Nine post-lockdown learning holidays around the world which offer enriching escapism and community immersion
Skill set-enhancing holidays for 2021 in Vienna, Colombia, Utah, the Isle of Wight, Puerto Rico, Trentino, Ontario, Nashville and Scottsdale
The UK entered its third national lockdown this week, but with vaccines being rolled out across the country and around the world, there is a great deal of hope and a clear demand for enriching, immersive travel in 2021. In the post-vaccine world, travellers will look to maximise their holiday experiences – how a trip aligns with an individual’s sense of self and their life aspirations is anticipated to be just as important as their destination of choice.
A learning holiday allows travellers to pick up skills from masters of the craft, whilst also engaging with local communities and forging a stronger relationship with the destinations they visit. Whether it’s ballroom dancing in Vienna or attending Cowboy College in Arizona, 2021 is the year to choose a holiday which enhances the skill set and expands the mind.
Learn to… ballroom dance at the famous Elmayer dance school in Vienna, Austria
Vienna is not only one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, but also the global epicentre for culture and the arts. Renowned for being the ‘capital of music’ complete with opera performances, classical music highlights and dazzling balls, visitors can immerse themselves in the city's elegant grandeur at Elmayer dance school.
Founded over 100 years ago, Elmayer is one of Vienna’s most famous dance schools and prides itself on being able to teach guests the Viennese Waltz in just under an hour. In addition to the famous Waltz, visitors can book private tuitions of any ballroom dances such as the fox-trot, the quickstep or the tango.
Once visitors have mastered the elegance of ballroom dance, they can head to one of the dances held at Ballsaal, a venue taking inspiration from the classic Viennese ballrooms of the past, which allows dancers to show off their moves amongst locals and professional ballroom dancers. Elmayer’s Viennese Waltz sessions cost €50 (£45) per couple per hour.
Learn to… surf on Colombia’s two contrasting coastlines
Considered by many as ‘unconquered’ in the surfing world, Colombia is the only South American country with both Pacific and Caribbean coastlines and consequently, the destination offers a variety of surf conditions and world-class waves throughout the year. For beginners, Costeño Beach on the Caribbean coast proves an excellent spot with gentle waves and a laid-back atmosphere.
The main surf camp – Costeño Beach Surf Camp & Ecolodge – is located on a former coconut farm, where the emphasis isn't just on learning to surf, but also adopting a surfer’s way of life. Surf lessons and board rental are available year-round with weekly introductions to surf basics conducted in the swimming pool to help beginners master the key skills.
Once surfers have found their sea legs and are looking for more challenging waves, they can discover the more demanding surf spots along the Pacific Coast such as Cabo Corrientes and El Valle. Beaches are even quieter here and frequented by humpback whales from July to October. One-to-one surfing lessons at Costeño Beach Hostel's surf camp start at 110,000 COP (£23.50) for two and a half hours.
Learn to… canyoneer with confidence in Utah, USA
Utah is home to some of the most astonishing natural landscapes in the world, with its burnt-red towering rock formations and deep canyons in a desert-scape that stretches as far as the eye can see. In particular, Moab in south-eastern Utah is ideal for learning new outdoor adventure skills such as canyoneering – the sport of exploring canyons by climbing, rappelling or rafting.
Adventurers can safely and confidently conquer Moab’s canyons with Moab Canyon Tours, as experts teach beginners to climb and scale creeks, with wild canyon swims and helicopter experiences featuring in certain tours. It is recommended that beginners start with the half-day expert-led Bow and Arrow Tour where they will learn key techniques to traverse through canyons, exploring ancient petroglyph panels and a beautiful 80-foot archway along the way.
The tour also offers four separate abseiling experiences, including an exhilarating free-hanging 110-foot abseil from a cliff edge. Once canyoneering skills are mastered, travellers will be spoilt for choice in Utah with national parks including Zion National Park and Arches National Park named as some of the best canyoneering destinations in the world. The Moab Canyon Tours half-day Bow and Arrow Tour is $129 (£94) per person.
Learn to... write fiction on the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight has historically been a place of inspiration for writers, with John Keates and Lewis Carroll both penning some of their best work on the Island. In 2021, visitors can follow in the footsteps of literature heroes with writing retreats at The Grange by the Sea, a charming Georgian country house nestled within the countryside on the Island’s south coast.
The B&B’s secluded setting immerses visitors in writing masterclasses, such as the Life, Dreams and Fiction weekend on 12 – 14 March 2021. Attendees will learn new ways of writing about their life with tips and techniques for turning personal events, dreams and memories into powerful fiction, drama and poetry.
The two-night retreat includes six hours of course time with award-winning screenwriter and novelist Steve Attridge, amongst plenty of quiet time to write, with local walks and excursions also offered. Complementing a mindful experience to the Isle of Wight, Wightlink is the easy-to-use ferry service, with flagship vessel, Victoria of Wight, which is England’s first hybrid energy ferry.
A short break car ferry return crossing from Portsmouth to Fishbourne costs from £65.50. Foot passenger tickets cost £14.40 per person. The Life, Dreams and Fiction retreat costs £295 per person based on two people sharing.
