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RIVIERA TRAVEL • 2018 & 2019 TOURS COLLECTION

FA S C I N AT I N G T O U R S F O R T H E D I S C E R N I N G T R AV E L L E R 2018 & 2019


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Our sixth tour with Riviera “Travel and we have never been disappointed. ”

Mrs J Etherington

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See page 242

What a “wonderful

holiday! It far exceeded our expectations – memories of it are beginning to settle in my mind and will last forever.

Ms Ford

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See page 264

This was an experience of a lifetime, made seamless by our “excellent tour manager. ”

Mrs Bennett-Everington

Cover image: Lake Bled, Slovenia (pg 112)

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LET OUR PA SSION INSPIRE YOURS Seeing the soft morning light catch the utterly exquisite Taj Mahal at her most serene, or simply hand-making Puglia’s mouthwatering orecchiette pasta with talented local chefs in their side-street trattoria – all our holidays promise genuine, life-enriching experiences. We are totally passionate about the world’s immense diversity and devote meticulous care to crafting inspirational journeys studded with enlightening visits that teach and entertain, but with so many subtle and unique touches included beyond the obvious sights. You’ll return feeling connected with and understanding the hidden heart of your destination. This is what makes us the UK’s most professional touring company, recognised by Which? for many of our 34 years. Our customers appreciate our thoughtful approach and often compare our warmth and hospitality to travelling with friends. From the expertise of our friendly holiday advisers, to the care and attention of our dedicated tour managers, delivering experiences that create lifelong memories is a passion for the whole team. In this brochure you’ll find our ever-growing collection of tours to Europe and the rest of the world – all at refreshingly affordable prices. We hope you’ll be inspired and we look forward to welcoming you on your next unforgettable journey. David Clemson Managing Director

WHAT’S N E W UMBRIA, PERUGIA & ASSISI: THE HEART OF ITALY Journey to the green heart of Italy to discover the unspoilt region of Umbria. We take you through rolling countryside, up soaring hills topped with remarkably preserved towns, down into the magical Frasassi Caves and onto the sparkling waters of Lake Trasimeno. See page 46.

SARDINIA: ALGHERO, COSTA SMERALDA & CORSICA Experience a vastly different side of Italy, where pristine beaches nestle on dazzling coastlines, while the wild hinterland reveals mysterious prehistoric settlements. To get under the skin of the island, we also explore the best of rural Sardinia. See page 60. SPAIN’S BASQUE COUNTRY, LA RIOJA & BURGOS Immerse yourself in Basque culture and explore the captivating towns along the revered Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. Northern Spain boasts spectacular scenery, superb Rioja wines and an inspired gastronomic heritage waiting to be discovered. See page 88.

Bonifacio, Corsica

MONTENEGRO: BUDVA, CETINJE & THE BAY OF KOTOR Let us take you on a tour of mysterious and unspoilt Montenegro. With an

intriguing mix of cultures and historical influences, and an incredible mountainous landscape bordered by the Adriatic, this tiny Balkan country has so much to offer. See page 104. IRELAND: BELFAST, GALWAY & THE RING OF KERRY Discover Belfast, Dublin and Galway, the soaring Cliffs of Moher and the extraordinary Giant’s Causeway. We follow scenic roads and rugged coastal routes, including the legendary Ring of Kerry, on an epic Irish adventure from city to countryside to coast. See page 188. JORDAN & PETRA Journey with us to Jordan, a remarkable country with extraordinary landscapes and world-class monuments. Discover the ‘Rose-red City’ of Petra, bob in the Dead Sea, marvel at the desert’s vastness in Wadi Rum and experience Jordan’s renowned hospitality. See page 214.

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WHY CHOOSE RIVIER A TR AVEL Experience a holiday with a difference whenever you travel with us. Choose from a wide range of holidays to more than 140 destinations across the world, be it a short city break or a 22-day adventure. THOUGHTFUL ITINERARIES

A red-eyed tree frog in Costa Rica

Every itinerary has been meticulously crafted by our team of travel experts and provides fascinating perspectives on the culture, history, gastronomy, art and architecture of the places we visit. And much like a well-told story, every detail is carefully considered, from the stops we make to the routes we take. We ensure there’s ample free time and unguided visits, so you can continue exploring at your own pace.

EXPERT INSIGHTS Each day brings new opportunities for discovery, with visits to the iconic highlights you’ve no doubt read about and to the equally intriguing gems off the beaten path. Ancient ruins, historic towns and unfamiliar landscapes all come to life in the company of our local guides and tour managers. Our specialists were chosen not only for their wealth of knowledge, but also their flair for engaging audiences and sharing eye-opening insights. It’s like travelling with a friend who happens to know the secrets of every destination.

PERSONALISED EXPERIENCES Our experts have gone to great lengths to curate each holiday so you enjoy the very best of your chosen destination. To enhance your

Explore the Mekong’s fascinating waterborne worlds

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experience, we offer hand-picked highlights which you may wish to add to your holiday (see page 8). And to make your trip extra special, we offer upgrades and extensions as well (see page 11).


The Spanish Steps have long been a meeting place for artists and poets

The mighty Matterhorn

COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE Enjoy scheduled flights at convenient times from a choice of airports across the UK or Eurostar travel with regional rail connections to London on selected tours. You have the option to upgrade to premium economy or business class on many long-haul flights. On arrival, we continue by comfortable, air-conditioned coaches. On longer journeys, internal flights or train travel are included to make the most of our time.

PEACE OF MIND RIVIERA TRAVEL HOSPITALITY Perhaps our most distinguishing feature is the care we show our customers. We’re a friendly team who are passionate about travel and genuinely care about making your holiday the best it can be. We make every effort to get to know you by name and your preferences by heart. We listen and take on board your feedback for future improvements. And if anything does go wrong, we promise to make it right. After all, we would love for you to come back again – as most of our customers do.

STAYS WITH A SPECIAL TOUCH Our carefully chosen accommodation is primarily rated four stars and well-located. We tend to work with privately owned hotels that offer something special, be it a rooftop bar with panoramic views or a delightful position close to the old town centre. Most hotel stays come with breakfast daily and selected meals but in destinations renowned for their cuisine, we may include breakfast only, giving you the opportunity to seek out local eateries and sample the regional specialities.

Our tour managers are with you throughout the trip to ensure your experience is exceptional. In the unlikely event of an emergency during the journey, you can always seek their assistance or call our dedicated 24-hour helpline to speak to a member of our team in the UK.

THE RIVIERA TRAVEL PRICE PROMISE Book with confidence, knowing our award-winning holidays offer exceptional value and there are no hidden costs. Our pricing is transparent, clear and includes essentials such as taxes and fuel supplements. Once you’ve booked your Riviera Travel holiday, we guarantee the cost will never increase, no matter what happens. We do not inflate our prices or offer artificial discounts, nor do we automatically include gratuities as they are entirely at your discretion. Furthermore, we have never levied surcharges for fuel price increases, exchange rate changes or additional taxes.

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UNRIVALLED E XPERTIS E Our expertise is a key ingredient in ensuring the success of our holidays. Everyone at Riviera Travel, from the product specialists to the tour managers and local guides, goes the extra mile so you get the most from your trip. THE BEST TOUR MANAGERS Throughout every Riviera Travel holiday, you’ll be accompanied by an experienced tour manager, whose sole mission is to ensure you have a superb time. They play several roles most adeptly: a group leader who works tirelessly to oversee every single detail, a destination expert able to offer revealing insights into local life, and a thoughtful friend ready to listen and lend a hand when needed – nothing is too much trouble for these seasoned travellers. Customers have described our tour managers as knowledgeable, kind, well-organised and resourceful, as well as having a great sense of humour and a genuine passion for the places we visit. Many have been with us for more than a decade, some even two. For them, being a tour manager is not just a job – it’s a passion, and you’ll learn far more from them than you would any guidebook.

I’ve worked with Riviera Travel for 20 years and “enjoyed every minute of it. It’s inspiring to be part

of a team that’s clearly passionate about customers and the amazing places we visit.

Mike Cole, Tour Manager

Discover spectacularly sited Ronda, Spain

The Mezquita, the Great Mosque of Córdoba

ADVANCED AUDIO SYSTEM We use the state-of-the-art Vox audio system during most of our guided tours. Compact, lightweight and easy to use, these handy devices have a long broadcast range, so you can linger a moment and not miss a thing. The Fountain of Neptune, Bologna, Italy

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The beautiful YuYuan Garden is an oasis in the heart of old Shanghai

EXPERT PARTNERS We partner with highly respected experts in various fields on a number of tours to help you uncover different perspectives. Having presented critically acclaimed television programmes for the BBC, they are well-poised to take you on an exciting journey through time and culture. Andrew Graham-Dixon, art critic

Lucy Worsley, historian and author

Susie Barrie & Peter Richards, Masters of Wine

Dan Cruickshank, art historian

AWARD-WINNING REPUTATION Since our inception in 1984, we have been consistently recognised for outstanding service, value and quality. For five years, Which? has awarded us the highly coveted Recommended Provider status, and in 2017, we were named ‘Travel Brand of the Year’.

St Mark’s Basilica, Venice

Piazza del Duomo, Lecce

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PERSONALIS E YOUR HOLIDAY Travel offers not just a chance to see new sights, but the hope of encountering new moments of wonder. While our itineraries include so much, we also offer a wide range of additional experiences to ensure you have every opportunity to embrace the places we visit. From feasting on authentic local cuisine to marvelling at the world’s myriad wonders from exhilarating perspectives, these rewarding experiences can make your trip one to remember forever.

A gondola ride offers a different view of Venice

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ARTS, CULTURE & HISTORY

GASTRONOMY

TRAVEL WITH A TWIST

TOUR EXTENSIONS

UPGRADES

AIRPORT EXTRAS


ARTS, CULTURE & HISTORY Immerse yourself in fascinating cultures around the world. Be moved by the melodramatic masterpieces of Mozart in a Baroque palace, or skip the queues and discover some of the world’s finest art on a guided tour of the jaw-dropping Sistine Chapel. Perhaps follow in the footsteps of Catherine the Great and enjoy a world-class performance in St Petersburg, a city synonymous with classical ballet. Enjoy a classical performance in Salzburg

Russian ballet

GASTRONOMY The world is a melting pot of mouthwatering flavours waiting to be savoured. Try your hand at mastering the culinary delights of the Mediterranean with local cooks, or partake in Istria’s long-lived tradition of truffle hunting – with tastings afterwards, of course! Or simply indulge in a sumptuous afternoon tea in an iconic luxury hotel. We also offer a choice of dining options on some tours, so you can have dinner in your hotel or dine independently to unearth the area’s gastronomic treasures.

Neapolitan pizza

Wine and tapas

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TRAVEL WITH A TWIST There’s nothing quite like a fresh perspective to take your trip from fine to phenomenal. Soar to the skies in a helicopter to fully appreciate the majesty of the Alps, or gaze in awe at the mind-boggling magnitude of the Grand Canyon. Perhaps learn about the diverse wildlife of South Africa on an eyeopening bush walk with a ranger. Take a well-deserved break and relax with a traditional hammam spa experience.

Discover incredible wildlife on a ranger-led bush walk

Take a zip-line tour through the rainforest of Costa Rica

See the Grand Canyon by helicopter

Look out for the many ways to personalise your holiday throughout this brochure. Call us to pre-book these handpicked experiences. For details, please refer to the itineraries.

TOUR EXTENSIONS

Add on a few days to your trip to discover more of the world. DISCOVER JERUSALEM’S MANY WONDERS On our new tour of Jordan & Petra, you may wish to extend your stay with three nights in Jerusalem, Israel’s vibrant capital city. Visit the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the famous Dome of the Rock, the moving Yad Vashem memorial and more. See page 214. CRUISE EXTENSION TO ASWAN, EGYPT While cruising in five-star luxury on the River Nile from Cairo to Luxor, why not continue for a further four nights to Aswan. You’ll enjoy a guided tour of the temples of Karnak and Luxor, an afternoon sail on a traditional felucca to Kitchener Island and more. See page 218.

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LUXURY RAIL FROM CAPE TOWN TO PRETORIA Journey for three days with Rovos Rail on one of the world’s most luxurious trains. Depart captivating Cape Town for the ‘Jacaranda city’ of Pretoria, winding through the scenic Winelands and stopping to tour historic Matjiesfontein and Kimberley. See page 222. JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF THE AMAZON Extend your trip to Peru with a voyage deep into the Amazon rainforest, staying two nights at an excellent eco-lodge. Explore nature trails and navigate rivers and lakes by canoe to spot amazing wildlife. See page 238. SPEND FIVE DAYS IN PERU On our South America Highlights tour we visit the colourful countries of Argentina and Brazil, but why not extend your trip with five days in Peru? Discover Machu Picchu the fabled city of the Incas, tour the Sacred Valley of the Incas and more. See page 242.


UPGRADES Our holidays include scheduled flights and carefully chosen accommodation, but you also have the freedom and flexibility to choose an upgrade to make your experience absolutely unforgettable. Simply let us know when making a booking. HOTELS Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or prefer a room with a balcony and sea view, why not elevate your experience and upgrade your hotel room?

AIR & RAIL TRAVEL Upgrade to first class on rail journeys within the UK or to Standard Premier Class when travelling by Eurostar. On longer flights, you may prefer to travel in Premium Economy or Business Class for the extra space and that touch of luxury.

Singapore Airlines, Business Class on the A350

AIRPORT EXTRAS Skip long airport security queues with a Fast Track pass and once airside, relax in peace away from the bustle of the terminal in a comfortable airport lounge. Pre-book an airport lounge

SEVEN NIGHTS CRUISING ALASKA FROM VANCOUVER While in Canada, embark on a seven-night full-board cruise with Holland Line America, gliding through the stunning Inside Passage and visiting the awe-inspiring Glacier Bay National Park, home to humpback whales and calving glaciers. See page 246. DISCOVER THE CHARMING HILL RESORT OF SHIMLA Continue your tour of India with a comfortable rail journey to Shimla, the ‘Queen of Hills’ and explore the many reminders of British colonial life. You’ll stay in the town’s haven of luxury, the five-star Oberoi Cecil, and enjoy a sumptuous buffet dinner. See page 264. EXPLORE AUSTRALIA’S ‘TOP END’ Extend your discovery of Australia with three extra days traversing the ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory. Visit Kakadu and Litchfield national parks and marvel at incredible rock art dating back to ancient times. See page 300. 11


THOUGHTFUL INCLUSIONS WITH E VERY TOUR INSIGHTFUL GUIDED TOURS AND VISITS Every day brings new opportunities for discovery – visits are included, often with an expert local guide to share eyeopening insights and give you a full experience of your destination.

OUTSTANDING TOUR MANAGERS A caring and professional Riviera Travel tour manager is with you throughout the trip on every tour to ensure your experience is unforgettable.

FREE TIME TO EXPLORE Our itineraries are thoughtfully balanced with free days and unguided visits, so you can wander at your own pace. Perhaps make the most of your trip with a ‘Personalise Your Holiday’ option.

PERSONAL SERVICE Enjoy award-winning service from our friendly, UK-based team. In the unlikely event of an emergency during your holiday, you can always seek the assistance of your tour manager or call our dedicated 24-hour helpline.

HAND-PICKED HOTELS Stay in well-located hotels primarily rated four stars and carefully selected by our product experts for the right blend of comfort, service, amenities and, of course, location.

BREAKFAST AND DINING OPTIONS Most hotel stays come with breakfast daily. We also include selected meals on many tours – some in carefully chosen restaurants. In destinations renowned for their cuisine we offer dining options, so you can dine at your hotel or seek out a restaurant of your choice.

LOCAL DEPARTURES Enjoy scheduled flights at convenient times from a wide selection of airports and stations across the UK.

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FINANCIAL PROTECTION For your peace of mind, our holidays are bonded with ABTA, ATOL and IATA.


THERE’S SO MUCH MORE TO DISCOVER Visit our website to see our entire collection of holidays. From five-star river cruising to an exhilarating journey by luxury rail, there is a Riviera Travel holiday to suit every traveller. LUXURY RIVER CRUISES IN EUROPE Choose from 14 inspired itineraries that take you along Europe’s iconic waterways, from the Douro to the Danube. Sail aboard splendid five-star ships and enjoy stops in fascinating towns and villages, with many guided tours and excursions included.

MEDITERRANEAN CRUISES Sail between the idyllic islands and lessvisited ports along the stunning Adriatic coast on superb four-star yacht cruisers that carry up to just 40 guests. Or rediscover a captivating maritime tradition on a luxurious tall ship, inspired by the 1902-built Preussen and an awesome sight with her 42 sails fully deployed. For voyages that take you to the historic, cultural and artistic heart of the Mediterranean, our small-ship cruises offer insightful talks on board by experts skilled at bringing to life the fascinating stops on your itinerary.

ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME JOURNEYS Experience an iconic transatlantic crossing aboard the world-renowned Queen Mary 2, sailing west from Southampton to New York and continuing with your chosen tour of North America. Or head east and embark on

Five-star river cruising

an unforgettable river cruise in Asia, exploring the mesmerising waterborne worlds of the region’s most significant rivers: the mighty Mekong or the sacred Ganges. Perhaps discover the heart of India by luxury rail, from the flawless grandeur of the Taj Mahal and the imposing fortresses of Rajasthan to the teeming markets of Jaipur.

SOLO TRAVEL All our tours are suitable for solo travellers, but we also have a selection of holidays exclusively for people travelling on their own. You’ll enjoy the same thoughtful inclusions, but with the added benefit of an entire double or twin room all to yourself and a welcome dinner to get to know your fellow like-minded travellers.

GROUP TRAVEL Let our dedicated groups department turn your travel plans into a reality. Select a tour from the hundreds we already offer, or let us tailor an itinerary to suit your needs – all at a competitive price. We’ll take care of every little detail, leaving you free to relax and enjoy your holiday.

The heart of India by luxury train

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CONTENTS I TA LY Bologna, Parma & Ravenna.............................................................. 16 Classical Italy: Florence, Siena, Assisi & Rome (plus )........................................................... 18 Florence & Tuscany.............................................................................. 22 Hidden Italy: Padova, Vicenza & Mantova............................... 26 Lake Como, St Moritz & the Bernina Express.......................... 30 Lake Garda, Venice & Verona (plus )............................ 34 Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn..................................... 38 Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples............................................. 42 NEW Umbria, Perugia & Assisi: the Heart of Italy............... 46 Pisa, the Cinque Terre & Portofino............................................... 50 Puglia, Lecce & Vieste......................................................................... 54 Rome: Ancient & Baroque................................................................. 58 NEW Sardinia: Alghero, Costa Smeralda & Corsica............. 60 Sicily............................................................................................................. 64 Western Sicily, Palermo & the Aeolian Islands...................... 68 Turin & Piedmont: Italy’s Best-Kept Secret.............................. 72 Venice: Classic & Undiscovered......................................................74 S PA I N Classical Spain: Seville, Córdoba & Granada (plus )........................................................................ 76 Barcelona & the Highlights of Catalonia.................................. 80 Madrid, Salamanca & Toledo........................................................... 84 NEW Spain’s Basque Country, La Rioja & Burgos.................. 88 P O RT U G A L Lisbon, Porto & the Douro Valley................................................. 92 Madeira, the Pearl of the Atlantic................................................. 96 C ROAT I A Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro................100 NEW Montenegro: Budva, Cetinje & the Bay of Kotor.....104 Northern Croatia: Zagreb & Istria..............................................108 S LOV E N I A Slovenia & Lake Bled.......................................................................... 112 AUS T R I A & C ZEC H R E PU B L I C Austrian Tyrol & Innsbruck............................................................ 116 Lakes & Mountains of Austria.......................................................120 Prague, Vienna, Bohemia & the Danube Valley................... 124 RO M A N I A Transylvania & Bucharest...............................................................128 B U LG A R I A Bulgaria: the Balkans’ Hidden Treasure....................................132

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EUROPE

B E LG I U M Bruges (plus

)..........................................................................158

FR A N C E Dijon, Lyon & the Best of Burgundy...........................................136 Dordogne, Albi & Carcassonne.....................................................138 Monet’s Garden, the Loire Valley & Fontainebleau...................................................................................142 Mont Blanc, Lake Geneva & Annecy..........................................144 Nice, Monaco & the Côte d’Azur.................................................148 Paris............................................................................................................150 Timeless Provence............................................................................... 152 Rouen, Honfleur & the Highlights of Normandy (plus )...........................156 S W I T ZE R L A N D Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland..................................................160 Switzerland, the Matterhorn & the Glacier Express.........164 IREL AND NEW Ireland: Belfast, Galway & the Ring of Kerry............188 Cork, Kilkenny & the Ring of Kerry............................................192 GERMANY Berlin, Dresden, Meissen & Colditz (plus ) .............168 Romantic Rhine, Black Forest & Alsace................................... 170 S C A N D I N AV I A Helsinki, Tallinn & Riga..................................................................... 174 Iceland....................................................................................................... 178 Norway.....................................................................................................180 RUSS I A Moscow & St Petersburg.................................................................182 POLAND Krakow......................................................................................................186 M A LTA Malta Uncovered..................................................................................194 C Y PRUS Discover Northern Cyprus..............................................................196 G R E EC E Classic Greece.......................................................................................200 Western Crete.......................................................................................204


WORLDWIDE

MIDDLE EAST Istanbul, Ephesus & Troy.................................................................208 Jerusalem, Galilee & the Dead Sea (plus ).............. 212 NEW Jordan & Petra.......................................................................... 214 Wonders of the Nile: the Long Cruise from Cairo..............218 A FR I C A Marrakesh & the Atlas Mountains (plus )................216 South Africa (plus ).............................................................222 Victoria Falls, Botswana Safari & Cape Town.......................226 Namibia....................................................................................................230 THE AMERICAS Costa Rica – from the Caribbean to the Pacific...................234 Peru with Amazon...............................................................................238 South America Highlights...............................................................242 Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer & Alaska Cruise.....................246 California & the Golden West......................................................250 Deep South USA (plus ).....................................................254 Washington DC, New York City & Niagara Falls by Train...................................................................258 Great National Parks of the Western USA.............................260

Chengdu, China

ASIA India & Shimla (plus ).........................................................264 Southern India & the Backwaters of Kerala..........................268 Rajasthan, the Taj Mahal & Amritsar’s Golden Temple..............................................................272 India & Nepal......................................................................................... 276 Sri Lanka (plus ).....................................................................280 A Grand Tour of China (plus ) .......................................284 Japan: Land of the Rising Sun........................................................288 Malaysia, Borneo & Singapore......................................................292 Vietnam & Cambodia (plus )..........................................296 AUS T R A L A S I A Australia.................................................................................................. 300 New Zealand: Land of the Long White Cloud.......................304

ESPECIALLY FOR SOLO TRAVELLERS Travelling on your own doesn’t have to mean travelling alone. A number of our tours are also available just for solo travellers. For details, visit our website or call us to request our solo holiday brochure.

Plaza de España, Seville

HOW TO BOO K Call 01283 245 345

Visit www.rivieratravel.co.uk

Call us from Monday to Friday (9am to 7pm) and on Saturday and Sunday (10am to 4pm)

You can also visit our website to find more information and check the latest availability

Calls may be recorded for training purposes

Riviera Travel, New Manor, 328 Wetmore Road, Burton-on-Trent DE14 1SP

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B O L O G N A , PA R M A & R AV E N N A 5 days from only £649pp

Stunning architecture and cultural treasures dominate this tour of Emilia-Romagna, which takes in delightful Bologna – Italy’s culinary capital – historic Parma, Modena and the Ferrari Museum at Maranello plus the world-famous Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna. Sandwiched between the cultural giants of Venice and Florence is a region of northeastern Italy that’s still comparatively under the radar. Yet for the discerning traveller, Emilia-Romagna offers a treasure trove of delights just waiting to be discovered. Our base for this fascinating short break is its beautiful capital, Bologna, which is known in Italy as La Dotta, La Rossa and La Grassa: The Learned – home of the Western world’s oldest university; The Red – after its many terracotta-coloured rooftops; and The Fat – the city has been at the heart of a rich agricultural region since Etruscan times and has evolved into the capital of Italy’s revered culinary heritage. Nearby is Romanesque Parma, with its imposing 12th-century cathedral and distinctive octagonal baptistry – the cathedral’s frescoes and bas-reliefs are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. You’ll also see the city’s famed Palazzo della Pilotta, a huge palace complex housing several museums and galleries, and visit the home of Ferrari at Maranello. Finally, to Ravenna, the former capital of the Western Roman Empire that boasts eight UNESCO World Heritage sites among a plethora of magnificent ancient and artistic landmarks. The detail, colour and beauty of the mosaics adorning the city’s early Christian buildings is simply staggering.

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Food and wine are revered throughout Italy, but take on an almost religious fervour here. EmiliaRomagna is the home of some of the world’s most iconic culinary delights, including irresistibly sweet prosciutto ham from Parma and rich, dark balsamic vinegar from Modena. You’ll visit traditional artisan producers of both to see exactly how they’re made and understand why they’re so prized. Italian history, art, architecture and cuisine at its most authentic – this exceptionally well-balanced tour is a true recipe for success. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN BOLOGNA OR VENICE Arrive at the airport for your flight to Bologna or Venice. We transfer to the four-star Hotel Internazionale for four nights, with breakfast. The hotel is located on one of Bologna’s main shopping streets at the edge of its centro storico or historic centre, which is approximately a 15-minute walk away. The modern rooms feature all the facilities you would expect from a hotel of this standard, including free Wi-Fi, satellite TV, air conditioning, safe, hair dryer and minibar. Bologna really is a food-lovers’ paradise, so we have designed this holiday on a bed and breakfast basis, leaving you free to enjoy evening meals in the city’s many excellent restaurants – you really will be spoilt for choice.

DAY 2 – BOLOGNA & FERRARI MUSEUM This morning we have a guided sightseeing tour of Bologna to fully appreciate this fine old city. Wonderfully preserved over the centuries, its original Roman street plan is still discernible. Ten – of the original 12 – gates encircle the historic centre and


Discover Bologna’s countless architectural and gastronomic gems

PRICE INCLUDES • • • • • •

Enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of Bologna, Italy’s gastronomic capital with a stunning medieval centre and the world’s longest continuous portico Visit a traditional family producer to see how deliciously sweet prosciutto di Parma is cured Discover how a century-old artisanal producer makes Modena’s famed balsamic vinegar Experience the glamour and racing heritage of Ferrari at the marque’s museum in Maranello Marvel at Ravenna’s incomparable Byzantine mosaics on a guided walking tour that includes five UNESCO World Heritage Sites Explore historic Parma on a guided tour, taking in its magnificent 12thcentury Romanesque cathedral

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports with hotel transfers Four nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £649PP

at Bologna’s heart is the majestic main square – the Piazza Maggiore. It’s surrounded by grand Renaissance palaces and is home to the enormous church of San Petronio; despite being one of Europe’s largest basilicas, the building remains unfinished because its sponsors never achieved their ambitious goal of exceeding the grand scale of Saint Peter’s in the Vatican. Adjacent is another delightful square, Piazza del Nettuno, where medieval civic buildings frame a splendid 16th-century statue and fountain dedicated to Neptune. One of Bologna’s many surprises is that it can ‘outdo’ Pisa – in Porta Ravegnana square it boasts not one but two 12th-century leaning towers! Another of the city’s must-see sights is the Western world’s oldest university – founded in 1008, its illustrious alumni include Thomas Becket, Dante, Copernicus and several popes. The pretty Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca is another ‘must see’. Imposingly situated on a hilltop with amazing views, it features the world’s longest continuous portico, which is supported by more than 600 arches and extends an astonishing 2 miles to the edge of central Bologna. After the tour there’s time to explore the city’s maze of tiny alleys and streets, lined by tempting food shops of every description. You can join locals in sampling fine produce and soak up some of Bologna’s

wonderful ambience – remember that you’re off the main tourist trail here, so the enthusiasm for these culinary pleasures is genuine and heartfelt. This afternoon you can choose to explore Bologna further or visit the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, which is dedicated to a brand synonymous with racing heritage, luxury and glamour. You’ll learn about the history of Ferrari’s legendary Formula 1 cars and its sublime contemporary road models, have your photo taken in a Ferrari and even try out a semi-professional F1 simulator (pre-booking is advised). DAY 3 – PARMA This morning we visit another of Emilia-Romagna’s intriguing destinations – Parma. Though its name is synonymous with dry-cured prosciutto ham and Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese, this charming city has been almost untouched by tourism. Your guided tour shines a spotlight on Parma’s culinary heritage and its ravishing buildings, most impressive of which is the beautifully proportioned Romanesque cathedral featuring Correggio’s heavenly Assumption of the Virgin cupola painting and numerous dazzling medieval frescoes. Also of note is the elegant Palazzo della Pilotta, a complex of stately palace buildings and courtyards that includes the National Gallery, which exhibits works by Canaletto, Leonardo and other Italian masters. This afternoon we make the short journey into the Apennine foothills, where the ancient art of preparing the finest Prosciutto di Parma ham is practised in remote villages set in rolling countryside. Our

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY An authentic home-cooking & dining experience in Bologna Savour an authentic home-cooked meal of Bolognese classics in your local host’s apartment. You’ll discover Bologna’s rich culinary tradition, help with the preparation and dine together. From £58pp.

destination is the ‘capital of prosciutto’, Langhirano. It’s home to the Lanfranchi family, who’ve been lovingly preparing and maturing their hams for generations. After getting an insight into their meticulous production methods – real Parma ham must be matured for at least a year – you’ll have the opportunity to sample their truly delicious handiwork. Another treat awaits just outside Modena, at the Acetaia Villa San Donnino. For over a century, artisans have been producing traditional balsamic vinegar here, a process that’s regarded as scientific as winemaking. You’ll see the passion and pride of employees as they uphold this 1,000-year-old craft that involves boiling, fermenting and maturing grape must in wooden casks – the vinegar that you’ll taste at the end of the visit is superb. DAY 4 – RAVENNA Today we take the short drive towards the Adriatic coast to visit a city renowned for its exquisite mosaics – Ravenna. This was a key location in the history of the Roman Empire – in 49 BC Julius Caesar gathered his forces here before famously crossing the nearby Rubicon River to initiate a civil war. Ravenna would later become the last capital of the Western Roman Empire, then capital of the Ostrogothic kingdom and the Byzantine Empire; by 700 AD it was one of Europe’s most important cities. Despite its turbulent history, Ravenna’s compact centre retains many unique buildings spanning a period of 1,500 years. A guided walking tour will bring these outstanding structures to life, covering several 5th- and 6th-century UNESCO World Heritage sites including mausoleums, basilicas and baptistries adorned with historically significant mosaics described by art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon as ‘the pinnacle of Byzantine art’. After immersing yourself in the magnificence of Ravenna’s ancient past, we return to Bologna for some free time. This evening, choose another welcoming trattoria for your final dinner and, perhaps uncorking a bottle of local Sangiovese wine, reflect on what will have been a rewarding few days in this culturally rich and refreshingly unspoilt region of Italy. DAY 5 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Please note: The use of air conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to midSeptember), depending on the temperature.

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C L A S S I C A L I TA LY FLORENCE, SIENA, ASSISI & ROME 8 days from only £849pp

Everything that makes Italy such a richly rewarding destination features on this tour – the magnificent history of Rome, Florence’s majestic Renaissance legacy, the glorious Tuscan countryside and the deep culinary passion of its welcoming people.

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For centuries Italy has attracted visitors in search of culture and romance. Few countries can hope to compare to its huge contributions to art, architecture, design, music, scenery, food and wine. It is home to an extensive classical civilisation, the Renaissance, the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican. Blend this with the striking natural beauty of the Tuscan countryside, the vitality of Rome and its effervescent inhabitants and you have unbeatable ingredients for a tour. We visit some of Tuscany’s great cities – Florence, Siena and Arezzo. Birthplace of Dante and the Renaissance, Florence has been described as the most captivating city in Italy and became the cultural and intellectual hub of Europe for 300 years. In the wake of the city’s huge economic prosperity, artists and sculptors flocked here, diverting some of this new wealth in their own direction as they filled the palaces and churches with some of the world’s most outstanding works. On our tour of the Uffizi Gallery you’ll see masterpieces by Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian and many others.


PRICE INCLUDES • • • • • • •

Immerse yourself in millennia of history on a guided tour of Rome, home of the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican and more Marvel at the elegance of Florence, ‘Pearl of the Renaissance’, with an expert local guide Experience the wonders of the Uffizi, quite simply one of the world’s greatest art galleries, with a reserved timed entry to avoid the queues Witness the magnificent basilica in Assisi, named after the city’s most famous son, Saint Francis Enjoy medieval Siena’s outstanding cathedral and graceful main square on a guided tour Take a walking tour of Arezzo, one of Tuscany’s wonderfully unspoilt medieval cities Savour the captivating Tuscan countryside as we drive from one magnificent destination to the next

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Savour the flavours of Rome Enjoy more than 10 tastings on our fourhour walking tour of the vibrant Trastevere area. You’ll sample the finest cheeses, freshest pasta, wines in a cellar older than the Colosseum, and much more. From £82pp. Tour the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel with an expert Skip the queues and discover some of the world’s greatest art collections on a reserved tour with an authorised guide. Marvel at the frescoed chambers painted by Raphael and the beautiful Sistine Chapel featuring astonishing masterpieces by Michelangelo. Call us to pre-book this optional experience. From £42pp.

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports with hotel transfers Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and four dinners The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £849PP

Wander the streets of charming Siena

Florence

We go inside the vast defensive walls of medieval Siena to sample its extraordinary atmosphere – it is made up of a collection of small parishes, each with its own unique identity. The city also has perhaps the most beautiful square in the world, the Piazza del Campo with its soaring campanile. Assisi is rightly famous as the birthplace of Francis, the nation’s patron saint and one of the most famous figures in Christian history. The basilica bearing his name is breathtaking in its detail and a draw for pilgrims. But Assisi is also a picturesque riot of colour – houses are adorned with window boxes crammed with geraniums, adding contrast to the walls behind. Finally, of course, there’s Rome. Few cities on the planet can hope to match its sights. The grandeur of the Colosseum, recalling its bloody entertainments of centuries past, the Appian Way, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain – the list goes on. Far removed from pizza and pasta, Italy has cultivated a restaurant culture that shows the part food and drink plays in life here. Fresh vegetables combined with meats, seafood, a splash of olive oil and a hint of garlic create simple, traditional dishes. One of the greatest joys of visiting Italy is, of course, being among the stylish Italians themselves. If there is a single national characteristic of the people it is living life to the full, which creates the wonderful

atmosphere that permeates the streets. As your tour draws to a close, you may wish to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain and hope that the promise of a return to the Eternal City comes true. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN ROME Arrive at the airport for your flight to Rome. We then transfer by coach to delightful Arezzo in the heart of Tuscany, an ideal base for the next few days. We stay for four nights at the four-star Hotel Minerva, with breakfast and dinner. Located three-quarters of a mile from the old town, the hotel began as a family-owned restaurant half a century ago and remains in the same hands today. Traditional Tuscan cuisine is a speciality here. The rest of the day can be spent at leisure, allowing you time to settle into the hotel or, if you wish, start to explore. DAY 2 – SIENA After breakfast we drive to Siena, whose historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This was, during the 12th and 13th centuries, one of the world’s largest and richest cities. An unprecedented period of building resulted in palaces, grandiose townhouses and piazzas. Unusual in its half-moon shape and surrounded by tall, striking buildings, the main square – the Piazza del Campo – is stunning. Just to sit here, enjoying a drink and reflecting on times gone by, is a real pleasure. It’s a different story twice a year, though, when it hosts the famous Palio horse race, a frantic three-lap, saddle-less charge around the square that attracts huge crowds and in which rivalries between the different parishes of the city come to a head. Siena’s cathedral, or Duomo, is one of Italy’s greatest religious buildings – a bold statement given their abundance in this country. Fashioned from black and white marble, the interior features the

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See the beautiful Tuscan countryside

most delicate and intricate carvings, some by the great master Michelangelo himself. The Duomo is overwhelmingly impressive now, but a nave planned during the 14th century would have made it Christendom’s largest church. The city’s rapid decline after the Black Death in 1348 put paid to that, but also accounts for its astonishing preservation. During the journey to and from Siena you’ll see some of the famously scenic Tuscan countryside. DAY 3 – FLORENCE & THE UFFIZI GALLERY For three centuries, well-heeled young people went on a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe’s finest sights and cities as part of their cultural education. Florence was deservedly on the map of those travellers – and the ‘Pearl of the Renaissance’ remains one of the highlights of any visit to Italy. It owes its wealth to the explosion of commerce during the Middle Ages. Backed by powerful banks, the wool industry and other textile interests turned Florence into one of the world’s richest cities. Political influence was under the control of the nobility, especially the Medici, who married into the leading royal families of Europe. During our guided tour you’ll marvel at the tangible results of that wealth, such as the famous cathedral – which can house a congregation of 10,000 beneath a Renaissance-era, terracotta-tiled dome that rises high above the city. For masterpieces gathered in one place, the Uffizi is unrivalled. When the Medicis donated their artistic legacy to the gallery, it was partly ‘to attract the curiosity of foreigners’. The million-plus visitors who flock there each year are evidence of that but, this afternoon, you bypass the queues for this Florentine highlight with a reserved timed visit. With the list of artists whose works feature in the Uffizi including Botticelli, Raphael, Leonardo, Giotto, Cimabue, Titian, Caravaggio and Michelangelo, the magnificence of its exhibits is clear. Florence isn’t just about art, though – it’s a delightful location in its own right, from the buzz of the Piazza della Signoria to a crossing of the Arno River over the Ponte Vecchio. There are also high-end shops and colourful markets that complement the city’s artistic treasures. Siena

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DAY 4 – AREZZO Arezzo is a wonderful old town that has nestled behind its imposing stone walls for centuries, hidden away from the tourists. On this morning’s walking tour we learn of the fascinating stories behind the many ravishing views you’ll encounter in Arezzo’s historic centre. In common with other places on this tour, the area flourished in medieval times, coming under the rule of the Medicis around the 15th century. The town contains a range of architectural styles which blend to produce a charming whole – Romanesque churches are juxtaposed with timberbeamed shops, linked by intimate cobbled squares. Arezzo’s Piazza Grande, lined by narrow-fronted multistorey buildings and with a steeply sloping pavement, is one of Europe’s most evocative and atmospheric main squares, while inside the Basilica di San Francesco are the Legends of the True Cross frescoes by Piero della Francesca. The afternoon is free to explore this lovely town. The Roman amphitheatre once hosted crowds of over 8,000 – you might want to visit its ruins and learn about its history in the accompanying museum. Arezzo is also renowned for its fine jewellery and you can see skilled artisans in their traditional workshops fashioning gold, silver and precious stones into the exquisite pieces on display. A sumptuous lunch overlooking the main square is a popular choice for whiling away an hour or two, allowing time to reflect on eras long ago when the square would have been full of robed bishops and merchants hurrying along to their next appointment. DAY 5 – ASSISI After breakfast we leave Tuscany to drive to another of Italy’s romantically beautiful regions – Umbria. Our first destination is Assisi, famous the world over as the birthplace of Saint Francis, patron saint of Italy and one of the most extraordinary figures in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Born into privilege, he had a vision that led to him rejecting his inheritance and renouncing an un-Christian lifestyle. After living the life of a beggar, he ultimately found his vocation as the founder of the Franciscans, the monastic order that bears his name. A few years after his death, construction of the Basilica di San Francesco began, financed by donations from all over Europe. The result is one of the most beautiful shrines in the Christian world, a focus for pilgrimage that is adorned by the work of Giotto, Simone Martini and others. We have ample time to absorb every aspect of a building that is actually two churches, one on top of the other. The remains of Saint Francis lie in a sarcophagus in the crypt. In keeping with Franciscan principles, the mood inside is one of the utmost respect, silence being requested. Outside the basilica you can savour Assisi’s flower-adorned streets, life-affirming views over the Umbrian countryside and fountain-splashed piazzas before we head to Rome, arriving in the early evening. Our hotel in Rome for 2018 departures is the fourstar Hotel Beverly Hills, located in the prestigious Parioli residential district, a short walk from the Villa Borghese gardens and gallery. 2019 departures stay at either the four-star Eurostars St John or the four-star Welcome Piram Hotel. The Eurostars Saint John Hotel is conveniently located approximately a 15-minute walk away from the Colosseum, with good connections to other parts of the city and its main sights nearby by metro and bus. Housed in a grand 19th century building, the Welcome Piram hotel is well located within walking distance from some of Rome’s most famous attractions, located close to the main Termini station.

The Colosseum

Assisi

DAY 6 – ROME This morning we have a guided tour of Rome – probably nowhere else on earth is so much history concentrated in such a small area. You’ll witness the monuments that capture millennia of artistry and classical construction, political and religious influence, spectacle and innovation. Italy’s capital owes its grandeur to the Roman Empire, which, at its peak, held sway over much of the known world, as well as to the papacy. Imagine the noise, chaos and colour of a chariot race in the Circus Maximus or blood being spilled and emperors ruling on who should live or die during gladiatorial battles in the Colosseum. Marvel at the white marble Victor Emmanuel II memorial, witness the Vatican (with Saint Peter’s Basilica at its heart) and Palatine Hill, where the city’s elite relaxed in their opulent villas. Not everything in Rome is on such a large or globally important scale, though. There are quiet, intimate areas too: cosy piazzas, lively bars and friendly restaurants where the waiters will chat all day if you let them. This afternoon you’re free to explore as you desire. You may wish to visit the Vatican Museums

(entrance fee not included), the only part of the Papal Palace you can visit independently. This is one of the largest complexes of museums in the world, with collections to do justice to its dimensions. Many works by the finest artists of the Renaissance are on display, as are Egyptian antiquities and exquisite examples of furniture, sculpture and silverware. And, of course, there are Michelangelo’s wondrous ceiling frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Alternatively you could take a walk along the Appian Way, where thousands of Spartacus’s slave army were crucified as brutal punishment for their rebellion, or admire the craftsmanship and scale of the Trevi Fountain. DAY 7 – FREE DAY IN ROME You have a free day to immerse yourself further in the Eternal City. The weight of the past is inescapable as you view the magnificent heart of the Roman Empire. Gazing at the Forum, the Colosseum and the Pantheon, it’s easy to let your mind wander and imagine those who have preceded you, giants who made history rather than just being part of it: Julius Caesar, Emperor Augustus, Cleopatra and Mark Antony. Take a stroll around the Piazza Navona, Rome’s most picturesque square, lined with luxurious cafés where present-day Romans come to see and be seen. The Baroque fountains lend a cooling ambience to the atmosphere. Walk down the Spanish Steps as countless visitors have done since the 18th century. Take a coffee in the city’s oldest café, Antico Caffè Greco, once the haunt of Keats, Byron and Wagner. Shoppers will find the finest clothes along the Via Condotti. Perhaps the most satisfying activity, though, is simply to wander where your feet take you and stop off where you wish to. Admire the city’s monuments, delve into its history, meet its people, sample its food and let your mind be carried away by the city’s splendour. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Please note: The use of air conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature.

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FLORENCE & TUSCANY 8 days from only £899pp

Experience the very heart and soul of Italy through the exquisite art, architecture and sheer majesty of Florence, Pisa and Siena, the picturesque Tuscan countryside and fine food and wine. Tuscany embodies the very essence of Italy – centuries of heritage, exquisite art and architecture, beautiful scenery, an enviable climate, great food and wine – and so much more. This region possesses more historic monuments than most entire countries and includes many UNESCO World Heritage sites. Its cities, Florence, Siena and Pisa, together with smaller towns and villages such as Lucca and San Gimignano, offer perfectly preserved architecture and artistic treasures. Florence, arguably the finest city of the Renaissance, is also considered to be Italy’s most beautiful. Robert Browning sighed over its idyllic charms and EM Forster described it in A Room with a View as the perfect antidote to Anglo-Saxon life. It owes its great riches to the commercial boom that emerged after the Dark Ages. Wool and other textile industries, backed by some of the first international banks, soon brought wealth to Florence on an unprecedented scale. Political power at the time was in the hands of just a few families, in particular the Medicis, who married into most European royal families, including our own. Florence became the cultural and intellectual heart of

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the continent. Architects, artists and sculptors flocked to the city to be engaged by nouveau riche patrons. Gradually grand residences, churches and palaces were filled to bursting point with magnificent works of art. Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and countless others created many of the masterpieces now on display in the Uffizi, one of the world’s oldest and finest galleries. Then there’s Pisa, famous for its Leaning Tower and cathedral on the Piazza dei Miracoli or ‘Square of Miracles’, both as remarkable today as they must have been to the pilgrims who passed through en route to Rome all those centuries ago. You’ll also experience extraordinary San Gimignano, a superbly preserved enclave famous for its immense stone towers and dramatic skyline. Siena is another outstanding Tuscan city on our tour, enclosed behind vast defensive walls. Its historic centre, the Piazza del Campo, is one of Europe’s greatest and most enchanting squares. The Tuscan countryside really is picture-postcard Italy. Gently undulating biscuit-coloured hills, often

Michelangelo’s David


PRICE INCLUDES • Discover the city of Florence on a fascinating tour with an expert local guide • Experience the wonders of the Uffizi, quite simply one of the world’s greatest art galleries, with a reserved pre-timed entry to avoid the queues • Marvel at the medieval splendour of Siena on a tour led by a local guide • Savour the views from the striking hilltop village of San Gimignano, whose mighty high-rise towers dominate the surrounding countryside • See Pisa and the Leaning Tower, and explore charming Lucca, birthplace of the composer Puccini • Explore the extraordinarily beautiful Tuscan countryside

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports with hotel transfers Seven nights in three-star superior and four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes with breakfast and four dinners The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £899PP

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Experience Florence by night in a classic Fiat 500 Take a ride with a local guide to the surrounding hills in a classic Fiat 500. When the sun sets, Florence comes alive through tasteful illumination. During your two-hour tour, your guide will share fascinating stories of the places you see. Call us to pre-book this optional experience. From £89pp.

from the cathedral. All rooms have air conditioning, hairdryer and satellite television. The hotel has a bar and breakfast room. The four-star Grand Hotel Mediterraneo enjoys an enviable position on the banks of the Arno River, close to the Piazza Santa Croce. Access into the city centre couldn’t be easier. All rooms have air conditioning, Wi-Fi, satellite television, safe and hairdryer. The hotel has a choice of international and Italian cuisine plus a lounge and American bar. DAY 2 – FLORENCE & THE UFFIZI GALLERY This morning we have a guided walking tour to discover why Florence is indeed the ‘Pearl of the Renaissance’. No wonder this city has been such a

Discover Florence and its remarkable cathedral

covered with vineyards, flow and disappear into the distance. Punctuated by isolated farmhouses, unchanged for centuries, and studded by tall cypress trees, this wonderful landscape yields a rich harvest of food and wine. The local cuisine is simple and uses the finest local ingredients. Thick soups, grilled meats, fresh vegetables, pecorino cheese, olive oil, garlic and herbs are all part of the typical Tuscan table. To complement the food, Tuscany also produces some of Italy’s best-known wines, such as Brunello di Montalcino, Vin Santo and, of course, Chianti. Embodying the excitement and romance of Italy and of the Italian people themselves, Tuscany is stylish, justifiably proud of its heritage, vibrant, expressive… and absolutely unforgettable. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN FLORENCE Arrive at the airport for your flight to Pisa. On arrival we transfer by coach to Florence, where we stay for three nights, with breakfast, at one of two hotels. The three-star superior Hotel Corona d’Italia is ideally located in the San Lorenzo district, 10 minutes’ walk

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Florence

highlight on the traveller’s itinerary since the days of the ‘Grand Tour’ – the sights are legendary and you’ll enjoy the best of them: the cathedral – or Duomo – which can house a congregation of thousands, and the Baptistry, one of the oldest buildings in the city. Explore the goldsmiths’ shops on the Ponte Vecchio, the landmark bridge over the Arno River and a symbol of the city itself. In the afternoon you bypass the queues with a reserved visit to the Uffizi. Words alone hardly seem sufficient to capture the majesty of this phenomenal, awe-inspiring place. Built up over hundreds of years, this originally private collection belonging to the allpowerful Medici family was subsequently bequeathed to the people of Florence. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is just one of the countless masterpieces on display. There are equally breathtaking works by Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Van Dyck – you’ll find treasures in every room. DAY 3 – LUCCA & PISA After breakfast you leave for the delightful city of Lucca, birthplace of the great composer Puccini. Take San Gimignano

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your time to wander its ancient streets and tiny piazzas and along the ramparts encircling the city. Be sure also to visit the charming 1,000-year-old cathedral and its venerated wooden crucifix known as the Holy Face of Lucca. We then take the short drive to Pisa to encounter the familiar yet unnerving sight of its Leaning Tower. Famous for centuries, it’s one of the world’s must-see buildings. Its tilt has gradually increased ever since its completion over 600 years ago and only recently was the tower finally stabilised. We end the day back at our hotel in Florence. DAY 4 – FREE MORNING IN FLORENCE & WINE TASTING Florence will continue to amaze you because there’s just so much to see, but its old streets are conveniently compact. This morning you’re free to explore its many Renaissance wonders. There’s the Accademia, the oldest art school in the world, which houses Michelangelo’s David, surely the most iconic sculpture of all. The Museum of Archaeology contains an outstanding collection of exhibits from ancient Greece,

Rome and Egypt, while the History of Science Museum displays some of Galileo’s telescopes. In the heart of the city you find the magnificent Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore dominating the skyline. Built from white, green and pink marble and crowned by Brunelleschi’s octagonal dome, it glows in the sunshine. The interior is remarkable, too, for its beautiful frescoes and ornate mosaic floor. Florence is much more than a city caught in the past, however. Packed with cosy restaurants and breezy street cafés, it has an ambience you’ll love any time of the year. Relax, watch the world go by and relish the more laid-back side of this amazing city. No trip to this region is complete without a visit to a typical cantina, or wine estate, for a tour of the cellars and a taste of fine Tuscan wines, so we head to world-renowned Chianti to visit the Foresteria Villa Cerna. This estate is owned by the Cecchi family, one of the biggest and most important producers in the area for over a century. After a tour with insights into the history and philosophy behind their wine business, we’ll enjoy a lovely wine tasting accompanied by some typical local snacks.


Later we drive to one of our carefully selected four-star hotels where we stay for the next four nights, with breakfast and dinner. The Park Hotel le Fonti, partly converted from a former farmhouse, is set on the edge of the old town of Volterra. Perhaps treat yourself to a drink from the bar on the panoramic terrace, which offers tremendous views of the countryside, before dinner in the restaurant. The Palazzo San Lorenzo lies in the heart of Colle di Val d’Elsa. Famous for glass-making, this town is known as the ‘City of Crystal’. The hotel, once a hospital, has been meticulously renovated to respect its original medieval architecture and offers thoroughly modern comforts. There’s a beautiful ‘winter garden’ housing the bar and breakfast room, an outside terrace and a restaurant serving local specialities. Hotel Il Piccolo Castello is situated in its own grounds close to the walled hilltop town of Monteriggioni and provides a relaxing base from which to explore. Built on one level around a central manicured garden, it’s decorated with traditional frescoes. It has a spacious lounge, bar and restaurant serving authentic Tuscan food. Rooms in all hotels are air-conditioned with minibar, safe and satellite television. Please note that where hotels feature a swimming pool, this will be open in the summer months, weather permitting. DAY 5 – SAN GIMIGNANO & VOLTERRA After breakfast we explore the rural Tuscany made famous by Renaissance paintings, literature, films and travel posters – a truly extraordinary landscape of undulating hillsides, vineyards, ochre-coloured valleys, terracotta-tiled farmhouses and pencil pines. San Gimignano is one of Italy’s most beautiful villages. The sight of a spectacular skyline with 14 medieval towers is one that will stay with you forever. There were originally 72 towers, all built by rival noble families during the 13th century as symbols of power and prestige. No other village in Tuscany captures the spirit of the age in quite the same way. It’s lovely to just wander through its cobbled streets and squares, taking in the views and simply absorbing its delightfully rural atmosphere. We then drive on through the countryside to Volterra, an imposing town with immense stone ramparts, perched dramatically on a hill and affording panoramic views. The town’s small historic centre is a maze of narrow cobbled streets that emanate from the main Piazza dei Priori, one of the finest and best preserved in Tuscany. It’s truly atmospheric, especially during the evening when the locals meet for lively conversation. Enjoy the moment – sip a glass of wine and soak up the ambience as the evening sun bathes the town in its golden glow. Founded by the Etruscans as long ago as 800 BC, Volterra grew prosperous in the Middle Ages from mining and carving alabaster. Many artefacts from this period still survive in churches and cathedrals throughout Tuscany and beyond. Even today, alabaster carving remains the traditional Volterran craft. You’ll have the opportunity to visit some of the artisan outlets. The town also has outstanding museums housing priceless Etruscan and Roman treasures. A visit is guaranteed to heighten your appreciation of this impressive town. DAY 6 – SIENA After breakfast we take the short drive to glorious Siena for an enriching guided tour of its treasures. Not only was it was the capital of the Republic of Siena during the 12th and 13th centuries, it was one of the richest cities in the world. It’s a jewel of Italian Gothic and medieval architecture that’s been preserved to a

Siena

Siena Cathedral

remarkable degree and is justifiably a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city centres on the main square, the Piazza del Campo, an architectural work of art. Formed in a half-moon shape, it’s lined by tall, striking buildings whose gracious and varied facades have a unique charm. With its abundance of pavement cafés, it’s the perfect place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine or a coffee and reflect on the city’s sheer beauty. Siena is equally famous for the Duomo, one of Italy’s most intricate and fascinating cathedrals. The exterior is built from black and white marble, and the west facade offers a particularly fine example of workmanship. The interior is even more breathtaking, with splendid stained-glass windows and paintings and sculptures by leading artists, including the young Michelangelo. Impressive as it is today, in the 14th century the Duomo was set to become the largest church in Christendom had plans for an additional nave gone ahead. The Black Death put paid to its construction, though, as two-thirds of the population perished and the city fell into rapid decline. Little was built in Siena thereafter but, fortunately, even less was demolished, leaving a wonderfully preserved city for us to appreciate today. The afternoon is then yours to shop, people-watch or explore further before returning to your hotel for dinner. DAY 7 – FREE DAY Today you can have a free day to do as you please. So what’s it to be? Maybe a little more exploration, a meal in the main square watching the world go by, or simply a dip in the pool – the choice is yours. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Please note: The use of air conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to midSeptember), depending on the temperature.

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H I D D E N I TA LY PA D O VA , V I C E N Z A & M A N T O VA 6 days from only £649pp

Uncover the unseen gems of the breathtaking Veneto and beyond: astonishing architecture, cities steeped in history with deep cultural connections, and some of Italy’s best wines. The mere mention of the Veneto conjures up images of Venice, the ‘floating city of canals’, but there is so much more to discover in this northeastern region. The lush plains of the Po are dramatically offset by the rugged peaks of the Dolomites rising majestically to form the northwestern border, while the mirror-like Adriatic to the south embraces the gently curving Venetian coast. To the west is picturesque Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, surrounded by pretty villages on its flower-laden banks. Spread across the Veneto are miles of undulating countryside dotted with classically beautiful cities dating back to ancient times. Even before the arrival of the Romans, the Veneti prospered on this fertile land and many cities became cultural centres. Under Venetian rule, wealth from agriculture, commerce and the spoils of war funded their beautification, and numerous Renaissance palaces and public buildings emerged. Many were designed by Andrea Palladio, one of the greatest architects of all time and a great influence on British architecture in the 18th century. Our fascinating tour takes us back in time to some of the most illustrious towns and cities. We unearth

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the spectacular past of each destination, rich in history and captivating attractions, many with ancient remains revealing pre-Roman origins. We stay close to the heart of the Veneto in charming Castelfranco, a medieval town defended by perfectly preserved walls and towers. Chosen for its location and wonderfully atmospheric ambience, it is the perfect introduction to the region and the ideal base for exploring the Veneto. From here we visit extraordinary Vicenza, one of the world’s most beautiful cities and still one of Italy’s wealthiest, celebrated for its splendid and varied architecture. The perfect marriage of old and new, this thriving cosmopolitan city is home to some of Palladio’s best works. Whether you’re an architecture aficionado or not, it’s nigh impossible not to be impressed by the classic sophistication of the Palladian buildings, which were bold innovations miles ahead of their time. Next, we journey west of the Veneto to cultural Mantova, a picturesque city bordered on three sides by serene lakes. Known to the Italians as La Bella Addormentata – a sleeping beauty which has changed little since the middle ages – Mantova

Castelfranco Veneto


PRICE INCLUDES • Stay in medieval Castelfranco with fantastic views of the walled old town • Experience extraordinary Vicenza, both ancient and modern, and the best place to view Palladio’s architectural masterpieces on a guided tour • Visit atmospheric, lakeside Mantova, the inspiration for artists, poets and composers on a guided tour • Stroll through the beautiful gardens of Sigurtà Park and see an Italian interpretation of a English garden • See the enchanting riverside town of Bassano del Grappa in the foothills of the Prealps, and sample its famous liqueur • Tour Villa Sandi, the palatial headquarters of a renowned Prosecco producer, and its impressive underground cellars and enjoy a tasting afterwards • Enjoy a relaxing cruise on the Brenta Canal and see the elegant Venetian villas of the elite • Visit ancient Padova with its astonishing array of architectural styles and the famed university where Galileo once taught

Plus, of course...

Atmospheric Mantova has inspired artists, poets and composers

boasts an impressive list of cultural connections. This is the birthplace of poet Virgil and composer Monteverdi, the playground of the Gonzaga dukes, and the setting for Verdi’s tragic opera, Rigoletto. We visit Bassano del Grappa, a beautiful town nestled serenely in the foothills of the Prealps, where the river Brenta flows from the valley and traverses the lowlands on its meander to the Adriatic. This wonderfully photogenic yet unassuming town is renowned for its grappa, a strong liqueur responsible for relieving generations of northern Italians from the pain of poverty. You’ll have a chance to taste the tipple for yourself on our visit to one of its top producers and learn how it is made. Our insightful tour continues to ancient Padova which exudes a youthful exuberance thanks to its prestigious university, affiliated with not one, but two of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers who ever lived: Galileo once taught here and Copernicus was a student! Much more than a university city, Padova was described by Shakespeare as a ‘nursery of Arts’ where Renaissance Englishmen could enjoy the ‘sweets of sweet philosophy’.

• • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports with hotel transfers Five nights in centrally located fourstar accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £649PP

Then there is the exemplary cuisine for which Italy is so famous, and as with all our thoughtfully balanced tours, there is time to sample regional specialities and more. Often found on the menu are fresh fish and seafood, complemented by seasonal produce. Pasta is enjoyed throughout the northeast, but more typical of the region are polenta and risotto. The Veneto produces an excellent variety of fine wines including Prosecco, which you’ll taste when we visit the underground cellars of one of Veneto’s top wine producers. For us, one of the greatest joys of visiting Italy is meeting the Italians, famous for being friendly, accommodating and possessing an infectious zest for life. Join us on our eye-opening tour of spectacular northeastern Italy and experience all the wonders this tremendous region has to offer. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN VENICE & CASTELFRANCO VENETO You fly to Venice or Treviso airport. On arrival, we transfer by coach to Castelfranco Veneto and your hotel for the next five nights. Perfectly positioned just opposite the walled historic centre and the lively market square, the four-star Best Western Albergo Roma offers marvellous views of the medieval ramparts and impressive tower. Completely refurbished in 2016, the superb hotel has comfortable rooms with everything you’d expect from a hotel of this standard. A hearty breakfast buffet and panoramic views await you every morning in the bright and airy restaurant on the top floor, which also serves delicious dishes at dinner. Castelfranco Veneto’s historic centre is a maze of narrow streets and tiny squares, protected within remarkably preserved, red-bricked ramparts. The town was established when the rulers of Treviso had a castle built in 1199 to defend against the neighbouring Padovans. Over time, it grew into a key trading post between Venice and northern Europe. Every corner of Castelfranco Veneto proudly evokes the presence of its most famous resident, the artist Giorgione whose pièce de résistance, the Madonna and Child, can be found in the town’s magnificent cathedral. Also worth a visit is the beautiful 18th-century Academic Theatre with some of the best acoustics in Italy. Just beyond the walls and a stone’s throw away from your hotel is Piazza Giorgione, one of the largest squares in the region. DAY 2 - BRENTA CANAL CRUISE & PADOVA Over the centuries, the rivers flowing into the Venetian lagoon were ingeniously diverted to prevent

Castelfranco Veneto

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siltation. As the canalised Brenta became a popular transport route, elegant Venetian villas, holiday homes of the elite, began to appear along its length. One of the most relaxing ways to view these legacies of a leisured existence is to take a canal cruise, and that is exactly what we will do this morning. Just as the wealthy would have travelled between Venice and their villas on the Burchiello, we board a contemporary version of this vessel, equipped with comfortable seats and a deck offering panoramic views. Our mini-cruise takes us past the 18th-century Villa Widmann where composer Stravinsky once stayed, as well as various villages, swing bridges and several locks. We disembark in Dolo, where our coach awaits. During our journey, we see the grandiose Villa Pisani, the Doge’s palace fronted by mighty sculptures. Soon we arrive in Padova, a dynamic city which deserves to be recognised for more than its remarkable university, founded in 1222 and Italy’s second oldest. Explore the fine piazzas of the historic centre and be amazed by the diverse architectural styles: the Baptistry of the Duomo contains one of the country’s most complete medieval fresco cycles; the Renaissance Loggia della Gran Guardia once housed the Council of Nobles; and bustling Caffè Pedrocchi, ever-popular with students and intellectuals, was built to resemble a Classical temple. Particularly outstanding is the exotic Basilica di Sant’Antonio, one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Italy. Beneath its distinctive Byzantine domes rests the tomb of Padova’s patron saint. Another unmissable jewel is the extraordinary Cappella degli Scrovegni. The chapel’s interiors are entirely covered with Giotto’s lyrical frescoes, which greatly influenced the development of European art. On the same site is a major museum complex which occupies a group of 14th-century monastic buildings attached to the church of the Eremitani, a reclusive Augustinian order. DAY 3 – VICENZA Today we head southwest to Vicenza, situated at the northern base of the cypress-clad Monte Berico astride the Bacchiglione river. This spectacularly sophisticated city is wonderfully cosmopolitan yet doubles as an open-air museum dedicated to the legacy of Palladio, a miller’s son who became the most prominent architect of the Italian High Renaissance and gave rise to the Classical style of Palladianism. The local gentry, eager to decorate their city with grand new buildings, gave him plenty of opportunities to realise his vision; as a result, many of central Vicenza’s streets are graced by a Palladian mansion. We’ll see many of these on our guided tour this morning through the historic centre. At the heart of Vicenza is the Piazza dei Signori, dominated by the Basilica with its marvellous clock tower and distinctive, green roof surrounded by statues of Greek and Roman gods. Not a church but a remodelling of a Gothic courthouse, the basilica’s most notable feature is the loggia, one of the earliest examples of the Palladian window. Nearby is the renowned Teatro Olimpico, Europe’s oldest surviving indoor theatre, seemingly constructed from marble but upon closer inspection, you’ll discover masterfully painted wood and plaster. Its atmospheric auditorium is simply stunning, intended to resemble the outdoor theatres of ancient Greece and Rome. This astounding landmark, together with the Palladian Villas of the Veneto in the surrounding area, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is time to explore these wonderful sights this afternoon should you wish. You will receive a complimentary museum card, granting free entry to the city’s various worldclass attractions.

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Visit the prestigious Prosecco-producing area of Valdobbiadene

Basilica di Sant’Antonio, Padova

DAY 4 – MANTOVA & PARCO SIGURTÀ Our journey today takes us west and back in time to the sleepy yet achingly beautiful Mantova, a medieval city often overlooked despite its proximity to Lake Garda. Perhaps the answer lies in the three surrounding lakes, forming a natural fortification and keeping Mantova a secret from the world, one which has remained virtually untouched for centuries. As the dramatic skyline of ancient towers, domes and cupolas comes into view, it’s easy to see why the city features in two well-loved tragedies: it is the setting for Verdi’s Rigoletto and Shakespeare had an impassioned Romeo exiled here.

During our guided tour of the old town, the reasons for its UNESCO World Heritage status become strikingly evident. Although compact in size, Mantova has more than its share of artistic, cultural and architectural treasures. The city reached its zenith in the 14th century when it came under Gonzaga rule, one of the greatest Renaissance families of Italy. Their home was the sumptuous Palazzo Ducale, a highlight of the city and once Europe’s largest palace with around 500 rooms, extravagantly decorated with glorious works of art. Wander the cobbled streets and relax in the lovely squares, where locals and visitors alike meet for a coffee. Perhaps take a cruise on the


river Mincio and admire the city from a different perspective. This afternoon, we visit the 148-acre Sigurtà Garden Park and see some of the world’s most extraordinary gardens. Originally used for agriculture, the park is now home to beautiful tulips, roses, lilies, irises and more. See the Italian interpretation of a romantic English garden with its neo-Gothic temple and rustic grotto. Throughout the park are 18 ornamental ponds and lakes, as well as a medicinal herb garden and even an award-winning maze. DAY 5 – BASSANO DEL GRAPPA & VILLA SANDI After breakfast, we visit the enchanting town of Bassano del Grappa, nestled serenely in the foothills of Monte Grappa from which the river Brenta flows free. Connecting the halves of the town is the wooden Ponte degli Alpini bridge, cleverly designed to withstand the meltwaters in spring. Have your camera at the ready to capture the picture-postcard panoramas: the crystal-clear waters reflect the Alpine mountains and pastel hues of the historic buildings. Wander the lively town at an unhurried pace and observe the locals doing their shopping or even attempting to catch some fish along the river! Bassano is known for its superb glazed earthenware, but perhaps more so for the Italian after-dinner drink, grappa, which you’ll have the opportunity to taste on our guided visit to a local artisan distillery. Here, you’ll experience this fragrant, grape-based brandy with all five of your senses: listen to the story of how it’s made, observe the fascinating distillation process, feel the fresh pomace with your own hands, and even smell the different varieties.

Of course, you’ll also taste a few varieties of this warming digestif. You may wish to have lunch at one of the town’s many excellent restaurants or sample the local specialities before we continue to Valdobbiadene, one of the most prestigious Prosecco-producing areas in the heart of the Treviso region. Here, we visit the prestigious wine producer, Villa Sandi, set in a vast valley protected from nearby mountains by rolling, sun-kissed hills. This fortunate position and the naturally endowed soil provide the optimum conditions for cultivating some of the finest grapes. Snaking below the palatial 17th-century villa is a centuries-old network of tunnels, used covertly by the Italian army during World War I and today provides the perfect environment for aging wine. We tour these underground cellars, home to a million bottles of wine including some of the best Prosecco, which we sample afterwards. Our guide then takes us through the villa, its spacious rooms a luxurious combination of pastel colours, stuccoes and bas-reliefs, dominated by resplendent Murano glass chandeliers. It’s easy to imagine a time when important figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte once wined and dined here. DAY 6 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your return flight. Please note: The use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to midSeptember), depending on the temperature.

Bassano del Grappa

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L AK E CO M O, ST MORITZ & THE BERNINA EXPRESS 8 days from only £879pp

Towering Alpine peaks are the backdrop to this tour of northern Italy and Switzerland, including Lake Como and its stunning village of Bellagio, Lakes Maggiore and Lugano, the Bernina Express to St Moritz and the beautiful city of Bergamo. There’s no one culture or region that defines Italy. The northernmost parts border Austria and Switzerland, its lakes reflecting the icy magnificence of the Alps; in the south, the western tip of Sicily is only 150 miles or so away from the heat of North Africa. Such wonderfully contrasting areas of the same country, ranging from lofty mountains that appear to puncture the sky to whitewashed villages with Arabic-influenced names, make Italy impossible to pigeonhole. This marvellously varied tour focuses on the north. We explore Lake Como, which Wordsworth – in a poem named in honour of the lake – called ‘a treasure whom the earth keeps to herself’, plus some stunning icons of northern Italy and Switzerland. For centuries Lake Como has been attracting visitors in search of relaxation and inspiration – both Verdi and Rossini found their muse while in lakeside villas here. Its atmosphere can be one of an eerie near-silence, broken only by the gently rhythmic lapping of waves on the shore. The scenery takes the breath away – images of hills and snow-capped peaks are captured in the deep blue waters while tall, pastel-coloured buildings and opulent villas line the shore itself. Above, birds of prey soar on thermals. The lower

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slopes are covered in lush vegetation, adding an invigoratingly aromatic backdrop to a harmonious scene. Our visit to Lake Maggiore, which straddles Italy and Switzerland, provides amazing sights. Almost Mediterranean in character courtesy of the climate, it is lined by verbena, palm and orange trees and a string of picturesque 19th-century towns. To the east is one of the most fashionable destinations in Switzerland – St Moritz. The iconic Bernina Express train transports us on a spectacularly scenic journey through the unforgettable Poschiavo Valley to this chic mountain resort. The hilltop town of Bergamo has one of the most charming centres anywhere in Lombardy. Surrounded by huge ramparts, it features Renaissance buildings and centuries-old squares lined by traditional cafés and restaurants. Art-lovers will find works by Canaletto and others to pore over in the Accademia Carrara. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL AT LAKE COMO Arrive at the airport for your flight to Milan Bergamo. On arrival, we transfer by coach to one of our specially selected four-star hotels.


Enjoy cruising on beautiful Lake Como

PRICE INCLUDES • Take a lake cruise to beautiful Bellagio on Lake Como, or with a private visit to the delightful Villa del Balbianello and its inspirational gardens • Enjoy a full-day visit to the chic resort of St Moritz, including a journey on the Bernina Express, one of the most spectacular railways in the Alps • Discover Bergamo, northern Italy’s most enchanting medieval town, on a guided tour • Follow in the footsteps of the ‘Grand Tour’ with a visit to Lake Maggiore and the town of Stresa • Visit Lugano, an elegant Swiss lakeside town with Italian influences

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports with hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner. 2019 stays at the Grand Hotel Menaggio include daily breakfast only (dining option available at a supplement) • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £879PP DAY 2 – LAKE COMO & BELLAGIO Lake Como has been beloved of those with an appreciation of nature since Roman chronicler Pliny the Younger, who owned two villas on the lake, wrote of its timeless grace. Since then, artists from many

disciplines have been inspired to produce great works. Shelley said of it: ‘This lake exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty.’ This morning you will witness the same sights that inspired the English poet as we take a private boat to the 18th-century Villa del Balbianello, one of the finest examples on the lake. Here we have a guided tour of the villa, which was originally built for a cardinal and features a renowned collection of primitive and decorative art as well as an Expedition Museum. The gardens are simply stunning, a series of manicured terraces full of fragrant roses and colourful borders dominated by a classic three-arch loggia. The thought and planning that went into maximising the attributes of the rugged topography pay off to sublime effect. The boat also takes us to the elegant village of Bellagio, once the playground of European monarchs. With its idyllic location on a promontory, it is often described as the ‘Pearl of the Lake’. That billing is no overstatement. Its warm, pastel-coloured buildings adorn the lakefront while narrow cobbled streets and lanes ascend to the centre. Ablaze with colourful flowers, Bellagio is the perfect location for a long, lazy lunch in one of the picturesque lakeside restaurants, followed by a stroll among the many formal gardens adorned by fine sculptures. Spend the afternoon exploring at your own pace before returning to the hotel. DAY 3 – THE BERNINA EXPRESS Spectacular scenery and extraordinary Swiss engineering blend during an unforgettable day. First we ascend along the Valtellina, a classic alpine valley with soaring peaks rising steeply on both sides. On reaching Tirano we board the famous Bernina Express. One of the slowest ‘express’ train in the world, this remarkable Swiss railway service twists upwards in an amazing sequence of spirals, loops and tunnels to the summit at Ospizio Bernina, the highest through station in Europe at an elevation of well over 7,000 feet. At this point you’re surrounded by stunning vistas over snow-clad peaks and glacial lakes. We descend through pretty pastures and dense pine forests to the glamorous resort of St Moritz, once known for its therapeutic spas but now famous for the challenging Cresta Run toboggan track as well as for its well-heeled visitors. There’s time for a spot of window-shopping here, or perhaps afternoon tea and cake. Listen carefully and you may notice a rather

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Bergamo

unusual language: in this tiny corner of Switzerland some of the locals speak Romansh, an ancient and little-known tongue derived from Latin. More eyecatching scenery awaits as we make our return trip to Lake Como for dinner. DAY 4 – LAKE MAGGIORE & STRESA The lakeside town of Stresa owes its origins to the era of the ‘Grand Tour’ when Europe’s 19thcentury aristocracy, having crossed the border from Switzerland, experienced their first taste of Italy. You follow in their footsteps today, as well as witnessing magnificent Lake Maggiore. Mediterranean in character, the lake is lined with oleanders and palms, backed by exquisite hotels that create an ambience of refined gentility. Take a stroll along its impressive palm-lined promenade and enjoy the fine views across the shimmering lake to the Borromean Islands. You can also take the short boat trip to Isola Bella, an island transformed by a 17th-century count from a barren rock into a delightful terraced garden. This inspiring display, called ‘fanciful and fantastic’ by Charles Dickens, has long been visited by the famous, among them Napoleon and Josephine as well as Prince Charles and Princess Diana. For the literary enthusiasts, back in Stresa you can relax at the bar of the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees, featured in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and frequented by the likes of George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin. To see all these sights at once, take the cable car to the summit of Monte Mottarone for panoramic views of the soaring, snow-capped Alps. Later we return to our hotel for dinner. DAY 5 – FREE DAY You are free to explore as you wish. A stroll followed by coffee and cake in one of the pleasant cafés is popular. Alternatively you may decide to take the boat to the lakeside town of Como or visit the gardens of Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo. This outstanding botanical paradise dates back to the 17th century, with

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fountains and marble statuary adding majesty to the beauty of the azaleas and camellias. The villa itself is a museum featuring masterpieces by sculptor Antonio Canova. DAY 6 – LUGANO We take a morning journey to Lugano, where traditional Swiss values and more laid-back Latin influences overlap to make for a fascinating complement of cultures. The capital of the Italianspeaking canton of Ticino was seized by the Swiss in the early 16th century and has steadfastly refused any opportunity to revert to Italy ever since, but that doesn’t mean that traces of Switzerland’s southern neighbour are absent. As you’d expect of the Swiss the trains run on time, but there’s a distinctive Mediterranean feel, unlike anything you’ll experience Bergamo

elsewhere in Switzerland. Quaint alleyways lead to unmistakably Italian piazzas where you can relax over lunch, but, as everywhere else in Switzerland, the traffic laws are obeyed without question – it really is a quirky blend. Lugano is a delight to explore and is centred around the café-lined main square, an ideal place to people-watch over a rich coffee. There’s time to explore the myriad twisting lanes of the Old Town, browse the shops with their dazzling displays before we return to our hotel, where we dine this evening. DAY 7 – BERGAMO After breakfast, we visit the town of Bergamo for a morning guided tour. Said by many to be the most beautiful town in all of northern Italy, Bergamo is simply enchanting. The historic centre – or Città Alta (Upper Town) – strikingly crowns a hill and was ruled for centuries by Venice, one of the world’s great powers in the Renaissance, when much of the city we admire today was built, while the walls separating the Old Town from the Città Bassa (Lower Town) have recently been granted the status of World Heritage Site. The focus of hilltop Bergamo is the Piazza Vecchia, a graceful main square that gathers together some of Italy’s finest medieval and Renaissance buildings, including a palace and grand houses featuring wrought-iron balconies. Marvel at the 12th-century bell tower from ground level, but also consider a walk to the top to enjoy irresistible views over the jumble of ancient roofs, the maze of lanes and alleys and the lush Lombardian landscapes beyond. The cobbled streets of the upper town are lined by a wealth of thriving traditional shops including bakers and butchers displaying cakes, salamis, hams and other Italian specialities. Browse the antique shops, stroll around the city walls or just absorb an atmosphere that captures bygone centuries. For artlovers the acclaimed Accademia Carrara, just a short distance from the Old Town, displays masterpieces by Velázquez and Botticelli, among others.


DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for our flight home. HOTELS Grand Hotel Cadenabbia (Cadenabbia di Griante) This four-star hotel overlooks Lake Como and dates back to the early 19th century, welcoming many well-known guests, including Queen Victoria. It was originally a private villa, and today it still exudes charm and elegance, with public areas featuring high ceilings, columns and intricate plasterwork. All rooms have air-conditioning, TV, mini-bar, hairdryer and safe, while the hotel also boasts a swimming pool. The topfloor restaurant has views over the lake, and there’s a terrace where you can take in the stunning panorama. Hotel Regina Olga (Cernobbio) One of the foremost attributes of this four-star hotel is its enviable spot on the southern shores of Lake Como, which many feel is among its most picturesque parts. Savour the glorious views across the shimmering waters to the town of Como. Your traditionally styled hotel faces the lake and has a delightful outside terrace and swimming pool in its lovely private gardens, plus a bar and restaurant. All the air-conditioned rooms have satellite TV, minibar, Wi-Fi, safe and hairdryer. Grand Hotel Imperiale (Moltrasio) (2018 departures only) The stunning lakeside village of Moltrasio is the setting for this gorgeous four-star hotel. The interior is an attractive blend of modern elegance and period features, including an impressive bar area with an intricate tiled floor and sparkling crystal chandeliers, perfect for relaxing in a refined ambience. All the rooms are decorated in a comfortable modern style and have air conditioning, satellite TV, minibar, Wi-Fi, safe and hairdryer. The hotel has its own landscaped gardens and a lakeside pool.

Lugano

Grand Hotel Menaggio (Menaggio) This four-star hotel in the town of Menaggio is a lakefront delight, located a short stroll from the centre, where you will find a number of restaurants, cafés and shops. The hotel is of a classical design and boasts a relaxing lounge and bar area that opens

DINING CHOICES For 2019 departures, stays at the Grand Hotel Menaggio include daily breakfast only so you have the flexibility to enjoy the local cuisine at the town’s fine restaurants. If you prefer to dine in at your hotel, you may pre-book dinner for four nights at £48pp, or dinner for seven nights at £84pp.

out onto the heated lakeside swimming pool and sun terrace. All rooms are air-conditioned and have a safe, satellite TV, minibar and hairdryer. For 2019 departures this hotel will be offered on a breakfast only basis with a pre bookable Hotel Dining option available.

Please note: Where hotels feature an outdoor swimming pool, this will be open during the summer months (weather permitting). The use of air conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature.

Isola Bella

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L AKE GARDA , VENICE & VERONA 8 days from only £649pp

Spectacular mountain scenery and pastel-coloured villages reflecting in the tranquil waters of Lake Garda are complemented by the architectural jewels of Venice and romantic ambience of Verona on this enchanting tour in the north of Italy. Italy is renowned for cities that have been at the centre of great wealth, political power and artistic revolution for centuries, and they are magnificently represented on this tour by Venice and Verona. But the country also has many natural wonders and we make our base at one of its finest examples – Lake Garda. On our approach, images of the abundant flowers and trees that cover the lake’s banks are reflected in the water’s ever-changing kaleidoscope of colour. The lake, Italy’s largest and most striking, with gentle waves lapping onto the shingle shoreline, forms the centrepiece of a beautifully harmonious mosaic, with the stunning snow-capped Alps in the background and a scattering of beguiling villages completing the image. Further north on this tour we witness the Dolomite Mountains, some of most spectacular alpine scenery anywhere. It’s only in the past 150 years that Italy has come to exist as a nation state formed from a collection of previously largely self-governing cities, often separated by impenetrable marshes or mountain ranges. They then evolved totally independently and on this tour we shall visit two of them – the very different but very classic cities of Verona and Venice. Rome aside, Verona claims to have more ancient remains than any city in Italy. Its most striking monument is its arena – the third largest to have survived since antiquity – where a range of entertainments was presented, including gruesome gladiatorial combat. The city gained much of its renown as the setting for Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s tale of doomed love. Enclosed by massive and extremely well-preserved ramparts,

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Verona casts a seductive spell, with lovingly restored pink-hued buildings lining the streets. And then there’s Venice. Thoughts of the city conjure up all sorts of marvellous images, from its gondolas to its great buildings. But reality can be even more breathtaking than imagination. Saint Mark’s Square and Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the Grand Canal are incomparable. You can’t walk for more than a few minutes without seeing something that demands your attention and admiration. DAY 1 – ARRIVE IN LAKE GARDA Arrive at your selected airport for your flight. We transfer by coach to one of two delightful lakeside resorts – either Malcesine or Riva del Garda, both of which are surrounded by lofty peaks and located at the more scenic northern end of Lake Garda. DAY 2 – TOUR OF LAKE GARDA Lake Garda rose to prominence in the latter years of the 19th century when visitors came for the clean mountain air and agreeable climate, and its outstanding natural beauty has ensured its lasting high regard. On today’s tour of the lake we pass through some lovely, typically Italian villages, complete with tiny harbours clinging to the shoreline with the mountains behind. We call at Salò, where former national leader Mussolini was set up by the Germans in a short-lived republic during the Second World War. There are 15th-century buildings and a cathedral full of art to see before we continue our journey to picturesque Sirmione. Situated at the lake’s southern tip, Sirmione

announces itself in captivating fashion with a bridge and moat leading to a fortress and the Old Town. Other highlights of Lake Garda include lush groves of olive and citrus trees and, of course, vines used for making the famous Bardolino wines. In the middle reaches of the lake, rich vegetation covers the lake shore, while the more rugged north is covered with pine trees, whose unmistakable scent hangs heavy in the air. DAY 3 – THE DOLOMITES After breakfast, we head north to ascend into the Dolomites. Geological activity some 230 million years ago imbued this remarkable mountain range with gorgeous pink and lime-green hues, among other colours that change with the seasons. The foothills are characterised by green pastures studded with the occasional shepherd’s house, sheep and goats scattered here and there and pine forests stretching into the distance. This landscape would have you believe you were in another country – the houses in the tiny hamlets resemble Swiss- or Austrian-style chalets, with gently sloping roofs and enormous window boxes that burst with flowers of all colours. It’s an area where cultures cross over – some of the locals speak Ladino, a dialect fusing Italian and German. We have plenty of stops to savour the scenery, as well as the opportunity to ascend on a cable car (subject to seasonal operation) to enjoy panoramic views of the whole area. The splendour of this rugged landscape and its clean, crisp and invigorating mountain air really take your breath away. Its


PRICE INCLUDES

• Enjoy a full day exploring beautiful Lake Garda, both on land and by boat • Explore Venice, the medieval world’s richest city, on a tour with a local guide – choose between the ‘classic’ and ‘undiscovered’ tours • Walk into history among the Roman ruins of Verona, guided by a local expert – choose between the ‘classic’ and ‘undiscovered’ tours • Marvel at the breathtaking alpine scenery of Dolomites on a full-day tour • Enjoy two free days to explore further at your leisure or relax and take in the incredible scenery

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports with hotel transfers Seven nights in a choice of three-star to four-star superior accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £649PP Wander the lakeside streets of Riva del Garda

remoteness means it’s home to a huge variety of rare wildlife. If you’re lucky, you could see chamois, ibex, golden eagles and deer. DAY 4 – FREE DAY Today is a free day to explore at your leisure. Located at the top of the lake, Riva del Garda is surrounded by pine-swathed peaks. The delightful Old Town is full of twisting streets with lots of shops, perfect for wandering through. Those staying in Malcesine have equally enticing ways to spend the day. There are fabulous views from the 12th-century Castello Scaligero, which houses a natural-history museum, while the Palazzo dei Capitani was a base for Malcesine’s Venetian rulers in centuries past.

The Basilica di San Marco, built to house the relics of Saint Mark himself, is among Europe’s most exotic cathedrals and one of the world’s most splendid buildings. Its interior decoration is the definition of opulence. The statistics are staggering but serve to back up what your eyes tell you – there are over 86,000 square feet of detailed mosaics, mostly from the 13th century. Another highlight is the magnificent

Pala d’Oro, a gem-studded golden altarpiece containing over 250 enamelled panels. Adjacent is the Doge’s Palace, home of the most powerful man in Venice, and the seat of government councils and courts. These surroundings were designed as fittingly lavish accommodations for the government of a great power – the Golden Staircase will take your breath away. The walls and ceilings are exquisitely decorated with paintings, frescoes and gold leaf; one room alone hosts four works by Tintoretto. If you’ve been to Venice before and have seen the iconic sights, perhaps you’d like to join our ‘undiscovered’ tour of lesser-known Venice away from the main tourist parts, led by an expert guide whose local knowledge will help you delve deeper in the life and culture of this extraordinary city.

DAY 5 – VENICE: CLASSIC OR UNDISCOVERED After an early breakfast we drive to Venice to witness a city as culturally rich as any on earth. On our morning walking tour you’ll see Saint Mark’s Square and its Basilica, the Campanile and the Doge’s Palace, together with countless other places of interest. Venice came to prominence in the 10th century. It grew in wealth and power on gaining its independence from Byzantium, reaching its zenith of influence during the 15th century. At the time the greatest power in the Mediterranean, with an empire encompassing Crete, parts of Turkey and a huge portion of northern Italy, Venice soon transformed itself into a city worthy of this lofty status. Situated ideally between east and west, it expanded rapidly with the huge increase in trade.

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The Dolomites

The afternoon is free to explore as you please. Saint Mark’s Square has been the focal point of the city since its foundation, and enjoying a drink in one of the pavement cafés and absorbing the atmosphere remain some of life’s great pleasures. Seeing these iconic buildings and spaces one by one is a delight, but so is viewing them all at once, so why not take a trip up the Campanile, the imposing bell tower? Originally built as a lighthouse, it was where Galileo demonstrated his telescope to a sceptical audience. For art-lovers there’s the unmissable Gallerie dell’Accademia, housing one of the finest collections in the world, including many Renaissance works. Or there’s the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, with works by Miró, Picasso, Chagall, Pollock and Léger among others. And a visit to Venice wouldn’t be complete without a trip on a gondola. These beautifully made boats are crafted from 300 individual pieces of wood. A short ride on one of them is a lovely and peaceful way to explore the backwaters of the city.

