For those who are retired and free of the demands of a work-driven schedule, this year is the perfect time for your next travel adventure. Whether you’re looking to explore a few of the 50 states or hop the pond and roam other countries, we’ve rounded up ten of the best travel destinations around the globe for retirees in 2018.
1. Quebec City, Canada
“Quebec City, Canada, is very retiree-friendly,” says Elizabeth Avery, founder of travel company Solo Trekker 4 U and a Baby Boomer who’s traveled to 68 countries and all 50 U.S. states. “Prices are half that of France but it has much of the same charm.”
Easily accessible by air, along with train and car if you’re on the East Coast, U.S. travelers will find the exchange rate here favorable, making shopping, dining and paying for a hotel easy to budget.
With colonial battlefields, museums, basilicas and natural sites like Montmorency Falls, Quebec City boasts sight-seeing options to suit everyone’s tastes. But Avery notes that “along with having so much to do, there is also a lot of options for those just looking to relax” in a European-inspired setting.
“This is one of the best destinations for retirees because travelers are able to experience incredible Middle Eastern culture in a comfortable way,” says Julia Sharoff, the owner of Fig Trips, a boutique travel company.
There are many reasons to travel to Israel. From Tel Aviv’s white sand beaches and world-class cuisine, to the rich history and religious treasures of Jerusalem, Israel is unique from other destinations because most of the tourist sites are largely handicap-accessible and designed to allow travelers to explore at their own pace.
“For example, many of the archeological ruins and geologic formations are now accessible to travelers who are not comfortable hiking using gondolas, such as the Masada fortress and the Rosh HaNikra grottoes,” says Sharoff.
Tucked in the Himalayan foothills, the Kingdom of Bhutan has preserved its culture and environment remarkably well. While not the easiest place to get to, the travel time is rewarded with a fascinating culture, stunning architecture, a pristine landscape, and friendly people.
“The world is starting to notice Bhutan and more people are visiting this country,” says Katya D’Angelo of adventure travel company Boundless Journeys. “Bhutan has been included in travel lists recently, so 2018 is the perfect time to go before it becomes too popular.”
Highlights include the hike to the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery and tea with young Buddhist monks. There are also several 5-star hotel options (Aman, Uma, Taj) for those who want and can afford a luxury experience.
“We recommend allowing 2 weeks including travel time—more to visit Nepal, Cambodia, or Vietnam while you’re there—perfect for retirees who aren’t limited by work vacation,” says d’Angelo.
4. Winston-Salem, North Carolina
A veritable feast for the thinking traveler, Winston-Salem evolved from its traditional Moravian, tobacco and textile roots into a thriving city that gained popularity as the gateway to the Yadkin Valley wine region. In the heart of North Carolina’s first and largest American Viticultural Area, Winston-Salem is a city that boasts a rich history and impressive culinary scene reflective of its Southern heritage.
Nestled between the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains to the west and the Atlantic beaches and Outer Banks to the east, it’s steeped in scenic beauty, Southern history and culture. There are also robust cultural offerings, with fine arts, theater, technological research and entrepreneurship perfect for an eclectic group of travelers.
Old Salem boasts over 100 preserved and restored buildings and historical gardens that come alive with costumed interpreters portraying life from the 18th century and the progressive Moravians from Eastern Europe who settled here in the mid-1700s. The region’s intriguing history also comes to life in a number of historical gardens, homes and attractions.
If you’re looking for an earthy experience tucked in a quaint and idyllic 700-year-old European village, consider taking a one-week culinary tour of Italy’s Tuscany region. “You’ll have the chance to cook every day, in classes taught by the local people of the village,” says George Meyers, Owner of Cook In Tuscany, a cooking school in the picturesque hilltop village of Montefollonico, Italy.
Along with the chance to roll out homemade pasta and make cheese and bread at an organic farm, Meyers says visitors will only cook with items from the school’s garden or local farmers market. “We know where our food comes from.”
You’ll stay in in a house that is over 700 years old, in a village situated off bustling tourist paths.
