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.
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.