With International Women’s Day looming on 4th March 2015, Steppes Travel is celebrating the lives of some of the first women explorers.  Traditionally one thinks of bearded, heroic men setting sail on the dangerous seas, however history is also littered with – perhaps even bolder – women who dared to go on hair raising adventures to the unknown in pursuit of knowledge, passion, money, and the desire to do something different and controversial to the social norm.  Some of their crazy adventures have included rolling over Niagra Falls in a barrel, circumnavigating the world dressed as a man as early as the 1700s and becoming the first person to fly solo between England and New Zealand…

Many of Steppes Travel’s small group tours are led by today’s equivalent such women– adventurous, skilled and charismatic leaders.  So while we remember and hail some of the first women explorers, we also look at today’s examples of female experts in their fields.


FREYA STARK: 1893 – 1993

Freya’s early years were spent confined by illness and after years spent devouring books she had a burning desire to see the world for herself.  She became the first European woman to enter Luristan, Iran and soon after went on to publish the first of nearly thirty books on travel – for which she was made a Dame in 1974.  Her knowledge of the Middle East and the language made her extremely useful in the Second World War on the fight against fascism and she founded a pro–democrat political group in Egypt.

Sylvie Franquet:  Iran – The Achaemenid Heritage

Departing 3 May and 13 September 2015 

Sylvie Franquet was born in Belgium, but has lived in London for over 20 years. She studied Arabic and Islamic studies at Ghent University, and then at Cairo University. She has led many trips to the Middle East, and like Freya has written at length about the region in travel articles and guidebooks. Having travelled extensively in the Middle East, she then discovered Iran, and fell totally under the spell of the country and has become and expert on the culture and history.

Sylvie’s group trip to Iran looks at the Achaemenid dynasty, rulers of the largest pre-Roman empire.  Visit the mud-brick desert citadel of Rayen then continue on to Shiraz – the cultural capital of Iran – and take in the birthplace of the country’s most famous poet, Hafez. From there, visit Yadz and discover a city designed around desert life.  Explore the site of ancient Persepolis, built to celebrate the success of the mighty Persian Empire, before visiting the rock-cut tombs of the Achaemenid kings. Finally travel on to Isfahan – the beautiful creation of Shah Abbas – and marvel at the magnificent Imam Square, arguably one of the wonders of the Islamic world.


Highly intelligent and hard working, Annie became one of the first female professors in North America and was the first woman to study archaeology at the American School of Classical Studies in Greece. She later became the third woman to scale the Matterhorn and travelled throughout South America searching for the highest mountain in the New World.  She was the first person to climb Mount Huascaran, which was subsequently named after her feat, and in 1909, she climbed Mount Coropuna in Peru, planting a flag on the summit which read ‘Votes for Women!’

Hilary Bradt:  Central and Northern Peru Revisited 

Departing 6 June 2015

Similar to Annie Smith Peck, Hilary has dedicated much of her life visiting and trekking through South America.  This trip includes her favourite mountain range, the Cordillera Blanca, and a first visit to the ‘Machu Picchu of the North’ – Kuelap, in the Chachapoyas region.

When Hilary Bradt and her then husband George set out on their travels in South America in 1973, little could they have realised that the journey which they were embarking on would lead to the creation of Bradt Travel Guides.  In 2008 she was awarded an MBE for services to the travel industry and to charity, and in 2009 received the lifetime achievement award from the British Guild of Travel Writers.


Harriet Chalmers Adams’ thirst for the outdoors was inspired by her father who took her riding and walking  in the mountains from the age of 14.  Her father lacking a son, she also accompanied him on a year long trip by horse over the routes of Colombus and other Spanish conquistadors in Mexico.  She later lived in Mexico with her husband and visited all the ruins of the Aztecs and Mayans, many of which had only very recently been discovered.   Wanting to document everything she discovered, Harriet learnt how to take photographs, and wrote extensively for the National Geographic society, helped found The Society of Women Geographers and served as a World War I war correspondent for Harper’s in 1916: the only woman allowed in the trenches.

