Author: Laura Pattara
Over 55 and itching to explore the more historical, cultural and nature-infused corners of Asia? These are the destinations you should place right at the top of your must-see list!
Asia may well be renowned for its backpacker trail, full-moon parties and thrilling city nightlife yet the continent boasts just as many enticing destinations for those, like the over-55s, who prefer a more captivating adventure brimming with cultural and historical experiences instead. This is where private tailor-made tours really come into their own, offering exceptional adventures to remote regions of the continent combined with the kind of creature comforts we all crave when we’re no longer happy to sleep in dorms and contend with 12-hour arduous bus rides. When the logistics are sorted, private transport organized and local, professional and knowledgeable guides are at the helm, we can still enjoy thrilling hikes and activities for, as we all know, age is no barrier to active pursuits.
Yet at the end of the day, private travel for the over-55s means placing an emphasis on comfort, luxury, individuality, excellent food and a slower pace of travel. Moreover, private tours – as opposed to group tours – offer superb independence and flexibility. There’s no wasting precious time every day waiting for groups to get organised, you’re not forced to take stops you’re not interested in (like the dreaded shopping stops in super touristy markets), you’ll have more time to discover hidden places you are interested in, more dedicated time with your guide and much more flexibility when it comes to meal times. Everything about a private tour is tailor-made for you and you alone and that, above all, is the most treasured bonus for the over-55s. You’ve worked hard, you’ve saved and sacrificed lots and now you must contend being herded around like sheep, from one tourist trap to another? Hmmm…no thanks!
So take the hassle and worry out of your journey with a private tour and head off to discover the best destinations in Asia for the over-55s.
Here are our favourite top 10 contenders:
1. River Cruising
River cruising in Asia offers the over-55s the unrivalled combination of prime convenience, luxurious comfort and extensive travel, minus the time-consuming and challenging conditions of road travel. Especially suited to those who love leisurely meandering and stunning natural scenery in equal measure, river cruising is incredibly rewarding. Without the need to pack and unpack on a daily basis, wasting hours on transfers and dealing with maddening traffic, cruising turns travel in Asia into a relaxing, enjoyable and unforgettable journey. And that’s not even accounting for the fact that most countries in Asia have always been defined by their mighty rivers and sensational bays. From Vietnam to Indonesia and all those glorious spots in between – like Laos, Myanmar (Burma), India, Thailand and even the Maldives, the options for river cruising, style of vessel and luxury levels are varied and outstanding. Visit our River Cruising page for inspiration and do note that there are plenty of cruises which charge no single supplements for lone explorers. Discover the most exciting parts of Asia in comfort and style, make new friends and enjoy excellent value-for-money. Cruising in these parts of the world is simply superb.
Vietnam is one of those travel destinations that attracts travellers of all ages yet the over-55s find it particularly suitable given the outstanding nature, culture, history and cuisine that has made the country a top-contender for most-coveted Asian hub of all. What mature travellers love about Vietnam is the sheer amount of options: if you’re fit and active you’ll love all the hiking options through the verdant hills of the northern Mai Chau Valley, framed by sensationally picturesque mountains; if you prefer a more laid-back vacation, you can sail stunning Halong Bay or spend a few days chillaxing in one country’s best beach resorts. In between all the adventures, you’ll always have an unrelenting array of cultural experiences, delectable food and a wealth of history at every turn. A truly timeless destination, Vietnam is perfect no matter your age and tastes and no matter how many times you’ve already visited: Vietnam is full of hidden treasures.
Home to the single most astonishing ancient sites in the region and entrenched in aeons of fascinating history, Cambodia is both beautiful and totally captivating. The capital, Phnom Penh, is a bustling hive, home to the country’s genocide museums which, although very sobering to visit, offer an enlightening insight into the nation’s darkest historical period. The cultural and spiritual hub of Siem Reap (home to majestic Angkor Wat, once the largest city in the world) is resplendent in every way and the town centre, brimming with markets by day and night, is a shopper’s dream. Further north you’ll find the colonial treasure that is Battambang whilst in the far south you can enjoy a few days of R&R in the laid-back beach towns of Sihanoukville and Kep. Just off-shore are small specks of island paradises, whose turquoise waters are replete with marine life. Snorkelling boat trips, out here, are just divine. Overall, Cambodia offers a comprehensive travel experience for the over-55s, one that’s both exciting and relaxing with a host of different highlights to suit all tastes. Read our Cambodia guide before planning your trip and see what amazing experiences await.
