Given that travel gets far more rewarding as you get older, it comes as no surprise that much of the 50-plus generation is swapping European beach-lazing for new and exciting experiences in far-flung destinations.
Free of responsibilities and restrictions they are now able to splurge on holidays that appeal to their adventurous streak – and keep them young at heart.
Here’s a round-up of the best getaways for individuals who have a lust for life, lots of free time and the desire to still see much more of the world.
Learn salsa in rum-soaked Cuba
For faded Spanish colonial cities, panoramic plains filled with sugar cane fields, dazzling white-sand beaches, crystal waters, perfectly-rolled cigars, and jolly fine rum, there’s nowhere quite like the Caribbean island of Cuba.
While the profoundly romantic city of Havana wows with a head-spinning mix of American chrome-laden treasures, timeworn Art Deco colonial buildings, world-famous monuments and endless mojito bars, it’s the vibrant countryside that takes centre stage on the 7-night Classic Western Cuba guided tour. Highlights include visiting a peaceful orchard garden, climbing a mountain and taking a short hike to a gorgeous waterfall in the Sierra del Rosario village of Soroa, spending time sauntering through a tobacco field, visiting a bodega, and marvelling at the giant top-rounded limestone karsts known as mogotes in Pinar del Río’s Viñales Valley.
There’s also a wealth of included extras, such as spending time at a medicinal plantation for a rundown on healing herbs, experiencing local farm life, and relaxing on one of the country’s most ravishing beaches. You’ll also get to put your fancy footwork to the test by learning the sensual and fast-paced Latin American dance style that is salsa.
Just-for-two: One of the most gorgeous spots in Havana is Avenida de Maceo (known simply as the Malecón) – the esplanade that stretches along the waterfront from Havana’s Old Town to Vedado.
Be sure to queue for an ice cream at The Coppelia – the state-run hotspot in the upscale Vedado neighborhood that has been a big hit with locals since opening in 1966.
Feel buena onda (good vibes) in both Argentina and Chile
For South American adventure on an epic scale, the 10-night Best of Argentina & Chile offers an itinerary-rich tour of two iconic destinations. The fun starts in Buenos Aires, where you can take a tango lesson with a professional teacher at La Ventana Barrrio de Tango – or enjoy a wine tasting session if you prefer. There’s also a five-hour guided city tour that takes in the historic Plaza De Mayo, Casa Rosada, Metropolitan Museum, La Boca area, and La Recoleta Cemetery (the resting place of Eva Perón, the nation’s most famous First Lady).
Further highlights include spending a full-day at the incredible Perito Moreno Glacier, driving to the awe-inspiring Torres Del Paine National Park in Patagonia, and marvelling at the wonderful wildlife (including a colony of Gentoo and Magellanic penguins) on Martillo Island.
It’s equally exciting in Chile, especially in Santiago de Chile – the cosmopolitan capital flanked by the Andes to the east and the Chilean Coastal Range to the west. You’ll get to enjoy an immersive half-day tour that starts in the buzzy downtown area and takes you to spots such as the Alameda, Plaza de Armas, Central Market, Mapocho River, Bellavista District, and San Cristobal Hill.
Just-for-two: For couples interested in learning the secrets of Chilean wine, the three-hour Wine Adventure at Santiago de Chile’s Vinolia is a deal breaker. This unique facility offers panoramic virtual flights, a sensory exploration room, various “smelling” stations, and superb tastings of five superior-quality wines paired with a selection of cheeses and dried fruits.
Leave your heart in San Fran and raise a glass to Napa Valley
As one of North America’s cities most likely to set the mood for love (helped by the thought of Tony Bennett crooning about how he left his heart here), San Francisco is always a winner for romantic duos.
So it’s easy to see the appeal of the 7-night ‘Enjoy San Francisco & the California Winelands’ Self-Drive tour that allows ample time to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, shop in Union Square, enjoy the carnival fare of Pier 39, stroll through Golden Gate Park, and take the boat to Alcatraz (so long as you’ve booked tickets months in advance).
You’ll also get to zip around the city in a two-seater GoCar, take a foodie walking tour, get your heart racing by climbing the two steep sets of stairs at the 284-foot-high Telegraph Hill, admire the bohemian-style “floating homes” of Sausalito, and spend time in the lovely town of Sonoma.
The tour is topped off with three days in Napa Valley, the show stopping wine-producing region celebrated for its vineyards and wineries, Michelin-starred restaurants, legendary Chardonnays, and prized Cabernet Sauvignons. Not-to-be missed activities include boarding the Napa Valley Wine Train and heading to the Napa River to try your hand at kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing.
Just-for-two: Of all the romantic thrills to be found in San Francisco, little beats the Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Middle Drive East. Head here to marvel at stone tablets engraved with quotations, relax on one of the many benches, and admire over 200 blooms mentioned in the Bard’s iconic comedies, tragedies, and sonnets.
