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Boldly Go: Planning A Retirement Trip That Will Put Snowbirds To Shame

12/15/2014 12:48 EST | Updated 12/15/2014 12:59 EST
Dan Barnes via Getty Images

Now that you’re retired, the world is your oyster. You have the free time to go just about anywhere your budget allows, so why stick to the tried-and-true destinations? Here are seven road (and air) trip suggestions that will remind you why you retired in the first place.

Boldly Go: Planning A Retirement Trip That Will Put Snowbirds To Shame

Iceland

Sure, it has "ice" in its name, but you’ll find a warm welcome in this island nation, a handy stopping point on your way to or from Europe. Unwind in the Blue Lagoon hot springs, a civilized spot near Reykjavik where you can cool off with a pint of locally brewed Gullfoss beer at the swim-up bar. From there, a day’s drive brings you to the iceberg-dotted Jokulsarlon lagoon, which you can explore by Zodiac. Listen for the periodic thundering crack that signals the glacier at the far end of the lagoon is calving.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

By all means, check out the big attractions in northern Thailand’s largest city — including the fun but touristy night bazaar—but leave lots of time to explore the hinterland around the city, too. Hike to off-the-grid mountain villages where Karen weavers create colourful textiles on hand looms, or cycle past banana trees and bougainvillea to reach small towns dominated by glittering Buddhist temples.

Road to Hana, Hawaii

Let everyone else lounge on the beach. You’re off to discover the heart of Maui on the 85-kilometre road to Hana. Rent a convertible, put the top down and inhale the rich scents of mango and ginger as you drive through thick green forests. Every bend in the road seems to reveal another shimmering waterfall, quaint bridge or surf-rimmed rocky shoreline. It’s as far from a packaged luau as you can get.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

This isn’t so much a city you tour as a city you absorb. Stroll lively neighbourhoods like Palermo Hollywood, where sidewalk cafes hum with conversation late into the night. Savour a juicy Argentine steak and a bottle of Malbec. Cheer on the city’s iconic futbol (soccer) team, the Boca Juniors, or attempt BA’s most famous dance, the tango, in a traditional milonga (dance hall).

Montserrat

This little tropical island, a 20-minute flight from Antigua, fell off the world’s tourism radar in 1997, when a volcanic explosion covered the southern half with rocks and ash. But the northern half remains safe and populated, and it’s one of the most charming, laid-back corners of the Caribbean. Most visitors rent a car and stay in a villa; if you’re lucky, you might sleep under a roof that once sheltered Paul McCartney or Mark Knopfler, back in the days when Sir George Martin ran a recording studio here.

California State Route 1

This coastal route along California’s coast has it all: vibrant street life in Venice and Santa Monica, movie stars’ homes in Malibu, tony shops in Santa Barbara, Spanish colonial history in San Luis Obispo, opulent Hearst Castle, dramatic mountains and cliffs in Big Sur, a storied jazz festival in Monterey and even an unforgettable drive across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Easter Island

No matter how many magazine photos you’ve seen of Easter Island’s moai (giant stone heads), there’s no substitute for visiting the real thing. These windswept islands, some of the most isolated inhabited real estate on earth, are like nowhere else you’ve ever been — from the cowboys riding their horses down the main street of the only town to the vividly bright stars in a night sky almost free of light pollution.