“Guests experience Tuscany as a local, not as a tourist,” says Meyers.
6. Upstate New York
A thriving foodie culture and long list of delicious restaurants to try makes upstate New York your taste buds’ best friend. And the area’s breathtaking year-round scenery makes it appealing for those who love to immerse themselves in nature or enjoy amateur photography.
From colorful fall foliage to white-capped waves on Alexandria Bay, the sometimes-overlooked region is home to dozens of options to soak in Mother Nature’s beauty by car, boat, bicycle or on foot. Nestled in between hundreds of acres of robust trees, Lake Ontario and the Adirondack mountain range, this is a green-space lover’s must-visit.
This dynamic country offers art, culture, history, culinary specialties, beaches, hillside villages and forested walking paths. From wine tasting to traditional street performers playing the country’s traditional Fado music, Portugal may sometimes be overlooked on the periphery of the European continent, but it packs a punch and has come a long way from a 1970s-era dictatorship.
D’Angelo says those wanting to experience the Old World charm and rustic atmosphere before it completely modernizes and polishes up will relish a trip to Portugal.
“It is also accessible both for ease of travel and as an introduction to traveling for those just starting out due to its familiar European culture,” she says.
8. South Africa
In South Africa, “there’s something for everyone,” says D’Angelo. From beaches, wildlife and wine to cultural hotspots and hiking, it’s a great destination for those seeking a wide range of experiences on one trip. Spend some time in vibrant Cape Town, enjoy a marine safari, head to a wine estate and finish with a safari on a private reserve of Kruger National Park where you’ll spot the Big Five and a plethora of other animals.
“Currently the South Africa rand exchange rate offers a good value to the dollar, making it more affordable than ever for 2018,” she adds.
A trip to South Africa can be easily tailored to the adventure and activity level of travelers, and a safari is something many retirees may yearn to cross off their bucket list. Plus, for travelers with extra time and budget, South Africa can easily be paired with other exploration in the region (gorilla trekking in Rwanda, touring the Okavango Delta in Botswana or the dunes of Namibia).
9. Asheville, North Carolina
For those making the trip to the fifth destination on this list, another side of North Carolina awaits in Asheville, an increasingly buzzworthy town at the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Surrounded by over a million acres of national forest, it has one of the highest concentrations of waterfalls in the country and the greatest temperate biodiversity in the Western Hemisphere.
Asheville is also home to the internationally known tour company No Taste Like Home. “We offer one of the only “u-pick, forage-to-table” experiences in the world,” says Alan Muskat, the company’s marketing director.
Expert guides lead groups collecting edible wild plants, mushrooms and more. And the participants learn to cook their very own “catch of the day.” “Then one of six local restaurants prepares it for them,” says Muskat. “Some call it “Survivor meets Iron Chef.” We call it “find dining.”
Foraging is surprisingly safe and easy. “It’s a multigenerational tradition in many countries, and most retirees have done it as children,” he adds.
For those on fixed incomes, the company’s tours are pay-what-you-can and packages are available with a wide variety of other accommodations.
10. Rishikesh, India
Sipping a glass of delicious Ayurvedic tea while gazing at the mighty Ganges River flowing through the scenic valley of Rishikesh is a great way to cap off a day spent in this northern region of India. Journey on your path to personal introspection or learn to meditate and learn the basics of yoga in an area where a laidback culture is infused with spirituality and devotion.
The resorts, ashrams and camps that dot area’s riverbanks riverside provide visitors with the perfect setting for a relaxed, slightly off the beaten path vacation. While Ayurvedic massages, organic food and a tranquil atmosphere help tame your tired soul, the water sports and the hill stations like Mussoorie, Chopta, and Dev Prayag nurture the child in you.
During your stay in Rishikesh you can also plan for a boat ride in the mighty river or can just enjoy nature’s music sitting near the river. Visitors to the area can also take a day tour in the hills to experience the real-life inspiration for the many novels of author Ruskin Bond, who lives in nearby Mussoorie.