the pacing of tours with WTG is usually moderate, so you won’t return home needing a vacation from your vacation.
I’ve recently heard many women say they are dreaming of a vacation to Greece. And every time my response is the same: Take me with you! The turquoise water and white-washed seaside villages are so enticing and sublime – the perfect therapy after the difficult year we have had. I can’t think of a more dreamy place to recharge than the Greek Islands.
The Tour: Greece, Ultimate Island Hopping with SheFari
8 days/$3899 (September 27- October 5, 2021)
*SheFari is offering a $300 discount on this trip to Midlife Globetrotter readers!
Use the code MIDLIFE21 at checkout
(please note that I may earn a commission if you book this tour; however there is no cost to you, and you receive a discount 🙂
U.S.-based SheFari specializes in travel for women who want to meet other like-minded women, while enjoying well-curated itineraries and luxury details and accommodation.
Greece, Ultimate Island Hopping is an 8-night itinerary to Athens and the Cycladic islands with stays in Tinos, Mykonos and Santorini. The two founders of SheFari have a personal connection to Greece and this itinerary includes lots of special experiences: sailing in Santorini, winery visits, farm-to-table cooking and a private Acropolis Museum tour.
This adventure is scheduled for the fall of 2021 and SheFari is offering a $300 discount to Midlife Globetrotter readers! Use the code MIDLIFE21 at checkout.
I visited Scotland in 2016 and was absolutely charmed by Edinburgh, the fun-loving Scots and the gorgeous landscapes. We visited the northeast region of Aberdeenshire, Scotland’s “Castle Country”, and location of the Royal Family’s Balmoral Castle.
The coast was stunning and the castles were fascinating; I was travelling with my family and can say this is a fun trip with kids. If I am lucky enough to return to Scotland, I would like to explore the Scottish Highlands. And what better way to see Scotland’s west coast, lochs and waterways than an expedition cruise?
The tour: Scotland's Highlands and Islands - National Geographic
The Scotland Highlands & Islands sea expedition with National Geographic Tours is all about exploring Scotland’s dramatic coastline and waterways, and the small ship has the benefit of being able to navigate inland, as well as the open sea. The coast is dotted with medieval castles and ancient churches as well, so expect scenic vistas at every turn.
I like that this trip allows you to be as active or not, as you prefer: take a leisurely coastal walk or a challenging hike. Go kayaking or swimming, or just relax on the ship. Travel by ship offers great flexibility and there’s something for everyone. Most meals and alcoholic beverages are included as well.
I prefer small group tours, which typically means less than 14 people. This small expedition cruise accommodates up to 48 people – which is still small for an expedition cruise. One of the perks with National Geographic is that an expert guide, such as a historian or pro photographer, accompanies each of their trips.
I’ve had Jordan on my bucket list for a while now. I haven’t been to the middle east and would love the chance to experience this fascinating culture. Petra, Jordan’s ancient city of pink stone, fascinates me. And like Morocco, Jordan offers the chance to explore a desert, the Wadi Rum. I’ve heard great things from women I’ve spoken to, who have visited Jordan.
The tour: Jordan Women’s Expedition - Intrepid Travel
8 days/$2265 (tour for women)
I love that this budget-friendly Jordan Expedition for women travellers emphasizes experiences with local women. On this trip, you will meet Bedouin women, a woman shepherd and visit a beach for women only. There’s also a nice dose of adventure mixed in, with one night spent under the stars in the Wadi Rum desert.
Australia-based Intrepid Travel launched its Women’s Expeditions in 2018, intentionally choosing culturally conservative countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Jordan. This allows women travellers to access experiences with local women that would be difficult in a co-ed group.
Intrepid does attract young travelers with its budget-friendly trips, however they run trips specifically for the 18-30 set, so the other itineraries are more diverse. If you want to know more, call the company and ask about the age range of participants already registered for the trip that you are considering.
I am guessing that a trip to Japan in cherry blossom season is atop many bucket lists. And a tour for women that takes you through Japan’s quaint villages in springtime sounds like a travel dream come true.
I haven’t found anyone who did not love their visit to Japan. The food alone is enticing for me. Oh and the gardens. And the fascinating ancient culture. You get the idea… Japan certainly seems to have it all.
The tour: Japan's Ancient Traditions, Onsens, & Hiking the Kumano Kodo - Adventure Women
10 days/$8995 (tour for women) April 6-16, 2022
Japan’s Ancient Traditions, Onsens & Hiking is an active trip which explores Japan’s ancient culture while hiking between villages along the ancient pilgrimage route of the Kumano Kodo. All while enjoying the springtime canopy of pink cherry blossoms. This trip includes extensive hiking so is well-suited to an active traveler, and includes some unique excursions such as a visit to Japanese onsens (hot springs).
