12 perfect trips to celebrate retirement

From tropical coastlines to adventurous escapes, these 12 trips are perfect for ringing in retirement
The leading walkway to Le Mont-Saint-Michel. Photo: Shutterstock
The leading walkway to Le Mont-Saint-Michel. Photo: Shutterstock

Finished with the 9-to-5 lifestyle? With your workdays behind you, kick off this exciting new chapter with a tailor-made holiday. Our round-up of best retirement trips is sure to jumpstart your wanderlust.

1. For island luxury like no other

Where? Sri Lanka
What? Tea plantations, whale watching, culture, golfing
Which tour? Sri Lanka Deluxe

For many, a tropical beach is the only place to spend retirement. But these days, the bar has definitely been lifted. Enter Sri Lanka, a hotspot destination that's positively ideal for those kicking off the free-bird retired lifestyle. Don't get us wrong: there are plenty of heavenly beaches (and whale-watching opportunities) on this paradise island. But Sri Lanka is also brimming with other bucket-list activities.

Explore the gorgeous historic tea plantations for which the island is best known, or head to the open countryside of the Nuwara Eliya District for rushing waterfalls and rolling green hills. Fancy a round of golf? The Royal Colombo Golf Club has you covered. And if luxury spa experiences are more your thing, WHITE by Spa Ceylon won't disappoint. But the real jewel here is the charming and colonial Galle Fort, home to world-class shopping and cultural wandering. Throw in a safari at Udawalawe National Park and you've got yourself an unforgettable retirement vacation.

2. For a spot of adventure

Where? South Africa
What? Safari, game reserves
Which tour? South Africa: Cape Peninsula to Victoria Falls

What better way to say goodbye to the 9-to-5 life than with an epic African adventure? This trip packs in all the essentials, redefining what it means to retire. Animal lovers will certainly feel at home here; take to the Cape Peninsula to catch sight of local penguin colonies or venture off to Seal Island by cruise. If it's world-renowned wine you're after, the vineyards of South Africa are a must-visit as well. Opt for a private winelands tour throughout Paarl, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch for a glass (or two) of local vino.

Round out your journey with a wildlife safari tour at the Aquila Private Game Reserve Safari & Spa, where giraffes, wildebeest, and zebras are all within sight. Top off the experience with an unforgettable stop at Victoria Falls, an awe-inspiring natural wonder that just might leave you speechless.

3. For the ultimate in retirement relaxation

Where? Costa Rica
What? Jungle tours, diverse wildlife, beaches, watersports, eco-adventures
Which tour? Costa Rica: Coast to Coast

With its low cost of living and sky-high quality of life, Costa Rica is quickly becoming the place to retire. As if the unreal beaches, national parks, and eco-adventures weren't enough, it turns out that settling in here during retirement may even be good for your health. If up and moving to this Central American jewel isn't in your plans, you can still reap the benefits with a once-in-a-lifetime getaway.

This vacation blends the tranquil Caribbean mindset with scenic waterways, far-flung beaches, and all the vibrant culture you can handle. Take in the wildlife wonders (like a local turtle museum) at Tortuguero National Park, or redefine the spa experience at Tabacon Hot Springs. Take a hike and soak up extraordinary views at the Arenal Volcano National Park before venturing into the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve for a spectacular nature tour you won't soon forget. In other words, you really can't go wrong with Costa Rica.

4. For lovers of all things wine

Where? Argentina
What? Wine tours, South American culture, historic delights
Which tour? Argentina and Chile: Wine Country Explored

In South America, wine plays a huge role in the local culture, as it should; Argentina and Chile produce some of the best in the world. Take a peek behind the curtain with this tailor-made trip, which delves into the ever-vibrant wine culture. Kick-off your retirement getaway with some time in colourful Buenos Aires, where tango reigns supreme. You can take it all in with ease on a private city tour followed by dinner and a show at Cafe de los Angelitos.

Then it's off to Mendoza (aka wine heaven). The jagged peaks and majestic views of the Uco Valley are only made more remarkable by the region's wineries. Visit Salentein, Domaine Bousquet, and Andeluna Cellars for a behind-the-scenes look at the process and to taste some homemade glasses of your own. Then it's off to Santiago for another unforgettable city break.

Gauchos en Fiesta de la Tradicion in Buenos Aires provinceGauchos en Fiesta de la Tradicion in Buenos Aires province. Photo: Shutterstock

5. For serenity and introspection

Where? Bhutan
What? Museums, monasteries, scenic hikes
Which tour? Splendour in Bhutan

Bhutan has long been the destination of choice for everyone from Buddhist pilgrims to yoga devotees to spiritual seekers of all types, not to mention anyone looking to simply recharge. After working for a lifetime, why not jump-start your retirement by travelling to one of the most tranquil and serene countries in the world?

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a fantastic hodgepodge of sacred monasteries and ancient temples; royal monuments and sprawling rice terraces. It's little wonder that its citizens are among the happiest on earth. Of course, Bhutan isn't entirely about calm introspection. Atmospheric restaurants and nightlife abound in the capital city of Thimphu. Explore all the wonder of Bhutan, including the famed Tiger's Nest monastery, on this legendary trip.

6. For a mix of small-town vibes and exquisite natural beauty

Where? Penang, Malaysia
What? Spectacular national parks, historic cities, colonial charms
Which tour? Hidden UNESCO Sites of Malaysia

With its historical heart and charming colonial touchstones, George Town, Malaysia is widely recognised as a retirement hotspot. As the state capital of the island of Penang, George Town is a rich throwback to the 19th century: let this trip transport you there.

