Learn new skills while holidaying

While once the antidote to life’s pressures might have been a week lying poolside soaking up the sun, stress relief today is taking a different shape.

Try something different on your next holiday. Image credit: Pata Sudaka Surf Camp
Try something different on your next holiday. Image credit: Pata Sudaka Surf Camp

Thanks to the growing popularity and availability of learning holidays, more and more travelers are choosing to relax and decompress their minds through artisanal bread making in France, learning to paint and sketch in the Moroccan desert, or joining a surf and yoga retreat in Hawaii. Sure, you could try putting time aside in the evenings or weekends to learn a new skill but if you’re working 8+ hours today then this may be an overwhelming feat. If you’re familiar with this work-life struggle, then a learning holiday might be a great option for you.

The idea of escaping the everyday and using vacation time to learn a new skill within an immersive environment is gathering serious steam. UK-based tour operator GoLearnTo has been specializing in learning holidays for some time now, and are witnessing this growth in motion.

According to General Manager Jennifer Carey, this rise in demand is due, in part, to an increased need for travelers to connect with locals and have more authentic experiences.

She said learning holidays are encouraging more people to travel solo, knowing they will be in the company of like-minded individuals.

“The rise of the solo traveler has had a massive impact on the industry,” she said.

“Being able to travel solo but know (sic) you will be joining others who have the same interests as you, someone to share experiences with as well as a glass of vino, makes the whole idea very appealing.”

In fact, 80 percent of bookings made with GoLearnTo are for solo travelers. It’s much easier to break the ice if you have a common interest, and it seems that GoLearnTo have tapped into this with great success.

Another agency who offer carefully tailored skill-based holidays with an emphasis on sustainable travel practices is Responsible Travel. They consider themselves matchmakers, partnering with 400 specialist holiday companies worldwide to make sure they offer truly memorable experiences that combine leisure and learning.

If you’re thinking about switching things up, and are considering a skill-based vacation we’ve selected some of the best learning holidays for 2019.

Let your creativity flourish

Always fancied yourself as an artist, but never had the time to let your creative self flourish? Perhaps one of these art-focused adventures is just the ticket to releasing your inner Picasso.

Master paint and brush in the Moroccan desert

Explore the desert landscape on a creative holiday. Image credit: Andrea Zangrilli
Explore the desert landscape on a creative holiday. Image credit: Andrea Zangrilli

The Moroccan desert landscape is an artist’s dream. Mesmerizing sand dunes and wind eroded formations surround desert gateway villages, dotted with rustic wooden doors, curved arches, and weathered Kasbahs.

On this eight-day painting vacation, which starts and finishes in Fez, an expert tutor leads you into the heart of the dramatic Moroccan desert. Stay in traditional desert accommodation, from which you will venture daily to picturesque spots to sketch and paint to your heart’s content.

This tour is run by Responsible Travel, who also offer a second urban-centered Moroccan sketching holiday if you prefer not to get your shoes sandy.

Travel to Venice and forge works of art in glass

Learn the art of traditional glass blowing. Image credit: Chalffy/iStock
Learn the art of traditional glass blowing. Image credit: Chalffy/iStock

Craft traditional Venetian goblets and glasses or create modern glass sculptures at Abate Venetti, a small glassworking academy on the Italian island of Murano.

Just 15 minutes by boat from Venice, Abate Venetti has a number of short courses for beginners, where you can learn the basics of Murano glass making, including using the furnace, glass blowing, and lamp making.

While Abate Venetti doesn’t do all-inclusive holiday packages, consider this a blessing in disguise as it gives you the freedom to book the Venice hotel of your choice, and eat as you please. Learn a new skill by day, and enjoy the beauty and intrigue of Murano and Venice by night. Book a Blacklane chauffeur service by the hour so you can explore Venice on your own time.

Hone your photography skills at Iceland’s Arctic Circle

Take amazing photos while exploring new lands. Image credit: Wild Photography Holidays
Take amazing photos while exploring new lands. Image credit: Wild Photography Holidays

Don your winter jacket and boots for Responsible Travel’s 10 day Iceland bird and landscape photography holiday.

