It’s finally happening – you’re going to be 50 – but rather than burying your head in the sand, why not go big and take a trip of a lifetime?
Whether you escape with loved ones to a hidden resort in Thailand, learn to samba in Rio, drive along California’s Big Sur or discover the undiscovered Vietnam, be sure to mark your 50th with a spectacular celebration that this landmark birthday deserves.
1. Luxuriate in the Maldives
The Maldives are one of the few places on earth that live up to the holiday brochure pictures.
There are any number of beautiful resorts to choose from, but Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa is possibly the most perfect.
The southerly most island in the Maldives, it is a slice of far-flung paradise and unlike the busier atolls located closer to Malé, it feels truly idyllic. The resort boasts fantastic house reef, 60 fantastically spacious water villas and a range of tree houses, beach villas and private pool villas.
Villa butlers are on hand to cater to your every whim and talcum-powder sand encircles the island. Choose from a host of watersports, go scuba diving or take a sunset trip to see dolphins in the wild on the Shangri-La’s private yacht. The resort is also home to the Maldives’ only golf course (nine holes). Dreamy stuff.
High50 insider tip: Book one of the resort’s bespoke Dine by Design dinner experiences and enjoy a candle-lit table on the beach for two.
The Pure Maldives package costs from £595 per night including domestic round-trip flights from Male to Gan for two people, daily breakfast for two, Dine by Design, one big game fishing excursion, complimentary green fees and complimentary water sports.
2. Go sky high in Hong Kong
Jet to Hong Kong and ring in this special occasion at the tallest hotel in Hong Kong. The towering Ritz Carlton, Hong Kong boasts the highest cocktail bar in the world and spectacular views from its luxury rooms and suites.
Savour a drink amidst the clouds at OZONE, Ritz Carlton’s stunning cocktail bar, and spend your days savouring the city’s culture, history and vibrant character.
Established as a shopper’s paradise and famous for its impressive skyline, eclectic dining scene (there are over 11,000 restaurants!) and burgeoning hub for the arts, Hong Kong is a cultivated mix of British colonial history with rich Chinese tradition.
High50 tip: Book into the Ritz Carlton spa, where certain treatment rooms have bird’s eye views of the city. A paradise in the clouds.
3. Jet off to a private island for under £180 per night
No seriously! Head to Asia, where your budget will stretch further and you can revel in five-star luxury.
Whether you want to escape with your partner and relax in your private pool villa, or take all the family, Thailand offers adventure for amazing prices.
The Naka Island resort lies a ten-minute boat ride from the Phuket mainland and boasts one of Asia’s most beautiful infinity pools.
Secluded and chic, this private island is home to eco-lux villas complete with outdoor baths and showers all with a natural chic style. There are two hotel restaurants, one with two tables in the middle of the pool, but you can also opt for private dining around the island.
Private villas (both Tropical Pool Villas and Beachfront Villas) at The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, are available from 9,450THB per night, room only (approximately £174 per night).
High50 insider tip: Take the yoga classes out on the seaview decking by the pool before breakfast. Sheer bliss.
4. Head to the Himalayas
Want to challenge yourself? What about riding through a jaw-dropping mountain valley high in the Himalayas on a motorbike?
Hugging the border with Chinese-controlled Tibet and almost entirely above 10,000ft, the Spiti Valley is a wild, remote and achingly beautiful region very few people get to experience.
Hit the road with Blazing Trail’s epic two-week tour of the incredible Spiti Valley and ride through the wide valleys, winding mountain passes and far-flung towns and villages of this region.
High50 insider tip: High50 readers will receive free biking gear if they quote ‘High50’ when booking.
When to go: Trips are running in June and August 2016.
5. Hit the Big Apple in style
The rare joy of New York is that the “tourist stuff” is so great. Take a massive bite out of the Big Apple and head to the top of the Rockefeller Centre for cocktails, go shopping at Saks on Fifth Avenue, marvel at the art and architecture in the Guggenheim Museum, tour Central Park by bike, or stroll through the West Village while munching on a signature cupcake from the Magnolia Bakery.
The Waldorf-Astoria is the classic choice for elegance and is a stone’s throw from Fifth Avenue. Book the Gotham for your own private balcony in Midtown or head for the The Standard if you want to be in with the hip crowd.
For out and out luxury, The Lowell is a slice of timeless New York and is said to have one of the best concierges in the city. The only hotel in New York to offer wood burning fireplaces, the 27 bedrooms and 47 suites all have gourmet kitchens and marble bathrooms. Deluxe king rooms from around £500 per night.
High50 insider tip: Don’t miss the Frick for the best paintings by European artists. For authentic food, skip the tourist trap of little Italy and go to Mission Cantina for Mexican-Korean food.
6. Spot the Big Five in Tanzania
If you haven’t been on safari yet, then your 50th is a great excuse. Tanzania has some of the very best game viewing in the whole of Africa, avoiding the crowds of Kenya and Botswana and the better-known safari destinations.
Natural World Safaris offers an eight-day itinerary heading straight to Katavi National Park to trail the big cats, as well as elephants, crocodiles and more. The trek then heads to the Mahale Mountains, home to one of the largest troops of habituated chimpanzees.