Sue Flood:  Photographic Tour to Madagascar 

Departing 17 September 2015 

Harriet’s love for documenting her findings with photography can be seen in the amazing Sue Flood: a photographer, author, wildlife filmmaker and conservationist.  She was an Associate Producer on the award winning BBC series ‘The Blue Planet’, and also more recently worked on ‘Planet Earth’, obtaining unique wildlife images for both series. Her photographic highlights include diving with humpback whales in the South Pacific, face-to-face encounters with leopard seals in the Antarctic, filming polar bears in the Arctic, and photographing the wildlife of Zambia.

Sue is leading a specialist, small group photography trip to Madagascar sharing her expert photographic tuition on how to capture the best pictures.  The itinerary includes Andasibe-Mantadia; home to the world’s largest lemur and the famous ring tailed lemurs and dancing Sifaka at the Berenty Resere.  The climax to the trip is 3 nights spent at Anjajavy, located on its own private beach on the west coast of Madagascar where you can take to the the seas in a kayak, visit the local fishing village on market day and take guided walks in the lodge’s private nature reserve, home to the iconic baobab tree and a variety of remarkable endemic fauna, from Coquerel’s sifaka to spiny iguanas.

AIMEE CROCKER:  1864 – 1941

An American railroad heiress, Aimée Crocker was infamous for her lavish parties and long list of lovers and husbands.  She remains one of America’s most controversial and intriguing heiresses with a life of bold risk-taking.  Escaping the gossip, she travelled to the Far East where she was given two official titles:  Princess Palaikalani Bliss of Heaven by King David Kalakaua when he gave her one of his Hawaiian islands, and Princess Galitizine the day she married her fifth and final husband.

She wrote an autobiography detailing all her titillating adventures including a blood curdling escape from head-hunters in Borneo, poisoning in Hong Kong, a murder attempt by servants in Shanghai and three weeks in the harem of Bhurlana.  After 10 years in the Far East she returned to New York and shocked society with her tattoos and wearing snakes around her neck at parties.

Katya Galitzine: The Jewels of St Petersburg

Departing 25 February 2015

Our very own Princess Galitzine!  Princess Katya Galitzine travelled to the former Soviet Union in 1989, to learn Russian and study sculpture but ended up making St Petersburg her home for 10 years. She studied in the studio of the People’s Sculptor of the Soviet Union and at the Repin Academy of Arts and in 1994, after the death of her father, she renovated part of her Grandmother’s family home and created The Prince George Galitzine Memorial Library. In 1999, her book “St Petersburg – The Hidden Interiors” was published, (a history of the city told through the lesser known palaces of the city and their inhabitants.) Katya has written articles for many newspapers and magazines and has led cultural tours since the mid 1990’s. A direct descendant of Catherine the Great, Katya has an intimate connection with Russia’s history and culture that gives clients on her trips a fascinating insight into this enigmatic country.


Discover the splendour of the Tsars, with a focus on some of the jewels and treasures of pre Revolutionary Russia. Explore some of the vaults within the Hermitage and uncover exceptional gems and marvel at the riches of Russia at the Mining Institute, see the fantastic private collection of Faberge eggs in the new Museum at the Shuvalov Palace, showcasing a collection of over 1,500 pieces.

For further press information please contact:

Frangelica Flook frangelica.flook@cedartreepr.com

Henrietta Quicke henrietta.quicke@cedartreepr.com

T: 020 7978 4534, M: 07747 606 898

Note to Editors:

Specialist tour operator Steppes Travel designs innovative tailor-made itineraries for ‘off the beaten track’ trips. With over two decades’ experience in the industry, Steppes Travel fields a team of creative, knowledgeable and responsible experts committed to providing ethical, pioneering journeys all over the world.

Steppes offers exceptional wildlife holidays focusing on conservation with sustainable and responsible travel at the forefront of their mind. By joining forces with local research projects on an Indian tiger safari or whilst gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda, or supporting carefully chosen wildlife charities in the Galapagos Islands, Steppes is able to give privileged insight into the natural world while supporting conservation and local communities worldwide.

Also, recognised as one of the UK’s leading specialists in cultural tours and historical and archaeological small group holidays, Steppes prides itself on offering a diverse range of small group tours led by renowned experts, and their pioneering reputation.



Maralyn D. Hill, M.Ed.,  The Epicurean Explorer

Executive Editor, LuxeBeatMag.com

Luxe Beat Magazine Digital Editions now online at http://luxebeatmag.com/magazine/

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