Turning 50 is a life landmark. It’s an age marked with less fanfare than the bookend birthdays of 40 and 60 and it ushers in a period with a bit more freedom. If you have kids, they’re probably either heading towards the end of their time at university or already taking their first steps into the working world. You can see the end of the bond repayment tunnel and your thoughts are turning towards spoiling yourself a little, so what better way to do that than with travel?
Go to Greece
Despite its economic challenges over the past few years, jet-setting to Greece is on the rise. The birthplace of western civilisation and democracy is home to scores of archaeological sites and museums dotted around the country. Athens is the bustling starting point for any trip, but you’ll be rewarded for broadening your horizons to the outer islands with less tourist crowds, fewer queues, and an even greater authentic experience.
The weather’s warm and sunny between April and October, making it the perfect time to enjoy the spring flowers on a hike in Crete, admire neoclassical architecture in Ermoupoli, or examine the churches on Corfu. Many visitors are surprised at the diversity of the Greek landscape that ranges from idyllic beaches and towering mountain ranges to the olive orchards of the south and dense forests in the north.
Getting there is easy with an airline such as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines who offer daily flights from Johannesburg to Amsterdam, with multiple onward connections to 13 airports across Greece.
Potter about Portugal
Carved out of the west of the Iberian peninsula, Portugal is a compact country that invites exploration of its charming villages, castles, cathedrals, and a sublime 1 800km coastline.
Fans of wine should make a pilgrimage to the Douro valley to see its terraced vineyards and taste its famous Port (there are plenty vineyards to explore in this region). Mealtimes in Portugal are always a celebrated affair. Over lunch or dinner, you’ll find tables heaving with hearty portions, washed down with wine and later capped with pasteis de nata (custard tarts).
Much like Greece, Italy is home to much ancient history and culture, which means Rome, Florence and Venice overflow with tourists in the summer months.
Umbria, Le Marche, Puglia and Basilicata are less-visited places that also offer an authentic glimpse into the country. Somewhere in-between the two is the Amalfi Coast – a 50km stretch of coastline in Campania that dates back to the early Middle Ages, which led to the whole area being named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Peak season starts at Easter and runs through to September, but a good time to visit for pristine views is May or June when temperatures are perfect, the lush foliage is at its brightest, and tourists are sparse. If you’re up for a challenge and don’t mind negotiating some steep stairways – many of which have been in use for hundreds of years – the Club Alpino Italiano has a list of 124 numbered hiking trails in the area that offer truly amazing views.
Visitors to Argentina often underestimate its size (it’s more than twice the size of South Africa), which means it’s easy to miss out on seeing everything on your list. Targeting specific areas you want to explore will help avoid disappointment – there’s certainly plenty to see!
The country is so large that it gives tourists the chance to explore mountains on horseback as a gaucho (cowboy), taste wonderful wines, admire one of the world’s biggest waterfalls at Iguazu, shop designer labels, tango beyond midnight, admire some magnificent architecture and even explore glaciers. Buenos Aires is busy, so if you’re looking to avoid crowds, try colonial cities like Cordoba and Salta for a more relaxed, but equally beautiful experience.
Words by Trevor Crighton
Features writer by trade, music lover and fine-line illustrator by nature. As an expert on the ’70s era, Marike will happily introduce you to her record collection. She’s passionate about African art and culture. And if she’s not off on an adventure, you’ll most likely find her making coffee.