101 Holidays

• Join the 5 million people that use our sites to find trusted travel recommendations.


  • Get our free weekly deals newsletter

40th birthday holiday ideas

By Annabelle Thorpe, Editor of 101 Short Breaks

There’s only one way to deal with the big 4-0 – and that’s get on and celebrate. That might mean a raucous house-party with friends and family, or a disappearing trick with your Significant Other, where you can drink champagne and party till dawn with nobody around to witness the hangover. Or perhaps you want to do something truly memorable, a once-in-a-lifetime experience to prove that life really does begin at 40. Here’s my pick of the best ways to celebrate in style (also see our tips for 30th50th and 60th birthdays).

Temple of AthenaBepis SonCornwall has amazing beachesThatched cottages to rent

Get together with friends or family

Hiring a country house or villa for an extended family gathering or group of friends is a great way to celebrate. The really good news is that house-parties no longer mean having to do your own cooking and cleaning; companies like Boutique Retreats, who have a range of properties in Cornwall, can arrange a private chef, food deliveries and a full concierge service.

For a unique house party, book a historic house – choose from Elizabethan banqueting towers to beautiful medieval thatched cottages. Or head to the Balearic island of Mallorca for a summer break where you can party round the pool in your own private villa.

And there’s no reason why the house party idea only works in summer; book a catered ski chalet and you can be whizzing down the pistes by day and sitting down to gourmet, champagne-fuelled suppers in the evening – all prepared by the chalet staff.

Or you could celebrate your 40th by renting one of these canal boats or sailing boats (sleeping up to 12 people) and explore some of the UK’s loveliest rivers and canals. Check out the latest offers.

The Plaza Mayor at nightThermal baths

Party weekends

Whether you want roof-terrace cocktails, shopping sprees or late-night clubbing, a city break is a great option for a memorable get-together with friends. Few cities offer a more eclectic, eccentric nightlife than Berlin – from the sleek cocktail bars in West Berlin to the hip clubs in the former communist Eastern side of the city.

Art-lovers should head to Madrid, where the golden triangle of world-class galleries – the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza – make a peaceful counterpart to evenings filled with tapas-crawls and late-night cocktails.

If you want to mix city and beach, Palma is a great choice, while Budapest offers the chance to recover from the over-indulgence of the night before in one of the city’s historic mineral baths.

And if the budget stretches, New York is the perfect choice – mix strolls in Central Park with bar hops around the East Village, cocktails on the Upper West Side and dinner in one of Soho’s hip eateries.

Northern LightsTop quality equipmentTorre MarabinoStylish dining

Once in a lifetime experiences

If you want your 40th birthday marked by a moment you’ll never forget, there are few more spectacular sights on the planet than the ethereal Northern Lights. Head to Norway to snuggle up in a cabin or igloo, and watch the sky pulsate with waves of green, blue and red light. If you’re after something a little more explosive, how about sipping cocktails in the glamorous town of Taormina on the island of Sicily, while Mount Etna blows clouds of smoke into the night sky?

If you want to be somewhere truly unique, head to Jordan, and visit the spellbinding ancient site of Petra for your very own Indiana Jones moment. And if there was ever a reason to climb on board the iconic Orient Express to Venice, a 40th birthday is the perfect time to do it.

In the UK, we recommend this directory of active days out across the country including sailing, rock climbing, rally driving, power boating and track cycling.

If thoughts of midlife are weighing on your mind, how about taking some time off to join an overland adventure by purpose-built truck. We recommend Oasis Overland which has trips in Africa, South America and Central Asia. Don’t expect luxury – you’ll be mucking in with cooking and setting up camp – but you can expect a life-changing experience, and you’ll form firm friendships with your fellow passengers.

Glorious manor houseStay in a romantic four posterThe jaw-dropping coastline

Intimate 40th birthday holidays for two

If you’re up for being pampered, rather than partying, then escaping to a luxury spa or country house hotel can be a lovely way to celebrate in a more relaxed style. Head to Gilpin Lodge in the beautiful Lake District for indulgently lazy days in their elegant spa and wonderful seafood dinners. Or book into Whatley Manor in the Cotswolds, a picturesque manor house that offers the kind of super-stylish bedroom you won’t want to leave.

If you’re after some glamour and sunshine, Sorrento – the gateway to the Amalfi Coast – makes a great base for an indulgent few days. If you fancy heading further afield, Barbados offers white-sand beaches, luxurious hotels and a chilled-out vibe.

Last updated: 3 May 2016

« Return to homepage