Best over 50s vacations

Best over 50s vacations


Generation X deserves vacations with the X factor. As schools and universities taunt students with adventurous trips and gap year opportunities, rather than sitting around saying ‘wow, those vacations weren’t available when I was a kid’, and indeed, often they weren’t, this Over 50s vacation guide encourages you to join the party. Many 50-year-olds took time out to backpack, Interrail or work their way around Oz. There were no small group tours to take you around in the 80s – at least not for those without an American Express card or a yuppie lifestyle. So, yes the Loire is lovely and the Dordogne is divine. But snowshoeing up a Sicilian volcano? Swimming with whales in the Azores? Seeing gorillas in the mist? They all have the X factor.
African safari Costa Rica Ecuador & Galapagos Gorilla watching The Inca Trail Indochina Italy Japan Sea kayaking in Croatia Small ship cruises Sri Lanka Whale watching in Azores

African safari

It’s the Big Five for the Big 5-0. An African safari is hard to beat, although traveling with a responsible safari company who doesn’t mistreat animals, works with expert local guides, interacts with communities and so on, turns an amazing trip into the best of your life. With some 20 countries and a plethora of national parks, reserves and conservancies, the choice is huge. Go tailor made, small group or even cycle.

Costa Rica

If you haven’t zip lined through a rainforest before, Costa Rica is the where, and your 50s are the when. As well as the wildlife that it’s rightly famous for, such as turtles, dolphins, birds galore and howler monkeys, you can do all the adventurous things you never thought you would. Raft down the Pacuare River, wild swim in the Sarapiquí Valley, volunteer on a turtle conservation project. Or you could just chill.

Ecuador & Galapagos

The Galapagos are unique and no better way to celebrate your half century than swimming with sea lions, walking with tortoises or sailing around this archipelagic paradise on a traditional schooner. However, one big tip. Don’t overlook mainland Ecuador. The size of the UK, it’s a packed piñata of Amazon jungle, Andean páramo, cloud forest and snow-capped volcanoes. Because life does begin at 50.

Gorilla watching

Seeing rare gorillas in the wild is an experience that taps into that 50-something desire to start seeing life from a different perspective. To take stock. Because trekking through rainforest to see a family of gorillas has a huge impact. It’s a moment in time when the line between animal and human is briefly blurred, leaving you with a profound understanding of what it means to be a part of the primate family.

The Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is the ultimate gap year thing, but don’t let your kids beat you to it. Or, even better, do it with them before they fly the nest. Trek on ancient pathways through Andean high, windswept tundra or cloud forest to share the magic of Machu Picchu. Solo travelers also rate our small group tours on the Inca Trail highly. And no way are they all gappers. Just adventurers of all ages.


Chaotic, crumbling, modern and ancient, is how many people describe Indochina. And, indeed, a bit like how many of us describe our 50s. One day darting around, the next feeling a bit dilapidated. Which is why the four countries of Indochina work perfectly. Immerse yourself in full octane Thailand, chill in rural Vietnam, bounce around the culture of Cambodia or lose yourself in little-explored Laos.


Sauntering around Rome and Florence is wonderful, but look beyond the museums and galleries to picture perfect natural Italy. Hike in Tuscany, discover the Aeolian archipelago volcanoes, the dramatic Dolomites, inland Sardinia and the undulations of Umbria. And for that romantic tryst, we will always have Amalfi, darling. Where, as well as the glamour, a whole world of traditional farms and real Riviera life awaits.


Japan is one of those countries when you visit you will think, why did I not come here years ago? Its unique history from Edo to earthquakes, Nakasendo and Kumano Kodo long distance walking trails, volcanoes, ancient traditions, hot spring baths, ryokan living, amazing food and incomparable welcome, as well as the most efficient bullet train in the world, will have you turning Japanese. I really think so.

Sea kayaking in Croatia

You are never too old to start sea kayaking and if you already know and love Croatia, seeing it from the water will enable you to appreciate it in completely different ways. Plus you keep fit, avoid summer crowds, swim lots and access sublime, secret beaches. There are over 1,000 islands along the Istrian and Dalmatian coasts, so get paddling. Put your hiking boots in your drybag too; they are all worth exploring.

Small ship cruises

Unlike massive cruise liners, small ship cruises take you off the usual wanderers’ wavelengths, away from massive marinas to island idylls. And forget that ‘lie on deck and eat all you can’ ethos. These trips combine kayaking with whale watching in the Arctic, snorkelling in the Galapagos, doing yoga on board a Turkish gulet. And with small ships come expert guides, naturalists and burgeoning libraries. Dream boats really.

Sri Lanka

Over 50s will remember Sri Lanka as Ceylon and, although there are still vestiges of colonialism, it’s young Sri Lankans who are sussed to sustainability. With a fine reputation for expert local guides, combine wonders of the Cultural Triangle with cycling along tropical back roads or coastal wetlands of Bundala NP. And head to the northeast coast for beach bliss, only now opening up since the end of the war in 2009.

Whale watching in Azores

The Azores is of the most responsible whale watching destinations, for fin, blue, Sei, pilot, minke and sperm whale sightings. As well as orcas and dolphins. This is beyond a school of whales; this is a full on Oxbridge, from late June to early October. Go on photography or research trips, or combine it with superb hiking, such as to the top of Mount Pico, followed by swims in unique tidal lava pools.
Photo credits: [Top box: Derek Keats] [African safari: Joachim Huber] [Costa Rica: kansasphoto] [Gorilla watching: ] [The Inca Trail : Steve Pastor] [Indochina: Davidlohr Bueso] [Italy: Polina F] [Japan: NH53] [Sea kayaking in Croatia: Martyn Kilbryde] [Small ship cruises: Roderick Eime] [Sri Lanka: Amila Tennakoon]
Written by Catherine Mack
Eco self catering accommodation in Yorkshire, England

Eco self catering accommodation in Yorkshire, England

Our cabin is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the countryside

From £350 per week (sleeps 2)
Cycling vacation in Croatia, Dalmatian Coast

Cycling vacation in Croatia, Dalmatian Coast

Cycling through the Dalmatian Coast Islands in Croatia

From US $1235 8 Days ex flights
Cuba tours

Cuba tours

Tailormade vacations in the pearl of the Carribean

From 970 15 Days ex flights
Gorilla Safari & the Masai Mara

Gorilla Safari & the Masai Mara

Superb safari and trip to see gorillas

From US $3815 16 Days ex flights
Small group holiday to Burma

Small group vacation to Burma

Highlights of Burma; Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Lake Inle

From US $2500 12 Days ex flights
Whale watching in the Azores

Whale watching in the Azores

Sustainable whale watching in the beautiful Azorean archipelago

From £580 7 Days ex flights
Sintra Natural Park accommodation in Portugal

Sintra Natural Park accommodation in Portugal

Eco-friendly B&B, in Sintra Natural Park near lovely beaches

From 80 per room per night
Galapagos cruise options, tailor made

Galapagos cruise options, tailor made

The greatest wildlife experiences tailor made

From £2500 8 Days ex flights
Amalfi coast easy walking holiday, Italy

Amalfi coast easy walking vacation, Italy

Easy walks from Amalfi: 4* sea-facing hotel; top restaurants

From £1635 8 Days ex flights
Self drive vacation in Costa Rica

Self drive vacation in Costa Rica

Tailor made self-drive vacation in stunning Costa Rica

From £2405 17 Days ex flights
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