Top holidays to celebrate your birthday: 'Big O' birthday destinations

Got a "Big O" birthday coming up? Go on, treat yourself to a travel adventure.

On my 40th birthday, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. Any despair I might have felt about becoming irrefutably middle-aged was completely overshadowed by the sheer exhilaration of reaching the crater edge, watching dawn rise over the vast plains below, then striding across the snow to the summit.

But then I've always tried to be somewhere special on my birthdays, particularly ones containing a "Big O". 

A hot-air balloon ride over Bagan during sunrise is hard to beat when welcoming a new decade.

For my 30th, a friend and I raced each other down the Hahnenkamm course at Kitzbuhel, which was a bit more exciting than my 20th, spent in London's West End watching Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap.

The point is that, especially on our birthdays, we're all unique individuals who like to celebrate in different ways. So can there really ever be an answer to the question: "Where's the best place in the world to spend your 50th?"

Yet that was the brief: recommend destinations for someone about to pass one of the Big O Birthdays, from 20 through to 80.

Obviously I had to consult a few friendly experts. Here's the best of their inside info:


INDIAN ODYSSEY: Throw yourself in the deep end. The money saved from your part-time job will go along way while you take in iconic sites such as the Taj Mahal, fall in love with Varanasi and get a taste of Rajasthan. 

Geckos Adventures There's Nothing Sub About This Continent, from $965 per person.

RITE OF PASSAGE: Join other young travellers on an epic European adventure, visiting 10 countries in 25 days. Wake up to croissants in Paris, eat tapas in Barcelona, ride a gondola in Venice.

Contiki European Quest, from $3899 person.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS: Flight Centre ( recommends Las Vegas, London or Bali; Student Flights ( suggests the affordable party vibe of Thailand or a Croatian sailing trip.


PATAGONIAN PARADISE: Challenge yourself with a trek though the Chile's beautiful Torres del Paine National Park, see Argentina's Perito Moreno Glacier and finish off the 10-day trip in elegant Buenos Aires.

Intrepid Travel's Patagonia Trekking, from $3530 per person.

MUSIC PILGRIMAGE: Grab your car after listening to jazz in New Orleans and follow the signs to the country music capital of Nashville and the home of the blues in Memphis for an 11-day self-drive tour.

Escape Travel American Rhythm Road Trip, from $1595 per person, twin share. 

OTHER SUGGESTIONS : Flight Centre suggests "somewhere glamorous" such as the Maldives, Bora Bora or New York; Escape Travel recommends the chic buzz of Hong Kong, a Fijian resort or a few days on Waiheke Island, near Auckland, for wine tasting and outdoor pursuits.


GORILLA SAFARI: Enrich your soul on a 6-day safari of East Africa, tracking mountain gorillas, visiting Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary and staying in quality lodges and tented camps.

Adventure World's Gorilla & Chimpanzee Express, from $3908 per person.

SECRET FRANCE: Start your 10-day celebration in the south-west of France. Indulge in the smooth reds of Bordeaux's wine region, taste the authentic cuisine of the Moissac region, view the Black Madonna in the cliff-face town of Rocamadour.

Trafalgar's Secrets of France Hidden Journey, from $3875 per person.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS: Flight Centre recommends Cappadocia in Turkey (including a balloon ride), a wine tour of France or renting a villa on Italy's Lake Como; Travel Associates suggests a Mississippi River Cruise from New Orleans to Memphis on a steamboat.


LOCAL WONDERS: Swim at Gunlom Falls overlooking Kakadu, dine at Katherine Gorge, stay in the award-winning Cicada Lodge and Wildman Wilderness Lodge, take a 4WD off road adventure and finish with a cruise aboard the Kimberley Coral Princess.

AAT Kings Kakadu's Ancient Secrets and Kimberley Cruise Inspiring Journey, from $10,300 per person.

NIRVANA IN NEPAL: Rekindle your spirit with an 8-day escorted tour taking in the ancient city of Kathmandu, the Himalayan village of Nagarkot, Pokhara and its beautiful lake, and the wildlife sanctuaries of Chitwan National Park.

Adventure World's Experience Nepal, from $1970 per person.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS: Flight Centre suggests a European river cruise, South African safari or self-drive tour of Route 66 across the US; Cruiseabout ( recommends a South Pacific cruise.


BALLOON OVER BURMA: Burma has all the delights of Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia with the added allure of the unknown. A hot-air balloon ride over Bagan during sunrise is hard to beat when welcoming a new decade.

Peregrine Adventures Burma Unveiled, from $2765 per person.

EUROPEAN LUXURY: Take the Eurostar from London to Paris, stay in luxury hotels, dine in the finest restaurants, enjoy personal guides in Venice and Florence, and meet Italian artisans in an 11-day extravaganza.

Insight Vacations' Majestic Gold Luxury Tour , from $5725 per person.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS: Flight Centre suggests a Mekong river cruise through Vietnam and Cambodia or a stay in an authentic Irish manor house in Dublin; Travel Associates recommends a trip to Yellowstone National Park in America's north-west.


POLAR EXPRESS: Take a classic 11-day Arctic expedition cruise to Spitsbergen, the remote island north of Scandinavia that is home to polar bears and walruses.

Peregrine Adventures Spitsbergen Explorer, from $6935 per person.

DANUBE WALTZ: Board the luxurious River Princess for a 19-day cruise from Prague to Bucharest, visiting Vienna, Budapest and the hidden treasures of Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria.

Uniworld's Grand European Explorer, from $10,379 per person.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS: Flight Centre recommends a South Pacific cruise, dinner under the stars at the base of Ayers Rock or a rail trip aboard The Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin; Escape Travel suggests a combined tour of Canada and Alaska with a cruise through the Inside Passage and a rail trip through the Rockies.


SOUTHERN LIGHTS: Explore remote reaches of Antarctica on an expedition cruise to the South Shetland Islands after negotiating the challenging Drake Passage, encounter leopard seals, penguins and towering glaciers. 

My Adventure Store Antarctic Classic In Depth, from $9269 per person.

AROUND THE WORLD: What could be better than spending your 80th year on a leisurely world cruise aboard the plush Queen Mary 2?

Cunard, 2016 Queen Mary 2 World Cruise, from $32,434 per person. 

All good? Now start planning your 90th. That's when things really start to get interesting.