It’s been the new 30 for as long as we can remember so what’s the huge deal about hitting the big Four-Zero? Relax - in no way are we saying that you’ll definitely lose your physical capabilities or thirst for adventure as you get older. It’s more that other things - responsibilities and career, for instance - may be limiting factors. Before you turn 40? You may not be as wild and as carefree as you were in your 20s, but you can still more than handle the pace, with enough spirit and fitness to fully immerse yourself in your experiences, plus maybe a bit more good sense with which to handle yourself in situations. Added to which, you probably have increased means with which to fund your travels! Regardless of budget, however, here are the trips you need to start planning.
1. SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
Stunning landscapes and world class cuisine are just the start of it. Add to that a climate that demands the wearing of body-beautiful clothing and good looking guys galore… all we can say is, make the most of it while you’re young.
On a shoestring?
The iconic sweep of sand that is Bondi Beach is there for everyone to enjoy, regardless of budget. Stroll up behind the famous Bondi Icebergs with its ocean pool to set off on the Bondi to Bronte cliff walk against a stunning ocean backdrop. Oh, and did someone say hot surfers?
Got a head for heights and knees that can handle the strain? BridgeClimb allows you to reach the dizzying summit of Sydney’s famed Harbour Bridge for a once in a lifetime experience and inimitable views. Book your climb for your preferred time of day to see the city lights appearing at dusk, or sunrise coloring the sails of the Opera House.
2. LISBON, PORTUGAL
Often in the shadow of some its well-trodden European counterparts, Lisbon should definitely not be overlooked in your 30s, not least because its steeply angled streets are ones that you’ll thank your weekly cardio-addiction for. Head to one of the many rooftop bars by evening for the best cocktails, coolest tunes and hippest bartenders.
On a shoestring?
While there are a number of observation points for which you’ll pay an admission fee to enjoy views over this stunning riverside capital, the city’s many miradouros (lookouts) are where locals tend to throng - so, not only do they offer a more authentic experience and equally panoramic views, but you’ll spend absolutely nothing except a bit of effort and the cost of a celebratory ice cream at the top. Our favourite? Miradouro de Santa Catarina in the Bairro Alto neighborhood gives jaw dropping sunset views incorporating the Christo-Rei statue and the 25 April Bridge.
Get your old school Glamour Gal on and pile into the back of a reconditioned vintage convertible Beetle to explore this beguiling city in style. Tailor-make your tour to suit your interests and available time: your charming, flat-capped driver can take you to all of Lisbon’s must-see points, or speed you along stunning coastline towards chic, outlying beach suburbs and the Disneyesque castles of Sintra. Audrey-Hepburn style headscarves optional; enormous smiles inevitable.
(That's me pictured - far right!)
3. GLASTONBURY FESTIVAL, UK
If you only do one music festival in your life, make it this one. Established in 1970, this five day, multi-stage bacchanal has become nothing short of legendary, with unparalleled line ups and a focus not just on live music and DJs but on the broader performing arts as well. Recent headline acts have included Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, ZZ Top, Beyonce and Dolly Parton.
On a shoestring?
Make no mistake, Glasto admission is highly prized and by no means cheap. Offset the cost of your ticket by coming fully prepared with all of your own camping equipment (beg and borrow if you don’t own tents, sleeping bags, rain boots and waterproof clothing) and as much of your own food as you can carry. You can even take your own alcohol, provided it’s not in glass. If you’re buying food on-site, head away from the more ‘commercial’ big-name stages and head to the alternative, hippie areas for bigger portions at smaller prices.
Hold on to your tent strings girls, and save the mud for your spa treatment: there are a number of luxury options available to Glasto-goers, including pop-up yurt hotels with proper, flushing toilets and hot showers. The best of these? Camp Kerala will see you bedding down for the night in Maharaja style tents on Egyptian cotton sheets under sheepskin rugs and duck down quilts. There’s also a fancy-dress area, lots of upscale dining options and a bar on-site. Make your luxe experience complete and avoid traffic jams by being helicoptered both in and out of the festival.
4. CAMBODIA, ASIA
As you near your forties, there's a good chance that you’re more in touch with your spiritual side than you were in, say, your 20s. It’s also likely that you’re more interested in culture and history than you were when it was being droned at you by a dull professor in your teens - all of which will combine make Cambodia an irresistible vacation option.
On a shoestring?
Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s most famed temple complex is best explored by the sure-footed: It features treacherous, narrow steps at 70% inclines, but it’s worth the climb for the spectacular views, not to mention the intensity of the spiritual energy that visitors experience en route to the top. Admission prices recently doubled but, for an unmissable landmark, it’s still a relatively affordable US$37, which covers all of the 72 temples on the site.
