One of the best things about traveling in your 50s and 60s is that you have the experience to know what you love and the energy to explore the world on your own terms.
For many boomer women, this means leaving the beach towel at home and looking for something a bit more adventurous.
If this sounds like you, here are a few adventurous travel destinations that will show you unexpected vistas, while introducing you to other people who like to live on the wild side.
New Zealand’s two main islands, North Island and South Island, offer plenty of opportunities for adventurous women. Whether you’re heading to New Zealand to visit Lord of the Rings filming locations on one or both islands or looking for outdoor adventure amidst stunning scenery, New Zealand is sure to please.
On North Island, visit the Waitomo Caves, where you can hike, boat or take a floating tour on a rubber tube to see the caverns, stalactites and glow worms. Learn about New Zealand’s Maori culture and visit geysers in Rotorua or travel to North Island’s tip and kayak through the Bay of Islands to see dolphins, penguins and other wildlife up close.
On South Island, visit Aoraki Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in the country, or go albatross and penguin watching at the Royal Albatross Centre. Take a mountain bike tour from Dunedin to the Otego Peninsula or pedal through the high country. Farther north, view blue penguins in Oamaru and walk the beach at Moeraki to see enormous, ancient boulders amidst the waves.
You can fly to New Zealand or visit via cruise ship. Escorted tours abound, but you can also rent a car and explore on your own. Lord of the Rings tours take you to North Island, South Island, or both. Hobbiton day tours are available from Auckland. Tourism New Zealand‘s website includes several Lord of the Rings self-drive itineraries.
The Galápagos Islands’ lure has always been the dazzling array of wildlife and marine species. Ecuador has designated the Galápagos Islands as both a national park and a marine reserve in order to protect the tortoises, iguanas, sea lions, birds and other animals that are unique to the island chain.
The wildlife and scenery are the islands’ main attractions; for a great introduction to local wildlife conservation, be sure to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station near Puerto Ayora, where scientists work year-round to breed giant tortoises, iguanas and other endangered animals. Also near Puerto Ayora, Tortuga Bay is a perfect place for sunbathing, swimming, and bird watching.
Tip: The paved walking path to the bay is about 1.5 miles long. Wear comfortable shoes.
Snorkeling, diving, kayaking and hiking are popular activities on all the islands, but, in the end, it’s all about the wildlife.
While you can fly to and explore the Galápagos Islands on your own, consider taking a small ship cruise or small group tour if you have limited time or want to see as many islands as possible. You’ll have access to professional guides who can point out birds, sharks and land animals. Some tours and cruises offer diving excursions.
Canada’s easternmost island is part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Getting to Newfoundland takes some effort, but the rewards are great. Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, includes some of Newfoundland’s most fascinating places, including Western Brook Pond, a freshwater fjord nearly 10 miles long, and the Tablelands, where you can stand on peridotite pushed upward from the Earth’s mantle. You can visit the oldest European settlement in North America if you drive north to L’Anse aux Meadows, where Vikings once lived.
Ask the locals if there are any icebergs nearby; you can often see icebergs or “bergy bits” (floating ice chunks) in nearby bays. For a different kind of adventure, head to St. John’s to explore Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America, and to listen to live music on George Street.
You can reach Newfoundland by cruise ship, with a tour group or on your own. If you plan an independent trip to Newfoundland, you’ll need a car, regardless of whether you arrive via car ferry from Nova Scotia or fly from the mainland, in order to explore the island.
Whether you’re stopping over in Iceland en route to another European destination or spending a week or two on this unique and beautiful island, you’ll find plenty of adventure here. Near Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital, you can explore hot springs, glaciers, volcanoes and even a geothermal beach. Almost any kind of tour you can imagine is available in Iceland, from bus tours to horseback riding tours to running tours. For the ultimate in unusual spa experiences, head to the Blue Lagoon in Grindavík.
Buses run from Reykjavík and the airport in Keflavík, but you can also get there via taxi or rental car.
Tip: Pack your own towel, robe and slippers if you want to save money.
To see the geyser from which all others take their names, visit the Geysir Hot Spring Area to see Geysir and the more active Strokkur geyser. If you don’t have a rental car, book a half-day trip from Reykjavík or visit Geysir as part of a day-long Golden Circle tour.
You can fly to Iceland from many points in Europe and North America. Icelandair offers free stopovers in Reykjavík for passengers flying between North America and Europe; you can stay for up to seven days with no penalty. Several cruise lines offer port calls and small ship tours to Iceland.
South Africa offers a different kind of adventure. Yes, you’ll find amazing scenery and plenty of wildlife in South Africa, but you will also experience the history of colonialism, diamond mining, apartheid and the struggle for freedom – the history that sets South Africa apart from any other destination.
In Johannesburg, stop by the Apartheid Museum to gain an understanding of South African segregation and the role Nelson Mandela and other activists played in creating the new South Africa. Take a bicycle or walking tour of Soweto to see Mandela House, Tutu House and the Hector Pieterson Museum.
When you’re ready for an outdoor adventure, head to Cape Town for marine wildlife viewing or take a self-drive day safari in Kruger National Park. For a truly unique experience, go on safari with a group of women; several tour operators now offer women-only South Africa safaris in the Djuma or Kapama Private Game Reserve.
You can fly or cruise to South Africa as well as drive overland from neighboring countries. Several tour operators offer guided tours to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Stellenbosch and South Africa’s National Parks.
They don’t call Alaska “The Last Frontier” for nothing. The 49th state is almost as pristine and wild as it was when the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. Rugged mountains, deep blue water, blue-white glaciers and an abundance of wildlife – you can find an adventure wherever you go in Alaska, and the views are tremendous.
Be sure to visit a glacier, take a whale watching tour and allow time to explore cities and towns on your own. If time and money permit, consider taking a float plane or helicopter tour so that you can view glaciers from above or go fishing in the unspoiled wilderness. Other adventure options include jeep tours, dog sledding, hiking, sea kayaking and river rafting.
Most visitors to Alaska arrive by cruise ship, but you can also take an overland tour or create your own itinerary and drive from British Columbia or Yukon Territory.
Are you an adventurous traveler? Do you have adventure travel tips to offer? Share your favorite adventure travel experiences in the comments section below.
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