DAY 6 – FREE DAY Today you’re free to explore your surroundings as you wish. So what’s it to be? A stroll around the port is a charming way to spend your time, perhaps indulging in a little shopping. There are various options for taking a boat cruise on the lake, which will allow you to witness Garda’s sights with a fresh eye. For the more energetic a walk along the lakeside offers rewarding views, while for those who prefer to sit and watch the world go by there are many welcoming cafés. DAY 7 – VERONA: CLASSIC OR UNDISCOVERED Our guided walking tour of Verona is the best way to appreciate one of Italy’s most beautiful and pleasant cities. Shakespeare, of course, set Romeo and Juliet here and you can see the balcony at Casa di Giulietta, where legend has it that the immortal words ‘O Romeo, Romeo’ were spoken by Juliet’s real-life counterpart. Inside Verona’s centuries-old walls, pink-hued buildings, many with stunning frescos, have remained

unchanged for centuries. Classic pavement cafés are seemingly everywhere, some with violinists serenading their audiences as they enjoy a refreshing drink, basking in the sunshine. Narrow streets feature tasteful shops, while Verona’s marketplace dates from Roman times and includes many fascinating reminders of the city’s past. The first-century Roman arena is an aweinspiring sight, still used for opera performances (see Personalise Your Holiday), but there are also many medieval and Renaissance squares and courtyards to explore, as well as a 12th-century cathedral housing a work by Titian. The fine late Renaissance Giusti Garden, with clipped box hedges and dazzling displays, will add splashes of colour to your lasting memories. Another site of interest is the Basilica of San Zeno, whose ancient Roman original was destroyed in 1117 but later rose to become arguably the finest Romanesque church in northern Italy. For those who have been to Verona before, our ‘undiscovered’ tour is the best way of seeing a different side of this city, including many hidden cultural and architectural gems that most visitors never see. This afternoon is free for you to explore as you wish. Why not indulge in some shopping – Italy is renowned for its sense of style, and Verona has many excellent shops, ranging from exclusive boutiques to family-owned businesses selling local goods. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for our flight home. WE HAVE A CHOICE OF HOTELS IN MALCESINE OR RIVA DEL GARDA On this tour, we stay for seven nights with breakfast and dinner. You have a selection of hotel options in either Malcesine or Riva del Garda. THREE-STAR HOTEL CRISTALLO (MALCESINE) Set in a beautiful location overlooking the lake, this informal, family-run hotel has a homely feel and has been lovingly furnished in a style that reflects the owners’ personal tastes. The rooms are tastefully decorated and have en-suite facilities, satellite TV, a safe and air-conditioning. The colourful dining room offers a variety of simple Italian and Austrianinfluenced dishes, typical of this area of Italy. The hotel also has a bar, lounge and outdoor terrace. Enjoy

Verona

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spectacular views of the lake and mountains from the rooftop terrace, or relax by the outdoor swimming pool, surrounded by palm trees and luscious greenery. Mere steps away is a lakeside path that leads right into the heart of Malcesine’s picturesque Old Town. FOUR-STAR SUPERIOR HOTEL SAVOY PALACE (RIVA DEL GARDA) A hotel exuding elegance and refinement, superbly managed by its third-generation family owners. Set approximately 150 yards from the lakeside, it offers striking alpine vistas as you stroll along a pathway to the harbour and Old Town. The lounge and bar create a convivial ambience while the restaurant, which enjoys an excellent reputation, serves both regional and international dishes and prides itself on its level of service. There’s a small indoor swimming pool and in the grounds you’ll find an extensive heated pool and hydro-massage tub surrounded by an attractive sun terrace with flowers and hanging baskets adding colour. The spacious, air-conditioned rooms, which have balcony views, are extremely well-appointed and stylishly furnished, with Wi-Fi, satellite TV, safe, minibar and hairdryer. FOUR-STAR SUPERIOR HOTEL KRISTAL PALACE (RIVA DEL GARDA) This is one of the lake’s finest boutique hotels, justifiably proud of its many accreditations. The Kristal Palace is set in small, immaculately maintained grounds and you’ll instantly recognise that everything about this property exudes luxury, comfort and good taste in a modern style. The lobby makes extensive use of warm, pastel-coloured marble, leather settees and tinted glass, while fine art adorns the walls. The rooms themselves feature hardwoods, marble, superb fabrics, exquisite bed linen and leather headboards. The bathrooms have contemporary fittings, invigorating showers and luxury cosmetics. Food is a real passion here. From the restaurant there are views into the kitchen, where talented chefs will truly exceed your expectations. Imaginative fine dining and fresh seasonal produce are the themes, with classic Italian cuisine presented with a modern twist to really excite your palate. Your dining experience is enhanced by exquisite glass and tableware, fresh flowers and bread baked on site. An unobtrusive pianist completes the atmosphere. On the roof is a real gem – the heated swimming pool surrounded by a terrace with sun-loungers, affording an amazing panorama of the lake and its backdrop of majestic mountains. Weather permitting you can enjoy breakfast on the roof terrace, while the bar is a wonderful place to enjoy the views and unwind after a day’s sightseeing. FOUR-STAR HOTEL EUROPA (RIVA DEL GARDA) A wonderful hotel with an outstanding location – in the centre of Riva del Garda and on the lakefront, with unrivalled sightlines of the historic port. As well as a modern lobby and comfortable lounge, there’s a superb terrace overlooking the harbour and colourful, vibrant main piazza. You can take breakfast here or enjoy a relaxing drink while making the most of probably the best vantage point in the whole of Riva. In the evenings, the hotel’s restaurant serves local specialities and typical Italian dishes. The air-conditioned, recently renovated rooms are well-appointed with satellite TV, Wi-Fi, hairdryer and safe. There’s a small rooftop swimming pool and sun terrace. FOUR-STAR HOTEL PORTICI (RIVA DEL GARDA) Located just close to Riva’s main square in the heart of the Old Town, this historic hotel is also very near to

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Attend the Verona Opera Festival Don’t miss the world’s oldest open-air opera festival, set in an atmospheric Roman amphitheatre. When the lights dim, the magic begins and the most beautiful voices fill the air. It’s sure to make your holiday extra special. Call us to pre-book this optional experience. From £59pp. 2019 Tour Departure Date 2019 Opera Date & Performance 24 June 27 June - Aida 1 July 4 July - Il Trovatore 8 July 11 July - La Traviata 15 July 18 July - Carmen 22 July 25 July - La Traviata 29 July 1 August - La Traviata 5 August 8 August - La Traviata 12 August 17 August - La Traviata 19 August 22 August - La Traviata 26 August 29 August - Tosca 2 September 5 September - La Traviata Please visit www.rivieratravel.co.uk for more information. To book this optional experience, call 01283 245 345.

the lake. It was once a manor house and it retains a wealth of period features, from stonework to vaulted ceilings, creating a wonderful ambience. The air-conditioned rooms have Wi-Fi, satellite TV, safe, minibar and hairdryer, and are thoroughly contemporary in their design, while a welcoming bar complements the atmospheric restaurant serving traditional local cuisine. Surrounded by Riva’s famously twisting streets lined with tasteful boutiques, the Portici wears its tradition lightly, while being convenient and comfortable. THREE-STAR HOTEL BRIONE (RIVA DEL GARDA) A centrally located hotel that’s very well managed by its family owners. All the comforts of a modern establishment are complemented by tastefully decorated rooms with satellite TV, Wi-Fi, safe, hairdryer and air conditioning, a spacious restaurant and pleasant bar, lounge and terrace. Best of all are the outdoor pool and the quiet landscaped grounds to the rear of the hotel, the ideal spot in which to switch off for a while. Across the road is a lakeside path on which you can enjoy a walk through tranquil shaded gardens.

FOUR-STAR HOTEL ANTICO BORGO (RIVA DEL GARDA) Enviably located in Riva del Garda’s atmospheric historic centre on a pedestrianised cobbled street lined with tasteful boutiques and tiny restaurants, this hotel is still less than five minutes’ walk from the lake. A conversion from two townhouses, recently renovated to a high standard, it emanates charm. A spacious, welcoming reception and bar area provides comfortable seating. The air-conditioned rooms, which have Wi-Fi, satellite TV, safe and minibar, are modern, simply yet imaginatively decorated in that seemingly effortless Italian fashion. The rooftop terrace offers spectacular picture-postcard views over the lake to the mountains beyond. A short walk is necessary from the coach collection point, but your luggage will be transferred for you. Please note: The use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature. Where hotels feature an outdoor swimming pool, this will be open during the summer months (weather permitting).

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L A K E M A G G I O R E , O R TA & T H E M AT T E R H O R N 8 days from only £999pp

A spectacularly beautiful tour taking in the villages and islands of Italy’s most sophisticated lake, Maggiore, visits to Lakes Como and Orta, plus breathtaking alpine scenery, the chic Swiss resort of Zermatt and the iconic Matterhorn. Our desire to experience new countries is as timeless as the beauty of the Italian lakes, which have been delighting visitors for many centuries. Indeed, it was the arrival of the British during the days of the ‘Grand Tour’ that first brought fame to sublime Lake Maggiore and helped to create the sophisticated villages nestling like pearls on a string along its verbena-clad shores. This wonderful combination of magnificent Swiss mountain scenery and Italy’s tranquil, crystal-clear lakes creates a stunning visual montage that cries out to be explored. It’s hard to describe the flawless beauty of the Italian lakes, yet viewing them you’ll immediately understand why so many artists, composers and writers have sought peace and inspiration here. The heady mix of serene waters, forest-clad hillsides, medieval villages, orange-blossom-scented warm air and delicious food make them an irresistible destination. Lake Maggiore straddles both Italy and Switzerland and we stay in Stresa, a typically stylish Italian town that was once a favourite haunt of Hemingway, Chaplin and many others. We explore not only Lake

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Maggiore but also the equally beautiful Lake Como and lesser-known Lake Orta, one of the most spellbinding places you’ll ever visit. With the arc of the imposing Alps stretching out along the horizon, you’ll enjoy arguably the finest mountain scenery on the planet during your visits to Switzerland – chic Locarno and dramatic Zermatt, nestling at the base of the world’s most mesmerising peak, the mighty Matterhorn. Then there are the delightful lost valleys, tumbling glacier streams and classic chalet scenes that, when blended together, offer a truly inspirational tour. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN STRESA Arrive at the airport for your flight to Milan or Milan Bergamo. We transfer by coach to the captivating town of Stresa on the peaceful shores of Lake Maggiore. Walking the cobbled streets of Stresa’s Old Town is like winding back in time to the elegance of a largely bygone era. There are many restaurant and café options in the main square, while modern and more traditionally minded shops sit side by side. You’ll stay in a choice of four-star or four-star


PRICE INCLUDES • Cruise Lake Maggiore’s enchanting Borromean Islands, with a guided tour of the Baroque palace on Isola Bella • Travel through the Simplon Pass to Zermatt and the Matterhorn • Visit picture-perfect Lake Como to see why it inspired Byron, Shelley and Wordsworth • Enjoy a full-day tour visiting Cannobio and Locarno, with a journey on the Centovalli railway through spectacular alpine scenery • Tour one of Italy’s most exquisite stretches of water, Lake Orta, and its medieval village of Orta San Giulio • Take the opportunity to join a complimentary guided walk

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star or four-star superior accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £999PP

Situated amid beautiful manicured gardens looking out to the Borromean Islands on the lakeside promenade is the historic four-star Grand Hotel Bristol. Its chic marbled lobby and lounge area feature glass chandeliers and fine frescoes, leading to an atmospheric bar and winter garden, while all the rooms are decorated in classic styles. The large outdoor swimming pool is set in the grounds, while the spa centre includes an indoor pool. DAY 2 – LAKE MAGGIORE & BORROMEAN ISLANDS Unmistakably Mediterranean in character, Lake Maggiore’s shores are lined with oleanders, palms and aromatic verbena, with its tranquil waters reflecting the azure sky above. Just offshore are the fascinating Borromean Islands. They take their name from a Milanese family who once owned the four rocky outcrops and, in the 17th century, commissioned the finest architects and landscape gardeners to craft luxurious residences on them. Pride of place goes to the amazing Baroque palazzo on Isola Bella, which we visit on a fascinating morning guided tour. Its resplendent rooms feature refined furniture, sculptures and paintings, with intricate parquet flooring and elegant pastel-coloured plasterwork; underground you’ll find elaborate shell-adorned grottoes. Even more impressive are the exquisite grounds featuring overlapping terraces imaginatively planted with orange and lemon trees, magnolias and a host of other fragrant and colourful shrubs and plants. Marble statues and unique white peacocks add the final touches to this dramatic display. Previous distinguished visitors to the palace include Napoleon and Josephine as well as Prince Charles and Princess Diana. The second island we visit, Isola dei Pescatori, is a complete contrast. Its narrow cobbled streets, picturesque harbour and charming buildings, which are ideal for strolling around, reflect its 10th-century origins and the ancient fishing tradition after which it is named. This is the perfect place for a relaxing fish

Centovalli Railway

Visit Lake Maggiore and the Borromean Islands

superior hotels for seven nights, with breakfast and dinner. Superbly located in its own landscaped gardens on the lakeside promenade is the four-star Hotel Astoria. It has been family run for three generations and is tastefully furnished with spacious lounges, a rooftop terrace offering fine views across the lake and surrounding mountains, a swimming pool and terrace set in lush gardens and an excellent restaurant with views of the water. The bedrooms have a spacious, relaxing feel and feature air-conditioning, satellite TV and Wi-Fi. The four-star superior Regina Palace is one of the grandest hotels on Lake Maggiore and, dating from 1908, it truly reflects the belle-époque era with its chandeliers, brass and wrought-iron fittings so typical of the period. The hotel faces the lake and is set in extensive landscaped gardens to the front and rear with terraces, a tennis court and outdoor swimming pool. There’s also an indoor pool in the relaxing spa and an elegant restaurant. All the rooms are air-conditioned and luxuriously decorated and furnished.

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Lake Como

lunch in one of the excellent lakeside restaurants – many with enchanting secluded terraces – before we cruise back to Stresa during the afternoon. DAY 3 – CENTOVALLI RAILWAY Long and relatively narrow, Lake Maggiore straddles the Swiss–Italian border and this morning you’ll enjoy a totally different perspective of the waterscape as we take a private boat to Cannobio. You’ll have some free time in this pretty lakeside town before boarding a coach for the fashionable Swiss resort of Locarno, which nestles below the towering peaks of the Alps. During our journey you’ll see increasingly dramatic snow-capped mountains, their colours gently changing from pinks to greens and blues as the sun casts its ever-changing shadows. You’ll catch glimpses of locals going about their daily lives while birds of prey soar on the thermals. Locarno is very much a Swiss town but the twisting lanes and alleys of its historic centre bear more resemblance to Tuscany than Zurich, lending it a real charm; its history is encapsulated in a mighty medieval castle that dominates from above. After some free time we board the narrow-gauge Centovalli train for a spectacularly scenic trip back across the Italian border to Domodossola. Named after the socalled ‘hundred valleys’ through which it passes, the train features specially designed panoramic carriages so you can sit back and enjoy amazing views of the glorious mountain scenery of cascading waterfalls, deep ravines, chestnut forests and romantic hillside villages. From Domodossola we return by coach to Stresa. DAY 4 – LAKE COMO This morning we explore northern Italy’s most famous lake, described by Wordsworth as ‘a treasure whom the earth keeps to herself’. For centuries Lake Como has attracted visitors – including Byron, Shelley, Churchill and numerous others – seeking relaxation, culture and creative stimulus from its picture-perfect setting. The famous Roman chronicler Pliny the Younger, who was born in Como Town, wrote of the

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lake’s luxuriant beauty and it has inspired some of the finest works by greats such as the composers Verdi and Rossini. The town itself is renowned for its imposing cathedral, delightful parks, grand hotels and the majestic Villa Olmo, which has hosted many eminent guests including Napoleon, Archduke Ferdinand and Garibaldi, the ‘father of modern Italy’. During your free time you could take the funicular railway up the hill to Brunate for breathtaking views of the lake and town. The shore is lined by attractive pastel-painted villas, faded by decades of sunshine, with winding lanes ascending to the town’s hilly centre.

cable car to the summit of Mount Mottarone, taking in alpine gardens en route. Alternatively, boat trips to Isola Madre with its ravishing botanical gardens, or Pallanza, a charming town with Roman origins, offer wondrous views. The Maggiore lakeside exudes an ambience of gentility that has its origins in the days of the ‘Grand Tour’ when Europe’s 19thcentury aristocracy, having crossed the border from Switzerland, experienced their first taste of Italy. Aficionados of literature may like to take a drink at the bar of the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees, featured in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and frequented by the likes of George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin.

DAY 5 – FREE DAY Today you can choose to relax in your hotel, take a swim in the pool or explore Stresa’s numerous delights. Enjoying a coffee in the Piazza Cadorna is a preferred pastime for many, but there’s also a

DAY 6 – ZERMATT & THE MATTERHORN You can expect some truly breathtaking mountain vistas today as we climb the foothills of the Alps, cross the Swiss frontier and head into the high Alps themselves. We take the Simplon Pass, an ancient

The Matterhorn


traders’ and smugglers’ route that didn’t have a vehicular road until Napoleon had one constructed in the early 19th century. Continuing on, the scenery becomes ever more spectacular, with lush wildflowercovered meadows studded with tiny shepherds’ shelters and dense forests crowned by snowy peaks glistening in the sun. You could be lucky and catch a glimpse of an elusive ibex, a chamois or even a golden eagle soaring high above. You’ll marvel at the engineering feats required to build the road as it traverses towering viaducts and jaw-dropping precipices, passing countless mountain streams and tumbling waterfalls before we arrive at the legendary village of Zermatt. Nestling at the foot of the mighty, iconic Matterhorn, Zermatt is classic Switzerland, a car-free jumble of chalets and old wooden buildings strewn along a valley floor of pastures alive with the sound of cowbells, while cable cars and soaring footpaths weave ever upwards to the majestic amphitheatre of the surrounding lofty summits. The ultimate alpine peak, the Matterhorn is relatively unobtrusive until you reach the end of the village and turn a corner, when the Swiss national symbol is revealed in its magnificent splendour… the sight is truly one of life’s ‘wow’ moments! For an even better view, take the cog railway up 10,000 feet to Gornergrat, the awe-inspiring mountain wonderland of glaciers and summits. Alternatively, relax in one of Zermatt’s many cosy cafés or take a gentle ride in a horse-drawn carriage. DAY 7 – LAKE ORTA Our final day, and we experience one of the tour’s real highlights. Orta is probably the prettiest of the Italian lakes, yet also one of the least well known. You’ll immediately discern Orta’s exceptional atmospheric charm and understand why it’s regarded as something of a hidden gem. Surrounded on three sides by deep blue water, the romantic lakeside village of Orta San Giulio has so far avoided the tourist hordes. Its pebble-studded lanes and stepped alleys – lined with myriad traditional food shops selling the gorgeous produce for which Italy is so justifiably renowned – lead down to the shore and a main square. You’ll adore the village’s medieval architecture of picturesque buildings with shuttered windows in typically Italian shades of ochre, magenta and light blue that create a kaleidoscope of colour. A boat trip takes you to the island of San Giulio, which features an enchanting basilica – its opulent interior contains a spectacular carved black marble pulpit, wonderfully preserved frescoes and a vertebra which, according to legend, belonged to a dragon. Before we return to our hotel we visit Arona at the southern end of Lake Maggiore to view the monumental statue of San Carlo Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan. This enormous 17th-century bronze stands over 110 feet high and for centuries was the world’s tallest bronze statue. It crowns a hill commanding wonderful views across the lake and the surrounding countryside.

Mergozzo. We follow a delightful track through an unspoilt oak forest brimming with wildlife, with our naturalist guide describing the flora and fauna we encounter. It’s always fascinating getting so far off the beaten track and, after time for a coffee at our final destination at Mergozzo village, we return to Stresa by train. Places are limited and must be pre-booked, Please advise at the time of booking if you wish to participate. Also, the day on which the walk takes place is usually your free day and is subject to weather

conditions. The walk is available from May to September only. Please note: The use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature. Where hotels feature an outdoor swimming pool, this will be open during the summer months (weather permitting).

Zermatt

Isola dei Pescatori

DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your return flight home. COMPLIMENTARY GUIDED WALK An increasing number of you like to experience the scenery on foot, so you may want to join our complimentary guided walk. Covering about 3.5 to 4 miles, it’s not arduous, though light walking shoes or strong trainers are advisable. We begin with an eight-minute local train ride to the tiny hamlet of Verbania-Pallanza, situated on one of Italy’s most gorgeous lakes – little-known

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POMPEII, CAPRI & T H E B AY O F N A P L E S 8 days from only £729pp

The natural and historic riches surrounding the Bay of Naples and the Sorrento peninsula are amazing – bustling Naples, chic Sorrento, the island of Capri, the Amalfi coastline and, of course, Pompeii and Herculaneum. Italy is a truly wonderful destination for so many reasons. Perhaps more than any other nation, it has retained its roots and traditions into the modern era, while its blend of excellent food and wine, sublime scenery, enviable climate and a phenomenal cultural legacy provide all the ingredients for a memorable stay. Plus, of course, there are the Italians themselves, with their legendary love of life! In the south of the country you’ll find one of the most beautiful corners of Europe. For centuries, the Bay of Naples and the Sorrento peninsula have been attracting visitors eager to experience their dazzling scenery, tranquillity and abundance of world-class historical sights. It’s a region of Italy that has had a long and turbulent past – invasions by the Greeks, Phoenicians and Saracens have all left their marks, but it was the Romans whose legacy remains most obvious today. Two millennia ago the Emperors Tiberius and Augustus fell under the spell of the Bay of Naples and, together with countless members of the ruling elite, made it their home.

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Our base for this tour is the picturesque town of Sorrento. The resort came to prominence during the late 18th century when, attracted by its mild climate and outstanding natural beauty, Europe’s aristocracy chose to spend their winters here, staying in sumptuous properties and grand hotels built along the cliff tops. There’s colour everywhere you look in its compact network of tiny streets and quaint squares: tubs of red geraniums, dark blue clematis climbing up pastel-hued walls, and oleanders, bougainvilleas and roses in varying shades of pink decorating the open spaces. Lemon trees are common – you can’t help but notice their fragrance as you wander – and lofty palm trees offer shade in the summer months. Mouthwatering aromas drift from the numerous restaurants and trattorias, some humble and homely, others grand and ostentatious, with pavement cafés serving cappuccinos on every street corner. Today Sorrento is a typically vibrant Italian town – smartly attired traffic wardens blowing whistles and waving their arm direct the traffic as Vespas weave

in and out; smartly dressed young men and women make their way to work; mothers with children in tow pass by with bulging shopping bags; and splendidly turned out senior citizens discuss life on public benches and outside cafés… all with the sun shining down, this is really a slice of la dolce vita. You’ll also explore legendary Amalfi coast. Every guidebook proclaims it to be Europe’s most attractive stretch of coastline – limestone mountains, copses of pine and the most vivid azure Mediterranean waters you’ll ever see… truly magnificent scenery. Next it’s Capri, a picture-perfect island off the Sorrento peninsula that possesses a deserved reputation as a veritable Garden of Eden and whose romantic allure has attracted royalty and celebrities for hundreds of years. The skyline of the Bay of Naples is dominated by magnificent Mount Vesuvius, which soars to over 4,200 feet. This still-active volcano has erupted spectacularly several times in its history, most famously in 79AD when Pompeii and Herculaneum


Explore the stunning Amalfi coast

PRICE INCLUDES • • • • •

Explore the amazingly preserved Roman town of Herculaneum with an expert local guide Take a boat trip to the stunning island of Capri, with the opportunity to visit the Blue Grotto Discover the mysteries of Pompeii on a guided tour and visit the Naples Archaeological Museum Spend a full day touring the breathtaking Amalfi coast, with a visit to charming hilltop Ravello Stay in elegant Sorrento and enjoy a walking tour of this stylish resort

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in a choice of three- to four-star superior accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner. Stays at the Hotel Mediterraneo include daily breakfast only • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £729PP their opulent villas. During the 18th century it was part of the ‘Grand Tour’ for Europe’s aristocracy, and classic hotels sprung up along the cliff-top streets. Today, spared the excesses of modern development, Sorrento is a quintessential southern Italian town. You’ll be enchanted by its maze of narrow alleyways and winding streets, complemented by countless

elegant shops selling luxury leather goods and shoes, and cosy restaurants nestling in tall buildings with faded facades in typically Mediterranean shades of ochre, yellow and magenta. The region has a long history of lemon cultivation, with highly prized Sorrento lemons given their own protected IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) status in the same way as Parma ham or balsamic vinegar from Modena. Sixty percent of lemon production goes into making limoncello liqueur, but in Sorrento it seems that anything can be made from the local citrus fruit, including soaps, cosmetics and, of course, ice-cream. DAY 3 – NAPLES & POMPEII Today we drive north around the bay to the cosmopolitan city of Naples. We then have a guided tour of the Archaeological Museum, one of the finest of its kind in the world. When the excavations started in nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum, the most significant finds were brought here and unveiled to an eager public. An extensive display of remarkably preserved mosaics provides a fascinating insight into the way of life – and even the sense of humour – of ordinary Romans. Other areas of the museum include murals, fine pottery and preserved food, while a central presentation features some of the largest classical sculptures ever uncovered. It’s an absorbing visit, and one that perfectly complements your visit to Pompeii. Most people know the story of Pompeii and its fate, but today this site is so much more than a collection of ruins. Our guided tour of the Roman town highlights its astonishing state of preservation – even if you aren’t especially interested in history, you can’t fail to be impressed by its scale – streets, temples, baths and even the ampitheatre remain largely intact. Much of our knowledge about the Roman way of life, their habits, social structure, class system and domestic arrangements has come from Pompeii. Many buildings still have murals and mosaics, while others inscribed with graffiti describing political events, romantic entanglements and even gossip of the time. You can even see traffic-calming measures and a one-way system! Although endlessly fascinating, Pompeii is also slightly eerie, particularly when you see the pained facial expressions of Vesuvius’s victims preserved for eternity.

Temple of Apollo

– together with many of their inhabitants – were entombed by a sea of molten rock and ash. Visits to these Roman towns highlight the scale of this catastrophic event and you’ll be amazed by their remarkable state of preservation. Ultimately, there are few places in the world that combine so much of interest in an area of such extraordinary scenery as the Bay of Naples, making it an especially stimulating tour destination. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN SORRENTO Arrive at the airport for your flight to Naples. On arrival we transfer by coach to Sorrento, where you have a choice of carefully selected hotels to stay for seven nights. DAY 2 – WALKING TOUR OF SORRENTO Our first full day in this centuries-old resort is at a suitably relaxed pace, beginning with a short walking tour. The Romans appreciated Sorrento’s many qualities and the area is dotted with the remains of

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DAY 4 – FREE DAY Today is a free day to spend at leisure in Sorrento, perhaps to browse the numerous boutiques and enjoy a leisurely lunch in your choice of restaurant.

Capri

DAY 5 – CAPRI The island of Capri is renowned the world over, and today we take a short boat ride to discover its charms. It has long been the most desirable part of the Bay of Naples, attracting Roman emperors – Tiberius made it his home and ruled the empire from here – writers such as DH Lawrence and George Bernard Shaw, Hollywood stars and numerous other luminaries who have sought inspiration here. It’s easy to see why Capri is so adored; as we approach you’ll see small fishing boats bobbing on the water, with whitewashed shops and restaurants lining the busy quayside against a backdrop of towering cliffs. The main town is perched on a hill looking down on the quaint harbour below and you’ll have some time to explore the island. One option is to visit the famous Blue Grotto – the large sea cave that takes its name from the incandescent blue light that bathes the cavern. A short walk from the harbour and the bustling main square you’ll find yourself in near-deserted lanes that pass terraced vineyards, lemon groves and fragrant pines, with spectacular views of the rugged coastline and cobalt-blue sea below… and then you’ll understand just why the island is regarded as a true Mediterranean paradise. DAY 6 – HERCULANEUM This morning we visit Herculaneum – known locally as Ercolano – located in the shadow of mighty Mount Vesuvius. Like Pompeii, it was buried under scalding mud and ash when the volcano erupted in AD79, smothering everything from complete streets and houses to small metal objects and textiles, and sealing them in an airtight tomb. It wasn’t until the first major excavation commenced in the 18th century that the hidden secrets of this ancient settlement were revealed. Our local guide will bring the history of Herculaneum to life. As you walk around this wonderfully preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site you’ll appreciate just how much volcanic waste had to be excavated to uncover what we can see today. It may be less well known than Pompeii, but the state of preservation of the buildings at Herculaneum is generally far superior, so it’s certainly worth the visit. DAY 7 – AMALFI COAST Today you’ll have a chance to experience the sublimely beautiful Amalfi coast at first hand as we wind around spectacular pine-clad cliffs that tumble down into the turquoise Mediterranean. Our coastal drive takes us above the exclusive resort of Positano … haunt of celebrities. We arrive in Amalfi, a picturesque village in a gorgeous setting, possessing charm in abundance and perhaps the highlight of the coast. Just inland is the stunning village of Ravello, with its awe-inspiring location perched like an eagle’s nest on a shelf above Amalfi affording amazing views. It has an ambience all of its own, with an enchanting main square, a 13th-century cathedral and the Villa Rufolo, which was once the centre of a city-state and is now an interesting collection of medieval buildings, statues and terraced gardens (it was was also the inspiration for elements of Wagner’s opera Parsifal). DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

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WE STAY IN SORRENTO AND HAVE A CHOICE OF HOTELS The Villa Maria is a comfortable three-star hotel. The bedrooms are simply furnished and include satellite TV, minibar, hairdryer and air conditioning, while the hotel itself is centrally located next to the Old Town and a short walk from Piazza Tasso, the main square. Just around the corner is Corso Italia, Sorrento’s principal thoroughfare, lined with stylish shops and boutiques. Villa Maria has an extensive bar and lounge – the perfect place to unwind after a day’s sightseeing. The swimming pool and adjacent sun terrace are ideal places to soak up the sun, while a second terrace offers splendid views of Sorrento, the Mediterranean, Mount Vesuvius and, on a clear day, Naples. A sympathetic conversion of a 16th-century abbey, the three-star La Badia has retained much of the building’s original stonework to give this small hotel a lovely ambience. All the rooms are tastefully furnished and have a TV and air conditioning. The


hotel has been in the same family for many years and guests are made to feel extremely welcome. The reception and entrance hall boast many antiques to add to the atmosphere. Its location is also impressive, situated just behind Sorrento with the sea and Naples stretching out before you. It’s set among four acres of attractive gardens that include fragrant lemon and orange groves. By road La Badia is approximately two miles from Sorrento, and guests can use a free pre-bookable taxi service or the local bus, which stops just outside. There’s also a more direct 400 metre pathway into town, which is steep and narrow, but illuminated by night. The hotel has an outdoor pool and a restaurant serving good local cuisine; weather permitting, you can dine on the terrace overlooking the bay. There’s also a pleasant bar. The four-star Vue d’Or, or ‘view of gold’, is an apt name for this delightful hotel built in a style typical of the region. The lounge, bar and public rooms feature traditional tiled floors and wrought-iron staircases, with the original exposed stonework adding to the charm that permeates the property. There’s a restaurant and the air-conditioned rooms are wellfurnished – decorated in cool pastels, they include satellite TV, safe and hairdryer. The outdoor pool and terrace are ideal spots for a refreshing drink at the end of the day. Set in its own grounds and adorned with a wealth of terracotta-potted flowered shrubs, what really elevates the hotel is its hillside location behind Sorrento; surrounded by undulating countryside, it provides amazing views over the Bay of Naples to Mount Vesuvius. Should you wish to visit Sorrento – less than four miles away – you can use the Vue d’Or’s Lemon groves, Amalfi

shuttle service or board a local bus from just outside the hotel. The four-star superior Grand Hotel Aminta is located on a hilltop less than two miles from the town centre, and its location affords picture-postcard views of Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples – it’s an unbeatable spot to watch a classic Neapolitan sunset. The pastel decor has been carefully chosen to sympathetically reflect the hotel’s surroundings. Spacious public areas create an aura of relaxation, while the adjacent lounge, terrace and swimming pool are perfect for whiling away spare time. The bedrooms are comfortable and tastefully furnished – all offer fridge, hairdryer, satellite TV, safe, Wi-Fi and air conditioning. The hotel provides a courtesy shuttle bus service to Sorrento town throughout the day and evening. Nestled in a leafy setting away from Sorrento’s main thoroughfare yet just minutes from vibrant Piazza Tasso, the four-star Michelangelo is well located in the heart of town. Originally structured around a 7th-century stone tower, the property has a fascinating history, with the modern rooms simply furnished using dark woods, local terracotta tiles and warm fabrics; all feature air conditioning, hairdryer, safe and satellite TV. The hotel also has a small swimming pool and a sun terrace, while the lounge is a great place to unwind after returning from your excursions. Directly on the cliff top with uninterrupted views across the Bay of Naples to Vesuvius, the centrally positioned four-star superior Grand Europa Palace enjoys one of Sorrento’s most breathtaking

vantage points. During the 19th century, some of the town’s oldest, most sumptuous private villas were sympathetically converted into this fine hotel, which also features pleasant Mediterranean gardens. Inside, the design of the large public areas retains the style associated with the ‘Grand Tour’ – lavish Venetian glass chandeliers grace the coved ceilings, paintings adorn the walls, seating is on tasteful high-backed chairs and sofas and tall windows are dressed with light-coloured curtains, while bronze and marble sculptures line the hotel’s wide corridors. The Grand Europa Palace consists of two restored villas, one of which hosts an opulent reception area and restaurant. Standard rooms are located in both the main building and the Villino Maria across a pathway opposite. Sea-facing rooms are in the main building only. All rooms are air-conditioned with minibar and satellite TV. Accessed by a lift, the hotel’s private pool is decorated with Roman-style columns and located just a few steps from the sea. With the poolside bar at hand to serve you a revitalising cocktail, it’s an idyllic spot to relax and take in the sensational Mediterranean vistas. Only steps away from Piazza Tasso and Corso Italia, three-star Grand Hotel Cesare Augusto couldn’t be in a better position. Its spacious bedrooms are tastefully decorated with the ceramic tiles so typical of Sorrento, with generous use of polished hardwoods. All bedrooms offer minibar, air conditioning, hairdryer, safe, satellite TV. The hotel restaurant serves a range of traditional local and Mediterranean cuisine while the rooftop has a small swimming pool and bar, with excellent views of the town. The spacious communal areas provide a relaxing environment, although the Cesare Augusto’s excellent location means you will probably find yourself spending most of your time visiting the picturesque alleys and shopping areas on your doorstep. The hotel is partially surrounded by its own landscaped gardens, with large pine trees providing welcome shade. A former private villa, the four-star Hotel Mediterraneo was built in 1912 with a frontage overlooking the Bay of Naples. Its transformation into a luxurious traditional hotel has resulted in a handsome establishment that oozes early-20thcentury ambience. The tall white building has a bright, airy feel. Marble flooring in the sleek lobby leads through to a stylish bar, and there’s an outside terrace. All the welcoming bedrooms have air conditioning, safe, hairdryer, satellite TV and minibar. This hotel is offered on a daily breakfast only basis, so you’ll have more of an opportunity to sample the fantastic local cuisine – a great selection of traditional Italian eateries, trattorias and fine dining restaurants are within easy reach. On the top floor of the Mediterraneo is the Vesuvio restaurant, which presents spectacular views out to Mount Vesuvius. Its à la carte menu offers dishes made from fresh local produce; book in advance as it’s very popular. To the rear, surrounding the pool, there are extensive mature gardens with palm trees and fragrant flora, plus another bar, and there’s also a privately owned beach area opposite the hotel, accessible by the hotel’s private lift. Please note: The use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature. Where hotels feature an outdoor swimming pool, this will be open during the summer months (weather permitting).

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NEW

UMBRIA, PERUGIA & ASSISI T H E H E A R T O F I TA LY 8 days from only £899pp

Journey to the green heart of Italy to discover the unspoilt region of Umbria. This tour will take you through endless rolling countryside, up soaring hills topped with time-warp towns, down into the magical Frasassi Caves and onto the sparkling waters of Lake Trasimeno. Italy’s rich mix of archaeological treasures, fine art and architecture, hearty cuisine and mountainous Mediterranean landscape has long proved irresistible to visitors. Unreservedly romantic and deeply influenced by religion, it’s capable of stirring emotion in a way that’s unrivalled worldwide. And despite possessing these attributes in abundance, Umbria slips under the radar. Its unique position as the only region in Italy that doesn’t border another country or the sea ensures it remains one of the country’s most authentic areas. Umbria isn’t the place to see showy tourist attractions you’d recognise from the guidebooks at a glance. This region quietly goes about its laidback local life, proudly preserving its trademark hilltop towns and protecting its landscape of fertile green plains, which dip into valleys and slope up forested hillsides to the towering crags of the Apennine mountains. It’s also fiercely proud of its incredible history traceable back to ancient Etruria, which expanded over central

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Italy between 750 BC and 500 BC, before eventually succumbing to Roman rule. Two of the destinations on this tour were among the 12 major Etruscan cities, including our bustling base, the magnificent university city of Perugia, and the charming Tuscan town of Cortona. We also visit pretty Gubbio and clifftop Orvieto, both former Etruscan strongholds, as well as spectacular, mountain-backed Spoleto and the famous pilgrimage town of Assisi, thought to have been the territory of the Umbri tribe. Both ancient civilisations remain elusive to this day, although traces can be seen in the ruins that lay hidden beneath Umbrian streets. The calling card of Umbrian towns is that they’ve been built in improbable places – climbing up hillsides or perched atop sheer walls of rock. This defensive tactic has undoubtedly contributed to their impressive preservation as portals to the past. Their deliberately inaccessible positioning, made accessible by impressive escalator systems and funiculars,

also meant that victorious invaders built upwards, siting medieval towns above crumbling Roman amphitheatres and secret Etruscan cities. Of course, as we’re at the heart of faithful Italy, we’ll also see magnificent churches, crowned by the awe-inspiring Basilica of St Francis of Assisi. Between dipping into local town life, we’ll experience central Italy’s natural attractions, including the otherworldly caves of Frasassi and the tranquil Lake Trasimeno, as well as taste the fruits of the fertile landscape at a local winery and rustic restaurant. If you’d like to discover what lies at the very heart of Italy – a region that’s every bit as beautiful and historically important as neighbouring Tuscany, but remains largely unexplored – this tour of Umbria is set to surprise and enchant. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN ITALY Fly to Rome or Perugia, and transfer to the four-star Brufani Hotel. This grand hotel has hosted royalty


Explore medieval Assisi, the birthplace of St Francis

PRICE INCLUDES • Enjoy a guided tour of Perugia, capital of Italy’s beautiful Umbria region and formerly one of the 12 Etruscan cities • Take a guided tour of medieval Assisi, the birthplace of St Francis and home to the incredible basilica dedicated to his name • Cross into Tuscany to explore the timeworn, narrow streets of hilltop Cortona • Take the ferry across Lake Trasimeno to the time-capsule island of Maggiore • See Spoleto’s ancient Roman and Romanesque architecture on a guided tour • Sample the spoils of the verdant Umbrian countryside at a local producer of Sagrantino di Montefalco wine • Descend deep under Umbria’s undulating landscape to explore the enchanting Frasassi Caves • Journey through the history of one of Umbria’s oldest towns, Gubbio, on a land train tour of the sights

DINING CHOICES If you wish to dine in at the hotel, you may pre-book dinner for 3 nights at £88pp.

clink of china as cups are set out for morning coffee and the friendly chatter of Italians passing the time. This wide avenue leads up past a mix of shiny designer boutiques and tiny timeworn shops to the Piazza IV Novembre – the centrepiece of the city. This flagstone square boasts the gothic San Lorenzo cathedral, the imposing 13th-century Palazzo dei Priori and the intricately carved Maggiore fountain. Fanning out from the square is a jumble of narrow alleyways lined with crumbling buildings in shades of peach,

• Take the funicular up a volcanic rock face to the hidden town of Orvieto, a former Etruscan stronghold boasting one of Italy’s finest cathedrals • Visit a 101-year-old chocolate factory and learn the story behind the iconic Perugina Baci chocolate • Taste traditional fare at a rural restaurant

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports, with hotel transfers Seven nights in four-star accommodation, inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast (a three-night hotel dining option is available) The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager

FROM £899PP ochre, russet and cream, providing plenty of places to people-watch over a local craft beer, a chilled glass of Orvieto Classico or a creamy gelato. From the Piazza Italia you can take an escalator down to the atmospheric streets of medieval Perugia, an underground world hidden within the 16thcentury Rocca Paolina fortress. You can also enter the foundations of the fortress through the Porta Marzia gate, one of the stone portals chiselled into the crumbling Etruscan wall that encloses Perugia. Interestingly, this under-city maze is more than just a tourist attraction – you’ll see locals hurrying through it to the bus station! This afternoon our attention turns to chocolate at the Perugina chocolate factory – surely every chocoholic’s dream. Founded over a century ago, Lake Trasimeno

and celebrities since its opening in 1884, including our very own Queen Mother. Guests can enjoy the panoramic views from the terrace of the Collins Bar, and the atmospheric swimming pool, which lies under exposed medieval vaults and has a glass floor overlooking the 3,000-year-old Etruscan ruins below. The hotel sits on an elevated position on the edge of Perugia’s hilltop historic centre, on one end overlooking the lower town towards the surrounding green countryside, and on the other leading onto the smart Piazza Italia. A three-night dining option is available during your seven-night stay if preferred. DAY 2 – PERUGIA & CHOCOLATE FACTORY After breakfast we embark on a tour of this bustling university city, which uses an escalator system to connect the lower town to the historical core above. A wander along the Corso Pietro Vannucci is a treat for the senses, as its traffic-free status allows the subtler sounds and smells of local life to come through – the

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languid waters to Isola Maggiore, enjoying the view of the Castello del Leone or ‘fortress of the lion’. As we approach, the 19th-century Guglielmi Castle can be seen nestled into the wooded hillside. Those who wish to can climb the shrubby hill path to the simple Church of St Michael the Archangel – a favourite meditation spot of St Francis. Perhaps you’d prefer to visit the Lace Museum, which celebrates the Irish handicraft that found its way to the island in 1904 and is still practised by local women today – you may even see them working away on their doorsteps. Wherever you wander, you’ll be surrounded by hardy olive trees, distinctive for their gnarled trunks and breathtaking views of the lake.

Explore Umbria’s lovely villages

this chocolatier quickly became one of Italy’s top confectionary exporters. If you’re not familiar with Perugina’s foil-wrapped hazelnut ‘Baci’ chocolates, each hiding a romantic love note, you will be after our tour. DAY 3 – ASSISI This morning we head for Assisi, an elegant hill town dominated by the vast Basilica of St Francis complex, which includes a Franciscan monastery and two churches. Sitting on the green hillside with the town climbing ever higher behind it, this is a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts pilgrims from around the world. As we wander the flower-hung streets with our local guide, we learn how St Francis came to be so highly revered in Italy, from his early life as the spoilt son of a silk merchant, to his renouncement of riches and founding of the Franciscan Order of monks. Built as a shrine to St Francis in 1228 two years after his death, the exterior of the basilica and friary complex is befittingly austere. Inside, however, is a different matter, with both the upper and lower basilicas adorned with colourful frescos, including a series attributed to the famous Florentine painter, Giotto. The simple-living St Francis rests in the crypt below the basilica, together with his friend, benefactor and follower, Jacoba of Settesoli, who is said to have fed him his favourite almond treats on his deathbed. We have some free time to explore the old-world town centre with its shuttered stone houses, ‘holein-the-wall’ shops and tiny family-run cafes – the silky ‘strangozzi’ pasta with rich, earthy black truffles is a must-try! A varied collection of churches and cathedrals dots the piazzas, while two medieval castles, Rocca Maggiore and Rocca Minore, jostle for dominance on the skyline. DAY 4 – CORTONA & LAKE TRASIMENO Today we travel north towards Tuscany, following the shoreline of Lake Trasimeno, a huge splash of azure surrounded by gently sloping green hills covered with olive groves, thick woodlands and the occasional lakeside town. Cortona clutters the hillside with a tight muddle of terracotta rooftops, which hide a maze of narrow alleyways and wide piazzas – you

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may recognise it from the romantic memoir and subsequent film, ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’. The central Piazza della Repubblica is the perfect place to stop for a mid-morning ‘caffè’ served thick and brooding in a tiny white cup. This square is so impossibly untouched by time that you half expect an old horse and cart to come clip-clopping past the bell-topped Palazzo del Capitano! The spectacular view from the Piazza del Duomo is another must, leading the eye over the city walls and across the Tuscan countryside. In the afternoon we return to tranquil Lake Trasimeno, known as the Sea of Umbria by locals of this landlocked region. From the lakeside town of Castiglione del Lago, we take the ferry across the

DAY 5 – SPOLETO & WINE TASTING This morning we enjoy a guided tour of Spoleto, which sits on a foothill of the Apennines mountain range. The sight of the medieval arched bridge leading to the formidable Rocca Albornoziana fortress will remind you of an epic historical movie, while the city that sits behind it bears the hallmarks of Roman and Lombard rule. The desolate ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheatre are a contrast to the resplendent Romanesque cathedral that dazzles in the palest stone on the Piazza del Duomo. For lunch you may be tempted by the smell of the slow-roasted porchetta that’s stuffed into sandwiches and sold from streetside stalls. Then we set out into the rich tapestry of Umbrian countryside once again to visit a leading producer of Sagrantino di Montefalco wine, made from the black sagrantino grapes indigenous to the region. A tasting allows you to form your own opinion as to whether this dark, full-bodied ‘vino rosso’ deserves a place on your wine rack. We’ll also sample the olive oil that this region is revered for worldwide, to complete an afternoon full of the true tastes of Umbria. DAY 6 – FRASASSI CAVES & GUBBIO We drive east this morning to the Marche region that lies between Umbria and the Adriatic. Here we delve deep underground to explore the Frasassi Caves, considered to be among the most impressive


Cathedral of Orvieto

in Europe. Our tour of these stunning karst caves, which can easily trick the eye with their glistening snow-white walls and icicle-like stalactites and stalagmites, takes us into the Great Cave of the Wind – large enough to house the Milan cathedral. As we learn more about their 1971 discovery by local

speleologists and their formation over a million years ago, it’s impossible to remain unmoved by our magical and mesmerisingly beautiful surroundings. This afternoon we return to Umbria to visit ancient Gubbio, which has roots going back to the Bronze Age. For lunch why not try a traditional ‘crescia’, a

flaky flatbread stuffed with cheese and meat, before our land train ride around this pretty, pristinely kept town, which climbs the lowest slope of Mount Ingino. The ruins of a Roman amphitheatre sit in the lower town, with the impenetrable-looking Church of St Francis. Gubbio’s medieval core then begins its ascent, the air fragranced by the flower boxes that dot the cobbled streets with splashes of colour, towards the Piazza Grande, a fantastic viewing platform overlooking the town and across to a hilly horizon). Climbing even higher, we can see the cathedral and Palazzo Ducale, a duo of landmarks at the very top of the town. DAY 7 – ORVIETO & AGRITURISMO LUNCH This morning we end our journey of Etruscan discovery at another of this mysterious civilisation’s 12 key cities, Orvieto, whose ancient ruins lie in eerie underground caves. A glimpse of this sparse subterranean city can be had from the family-owned Well of the Cave, a secret passageway leading to nine caves underneath a traditional pottery shop! With the city built from the precipitous chunk of volcanic rock on which it sits, Orvieto looks almost at one with the red-hued rock – although the cathedral is a stand-out feature. After a ride up the tree-lined funicular tracks to the old town, we marvel at the intricate façade of this incredible Gothic building, featuring gilded frescoes that give it the appearance of being illuminated from within. After our discovery of Orvieto we stop at a rural restaurant, known locally as an agriturismo, to sample a menu of traditional fare grown in this fertile land at the heart of Italy.

Orvieto

DAY 8 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your return flight.

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PISA, THE CINQUE TERRE & PO RTO FI N O 8 days from only £1,199pp

No distance at all separates Lucca and Pisa from Portofino and the Cinque Terre, but the treasures they offer on this fascinating northern Italian tour make for a satisfyingly diverse experience. In Pisa’s Square of the Miracles there’s the famous Leaning Tower, cathedral and baptistry, but much less well known are the colourful timeless villages, such as Portofino, that cling to the Ligurian coastline. A visit to a vineyard and a wine tasting adds to your unforgettable memories. This tour takes in two of Italy’s most desirable regions: Tuscany and the Italian Riviera. They’re delightfully different from each other, but both are fascinating and evocatively scenic in their own ways. Firstly we visit Tuscany, always a favourite destination for art, architecture and stunning countryside, staying in Lucca, the birthplace of Puccini. It’s one of Tuscany’s most graceful towns, with a historic quarter nestling inside outstandingly preserved Renaissance walls. To the south of Lucca is Pisa, a city famed around the world for a tower that seems to defy gravity, yet it has so much more to offer. For breathtaking majesty, its cathedral and baptistry have few equals, but wander a little way from here and you discover that this city is a true medieval gem, with its maze of tiny streets and intimate piazzas lined with traditional food shops and atmospheric family-run restaurants. The university dates from the 14th century and welcomed Galileo as a student and then later as a teacher.

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Despite its popularity, Tuscany can still spring surprises. We see outstanding – almost hidden – villages, largely unchanged for centuries. Ancient streets tumble down hillsides and the superlative vintages from Bolgheri are a must for wine enthusiasts. In short, you’ll experience a largely undiscovered side of Tuscany. To the north is the splendidly rugged western coastline of Italy. Almost indescribably beautiful, this part of the Italian Riviera is a favourite destination for Italians and one they like to keep to themselves – you’ll understand why we visit delightful Porto Venere, the Cinque Terre’s unspoilt villages with their riot of colour, and Portofino’s stunning harbour. Staying in chic Santa Margherita, we explore the spectacular coast and these picturesque hideaways by boat, spotting umbrella pines growing horizontally from sheer cliffs interspersed with calm bays and headlands protruding into the azure Mediterranean.

This tour offers contrasting cultures, centuries of history and ravishing landscapes, all crying out to be experienced. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL On arrival in Italy we transfer to Lucca for a four-night stay in the tranquil four-star Best Western Grand Hotel Guinigi, with breakfast and dinner. It’s situated in a leafy area of Lucca, a 25-minute stroll from the famed city walls. After passing through the welcoming bar and lobby area on the ground floor, you’ll find airconditioned rooms decorated in soothing shades, all with satellite TV, Wi-Fi, hairdryer, minibar and safe. DAY 2 – LUCCA After breakfast we take a tour with a local guide who will bring the story of Lucca to life. The city was founded by the Etruscans, and its well-preserved walls date from the Renaissance. As we explore the


PRICE INCLUDES • Discover Lucca, birthplace of Puccini, on a guided tour • Take a private boat cruise along the Cinque Terre, visiting villages nestling along one of Europe’s most beautiful coastlines • Experience the majesty of Pisa’s historic centre on a guided tour, visiting the cathedral and the beautiful marble baptistry • Enjoy views of the rolling Tuscan countryside on visits to Campiglia Marittima and Castagneto Carducci • Visit a Tuscan vineyard and enjoy a tasting of its excellent wines • Sail to stunning Portofino, one of Italy’s most exclusive towns, with its breathtaking waterfront and celebrity visitors

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star and four-star superior accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner (one will be taken at a local restaurant) • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £1,199PP

its shady promenades and relaxing in its elegant piazzas. Enjoy a delicious coffee or a light lunch in one of the cafés surrounding the amphitheatre. As the birthplace of Puccini, Lucca hosts numerous concerts celebrating his work. You can often hear talented vocalists during rehearsals, which adds a wonderful acoustic dimension to your enjoyment of this beautiful city. DAY 3 – TUSCAN COUNTRYSIDE Some of Tuscany’s best-kept secrets are waiting to be discovered. Amid its rolling landscape there are finger-like cypress trees, appealing olive groves and traditional farmsteads with their trademark terracotta roofs. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, hilltop villages discreetly announce themselves. We visit two of them, both unspoilt and utterly enchanting. It’s marvellous to stroll in relative solitude around the medieval village of Campiglia Marittima, with its maze of alleys and squares and the remains of the castle tower dominating the countryside. We continue to Castagneto Carducci, which was renamed to celebrate one of the country’s great poets, Giosuè Carducci, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The focus of the commune is the 16thcentury castle, but its winding streets offer charming diversions, perfect for exploring. This region is also renowned for its wines. Vineyards abound, producing the excellent vintages for which Tuscany is justifiably famous. The agreeable climate around the small village of Bolgheri results in an outstandingly rich variety of grape. Naturally, we can’t pass by without stopping to sample the produce. Later we return to Lucca, where we dine at a local restaurant serving superb Tuscan cuisine. DAY 4 – PISA After breakfast, it’s just a short drive to Pisa for a guided tour that takes you to the heart of this historic city. During the 11th century, extensive trading links were forged with Spain and North Africa, bringing with them Moorish scientific expertise and vast wealth. These riches made Pisa one of Europe’s foremost cities and also financed an array of imposing

Lucca

Cruise along the beautiful coastline of the Cinque Terre

centre, you’ll notice the rectangular grid pattern which originated with the street plan of Roman times, while the oval Roman amphitheatre is another evocative reminder of millennia past. It’s easy to picture the city buzzing with rumour and intrigue in 56BC when Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus gathered here to renew their fragile alliance – the First Triumvirate – with the aim of taking control of Rome and its empire. Growing prosperous on the silk trade from the Middle Ages onwards, Lucca once rivalled Byzantium in the production of luxury textiles and was Italy’s second largest city-state after Venice before it eventually fell to Napoleon. Each of the sides of Lucca’s city walls – wide enough for walking and cycling and, at one point in history, even car racing – is lined with trees of different species, which seals their place as one of Tuscany’s major sights. This afternoon you can experience more of Lucca’s wonders, exploring its cobbled streets, strolling along

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buildings, the remains of which are still visible today, not least in the Piazza dei Miracoli – the ‘Square of Miracles’. You’ll marvel at how such a relatively small space can accommodate such magnificence. The Leaning Tower – one of the world’s most instantly recognisable silhouettes – is your iconic introduction to the rest of the piazza. The decoration in the cathedral is astonishing – breathtakingly detailed sculpture, frescoes, graceful arches and inspired use of colourful marble – and the 24 huge bronze doors are remarkable. It was in the building’s massive nave that Galileo is said to have formulated his pendulum theory while observing an incense burner swinging from the intricately decorated ceiling. The superlative quality of the city’s monuments continues in the 12th- to 14th-century baptistry, where you can witness the architectural transition from Romanesque in the lower levels to Gothic in the upper registers. Constructed entirely of marble and occupying the same unstable ground as the tower, it also leans – only not nearly so much. Inside, the acoustics produce dramatic effects. Noises seem to echo endlessly, with staff on hand to demonstrate. We conclude our visit with the Camposanto, a huge cemetery reputed to contain soil from Golgotha – the site of Jesus’s crucifixion. The great and good of Pisan society wanted to be laid to rest in holy ground and

Admire the picturesque fishing village of Portofino

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the arched Gothic cloister is lined by sarcophagi and huge frescoes, some in the process of being restored to their former glory. In the afternoon we return to Lucca. You’re free to choose how to spend the rest of the day – relaxing in the hotel or paying another visit to Lucca’s captivating centre. DAY 5 – SANTA MARGHERITA Our morning drive north takes us past Carrara’s enormous gleaming quarries, source of the finest marble, which has been used in masterpieces by sculptors from Michelangelo to Henry Moore and fashioned since Roman times into the great monuments now dotted across Italy’s landscapes and beyond. Our exploration of the extraordinarily arresting coast of Liguria brings us to the Gulf of the Poets, an evocative name for an inspiring area. Those who frequented it include Byron, Shelley and DH Lawrence. One of its highlights is the stunningly picturesque village of Porto Venere, its fortress high on the hillside overlooking an array of colourful multistoreyed houses lining the harbour. A stroll along the promenade reveals a network of narrow medieval lanes leading to the church and castle. We stay for three nights, with breakfast and dinner, in Santa Margherita at one of two carefully chosen hotels, depending on the departure date of

your tour. The four-star superior Grand Hotel Miramare was built in the early 20th century. It faces the sea at the front, while extensive, mature landscaped gardens are to the rear. The public areas are elegantly decorated, featuring antique and contemporary furnishings. Hardwood floors and intricate plaster coving emphasise the hotel’s heritage. The bars and restaurant continue this theme, while the air-conditioned guest rooms ooze charm and sophistication, offering Wi-Fi, satellite TV, minibar and safe. The hotel boasts modern facilities – including a pool – yet retains its essential character of period elegance. Please note: the swimming pool is open only in the summer months (weather permitting). A sense of history is important to the owners of the four-star Best Western Regina Elena, and an on-site exhibition celebrates the hotel’s century of service. All the comfortable air-conditioned rooms feature Wi-Fi, satellite TV, safe, minibar and hairdryer. There’s a private beach exclusive to residents and a rooftop pool and hot tub offering ravishing views of the Cinque Terre and the Gulf of Tigullio. Please note: the swimming pool is open only in the summer months (weather permitting). Elegant Santa Margherita is the ideal location for our stay – charmingly chic and quintessentially Italian, with the lovely palm-fringed coast and green-carpeted mountains forming a wonderful backdrop. Full of smart shops and pavement cafés, a sophisticated atmosphere pervades the narrow streets beyond, and it’s just three miles from Portofino. DAY 6 – CINQUE TERRE We spend the next two days exploring the splendours of the surrounding coastline in the manner to which local people have been accustomed for millennia – by boat. Our private charter takes us to the extraordinary Cinque Terre, which translates as ‘Five Lands’. We visit a selection of these five villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – cut off from the landward side by rugged terrain and steep coastline, making them almost unreachable by car. Under their collective name they’re celebrated as an area largely unspoilt by modern development. The dramatic locations, the vivid colours and the way the villages seem to fuse organically with the rugged topography make this one of Europe’s principal scenic highlights. Seafood dominates menus here, anchovies being a local speciality, while steeply terraced hillsides produce fine olives and the ingredients for pesto. Being Italy, there’s also much locally produced wine, and it’s fascinating to see how the growers have adapted to the terrain with precarious-looking monorail mechanisms used to ferry themselves and their produce, some of which has to be harvested by boat. There’s a refreshing lack of souvenir shops, so you can truly immerse yourself in your surroundings and a lifestyle that has changed very little over time. DAY 7 – PORTOFINO You can watch fine watercraft quietly going about their business on the shimmering waters as we sail the short distance to Portofino. Arriving here by boat gives you a real sense of the way in which this historic fishing village established itself and thrived around its own superb natural harbour, with a setting of cypress trees and olive groves. There’ll be the dawning realisation that all you have heard about the beauty here is not hype. Traditionally this divinely pretty village, with its patchwork of colourfully fronted houses stretching up the hillside from the water’s edge, earned its living from the fruits of the sea, and its many superb restaurants still do. Mentioned by Roman writer Pliny the Elder, much later it became a fashionable destination for

Vernazza

generations of Hollywood superstars: Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer, Bogart and Bacall, Burton and Taylor. Celebrity spotting as you while away an hour over a drink is a common pastime for residents and visitors alike, though you may prefer to explore the quieter backstreets, seeking out a locals’ bar. A walk to the headland offers a life-affirming view and the scents of thyme, pine and wildflowers hanging heavy in the air. After returning to Santa Margherita in the afternoon, your free time before dinner could perhaps be spent seeking out something special in the smart shops, wandering through the many parks and gardens with their abundant semitropical plants, or sipping a cool aperitif as the sun sinks slowly over the sea. As the waterfront lights twinkle on the gentle waves, it’s time for our final appetising meal in the hotel’s dining room. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME After breakfast we transfer to the airport for our return flight. Please note: The use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to midSeptember), depending on the temperature. Important note: Visiting the Cinque Terre and Portofino by boat is subject to weather conditions. If safety concerns mean we can’t sail to the Cinque Terre on Day 6, we’ll travel by rail instead, visiting a selection of villages. In this case, you’ll receive a refund of £23 per person. If we’re unable to sail to Portofino on Day 7, we’ll travel there by the only other method of transport allowed – local bus (approximately 10-minute drive) – and in this instance you’ll receive a refund of £4 per person. When assessing the weather, the captain’s decision to sail or not is final, so please consider this when booking this tour.

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PUGLIA ,LECCE & VIESTE U N D I S C O V E R E D I TA LY 8 days from only £849pp

Puglia, little-known, ruggedly beautiful, fringed by the sea – where the magnificent architecture of Lecce and Bari, coastal charm of Vieste, ‘hobbit’-like conical trulli and local cuisine offer a delightfully different experience of Italy. Blessed with abundant sunshine and fringed by the bountiful waters of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Puglia is a land of plenty. One of the most fertile regions of Italy, it produces more olive oil than the rest of the country combined, most of its fish, 80 per cent of Europe’s pasta and more wine than the whole of Germany. Unsurprisingly, its natural riches have attracted a host of invaders throughout history – ancient Greeks colonised the area in the 8th century BC, then came the Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Normans, Spanish and Bourbons, before Puglia became part of unified Italy in 1861. Each culture has left a distinct footprint, from the local dialect peppered with Greek expressions to the Moorish ambience of the narrow streets of Bari, where traders’ wares spill out onto the cobbled streets. It is this melding of cultures that makes Puglia – the ‘heel’ of Italy’s great ‘boot’ – delightfully different.

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Overlooked by many who prefer to head to Italy’s better-known attractions, Puglia echoes with its own history. In Lecce, an imperial column marks the end of the Appian Way, one of the greatest Roman roads, and Hannibal dealt Rome its heaviest defeat at nearby Cannae. A gem of a baroque city, Lecce also boasts around a hundred churches of myriad styles, ranging from Romanesque to Rococo. Its centre is a labyrinth of alleyways, and it’s easy to imagine Roman officials, medieval merchants and richly clad bishops going about their lives. Every town seems to have a Norman cathedral, decorated with intricate stonework, colourful frescoes and fine paintings. Huge Spanishbuilt castles overlook the rolling countryside, while the ports that once thrummed with crusaders embarking for the Holy Land now have a relaxed feel.

As you explore, it becomes evident that Puglia is not the Italy of the north. Its rugged limestone landscape is carpeted with olive groves and dotted with villages of white, flat-roofed houses resembling those of Greece and its islands, while the beauty of the forested Gargano Peninsula stands comparison with the more famous Amalfi coast. But there are many features unique to this area, none more so than the trulli, the cone-shaped houses that have become unofficial symbols of Puglia. Here in the deep southeast of Italy, nature and history are powerful influences, the locals still wink cheekily at authority and the relaxed and communal way of life is in harmony with the sunny climate. Famed for its passionate embrace of life, simple cuisine, flavoursome wines, historic cities and charming coastal villages, it’s a delightful place to get away from it all.


Marvel at extraordinary Matera

PRICE INCLUDES

• Discover Lecce, the ‘Florence of the South’, and its many stunning architectural gems with a local guide • See the instantly recognisable trulli houses of Alberobello with their conical roofs, set against undulating countryside reminiscent of Tuscany • Enjoy a guided tour of medieval Matera and its astonishing, UNESCO listed cave village hewn entirely from rock • Tour the old town of Bari with a local guide and see its remarkable Romanesque cathedral • See the beautiful Foresta Umbra Nature Reserve and visit the crusader church of Monte Sant’Angelo • Learn the fascinating craft of pasta making and enjoy a light lunch at a family-run osteria

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports with hotel transfers Seven nights in conveniently located four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner (three dinners will be taken at local restaurants) The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £849PP interest waiting to be discovered. Our walking tour begins at the imposing Porta Napoli gate, where we meet our local guide, and from there we explore the vibrant Jewish quarter before taking in the Basilica di Santa Croce. A remarkable example of creativity, this

The cathedrals of Lecce are beautifully ornate and a sight to behold. ANDREW GRAHAM-DIXON

Baroque church has an intricate facade, while inside we can only marvel at the gorgeous decoration and multi-coloured marble columns. There are so many beautiful details in the stonework you could lose hours gazing at them. The tour continues through the Old Town, rich with history, and we pause at a bank that has more to its history than money – it was once used to store olive oil. Another surprise awaits at the picturesque Piazza Sant’Oronzo, a bustling square set on the site of a partially exposed Roman amphitheatre. Built in the 2nd century, the amphitheatre seated over 25,000 people and it’s possible, looking down across the sweeping bleached stone seating, to envisage crowds gathering two millennia ago to enjoy all sorts of entertainment. We then amble down shop-lined streets to the elegant Piazza Duomo, where Lecce’s cathedral awaits. Built in 1144, its imposing exterior is only matched by its breathtaking interior featuring 12 side chapels containing paintings by a variety of artists. This afternoon you are free to explore. Lecce hums with life with a distinctly southern Italian feel, so soak up the ambience of its streets, relaxed cafés and refined boutiques while taking in all its baroque magnificence. In the evening we dine in an excellent restaurant, once a Roman granary, where you can enjoy the local cuisine.

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN LECCE Arrive at the airport for your flight. On arrival, we transfer by coach to the four-star Hilton Garden Inn in Lecce for two nights. This fine modern hotel is a short walk from the Old Town and features a restaurant, bar, outside terrace and spa. Its elegant rooftop swimming pool (open in the summer months, weather permitting) has panoramic views over Lecce. Some of our tours stay at the four-star Grand Hotel Tiziano. Also within walking distance of the Old Town, this contemporary hotel has an atrium restaurant and outdoor swimming pool (open June to September, weather permitting). DAY 2 – TOUR OF LECCE Lecce is known as the ‘Florence of the South’ for good reason – its architecture is outstanding and around every corner are buildings of beauty and

Lecce

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DAY 4 – MATERA This morning we have a guided tour of Matera, which is notable as one of the first permanently inhabited places in Italy and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. At its heart are the original troglodyte cave dwellings dating back over 9,000 years; astonishingly, people still live in them today. Everything you would expect in a conventional town is here, with churches, shops and artisan workshops all hewn from the naked rock. Is there anywhere else you can walk along a street that is the roof of the house below? We return to our hotel this afternoon to relax – the perfect opportunity to sun yourself by the pool. Or you may choose to stay in Matera and visit its many fascinating buildings – the 13th-century Romanesque cathedral is well worth your time. This evening, we complete a memorable day enjoying regional dishes at our dinner in a restaurant in Matera’s Old Town.

briefly the capital of Byzantine Italy. During Norman times it was thought to be as significant as Venice. This morning we have a guided tour of the Old Town where there is so much to discover, such as the imposing medieval fortress and the massive Romanesque cathedral with its 11th-century frescoes, while opera-lovers may know that Bari is home to the magnificent Teatro Petruzzelli. For many, though, the focal point is the Basilica di San Nicola, whose 900-year-old vaulted crypt is the final resting place of Saint Nicholas, Patron Saint of Russia – better known to us as Father Christmas. As we explore Bari’s tightly knit streets, look down its side streets to take in other aspects of traditional life, from shops displaying freshly caught sea bass, cuttlefish or lobster to stalls creaking under the weight of locally grown olives, tomatoes and peppers, and families eating meals with their windows and doors open. Here and there, you may come across chattering matriarchs sitting outside their doorsteps making, hand-rolling and cutting different types of pasta, a practice unchanged through time. Leaving Bari, we call at the picturesque fishing port of Trani, then the landscape changes as we climb the Gargano peninsular coastal road. The warm air is heavy with Mediterranean aromas of pine and wild flowers, and we soon arrive in the coastal town of Vieste. We stay for three nights with breakfast and dinner, at either four-star hotel – the Palace Hotel Vieste or the Hotel Degli Aranci, both situated a short stroll from the beach next to the Old Town. The Palace Hotel has been converted from a 15th-century noble’s house into a classic hotel. All the rooms are individually decorated, spacious and, of course, air-conditioned. There is a bar and restaurant, plus free use of the private beach with two sunbeds and an umbrella (June to September) per room. The Hotel Degli Aranci has been the lifelong project of its owners; it boasts a homely, welcoming atmosphere thanks to the genuine warmth of its staff. The rooms are nicely appointed, well maintained and air-conditioned. Again there is free use of the hotel’s private beach plus two sunbeds and an umbrella (June to September) per room.

DAY 5 – BARI Nestling on the Adriatic, Bari was a thriving walled port even before the Romans arrived and was

DAY 6 – FREE DAY IN VIESTE Phoenician in origin, Vieste is one of Italy’s most attractive coastal towns, situated on a rocky

DAY 3 – ALBEROBELLO During our drive this morning, the view to the horizon is an ocean of olive trees, studded with the occasional whitewashed village, a landscape underlining Puglia’s connections with Greece and North Africa. Soon you’ll begin to notice whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs – these are trulli, Puglia’s signature dwellings. In this corner of Puglia, the countryside blooms with patches of oak forest bisected by dry stone walls – almost reminiscent of rural Tuscany. We arrive in Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Remarkably, some parts of Alberobello are almost exclusively composed of trulli, creating an otherworldly feel – no wonder some compare it to a ‘hobbit’ town. For many, this is a highlight of the tour and we have time to explore, discovering how trulli were built, their intriguing origins and why many are adorned with Christian, pagan or celestial symbols. We then continue to Matera, where we stay two nights with breakfast and dinner at the four-star Hilton Garden Inn Matera. This contemporary hotel is set in landscaped gardens and features a lovely outdoor pool (generally open between June and September, weather permitting).

See the unique trulli houses in Alberobello

Gargano

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promontory overlooking turquoise waters with beaches either side. An enchanting jumble of white, flat-roofed buildings perched on cliff edges and dominated by its simple 13th-century cathedral, it’s an ideal place for your free day to relax. You may choose to amble through ancient alleyways, walk barefoot along the beach past the giant chalk stack – a remarkable geological landmark – enjoy a lunch of local seafood or just find a quiet spot to wile away the hours with a book. In the evening, we dine in a restaurant set in a renovated natural cave directly under the cathedral in the heart of town; run by a local family, it serves the traditional dishes of this corner of Puglia. DAY 7 – MONTE SANT’ANGELO This morning we arrive at Monte Sant’Angelo, a striking hilltop village with 360-degree vistas of the surrounding forests and the sea. It is one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage sites, where it is said that Saint Michael the Archangel appeared on several occasions in the days of early Christendom. The Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo, a complex of religious monuments and a striking octagonal tower, now stands on this hallowed site. The air cools as we descend into one of the crypts cut

into the limestone rock below the Sanctuary and discover marble carvings and multicoloured frescoes, some 1,200 years old. Here you are following in the footsteps of illustrious pilgrims, including popes and monarchs, not to mention throngs of crusaders, many of whom scratched messages of hope on the walls, still visible today, on their journeys to and from the Holy Land. We continue inland into the mysterious Foresta Umbra, roughly translated as ‘Dark Forest’. This atmospheric area is a natural wonderland of ancient trees, considered one of Europe’s finest orchid habitats. Heading towards the coastal town of Peschici, we enjoy a light lunch of local specialities, and discover the art of hand making pasta in a short demonstration by an expert. We arrive back in Vieste with time to relax before dinner at our hotel. DAY 8 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Please note: The use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to midSeptember), depending on the temperature.

Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo

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ROME ANCIENT & BAROQUE 5 days from only £649pp

Discover the unique heritage of the Eternal City on this fascinating tour taking in iconic ancient monuments, magnificent Baroque buildings and myriad art and cultural treasures. Built around seven hills on the banks of the River Tiber, Rome has more than two millennia of uninterrupted recorded history and a historic, architectural and cultural heritage unmatched by another capital on earth. The city was, of course, the hub of a vast empire, and the remains of ancient Rome are everywhere, including the Colosseum, scene of some of the cruellest acts ever committed, and the Forum, the crucible of politics and government. In later centuries, Rome flourished with the construction of the Vatican, Renaissance palaces and grand open spaces, such as the Baroque Piazza Navona. But Rome is much more than monuments and buildings, incredible though they are – it’s also a place where you enjoy excellent food. One of the first things that strikes you about visiting a Roman restaurant is how deeply embedded food and drink are in the culture, with a special emphasis on seasonal ingredients sourced from the fertile plains surrounding the city. The culinary delights you’ll taste here are a world away from the pizza and pasta we know at home. The best way to get properly acquainted with Rome is to wander where your feet take you, through its beautiful streets and squares where the smell of fresh coffee drifts from the numerous cafés. Soak

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up the city’s ambience, meet its people, sample its cuisine and let yourself be carried away by the atmosphere of this special place. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN ROME Arrive at the airport for your flight to Rome. On arrival, we transfer by coach to the four-star Hotel President, conveniently situated with excellent transport links via the metro and bus to all areas of the city and its main sights. This modern hotel has spacious reception areas, a breakfast room serving a full continental buffet, plus a restaurant and bar. All the rooms are air-conditioned and tastefully decorated, offering satellite TV, Wi-Fi, hairdryer, minibar and safe. DAY 2 – BAROQUE ROME After breakfast we get to know Rome in earnest with a guided tour of its Baroque heritage. For many, seeing the Trevi Fountain, with cascades of water rising from an antique Roman aqueduct and passing over immense rocks against a palatial backdrop, will be unforgettable. Legend has it that tossing a coin into the water and making a wish ensures you’ll return to this most beguiling of cities. Then there’s the Piazza Navona, Rome’s most famous square, built

on the site of an ancient Roman stadium, but now lined by elegant pastel-coloured buildings, cafés and restaurants. Take a stroll down the 18th-century Spanish Steps and imagine it as it was – the haunt of artists’ models and now simply a place to be seen. At the bottom is the Piazza di Spagna, once home of the English poet Keats, who was visited there by Milton, Byron and Shelley. The afternoon is free for you to explore as you wish, but while in Rome you must visit a truly unique place – the Vatican, an independent state and, of course, home to the Pope and the largest church in the world, Saint Peter’s Basilica. Inside, the Sistine Chapel is a pinnacle of human achievement and the largest painting ever created by one man, the genius Michelangelo. This is quite simply the largest, richest and most extraordinary such museum complex on earth, containing so many artefacts from the city’s past. Many of the finest artists of the Renaissance worked for a variety of popes, but there are other displays too: Egyptian antiquities, furniture, sculpture and silverware. DAY 3 – ANCIENT ROME & THE COLOSSEUM This morning we have a guided tour of the monuments of ancient Rome. Holding sway over


PRICE INCLUDES • • • •

Discover Baroque Rome on a guided tour, seeing the Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps Marvel at the scale and history of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum Explore the other highlights of ancient Rome, including the Baths of Caracalla and the Circus Maximus Visit the spectacular museums and art collections of the Villa Borghese, avoiding the queues with a reserved timed entrance

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports with hotel transfers Four nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Savour the flavours of Rome Enjoy more than 10 tastings on our fourhour walking tour of the vibrant Trastevere area. You’ll sample the finest cheeses, freshest pasta, wines in a cellar older than the Colosseum, and much more. From £82pp. Tour the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel with an expert Skip the queues and discover some of the world’s greatest works of art on a reserved tour with an authorised guide. Marvel at the finest classical statuary, the frescoed chambers painted by Raphael himself and galleries displaying remarkable candelabra, tapestries and 16th-century maps. Then there’s the beautiful Sistine Chapel, featuring Michelangelo’s renowned ceiling. From £42pp.

FROM £649PP

Find out why Rome is the Eternal City

much of the known world for 500 years, Rome was the mightiest empire of its time. It was ruled first by a series of consuls, then by the most famous Roman of all, Julius Caesar, followed by a series of emperors – and each wanted their place in history. Between them, they created a remarkable legacy we can still see today: the Forum, the nearby House of the Vestal Virgins, the Pantheon and temples of the gods – including Saturn, Mars, Venus – plus other buildings that were dedicated to foreign deities such as Isis and Serapis. Then there are the law courts, to which the legal systems of many countries owe a debt. Nearby, bulletins of military conquests were read out to a public eager for news. On Palatine Hill, the elite – including many emperors – relaxed in opulent villas. Close to the evocative remains of these buildings are the immense Baths of Caracalla, a veritable Roman leisure centre where citizens could exercise, bathe and have a massage, but there were many other diversions, not all of them as relaxing. Imagine the noise, chaos and colour of a chariot race in the Circus Maximus or blood being spilled during gladiatorial battles between men and beasts in the Colosseum. The rest of the day is free for you to spend as you please.

DAY 4 – VILLA BORGHESE This morning, we enjoy a timed reserved visit to the Villa Borghese, whose delightful gardens are the setting of a trio of remarkable museums. The Galleria Borghese houses one of the world’s great art collections, including treasures by Raphael, Caravaggio and Bernini. The national modern art museum is in another pavilion and the Villa Giulia boasts an outstanding array of Etruscan artefacts. Its ceramic and glass items, in almost perfect condition, are displayed next to gold jewellery studded with precious stones. As well as pieces that conferred wealth and status on their owners there are more ordinary items: agricultural tools, cooking utensils, coins, brooches, remains of clothing, leather wear and even portable washstands. Many are similar to household items used today, acting as poignant reminders that no matter what era people live in, they’re very similar and often want the same things. The afternoon is at leisure. You’ve already experienced the grandeur of many of Rome’s iconic

buildings, but not everything is on such a large scale. There are quieter, more intimate places, too: serene churches, inviting piazzas, traditional food shops and welcoming restaurants. Perhaps savour a coffee in the city’s oldest café, Antico Caffè Greco, whose previous customers included Byron, Ibsen and Casanova, while lovers of fine clothes will delight at displays in the boutiques along the Via Condotti. DAY 5 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Please note: The use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature.

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NEW

SARDINIA A L G H E R O , C O S TA S M E R A L D A & CORSICA 8 days from only £899pp

Experience another side of Italy that’s vastly different, where pristine beaches nestle on dazzling coastlines and all across the unspoilt hinterland are prehistoric settlements, as well as traditional villages inhabited by fiercely independent yet wonderfully warm locals – even the cuisine has its own identity. As DH Lawrence put it so succinctly: ‘This land resembles no other place.’ Speak of Sardinia and the glamorous scalloped bays of Costa Smeralda spring to mind, but the Mediterranean’s second-largest island has so much more to offer. A closer look reveals delightful surprises at every turn: an exhilarating thousand-mile coastline of translucent sea, white sands and hidden coves; a long history as diverse and fantastic as its rugged landscapes; and a unique identity that is familiar yet distinct from mainland Italy. Further inland away from the bustling coast is a very different yet perhaps more intriguing and authentic side to Sardinia: immaculate beaches give way to undulating countryside, cloaked in forests of cork oak in the uplands, and swathed in myrtle and olive on the lower slopes. Tucked away are sleepy towns and villages, where you’ll catch enticing glimpses of local life and centuries-old traditions. Even the cuisine of Sardinia differs with distinct takes on Italian staples. Semolina-based ‘fregula’ challenges our preconceptions of pasta as its spherical shape bears a closer resemblance to couscous than spaghetti. ‘Zuppa gallurese’ is Sardinian comfort food

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at its best and, despite its name, has nothing to do with soup – slices of bread are soaked in lamb stock and sprinkled with cheese and herbs, then baked in the oven to golden perfection. Some might say the culmination of Sardinian cuisine is the ‘porceddu’, suckling pig wrapped in myrtle and bay leaves, spitroasted for hours over an open fire. Off the beaten track are verdant vineyards producing superb wines, such as the Cannonau reds and Vermentino whites. Sardinia shares much of its history with Corsica, which once formed a head to its torso before the Straits of Bonifacio divided them over time. The islands’ strategic position between Europe and Africa has long attracted invaders since prehistoric times. Scattered across Sardinia are some 7,000 ‘nuraghi’ – these Bronze Age settlements were left by a mysterious civilisation and are an unceasing allurement to the curious traveller. Then came the Phoenicians who founded trading posts at sites such as Tharros, followed by the Romans who ruled Sardinia and Corsica as a province. Both islands were liberated by

Nuraghe Santu Antine


Wander the old town of Alghero

PRICE INCLUDES • Discover hidden cultural treasures in the charming traditional villages of inland Sardinia • Explore medieval Alghero’s fascinating Catalan heritage on a guided tour • Tour Italian-influenced Bonifacio in French Corsica with an expert guide • Admire the fabled Costa Smeralda’s picturesque coastal towns and villages • Marvel at the Santu Antine nuraghe, one of the thousands of Bronze Age settlements scattered across the island • Discover the ancient Phoenician ruins at Tharros on a guided tour • Visit a family-owned wine estate and enjoy a tasting of Sardinia’s excellent wines • Enjoy scenic drives with superb views along the breathtaking coast •

Feast on traditional Sardinian fare at a family-run agriturismo, a rural restaurant serving dishes made with fresh, local produce

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, with transfers to and from your hotel •

Seven nights’ accommodation in four-star hotels inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and four dinners (one will be taken at a local restaurant)

• The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager

FROM £899PP

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN CANNIGIONE Arrive at the airport for your flight to Olbia or Alghero. On arrival, we transfer by coach to the coastal town of Cannigione, where we stay for three nights with dinner at the four-star Hotel Baja. Nestled in the Gulf of Arzachena on the Costa Smeralda, the hotel is a short walk from the beach and close to a number of cafés and shops. The hotel has a restaurant and a bar, as well as a terrace and an outdoor pool (open in the summer months, weather permitting). Guests can also relax in the garden area of the sister hotel next door. DAY 2 – COSTA SMERALDA Today we explore the dazzling Costa Smeralda, perhaps the best-known corner of Sardinia and yet completely unlike anywhere else on the island. In the 1960s, the Aga Khan hand-picked this very spot to carve out a corner of paradise. Today its main town, Porto Cervo, is an exclusive playground for the fabulously well-heeled and famous, and its pristine appearance and pale colour palette are a result of strict building regulations. There’s a fascinating juxtaposition between the rugged and refined – the naturally rocky coastline is populated by gleaming yachts and designer boutiques. To discover Costa Smeralda’s more serene side, we call at a selection of its most charming towns and villages, where we’ll see locals going about their day in attractive squares and green spaces. DAY 3 – BONIFACIO This morning we drive to Santa Teresa di Gallura on the north coast to take the ferry to Corsica. A highlight of the 50-minute ferry ride are the marvellous views of the grand approach to Bonifacio, located at the southernmost point of Corsica. Muchphotographed Bonifacio boasts an expansive citadel, which is perched atop a limestone promontory poised over the glittering harbour and chic marina. Although Corsica has been a part of France for centuries, there’s a unique local identity with strong Italian influences and Bonifacio certainly has a distinctly Italianate feel, with narrow streets flanked by Genoese tenements. Listen closely to the local dialect, which is based on Ligurian and a legacy of the days when Corsica was under Genoese control. The island’s most famous son, military general Napoleon Bonaparte, was born to a family of Italian origins.

Porto Cervo

Genoa and Pisa from Moorish invasion, and in the 14th century the kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica was offered by Pope Bonifacio VII to the Catalan-speaking Aragonese. The entire island is an open-air museum best explored at leisure, and our wonderful tour follows this fascinating journey through time across Sardinia and the southernmost tip of Corsica. We visit one of the island’s largest nuraghi, the astonishing Santu Antine, and see the archaeological ruins left by the Phoenicians and Romans at Tharros. Observe the legacies of the Genoese in the elegant Corsican town of Bonifacio, and of the Spaniards in the medieval port city of Alghero. Of course, we experience Sardinia’s wide-ranging landscapes, from fine-sand beaches and towering cliffs to granite mountains and rolling hills. Along the way you’ll encounter the perfectly hospitable Sardinians, who are extremely proud of their heritage and more than happy to share a slice of traditional, idyllic island life with anyone willing to embrace it.

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To gain a better understanding of Corsican history and culture, we have a guided tour through Bonifacio’s old town. Afterwards there is free time to soak up the atmosphere and admire the picture-postcard views before we return to Sardinia by ferry. Please note: ferries between Santa Teresa di Gallura and Bonifacio do not run in adverse weather conditions. In such an event, an alternative itinerary will be offered. DAY 4 – CORK MUSEUM & TEMPIO PAUSANIA Today we head inland to experience a vastly different side of Sardinia. The landscape is a sun-baked stretch of ‘macchia’ grassland and jagged granite mountains reminiscent of the Dolomites. The air grows ever cooler as we ascend hills covered in dense forests of cork trees – during harvest season, you may notice many have been stripped of their bark for cork production. As much of Italy’s cork is produced in Sardinia, we visit a cork museum to learn about the fascinating production techniques and the many uses of this versatile material. The museum is housed in a beautifully preserved 18th-century building, which was once a monastery built by Franciscan monks. Our next stop is Tempio Pausania, an enchanting town known for its attractive granite buildings, namely the grand medieval cathedral. You have time to wander the tree-lined streets and seek out one of the many cafés for lunch and a spot of people-watching. Later we continue to Alghero on the Coral Riviera, where we stay for four nights at the four-star Catalunya Hotel. The hotel is well-located in the main town of Alghero a short walk from the historic centre, filled with lively restaurants serving local specialities and fresh seafood for which Alghero is renowned. The skybar on the top floor of the hotel is the perfect spot for a refreshing drink, as its panoramic terrace offers some of the best views in the entire Coral Riviera of the bay and the old town. Wi-Fi is also available throughout the hotel. DAY 5 – ALGHERO & CAPO CACCIA One of the island’s most beautiful cities, Alghero is a medieval jewel with an independent spirit and intriguing history. It was founded in the 12th century by the Genoese and seized in 1353 by the Aragonese, who left an indelible mark. Much of the old town’s handsome architecture bears a Spanish appearance

and a dialect of Catalan is still spoken here. Our guided tour takes us the through labyrinthine alleys of remarkably preserved old Alghero, defended by robust walls and four bastions dedicated to famous explorers. We’ll see the 16th-century cathedral, which is primarily Catalan-Gothic apart from its Aragonese portal. You have free time after to wander, enjoy lunch and browse the many shops in the vibrant centre. This afternoon we take a scenic drive along the coastline of Alghero to the stunning cliffs of Capo Caccia. Nothing prepares you for the staggering beauty of the gleaming limestone cliffs plunging dramatically into turquoise waters. We stop to take in the incredible views over Porto Conte bay, the sparkling sea and the surrounding natural reserve. This protected area shelters mysterious caves and underground grottoes, home to mesmerising lifeforms such as red coral. We tear ourselves away from the spectacular scenery for the drive back towards Alghero, but it won’t be long before we experience another highlight. The undulating countryside is part of the finest winegrowing areas in Sardinia, producing the prestigious Cannonau and Vermentino wines. Winemaking is an important part of the local economy, so we visit a family-owned wine estate for a tour of the vineyards. Naturally, we enjoy a tasting afterwards. DAY 6 – FREE DAY IN ALGHERO The entire day is at leisure to continue your discovery of magnificent Alghero. Stroll along the lovely beachfront promenade or browse the many shops in town for souvenirs. Alghero is known for its coral, which is harvested off the coast and transformed into striking jewellery. Perhaps watch the world go by in a café-lined piazza over a delicious ‘seadas’, a cheesefilled pastry drizzled with honey, and a ‘mirto’, a unique Sardinian liqueur made with myrtle berries. This evening, we are treated to a feast for the senses during dinner at a family-run agriturismo, a converted farmhouse that serves hearty traditional meals made with produce fresh from the farm. The rustic surroundings, eye-catching displays of ancient farming equipment and crackling open fires create a wonderfully authentic atmosphere, perfect for enjoying course after course of Sardinian dishes made with local ingredients – the smells alone will ignite your taste buds! Bosa

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Marvel at the awe-inspiring cliffs of Bonifacio in Corsica

DAY 7 – BOSA, THARROS & NURAGHE Today is another highlight as we explore part of Sardinia’s alluring western coast. We wind our way along the coast high above the dazzling sea, across a rocky landscape carpeted by Mediterranean plants, and are rewarded with a superb view of the beautiful coastline. Our first stop is Bosa, a picturesque hillside town at the mouth of the Temo, Sardinia’s only navigable river. You have free time to discover this quintessential Sardinian town, which exudes great charm with its colourful houses, cobbled alleys and scenic setting. Old Bosa is of Roman origin but the present town was founded in 1122 by the noble Malaspina family, whose castle crowns the hill overlooking the town. If you’re lucky, you might glimpse skilled lacemakers sitting outside their homes, deftly crafting Bosa ‘filet lace’, an intricate style of needlework outlining pretty motifs of flowers and vines. Along the river are ancient buildings that used to house tanneries established by the Savoys in the 19th century. Next we visit the ancient ruins of Tharros, extraordinarily situated in the gulf of Oristano with tremendous views of the sea. During our guided tour, we uncover thousands of years of absorbing history dating back to the 8th century BC. Originally a Nuragic village, Tharros became a Phoenician hub,


a Carthaginian fortress, a Roman town, a Byzantine city and then capital of the Kingdom of Arborea before it was abandoned to avoid Saracen attacks. Today it is an open-air museum with the astonishingly preserved remains of thermal baths, temples, and the foundations of homes and workshops. Then we drive back towards Alghero through the Valley of the Nuraghi. Dotting the verdant countryside are striking conical stone structures called ‘nuraghi’, left by the mysterious Nuragic civilisation. Much is left to the imagination as little is known about them – perhaps these Bronze Age structures were palaces or forts, or simply domestic dwellings. We stop to examine the impressive Nuraghe Santu Antine with its 17-metre high tower protected by three bastions. Built between the Middle Bronze Age and the Iron Age without any bonding using basalt blocks, the structure may seem like it could collapse at any moment, but it has miraculously endured the test of time. You may wish to explore its interior and ascend to the upper floors for views of the surrounding countryside, or marvel at it from the outside. After a wonderful day of sightseeing, we return to the hotel for our final night on this incredible island.

