Photo: Wild Terrains

These Group Tours Are Designed for Women, by Women, and Support Female-Run Tourism

Female Travel
by Katie Scott Aiton Mar 8, 2024

Last summer, my girlfriends from school and I went on a long weekend yoga retreat in the English Lake District. We had not been away together since our high school days. Breaking away from home life (and children), the three days were filled with laughter, reminiscing, making new memories, and strengthening our tight friendship.

I came out of that experience filled with gratitude for the women in my life. Women who hold me up unconditionally and fill my heart with love. This connection is not taken for granted; we made a pact to get away once a year. Long may that tradition continue.

Our trip was organized through an external company. Although I don’t normally do independent travel in this fashion, when it comes to group travel, I highly recommend leaving the planning to a professional. By doing this, you get to experience things you might not have considered (we went wild swimming at 6:00 AM in 41 degrees Fahrenheit) and it mitigates stress.

Recently, I came across Wild Terrains, a B-Corp travel company specializing in luxury small-group vacations for women. I was attracted by the claim to fame that they are the only business designing trips for women and exclusively support female-run companies on the ground.

Wild Terrains run trips to places like Argentina, France, Iceland, Mexico, Portugal, and New Orleans, with exciting itineraries that are rare to find in the group travel industry. I reached out to Founder and CEO Lauren Bates to discuss her drive for providing this service and explain more about the importance of sharing our experience of womanhood between women of all ages and cultures.

At the time of our conversation, Bates was in Japan, mapping out a new trip that will be available in 2025. Heart and soul go into planning itineraries. The process is “exhaustive,” Bates shares, “we are a rare travel company that does not work with local DMCs. We hand select and design every aspect of the trip ourselves.” Indeed Japan is four years in the making and Bates is “thrilled” with how the itinerary is developing.

Traveling with Wild Terrains is as much about connection with people as it is about enjoying a high standard of luxe accommodation and experiences. Bates has a background in branding and marketing and saw a gap in the group travel industry seven years ago when she started the company.

Group in market in Oaxaca on Wild Terrains group tour

The local mercado is one of the first stops on the Oaxaca trip for a food tour which includes everything from moles to banana-leaf wrapped tamales.

Photo: Wild Terrains/Marianna Jamadi

“There were a lot of adventure trips and yoga retreats on the market, but nothing that was beautifully curated while focusing on bringing women together to learn about design, art, food, and culture,” says Bates. “The idea quickly expanded into a way to intentionally support local women through travel,” she continues.

Group of women at table in kitchen on Wild Terrains group tour

Specially curated chef’s lunch in the home of artist Aurore Pélisson after a silk dye workshop in France.

Photo: Wild Terrains/Teal Thomsen

Wild Terrains works solely with women-owned businesses with 50 percent or more ownership to make sure the money directly goes to local women at each destination. There are times, Bates says, that this can be a logistical challenge, but the dedication is “worth it.”

Bates is hands-on. She regularly attends trips herself. Recently, she joined the 10-day bucket list tour of Mendoza, Buenos Aires, and Patagonia, Argentina. On this expedition, guests have an authentic experience, connecting with some of the country’s most talented chefs, artists, and designers.

People learning how to craft the perfect empanada in Buenos Aires on wild terrains tour

Learning how to craft the perfect empanada in Buenos Aires.

Photo: Wild Terrains/Lucia Monti

And with experiences such as horseback riding through the Andes and dining under the stars in Patagonia, this is not your typical cookie-cutter group vacation package.

Channeling the gaucho life through horseback riding at Estancia Los Chulengos -- a traditional Argentine ranch in the middle of the Andes mountains.
Photo: Wild Terrains/Lucia Monti
Checking into Entre Cielos in Mendoza which is perfectly placed among the vineyards.
Photo: Wild Terrains/Lucia Monti

Although it’s hard for Bates to choose a favorite tour, Argentina has a place in her heart. “The food and wine are so delicious — three of our women partners recently received Michelin recognitions,” she shares.

Another “crowd favorite” is their trip to Mexico City. It was the first destination Wild Terrains launched. Bates grew up in Texas. She speaks Spanish and feels a connection to the culture.

A mercado food crawl by one of the most notable women in food in Mexico City where sampling a little bit of everything is a must.
Photo: Wild Terrains/Lauren Louise
A mercado food crawl by one of the most notable women in food in Mexico City where sampling a little bit of everything is a must.
Photo: Wild Terrains/Lauren Louise

She shares it was a relatively easy decision to choose the capital. This was, in part because of all the talented women Bates knew — women like Chef Mercedes Bernal and jewellery designer Mariana Villarreal — who would make the inaugural trip a success.

Many of the groups booking with Wild Terrains are multigenerational. Sharing knowledge and stories between generations is a passion of mine, so I asked Bates about why this makes the group trips particularly special. Bates echos my sentiments and shares, “There’s something really beautiful about women of different ages coming together to share a travel experience.” As I pause on the French itinerary including exploring over-looked neighborhoods like La Goutte d’Or in Paris and Michelin-star dining, I can imagine how delighted my mother would be to join me on a getaway such as this.

Group of women in Iceland on Wild Terrains group vacation

Discovering Iceland’s most hard to reach local hidden treasures.

Photo: Wild Terrains/Lauren Louise

As each itinerary is carefully designed, the choice of accommodation and food is world-class. Unlike many group travel companies that opt for large chain hotels and restaurants that serve family-style, Wild Terrains selects high-end boutique hotels and more unique accommodations. As groups are small, Bates says they can “partner with design-forward boutique hotels that are woman-owned.” Food is also center stage — think a gourmet picnic alongside a glacier in Iceland and a seven-course Michelin-starred lunch in France. These detail-driven authentic food experiences are hard to forget, states Bates.

Wild Terrains can also design custom trips. From honeymoons to family reunions and bachelorette parties, the company can co-design the experiences with you and your loved ones. At the moment, Bates mapping out a four-day 40th birthday celebration for a co-ed group of 20. These trips come with a high price point, which is understandable considering their personalized nature.

Keep an eye out on site for the announcement of the upcoming new destination, Japan. And on March 8, International Women’s Day, Wild Terrains is launching a membership as a way for travelers to connect with the company when they aren’t on a trip. The membership includes monthly virtual gatherings, like cooking classes and cultural workshops, and perks, such as first access to new destinations and member-only discounts.

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