Skip the temple tourists and enhance the dreamy, otherworldly nature of your Cambodian spiritual experiences by drifting through the skies in a hot air balloon. As well as the your bird’s eye view of the world’s largest temple complex (although airspace directly over Angkor Wat is restricted) you’ll also be treated to vivid swathes of lush jungle, dramatic mountain landscapes and ancient ruins. Swallow your vertigo and choose from sunrise or sunset departures for an unforgettable flight.
5. MACCHU PICHU, PERU
So wonderfully high, remote and mysterious in its Andean setting that it lay undiscovered for over 400 years after its abandonment, Macchu Pichu is one South America’s greatest traveler lures. Altitude sickness can affect you at any age, but obviously younger tends to equal hardier so, given that any trip to the 2430 meter Lost City of the Incas involves transiting through the 3,399 meter Cusco … we say, do it while your lungs don’t hate you for it.
On a shoestring?
Hiking the 26 mile Inca Trail is the jewel in the crown for many travelers but that’s not the only way to reach Macchu Pichu. You can visit the ruins independently, without paying for the services of a guide; you can also make the experience more budget friendly by staying in a cheap hostel in nearby Aguas Calientes and then taking a hair-raising bus journey to the entrance the following morning.
There was a time when intrepid travelers could tackle the Inca Trail under their own steam, but these days, the 26 mile trek needs to be undertaken on an organised expedition. There are plenty of fairly pricey operators who will guide you on the 4-day trek, camping each night: otherwise, go all out on a tour where your luggage will be portered for you and your nights will be spent in mountain lodges - an option you may well be grateful you paid for when you’ve spent the day hiking at altitude.
6. GREEK ISLANDS
When you’re old enough to know what a ‘postcard perfect’ scene means, but also young enough for your eyes to light up over the idea of an Insta-worthy one, then the dreamy vision of layer upon layer of white walls climbing up from an impossibly blue sea - aka The Greek Islands - will tick all of your aesthetic boxes.
On a shoestring?
As two of the best known Greek islands, Mykonos and Santorini are also two of the priciest. Take the road less traveled and head to one of the less touristy options, such as Ikaria, Nisyros or Sifnos, and experience local life, wonderful cuisine and verdant interiors - without the hefty price tag, and still with plenty of opportunities to sun yourself on gloriously unspoilt beaches.
Sure, island hopping can be done by ferry but chartering a yacht and just drifting from stunning location to stunning location - with a crew on hand to cater to your every need - has got to be the absolute dream. Not only is there the sight of the Greek islands from the sea to swoon over; there’s also the unrivalled joy of just jumping off the deck into those azure waters when you’re anchored somewhere gorgeous.
7. PARIS, FRANCE
Paris is one of those destinations that almost seems too obvious to be on a list; its appeal is endless, regardless of your age. So why be sure to go before you’re 40? Because a bit of maturity doesn’t go astray when it comes to the appreciation of fine art and culture - and a good dose of the energy and romantic idealism of youth is ideal for making the most of everything that the City of Light has to offer.
On a shoestring?
Spin classes aren’t just prep for beach holidays: steel your glutes for the wander up to Montmartre, Paris’s highest hill. Here, the Basilica du Sacre-Coeur boasts some of the city’s most iconic architecture , with no entry fee required to see its opulent interiors. Outside, the views over the city are splendid, and the sight of artists dabbing away at their easels is one of Paris’ most quintessential.
Marie Antoinette said “Let them eat cake” - and who are we to argue? Afternoon tea is a Parisian institution and there’s no grander place to enjoy it than at Le Meurice on Rue de Rivoli. Here, impeccable service in a Phillip Starck-designed, Dali-inspired space will see you feasting on the creations of Cédric Grolet, who was 2017’s “World’s Best Restaurant Pastry Chef”. Expect to pay around €70 per person including champagne.
8. THE GRAND CANYON, ARIZONA
This incredible landscape has been formed over the course of millions of years - kind of puts turning 40 into perspective, huh? There are plenty of soft-core ways to enjoy its majestic scenery, but if you want to be one of the fewer than 1% of its 5 million annual visitors who actually venture below its rim, then you’ll need to have both the physical fitness and mental grit that are characteristic of relative youth.
On a shoestring?
Your entry fee into the Grand Canyon National Park is valid for a week, allowing you plenty of time to explore; you can reduce the cost further by choosing to bus, cycle or walk, all of which are cheaper than car admission. Permits aren’t required for independent (non-commercial) hikers and both the South and North Rims have a range of trails offering spectacular views into the Canyon; you can even day-hike into its center. Slash accommodation costs by camping and remember - preparation is everything.