Tharros

DAY 8 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your return flight.

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S I C I LY 8 days from only £959pp

Discover the Mediterranean’s largest island – part of Italy, yet with its own distinct history, culture and cuisine – with snow-capped Mount Etna providing a backdrop to myriad UNESCO-listed sites, unspoilt countryside and stunning coastlines. There are so many reasons why Sicily is an irresistible destination. First the truly breathtaking scenery of this large island off the ‘toe’ of Italy casts a spell that’s hard to break. Rugged, sometimes snow-capped mountains that reach for the sky are interspersed with meadows adorned with wildflowers. During spring and autumn these are bright green and lush, but during the sun-drenched summer they’re transformed into pastel shades of green, yellow and brown. Citrus and olive groves stretch into the distance and abundant pine forests lend the air that unmistakable Mediterranean aroma. Punctuated by the occasional farmhouse and Tuscan-like hilltop village, the countryside is remarkably unspoiled. Sicily also has a spectacularly indented coastline, with sweeping bays and red volcanic rocks plunging into the deep-blue sea, and Mount Etna acts as a suitably dramatic backdrop. Then there are the amazing treasures left behind by successions of invaders and conquerors. Over thousands of years Sicily has been touched by almost every Mediterranean civilisation. The Phoenicians settled in many areas, followed by the ancient Greeks who built some of their richest cities here. Then came

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Monreale Cathedral

the Romans, Moors, Normans, Spanish, French and, finally, the Italians. You can see their individual influences everywhere on the island: temples, amphitheatres, churches, monasteries, villas and ancient towns. The agreeable climate has ensured that these landmarks have survived in a remarkable state of preservation. In character Sicilians like to think they’re different from the rest of Italy, and the dialect spoken by some locals is a fusion of Italian, Arabic, Greek, French and Spanish. The food is wonderful too, but again there’s a twist – you can detect African influences such as couscous, reflecting the island’s position as a stepping stone between Europe and Africa. Our tour starts in Agrigento. Founded by the Greeks, it’s famous for its historic Valley of the Temples – seven of them, some in phenomenal condition and all the more impressive when you consider they’re around 2,500 years old. Palermo is the vibrant capital of the island, enjoying a lovely setting with an air of both Europe and the Orient. The architecture ranges in style from Arabic to Norman, Baroque to Art Nouveau.


Gaze in awe at the impressive Greek theatre of Taormina

PRICE INCLUDES • Marvel at astonishing Greek ruins in the Valley of the Temples on our guided tour of one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site • Admire Palermo’s gorgeous medieval and baroque centre, Italy’s finest outside of Rome • Explore the stylish hilltop town of Taormina and its stunning ancient Greek theatre • Take a guided tour of the Roman villa in Piazza Armerina and see some of the best-preserved mosaics and frescoes from antiquity • Experience the majesty of Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe • View the astonishing gold and glass medieval mosaics in Monreale cathedral on a guided tour • Visit Siracusa, one of the Greek empire’s richest cities and home of Archimedes

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £959PP

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Follow in the footsteps of The Godfather Journey to the unspoiled villages of Savoca and Forza d’Agrò in the Sicilian hills. Wandering the streets, you’ll catch fantastic views of the Ionian Sea and recognise scenes from The Godfather films. See the church where Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) wed his bride, Apollonia, and enjoy wine with local food specialities at Bar Vitelli, one of Sicily’s most famous cafés. It’s an afternoon you simply can’t refuse. From £39pp.

With views over the surrounding countryside and sea, the four-star Hotel Kaos occupies a quiet location, approximately three miles from Agrigento. Its public areas are decorated in modern Sicilian style and a pretty courtyard offers an inviting spot for a refreshing drink. The hotel has landscaped gardens, plus tennis courts and a large swimming pool. The comfortable rooms feature air conditioning, TV, safe, minibar and hairdryer. The four-star Baia di Ulisse Resort & Spa is set within a pine forest running down to the hotel’s private beach in San Leone, just a few miles from Agrigento. This stylish hotel features fine furniture, paintings and ornaments, and there are several relaxing lounges with a choice of seating, from carved hardwood chairs to comfortable leather sofas, plus

The pretty little town of Piazza Armerina possesses one of the true archaeological gems of the ancient world – the Villa Romana del Casale, dating from the era of Roman rule, stretches over a large area and is decorated with a huge expanse of mosaics. The highlights continue with Taormina, an exquisite town retaining its medieval charm, with its main street a collection of elegant houses, the oldest dating from the 15th century, plus intimate piazzas and twisting alleyways. The author DH Lawrence was aware of its charms and made his home there for several years. Taormina’s greatest claim to fame, however, is its Greek theatre dating from the 3rd century BC, with its breathtaking views of the bay and Mount Etna. And, fittingly, Sicily’s iconic volcano is the destination on our final day – we ascend as close as possible to its summit for a truly unforgettable way to round off your tour of this unforgettable island. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN SICILY Arrive at the airport for your flight to Catania. We transfer by coach to your hotel where we stay for three nights, with breakfast and dinner. Depending on your date of departure you’ll stay at one of two hotels.

Temple of Concordia

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Palermo Cathedral

an outside terrace with views across the bay and an outdoor pool. The Mediterranean-style airconditioned rooms all feature a garden or terrace view plus satellite TV, minibar and hairdryer. DAY 2 – VALLEY OF THE TEMPLES This morning we visit the stunning Greek remains in the Valley of the Temples – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visible for miles around on a ridge overlooking the sea, they would have been intimidating sights for any passing mariner or local shepherd, leaving no doubt as to who was the master of the island. The best of them, Concordia, is similar in design to the Parthenon in Athens and almost as perfectly preserved, with only its roof missing. Its tapering columns and seductive light golden colour are utterly captivating. Other deities to whom these magnificent buildings were dedicated include Zeus, Demeter and Hercules. As you gaze in wonder at these architectural masterpieces, it’s incredible to

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think of the meticulous planning and the thousands of hours of backbreaking toil involved, all under the hot Sicilian sun. We enjoy a guided tour of the site and you may also visit the excellent museum to see finds from both the temples and surrounding area, including a unique collection of vases. Later we visit Agrigento itself, where the medieval atmosphere seeps into the tiny stepped streets and shady piazzas overlooking the blue Mediterranean in the distance. We return to our hotel to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing. DAY 3 – PALERMO & MONREALE Our journey along the north coast of the island is an experience in itself as we pass rugged, wild landscapes that have changed little over the millennia. We visit Palermo, the capital city of Sicily. Under the rule of the Saracens and later the Normans, Palermo became one of the most important cities in Europe, famous for the wealth of its court and as a great centre of learning. Today it has more of a 17th-century appearance and during our visit we pass the Norman Palace, a gorgeous former royal residence that was once one of the most dazzling courts in Europe, and is now the seat of the regional government. We also see the magnificent domed cathedral, which dates from the 10th century and includes Byzantine, Moorish, Norman and Renaissance influences in its design. This afternoon we travel to the hilltop town of Monreale for a guided tour of its splendid cathedral, founded around the end of the 12th century. One of the finest examples of Norman architecture anywhere in the world, even its intricately crafted exterior can’t prepare you for the brilliance of its interior, which is entirely covered with dazzling glass and gold mosaics depicting stories from the Old and New Testaments. The cloisters are another highlight,

featuring elaborately carved columns, no two of which are alike, and almost Moorish in appearance. If you take the steps up to the roof you’ll be rewarded with a superb panorama of the surrounding countryside. Later we return to our hotel for dinner. DAY 4 – PIAZZA ARMERINA A drive to the small town of Piazza Armerina brings us to an extraordinary archaeological site only discovered in the last century: the Villa Romana del Casale. Built during the 4th century, the villa may have been a residence belonging to one of the joint emperors, which explains its size and richness of decoration. On our guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site you’ll see the remains of pastel-coloured frescoes on the walls, while the mosaics, alive with images of animals and hunting scenes, are among the finest from Roman antiquity. Complete with its spa, servants’ quarters and courtyard, this palatial building, which was buried for hundreds of years under a landslide that preserved its majesty, brilliantly illustrates the Roman elite’s high standard of living. We continue to Taormina, one of the most captivating towns on the island. We’ve a choice of three hotels in different locations, depending on departure date, staying for four nights with breakfast and dinner. Near Taormina is Giardini Naxos, a charming, typically Sicilian town. The seashore is lined by seafood restaurants, fishing boats drawn onto the beach and the family-run four-star Sant’Alphio Garden Hotel & Spa, situated just a few minutes’ walk from the sea. Its picturesque location, surrounded by palm trees and bougainvillea, offers views of nearby Taormina and Mount Etna. Facilities include a restaurant, bar and outdoor pool with bar. The hotel also has a private beach a short walk away


and a spa with indoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna and gym. Rooms are modern, air-conditioned and equipped with Wi-Fi, satellite TV, hairdryer, minibar and safe. All have a terrace or balcony affording views over the surrounding area. North of Taormina is the four-star Hotel Baia Taormina, set into the coastal cliff overlooking the spectacular Bay of Taormina. Its stone-faced walls, terracotta tiles and wide arches help to foster a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere. The hotel makes excellent use of the topography – built into the hillside are two swimming pools, a restaurant with a stylish and romantic ambience that specialises in local cuisine, a relaxing bar and lounge and a coffee shop. There may also be the opportunity to take dinner on the terrace during your stay. Mediterranean in style, the rooms feature satellite TV, Wi-Fi, minibar, hairdryer and safe and all face the sea. Should you wish to visit Taormina there’s a complimentary shuttle bus, which will also take you to the beach. The four-star Excelsior Palace Hotel is in Taomina itself, situated on a promontory with panoramic views of the sea to one side and Mount Etna on the other. Set in landscape gardens, it’s over 100 years old and has welcomed guests as varied as the King of Italy and Antonio Banderas! There’s a restaurant, bar and terrace enjoy amazing views of the island’s famous volcano. The large swimming pool, set in the terraced gardens, has its own bar. All rooms are tastefully decorated and air-conditioned, with Wi-Fi, satellite TV, hairdryer, minibar and safe. DAY 5 – FREE DAY This morning is free to spend as you please in Taormina, one of the smartest and most exclusive small towns in Italy. Situated on a rocky headland over 800 feet above the sweeping coastline, it’s renowned for its medieval charm and stunning gardens. Today the main street is lined with designer boutiques and exclusive jewellers, with tiny side streets, some of which are so narrow you can touch both sides at once, leading to intimate piazzas lined with family-run restaurants. Flowers and window boxes add extra Syracuse

Taormina

splashes of colour, while speciality food shops sell fresh pasta, olives and the local Marsala wine. Stylish locals stopping to exchange a few words in the streets complete the typically Sicilian picture. Taormina’s greatest claim to fame, though, is its ancient Greek theatre, possibly the most spectacularly situated anywhere in the world, with the horse-shoeshaped rows of seats overlooking the sea and Mount Etna in the distance. Due to its unrivalled location and astonishing state of preservation, the theatre is still used today for film festivals and other cultural events. This afternoon you’re free to explore further in Taormina at your leisure or you could choose to return to the hotel to enjoy some relaxation. Perhaps journey to the charming villages featured in The Godfather films (see Personalise Your Holiday option).

DAY 6 – SIRACUSA Our destination today is Siracusa, an immensely powerful and influential city in ancient times. Its most famous resident was Archimedes, who according to legend discovered the principle of displacement while in the bath and ran naked through the streets exclaiming ‘Eureka’, or ‘I’ve found it!’. Today Siracusa is a fascinating collection of architectural styles ranging from classical ruins to Byzantine churches, Baroque palaces and other civic buildings, dating mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries. The old port area is traditional and extremely attractive, full of small fishing boats unloading their catch. Siracusa’s historic core is called Ortygia and is located on an island connected to the mainland by three bridges. You’re free to explore here and to discover its many treasures, including the extraordinary Baroque cathedral that cleverly incorporates the remains of a temple to Apollo, while opposite is the Bosco Palace, another opulent expression of Baroque style. Before returning to the hotel, there’s also the opportunity to take a boat trip around the bay. DAY 7 – MOUNT ETNA Dominating eastern Sicily is Europe’s highest active volcano, Mount Etna. This morning we take the drive to as near to the snow-capped summit as possible. As we ascend the winding road the landscape becomes increasingly eerie and alien, with razor-sharp black rocks in contorted formations and some areas almost devoid of vegetation. Nearing the cable car station, our vantage point becomes even better and the view stretches out over the whole area. Subject to certain regulations, there’s the opportunity to take the cable car, jeep and guide to explore even higher levels. We return to our hotel during the afternoon. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your return flight. Please note: The use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature. Where hotels feature an outdoor swimming pool, this will be open during the summer months (weather permitting).

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W E S T E R N S I C I LY, PA L E R M O & THE AEOLIAN ISL ANDS 8 days from only £899pp

An exceptional tour exploring the little-known cultural legacies and natural beauty of Western Sicily, visiting prehistoric cave dwellings, hilltop towns, Greek ruins, bustling Palermo and beachfront Cefalù. Plus the volcanic Aeolian Islands and Marsala wine tasting. For so long overlooked in favour of the glittering cities of northern Italy, Sicily is gaining in popularity as a hidden corner of Europe with a unique heritage, unspoilt scenery, delightful people and exceptional food and wine. Yet much of Sicily remains unexplored – particularly its western regions, far from the shadow of iconic Mount Etna just across from Italy’s ‘toe’. For discerning travellers, though, venturing to Western Sicily brings great rewards. In many ways, this part of the island feels more African than European – the Carthaginians and Moors ruled here, as well as the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Spanish and eventually the Italians. All have left a rich cultural legacy, which has been preserved by a mild, dry climate and a lack of large-scale development. Architecturally, the cities, towns and villages are revelations. There are stunning cathedrals in Monreale and Cefalù, while Palermo’s Norman Palace and Segesta’s amazingly preserved Greek temple are unforgettable. A variety of influences are written into the very fabric of the buildings, from almost souk-like markets and church spires displaying classic Moorish arches and calligraphy to religious structures featuring Norman gold-leaf mosaics and Byzantine inscriptions.

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Palermo Cathedral

Contrasting with these ornate masterpieces are the discoveries made in the 19th century at Grotta Mangiapane – simple cave dwellings dating back perhaps as far as 20,000 years. There are also the natural habitat of the Madonie Regional Natural Park, a great place to see Sicily’s dramatic, untamed landscapes and home to many species, including rare birds and big cats. Off the coast of Sicily are the beautiful Aeolian Islands, which rose from the Tyrrhenian Sea as a result of volcanic activity. We visit the largest of them, Lipari, with its captivating waterfront and acclaimed museum, which gathers together artefacts from all over the area to tell the story of this spectacularly beautiful archipelago. The food here is a revelation, too. There are classic Mediterranean staples, such as the ripest fruit and vegetables and fresh seafood, but you’ll also notice couscous on the menu, a sure sign of Sicily’s position at Europe’s southernmost edge. The island is also renowned for its wines and one of its most famous comes from the far west – Marsala, the fortified dessert wine aged in barrels that’s a delight to sip and, according to some, even better used for cooking. We visit a producer in the village of Marsala for a tasting, just one of the many delights of this fascinating tour.


PRICE INCLUDES • Discover the incredible fortifications and churches of the hilltop town of Erice on a guided tour • Explore the 20,000-year-old Grotta Mangiapane cave dwellings near Trapani • Spend a full day exploring Lipari and the Aeolian Islands • See the amazingly preserved ancient Greek temple at Segesta on a guided tour • Tour the medieval and Baroque treasures of Palermo, including its stunning Norman Palace • Walk around charming Cefalù, one of Sicily’s most attractive coastal villages • Enjoy a tasting of Marsala at a producer in the town that gives the dessert wine its name • Learn about the ancient craft of salt panning at a family-run museum • Drive through the mountainous Madonie Regional Natural Park and visit the captivating hilltop village of Castelbuono

Plus, of course... • •

Return flights from the UK and all hotel transfers Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast daily and four dinners (2018 departures include breakfast and dinner)

• The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout Explore the narrow streets of coastal Cefalù

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN TRAPANI Arrive at the airport for your flight to Palermo. We transfer by coach to Trapani to stay for three nights at the four-star FH Crystal Hotel. This modern hotel is fully air-conditioned and is ideally situated on the edge of Trapani’s historic centre, allowing easy exploration on foot.

FROM £899PP

Grotto Mangiapane

intricately carved marble and alabaster, while others betray Moorish influences. A Norman castle dominates the whole town, but you can also see traces of the original temple on which it was built. There’s time to explore here as you wish before lunch. This afternoon we visit Grotta Mangiapane, which was the site of an unusual archaeological site, uncovered in 1870 by Marquis Guido Dalla Rosa while investigating the area’s economic potential. Rather than discovering resources to contribute to the Kingdom of Italy, what emerged were the most incredible cave dwellings containing artefacts and paintings reputed to be over 20,000 years old. Remarkably, a whole series of structures came to light – five two-storey houses, two warehouses and two stables, all built within the walls of the caves. Understandably, Grotta Mangiapane is used as a location for films and television series, including an episode of the popular Italian police drama Inspector Montalbano, yet it’s still very much an undiscovered gem. We later return to Trapani with the remainder of the afternoon free to spend as you please.

Erice

DAY 2 – ERICE & GROTTA MANGIAPANE The first known settlers in Western Sicily were the Elymians, possibly refugees from Troy. Trapani was the port serving their religious centre, Erice, which today is a simply stunning microcosm of the entire island, which we explore on a guided tour. Erice is renowned for its magnificent location, towering nearly 2,500 feet above the nearby coast, offering amazing views of the fertile valleys below and the rocky headlands stretching out to the sea. It’s unmistakably medieval and home to a collection of exquisitely decorated churches, monasteries and abbeys, perhaps as many as you’ll find anywhere in the world in a small town like this. Varying from Norman to Baroque, these edifices can be strikingly simple or extremely elaborate. Some are swathed in rich frescoes with

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Cefalu

DAY 3 – SEGESTA & MARSALA This morning we take the short drive to Segesta, an outstanding archaeological site with an impressive hilltop setting. Repeatedly fought over through the centuries by numerous invaders, it was eventually abandoned during the Middle Ages. Today its classical remains are much more peaceful than other similar sites in Europe, lending the area a magical quality and allowing us a more intimate perspective on its ancient inhabitants. While much of Segesta’s history remains unexcavated, its highlights include what is perhaps the world’s best-preserved Greek Doric temple, dating from around 430 BC and almost complete except for its roof, and an amphitheatre offering impressive views over the valley below, which we see on a guided tour. We sample another side of Sicily’s culture this afternoon. In Marsala we learn all about the creation of the delectable fortified wine bearing the town’s name and enjoyed around the world. We’re guests of one of Marsala’s foremost producers and, naturally, after the visit we enjoy a tasting. Another lesser-known product associated with Marsala is sea salt, which has been extracted by evaporation and salt-panning here since Phoenician times. Extraordinarily, it’s still produced largely by hand using an ingenious system of connecting ponds, with power historically supplied by windmills. At a fascinating family-run museum, we learn about this ancient craft and the proprietor, whose ancestors have been engaged in the trade for generations, explains this arduous lifestyle and occasionally breaks into traditional songs! DAY 4 – PALERMO Driving eastwards along the scenic coast to Palermo affords captivating views of the bright blue sea and the mountainous interior. In Sicily’s capital we have a guided tour unlocking the mysteries of its past and revealing what makes this enchanting island ‘tick’. Many of Palermo’s monuments date from before 1861, a time when Sicily was an independent kingdom, and you’ll love the brilliantly decorated churches and tiny, almost timeless piazzas. Yet outshining them all is the Norman Palace, which was the seat of monarchs and Europe’s most dazzling court during the Middle Ages. It remained a stronghold in later centuries, and is now a government building. During our visit you’ll see the huge Carthaginian foundations, while upstairs is the royal church, Palermo’s undisputed artistic gem, which is covered in some of the finest gold medieval mosaics in existence. For the next four nights we stay in the charming coastal town of Cefalù at the four-star Alberi del Paradiso, with breakfast and dinner. The hotel is

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situated on a small hill affording splendid views of the town and the sea beyond. The beach and historic centre are a mile away and can be reached by a shuttle bus. The well-appointed rooms provide all the facilities you’d expect in a hotel of this standard but, to make your stay more comfortable, perhaps you’d like to upgrade to a side sea view and balcony room. For relaxation, there’s a spa and pool, while a tennis court caters for the more energetic. The comfortable lounge – built in Sicilian style with exposed stonework – is the perfect spot to unwind, while the restaurant serves local and international cuisine. After dinner why not enjoy a drink on the terrace bar, which has extensive panoramic views and live background music several times a week. DAY 5 – CEFALU At the base of a huge rocky outcrop called La Rocca is Cefalù’s atmospheric medieval centre with its terracotta roofs and, above, a temple dedicated to the goddess Diana. This morning, after a short orientation walk, the rest of the day is yours to enjoy. The jewel in Cefalù’s crown is its fortress-like cathedral, a majestic Norman edifice regarded as the zenith of Sicilian Romanesque architecture. Its Byzantine mosaics – Sicily’s oldest – are exquisite, including one of the Virgin Mary with four archangels. You’ll love Cefalù’s sedate pace. Protected by huge Saracen ramparts, this quaint fishing port is lined by Norman Palace, Palermo

picturesque bars and excellent fish restaurants. You can sit and soak up the ambience, watching the locals go about their lives in an atmosphere far removed from tourist hubbub, or explore the maze of narrow streets and the wide selection of shops, cafés and bars. A relaxing afternoon on the sandy beach is an irresistible temptation for many. Whatever your choice, you’re assured an idyllic day in this marvellous spot before dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.


Doric Temple, Segesta

DAY 6 – THE AEOLIAN ISLANDS A morning drive takes us along the scenic coast road then we cruise across to the astonishing Aeolian Islands. With the possible exception of Stromboli, one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, this archipelago isn’t well known outside Italy. First we pass the island of Vulcano and it’s possible to detect a hint of the characteristic aroma of its sulphurous hot springs, before we arrive at Lipari, the largest island. Still surrounded by its 16th-century walls, the town of Lipari has been an important part of this area since Neolithic times and it remains the most populous. It has a small port, and you’ll be delighted to see that its moorings and waterfront are still used for their original purposes and have not been taken over by mega-yachts. You can mix cuisine and culture by taking a long seafood lunch accompanied by a glass of crisp white wine in one of the delightful restaurants, then follow this with a visit to the archaeological museum, which traces the islands’ history through the ages. The harbour and necropolis have yielded the contents of several wrecked ships from antiquity as well as Greek and Roman implements fashioned as hoped-for guarantors of a peaceful afterlife. The superb ceramics, gold jewellery, amphorae, burial urns, hoards of coins and everyday objects are incredible in their detail and quantity. There’s time to wander where you feet take you before we return to our hotel for dinner. DAY 7 – MADONIE NATURAL PARK & CASTELBUONO In Cefalù’s lofty hinterland is the Madonie Regional Natural Park, a wild and rugged mountain range, high enough for skiing in winter, with crags and forests that are home to wolves, eagles and wildcats, making it

Sicily’s most important natural habitat. After enjoying this unspoiled topography with only the occasional shepherd tending his flocks for company, we visit the stunning hilltop village of Castelbuono. Dominating the village is a 14th-century castle, fascinating for its mélange of Arabic, Germanic and Norman architectural styles. Inside, the Cappella Palatina chapel is sumptuously decorated with precious marble and friezes befitting the home of a holy skull reputedly belonging to Saint Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary – and supposedly stolen from France 300 years ago. Castelbuono is the perfect place to end your tour of Sicilian secrets, with its super restaurants and a host of food shops offering a range of the island’s

specialities. Descending to the coast we catch sight of the glittering Tyrrhenian Sea, heralding our return to delightful Cefalù for a final dinner. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Please note: The use of air conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature. Where hotels feature an outdoor swimming pool, this will be open during the summer months (weather permitting).

Cefalu

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TURIN & PIEDMONT 5 days from only £599pp

Discover Italy’s first capital, a majestic city fit for royalty with a heritage of innovation; and savour the region’s countless epicurean delights. There is little in Italy to match the grandeur of Turin’s Baroque palaces, tree-lined boulevards and cobbled squares. There may be a hint of Paris and echoes of Vienna, but this cultured city’s identity is entirely its own and its historical significance is undeniable. In 1563, Turin became the capital of the Piedmont region and Italy’s first. It was home to one of the world’s oldest noble families, the French-speaking Duchy of Savoy, which facilitated Italian unification and provided the nation’s first king. All around the city, the wealthy Savoys created a constellation of some of Europe’s finest buildings, designed by the most prominent architects of the time. Shielded by the majestic Alps to the west, Turin is home to the famous Shroud, one of the greatest and most controversial mysteries. The city is an enigma: both modern and ancient, calm and energetic; it is these captivating contrasts that fill it with timeless intrigue. Boasting the largest pedestrianised area in Europe, Turin is truly a walker’s paradise: its legendary arcades are beautifully decorated with coffered ceilings and impressive columns, which makes exploring the city an absolute pleasure. Turin’s transition from monarchic to industrial power is mirrored in its architecture: compare the ostentatious palazzi with the futuristic Mole Antonelliana, Turin’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. Fiat, one of the world’s most successful and progressive automotive brands, has its headquarters here. This heritage of innovation extends to the city’s celebrated cuisine and some of Italy’s finest restaurants can be found here. Truffles are a

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Piedmont speciality, while the first commercial hard chocolate, Lavazza coffee, and the crisp breadsticks known as grissini all originate in Turin. Two of Italy’s finest red wines, the powerful Barolo and Barbaresco, come from the undulating Langhe hills to the south. On our insightful tour, we stay in Turin and explore this remarkable ‘cradle of Italian liberty’, plus visit charming Alba, a gastronomic hotspot renowned for its succulent white truffles. Step back in time with us and soak up all that this spectacular city has to offer – undoubtedly the essential ingredients for an unforgettable experience. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN TURIN OR MILAN Fly to either Turin or Milan Malpensa airport. On arrival, we transfer by coach to your chosen four-star hotel in Turin, where you settle into your beautifully appointed room. The Starhotels Majestic is centrally located in a grand 19th-century mansion with recently refurbished rooms. The hotel’s restaurant serves Piedmont and international dishes, while refreshments such as Piedmont wines and snacks can be enjoyed at the convivial bar. Alternatively, the NH Hotel Santo Stefano is situated in the stylish Quadrilatero Romano district, right next door to the 15th-century Duomo, where the revered Turin Shroud is kept. The hotel combines minimalist chic with rustic elegance and offers panoramic views on the fifth floor. The restaurant here serves breakfast and traditional Piedmont cuisine along with a selection of local wines.

DAY 2 – TURIN & FIAT TEST TRACK This morning, we enjoy a walking tour of Turin’s historic centre with a local guide and discover its countless marvellous sights. Dominating the skyline is the unmissable Mole Antonelliana, a symbol of Italian unity and the world’s tallest building when it was completed in 1897. The city boasts some of the best architecture in Italy and a stunning mix of architectural styles including Renaissance, Rococo, Neoclassical and Art Nouveau. Turin’s Baroque style is truly unique; perhaps the best example is the Venaria Reale Palace


PRICE INCLUDES • Stay in elegant Turin, the capital of Piedmont, and experience the extraordinary legacies of the Savoy family • Enjoy a guided walking tour of Turin’s historic centre • Visit the monumental Superga basilica, the final resting place of the Savoys • Explore the Baroque Venaria Reale palace and its impeccable gardens, reminiscent of the Palace of Versailles • Visit charming Alba, a gourmet paradise renowned for its white truffles, hazelnuts and chocolate • Discover the history of automotive design at the National Automobile Museum, and see the famous Fiat test track, featured in the classic film, The Italian Job • Sample delicious Piedmont wines and learn about winemaking

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Mole Antonelliana & National Cinema Museum Visit the Mole Antonelliana, Turin’s architectural symbol, and take its glass lift 85m up to the panoramic terrace for astounding 360-degree views over the city and the surrounding Alps. You can also retrace the history of cinema at the National Cinema Museum, whose evocative displays spiral upwards through the Mole Antonelliana’s incredible interiors. From £17pp (2019 departures only)

Plus, of course...

Discover Piedmont’s elegant capital city – and Italy’s first

Palazzo Carignano, arguably the city’s finest building with its magnificent brick façade and ornate rotunda. In refreshing contrast to the ubiquitous opulence is the 15th-century Duomo, the only example of Renaissance design in Turin. The city is blessed with numerous interesting museums housed in splendid palazzi. The Egyptian Museum is home to one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquities, encompassing monumental sculptures, marvellous reconstructed temples and extraordinary tomb paintings. Turin also happens to be one of Europe’s greenest metropolises, and Parco del Valentino, with its beautiful botanical garden, is a fine example of the many wonderful parks spread across the city. Later you may choose to further your exploration of Turin or join us on an exhilarating visit, first to Fiat’s former rooftop test track, followed by the outstanding Automobile Museum. The rooftop test track sits atop the Lingotto and was famously featured in the classic film, The Italian Job, where Michael Caine’s character is pursued by the police in a high-speed chase. Constructed in the early 20th century, the Lingotto was Fiat’s astonishing factory and Italy’s first large-scale, modern building, boasting an avant-garde manufacturing method: raw materials entered on the ground level and completed cars emerged on the rooftop for testing. We then visit the Museo dell’Automobile for a fascinating journey into the world of automotive design. You’ll be transported back in time as you stroll through the museum’s marvellous collection of

• Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Four nights in a choice of centrally located, four-star accommodation, inclusive of all local taxes, with daily breakfast • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £599PP almost 200 vehicles from all over the world, including a Fiat from 1899, Formula 1 cars and futuristic concept cars. DAY 3 – SUPERGA, ALBA & WINE TASTING Atop a hill overlooking Turin stands the spectacular Baroque Basilica of Superga, which we visit this morning. A masterpiece of architect Filippo Juvarra, the 18th-century church is part monument and part royal mausoleum for the Savoy family. Reputedly, it was commissioned by then duke and future king, Vittorio Amedeo II, fulfilling his vow to the Virgin after his army successfully defeated the French in the Battle of Turin. The imposing façade is flanked by bell towers, while the glorious interior is decorated with numerous fine paintings and carvings. A memorial plaque here honours the victims of the 1949 plane crash, which tragically claimed the lives of the city’s beloved football team. There’s time to admire the stunning views from the hilltop position, before we drive through the breathtaking Langhe, Italy’s premier wine region, to our next stop. We arrive in charming Alba, a town of ancient Roman origins and a veritable gourmet paradise celebrated for its many delicious delights, such as exquisite white truffles and countless sweet creations by the confectioner, Ferrero. The region is also famous for its abundance of quality hazelnuts, used to make gianduja, which Ferrero later transformed into a delicious and creamy spreadable paste, loved by many

and known today as Nutella. It’s lovely to wander the maze of cobbled streets here lined by colourful houses or perhaps visit the impressive 15th-century Gothic cathedral. Or follow the appetising aromas that permeate the air and sample some of Alba’s cuisine using the area’s excellent produce – it’s almost impossible to resist! We then travel to the beautiful Italian countryside and visit a renowned vineyard, where we learn about winemaking in the region and enjoy a tasting after. The best wines of Piedmont, such as the popular Barbera d’Alba and refreshing Moscato d’Asti, come from the rolling Langhe hills. DAY 4 – VENARIA REALE & FREE AFTERNOON This morning, we experience one of the largest royal residences in the world, the immense Venaria Reale palace complex, reminiscent of the Palace of Versailles in France. During our visit, we explore the majestic halls and splendid art of the UNESCO-listed palace, built as the hunting lodge of a Duke of Savoy. Observe the many exemplary examples of Baroque architecture: in the elegant Hall of Diana, the vast Great Gallery and the stunning Church of St Hubert. Then take a stroll in the impeccably landscaped gardens, and see the plants and wildlife that call them home. This afternoon, there’s free time to further explore. The National Museum of Cinema, housed within the towering Mole Antonelliana, pays homage to filmmaking and explores its origins in shadow theatre to modern-day cinema with its special effects. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample Piedmont’s many gastronomic delights, which range from creamy cheeses, savoury pastries and fresh pasta, to artisanal chocolate and Barolo wines. DAY 5 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your return flight. Please note: The use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to midSeptember), depending on the temperature.

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VENICE C L A SS I C & U N D ISCOVE RE D 5 days from only £499pp

Discover Venice’s iconic sights – Saint Mark’s Square and Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs – and lesser-known attractions, such as the island of Murano and the fascinating Jewish quarter. It’s true – Venice is simply one of the most beautiful places on earth. Here it’s impossible to walk far along the narrow streets and canals without being stopped in your tracks by a captivating church, museum of world renown, swish restaurant or breathtaking view. Venice has a unique atmosphere, too, from the bustle of Saint Mark’s Square to quieter areas where time seems to have stood still and you can enjoy an unhurried coffee in this most Italian of cities. Venice has a long and varied history that’s steeped in violence, intrigue and politics. The first settlers were 5th-century refugees fleeing Attila the Hun, then later the city was dominated by the Byzantine Empire. But if a single act has defined Venice as an independent state, it was the 9th-century theft of the body of Saint Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria in Egypt. When the two merchants responsible reached Venice, the Doge – the most powerful person in Venice – instructed that a suitably magnificent structure be built to house and honour the relics. The result was Saint Mark’s Basilica. During the Middle Ages a monopoly of trading networks with the Orient gave the Venetian Empire domination of the eastern Mediterranean. Silks, spices, porcelain and other exotic cargoes poured in to meet the aristocracy’s demands. Fortunes were made and many of the palaces, mansions, churches, museums and galleries you see today are the result of Venice becoming the world’s richest city for around

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five centuries. As magnificent as the exteriors of these buildings are, the interiors are every bit their equal, featuring treasures from the many artists and sculptors who flocked to the city to take commissions from wealthy patrons. There’s ample time to savour these delights – and you even have a complimentary Venice Museum Pass, allowing you free entry to a number of museums. We also go beyond the art, monuments and buildings to experience less obvious aspects of life here. Wander where your feet take you in the tangle of alleys making up the delightful smaller parishes, discovering another Venice – that of the Venetians themselves, where traditional shops are full of colourful produce, enticing smells waft from cafés and restaurants and locals stop to exchange a few words in the street. Whether you’ve been to Venice before or it’s your first visit, you’ll leave with a rich and rounded impression of this unforgettable city. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN VENICE Arrive at the airport to take your flight to Venice or Treviso. On arrival we transfer by coach to stay four nights at the four-star Hotel Principe, with breakfast. Centrally located on the Grand Canal, it features a classically designed lobby with wood panelling and comfortable leather armchairs. Beyond is the very good and typically Venetian restaurant, while the bar opens out to a wonderful canalside

terrace lined with flower-filled terracotta pots. As the hotel is a conversion of three 16th-century merchants’ houses, the rooms are distinctive and differ in size and shape, but all are fully air-conditioned and feature Wi-Fi, satellite TV, safe, minibar and hairdryer. Each afternoon of this tour is at leisure to allow you to explore as you wish. The options are endless – perhaps a trip in a gondola along the backwater canals or maybe a more up-tempo journey on the vaporetto (water bus) along the Grand Canal,

Venice offers some of the finest art treasures ever created. ANDREW GRAHAM-DIXON


Discover Venice’s muchloved highlights and its lesser-known gems

PRICE INCLUDES • Fall in love with Venice on our guided walking tour of the classic sights • Marvel at Saint Mark’s Basilica and its opulent interior, on a timed visit to avoid the queues • Visit the glorious Doge’s Palace, traditional home of the city’s ruler • Explore the lesser-seen ‘Venice of the Venetians’ on a guided walking tour, including the old Jewish quarter • Take a boat ride across the lagoon to the island of Murano and watch a demonstration of the art of glass blowing • Enjoy free access to a number of museums with a complimentary Venice Museum Pass

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Gondola ride through Venice Explore Venice from a different perspective on a leisurely gondola ride through the city. Glide along the enchanting maze of waterways and the famous Grand Canal, admiring Venice’s iconic sights as you go. From £21pp on a shared gondola, or from £42pp if you prefer a romantic ride for two. Venetian ‘cicchetti’ and wine walking tour by night Join our walking tour for a taste of ‘cicchetti’ culture. We seek out traditional osterias favoured by locals to sample Venetian tapas, best enjoyed with some wine while standing at the bar as you learn more about the city’s culinary secrets. From £49pp.

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers Four nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with daily breakfast The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £499PP DINING CHOICES If you wish to dine in at the hotel, you may prebook dinner for 1 night at £22pp, or dinner for 3 nights at £65pp. which teems with vessels of all sorts. Art-lovers can head for the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, situated close to each other and brimming with classic and modern masterpieces. The Scuola Grande di San Rocco and Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni are full of works by Tintoretto and Carpaccio respectively, plus other pieces by giants of the Renaissance. The view from the top of Saint Mark’s Campanile, one of the great landmarks, is unmissable and perhaps the finest place for views of Venice in all its glory. In the evening you could enjoy one of the numerous classical music concerts taking place throughout the city. DAY 2 – WALKING TOUR & SAINT MARK’S BASILICA This morning we have a walking tour of the classic sights of Venice, with a local guide explaining the fascinating stories behind the iconic sights, including the Doge’s Palace, Saint Mark’s Square and Basilica, the Bridge of Sighs and a host of other architectural wonders. Next we have a timed entrance to Saint Mark’s Basilica. A true wonder of human achievement, there aren’t enough superlatives to do it justice. The floor is made of coloured 12th-century marble, while the walls and vaulted ceiling are covered with over 86,000 square feet of glittering mosaics, mostly from the 12th and 13th centuries. Another highlight is the Treasury, which contains the magnificent Pala d’Oro,

St Mark’s Cathedral

a gem-studded golden altarpiece containing over 250 enamelled panels. Finally there’s the Doge’s Palace, traditional home of Venice’s most important citizen and effectively the city’s seat of government for over a thousand years. As well as exquisite wood carvings, this masterpiece of Venetian Gothic architecture contains works by Titian, Veronese and many other masters. DAY 3 – JEWISH QUARTER Away from the bustle of the main areas there’s an equally compelling side to Venice – tranquil corners waiting to be discovered, with washing hung high across narrow canals between picturesque crumbling buildings and locals chatting in tiny bars and shops.

As you’ll find out on today’s guided tour of the city’s undiscovered face, it’s remarkable how close these characterful quarters are to the classic sights. We visit the old Jewish ghetto, now beautifully restored and alive with shops and cafés, the canalside house of Tintoretto, and the Corte Prima del Milion where Marco Polo is reputed to have lived. Anecdotes and stories from your expert local guide will enhance your visit, bringing to life the everyday experiences of the more humble Venetians. Our tour ends at the Rialto market, the city’s main food market and a real treat for the senses, where stalls groan under the weight of seafood, meat, spices, fruit and vegetables. You could round the morning off with a leisurely lunch in one of the abundant cafés and restaurants – perhaps alfresco in one of the many delightful piazzas – the choice is yours. DAY 4 – MURANO A morning boat ride across the lagoon takes us to the smaller island of Murano, famed for its exquisite coloured glass, which has been produced here for centuries. The glass-blowers’ skills are mesmerising, as we see during a demonstration of their ancient art. These artisans each have an individual style – some make jewellery, others specialise in vases, bowls or even chandeliers – and you’ll be captivated by the beautiful colours and intricate, imaginative designs. After the display you’re free to explore the rest of the island as you please. Murano is far quieter than Venice itself and gives a glimpse of what the city was like decades ago. There’s a museum devoted to the island’s most famous product, with items on display dating back to ancient Rome. Alternatively, should you wish, you can return to Venice. DAY 5 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your return flight. Please note: The use of air conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to midSeptember), depending on the temperature.

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C L A S S I C A L S PA I N S E VI LLE , CÓ RDO BA & G R ANADA 7 days from only £599pp

Experience Andalucía’s magical fusion of Spanish and Moorish cultures as you discover Seville’s vibrant streets and conquistador heritage, Granada’s wondrous Alhambra and the dazzling Mezquita mosque in Córdoba – and much more.

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Andalucía is simply one of the most beautiful corners of Europe yet for many it remains relatively undiscovered. It’s a land where the excesses of the modern era seem not to have taken root and where travellers are genuinely welcomed. Immortalised by the writings of Ernest Hemingway and beloved by Orson Welles, Spain’s southernmost region is a tapestry of rugged, fragrant and sun-kissed countryside, covered by green olive groves stretching into the distance under a perpetually azure blue sky. With biscuit-coloured plains, untamed rivers, deep gorges and the spectacular snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains providing the backdrop, there are few places on earth boasting such a wealth of natural wonders in such a small area. Tiny whitewashed villages perch on the hilltops, with narrow winding streets where every house has window boxes crammed with colourful flowers, adding touches of vitality to these sleepy hamlets little changed since the days of Christopher Columbus. Andalucía has a long and violent past stretching from the dawn of civilisation. The Phoenicians and

ancient Greeks traded, whereas Julius Caesar fought here, as did Hannibal. The region is crammed with legacies of different cultures from throughout the centuries, especially the Moors whose architecture adds such magical appeal. Without doubt, the jewels in Andalucía’s crown are the cities of Seville, Córdoba and Granada, which have some of the most important monuments anywhere in the world, many of which are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are protected accordingly. Seville, home of Carmen and Figaro, boasts the world’s largest Gothic cathedral. It was from here that first Columbus and then the conquistadors set sail to explore and plunder the New World, and from the 16th century unimaginable wealth poured in, building the city we see today. Córdoba has a bridge with 16 arches spanning the river, built by the Romans and amazingly still in use, and the Mezquita, built by the Moors and so architecturally dazzling and thought provoking it is beyond words. Granada has the magnificent Alhambra, the fortress-palace of Moorish rulers, dramatically situated, richly decorated and putting to


Visit the stunning Alhambra Palace

PRICE INCLUDES •

Experience the iconic cathedral, vibrant streets and tranquil parks of beautiful Seville on a tour led by a local guide

Enjoy the authentic tastes and traditions of tapas on an evening introduction to these delicious Spanish appetisers in Seville

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Authentic flamenco show in Seville Witness a spectacular flamenco performance filled with passion and energy in a charming theatre. Enjoy a complimentary drink while you admire the superb artistry of world-class dancers, singers and musicians, who bring to life classics like ‘Carmen’. From £30pp

• Explore the mountain-fringed city of Granada and visit the outstanding Alhambra Palace • Visit historic Córdoba and take a guided tour of the Mezquita, probably the world’s most beautiful mosque • Marvel at the natural drama of Ronda, a city spectacularly situated across a plunging gorge

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports and transfers to and from your hotel • Six nights’ accommodation in three star superior and four-star hotels, inclusive of local taxes, with breakfast • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager

FROM £599PP shame almost anything we can conceive today. Nowadays, though, despite its culture and history or because of them, Andalucía is perhaps the most Spanish region in the country. Indeed, the popular image of ‘real Spain’ – of ruined castles, sherry, fiestas, flamenco and bullfights – has its roots here. The food is a delight, with the area noted for its seafood and its famous drink, the fortified wine from Jerez we call sherry. Try a glass of fino, a very dry yet refreshing sherry, while nibbling tapas, that great Spanish invention. The people are charming – always ready to help, with a friendly attitude towards their fellow man and a love of life so typical of Mediterranean people. So, for an inspirational blend of timeless countryside, iconic monuments, romantic and vivacious cities, fragrant flowers and orange blossom, wonderful art and superb cuisine, all set in a region that welcomes visitors as honoured guests, welcome to Andalucía. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN MALAGA Arrive at the airport for your flight to Malaga. On arrival, we transfer to the four-star Ilunion Hacienda del Sol. This hotel is situated in undulating countryside near the village of Mijas, has a swimming pool (open during summer months, weather permitting) and is set in its own grounds.

Ronda

DAY 2 – RONDA After breakfast we take a drive into the hills forming the beautiful backdrop to the coast and then arrive in Ronda, a city widely acknowledged as one of the most

spectacular in Spain and which enjoys a setting so naturally dramatic it could be in a fairy tale. Built on a ridge and split by a most impressive gorge plunging down hundreds of feet, Ronda’s almost impregnable position meant it was one of the last bastions of Moorish power, only falling to the Christians in 1485. During the 18th century, the two halves of the town were joined by its iconic stone bridge, while another highlight is the palace that was once home to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, paymasters of Columbus. With lots of good restaurants and tapas bars, Ronda is a splendid spot to spend a few hours exploring its classic Moorish maze of cobbled alleys, full of whitewashed houses with window grilles. Much of the city’s appeal lies in its spectacular views and clear mountain air – Andalucía at its simple best. We continue our drive into the countryside beyond, which is both very scenic and quite isolated, so much so it is not unusual to see eagles and vultures soaring above or ibex roaming the mountains. We then arrive in Seville and our hotel, the threestar superior Don Paco, where we stay for the next three nights. It is very well situated on the edge of the Old Town in one of Seville’s many squares, is fully airconditioned and has a rooftop swimming pool (open during the summer months). Another treat awaits, as this evening we enjoy an introduction to delicious tapas. It is said that tapas dishes were originally slices of bread or meat used by sherry drinkers in Andalucían taverns to cover their glasses and keep fruit flies away. The meat was often salty, encouraging thirst and alcohol sales. Restaurant owners began to create their own snacks to serve with sherry, and tapas eventually

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became as important as the drink! Over the centuries, with the introduction of olives, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes, tapas dishes gradually evolved into a most delightful tradition. DAY 3 – SEVILLE Flamboyant, seductive, fascinating … Seville is all these and more. It is simply one of the most beautiful and charismatic cities in the world, with the serene River Guadalquivir flowing through its centre, a history spanning the centuries, a wealth of historic buildings, colourful back streets and peaceful parks. It has its origins in Roman times – the Emperor Hadrian, builder of the famous wall, came from here. During the 8th century the Moors arrived, stayed for five centuries and left a unique legacy still in evidence today. However, if one event changed Seville, it was the discovery of the New World and, fittingly, Columbus is buried in the imposing cathedral. Immense wealth poured in from Spain’s new empire and catapulted Seville into one of the largest and richest cities in Europe. Much of Seville was built during this time and it seems to have changed little in the last 500 years, with tiny twisting streets and hidden squares where the locals hide from the midday sun in high summer. Today, though, it possesses a vibrant, cultural spirit that is very special. The city of Figaro, this is the setting for another classic opera, Carmen. It’s also the home of flamenco, the origins of which are lost in the aeons of time. In short, this is the essence of Spain. After breakfast we have a tour of this beguiling city, during which we’ll see the world’s largest Gothic

Stroll along the impressive Plaza de España in Seville

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palace of the Moors with a richness of decoration which will astound you, and the cathedral, but also take time to wander around the Barrio Santa Cruz, the former Jewish quarter of the medieval city, and the smart pedestrianised Calle Sierpes, a street full of beautiful shops selling high-quality leather goods. The Maria Luisa Park is a beautiful display of colour where you can relax and indulge in a spot of people-watching.

The Mezquita

cathedral and the awe-inspiring yet enchanting Alcázar, the fortified palace of the Moors with a richness of decoration which will astound you. You’ll also see the Tower of Gold, so named as it was used to store plunder from the Americas, and much more. During the afternoon you’re free to explore Seville at your leisure and, if you wish, you could take a cruise on one of the many river boats. DAY 4 – FREE DAY IN SEVILLE Today we have a free day. There are the ‘musts’ to revisit if you wish, such as the Alcázar, the fortified

DAY 5 – CÓRDOBA After breakfast we leave Seville and head east to another of Andalucía’s classic cities, arriving in Córdoba for our guided tour. Córdoba was the ancient capital of the Moors and is principally famous for a single building – the Mezquita – the grandest and most beautiful mosque ever constructed in the Moorish world. Dominating the centre of the Old Town, which was once the home of a thriving Jewish community, it is a building of extraordinary power and mystery with an arcaded hall supported by over 850 columns made of semi-precious stones. One can only wonder at the architectural brilliance of the builders all those hundreds of years ago, while northern Europe was still immersed in the depths of the Dark Ages. Another highlight is the immense, well-preserved Roman bridge. Córdoba is a delightful place full of patios drenched in the colour of thousands of flowers – the Spanish seem to take so much pride decorating their homes. We then continue our journey to arrive in the city of Granada, the last stronghold of the sultans during the Middle Ages and home to the Alhambra, the most spectacular gem of Moorish Andalucía. As we


Córdoba

approach Granada, there can be no more proof of the diversity of this corner of southern Europe. We pass through some very arid countryside with a landscape of dried riverbeds, giving way to rolling olive groves. In the distance is the spectacular Sierra Nevada, the highest mountain range in Spain. The landscape then becomes more fertile and picturesque, with ancient olive trees stretching off into the distance. Our hotel for the next two nights is either the centrally located four-star Hotel Corona, in the heart of the city and within easy walking distance of the principal areas of interest, or the four-star Hotel

Alixares, well located opposite the Alhambra. Both are fully air-conditioned and ideal for a comfortable stay. DAY 6 – GRANADA & THE ALHAMBRA Granada has a naturally dramatic location, nestling against the backdrop of permanently snow-capped mountains soaring majestically to a height of 11,000 feet. It is the perfect setting for the most perfect of architectural wonders, the Alhambra. So individual in its setting, so rich in its history and so exquisite in its design, this iconic building was the high point in Moorish culture. It is not just a palace, though. Some of it is a fortress, and much is given over to formal gardens full of roses and fountains, giving an incredible impression of peace and tranquillity. Today we visit the Alhambra and you’ll also have time to explore the city as you wish. There is a myriad of twisting streets, the old Moorish quarter and the traditional gypsy area, all full of tiny unique shops, with seemingly every balcony sprouting flowers in a profusion of colour. There’s nothing better than taking a stroll through these streets, little changed in centuries, with pavements made of pebbles set in mortar and some so narrow that mules were the

Córdoba

only form of transport. Granada also boasts some of the most distinctive old bars in Spain, many of them decorated with antique tiles, where taking a drink and a few tapas can be an excuse for a unique, authentically Andalucían experience. DAY 7 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to Malaga or Granada airport (depending on your departure date) for your flight home.

Seville

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BARCELONA & THE HIGHLIGHTS O F C ATA L O N I A 7 days from only £699pp

Immerse yourself in the fiercely independent Spanish region of Catalonia, visiting Roman Tarragona, enchanting old Girona and dramatic Montserrat, plus effervescent Barcelona, home of Gaudí’s La Sagrada Família, Las Ramblas, art, culture and more.

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For many centuries Spain didn’t exist as a unified nation, being more a collection of distinct regions such as Aragon, Castile, Cantabria and, of course, Catalonia. Often separated by high mountain ranges, they evolved independently to become strikingly different, and some even had their own languages. These cultural variations were ruthlessly suppressed during the Franco years but have since blossomed, and today Catalonia has a regional identity that’s fiercely guarded by the locals. Set on a plain rising from the clear blue Mediterranean through wooded foothills to the dramatic Pyrenees, Catalonia has some truly magnificent scenery. Home to tiny medieval villages as well as one of the world’s most vibrant cities, its terrain and settlements are wonderfully diverse, as are the region’s artistic gems, spanning classic Renaissance paintings and Salvador Dalí’s avant-garde works. On this tour we’ll see the best of this unique region of northeast Spain. In Roman times Tarragona was one of the empire’s largest cities. It had a population of around 250,000

Gaudi’s lizard


Experience Gaudi’s extraordinary Sagrada Familia

PRICE INCLUDES • See Barcelona with a local guide giving insights into its vibrant culture and the unique architecture of Gaudí • Marvel at Gaudí’s visionary La Sagrada Família basilica on a guided tour of this iconic symbol of Barcelona • Visit the spectacular Benedictine monastery at Montserrat, home of the Black Madonna and one of Spain’s most renowned pilgrimage sites • Explore Tarragona on a walking tour of the hilltop former capital of Roman Spain • See how Cava sparkling wine is produced on a cellar visit, with a tasting included • Tour the superbly preserved Cistercian monastery at Poblet with a local guide

Barcelona’s identity is most perfectly expressed by the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. His eccentric designs can be found across the city, most notably in Park Güell and his still-unfinished Sagrada Família basilica – its futuristic spires and stunning blend of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles have to be seen to be believed. This innovative artistic spirit is also found on Barcelona’s most famous thoroughfare, Las Ramblas, where mime artists and other street performers ply their trade among the tapas bars and boutiques. Catalans like to boast that they have the best food in Spain, and it’s hard to disagree. Seafood – the salt cod is delicious – botifarra sausages and top-quality fruit and vegetables abound, with mouthwatering desserts such as crema catalana. It’s a fittingly distinctive cuisine for a unique region that charms, engages and entertains in equal measure.

and a wealth of resplendent buildings, many of which can still be seen today. The delightful fortified city of Girona has been fought over by the Romans, Charlemagne, the Moors and the French, all of whom have left their mark. As well as being home to numerous churches and monasteries, it’s where you’ll find one of Europe’s best-preserved old Jewish quarters, with labyrinthine alleyways and cobbled streets. Catalonia’s self-confident and progressive capital of Barcelona is a phenomenal destination. As Spain’s most visited city – and one of its most prosperous – it oozes sophistication and cultural dynamism. You’ll love the contrast between the maze of tiny streets that make up its Gothic Quarter and its modernisme buildings where architects and designers expressed their Catalan identity through their work. There’s a wealth of things to see and do, including some fine museums, notably those dedicated to Pablo Picasso and Jean Miró, as well as the superb Museum of Contemporary Art.

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN BARCELONA Arrive at the airport for your flight to Barcelona. We transfer by coach to Tarragona, an ideal base for our visits during the next few days. Our hotel for three nights, with breakfast, is the four-star Ciutat de Tarragona, centrally located near the Old Town, where we dine this evening. The hotel has a restaurant, bar, rooftop pool and gym, while the air-conditioned rooms are furnished in a contemporary style.

• Discover the beautiful walled city of Girona and its enchanting old Jewish quarter

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Six nights in centrally located four-star accommodation, including all local taxes, plus daily breakfast and and dinner on the first evening in your hotel. • Two dinners in local restaurants highlighting delicious Catalan cuisine • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £699PP dragon, Montblanc’s main attractions are its imposing 13th- and 14th-century buildings, and we’ll have time to explore the centre and attractive Plaça Major (main square)… this really is provincial old Spain at its unspoiled best. Tarragona is majestically sited on a rocky hill above the sea. In Roman times it was known as Tarraco and was the base for the Roman conquest of Spain and wars against Hannibal. It then became an imperial resort and the most cultured city in Hispania. Today it’s a fascinating city, refreshingly untouched by the excesses of modern tourism, with over nine miles of golden beaches and an Old Town featuring a tangle of intricate streets and plazas. Our tour takes in Tarragona’s numerous impressive landmarks – its remarkable Roman amphitheatre, which could hold up to 14,000 spectators, and imposing 12th-century cathedral are particularly notable. This evening we dine in a local restaurant where we’ll enjoy some of Catalonia’s delicious traditional dishes. Poblet

DAY 2 – POBLET, MONTBLANC & TARRAGONA Today we head into the beautiful rolling countryside and pretty vineyards around the town of Poblet. We tour its Cistercian monastery, one of the largest in the world and which, during the Middle Ages, was among Spain’s most powerful as a result of corrupt royal patronage. The final resting place of the kings and queens of Aragon and Catalonia, this UNESCOlisted abbey is one of Spain’s best-preserved medieval buildings, with impressive gates, a splendid bell tower, atmospheric cloisters and crenellated walls. We then make the short drive to Montblanc, an ancient walled town that’s surprisingly little known outside the local area. Its stone fortifications – which surround much of the centre – are in an exceptional state of preservation and look as though they have come straight from the set of El Cid. Aside from being the site where Saint George reputedly killed the

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DAY 3 – MONTSERRAT This morning we visit Montserrat’s famous Benedictine monastery, breathtakingly situated in the rocky peaks northwest of Barcelona. Montserrat means ‘serrated mountain’ and describes the abbey’s location perfectly, perched high on a craggy ridge with sheer drops below. In the 9th century, shepherd children saw bright lights descending from the heavens and a statue of the Black Madonna was discovered in a mountain cave. Reputedly carved in Jerusalem shortly after the death of Jesus and brought to Spain by the Bishop of Barcelona, its presence has made Montserrat and its monastery an important pilgrimage site. The Renaissance basilica is outstanding, featuring beautifully intricate mosaics and gold and silver artefacts, while the exquisite sounds of a renowned 50-strong boys’ choir echo through the building each day. The museum’s art collection is also well worth a visit, with works by Picasso, Monet, Dalí, Degas and Caravaggio. Spain is well noted for Cava, and this afternoon we have a guided tour of a cellar. We learn all about the process of producing this sparkling wine – made in the same way as Champagne – and, of course, enjoy tasting the finished product. This evening you can choose to eat at one of the many welcoming restaurants in the centre of Tarragona. DAY 4 – GIRONA After breakfast we leave Tarragona for the enchanting town of Girona. Bisected by the Onyar River, its banks are lined with attractive biscuit- and ochre-coloured buildings. A real pleasure of tranquil Girona is simply to wander among the maze of twisting streets, art

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Girona

galleries, churches and fine squares of the Old Town. Its splendid cathedral features the world’s widest Gothic nave and ornate stained-glass windows, while the narrow alleyways, arches and courtyards of ‘El Call’ – the Jewish quarter – are a delight to explore. We then take the short drive to Barcelona, where we stay for the next three nights at the four-star Hotel Catalonia La Pedrera, with breakfast. It’s centrally located and near a metro station, allowing you to explore the city with ease. This modern hotel features a swimming pool, restaurant and bar, while all the rooms are comfortable and air conditioned.

DAY 5 – LA SAGRADA FAMILIA & BARCELONA Today we enjoy a guided tour of extraordinary Barcelona. We’ll see the Gothic Quarter – which contains the magnificent cathedral – the Ribera district with its imposing 14th-century mansions and the Picasso Museum, and much more. However, the Catalan capital is particularly famous for its 19thcentury Catalan modernisme architecture and design, which combined new materials – such as iron – with traditional ones – such as brick and rough-hewn stone – in organic shapes inspired by nature, often covered with mosaics made of uneven tiles. There are over


Montserrat

towers – the tallest soars 367 feet upwards – while inside granite and marble blend harmoniously with intricate stained glass. Gaudí was inspired by Christian and natural themes, the latter represented by treelike columns branching upward, their ever-changing surfaces evolving into various geometric forms. The simplest is a square base morphing into an octagon, then a 16-sided form and eventually a circle at the summit. Incredibly, none of the interior surfaces is flat, with abstract shapes combining smooth curves and jagged points. The whole experience is guaranteed to leave you spellbound. Cosmopolitan Barcelona is an excellent place to indulge in some shopping. As well as department stores, you’ll find numerous quirky outlets specialising in traditional arts and crafts. The old port area is also enticing – once deemed rather seedy, it was completely renovated for the 1992 Olympics and now brims with bars, interesting shops and tempting restaurants, all set against the backdrop of the yachtfilled harbour. In the evening there’s only one place to head for – Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s world-famous street. Exceptionally vibrant at all hours of the day and night, this pedestrianised tree-lined boulevard running from Plaça de Catalunya down to the waterfront is alive with tapas bars, flower stalls, tarot readers, musicians and mime artists. An essential part of visiting Barcelona is to experience Las Ramblas, stopping at a café to watch the world go by. DAY 6 – FREE DAY IN BARCELONA Today is free to explore as you wish, and there are many attractions to choose from. Top of the list is Gaudí’s Park Güell, home to stunning mosaics, fantastical structures and wonderful views over the city to the sea. There are also countless museums, including several art galleries and ones dedicated to archaeology, maritime history and chocolate. You could head to the beaches of Barceloneta or to Ciutadella Park, where you’ll share space with orange

trees, native parrots and relaxing locals. Or maybe take the cable car up to Montjuic, site of a castle, several museums and the Olympic Stadium. For food lovers, a trip to Barcelona’s fabled La Boqueria market is a must – expect a sea of colour and enticing smells coming from stalls selling fresh vegetables, exotic seafood and fragrant hams. Make time for lunch at one of the street restaurants here, and don’t rush – eating is a serious business in Spain. This evening we enjoy our final meal together in an excellent local restaurant. DAY 7 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Tarragona

50 examples of these buildings and we see several of them on our tour. The greatest exponent of this style was Antoni Gaudí, whose works have come to symbolise Barcelona, particularly La Sagrada Família. For many, the highlight of the trip will be our timed guided tour to this most striking example of Gaudí’s genius and one of the world’s greatest buildings. Construction of this monumental UNESCO-listed edifice began in 1883 and, though La Sagrada Família is not due to be completed until 2026 – the centenary of Gaudí’s death – or later, it’s still a unique expression of architectural beauty. There are eight huge bell

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M A D R I D, SALAMANCA & TO LE DO 7 days from only £679pp

Travel to the heart of Spain to discover the culture, history and cuisine of some of its most stunning cities, from beautiful Salamanca to Roman Segovia, and from medieval Toledo to the grand capital, Madrid 84

It seems incredible that despite Spain having so much to offer, so much of it remains undiscovered by overseas visitors. This tour is designed to highlight the best of central Spain, where historic cities, magnificent palaces and buildings, stunning countryside and rich culture will particularly appeal to the discerning traveller. Spain is one of the most diverse countries in Europe, rich with legacies of the Romans, Moors and royal dynasties. In Segovia, an important city of the old Kingdom of Castile, you’ll find one of the most perfectly preserved Roman aqueducts in existence. Toledo was the capital of Spain until the 16th century, and evidence of Christian, Jewish and Moorish cultures can be found across the city, while Salamanca – home to one of the world’s oldest universities – boasts a wealth of elegant old buildings and a highly ornate

style of architecture known as Plateresque. Madrid is a grand European capital of boulevards and squares where you can see world-class art at the Prado and Reina Sofía museums, the latter home to Picasso’s Guernica. The Plaza Mayor, the city’s resplendent colonnaded square, is a fine place to watch the world go by and – in true Spanish style – it really comes to life in the evening when the Madrileños go out to eat and musicians and other street performers provide the entertainment. Central Spain features beautiful, sparsely populated terrain, varying from rugged hills crowned with sleepy villages to arid plains and lush valleys. Much of the country remains unchanged by the passing centuries; combine this with nearly 40 years of isolationism during the Franco era and you have a state of preservation that adds to Spain’s enduring charm.


PRICE INCLUDES • • • • •

Take a walking tour of Salamanca, home to an ancient university, an exquisite square and two cathedrals Enjoy a guided tour of medieval Toledo, city of El Greco and the majestic Alcázar Experience Madrid on a tour seeing the Plaza Mayor, Prado Museum, Royal Palace and much more Visit Segovia and marvel at its UNESCO-listed Roman aqueduct and fairy-tale fortress Marvel at the colossal royal monastery of El Escorial, the burial place of Spanish monarchs for 500 years

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Market tour and cooking class in Madrid Explore the bustling local market and shop for fresh, organic ingredients to create a traditional Spanish feast. Learn to make the perfect paella, a selection of tapas and refreshing sangria – then enjoy your creations, finishing off with a delicious dessert. From £65pp.

Plus, of course... • Return travel from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Six nights in three-star superior and four-star accommodation, inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast and four dinners (one dinner for departures staying at the Catalonia Gran Via Hotel) • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £679PP

design are the remains of an 11-century church that originally stood on the site. It also has a restaurant serving regional dishes, or you may choose to have dinner in one of the many nearby restaurants. DAY 2 – SALAMANCA Salamanca is acknowledged by many Spaniards to be among their country’s loveliest cities, and the entire Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has an exquisite setting – perched on a hill on the banks of the serene Tormes River – and is mostly built

Madrid

See the fairy-tale Alcazar castle in Segovia

Spanish cuisine offers far more than just its famous paella – try the excellent Serrano hams, chorizo and roast suckling pig and lamb. The best places to experiment are tapas bars, where small plates of delicious local specialities can be washed down with a glass of sherry, Rioja or Cava. Exploring here is a treat for all the senses, and on this tour of Madrid and its surrounding cities you’ll get a fascinating insight into Spain at its most authentic. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN SALAMANCA Arrive at the airport for your flight to Madrid. On arrival we transfer by coach to Salamanca to stay for two nights at the three-star superior San Polo Hotel, with breakfast. Situated in the heart of the city close to the main square and cathedrals, this modern hotel is especially distinctive – incorporated into its

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in its own gardens, complete with a swimming pool and terrace (open in the summer months subject to weather conditions), the hotel is also fully airconditioned.

Salamanca

of local sandstone, giving the buildings a gorgeous rose-coloured hue, especially at sunset when they seem almost to glow. Yet Salamanca has a turbulent heritage. Founded by the Celts in the 4th century BC, then conquered by the Romans – who built the 575-foot-long bridge across the river that’s still used today – it was fought over by Hannibal, the Moors and, finally, by the British and French during the Peninsular War of the early 19th century. Today the city is dominated by two magnificent cathedrals standing next to each other. The Romanesque Old Cathedral was completed in the 14th century, while the Gothic-Baroque New Cathedral is mainly 16th century. Another impressive building is Salamanca’s celebrated university – founded in 1218, it’s the oldest in Spain and has been one of the world’s most important seats of learning ever since. The Spanish Inquisition’s records are still kept here, and as early as the 16th century the university boasted some 12,000 students. Seeing its immaculately preserved lecture halls with their vaulted ceilings, it’s easy to conjure an image of Christopher Columbus addressing the learned men of the day or legal experts constructing the many international laws that originate here. After breakfast you’ll see all this and more on our guided tour. The remainder of the day is free to explore as you wish. It’s well worth spending more time in Salamanca’s cathedrals. Externally they dominate the skyline, but their internal decoration is just as breathtaking, with sumptuous murals and carvings; the 15th-century altarpiece of the Old Cathedral is particularly fine. Salamanca is a

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great place to wander: narrow old streets, medieval squares, gardens and traditional shops all add to the atmosphere. The main square, the Plaza Mayor, is considered by many to be the finest in the country. With its colonnades lined with cafés, it’s the perfect location to soak up the lively ambience. For an unforgettable vista, cross the river and look back at the city across the Roman bridge. DAY 3 – SEGOVIA After breakfast we say goodbye to Salamanca and take the short journey to Segovia. Dating back over 2,000 years, it features an old quarter with an enchanting skyline of towers and cupolas, plus one of the best-preserved Roman aqueducts in the world. At over half a mile long and close to 100 feet high, this UNESCO-listed wonder is all the more remarkable because neither mortar nor cement were used in its construction. Segovia was the home of Isabella, Queen of Castile, who commissioned Christopher Columbus to discover the New World. They met in the fairy-tale Alcázar fortress, believed to be one of the inspirations for the Disney logo, that dominates the city from a rocky outcrop. As well as opulent rooms, an armoury and impressive courtyards, the castle also has striking turrets and fortifications offering panoramic views over the area. Like many of the country’s other ancient cities, Segovia is largely untouched by the excesses of modern tourism, and there’s nothing better than simply watching the locals going about their everyday business, shopping in the market, exchanging a few words with friends in the street or enjoying that most traditional of Spanish pastimes – sampling tapas in a local bar. We then continue our journey to Madrid and our hotel for the next four nights, the four-star Catalonia Gran Vía on a bed-and-breakfast basis, with one dinner at a typical restaurant included. Housed in a building dating back to 1917, this hotel is located in central Madrid, between the Puerta del Sol and Plaza de Cibeles, on one of the city’s principal shopping thoroughfares lined with other grand buildings. It has a heated rooftop pool (open in the summer months subject to weather conditions), bar and restaurant. On some tours we stay at the four-star Novotel Puente de La Paz, with breakfast and three dinners plus an evening meal at a typical restaurant. This modern hotel is situated just outside the city centre, with easy local transport links to the Puerta del Sol, the geographical centre of the city. Set

DAY 4 – MADRID This morning we enjoy a tour of Madrid, seeing some of the landmarks for which Spain’s majestic capital is most famous: the Plaza Mayor, the vast central square; the Prado Museum, housing one of the world’s finest European art collections, including superb works by Goya, Velázquez and El Greco; the resplendent Royal Palace, used for state ceremonies; Plaza de España, home to a statue of the legendary Don Quixote and his creator, Miguel de Cervantes; and the Puerta del Sol, the city gate from which all distances in Spain are measured, plus much more. During the afternoon you’re free to explore as you wish. Madrid offers myriad sightseeing opportunities. Art-lovers are spoilt for choice – as well as the Prado, Madrid’s ‘avenue of art’ includes the Reina Sofía Museum, permanent home of Picasso’s Guernica, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, a private collection that includes examples from the entire history of Western art, from primitive Flemish paintings to 20th-century Pop Art. You might like to investigate the massive Moorish-style Las Ventas bullring, or perhaps you’d prefer to stroll along the avenues of the beautiful Retiro park and admire the rose garden or take a rowboat out on its lake. Madrid’s bustling squares and avenues thrum with countless restaurants and cafés. The shopping is exceptional, too – on the Gran Marvel at the ancient Roman aqueduct in Segovia


Vía, department stores and boutiques vie for space with office blocks, hotels, theatres, cinemas and restaurants housed in grand early 20th-century edifices, of which the Beaux-Arts Metropolis Building is particularly splendid. DAY 5 – EL ESCORIAL & CHINCHON Today we head out of Madrid towards the Sierra de Guadarrama, a mountain range of oak forests, pine and juniper groves and granite escarpments. Our destination is the monastery and former royal residence of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Once considered the eighth wonder of the world – and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – this vast complex was commissioned by King Philip II in 1563 and took 21 years to complete, with no expense spared. Built in a quadrangle with each corner dominated by imposing towers and with a domed basilica at its heart, one theory is that the design is based on descriptions of the Temple of Solomon. The imposing formal facade couldn’t be more different from the interior, and gives no hint of the treasures within. The legacy of its royal patronage is found in the lavish frescoes, altarpieces and paintings by notable 16thand 17th-century artists throughout the monastery. After exploring the complex, which includes royal burial pantheons, Philip II’s library and two museums, we return to Madrid. In the evening we take the short drive to Chinchón, a typical provincial Spanish village famous for its pretty town square and locally produced aniseed liqueur. We arrive after siesta, when the town comes

to life, and spend some time soaking up its rustic ambience before visiting a restaurant, converted from an olive mill, for a dinner of delicious regional specialities. DAY 6 – TOLEDO Today’s highlight is a guided tour of breathtaking Toledo, a golden-hued city rising from the plains and circled by a steep ravine filled by tumbling river waters. Spain’s enchanting former capital is rich in history, architecture and art, and we spend most of the day exploring its atmospheric monasteries, bridges and gates – no wonder this historic city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its long and often turbulent past has meant Toledo has been at the crossroads of several cultures, with Jewish, Christian and Moorish influences. In the 16th century Philip II moved the nation’s capital to nearby Madrid, leaving Toledo in the wonderful state of preservation we see today. Nowadays it is best known for the Alcázar, a medieval former royal residence that dominates the skyline from the city’s highest hill; its striking Gothic cathedral which is richly adorned with treasures, and a wealth of other classic buildings. The artist El Greco lived here and you can visit a museum in the Jewish quarter where some of the painter’s works are displayed. We leave Toledo in the late afternoon and return to our hotel. DAY 7 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

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NEW

S PA I N ’ S B A S Q U E C O U N T RY, L A R I OJ A & B U RG O S 8 days from only £899pp

Experience fascinating Basque culture, captivating towns and cities along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, spectacular scenery, Rioja wines, an inspired gastronomic heritage, and one of the world’s most avant-garde museums. Euskal Herria – better known to us as the Basque Country – is wonderfully varied and blessed with its own distinctive identity. Spanning northern Spain and southwestern France, it is a region of immense beauty and diversity, crowned by the dramatic peaks of the Pyrenees mountains which seem to pierce the sky. Hills lushly carpeted with broadleaf forests rise and fall into fertile lowlands, dotted by classic red-andwhite farmhouses, before reaching the vivid blue waters of the wild Atlantic. Along the rugged coast are sweeping natural harbours with beaches of fine sand, home to charming fishing villages. The Basque people are thought to be descendants of the very first settlers in Europe, early farmers who mixed with hunters before becoming isolated in the mountain valleys. Euskara, their unique language, is unrelated to any other and was already spoken here when Indo-European languages began to arrive. With its own defining characteristics and traditions, and a distinct architectural style, the Basque culture is

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utterly fascinating. Some local families still live in ‘baserri’, stone farmhouses with gently sloping roofs built by their ancestors. Today, the southern Basque Country is an autonomous region in Spain, while the ‘Pays Basque’ answers to France’s central government. Both land and sea have blessed the region with bounty that inspires gastronomic genius, fuelled by delightful innovation and a deep pride in tradition. There is an undeniable passion for food, be it in the markets stocked with smoked cheeses and fresh fish, or the private dining clubs where friends impress each other with home-cooked meals. The Basques even have their own version of tapas, known as ‘pintxos’, which you can experience for yourself when we visit a traditional, family-run bar. Our tour begins in San Sebastián, a coastal beauty and where you’ll find some of Spain’s finest food. We spend a day in Bayonne, one of the prettiest cities in the French Basque Country, to observe the fascinating cultural differences across the border,

Santillana del Mar


Enjoy San Sebastiàn’s many cultural gems

PRICE INCLUDES • Enjoy a guided tour of beautiful Bayonne, capital of the French Basque Country and a former English stronghold • Ascend to the peak of La Rhune mountain by vintage cog railway for superb panoramas of the Pyrenees • Take a guided walking tour of Burgos and explore its outstanding Gothic cathedral (audio guide included) • Tour one of Rioja’s most revered vineyards and enjoy a tasting • Visit the iconic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao • Enjoy a guided tour of Pamplona, capital of the Basque-based Kingdom of Navarra • Explore Santillana del Mar, a picture postcard medieval town • Discover San Sebastián, an alluring coastal beauty • Sample delicious pintxos at a traditional bar in San Sebastián, perhaps Spain’s gastronomic capital • Marvel at the superb prehistoric cave paintings of UNESCO-listed Altamira at a remarkably reproduced replica cave museum

Plus, of course... • • •

and ascend the sacred Basque mountain of La Rhune for unforgettable views. Back in Spain we discover mighty Pamplona, capital of the once-powerful Kingdom of Navarra, and Burgos, crowned by its magnificent Gothic cathedral. We drive through La Rioja, Spain’s most famous wine-producing region – and of course, we stop at a renowned bodega for a tasting. Our journey continues off the beaten path to Santillana del Mar, a charming medieval town seemingly unchanged for centuries, and to Altamira, renowned for its prehistoric cave paintings. In bustling contrast is modern Bilbao, where we stay and visit the outstanding Guggenheim Museum.

Return flights from a selection of regional airports, with transfers to and from your hotel Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and one dinner in a local restaurant The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager

FROM £899PP

to the cathedral and a 25-minute walk to the old town. It features a restaurant that serves Basque and international dishes, and a bar offering modern fare. DAY 2 – SAN SEBASTIÁN Gloriously sited on a shell-shaped stretch of the Bay of Biscay and framed by fine white-sand beaches, San Sebastián is one of the most enchanting coastal resorts in Spain. Manicured parks and belle-époque buildings are elegant reminders that this was once the preferred holiday destination of the Spanish aristocracy. Since 1953 the city has played host to an annual film festival, which attracted legends including Alfred Hitchcock. San Sebastián is flanked by two hills – Monte Igueldo in the west and Monte Urgull in the east – and this morning we explore the bay from one summit to the other. Admire the grand buildings including the Miramar Palace which was designed by a British architect, and the luxurious Hotel María Cristina. As we walk through the old town we’ll see its highlights, such as Constitución Square, which was once a bullring where spectators reserved seats on the numbered balconies and placed their bets. The tour concludes at a traditional family-run bar, giving you the opportunity to sample pintxos. Not to be confused with tapas, they tend to be more elaborate, particularly in San Sebastián, where their creation has become an art form. So popular are they that ‘txikiteo’ has become a local pastime – going from bar to bar in the evenings enjoying pintxos and drinks before settling down to a main meal. The rest of the day is free. Perhaps visit the San Telmo Museum dedicated to Basque history, or ascend Monte Urgull to see the remains of the old city walls. San Sebastián was named a European Capital of Culture in 2016 and boasts a staggering total of 17 Michelin stars, so there’s plenty to see, do and taste. DAY 3 – BAYONNE & LA RHUNE RAILWAY This morning we cross the French border to Bayonne to experience Basque culture in the north. Situated where the River Nive meets the Adour, Bayonne was once a fortified Roman town. Following Eleanor of Aquitaine’s marriage to Henry II of England in 1152, the city prospered in the Middle Ages under English kings, represented as lions in the city’s coat of arms. During our guided walking tour, we’ll see colourful half-timbered buildings, the remains of 17th-century ramparts and the stunning Gothic cathedral, seat of the former Bishops of Bayonne. Although the city bears a French appearance, Basque is widely spoken here. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample Bayonne’s fine chocolates and cured ham for which the city is known; there are even annual festivals celebrating the centuries-old traditions of chocolate and ham production.

Bayonne

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN BILBAO Arrive at the airport for your flight to Bilbao or Santander. On arrival, we transfer by coach to San Sebastián, where we stay for three nights at the four-star Silken Amara Plaza. Located along the River Urumea, the hotel is a pleasant 10-minute walk

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Burgos Cathedral

We then journey inland to La Rhune, an imposing mountain sacred in Basque mythology at the western end of the Pyrenees. The La Rhune cog railway takes us past typical Basque villages with red-shuttered houses and rolling countryside, home to Pottok ponies, Manex sheep and birds of prey. From the summit that towers on the border between France and Spain, we are treated to breathtaking views of the majestic Pyrenees and the Bay of Biscay. After a wonderful day of sightseeing, we return to the hotel. DAY 4 – PAMPLONA & RIOJA WINERY Today we travel to the wooded foothills of the

mighty Pyrenees, passing beautiful landscapes of rolling countryside and rocky gorges. We arrive in Pamplona, capital of the fiercely independent Kingdom of Navarra and a popular stop on the Way of St James, one of the most important Christian pilgrimages in the Middle Ages. Little was known about this historic gem until its annual San Fermin festival was brought to the world’s attention in Ernest Hemingway’s novel, ‘The Sun Also Rises’. The weeklong celebration honours the martyr, San Fermin, and features colourful parades of ‘giants and big heads’. Each morning the running of the bulls takes place – a tradition that is said to have begun with butchers La Rioja

shepherding their bulls to the bullring, their apprentices running ahead to entice the animals forward. During our guided tour we’ll see Pamplona’s cathedral, perhaps the finest example of High Gothic architecture in Spain, and pass shops selling elaborate papier-mâché heads for the festival. One of the country’s best-preserved military structures can be found here in the medieval citadel, built in a pentagon shape with imposing bastions at each point. This afternoon we follow the pilgrimage route through La Rioja, Spain’s legendary wine region centred on the Ebro River Valley. Rows of olive trees and vines colour the undulating landscape with stripes of green and ochre, while medieval fortified villages crown hilltops overlooked by the jagged Cantabrian mountains. We have a guided tour of one of the region’s oldest wineries, Bodegas Bilbaínas, to learn how their grapes are crafted into the noble drink. Established by ‘viticulteurs’ from Bordeaux in the 19th century, Bilbaínas acquired a reputation for excellence, enhanced in the 1920s when it supplied wine to the Spanish royal family. Naturally, our tour ends with a tasting. Later we continue to Burgos and its eponymous capital, where we stay two nights at the fourstar Abba Burgos Hotel. Located just 350 yards from Burgos Cathedral, the hotel offers guests complimentary use of its heated indoor pool, sauna, gym and tennis court. The hotel has a café-bar and a restaurant, which serves fresh seasonal dishes, and features a garden terrace with lovely views over Burgos. DAY 5 – BURGOS The 9th-century city of Burgos played a significant military and political role in Spanish history. Founded as a fortress to defend the Kingdom of Navarra from the Moors, it became the capital of Castile and Léon for five centuries. Like many Castilian towns, Burgos

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prospered from the wool trade and its wealth funded the outstanding architecture that can be seen today. During our guided tour this morning, we learn about the city’s volatile history and explore the old quarter’s maze of twisting streets, dominated by the 13thcentury cathedral, one of Spain’s glittering jewels of religious architecture. Our tour of the cathedral includes an audio guide, so you can admire this Gothic masterpiece and its numerous treasures at your own pace. Observe the majestic façade, the intricate Chapel of the Constable and the splendid tomb of Burgos’ most intriguing son, El Cid. You are free this afternoon to seek out more of the city’s highlights. As a prominent stop on the pilgrimage route, Burgos has many more churches to discover, such as the remarkable Church of St Nicholas. A stroll across the river takes you to the spectacular Monasterio de las Huelgas, a Cistercian monastery founded and lavishly endowed by royalty. This evening we dine at an excellent restaurant specialising in Castilian dishes. DAY 6 – BILBAO Today we journey to Bilbao, the largest city of the Basque Country and one of its great treasures. Surrounded by green hills of Artxanda, Bilbao has

After some free time to admire the museum’s collection, we transfer to one of two hotels in Bilbao for a two-night stay (depending on the date of your tour departure). The centrally located four-star Sercotel Coliseo Bilbao is a short walk from shops and restaurants. It occupies the city’s former opera house, which boasts an elegant façade and contemporary décor. The hotel has a café, bar and gym. The four-star NH Collection Ría de Bilbao, is situated across the river from the Guggenheim in a striking building with a colourful glass façade. Pinxtos

a very attractive and lively medieval centre with pretty parks and attractive architecture. It shot to worldwide renown in 1997 with the opening of the European branch of the Guggenheim Museum on the banks of the River Nervíon. Architect Frank Gehry drew inspiration from Bilbao’s maritime heritage to create the titanium-clad masterpiece of modernist architecture. We enjoy a visit to the Guggenheim to see an array of works by modern Spanish and international artists.

Altamira

DAY 7 – SANTILLANA DEL MAR & ALTAMIRA CAVE MUSEUM We drive through the stunning Cantabria region, dominated by lush forests and the dizzying peaks of the magnificent Picos de Europa mountains in the distance. Set inland is the medieval town of Santillana del Mar, one of the most picturesque in Spain and a joy to explore. Nicknamed ‘the village of three lies’, it does not have its own saint (‘santa’) and it is neither positioned on a flat plain (‘llana’) nor situated by the sea (‘del mar’). Wander its well-preserved cobbled streets and admire the charming ensemble of 15thto 17th-century golden houses. At the heart of the town is its Romanesque Collegiate Church, which has its origins in a 9th-century monastery. Why not refresh yourself with a drink at one of the many cafés or visit one of its interesting museums. Discover the fate of ‘heretics’ during the Spanish Inquisition at the fascinating museum of torture – not one for the faint-hearted! Our journey of discovery continues in Altamira, one of the most important prehistoric caves in Europe as it contains some of the world’s finest examples of Ice Age art – bison, deer and ibex have been masterfully rendered in charcoal and red ochre. The painter Picasso was said to have been so enamoured after a visit that he declared, ‘after Altamira, everything is decadence’. We visit the cave museum nearby to see its remarkably accurate facsimile, built to protect the original paintings – it’s every bit as astonishing as the original and enables us to have a detailed look at the fascinating facets of this complex masterpiece. Later we return to our hotel in Bilbao. DAY 8 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your return flight. Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

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LI S BO N , PO RTO & T H E D O U R O VA L L E Y 8 days from only £999pp

Experience the best of Portugal, from the maritime heritage of Lisbon to the National Palace of Sintra and Coimbra’s ancient university. Plus Porto’s port lodges, the beautiful Douro Valley and the chic resort of Cascais.

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Many visitors to Portugal head straight to the beaches of the Algarve, overlooking the many historical and cultural highlights of this fascinatingly varied country. For the discerning traveller, however, there is so much to discover, including vibrant cities, majestic palaces and cathedrals, the beautiful Douro Valley and delicious produce, most famously port dessert wine. While Spain dominates the Iberian peninsula in terms of size, Portugal freed itself from Moorish rule and became an independent country long before its larger neighbour. It is also England’s oldest ally, with a treaty of friendship between the two countries dating back to the mid 14th century. Portugal entered the most important period in its history – the Age of the Discoveries – in the early 15th century. A succession of maritime explorers, including Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama, discovered the sea route to India and created


PRICE INCLUDES

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Explore Lisbon on a guided tour, taking in magnificent squares, the Baixa and Moorish quarters, cathedral and castle, and visiting the unforgettable Monastery of Jerónimos Visit the hillside town of Sintra and its National Palace, the former summer residence of the Portuguese monarchy, and now a fascinating museum with priceless collections Enjoy a guided tour of Porto, centre of the port wine trade, including a visit and tasting at Taylor’s port lodge Discover the Douro, one of Europe’s most beautiful river valleys, on a fullday tour See the holy shrine of Fátima and visit Coimbra University, one of Europe’s oldest seats of learning Experience the charm of 13th-century Óbidos with its cobbled streets and lofty medieval fortifications Stay in the chic coastal resort of Cascais in a historic Pousada hotel

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star to five-star accommodation including all local taxes, with breakfast and three dinners (one dinner for departures staying at the Royal Bridges) • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £999PP

The Portuguese themselves are a wonderfully well-mannered people who love to socialise, especially at the table and with family, and their natural pride, warmth and charm make them extremely welcoming to visitors to their lovely country. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN LISBON Arrive at the airport for your flight to Lisbon. On arrival we transfer by coach to stay three nights, with breakfast, at one of two carefully selected hotels, depending on your departure date. The rest of the day is spent at leisure, allowing you time to settle into the hotel and start exploring if you wish. The four-star Tivoli Oriente Hotel in the iconic Parque das Nações area, where there are many shops, restaurants and bars. The hotel has a restaurant serving international cuisine, an indoor swimming pool and a bar providing panoramic views over Lisbon. A complimentary coach service will take you to and from the centre of Lisbon on the evenings of days two and three should you wish to spend more time in the heart of the city, while public transport links nearby provide easy access at any time. The centrally located four-star Lisboa Plaza Hotel (2018 departures only) is a member of the wellregarded family-owned Heritage chain of properties. Furnished with antique furniture, it resembles an aristocrat’s town residence of yesteryear. A tranquil ambience pervades its marble public areas, enhanced by an atmospheric bar full of 19th-century character and a wood-panelled restaurant. The rooms are extremely comfortable and have all the facilities you would expect. DAY 2 – LISBON TOUR After a leisurely breakfast we set out to discover Lisbon’s highlights, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. On our tour we’ll see the strikingly modern Monument to the Discoveries and its 16thcentury fortified counterpart, the Belém Tower, then visit the church of the Monastery of Jerónimos. One of the most magnificent buildings in Europe, the Monastery is a symbol of Portuguese wealth and power during the Age of Discoveries. Founded by Prince Henry the Navigator and containing the tomb of Vasco da Gama, it is an enormous, dazzlingly white edifice in classic Portuguese Gothic style, intricately decorated throughout with maritime motifs. We also see the impressive Terreiro do Paço square facing out to sea, the majestic castle and Sé, the 12th-century Romanesque cathedral. There’s also Alfama, the Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon

Wander the banks of the Douro

lucrative links with the Orient, returning with gold, silks, spices, high-quality furniture and exquisite porcelain. When the Portuguese discovered gold in Brazil, vast wealth financed magnificent buildings throughout Portugal – many of which we visit on this thoughtprovoking tour. This ‘Golden Age’ lasted until the late 1600s, after which Portugal slipped into centuries of relative obscurity. Today Portugal is a country of great contrasts; it’s modern in many ways yet still has one foot firmly set in its past. Full of history and appeal and spared from large-scale industrialisation, its well-preserved medieval towns with their tiny cobbled streets are delightful to explore. Portugal’s landscapes are stunning. You’ll experience them in full – from coastal forests, wild seascapes, fertile fields and dramatic valleys to sweeping biscuitcoloured hillsides covered with olive trees, fragrant pine forests and lush meadows.