Adventure Women is a women-owned travel company founded in 1982, and known for trips that get off the beaten path and offer meaningful cultural experiences. If adventure is on the agenda, but not necessarily to Japan, Adventure Women has trips throughout the year to a wide variety of places. Note that Japan is an expensive destination, which is why this trip is pricey, compared to some of the others.
I haven’t been on an African Safari but when I see pictures of the gorgeous open spaces and incredible wildlife my heart beats a little faster.
I’ve heard incredible things about Botswana and it has captured my imagination, perhaps more than anywhere else. There is something about the way the landscape changes in the Kalahari with the seasonal floods, and the diversity of the wildlife that feels especially magical. Along with Uganda (to see the mountain gorillas) Botswana is the place that fills my travel dreams of Africa.
The tour: Botswana: Kalahari, the Delta & Beyond - Natural Habitat Adventures
12 days/$11995 (+internal air)
The “green season” in Botswana is November through March and the Kalahari, the Delta & Beyond tour with Natural Habitat Adventures takes you to the Kalahari during the summer rains which brings herds of migrating animals and abundant new life – these young animals are affectionately called “bush babies”. This trip includes the Okavango Delta to see lions and other wildlife, which remain year-round.
Expert naturalists guide the trip and guests stay in small private camps instead of busy national parks. This tour includes a visit to Victoria Falls when the water flow is at peak volume. If wildlife photography is of interest, there are specific dates designated as “photo departures”, .
Natural Habitat Adventures has been the official partner of the World Wildlife Fund since 2003; for any sort of wildlife expedition, I don’t think there is a finer tour company. All of its wildlife expeditions are designed so that animal welfare and conservation of wild spaces is the priority. For that reason, their trips are very small groups, only 7 people.
African safaris are expensive and if you are going to splurge on a safari I think this itinerary gives you a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. Sign me up!
I was in New Zealand 20 years ago on my honeymoon and I have always wanted to return. It’s a true pastoral paradise and the gorgeous coastline and dramatic landscapes are breathtaking. Add to that the lovely people and a very relaxed vibe, and New Zealand is truly special.
Coming from winter in Canada, I also recall how in awe I was of the gorgeous flowers and colourful birds. Anyone who loves exploring beautiful natural places will be captivated by New Zealand.
The tour: New Zealand Crystal Coast Adventure - Wild Women Expeditions
8 days / US$5595 (tour for women)
New Zealand has always drawn adventure lovers. The New Zealand Crystal Coast Adventure emphasizes exploration of the country’s gorgeous coastline, coastal forests and seaside towns. It involves lots of walking and an array of other activities including kayaking, hiking, and sailing. This style of travel offers incredible access to wetlands, birds and marine life.
The founder of Canada-based Wild Women Expeditions was inspired to start the company while on a canoe trip with a group of female friends. Girls trips were such fun, she thought, why not create more of them?
WWE creates trips that are equally relaxing and invigorating. They are designed for women who love the outdoors; I can’t think of a place more suited for appreciating the beautiful natural environment than New Zealand.
This small Central American country is considered the heart of the Mayan world and Guatemalans are known to be warm and welcoming people. I’m fascinated by Mayan Culture and this country has one of the best preserved archeological sites in the region, the ruined Mayan city of Tikal, set in Guatemala’s lush rainforest.
Guatemala also has amazing birds and wildlife, beautiful beaches and Lake Atitlan which sits in a volcanic crater. The capital, Antigua, is said to be one of the most charming cities in Central America.
The tour: Guatemala Women Of Weaving Tour - Purposeful Nomad
7 nights / US$2475 (tour for women) Oct 26-Nov 2, 2021
The Guatemala Women Of Weaving Tour is an exploration of the remarkable commitment of Guatemalan women weavers to protect their traditional textile arts. The tour includes several visits to weaving co-operatives and a chance to get to meet some truly inspiring Guatemalan women.
The October 2021 tour is timed to coincide with the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Giant Kite Festival. A visit to the Mayan ruined city Tikal is available as an optional 3-day guided extension.
Purposeful Nomad creates curated trips with thoughtful itineraries and meaningful experiences, which they call “travel with intention”. The priority of each of their tours is empowering both their guests and the local women of the country they visit. I am inspired by the mission of Purposeful Nomad, to harness the power of travel to support women around the world, and hope to travel with Purposeful Nomad as soon as I get the chance.
France (Loire Valley)
France is one of my forever dream destinations. Unoriginal perhaps, but you can’t dictate the whims of the travel heart. I’ve been lucky enough to visit France several times, first when I was 20 and most recently in the spring of 2019, on a wonderful trip to Paris and the Loire Valley. I’ve written about it in my: Guide to the Loire Valley.
The Loire was considered an idyllic retreat by French royalty and nobility because if its proximity to Paris, pastoral beauty, and forests for hunting. They built palaces and manor homes here in the 15th and 16th centuries and many of those chateaux remain today – beautiful treasures of French renaissance architecture.
