Planning a holiday to Latin America is an exciting time, and the continent offers endless opportunities for all ages, from backpackers in their early 20s to couples in their 80s who want to tick Machu Picchu off their list. For many reasons, travelling in your older years is the prime time. However, the thought of travelling may raise a few concerns – will I be fit enough? Is it safe? Will I be lonely? Here we go through some common queries that people have when travelling in their mature years.
We get a wide range of people taking our holidays, with probably the largest group being couples aged in their forties to sixties, or older. Both couples and singles are welcome, and whilst we don’t specifically cater for senior travel groups, age is not a concern for most of our holidays. In most cases, you will be together with other Llama Travellers, but not necessarily the same people throughout your holiday. We find this works very well, allowing you to get to know people but not having to spend all your time with the same group. What unites everyone is a sense of curiosity and a desire to discover new cultures, landscapes and wildlife.
“I travelled alone with Llama Travel to Peru and Guatemala and it was wonderful. I’m in my 60s and the groups were small with ages ranging from early 20s to early 70s. We had a ball!”
Why You Should Keep Travelling
Change of perspective
For many people, travel changes as you get older, and you start to appreciate things that you would have missed when you were younger. You might enjoy spending longer in a place, learning more about the history and culture and taking the time to try good food and new activities.
Trip planning is easier
Being retired, semi-retired or an empty-nester means you have the flexibility to choose where to go and how long for. This means you can avoid adverse weather conditions as well as trying to cram everything into a rushed holiday in peak season.
Get through your bucket list
Many older people believe they’ve missed their chance to travel, but this is certainly not the case. If you’ve always dreamed of seeing Machu Picchu, admiring the sunset from Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio or exploring the Mayan site of Chichén Itzá, now is a great time to start planning.
Meet new people
Travellers often like to have travel companions and like-minded people to share their experiences with, and this is one of the biggest advantages of joining a group. These relationships often develop once you’ve parted ways, and you may like to exchange phone numbers and email addresses to keep in touch.
A reasonable level of fitness is required for many holidays to South America, as most trips require some walking, sometimes on uneven ground. High altitude can affect everyone, and there is no direct correlation between your age/fitness and how much you are affected by altitude. High altitude trekking is more strenuous than an equivalent length walk at low altitude, and it is worth doing some preparation before embarking on high altitude treks.
The Inca Trail
Whilst on treks such as the Inca Trail, your guide will let everyone go at your own speed, and there is no pressure to keep up with the fast walkers. The Inca Trail is 43 kilometres, and you should be prepared for long days of walking and steep inclines. You do not need to be a hugely experienced hiker, but acquiring a good level of physical fitness prior to arriving in Peru will make it easier and more enjoyable. Each day you will set off early and walk for around seven hours, stopping for an early lunch and arriving at your next camp in the late afternoon for free time and then dinner. The oldest recorded hiker of the trail was 84, so don’t let age stop you.
“Miguel was a lovely man with a great sense of humour, and an excellent guide. He asked us who in the group was walking the Inca Trail. As I raised my hand, he raised his eyebrows. “You, lady? You’re doing the Inca Trail? You will cry on the second day!” I obviously look older than I feel.”
Read this blog about one of our customer’s experiences on the Inca Trail.
With the right insurance, chronic health conditions shouldn’t hold you back. It's best to take a full supply of any medications with you, as finding a pharmacy can be difficult and time-consuming. It is also a good idea to use an online translator prior to departure, and print out any generic medical terms you might need. If you wear hearing aids, bring spare batteries as these can sometimes be hard to replace.
"I climbed Huayna Picchu seven years ago at age 65, with only moderate fitness, and zero climbing skills. It took an hour to get up, and I was most reluctant to come down at all because it was so beautiful up there."
Travelling on your own definitely does not mean being alone, it just gives you more flexibility. Read our blog on solo travel to Peru to find out more.
“Six months after my husband died, I needed a physical and psychological challenge. All I had to do was get fit for the Inca Trail. There were different people on each leg of the trip so I had company. I came back stronger in body and mind.”
Top Picks in Latin America for Older Travellers
Argentina is enormous, and there is something for all ages and fitness levels. In Buenos Aires you can watch a tango show, visit historical buildings and museums, enjoy some of the finest wine in the world and take tours of the different neighbourhoods. In Patagonia you can hike through mountains and lakes and glide past glaciers on a cruise, and in the north you can visit the stunning Iguazu Falls.
Constantly moving around and repacking can be stressful for travellers of all ages, but particularly difficult for those in their older years. In Mexico you can head to the coast for a few days of relaxation, but also spend some time exploring colonial towns like Oaxaca, and discover the sights of Mexico City. It’s a sunny, affordable destination with a fascinating history and culture.
Peru, and Machu Picchu in particular, is popular amongst older travellers. If you just want to visit the site itself, you can choose a daytrip rather than a four-day trek. Machu Picchu is made up of lots of well-marked paths and steps, so you can easily explore the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Three Windows and the Intihuatana Stone without having to exert yourself. One thing to be aware of is that there are no toilet facilities within the site, and the ones by the entrance have a charge. The Belmond Andean Explorer Train is a great option for comfort and luxury seekers.
A cruise is always a popular option for solo travellers and older people, as it lets you visit multiple destinations with the added comfort of having all meals, facilities and excursions included. On the Galapagos Islands, there are a range of boats to choose from. The smaller boats (14-16 passengers) are more intimate, so you can form a close-knit group with your fellow shipmates and guide, whilst larger boats such as La Pinta (48 passengers) have better on-board facilities, larger cabins and less chance of seasickness. In all cases you have land and sea excursions in small groups of a maximum of 16 people, and the opportunity to go snorkelling. Click here to see all of our Galapagos cruise options.
Top Tips for Older Travellers
- Watch what you eat. There’s nothing worse than missing out on amazing travel experiences due to being ill. Avoid unpeeled fruit, ice, salads and street food.
- Get appropriate travel insurance. Certain policies have an age limit, and getting travel insurance that caters for your exact needs is essential - the cost is worth the peace of mind.
- Don’t overexert yourself. Whilst there’s nothing stopping mature travellers from doing the Inca Trail, hiking in Patagonia or other challenging activities, it’s worth doing some research to make sure you know what you’re signing up for.
- Speak to your doctor. This goes for all travellers young and old, even just for peace of mind so that you are aware of altitude risks and which foods should be avoided etc.
- Take practical luggage. A good travel bag with wheels makes the world of difference, and you should avoid overpacking to reduce the weight of your luggage. Some planes and boats have luggage weight limits and recommendations so make sure you are aware of these.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is a simple but effective trick to lessen chances of altitude sickness.
We hope you have found this guide useful, and realise that planning a holiday to Latin America for over 50s should not be a daunting task. Browse our holidays or get in contact if you have any queries.