Often overlooked by younger travellers due to its lack of tropical coastline, Laos continues to woo more mature explorers with its incredible treasure-trove of highlights. Quieter and more authentic than Asia’s most-popular party hubs, Laos is still a haven of travel tranquillity although, as its popularity grows, is set to be the regional destination that’s likely to change the most in coming years. So far, more conservative Laotians are still showing as much aversion to full-moon parties and alcohol-infused shenanigans as the rest of us so, overall, it’s a much more pleasant place to visit if you’re an early riser who loves quiet evening strolls and relaxing dinners out. The ideal destinations to include in your itinerary are the northern historical gem of Luang Prabang, home to the best museums, palaces and temples in the country and the wonderful southern natural haven of the 4000 Islands, where you’ll step back in time to discover a remote and most idyllic side of Laos. Wonderful cruising options here include sailing on the Mekong all the way to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam (this luxury option is stunning!) to the infamous Golden Triangle bordering Thailand and Myanmar, and enjoying a much more in-depth cruising experience from Laos all the way to China.
5. Sri Lanka
Boasting a handful of stunning eco-lodges and luxury camps in some of the most revered nature reserves in all of Asia, Sri Lanka is a dream destination for those who want wilderness, wildlife and excitement in a more compact and incredibly beautiful island. The country’s blessed by nature and influenced by an eclectic history, offering travellers a cache of superb highlights. High-tea in the mountains, cocktails by the beach and wildlife-safaris in search of leopards, elephants, monkeys, Asia bears, water buffalo and an insane number of exotic birds, reptiles and amphibians. A wilderness lover’s paradise, Sri Lanka boasts no-less than 26 national parks and is considered the wildlife capital of Asia. With more than 20 excellent beaches to choose from and plenty of comfortable and luxurious accommodation options, Sri Lanka is beloved by families and the over-55s, arguably for the same reasons: variety in activities, wildlife, safety, comfort, great food and super friendly people. Read more about the travel paradise that is Sri Lanka.
Often seen as insanely chaotic and a somewhat troublesome travel destination, India is always considered a double-edged sword for the over-55s: at a time in life when one craves amazing cultural experiences above all else, one doesn’t have the patience nor disposition to deal with crazy crowds. So what shall one do? Ask any mature traveller who’s been and they’ll tell you that India, when done right, is absolutely ideal. India doesn’t have to be difficult at all, not with a privately guided tour, all logistics sorted and by keeping off the well-trodden backpacker trail. Explore West Bengal and Sikkim and Darjeeling if you want to be utterly overawed by India’s magnificent mountains, cruise the historic Ganges for an unforgettable and eye-opening travel experience and enjoy the superlative beaches of the country’s tropical coast in Kerala. A country of so many faces and traces, India is spellbinding and given the concentration of comfortable travel and accommodation options, your rewards are plentiful.
7. Yunnan Province, China
The southern Chinese province of Yunnan is like a puzzle to explore and a world away from the hectic mega-metropolis of the north. Home to some of the oldest and most authentic mountain villages in the entire country, a wealth of captivating landscapes all dotted with drop-dead-gorgeous mountaintop monasteries, Yunnan is the China no-one hears about, the one that’s managed to avoid the neon lights and mega-malls and the one that boasts an astonishing biodiversity. The China of snow-capped peaks, of raging rivers, sensational gorges, picturesque minority villages and superb food, Yunnan is postcard-perfect China, where days of exploration are delectable, surprising, rewarding and very, very relaxing. A region of China that’s fighting modernity and striving to retain its authenticity, Yunnan is simply perfect for the over-55s. Read more about this fascinating place, on our Yunnan Guide.