Be awed by China’s exciting mix of ancient and modern culture
Perfect for those often deterred by its complexity and size, the 12-night Explore China is a small-group tour that hits big when it comes to cultural attractions and natural wonders. Kicking off in Shanghai where you’ll get to see the glittering Bund (once known as the Wall Street of Asia) and the stunning Yuyuan Gardens, you’ll then embark on an action-packed journey that ends up in Beijing’s UNESCO-listed Forbidden City – the best-preserved collection of ancient buildings in China and the largest palace complex in the world.
Tour highlights include the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall for its unique watchtowers and fortresses that date back to the Ming dynasty and the Tibetan town of Xiahe for its beautiful prairies and significant Buddhist monasteries. Equally standout is the city of Xian for its Terracotta Warriors – the 8,000-plus life-size models of soldiers built to guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huang (China’s first emperor who died in 210BC). Discovered by farmers digging a well in 1974, this Eight Wonder of the World now stands as one of the world’s most exciting archaeological sites, taking a team of 7,000 ancient craftsmen around 40 years to build (amazingly, no two soldiers have the same facial features).
Just-for-two: Located in southern China’s Henan province, the Shaolin Temple (also known as the Shaolin Monastery) is believed to have been founded in the 5th century, Not only is it the main temple of the Shaolin school of Buddhism, but it is also the birthplace of Kung Fu (Shaolin monks have been practicing this marital art for over 1,500 years).
Enjoy pilates, holistic healing and luxe pampering in St. Lucia
Whether it’s preserving your six-pack in the gym or soothing your aching muscles in the Jacuzzi, fewer places in the Caribbean rival the award-winning The BodyHoliday – a five-star resort in the tropical idyll of St. Lucia (located at the island’s northern end overlooking the white sands of Cariblue Beach, it’s just a 10-minute drive from Rodney Bay Village).
On the accommodation front, all of the guest rooms and suites assure stylish decor; think hardwood furniture, turquoise and pale-blue accents, four-poster or king-size beds with a choice of pillows, and fabulous bathrooms with showers or deep-soaking tubs. Elsewhere, you’ll find a dizzying array of holistic and high-intensity sports activities from dusk until dawn; from fitness classes, tennis and watersports to cycling, fencing and golf. There’s also a splendid infinity-edge pool with underwater seating, three restaurants for healthy cuisine, and a relaxed bar for the tinklings of a pianist.
Unsurprisingly, the spa facilities are knockout; expect a thalassotherapy pool, yoga decks, Ayurvedic temple, and 47 private rooms for every treatment and therapy imaginable.
Just-for-two: While there’s nothing to stop you from lying horizontally all day ordering fruit smoothies to your sunlounger, take time out for a sunrise walk along the private beach. There’s also a great choice of couples’ spa treatments, including the Couples Lesson in Massage, Time for Two Aromatherapy Massage, Warm Aromastone Therapy, and Exotic Coconut Milk Wrap.
Check out the flourishing foodie scene in British Columbia
Washed by the Pacific coastline, it comes as no surprise that Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia triumphs when it comes to food and drink; not least because it boasts some of the country’s finest agricultural land, the longest growing climate, and an above-par selection of food festivals, concept restaurants, wineries, microbreweries, and farmers’ markets.
So it makes sense that culinary delights are the focus of the 10-night Enjoy BC – Coastal Cuisine flydrive holiday that takes you on a circular route starting in Vancouver, heading up the coast of Vancouver Island, and crossing back to the BC mainland and onto the Sunshine Coast. For foodies, the thrills are limitless, especially in the epic West Coast city of Vancouver where you can tuck into beloved signature dishes such as JapaDog (hotdog with teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed), sushi (the BC Roll was invented here), and salmon candy glazed with maple syrup. You’ll also get to spend time in Victoria, the little city with the highest number of restaurants per capita in all of Canada (it shot to fame for its sustainably-sourced dishes made with fresh fish, farm-raised game, grass-fed beef and lamb, and organic cheeses).
Just-for-two: Your final stop is in Sechelt, the laid-back and scenic Sunshine Coast town located north of Vancouver. Spend time exploring the scenic mountains, parks, forests and beaches before stopping for fish and chips. This is also the perfect launching point for boating and paddling excursions to the surround fjords, including Narrows, Salmon, and Sechelt Inlet.
Island-hop, snorkel and dive in the spellbinding Seychelles
Probably as close to paradise as it gets, the swoon-worthy Seychelles have the edge over other tropical islands for their ribbons of sugar-white sands, turquoise-tinted waters, palm-fringed jungles, majestic granite cliffs, and spectacular wildlife. Little wonder, then, that the 12-night Sail & Snorkel the Seychelles holiday is such a hit; not least for its well-crafted itinerary that includes a glorious cruise of this remote Indian Ocean archipelago. Starting and ending in Mahé, you’ll spend a chunk of your time on the Motor Yacht Pegasus – a boutique-style vessel with 21 comfortable cabins, a dining room serving local and international dishes (outdoor seating is also available), a lovely lounge area, a cool sundeck, and snorkelling equipment for close-up marine encounters in the calm reef. The rest of the trip takes you to St. Anne Island, Curieuse, Cousin Island, La Digue, Praslin, Felicite, Saint Pierre and Moyenne Island for swimming, sunbathing, and sightseeing. Highlights include visiting world’s most filmed and photographed beach of Anse Source D’Argent and taking an optional tour of the UNESCO-listed Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve – the so-called Garden of Eden that’s home to towering Coco de Mer trees.