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Moorish quarter of timeless cobbled streets, and the wonderful garden at São Pedro de Alcântara with its expansive views across the rooftops. Part of Lisbon’s appeal is its mix of old and modern, bustling and peaceful, and this afternoon is free to explore. You might be tempted by the chic shops of the elegant Baixa quarter, rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1755, or decide to seek out a café to enjoy a bica – an espresso – often taken with a pastel de nata, the city’s devilishly moreish custard tart. Art-lovers can savour the Gulbenkian Museum, established by an Armenian oil magnate who bought art from Saint Petersburg’s Hermitage after the Russian Revolution for bargain prices. This world-class institution has exhibits ranging from ancient Egyptian treasures to Impressionist paintings to a superb collection of Lalique jewellery and glass. And don’t forget to take a ride on one of the clanging, rattling yellow trams; seemingly well past their sell-by date, they’re still the best way to negotiate the sharp bends of the old quarter. DAY 3 – SINTRA We take a short drive to the hillside town of Sintra, whose verdant slopes were memorably described by Byron as a ‘glorious Eden’. Spectacularly perched on a hillside with views towards the nearby Atlantic coast, this is where Henry the Navigator grew up and doubtless gazed out to sea, imagining what lay beyond the horizon. The narrow streets of the Old Town wind their way to the main square, where we visit the National Palace, the former residence of the Portuguese monarchy during the hot summer months. Architecturally it’s a fantastic mix of Gothic

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and Moorish styles crowned by a pair of huge white conical chimneys. Today this landmark is a museum with grand rooms, many decorated with the glazed ceramic tiles known as azujelos, and a priceless art collection. Returning to Lisbon late in the afternoon, there’s still free time for you to explore this lively city further. There’s an amazing old quarter that still follows the original Phoenician street grid, so why not spend this evening wandering through its atmospheric lanes lined with bars and restaurants, often decorated with the colourful ceramic tiles so typical of this city. Many places will be buzzing with the sound of fado – a unique and infectious musical mix evolved from folk, colonial African and Brazilian styles. Don’t leave Lisbon without experiencing this. DAY 4 – COIMBRA UNIVERSITY This morning we drive through olive groves and wheat fields to Fátima, an unremarkable small town until 1917, when three children experienced an apparition of the Virgin Mary and it suddenly became an important Catholic pilgrimage site and a national shrine. The original chapel built to mark the site of the apparition is now part of a large and impressive Sanctuary complex, which is well worth exploring. Continuing north, we reach Coimbra, renowned for the impressive Roman aqueduct striding across the city and the university, one of Europe’s oldest along with Salamanca, Bologna and Oxford. With its labyrinthine lanes, charming Moorish quarter and pretty squares, this is a fascinating place to explore. Once a capital city, Coimbra became a major cultural centre during the Middle Ages with the university

– a UNESCO World Heritage Site – at its heart. We have the privilege of a visit to the university, which is situated on a hill overlooking the city. Its Baroque library – rich in giltwork, exotic woods and with a dazzling frescoed ceiling – contains over 200,000 leather-bound, centuries-old volumes. Equally extraordinary is the exquisitely decorated chapel, while the university prison, dating back to the mid 16th century, is suitably austere. We continue to Porto to stay three nights, with breakfast and dinner, at the four-star superior Sheraton Hotel & Spa, the four-star superior Porto Palàcio or the four-star Bridges Hotel (2019 departures only). The Sheraton is set in its own landscaped gardens while the Porto Palácio features a rooftop lounge with panoramic views. The brand new Royal Bridges Hotel is situated in downtown Porto. All hotels offer superbly appointed rooms and the facilities you would expect of a hotel of this standard. DAY 5 – PORTO Set on the Douro estuary and once a Roman settlement, Porto’s wealth derived from its knowledge of the sea routes to India. Spices, silks and other fine goods made the fortunes used to build today’s city – Portugal’s second largest. Our guided tour of Porto unveils some of the city’s major and more surprising sights – you’ll experience the tangled lanes of the medieval quarter, the splendid Praça da Ribeira square with its characteristic tiled townhouses and picturepostcard views of the wine lodges across the river. Gustave Eiffel designed one of the bridges and you can immediately see the connection with his more famous Parisian creation. You’ll gaze up at the city’s imposing


views while the occasional river traffic glides past. The overwhelming feeling here is one of perfect isolation in one of Europe’s most beautiful and unspoiled river valleys. A short drive upstream is the delightful small town of Pinhão, the heart of the port-producing region. Port truly dominates life here, with even the hand-painted glazed tiles at the railway station depicting scenes from the wine harvest. During our time here we visit one of the local port estates – or quintas – to sample some of its wines.

The Douro Valley

fortress, its Romanesque cathedral and Baroque Clérigos Tower. Porto also boasts many traditional shops, and it’s a joy to see what the many local traders have to offer, from fine art, antiques and ceramics to some of the tastiest cakes you’ll ever eat. Of course, Porto is synonymous with port wine. All the famous producers are here and a visit would not Marvel at the colourful Pena Palace in Sintra

be complete without a tour of one of them, so we are guests of Taylor’s – perhaps the greatest of all them all. You’ll learn about this fortified wine’s fascinating history and its close British connections. Port is made from grapes from the terraced vineyards along the Douro that are still pressed in the age-old way – by feet – then lovingly matured, sometimes for decades, before you can enjoy its subtle flavours. Of course, you’ll get the chance to sample various port styles at the end of our visit. You’re free to spend the rest of the day investigating the city at your leisure. DAY 6 – THE DOURO VALLEY Today we enjoy a leisurely exploration of the Douro River, known as the ‘River of Gold’. After leaving the Atlantic’s influence behind, the climate becomes noticeably warmer and drier, while the area has a Mediterranean appearance with earthy oranges replacing shades of greens. We follow a wonderfully scenic route, passing through pretty waterside villages and ascending the lofty valley sides for marvellous vistas of the shimmering ribbon of the river and its classic vine-clad terraces. At Peso da Régua there’s time to wander along the quayside and take in the

DAY 7 – ÓBIDOS & CASCAIS Leaving Porto, we head south through rolling countryside and past countless olive groves to Óbidos, one of Portugal’s most picturesque towns, whose core of narrow streets and alleyways is entirely surrounded by medieval walls. With its whitewashed houses, abundant flowers and splashes of bright paint, this is a pleasurable place to wander and imagine yourself stepping back in time to the days of the Moors, who once ruled from the imposing castle. If you’re feeling energetic you can walk around the crenellated fortifications, which offer splendid views of the town and surrounding countryside. Óbidos is also the perfect place to enjoy Portugal’s favourite sour cherry liqueur – ginjinha – because here the locals serve it in a chocolate cup! We continue to Cascais, a coastal town to the west of Lisbon on the mouth of the Tagus River, to stay for one night at the five-star Pousada, with breakfast. This is one of Portugal’s classic hotels, converted from buildings set within the walls of a 16th-century citadel overlooking the marina. Parts of the hotel comprised a former barracks, and the furnishings and stonework of the Pousada combine historical legacy with modern comfort, art and stunning style. There is a restaurant, bar, spa, gym and pool, while the contemporary rooms are beautifully appointed. Cascais itself is a charming place to wander. A small fishing village until the Portuguese royal family chose it as their preferred summer residence, it developed into a chic resort with grand 19th-century buildings, seafront promenades and fine parks. The attractive Old Town is centred round the harbour and boasts a wide range of restaurants and bars. Many specialise in local seafood and enjoy views out to the Atlantic, the mighty ocean that has shaped Portugal’s history. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Cascais

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MADEIRA T H E P E A R L O F T H E AT L A N T I C 8 days from only £819pp

Madeira may be tiny, but this subtropical paradise offers world-renowned gardens, spectacular coastlines and jagged peaks, while picturesque Funchal boasts an architectural charm and rich maritime heritage to match the island’s natural splendour. Rising from the ocean floor 600 miles southwest of Lisbon, Madeira is a subtropical paradise that captures the hearts of all who visit. Even the difficult-to-please Winston Churchill was seduced by its charms! The largest island in an archipelago, Madeira has a huge range of landscapes within its tiny surface area, just 35 miles long and 13 miles wide, from sunny beaches in the south to jagged peaks and cliffs in the north. Its topography – a mountainous backbone and plateau running along the centre, riven by steep valleys – was forged millions of years ago by intense volcanic activity. With fertile volcanic soil, Madeira is a plant-lover’s dream with an enormous diversity of species, from imported purple-blossomed jacaranda trees, orchids and bird of paradise plants to its native Laurisilva forest. So much flourishes here in its mild climate all year round, making it a superb destination through autumn and winter. In legend, Madeira was one of the ‘Isles of the Blessed’, a winterless earthly realm inhabited by heroes of Greek mythology. But it was serendipity that led the Portuguese here in 1418 when João Gonçalves Zarco was blown off course and set

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eyes on Porto Santo, the northernmost island in the archipelago. A year later, Zarco returned to find another forested island, claiming it for Portugal and naming it Madère after the Portuguese word for wood. New settlers were delighted to discover that it was ideal for crops, including bananas, grapes and sugar cane, and virtually any spare patch of land is now cultivated, resulting in hillsides covered in terraced fields and levadas, or irrigation channels. The seafood, unsurprisingly, is exceptional and there is an abundance of fish to sample, from the ferocious-looking black scabbard fish to marlin and albacore tuna. Also popular are dishes such as espetada – beef marinated in Madeiran wine, then grilled over smouldering wood chips. Bolo de mel or honey cake is a traditional pastry locals insist should be torn into pieces by hand and never cut with a knife, while fried dough balls called malasadas are enjoyed on Mardi Gras, which is celebrated with gusto. Madeirans are devoutly Catholic, but they also enjoy a multitude of festa or festivals, many in honour of the island’s flora. One of the wonders of visiting Madeira is that so much is packed in, from inspirational gardens to


PRICE INCLUDES • Discover the Old Town of picturesque Funchal, often called ‘Little Lisbon’, on a tour led by a local guide bringing its many sights and cultural treasures to life • Enjoy a tasting of the delicious and world-famous Madeira wines • Admire the world-renowned Palheiro Gardens, exceptional for their variety of flora and stunning location overlooking Funchal • Ascend to Curral das Freiras, or the Valley of the Nuns, until recently the almost-inaccessible mountain hideaway of a convent of nuns • See the inspiration for some of Winston Churchill’s paintings in the charming fishing port of Câmara de Lobos • Take a tour of the idyllic Monte Palace Tropical Gardens accompanied by a local guide to help you get the most from this experience thundering waterfalls and from soaring peaks to the hidden Valley of the Nuns.

Visit the beautiful Botanical Gardens in Funchal

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN FUNCHAL Arrive at the airport for your flight to Funchal, where you transfer by coach to stay for seven nights at the four-star Enotel Quinta do Sol, with breakfast and dinner. Located between the Old Town and the Lido promenade, the hotel has indoor and outdoor pools, plus a restaurant and bar. All rooms are well appointed with complimentary Wi-Fi, air conditioning and heating, television, telephone, minibar and safe. Upgrades to sea-view rooms with either a French balcony or full balcony are available at a supplement (subject to availability).

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Discover Madeira’s mountainous eastern coast, taking in the A-framed houses of Santana and the ancient Laurisilva forest of the UNESCO-listed Ribeiro Frio National Park Explore the varied west side of the island, including Cabo Girão, Europe’s highest sea cliff, Porto Moniz with its natural rock pools

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus hotel transfers Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast and dinner. 2019 departures include daily breakfast and four dinners The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £819PP DINING CHOICES For 2019 departures, breakfast daily and four dinners are included at your hotel, so you have the flexibility to experience the local restaurants in Funchal. If you wish to dine in at the hotel throughout your stay, you may pre-book dinner for the 3 remaining nights for £36pp.

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Enjoy afternoon tea with fantastic views Indulge in a sumptuous afternoon tea at Belmond Reid’s Palace, an iconic luxury hotel. Admire the splendid views of picturesque Funchal harbour as you dine on delicious and freshly baked scones, pastries and sandwiches with your choice of tea or a glass of refreshing Champagne. From £35pp.

Câmara de Lobos

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Blandy family, famous wine producers. Over the next decades, the gardens were populated with thousands of plants from around the world, from North American sequoia trees to South African Proteas, all flourishing in Madeira’s rich soils and clement weather. This is a blissful place to explore at your leisure, taking in all the colours and fragrances, with a chance to linger when a particular specimen catches your eye.

Curral das Freiras

DAY 2 – FUNCHAL After breakfast, a local guide takes us on a walking tour of the historic centre of Funchal, often called ‘little Lisbon’ as it overlooks a spectacular harbour and boasts grand 18th-century buildings with shaded courtyards. Narrow streets wind through its centre, broadening out onto lively squares and tree-lined walkways. Inspiring sights include the Igreja do Colégio, a church with a plain exterior that belies its sumptuous Baroque interior, and the 15th-century Sé cathedral, one of the few buildings dating from colonial times. It is the island’s main religious building and features the original 16th-century altar, imposing arches and ornate gold-framed paintings; its ceiling, made from local wood, is one of Portugal’s most beautiful. Devotees of modern architecture will love the Art Deco Mercado dos Lavradores or farmers’ market, a hive of activity as shoppers fill their baskets with the island’s sun-ripened produce. Look out for

the patterned pavements, typically Portuguese and painstakingly pieced by hand, and for the colourful street art on the doors of buildings. A treat is in store as we pause for a tasting of the island’s best-known export – Madeira wine. The process of heating the wine originated by accident when 16th-century sailors discovered that wines picked up in Madeira tasted richer after the casks had been heated and cooled during passage through the Tropics. Today, the styles of this fortified wine range from dry to lusciously sweet. In between is medium Verdelho, the variety the English traditionally serve with the crumbly sponge cake named after the wine. In the afternoon, we visit the Palheiro Gardens, world famous for its variety of flora and its beautiful setting in the hills overlooking Funchal. Palheiro was laid out in the early 19th century by a French landscape architect for the Count of Carvalhal before being acquired in the early 20th century by the

DAY 3 – CURRAL DAS FREIRAS (VALLEY OF THE NUNS) & CAMARA DE LOBOS Our morning begins with a short drive north to Madeira’s dramatic interior and the Curral das Freiras or Valley of the Nuns. To appreciate the solitude of this place, we drive to Eira do Serrado, over 3,500 feet above sea level, part of a natural cauldron of jagged peaks and chasms, with time to soak up the glorious views down to the village of Curral das Freiras itself. Descending to the village, you can see why in 1566 the nuns of Funchal’s Santa Clara convent relocated to this almost inaccessible valley to flee a pirate attack. Today it is also known for the sweet chestnuts cultivated on its terraced hillsides – you’ll enjoy sampling these tasty treats. It even hosts an annual festival celebrating this versatile nut, which is used in products from cakes to soups to liqueurs. We head to Câmara de Lobos, a fishing village built around a bay with Europe’s highest cliffs forming a breathtaking backdrop. Inspired by its location, the colourful boats and whitewashed buildings with distinctive terracotta roofs, Winston Churchill stayed here to paint the harbour during his visit to Madeira in 1950. Câmara de Lobos is still a working port, with boats pulled up onto the beach after night fishing for the local black scabbard fish known as espada. It’s a charming village to saunter, exploring the cobbled streets and visiting the simple Saint Anthony’s Chapel, where fishermen’s wives traditionally said prayers for the safe return of their menfolk. Or you can relax in a harbour café with a glass of poncha, an elixir of sugar cane spirit, honey and lemon juice enjoyed by the fishermen returning to land their catch in the morning – and said to cure the common cold!

The famous houses of Santana

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Mercado dos lavradores

DAY 4 – MONTE Near Funchal is the idyllic hilltop town of Monte, which we visit this morning. Enjoying spectacular views of the capital and the southern coast, it has long been a retreat for wealthy families. The town’s landmark is its 18th-century church, the most important pilgrimage site in Madeira, with its black and white facade and twin towers. It is also the burial place of Charles I of Austria, the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. We then visit the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, where you can either join our guided tour or wander at leisure. These oriental gardens are exquisite, complete with Asian-style bridges, arches and a pond filled with koi carp; they also house a historic tile collection gathered from Portuguese palaces, churches and private residences. Later we return to Funchal by coach. Alternatively you may wish to make your own way back to Funchal, either by cable car for a dramatic 15-minute descent to the capital, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, you could take the famous Monte toboggan ride. This involves descending the narrow streets in a cushioned wicker basket mounted on wooden runners, steered from the rear by skilled drivers – Ernest Hemingway described the experience as exhilarating. This afternoon is free. Why not relax at the hotel? Or perhaps visit Quinta das Cruzes, the former home of João Gonçalves Zarco, and now a museum whose exhibits offer a fascinating insight into the lifestyles of the island’s wealthy merchants over the centuries. DAY 5 – EASTERN MADEIRA Today we explore the eastern seaboard, passing diverse landscapes from craggy coastlines to ancient forests. Ponta do Rosto is Madeira’s easternmost point, on a sliver of land jutting out into the Atlantic, and offers dazzling panoramas. On clear days the island of Porto Santo shimmers in the distance. Following the northern coast, we call at sleepy Porto da Cruz, named after a large cross displayed to identify it to passing sailors. Dominated by the sheersided Penha d’Aguia or Eagle Rock, this 16th-century parish is renowned for producing sugar cane spirit and a dry red wine made from the Americana grape. We leave the village and track the coastline, where, incredibly, every patch of land is farmed to provide food for its isolated communities. There’s further proof of Madeirans’ capacity for self-sufficiency in Santana, a town notable for its A-frame thatched houses. Made from stone, wood and anything else to

hand, they have brightly painted doors and windows and each sits on its own plot of land used to grow food. As you enjoy a stroll around these wellpreserved 16th-century dwellings, you get a sense of what it was like to live here when villagers relied solely on their own toil for survival. We head towards the mountainous interior and one of the highlights of the tour – the UNESCO-listed Ribeiro Frio National Park. Around 90 per cent of the park is covered by ancient Laurisilva or laurel trees, and the area features many endemic flora and fauna, such as ferns and the trocaz pigeon. The region also plays a vital role in Madeira’s ecosystem, as moisture captured by the trees feeds into a 1,355-mile network of channels that distribute water across the island for drinking, agriculture and hydroelectric power. Ascending slopes cloaked in fragrant eucalyptus and swirling mists, we emerge at Pico do Arieiro, Madeira’s third highest mountain at 5,930 feet. Here, above the treeline and sometimes even higher than the clouds, the vistas are some of the most memorable you’ll ever see. You may even spot the Valley of the Nuns way below. On clear days almost all of Madeira is visible, including its highest summit – the 6,100-foot Pico Ruivo.

Cabo Girão

DAY 6 – FREE DAY The whole day is at your leisure. Maybe make full use of the hotel’s facilities or choose to explore Funchal. For art-lovers, the Sacred Art Museum is located in the 17th-century former bishop’s palace. It houses one of the finest collections of religious art in the world, commissioned for their local churches by wealthy Madeiran merchants seeking salvation. Among the works are masterpieces by influential 15th- and 16th-century Flemish painters, such as Pieter Coeck van Aalst. If you didn’t take the cable car at Monte, why not give it a try today? Alternatively, a steep path leads up to São João do Pico, the impressive fortress that has kept guard over Funchal since the 17th century and which offers a superb panoramas over the city. You can also experience Funchal’s traditional craft shops, many individually decorated and offering artisan tiles, wickerwork and embroidery, before a stroll along the Lido promenade and a seafood lunch. Gardeners, already spoilt by Madeira’s flora, can indulge themselves further at the Botanical Gardens.

explore the western side of the island. Our first stop is Cabo Girão and the spectacle of the island’s highest sea cliff – a sheer drop of 1,980 feet. Experiencing the views from the transparent viewing platform extending over the cliff edge is truly exhilarating. We next visit charming Ribeira Brava, a small town set in a steep valley carved out by the ‘wild river’ that gives the settlement its name. There’s ample time to explore its picturesque streets and visit the 16th-century church of São Bento with its giant crystal chandeliers. Madeira’s tropical climate is perfect for growing bananas and in the fishing village of Madalena do Mar you can experience life on a small banana plantation, where much of the work is still carried out by hand. Turning inland, we ascend nearly 5,000 feet to the flattest part of the island, Paúl da Serra plateau. This landscape is reminiscent of Dartmoor and the North Yorkshire Moors – a surprising contrast to the mountain scenery we have enjoyed elsewhere. In the distance you can see Porto Moniz, located at Madeira’s northwestern tip and our next destination. Remarkable enough for its edge-of-the-world feeling, Porto Moniz is also blessed with natural saltwater pools, formed from solidified volcanic rock and replenished by the waves as they break against the rocks. It’s the perfect place to stop, gaze out over the waves and drink in the invigorating ocean air from the terrace of a café or restaurant. We return on the northern coastal route via the village of Seixal to see one of Madeira’s most famous waterfalls – the Bridal Veil – cascading down the side of the mountain into the sea. Our final stop is São Vicente, a village nestling in a deep verdant valley and believed to be the volcanic birthplace of the island. At its shore is a giant basalt outcrop into which is hewn a 17th-century chapel, while the village also features a distinctive black and white church, scenic houses and a network of caves – all adding to its reputation as one of Madeira’s loveliest settlements. After taking in so much, it’s time to return to Funchal.

DAY 7 – WESTERN MADEIRA There’s still so much to discover, and today we

DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

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D U B ROV N I K , T H E D A L M AT I A N C O A S T & MONTENEGRO 8 days from only £949pp

George Bernard Shaw thought Dubrovnik ‘Paradise on Earth’. Witnessing the coast of Montenegro, Lord Byron was moved to call it ‘the most beautiful encounter between land and sea’. When you take this tour you’ll find that you can only agree with these literary giants, whether you are witnessing the majesty of Diocletian’s Palace in Split, crossing Mostar’s iconic Stari Most or gazing at the tumbling waterfalls in Krka National Park. Croatia is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, with a recent past unique in European history. Over the past two millennia, empires have left indelible marks – both architecturally and culturally – on the country: the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Habsburgs among others. This mélange of influences is reflected at every turn, in palaces and amphitheatres, imposing civic structures and religious buildings representing many faiths. From the late 1980s, Croatia experienced the fall of Communism, with war and then full independence to follow, but the resilience of both landscape and people is demonstrated by the way the country rebounded from these upheavals. With the scars healed, a blend of exotic history, Mediterranean ambience and natural beauty has placed the country once again on the map of any discerning traveller. Dubrovnik, with its famous marble-paved, pedestrianised main street, is a treasure. It’s almost a living museum, with its medieval origins married to

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Split

Baroque influences from later centuries. Lord Byron and George Bernard Shaw certainly knew beauty when they saw it, respectively describing the city in rhapsodic terms as ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ and ‘Paradise on Earth’. On your tour, you’ll find every reason to concur – it’s simply idyllic. The Dalmatian coastline is as dramatic as any in Europe. For hundreds of miles, steep limestone cliffs plunge into sapphire-blue waters. Just offshore, the Adriatic is studded with countless islands. Some are tiny, some large; some inhabited, some not – but all are breathtakingly beautiful. The hillsides are green carpets of lush pine forests, lending the air that instantly recognisable Mediterranean fragrance. Clinging to the coast or nestling in pretty coves are medieval villages, refreshingly free from insensitive development. Life continues much as it has for centuries. The people are effervescent, friendly and open, too.


PRICE INCLUDES • Explore Dubrovnik, Byron’s ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, with its medieval and Baroque centre, on a tour led by an expert guide • Marvel at the rushing waters of the Krka National Park’s dense and dramatic interlocking waterfalls • Cross the iconic Stari Most bridge, now returned to its former glory in Mostar, once Europe’s border with the Ottoman Empire • Immerse yourself in the history of Emperor Diocletian’s monumental palace in Split, brought to life by the intimate knowledge of a local guide • Discover the delights of medieval Trogir, one of Dalmatia’s most alluring old ports • Soak up the unspoilt splendour of Montenegro through sights in Kotor and Perast, including an amazing island church Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights’ four-star hotel accommodation including all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £949PP

our programme of visits over the next few days. Swimming pools are open during summer, weather permitting. Omis is a lovely little village, dominated by two medieval fortresses with remnants of the old city walls still intact. The Hotel Plaza is approximately a 10-minute stroll from the centre, shaded by aromatic pine forests and is set in a cove on a stretch of beautiful coastline with direct access to the beach. It has a wellness centre, restaurant and bar with a delightful terrace overlooking the beach. The modern rooms are well appointed all with private facilities, air-conditioning, mini-bar, safe and hairdryer. The Hotel Plaža Duće is located along the coast close to Omis. Every room is modern and spacious with mini-bar, air-conditioning, safe and offers a balcony with sea views. The hotel features a restaurant, both indoor and outdoor pools with a bar, fitness centre, spa and wellness centre, with access to the sandy beach. North of Split, on the Sibenik Riviera in the resort of Vodice is the Hotel Olympia. This traditional coastal village is surrounded by the sea, islands and rivers. The hotel is situated a short walk from the harbour, and has indoor and outdoor bars, restaurant, wellness centre and outdoor pool. It offers access to a pebble beach. All rooms are air-conditioned and feature a balcony. DAY 2 – KRKA VALLEY After breakfast we drive inland to the Krka Valley. Viewing its majesty, you’ll instantly appreciate why it has been awarded national park status. The valley is home to an immensely impressive sequence of lakes, where water cascades dramatically from one to the next via vertiginous interlocking waterfalls. Minerals dissolved in the water trigger stunning colour changes, from turquoise to azure-blue and from vibrant green to steely grey. With reflections of the majestic surrounding peaks and luxuriant forests rippling on lake surfaces, it’s impossible not to be awestruck. You’ll witness one of the most dramatic stretches of the river – several tiers of waterfalls tumbling magnificently into a broad, shallow pool. There’s ample time to absorb the surroundings before we return to our hotel during the afternoon. Krka National Park

Explore the streets of Dubrovnik’s Old Town

All this, plus unspoilt Montenegro, one of the world’s newest countries, where visiting is like experiencing the Mediterranean of 30 years ago. The glorious coastline features centuries-old fishing villages, full of tiny streets where the eaves almost touch, interspersed with squares where market stalls creak under the weight of ripe local produce and dotted with intricately decorated Byzantine churches. Every location we visit on this tour is simply beautiful. These landscapes cry out to be explored, offering visitors a blend of compelling scenery and engrossing places on a journey back in time. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN CROATIA Arrive at the airport to take your flight to Dubrovnik or Split. On arrival, you will be taken to one of our carefully chosen four-star hotels for three nights with dinner, which will vary according to the date of departure. All hotels provide a perfect base for

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DAY 3 – SPLIT & TROGIR We drive along stunning Dalmatian coastline on our way to Split. Croatia’s second-largest city is most famous for a single building, the colossal palace of Emperor Diocletian, which makes up much of the city’s Old Town. It’s one of the great structures of the Roman Empire and has survived in amazing condition since it was built at the turn of the 4th century. A guided walking tour this morning of the fascinating complex will bring its storied history to life. Befitting the ruler’s exalted status, no expense was spared in its construction; marble came from Italy while columns and sphinxes were brought from Egypt. Part personal palace, part military garrison, it was more fully integrated into the fabric of the town during medieval times, when a jumble of buildings grew up around it. Some structures were repurposed – the temple dedicated to Jupiter, king of the Roman gods, became a baptistry. Tall medieval buildings line the streets, but they are buttressed by unmistakable Roman columns. Juxtapositions of different cultures await you at every turn. Today 3,000 people still live within its walls. In the afternoon, we visit the nearby medieval citadel of Trogir, one of the most beguiling little ports in Dalmatia. The Old Town is actually an island. A wealth of Renaissance and Romanesque buildings line a veritable maze of charmingly chaotic lanes. At the centre is the exquisite Cathedral of Saint Lawrence, whose long cycle of construction is reflected in its contrasting architectural features.

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Wander where your feet take you, cast an eye over one of the many antique shops or just enjoy a coffee in a pavement café – the choice is yours, before returning to the hotel in time for dinner. DAY 4 – MOSTAR As we head south, the dazzling coastline gradually gives way to the River Neretva Delta, a bird-lover’s paradise, before we arrive at the ancient town of Mostar, nestling in cliffs that overlook a river. It was once a provincial capital of the Ottoman Empire, was later annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is now part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Much of its renown rests with Stari Most, the bridge linking the two halves of the Old Town. Originally built in the 16th century, it was left in ruins in 1993 but rose again the following decade, painstakingly rebuilt to the original Balkan Islamic design as a symbol of reconciliation and as the visual focus of the city. Mostar’s buildings reflect the city’s cosmopolitan evolution – centuries-old mosques mix with Turkish houses, while the fine 19th-century town hall could have been transplanted from Central Europe. Down cobbled streets that demand investigation, tiny workshops house skilled artisans making all manner of metal goods in a fashion unchanged for centuries, giving the sense of time having stood still. Once you’ve experienced the marvels of the city, we continue to Dubrovnik, where we stay for four nights with breakfast and dinner.

Dubrovnik


Split

facilities, air-conditioning, minibar, safe and hairdryer. The hotel offers spacious indoor and outdoor pools as well as a wellness area. The four-star Hotel Lero is close to Dubrovnik’s Old Town and a five-minute walk from the beach. The hotel has two restaurants including one with a summer terrace, plus an outdoor pool (weather permitting), bar and fitness centre. Guests have access to a wellness centre and tennis courts at an additional charge. The four-star Hotel Argosy is a contemporary hotel situated above one of Dubrovnik’s beautiful beaches and enjoys fine sea views. The hotel provides us with an excellent relaxing base for continuing our tour. Please note: Where hotels feature an outdoor swimming pool, this will be open summer months, weather permitting.

See the famed bridge of Mostar

Our four-star hotels provide an excellent relaxing base for the remainder of our tour. The four-star Hotel Lacroma is a contemporary hotel situated on a rocky promontory into the Adriatic and is surrounded by pine forests. The hotel has two restaurants and a terrace bar with panoramic views of the Elaphiti Islands . All rooms have private

DAY 5 – DUBROVNIK Dubrovnik, an independent city-state for much of its history, has evolved differently to the rest of Croatia. This morning, we take a tour with an expert local guide explaining the city’s landmarks and intriguing history. Dubrovnik threw off its Venetian masters in medieval times and founded a commercial empire, trading with the eastern Mediterranean, France, Spain and, later, the Ottoman Empire. The economic boom that resulted in the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ found beautiful expression in the likes of the Rector’s

Palace, now a museum, and Sponza Palace, currently housing centuries of historical city documents. The main avenue, lined by enticing shops and cafés, is completely paved with marble, which strikingly reflects the midday sun. Add in a wonderful array of monasteries and monumental ramparts and you’ll find this is a wonderful city, nestling in a location of outstanding natural beauty. In the afternoon, you’re free to explore before we return to the hotel for dinner. DAY 6 – PERAST, KOTOR & MONTENEGRO A short drive south takes us over the border into one of Europe’s newest countries, Montenegro. Following the sapphire-blue coastline, the route offers seemingly limitless visual feasts. The Bay of Kotor is an expanse of inland sea, though you could be forgiven for believing it to be a lake, with topography reminiscent of Switzerland. Reflections of the surrounding mountains dance playfully on the water while the verdant shoreline is punctuated by sleepy fishing villages. Our first stop is the small, scenic town of Perast. It has a rare beauty of its own, but your eyes will undoubtedly be drawn to a jewel out on the waters – the Roman Catholic church of Our Lady of the Rocks, occupying a man-made island. We continue to the medieval town of Kotor, with its history of trading and seafaring. Nestling under a mountainside, it’s in probably Montenegro’s most dramatic setting. Inside its ancient walled fortifications, a labyrinth of cobbled marble streets surrounding Saint Tryphon’s Cathedral radiate to intimate squares. The town’s bustling market is a sensory delight, with sights and smells from stalls offering cheese, cured hams, honey and vegetables of all colours. The local wine hasn’t had the international exposure it warrants, but it’s a treat for the taste buds. Afterwards we cross the sea at its narrowest point by ferry, returning to Dubrovnik at the end of the afternoon. DAY 7 – FREE DAY IN DUBROVNIK You have the day to yourselves, so what’s it to be? Watching the world go by as you enjoy a leisurely lunch in the main square? Relaxing on a cruise around the harbour? A stroll around the city walls that once protected the city’s inhabitants, but now offer unbeatable views? The options are many and the choice is yours.

Kotor

DAY 8 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

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NEW

MONTENEGRO B U D VA , C E T I N J E & T H E B AY O F K O T O R 8 days from only £849pp

Let us take you on a tour of mysterious Montenegro, an unspoilt slice of the Mediterranean that’s eager to share its secrets. With an intriguing mix of cultures and historical influences, and an incredible mountainous landscape bordered by the azure waters of the Adriatic, this tiny Balkan country has so much to offer. There aren’t many countries in Europe that could still be classed as a hidden gem, but Montenegro has been largely overlooked and underestimated. However, this tiny Balkan beauty – incredibly diverse for a country smaller than Wales – is beginning to attract visitors, so now is the perfect time to catch it. There’s no doubt you’ll be warmly welcomed, as Montenegro is enthusiastically throwing open its arms, keen to show off its awe-inspiring mountainous landscape and the spoils of a fierce struggle through history to achieve independence. While Montenegro today proudly stands apart from its Balkan neighbours, its turbulent past, including 50 years under Communist rule, has delayed its development – it’s almost as if someone pressed pause a few decades back and time stood still. This certainly adds to the country’s unspoilt charm, and even its most-visited destination, beachfront Budva, has yet to succumb under the tourism limelight. The roads can be a challenge to navigate, which is why a guided tour with an experienced driver is recommended.

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Despite its name, which literally means ‘black mountain’, the scale of Montenegro’s jutting terrain is still astonishing. The mountains aren’t shy of the coast, and the peaks of the rocky Lovćen range provide the backdrop to our stay. With the sparking sea on one side and limestone mountains looming on the other, our base in Budva couldn’t be more dramatic. An enthralling journey into Lovćen National Park brings us to Njeguši, a tiny traditional village where you’ll experience a clash of the Alpine and Mediterranean climates that are created by Montenegro’s unusual geography. From Njeguši we travel to Cetinje, Montenegro’s old royal capital, which sits on the opposite edge of the national park. As the official capital of Montenegro from its declaration of independence in 1878 until 1946, Cetinje has been an important cultural and historical centre since its founding in 1482. The entire city is a treasure trove of Montenegrin history, proudly showcasing the former Palace of King Nikola, the 19th-century ‘Blue Palace’, and Montenegro’s

impressive National Museum complex. And yet a lack of overdevelopment means that Cetinje still manages to retain a pleasant, local town feel. While Mother Nature has no doubt blessed Montenegro with a fascinating topography of tremendous mountains, thick forests and lush valleys dotted with olive groves – all splashed by the occasional sparkling lake, there have been tumultuous times, too. Multiple earthquakes have left their mark, from the lean of the clock tower on Kotor’s main square to the ruined city of Stari Bar. Our Balkan adventure also takes us over the Albanian border to visit the multi-cultural city of Shkodër. Together with trips to the mountain-backed Bay of Kotor and the incredible cliffside Ostrog Monastery, a boat ride across tranquil Lake Skadar and free time to explore the Budva coastline, this tour embraces Montenegro in all its mountainous, mesmerising glory.


Explore the beautifully sited town of Kotor

PRICE INCLUDES • • • • • •

Explore the winding streets of Budva’s medieval old town, with a local guide See the incredible Ostrog Monastery, set into the cliff-face almost 900 metres above the Zeta Valley, then enjoy an afternoon boat trip on beautiful Lake Skadar Tour the atmospheric walled town of Kotor with a local guide, plus visit Venetian Perast and its island church of Our Lady of the Rocks Enjoy a guided tour of the Albanian town of Shkodër, one of the most ancient cities in the Balkans, and a religious and cultural hub Learn about Montenegro’s best kept secret with a tour and tasting at one of the most unusual wine cellars in the world, hidden 30 metres underground in a former aircraft hanger Explore elegant Cetinje, Montenegro’s royal capital, and visit King Nikola’s palace with a guide, before sampling delicious local specialities produced in the mountains

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports, with hotel transfers Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast daily and four dinners The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager

FROM £849PP

walls with a local guide, finding our way through the narrow streets to the seaside citadel, where the crumbling fortress walls drop dramatically into the Adriatic. Early afternoon we head inland to the Šipčanik wine cellar which, hidden underneath a vast vineyard at a depth of 30 metres, is one of the most unusual wine cellars in the world. What was once a secret underground aircraft hangar operated by the Yugoslav People’s Army is now a cavernous wine cellar, with rows of neatly stacked wooden vats storing around two million litres of wine. A tour around the vineyard and a tasting in the curious cellar complete the afternoon. DAY 3 – NJEGUŠI & CETINJE Today brings an epic journey through some of the truly spectacular scenery for which Montenegro is famous. From the coast we travel through the mountains into Lovćen National Park, where we discover Njeguši on the slopes of Mount Lovćen. This cluster of old stone houses was the home village of the Petrović-Njegoš dynasty, the family that ruled Montenegro from 1696 to 1916, and the residents warmly welcome visitors with roadside stalls laden with colourful handicrafts, mountain honey and some of the country’s best ‘pršut’ ham and Njeguši cheese. After a short stop in Njeguši we continue to Cetinje, the old royal capital of Montenegro and the first official capital city after Montenegro’s recognition as an independent country in 1878. What’s interesting about Montenegro’s intriguing ‘second city’ is that it retains a village feel, nestled within a green vale surrounded by rocky mountains, yet it boasts some of the country’s most important sights. These include the pretty Blue Palace which, despite Cetinje passing the capital city baton to Podgorica in 1946, is still used as the President’s main residence, and the Royal Palace of King Nikola, which served as the seat of the Montenegrin royal family between 1867 and 1926. Elegant mansions and tiny cottages sit side by side to illustrate this contrast between rustic and regal. A tour of the russet-red Royal Palace of King Nikola – which is now a museum with the Crown Jewels of Montenegro as its showpiece – precedes free time in the city, which you could spend walking neat-asa-pin Main Street lined with quaint pastel-coloured houses, admiring the stoic stone complex of St Peter’s Monastery or visiting the four museums that form the National Museum of Montenegro.

Budva old town

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN BUDVA Arrive at the airport for your flight to Dubrovnik, where we transfer by coach to the four-star Hotel Budva. This hotel boasts a fantastic location on Budva’s main promenade, five minutes from the sweeping sands of Budva’s city beach and 10 minutes from the atmospheric Old Town. The rooftop pool and outdoor terrace bar are perfect places to relax after a day of sightseeing. DAY 2 – BUDVA & WINE TASTING This morning is spent getting acquainted with Montenegro’s most popular coastal town, which makes up part of the beautiful Budva Riviera. Enclosed on three sides by lush, tree-covered mountains, Budva follows a gentle coastal curve to a charming harbour, where gleaming white fishing boats, sailboats and yachts line the walkways and jetties. Just beside the harbour sits the medieval old town, which stands out from the shoreline like the jewel in Budva’s coastal crown. We’ll explore within the Venetian old town

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Our Lady of the Rocks, Perast

After a tasting of local mountain produce including honey, ham, cheese – the local variety distinctively flavoured by the wooden ‘kaca’ pot in which it’s aged – and a delicious doughnut-style dish that’s typical of the region, we return to our hotel in Budva. DAY 4 – STARI BAR & SHKODËR, ALBANIA This morning we head inland to the town that was perhaps never meant to be. Stari Bar or ‘Old Bar’ is a fortified town that now lies in overgrown ruins on the shrubby foothills of craggy Mount Rumija. It has a long history of invasions, including takeovers by the Venetians, Serbians and Ottomans, before being reclaimed by Montenegro in 1878. Alas, it was the land itself that put an end to this much fought-over town when the 1979 earthquake led to its abandonment by locals, who decided to establish a new port-city by the water – New Bar. A walk to the top of the crumbling hillside fortress will reward you with enchanting mountain and countryside views, although you might prefer to soak up the unique atmosphere over a coffee in one of the flower-draped cafes that line the cobblestoned climb. After our short stop in Stari Bar, a scenic drive past the old farming villages that sit in the green and fertile low-lying countryside takes us over the Albanian border. Shkodër, our destination in Montenegro’s equally evocative next-door neighbour, was founded in the 4th century by the Illyrians, making it one of the most ancient cities in the Balkans. As capital of the surrounding county, the centre of Roman Catholicism in Albania and the traditional heart of the Gheg cultural region, Shkodër is an important hub of history, religion and culture. You’ll see fascinating mosques and churches alongside one another. The city’s most

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impressive sights include St Stephen’s cathedral – which, unbelievably, was used as a sports hall during Albania’s Communist era – and the striking, domed and turreted Ebu Bekr mosque, which lies just behind the city’s flower-adorned monument to Mother Teresa, perhaps the most well-loved Albanian. The ruined Rozafa fortress that overlooks Shkodër and its surrounding three rivers is also a prominent city landmark, although the legend of a female sacrifice being built into its stone walls adds a rather macabre perspective!

DAY 5 – KOTOR & PERAST We make the short journey from Budva to the resplendent Bay of Kotor, which winds inland from the Adriatic, flanked by the limestone peaks of Mount Lovćen. The shores of this picture-perfect bay, which is a protected UNESCO World Heritage site, are dotted with sleepy fishing villages and charming old towns, and Kotor makes an ideal first stop. This moated town is one of the many fortified coastal towns in Montenegro showing Roman influences, with Romanesque churches scattered


around its medieval marble-pathed maze, including Kotor cathedral with its imposing twin towers. We can also see reminders of four centuries spent as part of the Venetian empire, including a Venetian fortification system – featuring stone-carved ‘Lions of Venice’ – to defend the city from the sea. Enclosed by four gates, which punctuate the ancient city walls as they climb steadily up the craggy mountainside, Kotor is impressively well-protected! The bustling daily market adds a splash of vibrancy, with locals bartering over stalls stacked with pots of flowers, boxes of fruit and vegetables, honey, cheese and colourful buckets brimming with olives – the mingling aromas, rainbow of colours and hum of trade truly invigorate the senses. A little way around the bay we come to impossibly idyllic Perast which, like Kotor, benefited architecturally from Venetian rule. Traditional oldstone buildings sneak up the leafy hillside from the water here, fronted by a well-preserved line-up of churches and palaces, with the spired tower of Saint Nikola’s dominating the scene. Perast is renowned for its man-made island, crowned by Our Lady of the Rocks, an attractive blue-domed church. The legend goes that the island was built by local sailors who, after finding an icon of Madonna painted on a rock, threw rocks into the lake after every successful voyage, eventually building the church to give thanks to Madonna for their protection. If you reach through a hole behind the altar, you can touch what’s said to be the original rock! There’s plenty to see inside the church and museum – all donated by grateful locals – including a collection of paintings by Perast-born Tripo Kokolja, a 17th-century Baroque artist, and a dazzling tapestry embroidered by Jacinta KunićStari Bar

Ostrog Monastery

Mijović, who is said to have woven her own hair through the gold and silver threads! We follow a boat trip to Our Lady of the Rocks with a scenic drive around the beautiful bay, then a ferry brings us back across the water at the narrowest point of the bay for our return to Budva. DAY 6 – FREE DAY IN BUDVA You have the entire day to explore Budva at your leisure. Perhaps visit the peaceful Podmaine Monastery, a medieval Serbian Orthodox monastery which nestles in the foothills of Budva. Or wander between the old town churches, including the 9thcentury Church of Santa Maria in Punta, said to be one of the oldest in Montenegro; Saint Ivan’s whose bell tower can be seen soaring over the red roofs; and the orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity with its distinctive pink and honey-coloured stonework. A stroll along the beach takes you to the elegant bronze ballerina who has become an icon of the city. In the heart of the old town, you can immerse yourself in the Montenegrin café-culture, with cafes, bars and restaurants spilling out onto the narrow medieval streets. It’s impossible to go wrong with a catch-of-the-day lunch, washed down by a cool Nikšićko beer or a glass of the local wine.

miraculous Ostrog Monastery. Set into a sheer elevation of the Ostroška Greda rock, some 900 metres above the verdant Zeta Valley, the Ostrog Monastery gleams like a pearl in the craggy cliff face. It’s so impossibly positioned that it’s difficult to imagine how a team of 17th-century builders could achieve such a feat – in fact, how it came to be remains a mystery. Prepare yourself for a riot of colour inside, with frescoes and mosaics telling tales of religion from the walls, ceilings and columns. You can also join the pilgrims in paying your respects to Saint Basil of Ostrog, whose bones are carefully kept in the monastery’s shrine. From the divine to the delightful, we now depart for Lake Skadar, the vast body of water that bridges Montenegro and Albania. After time for lunch at a lakeside village, we board a boat for a relaxing cruise. If you’re lucky you may spot a passing pod of pelicans or some of the other 260 species of bird that call this beautifully clean freshwater lake home. With a glass of traditional fiery grappa in hand, we end our tour of magnificent Montenegro, surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of Lake Skadar National Park, where tree-covered karst mountains are reflected in the tranquil glassy waters.

DAY 7 – OSTROG MONASTERY & LAKE SKADAR This morning we drive the mountain road to the

DAY 8 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your return flight.

Lake Skadar

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N O R T H E R N C R O AT I A T H E IST RIAN RIVI E R A & Z AG RE B 8 days from only £949pp

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Experience diverse northern Croatia – lively Zagreb, the stunning Plitvice Lakes, the vine-covered hills of Zagorje and Italian-influenced Istria, where charming fishing ports, ancient towns and beautiful islands reveal a unique identity. Croatia is famed for its stunning Dalmatian coast and myriad of picturesque islands and is simply one of Europe’s ‘must see’ destinations. Further inland are spectacular, contrasting landscapes: majestic mountain chains from the Alps cascade towards the turquoise Adriatic and meet the massive Pannonian plain, which stretches all the way to eastern Hungary. The Zagorje region resembles Austria with its vineyard-covered hills and compact villages, while nestled in the pastoral hills of the Lika is perhaps Croatia’s most extraordinary natural feature: the captivating Plitviče Lakes – a stunning sequence of pristine pools linked by magnificent waterfalls – famously featured in virtually every list of ‘must-see’ destinations. To the northwest is a very different Croatia in idyllic Istria, which bears a striking resemblance to neighbouring Italy just across the water. This beautiful peninsula sits like a heart-shaped pendant over the Adriatic and boasts a landscape of undulating hills, fertile valleys and medieval hilltop towns with red-

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roofed buildings. The undeniable and pervasive Italian influence reveals a connection that dates back to ancient times. Towards the end of the second millennium BC, Croatia was settled by the Illyrians before the Romans swept in. Numerous invasions followed, by the Huns, the Visigoths, the Franks, the Venetians, the Habsburgs and the Ottomans. The inland Croats were united by a different set of cultural influences, evidenced by the distinctive Mitteleuropa flavour of the region’s architecture. After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Croatia was absorbed into Yugoslavia while Italy secured Istria and began to annex the Adriatic islands. Finally, in 1991, Croatia gained its independence, for which it fought so fiercely. Today, Croatia is an optimistic and welcoming destination. Our eye-opening tour brings you the very best of northern Croatia and Istria at a gentle pace. We take the time to become acquainted with the most fascinating places and examine the legacies left by

past rulers. Along the winding streets of lively Zagreb, you’ll be amazed by elegant 19th-century buildings, beautifully complementing ancient mansions. See how the sophistication of Habsburg life has survived in Varaždin, a romantic Baroque town. Then of course, we visit the spectacular Plitviče Lakes, a photographer’s dream that can be admired from various perspectives: via a boat, train or walkways. During the second half of our tour, we stay in the stunning Istrian Riviera. Marvel at the superbly preserved remains left by the ancient Romans in the picture-postcard towns, Polensium and Parentium, known today as Pula and Poreč. We also visit remarkable Rovinj, one of the region’s last true fishing ports. We explore Cres and Krk in the scenic Kvarner archipelago, two neighbouring yet very different islands. Here in the north, the Croatians take great pride in the exceptional quality of their food, be it wine, olive oil or truffles from the Istrian forests. A diverse array of tastes reflects the cultures that have influenced the


PRICE INCLUDES • Stay in Zagreb, the vibrant capital and once a prominent Habsburg city, and explore the historic centre on a guided walking tour • See the breathtaking Plitviče Lakes, a UNESCO-listed site that’s truly unmissable • Experience the stunning Istrian peninsula with its sun-kissed, vineyard clad hills and an undeniable Venetian influence left by past rulers • Enjoy guided tours of two of Istria’s remarkably preserved towns: Pula with its astonishing Roman amphitheatre and Poreč with its striking Euphrasian Basilica • Discover the Zagorje region and its most charming towns: Marija Bistrica, home to Croatia’s most important pilgrimage site; and elegantly Baroque Varaždin • Explore Rovinj, perhaps the most beautiful fishing harbour in the Adriatic • Tour the spectacular islands of Cres and Krk, and visit their delightful towns

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from the UK, plus all hotel transfers Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast and five dinners The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £949PP

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Truffle hunt & tasting in Istria Discover Istria’s long-lived tradition of truffle hunting at a family-owned estate. Watch highly trained canine hunters unearth ‘gold’ in the woods, then sample various foods made with this prized delicacy and learn how its unique flavour is best paired. From £50pp.

Dubrovnik is located in the heart of the city and features modern and well-appointed rooms, a restaurant, bar and summer terrace (2018 departures only). Both hotels are within walking distance of the city’s highlights, parks, promenades and eateries. DAY 2 – ZAGREB Our exploration of Zagreb begins this morning with a walking tour of the historic centre, the perfect introduction to this compact metropolis. Situated between the River Sava and the southern slopes of Mount Medvednica, Zagreb is a fascinating tale of two hill-towns: Kaptol and Gradec were rival settlements for hundreds of years until they were forced to merge out of self-preservation. Centuries of Turkish invasions, an unfortunate fire and the deadly plague all devastated the city, resulting in the seat of government making a temporary shift to Varaždin. A turn of the tides in the 19th century saw Zagreb rise to prominence due to prosperous trade, as well as the opening of several cultural and educational institutions. When Croatia achieved independence, Zagreb took its rightful place as the capital.

Discover Venetian-influenced Rovinj

country: the coast has Italian-style dishes, whereas the interior offers flavours from Hungary, Vienna and even Turkey. Then there are the Croats themselves, a warm and friendly people who are enthusiastic about sharing their beautiful country with travellers. Join us on this wonderful tour and discover a different side to Croatia, which may be less explored but perhaps even more intriguing. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN ZAGREB Fly to either Pula or Zagreb airport. On arrival we transfer by coach to Zagreb, where we stay for three nights at one of our carefully chosen hotels, which will vary according to your departure date. Dinner is included on the first night at your hotel. The four-star superior Sheraton Hotel is centrally located and has two restaurants, a piano bar and café. This elegant hotel has comfortably furnished rooms and guests can make use of the indoor pool and gym at no extra charge. The four-star Hotel

Plitviče Lakes

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During our tour, we see the city’s many different architectural styles: ancient mansions and quiet squares are peppered throughout the Upper Town, while elegant monuments to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and manicured parks dominate the lower half. We see the stunning cathedral on Kaptol, a monumental masterpiece of neo-Gothic architecture, guarded by medieval fortress walls. We follow our noses down cobbled streets lined with lively eateries to the bustling Dolac open-air market, known as the ‘belly of Zagreb’, where we find a colourful patchwork of traditional stalls selling fresh produce and local specialities. Curving uphill is Tkalčićeva, once a stream separating Kaptol from Gradec and now one of the city’s most attractive streets, with steep-roofed mansions that house boutiques, art galleries and cafés. We pass through the Stone Gate and the shrine to the Virgin Mary, the most significant pilgrimage site in Zagreb. We emerge in St Mark’s Square, site of the grand Parliament Building, plus the iconic church with its multi-coloured roof tiles representing the city’s coat of arms. Look out for another symbol of the region, the heart, which appears in traditional gingerbread form all across the city. The rest of the day is at leisure, so why not explore the Lower Town and its wealth of superb museums and galleries? The Museum Mimara displays a diverse collection of priceless objects and archaeological finds, and there’s even a quirky yet thought-provoking Museum of Broken Relationships! Art-lovers may wish to visit the Art Pavilion, the oldest gallery in Southeast Europe, set in a palatial building with the busts of great artists adorning its façade. Take a relaxing stroll in the beautiful Botanical Gardens, or enjoy a drink at one of the numerous cafés and watch the world go by. DAY 3 – THE ZAGORJE This morning, we drive through an area of chocolatebox charm: the Zagorje is an oasis of unspoilt beauty stretching from the north of Mount Medvednica to the Slovene border. Relatively untouched by tourism, the forested hills here are a beautiful patchwork of attractive villages, medieval castles and lush vineyards. Almost every hillock appears to be crowned by a klet or small, steep-roofed cottage, traditionally used for storing wine but which now functions as a weekend home. We traverse the gently rolling Stubica valley, renowned for its thermal spa towns and villages. Our first stop is the attractive town of Marija Bistrica, nestled in the verdant foothills. It is home

Marija Bistrica

to Croatia’s largest and most important pilgrimage site, the neo-Renaissance Church of St Mary, which completely dominates the town centre from its hilltop position. The highlight of the church is its wooden Black Madonna statue, whose alleged miraculous power dates back to the 16th century when the statue was spared destruction caused by Turkish invasions! There’s time for some refreshments in the town square overlooking the church before we journey on. We head further north to Varaždin, one of the best-preserved Baroque towns in Central Europe. Close to the Hungarian border, this was a significant stronghold for the Habsburgs – Croatians even call it ‘Little Vienna’. For a time, Varaždin was the country’s capital and the town’s historic heritage is remarkably preserved in its opulent Baroque architecture, which features a myriad of angelic figures, giving Varaždin the apt nickname, ‘city of angels’. It’s lovely to wander the pedestrianised town squares and streets lined with elegantly exuberant buildings and palaces, resplendent in ochre, pink, pale-blue and cream. Several churches here are worth a look, and there’s even a charming medieval castle – now home to an excellent museum – with a wooden drawbridge and gatehouse.

confluence of two rivers, where waters rush into a gorge below through mini waterfalls and bubbling rapids. This lovely sight is but a modest prelude to a truly wondrous experience. Before long, we enter a stunningly beautiful wonderland of forested hills surrounding the famed, UNESCO-listed Plitviče Lakes. This breathtaking park has been much talked about and deservedly so – it really must be seen to be believed! Linked by countless cascading waterfalls, the lakes are the most pristine you’re likely to see: the colours can vary from azure, turquoise and bright green to grey, depending on the mineral content and sunlight. Have your camera at the ready as after a walk down to the shore of the lake, we take a boat ride out for some spectacular views. Should you prefer, you can take the panoramic train ride around the lakes or follow some of the wooden footpaths at your own pace. After a most magical visit, we depart for the Istrian peninsula and the harbour town of Ičići, where we stay for four nights with dinner at the four-star Remisens Hotel Giorgio II. Set in the lush foothills of the Učka overlooking the sparkling Adriatic, the brand-new hotel is equipped with well-appointed rooms, a restaurant, bar, outdoor pool and terrace. DAY 5 – CRES & KRK Croatia is blessed with more than a thousand islands, and today we explore two of them in the stunning Kvarner archipelago. We take a short ferry ride with wonderful views of the bay and arrive in Cres, the second-largest island in the Adriatic and a rugged beauty. Archaeological finds indicate that Cres was inhabited from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age. About half of the island is covered with rocky fields, while the north is carpeted by thick forests and the eastern coast is home to the griffon vulture. A short drive takes us to the town of Cres, which bears an astonishing resemblance to an Italian fishing village: pastel terrace houses surround a dazzling

DAY 4 – PLITVIČE LAKES & IČIĆI Today we bid farewell to Zagreb and pass some picturesque villages which, upon closer inspection, reveal a more turbulent time: bullet holes left in the walls of houses are a reminder of the civil war. We journey through Slunj, dramatically situated at the

Zagreb

Marvel at Pula’s remarkable Roman amphitheatre

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Cres

harbour, where fishermen return to with the catch of the day. After Cres became the Venetian headquarters in the 15th century, splendid palaces, civic buildings and a town wall were built. You’ll have time to admire them or refresh yourself with a snack and a cup of coffee in the medieval square. Next, we take another ferry ride with lovely views to Croatia’s largest island, Krk, where we visit the ancient, walled town of the same name along the coast. It has been inhabited for more than 2,000 years, even before the Romans, making it one of the oldest towns in the Adriatic. Unlike neighbouring Cres, Venetian rule proved difficult for Krk, whose male residents were forced to serve on galleys. It’s

a pleasure to wander the narrow streets that weave around the Romanesque church. Overlooking the sea is a 12th-century castle, built by the Frankopan family, one of the leading Croatian noble families. The castle is now an atmospheric, open-air venue for summer concerts. After a day of wonderful sightseeing, we journey north across the island, cross the bridge back to mainland Croatia and continue to our hotel. DAY 6 – FREE DAY IN IČIĆI The entire day is at leisure, so there’s plenty of time to relax in your hotel or enjoy idyllic Ičići. Part of the stunning Opatija Riviera, this was once the holiday

destination of the elite. Visit the beach at Ičići, one of the most beautiful in the area, or stroll along the promenade and admire the views. If you wish to wander further, the chic coastal town of Opatija is just a short distance away by bus or even boat. The town has many old villas, churches and parks worth visiting. DAY 7 – PULA, ROVINJ & POREČ From the early 13th-century to the late 18th-century, Istria’s coastal towns came under Venetian rule, and today we visit several of the most intriguing. We begin in Pula, where we enjoy a walking tour with a local guide. Once a vibrant Roman outpost, Pula or ancient Polensium, is replete with astonishingly preserved ruins including the incredible Roman amphitheatre, imperial Rome’s greatest gift to the eastern Adriatic. Dominating the city centre, the imposing, 1st-century structure doubles as an atmospheric concert venue. Speckled along the coast are fragrant pine groves, seaside cafés and excellent restaurants. Irish novelist James Joyce once taught English to naval officers in Pula in the early 20th century. We then head to Rovinj, possibly Istria’s most picturesque fishing harbour. Set on an oval peninsula, the charming Old Town has managed to preserve its character better than anywhere else along the west coast. There’s time to lose yourself in its web of medieval lanes and cobbled piazzas, with the splendid church as a guide to help you get your bearings. Amble along the harbour and observe the colourful Venetian-era buildings close to the water’s edge, before pausing for lunch in one of the waterside cafés. Next, we visit Poreč, an ancient Roman town that once belonged to Italy as recently as World War II and is still known to the Italians as Parenzo. We enjoy a guided tour of the town centre, where beautiful Venetian Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque palaces can be seen alongside well-preserved Roman ruins. Poreč is perhaps most renowned for its UNESCOlisted Euphrasian Basilica. Comprising a church, atrium and baptistry, this extraordinary 6th-century complex is a superb example of early Byzantine architecture in the region. We take a close look at its astounding mosaics featuring compelling Biblical scenes and Istrian martyrs before we return to the hotel. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your return flight.

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S LOV E N IA & LAKE BLED 6 days from only £699pp

Slovenia is both beautiful and fascinating – discover the storybook scenery of Lake Bled, picturesque Ljubljana and the delightful Adriatic resort of Piran… plus the little-known gem of Maribor, fine wine, Lipizzaner horses and more. Nestled between Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, at the very top of the Balkan Peninsula and with a toe dipped in the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia is a little-known gem blending Mediterranean and Central European cultures. It’s one of world’s newest and smallest nations, roughly the size of Wales, yet it has a variety of stunning landscapes. Magnificent mountain ranges dominate the northwest, notably the snow-capped Karavanke and Julian Alps, with Mount Triglav towering almost 9,400 feet. The limestone Karst highlands in the west feature one of the world’s largest subterranean cave systems, while the fertile Pannonian Plain extends east to Hungary and Croatia. Then there’s the tiny Adriatic coastline, reminiscent of Italy, where seaside towns with scenic palm-lined promenades bask in a Mediterranean climate and vineyards thrive in the hills. Slovenia’s history is as intriguing as its landscape. Early settlers lived in pile dwellings discovered in the Ljubljana Marshes dating from the fifth century

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BC but recorded history begins with the Romans, who established two colonies, Emona and Poetovio, now known as Ljubljana and Ptuj. In later centuries society was controlled by foreign dynasties such as the Habsburgs, who scattered castles all over the country; the Counter-Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries encouraged the Italian Baroque style you’ll see in many towns. Following the First World War the country merged with its neighbours to form the Kingdom of Yugoslavia then, after years of outside control, the resilient Slovenes finally gained independence in 1991 and became members of the European Union in 2004. Our base for the tour is the beautiful capital, Ljubljana, situated on a bend of the willow-lined Ljubljanica River that divides the city into its Old and New Towns. Looming above on a wooded hill is the city’s most recognisable landmark, Ljubljana Castle, offering unrivalled views of the rooftops below – no wonder this lovely city is sometimes called ‘Little

Prague’. Ljubljana wears its environmental credentials with pride – it was the European Green Capital of 2016 and has dedicated car-free zones so pedestrians can easily explore its maze of cobbled streets. The riverside delights of Ptuj and Maribor lie to the northeast of the capital. Rising above a wide valley, Ptuj – possibly Slovenia’s oldest town – was an important settlement during Roman times, with 40,000 inhabitants. Maribor is one of those gems often overlooked by visitors, which makes it all the more satisfying to explore. It’s Slovenia’s second largest city, stretching gracefully beneath the verdant Pohorje mountain range, exuding a confidence born of its impressive collection of Baroque buildings, a 15thcentury castle and the world’s oldest vine, which even has its own anthem! Slovenia’s superb sliver of coastline is the location of the captivating town of Piran, almost within touching distance of Italy, to which it belonged until 1954. If you’ve been to Venice you may experience


PRICE INCLUDES • • • • • • •

Discover picturesque Ljubljana on a guided tour and see why it’s often called ‘Little Prague’ Fall under the spell of Lake Bled on a traditional pletna boat trip to its fairy-tale island topped with a charming church Explore enchanting Ptuj, possibly the prettiest town in Slovenia Tour charming Maribor with a local guide, seeing its impressive Baroque buildings and the world’s oldest living vine Visit one of Europe’s oldest wine cellars and enjoy a tasting Watch a performance by Lipizzaner horses on a guided tour of the Lipica Classical Riding School Spot the Venetian influences in the captivating coastal town of Piran

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of airports, with hotel transfers Five nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £699PP

Ljubljana hotel – either the four-star Best Western Premier Slon or the four-star Hotel Lev, depending on your date of departure. Just a few steps from the Old Town, the Best Western Premier Slon is a modern hotel featuring contemporary air-conditioned rooms with Wi-Fi, satellite TV, tea- and coffee-making facilities, minibar, safe and hairdryer. There’s also a spa and fitness centre, a bar and a light, airy breakfast room. The hotel has a reputation for excellent cuisine – its restaurant, Slon 1552, serves modern Slovene and Mediterranean food as well as other international dishes. The Hotel Lev is a few minutes’ walk from the Old Town. The spacious lobby leads to the hotel bar, breakfast room and the Pri Levu restaurant, serving contemporary cuisine with a Mediterranean touch, and there’s also a fitness centre. The modern airconditioned rooms, tastefully decorated in a neutral palette, offer wonderful views of Ljubljana Castle or the city centre and are equipped with a flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi, minibar, safe and hairdryer. DAY 2 – LJUBLJANA This morning we enjoy a walking tour of Slovenia’s picturesque capital with a local guide sharing the stories behind the main sights. Preseren Square is where poet and national icon France Preseren has been immortalised in bronze, while the salmon-hued Franciscan Church of the Annunciation is an attractive expression of the Baroque style. Crossing the Triple Bridge – designed by local architect Joze Plecnik, whose work has greatly influenced the city’s identity – we enter the pedestrianised Old Town with its many Baroque buildings, piazzas graced by attractive fountains and narrow cobbled alleys, all with a distinct Italian flavour. Within the lattice of red-roofed buildings are the Renaissance Town Hall and the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, which both tower over the Central Market whose stalls sell a variety of tempting goods, from souvenirs to local produce such as cheese, seafood and chocolates in unusual flavours – who knew that fig and prosciutto work so well with cocoa?

Discover fairy-tale lake Bled

déjà vu in Piran’s main square when you glimpse the bell tower of Saint George’s Cathedral, clearly inspired by the Campanile of San Marco. We briefly cross the Italian border before re-entering Slovenia at the village of Lipica, where we tour the Lipica Stud Farm for a performance by the elite Lipizzaner horses that have been bred there since 1580. Finally we fall under the spell of enchanting Lake Bled, one of Slovenia’s most visited attractions and its most iconic image, every bit a fairy tale brought to life. A pretty church sits on an islet surrounded by a pristine waters, while a medieval castle looms atop a rocky cliff overlooking forested hills, all set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL Arrive at the airport for your flight to Ljubljana (or Zagreb in neighbouring Croatia if you’re flying from London Heathrow). We transfer by coach to stay for five nights, with breakfast, at a centrally located

Ljubljana

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You have free time this afternoon to explore the city’s past and present. Traces of the ancient Roman settlement of Emona are all around and in the City Museum, or take the funicular railway up the hill to Ljubljana Castle. First built in the 11th century, it was home to several powerful families before serving as a barracks, a refuge for the poor and then a prison. As well as offering spectacular views, the castle houses a Museum of Puppetry, an art form important to the country’s cultural life. A boat cruise along the river is a tranquil way of seeing Ljubljana, or stroll along its leafy banks, alive in the summer with inviting cafés offering alfresco dining. DAY 3 – PTUJ & MARIBOR We head northeast this morning to the picturepostcard town of Ptuj, nestling beneath the walls of its impressive castle. After a brief orientation you’re free to explore its many treasures, all within walking distance. Start at the main square, where you can join the locals for a coffee and admire the pastel-coloured buildings – the grandest is the Germanic Neo-Gothic Town Hall. Nearby is the Church of Saint George, a fusion of Romanesque and Neo-Gothic architecture – look out for the 14th-century statue of its patron saint slaying the dragon. Beside the church is the Orpheus Monument, a Roman tombstone carved from white Pohorje marble. Walk towards the Drava River and you’ll see the 13th-century Minorite Monastery, which has what is considered the country’s oldest Baroque facade.

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Old vine, Maribor

Leaving Ptuj we follow the Drava to Maribor, a city so picturesque and charming that it’s only a matter of time before it becomes part of the mainstream tourist route. But for now you can immerse yourself in this delightful destination on a walking tour with a local guide. At its heart is the 13th-century main square

with its Plague Column, a Baroque monument erected in thanks for the end of the outbreak that devastated the population in the 17th century. Nearby is the grand Town Hall with its ornate clock tower and Renaissance courtyard. In the bustling riverside Lent quarter, the oldest part of Maribor, are the city’s most


attractive Baroque buildings, now housing art galleries and lively cafés, as well as the historical Jewish quarter. Facing the river is a building with a piece of history likely to interest any wine lover – a 400-yearold vine, recognised as the world’s oldest productive vine and still going strong. There’s free time for lunch or perhaps a visit to Maribor Castle, built in 1478 to protect the city from Ottoman attacks. It boasts a Knights’ Hall with a painted ceiling and a splendid Rococo staircase, and is also home to the Regional Museum, which showcases archaeological finds, folk costumes and period furniture. Nearby is the Franciscan Basilica of Our Mother of Mercy, whose red-brick front and towers give way to an imposing interior. In the afternoon we visit Vinag, among Europe’s oldest and largest wine cellars, for a guided tour and tasting. It’s a subterranean paradise for wine connoisseurs, boasting a mile and a half of underground tunnels filled with wooden barrels, concrete cisterns and a collection of over 250,000 bottles. Visitors are often surprised to discover that Slovenia has produced wine for about 2,400 years – the results are both delicious and good value. DAY 4 – PIRAN & LIPICA The beautiful Adriatic Coast is our destination this morning with a visit to Piran, which seems to mirror Venice across the Gulf of Trieste. The influence of ‘La Serenissima’ is evident in Piran’s medieval cobbled streets and alleyways, often leading to unexpected Explore Piran and its Italian influences

A Kurent figure

Piran

squares. The Old Town is centered on the ovalshaped Tartini Square, named after local composer Giuseppe Tartini, whose statue stands proudly as its focal point. You have free time to explore Piran and its gems of Venetian Gothic architecture, such as the Casa Veneziana with its richly decorated red facade. Maybe take an easy climb up to Saint George’s Cathedral, notable for its 152-foot bell tower echoing Venice’s Campanile and its collection of Venetian Baroque paintings. A walk along the 15th- and 16th-century town wall presents exceptional views of the raft of pastel-coloured buildings crowned with terracotta roofs. Or why not sample some of the delicious seafood at one of the restaurants lining the promenade? A short drive after lunch brings us to the Lipica Stud Farm, where the famed Lipizzaner horses have been bred for over 400 years. We enjoy a delightful presentation by the Classical Riding School as the majestic white stallions perform their complex dressage routines. A guided tour gives us insights into the history of this noble breed and explains how the horses have been relocated during outbreaks of war. Interestingly, Lipizzaners are born with a dark coat that takes about six to ten years to lighten. DAY 5 – LAKE BLED Today we enjoy a scenic drive through undulating forested hills scattered with quaint villages before arriving at Lake Bled. Enchanting, heavenly, romantic – take your pick of adjectives to describe Slovenia’s best-known natural wonder. You may have seen it in pictures, but they simply can’t compare to seeing the lake in person. The first thing you’ll notice are the dazzling waters, stretching over a mile in length and width. A tear-shaped island sits almost at the lake’s centre, topped with a fairy-tale church with a soaring spire and deep terracotta roof. Your eyes are then drawn to the surrounding tree-covered hills, where a medieval castle stands atop a craggy cliff. Completing the idyllic scene are the snow-capped Alps in the distance. We take a relaxing ride to the island on a pletna, a traditional canopied gondola-like boat. According to legend, a shrine for pagan Slavs once stood on the island, inspiring part of France Preseren’s epic poem in which Prince Crtomir falls in love with Bogomila, the beautiful daughter of the shrine’s keeper. Given its setting, it’s easy to see why the church is the perfect wedding venue – tradition dictates that the groom carries his wife up the 99 steps to the top. Inside the church there are 15th-century frescoes to admire, and there’s a path around the island that’s ideal for a stroll to take in the storybook scenery. Back on shore, the rest of the day is yours to explore at leisure. You could visit fabulous Vila Bled, once the summer residence of Yugoslavian President Tito and now a luxury hotel. Or indulge your sweet tooth at a café serving kremsnita, a divine local cake of puff pastry, whipped cream and custard. There’s also the opportunity to visit atmospheric Bled Castle, the oldest in Slovenia – dating back to the early 11th century – perched close to the edge of a jagged cliff with a 330-foot plunge into the lake below. At its centre is the fortified residence and last bastion of the feudal lord, surrounded by a second wall protecting the servants’ dwellings. Those who venture here are rewarded with the most captivating views of this truly memorable scene. DAY 6 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your return flight.

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AUSTRIAN T YRO L & INNSBRUCK 8 days from only £999pp

Immerse yourself in the breathtaking alpine scenery and cultural heritage of the Tyrol region, including its beautiful capital Innsbruck, the fairy-tale castle of Neuschwanstein and the heritage-rich towns of Merano and Bolzano.

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Picture a region of stunning pink and grey snowcapped mountains, sparklingly clear streams, fragrant meadows, densely forested hillsides, shimmering lakes, pretty wooden chalets and iconic onionshaped church spires. Then add genuine hospitality, mouthwatering cuisine, excellent local wines and a fascinating history stretching back to prehistoric times, and you have the unmistakable hallmarks of the Tyrol region of western Austria and northern Italy. We stay in the charming alpine village of Seefeld, a perfect spot from which to explore the countless highlights of this mountainous province, bisected by the twisting River Inn. We discover the culture, imperial history and architectural delights of the region’s capital, Innsbruck, marvel at the mountain vistas and awe-inspiring natural beauty of the glaciers and towering summits of the Oetztal Valley. Marvel at Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, and the towering turrets of the fairy-tale castle of Neuschwanstein. Travel by


PRICE INCLUDES

• Stay in the picture-postcard village of Seefeld in the heart of the Austrian Tyrol • Enjoy a guided tour of Innsbruck, capital of the Tyrol and royal city of the Habsburgs • Travel the Oetztaler Glacier Road through the Oetztaler Valley • Discover the Italian Tyrol, visiting the spa town of Merano and historic Bolzano • Explore iconic Neuschwanstein on a guided tour of the iconic fairy-tale castle and see Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze • Take a trip on the Achenseebahn steam cog railway to visit stunning Lake Achensee • See the beautifully preserved Cistercian monastery at Stams on a guided tour • Visit picturesque Rattenburg, a former medieval silver mining village • Opportunity to join a complimentary guided walk

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of airports, plus all hotel transfers Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £999PP

Visit fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle

train on one of the world’s oldest steam railways, which still uses the original locomotives from 1889. We cross the beautiful Brenner Pass, guarded at every twist and turn by a host of medieval fortresses, to explore the melting pot of architecture and language where north meets south in the Südtirol (South Tyrol). Once an integral part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now the northernmost part of Italy, the area is unmistakably part of the Tyrol. Its capital, Bolzano, is home to one of the planet’s oldest men – Oetzi the Iceman, a remarkably preserved Copper Age mountain dweller. It’s clear that there’s so much more to the Austrian Tyrol than first meets the eye. The phenomenally beautiful alpine scenery will naturally leave you spellbound, but you’ll also discover some real hidden treasures: the delightful medieval village of Rattenberg; the gorgeous stucco work and gilded altar of Stams Monastery; Innsbruck’s glittering polished copper ‘Golden Roof’ and stately Imperial Palace; the belle-époque elegance of spa

town Merano, plus a host of other gems crying out to be explored. Nature at its most awe-inspiring, history at its most stimulating and a fascinating blend of cultures all combine to ensure that the Tyrol is guaranteed to capture your imagination. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN SEEFELD Arrive at the airport for your flight to Munich or

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Horse-drawn carriage ride in Seefeld Enjoy the romance of a bygone era in style with a private carriage ride for two across Seefeld’s captivating plateau. It’s an enchanting way to take in the magnificent scenery, and the leisurely pace ensures a comfortable ride. From £25pp

Salzburg. We transfer by coach to Seefeld, one of the Tyrol’s most attractive villages bursting with colour from the countless pretty window boxes adorning its traditional wooden chalets. We stay seven nights, with breakfast and dinner, at the four-star superior Krumers Post Hotel, situated on the main square opposite Seefeld’s charming church. Built in the typical Tyrolean style with sloping roofs and wooden exterior, the hotel offers generously sized, superbly appointed rooms, with complimentary Wi-Fi for all guests. There’s the option to upgrade to a suite – even more spacious plus added features to make your stay even more memorable. The hotel’s restaurant serves wonderful Tyrolean specialities and international cuisine, while the Platzhirsch Bistro offers more delicious options. Enjoy a refreshing drink at the hotel bar, which also serves snacks and excellent apple strudel. Visit the panoramic rooftop terrace equipped with sun loungers, from where you can admire picturesque views of the village and mountains beyond. When you want to indulge yourself, the hotel has a large wellness and spa centre equipped with two panorama pools, a sauna area, massage pool and leisure lounge. The facilities are free, though you can pay extra for a range of relaxing spa treatments. The staff make this family-run hotel extra-special – many have worked here for years and offer the friendly service with a genuine smile that you’ll find throughout Austria. DAY 2 – INNSBRUCK After breakfast, we take the short drive along the Inn Valley to the Tyrolean capital, Innsbruck. Our local guide will take us on a tour of this delightful historic city, showing us the main highlights and offering

Innsbruck

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and around Seefeld. Try a round of golf at one of Europe’s most picturesque courses, take a horsedrawn carriage around Wildsee lake or hire a boat before selecting a village café for a coffee and slice of irresistibly dense chocolate torte. Keen to visit some of the mountains surrounding the village such as Seefelder Joch and Härmelekopf? Various chairlifts, cable cars or a funicular railway will whisk you to the top without effort. Alternatively, if you’d like to explore the village and its pretty meadows and woodlands on foot, we offer a complimentary guided walk accompanied by an experienced local naturalist. You could, of course, remain at the Krumers Post and spoil yourself at its world-class spa. Whatever your choice, you’re assured of another superb meal at the hotel this evening. Seefeld

informative insights into life here. Populated since the Stone Age, Innsbruck grew due to its strategically important position between two mountain ranges on the River Inn. It was made the capital of the Tyrol in the 15th century before becoming an administrative centre of the Habsburg Empire. A legacy of the city’s long and varied history is the cornucopia of beautiful architecture. Among numerous visual treats are the famous copper-tiled ‘Golden Roof’, the city’s magnificent Baroque cathedral and the Imperial Palace, once home of the only female Habsburg ruler, Empress Maria Theresa. Equally impressive are the Stadtturm belfry tower with its excellent views across the city, and Schloss Ambras, Innsbruck’s imposing Renaissance castle and palace. Innsbruck is a truly enchanting destination, and there’s ample time to wander its medieval streets, absorb the genteel ambience or simply enjoy performance by the talented street musicians before returning to Seefeld in the mid-afternoon. DAY 3 – BOLZANO The Tyrol was first established as a province in the late 1200s, and today history is very much to the fore as we take the Via Claudia Augusta through the Südtirol. Built by the Romans to enable easier passage through the Alps from Italy, this ancient road is flanked by picture-postcard alpine scenery – rolling hills studded with apple orchards, majestic snow-capped peaks, roaring rivers, shimmering lakes and hillside villages. Südtirol was always a frontier region, viewed by the Romans as the start of ‘the North’ and by German and French emperors as the beginning of ‘the South’. Because this key mountain trade route traversed their land, the Tyroleans became rich on tolls and taxes, and the region was eventually incorporated into the mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire. Our first stop is the pretty spa town of Merano. You can really soak up the atmosphere of the region as you wander through its glorious belle-époque buildings, fine gardens and excellent cafés that line a leafy riverbank walk, all set within a dramatic natural amphitheatre of high mountain peaks. After the First World War, the Südtirol became part of Italy, but even today this fiercely independent region is undoubtedly Austrian in style and outlook, retaining its German language and culture. Our visit to the provincial capital, Bolzano, gives you the opportunity to experience this intriguing mix – Italian coffee and traditional Tyrolean cakes make a great match! Known as the ‘Gateway to the Dolomites’, Bolzano’s key strategic location explains its many impressive castles and fortified buildings, while the handsome manor houses of its historic centre and the Gothic cathedral with its multicoloured roof will

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delight architecture aficionados. The city’s South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology is renowned for its permanent exhibition centred around a mummified 5,300-year-old man whose remarkably preserved body was discovered in 1991 by hikers 10,500 feet up in the Oetztal Valley Alps. Nicknamed Oetzi the Iceman, he has a tattoo-adorned body and clothes and weapons of a hunter estimated to be aged around 45 years when he died from an arrow wound. This globally significant find has quite simply redefined human anthropology, and it’s extraordinary to think that Oetzi was alive before the Pyramids or Stonehenge were built. Our return to Seefeld takes us along the famous Brenner Pass. The countless ruined castles seemingly guarding every hilltop are evidence that this has been one of the most important trans-alpine trade routes since the Roman Empire. As one vista blends into the next, you’ll marvel at the stunning scenery of verdant meadows, forested hillsides and snow-capped peaks of increasing height. DAY 4 – FREE DAY IN SEEFELD Today is yours to relax and enjoy the attractions in Merano

DAY 5 – OETZTAL GLACIER ROAD This morning we drive up the Oetztal Valley to the high mountain resort of Soelden, enjoying ever more scenic views. Despite being almost 5,000 feet high, this remote village is dwarfed by surrounding giant snow-capped mountains. Our spectacular drive continues up the Oetztal Glacier Road – which, at almost 9,300 feet, is one of Europe’s highest paved roads – into the heart of the mountains where Oetzi the Iceman met his fate over five millennia ago. Take in the awe-inspiring scenery of peaks surrounding the Rettenbach glacier and breathe deeply for several minutes – the rarefied air deep in your lungs has an almost medicinal quality. Keep your eyes peeled for mountain wildlife, including the goat-like chamois, eagles and those delightful indigenous rodents, marmots – hugely entertaining bundles of fur with a spine-tingling whistle. In the afternoon, we descend to enjoy a guided tour of one of the Tyrol’s architectural gems, the Cistercian monastery at Stams. Founded in 1273, its most distinctive features are the basilica’s two majestic cupolas that can be seen from far and wide. As we explore, the knowledgeable local guide will reveal the stories behind the monastery’s magnificent buildings that feature a beautifully painted high altar, delicate murals, ornate ceiling frescoes and elaborate


stucco work. Having suffered a turbulent history, including being burnt down in 1593 and occupation by the Nazis, Stams has been beautifully restored and is once again a thriving community – the monks even distill their own spirits and bake their own bread. DAY 6 – NEUSCHWANSTEIN Our drive today takes us across the border into nearby Bavaria where we pass Germany’s highest mountain, the 9,718-foot Zugspitze. The journey includes two of Germany’s most iconic routes – the fabled ‘Romantic Road’ passing through quintessential Bavarian countryside, and the equally grand ‘German Alpine Road’. The latter leads to arguably the country’s most famous castle and the instantly recognisable focus of today’s tour – Neuschwanstein. This classic fairy-tale citadel has been the inspiration for numerous stories and allegedly served as the blueprint for Disney’s iconic Sleeping Beauty castle. The stunning 19th-century structure was a pet project of one of Bavaria’s most famous kings, Ludwig II, who in the 1860s embarked on a castle-building programme that eventually bankrupted his kingdom. The design was influenced by the castles of old

German knights as well as the elaborate, myththemed stage sets of operas by Richard Wagner, an idol of Ludwig’s. Neuschwanstein was intended to become the reclusive Ludwig’s residency and, though he moved in – just two years before his death – in 1886, the castle is still not fully completed. As the castle comes into view, you can’t help but be moved by its dramatic valleyside location above the village of Hohenschwangau. Towers, turrets and an imposing Romanesque main structure clad in light-coloured limestone are epic in design and scale. The architecture is similarly impressive inside, as you’ll discover on our guided tour taking you through sumptuous marbled halls, salons and dining rooms, with walls decorated with extravagant tapestries and murals; the standard of workmanship is truly exceptional. We return to Seefeld with memories of Neuschwanstein’s romantic beauty imprinted in our minds. DAY 7 – ACHENSEEBAHN After breakfast we travel to the town of Jenbach, where the unmistakable aroma of steam coal fills the air. Here we take an unforgettable trip on the historic

Achenseebahn, a metre-gauge railway ascending from the Inn Valley using a cog system to negotiate the steep gradient. The coal-fired locomotives are among the world’s oldest working steam trains, still doing the job they were built for when, in 1889, tourists were first transported the four and a half miles from Jenbach up to the beautiful Achensee Lake. For those who look back fondly to the golden age of steam railways, it’s a wonderfully evocative experience. Rejoining our coach, we journey even further back in history to Tyrol’s smallest municipality, medieval Rattenberg on the River Inn. The village’s gorgeous stone buildings were built on the proceeds of silver mining, after which Rattenberg prospered from the glassmaking industry for which it is renowned today. You’ll find a wealth of specialist shops dotted through this charming village offering exquisite glassware fashioned by skilled craftsmen. Wander through the narrow cobbled streets and alleyways, climb or take a lift to the ruined castle for splendid panoramic views or simply unwind with a coffee and strudel at a konditorei. DAY 8 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Monastery, Stams

COMPLIMENTARY GUIDED WALK An increasing number of you like to experience the scenery on foot, so you may want to join our complimentary guided walk. Covering about 6 miles in around 3.5 to 4 hours, it’s not arduous, though light walking shoes or strong trainers are advisable. We start our leisurely ramble in Seefeld and head out of the centre towards the Casino Arena – the home of the Olympic ski jump – before continuing through Alpine meadows to Mösern. We then follow a delightful track through an unspoilt forest teeming with wildlife, with our guide describing the local flora and fauna. We arrive at Lake Mösern where you can relax, take in the mountain views and, after time for a cup of tea, return to Seefeld. Places are limited, so please let us know if you’d like to join the walk at time of booking.

Lake Achensee

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L A K E S & M O U N TA I N S O F AUSTRIA 8 days from only £999pp

An unforgettable experience in scenic Austria, taking in towering mountains, plunging waterfalls, mighty glaciers and the country’s Lake District, while also touring gorgeous alpine villages and the architectural gems of Mozart’s birthplace, Salzburg. With pristine alpine scenery, crisp, invigorating air, fragrant pine forests and mirror-like lakes, it’s small wonder that Austria became a must-see destination when people began travelling purely for pleasure a century and a half ago. Today, you can follow in their footsteps and journey with us to the heart of Europe, where natural and man-made wonders combine to create some of the world’s most sublime scenery. This is a land of soaring mountains, tumbling waterfalls, mighty glaciers, fairy-tale castles and cities full of medieval history. As we ascend into the mountains, the views become increasingly impressive almost with every bend; scented meadows surround picture-postcard villages, with traditional wooden houses adorned with window boxes bursting with floral colour. Then there’s the singular beauty of the Salzkammergut, one of the most naturally spellbinding lake districts in the world, which resonates with the unmistakable tones of cowbells echoing over the water.

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There is no shortage of inspiring vistas, but Austria offers much more. It has been home to some of history’s greatest composers: Haydn, Schubert, Strauss and, of course, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Nowhere typifies its distinguished cultural legacy more than Salzburg, Mozart’s birthplace. This exquisite city’s Old Town – the Altstadt – boasts an amazing assemblage of Late Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo architecture, with a genteel atmosphere enhanced by street musicians who keep the city’s musical heritage to the fore. The imposing medieval fortress of Hohensalzburg overlooks the city and completes the scene. One of the delights of this beguiling country is indulging in its delicious tradition of coffee and cake – kaffee und kuchen – taken in one of the almost regal cafés dating from the late 18th century. Decorated in timeless ochres and browns, they’re unique places to enjoy decadent apple strudel and cherry cake, served on delicate china crockery and with fine silverware. But there are many other pastry options, often

soaked in one of the liqueurs for which the area is also renowned. Treat your taste buds while watching the world go by, with sights including a few locals still traditionally clad in lederhosen as a symbol of regional pride. Well-mannered and friendly, Austrians are genuinely hospitable to visitors and delight in sharing their country’s heritage and scenery with newcomers. This sort of bonhomie is known as Gemütlichkeit, a state of being of which they are justifiably proud. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN SALZBURG Arrive at the airport for the flight to Munich. We transfer by coach over the Austrian border to Salzburg, staying three nights, with dinner, at the four-star Hotel Stadtkrug, situated in the historic centre just below the monastery. Around 700 years old, it is one of Salzburg’s most ancient buildings and served as an inn during medieval times. Mozart lived just a few minutes’ walk away, and the hotel’s passionate and enthusiastic owner is absolutely certain the composer would have been a patron. Tall tale or true?