Treat your tastebuds with local specialities or a taste of delectable toast bread at Toh Soon Cafe. Then indulge your inner shopper with a trip to Chowrasta Market, a celebrated roadside experience for everything from produce to livestock. Or hit up Campbell Street for a more diverse display of lovely little boutiques, shops and restaurants. The Campbell Street Wet Market, George Town's oldest market, also offers a taste of Victorian architecture and flair.

This epic Malaysian tour also delves into other can't-miss UNESCO sites in Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. To put it simply, this retirement trip is anything but ordinary.

7. For once-in-a-lifetime awe and wonder

Where? The Great Wall of China
What? Chinese history, the Great Wall, modern wonders in Beijing and Shanghai
Which tour? The Best of China

The Great Wall of China is on many bucket lists, and rightfully so... It's one of mankind's most remarkable structures. Those of us headed into retirement finally have the time to discover it for ourselves. Insight Guides' aptly named Best of China trip can take you there and beyond. Your journey begins in Beijing, at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, which boasts thinner crowds than the more-bustling Badaling section. Soak in every detail with a guided tour that makes its way to the impressive Changling Tomb, the official tomb of the Ming Dynasty's third emperor.

The wall itself stretches roughly 4,000 miles between the Gobi Desert and Shanhaiguan. Of course, its history is equally impressive, dating back to the 5th century BC. Catch the Great Wall and more on this larger-than-life holiday, which also has the Forbidden City and Shanghai on its itinerary.

8. For just the right amount of trekking 

Where? Nepal
What? Tiger and jungle safari, river rafting, mini treks
Which tour? Himalayan Family Adventure

Don't let the name fool you: this trip isn't limited to families only. The itinerary is also ideal for those looking to celebrate their retirement with a bit of outdoor fun and adventure without going too overboard with high-intensity activities. This Himalayan whirlwind is loaded with mini mountain treks, wildlife safaris, and river rafting fun. In the in-between-time, while away the hours uncovering lovely little hill villages and off-the-beaten-track nature paths. Many of the low-altitude treks are complete with stunning mountain scenery.

But the real star of the show here is Begnas Lake. Tucked away in the Pokhara region, the lake itself is a magnificent display of rugged alpine beauty. It also provides first-class views of the mighty Annapurnas, including the iconic Fishtail Peak.

Maldives islandMaldives island. Photo: Shutterstock

9. For off-the-grid tropical paradise

Where? The Maldives
What? Beach bliss, surfing, diving
Which tour? Luxury Sri Lanka and The Maldives

Let's get real here: the ability to sneak away to a secluded tropical beach is perhaps the greatest reward of retirement! What better way to kick off this new chapter of your life than with an ultra-luxe, super-relaxing vacation in the breathtaking Maldives?

This trip whisks you away to the North Malé Atoll, where the deluxe Cinnamon Dhonveli Resort awaits. This dreamy destination is all about pampering yourself. Hello, spa treatments, five-star meals, and private bungalows... When you're ready to get your blood pumping, you can indulge in a bit of surfing or snorkelling before hitting up a dive class. This trip even squeezes in some time in Sri Lanka for good measure. If this is what the retired life looks like, sign us up.

10. For the ultimate luxury tour 

Where? The UAE
What? Desert safari, souks and heritage villages,Fujairah Coast
Which tour? Magnificent Emirates

This retirement vacation blends the luxury travel vibes you'd expect from the UAE with mountain views, rural oases, and, of course, the shimmering Arabian Sea. In other words, it's fine dining meets five-star accommodations meets local wonder. Your itinerary hits five of the seven emirates, including the ever-glitzy Dubai.

But Dubai, with its iconic skyline and cosmopolitan feel, is only one piece of the pie. In Fujairah, surrender to gorgeous beaches and charming coastal roads. Take a private city tour of Abu Dhabi, soaking in the modern architecture and the renowned Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Just don't head home without buckling in for a heart-pumping desert safari on the dunes. Insight Guides' Magnificent Emirates trip puts all the splendour and diversity of the UAE front and centre.

11. For stunning wildlife (and even more stunning beaches)

Where? Madagascar
What? Rainforests, national parks, wildlife
Which tour? Dreaming of Madagascar

The island of Madagascar certainly has an air of excitement and magic, making it an ideal spot for new retirees. For starters, the local wildlife is about as exotic as it gets (think wide-eyed lemurs, rare butterflies, and prehistoric-looking geckos). Witness some of these creatures for yourself at Madagascar Exotic, a private zoo that offers an up-close introduction to the island's remarkable fauna. This trip also touches down at a number of noteworthy national parks.

But it isn't all lush rainforest and extraordinary local wildlife; you'll also spend time in Sainte Marie, a paradise island known for its sapphire waters and unmatched whale-watching opportunities. To catch a view of exotic fish in their natural habitat, opt for some snorkelling among the coral reefs. You'd be hard-pressed to mimic these experiences anywhere else.

12. For a bit of history and European charm

Where? Brittany, France
What? Seaside charms, Celtic culture
Which tour? Northern France Tour: City to Coast

Go beyond Paris and do France like a pro with this delightful tour of the country's northern region. As far as retirement trips go, we've got a soft spot for Brittany. Here, charming seaside towns meet Celtic culture and dramatic rocky landscapes. The area's "Pink Granite Coast" is where you'll find what's been coined the prettiest village in France: Ploumanac'h. Brittany's wild, untamed Atlantic coast is nothing short of exhilarating.  

Of course, Brittany is only one stop on this grand French tour. Spend the rest of your holiday getting to know Normandy, Paris and beyond.

Ready to book your retirement holiday? 

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