March 18, 2024

A Guide to Our Most Flowery Destinations

- By Jules Torti

Continue reading A Guide to Our Most Flowery Destinations

It’s impossible to resist flowers–the brilliant edible petals color the plates of traditional Balinese dishes. A deep, penetrating jasmine oil massage immediately transports our weary bodies into a peacefully calm space.

In the wild, plants have historically been valued and coveted as nature’s pharmacy. 

From an apothecary to aromatherapy to being just darn pretty to photograph, flowers are a distinct reminder of geography and entice travelers to see the annual wonder of their blooms. From the blush purple of heather in Scotland to the candy pink cherry blossoms in Japan, Wild Women Expeditions has several trips for those who love gardening and are eager to learn more about botany and how flowers can be used in everything.

Cherry Blossoms and Zen Gardens: Japan Pilgrimage Trail

In Hongu Taisha, learn Otonashi during a Japanese washi paper-making experience. This paper is unique to the Hongu-sho area as it is made from local wild plants like the paper bush (which has a parchment paper-like bark) or the Kazinoki tree. Originally created by the Shinto talisman and distributed to major shrines in Kumano there was no successor to carry on this tradition—this art form was just reintroduced in 2009.

On this trip you’ll have the opportunity to walk the meditative Philosopher’s Path. This 1.2 mile (2km) path runs parallel to a small canal that is popular during the cherry blossom festival at the end of March. Nishida Kitaro, a famous philosopher who founded the Kyoto School of Philosophy used to walk here. The path ends at Nanzenji, a Zen garden with an ambient tea room and waterfall near the temple.

Fun fact: The Women’s Pilgrimage Course that loops around the perimeter of Koyasan is said to be shaped like a lotus flower as it stops at seven traditional sacred precinct shrines. Women were forbidden to enter the Koyasan in the past and were only permitted glimpses of the holy sites. The entire route is 10.6 miles (17km) and a grounding journey along ribbons of streams, old-growth forest, historic shrines and time-worn deities and iconic red torii gates of the Kii mountains.

Foraging for Lavender and Elixirs: Croatia Active Adventure

On Hvar Island, you’ll learn about the rich foraging opportunities of this region. Lavender and rosemary are still distilled here today and the processing buildings attract flower fans in the summer when an annual festival is held to celebrate all things lavender. Ten percent of the world’s lavender production happened here before a massive fire destroyed the fields.

Learn about the surprising uses of sage (to clean your teeth or steeped for a sore throat), agave (a UNESCO-designated lace is made from the fibre), walnuts (for PMS, SPF and brandy!), fennel, St. John’s Wort and Dalmatian Oak (for “acorn coffee” of course). Mediterranean species abound: fig, almond, mulberry, mandarin, wild pistachio and strawberry trees (yes, there is such a thing!). Wild mint and rosemary grows underfoot along most of the trail. Inhale! Be sure to ask your guide about the unique significance of the carob seed too! No spoilers here.

Traditional Medicinal Plants & Herbal Spa Treatments: Women’s Wilderness Retreat

At the Painted Warriors Ranch, learn about the wildflowers of the sacred and serene foothills of the mesmerizing Canadian Rockies north of Calgary, Alberta. On an enveloping walk in the fragrant forest you’ll be introduced to the traditional medicinal uses and extracts derived from plants based on Cree culture.

Learn how to make natural medicines from plants from the forest pharmacy at your feet in this amazing lesson in self-sufficiency. On this retreat you’ll also experience a natural spa treatment using plants gathered on the walk. Take part in a fun group foot soak and replenishing facial treatment that will truly connect you to the wild space you’re in.

Hydrangea Heaven: Azores Horseback Riding Tour

Faial is known as the “Blue Island” due to its abundance of hydrangeas. They spill out of windows and wildly flourish between fields and roads. The volcanic island and unique soil provides ideal growing conditions and the unbelievable blue booms make the island a bouquet bucket list destination. The other eight islands in the Azores chain are also famous for hydrangeas– in all shades.

Heather, Botany and Gin Botanicals: Scotland Horseback Riding Tour

Nikki and Cara, your hosts, are well-versed in using the land for growing food, foraging, feeding the herd and supporting the natural environment in a sustainable way. Nikki is a bonafide botanist who has surveyed most of the Scottish uplands and coastline over her 25 years in the field.

On the Kintyre peninsula, you’ll meet Emma and learn about her home, Torrisdale Castle Estate. She’ll share generational stories about the castle and how it’s evolved to include an on-site gin distillery and renewable energy generation. After a light lunch at the estate’s distillery café you’ll pull up a seat to gin school! Spend the afternoon blending and tasting your very own original gin from local botanicals! (Drinking is optional!)

Jasmine, Bamboo and Organics:  Bali Explorer

On day one of this adventure, you’ll be swapping life stories with your fellow Wild Women over a locally-sourced, Balinese-spiced plant-based dinner at Moksa Ubud. 

In West Bali National Park, you’ll learn about the resilient flora of the monsoon and savanna forest. The monsoon forest itself is a geographical anomaly–the trees found in such forests tend to shed their leaves to avoid further evaporation during the dry season (up to 8 months of the year). The health of the forest and plant life relies on the regeneration of the monsoon rains that essentially bring it back to life. 

An experienced park ranger will guide us through the exotic and delicate flora and fauna in the park and share stories of up close encounters and the park’s vision for the future. Over 176 species (including trees, shrubs, climbing plants, creepers, herbaceous species, orchids, ferns, and grasses) are found in the national park. 

Throughout Bali expect to see countless woven bamboo containers containing flowers, spices, fruits, incense and rice. They are found on sidewalks, entrances to homes, on the backs of mopeds–everywhere! The canang sari are colorful daily offerings to the Gods–watch your step! 

You’ll also enjoy an unforgettable jasmine-infused Balinese massage on this trip–inhale, exhale!

If you’d like to do some more flower-based “research”, these books revolve around the power of flowers!

The Way of the Gardener: Lost in the Weeds Along the Camino de Santiago by Lyndon Penner

the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur

The Kinfolk Garden: How to Live with Nature by John Burns

The Gardener of Baghdad by Ahmad Ardalan

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