Explore the picturesque villages of the Austrian Lake District

PRICE INCLUDES • Explore the fairy-tale architectural charm of Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, on a guided tour • Take in the sumptuous views offered by the Salzkammergut, Austria’s Lake District, and St Wolfgang, a picture perfect lakeside village • Tour the 17th-century Hellbrunn Palace, with its beautiful gardens and famous ‘trick fountains’ • Witness the grace and power of the Krimml Waterfalls, Central Europe’s highest, against the natural grandeur of High Tauern National Park • Gaze with awe at the Grossglockner, Austria’s tallest mountain, during a panoramic tour of the High Alpine Road

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £999PP

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Classical concert in Salzburg Catch a classical performance by the renowned Salzburger Schlosskonzerte in the world-famous Mirabell Palace in Salzburg. You’ll feel like royalty soaking up the romantic ambience of a very special evening. Don’t miss the opportunity to attend this wonderful concert. From £39pp

we have a relaxed tour, with our knowledgeable guide leading us through its maze of cobbled streets, pointing out all the hidden points of interest and describing what it was like to live here in Mozart’s day. Above everything stands one of Europe’s largest stone fortresses, the Hohensalzburg, dating back to the 11th century. Perched high on a cliff top, it dominates the skyline. The Old Town below is a delight, boasting architecture dating from the medieval period to the 18th century. It’s perfect to explore on foot, its narrow passageways promising new discoveries around every corner. It has many intriguing shops, too, mixing designer boutiques with traditional outlets that have been in the same family for years, many selling locally produced wares. A must for horticultural fans,

That’s for you to decide, but what is beyond doubt is that the hotel, owned by the same family for three generations, offers a wonderful experience. The antiques adorning the interior give it a character and ambience all its own, while the restaurant specialises in excellently executed traditional menus, with most of the produce gathered from its own organic farm. This even extends to making schnapps! The rooms sensitively blend all the modern amenities while preserving the hotel’s medieval charm. The roof terrace is a wonderful place to enjoy a relaxing drink as you absorb Salzburg’s glorious skyline. DAY 2 – SALZBURG With a captivating ambience, characterised by its resplendent horse-drawn carriages, Salzburg is a gorgeous and compact jewel surrounded by a magnificent alpine backdrop. Until 200 years ago it was an independent state ruled by a series of archbishops, who turned it into one of the most sophisticated cities north of the Alps. After breakfast,

Salzburg

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meanwhile, is the grandeur of the Mirabell Palace and Gardens, originally built as an expression of love by a prince-archbishop. It often serves as the impossibly romantic backdrop for wedding ceremonies, with the Pegasus Fountain and Rose Garden among its highlights. You’re free to enjoy the afternoon as you wish, perhaps to follow your passion for Salzburg’s most famous son, Mozart. A musical prodigy, he first played in public at the age of five and composed his first opera while not yet a teenager. The home where he was born, at 9 Getreidegasse, has been restored, while his presence permeates the city, not least in Mozartplatz, with its statue of him. More claims to fame are made for the locations throughout the city and surrounding area that became globally famous after featuring in the Oscar-winning film The Sound of Music. Of course, there are plenty of fascinating museums, religious buildings and hidden gems that have nothing at all to do with either subject, including the imposing Early Baroque cathedral with its dome, two towers and marble frontage. Or perhaps you’ll prefer a stroll along the banks of River Salzach, maybe pausing at a café to listen to the gentle sound of its waters flowing by. DAY 3 – SALZKAMMERGUT We leave the city for Salzkammergut, the Austrian Lake District, an area of magnificent natural beauty Zell am See

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with over 70 lakes of varying sizes. A morning drive takes us to Mondsee, a charming town perched on the northern shore of the lake bearing its name. As well as being a popular weekend destination, Mondsee is renowned for the Basilica of Saint Michael, the lovely setting for Maria and Georg von Trapp’s wedding scene in The Sound of Music. Following a route alongside sparkling lake shores and through velvetgreen hill pastures, we arrive at the crystal-clear waters of Lake Traunsee and the picture-postcard setting of the village of Traunkirchen, which until the late 19th century was a fishing village that could be reached only by boat, but today is a centre for outdoor activities, from hiking to sailing. Leaving lakes behind for a short while, we pass through the picturesque spa town of Bad Ischl, once a regular summer destination for Emperor Franz Joseph. Mountains and forest stretch in all directions as we head for St Wolfgang, where there’s time for lunch amid true scenic splendour. With its maze of frescoed 15th-century buildings, St Wolfgang can lay claim to being among the prettiest villages in Europe. Your eye is immediately drawn to the white lakeside church, for centuries an important pilgrimage site. Inside the building, the altar merely adds to the visual riches. Created in the late 15th century, it’s regarded as a high point of Gothic art. There’s time to relax in this idyllic spot this afternoon, or perhaps opt for a more elevated viewpoint via the steam-hauled rack railway

up the Schafberg mountain. With a summit reaching almost 6,000 feet, it offers spellbinding views across the entire Salzkammergut in all its unrivalled majesty. We then return to the hotel for dinner, recalling the day in a convivial atmosphere. DAY 4 – HELLBRUNN PALACE Leaving Salzburg, we take a short drive to enjoy the 17th-century majesty of Hellbrunn Palace, just outside Salzburg. Commissioned by an archbishop with a mischievous sense of humour and a favoured destination for emperors, it features rooms decorated in a variety of themes, such as a Chinese Room with hand-painted wallpaper; others were specially designed to create the ideal acoustics for performing musicians, including one that takes the shape of an octagon. The gardens are no less unique, and a local guide takes us on a tour of their famous Wasserspiele or ‘trick fountains’, which stop and start to catch visitors unaware. These ingenious and quirky features are complemented by shell-covered grottoes and water-powered clockwork figures. After this remarkable tour, we ascend into the High Alps, where we stay four nights, with dinner, at the excellent four-star Hotel Das Alpenhaus. Located in the small alpine village of Kaprun, at the heart of the spectacular Zell am See region, this stylish modern hotel nestles at the foot of the Kitzsteinhorn and the dramatic Grossglockner mountain, at


12,461 feet Austria’s highest. It features an excellent restaurant, while the lobby bar offers a terrace and a panoramic view. There’s also a lounge bar, spa and wellness centre, with both indoor and outdoor swimming pools (outdoor pool open summer months, weather permitting). All the rooms are extremely comfortable and well appointed. DAY 5 – KRIMML WATERFALLS We start our exploration of some of the world’s most outstanding alpine terrain, witnessing nature at its dynamic best. After breakfast, we follow a winding road through woodland and peaceful pastures into an ever-narrowing valley, revealing one of Europe’s great natural wonders: the Krimml Waterfalls. The highest in Central Europe, this amazing three-stage series of waterfalls tumbles almost 1,300 feet, fed by glacial meltwater. Huge clouds of spray are seemingly suspended as if by magic over the lush green forests below, accompanied by the roar of enormous volumes of cascading water. It makes an unforgettable spectacle. At moments like this, Mother Nature’s power and beauty combine to leave observers in complete awe. Ample time remains for a gentle stroll, taking a well-marked footpath revealing delicate and colourful examples of the area’s alpine flora. DAY 6 – GROSSGLOCKNER Today we pass along one of Europe’s oldest and most

Salzburg

celebrated alpine routes as another chapter in our breathtaking journey into this wonderland unfolds in front of you: Austria’s highest mountain – the Grossglockner. Gradually, the scenery changes from lush green meadow to dark pine forests. Then, above the tree line, a startling landscape of snow and ice reveals itself. Bronze Age knives, ancient gold jewellery and Roman statues found here prove traders have passed this way for at least 3,000 years. The route evolved into a 17th-century pack trail before the present Grossglockner High Alpine Road opened, less than 100 years ago. The road offers eye-catching vistas – glaciers, rugged valleys and mountains – each a natural masterpiece. Other highlights include the carpet-like pastures of the Salzach Valley and the Hochtor Pass, the latter one of Europe’s most elevated at over 8,200 feet. We continue twisting up the ruggedly attractive valley to reach the Pasterze Glacier and the ‘Emperor’s Viewpoint’. In an area defined by an array of spectacular views, this really does stand out: gaze at the rocky crags, pure-white snowfields, tumbling waterfalls and deep-blue ice fields of this mountain wilderness. In the distance, you may hear the eerie whistling cry of marmots, the rather endearing giant squirrels who live here. While eagles soar on the thermals above, keep a lookout for the ibex with their striking horns. If you wish, you can ride the dramatic funicular railway to the Pasterze Glacier and walk on its surface – there are few other places in the world where you can do this (note that this trip is subject to weather conditions). We return to the hotel for dinner. Over a delicious meal, you can reflect on the magnificent sights you have witnessed during this memorable day.

many resorts, it has some fine traditional buildings, some of which house small museums, including one dedicated to the history of the region and its people. The 11th-century parish church of Saint Hippolyt rewards a visit, too. You could opt for a cruise on a steamer to view the local bird life and see the villages on the far side of the lake. Those with a head for heights might like to take the cable car to the summit of Zell am See’s own mountain, the Schmittenhöhe, for a marvellous 360-degree panorama of the snowcapped Alps – one more view to take the breath away. If you have energy to spare, there are many superb walking trails, suitable for all abilities. DAY 8 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Krimml waterfall

DAY 7 – FREE DAY Today is completely free for you to spend as you please. Perhaps a ride on the cable car up the Kitzsteinhorn, a 10,500-foot peak in the High Tauern range to the south of Kaprun. Just below its summit is one of the largest glaciers in the Alps and here there are never-to-be-forgotten views. Or you may prefer to take a stroll around the village of Kaprun, catch up on some reading or maybe visit nearby Lake Zell. Nestling on the lakeshore, the town of Zell am See has a delightful centre and waterfront promenade. Unlike

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PR AG U E , V I E N N A , BOHEMIA & T H E D A N U B E VA L L E Y 8 days from only £849pp

Step into a world of grand palaces, Baroque cathedrals and great classical composers, taking in the imperial magnificence of Vienna, the exquisite beauty of Prague and a host of little-known gems typical of the romantic heart of Europe

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Imperial grandeur, pomp and romance are everpresent in this varied tour to the heart of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, the dominant power in Central Europe for centuries. Prague and Vienna are renowned as two of Europe’s most cultural capital cities, but we also visit many lesser-known gems such as the unimaginably beautiful town of Cesky Krumlov and the Benedictine monastery at Melk, Austria’s most richly decorated building. At every turn you’ll experience tales of emperors and archdukes, enjoy exquisite architecture and discover artistic treasures. Our tour begins in the 13th-century town of Ceske Budejovice, south of the Czech capital Prague and nestling in Bohemia’s rolling hills and thick forests that were once hunting grounds for medieval nobility. Continuing south, you’ll be enchanted by the majesty of the Danube River as it twists through countless charming villages, their colourful buildings adorned with the murals so typical of Central Europe. With its rugged valley sides covered with


PRICE INCLUDES • Explore medieval Prague on a guided tour, taking in both its famous landmarks and hidden treasures • Tour spectacular Prague Castle and its many extraordinary buildings, including Saint Vitus Cathedral • Absorb the grandeur of Schönbrunn Palace, the Habsburgs’ summer retreat, on an informative guided tour • Discover the enchanting world of the world-famous Spanish Riding School on a guided tour • Take a tour of wonderful Vienna, with a local guide relating the fascinating stories of its imperial buildings and cultural treasures • Visit Melk’s magnificent Benedictine abbey, Austria’s most richly decorated building • Experience the exquisitely beautiful Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov and enjoy a guided tour of its castle • Taste freshly brewed Czech pilsner during a tour of the Budvar Brewery • Marvel at Bohemia’s breathtaking scenery of rolling hills, ancient forests, medieval castles and centuries-old villages

Plus, of course...

Enjoy Prague, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities

neat vineyards and lush forests, punctuated by ruined castles on rocky outcrops, this is some of Europe’s finest river scenery. Imperial Vienna is a city of immense palaces, churches, grand boulevards and sumptuous cafés where the mellifluous music of Mozart, Mahler and Strauss provides the soundtrack. The heart of the old Habsburg Empire, Vienna absorbed the architectural styles of the areas over which it ruled, and it’s adorned by some of the most impressive Romanesque, Rococo, Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau masterpieces anywhere in Europe. From Saint Stephen’s Cathedral to the crown jewels of the Hofburg, the Spanish Riding School and the priceless art of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, symbols of the city’s historic wealth and power abound. Then to Prague, variously described as the ‘Magical City’, ‘Golden City’ and ‘City of a Hundred Spires’. The Czech capital’s incredible architecture and cultural ambience derive from its melting-pot history – Slavs, Germans and Jews have all left their marks here. On

• Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast and three dinners (two dinners will be taken at local restaurants) • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £849PP

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Enjoy a classical performance in Vienna Attend a recital by the world-class Schönbrunn Palace Orchestra in the beautiful orangery, the world’s largest where Mozart himself performed in 1786 and many festivities took place during Habsburg reign. Call us to pre-book your tickets. From £49pp

a smaller scale than Vienna, it’s the perfect walking city, a magical symphony of cobbled streets, tranquil squares and hidden churches, all overlooked by its striking fortress – truly its beauty rivals that of any city in the world. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN PRAGUE Arrive at the airport for your flight to Prague, where we transfer by coach to Ceske Budejovice, a beautiful town in the heart of scenic Bohemia. Here we stay on the edge of the Old Town for two nights with breakfast in the smart four-star Hotel Clarion. DAY 2 – CESKY KRUMLOV Following breakfast we take a short drive through the Bohemian countryside, passing forests where boars still roam, glass-like lakes teeming with birdlife and meadows carpeted in flowers. Your destination is Cesky Krumlov, a town of almost fairy-tale beauty, whose castle and medieval buildings are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we meet our local guide for an informative tour of the Renaissance castle with its medieval fortifications and Rococo theatre complete with original scenery, which towers majestically above the town’s vanilla- and rose-coloured houses and steep lanes leading to the Vltava River below. Afterwards there’s free time to explore the town, with so much to see, including Saint Vitus Church, museums and traditional shops with artisans at work. We return to Ceske Budejovice, which is notable for its compact Old Town gathered around an enormous main square. The German name for the town is

Schönbrunn Palace.

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Budweis, a clue to its most famous product – classic Czech pilsner beer. Brewing has been a way of life here for seven centuries and their Budweiser is not be confused with the American brand sharing its name. As you’ll find out on our fascinating tour of the Budvar Brewery, the beer is brewed to strict purity laws and can be savoured straight from the barrel. This evening we discover another aspect of Bohemian culture – its delicious food – as we dine in a local restaurant, soaking up the atmosphere. DAY 3 – MELK Austria beckons this morning, and we head south through picturesque countryside before crossing the border and continuing towards the River Danube, whose twists and turns we follow to the town of Melk. Nothing prepares you for your first sight of Melk Abbey, a huge building high above the valley, whose extraordinary history and treasures we discover on a guided tour. Originally a castle of the noble Babenberg dynasty, it was gifted to the Benedictine Order in the 11th century, reconstructed in Baroque style during the 1700s and has remained a monastery to this day. It’s famed for its gilded 214-yard-long Emperor’s Gallery, portraits of Austrian emperors and library of 100,000 priceless volumes and medieval manuscripts. Most hallowed of all are fragments of the Nibelungenlied, the epic poem that inspired Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Just downstream we follow the Danube’s most beautiful stretch, the fabled Wachau. At its narrowest point, where the river funnels through steep wooded and vine-clad valley sides and cliffs, nestles tiny Dürnstein. Photographs barely do justice to this village’s extraordinary location and beauty. High

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above is the ruined castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192–93 when returning from the Crusades, but its most eye-catching feature is its Abbey’s Baroque sky-blue steeple singing out from the surrounding gabled terracotta roofs. Stepping inside the splendidly decorated Abbey is like entering another world. There’s time to wander Dürnstein at your leisure, maybe relaxing in a traditional wine tavern for a glass of local Riesling. We then head through the Wienerwald hills to Vienna, where you enjoy two nights with breakfast at either the four star Lindner Hotel, four-star Hotel Regina, four star Hotel Savoyen Vienna or fourstar superior Hotel InterContinental.

Melk

DAY 4 – VIENNA The greatness of Vienna owes everything to its status as the capital of the vast Habsburg Empire that ruled much of Central Europe for centuries, until the end of the First World War. This morning we have a guided tour of this elegant, ordered and civilised city whose rise to prominence began in the 17th century. Through its monumental palaces, buildings, galleries and churches, you’ll see how Vienna’s power and influence grew over the following two centuries. The massive Hofburg Palace complex is a striking symbol of Vienna’s rise. This former royal court is now a collection of museums, home to the Spanish Riding School and the crown jewels, and where the Vienna Boys’ Choir performs. Then there are the lavish Imperial Apartments and, at the Imperial Treasury, dazzling relics of the Holy Roman Empire – including what’s believed to be the sabre of Charlemagne. No visit to Vienna is complete without taking in the sights of the Ringstrasse, the grand boulevard built around the inner city (Innere Stadt) and lined with a procession of architectural masterpieces, including Parliament, City Hall, the Vienna State Opera, the Kunsthistorisches Museum – the world’s fourth largest art collection – and the Natural History Museum. At its centre is Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, whose astonishing multicoloured roof and 447-foot-tall spire have dominated the skyline since the 15th century. The surrounding square is the ideal spot to watch street entertainment, as fire eaters, mime artists and opera singers vie for your attention. If shopping is your passion, visit Graben for all the designer names … or experience one of Vienna’s coffee houses. In almost theatrical settings of tall windows, draped curtains, chandeliers and sometimes even marble pillars,


Wachau

Cesky Krumlov

indulging in coffee and Sachertorte is a Viennese institution and part of the city’s culture. In the afternoon you can choose to discover more about the 450-year-old Spanish Riding School on a guided tour. Here the renowned Lipizzaner horses are trained in the art of classical dressage. Our expert guide reveals the School’s many aspects, including the world’s largest oval horse walker and the stables in the Stallburg, a gem of a Renaissance building. So much pomp, history, tradition and horsemanship … but the undisputed stars of the tour are the horses themselves. 
 DAY 5 – SCHONBRUNN PALACE A few miles southwest of the Innere Stadt is the Schönbrunn Palace, the Habsburgs’ summer residence and everything a palace should be: epic in scale, fabulously decorated and crammed with priceless paintings, Chinese and Meissen porcelain, furniture,

tapestries, lacquerwork, chandeliers and glassware. Look above and below – the intricate detail of the floors and ceilings is truly outstanding. The palace, which became the permanent home of Emperor Franz Josef, has 1,441 rooms including the Hall of Mirrors, where the six-year-old Mozart played for Empress Maria Theresa. With so much to take in, our local guide is invaluable for giving insights into the myriad stories associated with Schönbrunn and the people associated with it, from emperors and empresses to the humblest servants. Outside, as you’d expect, there is a huge expanse of manicured gardens, laid out in a blend of regimented flowerbeds, lawns, fountains and sculptures. Leaving Vienna, we take a scenic journey through rolling hills back across the border – crossing the former Iron Curtain, still just discernible – to Prague, staying three nights at the four-star Jurys Inn, with breakfast. The hotel is ideally situated on the edge of the medieval city, opposite a tram and metro station allowing easy exploration. DAY 6 – PRAGUE Often described as Europe’s most beautiful city, Prague also has a peerless ambience rooted in a turbulent past and a flowering of optimism since the overthrow of Communism. This morning is dedicated to an in-depth tour of its wonderful medieval Old Town – the Stare Mesto – with a guide relating the captivating tales behind the main sights and hidden gems only known to the locals. You’ll see a profusion of architectural splendours, including the iconic Charles Bridge punctuated with statues and turrets, the Gothic Powder Tower, the old Jewish Quarter and Wenceslas Square. At the heart of the Old Town is Staromestske Namesti – the resplendent square flanked on all sides by fairy-tale buildings in myriad styles, from the Gothic intricacies of the doublesteepled Tyn Church to the Baroque Church of Saint Nicholas. And, of course, there’s the Town Hall and its legendary 15th-century astronomical clock, which marks the hour with a macabre display of medieval characters in procession. If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb the steps to the top of the Town Hall tower for superb views. This afternoon is free to spend as you please, perhaps wandering back to your favourite spot to explore further, seeking out some of Prague’s many Art Nouveau buildings or taking a scenic cruise along the Vltava for a different perspective on the city.

DAY 7 – PRAGUE CASTLE This morning we explore Hradcany, Prague’s spectacular castle and cathedral complex and the centre of political power for a thousand years. Soaring above the city, it is said to be the world’s largest castle, whose fascinating history has resulted in a sublime mélange of palaces, churches and fortifications, all ripe for exploration. Dominating its heights is Saint Vitus Cathedral. Construction started in 1344 and, although there are some Renaissance and Baroque flourishes, it was only in the 19th and 20th centuries that the stupendous building you see now was completed. There’s much to see inside, not least its spectacular nave, luminous stained-glass windows and the Saint Wenceslas Chapel, with its walls adorned with semiprecious stones. Among the many other highlights within the castle walls are the Spanish Hall and its amazing art collection, featuring works by Brueghel, Dürer, Holbein, Leonardo da Vinci and Titian, the original craftsmen’s houses on Golden Lane and the Romanesque Saint George’s Basilica. Outside, Hradcany also offers spectacular views as the ‘City of a Hundred Spires’ spreads out before you. This afternoon you’re free to explore as you wish. Perhaps stroll down to the medieval city, relax over a coffee or beer in one of the city’s characterful hostelries or maybe browse the many gorgeously decorated shops. Rounding off a memorable day is dinner is at a charming local restaurant, where you can reflect on the wonders of this diverse and culturally rich corner of Europe. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your return flight home.

Prague

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T R A N S Y LVA N I A & BUCHAREST 6 days from only £719pp

Romania is a treasure waiting to be discovered with its atmospheric landscapes of unspoilt beauty, astonishing fairy-tale castles, charming medieval towns, and a green capital where diverse architectural styles reveal a compelling past. Transylvania evokes visions of towering Gothic castles set in densely forested mountains, but this atmospheric ‘land beyond the forest’, deep in the heart of Romania, holds countless wonders waiting to be discovered. In contrast is the bustling capital city, Bucharest, which proudly bears the scars of a communist past – just one of the many intriguing chapters of the nation’s rich and varied history. The modern-day Romanians are a colourful tapestry of historic tribes that have invaded and conquered, including ancient Roman, Dacian, Magyar and Saxon. Fierce resistance to foreign domination resulted in the founding of Transylvania, Wallachia and Moldovia, independent principalities that became Christendom’s front line against the Ottomans. Unbeknownst to many are the courageous military leaders, who spearheaded the defence against relentless Turkish invasions during the 15th century – safeguarding much of Western Europe in the process. One of these formidable rulers was Vlad Ţepeş or Vlad the Impaler, known to the world as the inspiration for Count Dracula, but revered by locals as a hero.

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Romania’s neighbours and past rulers have left more than a captivating cultural legacy – they have also greatly influenced the country’s cuisine. Romanian dishes are hearty and reflect the country’s agricultural roots. Bucharest, in particular, has an evolving gastronomic scene worthy of a growing capital. For a typical Romanian dish, try some sarmale or cabbage leaves stuffed with a tasty mix of meat, rice and herbs. Our eye-opening tour begins in the legendary Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, one of Eastern Europe’s most enchanting regions. It stretches for more than 550 miles in a sweeping arch, isolating Transylvania from the rest of the country. Covered by pristine forests, the area is home to the continent’s largest bear population, as well as lynx, chamois and wolves. Beyond the majestic peaks are quaint villages and crumbling citadels forgotten by time, concealed in lush valleys dappled with wildflower meadows. Journey back in time with us to old-world villages in wonderfully remote countryside, where a centuriesold lifestyle happily co-exists with an increasingly

modern one. Prince Charles, who first visited Romania in 1998, found it impossible to resist the charms of traditional village living. Believing this to be the last corner of Europe where ‘true sustainability and complete resilience’ can still be found, he is a passionate advocate for preserving this unique way of life. Discover one of Romania’s most charming medieval towns, UNESCO-listed Sighişoara with its walled historic centre, ornate churches, colourful houses and outstanding clock tower. We explore two of Transylvania’s most celebrated castles: Peleş Castle and Bran Castle, the magnificent summer residences of King Carol and British-born Queen Marie of Romania respectively. We also visit two remarkable churches with extraordinary fortifications, testaments to long-fought battles against neighbouring states. We stay in Bucharest, a vivacious capital city of astonishing contrasts. Dotted among the utilitarian architectural legacy of communist rule are elegant belle-époque villas, which echo the hedonistic 1900s when Bucharest was nicknamed ‘the Paris of the


PRICE INCLUDES • • • • • • • •

Uncover the compelling past of vibrant Bucharest on a guided tour Take a guided tour of the immense Palace of Parliament, the world’s heaviest building and an intrinsic part of Bucharest’s history Visit renowned Bran Castle, built over 600 years ago and said to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula Enjoy a guided tour of elegant Peleş Castle, a neo-Gothic masterpiece with priceless art and furniture Explore picturesque Sighişoara with its UNESCO-listed historic centre and colourful houses Tour Brașov with a guide and wander its beautiful baroque streets and medieval ramparts Visit impressive UNESCO-listed, fortified Saxon church complexes in Biertan and Prejmer, unique in Europe Experience the dramatic Carpathian Mountains surrounding medieval landscapes in the heart of Transylvania, where a traditional lifestyle still thrives

Plus, of course...

Visit Peleş Castle, the summer home of Romania’s first king

East’. We’ll examine the city’s exciting past with an expert guide and tour Nicolae Ceauşescu’s Palace of the Parliament, an extravagance that continues to dominate Bucharest’s skyline. During our tour, you’ll encounter the warm and welcoming locals, known for their incredible hospitality. With all this and more, a visit to enchanting Romania is certain to be an unforgettable adventure.

• Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Five nights in centrally located four star accommodation, inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast and two dinners (one dinner for 2019 departures) • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £719PP

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Bear-watching in the Carpathian Mountains Journey into the beautiful Carpathian forest with a local ranger for a chance to see the tremendous brown bears of Brașov in their natural habitat. If you’re lucky you might also spot lynx, wolves and other incredible wildlife native to the area. From £45pp.

forested Tâmpa Mountain. Every room is spacious and features a French balcony. There are two restaurants, a bar and an open lobby with plenty of seating, while an Olympic-sized swimming pool, sauna and gym provide plenty of choices for relaxation. DAY 2 – BRAȘOV & BRAN CASTLE Brașov began as a Saxon settlement in the sheltered Carpathian foothills close to the passes. It has since prospered to become Transylvania’s second-largest city, yet it still retains a small-town feel. Brașov’s skyline is a mix of medieval watchtowers, spired churches and forested mountains. The Old Town is largely baroque and holds local folklore as colourful as its pastel-coloured, red-roofed houses – one story tells of the Pied Piper of Hamelin making an appearance here! This morning, we are introduced to the Old Town by our local guide, starting with Piaţa Sfatului, the attractive and typically Germanic square dominated by the Black Church. This imposing structure is one of the city’s most famous landmarks, with Gothic spires spearing the sky and blackened walls still standing, refusing to succumb to the fire set by the Austrian army in 1869. Next, we take a drive to Bran to visit its legendary 14th-century castle, said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Although its connections to either Dracula or Vlad Ţepeş are tenuous, Bran Castle is a magnificent sight to behold and one that easily stokes

Brașov

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN BRAȘOV Fly to Bucharest airport. On arrival we transfer by coach to Braşov. During our drive through the scenic Wallachia region, you’ll be introduced to rural Romania: see locals watching the world go by, perched on wooden benches in front of their traditional homes, and take in the lush fields stretching towards the horizon. As we near Transylvania, the magnificent Carpathian mountain range gradually comes into view. We stay for three nights in the medieval town centre of Braşov at the four-star Aro Palace Hotel, with breakfast. The hotel overlooks Central Park and

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Bran Castle

the flames of your imagination. Perched precariously on a jagged outcrop at a height of 61 metres, the castle stands guard over the town with its striking towers and turrets. This remarkably preserved castle appears much as it would have in its heyday, when the grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, Queen Marie of Romania, spent her summers here from 1922 to 1938. Several of the fascinating exhibits within the rooms are devoted to the royal family, while others display medieval armour, weaponry and statues. Later we return to Braşov, where you may wish to join us on a visit to the First Romanian School. Located within the historic Schei quarter, the school is home to several Romanian firsts: Romanian language books, a printing press and the country’s oldest bible, written on goatskin! Or you may prefer to ‘Personalise Your Holiday’ with an unforgettable bear-watching experience in the Carpathian Mountains.

Take in the unspoilt Transylvanian countryside

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DAY 3 – SIGHIȘOARA & BIERTAN Our day begins with a drive northwest to wonderfully atmospheric Sighişoara, overlooking the River Tarnava Mare. Originally a Saxon settlement and one of the most remarkably preserved medieval citadels in Europe, Sighişoara is utterly enthralling and the embodiment of a fairy-tale town. Within its fortified walls is the picturesque historic centre, situated on a rocky ridge supporting an array of ancient, red-roofed buildings and entirely deserving of its UNESCO-listed status. After a short tour on foot, there’s time to wander Sighişoara cobbled streets and admire the colourful houses, now converted into cafés, hotels and quirky shops selling a variety of curiosities that make interesting souvenirs. Visit the mighty 14th-century Clock Tower to see its fascinating mechanical display: one of seven figures emerge from the niche facing the citadel to indicate the day of the week, while two

figures representing day and night face the lower town. Nearby is the house where Vlad Ţepeş was allegedly born. The more energetic may wish to follow the covered Scholars’ Stairs up to the Church on the Hill to admire its Gothic altars and 500-yearold frescoes. Continuing our journey back in time, we take a short drive to Biertan, a veritable Saxon village. Rising sharply on a hill above a huddle of pastel-hued buildings is the commanding fortified church, the most famous of all Saxon churches. This UNESCOlisted monument is set within not just one, but three sets of imposing walls! Built between the 15th and 16th centuries, it was the seat of Lutheran bishops for nearly three centuries and their graves can be found inside the Bishops’ Tower. You’ll see the late-Gothic church’s intricate vaulting and Transylvania’s largest triptych altar, comprising no fewer than 28 intricately decorated panels. The views from this elevated position are absolutely breathtaking, so have your camera at the ready. Observe the quaint village of Biertan, where families still work the land in horsedrawn carts and livestock can be seen trotting along the streets – you might even see the odd stork’s nest atop a chimney, which is said to bestow good luck upon the residents! This is rural Romania at its very best. DAY 4 – PREJMER & PELEŞ CASTLE This morning we depart Braşov for the impressive Saxon citadel at Prejmer. This superbly preserved complex boasts some of Transylvania’s most powerful fortified walls, encircling a Gothic church with a marvellous vaulted nave. Visit the church or wander the grounds and see the numerous store rooms, numbered like a huge advent calendar. Each room once belonged to a family and was filled with produce that would keep the village fed during a siege. Historical records attest that in all its 500 years of existence, the fortress was besieged 50 times but captured only once in 1611 by Gabriel Báthori, the


Sighișoara

Prince of Transylvania, when the town was forced to surrender after supplies had run out for several days. Next, we drive south enjoying pastoral landscapes: flourishing forests, shepherds tending their flocks and locals passing on horse-drawn carts. Before long, we arrive in the resort town of Sinaia, once the preserve of shepherds, nestled peacefully in a fir-cloaked valley set against the jagged crags of the Bucegi Mountains. Here, we tour extraordinary Peleş Castle, Romania’s most opulent palace and the summer retreat of Romania’s first king, Carol I. Reminiscent of a Bavarian schloss, this neo-Renaissance masterpiece of towering spires, hidden passages and classical statues took 40 years and dozens of artists and builders to realise. The castle has more than 170 lavishly decorated rooms and we visit a selection of them, including the sumptuous reception hall adorned with intricate walnut carvings and the weapons gallery filled with more than 4,000 weapons. We see the

extravagant themed rooms, such as the Moorish hall with a marble fountain and the Florentine Hall with Murano chandeliers. Later, we resume our journey south and arrive in Bucharest, where we stay for two nights at the fourstar superior Sheraton Bucharest or the four-star Europa Royale Bucharest, with breakfast daily and dinner on the first evening. Centrally located within walking distance to restaurants and public transport links, the Sheraton Bucharest has two restaurants and a bar. The Europa Royale Bucharest is situated in a 19th-century building on one of the city’s oldest streets, close to the old town’s shops, cafés and restaurants. The hotel has a modern interior, and features a restaurant and a bar. DAY 5 – BUCHAREST Bucharest is a captivating capital city of contrasts, whose eclectic mix of architectural styles tell us so much about its colourful past. The Brâncovenesc style, which blends Byzantine, Ottoman, late-Renaissance, Baroque, Orthodox Christian and Islamic influences, can be seen in the Stavropoleos Monastery, one of the city’s most striking churches. As Romania grew more Western-oriented, its architecture took on neo-Classical and Romantic elements, giving rise to numerous Parisian-style boulevards, elegant fin-desiècle buildings and impeccably landscaped parks. There are also wonderful examples of Art Nouveau and Art Deco design throughout Bucharest, alongside imposing concrete developments that attest its communist past.

This morning, we enjoy a tour of the city with a local guide, learning about its rich history and the rise of communism in Bucharest. We visit the fascinating Village Museum, an extraordinary, open-air collection of traditional homes from all over Romania, located within Herăstrău Park. These lovingly preserved buildings, which date from the 17th century to the early 20th century, offer an immersive experience and fascinating insights into traditional Romanian life. We then have a guided tour of the immense Palace of Parliament, which has to be seen to be believed. The world’s heaviest building and the fourth-largest, the palace is a marvel to some and a monument to vanity to others with its exaggerated dimensions. To locals, however, it’s a testament to the high standard of Romanian craftsmanship. The palace’s marble staircases, resplendent crystal chandeliers and beautifully embroidered curtains are locally sourced and created. Afterwards there is free time to continue exploring the city and Bucharest has much to offer. Perhaps see the former royal palace, now the National Art Museum which features the superb gallery of medieval art, and the Athenaeum with its impressive Baroque cupola and remarkable acoustics. There are also some splendid Orthodox churches and squares, including Revolution Square, named after the 1989 uprising that swept away Ceaușescu’s regime. DAY 6 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Biertan

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BULGARIA THE BALKANS’ HIDDEN TREASURE 6 days from only £599pp

Unearth the gems of one of Europe’s oldest settlements: the heritage of great and ancient civilisations, religious treasures, vibrant cities, unique cuisine, superb wines and diverse landscapes of breathtaking beauty. Bulgaria is astonishing for its varied landscapes but perhaps more so for its unique blend of ancient history and contemporary culture. Visitors adore its fine-sand beaches and ski resorts, but one of Europe’s oldest countries holds many more surprises waiting to be unearthed. Fragments of Serdica – as Sofia the capital was known to the ancient Romans – were discovered as recently as 2010 and can be seen at the city’s central metro station! A Thracian tribe, the Serdi, settled in the region as far back as the Bronze Age, but it was the conquering Romans who brought Serdica to its zenith during the reign of Constantine the Great. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Bulgarians and Byzantine Empire fought for control until Sofia was captured by the Ottomans and held for nearly 500 years. Independence came for Bulgaria in the late 19th century, but a post-World War II alliance kept the country under tight Soviet grip. As communist governments fell, Bulgaria was finally released and is now firmly focused on moving forward as one of the EU member states. The Bulgarians of today

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are incredibly proud of their heritage and rightly so. Millennium-old folk traditions run parallel with modern life, creating an endlessly fascinating culture. Keeping these customs alive are folk schools, where children learn the dances and songs of yesteryear. In many villages, it’s not uncommon to see locals travelling by horse and cart or trekking into the mountains with mules. The landscapes of Bulgaria are as diverse as its cultural legacies. Spectacular mountain ranges offer world-class skiing and hiking trails, while the fertile plains of the northeast are commonly referred to as the country’s ‘breadbasket’. Different microclimates create ideal conditions for producing excellent red and white wines. The beautiful Kazanlak Valley is renowned for its roses, making Bulgaria one of the largest producers of quality rose oil. When it comes to the cuisine, you may recognise flavours introduced by past rulers – the Greeks, Italians, Turkish and Russians – yet the result is unique. Bulgarian food tends to be fresh, hearty and satisfying. Soups, stews and salads commonly feature on menus

Rila Monastery


PRICE INCLUDES • • • • •

Discover Sofia on a guided walking tour and see the remarkable legacies left by the Thracians, Romans, Ottomans and more Explore the picturesque Old Town of Plovdiv, a city more ancient than Rome, with its remarkably preserved remains and distinctive National Revival mansions, on a guided walking tour Enjoy a guided tour of the UNESCOlisted Rila Monastery, a symbol of national identity, and visit its fascinating museum Visit the Boyana Church, a 900-yearold chapel renowned for its rare and beautiful frescoes Experience Bachkovo monastery, one of the most important monuments of the Eastern Orthodox world

vast National Palace of Culture and surrounded by the popular South Park. The hotel’s signature restaurant offers international and Bulgarian cuisine, while refreshments can be enjoyed at the bar and café. Some departures will stay at the four-star Crystal Palace Hotel close to the iconic Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The hotel features a restaurant that serves international and Mediterranean dishes, plus a bar in the lobby.

Visit the remarkable Rila Monastery

alongside grilled meats. Try the classic combination of ‘rakia’ or Bulgarian brandy, along with a Shopska salad of tomatoes, red peppers, cucumbers and crumbled cheese. During our riveting tour, you’ll experience Bulgaria’s historic heavyweights, Sofia the exuberant capital and Plovdiv the ancient cultural centre. We’ll visit some of the world’s best-preserved and most important religious sites, including the revered monasteries at Rila and Bachkovo, plus the incredible Boyana Church with its exceptional medieval art. Bulgaria has a millennium-old heritage of viticulture, which we’ll discover on our visit to a local wine producer – with a tasting included, of course. Gifted with the incredible heritage of so many ancient civilisations, Bulgaria is an extraordinary place to explore them all.

DAY 2 – SOFIA Few cities carry an ancient past with youthful exuberance as effortlessly as Sofia. Within the bustling capital is an impressive collection of architectural treasures from some of the greatest civilisations. Thracian foundations, Roman ruins, Byzantine churches and an Ottoman mosque are interspersed with neoclassical buildings and Sovietstyle skyscrapers. This morning, we follow in the footsteps of past rulers on a walking tour of the city centre. Rising like resplendent crowns are the golden domes of the

• •

Discover the Thracian lowlands, one of Bulgaria’s oldest and most notable wine regions, and visit a local producer to sample delicious wines Visit Sofia’s National History Museum, renowned for its spectacular Thracian gold collection

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Five nights in four-star superior and four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast and one dinner at a local restaurant • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £599PP Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the symbol of Sofia. This neo-Byzantine masterpiece houses Bulgaria’s largest collection of religious art, with more than 200 icons dating from the 13th century in its crypt. Bathed in flickering candlelight, the poignant paintings of saints set in carved wooden screens appear almost ethereal. Nearby is the fourth-century Sveta Sofia, the city’s second-oldest church after which the capital was named. Concealed beneath is an entire Roman necropolis, where a museum features the remains of tombs and previous churches on which Sveta Sofia was built! We’ll also see the beautiful Russian Church with its green-tiled roof, golden domes and glittering mosaics. The ruins of ancient Serdica are scattered across the city – and it’s exhilarating uncovering them at the eponymous metro station! Surrounded by the bustle of modern life are fragments of eight streets, an Early-Christian basilica, plus houses and baths from the fourth to the sixth centuries. Close by is Sofia’s only functioning mosque, the splendid 16th-century Banya Bashi with its red-brick minaret, designed Plovdiv Roman Amphitheatre

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN SOFIA Arrive at the airport for your flight to Sofia. On arrival, we transfer by coach to the four-star superior Hilton Sofia, where we stay for three nights with breakfast. The hotel is centrally located opposite the

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by the chief Ottoman architect responsible for the Selimiye Mosque in Turkey. Then there’s the Largo, an intriguing ensemble of Stalinist edifices including the former Communist Party House, an impressive neoclassical structure that stands testament to Bulgaria’s communist period. We then drive southwest to the affluent suburb of Boyana to visit Sofia’s most revered church and one of Bulgaria’s first UNESCO-listed sites, the 10th-century Boyana Church. Miraculously spared destruction by the Ottomans, it is renowned for its incredible frescoes, some of the most complete and perfectly preserved examples of European medieval art, comparable to the masterpieces of the Renaissance, yet preceding them by over a century. We also visit the National History Museum, the largest in the Balkans, which houses fascinating exhibits from 4000 BC to the present. Not to be missed are the spectacular Thracian gold treasures. Later we return to the city centre with free time to relax or further explore on your own. So densely packed with monuments is Sofia that every step reveals a new discovery. Perhaps visit the superb National Archaeological Museum whose intriguing façade, fronted by relics, belongs to a 15th-century Ottoman mosque. Step inside and admire the extensive collection of artefacts from the empires that have occupied the city. Look out for the fourth century BC Thracian burial mask and the original mosaic floor from the Sveta Sofia church. For a change of scenery, Sofia’s many manicured parks and gardens offer a refreshing respite. DAY 3 – RILA MONASTERY This morning we drive south to the foothills of the Rila mountains, called ‘mountains of water’ by the Thracians for the pristine glacial lakes that glisten between the peaks. Rising from a forested valley against a backdrop of misty mountains is the outstanding Rila Monastery, recognised by UNESCO for its historic significance. Founded in the 10th century by St John the hermit, the monastery

Alexander Nevsky Church

became Bulgaria’s spiritual and cultural centre in the Middle Ages. Having survived several sackings by the Ottomans and a terrible fire in 1833, with donations from the wealthy and the masses funding its rebuilding, the monastery has come to symbolise the indomitable Bulgarian spirit. During our tour, we’ll stroll through the fortresslike complex under black-and-white striped archways supported by elegant colonnades. Beneath the church’s large domes are vivid frescoes depicting religious scenes, which our guide will bring to life. Included is a visit to the monastery museum, where there’s a wonderful display of manuscripts, icons

and some of the nation’s first printed books. Don’t miss the sublime Rafail’s Cross – 104 religious scenes featuring 650 miniature figures were painstakingly carved on a wooden crucifix measuring a mere 81cm by 43cm! For a glimpse of life in the brotherhood, you may wish to wander through the old kitchens and see its vast cauldrons. After a fascinating journey back through time, we return to Sofia in the late afternoon. DAY 4 – PLOVDIV We depart Sofia after breakfast and travel east to Plovdiv, possibly Bulgaria’s prettiest city and Bachkovo Monastery

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undeniably its artistic and cultural capital, well-poised to be a European Capital of Culture in 2019. Plovdiv is also the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe – the remains of settlements dating to 7000 BC were discovered around the area! Although it’s been nicknamed ‘the city of seven hills’, you may struggle to find them all as one was demolished a century ago to accommodate expansion. It’s easy to spot three of these hills, which inspired the Romans to name the city Trimontium. Today we learn about Plovdiv’s rich history on a walking tour of the historic centre, filled with colourful National Revival mansions from the 19th century that now house interesting museums and galleries. We’ll soon see the ancient Roman amphitheatre, one of the world’s best-preserved and simply astonishing to behold. Capable of hosting up to 7,000 spectators, its 28 concentric rows of marble seats face south towards the city with fine uninterrupted views of the breathtaking Rhodope Mountains. It’s still a magical venue today for concerts and opera performances. Nearby are the remains of the ancient stadium of Philippopolis, named after Philip II of Macedonia. Today most of it is buried beneath the main pedestrian street, but the excavated northern end can be viewed in the city square. Overlooking the carefully restored remains is the grand Dzhumaya Mosque, the country’s first, built in the 14th century with an imposing minaret towering more than 75 feet high. To the east is one of the gates of Philippopolis, initially constructed during the reign of Hadrian. There’s time to explore at your own pace. Delve deeper into Bulgaria’s past at the Archaeological Museum and observe its compelling collection of Thracian and Roman artefacts. For art aficionados, there’s a wonderful gallery of antiques, as well as paintings by local artists at the Balabanov House, one of Plovdiv’s most beautiful National Revival-era mansions. Perhaps join the locals on a refreshing stroll through the lovely Tsar Simeon Garden, or head to the lively Kapana artistic quarter, lined with excellent restaurants and cafés. Our stay in Plovdiv is at the four-star Ramada Plovdiv Trimontium for two nights with breakfast. Located near the main shopping area and facing the ancient amphitheatre, the hotel has a restaurant and bar, as well as indoor and outdoor pools. Some departures will stay at the four-star Imperial Plovdiv Hotel situated less than a mile from the Roman theatre. Set in a spacious private garden, the hotel features a restaurant serving international cuisine, plus a bar and lounge area, and a range of spa facilities. Tonight we enjoy an included dinner at a local restaurant. DAY 5 – BACHKOVO MONASTERY & WINE TASTING This morning we head south through the scenic Chepelare river valley to the foothills of the majestic Holy Mountain of the Rhodopes, named so for the abundance of religious sites in the area. Here we visit the oldest and most important monastery, famed for its beautiful frescoes by Zahari Zograf, arguably the most famous Bulgarian painter of the National Revival. The UNESCO-listed Bachkovo Monastery was founded in 1083 and its two-storey ossuary, unique in the entire Eastern Orthodox world, still survives from this time. We’ll see the Church of the Holy Archangels, a rare example of a double-storey building from the 12th to 14th centuries. Within the main cathedral is the treasured icon of Virgin Mary, which attracts queues of pilgrims who believe in its miracle-working powers. The museum of the Bachkovo Monastery contains rare religious artefacts from different periods.

Plovdiv

One of the most interesting areas of the complex is the refectory, whose walls and ceilings are adorned with paintings of some of the most celebrated thinkers, such as Socrates and Aristotle. After our visit we continue to the Thracian lowlands, one of Bulgaria’s most notable wine regions. Protected from harsh winds by the immense Balkan Mountains, the temperate climate here is ideal for producing quality varieties of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and the famous local wine, Mavrud. It may come as a surprise to discover that Bulgaria has been making wines for a thousand years, and under communist rule, the country was the world’s secondlargest exporter. To sample some wonderful local varieties and learn more about Bulgarian viticulture, we visit a local producer. Later we return to Plovdiv with free time to make the most of our final evening. Perhaps browse the delightful shops for some souvenirs, or dine at one of the city’s many superb restaurants. You may wish to revisit the Roman theatre nearby at sundown to admire Plovdiv and the Rhodope Mountains bathed in the soft glow of the setting sun – a memorable conclusion to our compelling tour. Bulgaria is renowned for its quality rose oil

DAY 6 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to Sofia airport for your flight home.

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2018 DEPARTURES ONLY

D I J O N , LYO N & THE BEST OF B U R G U N DY 8 days from only £999pp

Experience Burgundy’s many riches, taking in Dijon’s architectural treasures, winetasting in Beaune and Vienne’s Roman heritage. Add in France’s culinary capital, Lyon, and some of its most beautiful villages… it’s a journey to satisfy all the senses. Beautiful Burgundy is the quintessential place to experience the French passion for exquisite food and wine, enjoyed in the splendour of its captivating landscape. On this wonderfully varied tour you’ll experience glorious scenery, world-renowned vineyards and vibrant cities steeped in cultural and gastronomic excellence, but you’ll also discover the fascinating stories behind them. We take in no fewer than four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the 12th-century Fontenay Abbey, France’s oldest surviving Cistercian foundation. Our thoughtfully balanced itinerary takes you to Burgundy’s wine capital, Beaune. We also take in the picture-postcard charm of Flavigny-surOzerain, officially recognised as one of France’s most beautiful villages. The centre of Dijon, the handsome Burgundian capital, offers a wealth of architectural grandeur, but there are also secluded streets with historical tales to tell. Our tour begins in the food-lover’s paradise of Lyon, famous for its traditional bistro-style bouchons and Michelin-starred restaurants, but also unforgettable for the intimate beauty of the restored old town. We also marvel at the fabulously ostentatious 17th-century Château de Cormatin and follow the famous Route des Grands Crus. Like Lyon, Burgundy boasts dozens of Michelinstarred restaurants, a true reflection of the culture, traditions and love of the finer things in life that make this corner of France irresistible to the discerning traveller. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN LYON Fly to Lyon, or travel by Eurostar and high-speed TGV train to Lyon. We stay for three nights at the four-

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star Mercure Lyon Centre Saxe Lafayette Hotel, with daily breakfast and one dinner on a night of your choice (subject to availability). On the other evenings you’re free to sample Lyon’s many and varied eateries. The centrally located hotel offers free Wi-Fi and a small indoor pool..

walk to another highlight – the well-preserved Temple of Augustus and Livia, the former centre of the Roman town and notable for its striking Corinthian columns. Wherever you wander there are many places to sit, enjoy a coffee and watch the world go by before we return to Lyon.

DAY 2 – LYON & VIENNE After breakfast, we meet our local guide for a walking tour of Lyon, France’s third-largest city, that brings its intriguing history to life. Nestling at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers, Lyon was founded by the Romans in 43 BC. The production of silk brought Lyon back to prominence during the Middle Ages and throughout the city you can see representations of the wealth that poured in – Renaissance buildings, imposing churches and Europe’s largest pedestrian square, La Place Bellecour, with a raised statue of King Louis XIV as its focus. Lyon is also renowned as the gastronomic capital of France. And if you ask one of the passionate locals they’ll tell you that the best food in France means the best on the planet! Don’t leave without sampling Lyonnaise specialities in a welcoming bouchon, a kind of restaurant typical of the area, where hearty dishes are served in a convivial atmosphere. In the afternoon we visit Vienne, an ancient stronghold on the banks of the Rhône with an abundance of antique monuments. It’s a fascinating place to explore on foot and you’ve ample free time to discover its treasures. Vienne was an important Celtic, then Roman, settlement and the Théâtre Romain in the east of the city was among the largest in Gaul, with a capacity of around 11,000. It’s a 10-minute

DAY 3 – FREE DAY IN LYON What a location for a day at your leisure, and so much to explore. The Rue Juiverie is famous for some of France’s foremost Renaissance mansions; the Musée des Beaux Arts’ outstanding collection includes works by Matisse and Picasso. Film enthusiasts will adore the Musée Miniature et Cinéma and its astonishing tiny renderings of scenes that include the legendary Maxim’s restaurant in Paris. Perhaps ride the funicular up to the 19th-century Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière or relax on a boat ride and admire the city from different perspectives.


Explore medieval Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy

DAY 4 – CLUNY, CHATEAU DE CORMATIN & BEAUNE Heading north, we cross into Burgundy. Our first stop is the town of Cluny, enveloped by gorgeous countryside, sleepy villages and Romanesque churches. Cluny owes its fame to its 10th-century Benedictine Abbey, which once exercised considerable power over political affairs across medieval Europe. Enough of the abbey remains for you to see how it represented a spiritual, intellectual, artistic and political hub. The focus then switches from history to horse racing. The nearby National Stud Farm was set up in 1807 to meet the demands of Emperor Napoleon’s armies, but today its pedigree horses are bred for racing. After lunch, we drive to Château de Cormatin for a guided visit around this sumptuous 17th-century architectural icon. Originally a medieval fortress controlling the road to Cluny Abbey, it was replaced by this lavish mansion. Complete with moat and formal gardens, the château consists of three residential wings arranged in a horseshoe shape, with an imposing entrance and drawbridge on the fourth side. Beyond the extravagant exterior are opulent Louis XIII-style apartments preceded by a grand staircase. We then continue to Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy. For the next four nights we stay at the ideally located four-star Mercure Beaune Centre Hotel, with breakfast and one dinner on the night of your choice subject to availability. This modern hotel offers free Wi-Fi and an outdoor swimming pool (subject to seasonal openings). Dinner is included for one evening of your choice at the hotel restaurant. Places are limited, so please book in advance. For other evening meals, the nearby town centre offers a wide choice of highly rated restaurants.

PRICE INCLUDES • Discover the delights of Lyon, France’s food capital, on foot with a knowledgeable local guide • Explore Fontenay, France’s oldest preserved Cistercian abbey, and the exquisitely beautiful village of Flavigny sur-Ozerain • Enjoy a guided walking tour of medieval Beaune, the heart of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or wine-producing region • Taste Burgundy’s fabled wines on a tour of the cellars of a leading winemaker • Witness the architectural splendours of Dijon while a local guide illuminates their histories • Step back in time to experience the Roman heritage of the ancient stronghold of Vienne • Experience the unhurried pace of life in Cluny, once home to Europe’s most powerful Benedictine monastery • Visit the magnificent 17th-century Château de Cormatin and wonder at its beautifully preserved Louis XIII style interiors

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports or train travel by Eurostar and high-speed TGV plus all hotel transfers Seven nights in well-located four-star accommodation, inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast and two dinners The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

Naturally, no visit here is complete without sampling Burgundy’s world-famous wines. In the afternoon, therefore, we visit the cellars of one of the region’s most traditional winemakers for an exclusive tour and tasting. DAY 6 – FONTENAY ABBEY & FLAVIGNY-SUROZERAIN In the morning we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fontenay Abbey. Founded by French abbot Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and his companions in 1118, it is now recognised as the oldest preserved Cistercian abbey in the world. As you explore this beautifully restored complex of buildings, the austere monastic existence of centuries past really comes to life. We continue to Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, regularly listed on the highly prized list of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ (The Most Beautiful Villages of France). As you wander through the narrow cobbled streets, traces of the Middle Ages can still be seen: large sections of a great medieval wall still envelop the village. If you detect a pleasing aroma on the breeze, follow the scent of aniseed to the former abbey, where artisans still make the local speciality, aniseedflavoured sweets known as Anis de Flavigny. After time to explore here, we return to Beaune for the evening. DAY 7 – DIJON This morning we travel to Dijon along the scenic Route des Grands Crus, the region’s most famous wine road. Dijon has been the capital of Burgundy since the 5th century and this morning we have a fascinating walking tour of its many highlights, led by a local guide, for a unique insight into the history and architecture of this splendid city. In this former home of the Dukes of Burgundy, so plentiful are the well-preserved monuments that the whole city centre is protected with UNESCO World Heritage status. Nearby, the spire of Dijon Cathedral, another Gothic jewel and a French national monument, pierces the skyline. In the afternoon you’re free to explore Dijon’s gems at your leisure. History-lovers can wander through time on the Owl’s Trail, a 22-stage heritage exploration of the city’s storied centre. There’s still time to pick up a gastronomic souvenir from the shops, such as the mustard and cassis for which the city is famous. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to Lyon for your return flight or to Dijon for your return train journey. Vineyards of Burgundy

FROM £999PP DAY 5 – BEAUNE & WINE-TASTING After breakfast we immerse ourselves on a walking tour of Beaune, led by a knowledgeable guide, who’ll explain the city’s history and how the wine industry has become such an important feature of life here. Beaune is surrounded by some of the Côte-d’Or wine area’s most revered villages and so deep does the appreciation of wine run here that one of the city’s most anticipated annual events is the Beaune Wine Festival, where a prestigious wine auction is organised by Christie’s of London. You have plenty of time to explore Beaune’s charming medieval atmosphere and the many gems it has to offer. One of the sights we’ll see is the iconic Hospices de Beaune, also known as the Hôtel-Dieu. Originally built in the 15th century as a hospital for the disadvantaged, it’s a jewel of High Gothic architecture, instantly recognisable for its colourful glazed roof tiles arranged in dazzling geometric patterns.

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DORDOGNE, ALBI & CARCASSONNE 8 days from only £1,049pp

Experience the Dordogne’s famously picturesque scenery and honeycoloured villages, the faithfully recreated prehistoric rock paintings at Lascaux IV, magnificent architecture and the art of Toulouse-Lautrec in Albi, and perhaps the world’s most perfect medieval citadel at Carcassonne. Immerse yourself in deepest rural France on this exhilarating tour taking in glorious countryside, perfectly preserved ancient villages, prehistoric rock art and spectacular medieval citadels. The Dordogne is a hauntingly beautiful region of undulating landscapes covered with dense forests of oak, walnut and chestnut and slashed by deep, twisting gorges that have been carved out by sparkling trout-filled rivers. The terrain is characterised by dry-stone walls, isolated farmhouses and honey-coloured medieval villages that burst into life on market days just as they have done for centuries. As we move south to the towns of Albi and Carcassonne you’ll observe the terrain gradually changing to a palette of pale yellows and ochres, with endless fields of the instantly recognisable sunflowers so typical of southern France. Evidence of the region’s long and varied history is everywhere. From the dawn of human civilisation come the remarkable prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux; the intricacy of the works and the skill on display are astonishing and are faithfully reproduced

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Marqueyssac Gardens


PRICE INCLUDES • Explore medieval Sarlat, one of the Dordogne’s most picturesque towns • Learn the story of the prehistoric cave paintings of our ancestors at Lascaux IV, a faithfully reproduced replica cave • Enjoy a tour of Albi, home town of the artist Toulouse-Lautrec, with a local guide • Take a guided walking tour of the fairy-tale 13th-century citadel of Carcassonne • Visit to Beynac Castle, 12th century fortress • Relax on a trip along the Dordogne River on a traditional flat-bottomed boat • Visit some of France’s most attractive medieval villages, including Domme, Rocamadour and La Roque-Gageac • Stroll around the magnificent formal gardens of Marqueyssac • Admire the fabled architecture and fortified bridge of Cahors

Plus, of course... • • •

Return travel from a selection of regional airports or by Eurostar and Intercités train, plus all hotel transfers Seven nights in four-star and threestar superior accommodation, inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast and five dinners The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £1,049PP

a wonderfully benign climate, the Dordogne and southern France provide immense satisfaction for the refined traveller. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN SARLAT Arrive at the airport for your flight to Toulouse or Carcassonne, or at the station for your train journey via Paris to Souillac. We transfer by coach to one of the Dordogne’s loveliest towns, Sarlat, where we stay four nights at the three-star superior Hotel Relais de Moussidière, with breakfast and dinner. Originally a 17th-century farmhouse, the hotel is beautifully located in 15 acres of picturesque grounds. Take a walk around its two lakes, look out for deer and a variety of birdlife or simply relax by the outdoor swimming pool (open during summer months, weather permitting). Inside you’ll find a wealth of exposed beams, antique furniture and terracotta tiles that reflect the rustic ambience of the region. The rest of the day is free at your leisure. DAY 2 – SARLAT & LASCAUX After breakfast we get an insight into the fascinating history of Sarlat on a walking tour of this ancient market town. It grew after a Benedictine monastery was built there in the early 9th century during the reign of Charlemagne. As we meander through the atmospheric cobbled streets, we’ll discover how the town was shaped by the various conflicts that brought upheaval to the Dordogne in the Middle Ages. A stunning architectural jewel, Sarlat’s handsome medieval buildings – including the imposing Cathedral of Saint Sacerdos – are constructed from luminous local golden stone and line a maze of cobbled streets. Such is its striking state of preservation, Sarlat has been the setting for a host of period feature films, including Les Misérables and Joan of Arc. The town’s

Discover some of France’s most picturesque villages

in a replica cave. The Romans ruled over this area of France for over 400 years and introduced the vine … which was naturally adopted with gusto! You’ll find legacies of the turbulent Middle Ages everywhere – Charlemagne, the Catholic Church’s quest to suppress the Cathars, the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of Religion have all shaped this part of ancient France. Today splendid walled towns – particularly the fairytale turrets and ramparts of 13th-century Carcassonne – and hilltop castles are a delight to explore; it’s hard to imagine that these tranquil locations were once so tempestuous. Art and culture are an ever-present theme, too, from today’s numerous local craftsmen to historic religious works, such as those in the resplendent Gothic cathedral at Albi. This beautiful old town nestles serenely on the banks of the majestic Tarn River and was the birthplace of Toulouse-Lautrec, whose evocative works can be seen in a gallery dedicated to the Post-Impressionist. Culturally stimulating, naturally arresting and blessed with

Carcassonne

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Albi

street life is especially vibrant – observe locals tasting delicious market produce: pungent cheeses, fine charcuterie and colourful ripe vegetables. Watch friends meet in the street, kiss on both cheeks and then catch up on the local gossip… Sarlat is provincial France at its most quintessential. This afternoon we travel back around 17,000 years to prehistoric France and the famous cave of Lascaux. This UNESCO World Heritage Site near the village of Montignac is an elaborate cave system where chambers, galleries and shafts are adorned with almost 2,000 Upper Paleolithic paintings and engraved figures. Described by a local cave art scholar as the ‘Sistine Chapel of prehistory’, the chambers were only discovered in 1940, but have been closed to the public since 1963 to prevent degradation of the immensely delicate works. What we experience when we visit the recently opened International Centre for Cave Art (Lascaux 4) adjacent to the original cave is equally impressive – an exact copy of the decorated caverns that took three years to recreate. Sarlat

We discover the story of the four teenagers who stumbled across the cave and – through screens, interactive tablets and the latest 3D technology – are taken back nearly 20,000 years to the prehistoric Vézère Valley. We then enter the replica cave for a truly unforgettable experience – the muffled sounds, eerie light and cool temperature are reproduced exactly as in the original cavern, while astonishingly detailed drawings of humans, symbols and animals – including horses, bulls and stags – decorate the walls. You’ll have the opportunity to draw using the same tools and techniques employed by the Stone Age cave artists, touch original artefacts found by archaeologists around Lascaux and enjoy a 3D film that shines a light on some of the cave’s major artworks. It’s a strikingly realistic and thoughtprovoking experience, one that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. DAY 3 – ROCAMADOUR & MARQUEYSSAC Today we follow the picturesque Dordogne River

before branching south to one of France’s most recognisable sights – the dramatic medieval cliffside village of Rocamadour. As we round the twisting, ascending lanes, the view of this near-vertical settlement with its buildings hewn into a canyon overlooking the Alzou River will take your breath away. In the 12th century a reported miracle in the town, plus the discovery of a body purported to be that of Saint Amadour, led to Rocamadour becoming an important pilgrimage site. Churches, chapels and grottoes sprang up on this rocky outcrop as the ‘Lourdes of its time’ attracted countless pilgrims (including several English and French monarchs) keen to experience its healing powers. You’ll have the opportunity to wander Rocamadour’s pretty cobbled streets and see its many impressive buildings, including Saint-Sauveur Basilica, the Palace of the Bishops and the Chapel of Notre Dame, which houses a statue of the Black Madonna. Our next stop is Marqueyssac and its spectacular ‘hanging gardens’. As you walk along the many paths that meander through this wonderful display of 150,000 hand-clipped box hedges you pass dry-stone huts, pretty benches and water features, with wafts of lavender and rosemary filling the air. Ornamental species, cypresses and pines break the manicured relief, while the Belvedere balcony – situated at an elevation of 630 feet – offers a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the beautiful Dordogne Valley. DAY 4 – BEYNAC, DOMME & LA ROQUEGAGEAC Within a couple of graceful meanders of the Dordogne River are a number of destinations that embody the absorbing blend of dramatic natural features, centuries-old history and varied cultural delights that make this one of France’s most beguiling regions. First we visit Beynac and the imposing chateau that towers above this classic medieval village. The 12th-century fortress became a regional stronghold in the Middle Ages and was the site of clashes involving the English – including briefly being captured by Richard the Lionheart – and Simon de Montfort’s anti-Cathar religious crusade, while Beynac village was at the heart of a late 16th-century peasant’s revolt. Today it’s exceptionally peaceful, and you’ll adore the views from the castle down into the valley and the maze of narrow alleys and squares of the village below.

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We continue to the magnificent walled town of Domme, another settlement with a turbulent past. You’ll have the opportunity to wander around its impressive gates and fortifications – including the prison where the Knights Templars were imprisoned in the 14th century – and the handsome dwellings and delightful covered market of the Place de la Halle. Nestling next to the river with its cream-coloured stone houses, picture-perfect La Roque-Gageac is one of France’s loveliest villages. Here we board a gabare – a traditional flat-bottomed river boat historically used for transporting wine amongst other things – for a relaxing trip along the Dordogne and experiencing a taste of the way of life that once dominated the region. DAY 5 – CAHORS This morning we say goodbye to the Dordogne and travel southeast to the delightful Roman city of Cahors, renowned throughout France for its delicious red wines and fine truffles, but also for its architecture, especially the 14th-century Pont Valentré, a breathtaking fortified bridge with three towers and seven arches that majestically spans the Lot River. We continue to the stunning hilltop citadel of Carcassonne where we stay three nights, with breakfast and one dinner. The two hotels we have chosen are both owned by the same family with three generations of experience behind them. The four-star Mercure Porte de la Cité is set just outside the walls of La Cité (the citadel), making exploration easy. It features contemporary rooms, an outdoor swimming pool for use in the summer season and a restaurant overlooking a terrace, from where you can enjoy views of Carcassonne with a refreshing drink. Within the walls is the three-star superior Hotel Le Donjon, which consists of three separate medieval buildings. A superb renovation programme has resulted in every room being uniquely decorated to reflect the buildings’ 15th-century features – traditional terracotta tiles, exposed beams and beautiful stonework all combine with the features of a modern hotel. Some dates will stay in Albi at the four-star hotel Saint-Antoine. This comfortable hotel is centrally located just a few minutes’ walk from the sights and

morning’s guided tour will evoke a real sense of history as we visit a number of magnificent structures, including the Castle of the Counts, Basilica SaintNazaire Saint-Selse and La Cité’s two imposing gates, one of which incorporates a drawbridge. The afternoon is yours to enjoy Carcassonne’s old world atmosphere – sipping a pastis at a traditional bar, it’s easy to image knights on horseback riding past into the fortress.

Toulouse-Lautrec museum, Albi

has a quality restaurant. The rooms are very well appointed as you would expect, with many furnished with tasteful antiques. Ideal to relax in after some sightseeing are the peaceful, flower adorned gardens at the rear. DAY 6 – CARCASSONNE France is home to many historic walled towns, but few can match the visual splendour of Carcassonne. Situated on a rocky outcrop on the banks of the Aude River, its magnificent UNESCO-listed La Cité is surrounded by 52 roofed towers and serrated battlements that top almost two miles of doubleenclosure walls. The Romans constructed the original wall on the site, with the citadel rebuilt and restructured to varying degrees over hundreds of years. However, by the 19th century it had become a crumbling ruin and in the 1840s the French government decided that it should be razed to the ground. After a public outcry, a 50-year restoration project led by famed architect Eugène Viollet-leDuc returned the fortress to its former glory. This

DAY 7 – ALBI Today we explore beautiful Albi, where the graceful greenery of the Dordogne has given way to the more Mediterranean ambience of rugged hillsides, sunflowers and the scent of wild herbs in the warm air. Nestling on the banks of the Tarn River, Albi brims with wonderfully preserved medieval architecture reflecting an intriguing history that includes a period where Catharism flourished. This religious group held beliefs – including the worship of two gods – that put it at odds with the ruling Catholic Church. The Pope declared the Cathars heretics and initiated a successful 13th-century crusade against them, resulting in Albi becoming a powerful episcopal centre. You’ll find the clearest evidence of this in the stunning Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, whose 256-foot tower dominates the town. Our illuminating tour of Albi by a knowledgeable local guide includes a visit to the cathedral, which was the world’s largest brick structure when it was built in the 13th century. Its sumptuous interior is simply breathtaking, housing gorgeous frescoes by Italian Renaissance artists, France’s largest classical organ and a huge mural of The Last Judgement. Nearby is the Palais de la Berbie, a grand structure built for the medieval Bishops of Albi, which today houses a museum dedicated to Albi’s greatest artist, Toulouse-Lautrec. This afternoon you’re free at your leisure – a trip to the museum to see more than 1,000 of the artist’s works is highly recommended. Alternatively you could simply amble around Albi’s old town (another UNESCO World Heritage Site), with its attractive red-brick buildings, impressive 11th-century bridge and authentic Gallic ambience. DAY 7 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport or station for your flight home.

Pont Valentre

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MONET’S GARDEN, T H E L O I R E VA L L E Y & F O N TA I N E B L E A U 7 days from only £699pp

An inspirational tour taking in the beauty of Claude Monet’s garden, the royal opulence of Fontainebleau and the architectural splendour of the Loire’s châteaux, together with exquisite landscapes, an unhurried pace of life and incomparable wines. The Loire Valley is simply one of the most beautiful and captivating regions of France. Just the mention of its name conjures up wonderful images – verdant landscapes, superb wines and the many artists, kings and queens who shaped the region’s history. And then there are the châteaux. The translation ‘castles’ doesn’t do them justice; once they were the epitome of aristocratic excess, now they’re revered as architectural jewels. We visit the best: Chenonceau, Villandry and Chinon – all unique and with extraordinary tales to tell. Then there’s the splendour of the Palace of Fontainebleau, a château of such magnitude and grandeur it rivals any of the great palaces in Europe. The scenery is stunning too, and it’s with good reason that the Loire is known as the ‘Garden of France’. The perfect climate produces golden colours of ripening crops, plentiful harvests of plums, apples and, of course, grapes. The area is renowned for its wines, the likes of Muscadet, Rosé d’Anjou, Vouvray and Sancerre. You’ll get to sample some superb examples at an award-winning cellar in Saumur. History abounds here. Reminders of Richard the Lionheart, Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years’ War are all around, while Fontevraud Abbey gracefully justifies its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The scientific legacies we’ll see at Leonardo da Vinci’s former home in the gorgeous riverside town of Amboise provide a fascinating contrast.

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The beauty of the Loire has inspired many artists, and our tour begins with a visit to the house and garden of the influential Impressionist, Claude Monet. All this and much more – this tour evokes the romance of centuries past while showcasing the charms of life in the Loire today, where local people seem to have mastered the art of relaxed, civilised living – this is French provincial life at its best. Chartres Cathedral

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN VERNON Arrive at London St Pancras International and take the Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord. We then transfer by coach to the pretty town of Vernon to stay one night at the three-star Hotel Normandy, with breakfast and dinner. DAY 2 – MONET’S HOUSE & CHARTRES Claude Monet’s paintings are some of the most exquisite and familiar works of art ever produced, and to witness first-hand the spectacular displays of colour at the artist’s house and garden at Giverny is an unforgettable experience. In the Japaneseinspired water garden, shaded by a great willow tree and surrounded by bamboo, rhododendrons and azaleas, is the lily pond where he painted his famous Les Nymphéas (Water Lilies) series. Little surprise he referred to the garden as ‘my most beautiful masterpiece’. The interior of the house, including the artist’s studio, is similarly outstanding. We continue to Chartres and its awe-inspiring Gothic cathedral, described by UNESCO as ‘a masterpiece of human creative genius’; its many treasures include 176 stained-glass windows dating from the 12th and 13th centuries. Arriving later in the picturesque city of Tours, we stay for four nights with breakfast at the four-star Novotel Tours Centre Gare with breakfast.


Explore Fontainebleau, one of the Loire Valley’s most beautiful chateaux

PRICE INCLUDES • Explore Claude Monet’s delightful house and gardens and see the famous water lily pond and Japanese bridge • Visit the finest châteaux in the Loire – Chinon, Chenonceau and Villandry • Savour the grandeur of the Palace of Fontainebleau, called the ‘house of the centuries’ by Napoleon • Marvel at Europe’s finest stained glass in Chartres’ stunning Gothic cathedral • Experience the relaxed ambience and half-timbered houses of Tours on a guided tour of this historic city • See Leonardo da Vinci’s house and many of his inventions in the former royal stronghold of Amboise • Sample the Loire’s fabled wines on a visit to a world-renowned cellar in Saumur

vineyards surrounding Saumur, and this afternoon we visit the Ackerman wine cellars for a tasting of their award-winning wines.

DAY 3 – TOURS & CHENONCEAU After breakfast we enjoy a guided walking tour of the historic centre of Tours, a jumble of streets dotted with half-timbered houses and graced with a fine cathedral. The city dates back to the Gallo-Roman period, later becoming the occasional capital of France and seat of the French monarchy. A short drive away is perhaps the Loire’s most romantic château – Chenonceau. Known as the Château des Dames after the succession of powerful royal ladies who influenced its architecture, it elegantly spans the Cher River, creating the most magical reflections in its waters. Later we return to Tours and tonight we dine in a carefully selected traditional restaurant.

DAY 5 – CHINON & VILLANDRY Visually and historically, the town of Chinon is dominated by the imposing château. It was here in 1429 that national heroine Joan of Arc first met the Dauphin, the future King Charles VII, in a pivotal moment in the Hundred Years’ War. You’ve time to explore its cobbled streets, with painted half-timbered and stone buildings at every turn. After lunch we visit Château de Villandry. The castle itself is stunning, but what make it unforgettable are its formal gardens – often regarded as the finest in France. Set over three terraces and interspersed with tree-lined promenades and waterways, they’re a perfect tapestry of clipped box hedges, flower gardens and – most amazingly of all – the vegetable garden, arranged in mesmerising symmetrical patterns. It’s incredibly relaxing to wander here, perhaps finding a quiet shady bench to admire the beauty all around you. DAY 6 – AMBOISE & LE CLOS LUCE Amboise is a beguiling medieval market town on the banks of the Loire, dominated by its grand honey-

• Tour Fontevraud Abbey, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site, with an expert guide

Plus, of course... • Return rail connections available on selected dates from over 50 regional stations (a supplement may apply) and return reserved Eurostar travel from London St Pancras, plus all hotel transfers • Six nights in three-star to four-star accommodation, inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast and three dinners (one will be taken at a traditional, local restaurant) • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £699PP coloured château. Tucked away in one of its streets is Le Clos Lucé, where the great Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years at the invitation of King Francis I. It’s a fascinating place – four of the rooms feature working recreations of his inventions, including a flying machine, while larger-scale versions are located around the relaxing gardens. This evening we stay at the four-star Mercure Portes de Sologne, with dinner and breakfast. DAY 7 – FONTAINEBLEAU & RETURN HOME After breakfast we visit the Palace of Fontainebleau. Set in 130 acres of parklands and gardens south of Paris, it boasts over 1,500 rooms and eight centuries of royal history. Fontainebleau is as fabulously opulent – even outrageous – as you can imagine, with sumptuous living apartments, intricate frescoes, parquet floors inlaid with exotic woods, elegant furniture and countless artistic treasures. In 1814 Emperor Napoleon, who called Fontainebleau the ‘house of the centuries’, addressed his troops from the horseshoe-shaped entrance steps before going into exile. Full of wonder at this grand finale to our tour, we drive to Paris and return to London by Eurostar.

Monet’s Garden

DAY 4 – FONTEVRAUD ABBEY & SAUMUR This morning we explore Fontevraud Abbey with an expert guide, whose indepth knowledge will enrich the whole experience. Perhaps the most impressive monastery in France, Fontevraud was founded at the turn of the 12th century and was the burial place of King Henry II, his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine and their son, Richard the Lionheart; you can see their painted recumbent statues. Later we head to Saumur, a lovely town on the banks of the Loire known as the ‘Pearl of Anjou’. It’s a delightful spot to stop for lunch and wander through its history, with a charming old town overlooked by an impressive château. No visit here would be complete without sampling the fruits of the

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MONT BLANC, L A K E G E N E VA & ANNECY 8 days from only £999pp

A wonderful tour covering France, Italy and Switzerland, where magnificent Mont Blanc, mighty glaciers and spectacular alpine scenery contrast with Roman Aosta, medieval Annecy and the charming towns dotting the shores of serene Lake Geneva. Rising in a great wall of granite and schist to form Europe’s largest mountain range, the awe-inspiring Alps have been attracting visitors since the 18th century. Today this breathtakingly beautiful region is as captivating as ever, as you’ll discover on an invigorating tour that visits France, Switzerland and Italy. The resort town of Chamonix nestles among the sweet-scented pine forests at the foot of mighty Mont Blanc, at 4,810 m (15,780 feet), Western Europe’s highest peak. From here you’ll discover a perfect blend of historic towns, ice-blue lakes and twisting mountain roads with panoramic views of some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. You’ll gaze in wonder at the scale of immense glaciers; drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel to stunning Aosta which boasts some of northern Italy’s finest Roman remains; and stroll around photogenic Annecy, famed for its picturesque castle, canals and lake. Lake Geneva’s shoreline is studded with charming

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places to explore, such as elegant belle-époque Evian, source of the eponymous water, and Yvoire, a quintessential medieval lakeside village. The finale of this invigorating tour takes us over the high Alps to the stunning Swiss Riviera, where we visit the majestic Château de Chillon, immortalised by Byron and resplendent on its lakeside outcrop, just crying out to be explored. Our base at Chamonix held the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and retains a delightful alpine atmosphere, its cosy bistros offering wholesome regional specialities that have fuelled the hardy locals for centuries. Visitors here are guests in the spectacular natural theatre of the Alps, with countless simple pleasures to savour. Take a walk or cable car for jaw-dropping views of the terrain as the sun slowly sinks behind the summits. And, as the light fades and shadows lengthen on the mountains, you’re treated to one of Mother Nature’s loveliest spectacles – the gradual tinting of the lofty peaks in wonderful rose-


PRICE INCLUDES • Tour the alpine regions of France, Switzerland and Italy, staying in the classic mountain town of Chamonix • Ride the Montenvers cog railway to the dramatic Mer de Glace, France’s largest glacier • Take Europe’s highest cable car to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi for breathtaking views of Mont Blanc and the highest peaks in the Alps • Enjoy a guided walking tour of medieval Annecy, then take a boat cruise on the pure waters of its lake • Visit the superbly preserved castle, Château de Chillon, and relax in lakeside Montreux • Learn about Aosta’s remarkable Roman heritage on a guided walk of this pretty Italian mountain town

in the alpine style. Outside is a terrace, where you can relax with a drink while admiring stunning vistas. The spacious rooms all have balconies and the restaurant serves delicious local dishes as well as international favourites in a contemporary setting; a relaxing bar completes the excellent facilities. The rest of the day will be spent at your leisure.

Admire breathtaking views in charming lakeside villages

• •

Visit enchanting Evian-les-Bains, famed for its natural spring waters, and ancient Yvoire, one of France’s prettiest villages Opportunity to join a complimentary walk from Chamonix

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, or reserved Eurostar and TGV seats, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast and four dinners (two will be taken at your hotel and two in excellent restaurants) • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £999PP PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY See the Alps by helicopter Soar like an eagle and enjoy a stunning, bird’s-eye vista of the Mont Blanc Massif. Viewing the magnificent Alps by helicopter is one of the most awe-inspiring sights you’ll ever experience. From £149pp

DAY 2 – MONT BLANC Our exploration of this glorious region begins when we board the narrow-gauge cog railway that ascends nearly 900 m (3,000 feet) from the valley floor to Montenvers. Climbing through pine-scented forests, across viaducts, over meltwater streams and through tunnels cut through the mountainside, a sense of anticipation mounts until we catch our first glimpse of the tip of France’s largest glacier – the dramatic Mer de Glace, or ‘Sea of Ice’, measuring over 7 km (4 miles long and 650 feet) deep. You have the option of taking a ride on a gondola to the glacier itself, where a cave is carved into the ice. Walking into the cavern and touching its icy walls, you cannot fail to be impressed by the staggering scale of this natural wonder. The adjacent Glaciorium

coloured hues cast by the sunset… an amazing display that will make your heart sing. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN CHAMONIX Arrive at the airport for your flight to Geneva or at London St Pancras International for your Eurostar and TGV high-speed train to Annecy. We transfer by coach to Chamonix where you stay at one of two four-star hotels, Le Refuge des Aiglons or Mercure Centre Chamonix for seven nights, with breakfast and two dinners in your selected hotel plus two dinners at quality local restaurants. Situated next to the Aiguille du Midi cable car, Aiglons has a superb terrace, heated outdoor pool and amazing views of Mont Blanc from panoramic windows in the contemporary lounge and restaurant. Each of the comfortable rooms has a balcony, and the hotel has an impressive spa featuring a sauna, steam room and treatment cabins. The Mercure is located in two facing buildings and, with its extensive use of local wood, is fashioned very much

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the Counts of Geneva. The town has numerous welcoming cafés and restaurants, but for lunch perhaps you might like to picnic on local cheeses, hams and patés by the turquoise waters of Lake Annecy, one of Europe’s purest lakes. In the afternoon we enjoy a tranquil cruise on the lake for a stunning juxtaposition of water and mountains. As we journey back to Chamonix, look out for the red and white Savoyard cross flags and Savoie Libre, or Free Savoy, messages painted on the valley sides – reminders that this passionately independent region only became part of France in 1860.

Aiguille du Midi

is a fascinating exhibition that explains the glacial processes that created the Mer de Glace. Alternatively, simply enjoy a drink in the Glacier Bar and take in the stupendous views, keeping an eye out for alpine birds like nutcrackers and black woodpeckers, deer, mountain goats and perhaps even an ibex. This afternoon is free for you to explore Chamonix, with the option of joining our complimentary guided walk around the area. Cruise on beautiful Lake Annecy

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DAY 3 – ANNECY You can expect more glorious views today as we drive to charming Annecy, where our guided walk reveals the fascinating history of this medieval town. There’s a real sense of ‘getting away from it all’ as we stroll among pastel-coloured, flower-bedecked houses through twisting alleys alongside narrow canals, and admire the magnificent turrets and towers of Annecy’s 13th-century castle, once the court of

DAY 4 – CABLE CAR TO AIGUILLE DU MIDI After breakfast we take an unforgettable trip on the world’s highest-ascending cable car to the top of the Aiguille du Midi peak which, at 3,842 m (12,605 feet), is as close as you can get to the summit of Mont Blanc without climbing the mountain itself. It’s a truly magical experience as we arrive at the breathtaking landscape of snow-capped peaks and jagged granite spires that define the high Alps. The upper section of the two-stage journey offers uninterrupted views of the tumbling ice of the Pelerins glacier and of the Aiguille rock face – look out for climbers below, making the ascent the hard way. Disembarking the cable car you cross a footbridge to a lift, which takes you to a top terrace and the very peak of Aiguille du Midi. This is nature at its most inspiring and the vistas are simply incredible – Mont Blanc, the surrounding massif and, on a clear day, even the Matterhorn and beyond to Western Europe’s


of its external walls and, this being Switzerland, it still works. We then drive along the lake to Montreux, a picturesque resort town surrounded by vineyards and nestled against the Alps. You have free time to wander, so perhaps enjoy a peaceful stroll along the promenade, lined with colourful flowers, Mediterranean trees and belle-époque buildings. Look out for the bronze statue of Freddie Mercury, who fell in love with Montreux and settled here – if you’re a fan, you may wish to try the Queen Studio Experience in the renowned casino. A short walk away from the lake is the Old Town filled with cafés and restaurants, where you can sit and watch the world go by.

Château de Chillon

DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Return to Geneva or Annecy for your journey home.

second-highest mountain, Monte Rosa, nearly 80 km (50 miles) away. You can lunch at one of Europe’s highest restaurants, visit a mountaineering museum or simply identify several glaciers from the panoramic terraces while breathing in the crystalclear air. For those with a real head for heights there’s a chance to experience the ‘Step into the Void’ skywalk, where you can walk on a clear glass floor suspended 900 m (3,000 feet) above the rocks below! DAY 5 – YVOIRE & EVIAN LES BAINS There’s a change of style today as we travel to Lake Geneva. Departing Chamonix in the morning, we visit Yvoire, a 14th-century settlement by the lake that’s simply one of the most beautiful villages in France. Dominated by a turreted castle and a church with a classic alpine onion-shaped steeple, its tangled alleyways are lined with balconied houses billowing with gorgeous wisteria displays. Nearby is the spa town of Evian-les-Bains, whose natural spring waters were held to be a ‘cure-all’ for the kidneys and liver in the 19th century… big news considering France’s love of wine! After doctors began prescribing this ‘medicinal’ water, the first thermal baths were built in 1824 and hotels sprang up to accommodate visitors to the town as Evian became one of the Belle Epoque’s most fashionable destinations. The father of the pioneering filmmakers, the Lumière brothers, built a classic example of grandiose spa architecture here that became the Town Hall, but the jewel in Evian’s crown is the lakeside promenade with its neo-Byzantine casino. As you stroll past grand villas looking out over seductive Lake Geneva and then drink some of the natural mountain water at the famous Cachat spring, it’s easy to imagine how restorative the town must have felt for visitors over a century ago. DAY 6 – AOSTA Today we leave France and travel to Italy via one of Europe’s longest road tunnels, a 11 km (7.2 mile) route through Mont Blanc itself. Though it’s a relatively short journey, on emerging in Italy the differences in style, climate and culture are immediately noticeable. We arrive at the historic town of Aosta, a beguiling mix of ancient culture and yet more spectacular alpine scenery. Founded in 25 BC, it became the Roman capital of the region and we take a guided walk of the rich architectural legacy left by the occupiers. This includes an amphitheatre,

Praetoria Gate and the impressive Arch of Augustus, which was built in honour of the Roman emperor. You’ll have free time to explore Aosta’s wealth of other buildings – don’t miss the ornate cathedral – or just soak up the ambience of this charming Italian mountain town while sipping a cappuccino. DAY 7 – CHATEAU DE CHILLON & MONTREUX This morning we enjoy unforgettable scenery on a drive through the Mont Blanc range, winding down the many hairpins to the fledgling Rhône River, before crossing into Switzerland to Château de Chillon on Lake Geneva. The inspiration for Byron’s poem, ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’, this almost perfectly preserved medieval castle has a picture-perfect location on the water’s edge and is Switzerland’s most visited monument. Great halls, dank dungeons, courtyards, bedrooms and a chapel house a host of original features, including coats of arms, iron fireplaces and crossbows. There’s even a 16th-century clock on one

ALTITUDE NOTE At the top of the Aiguille du Midi, you are 3,842 m (12,568feet) above sea level, so if you have any potential health problems, please consult your doctor before travelling. The rest of the itinerary poses no such problems. COMPLIMENTARY GUIDED WALK An increasing number of you want to stretch your legs whilst away so you may wish to join a complimentary walk. Although it’s not arduous, it is best to have walking shoes or good trainers. Our walk starts in Chamonix and we choose a route to suit our group and the weather. We will walk through the forest and across rivers, giving you a chance to immerse yourself in the area’s beautiful alpine scenery. There are stunning mountain views along the route and our local walking guide will tell us all we need to know about the area, its history and the flora and fauna. We will then return to Chamonix. Our walk can take up to four hours. It’s a leisurely walk but places are strictly limited and must be pre-booked. This is not bookable online so please contact our reservations department for more information or to book.

