Perhaps it’s a generational thing. Having been the first age group to regularly enjoy childhood holidays abroad, today’s over-50s sure take their travel seriously.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it was well documented that older demographics were increasing their spend on travel while other age groups were cutting back. Plenty of disposable income, little to tie them down at home once children have grown up, more and more people taking early retirement – it’s arguably the perfect time to take up travel as a serious hobby.
In the wake of the pandemic, according to booking figures it is again the over-50s who have shown the greatest interest in getting out into the big wide world again.
So where are the hottest destinations older travellers are flocking to? Given that COVID-19 is very much a factor, what are the safest options in terms of entry rules and the likelihood of tough restrictions being imposed in the coming months? If you’re over 50 and looking to make plans for 2022, what destinations should be at the top of your list?
Costa Rica has earned a reputation as one of the world’s premier eco-tourism hot spots. Whether you like the sound of taking part in a conservation project on your travels, or just want to stay in sustainable accommodation close to nature, Costa Rica offers it all.
Nature is what Costa Rica is all about. Covered in thick rainforest and mountainous cloud forest, one the country’s biggest draws are its nature reserves, hiking trails and sanctuaries. From turtles and dolphins on its sublime coast to monkeys, macaws, sloths and jaguars in the jungle, Costa Rica is an animal lover’s dream.
If you like the odd adrenaline rush when you travel, Costa Rica doesn’t disappoint there, either. Whether it’s white water rafting down one of its many rivers or taking a zip line through the forest canopy, there are countless thrills on offer you will never forget.
As for COVID restrictions, Costa Rica has the attraction of having some of the most relaxed entry rules in the world. If you are fully vaccinated, all you have to do is fill in an online ‘Health Pass’ form. If you are not fully vaccinated and over the age of 18, the same applies, although you will also need to have valid travel insurance to be admitted into the country (click here for more information on travel insurance for over 50s)
A couple of years before COVID struck, Italy ranked third in a study of the world’s best destinations for over 50s that scored countries on categories like activities, nature, history, safety etc.
Anyone vaguely familiar with Italy can guess at its strong points. It earned the highest score overall in a category called ‘UNESCO Bucket List’, or world heritage sites to visit. Not surprising for a country that boasts world famous historical gems like Rome, Florence, Venice and Pisa.
It also scored very well on nature – a side of Italy that is sometimes overlooked. But how many other countries can boast landscapes as varied yet equally breathtaking as the towering Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, Lake Garda, the rolling hills of Tuscany and much more besides?
Throw in the world-beating food, wine and fine weather, and all of these points still serve to make Italy a premier destination for the over-50s traveller looking to combine culture, history, romantic scenery and a little luxury into a single trip.
Compared to the two countries that topped Italy in that study (Japan and Germany), Italy now also has the advantage of more relaxed COVID rules. While Japan in particular is sadly out of bounds for tourism at present, Italy is still welcoming international visitors as long as they are fully vaccinated and take a test before they arrive.
Here’s one for the young at heart. The Inca Trail, and hikes up the Andes to the wondrous Machu Picchu in particular, have long been almost mandatory for the youthful backpacker and gap year traveller crowd. And ‘crowd’ is an apt word where the Inca Trail is concerned. Not only is it a testing hike, it’s also famously crowded in normal times.
Not surprising, COVID has seen visitor numbers dwindle – which makes it a great time for older travellers who might be put off by the hordes to take advantage. If you’d like to enjoy the majesty of the Andes in relative isolation rather than seeing it teeming with tourists, book soon!
Peru has much to offer besides Machu Picchu, too. Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable waterway in the world, is a must see. And aside from mountains, Peru also has extensive tracts of rainforest along the Amazon rainforest.
Peru’s COVID rules are very manageable. You will be allowed in without having to take a test if you are double jabbed, and can get in even if you have not been vaccinated with a negative test result. The only quirk is the requirement to wear two face masks on the flight into Peru!
Croatia is hardly a hidden gem on the tourist trail anymore. The beaches and resorts of the Dalmatian islands and coast, plus the historic landmarks of Dubrovnik, Split and Trogir, are a major draw for millions of visitors through the summer months especially.
Yet what makes Croatia such a great destination for all ages is just how much there is to see and do. Head north from the southern Dalmatia tourist hotspots, and cities like Zadar and Pula offer similar combinations of beautiful beaches, picturesque old towns and plenty of evidence of the country’s Roman and Venetian past. From Zadar, head out to the Kornati islands and sea kayak around pristine beaches you are likely to have to yourself.
Away from the coast, the Plitvice Lakes National Park in central Croatia is a magnificent collection of no fewer than 16 connected lakes, waterways and waterfalls that make for some of the country’s best hiking. The capital Zagreb, in the far north-west, is a vibrant modern city with attractive Austro-Hungarian architecture. And if you’re a wine lover, head to the far eastern Slavonia region, which boasts plentiful vineyards spread over the plains next to the River Danube.
As for getting into Croatia, you currently only need one of: proof of full vaccination, a negative PCR or antigen test, or a doctor’s certificate of recovery from COVID.