With this tour, you can photograph rare birds such as the Atlantic Puffin within the dramatic landscapes of Iceland’s Arctic Circle Region. You’ll visit volcanoes, lava formations, waterfalls, cliffs, and lakes, all of which play host to unique and abundant bird life.

The tour starts in Reykjavik, from where you’ll be led by seasoned photography professionals and guides into the arctic wilderness. They will be on hand to make sure you grasp the technical skills needed to photograph in the harsh conditions, as well as assisting you in reviewing and processing your images. Operating in summer, this tour will give you the opportunity to experience the strangely beautiful phenomena of the midnight sun.

Learn Flamenco Guitar and Spanish in Seville

Try something new on your next holiday. image credit: Challfy/iStock
Try something new on your next holiday. Image credit: Challfy/iStock

Why learn one skill, when you could learn two? Immerse yourself fully in Spanish culture by combining flamenco guitar lessons with Spanish language classes in the lively Macarena neighborhood of Seville.

This seven-day course is run through a well respected local flamenco school, where you’ll be surrounded by stylish tapas bars and dance halls. Classes are taught in Spanish, however, all of the tutors speak at least a little English, so as long as you spend some time on Duolingo before joining it’ll be a piece of cake.

This experience is offered by GoLearnTo and is recommended for solo travelers. This is one of their most popular holidays with frequent start dates so you can be sure you’ll meet lots of other language and flamenco enthusiasts.

Let your taste buds do the talking

One of the best thing about travel is immersing yourself in a new cuisine, leading your taste buds on a wild journey, and eating until you can eat no more. Consider a food-focused holiday, and bring some delicious new skills home for future use.

Discover the art of butchery and French cooking in South-West France

Try your hand at French cooking. Image credit: Constantinis
Try your hand at French cooking. Image credit: Constantinis/iStock

Spend four meat-centric days in the charming Gascony region of south-west France, discovering some of the regions meaty secrets. Learn the art of butchery, jointing, knife skills, and sausage making, as well as how to make your own meat pies, terrines, and pates. If you’re a fan of “Chef’s Table”, then this quirky gastronomical getaway is for you!

If you find this itinerary a little too niche, then a lighter option might be a French cookery short break, which is run through the same establishment. Both of these holidays are booked via GoLearnTo and are all-inclusive affairs. You’ll be staying in a tastefully restored French farmhouse with stunning village views, located 50 minutes by car from Toulouse.

Make you own cheese in Sherwood Forest

Learn the art of cheesemaking. Image credit: fcafotodigital/iStock
Learn the art of cheesemaking. Image credit: fcafotodigital/iStock

Make Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest your home for a few days, and join award-winning cheesemaker Paul Thomas for a two-day artisanal course. You’ll learn the process of cheesemaking, and whip up a number of delicious varieties including Gouda and Tomme.

Courses are run through The School of Artisan Food, and although buffet lunches are included, you’ll need to book your own accommodation and morning/evening meals. When you’re not making delicious cheeses, you can explore 165 square miles of historic woodlands, or visit Major Oak, a 1,000-year-old tree where under its branches (according to folklore) Robin Hood and Maid Marian were married.

Hunt for truffles and make olive oil in Pisa

Go truffle hunting on your next holiday. Image credit: Heather Jarman
Go truffle hunting with Ricardo and his dogs on your next holiday. Image credit: Heather Jarman

Learn how to make Tuscan specialties at Sapori & Saperi, a small artisanal culinary school in Pisa which offers a mouthwatering range of courses and tours.

Join professional truffle hunter Ricardo on a truffle hunt with his dogs and whip up delicious truffle-based meals, or learn the process of making olive oil from tree to table by visiting local groves and presses. But that’s not all, Sapori & Saperi also offer gelato making, Italian cheese making, as well as advanced salami courses (for all the amateur charcuteries out there).

You can book a single course, or email to request a tailored itinerary based on your budget and interests. You’ll stay at local farmhouses, and learn from local craftspeople who are dedicated to keeping Tuscan traditions alive.