Aosta

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N I C E , M O N ACO & T H E C Ô T E D ’A Z U R 8 days from only £899pp

Blessed with stunning beaches, glorious weather and gorgeous light, the Côte d’Azur is an irresistible destination where elegant Nice and glamorous Monaco contrast brilliantly with honey-coloured hilltop villages, chic coastal resorts and breathtaking landscapes. Sun-drenched beaches, chic resorts, timeless hilltop villages, a rich historic heritage and superb Mediterranean food – it’s easy to see why the Côte d’Azur casts such a powerful spell. In the 19th century this enchanting corner of France became a retreat for European royalty, aristocracy and artists attracted by its warm climate and the quality of its light. Renoir lived in Cagnes-sur-Mer, Matisse in Nice and Picasso in Antibes. Today in France only Paris has more museums and art galleries than this part of the French Riviera. In its sophisticated resorts ‘being seen’ is part of life, and you’ll follow in famous footsteps on the Promenade des Anglais. This famed walkway on Nice’s seafront, lined with palm trees and fin-de-siècle, Art Deco and Italianate buildings, is the promenade after which all the world’s others are named. The cuisine, especially the seafood, is as legendary as the sunshine, but there’s also an abundance of unforgettable experiences here, from regal palaces to opulent Monaco, the millionaires’ playground whose streets host the legendary Formula 1 race, to eclectic art collections at the Villa Ephrussi. Then there are ancient towns like Antibes and Saint-Paul de Vence mixing with bastide villages, exotic gardens, world-leading perfumeries, yacht-filled marinas and chic shops selling everything from local crafts to luxury brands. Our tour allows you to enjoy selected highlights of the area, with plenty of free time to explore. Whether you’re passionate about art, food, perfumes or gardens – or you simply want to enjoy the good life – you’ll

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soon discover why the Côte d’Azur has become one of the world’s foremost holiday destinations. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN NICE Arrive at the airport for the flight to Nice, ‘capital of the Côte d’Azur’. We transfer by coach to either the four-star Mercure Nice Centre Notre Dame or four-star superior Le Méridien, for seven nights with breakfast. The Mercure Notre Dame is a modern hotel located in the heart of the city off Avenue Jean Medecin, Nice’s main shopping thoroughfare and a ten-minute walk from the sea front. Unusually for such a central hotel it boasts a rooftop swimming pool (open from May to September) and bar plus a Mediterranean garden

Monaco

with many exotic plants to enjoy. The air-conditioned rooms are very comfortable and offer a good range of facilities, including Wi-Fi, satellite TV, tea- and coffeemaking facilities, minibar and safe. The Méridien is probably Nice’s best-located hotel, superbly situated on the Promenade des Anglais overlooking the beautiful Bay of Angels. Exuding contemporary style and elegance, it has a rooftop restaurant and bar offering unrivalled views over the azure Mediterranean. Whether it’s a morning dip or a gently relaxing ‘float’ later in the day that takes your fancy, there’s an excellent heated rooftop swimming pool (open during the summer months) – with a poolside bar. With all the facilities you’d expect of such a premier hotel, all the rooms are fully air-conditioned and extremely well appointed with quality fittings and an understated finesse. The rest of the day is free, with time to settle into the hotel and start exploring if you wish. DAY 2 – NICE & VILLA EPHRUSSI This morning we discover Nice on a tour by coach and on foot with a local guide. Originally an ancient Greek settlement probably named after their goddess of victory, Nike, it later fell under Roman rule, and remains of the past are still visible. Famously arcing its way around the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels) is the iconic Promenade des Anglais, backed by pretty pastel-coloured buildings. Follow the enticing scents and aromas for the famous flower market and stalls laden with Provençal delicacies. The Place Massena is


Discover a different but no less spectacular side of Nice

PRICE INCLUDES • • • • • • • •

Discover the city of Nice on a guided tour by coach and on foot taking in its seafront promenade, fin-de-siècle buildings and atmospheric streets View the exquisite gardens and fine art collection at the spectacular Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild Learn how world-renowned fragrances are blended on a guided tour of a historic perfumery in Grasse Experience chic Monaco and Monte Carlo on a guided tour Visit the delightful medieval harbour town of Antibes, once home to Picasso Explore the streets of the charming artists’ village of Saint-Paul de Vence, final resting place of Marc Chagall Enjoy the delights of Menton, one of the French Riviera’s most exquisitely beautiful towns Visit the breathtaking mountain scenery of the Gorges du Loup

Plus, of course...

the heart of old Nice and is lined with Venetian-style arches reflecting the city’s Italian heritage. The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-JeanCap-Ferrat, home of the Côte’s finest gardens and a great art collection, is our destination this afternoon. It boasts an eclectic mix of paintings and drawings, including works by Jean-Honoré Fragonard and François Boucher, Sèvres and Meissen porcelain, exceptional carpets and tapestries plus exquisite pieces from the Far East. Outside there are nine alluring gardens, with themes ranging from Japanese to Spanish. DAY 3 – MONACO Incomparable Monaco is home to many of the world’s rich and famous, but there’s so much more to it than that. Our journey takes us along the scenic Basse Corniche with its arresting coastal landscape of lofty cliffs plunging into the waters below, lush valleys and aristocratic villas. As the principality comes into view, elegant belle-époque buildings and rooftop pools contrast with the dusky green and white of the mountainside and the azure waters where multimillion-pound yachts are moored. Monaco is the world’s second smallest country, but it doesn’t lack for history. Our tour with a knowledgeable local guide gives you an insight into life here, the story of its royal family, the Grimaldis, and the key features of its famed Grand Prix circuit. First we visit Monte Carlo with a drive around the dazzling marina and then explore the Old Town –

• Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star or four-star superior accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and two dinners in carefully selected local restaurants • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £899PP Monaco-Ville, a rocky promontory dominated by the magnificent 13th-century Prince’s Palace. The Old Town is akin to an open-air museum, with picturesque squares and the impressive Saint Nicholas Cathedral, where sovereigns including Prince Rainier III and his wife Grace Kelly were laid to rest. Leaving Monaco via the Moyenne Corniche and its captivating views we call at Eze, a charming village perched atop a limestone outcrop high above the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean.

and its history. On our way back to Nice we pass fields of violets, roses, lavender and a host of other aromatic flowers, the raw materials for the perfumes we’ve just experienced. DAY 6 – ANTIBES & SAINT-PAUL DE VENCE Antibes is one of the region’s most alluring coastal towns, with a seafaring tradition dating back to ancient times when galleys sought refuge there and crusaders paused before continuing to the Holy Land. Today it’s home to one of Europe’s largest marinas. There’s plenty more to interest the visitor, especially inside the stone walls of the Old Town, where artists such as Pablo Picasso and literary greats like Graham Greene and F. Scott Fitzgerald once walked along the narrow cobbled streets. We spend the afternoon in Saint-Paul de Vence, a medieval village perched on a rocky outcrop whose maze of tightly knit streets, stone houses and shaded courtyards are enclosed by impressive 16th-century ramparts. It’s also the burial place of Marc Chagall, one of the many artists attracted here by its beauty, tranquil surrounding and extraordinary light. Todary there’s an artists’ community and a restaurant – La Colombe d’Or – displaying paintings that were offered in exchange for lodgings by the (at the time) impoverished Picasso and Matisse, among others. Beyond the village is the Maeght Foundation, displaying modern art by Joan Miró, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger in conditions maximising the natural Mediterranean light. DAY 7 – MENTON Menton is one of the highlights of the French Riviera, close to the border with Italy. It’s a haven of honeyand ochre-coloured shuttered houses tumbling down to the seafront, narrow alleyways, elegant boulevards and flourishing gardens brimming with tropical plants. Our journey there is a scenic feast, showcasing a town that nestles between the sheltering slopes of the Alpes-Maritimes and the sea. It’s also the warmest place in France, where orange and lemon trees bloom even in winter. At lunchtime you can enjoy superb fresh fish by the quayside on the giant arches of Quai Bonaparte, or perhaps dine alfresco in a shady square. The medieval town stands sentinel over the bay, centred on the Baroque Saint-Michel Basilica with its fine campanile towering above terracotta roofs. The old cemetery – once described as ‘the world’s most aristocratic’ – is renowned for its glorious views over the Mediterranean and the graves of the many fascinating characters buried there, including William Webb Ellis, the ‘inventor’ of rugby. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

DAY 4 – FREE DAY Today is free to enjoy as you wish. Maybe a refreshing swim at the hotel pool (open May to September, subject to weather conditions), followed by a stroll down the Promenade des Anglais and a spot of people-watching over a leisurely lunch. DAY 5 – GORGES DU LOUP & GRASSE This morning we witness the spectacular mountain scenery of the Gorges du Loup, a sequence of gorges filled with cascading rivers, stunning waterfalls and deep inviting pools. After a feast for the eyes, treats for the nose – Grasse, regarded as the perfume capital of the world. We’re guests of the historic Fragonard perfumery where we learn about this traditional art

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PA R I S 4 days from only £279pp

See the iconic sights of Paris – the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, the Louvre and more – and experience the city’s famed shopping, food, culture and nightlife. Plus visits to Montmartre and the town of Versailles with time to visit the renowned Palace. Overflowing with history and romantic to its core, Paris is and always will be special. It’s the perfect place for any celebration: an anniversary, a get-together with loved ones, a thank-you gift or a short break to recharge your batteries. Really, though, the only reason you need to visit this inexhaustible city, buzzing with vibrancy, culture and experiences, is because it’s Paris! The list of iconic sights is astonishing: Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Elysées, SacréCoeur and the Eiffel Tower – places conjuring up art, achievement, history, conflict and, above all, passion. Paris is home to the world’s largest museum, the Louvre, with its glass pyramid entrance and collection including Leonardo da Vinci’s ever-enigmatic Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo sculpture. The grand Place de la Concorde, the largest square in the city, shows off 18th-century French architecture at its best, and just over on the Left Bank of the River Seine you’ll find the Musée d’Orsay, home of the world’s finest Impressionist art collection. Then there’s the eccentrically modern and yet stylish Pompidou Centre, famous not only for its exhibits but also for street entertainment. Notre-Dame Cathedral and the delicate spire of the sublime Saint-Chapelle dominate the islands in the middle of the river, while the exquisite Tuileries Gardens are perfect for a stroll and are especially spectacular in spring. Close by are

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some of the city’s famed shops, such as the Galeries Lafayette, with its stunning Art Deco interion, and the smart boutiques of the arcaded Rue de Rivoli. To see everything at once, the views from the Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse Tower are stupendous. To get the feel of Paris during the Belle Epoque you’ll visit atmospheric Montmartre, the traditional home of artists, set on a hill to the north of the city centre. Its picturesque squares – where the eaves of houses almost touch – are exhilaratingly theatrical, and enticing aromas of fresh coffee and croissants drift from the numerous brasseries. Paris really comes into its own at night. There are the famous hotspots of the Moulin Rouge, Lido and Paradis Latin, but also quieter, more romantic corners. If you visit the bohemian Latin Quarter, one of the oldest areas of the city, there are hundreds of bistros and restaurants and competition ensures high quality and keen prices. Paris is everything you imagine it to be – romantic, inspiring, vibrant, even outrageous – but best of all it’s unique. You’ll see and experience so many of its seemingly endless attractions on our tour, but it won’t be long before the allure of the ‘City of Lights’ will make you want to come back for more. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN PARIS Take the Eurostar service from London St Pancras

International to Paris Gare du Nord. We transfer by coach to our hotel, staying for three nights, with breakfast. DAY 2 – GUIDED CITY TOUR Today our comprehensive sightseeing tour takes in all the sights that have earned the city its eternal fame. You’ll see Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe, the grand Champs-Elysées – a focal point in times of national celebration – and the Louvre, repository of countless art treasures, all places that are bound together by the Seine River and overseen by the Eiffel Tower. We then leave Paris for the short drive to Versailles where you can visit the majestic palace of the ‘Sun King’, Louis XIV, and the typically provincial market town of Versailles itself. We return to the centre of Paris in the late afternoon and the remainder of the day is free to spend as you wish – maybe shopping, browsing bookshops or more sightseeing. Perhaps you’ll prefer to join the locals by relaxing at a pavement table of one of the numerous cafés or bistros and watching the world go by. Paris is beautiful by day but it takes on a whole new aspect after dark, as you’ll discover on our ‘By Night’ coach tour. With monuments and buildings illuminated, their reflections dancing on the Seine, the


Marvel at the City of Lights’ many wonderful sights

PRICE INCLUDES • Explore one of the world’s most beautiful cities with a comprehensive sightseeing tour of its iconic landmarks • Experience Paris after dark on our extraordinary ‘By Night’ tour • Visit the town of Versailles, with its astonishing 17th-century palace, the magnificent residence of the ‘Sun King’, Louis XIV • Discover the narrow streets and historic sites of the artists’ quarter, Montmartre

Plus, of course... • • • •

Return standard-class reserved Eurostar seats from London St. Pancras, plus all hotel transfers upgrades available at a supplement Return rail connections available on selected dates from over 50 regional stations. A supplement may apply for certain stations Three nights in three- or four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £279PP

whole city appears as a giant, enchanting work of art with the Eiffel Tower as the focal point – so delicate it could almost be made of lace. The tour leaves enough time for you to fall under the spell of Paris’s famous nightlife, from its cosy bars to its welcoming restaurants. Sacre Coeur

DAY 3 – MONTMARTRE After breakfast we visit the most picturesque and atmospheric quarter of Paris, Montmartre – dominated by the iconic white dome of the Sacré-Coeur basilica. With winding cobbled streets, narrow staircases and colourful restaurants with tables and chairs spilling out on to the pavements, Montmartre retains much of its ‘villagey’ feel of the Belle Epoque that attracted artists here during the late 19th century. Today artists still work here, many congregating around the tree-lined Place du Tertre, sketching caricatures and painting the classic views of the Paris skyline. You’ll have time to wander among Montmartre’s charming alleys and seeing sights such as the Moulin Rouge, where artist Toulouse-Lautrec found most of the subjects for his paintings, and the former houses of Vincent van Gogh and Auguste Renoir. There’s also the Espace Dalí, with over 300 works by the Surrealist, and the Lapin Agile, the famous cabaret club. Of the many other fascinating sights, the oldest vineyard in Paris – Clos Montmartre – is among the most unusual. The afternoon is for you to experience Paris as you wish. So what’s it to be? Perhaps a trip up to the viewing platform on the Eiffel Tower, or a cruise on the Seine for a different perspective on the city. Maybe a visit to the Musée Rodin to see the sublime creations of the French sculptor? Then there’s the option of browsing the many antique shops, followed by a wander around the city’s plentiful green spaces.

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY See the legendary Paradis Latin cabaret in Paris Experience glamorous 17th-century Paris at the world’s oldest cabaret and Gustave Eiffel’s legendary theatre. Have a threecourse dinner with vintage wine before enjoying the visual masterpiece that has wowed countless celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor. From £69pp. Discover Versailles with an audio guide and priority entry Make the most of your time in Versailles and pre-book a timed-entry visit, which provides priority admission to the magnificent palace – where you’ll find the royal apartments and Hall of Mirrors – and the outstanding gardens. You’ll receive an audio guide so you can explore at your own pace. From £36pp (£27pp for November 2018 visits).

HOTELS We offer a choice of selected hotels, depending on the date your tour departs. Three-star Hotel Ibis This modern hotel in Bercy Village features a bar and restaurant. Rooms have air-conditioning, Wi-Fi and TV. It is situated near a Metro station in a pleasant area, home to restored wine warehouses that now house many cafés, restaurants and shops. The Notre Dame is approximately two miles away. Three-star Timhotel Berthier Paris XVII A comfortable contemporary hotel on Boulevard Berthier in the northwest of Paris, two miles from the Arc de Triomphe and close to a Metro station. It has a bar and popular buffet restaurant with an outdoor terrace. The rooms are air-conditioned, with TV, Wi-Fi, coffee- and tea-making facilities and safe. Four-star Mercure Paris Boulogne This beautifully designed and fully refurbished hotel has a spacious bar and restaurant. Between May and October guests are welcome to use the rooftop pool. All rooms are air-conditioned and have Wi-Fi, minibar, safe and TV. Located in a quiet area, the hotel is around three miles from the Eiffel Tower. It is a short walk to the nearest Metro station, which is on a direct line to the Champs-Elysées. L’Arc de Triomphe

DAY 4 – RETURN HOME After a leisurely start to the day we return to the Gare du Nord for our Eurostar service to London St Pancras International.

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TIMELESS PROV E N C E 8 days from only £929pp

Provence is a feast for the senses with a striking natural beauty that inspired some of the greatest artists, intriguing historic towns like Aix and Avignon, plus the unique Camargue wetlands, stunning Luberon Mountains and spectacular rugged coastline.

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Provence is arguably the most seductive of all the French regions. Bordered by the foothills of the Alps to the north and east, the Rhône River to the west and, of course, the Mediterranean to the south, this is a land of striking natural beauty – colourful fields of lavender and sunflowers interspersed with vineyards, olive groves and gently rolling hills. Deep valleys are carpeted with oak and pine forests, garrigue-covered hillsides are punctuated by elegant cypresses… all filling the air with a distinctive Provençal aroma while cicadas gently hum in the background. Then there’s the wild natural beauty of the Camargue. Here at the delta of the great Rhône River white horses gallop across flat wetlands, herds of black bulls roam and striking flocks of pink flamingos fly and land in perfect formation. Historically, the Greeks visited, the Phoenicians traded, the Saracens looted, but most of all the Romans settled. All have left their legacies, but the Romans loved Provence so much that there are more remains of their remarkable civilisation here than anywhere else in Europe outside Italy.


PRICE INCLUDES • Enjoy a guided tour of Aix-en Provence, the ‘City of a Thousand Fountains’ and home to artist Paul Cézanne • Discover Avignon’s sublime medieval architecture, including the Palais des Papes and near-mythical bridge • Learn about the capital of Roman Gaul on a walking tour of Arles, with its superbly preserved amphitheatre and Van Gogh heritage • Tour the picture-postcard fishing village of Cassis and see the dramatic Calanques cliffs on a boat trip • Visit the Camargue, the unique wetland region famous for its black bulls, white horses and pink flamingos • Experience the spectacularly beautiful landscapes, enchanting hilltop villages and pure natural light of the Luberon Mountains • Marvel at the Pont du Gard, one of the largest and best-preserved Roman aqueducts

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports or train travel by Eurostar and high-speed TGV, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four- to five-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and two dinners, plus two dinners in carefully selected restaurants • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout Discover the breathtaking French countryside

Provençal towns are a real delight and each one so very distinctive. Perhaps the most famous is Aix-en-Provence, its old quarter comprising colourful streets lined with traditional shops and hidden squares sprinkled with pretty fountains that create an atmosphere of cool tranquility. You’ll love its vibrant markets and café terraces nestling under the shade of countless plane trees. Over it all towers the majestic Mont SainteVictoire, immortalised by Cézanne in more than 60 works of art. In fact, the whole region has been a magnet for artists including Van Gogh and Renoir, who were drawn to Provence’s incredible natural beauty and luminosity of light. The historic papal city of Avignon boasts a wealth of imposing medieval buildings as well as a fabled bridge, while Arles’s ancient monuments are simply breathtaking… not least its spectacular amphitheatre. Another awe-inspiring man-made wonder is the mighty Pont du Gard aqueduct; built nearly two millennia ago, it stands as a testament to the ingenuity of Provence’s Roman occupiers. Did we mention the region’s wild coastline studded

FROM £929PP

with gorgeous bays, fishing villages and towering cliffs? You’ll be amazed at just how unspoilt it is. All the fragrances and colours of this sun-drenched land are concentrated in the local cuisine – garlic, olive oil, fresh seafood and vibrantly coloured Mediterranean vegetables, enhanced by the most fragrant herbs – you’ll be savouring food at its freshest and most flavoursome. Accompany your meal with a glass of one of the world’s finest wines, the local Châteauneuf-du-Pape. With so much to offer, from history to art and from fascinating towns to a wondrous landscape all under the most perfect of blue skies, Provence is just waiting to be discovered. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN AIX-EN-PROVENCE Arrive at the airport for your flight to Nice, Marseille or Montpellier, or at the station for your train journey by Eurostar and high-speed TGV to Aix-en-Provence. We transfer by coach to a choice of hotels in Aix-en-Provence, where you stay for seven nights with breakfast and two dinners in your chosen hotel and two dinners in local restaurants. DAY 2 – TOUR OF AIX-EN-PROVENCE Beautiful Aix-en-Provence seamlessly combines Parisian-style chic with village-like gentility. Founded as a spa town by the Romans, it became the capital of Provence during the Middle Ages and evolved into a major educational and artistic hub. Aix is known as the ‘City of a Thousand Fountains’ and the tranquil sound of running water accompanies you down colourful boulevards, through fine squares and labyrinthine alleyways. During a morning guided walking tour you’ll see what inspired the city’s favourite son, Paul Cézanne, to produce numerous paintings in and around Aix. The afternoon is yours to spend as you wish in this wonderful Provençal city, perhaps taking the opportunity to visit Cézanne’s perfectly preserved workshop. DAY 3 – THE CAMARGUE After breakfast we head to the Camargue, the delta of the great Rhône River and a beguiling landscape of flat saltwater marshland teeming with around 400 species of birds – including remarkable pink flamingos. This designated national park is also home to the region’s iconic black bulls and an ancient breed of white horse, some of which you may spot being ridden by the Camargue’s famous ‘cowboys’. Bring binoculars to take in the full natural splendour of this wetland environment.

Avignon

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The Camargue

We then make the short trip to extraordinary Arles, a prosperous Roman regional capital from the 1st century AD. You’ll marvel at the city’s impressive UNESCO-listed monuments on a fascinating walking tour, taking in the incredibly well-preserved Roman amphitheatre, the theatre built by the Emperor Augustus and the Forum, once the city’s heart. There’s free time to spend in Arles, perhaps to seek out locations associated with Vincent Van Gogh, who spent 14 months here from early 1888. It was his most prolific period and, inspired by Arles and the light and beauty of the Provençal countryside, he produced around 300 works, including The Café Terrace at Night, The Sower and, of course, Sunflowers. DAY 4 – LUBERON MOUNTAINS This morning we travel north to the stunning Luberon Mountains. The region’s pure natural light has always attracted artists, while the hilltops are crowned by enchanting villages that, at a distance, appear frozen in medieval times, yet are alive with vibrant bistros, rustic restaurants and markets selling fabulous local produce. The landscape in this designated Regional Nature Park changes dramatically from flat plains dotted with olive and peach groves to sloping vineyards and then, higher up, rows of lavender whose fragrance mingles with pine and wild herbs to give the unmistakable aroma of rural Provence. DAY 5 – AVIGNON Today we visit historic Avignon, whose destiny changed in the 14th century when the Pope’s court was exiled here from Rome. Vast wealth poured in to build churches, convents and elegant townhouses, but especially the incredible Palais des Papes. You’ll have time to explore this imposing palace – one of Europe’s largest Gothic buildings – which resembles a citadel rising from living rock, flanked by towering turrets. Alternatively you could visit the Petit Palais Museum, which houses an excellent collection of more than 300 paintings from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, while a walk (or even dance!) on the city’s celebrated 12th-century bridge will have you singing a certain French song for the rest of the day. We return to Aix via the Pont du Gard, an aqueduct constructed in the 1st century AD as part

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of a 30-mile route supplying water to the Roman city of Nîmes. The three-tiered, arched structure measures over 900 feet in length and almost 160 feet in height; stand back to absorb the beauty of this engineering masterpiece and you’ll understand why it’s considered a wonder of the ancient world. DAY 6 – FREE DAY A free day to spend as you wish in Aix. Wander along Cours Mirabeau, Aix’s elegant main street,

See the astonishing Pont du Gard


and peel off into the maze of lanes to discover tiny squares and myriad fountains. Alternatively visit the superb Musée Granet and its collection of works by Cézanne, Degas, Picasso, Matisse and Monet, or the fascinating Museum of Natural History where you can view a collection of dinosaur eggs unearthed on the slopes of nearby Mont Sainte-Victoire. DAY 7 – CASSIS An invigorating trip by the sea today as we head to the rugged coast and the lovely fishing port of Cassis whose painted cottages, charming little harbour and sandy beach are all overlooked by a mighty medieval fortress. Situated in a spectacular bay, the town has attracted numerous famous visitors over the years – including Virginia Woolf and Sir Winston Churchill, who took painting lessons here in the 1920s. Choose one of the many waterside restaurants for a lunch of freshly caught fish before taking an afternoon boat trip to see the Massif des Calanques, a rugged coastline of dazzling white cliffs, rock pinnacles and rare seabirds. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport or station for your flight or train home.

Cassis

WE OFFER A CHOICE OF HOTELS ON THIS TOUR. Four-star Novotel Aix Beaumanoir Situated on the outskirts of the city, this welcoming hotel is a purpose-built property with comfortable air-conditioned rooms featuring satellite TV, tea- and coffee-making facilities and a safe. Set in its own garden, the hotel has a pleasant bar and restaurant, outside terrace and a swimming pool (open in the summer months).

Four-star Aquabella Hotel and Spa The Aquabella is a converted 18th-century townhouse next to the old town – a part of the surviving medieval wall actually forms the hotel’s boundary. It’s an oasis of calm set in a large private garden with an olive grove, terrace and heated outdoor swimming pool (open in the summer months). The hotel features a spa centre with a sauna and jacuzzi plus the option of treatments including spring water hydrotherapy (local costs apply). There are inside and outside bars, a restaurant overlooking the gardens and comfortable rooms. Four-star superior MGallery Roi René Exceptionally chic, it offers a stylish atmosphere coupled with attentive service just steps away from the city’s atmospheric Cours Mirabeau. Light and airy rooms feature top-quality fittings and luxurious touches such as bathrobes. The hotel is centred around an internal courtyard with comfortable seating and a heated outdoor pool (open in the summer months). The intimate bar and restaurant are the perfect places to relax while the energetic can make use of a fitness room. Five-star Renaissance (2018 departures only) The Renaissance is set just a short walk from the historic centre in a cultural area of Aix. Inside, pale marble is coupled with rustic oak flooring for a contemporary feel, complemented by several modern art installations in the public spaces. A spacious lobby, stylish indoor pool, manicured garden, bistro restaurant, and spa and wellness area guarantee a superior stay.

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ROUEN, HONFLEUR & THE HIGHLIGHTS O F N O R M A N DY 5 days from only £459pp

Discover the essence of fascinating Normandy with echoes of William the Conqueror and D-Day, medieval Rouen and fascinating Bayeux, plus the delightful port of Honfleur, stunning rural landscapes and delicious local produce. For a short break with a difference, Normandy is hard to beat – it truly is one of the unspoilt corners of Europe. The region is lush and green, its countryside a patchwork of emerald-green fields, high hedges, apple orchards, ivy-clad farmhouses, timber-framed buildings and pretty churches with distinctive Norman spires. Our tour is based in the fascinating Rouen, one of the most splendidly preserved medieval cities in Europe, located at the lowest point on the River Seine that could be bridged. It was here that Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake, just one of many momentous events that took place in this crucible of history whose legacies can still be felt today. William of Normandy, of course, set sail from here in 1066 to conquer England – you’ll see the full panorama of his campaign in the world-famous Bayeux Tapestry. Almost 900 years later, it was the beaches of Normandy themselves that were the site of the biggest-ever invasion – D-Day – and the rusting remains of the Allies’ of landing equipment movingly reminds us of the sacrifices made on 6 June 1944. Spared the ravages of war, the charming port of Honfleur is a delight to explore, with its multi-story merchants’ houses crammed along the waterfront – so beloved of artists, including Claude Monet. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy the bounty caught by the colourful trawlers in the waters off the Normandy’s

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rugged coastline. If the freshest fish and seafood weren’t enough, you’re also spoilt with some of the finest food and drink in the whole of France, from

cheeses like Camembert, Livarot and Pont l’Eveque, to Bénédictine liqueur made to a recipe that’s a closely guarded secret, and to cider and Calvados produced from locally grown apples. So rich in history, captivatingly beautiful and replete with culinary delights, Normandy really does offer something for everyone. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN ROUEN Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord. We transfer by coach to the lovely old city of Rouen, staying for four nights with breakfast at either the four-star Hôtel Littéraire Gustave Flaubert or four-star Mercure Champ de Mars. Located close to the town centre named after the city’s most famous son and creator of Madame Bovary, the Gustave Flaubert has very comfortable and thoughtfully furnished rooms. The Mercure is a modern hotel just a short stroll from Rouen’s old quarter. It has a restaurant and bar and the spacious air-conditioned bedrooms come with tea- and coffee-making facilities as well as free Wi-Fi.

Rouen

DAY 2 – WALKING TOUR OF ROUEN This morning we step back in time on an enlightening guided walking tour around the old centre of the capital of Normandy. We’ll visit Rouen’s remarkable


PRICE INCLUDES • • • • •

See the magnificent Bayeux Tapestry, arguably the world’s most perfect medieval relic Enjoy a guided tour of Rouen, Normandy’s capital, with its magnificent Gothic cathedral and Joan of Arc heritage Take a tour of the distillery at the Palais Bénédictine, home of the famous liqueur Spend a day exploring the picturesque old port town of Honfleur, so adored by Monet Visit Gold Beach, one of the D-Day landing sites, and the fascinating museum at Arromanches recalling the momentous Allied landings

Plus, of course... • Return standard-class reserved Eurostar seats from London St. Pancras, plus all hotel transfers upgrades available at a supplement • Return rail connections available on selected dates from over 50 regional stations • Four nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £459PP Stroll along the lovely port town of Honfleur

Notre-Dame Cathedral, which over the centuries has been built, destroyed by fire, rebuilt, damaged in the Wars of Religion and embellished to create the fantastic Gothic edifice we see today. The tallest spire, Tour Lanterne, was added in 1876 and, reaching skyward to 495 feet, briefly became the world’s tallest building. Immortalised in several paintings by Claude Monet, the cathedral is simply stunning – you’ll marvel at the epic scale of the four-storey nave, pillared choir and the famous cobalt blue stained glass, and see the tombs of several kings and dukes as well as a recumbent statue of Richard the Lionheart containing his heart. This afternoon we take a short drive to the coastal town of Fécamp, home of the famous Bénédictine liqueur. It was originally produced in an old monastery from a blend of 27 herbs and spices, and today the Palais Bénédictine is home to a distillery, a collection of period and contemporary art and an interesting range of artefacts. You’ll see carvings, illuminated manuscripts and chalices from the Middle Ages, plus a fascinating collection of keys. After our visit, which includes a tasting of the delicious liqueur, we drive back to Rouen through Normandy’s alluring pastoral countryside, so beloved by the Impressionist artists who were inspired by the region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

DAY 3 – BAYEUX Today we visit two of the most famous places in Normandy. Our first stop is Bayeux, home of the world-famous tapestry. It tells the story of the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 in glorious detail, including the coronation of Harold following the death of Edward the Confessor and his subsequent demise at the Battle of Hastings, which led to William of Normandy invading England and becoming king. The 230-foot-long tapestry is made up of nine panels of extremely delicate embroidery – gazing at its wonderful depictions of the battle and the period’s architecture, weapons and everyday life, you’ll appreciate why the Bayeux Tapestry is arguably the most perfect relic from the Middle Ages.

After lunch we drive to nearby Gold Beach, one of the five main landing sites on D-Day, when Allied forces surged into Normandy to begin the liberation of occupied Europe from Nazi Germany. Casting your eyes across the sand to the water’s edge, it’s sobering to consider that on 6 June 1944 around 25,000 British troops came ashore on this one beach, with 400 killed by the defenders. At the western end of the shoreline is Arromanches, where you’ll have the opportunity to visit a superb museum dedicated to the ‘longest day’ and view pontoons from one of the two Mulberry harbours constructed for the landing craft. While the trips to Bayeux and Gold Beach are included in your holiday, they’re not compulsory, and you may prefer instead to remain in Rouen. You’re really spoilt for choice – Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in the city’s old marketplace (a large cross marks the exact spot) and in the Archbishop’s Palace next to the cathedral you’ll find a fascinating museum dedicated to the iconic French heroine. You could also visit the ceramics museum in a 17th-century townhouse, or the excellent Musée des Beaux-Arts – which features works by Monet, Renoir, Géricault and Delacroix – or just browse Rouen’s superb shops dotted along some of the loveliest and most atmospheric old streets you’ll find anywhere in France. DAY 4 – HONFLEUR Honfleur is often regarded as the most picturesque spot on the northern French coast and after breakfast we make the short journey to this delightful town. Exquisitely preserved, its old harbour – complete with both fishing boats and luxurious pleasure craft – is surrounded by a pretty waterfront of tall pastel-coloured houses dating from the 16th to 18th centuries. Many of these have been converted into seafood restaurants or traditional shops selling items such as antiques, books and fine foods. Pull up a chair at one of these quayside restaurants, order a plate of fruits de mer and watch the world go by – it’s a pleasure observing talented artists capturing the views on canvas before rounding off your lunch with buttery poached local pears and cream. Away from the harbour, Honfleur’s intricate maze of streets is a delight to wander through and offers an authentic flavour of this wonderfully provincial old port. The town was the birthplace of Eugene Boudin, one of the forerunners of Impressionism and a friend of Claude Monet. Well worth a visit is a museum housing a number of Boudin’s works together with those of other artists including Monet himself. (Please note opening hours vary according to season.) We return to Rouen in the late afternoon. DAY 5 – RETURN HOME After breakfast we transfer to Paris for our return Eurostar service.

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BRUGES 4 days from only £289pp

Old-world charm, welcoming locals and Europe’s most perfectly preserved medieval city ensure that enchanting Bruges is a superb short-break destination, one where delicious cuisine, the planet’s finest chocolate and artisanal beers are never far away. Medieval buildings, romantic squares, pretty canals, world-class art; Bruges is a lavish feast for the eyes. This being Belgium, it also provides satisfaction for the tastebuds, with flavoursome local beers, the crispest frites and, of course, world-renowned chocolate. A perfect destination to explore on foot, Bruges is ideal for discerning travellers keen to discover a city where history, culture and cuisine combine like nowhere else. You’ll immediately soak up the unique atmosphere of Bruges’ beautifully preserved historic core, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of its gabled buildings were built on wealth accrued from the textile industry that transformed the city into one of Northern Europe’s most important trading centres during the Middle Ages. Whether strolling by one of the many waterways that give Bruges its ‘Venice of the North’ moniker, sipping coffee in the old market square with bells from the 13th-century Belfry peeling in the background, or taking a gentle trip by horse and carriage, the city’s ambience is sure to instil a sense of tranquility. Art-lovers will be attracted to the wealth of exceptional works to be found across the city. Bruges was at the heart of the Flemish Primitive movement, and one of its earliest members was Jan van Eyck, Bruges’ most famous resident. You can see several of his classic paintings at the superb Groeningemuseum,

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while the 12th-century former hospital of SintJanshospitaal houses detailed works by renowned artist, Hans Memling. Throw in Pieter Brueghel (the Younger and Elder), Hieronymus Bosch, Michelangelo, Magritte and Dalí and it’s clear that Bruges offers something for every art lover. Another unmissable sight is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. As you enter through its gilded facade you’ll be transported to 12th-century Flanders. In the upper chapelle in a silver tabernacle you’ll find the Basilica’s

star attraction – a phial said to contain drops of Christ’s blood, reputedly brought back from the Holy Land after one of the Crusades. If your penchant is for nothing more than to wander the city and unearth some hidden gems, you’ll be rewarded at every turn. Meander through the cobbled lanes and you may spot 18th-century windmills, tiny chapels, rows of almshouses and even a silent religious order of Benedictine nuns. A break in one of Bruges’ cosy restaurants or cafés is a must, too; your only quandary is which delicious dish to choose from or whether to pick a dubbel, tripel or lambic from the extensive list of Belgian beers. A treat for all the senses, Bruges is sure to capture you in its romantic spell. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN BRUGES Take the late morning/early afternoon Eurostar service from London St Pancras International to Lille. On arrival, we transfer by coach to your hotel for three nights in Bruges’ old town. DAY 2 – WALKING TOUR After breakfast we take a guided walk to discover the highlights of this alluring city. We begin in its medieval heart, the Markt, which has served as the main market square since the 10th century. Towering 272 feet over the colourful gabled buildings framing the square is the


Enjoy the canals in charming Bruges

PRICE INCLUDES • • •

Explore the fascinating medieval history of Bruges on an illuminating walking tour of its many highlights Discover the significance of Flanders during the First World War in a thought-provoking visit to Ypres and the Tyne Cot Cemetery Learn how the world’s finest chocolates are made at one of Bruges’ last surviving traditional chocolatiers

Plus, of course... • • • •

Return standard-class reserved Eurostar seats from London St. Pancras, plus all hotel transfers - upgrades available at a supplement Return rail connections available on selected dates from over 50 regional stations. A supplement may apply for certain stations Three nights in three- or four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £289PP

Belfry and its 47-bell carillon. This afternoon you’ll have the opportunity to climb the 366 steps to the top, the reward being a breathtaking view of Bruges and the Flanders countryside extending beyond. We also visit two other notable buildings in the Burg, the city’s second main square – the elegant Gothic Stadhuis (Town Hall) and the 18th-century law courts – plus the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Another must-see is the Church of Our Lady, which houses Michelangelo’s beautiful white marble sculpture, Madonna and Child. The remainder of the day is free for you to explore. The Groeningemuseum and Sint-Janshospitaal are home to sublime works of art and you can find museums dedicated to Belgium’s holy trinity of beer, chocolate and frites, while no visit to Bruges would be complete without a brewery trip. Why not try ‘De Halve Maan’, which has constructed a two-mile-long pipeline from the brewery to a bottling plant on the city’s edge; a fascinating tour of the cellars concludes with a tasting of its excellent Brugse Zot Blond.

morning, for those interested, a coach leaves Bruges to visit Ypres and nearby Great War battlefields. Alternatively, you can simply choose to remain in Bruges to spend your time as you please. The battlefield tour centres on Ypres, which was almost flattened during the First World War as Allied and German forces fought for control of this strategically important town. The countless lives lost are remembered with a moving ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial each evening at 8pm. You can also visit the Passchendaele Memorial Museum, which shines a light on some of the darkest days of the Great War. During the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917, over 500,000 troops died in just three months as the Allies attempted to take the village of Passchendaele. We visit the bunkers, craters and trench sites of this monumentally bloody battle. The day concludes with a visit to the world’s largest Commonwealth cemetery

at Tyne Cot, its sea of 11,961 graves reflecting the First World War’s staggering loss of life. Returning to Bruges in the late afternoon, you cannot fail to be touched by the sights and sounds of this unforgettable trip back in time. DAY 4 – RETURN BY EUROSTAR Belgian chocolates are known as the finest in the world, and this morning we visit one of the few establishments in Bruges where they are still made by hand. During the demonstration you’ll learn all about this artisanal craft, including the top-quality ingredients that are used and the techniques involved in making these delicious luxuries. Later, a coach returns you to nearby Lille for an afternoon Eurostar service back to London St Pancras International. WE OFFER A CHOICE OF SELECTED HOTELS, DEPENDING ON THE DATE YOUR TOUR DEPARTS. Three-star superior Martin’s Brugge This three-star superior hotel is ideally located opposite the Belfry in the heart of the historic centre, just behind the market square. The hotel has a welcoming atmosphere with a stylish interior and bar. The Martin’s Brugge is within easy reach of numerous restaurants, cafés and bars. Three-star The Golden Tree This family-run, three-star hotel is close to the t’Zand, a square on the edge of Bruges’ historic core. Sympathetically converted from a neoclassical town house – it retains many of the building’s original features, including stunning ceiling paintings in the breakfast room. There’s also a terrace and conservatory to relax in should you wish. There are many restaurants and bars near the hotel itself, and just a short stroll along the main shopping street will take you to the market square. Four-star Academie Located within the historic centre of Bruges, the Academie is a four-star hotel situated on a small cobbled street near the Sint-Janshospitaal. It offers modern facilities and stylish accommodation. Unwind in the cosy bar or, if you prefer, relax with a drink in the pleasant courtyard garden. You’ll find many places to eat and drink nearby, with the market square only a short walk away. Four-star Grand Hotel Casselbergh The four-star Casselbergh was created from three historic residences owned and inhabited for many centuries by local aristocracy. Centrally located near the market square, it combines elegant modern comfort with old-world charm. Facilities include a bar and a wellness centre in the cellars, which date back to the 14th century. All rooms have air conditioning, free Wi-Fi and tea- and coffee-making facilities.

Market Square

DAY 3 – YPRES, PASSCHENDAELE & TYNE COT CEMETERY This morning we can arrange an optional boat tour of the canals so you can see the city from a waterside perspective (subject to seasonal operation). Late

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SWITZERL AND’S BERNESE OBERLAND 8 days from only £1,499pp

Snow-capped peaks, crystal-clear lakes, picturesque cities, alpine meadows, wooden chalets with billowing flower boxes, the purest air – explore the classic image of Switzerland by railway, lake steamer and cable car. Victorian tourists loved Interlaken, an elegant resort located between two lakes, Thunersee and Brienzersee. Well-heeled travellers came to this welcoming town to enjoy the warm sunshine, pure air, crystal-clear lake waters and glorious views of the snowy Jungfrau mountains. As you explore the delights of Interlaken itself and the many attractions within easy reach, you’d be forgiven for thinking that little has changed since the days of those first tourists. The best way to explore Switzerland is by the famously efficient railway service, and we take several unforgettable train journeys through the Bernese Oberland, where you can marvel at the countless examples of gravity-defying Swiss engineering. You’ll ride up to Kleine Scheidegg for superb views of the infamous Eiger North Wall and take a steam train from Brienz to the summit of the Rothorn mountain. Your holiday includes a Bernese Oberland Regional Pass, which gives unlimited access to a huge variety of railway and PostBus routes throughout the region. But we don’t just travel by train – to reach pristine Lake Oeschinen, nestling below an amphitheatre of dramatic peaks, we take a spectacular cable car ride,

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returning to Interlaken along the placid Brienzersee by lake steamer, with soaring peaks and forested valley sides reflected in the shimmering water. Switzerland isn’t just about lakes and mountains, dazzling though they are. We also visit the beautiful city of Lucerne, which has always attracted tourists, including our own Queen Victoria, drawn by its location and its 14th-century Chapel Bridge. On one of your free days you could visit Bern, the country’s picturesque capital. With its cobbled streets, shady arcades and painted fountains, the charming historic centre surrounding the Late Gothic cathedral has remained largely untouched since the 16th century. Equally enchanting are the villages and towns spread out across the meadow-covered valley floors, with their traditional wooden chalets, billowing flower boxes and pretty churches. All this makes Interlaken the ideal base for this varied tour, which includes two free days for you to choose your own preferred itinerary, plus five days of planned touring exploring the very best the region offers. It’s the perfect way to experience the Bernese Oberland, a jewel at the heart of Europe.


PRICE INCLUDES • Visit the lakeside resort of Brienz and ride the cog railway to the summit of the Rothorn mountain • Enjoy a spectacular cable car journey to beautiful Lake Oeschinen • Take the train through the Brünig Pass to Lucerne, with its picturesque waterfront • Admire some of Switzerland’s most breathtaking scenery on a rail journey past the towering Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger mountains • See the famous Reichenbach Falls and the Sherlock Holmes Museum on a visit to Meiringen • Cruise by lake steamer in Spiez and Brienz • Explore the Bernese Oberland with a complimentary Bernese Oberland Regional Pass, allowing free travel on the entire railway network

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £1,499PP

Experience the dramatic mountain scenery by rail

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN INTERLAKEN Arrive at the airport for your flight to Geneva. We transfer by coach to stay for seven nights at the extremely comfortable four-star MGallery Royal St Georges Hotel, with breakfast and dinner. Ideally situated just a few minutes’ walk from the railway station and close to the town’s main green space and numerous shops, this is one of the ‘grandes dames’ of Interlaken’s hotels and has been welcoming visitors since 1908. The Art Nouveau marble lobby and public rooms have been carefully renovated and facilities include the stylish Lounge Royal bar, a large, ornate dining room and the Verandah restaurant. There’s also a terrace and garden to the rear, overlooking the Harder Kulm peak. The bedrooms (in either modern or traditional style) have satellite TV, safe, minibar and Wi-Fi.

you and today you’ll get close to some of the world’s most famous peaks – the majestic Jungfrau (young maiden), Mönch (monk) and Eiger (ogre). Together they form a trio of giant snow-capped summits soaring upwards to over 13,000 feet. We take the narrow-gauge railway to Lauterbrunnen, nestling in a stunning vertical-sided glacial valley formed many thousands of years ago. With mountains now

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Try the James Bond experience Head to the summit of the Schilthorn for stunning views of the Swiss skyline and relive James Bond’s adventures from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service at the interactive Bond World 007 exhibition. Perhaps enjoy lunch at the revolving restaurant with superb views of the alpine peaks. From £30pp.

completely dominating the skyline and with only upward views, we change onto the mountain cog railway. It climbs steeply through the fashionable ski resort of Wengen, across the slopes of the Lauberhorn, best known for its World Cup ski race, to reach one of Europe’s highest railway junctions, Kleine Scheidegg – and some of the world’s most impressive alpine scenery. You’ll wonder at the courage of climbers conquering these forbidding peaks and glistening icefields. Breathe deeply and take the crisp mountain air deep into your lungs – it’s truly invigorating. You’ll want to take lots of photos before descending to the mountain resort of Grindelwald and its typically Swiss ‘chocolate box’ chalets. This afternoon we take the yellow PostBus for a scenic drive over the 6,400-foot Grosse Scheidegg pass. This is one of the most dramatic routes in the region, crossing the ‘secret’ Rosenlaui Valley, where no private cars are allowed to disturb the tranquillity of the flower-filled meadows that are dwarfed by the jagged peak of the Wetterhorn. Finally we reach Meiringen – a wonderfully attractive town, perhaps most famous for the nearby Reichenbach Falls. It was against the backdrop of this water torrent plunging towards the valley floor that Sherlock Holmes met his demise in his epic struggle with Professor Moriarty. You can visit the small Sherlock Holmes Museum or just relax in Meiringen itself before joining the train back along the shores of the pretty Brienzersee to Interlaken.

Brienz Rothorn Railway

DAY 2 – INTERLAKEN Well known for its relaxed, genteel atmosphere and excellent transport links, Interlaken lies at the heart of the Bernese Oberland, making the region’s many attractions easy to visit. Mighty mountains surround

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DAY 3 – BRIENZ ROTHORN RAILWAY Since the late 19th century, some of the world’s most amazing feats of railway engineering have transported travellers high into the Swiss mountains. Many lines are so steep that they can only be conquered by toothed ‘rack’ rails running between conventional tracks. And while most of the original steam locomotives are long gone, now replaced with electric or diesel engines, today you can experience one of the few routes still operated primarily by steam. After a short regular train journey to the lakeside resort of Brienz, we join the remarkable Brienz Rothorn Railway for the breathtaking ride to the top of the Rothorn, a 7,710-foot peak with superb panoramic views across lakes and valleys to the surrounding summits – including the iconic Matterhorn. Although many of the locomotives are modern diesels, a few of the original coal-burning engines from the 1892 line still operate. The sight and sound of these ‘old ladies’ huffing and puffing their way up the mountain, just as they did over a century ago, is wonderful. There’s time for lunch at the summit and a leisurely wander around Brienz itself following the return ride. If you’re feeling energetic you can choose instead to take the steep but enjoyable hike down the mountain. After that, we return by lake steamer across the Brienzersee to Interlaken. DAY 4 – FREE DAY IN INTERLAKEN There are countless fascinating things to do in and around Interlaken – and it’s nice to have a choice. So today is free to spend as you wish. Explore the town at your leisure or use your included Bernese Oberland Pass to discover more of the surrounding region. If you feel like a gentle walk in peaceful surroundings without travelling too far, the Swiss footpath network is meticulously signposted. You could take the funicular to Harder Kulm, or the PostBus to the villages of Habkern or Beatenberg for glorious views over the Thunersee and the snow-clad Jungfrau. Or there’s the ride up the other side of the valley from Lauterbrunnen to the village of Mürren. Perched high on a ledge, this is where Arnold Lunn developed the idea of the downhill skiing holiday and founded the company that eventually became Lunn Poly. This lovely car-free village is a great spot for lunch. To personalise your holiday you could take the spectacular cable car ride to the Schilthorn. Famous for its revolving restaurant with awe-inspiring views of the surrounding mountains, it starred in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. On

Brienz

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Grindelwald

the return journey you might like to stop to view the amazing Trümmelbach Falls, hidden within a deep cleft in the mountain. And anyone with an interest in flora should definitely consider a day out riding the historic cog railway that winds upwards from the tranquil village of Wilderswil to the Schynige Platte peak, home to an excellent alpine garden featuring many rare plants, including the legendary edelweiss. Wherever you choose to go, keep an eye out for the gorgeous pink glow on the snowy peaks as the sun sets. DAY 5 – LAKE OESCHINEN Today’s trip starts with a train journey along the lake to Spiez. Here we change onto the BLS railway that twists and turns up the picturesque Kander Valley to the small town of Kandersteg. Then we take a cable car for a spectacular ride to beautiful Lake Oeschinen, set in a mountain amphitheatre high above the main valley, carpeted with a kaleidoscope of colourful wildflowers. On a short scenic walk we pass the lush pastures nourishing cows whose rich milk goes into making that legendary Swiss chocolate. Returning to picturesque Spiez, there’s free time for lunch and a wander before returning at your leisure by lake steamer to Interlaken – you might like to stop off and explore the pretty communities lining the lakeside. DAY 6 – LUCERNE Today we enjoy a visit to Lucerne. After breakfast our outward train takes the lakeside route to Brienz, then

we go over the steeply graded Brünig Pass into central Switzerland. As you leave the station in Lucerne you’re greeted by one of Switzerland’s iconic images – Chapel Bridge with its octagonal water tower. The oldest covered wooden bridge in the world, it was originally built as a defensive work and is now the symbol of this elegant city. You’ll have plenty of time to explore Lucerne, its charming waterfront and the narrow streets and squares of its car-free Old Town. Then we board the narrow-gauge train, returning back over the Brünig Pass via Meiringen along the lake to Interlaken. Stroll along Lucerne’s charming waterfront


DAY 7 – FREE DAY Your last day is free for you to choose your own personal itinerary, perhaps using your Bernese Oberland Pass. You might decide to take the easy ride to Bern for a day of shopping and culture in the city where Einstein worked. Another relatively short trip will take you to Mülenen for a ride on one of Europe’s longest funiculars to the summit of Niesen, the conical mountain with tremendous views over Spiez and the Thunersee. Or there’s Gstaad, the super-chic resort on the route of the GoldenPass narrow-gauge ‘express’ train. Close to Meiringen is the excellent Swiss Open-Air Museum at Ballenberg, where you’ll find reconstructions of historic houses and farms from around Switzerland –giving you a real insight into a former rural way of life, much of which has now disappeared. If the weather looks good and you’re eager for even more high mountain scenery, you can take the train to Kleine Scheidegg and continue on the Jungfrau Railway through the heart of the Eiger mountain itself to Jungfraujoch (direct supplement payable). This is Europe’s highest railway station, with breathtaking glacier views that are normally reserved for the hardiest mountaineers. This evening we enjoy our final dinner together in the Royal St Georges. It’s your last chance to swap stories and share the wonders of Switzerland’s stunning Bernese Oberland with your fellow travellers.

Lake Oeschinen

DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to Geneva Airport for your flight home.

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S W I T Z E R L A N D, T H E M AT T E R H O R N & T H E G L AC I E R E X PR ESS 8 days from only £1,149pp

An exhilarating tour of the Swiss and Italian Alps exploring Lakes Geneva and Maggiore, visiting chic mountain resorts, travelling on the breathtaking Glacier and Bernina Express train services and taking in views of the iconic Matterhorn. Spectacular scenery, the iconic Matterhorn, unforgettable railway and cable car rides, aweinspiring views of glaciers and snow-covered peaks, forested valley slopes and lush meadows disturbed only by cowbells and chalets – welcome to quintessential Switzerland. Landlocked in the heart of Europe, Switzerland is renowned for its invigorating clean air, astonishingly beautiful landscapes and chic ski resorts, yet there’s so much more. It’s also famous for cleanliness, chocolate and welcoming locals – not forgetting the clockwork efficiency of its railways. On this tour you’ll experience two of the world’s most legendary train journeys – the Glacier Express and Bernina Express. The carriages on both these services have panoramic windows, so you can gaze in awe at the thrilling scenery from the comfort of your seat while wondering at the extraordinary feats of railway engineering as we ascend via countless bridges, viaducts and tunnels. There’s another fascinating train ride on the narrow-gauge Centovalli Railway, carrying

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you through a ‘hundred valleys’, passing deep ravines, chestnut forests and tiny villages. There are few sights to compare with the mighty Matterhorn – the ultimate alpine peak and Swiss national symbol. You can admire it from a quiet café or a horse-drawn carriage in pretty Zermatt, or get even closer by taking the cog railway up to the Gornergrat observation platform at an altitude of over 10,000 feet. As well as our first base in Brig we stay in Klosters, the resort favoured by the British Royal Family and the ideal base from which to explore the surrounding peaks and valleys, perhaps by cable car and chair lift. Yet Switzerland isn’t all about mountains, as you’ll see on our visit to the calm waters of Lake Geneva, with its charming lakeside resorts and the romantic medieval fortress of Château de Chillon. We’ll also experience Italy’s seductive Lake Maggiore and its most attractive town, Stresa, where you can walk in the footsteps of Europe’s 19thcentury aristocracy taking the ‘Grand Tour’. A private

Brig


PRICE INCLUDES • Visit Zermatt and marvel at the iconic Matterhorn • Travel on the Glacier Express, a classic railway route twisting through breathtaking alpine scenery • Enjoy a trip on the UNESCO-listed Bernina Express with its amazing series of loops, tunnels and bridges • Explore Montreux – known as the ‘Swiss Riviera’ – on the shores of Lake Geneva • Ride the delightful Centovalli Railway across a ‘hundred valleys’ • Visit Italy’s picturesque Lake Maggiore and the delightful town of Stresa, plus enjoy a cruise around the beautiful Borromean Islands • Stay in the village of Klosters, the Swiss mountain resort favoured by the royals

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in three- and four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £1,149PP

DAY 2 – ZERMATT & THE MATTERHORN Our first day trip takes us up the Mattertal Valley. As we ascend, the scenery becomes ever more impressive – lush meadows covered with wildflowers and studded with tiny shepherds’ shelters give way to dense forests crowned by snow-capped mountains glistening in the sun. We traverse towering viaducts and pass streams and waterfalls before arriving at Zermatt. Nestling at the foot of the mighty Matterhorn, the car-free village is a blend of typical Swiss chalets, hotels and ancient wooden farm huts strewn along the valley floor. Dramatic cable cars, steep footpaths and the world’s longest pedestrian suspension footbridge enable access to the majestic amphitheatre of the surrounding lofty summits. The world’s most photographed mountain, the Matterhorn is relatively unobtrusive until you reach the end of Zermatt and turn a corner, when the Swiss national symbol is revealed in all its splendour. For an even better view, take the cog railway up 10,000 feet to Gornergrat, an awe-inspiring wonderland of glaciers and summits. Alternatively, relax in one of Zermatt’s many cosy cafés or take a gentle ride in a horse-drawn carriage. DAY 3 – LAKE MAGGIORE This morning we travel over the Simplon Pass to Italy and the peaceful shores of Lake Maggiore. Its loveliest town is Stresa, which owes its renown to the days of the ‘Grand Tour’, when Europe’s 19thcentury aristocracy crossed from Switzerland to experience their first taste of Italy. Unmistakably Mediterranean in character, Stresa’s waterfront is lined with oleanders, palms and aromatic verbena and is backed by classic belle-époque hotels that create an ambience of gentility. You’ll have some free time to wander around the town’s cobbled streets with their wealth of traditional shops – the perfect places to stock up on local delicacies to take back to friends at home. You might like to relax in one of the main square’s numerous cafés with a coffee and watch the world go by, while fans of literature can soak up the

Take the Glacier Express through stunning alpine scenery

launch then takes us on a cruise around the Borromean Islands lying just offshore in Maggiore’s shimmering waters – another hightlight of this extraordinary and varied tour. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN BRIG Arrive at the airport for your flight to Zurich. On arrival we transfer by coach to Brig in the Rhône Valley. Surrounded by soaring peaks, this lively town became affluent during the 17th century due to its location at the head of the Simplon Pass, a trade route between France and Italy. The wealth that resulted led to the creation of the country’s largest private building at the time – the Stockalper Palace. We stay four nights, with breakfast and dinner, at the three-star Hotel Victoria is a comfortable family hotel that’s everything you expect from a Swiss establishment. It combines antique furniture with modern fittings and is conveniently located opposite the railway station, while the rooms feature Wi-Fi, TV, safe and a hairdryer.

Château de Chillon

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Lake Maggiore

Gornergrat Train

atmosphere of the bar of the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromées, which featured in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and was also frequented by George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin, among others. Boarding our private launch, we then cruise across central Lake Maggiore to take in one of the real gems of northern Italy – the Borromean Islands. We’ll see Isola Bella, which dominates the landscape with its resplendent Baroque palazzo and astonishing ornamental gardens that feature ten overlapping terraces imaginatively planted with a host of colourful and exotic shrubs. As we navigate around the island, look out for the elegant marble statues perched on each terrace. Cruising past the traditional fishing boats on the shores of Isola dei Pescatori, you’ll discover an island that has retained its original charm. The largest of

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the Borromeans is Isola Madre, which is defined by its lush English-style botanical gardens visible as we pass them en route to the opposite shore. We disembark at Verbania, then drive along the lake edge before crossing the border back into Switzerland. At Locarno we board the narrow-gauge Centovalli Railway, named after the so-called ‘hundred valleys’ through which it passes. The train features specially designed panoramic carriages so you can sit back and enjoy glorious views of the magnificent scenery – cascading waterfalls, deep ravines, chestnut forests and romantic hillside villages. Passing over viaducts and bridges, we eventually arrive in Domodossola, from where we return by coach to our hotel. DAY 4 – MONTREUX & CHÂTEAU DE CHILLON After breakfast we travel to Montreux on the shores

of Lake Geneva, where you have a full day at leisure to choose what you’d like to do. You could take a cruise with lunch on board one of the many side-wheel paddle steamers plying the lake or ride the cog railway to the peak of Rochers-de-Naye that – at 6,700 feet – towers over the water. Back down by the lakefront, the imposing 13th-century Château de Chillon stands guard over the Rhône Valley just outside the town. The inspiration for Lord Byron’s poem ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’, this wonderfully preserved castle has a picture-perfect location on the water’s edge and is Switzerland’s most visited monument. Great halls, dungeons, a chapel and a weapons room house a host of original features, including original graffiti, coats of arms, carved fireplaces, crossbows and tapestries. Alternatively, you could simply stroll along the elegant waterside promenade, admiring the vine-clad terraces and the snow-capped mountains of France’s HauteSavoie on the opposite bank. For those who prefer to stay closer to Brig and enjoy walking in the fresh mountain air, there are some easy footpaths close by. Alternatively take a train, cable car and gondola to be whisked up to the 8,684-foot summit of the Bettmerhorn, from where you’ll enjoy an amazing panoramic view over the Great Aletsch Glacier; measuring more than 14 miles from end to end, it’s the longest in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. DAY 5 – THE GLACIER EXPRESS You can look forward to a real highlight today as we enjoy one of the world’s most legendary railway journeys – the Glacier Express. The trains feature panoramic windows so you can take in the spectacular views, and we experience several changes of locomotive to cope with the changing gradients. Covering a distance of around 75 miles, the train twists its way through ever more dramatic scenery of peaks, waterfalls, pine-clad hillsides and ravines on our four-hour ride. The highest point on our journey is the Oberalp Pass at 6,700 feet, where we’re well above the treeline – snow can remain on the ground here well


into June. Another highlight is the Upper Rhine Gorge – sometimes called the ‘Swiss Grand Canyon’, it was largely inaccessible until the railway was opened in 1903. After lunch on board (payable locally), we arrive in Chur. From here our coach takes us up to Klosters, renowned as a favourite ski resort of Prince Charles and other members of the Royal Family. The village features a huddle of typical dark wooden chalets framed by alpine peaks to create a picture-postcard Swiss scene. Our hotel for the next three nights is the four-star Silvretta Parkhotel, with breakfast and dinner. Located in the heart of Klosters, it has a large indoor pool with whirlpool and fitness area, the Panorama restaurant where we take dinner, a lounge bar and spacious, well-appointed rooms.

Zermatt and the Matterhorn

DAY 6 – FREE DAY IN KLOSTERS Today is free to spend at your leisure in this fashionable village and the stunning alpine wonderland that surrounds it. While in Klosters you have easy access to the nearby peaks via the nearby cable cars and chair lifts, which are all free – they’ll transport you high into the mountains for tremendous views and walking. If you’d rather stay in Klosters, many of the homely chalet-restaurants serve local specialities on their terraces. DAY 7 – THE BERNINA EXPRESS A contrasting day of amazing scenery and extraordinary Swiss engineering as we take the famous Bernina Express to Tirano just over the Italian border. The railway – and its surrounding countryside – was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 and is among the world’s most scenic journeys. The route ascends in a remarkable sequence of spirals, loops, 55 tunnels and 196 bridges past the chic resort

of Saint Moritz to the summit at Ospizio Bernina, at 7,392 feet, one of the highest stations in Europe. Here we’re surrounded by snow-clad peaks and glacial lakes. The views will take your breath away. The train then winds down through pretty pastures and pine forests to Tirano. You’ll enjoy some free time in this pretty Italian town of historic buildings, piazzas

and riverside cafés before boarding a coach and returning to Klosters via the stunning Upper Engadine Valley over the Flüela Pass (normally open late May to mid October). DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Bernina Express

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BERLIN, DRESDEN, MEISSEN & COLDITZ 5 days from only £599pp

Witness Germany’s past and present merging in the most fascinating ways – taking in Berlin’s eclectic ambience, Dresden’s resurrected architectural glories, the artisanal heritage of medieval Meissen and the pure adventure of Colditz Castle. On this intriguingly varied tour, we experience two of Europe’s greatest cultural cities, Berlin and Dresden. Both have endured violent interludes in otherwise glittering histories and have now returned to their former glory at the heart of 21st- century Europe. The outpouring of joy and energy that accompanied the fall of the Berlin Wall nearly 30 years ago rekindled Berlin’s legendary vibrancy, and this modern city throbs with new life while doffing its cap respectfully to the past. Iconic locations abound – from Checkpoint Charlie with its spy stories, to the magnificent avenue of Unter den Linden with its many cafés and museums. Here we also see the Brandenburg Gate and the instantly recognisable Reichstag, symbol of the new Germany. Perhaps more sedate than Berlin, Dresden is a cultural jewel reborn as a beacon of hope and peace, revelling in the renewed splendour of its architecture, opera and museums. Before the last war it was Germany’s most beautiful city thanks to its imposing Baroque buildings and many art treasures. After huge bomb damage, Dresden has been almost completely restored as part of an extraordinary restoration project spanning 60 years, – and the results are breathtaking. But there’s much more to this tour than these two re-energised cities as we experience Germany’s traditional side through its rolling countryside, small towns and picturesque villages. There will also be reminders of old East Germany, including an occasional Trabant,

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the still sought-after car that is so associated with the period – you can even choose to experience Berlin from this unique viewpoint as part of a ‘Trabi’ safari. We explore the medieval town of Meissen, where highly skilled artisans craft exquisite porcelain in the only factory in Europe where the process is still completed entirely by hand. Finally, and in complete contrast to picturesque Meissen, we visit Colditz Castle, the infamous prisoner of war camp for serial would-be escapees – inmates included the legless fighter pilot Douglas Bader. This is a tour that reveals Germany’s delightful contrasts, from its vibrant modern cities to its charming rural landscapes, and lets you experience the past, present and future of this remarkable country. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN BERLIN Arrive at the airport for your flight to Berlin. On arrival, we transfer to either the four-star superior Hotel Maritim Berlin or the four-star superior Maritim Pro Arte for two nights. The Hotel Maritim Berlin is ideally located very near the famous Potsdamer Platz in the heart of the city, so convenient for visiting the sights. The Maritim Pro Arte is a beautiful modern hotel conveniently situated between the Brandenburg Gate and the Gendarmenmarkt, and is just a stone’s throw from Unter den Linden with its elegant shops – perfect for exploring on foot. The hotel is spacious, very comfortable and houses a wonderful art collection.

DAY 2 – BERLIN Berlin is an incredible place. Originally two separate 14th-century towns, it has long been a city of contrasts and never more so than in its recent past, which makes it such a fascinating place to visit. This morning we have a guided tour taking in many landmarks, including Checkpoint Charlie, a poignant symbol of the Cold War when the city was divided between East and West. You’ll see the Brandenburg Gate – one of Germany’s most iconic landmarks – and the Reichstag, the parliament of the reunified Germany that is steeped in history and partially reconstructed by Norman Foster. We also take in Unter Den Linden, the city’s most famous boulevard, the imposing cathedral and of course what remains of the Berlin Wall – now a protected historical monument. The afternoon is free for you to explore. Berlin’s turbulent political past makes it such an absorbing place, but it is also an incredibly vibrant city with a character and optimism to match. It strongly rewards exploring on foot – visit the impressive Charlottenburg Palace and the legendary Olympiastadion stadium, or you may wish to take a short train ride to Potsdam and the Sanssouci Palace, home of the famous Prussian king Frederick the Great. DAY 3 – COLDITZ & MEISSEN After breakfast we drive through gentle rolling woodland and fields into Saxony, crossing the mighty


PRICE INCLUDES • Discover Berlin’s most iconic locations, including the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, historic Unter den Linden and more on a tour led by an expert local guide • Absorb the German capital’s eclectic ambience and discover its world-class archaeological and art museums • Enjoy a walking tour of Dresden, the ‘Florence of the Elbe’, whose Renaissance, Baroque and Classical buildings have been rebuilt and restored to their original magnificence • Visit medieval Meissen and tour the world-famous porcelain studio, where an expert guide explains how its unique creations are hand crafted using centuries-old techniques • Hear tales of heroic escapes brought to life on our guided tour of Colditz Castle, the infamous Second World War prison

Plus, of course... • • • See the famous Brandenburg Gate

River Elbe en route to somewhere synonymous with the heroic art of escape: Colditz. The supposedly escape-proof castle towers on its clifftop, looming over the town below. Our guided tour and the related exhibition offer intriguing insights into the lives of

Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers Four nights in four-star superior accommodation inclusive of all local taxes with breakfast The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £599PP both inmates and guards. We see escape tunnels, a home-made radio, false uniforms and other escape equipment, all ingeniously crafted from whatever materials were to hand. Much was secreted about the buildings and, like the ‘radio room’, was discovered by maintenance workers after the war. Some of the most Dresden

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Dine in Berlin TV Tower’s revolving restaurant Enjoy a VIP dinner at Sphere in Berlin’s tallest building at 207 metres above the city. Skip the queues, ascend to your reserved table and take in incredible vistas of the city’s landmarks while you enjoy your two-course dinner, accompanied by three glasses of wine. From £75pp.

moving exhibits are postcards sent by prisoners to their children, whom they were not to see for many years. Next we visit nearby the town of Meissen, famous for producing the first porcelain to be made outside of China. We have a remarkable tour revealing how, since 1710, highly skilled artisans have created these unique works of art. Many porcelain pieces take weeks or even months to finish, and in the museum you can enjoy many of the splendid examples from throughout the company’s existence. We soon arrive in Dresden for two nights, at the centrally located four-star superior Hotel Steigenberger. Beautifully designed, this is a modern property; the rooms are superbly decorated and have all the facilities you would expect of a hotel of this quality. On some tour dates we’ll stay at the fourstar superior Maritim Hotel, situated on the banks of the River Elbe and just a few minutes’ walk from the historic city centre. Both properties feature excellent restaurants and inviting bars, so your comfort at these international-standard hotels is assured. DAY 4 – DRESDEN Sitting majestically astride the stately waters of the River Elbe and dating from the 12th century, Dresden is a strikingly beautiful place to visit. It rose to artistic prominence during the early 18th century when August the Strong, ruler of Poland and Saxony, gathered many of Europe’s best musicians, architects and artists in his capital. Its pre-eminence as a centre for art, classical music and science saw the emergence of fine Renaissance, Baroque and Classical buildings, the majority of which – though destroyed by the Allied bombings of 1945 – have been wonderfully restored in recent years, returning Dresden to its former glory. This morning we have a walking tour around these revitalised architectural gems, and in the afternoon you’re free to explore as you wish. Absorb the ambience of Dresden’s many enchanting shops, seek out a cosy restaurant down one of the quaintly cobbled streets, or simply enjoy the numerous talented street musicians that keep Dresden’s musical heritage alive. DAY 5 – RETURN FLIGHT After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Please note: On some dates, this tour operates in reverse order.

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THE ROMANTIC RHINE, B L AC K FO R E ST & A L SAC E 8 days from only £849pp

See Germany’s landscape at its most classic in the charming old towns and romantic castles of the beautiful Rhine Valley wine region, the Black Forest’s idyllic mountains and lakes, plus the unique Alsace region of France. 170

The majestic Rhine cuts through magnificent mountains and meanders past charming medieval towns, fairy-tale castles, the terraced vineyards of Alsace and the wooded slopes of the Black Forest. Witness Germany’s landscape at its most dramatic, a fitting backdrop for a magical journey of discovery and unforgettable experiences. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN COLOGNE Arrive at London St Pancras International for your Eurostar service to Brussels. We transfer by coach to Cologne to stay one night at the four-star Novotel Koeln City, with dinner and breakfast. DAY 2 – COLOGNE & THE RHINE GORGE Our day begins with a guided tour of Cologne. Walking along cobbled streets past the ancient Roman city wall, it’s easy to imagine you’ve been transported back in time. The historic centre features


PRICE INCLUDES • Enjoy a guided tour of medieval Cologne with its resplendent Gothic cathedral • Tour the wonderfully scenic Rhine Valley and its vineyard-covered slopes • Soak up the chic elegance of Wiesbaden on a guided tour of the ‘Nice of the North’ • Visit the winemaking town of Rüdesheim and the evocative 12th century monastery of Kloster Eberbach • Explore Baroque Heidelberg and the spa town of Baden-Baden • Stay in the UNESCO-listed university city of Freiburg • Take a trip to Colmar, one of France’s most perfectly preserved towns • Journey along Alsace’s scenic wine route with a complimentary tasting

sophisticated Wiesbaden to stay for two nights at the modern four-star superior Dorint Pallas Hotel, with daily breakfast plus dinner on the first night. DAY 3 – WIESBADEN, RUDESHEIM & KLOSTER EBERBACH After breakfast we explore Wiesbaden on a guided tour by coach and on foot. The capital of the state of Hesse, it’s one of Europe’s oldest spa towns, known as the ‘Nice of the North’ because of its many natural hot springs that have long attracted the well-to-do.

• •

Fall in love with the romantic Black Forest, inspiration for some of our best-loved fairy tales Complimentary Freiburg Welcome Card offering three days’ travel on public transport and the Schauinsland cable car

Plus, of course... • Return standard class reserved seat on Eurostar and TGV (French high speed train) from London St Pancras, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in excellent quality four star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and three dinners • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £849PP You’ll see the town’s fabulous Art Nouveau buildings, the old town hall and the magnificent neoclassical Kurhaus with its elegant casino. In the afternoon we take a drive through the pretty wine region of Rheingau to the idyllic winemaking town of Rüdesheim. Here we visit the Drosselgasse, a narrow lane lined with traditional wine taverns and intimate courtyards. If you wish, there’s also time to take the cable car up to the Germania monument for panoramic views of Rüdesheim and the shimmering Rhine.

Freiburg

Experience the timeless and breathtaking Black Forest

the Alter Markt town square, the old town hall and the main attraction – the Dom, the city’s 13thcentury cathedral with its impressive twin spires that dominate the skyline. A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, it took over 600 years to build and boasts what are perhaps Europe’s most intricate stained glass windows. Rising up behind the high altar is the gilded Shrine of the Three Kings, a staggeringly beautiful reliquary housing the reputed remains of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. This afternoon we travel along the ruggedly scenic Rhine Gorge, weaving through lovely villages overlooked by dramatic, hilltop castles. You’ll see the Lorelei, the rock where, according to legend, mermaids lured unsuspecting sailors to their deaths with enchanting songs. The vine-covered slopes, craggy shoreline and swirling waters of the Rhine create the classic image of this famous river that has inspired numerous poets and artists. We continue to

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Just a few miles away is the wonderfully atmospheric 12th-century Kloster Eberbach – a former Cistercian monastery that, in the Middle Ages, boasted the largest vineyards in Europe and where the monks made their own wine. On our visit here you’ll see the remarkable Romanesque and early Gothic buildings that make it such a prominent architectural site in the region. Film enthusiasts may recognise its interiors from the 1986 film adaptation of Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose.

This afternoon we visit another cultural centre, Baden-Baden. A renowned spa resort since Roman times, it was a fashionable destination for 19thcentury European aristocracy. Today it still has a Regency feel, rather like Bath or Cheltenham, and boasts a wealth of galleries and museums. We continue on to Freiburg im Breisgau, where we stay for four nights at the contemporary four-star Hotel Stadt, with daily breakfast plus dinner on the first night.

DAY 4 – HEIDELBERG & BADEN-BADEN Our morning starts with a visit to the beautiful old university town of Heidelberg. Situated on the Neckar River, in a valley dominated by an imposing castle high on a wooded hillside, it’s exceptionally picturesque. Gabled buildings line the river, behind which a maze of medieval streets make up the delightful Altstadt, or Old Town. Heidelberg’s prestigious 14th-century university lends a genteel atmosphere to the town, which was the centre of Germany’s Romantic movement during the 19th century. It was also one of the destinations on the ‘Grand Tour’ and was visited by the artist JMW Turner, who captured its splendours for eternity in a series of paintings.

DAY 5 – FREIBURG IM BREISGAU We enjoy a morning tour of romantic Freiburg, a university city with a vibrant historic centre set against the dramatic backdrop of the Black Forest mountains. The pedestrianised streets allow us to easily explore many of its highlights, including the 16th-century Haus zum Walfisch (Whale House) and 500-year-old university. Arguably the most impressive building of all is the Minster, Freiburg’s towering Gothic cathedral situated in the pretty cobbled Münsterplatz. Historically this is the sunniest and warmest city in Germany – it’s not unheard of for locals to bask in the sunshine while neighbouring villages are still shovelling snow!

Colmar

This afternoon is free for you to explore at your leisure. There are plenty of restaurants and cafés serving traditional food in Freiburg’s centre, which is full of examples of its medieval heritage, including gates and fortifications, the old town hall and the famous Bächle, small channels built to transport water around the city. For spectacular vistas, catch Germany’s longest cable car up the Schauinsland mountain – a comfortable 20-minute ascent over 4,000 feet, where breathtaking views of Freiburg and the Rhine Valley await. Please note: the cable car fee is covered by your three-day Freiburg Welcome Card, which allows you travel on all local transport. DAY 6 – THE ALSACE WINE ROUTE & COLMAR Today we make the short trip across the border into the Alsace region of France. Heading west from Freiburg, we follow a picturesque wine route of romantic old villages, Renaissance châteaux and rolling hills. You’ll have the chance to taste some of Alsace’s fine wines before arriving in Colmar, the bestpreserved town in eastern France. This microcosm of Alsace is a maze of canals, former merchants’ houses, religious buildings and antique shops. The former wine exchange and the cathedral quarter are surrounded by pastel-coloured, half-timbered houses displaying intricate wrought-iron signs typical of this area. DAY 7 – BLACK FOREST, LAKE TITISEE & TRIBERG This morning’s scenic drive takes us through the Black Forest and past Feldberg, its highest mountain. Our first stop is picture-postcard Lake Titisee, the largest natural lake in the region, whose serene waters are surrounded by tree-covered hills and villages of

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traditional Black Forest houses with long sloping roofs. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely stroll or take a boat trip on the lake. We continue to the picturesque mountain town of Triberg, home to Germany’s highest waterfall, which foams and thunders as it plunges 535 feet down the

Gutach River. Those with a passion for cakes should seek out Café Schäfer, where the original 1915 recipe for Black Forest gâteau can be sampled. The area is also renowned for traditional cuckoo clocks, and you can see numerous shops and workshops where they are still made by hand.

DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Accompanied by your tour manager, transfer to Strasbourg where we take the TGV to Lille or Paris, connecting with the Eurostar service to London St Pancras International.

Heidelberg

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H E L S I N K I , TA L L I N N & RIGA 8 days from only £899pp

Discover the heritage of the Baltic on this tour of three capital cities, each with a unique atmosphere yet brimming with Russian-influenced history, fascinating architecture and an abundance of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The countries bordering the Baltic Sea have always been slightly off the beaten track compared to other European destinations, yet those who visit are richly rewarded. The three nations featured on this tour – Finland, Latvia and Estonia – were part of the Russian Empire until 1917, with the last two remaining under Soviet control until 1991, meaning that strong Russian influences mingle with hallmarks of both Eastern and Western Europe to create cityscapes that are unique to this part of the world. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Finnish capital of Helsinki, our base for the first three nights of this tour. Much of Finland was ruled by Sweden from the 12th century, and Helsinki was a peripheral town founded as a trading centre in 1550 to rival its Estonian neighbour, Tallinn. This all changed when Russia took control of the country in 1809; Tsar Alexander I made Helsinki the Finnish capital three years later, bringing it conveniently closer to Saint Petersburg. Over the following century the city was dramatically transformed as handsome buildings sprang up to reflect its elevated status. Add a leafy landscape that’s typical of Scandinavia

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and a reputation as a vibrant hub of modern culture, education and industry and you have all the elements of a fascinating capital. Helsinki is located on an archipelago of some 330 islands, six of which house the impressive Suomenlinna Fortress, which we will see on a guided tour. Originally built in the 18th century to bolster Sweden’s defences against Russia, this impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site is inhabited by a small community of around 850 locals living in some of the fort’s 200 buildings. We spend time discovering the secrets of Suomenlinna and soak up the almost eerily peaceful atmosphere of one of Helsinki’s most popular attractions. With Helsinki situated in the south of Finland and Tallinn located in the north of Estonia, the cities essentially face each other across the Gulf of Finland, with just a two-hour ferry journey separating them. Nevertheless, they’re very much a contrast in styles: Helsinki is a mix of neoclassical, Art Nouveau and modern architecture, while Tallinn has an older ambience, with a host of buildings dating back to the Middle Ages. Tallinn’s enchanting UNESCO-listed Old Town is a beautifully preserved example of a medieval


PRICE INCLUDES • Enjoy a guided tour of the Finnish capital, Helsinki, a melting pot of Scandinavian and Russian influences • Explore the UNESCO-listed Suomenlinna Fortress, spanning six Helsinki islands, on a guided tour • Marvel at Tallinn’s UNESCO-listed Old Town on a walking tour of Estonia’s atmospheric capital with a local guide • Discover Tallinn’s Baroque Kadriorg Palace and gardens on a guided tour of this masterpiece built by Peter the Great • Take a relaxing countryside drive to Estonia’s cultural capital, Tartu, with time to enjoy its picturesque Old Town • Visit the Latvian capital, Riga, enjoying a guided visit to its historic core with its mix of Gothic and Art Nouveau architecture

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star accommodation, including all local taxes, with breakfast and three dinners including two at local restaurants • Ferry crossing from Helsinki to Tallinn • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £899PP

forests and incredibly preserved medieval buildings are all guaranteed to stir your imagination on this engrossing journey across one of Europe’s hidden corners. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN HELSINKI Arrive at the airport for your flight to Helsinki. On arrival we transfer by coach to stay for three nights, with breakfast and one dinner, at one of two carefully selected hotels, depending on your departure date. The four-star Scandic Grand Marina is housed in an Art Nouveau building by the waterfront of Katajanokka. The environmentally friendly hotel has rooms with wooden floors, while large, arched windows and high ceilings in the restaurant and bar create a bright atmosphere. The rooms are decorated in a contemporary Scandinavian style with all the facilities you’d expect. Located opposite beautiful Toolo Bay, a short walk or tram ride from the city centre, the four-star Scandic Park is a modern hotel featuring a bar and restaurant, rooftop hot tub, sauna and swimming pool. The recently refurbished air-conditioned rooms are classically Scandinavian in design and feature a minibar, hairdryer, safe and flat-screen TV. DAY 2 – HELSINKI Helsinki is a captivating city situated on an archipelago in the Gulf of Finland. Many of its grand neoclassical buildings were designed by German architect Carl Ludvig Engel, who was commissioned by Tsar Alexander I to redevelop the city in the early 1800s. The Russian influence is striking in the capital’s architecture, so much so that during the Cold War it was used by filmmakers for the Soviet locations in films including The Kremlin Letter, Gorky Park and Reds. Our morning guided tour takes us around many of Helsinki’s highlights. We’ll see the capital’s striking Art Nouveau railway station and the Sibelius Monument, an abstract work made up of more than 600 steel ‘organ pipes’ and a bust of Finland’s most celebrated classical composer. The afternoon is yours to explore the city’s numerous sights. Why not visit one of its many

Riga Discover Tallinn, the charming capital of Estonia

trading port, divided into the castle, cathedral and grand edifices of the hilltop upper town and the narrow passageways, churches and city walls of the lower town. South of Tallinn is Estonia’s cultural capital, Tartu, a perfect pit stop. As home to one of Europe’s oldest universities and several major museums, this attractive city has a large student population generating a wonderfully lively atmosphere, with the Kissing Students fountain in the Town Hall Square serving as a reminder of the city’s reputation as a seat of learning. After our brief sojourn in Tartu we continue further south and cross the border into Latvia and its capital, Riga, often described as the ‘Pearl of the Baltics’. This character-packed Latvian city is an intriguing mass of contradictions, where elegant Art Nouveau masterpieces sit alongside brooding Gothic buildings and quaint wooden structures. From Helsinki in the north to our southernmost stop in Riga, this tour encompasses four unique cities in a trio of countries on the cusp of where Russia and Europe collide. The stark beauty of the Baltic Sea, vast

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Tallinn

peaceful green spaces such as the six-mile-long Central Park or waterside Kaivopuisto Park? Helsinki also boasts a number of sandy beaches that are especially popular during the long summer days. Finland is the home of the sauna – the country has two million of them – and you could visit one of the city’s public saunas for an invigorating session. Alternatively, browse Helsinki’s shops and boutiques selling chic Scandinavian wares or pop into one of the many cosy cafés for a coffee. DAY 3 – SUOMENLINNA FORTRESS Today we are transported back in time as we take a short ferry ride from the mainland to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Suomenlinna Fortress. Despite a tumultuous history from the mid 1700s under Swedish, Russian and Finnish command, the fortress is now a tranquil location that provides a snapshot of the past. Our expert guide will bring the spectacular fort’s history to life as we explore its four bastions as well as a wealth of other attractions within its walls, including deep connecting tunnels, a turquoise-domed dual-use church and lighthouse, the only Second World War-era submarine remaining in Finland, lakes, gardens and even a beach. Outside the walls we meander through cobbled streets, across connecting bridges and past old wooden buildings now home to quaint restaurants and artists’ workshops. In the afternoon you’ll have some free time to further explore Suomenlinna – it’s home to no fewer than six museums – or, if you prefer, head back to the city centre. DAY 4 – TALLINN After breakfast we say goodbye to Helsinki and board a ferry to cross the Gulf of Finland to Estonia. We sail on a modern ship with comfortable lounges, restaurants and shops – and it’s wonderfully bracing to step out on deck and breathe in the clean maritime air. We dock in the capital, Tallinn, and drive to grand Kadriorg Palace in the east of the city. Built in the 18th

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century by Tsar Peter the Great as a gift to his wife, Catherine, this Italianate building houses one of the country’s finest art collections, with around 9,000 works. On a guided tour we see its ornate ceiling in the main hall and paintings by 16th- to 20th-century European masters as well as the palace’s manicured gardens and elegant fountains. We head back into Tallinn to settle into our hotel before enjoying dinner in a local restaurant. We stay two nights at the four-star Nordic Forum Hotel, with breakfast. Located in the centre of Tallinn, just moments away from the Old Town, this bright, stylish hotel boasts a large bar and restaurant as well as a top-floor heated swimming pool with views of Tallinn’s famed towers. Designed to reflect a combination of the Old Town and nature, all the rooms have air conditioning, Wi-Fi, TV, safe, minibar and hairdryer. DAY 5 – TALLINN Estonia’s capital is, quite simply, like stepping back in time several centuries and this morning we enjoy a walking tour of its centre with a local guide. The lower quarter of Tallinn’s fairy-tale UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town is a warren of atmospheric streets and buildings situated below an impressive hilltop upper district. Here you’ll find Toompea Castle – the courtyard of which now houses Estonia’s pastel-coloured Parliament building – and spectacular Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, with its onion domes so typical of Russian Orthodox churches. As you enter the Old Town through its iconic 14th-century Viru Gate, you’re immediately struck by the heady fragrance of fresh blooms from the many flower shops. Walking in the shadows of church steeples, turreted battlements and 50-foot city walls, you’ll happen upon a hotchpotch of winding lanes and alleyways, colourful merchants’ houses and traditional traders. Stroll through Saint Catherine’s Passage, a charming hidden alleyway lined with all manner of artists’ workshops and studios. After the tour there’s


Suomenlinna Fortress

some free time to seek out further delights in this enchanting city. Perhaps step into one of its numerous pretty churches, visit the superb Estonian Maritime Museum or just relax in a café, watching the world go by. DAY 6 – TARTU After breakfast we leave the capital and head to Estonia’s second city of Tartu, passing rich farmland, traditional wooden barns and dense forests. Tartu, home to the country’s most renowned university, is a vibrant cultural hub with a picturesque centre and we have time to explore its compact historic core. The Town Hall Square – with its famous Kissing Students fountain, pretty pink Town Hall and curious Leaning House – is the perfect place to people-watch and Riga

take in views of the Emajogi River. We set off again mid-afternoon and enter Latvia, arriving at its capital, Riga. After settling into our hotel, we head out for the evening to sample some local cuisine in a nearby restaurant. We stay two nights, with breakfast, in one of two hotels, depending on your departure date. Just a short walk from Riga’s Old Town, the four-star Radisson Blu Ridzene is located near a delightful park with a pretty lake and fountain. The bright, airy lobby leads to a dining room with a distinctive glass pyramid roof in the style of the Louvre. The air-conditioned rooms feature Wi-Fi, cable TV, safe, minibar and hairdryer. The four-star Wellton Hotel & Spa is situated in the Old Town itself, close to the city’s main squares and marketplace. All the air-conditioned rooms have

Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV, safe, hairdryer and minibar, while the hotel’s wonderful spa is the perfect place to unwind after a day’s sightseeing. DAY 7 – RIGA This morning we embark on a walking tour of beautiful Riga, the largest city of the Baltic states. Positioned at the mouth of the Daugava River, Latvia’s capital is a dazzling mix of architectural styles – spires of grand Gothic churches tower above cobblestoned streets lined with decorative Art Nouveau buildings. As well as being divided by the river, Riga also has something of a split personality, where the flamboyant and intricate sits side by side with a stripped-back simplicity. In the UNESCO-listed Old Town you can see building facades adorned with the most elaborate carvings, then wander a little further afield and you’ll find yourself in one of Riga’s ‘wooden neighbourhoods’, where the pace slows considerably and the streets become much leafier, hinting at the thick forests surrounding this city by the sea. We explore the medieval maze that makes up the Old Town, including its striking 82-foot Powder Tower – previously where gunpowder was stored and now home to the Latvian War Museum – and the central Dome Square, where seven streets meet in the city’s largest public space. Stand on a marked spot in the square and you can see the golden cockerels – traditionally viewed as symbolic ‘watchmen’ in Latvia – on the spires of three of Riga’s oldest churches. During the afternoon you’re free to explore the city as you wish. Enjoy a stroll through Riga’s vast Central Market – housed in five former zeppelin hangars – marvel at the ornate architecture of buildings such as Blackheads House in the Town Hall Square or take a trip in a traditional boat on the canal that runs through the historic centre. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

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ICELAND 5 days from only £999pp

Experience raw nature in breathtaking Iceland, where the power of this ancient land can be seen in its volcanoes, thermal springs, geysers and glaciers, and the icy seas teem with wildlife, from whales and dolphins to colourful puffins. In this modern age of restaurant chains, big brands and designer shops, some countries can seem a little familiar – but not Iceland! It’s like nowhere else on earth, with friendly yet fiercely independent and resilient locals, a culture steeped in Norse mythology and a landscape forged by the forces of water, ice and fire. On this exhilarating tour you’ll see nature at its most spectacular: dramatic lava fields, snow-capped volcanoes, enormous glaciers and majestic waterfalls. You’ll swim in a geothermal pool, stand near an explosive geyser and enjoy a cruise to see – luck permitting – whales, dolphins and puffins. Then there’s Reykjavik, the capital of this sparsely populated island and as charming a capital city as you’ll ever find. We enjoy a tour taking in its cultural and architectural highlights, and it’s also the perfect base for exploring Iceland’s fabled ‘Golden Circle’ of natural wonders whose beauty will, quite simply, leave you lost for words. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN REYKJAVIK Arrive at the airport for your flight to Reykjavik. Depending on the departure date of the tour, we transfer by coach to one of two carefully selected hotels to stay for four nights, with breakfast. The

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four-star Centrum is situated on the city’s oldest street and spread across three buildings, the oldest built in 1764. They have been sympathetically renovated in the style of early 1900s Reykjavik, while underneath the hotel are the remains of a Viking longhouse. The modern rooms feature satellite TV, minibar, iron and ironing board, safe, Wi-Fi, hairdryer and tea- and coffee-making facilities. The four-star Fosshotel Reykjavik blends Scandinavian style and class with sophisticated decor. The largest hotel in Iceland, it’s located close to Laugavegur, the city’s main shopping street, which also offers a choice of bars and restaurants. The bright and spacious rooms are fully equipped with flat-screen TV, iron and ironing board, safe, tea- and coffee-making facilities, Wi-Fi and hairdryer. DAY 2 – SPECTACULAR WATERFALLS & THE BLACK BEACH Today we explore Iceland’s wonderfully diverse southwestern shoreline. We ascend into a remarkable lunar-like landscape of multicoloured lava plateaus, travel through the Threngsli Pass and then descend to the sparkling Olfusa River, famous for its excellent salmon. Some of Iceland’s prettiest landscapes now lie before us as we pass farms and charming villages

set among pleasant pastures – keep an eye out for the exceptionally hardy Icelandic horses. To the north you can see the Myrdalsjokull and Eyjafjallajokull glaciers, the latter famous for its active volcano below, which famously disrupted Europe’s air traffic following an eruption in 2010. We head to two of Iceland’s most


PRICE INCLUDES • Get to know Reykjavik on a guided

tour of the world’s northernmost capital • Discover UNESCO-listed Thingvellir National Park with its magnificent lake, where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge divides Iceland • Take a dip in the mineral-rich geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon, heated to a constant 38 degrees Celsius • Experience the awesome natural power of Gullfoss, Iceland’s iconic waterfall • Enjoy a spellbinding cruise with the chance to spot whales and dolphins • Travel across contorted lava fields through the Threngsli Pass, where two continents meet, and see the immense Solheimajokull glacier

Experience some of Iceland’s most astonishing natural wonders

spectacular waterfalls: majestic Seljalandsfoss, which tumbles ribbon-like over a huge overhanging lava cliff, and Skogafoss, one of Iceland’s highest waterfalls, which plunges almost 200 feet in an impressive shower of shimmering spray. The wonders continue as we approach the imposing wall of ice at the head of the immense five-mile-long Solheimajokull glacier. You may notice a distinctive aroma here – the glacial waters are known as the ‘Stinking River’ due to the sulphuric acid content in the hot geothermal rocks below. Next we make for Iceland’s southernmost point Reynisfjara, seeing the famous Black Beach, where you may, depending on the time of the year, be lucky and spot the renowned puffin colonies. DAY 3 – WHALE-WATCHING & BLUE LAGOON Today we experience something completely different, taking a boat out in search of two of the planet’s most graceful creatures: whales and dolphins. Depending on conditions – and with a little luck – we may see some of the many species of whales living in Icelandic waters, such as humpbacks and killer whales, though more common are the delightful minkes as well as dolphins. Have your camera at the ready – the moment when you first spot the dorsal

fin of a whale breaking the surface in front of you is incredibly special. Puffins nest on some of the offshore islands, and you may see them diving into the water or jumping off cliffs in a remarkable display of aquabatics. In the early afternoon we enjoy a sightseeing tour of Reykjavik. Situated on a fjord with a natural harbour, the city is dominated by the concrete Hallgrimskirkja – the country’s largest church, its design inspired by volcanic basalt. In front of the church is a monument to the Norse explorer Leif Eriksson, who is believed to have discovered America 500 years before Columbus. You’ll also see historic Hofdi House, site of the landmark 1986 Reykjavik summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev that signalled the end of the Cold War. Nearby is the modern-day home of the Althing, considered the world’s oldest national parliament, while the old harbour evokes timeless scenes as weather-beaten trawlermen unload their hauls. We end the day with a visit to Iceland’s celebrated Blue Lagoon, where there’s the opportunity for a unique bathing experience. Against a stunning volcanic backdrop, you can enjoy a restorative dip in the lagoon’s mineral-rich waters that are geothermally heated to a constant 38 degrees Celsius. DAY 4 – GOLDEN CIRCLE No visit to Iceland would be complete without a trip to its renowned ‘Golden Circle’. This southern region serves up a dramatic cocktail of breathtaking scenery, fascinating geology and an ancient heritage that makes an unforgettable full-day tour. After passing jets of steam noisily erupting from the bare earth, we arrive at the UNESCO-listed Thingvellir National Park, which is situated on the northern shore of Iceland’s largest lake. Iceland was formed from volcanic activity after the North American and Eurasian continental plates split, and the park is located in a rift valley between the two plates. One side marks the edge of the American continent, while the other is part of the Eurasian plate. Even for those with only a passing interest in geology, it’s an astonishing insight into the geological forces that shape our planet. Thingvellir has further historical

• Visit Reynisfjara’s black-sand beach, home to puffins and extraordinary rock formations • Marvel at the famous Eyjafjallajokull volcano • Encounter the extraordinary Strokkur geyser, located in one of the world’s most geothermally active areas

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of airports, plus all hotel transfers Four nights in a choice of centrally located, four-star accommodation including all local taxes, with breakfast The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £999PP Blue Lagoon

interest, this time political – it’s the original location for Iceland’s parliament, the Althing, which first met here in the year 930. Continuing to the Hvita River, we travel upstream to a layer of tiered rock ‘pavements’ and a smokelike column of spray rising above the lava fields. The natural wonder before you is Gullfoss, or ‘Golden Waterfall’, a beautiful two-level cascade that drops from more than 100 feet above, a truly awe-inspiring spectacle. We then head to another astounding phenomenon – Haukadalur, one of the most active geothermal areas on our planet. In the steaming volcanic landscape you’ll experience the amazing Strokkur geyser, a gurgling pool of boiling water that simmers away before firing a jet of steam and water up to 100 feet high about every 10 minutes. The whole area of Haukadalur has an otherworldly feel, with few signs of habitation in the rocky, treeless terrain of hot springs and moss-covered lava formations. DAY 5 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

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N O R WAY 8 days from only £1,199pp

A wonderfully varied tour to Norway, highlighting its extraordinary natural beauty, Viking heritage and wartime courage plus sophisticated cities full of Scandinavian style and the spectacular Flam Railway, ‘the world’s most incredible train journey’. Norway’s spectacular fjords are renowned the world over, yet this Scandinavian country is home to a wealth of other natural, historical and cultural gems. Its sophisticated capital, Oslo, delightfully located at the head of its own fjord, is home to countless attractions. From its amazing contemporary Opera House, built to resemble a glacier emerging from the water, to the Royal Palace, art galleries and superb museums, this is a city guaranteed to surprise and delight. We also enjoy two of Europe’s most breathtaking rail journeys. The Oslo to Bergen line travels across an exquisite terrain of high plateaus and crystal-clear lakes, while the awe-inspiring Flam railway descends over 2,800 feet to sea level in just under an hour. It’s one of the steepest standard-gauge railways anywhere – no wonder it has been called ‘the world’s most incredible train journey’. Then there are, of course, the majestic fjords – and our tour includes cruises on two of the most unforgettable, including UNESCO-listed Naeroyfjord. We travel north to the classic Nordic city of Bergen, a member of the medieval Hanseatic League – you’ll be enchanted by its cobbled streets and the colourful wooden buildings lining the delightful quayside. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN OSLO Arrive at the airport for your flight to Oslo, where we transfer by coach to stay for three nights at the centrally located four-star Scandic Byporten Hotel, with breakfast. The spacious reception area of this purpose-built modern establishment is welcoming and bright, and includes a lobby bar with panoramic

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windows where you can relax with a drink. The light, minimalist rooms – featuring space-saving clotheshanging poles rather than wardrobes – are simply furnished in typically Scandinavian neutral tones and provide Wi-Fi, satellite TV, minibar and hairdryer. DAY 2 – OSLO After breakfast we embark on a sightseeing tour of Oslo. Norway’s relatively small capital is a beguiling mix of old and new, featuring world-class museums, cutting-edge contemporary architecture and beautiful open spaces. We’ll see the National Gallery, which features the earlier of the two painted versions of The Scream by Norway’s celebrated Edvard Munch, plus the imposing Royal Palace, the nearby Ibsen Museum and the famed Vigeland sculpture park. We then reach the peninsula of Bygdoy and arguably Oslo’s star attraction – the Viking Ship Museum, which houses three incredibly well-preserved Viking longships that are around 1,200 years old. From here you can walk to two other fascinating sights. The Kon-Tiki Museum contains the reed and balsawood vessels used by Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl on his landmark 1947 expedition across the Pacific and later trips across other oceans. Next door is the museum dedicated to the polar exploration ship Fram, used by Roald Amundsen when he beat Captain Scott in the race to reach the South Pole. The rest of the day is free for you to explore this charming city with the use of an Oslo Pass, which allows free entry to the city’s main museums and galleries, plus unrestricted travel on all public transport.

