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If you long to see new sights and have a real adventure beyond being a tourist, educational travel for seniors could be just your ticket. With opportunities to learn more about unique cultures, exotic wildlife, and ancient history, educational travel offers a world of experiences to a wide range of interests and needs. Here are just a few of the tours offered by established companies in 2023.
In addition to offering various educational experiences, most travel organizations offer trips specifically tailored to seniors’ needs and wants.
All of the tour companies listed here have years of expertise catering to the needs and interests of the mature traveler and provide experienced guides to shepherd you throughout your journey. We’ve put together a selection of their 2023 offerings here to give an idea of the scope available. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Explore each company’s full website to find the trip that lights a spark for you.
Road Scholar is a non-profit organization that advocates living life to the fullest at every age and experiencing the world—not just looking at it.
Established in 1975, they offer transformative learning adventures in every state of the U.S., 150 countries, and aboard ships on rivers and oceans worldwide. So far, they’ve guided over six million people aged 50+. Here are some of their educational opportunities in 2023.
Some trips are geared toward learning about a place; other trips take you somewhere special to learn about a subject or how to do something new. Below are just some of the learning opportunities they offer. In addition to the interests covered here, they also offer trips about Jewish Studies, Homes and Gardens, Sports, Volunteering, and more.
Embark on a new hobby or improve one you’ve already started in a beautiful location.
History buffs will love visiting the site where history was made. Road Scholar offers historical tours in Military History, Black History, Presidential History, and Current Affairs/Political Science.
Science-focused tours allow you to learn about the natural world and sometimes participate in conservation efforts.
These tours offer activity-level options that allow you to adapt your tour to your own needs and abilities.
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Though they have tours worldwide, Italy is the Road Scholar 2023 Campus of the Year. Here are some of the exciting educational opportunities they are offering in Bella Italia.
The Best of Italy. This tour of three Italian capitals includes such adventures as a visit to Rome’s Colosseum and a trip on a high-speed Euro-train to Florence, where an art historian will prep you for a field trip to the Uffizi Gallery. You’ll marvel at Renaissance architecture in Venice and enjoy the renowned cathedrals and cuisine.
Stunning Sardinia. Visit the mysterious archeological sites of the Nuragic Civilization and learn how wave after wave of cultures left their mark. Enjoy an on-site lecture at Sa Dom’es’Orcu—a giant’s tomb–one of the best preserved and biggest in Sardinia. In Nora, you’ll visit an archeological park on ruins founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th Century BCE.
Living and Learning in Siena. Live like a local in Siena, an hour outside of Florence. Attend daily language classes to improve your conversational Italian, so you can shop the outdoor markets and rub elbows with the Siena residents. Then join fellow Road Scholars for lectures on topics like medieval architecture, occasional happy hours and meals, and field trips to neighboring vineyards, olive oil mills, cheese factories, and more.
The Smithsonian Institution, America’s cultural and scientific resource for more than 170 years, aims to increase and spread knowledge. And that’s exactly what Smithsonian Journeys does for mature travelers—guided by world-class experts who are adventurous, life-long learners.
Smithsonian Journeys offer many different travel styles, including classic land journeys, cultural stays, small ship cruises, and even private jets. They also have a simple search tool to help you find your perfect journey. Here is a sample of their popular tours:
Travelers looking to delve into a scientific subject may find what they are looking for in the Smithsonian’s interest-focused trips.
Whether you’re catching the latest cinematic wonders or experiencing the location of your favorite mystery novels firsthand, these tours bring film and literature to life.
Science lovers can get up close and personal with the universe or go deep to see prehistoric art at the source in these tours geared to scientific exploration.
These stays feature opportunities to immerse yourself in the culture and language of a specific place.
These tours give you a multi-faceted adventure and a chance to go deep into the place and people.
Eternal Japan. Explore the past and present from ancient temples and peaceful shrines to the bustling shopping and nightlife of Tokyo. Visit Mt. Fuji and hear about local conservation efforts at the Mt. Fuji World Heritage Center. Observe the ancient art of calligraphy at the gallery of the preeminent calligrapher, Koshun Masunaga. Attend a traditional tea ceremony in Takayama and discover this graceful ritual’s symbolism and spirituality. Then step back in time to Nijo-jo Castle, the extravagant 17th-century residence of the shoguns who ruled Japan for more than 250 years.
Waterways of Holland and Belgium. This popular cruise aboard upscale, small river ships showcases Holland and Belgium’s art and architecture, lush gardens, and charming medieval villages. Cruise along Amsterdam’s canals lined with 16th- and 17th-century gabled row houses. Visit the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens in time to see seven million tulips in bloom. Enjoy a guided tour of the largest-ever retrospective of the works of Johannes Vermeer. Learn about the history and production of Delft porcelain at the Royal Delft Porcelain Factory. And on the Zeeland Coast, witness the country’s ongoing battle with the sea, and visit one of the storm surge barriers.
Alaska: The Last Great Frontier. Experience Alaska’s vibrant culture influenced by its indigenous people and the state’s frontier history. You’ll enjoy a private tour of the Smithsonian’s Arctic Studies Center. Look at local Native American culture at a living museum celebrating Native crafts, dance, and storytelling. Enjoy two full days to spot abundant wildlife and explore the unspoiled Denali National Park and Preserve on hikes, wilderness tours, and various optional activities. End your time with a wildlife cruise amid the glaciers of Prince William Sound.
Segovia: A One-Week Stay in the Heart of Spain. This activity-packed tour of the birthplace of Queen Isabella includes excursions to Madrid and Toledo. You’ll see one of the best-preserved, elevated Roman aqueducts in Europe. Visit the interior of a fairy-tale castle—Alcazar de Segovia. Learn about the cross-cultural connections of medieval Arab, Jewish, and Christian sites in Toledo. Discuss contemporary Spain with a local expert. Go on an exclusive, private tour of Madrid’s Prado Museum that showcases the art of Rubens, Goya, and El Greco. And explore the famed Royal Palace of La Granja, reminiscent of the Palace of Versailles and famous for its 26 fountains.
Splendors of Morocco Experience a land of contrasts. Burning sands of the Sahara and snow-capped mountains. Roman ruins and sacred mosques. Many different cultures have left their mark here– Phoenicians, Romans, Berbers, Jews, Arabs, and the Portuguese and French. You’ll visit four imperial cities from Rabat to Marrakech–each a World Heritage site. Admire stunning mosaics at the Roman ruin of Volubis. Travel through the lush cedar forests of the high Atlas Mountains. Spend two days in medieval Fez, exploring the artisans’ quarters and watching them ply their trade. And make your way along the Route of a Thousand Kasbahs to see everyday life in Berber villages.
Established in 1987, Eldertreks is exclusively for people who want to experience the world and all its exotic wonders. They specialize in off-the-beaten-path, small-group adventures by both land and sea in over 100 countries. Their travel packages are hassle-free and all-inclusive, including entrance fees, tips, etc. (unless noted).
Here are a few of ElderTrek’s popular trips to give you an idea of the types of trips available in their vast catalog.
Egypt – Land of the Pharaohs. Visit 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Great Pyramids of Giza and Saqqara and King Tut’s Tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Your tour kicks off with an in-depth look at Egypt’s ancient history at the Antiquity Museum in Cairo. Immerse yourself in Nubian, Bedouin, and Berber culture, dance, and feasts. Go off-roading in the dunes of the Great Sand Sea. Then relax on a 3-night, 5-star cruise along the scenic Nile River from Aswan to Luxor.
The Great Silk Road Adventure. Discover the importance of the legendary Silk Road as the main trade route between Imperial Rome and China. It also connected ancient cities and religious and spiritual centers. This itinerary will take you to the western edge of the Great Wall of China, includes a visit with the famed Terra Cotta Warriors, and a camel safari in the Taklamakan desert with stops along several oases.
