Read the latest magazine... Download

Special Interest Holidays: Try Something Different

A chance to take a break, relax and recharge is one of life’s great pleasures, this month Lisa de Silva looks at combining interests with time out

While soaking up the sun may appeal to some, there is a growing demand for special interest holidays. Many now use holiday time to try something new, enjoy guided exploration of a specific destination or develop existing interests and skills.

What is a special interest holiday?

Special interest holidays are focused on a particular interest or activity, such as photography, hiking, or cooking. Suitable for any level of ability, from beginners to the accomplished, they offer the chance to learn and improve in your chosen area of interest. Some are destination-based, such as learning salsa dancing in Cuba, or touring the winelands of South Africa. Some can be event specific, such as a visit to a music festival or garden show, while others, such as arts and crafts holidays, can be taken anywhere and at any time of year.

To meet this growing demand there is an increasing number of specialist tour operators springing up. However, many mainstream tour operators are now meeting this desire to learn and improve, so it is worth researching what they offer.

What are the benefits of a special interest holiday?

Enriching, educational and a great way to meet like-minded people, there are many benefits of taking this type of break. While you may have always wanted to try a new hobby, such as sailing, finding the time can be difficult. One major benefit of a specialist break is the opportunity to dedicate focused time on what interests you. You will also benefit from the knowledge of guides and experts to instruct, inspire, and encourage you, along with meeting like-minded people.

What’s more, the experience could ignite a lifelong interest, you could make new friends and have the chance to learn in an authentic setting. For example, learning Italian in the rolling Tuscan hills will be more inspiring than the classroom.

What are the most popular types of specialist interest holiday?

Hiking & Cycling

Whether home or abroad, hiking and cycling are a great way to explore a region in-depth. Options include tailor-made, small group, and self-guided tours, with the convenience of luggage transfer for those on a touring break. The ease and popularity of E-biking has also broadened the appeal of cycling holidays.

Food & Drink

Culinary adventures are enduringly popular, with a wide range of options to enjoy. If taking a food-focused trip abroad, you may learn about local traditions, produce and techniques, and visit local markets and restaurants. Examples include learning to create Spanish classics in Seville, trying your hand at sushi-making in Tokyo or taking a bread-making masterclass closer to home. Touring the winelands is a superb way to explore areas of France, South Africa and California and you can even try making your own port wine in Portugal’s Douro Valley during the autumn harvest.

Sports & Adventure Activities

With an endless choice ranging from golf to sailing, skiing, climbing, diving and horse riding, those looking to learn and improve their sporting skills and talents benefit from a wide range of options. From climbing in the French Alps, golf on the Costa del Sol, rafting in Costa Rica and kayaking amid the glistening glaciers of British Columbia, there is something to suit all abilities and desires. If short on time, try an archery, forest survival or pony trekking weekend.

Nature & Wildlife

As a nation of animal lovers, nature and wildlife holidays are booming. While African safaris, polar bear expeditions in Canada and gorilla trekking in Rwanda can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, birdwatching in Scotland, seeing the puffins of Puffin Island, or scouting for dolphins in Cardigan Bay, can be just as rewarding.

Wellbeing

If you want a chance to perfect your downward dog or try a sun salutation overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean, a wellness break could be for you. With yoga, Pilates, spa treatments, mindfulness and even silent retreats becoming more mainstream, there is a wealth of wellbeing-focused breaks to choose from both at home and abroad.

Culture & History

Learn a language where it’s spoken, dance the tango in Buenos Aires, explore ancient Greek civilisation with an expert or learn to play guitar in South America, there are limitless opportunities to indulge in cultural pursuits.

Arts & Crafts

A specialist break is a wonderful way to explore your creativity. Try creative writing in the English countryside, art classes in New York, or brush up your photographic skills amid the haunting beauty of Antarctica.

More from Downtime

  • If You Ask Me... Politicians need a Translator

    With elections, resignations and government enquiries aplenty, 2024 is already proving to be a busy year. In these confusing times, Flo Whitaker offers her interpretation of the most frequently-occurring narratives and themes…

  • What to Watch in February 2024

    Our new monthly round-up of the best upcoming films and TV series features five of each, handpicked by us for your viewing pleasure. Here's what you can expect to see on screens big and small in February...

