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50th birthday holiday ideas

Carlton Manor House

By Mark Hodson, Sunday Times Travel Writer and Editor of 101 Holidays

If you – or your partner – have a 50th birthday coming up, a holiday is a great way to celebrate. But where to go and how to make it extra special? Here’s our guide to the very best 50th birthday holiday ideas and where to book them.

The first decision you need to make is whether to invite lots of friends or make it just the two of you – or perhaps just you and a couple of close friends. If you want to make a party of it, consider renting a large house in the UK, which works out at much better value than a hotel and means that your friends and relatives don’t need to fork out on airfares. Or scroll down the page for special ideas for just the two of you.

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Family housesCottages in Yorkshire DalesWaterways Holidays - boating (1)Farm camping holidays

Holiday rentals in the UK

Check out Olivers Travels which has historic houses available to rent in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland that cater to groups from six up to 60 people. Examples include a 17th century castle in the seaside town of Clevedon, Somerset, that has its own indoor pool. Three nights cost from £275 per person based on 16 sharing.

We also recommend CV Villas, which has a selection of party houses in the UK including Norfolk Hall, an Elizabethan country house near North Walsham that sleeps 14.

How about celebrating your birthday on the water? Waterways Holidays rents out canal boats and sailing boats that sleep up to 12. Popular destinations include the Norfolk Broads. Check out the latest special offers.

Back on dry land, The Big Domain caters for groups of between 12 and 56. Blue Chip Holidays has rental properties that sleep up to 24 – check out its houses on the Isle of Wight which sleep up to 14. Helpful Holidays has a selection of 600 holiday rental properties in the West Country.

Lufoten - Northern Lights

City breaks for 50th birthdays

If it’s just the two of you, and you want something really special, there are certain city break destinations that work well for a 50th birthday. Popular choices include Barcelona, Venice, Madrid and Rome, but I would also consider less obvious charmers such as Seville, Vienna, Budapest and Florence.

In Russia, St Petersburg is spectacular, particularly if you visit in either summer – when the sun shines long into the evening – or the winter, when the city is thick with snow and there is ice skating on the river.

Also in winter, if you’re looking for special things to do on your 50th birthday, how about seeing the Northern Lights. Head to Tromso in Norway or to Reykjavik, the lively capital of Iceland. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, spend a night at the Ice Hotel in Sweden.

For sheer life-affirming buzz, it’s hard to beat New York. If you really want to push the boat out, how about combining New York and Las Vegas or jetting across to Hong Kong for a short burst of luxury and fabulous food. If you want to roll back the years, head to South Beach in Miami.

For the ultimate 50th birthday treat, you could treat yourself to a short break by private jet. This works out to be surprisingly affordable, particularly if you return on the same day and take along a few friends or family members. You can take off from an airport or airstrip of your choice and head to France or even Italy for an indulgent lunch.

The GroveRomantic rooms and suitesEquestrian CentreAfternoon tea, poolside

Treat hotels in the UK

Where to go to celebrate your 50th birthday? How about a luxury hotel in the British countryside? Maison Talbooth in Constable country on the border of Essex and Suffolk has superb food and just 12 bedrooms, while the lovely Three Choirs Vineyards in Gloucestershire has its own vineyard.

Other great hotels for a 50th birthday include Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa near Bath, Gilpin Lodge in the Lake District and The Wentworth Hotel in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. In the Cotswolds, Whatley Manor Hotel has a two-Michelin star restaurant and a world-class spa.

If you want to really escape to the countryside, we recommend Pen-y-Dyffryn, a charming Georgian country house hotel set in the rolling hills of the Welsh borders. Or spend a few days in the pretty town of Bishops Castle in Shropshire, where The Castle Hotel offers a perfect combination of gastro food, 12 contemporary rooms and beautiful walks on its doorstep.

For a cultural break, take a look at Martin Randall Tours which runs expert-led group tours in art, classical music and architecture.

Luxury barge, BergundyWine tours FranceVeniceWedding anniversary holidays in Europe

More birthday holiday ideas in Europe

For wine lovers, there are few better ways to celebrate than a Champagne weekend in France where you can visit producers, enjoy tutored tastings and buy some bottles to bring home. You can also join a wine tour to classic destinations such as Burgundy, the Rhone and Chablis.

In summer you could take a luxury hotel barge in France, travelling sedately by canal through picturesque regions such as Burgundy, Provence and the Canal du Midi. The barges sleep up to 20 so you could persuade friends to take some of the other cabins. Gourmet dining, fine wines, an open bar and excursions are included.

Or get together with friends and family in a villa in France with private pool. Check out these ideas in The Dordogne, Provence and the Côte d’Azur.

Italy hosts some magical events including as the Venice Carnival in February and summer open-air performances at the Verona Opera Festival.

You’ll find some fabulous hotels in Tuscany including many where you can combine spa treats with superb cuisine. We recommend the Castel Monastero Tuscan Resort & Spa which has a world-class wellness centre featuring weight loss and detox programmes, plus a cookery school and Gordon Ramsey restaurant.

Also see my tips for the best walking holidays. Or if you want something different, some ideas for unusual holidays.

See the Northern LightsAdventure holidays for 50th birthday

Adventure holidays for a 50th birthday

Your 50th birthday is the date when you’re officially allowed to go on a Saga holiday. But who wants to shuffle around with the oldies when 50 is the new 30? Why not do something adventurous to celebrate your half century?

Head to Jordan where you can explore the ancient city of Petra. In Egypt you can cruise the Nile on a Dahabiya – a traditional sailing boat. A private charter for up to 12 people can be arranged, perhaps combining it with a trip to the Pyramids in Giza.

For some cultural adventure, a tour of Iran is the perfect way to discover its palaces, mosques, ancient cities and temples. I recommend this Treasures of Persia group tour as an introduction to the country.

Or head to Thailand. Away from the budget backpackers, you could take a cruise on the Chao Phraya River, visit the Elephant Nature Park, or stay on stunning Koyao Island Resort. Experience Travel Group has a great selection of holiday ideas in Thailand,

For nature lovers there is no better destinations that the Galapagos Islands where Darwin discovered the Theory of Evolution. You can get up close with turtles, giant tortoises, seals and exotic birdlife. Or travel to India where you can track tigers at Bandhavgarh National Park, combining it with the best of Delhi and Agra, and an overnight train journey. Details from Audley Travel.

The Antarctic is one of the Earth’s last great wilderness destinations where you’ll be left speechless by the immense and unspoilt beauty of the landscapes, and the majestic wildlife. Classic Antarctica is the most popular cruise, sailing between November and March.

In Norway you can cruise under the Midnight Sun exploring fjords, lakes and mountains or take a coastal voyage on a ship used by local people to transport goods from one town to the next.

Get off the beaten track on a cycling holiday in Europe. There is a range of self-guided itineraries to suit your level of fitness – food lovers should take a look at the Gastronomic Barolo.

For something completely different, consider a volunteering holiday in a choice of destinations including Costa Rica, Thailand, New Zealand and India. It’s a chance to combine unique travel experiences with voluntary work on a local community or wildlife project.

When is your birthday?

For holiday ideas dedicated to the month of your birthday, click here. We also have ideas for holidays in winter and over the Christmas period. Also check out our recommendations for 40th birthday holidays and 60th birthday holidays.

Last updated: 16 June 2016

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