Mixing wellness and adventure – the rise of the ‘Zenventure’ trip

Hybrid breaks where adventure meets wellbeing tap into a growing desire for transformative travel, reports Estella Shardlow

Boundaries are blurring in the world of post-pandemic travel. Just as more people have been merging business trips and holidays in the ‘bleisure’ boom, there is also a growing appetite for tours that mix wellness and adventure. A new breed of escape balances adrenaline-fuelled pursuits with restorative, soothing activities – think of rock climbing, cycling or trekking itineraries interspersed with breathwork, yoga and bathing in hot springs.

The trend has even been given its own nickname: ‘Zenventure’. A recent survey by Club Med found 77% of UK adults want more adventure and more relaxation on holiday. And according to, more than half (53%) of people want to experience something more exciting on their wellness breaks, citing boredom with traditional retreats, while millennials show the greatest interest, with 60% of 25 to 34-year-olds seeking alternative, multi-activity wellness getaways.

G Adventures is among the tour operators offering trips that meet this desire to inject adventure into wellness, and vice versa. “Our travellers told us they wanted to feel healthier and focus on their wellbeing, without sacrificing a week of their holiday stuck in one place on a rigid programme in a traditional retreat. This led us to launch the Wellness travel style,” says Brian Young, managing director of G Adventures.

Tours in this collection give equal billing to movement, mindfulness and nourishment. This includes Wellness Iceland, where groups will go from hiking on glaciers and lava fields to meditating at waterfalls and on volcanic black-sand beaches.

Mud bath

Boosting mental and physical health

This growing trend reflects wider societal shifts around health and travel. Since Covid, travellers have been yearning for transformative trips, with better understanding of how outdoor pursuits can boost mental health and more importance placed on self-care. Hiking and surfing are even being prescribed by GPs to help manage anxiety and depression.

“One of the ways people are caring for their mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing is through adventure travel,” observes Joanna Reeve, head of business development at Intrepid Travel. “Many are opting for trips that let them breathe fresh air away from the crowds, while also staying active.”

Tim Williamson, customer director at Responsible Travel, reports seeing “activities such as river kayaking becoming more popular as awareness of the value of nature for mental health increases”. Bookings for trips that focus on physical wellbeing have risen by almost 100% over the past five years, he adds.

Backroads cycling

Increase in solo female travellers

Both the Global Wellness Institute and Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) report that solo female travellers are driving the uptick in adventure-meets-wellness escapes.

Elinor Fish, founder and chief executive of Run Wild Retreats, which runs women-only ‘mindful running’ tours across North America, Europe and Asia, explains: “Women have more opportunity and means than ever to travel, but when they do take time away from their families, careers and everyday lives, they want it to satisfy more than one need – to have new experiences that challenge them but also to feel safe and supported in that activity.

Our professional guides and mindful running coaching ensure they gain confidence on the trails.” With their inherently balanced approach, wellness adventures also appeal to adventure ‘grazers’ or newcomers, including older travellers and families looking for slower-paced, lower-risk activities.

One concept tapping the soft adventure end of the spectrum is Backroads’ Dolce Tempo tours, a series of easy-going, tailored e-biking and walking itineraries, ranging from the Greek islands to Utah’s national parks.


Yoga capital of the world

By opening up active breaks to a broader audience, the intersection of adventure and wellness is a rich seam for agents to target. So how should they go about selling the ‘Zenventure’? It’s worth thinking broadly and holistically about what falls under the ‘wellness’ umbrella.

With so many different strands – mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and social – there is a trip available to suit the tastes of every traveller. “It doesn’t have to just mean retreats and detox boot camps,” says Intrepid Travel’s Reeve. “It can also mean learning and transforming yourself through experience, such as walking up a mountain in Morocco or nourishing your body with delicious food in Thailand.”

And weaving wellness experiences into itineraries isn’t just about pampering and self-care – it can also be a portal into indigenous culture or belief systems. G Adventures’ Wellness India, for example, features a stay at an ashram in Rishikesh, which is known as the yoga capital of the world and widely considered to be the birthplace of the practice.


Positive impact for mind and body

It’s important to clarify what your clients’ goals are. Whether they’re more into running an ultramarathon through Bhutan or cycling Japan’s Kumano Kodo at a leisurely pace, you should take the time to gauge each customer’s preferred ratio of R&R to adventure. “Ask what level of activity they are interested in and recommend trips that are based on their adventure comfort level,” says Alicia Kjeldgaard, guest service and travel advisor manager at Backroads.

For those who prefer to dip their toe in first, this type of activity can be offered as an adventurous trip extension. Bite-sized, bolt-on itineraries offer a taste of the action before clients decide whether a dedicated holiday is for them. Several of Abercrombie & Kent’s Travel Edits fit the bill here, including the Sri Lanka Hill Country Adventure, a river-rafting and cycling expedition, and the Adventure in Quito volcano hike.

Both last just two days. Lastly, agents can highlight the longer-term benefits. One of the great draws of wellness and adventure travel – as opposed to, say, a fly-and-flop holiday – is the potential for a long-lasting, positive impact on both mind and body.

As Run Wild Retreats’ Fish points out: “Clients can continue using the mindfulness techniques we teach long after they return home, not only to run better but to help manage their stress. This delivers a higher perceived value beyond the cost of just the trip itself.”

PICTURES: G Adventures; Mas Pelegri; Backroads/Andrew Opila

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