Bake artisan bread in the mountains of Southern Spain

knead out your troubles at a breadbaking course. Image credit: nimis69/iStock
knead out your troubles at a breadbaking course. Image credit: nimis69/iStock

Woodfired pizza, tangy sourdough, hearty rye, and chewy bagels; breadmaking staples that you’ll be baking at home after attending the Alpujarras Baking Retreat in the small town of Mairena, in Spain’s Sierra Nevada.

Hosted by London’s famed E5 Bakehouse, this retreat is equal parts learning and leisure, with three of seven days set aside for relaxing and exploring the local area. Through curated trips, you can go fruit and vegetable picking, learn about ancient Moorish irrigation systems, and Andalus history and cuisine through leisurely walking tours with locals.

Stay in an elegant village house with view across the hills to the sea, and eat delicious local fare as part of this all-inclusive retreat. Book quickly, as spaces are limited and they only host one retreat per year.

Indulge your sporty side

Does your ideal holiday include a healthy dose of the great outdoors, and the chance to stretch your limbs? Then a sport-focused learning holiday might be for you.

Take a surf and yoga course in Hawaii

Stay on the beach and learn a new skill. Image credit: Pata Sudaka Surf Camp
Stay on the beach and learn a new skill. Image credit: Pata Sudaka Surf Camp

Go from grommet to pro at Pata Sudaka Surf Camp, where you can learn to carve, cutback, bottom turn, and bail from seasoned professionals.

Located on the tropical Hawaiian island of Oahu, Pata Sudaka’s 10-day package includes surf lessons, yoga, healthy breakfast, and lunch, as well as dolphin and turtle encounters. The package includes accommodation in a private beachfront house, with optional extras such as snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, and island tours.

This holiday has a social focus, so is perfect for solo travelers. Pata Sudaka also has a second surf camp located in Ecuador.

Try horse riding and fly fishing in Montana

Go explore another country on horseback. Image credit: RelaxFoto.de/iStock
Go explore another country on horseback. Image credit: RelaxFoto.de/iStock

Nestled at the foothills of Yellowstone National Park, Lone Mountain Ranch offers learning holidays for outdoorsy types, who still appreciate their creature comforts.

During the summer you’ll enjoy activities such as horseback riding, fly fishing, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, as well as painting and photography classes. Their winter packages include Nordic and downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding.

Packages are all inclusive with luxury cabin accommodation and farm-to-table dining. They also offer yoga, Yellowstone excursions, and kids’ programmes.

Learn to sail on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast

Amazing town of Hvar harbor aerial view, Dalmatia, Croatia. Image credit: xbrchx/iStock
Amazing town of Hvar harbor, Dalmatia, Croatia. Image credit: xbrchx/iStock

Salt air, stunning scenery, and a social atmosphere; this is what you’ll look forward to if you sign up for a spot in this sailing school on Croatia’s picturesque Dalmatian Coast.

Over the week-long course, which starts and ends at Marina Agana, you can earn an ICC certification, meaning you’ll be qualified to charter your own Yacht in Europe. You can sleep on-board in shared cabins, or pay extra for private, with breakfast and lunch included. In the evenings you can venture onto land with your crewmates, exploring the port towns of the Dalmatian Coast, and eating and drinking at local restaurants.

Improve your tennis game in Greece

Learn to play tennis. Image credit: Bobex-73/iStock
Learn to play tennis. Image credit: Bobex-73/iStock

If you’re suffering continuous defeat due to Steve’s powerful backhand, then perhaps it’s time you traded your regular vacation in for a week of intensive tennis training.

During the course, which takes place at Levante Beach Resort on the Greek Island of Rhodes, you’ll benefit from 20 hours of on-court tennis clinics including groundstrokes, net play, service, and tactics. Get competitive with singles and doubles tournaments, as well as a speed serve competition.

At the end of each day of training, you can relax poolside, or ease your aching muscles at the resort’s health spa.


Grace Catherine

Grace is a freelance writer and digital project manager from New Zealand currently based in Mexico City. She is an avid traveler who loves destinations with an eclectic history, a bike-sharing scheme, and plenty of cool animals.