High50 tip: This short itinerary can easily be combined with Tanzania’s incredible beaches or other destinations in East Africa.
When to go: Prime travel times are June to September.
7. Drive along the Pacific Coast Highway
Take one of the most beautiful road trips in the world and drive along Pacific Coast Highway, which runs along the Californian coast. California is the perfect mix of city and scenic sights, so don’t miss wine tasting in Napa Valley, the great national parks and the buzz of San Francisco, LA and San Diego.
Discover secret beaches and soaring cliffs along Big Sur, skirt the environs of Santa Barbara at the base of the dramatic Santa Ynez mountains and enjoy one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.
8. Party in Rio
If you like to party, then why not head for the biggest party on the planet? The Rio Carnival takes place in February each year and is one of the most fabulous, dazzling, over-the-top spectacles – a thoroughly fitting way to celebrate a milestone birthday.
Between partying you can tick off the iconic sights of Christ the Redeemer, the Sugar Loaf mountain and Copacabana beach.
For quieter evenings, retreat to Belmond Copacabana Palace, the original hang-out of the elite that dates back to the 1920s.
High50 insider tip: Pack your dancing shoes and bag tickets to the Sambadrome – the main stadium of samba.
When to go: Warm year-round, head to Rio in February for the Rio Carnival and September and October for drier weather. British Airways has direct flights from the UK.
9. Trek the Inca Trail in Peru
It’s inspiring not just to go somewhere extraordinary but also to achieve something for your 50th, and trekking the Inca Trail in Peru has to be up there with the best life experiences.
This four-day hike, culminating in the lost city of Machu Picchu, is fine for travellers with a reasonable fitness. Yes, that means you!
Peru has more to offer, as well. Combine Machu Picchu with visits to Cusco, Arequip, the Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca, to see this country’s wealth of magnificent ancient scenic sights.
High50 insider tip: Dine on “ceviche of love” at Astrid and Gaston in Lima. The delicacy is raw sea urchin, clam, squid, mussel and shrimp marinaded in lime and three types of chilli pepper.
When to go: High season is during the drier months from late May to early September, although in July and August 2,500 people can arrive at the sites every day. The busiest times are between 10am and 2pm so try to avoid this window for a more serene experience.
10. Head to India’s Golden Triangle
For those with a sense of adventure and yearning to truly experience another culture, India is one of the most vibrant and unforgettable places to visit on the planet.
Explore the sub-continent’s most famous sights in the Golden Triangle, combining imperial Delhi with the legendary Taj Mahal at Agra and the magical pink city of Jaipur.
Great for those on a budget, India offers a fantastic range of luxurious hotels at value-for-money prices.
High50 insider tip: Take a detour to Fatehpur Sikre (39k from Agra), the eerie one-time capital of the region abandoned due to drought in 1585. The fascinating architecture includes one of the largest mosques in India.
When to go: Travel from late October to mid-March.
11. Fly to Oz
From the Harbour Bridge and Opera House to the beaches of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, Australia is one amazing place to visit for a big celebration.
Fly into Sydney for sightseeing and some surfing or kayaking around the famous Bondi beach before travelling north for more adventures including hiking, sailing (particularly in Queensland’s amazing Whitsunday islands), fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, dune buggying and 4×4 safaris on the beautiful Fraser Island.
High50 tip: Try rainforest ‘glamping’ at Nightfall Wilderness camp in Queensland. Visitors can stay in beautiful safari tents by the crystal-clear rapids and ancient Lamington National Park rainforests and experience the Australian habitat like never before.
Enjoy rapids with private natural spa-pools beckon, laze in hammocks under the stars and book a massage by the creek or in the rainforest. A night under-canvas with breakfast starts from around £220 per night.
12. Celebrate in your own castle
If you want to stay a little closer to home, what about celebrating at a historic Irish castle?
Set in 43 acres of stunning woodlands, the 17th century Lough Eske Castle is conveniently located 5km from the picturesque town of Donegal.
The castle boasts 96 luxurious bedrooms (starting from £122 per night), an award-winning restaurant, a new spa, and sits on the water’s edge of the magnificent Lough Eske.
Set in the Castle garden, the spa features a thermal suite, relaxation area, 17m swimming pool and fitness centre.
High50 tip: County Donegal is a haven for lovers of the great outdoors and is home to one of Ireland’s most spectacular coastal touring routes; the Wild Atlantic Way. This remarkable coastal route stretches for 1,500 miles along Ireland’s dramatic western seaboard taking in some of the most enchanting scenery in the world.
13. The secret Vietnam
Vietnam is set to be one of the travel hotspots for 2016, but once you’ve immersed yourself in the buzz of the cities, toured ancient temples and marvelled at the natural phenomenon of Ha Long Bay and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, go off the beaten track to the quieter beaches of Vietnam.
The Sanctuary Ho Tram Beach Resort is a secluded retreat located around two hours south from Ho Chi Minh city.
It prides itself on privacy, relaxation and luxury and is the ideal bolthole to experience the natural beauty of Vietnam, away from the crowds.
The resort boasts 28 private villas and is the perfect antidote to the bustle of the cities and sightseeing with a private sandy beach and fantastic spa.
High50 tip: The resort offers cooking classes, market tours, and a kid’s club, and has villas to accommodate large families.