Top 5 Travel destinations for retirees

If you’ve always enjoyed travel or always wanted to travel, retirement offers the perfect opportunity. You’ll have the time to enjoy your holiday – whether it’s in this country or abroad’ Travel can also have health benefits, reducing stress, bringing a feeling of ‘well-being’ and improving your cognitive function – but where to travel?

Written by

Sheila Frampton

The world’s top travel destinations

Different travel companies and different surveys reveal a wide range of top travel destinations. 

In a survey carried out by ‘Which?’ magazine in 2024, more than 3,000 holidays were rated by visitors and Sydney topped the popularity poll.  The Australian city offers cultural venues, shopping and vibrant cuisine, attractions such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House as well as sandy beaches and pretty coves. 

Virgin Holidays customers have named Dubai the world’s top destination for the last three years whilst Mauritius with its hidden sandy beaches and turquoise waters is another popular destination.  The travel site loveholidays put France as their leading destination for international tourism followed by Spain with its buzzing cities and idyllic islands and the USA.

For The Independent, France topped the list with D-Day landing sites, UNESCO-listed Mont St Michel, all the attractions of Paris, the ski resorts of the Alps, the wine regions and the seaside towns and coastal resorts of the Cote D’Azur.

Where do older people go on holiday?

According to a survey carried out by Riviera Travel, Canada and New Zealand are on the ‘wish list’ for older people but, closer to home, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Germany, Croatia and France are all on the list of preferred destinations.  The Northern Lights is also a firm favourite with people in their mid-50s as well as with the over 75s.


Which British companies specialise in holidays for the over 50s?

  • Saga Holidays: Offering holidays for the over 50s, Saga has 2.7 million customers and a range of destinations to suit all types of mature travellers.  The company’s award-winning escorted tours provide VIP door-to-door transfers, flights, transfers and travel insurance and the services of a tour manager.  There are hosted holidays and, if you really want to ‘push the boat out’ and have the holiday of a lifetime, there are individual, tailored, long stay holidays for two people to destinations such as Australia and New Zealand.


  • Newmarket Holidays: This company offers holidays for the over 50s.  These are group holidays, for groups of less than 24 people, and there’s a range of over 50s tours run by welcoming and knowledgeable guides.   From trips to Scotland and Ireland to the Italian Dolomites, South Africa, India and Canada, there’s a wide range of choice.


  • One Traveller: If you’re on your own, One Traveller offers solo holidays for the mature traveller.   Travelling on your own can be difficult but this company advertises its holidays as ‘social occasions’ when travellers have the chance to make new friends and explore the world with like-minded solo holiday makers.  A team of Tour Managers is on hand to help ensure your holiday is enjoyable. 

Which countries are the cheapest to visit? 

India, Asia

If you’re thinking of travelling Long Haul, India is an inexpensive choice once you’ve bought your flights. 

In Delhi, you can buy a three-course meal with wine for about £25 a head, according to Which?, and the country’s main tourist attracts include the Taj Mahal at Agra and the Red Fort, one of India’s finest Mughal Palaces. 

In the north of the country, the Pink City of Jaipur has intricately carved palaces and at Udaipur, the lake is lined with palaces you can stay in – though these aren’t inexpensive.  

South East Europe

If you prefer to stay a bit closer to home, Montenegro is growing in popularity as a holiday destination - it’s just as attractive as neighbouring Croatia but even less expensive.  Indeed, the capital city – Podgrica, was named as the most affordable European city for a short break in 2022.    

North Macedonia is one of the cheapest countries in Europe and, with a historic capital – Skopje – that dates back to 4000 BC, it’s gaining popularity as a tourist destination.

Bulgaria is also gaining popularity – including the resorts on the country’s Black Sea coast and the country’s ski resorts which offer value for money.

Cruising (yes, cruising on a budget is possible!)

Cruising is immensely popular with people over 50 and multi-generational families.

They are the ideal way to visit a variety of countries in comfort.  Cruises can be expensive, however, but if you are looking to cruise on a budget, visit the Cruise Critic website - though do take care because some of the prices mean having to book and pay for flights to the departure location separately.

Where can I take my elderly parents on holiday?

If you’re thinking of a multi-generational family trip or if your parent/s are not in the best of health and you’d like to treat them to a holiday, there’s plenty of choice, depending on their health and mobility, their interests, your budget, whether they enjoy hot weather or not and their own ‘bucket list’ items.

Bucket lists are extremely important.  When my own mother reached the age of 90 and was in a wheelchair, she expressed extreme regret that she’d never see Venice.  It was challenging but I managed to book us a few days in the beautiful city.   My mother was in a wheelchair, but we booked a speed boat to and from the airport and discovered when we reached the city that ‘carers and wheelchair passengers could travel on the city’s waterbuses for free. 

We stayed near St Mark’s Square and the hotel was very accommodating.  Rather than trying to cope with Venice’s many bridges, we took a waterbus from stop to stop, disembarked, looked around and then got back on the boat.  We spent hours on the island of Murano, watching glass blowing and browsing the shops, eating and drinking – and one afternoon was spent in St Mark’s Square drinking Bellini’s (another bucket list item). 