  • Dark Skies Festival 2024: Where & When to Gaze at the Stars

    Embrace the darkness with our guide to all the stargazing opportunities coming to Sussex over the next week…

  • Be Well, Move Happy: Walking & Silence

    In our new series on wellness and movement, Sara Whatley will be diving into two complementary health topics each month. She kicks off with silence and walking

  • If You Ask Me... Who needs Television anyway?

    The first thing people say when they visit Flo Whitaker’s home is “Where’s the TV?” Unimpressed by television from an early age, Flo still reckons the radio has the best pictures

  • 5 Ways to Cultivate Mindfulness

    In the bustling world of 24/7 technology and constant demands on our time, mindfulness is more relevant and necessary than ever. For many, the daily hustle and bustle can become overwhelming. Mindfulness, the art of being present and fully engaged in the moment, offers a respite, enabling us to find calm amidst the chaos.

  • Love Local Community Campaign

    Sussex Living is proud to be launching a campaign to support our High Streets, bring prosperity to businesses and help grow a thriving community.Because if we don’t use them, we will lose them.

  • Summer Activity Ideas To Entertain You and the Kids

    Summer in Sussex offers long, sunny days perfect for making memories with the kids.

  • Summer School - Part 2

    In the second part of our series on summer holiday learning opportunities, Hanna Prince looks at how to keep kids engaged with practical, creative and hands-on activities. Learning needn’t end when the holidays begin. The focus on maths and literacy in schools means that children don’t always get the opportunity to explore other topics – and summer is the perfect time to give their natural interests free reign. Whether you’re nurturing a budding artist, a sports fanatic or the next Bear Grylls, here’s how to broaden their horizons and weave extra-curricular education into your summer routine.

  • The Ultimate Act of Love: Providing for Your Family's Future with a Will

    Making a will is one of the most important things you can do, regardless of your age or financial situation. Unfortunately, many of us put it off, whether it’s because of the morbid topic of our own mortality or because we just don’t know where to start.

  • Five of the best anti aging facial exercises

    Facial exercises are often utilized as an alternative to more invasive treatments for combating the appearance of aging. By strengthening and toning the muscles under the skin, facial exercises can promote a more youthful appearance. Here are five of the best anti-aging facial exercises:

  • Five Essential Fashion Classics For the Mature Woman

    Fashion is an ever-evolving art form, but some styles withstand the test of time, epitomizing timeless elegance and sophistication. For the mature woman, embracing classic fashion styles allows her to exude confidence, grace, and a refined sense of style. In this article, we explore five enduring fashion styles that perfectly complement the mature woman, helping her look and feel her best in any situation.

  • Get your children involved in litter picking this Summer holidays

    Be like the Wombles and become the worlds best litter pickers and recyclers, making good use of bad rubbish, says Sara Whatley

  • So you think you know Brighton’s history?

    Brighton is one of our favourite seaside destinations in Sussex and is renowned for its lively atmosphere, stunning architecture, and rich cultural heritage. With a history that spans centuries, Brighton has seen a myriad of transformations and historical milestones. Let's explore five fascinating historical facts about Brighton that showcase its unique past.

  • Five Early Summer Reads to Enjoy in the Sunshine

    For June, five releases that combine romance, rock, and restorative justice.

  • A basic guide to insurance by Lisa De Silva

    Insurance can safeguard you, your family, and your property against the risk of loss, damage, illness, or death. In return for paying a regular premium, an insurance company will compensate you against any financial loss.

  • 6 ways to improve your golf game in Sussex

    If you have ever stood at the first tee on a golf course you’ll know the familiar polarity that follows. Your first shot can either go dead straight down the fairway and set you up for a great round of golf or, most commonly, it’s shanked into the trees and you know you’re shooting close to 100.

  • How to plan your perfect marriage proposal

    Have you found your soulmate, the person you want to spend the rest of your life with? If you’ve reached the stage in your relationship where things are getting serious, perhaps now is the right time to make it official. But how exactly do you ask someone to marry you?

  • Town spotlight feature: Haywards Heath

    The busy and vibrant town of Haywards Heath in West Sussex is an attractive mix of residential, shopping and business and glorious countryside.

  • 10 Things to do in Sussex this Spring

    With sunnier days and longer daylight hours upon us, you may be looking to plan some fun activities in and around Sussex. Here's our guide to what's on in Sussex in early Spring.