Asia’s trekking capital is sometimes overlooked by the over-55s, many of whom erroneously believe there’s nothing else to do there but scale impossibly vertiginous mountains. Yet Nepal is outstandingly varied and offers plenty of highlights even if multi-day hiking adventures (read more about them here) are not really your thing. As we’ve previously written about, there’s so much more to Nepal than Everest and sore feet, with the country offering more laid-back yet still brilliant experiences to those who prefer to admire mountain, not conquer them. Exceptional wildlife safaris showcase Nepal’s underrated wildlife treasures, which include endangered rhinos, elephants, tigers, leopards and so much more. The wonderful town of Pokhara offers amazing views of the Himalayas intertwined with stunning architecture, history and culture. The fertile hills around Bandipur, dotted with charming ancient villages, offer a glimpse of a quieter Nepal. Beautiful lodges and luxury hotels are a nod to the popularity of Nepal, so don’t ever fear you’ll need to sacrifice your creature-comforts to enjoy an unforgettable dose of Nepalese authenticity.
Waking from its long isolationist slumber, Bhutan is emerging as one of the most enigmatic and captivating countries to explore in the world, let alone Asia. Long-since coveted by the over-55s given its exclusivity (the government does require a minimum daily spending by tourists) this is the least backpacker-friendly country in the region and, instead, one that’s infused with intoxicating culture, history and natural highlights. The country’s self-imposed segregation has kept it immensely authentic and, given its unique history, distinct to the nth degree. Contrastingly, Bhutan is one of the most environmentally and socially-conscious countries on earth, with government initiatives protecting its wilderness, wildlife and culture with fervent ardour, long before our own Western countries gave these issues the same importance. What travellers love about Bhutan, perhaps above all else, is the fact the best highlights in the country are still virtually unknown: picturesque Buddhist monasteries set atop sheer cliffs, striking Bhutanese architecture in picture-perfect villages, breath-taking mountain passes across some of the world’s tallest peaks on the Roof of the World and an ancient culture that’s endearing and fascinating to a fault. Feel like you’ve been there and done it all, in Asia? Then a Bhutan travel experience it is! Combining a trip to Bhutan with adventures in India and Nepal is ever easy, especially as connecting flights through Bangkok are numerous.
Much like Bhutan, Uzbekistan and its Central Asian neighbours attract a more discerning crowd, one that’s been dreaming of retracing the ancient Silk Road for years and one whose main interest is history and culture. Already popular with European travellers, Uzbekistan is making some serious waves in the tourism industry, thanks largely to the recent inclusion of a hassle-free, online visa application. With such illustrious hubs as Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, home to some of the most glorious mosques in the world, Uzbekistan is set to become the hottest name on everyone’s lips in the next few years. So get here…before everyone else does.
At Get About Asia, we work with fantastic teams of local guides all over Asia and our combined experiences travelling with our children and our parents means we have direct knowledge of what’s needed to create hassle-free and unforgettable adventures in Asia, for everyone. We aim to satisfy arguably the three biggest priorities of travel for the over-55s: safety, comfort and smooth-as-silk journeys, ensuring your trip – whether alone, with friends or in a group – are just as you’ve always dreamt they would be.
Ready to hit the road, silver fox?
Contact us here for more info.
Author: Laura Pattara
“After spending years taking short vacations in Asia, Laura finally managed her dream, travelling extensively through Central Asia, China and Southeast Asia on a 3-year-long overlanding adventure that she describes as “SIMPLY EPIC”. Following in the footsteps of ancient traders, Laura meandered along the famed Silk Road through the Stans, delighted her tastebuds for 8000km across China (no mean feat) visited an insane number of temples in Southeast Asia, all the while snorkelling, diving and beach-bumming along the way. Tickled pink by history and culture, Laura loves off-the-beaten-path destinations in Asia and anything that isn’t gift-wrapped for tourists”