If planning a holiday with older parents, consider the following questions:

  • Would you prefer a UK or a European holiday? If you stay in the UK, travel may be easier – you can use your own transport and won’t be reliant on public transport and transfers.
  • Do your parents struggle with long journeys? If so, it may be wise to select a destination that’s not too far from home.
  • Would you prefer self-catering or a hotel? Hotels may be far more accessible and have more facilities for older or physically challenged people.

Our top 5 travel recommendations for retirees

The Best Choice:   Paris, France

Paris is one of the best choices for older travellers being less hectic than Amsterdam or New York.

There are lots of discounts for the over 60s in Paris – most of the city’s tourist attractions offer discounted rates and some have elderly access points where it’s possible to avoid long queues or crowds and these types are generally wheelchair friendly.

Do make sure that you choose a hotel with lifts from top to bottom and en-suite shower rooms.  Paris has a lot of older buildings that have stairs not lifts and, in smaller hotels, there may be shared bathrooms.

Avoid the Metro – it can be full and challenging – take taxis or buses!   Do book ahead for anything you wish to visit.

Advantages of travelling to Paris for older people:

  • Travel time is relatively short and easy if you take the Eurostar directly into central Paris
  • There are so many attractions – and many are easily accessible
  • Outstanding food and a wealth of pavement cafes and bars for breaks
  • Vibrant culture – art galleries, exhibitions and music venues abound

Best things to do in Paris:

  • Take a Seine River Cruise or a canal boat cruise
  • Visit a perfume factory and create your own scent
  • Enjoy a hop-on, hop-off bus tour that gives you a great overall picture
  • Go to Montmartre and spend an afternoon drinking wine and enjoying watching artists at work
  • Visit the Eiffel Tour

The Prettiest Choice:  Madeira

Madeira is very hilly, and a holiday here will involve some uphill walking so may not be the place for the physically challenged. 

Most hotels are also on slopes so if you do choose to visit the island and have mobility issues, do choose one of the hotels on the main road that doesn’t have so much of a hill.  You will need to make early reservations as these get booked up very quickly. 

In Funchal, the capital city, the promenade and marina are relatively level and accessible with plenty of buses and taxis.  There are many tours specifically designed for older travellers providing activities and trips that are suitable for the group.  Cool Destinations have a selection of things to do in Madeira.

Advantages of Madeira

  • Short flight from the UK
  • Beautiful, dramatic scenery
  • Fewer tourists than neighbouring islands
  • Warm, subtropical climate
  • Beautiful botanical garden and famous harbour

Best things to do in Madeira

  • Madeira Botanical Garden
  • A whale and dolphin watching trip
  • A private half day jeep tour

The Best Long Haul Adventure Trip:  South Africa

South Africa and particularly the opportunity to see wild animals in their native habitat is on many people’s bucket lists.

Cape Town offers plenty for the over 60s in terms of tours, shopping, entertainment and sights and you’ll find an excellent range of discounts for senior travellers. 

South Africa offers some of the best safaris for seniors and daily commercial flights link all the country’s major cities whilst chartered planes can get you to the Kruger National Park – the biggest and best-known safari destination – easily.    Admission for attractions is often reduced for pensioners so don’t worry about asking for discounts and always carry identification that shows your date of birth.   

Do think about taking anti-malarial medication or visiting one of the country’s malaria-free destinations.  For some ideas of things to do take a look at this guide from Cool Destinations. 

Advantages of South Africa

  • Little chance of jet leg as it has a similar time zone.
  • Plenty of accommodation options
  • The opportunity of adventures for everyone not just the physically mobile
  • Award winning culinary experiences in the wine regions.

Best things to do in South Africa

Scenic Holidays in the UK:  The Outer Hebrides

For senior travellers who enjoy walking, hiking, bird watching and rugged scenery, a holiday in the Outer Hebrides is a must.

The Outer Hebrides, known as the Western Isles, is a chain of more than 70 islands off the northwest of Scotland – and only 15 of these are inhabited.  The main inhabited islands include Lewis and Harris, North and South Uist, Benbecula and Barra. 

You can take the Western Isle Ferries across to the islands – and you will feel you’re getting away from it all.  For the less mobile or less fit, we would advise booking a group tour to make the best of the islands.

Advantages of the Outer Hebrides

  • Can be easily reached by air, car/ferry
  • Beautiful, rugged scenery with hills and beaches
  • A wonderful sense of history
  • Fantastic walking/bird watching country

Best places to visit

  • Take a trip to St Kilda – the most remote part of the British Isles
  • Visit the 4000-year-old Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis
  • Visit the Harris Distillery – the whisky may not be mature, but the gin is good
  • Walk on the glorious white beaches at Vatersay, Uig Sands or Scarista

The Best of Cruises:  The Norwegian Fjords

Cruise holidays to any destination are ideal because you can get to see many destinations whilst travelling in comfort and no need to worry about organizing anything.

The food is good and plentiful, there’s evening entertainment and there are optional organised excursions.

One of the most popular destinations are the Norwegian Fjords.  So many companies offer such cruises including P & O, MSC cruises, Fred Olsen cruises, Saga and many more.  Take a look at Sunday Times article on the best cruises here.


Advantages of Norwegian cruises:

  • Luxurious way to travel – comfortable and easy
  • Fantastic scenery with snowy mountain peaks and clear, sparkling water
  • Possibility of viewing the northern lights at certain times of year
  • Visits to selected Norwegian towns as well as the fjords
  • Organised shore visits to the best places to visit

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