With the requisite fitness and well over $US1000, you can journey through the Grand Canyon on a guided rim to rim hike, staying at Phantom Ranch at the canyon’s base. Hikes start before sunrise, so as to avoid the hottest part of the day, and involve a strenuous descent - which means an equally strenuous ascent on the journey up and out to the opposite rim. All of those hours you’ve put in at the gym are about to pay off, big time: prepare to see your Insta-likes skyrocket as high as your sense of achievement.
9. MARRAKECH, MOROCCO
Few destinations in the world evoke such a feeling of a completely ‘other’ place and time than Marrakech. It’s a great one to put on your pre-40 checklist, not least because it will present you with plenty of situations - not frightening ones, just ones for which you’ll need to be reasonably firm and confident - that befit a mature traveler. This is also an age at which you probably have your own home, and the souks are undoubtedly a wonderful place in which buy beautiful and unusual pieces with which to furnish it. Don’t forget to haggle!
On a shoestring?
For less than $US10, you can find yourself transported into a world that’s the colour of heaven: Yves Saint Laurent’s extraordinary Jardin Marjorelle, where the primary color is a vibrant blue. Otherworldy flora provides a striking contrast, along with splashes of yellow and orange, plus exquisitely tiled pools and fountains. The garden is a relatively small 12 acres, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t spend hours here. Sit and dream, or head to the cafe for a mint tea: this is an oasis among the madness of Marrakech.
The hammam (Turkish bath) is a large part of Morocco’s culture, but if you don’t fancy immersing yourself into local life in a state of undress then there are several hammams offering a more luxe experience. Heritage Spa is one such haven of escapism: set in the heart of the medina, it’s richly decorated and utterly decadent. Head here for plant based therapies incorporating the full hammam experience, as well as facials and massages guaranteed to leave you looking and feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
10. NEW YORK CITY
It’s always been high on any traveler’s must-see list, but those Sex and The City girls inarguably made it an essential in the mind of any woman determined to live life to the full before age and responsibility get in the way. Instantly recognisable from countless films, New York City is an intoxicating combination of familiarity and newness. Its pace is relentless and irresistible; Choos or no Choos, you can’t help but give in to it wholeheartedly.
On a shoestring?
Central Park is easily accessible by subway and, one you’re there, it’s so huge that you could quite feasibly spend all day exploring it. Free to visitors and open every day of the year, it’s an absolute hive of local life, activity and people watching. Some of the attractions within the park will set you back a couple of dollars - the carousel or the zoo, for instance - but even these are democratically affordable. Take a row boat out on the Lake for an hour for just $US15 - or admire the surrounding views from Belvedere Castle, built on one of the park’s highest points.
Maybe you’ll never be old enough to truly ‘love’ opera but The Met is surely the place where you’ll feel like you’ve truly experienced it. Sweeping stairways, genuine (and enormous) Chagalls plus glitzy, crystal, sputnik-shaped chandeliers all contribute to make your night at the opera the epitome of grown up glamour. And that’s even before you feast your ears and eyes on the lavish performances.
11. CINQUE TERRE, ITALY
That jumble of pastel-hued buildings, set against the blue of the Ligurian sea and surrounded by verdant cliffs is the stuff that holiday memories are made of. It’s so gloriously, impossibly romantic and Italian that you’d best go before the cynicism of age smears the tint of your rose-colored glasses. It’s also (like most of Italy) a gastronomer’s heaven, so go and EAT ALL THE FOOD before you have to think about things like blood pressure. Your knees will also thank you for a pre-40 visit, too: some of the coastal paths - from which, of course, the best views are to be soaked up - are gruellingly steep.
On a shoestring?
No doubt you’ll spend plenty of time angling your lens towards the candy-colored houses in quest of the quintessential Cinque Terre shot, but leave your camera behind and just dive from the jagged rocks surrounding Manarola’s harbor into its deep and vividly blue waters. Floating on your back, looking up at this iconic view will, quite literally, change your perspective. In the afternoon, head to an atmospheric wine cellar for a €15, one-hour tasting session, which includes snacks and the famed sweet local speciality, Sciacchetrà.
Don your driving gloves (you may need them to mask your sweating palms) and pick up a luxury sportscar - a Ferrari is surely the ideal choice - to drive from Portofino all along the vertiginous coastal road that takes in the rainbow spectacle of the the five fishing villages - Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore - of Cinque Terre. All you’ll need is huge sunglasses, nerves of steel - oh, and about €1200 per day for car hire.