Why midlifers and retirees are turning to adventure travel

·10-min read
on the way to Everest Base Camp in Nepal - Getty
on the way to Everest Base Camp in Nepal - Getty

One thing is clear: our definition of adventure travel has changed. Midlifers, empty nesters and retirees in particular are embracing the opportunity to discover more of their local area and take more UK holidays. “People realise they can have an adventurous holiday here, too,” says Zina Bencheikh of Intrepid Travel. “Adventure is more about escaping the day-to-day and looking after your mental and physical health.”

In a marked change, the UK has become Intrepid’s biggest-selling destination, their most popular option being a tour of the Orkney Islands, followed by activities such as walking in Cornwall or kayaking along the River Wye. Paradoxically, people are also thinking bigger, making polar trips “a big success”, says Bencheikh.

This desire for epic adventures is unsurprising in the light of recent events. “Reflection on Covid has driven a strong desire to make up for lost travel time, particularly among the over-50s,” says Carolyn Addison, head of product at Black Tomato. “Bucket lists have been recalibrated and people are seeking more epic adventures. We’ve seen a surge in demand from the 50-plus market to make travel really count, with big, intrepid trips to Egypt, Antarctica and Nepal among the options being booked this year.”

G Adventures talks about the “carpe diem” effect. “High-achievement” choices such as Mount Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp and the Inca Trail are on many lists, while reconnection to nature through lockdowns has also driven travellers to “seize the day”.

Mount Kilimanjaro - Getty
Mount Kilimanjaro - Getty

Self-guided walking and cycling specialist Inntravel is also seeing a surge in demand. Advance bookings for 2022 are up 520 per cent on 2019, with Spain, Italy and Scandinavia the early frontrunners. “We’ve seen big demand for the UK too,” says Inntravel’s Alison Hall. “We have added nine new self-guided walking holidays and there are more in the pipeline.”

Other operators report a movement towards longer, more specialised trips. “I believe this reflects a shift in taste as much as pent-up savings,” says Tom Power of Pura Aventura. “Clients are asking to spend longer away, to get to know a place better – and to fly less.”

Travelling “better” may well become the our new mantra. “Some people have been turned off super-sized cruises and, for the first time, opted for a smaller alternative,” says Justin Francis, co-founder and CEO of Responsible Travel. “Trips can be more tailored and ships can get into the small nooks of a place that large liners can’t. There’s freedom to hop off, explore shorelines, go hiking, swimming, kayaking or fishing.”

Tim Williamson, customer director at Responsible Travel, added: “Part of the beauty of these trips is that they can be tailored to different ages and interests. Some are especially popular with mid-life travellers; the kids have left home and it’s their chance to have their own adventure and a bit of luxury.”

Keith Crockford of The Bucket List Company sums it up perfectly: “People have missed travel, and mindsets have changed. The trips that people thought they could do ‘any time’ have been prevented for 18 months. Now, it’s about taking the opportunity when they can.”

10 amazingly adventurous trips to book for 2022

Wildlife wonders in Scotland

Operators like Speyside Wildlife are experiencing a near-doubling in demand for UK trips, particularly the Scottish islands. One of their most popular is a luxury stay on the Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the Northern Highlands in the private Alladale Lodge. Spring offers a chance to see extraordinary varieties of seabirds alongside otters and seals, while autumn is the best time for the Red Deer rut. If you’re looking for a winter break in early 2022, head for Northumberland or witness flocks of wintering geese taking to the skies in Solway, between Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway.

The remote Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the Northern Highlands
The remote Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the Northern Highlands

How to do it: Speyside Wildlife offers trips include accommodation, tours and all meals from £1495 per person. speysidewildlife.co.uk

Croatian adventure at sea

There’s a 40-person limit on this new luxury vessel that ducks and dives into the smaller ports, villages and islands along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. As you sail along the east shores of the Adriatic Sea in southern Croatia, stops include the Diocletian’s Palace in central Split, the small fishing port of Bol and its Golden Horn Beach, and the fortress of the harbour town of Hvar. You’ll also stop on the island of Korcula, known as the birthplace of Marco Polo. Food is revered on this ship, with Croatian cuisine prepared using local ingredients.

How to do it: Responsible Travel’s eight-day Split to Dubrovnik Luxury cruise in Croatia costs from £899 per person, excluding flights; all cabins are en-suite and air-con, and price includes transfers, excursions, breakfasts and lunches. responsibletravel.com

The big Canadian road trip

Western Canada and the Rockies is near-perfect road trip territory. Starting in lively Vancouver in British Columbia, drives include the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Whistler and tracing the Continental Divide along the Icefields Parkway, surrounded by over 100 glaciers, lakes and peaks. The route passes 124 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and kayaking, the 10,000-year-old Athabasca Glacier, Lac Le Jeune, and Jasper and Banff national parks, before ending in Calgary, Alberta. Other highlights include Spirit Island, a spiritual place for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, staying in lakefront lodges, and an outdoor hot tub in Yoho National Park.