DAY 3 – TELEMARK Today begins with a journey west to picturesque Telemark. During the Second World War the region was renowned for the heroic actions of the Norwegian resistance and Allied bombers who together helped prevent the occupying German forces from developing the ‘heavy water’ needed for their atomic bomb-making capabilities. We visit the site of the processing plant at Rjukan that was destroyed by a team of Norwegian saboteurs in February 1943, then travel to Lake Tinnsjo. It was from here that the Germans planned to transport their remaining stocks Bergen


Cruise Norway’s breathtaking fjords

of processed heavy water back to Germany but the ‘Heroes of Telemark’, as they became known (you may have seen the film of the same name), sank the boat carrying the deadly cargo. We head back to Oslo through this stunning landscape via Heddal to see the country’s largest medieval wooden stave church – a spectacular 13th-century structure with multiple roofs, it looks like something from a fairy tale. DAY 4 – BERGEN RAILWAY After breakfast we depart from Oslo on the fabled Bergen Railway. Often cited as one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys, Oslo–Bergen is the highest line between any two cities in Europe, peaking at just over 4,000 feet. Passing pristine lakes and uninterrupted forests, the railway begins to climb until we’re past the tree line and on the barren Hardangervidda plateau, where patches of snow linger well into July. Just over five hours later we arrive at the mountain resort of Voss, where we check into the historic fourstar Fleischer’s Hotel for two nights, with breakfast and dinner. This beautiful hotel dates back to the 19th century and is still owned by the fourth-generation Fleischer family. A warm welcome is assured in the reception area with its lovely wooden panelling, comfortable leather chairs and sofas. The hotel has a large terrace with delightful lake and mountain views and an indoor pool, and the rooms are classically decorated in warm tones and provide Wi-Fi, TV and minibar. This evening we dine in style in the elegant restaurant, while there’s also a cosy bar to enjoy a digestif.

PRICE INCLUDES • Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Oslo and visit its famous Viking Ship Museum • See the natural beauty of the Telemark region, visiting the sites of Second World War heroics and Heddal’s 13th-century wooden stave church • Discover picturesque Bergen on a walking tour, including UNESCO-listed Bryggen • Travel on the famous Oslo to Bergen railway line and one of the world’s steepest standard-gauge railways to Flam • Cruise across the UNESCO-listed Naeroyfjord and through the stunning open waters of the Hardangerfjord • Marvel at Voringfossen, Norway’s most celebrated waterfall

DAY 5 – FLAM RAILWAY There’s a real treat in store today – a trip on the exhilarating Flam Railway. From Voss we head to Myrdal, where we change trains for Flam, a 12 1/2-mile journey that sees us descend over 2,800 feet on one of the world’s steepest and most beautiful railway lines. It’s an extraordinary feat of engineering, with 20 tunnels carved through sheer mountainsides allowing us to take in the magnificence of the perpendicular cliffs and cascading waterfalls before the stunning Aurlandsfjord comes into view. The hour-long journey ends in Flam, where we board a ferry to Gudvangen across the UNESCO-listed Naeroyfjord with its jaw-dropping vistas. Back on dry land, we return to Voss by coach. This tour may operate in reverse and we first take the ferry across Naeroyfjord before boarding the train at Flam and ascending to Myrdal. DAY 6 – VORINGFOSSEN & FJORD CRUISE We leave Voss for the pretty village of Eidfjord, which is nestled on the banks of Norway’s secondlongest fjord, Hardangerfjord – known as the ‘Queen of Fjords’. Our journey takes us across Norway’s longest suspension bridge and we continue up the valley to Voringfossen, the country’s most renowned waterfall. As it drops almost 600 feet into the sheer-sided gorge below, you may be lucky enough to see its rainbow from the viewing point that offers sensational views of this magnificent natural spectacle. Camera memory cards filled, we head back to the massive open waters of Hardangerfjord for a boat cruise past charming lakeside villages before transferring by coach to Bergen. Here we stay for two nights at the historic three-star superior Grand Hotel Terminus, with breakfast. An Art Deco hotel dating back to 1928, it’s ideally located within walking distance of Bergen’s main sights, while the rooms are distinctive and differ in size and shape, but all feature Wi-Fi, satellite TV, minibar and hairdryer. The atmospheric oak-panelled bar – voted the best in Norway for whisky – offers over a thousand different labels and is an ideal place to relax with newly made friends at the end of the day. This evening we dine at a local restaurant serving authentic Norwegian cuisine.

Enjoy a complimentary Oslo Pass, allowing free entry to more than 30 museums and attractions, plus free travel on all local public transport

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star and three star superior accommodation, including all local taxes, with breakfast and three dinners (one will be taken at a local restaurant) • Internal train journey between Bergen and Oslo plus the Flam railway • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £1,199PP ‘Stave’ church at Heddal

DAY 7 – BERGEN After breakfast we take a walking tour of this beautiful coastal city. Bergen has a long fishing heritage and we’ll visit its famous fish market before strolling among the colourful wooden houses and warehouses that make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bryggen. Originally built during the 14th century for German merchants trading from the city, these waterside buildings have been converted into characterful shops and restaurants that wonderfully evoke Bergen’s medieval past. The afternoon is free at your leisure. Simply stroll around the narrow cobbled streets before perhaps sampling a plate of fresh seafood at a restaurant of your choice. Alternatively, there’s a wealth of sightseeing opportunities, including the house of Bergen’s most famous son, composer Edvard Grieg, or the opportunity of a ride on the Floibanen funicular to the summit of Floyen for breathtaking views. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to Bergen airport for your flight home.

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MOSCOW & ST PETERSBURG 7 days from only £1,049pp

Discover Moscow and Saint Petersburg, home to countless symbols of imperial and revolutionary Russia, from the Kremlin and Red Square to the Hermitage and the Peterhof palace – plus the heritage of Chekhov, Tchaikovsky and the finest ballet. It’s no wonder Moscow and Saint Petersburg are high on the ‘must-see’ list of discerning travellers. These two cities have always been pivotal to the history and culture of Eastern Europe, so it’s not surprising that they’re home to some of the world’s most influential architecture and art. Our first destination is Moscow, for many steeped in mystery. The setting of so many Cold War spy novels, the city still retains an air of intrigue, making it stand out from Europe’s other capitals. Top of any visitor’s itinerary is the extraordinary Kremlin complex, housing sumptuous palaces and cathedrals, the Senate, Armoury and impressive squares and towers. Equally recognisable are Saint Basil’s Cathedral with its amazing multicoloured onion domes and Red Square, the site of Lenin’s mausoleum. Yet there’s so much more to see in Moscow than these grand symbols of politics and power. The city’s State University, housed in a palatial building, is where writers and thinkers such as Chekhov, Sakharov and Pasternak studied, while the Bolshoi Theatre is the

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home to the world’s most prestigious ballet company. Art lovers are spoilt for choice with a rich array of galleries, including the world-famous Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. Shopping takes on a refreshing novelty in the grand arcades of Tverskaya Street and bohemian Arbat, while the list of absorbing places goes on with Gorky Park, Stalin’s Bunker, the Gulag Museum, Victory Park and Tolstoy’s house. Add in Moscow’s celebrated Metro with its cathedral-like stations and you have an utterly unique destination. Next we visit Saint Petersburg, founded in 1703 by Peter the Great as the imperial capital of the tsars. Its majestic boulevards with splendid Baroque buildings, threaded by winding canals and set among delightful parks, evoke the style of classical Italy that originally inspired Peter’s vision. That elegant monument of old Russia, the Winter Palace, houses the best-known part of the Hermitage Museum, one of the world’s largest collections of art and artefacts, totalling over three million pieces. Similarly resplendent are Saint Isaac’s Cathedral with

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Enjoy a night at the ballet A night at the ballet is not to be missed when in Russia, a country synonymous with outstanding classical ballet. Follow in the footsteps of Catherine the Great and enjoy an evening of world-class performances in St Petersburg. From £140pp.


Visit the extraordinary Winter Palace in St Petersburg

PRICE INCLUDES • • • • • •

Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Moscow’s iconic sites, taking in the domes of Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the Bolshoi Theatre and the golden towers of Novodevichy Convent Discover the Kremlin complex and Red Square on a fascinating guided tour Go underground to some of Moscow’s iconic metro stations Explore Saint Petersburg on a sightseeing tour taking in the Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood – and more Marvel at the grandeur of the Hermitage, now home to one of the world’s greatest art collections Visit Peterhof, the magnificent summer palace of the tsars, known as the ‘Russian Versailles’

• •

Experience the wide open spaces of Russia on the Sapsan high-speed train between Moscow and Saint Petersburg Learn about the history of vodka on a tour of the Vodka Museum in Saint Petersburg, plus enjoy a tasting

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of airports, plus all hotel transfers • Reserved seats on the Sapsan high speed train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg • Six nights in centrally located, four-star accommodation with breakfast • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £1,049PP rise of Stalin, suffered a brutal siege lasting two and a half years during the Second World War and endured the Cold War. Vladimir Putin was born here and, in 1991, the city regained its original name. Now Saint Petersburg has emerged wonderfully from its turbulent past to reclaim its place among the world’s most beautiful and fascinating cities.

Kremlin Cathedral

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN MOSCOW Arrive at the airport for your flight to Moscow, where we transfer by coach to stay for three nights, with breakfast, at the four-star Courtyard by Marriott City Centre, the four-star Novotel Moscow Centre or the four-star Mercure Paveletskaya, depending on the day of your departure. All these hotels are within easy reach of the Red Square, and feature all the comforts expected of international-standard hotels. See the colourful domes of St Basil’s Cathedral

its massive red granite columns, the imposing Peter and Paul Fortress – its cathedral is the final resting place of many Romanovs – and the magisterial buildings lining the Neva River. Its tsarist grandeur aside, Saint Petersburg has another face that many visitors don’t appreciate. You can explore its many parks, take a stroll along its canals or window shop in its department stores and markets. It’s also the location of the Kirov (now known as the Mariinsky) Theatre, where some of the most celebrated names in ballet – Nureyev, Nijinsky and Pavlova among them – gained worldwide recognition. Other famous former residents include Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Pushkin, whose wonderful cultural legacies still endure. Saint Petersburg was founded by an emperor and was home to the tsars, Catherine the Great and the Romanov dynasty. The Russian Revolution changed everything – first the city lost its status as the capital of the Russian Empire under the Tsars in favour of Moscow and was renamed Petrograd. After Lenin’s death, its name changed again to Leningrad, then it witnessed the

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The Cathedral of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

DAY 2 – MOSCOW & RED SQUARE This morning all those ideas you have of Moscow from the news, films and countless spy novels come alive on our guided tour. The sense of history is overwhelming as we pass one phenomenal sight after another and hear the extraordinary stories behind them. We’ll see the 16th-century Novodevichy Convent, a fortressed cloister with fairytale-castle-like towers, several churches and an adjacent cemetery that reads like a Russian Who’s Who – Chekhov, Prokofiev, Gogol, Khrushchev and Yeltsin are just a few of the luminaries buried here. We also visit the colossal riverside Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The original structure, built to mark Russia’s victory over France in 1812, was demolished under Stalin before it was rebuilt as the world’s largest Orthodox church. Other tour highlights that we see include the celebrated Bolshoi Theatre, Lubyanka Square – former home of the KGB – and Moscow’s main thoroughfare, Tverskaya Street. Iconic Red Square is home to GUM, where Muscovites would queue for their meagre allocation of pots and plates during the Soviet era but is now a thoroughly modern and upmarket department store. The 16th-century Saint Basil’s Cathedral is a highlight – commissioned by Ivan the Terrible, it was originally constructed from white brick with gold onion domes, which were later repainted in the multitude of colours we see today. This afternoon is yours to explore the city at leisure. DAY 3 – THE KREMLIN This morning is dedicated to a guided tour of the Kremlin, the awe-inspiring centre of Russian power: red Soviet stars are still visible on its towers. The huge complex was remodelled in the 15th century under Ivan the Great, who commissioned Italian master stonemasons to build what would become the world’s largest medieval fortress. You’ll learn about its intriguing history and view its numerous cathedrals, churches and squares, Terem Palace and Ivan the Great Bell Tower – Russia’s tallest building for almost 400 years. In 1961 the monolithic Palace of the Congresses (now known as the State Kremlin Palace) was added to the site. The most imposing of all the buildings is the

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Peterhof

19th-century Great Kremlin Palace, the former home of the tsars, with more than 700 rooms including lavishly decorated ceremonial halls and living quarters. It also incorporates an extensive Armoury Chamber, which has a magnificent collection of gold and silver objects, regalia and ceremonial weapons, as well as a room filled with Fabergé eggs. This afternoon is at leisure. You could visit the museum dedicated to the Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies (better known as the GULAG), the Tretyakov Gallery or the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. The choices in Russia’s culturally rich capital are endless. DAY 4 – MOSCOW METRO & SAINT PETERSBURG Moscow is immensely proud of its underground railway system, the Metro, which features some of the city’s most momentous architectural works, many with vaulted halls, marble walls and grand columns. Our morning tour visits several of the most striking stations,

where glittering chandeliers, beautiful mosaics and bronze statues decorate the interiors. This afternoon we bid farewell to Moscow and board a Sapsan high-speed train across the Russian plains to Saint Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great. We stay three nights, with breakfast, at the four-star Novotel St Petersburg, which is ideally located just off one of the city’s finest shopping streets and within walking distance of many sights. DAY 5 – SAINT PETERSBURG & THE HERMITAGE MUSEUM Today begins with a city sightseeing tour, experiencing at first hand the unrivalled splendour of Saint Petersburg’s imperial buildings. We see the breathtaking Winter Palace – which today houses part of the Hermitage Museum – and the Peter and Paul Fortress. Renowned for the glittering spire ascending from the cathedral’s bell tower, the fortress sits on an island in the Neva and was once the hub of Russia’s military


Kazan Cathedral, St Petersburg

St Petersburg

power before later becoming a much-feared prison that counted Dostoyevsky, Trotsky and Gorky among its inmates. The gleaming cathedral is the final resting place of Peter the Great, while close by is the wooden Cabin of Peter the Great, one of the city’s original buildings and for a few years the summer residence of the tsars. We see handsome religious buildings like the gargantuan Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood with its ornate towers, and pass many fine houses and palaces that formerly belonged to the nobility. You’ll also discover grand boulevards like Nevsky Prospekt, the pretty canals and arched bridges that give the city its sobriquet, the ‘Venice of the North’ and the magnificent Admiralty building. We also see the enormous Palace Square, the city’s best-known open space. This afternoon we visit the Hermitage for a guided tour of some of its highlights. The scale of this complex is overwhelming as you’re surrounded by the grandeur of the former Winter Palace –

enormous rooms, endless corridors, marble and gilt everywhere. The Hermitage houses an astonishing art collection, almost unmatched anywhere in the world. The statistics are staggering – its five buildings house over three million artefacts, with European paintings alone occupying 120 rooms that include masterpieces by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Monet and Matisse. DAY 6 – PETERHOF After breakfast we explore Peterhof, sometimes called the ‘Russian Versailles’ due to its amazing residences, gardens and fountains, which were originally commissioned by Peter the Great in the 1700s. The sumptuous rooms inside the Grand Palace brim with fine art and lavish decoration – the Throne Room is especially opulent – while outside, hundreds of acres of gorgeously landscaped parkland display English and French design with bronze sculptures, summerhouses and geometrically arranged flowerbeds in complete harmony with

their surroundings. Perhaps its most captivating view is the incredible Grand Cascade – 64 fountains and tiered pools adorned with golden statues that create an enchanting display. With the Grand Palace in the background, it’s a truly unforgettable spectacle. There’s also time to learn about Russia’s national drink – vodka – with a local guide who explains how the spirit is made, its history and traditions and the many different types. This fascinating experience is accompanied, of course, by a vodka tasting. Then the afternoon is free for you to explore Saint Petersburg. Perhaps take a boat trip along the Neva, climb the 262 steps to the colonnade of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral for fabulous city views or simply stroll along the river, which is lined by attractive 19th-century merchants’ houses as well as splendid palaces. Russia is a remarkable country and, especially for first-time visitors, one of the most thought-provoking destinations anywhere. DAY 7 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your return flight.

The Kremlin

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K R A KOW 4 days from only £429pp

Once the home of Copernicus and Pope John Paul II, Krakow rivals Prague for sheer beauty and boasts more than 6,000 historic buildings, a magnificent main square and the stunning Wawel Royal Castle. Set on the banks of the Vistula River near the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, beautiful Krakow ranks with Prague and Vienna as one of the architectural gems of Central Europe – in fact, its entire historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city first became prominent a thousand years ago as the royal capital of Poland and remained so for 500 years, spanning both the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Its castle, the Wawel, evolved into a sumptuous royal palace and took full advantage of its position on the ancient trade routes to the Orient and Baltic. The city’s location and the trade in salt, which was extracted on a huge scale at the nearby Wieliczka mines, brought immense wealth and Krakow experienced its golden age during the 16th century, when learning and science prospered. Over the centuries, influence from Prussia and the cities of the Hanseatic League, and absorption within the Habsburg Empire, all made their marks on the marvellous architecture, art and culture of today’s city. At Krakow’s heart is its magnificent medieval square, the largest in Europe, but there’s so much more – over 6,000 historic buildings and monuments, a multitude of museums, two and a half million

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works of art, one of Europe’s oldest universities and a fascinating Jewish quarter. There are also about 140 churches, many of them stunningly decorated. Their presence reflects the importance of the Roman Catholic religion in Poland, and Krakow in particular. In 1978, at a time when Poland was officially an atheist country, the unknown Archbishop of Krakow was elected Pope John Paul II. The city was spared significant damage during the Second World War, so today it’s a delight to explore and offers a real glimpse into the past. Yet Krakow is far from just a collection of buildings – its atmosphere is vibrant, with the past and present beautifully intertwined. It also boasts a great cultural history, which is hardly surprising from the country of Copernicus and Chopin, and during the evening there’s nothing better than enjoying one of the numerous classical concerts held in churches and concert halls throughout the city. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN KRAKOW Arrive at the airport for your flight to Krakow. We transfer by coach to the four-star Novotel Krakow Centrum for three nights, with breakfast. Situated


Soak up the charms of wonderful Krakow

PRICE INCLUDES • Explore centuries of history on a guided walking tour of Krakow’s medieval centre • Visit Wawel, the castle district, home to one of Europe’s most striking royal residences • Discover the Wieliczka salt mines, source of the city’s wealth, on an optional tour • Take a guided tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau (included but optional)

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers Three nights in excellent quality, centrally located four-star accommodation, with breakfast The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £429PP trumpeter sounding an hourly warning from the top of the taller of the basilica’s two ornate spires – a reminder of the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. You’ll also see the 110-foot-high Florian Gate and the other remains of the fortifications built during the early 14th century, and the Collegium Maius, the oldest building of the Jagiellonian University, whose most famous former student was the astronomer Copernicus. Later he overturned all conventional thinking by suggesting that the sun was at the centre of the solar system, not the earth – a radical theory that sparked a scientific revolution. We visit the Wawel Royal Castle district, built on a low hill on a bend in the Vistula inhabited since the Palaeolithic period. This fortified site was the residence of the kings of Poland from 1038 until the end of the 16th century, when Warsaw became the

next to the banks of the Vistula and close to Wawel Royal Castle, this modern hotel has a bar, restaurant and fitness facilities, including an indoor swimming pool, while all rooms are air-conditioned and feature Wi-Fi, television, tea- and coffee-making facilities and safe.

new centre of government. The Wawel complex includes the cathedral, royal apartments, state rooms, crown treasury and armoury. Its cathedral is the final resting place of Polish monarchs and the site of the first mass – given in 1946 – by the newly ordained priest Karol Wojtyla, later to become Pope John Paul II. In the royal apartments you’ll see the impressive range of rooms that have been restored to their original Renaissance and Baroque glory, overflowing with fine furniture, works of art and one of Europe’s largest – and best – collections of tapestries. There will be free time to explore the rest of the complex, including the three-tiered Italianate Renaissance courtyard. This afternoon there’s an opportunity to tour the famous 13th-century Wieliczka Salt Mines, a spectacular subterranean attraction adorned by statues and even a chapel, all sculpted from rock salt that looks like marble; your tour manager will advise you about timings and cost. Alternatively, you could choose to explore Krakow’s charming streets and alleyways under your own steam, or maybe visit the Slowacki Theatre on the edge of the Old Town – if this magnificent building looks familiar, that’s because its design was based on the Paris Opera House. DAY 3 – AUSCHWITZ & BIRKENAU We thought long and hard about how appropriate it would be to include this morning’s destination – Auschwitz and Birkenau – on a holiday itinerary. As a company, our philosophy is that we try to inform our clients about all aspects of the countries we visit from the ‘tourist must-sees’ to places of historical importance. Our guided tour to Auschwitz and Birkenau is extremely moving and thoughtprovoking, but it is optional and you can choose instead to stay in Krakow for the whole day. Now a museum and monument, Auschwitz and Birkenau have been left virtually as they were when liberated in 1945. From the notorious watchtower at Birkenau you’ll get some sense of the sheer scale of the atrocities that took place here. After our tour we return to Krakow in the afternoon and the mood will lift as we have time to further explore the city’s wonderful attractions. DAY 4 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your return flight.

Main Market Square, Krakow

DAY 2 – KRAKOW After breakfast we enjoy a guided walking tour of Krakow’s historic centre. Rynek Glowny, the medieval main square, is lined with grand pastel-coloured buildings dating back centuries and always busy with locals going about their business. In the centre of the square is the Cloth Hall, a splendid colonnaded Renaissance building that’s been the centre of the textile trade since the 16th century. Today it’s full of colourful stalls selling amber jewellery and other local crafts, and also houses an art gallery. Overlooking the square is Saint Mary’s Basilica, richly decorated with a stunning carved wooden altarpiece and a vaulted nave painted with stars. The 14th-century stained glass is particularly ornate. When the sun shines through, a kaleidoscope of colour decorates the chancel below. Listen out for a

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NEW

IRELAND B E L FA S T, G A LWAY & T H E R I N G O F K E R RY 8 days from only £949pp

Experience the full diversity that the Emerald Isle has to offer from north to south. Discover Belfast, Dublin and Galway, the soaring Cliffs of Moher, the extraordinary Giant’s Causeway, and drive scenic roads and rugged coastal routes including the Ring of Kerry, on an epic Irish adventure from city to countryside to coast. Ireland and Northern Ireland combine to create a vastly varied experience. Although Ireland has struggled historically through disastrous famines and political conflicts, it has settled into the 21st-century as a peaceful, friendly place, with cities transformed by a fresh focus on art and culture, and rural areas eager to show off their myriad natural treasures. This tour is exceptional as it covers all four provinces into which Ireland was historically divided – each one determinedly different. We begin in the chief city of the Ulster province and Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, before following the Antrim Coast Road, one of the most scenic driving routes in the world, to see the Giant’s Causeway and sample the handcrafted spoils of the 400-year-old Bushmills whiskey distillery. From there we dip into the Leinster province, where Dublin shines as Ireland’s charismatic, cosmopolitan centre of history and culture – and the craic! Cutting across the country to the Connacht province we’re met by a riot of colour and music in Galway, before swapping the vibrant city for the

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Antrim coast road


See the Giant’s Causeway, known to the Irish as the eighth wonder of the world

PRICE INCLUDES • Tour Belfast, Northern Ireland’s cultured and historically industrious capital • Travel the scenic Antrim Coast Road to the Giant’s Causeway, an incredible natural phenomenon • Uncover the secrets of the world’s most famous ship at the Titanic Experience in Belfast’s waterfront area • Marvel at the vast Cliffs of Moher, soaring high above the Atlantic • Visit Ireland’s oldest working whiskey distillery at Bushmills for a tour and tasting • Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Dublin to discover Ireland’s lively capital city • Follow the Wild Atlantic Way – north through Ireland’s beautifully untamed western province into Connemara National Park, and south through the Burren, a striking section of limestone landscape

for three nights. The family-owned hotel is situated on Belfast’s Golden Mile walking distance to popular shopping centres. The family-owned hotel has tastefully decorated bedrooms and a restaurant. Some dates will stay at the brand-new four-star Grand Central Hotel. This hotel is centrally located and features a restaurant and bar. DAY 2 – BELFAST Northern Ireland’s capital is a true city on the water, built on the banks of the River Lagan, which snakes inland from the historic harbour. The port has played a huge part in Belfast’s prosperity and, during the early 20th century, the industrious city boasted the largest shipyard in the world and had the honour of being the world’s largest linen producer. The second half of the 20th century was less than smooth sailing for Belfast, and some sombre markers of struggle over Northern Ireland’s constitutional status are still visible, including the political murals on Falls Road contrasting starkness and drama of Connemara National Park. Finally, a romantic drive south along the castle-dotted, limestone-scarred Wild Atlantic Way takes us past the colossal Cliffs of Moher to the Ring of Kerry. While locals are protective of their provincial roots, they achieve the perfect balance between cultivating a real sense of community and offering a warm welcome to visitors. Traversing from coast to coast, it’s easy to see why Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, as rolling fields ripe for farming blanket the lush countryside. This fertile landscape is kept interesting with a full house of terrains, from vast peaty bogs, thick forests and heathlands to a rugged coastline scattered with geographical marvels. Add in our history and culture-soaked city stop-offs and you have an incredible banquet of experiences.

• • • •

Discover the remarkable story of magnificent Kylemore Abbey and admire its Victorian walled garden Explore colourful Galway and its many colourful highlights Visit medieval Bunratty Castle and experience its atmospheric Folk Park Drive the famous Ring of Kerry route along the breathtaking coastline of the Kerry Peninsular

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, with hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star accommodation, inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast daily and three dinners • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager

FROM £949PP and Shankill Road, and the vividly decorated walls of the Peace Line, built to separate the opposing communities. The 21st century marked a fresh start and Belfast has reinvented itself as a city of culture, developing hubs of art, culture and education in the Cathedral Quarter and Queen’s Quarter, and a smart shopping area around Victoria Square. It has also undergone tremendous waterfront regeneration in the Titanic Quarter. First though, a city tour of Belfast ensures that the main sights are seen, including the columned City Hall, the red-brick Victorian-era Grand Opera House, and the charming CS Lewis Square, complete with bronze sculptures of ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ characters. You may wish to visit The Entries, a collection of narrow alleyways where guitar-strumming buskers congregate on the doorsteps of some of the city’s oldest pubs. Perhaps seek out an atmospheric pub for a lunch of locally sourced seafood or flavoursome farm-to-fork burgers, bangers and Ulster beef.

Belfast

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN BELFAST Fly to Belfast and transfer by coach to the four-star Europa Hotel, a city landmark and where we stay

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The afternoon brings a tour of the Titanic Experience, telling the story of surely the most famous ship in history and one built in Belfast’s world-leading shipyard. The striking modern museum shimmers on the site of that very shipyard, where the original Harland & Wolff cranes are a lasting reminder that conjures the clink and clang of the harbour’s heyday. Inside the museum’s four jutting aluminium-clad ‘hulls’, nine interactive galleries take us on a journey ‘to the depths of the ocean, to uncover the true legend of Titanic’. Afterwards we can walk the decks of the Titanic’s original tender ship, the SS Nomadic, and explore some of the Titanic Quarter’s other attractions, including HMS Caroline, one of the last World War I floating battleships in the world. DAY 3 – ANTRIM COAST ROAD, GIANT’S CAUSEWAY & BUSHMILLS DISTILLERY Today we embark on an epic road trip along the famous Antrim Coast Road. As we travel north we’re met by an ever-changing landscape, from verdant farmland to dramatic coastal cliffs that plunge into the fickle waters of the North Channel. This diversity is demonstrated perfectly as we pass through the Glens of Antrim, which vary from endless deep-green grasslands to windswept wooded valleys. Once completely isolated and among the last in Northern Ireland to speak traditional Gaelic, you may wonder how the countryside communities ever managed to eke out their living from the land. The many abandoned cottages that dot this beautiful but largely wild landscape come as little surprise. From Ballycastle, where Rathlin Island can be seen across the water towards Scotland, we drive along the ‘Causeway Coast’ to the magnificent Giant’s Causeway. You’ll be following in the footsteps of giants at this truly amazing natural landmark, according to the legend of Finn McCool, who is said to have built the huge hexagonal-shaped basalt columns as a bridge to Scotland. We learn about the unbelievable mythology of the Causeway, as well as its volcanic origins, which are every bit as fascinating. Then it’s on to the Bushmills Distillery for a tour and a tasting of the warming ‘water of life’ at Ireland’s oldest working whiskey distillery, which dates back to 1608. Connoisseurs will note the smoothness of Irish whiskey – less smoky than Scotch and slightly less sweet than Bourbon. It certainly has that warming effect and doesn’t take many glasses to tease out the Irish ‘craic’. Those enamoured by Bushmills Whiskey – which is handcrafted from grain to glass onsite – can treat themselves to a bottle to toast this Irish adventure.

Cliffs of Moher

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Kylemore Abbey

DAY 4 – DUBLIN This morning we head south across the border to Dublin, a vibrant riverside capital with a compelling history going back to its time as a Viking settlement, through its Georgian heyday as one of the finest cities in the British Empire, and on to the fun-loving, quick-witted cosmopolitan we see today. We see the main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, busy with rushing Dubliners and travellers admiring the rousing bronze statue of Irish revolutionary Jim Larkin, the modern Spire of Dublin which pierces the sky at 150 metres tall, or the columned General Post Office building, an unlikely mix of Georgian and Greek architectural styles. Crossing the Liffey river on the O’Connell bridge, we come to the vast Trinity College campus and some of the oldest buildings in the city, including Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the largest church in Ireland, and the Dublin Castle complex, a medieval tower sandwiched between an intricate Gothic chapel and imposing red-brick state apartments. During your free time here, it’s worth seeing the interior of Saint Patrick’s. The vaulted ceiling, colourful tiled floor and regimental flags that festoon the choir make it easy to imagine yourself in a grand medieval banquet hall. Perhaps explore the city’s Georgian squares and pretty parks, such as Saint Stephen’s Green, a peaceful oasis at the end of busy shop-lined Grafton Street, or pay a visit to the home of the ‘black stuff’, the Guinness Storehouse. Don’t miss the opportunity to view the 1st-century Book of Kells, the world’s most famous medieval manuscript, at Trinity College.

We later continue to Galway, where we stay for two nights at the four-star Menlo Park Hotel. The family-run hotel is set in private grounds and has its own restaurant and a bar. Dinner is included on the first night. DAY 5 – CONNEMARA & GALWAY This morning we travel north along the world-famous Wild Atlantic Way, which spans the entire length of the spectacular western coast, to Connemara National Park. This 7,000-acre wilderness is a dramatic patchwork of bogs, heathlands, grasslands

Connemara National Park


and woodlands, nestled at the feet of multiple mountains ranges, including the Twelve Bens and the Maamturks. Look out for the hardy Connemara ponies that have adapted to the unyielding terrain. Together with Galway, Connemara sits in Ireland’s unspoilt western province of Connacht. The connection with traditional Irish culture is unwavering here, and Connemara has the largest proportion of Gaelicspeakers in the country. We stop to discover the incredible story of Kylemore Abbey, set in a 19th-century castle commissioned by a wealthy financier from Lancashire to prove what could be achieved in the wilds of Connemara. Today the abbey is run by the Benedictine nuns who settled here in 1920 after their home in Ypres was destroyed in the Great War. Explore the beautifully restored abbey and the wonderful Victorian Walled Garden, an oasis of ordered splendour. We then return to the colourful harbour city of Galway, which grew from a tiny foothold to an exuberant urban epicentre. We take a walk through this friendly, festive city, where a folk vibe still shines through in the handicrafts sold in brightly painted shops and markets, and the animated soundtrack of Irish music is often accompanied by devil-maycare dancing. There’s free time to stroll the lush canal path from the Spanish Arch to the city’s blue-domed cathedral, where large trees ensure an ever-changing colourscape and the waterside houses have an almost village feel. It’s worth pausing at the cathedral to

Galway

admire the window roses before crossing the river to explore the maze of bustling streets that lead to the manicured lawns of Eyre Square. An evening listening to traditional Irish music in the painted pubs of the raucous Latin Quarter is a must, and the cobblestone alleys here become a stage for buskers. DAY 6 – CLIFFS OF MOHER & BUNRATTY CASTLE It’s back onto the Wild Atlantic Way this morning, heading towards the Cliffs of Moher. The landscape here is wonderfully romantic, with beautiful little bays and beaches backed by green countryside, dotted

with castles, towers, old mills and manor houses. At around the halfway point you’ll be struck by the contrast of the Burren region’s stretch of limestone coast, where a karst landscape of glaciated limestone turns green to grey, and occasional stone sculptures create an almost-neolithic feel. The nearby Cliffs of Moher rise up 214 metres out of the Atlantic, and it’s incredible to think they sit literally on the edge of Europe with nothing but 2,000 miles of ocean between them and Canada. From the soaring cliffs we continue to Bunratty Castle, the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland. The 15th-century tower house is a fine example of Norman architecture and its impressive grounds reveal a fascinating highlight – the Bunratty Folk Park, a fascinating recreation of a 19th-century village with buildings and streets painstakingly recreated and furnished as they would have appeared during that time. Take in the impressive array of farmhouses, village shops and ivy-clad cottages, from the poorest single-room dwelling to a fine Georgian residence for the gentry – there’s even a charming pub in the style of a traditional bar, but with modern facilities, of course. We then drive south to Killarney, where we stay for two nights, with dinner, at the four-star Lake Hotel on the shore of Loch Lein. The rooms are elegantly decorated, but the real joy of this hotel lies in its idyllic setting surrounded by the lush forests of Killarney National Park, home to wildlife such as red deer. DAY 7 – RING OF KERRY We spend the day exploring the Ring of Kerry, legendary for its wild beauty. Every twist and turn transports us through an ever-changing landscape, from white-sand beaches flanked by craggy cliffs, to glassy mountain-backed lakes and dense forests with dramatic views of the Atlantic. The breathtaking route is dotted with picturesque towns, villages and places of interest along the way, perfect for a stop to refresh ourselves and maybe enjoy a lunch of freshly caught seafood. Kenmare is the jewel of the Ring of Kerry with its picture-postcard buildings, while Waterville is an idyllic coastal village that was the preferred holiday spot of Chaplin in the 60s. After a day of awe-inspiring views, we return to the hotel to relax and enjoy the final evening of our stay. DAY 8 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your return flight. Please note: On some dates, this tour operates in reverse order.

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2018 DEPARTURES ONLY

CORK, KILKENNY & THE RING O F K E R RY 5 days from only £599pp

An inspiring tour of Ireland’s southern treasures – you’ll experience warm hospitality in Cork, immerse yourself in Kilkenny’s history, travel around the Ring of Kerry, taste whiskey at a distillery and maybe even kiss the Blarney Stone. Spectacular Atlantic coastlines, hillsides bathed in vivid tones of green, lively cities, smooth whiskey and the warmest of welcomes – it’s easy to feel the luck of the Irish has been bestowed on you during this tour of the south of Ireland. While Dublin is Ireland’s vibrant epicentre, there’s so much more of the Emerald Isle to see. The city of Cork offers all the craic for which the country is known, and newcomers quickly become firm friends. There’s a strong streak of Celtic tradition in its atmospheric pubs and restaurants, with locals happy to explain why their city is the real capital of Ireland! Nearby are two of the highlights of this tour – Blarney Castle, home of the legendary Blarney Stone, and the Old Jameson Whiskey Distillery in Midleton, where you’ll enjoy a memorable tasting experience. Northeast of Cork is Kilkenny, small in size for a city but with historical roots much in evidence in the Medieval Mile running through its centre, starting at a cluster of riverside castle buildings and ending at the city’s cathedral and its striking round tower, one of only two in the country where you can climb to the top. Crossing wonderfully scenic countryside on our journey to the west coast we enter County Kerry and the Iveragh Peninsula that juts into the Atlantic Ocean. Here we see why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle – the landscape is nothing short of mesmerising, with romantic green rolling hills and mountains punctuated by deep blue lakes, purple heather on

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windswept hillsides and scattered forests. The Ring of Kerry that hugs the coastline here is celebrated as one of the world’s most dramatically beautiful trails. We stay at the lakeside town of Killarney, the perfect jumping-off point for the area’s amazing countryside and the ideal place to conclude a tour that captures the magic of the south of Ireland. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN CORK & COBH Arrive at the airport for your flight to Cork. We transfer by coach to Cobh, a colourful seaside town occupying an island in Cork harbour. Previously known as Queenstown, it was once the scene of many tearful farewells as the focus for Irish emigration and was also the final port of call for the ill-fated Titanic in 1912. Later we head into Cork itself, to stay for two nights in the centrally located four-star Imperial Hotel, with breakfast and one dinner. As the first hotel in the city it can call on two centuries of history, and great names to have passed through its doors include giants of literature Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray, cinema star Maureen O’Hara and classical pianist and composer Franz Liszt. From the opulent marble lobby to the individually designed bedrooms, everything reflects the elegance and comfort of your accommodation. We dine this evening in the hotel’s restaurant.

DAY 2 – KILKENNY & JAMESON DISTILLERY After breakfast we head to Kilkenny, officially a city but with much more of the feel and intimacy of a town. Our tour includes entrance to the 12th-century castle, giving you access to rooms such as the elegant Withdrawing Room, the Library, lined with mahogany bookcases, and the large Tapestry Room in the North Tower. There’s also free time to explore Kilkenny itself. A wander along the Medieval Mile is a must for lovers of history and traditional street entertainment. Strolling along this stretch of narrow streets, you’ll come across the Hole in the Wall tavern that dates back to the 16th century, Kilkenny Courthouse, the 14th-century Kyteler’s Inn, the Black Abbey, which was used as a courthouse by Oliver Cromwell, Saint Mary’s Cathedral and Rothe House museum and garden. As you reach the end of this passageway to the past you arrive at Saint Canice’s Cathedral, boasting an extraordinary round stone tower – more akin to a chimney than to a religious building – which you can ascend for fantastic views of the city. Later you can browse the many workshops and studios displaying everything from candles and ceramics to leather bags and jewellery, locally produced arts and crafts are a big part of Kilkenny’s identity. Our next stop, the Old Jameson Distillery in Midleton, also presents an ideal opportunity to treat yourself to something locally made. As part of our


Ladies View, Killarney National Park

PRICE INCLUDES • • • • •

Explore the medieval city of Kilkenny and its stunning 12th-century castle Savour a whiskey on a guided tour of the Old Jameson Distillery in Midleton Visit Blarney Castle, with the opportunity to kiss the famous Blarney Stone and stroll in its beautiful gardens Immerse yourself in the crafts shops and historical ambience of Killarney, gateway to the Killarney National Park and Ring of Kerry Marvel at the staggeringly beautiful landscape and coastline of the famous Ring of Kerry

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports (upgrades available at a supplement), plus all hotel transfers Four nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and three dinners The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £599PP

guided tour of the interior and exterior of the distillery grounds you’ll explore warehouses that have produced whiskey for over two centuries, see the thousands of casks housing the maturing spirit and, naturally, sample a delicious Jameson’s. This is a warming prelude to an evening spent in Cork, a compact and easily walkable city offering sights such as the triple-spired Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, the Georgian-style City Hall on the riverside and the imposing Saint Anne’s Church. All are within strolling distance from the restaurants and snug bars and pubs of Saint Patrick’s Street. Wherever you wander you’re likely to happen across a cultural event of some kind, so listen for the irresistible sounds of traditional music wafting out of pubs such as Sin é or the Crane Lane Theatre, both part of Cork’s heritage pub trail. DAY 3 – BLARNEY CASTLE & KILLARNEY A short morning trip takes us to Blarney Castle, just outside Cork. If you’re feeling especially energetic, climb the 127 steps to see the famous Blarney Stone that, according to legend, imbues all those who kiss it with the ‘gift of the gab’. You might even be brave, and flexible, enough to try the backwards bend to test the myth for yourself! There’s plenty more to discover at the castle, which boasts a keep dating back to the middle of the 15th century. There

are magical and mysterious qualities to the castle grounds, which include a Poison Garden, where some of the plants are kept in cages because they are so toxic, an icehouse that served as an outdoor fridge for the Victorians, and a Bog Garden with waterfalls gently tumbling into pools below. For romantics, the Wishing Steps of the Rock Close offer a chance for dreams to come true. After lunch we head into County Kerry, to the town of Killarney. Its centre is a quaint jumble of narrow lanes lined with colourful buildings, traditional

shops, galleries, pubs and restaurants. An afternoon’s exploration is richly rewarded with historical treasures such as Saint Mary’s Cathedral, with its especially impressive arched interior, and the recently restored Killarney House and Gardens. Another option is to see some of the town’s more spread-out sites on a jaunting car (pony and trap) tour, all the while regaled with local lore and anecdotes by your driver. After an afternoon of exploring we transfer to the four-star Lake Hotel, where we stay for two nights, with breakfast and dinner. While the hotel has all the elegance and facilities to ensure a comfortable stay, its real joy is its idyllic setting, a serene spot on the shore of Lough Lein surrounded by the rolling green countryside, thick forests, hills and mountains of Killarney National Park. The wildlife can be abundant, too, and a relaxing morning coffee on the terrace might be enlivened by red deer roaming by. After enjoying our dinner at the hotel’s renowned restaurant, why not make the most of the views from the terrace? DAY 4 – RING OF KERRY A real treat awaits today, a trip around the worldfamous Ring of Kerry. Beginning on our hotel doorstep at Killarney and looping its way along the coast, it presents amazing contrasts, from white sand beaches and craggy cliffs to glassy, mountain-backed lakes and dense, dark forests. Goats and sheep grazing on steep hillsides and horses galloping across windswept beaches just add to the atmosphere. As well as its natural wonders, the Ring of Kerry is dotted with picturesque towns, tiny villages and other points of interest. Kenmare is known as the jewel in the Ring of Kerry, with its rows of brightly coloured houses set against forested hills. The small coastal village of Waterville is a step back in time, with the traditions of a quieter age holding firm. Screen legend Charlie Chaplin frequently holidayed here during the 1960s and his presence lives on in a bronze statue on the seafront, featuring the star in his famous guise of the ‘Little Tramp’. With plenty of opportunities to pause and take in splendid views along the Ring of Kerry loop we return, full of wonderful memories, to the Lake Hotel for another enjoyable evening meal. DAY 5 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your return flight home.

Kilkenny Castle

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M A LTA U N COV E R E D 8 days from only £899pp

Malta packs so much into a small space. UNESCO-listed temples, Valletta’s Baroque architecture, Roman catacombs and stunning vistas of Dwejra Bay on the island of Gozo – all wait to be discovered against a backdrop of blue skies and a famously relaxed atmosphere. Surrounded by the azure Mediterranean and enjoying hot summers and mild winters, Malta is an idyllic year-round destination with an intriguing history. The country we know as Malta is in fact an archipelago of several islands covering about 115 square miles, with most people living on the two largest, Malta and Gozo. With Sicily to the north and Africa to the south, Malta is at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and has been a meeting place of cultures for millennia. It has seen conquerors and civilisations come and go, and each has left distinct marks in the form of UNESCO-listed Neolithic temples, Baroque and neoclassical architecture and even the Maltese language – a fusion of Arabic, Italian, Sicilian and English. Perhaps the greatest legacy was left by the Knights of Saint John, who ruled for over 250 years from 1530 and whose eight-pointed Maltese cross is a common symbol. During this period the country was transformed, with dramatic fortifications, new settlements, myriad churches and grand palaces decorated with art by Italian and Flemish artists. The Maltese are extraordinarily friendly – many regard themselves as being part of an extended family – and their zest for life is best seen in the many feasts held to honour saints’ days. They are famously resilient, too – the whole country was awarded the George Cross in 1942 for its wartime heroism.

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Many visitors never experience all that Malta has to offer, but we have created a thoughtful itinerary that encompasses its varied history, unique scenery and atmospheric old towns. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN MALTA Arrive at the airport for your flight. Depending on the departure date of your tour, you transfer by coach to one of two carefully selected hotels to stay seven nights, with breakfast and dinner. The four-star Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa is in the village of Mellieha, perched on a terraced hillside with superb views of the bay. The hotel has two restaurants, two bars and plenty of options for relaxation, including a spa (charges may apply), a lovely garden and three swimming pools, one of which is on the roof. The airconditioned rooms all have satellite TV, a safe, fridge and hairdryer. The beach is just over a mile away and there’s a bus stop right by the hotel, so getting about is very convenient. The four-star Golden Tulip Vivaldi is in Saint Julian’s, just north of the capital, Valletta. Located on a scenic stretch of coastline, it has an extensive lobby, restaurant, gym and rooftop swimming pool. The rooms feature air conditioning, satellite TV, Wi-Fi, minibar, hairdryer and safe (2018 departures only).

DAY 2 – VALLETTA Today we visit 16th-century Valletta for a guided walking tour. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was originally built by the Knights of Saint John after a victory against the Ottomans in the Great Siege of 1565. One of Europe’s first planned cities since Roman times, its streets are laid out in a grid pattern. A fortress as well as a city, it’s set on a magnificent natural harbour and much of the old city remains intact. At its heart is Saint John’s CoCathedral, a Baroque gem with an intricate marble floor, a ceiling covered in gold leaf and fine paintings on the walls, including Caravaggio’s The Beheading of St John the Baptist, as well as 17th-century Flemish tapestries. We also visit the Malta Experience, which tells the story of the island using the latest audiovisual techniques. In the afternoon you may want to see the National Museum of Archaeology, the Grand Master’s Palace or the National War Museum at Fort Saint Elmo, which houses a replica of the island’s George Cross. Valletta has a typical Mediterranean feel, with quiet squares lined with restaurants, honey-coloured houses with wrought-iron balconies bedecked with geraniums, and everywhere the constant chatter of the locals as they go about their business.


Explore the beautiful Grand Harbour

PRICE INCLUDES • Discover historic Valletta, Malta’s capital and city of the Knights of Saint John, on a guided tour • Find out about the country’s fascinating history on a visit to the Malta Experience • Admire unspoiled scenery on a tour of tranquil Gozo, the Maltese archipelago’s second island • See the UNESCO-listed Neolithic temples of Ggantija and Hagar Qim • Explore Mdina, one of Europe’s finest walled towns, and the catacombs of nearby Rabat • Visit the Rotunda of Mosta, a church that miraculously survived bombing during the Second World War • Visit the picturesque fishing port of Marsaxlokk

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £899PP

DAY 3 – GOZO Gozo is just a short ferry ride away, and today we explore this sleepy island and its capital, Victoria (also known as Rabat). It’s a charming medieval town with a relaxed pace of life, twisting streets, superbly preserved battlements and the Citadel, which rises above the surrounding countryside and is visible from most of the island. Gozo’s countryside is gorgeous too, with terraced fields and fragrant patchworks of wildflowers and thyme. A drive to the coast takes us to Dwejra Bay, where dramatic coastal formations surround an inland sea and sheer cliffs plunge into deep blue waters. It’s easy to picture the magnificent Azure Window that once stood here – the limestone arch, which had been used as a spectacular backdrop in Game of Thrones, collapsed during a storm in early 2017. We then visit the largest and best preserved of the island’s prehistoric temple sites, Ggantija, dating from around 3600 to 3200 BC, making it even older than the Pyramids and Stonehenge. Some of the stones weigh over 50 tons and stand 20 feet tall, and legend says the temples were built in a day and a night by a giantess!

locally. An attraction we recommend (but can’t organise for you) is the Hypogeum, an underground temple and series of burial chambers dating from 4000 to 2500 BC. It’s just south of Valletta, but spaces are limited and need to be pre-booked well in advance at www.heritagemalta.org. Should you wish to pre-book, Sunday will always be a free day, except for tours that depart on a Saturday or Sunday, in which case Friday is a free day. DAY 5 – RABAT & MDINA After a short drive to Rabat we walk through the town’s beautiful medieval streets to Saint Paul’s Catacombs, the earliest archaeological evidence of

Christianity in Malta. The site comprises a maze of early Christian burial chambers dating from the 4th century, complete with over a thousand tombs. We then visit the Wignacourt Museum, formerly the Baroque residence of the Chaplains of the Knights of Saint John and now a museum with a superb collection of paintings and sculptures. From here you can walk through an underground passage to Saint Paul’s Grotto, where the apostle was believed to have stayed after he was shipwrecked. Nearby are the Roman catacombs, a labyrinth of tombs from the 3rd century. Beneath these are wartime shelters that provided a refuge for the people of Rabat and the rest of the island during the many air raids of the Second World War. Next we head to beautiful Mdina, one of the finest ancient walled cities in Europe. Perched on a hill and surrounded by imposing fortifications, its narrow streets contain an extraordinary mix of medieval and Baroque buildings. We have time for lunch before visiting the Rotunda of Mosta, a church with the third largest dome in the world. It was the site of a modern ‘miracle’ when, in 1942, a bomb struck the church during Mass but failed to explode – no wonder the congregation felt blessed. DAY 6 – FREE DAY Today is another free day to enjoy as you wish. Malta’s seafood is exceptional, so maybe a spot of shopping followed a leisurely lunch of the ‘catch of the day’ at a restaurant overlooking the sea? DAY 7 – THE BLUE GROTTO & NEOLITHIC TEMPLES This morning we drive to Malta’s rugged coast where you can view the Blue Grotto. The combination of sunlight and location creates a wonderful natural display as the caves mirror the phosphorescent colours of the sea and underwater flora. We continue to Hagar Qim, a UNESCO-listed megalithic temple situated on a hilltop overlooking the sea. One of the chambers has an elliptical hole hewn from the limestone to align with the sunrise on the summer solstice, so the sun’s rays pass through and illuminate a stone slab inside. We stop at the pretty port of Marsaxlokk, where fishermen have landed their catches and repaired nets on its picturesque quayside for centuries. Its restaurants and cafés are ideal places to relax as you gaze out over the harbour filled with the traditional brightly coloured fishing boats called luzzus. Later we visit Città Vittoriosa and enjoy a short walking tour of the fortified city named to commemorate the Great Siege of 1565. DAY 8 – RETURN HOME Transfer to the airport for your return flight.

The Blue Grotto

DAY 4 – FREE DAY A free day to spend as you wish – you may choose to relax at your hotel, but there’s also much to explore

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D I SCOV E R NORTHERN CYPRUS 8 days from only £849pp

Shaped by powerful legacies of East and West, Northern Cyprus is both a living museum and a cultural gem. Everywhere you explore echoes with history –ancient ruins, romantic towns, bustling bazaars, rugged coastlines and fascinating Nicosia. Positioned at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, Cyprus has a rich and complex heritage that makes it unique. According to legend, it’s also the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, and for centuries this beautiful Mediterranean island has seduced travellers with the promise of endless summers, idyllic beaches and romantic harbours. Successive invaders have left their own influences, which can be experienced in melting-pot towns and villages and some of the world’s most important archaeological sites. The first settlers arrived around 7,000 BC, followed by waves of Mycenaean Greeks. Next came raids by the Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians before Roman rule brought peace and prosperity. In the 4th century Cyprus became part of the Byzantine Empire, and then in 1191 it was conquered by Richard the Lionheart. Over the next centuries the island fell under Venetian, Ottoman and British rule until, at last, independence was granted in 1960. However, the nation was divided – Greek Cypriots wanted a union with Greece while Turkish Cypriots pushed for a Turkish state. This led to the formation of the Turkish

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Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The Green Line, set up by the UN to keep the peace, still divides the island, but relations between both sides have vastly improved, making travel between north and south is easier. On this fascinating tour we discover why northern Cyprus is such an irresistible destination. Dominated by the impressive Kyrenia Mountains keeping watch over the pristine coastal strip, it’s dotted with lovely seaside towns and drenched in history. We stay in the ancient town of Kyrenia, one of the kingdoms of Cyprus during the Classical Greek period. We head northwest to Guzelyurt, an area less frequented by visitors but unmissable thanks to the many sites of interest found there, including the ancient Greek city of Soli and the mysterious Palace of Vouni. Nothing prepares you for the sheer scale of the ruins here. Further inland stretches the island’s main mountain range, the Troodos Massif, and at the foothills lies the university town of Lefke, where you’ll see the legacy of its past rulers. The fortress of Saint Hilarion, perched atop a craggy peak with incredible views, is another highlight

and is said to be the inspiration for other fairy-tale castles in Europe. We also enjoy a drive to Bellapais village, treasured for the beautifully preserved ruins of the medieval ‘Abbey of Peace’. To understand how the past still influences Cypriots today we visit bustling Nicosia, the last divided capital city in the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The northern half, Lefkosha, is occupied by the TRNC while the southern half, Lefkosia, is the capital of the Republic of Cyprus. You’ll have the opportunity to cross the Green Line and experience the intriguing cultural differences between the northern and southern sides. Then we head east to Famagusta, the atmospheric old town with the deepest harbour on the island, surrounded by 15th-century Venetian walls. Exotic goods from the Silk Road once passed through here on their way to Western Europe. You’ll also see the ghost town of Varosha, left as it was when abandoned in 1974, as well as ancient Salamis, a stunning archaeological site. Cypriot cuisine is similar to that of both Greece and Turkey, but with a number of regional specialities such


See Bellapais village with the remains of its Gothic abbey

PRICE INCLUDES • Discover Salamis, one of the most significant archaeological sites in the Mediterranean • Experience the delights of Kyrenia on a guided tour, and visit its striking castle • Explore fascinating Guzelyurt and the Palace of Vouni, a former Phoenician stronghold • Explore the ancient city of Soli to find out what life was like in Roman and early Byzantine times • Visit Saint Hilarion Castle with its breathtaking views and lovely Bellapais village, made famous by the author Lawrence Durrell • Learn about Nicosia on our guided tour of the last divided capital in the world – explore the Turkish north or

• •

cross the border to experience the Greek south Get to know charming Famagusta, where modern restaurants and shops weave through medieval ruins, on a walking tour with a local guide Enjoy the glorious scenery that has enchanted travellers for centuries

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers • Seven nights in four-star superior accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and four dinners • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £849PP DAY 2 – KYRENIA Kyrenia is blessed with the most attractive harbour in Cyprus and it nestles against a series of majestic mountains bringing cooler air and encouraging green landscapes. The town underwent a renaissance during British rule, as roads were built and the port was developed. Our experienced local guide takes you on a fascinating walking tour here, visiting the charming Old Town, harbour and Belediye Meydani – the town hall square – as well as imparting that all-important local knowledge. Another highlight is the splendid honey-coloured 8th-century castle built by the Byzantines, possibly on the site of an earlier Roman fort, and later strengthened by the Lusignans and the Venetians. You can also visit the castle museum, which houses an interesting range of archaeological finds and an impressive 2,300-year-old

shipwreck – one of the oldest doomed ships to ever to be recovered. The afternoon is free for you to relax or further explore Kyrenia. Why not visit the main mosque, the Agha Cafer Pasha Camii? The distinctive minaret of this 16th-century structure is visible from wherever you are in the harbour area. Or simply spend a peaceful day contemplating the history of this remarkable place while strolling along the waterfront. DAY 3 – GUZELYURT, SOLI & THE PALACE OF VOUNI We head northwest, passing sleepy villages and unspoilt countryside to the ‘fruit basket of Cyprus’, Guzelyurt. It’s nestled in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, the massive block of igneous rock that rose many millions of years ago like some ancient Kyrenia

as kofte – crispy meatballs flavoured with mint – or a delicious dessert of fresh walnuts in lemon syrup. The island’s history of winemaking means you’ll find a fantastic selection of local wines – another surprising aspect of this ancient, cultured and welcoming isle. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN CYPRUS Take a direct flight to Larnaca or Paphos, depending on your departure airport. On arrival we transfer by coach to Kyrenia and your hotel for the next seven nights, the four-star superior Arkin Colony. Centrally located between the Old Town and the harbour in a classic colonial-style building, the hotel has well-appointed rooms with all the facilities you would expect. The rooftop pool offers views of the sea and the mountains across Kyrenia, while treatments can be enjoyed at the spa (payable locally). In addition, the hotel has a choice of two restaurants and two bars. The four included evening meals will be taken in the main restaurant, with a choice of traditional specialities and international dishes. The outdoor pool is open all year round, subject to weather conditions, and is unheated.

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god from the sea, following a volcanic eruption. Here a remarkable variety of trees bearing soft fruits, citrus and nuts flourish in abundance. There are astonishingly preserved ancient churches, such as the Agios Mamas Church and Monastery built on the site of a temple dedicated to Aphrodite. Important artefacts can be found in the Museum of Archaeology and Natural History, including examples from the Neolithic period and Bronze Age. On an island rich with history the ancient city of Soli is especially impressive, granting revealing insights into late Roman and early Byzantine times. Dating back to the 6th century BC, it was one of the most important ancient Greek kingdoms of Cyprus and has vital significance for Christianity as the place where Saint Mark was baptised. Only part of the site has been excavated but already there is so much to discover – the ruins of the Roman theatre, a nymphaeum, the temple of Aphrodite, a palace, a necropolis, and a great basilica with marvellous 4th-century mosaics. Gold jewellery was recently unearthed from the tombs here and can be seen in the archaeological museum in Guzelyurt. Next we take in the extraordinary remains of the Palace of Vouni, set in an idyllic location with splendid views of the shimmering Mediterranean. Its origins are shrouded in mystery but archaeologists have deduced that it was built around 500 BC. Thanks to the merging here of Persian and Greek influences, the historical significance of the palace can’t be overstated and, standing among the ruins looking out across the nearby city of Soli to the sea beyond, it’s easy to see why it was once such a vital stronghold. The historic town of Lefke, located next to the Green Line, awaits us later. First inhabited during the Neolithic period, the legacy of previous rulers can be seen in its buildings, some of which date back to the 7th century. The delightful town – named for the Greek word for ‘poplar’ – is also known for its university, copper mines and plentiful Jaffa orange groves. Take a moment to sample the citrus fruits the town is famous for and enjoy the lush surrounding landscapes. DAY 4 – SAINT HILARION & BELLAPAIS Today we succumb to the romance of two storybook highlights. First we visit Saint Hilarion Castle, long thought to be the inspiration for two other iconic castles – Neuschwanstein in Bavaria and Snow White’s castle in Disneyland! The castle was named after a monk, but this hasn’t stopped the locals attributing more fanciful stories to it, tales that

Kyrenia castle

include devious sorceresses and enchanted gardens. It’s not hard to see why – the crumbling edifice seems to emerge from the very rocks, as though it was summoned rather than built. Entrance to the castle is included with the tour but, if you choose not to ascend the steep steps, the breathtaking views can still be enjoyed from the easily accessible viewpoint at the entrance or from the castle’s café. Bellapais is the next highlight, the captivating village immortalised in Lawrence Durrell’s autobiographical book Bitter Lemons. It’s sheer pleasure wandering through the tangle of narrow lanes past flower-bedecked buildings up the hill, where you’ll find outstanding views of Kyrenia harbour and the cerulean sea. The gem of the village is its medieval ‘Abbey of Peace’. This monastery once offered shelter to Augustinian monks expelled when Jerusalem fell to Saladin, and walking the ruins is an absorbing journey through ancient times. The abbey’s Gothic refectory serves as a memorable venue for concerts and lectures. After a lovely day exploring, we return to Kyrenia mid-afternoon, with plenty of time to relax at our hotel. DAY 5 – NICOSIA Today our destination is the world’s last divided capital, Nicosia, known as the kingdom of Ledra in the 7th century BC. We enjoy a guided tour of the Old Town, seeing the impressive Venetian city walls – Nicosia was a walled city for more than a millennium

– and the superbly preserved Kyrenia Gate, adorned with inscriptions left by past rulers. You can also discover the main square, root out a bargain in the colourful Bandabuliya Covered Bazaar and admire the staggering Venetian column, transported from the ruins of Salamis. For many, the highlight will be the enormous Selimiye Mosque, visible from both sides of the capital with its honey-coloured minarets piercing the blue sky. If it looks remarkably like a church, it’s because it was formerly Saint Sophia, a 13th-century Roman Catholic cathedral, before the Ottoman invasion introduced the twin minarets. You can choose to explore more of the north – perhaps visit Buyuk Han, the great 16th-century inn that was once used by the British as a prison and now houses a vibrant collection of shops and cafés showcasing the vibrant modern culture of Cyprus. Another option is to cross the Green Line into south Nicosia with passports in hand and experience a different side of the city. Visit the world-class Cyprus Museum, by far the best on the island and a real trove of archaeological treasures. Or head to the 11-storey Shacolas Tower, the tallest building in south Nicosia; once used to peer over the Buffer Zone into the north, today it serves as an observatory so that all visitors can enjoy the extraordinary views of the city. DAY 6 – FREE DAY You’ve a full day at leisure, and Kyrenia is the perfect place to explore as your feet take you. Why not take a stroll through town or a boat ride from the harbour? Perhaps go shopping at the Bandabuliya for a selection of local crafts, from textiles to pottery and jewellery. If you prefer to relax, take a refreshing swim in the hotel’s rooftop pool or indulge in some pampering at the spa.

Salamis

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DAY 7 – SAINT BARNABAS, SALAMIS & FAMAGUSTA This morning we travel to the east coast, first visiting the Monastery of Saint Barnabas, once one of the most prominent Christian sites on the island. Today it


houses religious icons and an archaeological museum, with an exquisite collection of pottery dating from Neolithic times. There’s also a mausoleum said to house the tomb of Saint Barnabas, one of the great figures of early Christianity and a founder of the Cypriot Church. We continue our journey, passing numerous relics from the past including the magnificent Royal Tombs of the Kings from the 7th century BC, before arriving at ancient Salamis. This spectacular spot is one of the Mediterranean’s most significant archaeological sites, bolstered by its scenic beachside setting. During Classical Greek and Roman times Salamis was a chief cultural centre, as well as the richest and most important city on the island for over a thousand years. You can still see the original amphitheatre, the gymnasium – built over earlier ruins during Emperor Hadrian’s rule – the Roman baths and wonderful mosaics. Even after a century of careful excavation, there are still many secrets waiting to be unearthed here. Next we visit the charming town of Famagusta and enjoy a walking tour with our expert guide, taking in the massive Othello’s Tower – built in the 14th century, it was once known as the ‘impenetrable fortress’ and, it is said, provides the setting for Shakespeare’s play. We also see the ruins of the Venetian palace and the impressive city walls where British officers in the 1930s played golf along the ramparts! The town’s dominant landmark is the 14th-century Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, originally a church modelled on the cathedral at Reims in France. As you thread your way between the photogenic remains of ruined churches, there are plenty of shops and restaurants to pause at. Nearby is Varosha, once a lively resort dubbed the ‘Monte Carlo of the Middle East’ and frequented by celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, but abandoned during the war in 1974. Although it’s a shadow of its former self, the eerie ‘modern’ ruins left behind are worth seeing to gain a better understanding of the island’s recent history.

Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque

DAY 8 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your flight home. St Hilarion Castle

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CLASSIC GREECE 8 days from only £939pp

The crucible of civilisation, democracy, theatre, philosophy and so much more. Its blue skies, outstanding welcome and the zest for life inside every Greek are a true revelation.

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As the cradle of western civilization, of democracy, philosophy, the theatre, and so much more, Greece has drawn visitors for centuries. All have extolled the purity of its skies, the overwhelming hospitality rooted in its ancient civilization and the zest for life of the Greeks themselves. Obviously, Greece is synonymous with antiquity, with Athens in particular a city of intriguing paradoxes – ancient yet modern; busy and frenetic but so laid-back; a capital city, yet in places as intimate as a village. And if one building can ever symbolise an entire nation, it is the Parthenon - but Athens is much more than this. The hugely acclaimed new Acropolis Museum succeeds wonderfully in displaying the outstanding ancient masterpieces within to the finest effect. Our tour visits the very best of Classical Greece: firstly you spend a night at the centre of the world! At least that’s what the ancients believed Delphi to

Corinth Canal


Gaze in awe at the spectacular Parthenon

PRICE INCLUDES • Enjoy a guided walking tour of the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum, the heart of ancient Athens • Tour Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games, with a guide • Browse the famous flea market in Athens • Cross the engineering marvel that is the Corinth Canal • Take a guided tour of Delphi, home of the legendary Oracle and the ancient fountain of wisdom • Stay in Nafplion and explore one of Greece’s most charming seaside towns • Visit the site of ancient Mycenae, home of Agamemnon • Marvel at the perfect symmetry and incredible acoustics of the ancient theatre of Epidaurus • Opportunity to take a trip to the classic Greek islands of Hydra and Spetses

Plus, of course... • Return direct flights from Heathrow and Manchester, with hotel transfers • Seven nights in three-star to four-star accommodation with breakfast daily and two dinners • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout Please note: entrance fees are not included to some archaeological sites. Please see our price book for details.

FROM £939PP

be – the world’s navel, where mortals, via the ‘oracle’, communicated with Apollo. In complete contrast, Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games, is set in an idyllic pine-forested valley, and is the very spot where the modern Olympic torch is kindled from the rays of the sun. Then there’s Mycenae, and a very different experience – a place of pre-classical bronzeage myths and legends and of a fierce, untamed people so vividly depicted in Homer’s epics. You also tour Epidaurus, the greatest healing centre and finest theatre in the ancient world. We also stay for three nights in one of Greece’s most charming and sophisticated small towns, Nafplion. Guarded by two imposing Venetian castles, the old town of Nafplion is a jumble of red-roofed houses overlooking a wide sheltered bay. The town’s air of quiet elegance draws weekend visitors from Athens and many of the older mansions have been sympathetically renovated, whilst the wide, palm-

lined promenade and charming central square are the perfect places to while away an afternoon. Greece though is far from being a series of ancient sites, there is some startlingly beautiful scenery too: the steep ravines of the Peloponnese mountains are spectacular, their peaks rocky and barren, whilst heather and broom cover the slopes and the enchanting scent of wild thyme and oregano hangs heavy in the warm air. The views from Delphi in particular are quite exceptional, with the valley below a silvery sea of olive groves. And in Greece we are never far from the sea – innumerable bays, coves and headlands form one of the most enchanting coastlines in the world, with islands and distant mountains shimmering under cobalt blue skies. Greek cuisine, known for its simplicity, has been legendary for centuries, with many previously unknown regional dishes now becoming standard fare – try stuffed courgettes and dolmades made from tender cabbage leaves or a salad of ‘horta’, mountain greens with lemon and olive oil, or perhaps a ‘stifado’, a stew which can be made with beef or wild boar. And of course, there’s nothing like some freshly-caught fish just simply grilled and enjoyed under a starlit Mediterranean sky in a genuinely atmospheric taverna! So come with us and enjoy one of the most beautiful and intriguing countries in the world, and catch a glimpse of the fine slender threads that still join our modern world to the distant past in ancient Greece. DAY 1 - ARRIVAL IN ATHENS You should arrive at the airport for your flight to Athens, transferring to the excellent quality fourstar Hotel Divani Palace Acropolis for one night, with breakfast. The hotel is superbly located in a quiet residential area, nestling below the rock of the Acropolis, just a few minutes’ stroll from the new Acropolis Museum and the Plaka district with its atmospheric tavernas and traditional shops. All rooms are air-conditioned with balcony, satellite TV, safe, mini-bar and hairdryer. There’s a small pool, a lobby bar, a top-class open-air rooftop restaurant with great views of the Acropolis and in the basement you can even see an exposed section of the ancient city walls. DAY 2 - ACROPOLIS This morning you have a walking tour of Athens, visiting firstly the Acropolis, so fittingly one of the

Hydra

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Lion Gate, Mycenae

great ‘Wonders of the Ancient World’. Ascending the hill you soon experience the Parthenon itself – its blindingly white marble columns with their perfect symmetry and balance completely dominate the skyline. We also visit the new Acropolis Museum with its amazing glass floor displaying ancient houses, streets and even an olive press below. Exhibits include superb sculptures and an incredible series of carved pediments from the temple of Athena. We then explore the picturesque old district of Plaka. This area dates from when Athens had shrunk to no more than a village below the Acropolis by the end of the 18th century. It is utterly charming, being crammed with neo-classical mansions, balconies overflowing with geranium pots and twisting cobbled lanes lined with homely tavernas, their tables spread across the street. After some free time for lunch we leave Athens and drive north past Mt Pendeli, from where the marble of the Parthenon was quarried and drive through Thebes, before starting the ascent of Mt. Parnassus, site of the Delphic oracle. We stay at the centrally-located simple three-star Acropole or Fedriades, with dinner. DAY 3 - DELPHI Delphi is simply amazing, with a unique wealth of monuments dedicated to Apollo. The setting has an extraordinary natural beauty, in a series of terraces overlooked by the lofty crags and cliffs of Mt. Parnassus, with birds of prey soaring on the thermals above. As we enter the sacred sanctuary you’ll see the treasuries which were crammed with gold, silver and all kinds of precious objects donated by grateful city-states after having had the benefit of the god’s wisdom. Overlooking it all is the superb temple itself and below, in an underground chamber, was a geological fault which probably emitted mind-affecting vapours

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from deep within the earth. This was where the oracle relayed the god’s thoughts and wisdom, which were always open to several interpretations - in return for a fee! The adjacent museum has some of the finest exhibits in the country, including the spectacular, full-size ‘Charioteer’, a masterpiece of ancient bronze sculpture and one of only a handful ever recovered intact. In the afternoon we drive westwards, passing through a timeless Greek landscape of tiny isolated villages, olive groves and rolling hills. We cross the huge spans of the amazing new Rio bridge connecting the mainland with the Peloponnese and continue southwards to the site of ancient Olympia, where we stay for one night with dinner at the excellent threestar superior Hotel Europa Olympia. Beautifully situated on a quiet hillside, the hotel features low-rise

buildings set in lovely gardens, an open-air pool and an excellent restaurant where we take our included dinner. DAY 4 - OLYMPIA The ancient Olympic Games were as major an occasion then as they are today – though hopefully cheaper to stage! Taking place every four years, the stadium had a staggering capacity of 45,000, an enormous number and a clear indication of the event’s importance. All military conflicts ceased for the duration and huge rewards were conferred on the winners, whilst penalties for cheating included fines, bans and public embarrassment - how little has changed! Events included the discus and javelin, sprinting and wrestling. The Olympiad continued for about


1,000 years and we’ll experience a fascinating tour of the site, also visiting the excellent museum housing numerous extraordinary finds. This afternoon we experience the spectacular wild and mountainous landscape of the Peloponnese, driving through the province Arcadia, known as the land of the god Pan and woodland nymphs in antiquity. In the afternoon we arrive in the small town Nafplion, our base for the next three nights at the four-star Amphitryon Hotel, with breakfast. DAY 5 - MYCENAE & EPIDAURUS Nafplion is one of Greece’s loveliest seaside towns, crowned by two massive castles built by the Franks and Venetians and attacked in turn by the Ottomans and the Greeks themselves during their War of Independence. In fact, Nafplion was chosen as Greece’s first modern capital in 1825 before it was moved to Athens five years later. The town has kept an air of quiet sophistication, with a beautiful pedestrianized waterfront promenade, lined with comfortable cafés and tavernas, a marble-paved main square and lots of fascinating boutiques and galleries set between the neo-classical red-roofed houses. This morning we visit Epidaurus, birthplace of Asclepios - the god of healing, and whose sanctuary here became the greatest centre of medicine in the Classical world. The ancient Greeks believed that one Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens

should be healthy in both mind and body, so the plays and music performed here in the acoustically-perfect theatre played an integral part in the therapeutic process. We then visit Mycenae, entering the imposing citadel through its magnificent 3,300-year-old Lion Gate, where you can still discern the pivot holes carved for the door hinges. We return to Nafplion in the afternoon, with the rest of the day at leisure to explore this delightful town. DAY 6 - NAFPLION FREE DAY Of course Greece, whilst being renowned for its ancient sites, is equally famous for its stunning islands, so today we offer an optional trip visiting two of the most beautiful: Spetses and Hydra. Spetses is the most southerly of the Saronic Islands, just a few hundred metres from the Peloponnese coast. Its pine-covered low hills lead down to a really attractive main town, full of narrow alleyways, charming houses, shady squares and waterfront restaurants around the old harbour. There are very few cars allowed on the island so horse-drawn carriages remain a popular way to get around. As our boat rounds the headland you get your first glimpse of one of the most attractive anchorages in the entire Aegean: Hydra’s lovely harbour, full of traditional ‘caiques’, whilst ascending the hill behind them is row upon row of opulent mansions, once owned by rich shipping families. Most streets are too narrow or steep for cars, so take some time, wander where your feet take you, enjoy a coffee, and absorb the unique atmosphere that is the Greek islands. DAY 7 - ATHENS Today we say goodbye to Nafplion and head back to Athens for our last night at the Divani Palace Acropolis. The afternoon is at leisure: how about some shopping in the nearby flea-market? The centre of the city is within walking distance, with Constitution Square and the opulent Hotel Grande Bretagne where Churchill stayed. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded by the elite National Guard, ‘skirted’ in the instantly recognisable national costume and opposite is Athens’ best-kept secret, the extensive National Gardens, full of winding sandy paths, hidden grottoes, pergolas and shady ponds. DAY 8 - RETURN FLIGHT Today at the appropriate time, the coach will transfer you to the airport for your return flight, after a most fascinating and unforgettable tour.

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WESTERN CRETE 8 days from only £799pp

Crete, the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean, with its soaring snow-covered mountains, fertile valleys, charming Venetian ports, hospitable people, and some of the best cuisine and organic food in Greece.

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Like Sicily, Crete is a distinctively separate region, both geographically and culturally, from the country of which it is a part. As the cradle of the Minoans, the earliest of European civilisations, Crete’s long history has had an inordinate influence on subsequent peoples, including the Mycenaeans, Greeks, Romans and Venetians, who occupied the island for several hundred years. Our tour to the western part of this long, mountainous island will reveal all these and more. Even amongst the Greeks themselves, Cretan food and produce are acknowledged as the best in the country – its long growing season, fertile soils and proximity to the warmth of North Africa have created a perfect climate with an early spring, when every inch of the island seems covered in wildflowers, and a late autumn that sees wonderfully mild temperatures well into November. The famed

Chania


PRICE INCLUDES

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY

Explore the old Venetian port of Chania on a guided tour of one of the most picturesque harbours in the eastern Mediterranean

Sample Cretan cuisine, acknowledged as some of the best in the country and famed for its organic olive oil, herbs, wine and seafood

Country walk and olive oil tasting Take a walk through the charming villages of Gavalochori and Douliana, visiting a folklore museum and an olive oil factory for a tour and tasting. A light lunch is included at a traditional taverna. From £40pp.

• Stroll through Crete’s beautiful Botanical Park • Marvel at the ancient Minoan palaces of Knossos and Phaistos, part of Europe’s oldest civilisation • Visit Heraklion’s acclaimed archaeological museum with a local guide • Enjoy a walk through the famous Imbros Gorge, or discover Frangokastello and its old Venetian fortress •

See the world’s oldest olive tree, believed to be thousands of years old, and visit the museum dedicated to this ancient wonder

Plus, of course... • Return flights from a selection of regional airports, with hotel transfers • Seven nights in three-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast and dinner daily • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £799pp

Going even further back in history, we visit the Hellenistic citadel of Aptera, with its beautiful small amphitheatre, as well as Knossos and Phaistos, two of the Mediterranean’s most important archaeological sites. Our visit to the island’s main archaeological museum will complement our understanding of the Minoan civilisation’s artistic achievements from 1700 BC. Crete’s rough terrain makes this one of the best walking destinations in Europe, especially along the numerous gorges along the southern flanks of the island’s three main mountain ranges. We have the opportunity to experience and walk through the unique natural environment of the island, with its 150 endemic plants and a species of wild ibex, which you may be lucky enough to spot. Our last two nights are spent just outside the lovely mountain village of Zaros on the southern slopes of Mount Ida, from where we visit a local farm hidden away in the undulating hills and gain a fascinating insight into the wonderful organic produce of the island. Crete is undoubtedly one of the most diverse and fascinating destinations in Europe. Its historical and cultural treasures are a pleasure to discover and explore, away from the popular resorts of the coast. Once you have visited it, we are sure you’ll want to return again and again.

Phaistos

Stroll through Chania, a picturesque old Venetian port

Cretan cuisine is considered the best example of the Mediterranean diet – be sure to try kalitsounia – sweet or savoury pies – lamb casserole and, of course, the many local wines. Cretans are known for their directness, honesty and open hospitality, and like many other island people, they prize their traditions and independent spirit. British guests, in particular, are warmly welcomed as the Cretans still remember the support received from Britain during the Battle of Crete in May 1941 and the subsequent occupation of the island. We stay for five nights close to the city of Chania, the most picturesque port of the island, full of winding cobbled lanes, fascinating little shops, charming tavernas and old Venetian mansions. Our family-run hotel is beautifully sited, set back from the welldeveloped north coast and surrounded by vineyards and olive groves.

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DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN CHANIA Fly to Chania or Heraklion in Crete. On arrival, we transfer by coach to the family-run three-star Eleftheria Hotel, where we stay for the first five nights, with breakfast and dinner. The hotel is situated in a quiet location, surrounded by olive groves in Agia Marina, just to the west of Chania. The sea and the busy main road with its numerous shops and tavernas are an approximate 15-minute downhill walk away, although the hotel offers a free shuttle-bus service. The Eleftheria has an excellent outdoor pool with lovely gardens and sun terraces with views towards the sea. There’s a restaurant with both inside and outside seating, as well as a poolside bar. All rooms are well-appointed with a private balcony or terrace, air-conditioning, shower, hairdryer, safe (at an extra charge), TV and complimentary Wi-Fi. Superior sea view rooms are available at a supplement (subject to availability).

