Slow travel expert Penny Watson shares her five favourite immersive travel tours.
The curious, immersive and mindful traits that often define slow travel are felt most intensely when you’re tapping into a combination of authentic places and the real-life local people who inhabit them. Whether it’s in the warmth of a rural kitchen cooking with a nonna, visiting a national park with a university professor, or going deep on a visit to a refugee camp with a top journalist, immersion brings engagement and connection with it.
Penny Watson author of new book, Slow Travel – reconnecting with the world at your own pace, has put together a list of culturally immersive slow travel experiences.
“You can rely on the serendipitous nature of travel for these kinds of experiences,” she says. “But I love that the slow travel trend sees these kinds of holidays consciously factored into itineraries.”
Local Living, Croatia
G Adventures’ new Local Living itineraries aim to settle guests in a down-to-earth environment among, in this case, real Croatians, so you can get a feel for their way of life. This week-long stint on Croatia’s southern Dalmatian coast, has as its base, a lovely rural Mediterranean homestead, or agroturizam, with rustic terracotta charm and views over the Konavle Valley and the Adriatic Sea. Activities include visiting Dubrovnik’s historic walled city with a local guide and biking through Lovorno’s rolling vineyard with stops at an artist’s residence and 15th-century monastery. Chill time is villa time. Hang on the outdoor terrace, swim in the pool and join doyenne, Grandma Mujo, for a cooking class using fresh ingredients from the neighbours and the farm. Eat around the dinner table with the whole family.
Study Geology at University of Montana Western, USA
Rock-hopping natural-world boffins, pack your bags for a campus-based three-week educational experience taught by an adjunct instructor of geology at University of Montana Western. Roads Scholar’s new and engrossing 21-day itinerary explores the rich railroading and mining history, geology and ecology of the Northern Rocky Mountains region and Yellowstone National Park.
The course combines scientific and creative pursuits with a combination of lab time, studio time and fieldwork. You’ll be guided through a discovery of the Rocky Mountain ecosystem and learn about environmental science and the local geology. Armed with the basics you’ll take the classroom outdoors and into the field to explore many facets of America’s first national park, the 8991-square- kilometre (3471-square-mile) Yellowstone National Park, an exquisite land of valleys, canyons, rivers, lakes and mountain ranges.
Travel for the mind with George Negus; Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Territories
Veteran journalist, author, TV presenter and Australian household name George Negus is the VIP escort for World Expeditions’ 14-day delve into Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Territories.
His 30-something years covering the Middle East and its complex global politics have provided him with encyclopaedic knowledge of the region and a wealth of contacts and friendships. Tap into all three on an immersive itinerary that begins in Amman and ticks off some seriously beautiful places including two of my favourites: Petra, the ancient metropolis carved into red desert sandstone rocks, and Wadi Rum, Jordan’s magical star-strewn, big-skied desert where you’ll sleep in a Bedouin tent.
Take a dip in the Dead Sea, explore the old biblical city of Jerusalem, spend time (unobserved) at Jordan’s Zaatari Refugee Camp, where an estimated 80,000 people live in tents or shipping containers and, in Israel and the Occupied Territories, meet a United Nations expert whose subject is the notorious Separation Wall.
Medinas to Mountains, Morocco
Morocco is known in the region for its support for women’s rights, but 80 per cent of women are still illiterate. Wild Women Expeditions’ Medinas to Mountains of Northern Morocco is a 10-day women-only itinerary that delves into the Berber culture of the local women by working with female Berber tour guides and entrepreneurs.
It begins in Casablanca with three days exploring Hassan II Mosque - one of the largest mosques in the world, and the magnificent old medina of Fez, a World Heritage site.
In the mountains and countryside, you’ll go horseriding in Meknes, stop by Moulay Idriss, the oldest town in Morocco, and stay in a riad in Chefchaouen, known as ‘the blue city ’, for its blue-washed buildings (with red-tiled roofs).
In Marrakech guests can gawp at Jemaa el Fna, the city’s chaotic market square. Guests will also visit women’s cooperatives and stay in a riad that employs those trained by the Amal Centre for disadvantaged women.
Creative Writing in The Cotswolds, England
CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien first talked about their enchanted worlds – Narnia and Middle-earth respectively – over a warm ale at a pub in Oxford. Or at least that’s how the story goes. Happily, stories are what this cultural immersion is about. Better Read Literary Tours’ Creative Writing in the Cotswolds itinerary is a seven-day retreat
in one of England’s most charming and historic regions replete with glorious old gardens, romantic castles, yew mazes and mysterious circles of standing stones. It’s home to both Oxford University and Stratford-upon-Avon, the gorgeous riverside town whose former residents include William Shakespeare. The Cotswolds landscape has inspired many famous authors, including Kate Forsyth who wrote her first novel at the age of seven and now, with 40 books to her name, has sold more than a million copies globally. Writers will spend the mornings with Forsyth learning the key conventions of popular literary genres including historical fiction, crime and mystery while picking up tips on rules, research, structure and suspense. Put pens down in the afternoons to explore the locale with activities such as a private tour of the 15th-century house where Shakespeare was born and a tour of Oxford University.
Listen to Penny talk about slow travel on our Mind Your Own Retirement podcast.
Do you go ‘slow’? What’s your favourite slow travel experience?
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