The incredibly scenic Yellowhead Highway in Mt. Robson Provincial Park
The incredibly scenic Yellowhead Highway in Mt. Robson Provincial Park

How to do it: Unforgettable Travel’s 12-night Ultimate Western Canada Self-Drive starts from £2,995 per person including hotel accommodation, rental vehicle, 24-7 support and transfers. unforgettabletravel.com

Go green in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a track record in conservation and sustainable tourism, with a national attitude embodied in the phrase ‘pura vida’– which translates to ‘pure life’ but means joy, gratitude and more. This trip across the Central American nation includes visiting a sloth conservation project, staying in eco-luxury lodges, enjoying farm-to-table meals, finding out about indigenous culture and cuisine, and adventures on ziplines, tubing, canyoning and networks of hanging bridges before ending the trip on the beaches of the Papagayo Peninsula.

How to do it: Black Tomato’s Pacuare to Papagayo: A Luxury Conservation Adventure in Costa Rica costs from £6,750 per person excluding flights. blacktomato.com

Coast-to-coast on two wheels

If you’ve honed your skills in off-road biking, this coast-to-coast trip is a good option for reasonably experienced cyclists with good fitness. Passing through some of northern England’s most striking landscapes from Whitehaven on the Irish Sea to Tynemouth on the North Sea via the Lake District, the Mosedale Valley, the North Pennines Area of Natural Beauty (AONB) and Black Hill, the highest point of the route before ending on the east coast at Tynemouth. As well as off-road routes, you’ll enjoy biking on country lanes, cycleways and old railway lines.

Go coast to coast with Saddle Skeddadle
Go coast to coast with Saddle Skeddadle

How to do it: Saddle Skedaddle’s six-day Off-road Coast-to-Coast costs from £965 including accommodation in B&Bs, country inns and family-run hotels, most meals, guides, support vehicle and luggage transfers. skedaddle.com

Portugal’s extraordinary walking route

This year marks 50 years since Portugal’s only National Park, the Peneda-Gerês NP in the remote northwest, was created. One of the country’s least visited regions, this is an epic, big-sky landscape, of mountains, rivers, lagoons and waterfall pools — if you enjoy wild swimming, you’re in for a treat. You’ll walk pilgrim paths and Roman roads through remote villages and above mountain lakes, and the region is a nature haven, home to wild horses and cachena cattle, plus numerous species of flowers, butterflies and insects. Accommodation ranges from a 12th-century monastery, village house and a spa hotel.

How to do it: Inntravel’s High Paths of Northern Portugal, a new trip launched in 2021, offers self-guided walking from £875 per person, with seven nights’ B&B, most meals, luggage transfers, route notes and maps. inntravel.co.uk

Travel-for-good in Kenya

While a global lockdown revived nature and wildlife in some places, wildlife poaching in Africa was prevalent, due to lack of funds and loss of jobs from tourism. One sensitive region is the Laikipia area of Kenya, home to almost half of the country’s black rhino population. On this trip, you’ll stay in Kenya’s first eco-lodge, Borana Ranch & Safari Lodge, join the anti-poaching team on night patrols, go rhino-tracking and take a flight the Reteti Elephant Orphanage, piloted by one of the Dyer family who are known for their efforts to protect the black rhino and other wildlife.

How to do it: Original Travel’s Exclusive Kenya trip costs from £8,575 per person including all flights, transfers and accommodation. originaltravel.co.uk

The great white Continent

Sailing around the islands of the Antarctic Peninsula and along the infamously narrow Drake Passage on an ice-strengthened ship is an opportunity to witness this extraordinary landscape up-close and look out for humpback whales, orcas, seals and penguins as you explore on Zodiac boats or by kayak — or even take a cold-water polar dip. Join expert talks on marine biology, glaciology and Antarctic history, photography classes, and there’s an onboard spa, sauna and gym.

Discover Antarctica with Intrepid Travel
Discover Antarctica with Intrepid Travel

How to do it: Intrepid Travel’s carbon-offset 11-day Best of Antarctica trip starts from £4830 per person including nine nights onboard, one hotel night, all meals and some excursions. intrepidtravel.com

Hike of your life

For trekkers, the 150-day Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) in Nepal and Bhutan is a much sought-after camping trek —an alternative to lodge-based treks — that’s usually undertaken in shorter sections. One is the Lunana Snowman Trek which covers the high passes through the remote Bhutan Himalayas and takes in some of the region’s mountain scenery, while staying in high-quality tents with cooks serving up evening meals.

How to do it: The Mountain Company offer treks, expeditions, and tours in Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and India (Ladakh and Sikkim) for all fitness levels. The more demanding 34-day Lunana Snowman costs from £6450 per person including porters, guides, camping and meals. themountaincompany.co.uk

Family safaris in Tanzania

Setting up a sustainable, luxury family specialist safari company was something that travel professionals Mike and Tess Kelly, who have spent 20 years working and living in Africa, have always wanted to do. Travelling in east Africa with their two-year-old daughter, Elsa, showed them the importance of tried-and-tested holidays, particularly when young children are involved, and how African safari adventures are perfectly suited to families­, when done right. Each trip also funds grassroots conservation and girl's education projects. This trip, in northern Tanzania, combines the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park and Serengeti National Park.

How to do it: Coral Tree Travel offers an eight-night family northern Tanzania holiday from £4285 per person based on two adults and two children under 12. coraltreetravel.com

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting