Best Places in Asia for Senior Travellers in 2019
TripAdvisor has released its eagerly-awaited list of the best travel destinations for 2019. London tops the list, followed by two other great European capitals, Paris and Rome. Asia is well-represented, with 10 destinations making the list.
The annual Travellers’ Choice Awards were decided by the ratings and reviews of millions of TripAdvisor users around the world over the past 12 months. They take into account attractions, experiences, hotels and restaurants. Here are the Asian destinations on the list and what they offer for older travellers.
The ever-popular Indonesian island of Bali is the highest Asian destination on the list, coming in at 5th. Bali has something for everyone: families, solo travellers, party animals and senior travellers. The beach and resort area of Kuta attracts swingers and surfers but may be a little noisy for many older visitors. Sanur is leafier and less hurried, and is popular among families. The laid-back resort hotels lining the beach in Nusa Dua, further out of town, offer a more upmarket option.
Many senior travellers in search of culture and a little peace and quiet are drawn to the temple complexes around the island. Then there’s the inland town of Ubud. Set among hills and paddy fields, it’s a place to relax, enjoy Balinese culture, and rejuvenate yourself with yoga classes or spa treatments.
Sixth on the list is the popular Thai resort island of Phuket in the Andaman Sea. It has bounced back strongly from the 2004 tsunami, which killed about 250 people on the island. Its most popular beaches are on the west and south coasts, while some older travellers are drawn to the more tranquil north.
Inland are mountains and forests, and the island is within easy reach of other spectacular sights, including Phang Nga Bay between the island and the mainland. The more popular areas to stay on Phuket include Patong Beach and Karon Beach.
Turkey’s capital, Istanbul – 8th on the list – straddles Europe and Asia, and combines the ancient and the modern, making it an unforgettable destination for visitors. Exploring it on foot is a particular pleasure, and a cruise on the Bosphorus is a great way of seeing the city too.
Senior travellers with an interest in history will delight in its Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. Highlights include the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, once a cathedral, later a mosque and today a museum. The city’s food and drink is famous too. Visitors can enjoy Turkish cuisine in taverns, kebab restaurants, coffee houses and tea shops.
Dubai ranks 10th on the list, in large part for its shopping and entertainment. Rising from the Arabian Desert, it’s the largest city in the United Arab Emirates. Its attractions include the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa; visitors can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the city from the observation deck on level 148. Also on offer are 4X4 rides across desert dunes and balloon trips over the desert.
The city is constantly changing, with new attractions being added. Among the latest is Cityland Mall, which claims to be the world’s first nature-inspired shopping mall, featuring botanical areas.
Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia, listed 12th, is the gateway to the temples of Angkor. Millions of travellers stay here each year while visiting Angkor Wat, Bayon temple, Ta Prohm and the other unforgettable temples in the area.
The city has grown to become an attractive destination in its own right. It has a wide range of good hotels, catering to everyone from backpackers to seasoned older travellers. Its restaurants, spas and shops have a lot to offer too, and it has become a centre of Cambodian culture. Visitor numbers are growing rapidly each year, and perhaps the only cloud on the horizon is whether the crowds will eventually start detracting from the visitor experience.
Vietnam’s two major cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), are both fascinating – if very different – destinations. Hanoi, ranked 15th, makes it on to the list as the best place to experience Vietnam’s culture and rich history.
The city’s central areas can easily be explored on foot, and older travellers are likely to enjoy its Old Quarter and French Quarter, with their colonial architecture. The peaceful Lake Hoan Kiem in central Hanoi attracts visitors and locals alike. Vietnam’s sometimes turbulent history is on show at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Hoa Lo Prison, now a museum.
The city has many excellent restaurants and shops for visitors in search of traditional arts and crafts.
Tokyo, ranked 16th, is a great destination for older travellers. It’s safe and clean, and its climate is welcoming most of the year (although the heat can be draining in summer). Its own population is ageing, which means it caters well to the needs of older people. And it’s more affordable than it used to be, thanks to relatively low inflation in Japan.
Tokyo’s top attractions include the Imperial Palace; the emperor still lives here but large sections of the grounds are open to the public. The city may be a huge, futuristic metropolis, which is part of its attraction, but its parks and museums are world class. Visitors can spend hours strolling in some of the larger parks.
Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, comes in at 19th place. It’s a more crowded and polluted city than it was a couple of decades ago but it still has the power to enchant visitors.
It may now have many of the problems of any large Asian city but its people are charming, its temples and palaces are surely among the most fascinating you’ll find anywhere, and its back alleys are fun to explore. Lose yourself in its colourful tourist area, Thamel, with its wide array of hotels, restaurants and shops.
Nicknamed the Pink City because of the colour of some of its historic buildings, Jaipur in the northern state of Rajasthan is one of India’s great attractions. It ranks 20th on the list. History-minded older travellers will love the sights that unfold before them as they explore its forts and palaces. They include the remarkable Hawa Mahal, a pink five-storey building constructed in 1799 to allow ladies of the royal household to watch life in the city.
Jaipur is part of India’s ‘golden triangle’ tourist circuit and can easily be combined with visits to Delhi and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.
Hong Kong, ranked 22nd, is a destination that appeals to all visitors, from backpackers to senior travellers, with its blend of east and west, and its fine range of hotels, restaurants and shops. This Special Administrative Region of China is made up of Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon peninsula, the New Territories – still delightfully rural in parts – and many outlying islands.
Hong Kong Island and Kowloon are where most of the hotels and shopping centres are. Senior travellers who want a respite from the high-density life can spend time on the islands – Lantau perhaps, where attractions include the Tian Tan Buddha (known as the Big Buddha) and Po Lin Monastery.
Header image: Mirko Vitali