Into the Northwest Passage – East to West. Follow in the wakes of intrepid polar explorers like Franklin, Rae, and Amundsen. Only this time, you’ll sail the great sea route comfortably aboard the Ocean Endeavor. You’ll depart from Greenland, home to towering icebergs, dramatic fjords, and calving glaciers. Travel with scientists, artists, and local experts who’ll share the rich history and culture. A fleet of Zodiacs will take you on fascinating excursions to watch for birds, whales, and polar bears.
Eastern Cuba. Your journey takes you through the colonial gems of Santiago, Bayamo, Gibara, and Baracoa, where Christopher Columbus left a cross in their cathedral. You’ll cook up authentic Cuban cuisine and sample the local delicacies—hike, and boat in the most diverse national park in the Caribbean. And learn the fascinating history of Fidel Castro and his revolution.
Lions & Tigers of India. There’s a small pocket of northwestern India where rare Asiatic Lions still roam, and Eldertracks will take you there. You’ll also journey to three national parks searching for the Royal Bengal Tiger and India’s majestic leopard. This adventure also includes visits to New and Old Delhi, Mumbai, Udaipur, Jawai Dam, and the erotic temples of Khajuraho.
For over 40 years, GET (Grand European Travel) has been a trusted travel agent for affordable, hassle-free, educational tours worldwide and is well-known for giving travelers access to exclusive savings on tours through award-winning travel brands like Trafalgar. As an AARP-preferred tour company, AARP members can even save $100 on select tours.
GET also specializes in the solo traveler, with all-inclusive cruises that offer safe, rewarding travel experiences. And GET cares about sustainability. Wherever you go, they strive to positively impact the planet, the people, and wildlife. Their motto is Make Travel Matter®. Here’s a sampling from their 300+ Value Vacations operated by Trafalgar:
GET offers some interesting niche experiences and focuses its trips around them. From fall foliage tours to the Scottish Military tattoo, if there’s something you’ve always wanted to see firsthand, it’s worth checking to see if it’s on their list.
Choose your cities and experience a different magical market most nights of your trip while exploring their towns during the day.
Find sisterhood and companionship on these tours only open to women.
You’ll find flowers, military parades, and more in GET’s special interest tours.
These tours allow you to explore multiple towns or locations on the same trip
Scenic Parks Explorer. Travel through eight western states to eight epic National Parks, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, and Grand Tetons. Your adventure includes learning about the history of the Mormon pioneers; Yellowstone’s geothermal wonders; Billings, Montana’s railroad legacy; and a visit to the Little Big Horn battlefield.
Best of Ireland. Experience some of Ireland’s most iconic sites and learn about this country’s rich history. The itinerary includes starting in Dublin, where a local specialist will show you the sights, including a medieval St. Patrick’s Cathedral tour. Discover the everyday life of 18th and 19th-century Irish people at a visit to Limerick’s Bunratty Castle. Stop at the house of Waterford Crystal and watch master artisans at work. You’ll want your camera when you see the towering Cliffs of Moher plunge dramatically into the Atlantic Ocean.
Costa Rica Eco Adventure. Get ready to experience Pura Vida, which is Costa Rican for zest for life. Spend quality time with local residents and observe amazing plant species and wildlife. Learn the history of chocolate from master chocolatiers. Take a guided river journey to secluded Tortuguero in search of howler monkeys, toucans, and crocodiles. Visit the Monteverde cloud forest–a biodiverse sanctuary famous for its unrivaled collection of orchid species.
Paris Explorer. Stroll the boulevards to experience the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs-Élysée. Spend the day with a Local Specialist for an informative tour of the opulent Palace of Versailles and its manicured gardens. A certified “nose” will help you create your own signature fragrance at Fragonard Parfumerie. Enjoy an unforgettable evening on an intimate tour of the renowned Louvre Museum and its exceptional collection of art treasures.