This fertile region is also known as the “Garden of France” so the food and wine are fantastic. Mais oui, we would expect no less… this is France.
The tour: Easygoing E-bike Tour Loire Valley - Backroads
6 days/$4799 (Tours available for Spring of 2022)
A bicycle is the perfect way to see the beautiful Loire Valley as it’s mostly flat. On the Easygoing E-bike Tour Loire Valley you will travel like a French noble: you won’t have to peddle your steed unless you desire to. In other words, you will ride effortlessly around the Loire on your electric bike.
This tour is part of a new vacation series called Dolce Tempo by U.S.-based Backroads. They are known for active travel and I love this variation. I’ve thought about doing a bicycling trip in France and I would actually prefer an e-bike to traditional cycling. When in France, I’m all about relaxation and indulgence.
Backroads is also known for great service and luxurious accommodation and this itinerary includes stays at historic chateaux, part of the reason for the higher price.
While six days is on the shorter side for a dream destination, it does allow time to add on a stay in Paris. I recommend at least three days in Paris if you have time, because it is so much more enjoyable to see at a leisurely pace. If you are interested in Paris, you can read about my experience in my Guide to Paris and the Eiffel Tower .
If you’ve read other stories here on Midlife Globetrotter, you might already know how I feel about India. I took my first trip to India in 2017, (without my family) and fell in love with it. That trip was significant for a number of reasons. Having to only think of myself for two weeks allowed me to leave the obligations of everyday life behind, and remember all the things I love about travel. It also reminded me of some things I had forgotten about myself, while I was busy taking care of everyone else.
India is unlike anywhere else I’ve been: the colourful chaos, the life packed into every corner, the food, the ancient culture and spirituality. The smiles of the women who always seem to be busy at work. I completely fell for India.
That said, India is not for everyone, but if it there is something about it that intrigues you, I highly encourage you to go. And I think it’s one of those places that is ideal for travel on a small group tour – especially on your first trip.
The tour: Discover India - G Adventures
There are many India tours for women only. If travelling with women is your preference, check the websites of some of the tour operators for women, which I mention in this story.
I am recommending Discover India with G Adventures because I took this exact tour and really loved it. It’s an ideal first trip to India: the perfect travel masala (mixture) of this fascinating country. You will visit the stunning forts and palaces of Rajasthan, take an Indian safari in search of the Bengal tiger, and experience spiritual India in the holy city of Varanasi. And some of India’s most fascinating cities such as Jaipur and Udaipur are on the itinerary as well.
This itinerary is one of G Adventures’ collaborations with National Geographic, so it is the highest level of service and accommodation that G offers. India is more affordable than many other destinations and I think this is a solid value.
Have you seen photos of Croatia’s Dalmatian coast? Charming seaside villages, pretty green hills and turquoise water. Add to that an interesting culture, and Croatia seems like vacation heaven. It offers many of the things I most enjoy when I travel, and it’s less visited than Greece. Croatia has been a dream destination of mine for about ten years… I just haven’t gotten there yet.
Sailing adventures are very popular here. If you want to skip the organized tour, you could easily plan your own holiday for a group of friends by booking a sailing trip which comes with a crew, and even a chef if you wish.
The tour: Croatia Islands Women’s Multisport - REI Women’s Adventures
8 days/$3899 (tour for women) NOTE: As of spring 2021 there are no departures for this trip, due to Covid. Check back for updates.
If time spent on the water is your idea of vacation heaven, Croatia Islands Women’s Multisport tour might just be your dream trip. On this tour for women, local women guides will introduce travellers to their culture and favourite women-owned businesses. “Multisport” is not just for summer camp; this itinerary includes hiking, kayaking and swimming. Along the way you’ll visit four different coastal islands.
REI is an outdoor recreation-goods company based in Seattle. I love its evolution into tours for women and think active travel can be a wonderful way to gain confidence and feel empowered. Getting a little outside of our comfort zone, trying new things and seeing new places, reminds us we are capable and fosters a growth mindset. I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to accomplish that, than travel.
U.S. Tours for Women - REI Adventures
SPRING 2021 UPDATE: Europe is beginning to open up, and some countries will welcome vaccinated travelers in the summer of 2021, but some of the adventures on this list aren’t booking until 2022. If you are looking for travel for the summer or fall of 2021, REI is running active adventures for women of 3-5 days in the U.S. Details are at REI Women’s Adventures.
I don’t know about you, but I am now wondering how we are going to choose our dream destination? I would love to take every one of these trips.
I hope that while we stay closer to home, travel dreaming will make us feel a little like travel does, happy, inspired and in awe of our beautiful world.
And if you are ready to start saving for your dream trip, I’ve got some ideas for you in this story: How to Afford Travel.
Is there a dream destination you’ve visited and would recommend to other midlife women? What’s at the top of your travel bucket list? Please share in the comments below.