Not too long ago, the sight of a hot air balloon full of women might have caused quite a stir in the countryside of central Turkey. But when Nancy Richer, a travel consultant from Farmington, Connecticut, and eight other women wafted over a vineyard in Cappadocia recently, the grape-pickers didn’t so much as bat an eye.

That’s because all-female groups are becoming more and more common. Nancy has been on twelve Classic Journeys trips with groups of up to ten girlfriends. “Life is short,” she reasons. “Why not travel?”

Classic Journeys female travelers group

“We’ve seen a huge increase in women traveling together,” confirms Amanda Babin, Senior Guest Services Coordinator at Classic Journeys. The numbers have grown by about 30% over the last three years. Now, many of them are coming back for more. “The phone rings, and I hear a familiar voice say, ‘The ladies and I are ready to go again!’”

Like many travelers, these women set off together to celebrate a birthday or another momentous life event. But just as often, they book a trip to carve much-needed bonding time out of their busy schedules. Sometimes they share interests like cooking or shopping that the men in their lives do not.

For Ultima Morgan, an attorney from Orlando, that common interest was walking. Her husband wasn’t into joining her on a walking trip, so, undaunted, she invited her sister and four friends to go on a Classic Journeys walking tour to Tuscany. The women soon discovered that walking was not only a great way to see the countryside but also to get to know each other even better. They had such a good time that the group went to Provence three years later.

“If you’re married or you have kids, especially as you get older, it’s nice to have a chunk of time when you can reconnect with the people you really get along with. Then you’re just bonded for life. They become more like family.” says Morgan.

For Debby Poskanzer, a taste-test manager from Walton, Kentucky, learning to make pasta with three female friends on a culinary tour in Italy was a blast. “We definitely bonded over that pasta dough,” says Poskanzer. “The cooking lessons were intimate hands-on experiences—lots of laughs and lots of fun.”

Guided group trips like Classic Journeys make it easy to blend in and feel at ease. Fulltime local guides handle all the logistics and introductions to the local people. The women agree that such personal care liberates them to feel comfortable and at home anywhere from a Costa Rican rainforest to a Vietnamese rice paddy. And without the need to take care of children, husbands, or other responsibilities, they are free to connect with their friends, have fun, and cut loose. Ultima Morgan admits she doesn’t often laugh hysterically, but escaping the routines of daily life opened a lighter side of her group, and they laughed ‘til their ribs hurt.

“It’s the sort of thing you just don’t get with friends unless you’re spending that type of time with them, and then you’re just bonded for life,” says Morgan. “They become more like family.” For Richer and her female travel companions, stargazing and sleeping in tents in a remote Berber encampment in Morocco was one of those unforgettable shared experiences.

“No one else can understand that, right?” says Richer. “Those of you who have had that experience have a special sisterhood.”