Learn to... live off the earth at an eco-farm in Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico’s verdant central mountain range, considered to be the geographical heart of the island, the Finca Oro Rojo eco-farm and glamping site is nestled amongst the rugged beauty of the Orocovis rainforest. The wide biodiversity of Puerto Rico’s mountains makes it the perfect destination to master the eco-farming basics and at Finca Oro Rojo, visitors can learn to live off the earth, discovering ways of growing, cultivating and harvesting their own crops in the orchard.
Guests can learn from on-site farmers who are experts in selecting the best native crops and fruits for guests to cook and prepare. Finca Oro Rojo is strict about not using any pesticides or chemical fertilisers, instead using only the compost made onsite to fertilise crops.
Perfect for those who want to connect with Puerto Rico’s wildlife and learn to become self-sufficient, Finca Oro Rojo is also complete with hot water, private bathrooms and showers, queen beds with plush linens and cosy hammocks, meaning comfort is never compromised. Rooms at Finca Oro Rojo start at £140 per night, which grants guests full access to the farm and enables them to harvest their own crops freely.
Learn to... cross-country ski in Trentino, Northern Italy
The peaks of the Dolomites are world-renowned for cross-country skiing which attracts beginners and expert skiers alike, particularly as no ski lifts are used. Cross-country skiers traverse the slopes using their physical force alone, and the basic gliding techniques can be taught in as little as 45 minutes.
Trentino is home to many famed cross-country ski races – visitors can trace the route of the region’s most important race, the Marcialonga, which covers 70km across the ski resorts of Val di Fassa and Val di Fiemme. Cross-country skiers can even take on Val di Fiemme’s Cross-Country Stadium Lago di Tesero, a cutting-edge stadium that will host some of the 2026 Winter Olympic Games, with a 3.5km route perfectly designed to challenge and reward those who have picked up the skill.
Trentino’s many mountain refugios and wellness centres offer plenty of restorative apres-ski opportunities to help muscles rest and recover after a day on the pistes. One-hour cross country ski lessons in Val di Fiemme’s Lago di Tesero ski school start at €39 (£35) per person or €52 (£47) for a family lesson.
Learn to… live an indigenous way of life on Ontario’s Great Spirit Circle Trail, Canada
Situated on Manitoulin Island in northeastern Ontario, Canada, the Great Spirit Circle Trail invites travellers to discover the culture of the indigenous Anishnawbek people, one of the First Nation communities of Canada. Travellers will take part in Aboriginal-led experiences including medicine walks through the wilderness to learn about the medicinal uses of different plant and tree varieties, and canoe heritage tours where guests paddle through Lake Huron discovering local stories and legends as well as traditional survival techniques.
A number of ‘Make and Take Experiences’ on offer teach guests lifelong skills including how to make a fire from scratch and baking bread over an open grate fire. After a full day of activities, travellers can camp out in a traditional teepee listening to the wildlife under the stars.
Direct flights from Toronto to Sudbury, the Manitoulin Island’s nearest airport, transport passengers to one of the most serene locations in the province in just over an hour. The four-day Great Spirit Circle Trail starts from £504 per person including return airfare between Toronto and Sudbury, accommodation and experiences.
Learn to... record a track in Nashville, or ‘Music City’, Tennessee
Nashville, otherwise known as ‘Music City’, is renowned for being the home of touring and recording, with some of the world’s biggest hits being written and recorded by the city’s local talent. A musical getaway in Nashville is sure to be a hit, but in addition to discovering the city that inspired so many songwriters, visitors can learn to record their own tracks.
At Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, visitors can experience the life of a recording artist first-hand, joining the ranks of the musical heroes who have performed at the venue such as Keith Urban, Coldplay and Taylor Swift. Musicians can belt out a well-loved classic or even perform an original composition in the studio.
A professional sound engineer will guide guests through the recording process and share some tricks of the trade, giving visitors an understanding of how their favourite tracks were produced. Guests will leave with their own Ryman Record CD, labelled with their name and song, to show off their recording artist skills. Ryman Auditorium’s Air Castle Studio recording sessions start at $15 (£11).
Learn to... become a cowboy in Scottsdale, Arizona
Arizona's desert city, Scottsdale, teaches visitors some out-of-the-ordinary skills that instil resilience and a sense of adventure within them. In this outdoor playground framed by the Sonoran Desert, guests can learn the ropes of authentic cowboy culture at Arizona Cowboy College.
Choosing between one-day, three-day or week-long sessions, guests will rope, ride and round-up cattle in the desert alongside real life cowboys, reinforcing a sense of self-determination and spirit. Guests will be particularly put through their paces on the three-day course led by owner and senior instructor Rocco, an expert in horsemanship who shares his decades of knowledge on penning, rider safety and equitation.
Guests will step outside their comfort zone as they master the saddle, learn to lasso and feed, groom and bathe the cattle. Visitors will put their skills to the test on the final day as they join Rocco on a horseback trek up the nearby Seven Springs mountain, spotting wildlife and learning about the Arizona desert landscape.
During their stay, guests will be provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner in the main house and will sleep in the cosy bunkhouse, complete with wooden beds and a rainbow of rosettes covering the guest room walls. A three-day session at Arizona Cowboy College starts at $1,250 (£959) per person, including airport transfers, all meals and bunkhouse accommodation.