Just-for-two: Your cruise is combined with a four-night stay at AVANI Seychelles Barbarons Resort & Spa, an attractive beachfront hotel just 20 yards from Barbarons Beach on the west coast of Mahé. Expect drop-dead-gorgeous Indian Ocean views, stylish accommodation, waterfront dining venues, a spa and fitness centre, and a great outdoor swimming pool.
Enjoy a safari jaunt in Botswana’s extraordinary Okavango Delta
As the 1000th site to be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2014, the Okavango Delta is a unique pulsing wetland that owes its existence to the Okavango (Kavango) River which flows from the Angolan highlands, across Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, and into the Kalahari Desert. Very much at the heart of Botswana’s safari industry (obviously the wildlife shifts with the seasons), it features some of Africa’s coolest places to stay, including the luxurious Kwetsani Camp in the Jao Concession – an area in the delta’s southwest reaches that’s all sparkling lagoons, emerald-green floodplains, gorgeous islands, prolific birdlife, and an eclectic roll call of resident mammals.
Not only will you be staying in a beautiful treehouse-style chalet with a private terrace and both indoor and outdoor bathrooms, but you’ll also get to enjoy day and night game drives in a 4×4 purpose-built safari vehicle, safari activities including mokoro canoe and motorboat safaris, and use of the small plunge pool. The camp is open from May to December only (please note that June to September is when the flooding is at its highest).
Just-for-two: A specialist-run guided walking safari around the Okavango Delta’s islands and flood plains provides a very different perspective to a game drive. Not only is it far more intimate, but it enables you to track wildlife, understand animal movement, patterns and behavior, and learn much more about this dramatic landscape from ground level.
Discover huge sand dunes and Arabian culture in Oman
Ranking as one of the world’s best winter sun destinations, the boomerang-shaped country of Oman on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula hits the spot with epic wind-blown deserts, majestic mountains, interesting medieval cities, seductive beaches, and legendary tales of the Queen of Sheba and Sinbad the Sailor. To truly appreciate this safe sultanate, the 3-night Highlights of Oman tour takes you on an exciting adventure that starts in Muscat – the capital city most famous for its Bait Zubair Museum, Al Alam Palace, and magnificent Grand Mosque with its huge Persian carpet and 46-feet tall Swarovski chandelier adorned with 6,000 crystals. Further thrills include the city of Nizwa for exploring the Nizwa Souk and Fort, the Wahiba Sands for embarking on a 4×4 sand dune ride, and Wadi Bani Khalid for its oasis of lush green palms and cool swimming waters. This tour can be easily combined with any hotel stay, including Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort – a five-star resort located 2,000-metres above sea level on a canyon edge in the Hajar Mountains (roughly a two-hour drive from Muscat International Airport and about four-and-a-half hours from Dubai International Airport).
Just-for-two: As the country’s most accessible desert, the 4,000-square-mile Wahiba Sands in Sharqiyah province is home to Bedouin tribes. You’ll spend the night at the Desert Night Camp, a boutique-style desert camp complete with 39 luxury tents, traditional Omani fare, top-notch service from gracious staff, star-filled desert skies, and a very romantic vibe.
Combine city and beach thrills in Singapore and Langkawi
For a truly unique city-meets-beach break, the 10-night Singapore & Langkawi Twin Centre offers the best of both worlds. You’ll spend the first three nights in Singapore, the island city-state off southern Malaysia where must-dos include smelling the roses at Gardens by the Bay, riding stomach-churning dual rollercoasters at Universal Studios Singapore, meeting cute orangutans at Singapore Zoo, and marvelling at street art in Haji Lane. Should time allow, get back to nature at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, hit the hiking trails of the MacRitchie Reservoir, and check out the art exhibits at the National Gallery Singapore. To slow down the pace a bit, you’ll have seven blissful nights on Langkawi Island, the archipelago of 99 islands just off the northwest of Malaysia that’s all about picturesque paddy fields, jungle-clad hills, and long stretches of talc-like sand fringed by swaying coconut trees.
Don’t leaving with crossing the 125-metre-long Langkawi Sky Bridge, taking photos of the eagle sculpture in Dataran Lang (also known as Eagle Square), marvelling at 500-plus species of sea creatures at Underwater World Langkawi, and riding the Langkawi Cable Car to the top of Mount Mat Cincang.
Just-for-two: You’ll be staying at the contemporary-style Hotel Jen Tanglin, located at the top of Singapore’s Orchard Street (an area famed for its fabulous shopping and dining). The accommodation is just as appealing on Langkawi Island where you’ll be staying at the five-star Meritus Pelangi Langkawi overlooking the white-sand Cenang Beach.