Since 2012, Discover Corps has been inspiring travelers to become advocates for our planet’s natural wonders, cultural treasures, and local communities through immersive and sustainable vacations that are focused on helping make the world a better place.
Their small-group tours open unique worlds and offer the chance to learn, lend a helping hand, and give back to causes you care about. Discover Corps caters to many people, including active older adults and families. Their tours offer an ideal way for grandparents to travel and build special memories with their grandchildren.
Affordably priced Grassroots Expeditions involve more hands-on volunteering and feature 3-star locally-owned accommodations.
Thailand: The Elephant Experience. When you’re not exploring the rich culture of the northern city of Chiang Ma–enjoying the local cuisine and bustling markets, or visiting the magnificent Buddhist temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which dates to the 1300s, you’ll volunteer at a local elephant sanctuary and walk, bathe and feed the rescued elephants. You’ll also meet with a women’s empowerment project and raft down the Mae Tang River. See how another social enterprise raises awareness of elephant conservation by creating decorated elephant statues and placing them worldwide.
Oaxaca Women and Girls Empowerment. Helping women thrive is essential to the health of any community, and Discover Corps partners with various organizations to help advance women’s rights worldwide. On this tour, you’ll visit Oaxaca, the heart of Mexican Zapotec culture and home to Latin America’s most beautiful colonial plazas and churches. You’ll spend two days with our inspiring non-profit partner Fundacion En Via, visit women-led businesses, lend a hand in a dyeing and weaving workshop, and attend a chocolate-making class. In another village, you’ll attend a workshop and learn how to make alebrijes—brightly colored imaginary creatures that play an important role in Mexican folklore. You’ll also explore the UNESCO-protected ancient ruins of Monte Alban, discover the bizarre rock formation of Hierve el Agua, and enjoy the up-and-coming cuisine Oaxaca is known for.
Tanzania: Safari & Service. You’ll discover the heart, soul, and wildlife of East Africa while you get involved in community-led education projects. You’ll volunteer a few mornings at a small village school and tutor children in English and math, help teachers create instructional aids, or even help plant a school garden or build a classroom. Take a nature walk to a waterfall along the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. Learn to make traditional batik art and visit a coffee cooperative that supports local women. And you’ll explore three of the world’s most famous safari parks by Jeep and see an array of wildlife, including zebras, lions, leopards, elephants, wildebeests, and rhinos in their natural habitat.
High-end Signature Journeys feature four- and five-star hotels and other luxury accommodations with learning opportunities less focused on volunteering.
Australia: Beachside Wildlife Adventure. Australia has some of the most unique wildlife on the planet, and Discover Corps introduces you to some of them and the interesting people working to protect them. You’ll unwind along Australia’s famed Gold Coast and sunbathe on pristine white sand beaches. Accompany rangers at one of Australia’s leading conservation centers to help care for kangaroos, koalas, and wallabies. Explore the northern city of Cairns and sail out to the Great Barrier Reef with a Master Reef Guide to see how conservation efforts are helping to protect this vital ecosystem.
Costa Rica: Eco Rainforest Adventure. The southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica is home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity and 50% of Costa Rica’s wildlife. On this tour, you’ll visit the Poas Volcano and scout for monkeys, colorful birds, sloths, and marine animals along the Pacific Coast. You’ll visit local coffee farms and learn how beans make it from crop to cup. You’ll also help two local conservation organizations by learning how to set camera traps to monitor the movement of wildlife and get involved in a project planting trees. The tour accommodations include a luxury resort and spa nestled on a 40-acre plantation, luxury tents on an 843 private-acre reserve, and finally, a 4-star boutique hotel that offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and rainforest-covered mountains.
This article is intended for general informational and educational purposes only, and should not be construed as financial or tax advice. For more information about whether a reverse mortgage may be right for you, you should consult an independent financial advisor. For tax advice, please consult a tax professional.