Imbros Gorge

DAY 2 – CHANIA & APTERA Today we explore the old harbour of Chania, which has survived remarkably well from its heyday when it was a major outpost of the Venetian empire. The small port is wonderfully picturesque and there are numerous charming tavernas and shops to explore along the winding lanes. We continue further afield with a visit to one of Crete’s least well-known ancient sites, the ancient city of Aptera. Set on a high bluff overlooking Souda Bay, its perfect strategic position is still evident today, as it controls the access to one of the best anchorages in the southeastern Mediterranean. Most of the remains originate from the Hellenistic period and during the Roman occupation of the island. DAY 3 – IMBROS GORGE & WINERY This morning we drive south to the Imbros Gorge, one of many in this part of Crete. You may choose to explore the five-mile gorge, which can be walked in about 3 to 3.5 hours. The views across and above towards the high peaks, cliffs and forest are stunning. As the terrain is uneven and peppered with loose stones, this walk is recommended for the surefooted with a reasonable level of fitness – walking boots are essential.

If you prefer a more relaxing morning, our coach also takes us to charming Frangokastello on the south coast. Stroll along its beautiful beach, one of the most famous in Crete, and perhaps take a dip in the sea, or Frangokastello

explore the 14th-century Venetian fortress, where a celebrated battle between Greek and Turkish armies took place. According to legend, shadows of the fallen soldiers appear on the anniversary of the battle to march towards the fortress at dawn. There’s time this afternoon to seek out a taverna and sample some of the local specialities – such as ‘sfakianes pites’, delicious cheese pies drizzled with Cretan honey – or simply enjoy a cup of tea and watch the world go by. Next we enjoy a tasting of local wines at the award-winning Dourakis Winery. One of the best wineries on the island, it features an ancient wine press made of stone, which stands as proof that wines have been produced here as early as the Minoan period. DAY 4 – FREE DAY You have the entire day to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of your hotel and explore some of the excellent tavernas in the area or to revisit the old city of Chania. Alternatively, you may wish to book our Personalise Your Holiday experience. DAY 5 – OLIVE TREE OF VOUVES & BOTANICAL PARK Few things are as characteristic of the Greek landscape as the olive tree, which flourishes in abundance in Crete. Astonishingly at least 10 of these date back thousands of years, making them true living monuments – perhaps older than the Parthenon in Athens! This morning we head to the sleepy mountain village of Vouves to see the world’s oldest olive tree, today a protected monument. It’s incredible to think

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Heraklion

this ancient wonder has outlived empires and still continues to bear fruit! We continue inland into the rolling foothills of the White Mountains to the Botanical Park of Crete. After a wildfire destroyed the entire area 14 years ago, a local family turned their 50-acre farm into what is now the best Botanical Park on the island. Spread out along the terraced hillsides, the shady paths meander through more than 150 indigenous and sub-tropical trees, herbs and plants that thrive in the mild Cretan climate. The afternoon is free for you to relax at the hotel. DAY 6 – KNOSSOS & HERAKLION We say goodbye to Chania today and head east to Knossos, the best-known ancient city on the island, famously unearthed and controversially partly reconstructed by Sir Arthur Evans. Then we continue to Heraklion, the capital of the island. We meet our local guide with whom we’ll visit one of the best archaeological museums in Greece, with some amazing exhibits from the Minoan period. After some time for lunch, we continue south to the charming village of Zaros on the southern slopes of Mount Ida, where we stay the three-star Hotel Idi for two nights, with breakfast and dinner. The hotel is set around beautiful countryside just outside the village and offers well-tended gardens, a large

Knossos palace

pool, a bar and its own taverna, known for its fresh trout. The air-conditioned rooms are simply furnished, with shower, hairdryer, fridge, complimentary Wi-Fi and balcony or terrace. Aptera

DAY 7 – PHAISTOS & FARM VISIT Archaeological excavations have brought to light fascinating ancient sites across the island. Today we have a guided tour of Phaistos, one of the most important centres of the Minoan civilisation and the most powerful city in southern Crete. The remains of the palace are remarkably preserved, so it’s easy to imagine the city in its heyday. Situated in a fertile plain, the archaeological site boasts superb views over the mountains and the sweeping bay of Messara. This afternoon we get to experience the delightful life of a Cretan farmer in the nearby family-run Kamihis Farm. Try your hand at milking a goat, making cheese and baking a delicious cheese pie with ingredients straight from the farm. Enjoy an included light lunch, along with your homemade creations, and a taste of the local tipple, ‘raki’. DAY 8 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to Chania or Heraklion airport for your return flight. Please note: Our 2018 itinerary varies slightly. Please call us or refer to our website for details.

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I S TA N B U L , E P H E S U S & T R OY 7 days from only £849pp

Turkey is an intriguing country with a unique identity spanning Europe and Asia. Where familiarity merges with the exotic, we find a magical blend of the ancient, Christian and Ottoman worlds. Turkey is an intriguing country with a unique identity straddling both Europe and Asia. In a place where familiarity merges with the exotic, we find a magical blend of the ancient, Christian and Ottoman worlds where the jewel in the crown is the incredible city of Istanbul. A city of great diversity, Istanbul is a combination of tree-lined boulevards, cafés and cosmopolitan restaurants set against a backdrop where little has changed for centuries. High-class jewellery and fashion shops jostle with hawkers selling freshly prepared food, shoe-shine boys and the largest covered bazaar in the world. During its 3,000 years of turbulent history, it has been home to the Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Ottomans and, finally, the Turks themselves – all leaving their mark. We are taught the Roman Empire fell in 410AD when Attila the Hun sacked Rome, but rarely told is that the eastern and wealthier half lasted another thousand years. This lead to some amazingly preserved monuments, with

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perhaps the greatest legacy being the 6th-century Hagia Sophia, the largest ever church and for over a thousand years, the largest covered space on earth. During the Middle Ages, the Ottoman Empire built another range of monuments to match, including the amazing Topkapi Palace, which was the seat of government of arguably the greatest empire of the medieval age. We also visit three of the most famous ancient sites in the country: Troy, Pergamon and Ephesus. Each is very different, with Troy being the oldest, dating from 3000 BC, and during more than a century of excavations, nine separate cities have been unearthed, all built over each other. Once a Greek colony built high on a huge rock, Pergamon is an impregnable defensive site with amazing views in all directions, and flourished as one of the ancient world’s greatest centres of learning and healing. During Roman times, the greatest city in the eastern Mediterranean was Ephesus, which boasts an extraordinary number


Istanbul is a beautiful and diverse city with a fascinating history

PRICE INCLUDES • • • • • • • •

Follow in the footsteps of St Paul and St John in Ephesus, the Eastern Mediterranean’s greatest Roman city Visit the mountainside site reputed to be the house of the Virgin Mary Guided tour of the remarkable and little-visited Acropolis of Pergamon See the remains of Homer’s Troy Cross the Straits of the Dardanelles and visit the poignant sites of the Commonwealth cemeteries in Gallipoli and Anzac Cove Visit Hagia Sophia, the greatest church in Christendom for a thousand years Walking tour of Istanbul including the Galata Bridge across the Golden Horn and the Grand Bazaar Tour the extraordinary Topkapi Palace

Plus, of course... • Return scheduled flights from Manchester, Birmingham and London Heathrow • Stay in hand-picked four-star hotels, with daily breakfast and three dinners • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £849PP DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN KUSADASI Arrive at the airport to take your flight to Izmir via Istanbul. On arrival, you transfer by coach to the four-star KoruMar Hotel in the nearby resort of Kusadasi, for two nights half board. The hotel is fully air-conditioned with two restaurants, a large open-air swimming pool and sun terraces overlooking the Mediterranean.

DAY 2 – EPHESUS Today we have a guided tour of the nearby ancient city of Ephesus and its breathtaking range of buildings. So great was Ephesus, with its amazing two-storey Library of Celsus and the enormous amphitheatre, that the Romans made it their capital of Asia. We’ll see the Temple of Artemis, which was in its day, greater than the Parthenon in Athens and a pilgrimage destination for a thousand years. Intriguingly, only a fraction of the city has been excavated to date, but the discoveries indicate a highly sophisticated society living in luxurious houses with marble-lined halls, mosaics and beautiful frescoes. As you stroll along the remarkably preserved marble road through the centre of Ephesus, you are walking the same streets as St Paul and St John, who both lived here for several years. We also discover the remains of St John’s Basilica, built by the Emperor Justinian over St John’s The Acropolis of Pergamon

of superbly preserved monuments, including the stunning two-storey Library of Celsus. For many, this is the Pompeii of the East. We cross from Asia back to Europe on a scenic ferry journey across the Dardanelles Straight – you’ll be surprised by how close Europe is to the Asian shore and it’s not hard to imagine the great armies of Xerxes and Alexander the Great crossing here at their narrowest point. Turkish cuisine is an interesting blend of Mediterranean specialities: fresh grilled lamb, fish, shellfish with aubergines, peppers and various fragrant olive oils combine to create tasty, healthy menus, all washed down with the excellent and very reasonably priced local red wine. Turkey is the perfect place if you are looking for something a little different and it will not disappoint. It possesses a genuinely unique blend of diverse cultures, centuries of history and an atmosphere that links the mysterious east with the familiar west.

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Ephesus, ‘the Pompeii of the East’

Hagia Sophia

tomb. In complete contrast, we next visit the small hillside site of the House of the Virgin Mary. St John was entrusted to care for her and it’s believed she travelled with him to Ephesus. We return to our hotel in Kusadasi with the rest of the day free to enjoy at leisure. DAY 3 – PERGAMON Departing Kusadasi, we follow the coast towards the ancient Hellenistic city of Pergamon. Perched on a high rocky outcrop, with stunning views for miles around, the city was famed for its library, which rivalled Alexandria’s. Knowledge then, as now, is power and so concerned were the Egyptians about this competition that they cut off supplies of papyrus to Pergamon, thus prompting the invention of parchment. We’ll see the remains of the Temple of Trajan, the altar of Zeus and the world’s steepest ancient amphitheatre. We continue our journey along the scenic coastline to Canakkale and the four-star Kolin Hotel overlooking the Dardanelles. This evening’s dinner is included at your hotel. DAY 4 – TROY & GALLIPOLI A fascinating day of contrasts awaits today. Firstly, there’s Troy and the famous ‘wooden horse’ story, when Queen Helen of Sparta eloped with Prince Paris to Troy and her enraged husband followed seeking her return. Today, Troy is a complex archaeological site that spans nine separate cities. It nevertheless remains a romantic and alluring place to anyone who has read about the heroic struggles recounted in Homer’s ‘Iliad’. We then take the short cruise from Asia to Europe over the extremely scenic, steep-sided Dardanelles, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. We are now on the Gallipoli peninsula, made famous during the First World War as the scene of one of the greatest and most tragic campaigns of the conflict. More than 35,000 Australian, British and New Zealanders

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Anzac Cove in Gallipoli

perished during the nine months it lasted, their deaths commemorated in the many cemeteries dotted along this now peaceful peninsula. We visit the Lone Pine memorial and Anzac Cove, where the Australians mistakenly landed and were forced to scale steep cliffs and ravines under constant bombardment. We continue our journey through this refreshingly picturesque landscape and arrive in Istanbul, where we stay at the superbly located four-star Armada Old City Hotel for three nights with breakfast. The hotel offers amazing views across the Bosphorus and the Blue Mosque. DAY 5 – ISTANBUL Istanbul is a revelation: there are few places where you’ll find such a diverse array of monuments and fascinating places to visit. We see the immense and beautifully preserved city walls, still dominant after a thousand years, and the Hippodrome where the emperors entertained a staggering 50,000 people. We enjoy a comprehensive guided tour of the breathtaking Hagia Sophia, one of the city’s best landmarks and quite simply one of the world’s greatest architectural achievements. Built in the

6th century, it was the largest enclosed space in the world for 1,400 years! The artistic highlights are the amazing Byzantine mosaics that seem to cover every wall with their vibrant golds, reds and yellows, plus the stunning blue ceramics so typical of the East after it was converted to a mosque some thousand years later. The marble that lines the walls has to be seen to be believed, with each piece specially quarried so the grain blends in a most harmonious manner. For thousands of years, Istanbul sat at the centre of the overland trade routes, and its Grand Bazaar became home to merchants from all over the known world. Today, more than 4,000 shops sell all types of goods, mainly gold, silver, leatherwear, ceramics and carpets, including fine collectors’ items. This afternoon we have a guided walk here and experience the sights and sounds of this thought-provoking relic of the past. DAY 6 – TOPKAPI PALACE We start the day with a guided tour of the Topkapi Palace, the glittering and labyrinthine imperial residence of the sultans for over 400 years. Today, it is a spectacular museum, but in its heyday it functioned as a city within a city, a home to over 4,000 guards,


eunuchs, courtiers and the ladies of the harem. There is a superb display of weapons from throughout history: crossbows, firearms inlaid with ivory and beautifully crafted armour from as far afield as Japan. The treasury is breathtaking too, with an amazing display of jewellery including the world’s fifth-largest diamond, emeralds, jewel-encrusted thrones and the famous Topkapi dagger – all displaying outstanding craftsmanship. Next we have a short walk around the Spice Bazaar, where your senses are bombarded by the vibrant colours and fragrant smells of herbs and spices from around the world: high-quality saffron from Iran; vanilla from Madagascar; turmeric from India; fresh peppercorns from Indonesia and much more. This entire area encapsulates the spirit of old Istanbul: a maze of tiny busy streets, where the locals chat over apple tea from numerous street vendors, as the commanding horns of the passenger ferries resound under the famous Galata Bridge. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure.

Topkapi Palace

DAY 7 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your return flight.

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JERUSALEM, GALILEE & THE DEAD SEA 8 days from only £1,299pp

Heart of the ‘fertile crescent’ with sights beyond wonder and so numerous you almost trip over them. Hugely atmospheric, with Jerusalem one of the world’s most evocative cities. Jerusalem and the Holy Land represent an extraordinary collection of both classical and Biblical sites unmatched anywhere else in the world. From the palaces of Herod the Great to the Sea of Galilee and the Old City of Jerusalem, the places we visit and the stories behind them are inextricably linked to the very basis of our Western civilisation, but it is only by actually going to see them that everything falls into place. Uniquely nestling between Europe, Africa and Asia, at the heart of the ‘Fertile Crescent’, the world’s cradle of civilisation, this remarkable region probably has more remains and influences of more civilisations, religions and empires, and in such a small area, than anywhere else on earth! Fought over by countless generations, it has seen the clash of civilisations and religions since the dawn of history itself. The Canaanites, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Saracens, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the British: all have ruled here and all have left remarkable footprints. We visit Caesarea, one of the three most important ports in the ancient world, plus the spectacular cliff-top fortress of Masada where the final battle of the first real revolt in the Roman Empire took place. It was in the decades leading up to the revolt that Jesus carried out his ministry and we’ll visit all the major sites associated with him, from his birth in Bethlehem, to his early years in Galilee and the final acts around Jerusalem.

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We’ll also have a guided tour of Acre, the bestpreserved and most complete Crusader city in the world, visited by Marco Polo, fought over by Richard the Lionheart, Saladin and even Napoleon. During more modern times we’ll find out about the British involvement and about the many challenges facing the region today. Old Jerusalem, tiny at just one square kilometre, throughout recorded history has always been one of the world’s most evocative cities and it is no exaggeration to say you are literally tripping over monuments as you wander through its maze of streets, mercifully too narrow for motor traffic which only serves to amplify its ancient atmosphere. Split into its four distinct quarters: Jewish, Islamic, Christian and Armenian, you notice the differences immediately as you wander amongst them. Changing little over the centuries, it is bustling, vibrant and so oddly ‘real’ it is almost a film set. From the shores of the sparkling Mediterranean to the fertile valleys of the north, the great inland lake that is the Sea of Galilee, to the desert landscapes of the south and the lowest point on earth at the Dead Sea, our tour will cover an extraordinary panorama. So come with us and discover what makes the ‘Promised Land’ such a remarkable and totally unique place to visit.

DAY 1 - ARRIVAL IN TEL AVIV We fly to Tel Aviv and transfer to the four-star Grand Beach Hotel for one night, with dinner. DAY 2 - CAESAREA & ACRE Today we visit the ancient city of Caesarea, built by King Herod as capital of Roman Judea to honour Caesar Augustus, thus ensuring he was appointed

Church of the Holy Sepulchre


PRICE INCLUDES • • • • • • • •

See the famous Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall, holy sites of Islam and Judaism Enjoy a guided visit to Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christendom’s holiest site See the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Yad Vashem, the moving memorial to the Holocaust Visit the famed Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, and enjoy a relaxing dip Visit Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity Explore Nazareth and the Church of the Annunciation Visit the serene site of the Sermon on the Mount and the Church of the Multiplication Discover the Jewish, Christian and Muslim quarters of Jerusalem’s ‘Old City’ on a guided walking tour

• • • •

Enjoy a guided walking tour of Acre, the world’s only fully preserved crusader city with a stunning melange of medieval military architecture Take a relaxing boat cruise on the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum Marvel at the spectacular fortress of Masada, site of the final siege of Jewish Revolt against the Romans Explore Caesarea, the ancient Roman capital of Judea

Plus, of course... • Return direct scheduled flights (premium economy upgrades available at a supplement for 2019 departures) • Stay in hand-picked four-star accommodation with daily breakfast and seven dinners • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £1,299PP tonight, with dinner, is the four-star Daniel Hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea.

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

Governor, a position subsequently held by Pontius Pilate. It was the biggest port in the Eastern Mediterranean, the site of one of Herod’s magnificent palaces and today it has a host of superb remains to explore. Next we have the 12th century, thoroughly amazing Crusader city of Acre: the beautifully vaulted and huge Knights’ Halls are in a state of almost unrivalled preservation and admirably display medieval European military architecture at its magnificent best. Leaving Acre, we stop in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up and visit the great Church of the Annunciation, before arriving in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee where we stay at the four-star Leonardo Plaza Hotel for one night with dinner. Some tours will stay at the fascinating Kibbutz Lavi in the hills above Tiberias. DAY 3 - SEA OF GALILEE & CAPERNAUM This morning we’ll be immersed in some of the most important events in Jesus’ early life. Crossing the Sea of Galilee by boat we arrive at Capernaum where Jesus lived, healed the sick and recruited his first five disciples. Nearby is Tabgha, the site of the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. Overlooking the whole area is the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. A simple octagonal church has been built, surrounded by beautiful gardens with wonderful views of the Sea of Galilee. Our hotel

Dead Sea

DAY 4 - DEAD SEA & MASADA Today you can enjoy one of life’s must-do experiences - ‘bob’ like a cork in the Dead Sea, surrounded by the desert scenery of the lowest point on earth! Your hotel also offers relaxing spa treatments using salt extracts from the mineral-rich waters. Then we have the opportunity to visit the spectacular fortress of Masada - site of one of the ancient Romans’ greatest sieges. We continue to Jerusalem and the four-star Leonardo Hotel or four-star Grand Court Hotel, just next door, for four nights with dinner. DAY 5 - JERUSALEM There is such an enormous amount to see, experience and absorb in this most remarkable of cities, it is almost overwhelming. Firstly we visit the Mount of Olives and the world’s oldest continually used cemetery for a panoramic view of the ancient city, punctuated by the startlingly beautiful Dome of the Rock where Muhammed rose to heaven. After touring the Garden of Gethsemane, we enter the remarkable warren of streets and alleyways that make up the Old City. Here, in such amazing proximity, lie some of the holiest places for over half the world’s population! We visit the Western Wall and walk along the Via Dolorosa before we finally come to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built over Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. The richness of decoration is astounding and the atmosphere is indescribably moving. DAY 6 - BETHLEHEM Today we drive to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity and the Shepherds’ Fields. One of the oldest churches in the Holy Land still in use, it marks the site where the Virgin Mary is said to have given birth to Jesus. For centuries it was one of the most fought over holy places. It was seized and defended

by a succession of armies, yet still retains fragments of mosaics and paintings from the 4th and 12th centuries. Back in Jerusalem we visit the Yad Vashem, the humbling Holocaust memorial and the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed. DAY 7 - FREE DAY IN JERUSALEM Today is at leisure. The Tower of David museum built on the remains of another of Herod the Great’s palaces provides a particularly impressive history lesson plus spectacular views over the unchanged cityscape. Then you will just love to explore under your own steam: you can see Roman shops still being used and wander into some of the quieter churches – still spectacular and where a choir’s gentle harmonies resonate throughout the alleyways. DAY 8 - RETURN FLIGHT At the appropriate time you transfer to Tel Aviv airport for the flight to the UK after a truly remarkable tour.

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NEW

J O RDAN & PETRA 7 days from only £1,389pp PLUS JERUSALEM 10 days from only £1,989pp

Discover the ‘Rose-red City’ of Petra, bob in the Dead Sea, marvel at the desert’s vastness in Wadi Rum and experience Jordan’s renowned hospitality. Jordan is a remarkable country, with extraordinary landscapes of red-hued dunes and windswept sandstone, and world-class monuments that include Roman amphitheatres and Crusader castles. From Moses to Alexander the Great, Saladin and our own Lawrence of Arabia, all have left outstanding legacies. Combined with the legendary ancient city of Petra, you’ll have a captivating and unforgettable tour. There’s so much to see in this wondrous corner of the world, so why not extend your stay with three more nights in Jerusalem, Israel’s alluring and fascinating capital. DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN AMMAN Fly to Amman and transfer by coach to the vibrant Shmeisani area of the city, where we stay for one night at the four-star AlQasr Metropole Hotel, with breakfast. DAY 2 – WADI RUM We set off early to make the most of the day, travelling south along the Desert Highway through the sandy heart of Jordan to Wadi Rum – the ‘Valley of the Moon’. Nothing prepares you for the aweinspiring sight that greets us: the sandstone massif that TE Lawrence described as ‘vast, echoing and god-like’. The magnificent cliffs and stone buttresses rise sheer from the sea of red sand, together forming a timeless panorama of monolithic rocks. The twisted huge bulk of this network of canyons, rock bridges and ravines is one of the world’s most stunning desert environments. Quite apart from the visual experience – the silence is almost unnerving; bizarrely you cannot hear anything at all. After transferring to 4x4 vehicles,

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we tour the canyons and valleys before arriving at the Wadi Rum Space Village, a Bedouin-style tented camp. This afternoon, you have the opportunity to experience an optional camel ride in the desert before enjoying a traditional ‘zarb’ dinner – a delicious barbecue cooked for hours under the hot desert sand. All tents have twin or double beds with private shower and WC. DAY 3 – LITTLE PETRA First, we see where vast caravans, some with over a thousand camels, gathered for their epic journeys, exploring the mysterious rock-carved rooms of ancient ‘hotels’ in the area, known as Little Petra. We

Wadi Rum

stay two nights, with breakfast and dinner, at the four-star Old Village Hotel & Resort. DAY 4 – PETRA Along with the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids, Petra is one of the world’s ‘must-see’ sights, firmly deserving of its accolade as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Famous throughout history, its huge wealth was amassed from its time as the centre of the ancient caravan routes, which traded as far as China and rivalled that of the Romans. A city to match was created, with sophisticated public buildings and libraries, lavish houses, colonnaded streets, and astonishing villas carved from solid rock.


Petra

PRICE INCLUDES • Guided tour of the amazing ‘Rose-Red City’ of Petra, fabled trading centre for thousands of years and one of the new ‘Wonders of the World’ • Enjoy the unique experience of staying overnight in the heart of the Wadi Rum desert and see the staggering ‘Seven Pillars’ rock formation, made famous by ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ • Stay by the shores of the remarkable Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth • Discover Jerash, the remarkably preserved ancient Roman city, with a local guide • Visit the biblical site of Mount Nebo, where Moses saw the Promised Land Extend your stay with three nights in Jerusalem: • See the Old City on a guided walking tour

of life’s ‘must-do’ experiences. Due to the salt content being 30 per cent, compared with normal seawater at 3 per cent, you float so easily. You cannot actually swim, but bob around like a cork and even while wading, you physically have to push your feet to the bottom to stand up!

We walk down the increasingly narrow gorge and, just as you think the vertiginous sides could not get any narrower, the incredible vista of the Treasury appears like a mirage through a slit in the rock. The perfection of its proportions and the sheer vastness of this edifice are astounding. Beyond, there’s an entire city waiting to be discovered: the amazing Royal Tombs, the theatre, the Street of the Facades, the Great Temple, early-Christian churches, and the main colonnaded road that ran through the centre of this ancient but tremendously cultured city. The afternoon is at leisure, so you may wish to return to your hotel and enjoy its facilities or remain at the site to continue exploring. DAY 5 – KING’S HIGHWAY & MOUNT NEBO Heading north towards the Dead Sea we travel on the scenic King’s Highway, following an ancient caravan route. It passes through some of Jordan’s most spectacular scenery with views across arid, rocky peaks. We visit the Crusader castle at Shobak, one of the region’s best-preserved forts, before continuing to Mount Nebo, where Moses first saw the Promised Land. According to Jewish and Christian tradition, the climb was so arduous that this remains his final resting place, leaving Joshua to lead his people over the River Jordan. We also visit nearby Madaba, where St George’s Church houses a superbly intricate, 6thcentury mosaic map of the Holy Land. We stay for two nights at the four-star Holiday Inn Dead Sea, with breakfast and dinner, 400 metres below sea level. It has several swimming pools, spacious air-conditioned rooms, as well as a small beach. You must take a dip in the Dead Sea, it’s one

• Visit the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane • See the famous Dome of the Rock and the Wailing Wall • Visit Yad Vashem, the moving Holocaust memorial, and the Israel Museum • Explore the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site in Christendom, on a guided visit

Plus, of course... • • •

Return direct flights from London Heathrow, with hotel transfers Six or nine nights in four-star accommodation, with breakfast and dinner daily The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

Jerusalem

DAY 6 – JERASH & AJLOUN CASTLE Ancient Jerash is the largest and best-preserved Roman city in the region, known as the Pompeii of the east. Its beautifully colonnaded main street and forum, the hippodrome, baths and theatre are a superb example of Roman town planning on a truly grand scale. The 12th-century Saracen Ajloun Castle was originally built on the site of a Christian monastery and commands panoramic views over the surrounding hills. DAY 7 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to Amman airport for your return direct flight.

JERUSALEM EXTENSION On selected departures, our tour continues to Israel for a three-night stay in Jerusalem. DAY 7 – DRIVE TO JERUSALEM We drive from the Dead Sea to the famous Allenby Bridge (King Hussein) crossing. After the border formalities, it’s a short drive to Jerusalem, where we visit the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. After some time for lunch we continue to the Israel Museum. Our hotel for three nights is the four-star Grand Court or Leonardo Hotel, with breakfast and dinner. DAY 8 – JERUSALEM This morning we visit Yad Vashem, the world’s largest memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. We then enter the remarkable warren of streets that make up the Old City of Jerusalem. Within its one square kilometre area are some of the holiest places for more than half the world’s population. We visit the Western Wall, known as the Wailing Wall and the holiest spot

in Judaism, as well as the Dome of the Rock above. Walking along the Via Dolorosa we finally come to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built over Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. Containing the final five Stations of the Cross, the church is shared between the Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian churches. DAY 9 – JERUSALEM You have an entire day at leisure to enjoy a more detailed personal exploration of the numerous sights in and around the Old City. The Tower of David Museum at the Jaffa Gate provides a particularly impressive history of the city. Built on the remains of one of Herod the Great’s palaces, there are spectacular views from the top, and it was in front of its entrance where General Allenby accepted the surrender of the Ottoman Turks in 1917. DAY 10 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to Tel Aviv airport for your return flight to London Heathrow.

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MARRAKESH & T H E AT L A S M O U N TA I N S 6 days from only £599pp

Immerse yourself in a truly captivating city filled with intriguing souks, vibrant squares and superb architecture, plus experience stunning natural wonders. A visit to Morocco is like taking a journey back in time – it’s everything you imagine it to be and so much more. It is a country of startling contrasts due to the legacies left behind by its past rulers and inhabitants: starting with the earliest records from Phoenician times, then coming under the sway of Carthage, followed by the Romans and from the 7th century the Ottomans, and finally, the French. This has created a unique and utterly compelling country which today, although relatively close geographically, remains delightfully exotic, mysterious and unspoilt. Marrakesh is Morocco’s most vibrant city, full of myths and mystery. Today it’s an anachronism, one of the most exciting and romantic places you will ever visit, with one foot in the present and one firmly in the past. It was once an oasis on the ancient caravan routes to the south, soon becoming a natural centre of commerce and consequently, during medieval times, Morocco’s capital. Vast wealth poured in from nearby Moorish Spain and skilled artisans built the city you see today. Surrounded by almost intact medieval ramparts, ochre-coloured Morocco boasts some amazing buildings. Dominating the traditional low-rise skyline is the astounding minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, towering at more than 60 metres high, visible for miles around and a classic example of Moorish architecture. Then there are the Saadian Tombs, the intricately decorated final resting place of the descendants of Mohammed,

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plus the spectacular Royal Palace and a host of other wonderful things to experience. The city’s maze of tiny streets is interspersed with tranquil gardens watered for centuries by an ingenious underground water system that still functions after all these years. At the heart of it all though is the immense Jemaa el-Fnaa, Africa’s busiest square and the site of one of the world’s greatest spectacles, especially atmospheric at dusk. Here, bustling street restaurants serve all kinds of delicacies with mouth-watering aromas filling the air, set in what can only be described as a medieval circus. Storytellers recount tales of old, while courageous fire-eaters and skilled acrobats entertain the eager crowds. Scribes pen letters while barbers are busy at work. Underscoring the whole scene is the heavy drumbeat of musical troupes playing their instruments, the sights and sounds of which are enchanting. The balmy warmth of the Moroccan evening adds to the atmosphere, and all this under an ocean of stars makes for a fabulous experience. The Moroccans themselves display legendary hospitality: culturally bound to offer help to visitors, they are extremely friendly, generous and open. One of the great delights when exploring Morocco is its exciting cuisine, and Marrakesh is a veritable food-lovers’ paradise. Whilst our tour is on a half-board basis, to get an authentic taste of the local cuisine, you may choose lunch in the hotel, instead of dinner, to try the city’s myriad

of atmospheric restaurants and sample the local delicacies. Most famous is the pastilla, a legendary pastry prepared with pigeon or chicken flavoured with cinnamon and honey. Indeed, renowned TV chef Robert Carrier once stated that there are three outstanding cuisines in the world: French, Chinese and Moroccan. Join us on this exhilarating tour of one of the world’s most fascinating cities and experience all its wonders for yourself. Essaouira


Explore the famous market square of Jemaa el-Fnaa

PRICE INCLUDES • Discover Marrakesh and explore its countless gems including the medieval medina, atmospheric souks and the extraordinary Jemaa el-Fnaa square • Explore Marrakesh on a guided tour, seeing its remarkably preserved medieval walls and the stunning Jardin Majorelle, once home to Yves St Laurent • Experience the spectacular Atlas Mountains, Africa’s greatest mountain range and an ever-present backdrop to Marrakesh • Visit the Saadian Tombs, one of the finest examples of Moorish architecture • Visit Essaouira, a 15th-century coastal town and one of North Africa’s most attractive ports

Plus, of course... • • •

Return flights from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers Five nights in four-star superior accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast and dinner The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £599PP

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN MARRAKESH You arrive at the airport to take your flight to Marrakesh. On arrival, we will transfer to the excellent four-star superior Hotel Opera Plaza where we stay for five nights. Set in its own private grounds, this hotel is ideally located, allowing easy access to the sights of the old city. All the rooms are comfortable, air-conditioned and well-appointed in a contemporary design. There are three restaurants and dinner is included in the main restaurant which serves international cuisine; you may wish to upgrade to either the Asian or Moroccan ‘à la carte’ restaurants. After a day of wonderful sightseeing, you can relax in the chic lounge bar or the cosy café bar. There is also a large outdoor pool shaded by palm and olive trees, (open during the summer months, weather permitting) and a spa. DAY 2 – MARRAKESH & THE SAADIAN TOMBS Marrakesh is a labyrinth of tiny alleyways teeming with activity like few other places in the world. With classic, French colonial buildings and boulevards surrounded by remarkably preserved medieval walls, the city is so perfect it could be, and often is used as, a film set. This morning, we enjoy a sightseeing tour during which we will see the Saadian tombs, one of the world’s finest examples of Moorish architecture, where classic archways are covered in gold leaf and stucco work. Plus, we will experience the Bahia Palace,

which when built was acclaimed as the world’s most beautiful palace, famed for its 50 marble columns. We also visit the famous souks or covered markets, where immensely skilled craftsmen create intricate leatherware, jewellery and furniture. At dusk, after dinner in the hotel, we visit the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, a showcase for traditional Moroccan life. You will experience a fantastic spectacle of musicians, dancers, fortune-tellers and snake charmers in an exhilarating kaleidoscope of colour. DAY 3 – MARRAKESH This morning, we continue our tour of marvellous Marrakesh. The city boasts a wealth of wonderful gardens, some vast with olive groves and lakes, providing a haven of peace and tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of the city. One of the prettiest parks is the Jardin Majorelle: an amazing display of bamboo, bougainvillaea and cacti, formerly owned by Yves Saint-Laurent. Surrounding the city are impressive ramparts stretching 19 miles long, still largely intact with imposing forts at various intervals. The gates are fine examples of classic Moorish architecture with their pastel hues changing colours depending on the time of day and the intensity of the light. The afternoon is yours at leisure to further your exploration of Marrakesh at an unhurried pace, or relax in your hotel and take advantage of its excellent facilities.

Portuguese established the medieval citadel that still stands today. Within its walls are a maze of tranquil squares and perfectly preserved streets, lined by whitewashed houses and pavement cafes. It’s a sheer pleasure to stroll through the markets here, where the stalls groan under the weight of colourful fresh fruit and vegetables. Or simply wander along the harbour, bustling with a hive of activity and where fishermen repair their nets as they have done for centuries. Essaouira is so charmingly unspoilt it has been featured as the location for several blockbuster productions, from Orson Welles’ Othello to Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. During your journey, the real Morocco unfolds and the landscape changes from fertile green plains to a moon-like semi-desert, occasionally studded with palm trees. Mud-brick villages blend perfectly into the background, while shepherds of all ages tend their herds of sheep and goat – the transport of choice here is very much the donkey. DAY 5 – ATLAS MOUNTAINS & MARRAKESH Forming an ever-present backdrop and adding to Marrakesh’s wondrous setting are the soaring, snow-capped Atlas Mountains. This morning, we take a drive into the stunning foothills with the countryside evolving from saffron-coloured fields to steeper, wooded slopes, slashed by dramatic, riverfilled gorges. Mammoth peaks soaring more than 3,000 metres high spear the vivid, blue sky while the desolate mountainside stretches before us. Then the forests commence, rolled out like a massive green carpet and beyond, misty plains stretch to the horizon in a patchwork of muted colours. There’s time to take in the spectacular vistas when we stop to stretch our legs and perhaps enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. After a morning of sightseeing, we return to Marrakesh in the early afternoon. The rest of the day is at leisure, giving you ample time to make the most of your final day in this wonderful city. DAY 6 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your return flight.

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Indulge in a Moroccan hammam spa experience Enjoy a traditional steam bath in the heart of Marrakesh. A cleansing soap made from olives and eucalyptus is applied to your skin then scrubbed away with an exfoliating kessa glove. You’ll feel energised for the rest of your Moroccan adventure. From £42pp. Enjoy a Moroccan gastronomic experience Attend La Maison Arabe’s world-renowned cooking workshop, where a professional chef will teach you how to create a delicious and authentic Moroccan dish. Then you’ll feast on your culinary creations with your fellow cooks. From £35pp.

DAY 4 – ESSAOUIRA Our day begins with a comfortable drive to the delightful coastal town of Essaouira, which came to prominence during the 15th century when the

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WONDERS OF THE NILE THE LONG CRUISE FROM CAIRO From the Pyramids to Luxor 11 days from £2,240pp From the Pyramids to Aswan 15 days from £2,875pp

Cruise in luxury on the famed River Nile and experience the incredible ancient pyramids, astonishing temples and lesser-known monuments. Egypt, just the name is enough to set your imagination spinning back to the start of recorded human history – to a time when all-powerful Pharaohs controlled a mysterious and fabulously wealthy empire which lasted virtually intact for over 5,000 years! Our Nile cruise explores the mighty monuments, the intriguing history and the extraordinary artistic masterpieces from the greatest and oldest of all the ancient civilisations. We start in Cairo, the heart of modern-day Egypt. The largest city on the African continent and muchmaligned for its traffic congestion, Cairo remains a fascinating fusion of western, Islamic and Christian cultures, all mixed up with something a lot more ancient. The iconic symbols of these ancient roots are the three Great Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza, on the edge of the city. Visited by the greatest names in history, from Alexander the Great, to Caesar and Napoleon, the Pyramids are actually the world’s oldest tourist attraction! Right in the centre of Cairo, the Egyptian Museum houses so many priceless treasures, that it would take months to see it all. Its Tutankhamun exhibition alone contains thousands of finds from the small tomb that Howard Carter discovered in 1922. Although the centre of the

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collection is the mesmerising solid gold funerary mask, equally impressive is the section devoted to the daily life of the ancient Egyptians, as are the touchingly realistic funerary portraits from Egypt’s Graeco-Roman period. We’ll also visit the Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, just south of the Cairo and built over 4,600 years ago, this is Egypt’s first proper pyramid, and is now considered to be the oldest stone building in the world. After two days of relaxing sailing on the world’s longest river our tour continues with visits to the tombs of Beni Hassan, followed by one of the most imposing temples in all of Egypt, at Abydos. Our exploration continues with the temple of Hathor at Dendera, built during the time of the Ptolemies, heirs to Alexander the Great’s empire. This part of the tour is ideal for anyone who has visited Luxor and Aswan before and wants to delve deeper into some of the rarely-visited sites mentioned above. From here on we continue to the well-known sights of Luxor and beyond. Luxor, known as Thebes in ancient times, was centred around the two great temple complexes of ancient Egypt – Karnak and Luxor. These are both on the East bank of the Nile and dedicated to the sun god,


PRICE INCLUDES • Visit the incredible Pyramids at Giza and get up close to the enigmatic Sphinx • Guided tour to the lesser-known ‘Step Pyramid’, the oldest stone structure in the world • Marvel at the Golden Mask of Tutankhamun on our visit to the incomparable Egyptian Museum • Guided tours of amazing, yet rarely visited sites such as the city of Amarna, created by the pharaoh Akhenaten and Nefertiti • Visit the mysterious temple dedicated to Osiris, god of the dead, at Abydos • Discover one of Egypt’s best preserved temples at Dendera Continue your cruise to Aswan for a further four nights: • Guided tour of the amazing temples of Karnak and Luxor

Gaze in awe at the magnificent Great Sphinx of Giza

Amun Ra, the giver of life. The West bank, where the sun sets, was reserved for the tombs and funerary temples of the Pharaohs, their families and high officials. Today’s Egyptians are immensely proud of their ancient lineage and with typical middle-eastern courtesy and hospitality they are some of the most welcoming and friendly people you are likely to meet.

ship, with board games and evening entertainment including music, wine-tasting and a cookery lesson, a black & white party, the ever-popular ‘galabiya’ party and even a belly dancer! All cabins and suites feature individually-controlled air conditioning, hairdryer, personal safe, fridge, TV and the convenience of tea & coffee making facilities. The beds are hotel-style and can be configured as a double or two twins, with the fine Egyptian cotton sheets, and an evening turn-down service. Clever design allows for all the wood-panelled bathrooms to have a bath with a fixed shower above, along with complimentary toiletries. A laundry service is also available. As in ancient times, it’s the fresh local produce of the lush Nile valley that is central to any meal in Egypt. The MS Mövenpick Darakum is known for its plentiful and varied buffets which feature a wide selection of both western and middle-eastern dishes – be sure to try the refreshing salads, hummus and falafel with hot flat bread straight from the oven.

• Visit the Pharaohs’ tombs in the Valley of the Kings & the temple of Hatshepsut • Visit Howard Carter’s house and the newly-opened replica of King ‘Tut’s’ tomb • Explore the stunning temples at Kom Ombo and Philae in Aswan • Enjoy an afternoon sail on a traditional felucca to Kitchener Island

Plus, of course... • • • • •

Return scheduled flights from the UK 10 or 14 nights on board, with a choice of spacious cabins and suites, all with river views No single supplement on lower deck cabins, with limited availability All meals included, including complimentary on-board tea & coffee The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

The MS Mövenpick Darakum has five passenger decks: Lower deck – the 20sq.m cabins have two twin beds and smaller square windows which cannot be opened. They are offered for sole occupancy with no single supplement (limited availability). The main restaurant is located at this level. Main deck – the light and airy glass-panelled reception allows the light to filter down to the deck below. All cabins from this deck and above have large picture-windows offering magnificent river views, with a panel that can be opened. Upper deck – this is where you’ll find the small fitness room and the on-board shop, as well as the Senior suites (40sq.m), the forward-facing Panorama suites (34sq.m) and rear sun deck. Top deck – has just two Senior suites (34sq.m), the main bar and lower sun deck. Sun deck – has the pool and an open-air bar. Please see our website for deck plans. Main/upper deck cabin, MS Mövenpick Darakum

YOUR SHIP – MS DARAKUM One of the smaller ships on the Nile, with just 52 cabins and suites, the five-star MS Darakum is managed by the renowned Swiss hospitality company, Mövenpick, and has been designed with a shallow draft in order to navigate the full length of the Nile in Egypt. It is currently the only vessel cruising the Nile from Cairo all the way to Aswan – this cruise is very much a unique experience! Appointed to the highest specification and imaginatively furnished with a distinctive Moroccan theme, the MS Mövenpick Darakum offers extensive open deck space on three levels, with plenty of sun loungers, sofas and armchairs to relax in. The plunge pool on the sun deck is perfect for a cooling dip. The spacious, yet cosy lounge bar is the social hub of the

Sun deck, MS Mövenpick Darakum

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Sun deck pool

MS Mövenpick Darakum

DAY 1 – DEPARTURE You should arrive at the airport to take your direct flight to Cairo. After our late evening arrival, we transfer to our home for the next 10 or 14 nights, the MS Mövenpick Darakum. DAY 2 – CAIRO & EGYPTIAN MUSEUM After breakfast we’ll explore Old Cairo’s Christian history with a visit to the remarkable 3rd century ‘Hanging Church’, built over a gateway to the Romanera Babylon fortress. With its wooden barrel-roofed interior this makes for a fascinating introduction to Egypt’s long Coptic heritage. We continue to the Coptic Museum and the nearby Ben Ezra synagogue, said to be the place where the Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses in his basket amongst the reeds. We return to our ship for lunch. “This day of days, the most wonderful that I have ever lived through…” is how Howard Carter described the day in 1922 when he realised he had made the archaeological find of the century. King ‘Tut’s’ tomb held so many treasures that it took 10 years to examine, photograph, catalogue and finally remove all 5,398 of them. The collection forms the centrepiece of the Egyptian Museum, without question one of the world’s greatest museums, a treasure-house overflowing with artefacts of remarkable ancient craftsmanship, ranging from the mundane to the mystical. The famous Royal Mummy room may be entered, upon payment of a small additional fee. DAY 3 – THE PYRAMIDS, SPHINX & SAQQARA Today we drive out of the city towards the Giza plateau for our first close-up view of the Great

Pyramids. The truly gigantic size of the three main pyramids only becomes fully apparent when they tower above you in all their majesty. For the more adventurous, entry into the pyramids is available at extra cost payable locally, but for the Great Pyramid of Cheops there’s a daily limit to the number of visitors and there’s no guarantee of an entry. A little further down the hill is the mighty Sphinx, the world’s largest free-standing sculpture, it looks out serenely over the suburbs of Cairo. After our included lunch we continue south to the pyramids at the necropolis of Saqqara. Soon the lush fields give way to barren desert and we see the giant ‘step’ pyramid looming above the palms. Built using smaller blocks than the Great Pyramids at Giza, it’s easy to see how the architecture of pyramid-building evolved from a simple square flat-topped mound upon which similar smaller mounds were added. In the distance, further out in the desert, we’ll be able to discern the famous ‘bent’ pyramid, the next stage in pyramid evolution, so-called because the angle was too steep and had to be changed half way up so as to avoid a catastrophic collapse. DAY 4 – FULL-DAY SAIL Early this morning our ship starts its long journey south out of Cairo. As we leave the city behind and pass small farms, canals and plantations of date palms along the way, you’ll see how productive this land has been for so many countless generations. Many farmers here still use methods that would be familiar to their ancestors thousands of years ago. Your tour manager will take this opportunity to invite you to the first of a couple of fascinating lectures on both modern and ancient Egypt. In the afternoon we arrive at the small town of Beni Suef where we moor overnight. DAY 5 – FULL-DAY SAIL Our second consecutive day of sailing, and by this time you should have settled into the rhythm of shipboard life. After a sumptuous breakfast buffet make your way to one of the three open decks and relax under one on one of the many comfortable shaded sun loungers or Balinese-style canopied day-beds as the unchanged landscape of the Nile Valley slips by. If you prefer to keep cool in air-conditioned comfort, then there are plenty of armchairs by the full-length windows of the bar. This afternoon we arrive in Minya where we will moor for two nights.

Sun deck

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DAY 6 – BENI HASSAN TOMBS After an early breakfast you set out with a visit to Tuna El Gebel, the necropolis of Hermopolis, sacred to the Greek god Hermes and his Egyptian counterpart Thoth, god of writing and wisdom. Here we’ll explore the tomb of Petosiris, the high priest, and the catacombs which once held thousands of mummified

ibis and baboons. After lunch on board, we continue with a tour of the little-visited tombs at Beni Hassan, set high above the Nile at the foot of a cliff, with wonderful views across the valley. The tombs belong to the 11th dynasty governors of the region and unlike more imposing royal tombs, here you’ll find wall paintings showing charming glimpses of real daily life, with hunting scenes, farming, dancing and even wrestling competitions! DAY 7 – AMARNA This morning we arrive in Amarna, site of the shortlived capital of the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti. Akhenaten took a brave, and possibly foolhardy, decision to replace the existing ancient, complex and powerful theology (and its priesthood!) with a monotheistic cult of the sun-god, the Aten. In order to cement the break from the past he built this brand-new city, with its temples and altars open to the sky, unlike the dark cavernous interiors of traditional temples. After his death his young son, Tutankhamun, ascended the throne and reinstated the old gods, leading to the abandonment of his father’s city. We’ll visit Akhenaten’s tomb, as well as those of some of his courtiers. We return to our ship in time for lunch and continue our journey south, with the opportunity to see one of Egypt’s most important Coptic monasteries as we sail by. We moor in Assyut overnight. DAY 8 – FULL-DAY SAIL Today we continue our journey southwards, with a full day’s cruising, ideal to relax after the busy last couple of days and before seeing the monuments and temples of the second part of our journey. DAY 9 – ABYDOS Abydos remains one of ancient Egypt’s most mysterious sites, with the Great Temple of Seti I as its centrepiece. Dedicated to the cult of Osiris, god of the dead, Abydos was a pilgrimage centre for thousands


Temple of Dendera

DAY 11 – RETURN FLIGHT An early start today as anyone opting for the shorter eleven-day itinerary will be transferred to Luxor airport for the flight home, via Cairo.

LUXOR TO ASWAN EXTENSION On all our departures, the MS Mövenpick Darakum continues its journey south to Aswan for a further four nights. The full 15-day tour is ideal for those on their first visit to Egypt who want to gain the most complete experience and understanding of this unique destination. DAY 11 – LUXOR WEST BANK Anyone staying on for the full itinerary to Aswan will continue the tour crossing the Nile to the West Bank for the ‘main event’ – the Valley of the Kings! It is simply remarkable that so much artistic beauty is hidden below the barren earth of this hot, dry, rock-strewn valley. The incredible state of preservation and the vividness of the paintings and hieroglyphics is simply astounding. It is tantalising to imagine what treasures all these tombs once held, lost to incredibly efficient grave robbers thousands of years ago. We will also visit Howard Carter’s house which has been beautifully preserved and is next to the newlyopened replica of King Tut’s tomb. Our tour ends at the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh, with its stunning three-tiered colonnaded terraces reflecting the outline of the cliffs above. We return to our ship at lunchtime and the rest of the day is at leisure. The Nile in Aswan

Abydos

of years and was considered a sacred place to be buried. The temple is known for its Gallery of the Kings, which lists all the pharaohs, as well as some strange hieroglyphs which look like modern machines! We sail on to Qena where we moor overnight. DAY 10 – DENDERA The temple of Hathor is one of the most complete and best-preserved in all of Egypt. Hathor was the Egyptian goddess of love, beauty, joy and healing, and her temple, although only completed in Roman times, nevertheless follows the architecture and style of much older temples. Intriguingly, one of the outside walls has a famous relief of Cleopatra and Caesarion, her son by Julius Caesar, so the famous queen may well have visited the temple. We sail the short distance to Luxor where we moor overnight.

DAY 12 – KARNAK & LUXOR TEMPLES This morning we visit the Temple of Karnak. The astounding Hypostyle Hall is the most awe-inspiring part of this vast complex, said to be the largest religious centre of the ancient world. Its 134 gigantic columns stretch up to 80ft high and are covered in hieroglyphics – look carefully and you’ll spot traces of the original colours still visible. One of the many interesting features is the first documented peace treaty in history, between Ramses II and the Hittites. Another highlight is the great Obelisk of Hatshepsut, carved from one 97foot high block of polished red granite and weighing in at over 300 tons, it has stood here for over 3,450 years, a testament to the amazing abilities and ingenuity of its creators. We also visit the smaller, but equally remarkable Temple of Luxor, which was originally connected to Karnak via the 2-mile long Avenue of the Sphinxes. After lunch we set sail for Edfu where we moor overnight. DAY 13 – KOM OMBO The temple at Kom Ombo is unusual in that it’s dedicated to two gods, Horus and Sobek, the crocodile. The temple had a lake with sacred crocodiles and many mummies of them have been found nearby. We sail to Aswan and moor overnight. DAY 14 – ASWAN This morning is our last full day in Egypt and we visit one of modern Egypt’s greatest achievements – the Aswan High Dam. We continue to the temple of Philae, which had to be rescued from the rising waters of Lake Nasser. After a visit to the Nubian museum, we take to the water on a felucca sail as the sun sets in the west to Kitchener Island, which the eponymous general converted to a botanical park. DAY 15 – FLIGHT HOME Early this morning we make our way to Aswan airport for the return flight, via Cairo, back to the UK after unique and truly fascinating tour.

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SOUTH AFRICA 16 days from only £2,199pp W I T H ROVOS R A I L E X T E N S I O N 18 days from only £4,099pp

A ‘world in one country’ is no exaggeration - incredible game viewing, a vast patchwork of different cultures, scenery and history coupled with superb food and wine make for a world-class destination. South Africans call their homeland ‘a world in one country’. It covers an area equivalent to five times the size of Britain, with a climate ranging from temperate, Mediterranean and sub-tropical to desert; it offers spectacular scenery with arguably the finest wildlife on earth and no less than eleven official languages. South Africa is truly a world-class destination! Firstly, a more naturally beautiful country would be difficult to find - from the serrated peaks of the Drakensberg mountains, to the contorted and timeless semi-desert landscapes of the Karoo and the forested sea-shores and mirror-like lakes of the Garden Route, the enchanting temperate valleys of the Winelands, the rare proximity to nature found in the national parks and the instantly recognizable symbol of the country, Table Mountain - all under an endless azure-blue sky. Quite remarkable! Then there is the wildlife, one of the main reasons visitors travel to Africa. One of the finest places in the world to experience this is the Kruger National Park, which is a similar size to Wales. It is exactly how you imagine the African bush to be, as depicted on countless TV documentaries: areas of sweeping savannah, bisected by rivers full of hippos, muddy waterholes lined with animals quenching their thirst, and the bush itself, home to

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zebra and antelope, studded by immense biscuitcoloured termite mounds and towering above it all, instantly recognisable giraffes! The park is home to an incredible 150 mammals and 500 bird species including the ‘big five’: elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo. Game-viewing is an intensely moving experience with nothing preparing you for the waves of emotion inspired by an encounter with these wonderful, almost regal creatures thriving in their natural habitat. Just to highlight the variety of flora too, the Cape Peninsula alone has twice as many plant varieties as Britain, which is 5,000 times bigger. But South Africa is not just about scenery and wildlife, fabulous as it is. The cities are amazing and highlight the country’s diversity. Brash Johannesburg, city of gold and South Africa’s cultural capital, with skyscrapers of concrete and glass separated by canyon-like streets contrasting with townships on its outskirts. Then there is the ‘Mother City’, Cape Town, overlooked by the vast bulk of Table Mountain and easily Africa’s most beautiful and sophisticated city. It is a real multi-cultural melting pot, with stunning Cape architecture, superb beaches, the best cuisine in the country, fabulous street musicians, mime artists and entertainers adding to its cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Any country is shaped by its past - South Africa more than most with its recent history a constant struggle between the British, Afrikaners, and various indigenous peoples, the Zulus being the most well-known. The British annexed the Cape from the Dutch during the 18th century, who then set out inland founding the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. However, with the discovery of the world’s largest gold deposits, British interest flourished! This culminated in the Boer War and unification of the country. We all inevitably associate South Africa with the inhumanities of the old Apartheid system, which needs no explanation. Our visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg takes us on a fascinating, horrifying, humbling and ultimately inspiring journey from the dark days of ‘whites only’ privilege, through to Nelson Mandela’s historic release. Documentary film, texts, sound clips and live accounts recapture life in the old South Africa. We also visit the famous battlefields of the Zulu Wars, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift – one a crushing British defeat sending shock waves throughout the Empire, the other a valiant stand of just 140 against 4,000 Zulus. Few tours visit these remarkable sites, a vital and deeply moving part of South Africa’s unique heritage.


Relax in beautiful Cape Town, overlooked by Table Mountain

PRICE INCLUDES • Tour the legendary Zulu War battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift with a specialist guide • Full-day guided safari in the Kruger National Park, one of the world’s most outstanding game reserves • Stay in the heart of the gorgeous Western Cape’s Winelands, enjoying a cellar tour and tasting at a 300-year old wine estate • Stay three nights in cosmopolitan Cape Town, one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities, dominated by the instantly recognisable Table Mountain • Explore legendary Cape of Good Hope and Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens • Visit Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum, a real must in understanding contemporary South Africa The Garden Route in the Western Cape is legendary. With a mild climate and facing the southern Indian Ocean, this unique region encompasses beautiful coastal and mountain scenery. Depending on the time of year, we’ll have the opportunity to travel to the beautiful seaside resort of Hermanus, the best place for on-shore whale watching. We also spend a most enjoyable few days surrounded by the seemingly never-ending rows of vines in fertile valleys, backed by the lofty mountains of the enchanting Winelands. This wonderful 16-day tour is designed to highlight South Africa’s truly amazing diversity of cultures, its curious blend of old and new, and its phenomenal scenery and wildlife. You leave with the feeling that the new South Africa, open to the world after years of isolation, is a land of superlatives which cannot fail to impress the welcome visitor!

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Stay overnight in a tented camp During your stay in Kruger National Park, why not spend a night in a classic tented camp? You’ll also experience a relaxing yet exhilarating bush walk, led by a knowledgeable ranger who will introduce you to the bush’s natural wonders. It’s one of the best ways to explore the African wilderness. From £239pp (subject to availability).

• • • • •

Gaze at the awe-inspiring Blyde River canyon, the third largest in the world Follow the enchanted Garden Route, one of South Africa’s greatest drives Visit Hermanus for the world’s finest on-shore whale watching, dependent on season Enjoy a scenic drive through the beautiful small country of Swaziland Take an internal flight to the stunning Garden Route

Plus, of course... • • •

Return scheduled flights from the UK Stay in hand-picked four-star and three-star hotels with daily breakfast, two lunches and three dinners The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

EXTEND YOUR HOLIDAY Spend three days on one of the world’s most luxurious trains, Rovos Rail, from Cape Town to Pretoria. Call us or visit our website for details.

DAY 1 - DEPARTURE You should arrive at the airport to take your overnight direct flight to Johannesburg. DAY 2 - ARRIVAL IN JOHANNESBURG After our morning arrival, we transfer to the four-star Indaba Hotel in a prosperous suburb, north of the city. On the way to our hotel we take the opportunity to visit the Apartheid Museum, a truly fascinating exhibition charting the apartheid years and the struggle against it, culminating in the first democratic elections. It is a superbly presented walk through contemporary history using original material, riveting eyewitness accounts, photographs and film. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to relax and enjoy the hotel’s facilities. DAY 3 - PANORAMA ROUTE After breakfast we depart for the open spaces and farmlands of the Highveld, following the Panorama Route to Kruger National Park, one of the most scenic drives in South Africa. We follow the spectacular rim of the Blyde River Canyon, an amazing 20-mile long and 2,300- foot deep gorge cutting a vast swathe through the Great Escarpment separating

the temperate grasslands of the highveld and the drier savannah beyond. Deep circular rock formations created by years of erosion and many excellent vantage points offer superb photo opportunities for some of the most breathtaking views in Africa. Our hotel for the next three nights is the three-star superior Hippo Hollow Country Estate, beautifully located in the midst of lush forest on the banks of the Sabie River on the edge of the National Park. It has lovely gardens, two pools, a very cosy bar, an excellent restaurant and an open-air terrace overlooking the grounds and river where you can actually watch the hippos! A more relaxing spot would be difficult to find. Dinner is included tonight. DAY 4 - KRUGER GAME DRIVE Today we have a full day’s game drive in specially adapted 10 seat 4x4 vehicles. There is simply nothing to beat that rising feeling of anticipation and excitement as we enter the nearby park in the half-light of the spectacular African dawn, surrounded

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by the noise of a unique ‘dawn chorus’. Which animal shall we spot first? Perhaps an elephant, a family of warthogs or possibly even the elusive cheetah. The experienced game rangers know the best tracks and waterholes whilst their stories will amuse, inform and fascinate you. Most have lived here all their lives, accumulating a vast wealth of knowledge. One minute they can be talking about the constituents of elephant dung and the next about the mating behaviour of hippos or the latest UK football scores!

Isandlwana

DAY 5 - KRUGER FREE DAY This is a day at leisure for anyone who just wants to take it easy by one of the pools at the hotel or do some hippo-spotting from the lovely lawn overlooking the river. Alternatively, you could try some elephant interaction, exciting microlight flights or even river rafting (all subject to weather conditions), as well as sunset safaris or night safaris where you can experience the unique thrill of an open 4x4 vehicle game drive by spotlight. Exclusively for Riviera Travel guests, there are also a limited number of places available to stay the night at a tented camp and go on a bushwalk. Our camp provides a ‘glamping’ experience with comfortable beds, electricity and en-suite shower with WC. Our chef will create excellent wholesome cuisine and you can listen out for any nocturnal visitors whilst sitting around the campfire! You rejoin the main tour on the morning of day 6. DAY 6 - SWAZILAND & KWAZULU NATAL Today we leave Kruger on our way to the battlefields of Zululand. After breakfast we’ll drive south, entering the small but scenically beautiful country of Swaziland. As the road climbs past the interestingly named Piggs Peak we descend through lush green fields and rolling hills interspersed with small farms and drive through the country’s small capital Mbabane, passing the parliament house and Royal Palace en route. We cross back into South Africa in the afternoon and enter Kwazulu Natal province, staying at the simple three-star Battlefields Lodge for two nights on bed and breakfast basis. DAY 7 - ISANDLWANA & RORKE’S DRIFT After breakfast we visit the battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. Brilliantly dramatised in the films Zulu Dawn and Zulu, these two battles, just a day apart, became a defining moment for the British Empire. In 1879 at Isandlwana, a depleted force of 1,300 were surprised and outmanoeuvred by a 20,000-strong Zulu army armed with cowhide shields and spears. Only a handful survived. The next day just 9 miles away, about 140 British soldiers, some wounded, held off 4,000 Zulus for over ten hours at Rorke’s Drift, an action earning eleven Victoria Crosses, the largest number ever awarded in a single engagement. Isandlwana particularly, remains a haunting and lonely place, with mass graves marked by simple white stones. Our specialist Zulu guide will really make those desperate encounters come alive. We return to our hotel in the afternoon. Lunch is included today. DAY 8 – MOSSEL BAY After breakfast we return to Johannesburg airport, flying to George in the Western Cape and at the heart of the gorgeous Garden Route. We take the short drive to the coastal town of Mossel Bay and our hotel, the charming three-star superior Diaz Hotel & Resort with breakfast. The comfortable rooms all boast excellent sea views. Dinner at a local restaurant is included this evening.

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DAY 9 – CANGO CAVES & OUDTSHOORN Today we head inland, through stunning mountain scenery of the Ruitersbos Nature Reserve to the foot of the Swartberg Mountains. Here we’ll visit the spectacular Cango Caves, formed over millions of years in the soft limestone and South Africa’s best-known caves. Next we head to the small town of Oudtshoorn, a centre of ostrich farming since the 19th century. We’ll have the opportunity to see these fascinating creatures close up and learn about their habits. After an included lunch, we head back to Mossel Bay. DAY 10 - HERMANUS This morning, we take the long scenic drive to the Cape’s beautiful Winelands before continuing to Hermanus, a lovely town that’s also the world’s best spot for on-shore whale watching, usually between July and November. These gentle giants move in seemingly permanent slow motion and are a truly amazing sight as they playfully cavort in the water. You arrive in the Winelands by late afternoon, staying two nights on bed-and-breakfast at the excellent four-star Devon Valley Hotel, which is a real find. This little property is set on the valley slopes offering breathtaking views, lush gardens, a relaxing shady terrace, a comfortable bar with dark leather armchairs, fireplace and a wide selection of single malt whiskeys. DAY 11 - WINELANDS Today we tour the awesomely beautiful Winelands. Set in a valley backed by majestic mountains, rows of manicured vines and orchards stretch into a distance studded by lime-washed, often thatched, 300-year-old wineries built in the unique Cape Dutch style, seemingly mirroring the undulations of the surrounding countryside. Our first stop is elegant Stellenbosch, established 300 years ago and home of South Africa’s most prestigious university. Period

buildings and historic streets reinforce the town’s dignified atmosphere. We have time to explore this delightful town before enjoying a fascinating cellar tour and tasting at the award-winning Neethlingshof Wine Estate. After that, we visit the small town of Franschoek, set at the head of a valley. Tonight we’ll enjoy an included typical South African BBQ or Cape Malay buffet dinner at our hotel. DAY 12 - CAPE TOWN This morning we visit the amazing Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, located just outside Cape Town and set against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. These incredible gardens are some of the best in South Africa, with numerous fascinating endemic flora and orchid varieties. We soon arrive in Cape Town and our hotel, the four-star Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, staying three nights on bed and breakfast. It is located right in the centre of this bustling city within walking distance of the V&A waterfront. The afternoon is spent at leisure when you can start to explore this beautiful city. Winelands


Blyde River Canyon

DAY 13 - CAPE OF GOOD HOPE This morning, we visit Cape Point and the legendary Cape of Good Hope, firstly driving past pristine beaches to the picturesque fishing harbour of Hout Bay. We continue along the breathtakingly scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive, full of rugged seascapes, to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, then on to Cape Point itself. We see the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean currents and the treacherous promontory of rocks and swells, the scourge of mariners for centuries. Finally we visit Boulders Beach and its penguin colony, returning to the city during the afternoon. DAY 14 - FREE DAY IN CAPE TOWN Cape Town, featuring British, Dutch and Cape Malay influences, is simply one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities with so much to offer the visitor! You could do some bargain shopping at the Waterfront, followed by a sumptuous seafood lunch. Or maybe go people-watching at fashionable Camps Bay? Obviously no visit to Cape Town is complete without taking a revolving cable car ride to the top of iconic Table Mountain which has announced the city to generations of sea-farers. The views are fabulous. You should also visit Robben Island (weather permitting and based on availability), where Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27-year incarceration, and whose visitors since its opening have included Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Gates and even Nelson Mandela himself. Perhaps though, simply wander where your feet take you, or relax a little, taking afternoon tea in beautiful colonial splendour at the Mount Nelson hotel – the choice is yours. DAY 15 - RETURN FLIGHT Our final day in Cape Town is at leisure before a transfer to the airport, at the appropriate time, for our return flight via Johannesburg to the UK.

DAY 15 - BOARD ROVOS RAIL Transfer to Cape Town railway station this morning to board the gleaming carriages of Rovos Rail and settle into your luxurious wood-panelled private Pullman or deluxe cabin. Our train departs at 11am and as we roll through the Winelands you’ll be able to enjoy the first of many wonderful meals on board. Traditional afternoon tea is served in the Lounge and Observation cars as we approach the charming perfectly-preserved Victorian town of Matjiesfontein where we disembark for a short tour. This evening listen out for the gong that heralds dinner and make your way to one of the two dining cars for one of the best meals you’ll ever have on a train. DAY 16 - KIMBERLEY Wake to the wide-open panorama of Africa. There’s no hurry to get up today as breakfast is served until 10am! After lunch our train pulls into Kimberley, South Africa’s most famous diamond-producing town. At over 700ft deep the Kimberley Big Hole is the largest man-made and hand-excavated hole in the world. We also visit the nearby Diamond Museum, a moving testament to the thousands of miners who toiled here over the years. Back on board it’s time for afternoon tea again before this evening’s sumptuous final dinner.

DAY 16 - ARRIVE HOME We arrive back in the UK after a truly unique tour.

ROVOS RAIL EXTENSION On selected departures our tour continues from day 15 to Pretoria, for three days aboard one of the world’s most luxurious train journeys, the Rovos rail.

DAY 17 - PRETORIA As we near our journey’s end we travel through Johannesburg and the goldfields of the Witwatersrand before arriving at Rovos Rail’s private railway station in Pretoria at around midday. We say goodbye to our extraordinary home for the last two nights and enjoy an included lunch in Pretoria and a short sightseeing tour of the city before our flight home this evening. DAY 18 - ARRIVE HOME You arrive home this morning after a truly remarkable tour of South Africa.

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V I C T O R I A FA L L S , B O T S WA N A S A FA R I & C APE TOW N 11 days from only £2,849pp

Victoria Falls, arguably Africa’s greatest natural wonder, with wildlife-rich Botswana and incredible Cape Town. There is something almost haunting about Africa and everyone should visit it at least once during their lives. Its sense of vastness and isolation, whilst at the same time a unique closeness to nature, leaves an indelible mark on its visitors and on this incredible three-country tour, you see some of the very best it has to offer. We see one of the finest natural wonders on the planet, the amazing Victoria Falls as well as one of its most naturally beautiful cities, Cape Town, with its surrounding fertile Winelands, plus we visit one of the world’s finest and least visited game reserves, all set in the beautiful countries of Botswana, Zambia and South Africa. Our tour starts in Zambia, adjacent to the spectacular Victoria Falls, or as the locals call it ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’, the Smoke that Thunders! It may be a cliché, but the falls really do take your breath away and it is at places such as this, that visitors realise just how powerful Mother Nature really is. The statistics are awesome: three times as long as Niagara and twice as high, this is the largest single body of falling water in the world! At times of peak flow, the spray

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rising from the abyss is too thick to even see the foot of the falls, whereas during the dry season (generally Sep-Dec) the more adventurous may be able to walk to the edge of the vast chasm or even bathe in one of the pools next to the rim itself! Nearby Botswana is a wild and beautiful country and remains one of the few places on earth that really is unspoilt – a true wilderness where animals are free to roam and migrate freely along their traditional routes. Botswana’s Chobe National Park, a huge reserve of over 10,500 unfenced square kilometres is renowned for having the greatest concentration of game, particularly big cats, in the whole of Southern Africa, and a safari here is a truly exceptional experience. The Chobe River, an integral part of the ecosystem, allows for superb close-up viewing of a huge variety of animal and indigenous bird species. Fish eagles are common and can often be seen swooping low over the waters, their stillness broken only by families of hippo. But what makes Chobe so special, is that it is home to the world’s largest concentration of elephants, well over 100,000 of them, all protected


PRICE INCLUDES • Experience the stunning Victoria Falls, one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders, with the opportunity to take a helicopter flight over the falls • Enjoy a sundowner cruise down the mighty Zambezi River on the African Queen and watch the fire-red sunset • Explore Botswana’s vast Chobe National Park, one of the world’s most outstanding game reserves and home to one of the largest elephant herds, on a 4x4 tour plus a boat safari on the Chobe River • Stay in cosmopolitan Cape Town, one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities • Full-day tour of the Cape of Good Hope, seeing where two oceans meet

Our tour offers incredible variety: the amazing natural wonder of Victoria Falls, the enthralling safari experiences of Botswana and the sophisticated style of Cape Town. You will return home with some wonderful photographs and incredible memories: an invigorating and uplifting reminder of how wonderfully diverse and beautiful our planet really is. DAY 1 - DEPARTURE You should arrive at the airport for your overnight flight to Johannesburg.

Experience the breathtaking Victoria Falls

DAY 2 - ARRIVAL IN LIVINGSTONE After your morning arrival you will connect with your onward 1 hour 50 minute flight to Livingstone in Zambia and our hotel for the night, the threestar superior Avani Victoria Falls Resort, located just a short walk from Victoria Falls. All rooms are air-conditioned and brightly decorated in an African theme with a balcony or patio overlooking the extensive landscaped gardens.

plus see Africa’s only penguin colony in Boulders Beach • Tour the Western Cape’s Winelands with its manicured scenery of endless vines and unique Cape Dutch architecture • Visit a 300-year-old winery with an included tasting

Plus, of course... • • •

Return scheduled flights from the UK Stay in hand-picked four-star and three-star accommodation, with daily breakfast and five dinners The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £2,849PP The resort has a large pool, bar and restaurant and Riviera Travel guests are welcome to use the excellent restaurant, bar and facilities of the five-star Royal Livingstone Hotel next door. After some time to relax and freshen up, we experience one of the highlights of your tour – a sunset cruise along the mighty Zambezi on the African Queen. As the boat slowly glides across the expanse of a river inhabited by hippo and crocodiles, simply settle into a shaded wicker armchair, absorb the unique surroundings, sip a refreshing drink, become acquainted with your fellow travellers and reflect on how good life can be. DAY 3 - VICTORIA FALLS This morning we approach Victoria Falls for an outstanding guided walking tour. The area around the falls is surrounded by a unique, lush rainforest eco-system, watered by the fine spray rising from the falls. As we pass through several rainbows arching through the mist, the roar of the falls intensifies and conversation becomes virtually impossible. The

for over a hundred years. It is a moving and an almost humbling experience to see them inter-acting with each other: playing, bathing and splashing in the blue river, as depicted on countless TV documentaries. Then for a complete contrast, it’s on to South Africa and stunning Cape Town set in a breathtaking location. Backed by ever-present blue skies and the iconic Table Mountain, fringed with white sand beaches and the nearby fertile, seemingly neverending valleys of the Winelands, it is blessed with a surfeit of world-class natural wonders. South Africa’s ‘Mother City’, Cape Town was the first settlement founded by Europeans and now it’s a lively, cosmopolitan and bustling centre, with superb restaurants and excellent shopping, especially within the tastefully restored Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Explore the Bo-Kaap district, one of the city’s most vibrant quarters with its unique Cape architecture, home to jazz clubs and artisans. Take the revolving cable car to the top of Table Mountain, visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for much of his life and visit the Cape of Good Hope - the southernmost point on the African continent.

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Winelands

Cape Town

anticipation mounts and on your first view, you will fully appreciate why this is truly one of the wonders of the natural world! During low water flow, an optional boat trip is available to Livingstone Island from where the famous explorer himself first saw the falls. For the ultimate view you can take a helicopter or even a ‘micro-light’ aircraft flight (essentially a powered hang-glider) on an optional ‘Flight of Angels’ tour. During the afternoon we drive west parallel to the Zambezi until it joins the Chobe River, actually forming the Botswana border, which we cross on small open speedboats. We stay three nights half-board at the four-star Chobe Safari Lodge (some groups may stay at the nearby four-star Chobe Bush Lodge or four-star Mowana Lodge), beautifully located overlooking the river itself. All the air-conditioned rooms are well furnished in an African theme and river-facing. The lodge, with its high-ceilinged thatch-roofed public areas blends superbly with the natural surroundings. It also has a lovely swimming pool overlooking the river and an open-air bar and restaurant. DAY 4 - CHOBE SAFARI There is simply nothing to beat the feeling of excited anticipation and rising expectation as we start our game drive in the half light of an African dawn, accompanied by a unique ‘dawn chorus’. Using specially adapted 10-seater open-sided safari vehicles we look out for big cats, giraffe and elephants. You will see a wide variety of game: beautiful impala, monkeys, warthogs, kudu, even leopards if we are lucky! The birdlife is also simply superb – look out for the darting pied kingfishers, African skimmers, ibis, ground hornbills and a variety of brilliantly coloured bee-eaters. We return to our lodge mid-morning for some relaxation by the pool and a spot of lunch. During the afternoon we take a boat safari on the Chobe River, the main watercourse in the region. Elephant and hippo sightings are virtually guaranteed all year-round. Fish eagles and crocodiles are also often spotted, but during the peak of the dry season (Aug-Nov), hundreds of elephants congregate along the shore for their daily drink – an awesome game viewing experience, unique to Africa! As the sun sets beyond the wide grassy plains on the horizon, we are treated to one of this continent’s greatest gifts: the amazing multihued spectacle that is an African sunset.

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DAY 5 - FREE DAY IN CHOBE Today is at leisure at your lodge. You may either relax and enjoy the excellent facilities or take additional optional game drives or river safaris in this, the real heart of Africa. One of the trips on offer includes a short excursion to Namibia just on the other side of the Chobe River or, you may wish to try your hand at fishing for the fearsome tigerfish. DAY 6 - FLIGHT TO CAPE TOWN After breakfast we cross back into Zambia across the Chobe River and drive back to Livingstone airport. From Livingstone we fly (commercial jet) to Cape Town, via Johannesburg and transfer to our hotel, the four-star Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel for four nights bed and breakfast, beautifully located within walking distance of the V&A waterfront.


Boulders Beach

DAY 7 - CAPE OF GOOD HOPE This morning we drive to Cape Point, visiting the legendary Cape of Good Hope, originally known as the Cape of Storms. We pass pristine beaches, the fishing harbour of Hout Bay and continue along the breathtakingly scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive, full of rugged seascapes and cliffs, to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, one of the world’s biodiversity hot-spots. At Cape Point itself you see the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean currents and the treacherous promontory of rocks, the scourge of mariners for centuries. Finally, you visit Boulders Beach and its resident penguin colony before returning to the city in the afternoon. Lunch is included today.

Gates, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton and even Nelson Mandela himself. Wander through the BoKaap area, the very image of small-town South Africa. Tours are available to charming nearby Hermanus, the world’s premier onshore whale watching location (JulNov only). Alternatively, simply just wander where your feet take you, or relax a little, taking afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson, one of the great colonial hotels of the world: the choice is yours.

DAY 8 - WINELANDS Today you tour the awesomely beautiful Winelands. Set in a wide valley backed by majestic mountains, rows of manicured vines and orchards stretch into the distance, studded by lime-washed, often thatched, 300 year-old wineries built in the unique Cape Dutch style, sympathetically mirroring the undulations of the surrounding countryside. Later you visit the small town of Franschoek in a magnificent setting at the head of a valley, then elegant Stellenbosch, established 300 years ago and home to South Africa’s most prestigious university. Period buildings and historic streets reinforce the town’s dignified atmosphere. We have time to explore this delightful town before enjoying a fascinating cellar tour and tasting at the award-winning Neethlingshof Wine Estate. Lunch is included today.

DAY 11 You arrive back in the UK after an extraordinary tour.

DAY 9 - FREE DAY IN CAPE TOWN Cape Town, featuring British, Dutch and Cape Malay influences, is simply one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities, with so much to offer the visitor! Today is at leisure to explore as you wish. In addition to the excellent shopping and dining available within the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront complex, no visit to Cape Town would be complete without taking the revolving cable car to the summit of iconic Table Mountain, the unofficial symbol of South Africa and with breath-taking views. You should also visit Robben Island (weather permitting), where Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27 years incarceration, and whose visitors have included Bill

DAY 10 - RETURN FLIGHT Your final day in Cape Town is again at leisure, before transferring to the airport at the appropriate time for your return flight to Heathrow via Johannesburg.

Chobe boat safari

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NAMIBIA 14 days from only £2,849pp

From the endless sand dunes in the world’s oldest desert, to the vast salt pan and teeming waterholes of Etosha, and the haunting Skeleton Coast, Namibia’s diversity is simply awe-inspiring. Namibia is one of our most extraordinary destinations – its amazing, remote and extreme landscapes have created an utterly unique country of exceptional and surprising beauty. The statistics are incredible – as one of the world’s emptiest countries, Namibia has the third lowest population density in the world. The vast Namib Desert, the oldest in the world, covers the whole coastal region, 1,243 miles from north to south and extending 93 miles into the interior. The rest of the land is either mountainous or semi-arid, and includes a large part of the Kalahari. Only 1% of the land is arable. The country itself is more than three times the size of the UK, but with a population barely over two million. Back in the 1880s, during the ‘scramble for Africa’, what is now Namibia became one of a number of German colonies across West Africa. At first, the settlers were few and co-operated with the various indigenous tribes. However, after an uprising in 1904 was brutally crushed by the German authorities many thousands perished from thirst and starvation. After the end of WWI the local tribes were initially more welcoming to South Africa, which was entrusted to administer the country. After a prolonged guerrilla war

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during the last few years of apartheid, Namibia finally gained its independence in 1990. Whilst many people are surprised to hear that Namibia is such a young country, it is remarkably stable and efficient. The infrastructure in Windhoek and other major towns is much better than many other African countries, however much of the road network is made up of gravel roads. The very low rainfall means that they remain in good condition throughout the year and our coaches are specially adapted for these conditions. The country’s small capital, Windhoek, is our first port of call – you’ll notice some German street names and a few older buildings here and there, but generally this is a low-rise modern city of wide clean avenues, rows of palm and jacaranda trees interspersed with a few 19th-century church steeples. Within just a 10-minute drive of the centre you’ll find yourself in open countryside and within another 10 minutes you’ve lost sight of the city altogether. That’s the beauty of Namibia – you are always a short distance away from the wide-open vistas and unspoilt horizons of the real Africa.


PRICE INCLUDES • Explore one of the world’s most spectacular and least populated countries, with amazing wildlife, unique desert landscapes, outstanding night skies and an incredible sense of silence and space • Visit the awe-inspiring red sand dunes of the Namib, the world’s oldest desert and a photographer’s dream • Stay in the charming seaside resort town of Swakopmund and enjoy the option of light aircraft flights over the famed Skeleton Coast • Full-day driving safari through Etosha National Park, the jewel of Namibia’s national parks • See ancient rock art and experience fascinating tribal culture in remote Damaraland

Plus, of course... • • •

Return scheduled flights Stay in hand-picked four-star and three-star hotels and safari lodges, with daily breakfast and 11 meals The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £2,849PP

flight over the Namib; visit the nearby dunes with a specialist naturalist guide or take a catamaran cruise in the bay to spot dolphins and seals. Towards the north of the country the region of Damaraland is a remote and ruggedly beautiful region with Namibia’s highest mountain, cliffs and arid valleys with numerous fascinating examples of ancient rock art. We visit the most famous of these, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, dating back 6,000 years. We’ll also visit a village of the local Himba tribe, with time for you to ask questions about their daily lives and see their remarkable hairstyles and jewellery. Etosha National Park, despite being one of the emptiest places in Namibia – nothing grows on its enormous salt pan – is nevertheless the best place to see the huge variety of wildlife that has adapted to this difficult environment. Etosha’s famous waterholes attract everything from rhino, to elephants, zebras, giraffes and lions, all in close proximity to one another. Not all of Etosha is made up of the barren salt pan, so there’s also plenty of exciting opportunities to track game in the bush too. After so many years of South African influence, almost everyone in Namibia speaks English, as well as ‘Namlish’ – a fascinating mixture of German, Africaans, local dialects and English. Namibian cuisine has also been strongly influenced by German culture – you’ll find dishes like wiener schnitzel, tasty sausages and excellent locally-brewed lagers in restaurants. The South African predilection for a good ‘braai’ (BBQ) can be experienced in the wide range of freshly grilled game meats at most hotels and of course there’s also a varied selection of well-priced Cape wines to choose from. It is no exaggeration that Namibia is a unique destination – you’ll be amazed at its diversity, its wildlife, its colours and its people, all within a vast landscape that will capture your imagination and your heart.

Marvel at the stunning Sossusvlei dunes

The Namib Desert is undoubtedly a major highlight – this vast sea of shifting dunes is 55 million years old, the world’s oldest desert. The seemingly endless panorama of shadow and light, with an astounding palette of colours ranging from orange, terracotta to deep reds is at its best early in the morning or at sunset. The dunes at Sossusvlei are some of the highest in the world and you’ll have the opportunity to climb one of the dunes overlooking the remarkable Dead Vlei salt pan. Amazingly, specially-adapted animals do manage to live here – look out for oryx and ostriches in amongst the camel thorn trees along the dry river beds. As a complete contrast, the seaside resort of Swakopmund with its fine Lutheran church, lush gardens and red and white lighthouse looks a world away from the harsh arid landscape that surrounds it. Founded in 1892 as the country’s main harbour, nowadays the port facilities are down the coast at Walvis Bay and Swakopmund is a pleasant, though somewhat sleepy, holiday spot with a nice beach, interesting colonial buildings and a number of good fish restaurants. It’s also the starting point for a number of fascinating trips: take a light aircraft

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DAY 1 - DEPARTURE You should arrive at the airport to take your overnight flight to Johannesburg. DAY 2 - ARRIVAL IN WINDHOEK After your morning arrival you will connect with your onward 1 hour 50 minute-flight to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia and our hotel for the night, the centrally located four-star Avani Hotel with breakfast. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to relax after your flight. DAY 3 - SOLITAIRE We leave Windhoek this morning and soon we are in open country, without another building or road in sight. This is our first experience of driving on Namibia’s famed gravel roads, but with a smooth ride on our specially adapted coach. We stop to appreciate the scenery as we cross the Tropic of Capricorn. The low hills in the distance are interspersed with acacia trees and bushes – the soils here, as in most places in Namibia, are far too poor for agriculture, so this is cattle country, but you’ll wonder exactly what they find to eat. You’ll start spotting some game too: some tall Kudus or springbok perhaps and many trees with huge thatch-like structures which are the nests of sociable weaver birds. We arrive in Solitaire at around lunchtime – it’s no more than a filling station and lunch-stop surrounded by hundreds of square miles of emptiness. Our hotel for two nights is the threestar superior Namib Desert Lodge, on dinner and breakfast basis.

DAY 4 - SOSSUSVLEI DUNES An early start today as we enter the vast Namib Naukluft National Park. Look out for oryx, with their long straight horns, superbly adapted for this harsh climate. The further we drive, the redder and higher the dunes become, before finally reaching the point where the road ends and we transfer on to 4x4 vehicles for the final 3-mile drive through the sand to the Sossusvlei dunes. In the distance you’ll be able to discern the enormous bulk of ‘Big Daddy’, at 325 metres one of the highest dunes in Namibia. Our destination is Dead Vlei, located on a flat clay salt pan, the dramatic contrast between the white salt pan and the sun-blackened stumps of the trees against the red sand of the dunes is absolutely extraordinary. The more adventurous can climb of one of the nearby dunes, but remember you’ll need to tackle the rather steeper descent. Your afternoon is at leisure at our hotel – the sunsets here are simply amazing, and at night you’ll see more stars than you could have thought possible. DAY 5 - WALVIS BAY After breakfast we head towards the Atlantic coast at Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. Walvis Bay is the main port of Namibia whilst Swakopmund retains the air of a sedate seaside resort, with its red and white lighthouse, its pier and lush gardens – a world away from the surrounding desert landscape. Our Swakopmund hotel for two nights is the three-star superior Plaza Hotel with breakfast. DAY 6 - FREE DAY IN SWAKOPMUND A day at leisure to enjoy the charms and sea air of Swakopmund, with its clean wide streets and German-inspired architecture. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, a long beach and numerous optional trips to try out. One of the most popular is a catamaran harbour cruise in search of dolphins, seals and seabirds; there are also light aircraft flights along the stunning coastline to spot some of the famous shipwrecks of the Skeleton Coast; finally, there’s the opportunity for a desert drive in 4x4 vehicles on a ‘living desert’ tour to track and spot all the amazing geckos, lizards, beetles and chameleons that manage to survive this inhospitable environment. DAY 7 - CAPE CROSS This morning we follow the coast north towards the Skeleton Coast before arriving at Cape Cross, site of the largest Cape fur seal colony in world. Sustained by Swakopmund

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the nutrient-rich waters of the cold Benguela current the sheer size of the colony is a sight to behold – but be prepared for the smell! Turning inland we cross into Damaraland, an area of desert, including Namibia’s highest mountain, which is rich in ancient remains. Our hotel for two nights is the three-star Damara Mopane Lodge with dinner and breakfast. DAY 8 - DAMARALAND Our destination today is Twyfelfontein, Namibia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, with numerous 6,000-year old rock engravings. As you would expect, there are depictions of animals to be found locally such zebras, lions and giraffes, but intriguingly a seal and penguin are also shown, which live hundreds of miles away. The whole area is surrounded by fractured red sandstone cliffs and escarpments – with few signs of human settlement. Nearby we’ll also visit the organ pipe rock formation before an included lunch. Your afternoon is at leisure to relax in the spacious gardens and pool at your hotel.


Spot wildlife at Etosha’s waterholes

Twyfelfontein

Etosha National Park

DAY 9 - HIMBA TRIBAL VILLAGE Today we gain a fascinating insight into the culture of the local tribe, the Himba. Following a semi-nomadic lifestyle, they have retained much of their unique customs, dress and very distinctive hairstyles. We visit them at one of the local villages, guided by members of the tribe, to see their way of life at first hand. We stay for one night at the three-star superior Taleni Etosha Village, with dinner and breakfast. DAY 10 - ETOSHA GAME DRIVE This morning we enter Etosha, Namibia’s most famous national park. Slightly larger than Wales, Etosha is home to over 100 mammal species, including elephants, giraffe, rhino, lions and elusive leopards. Our first stop is the Okaukuejo waterhole where you are usually guaranteed to see a large variety of game. Continuing our drive through the park, we stop at other waterholes and the Etosha Outlook viewpoint which is located in the salt pan itself. Our home for the next two nights is the excellent four-star Mokuti Lodge on dinner and breakfast basis, the closest lodge to the park’s eastern gate. With its numerous thatched buildings, lush gardens and pools, this cool, green oasis of calm is an ideal spot for some ‘down-time’. DAY 11 – FREE DAY IN ETOSHA A day at leisure to enjoy the beautiful gardens and facilities of your lodge. Alternatively, the lodge also has its own spa and half-day safaris are also available into Etosha. DAY 12 - CRAFT MARKET Saying goodbye to Etosha we head south, finally back on tarmac roads, towards Windhoek. On the way we stop for a visit to the popular Okahandja craft market, full of interesting wood carvings and curios. Our destination is the Midgard Country Estate, set in its own 29,600 acres of beautiful countryside. With two swimming pools, large stables, hiking trails, a vintage car collection and even a skittle alley, this is a fascinating last night in Namibia. Dinner is included tonight. DAY 13 - RETURN FLIGHT A morning at leisure until our afternoon departure for our return overnight flight to the UK, via Johannesburg. DAY 14 You arrive home this morning after a truly extraordinary tour.

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C O S TA R I C A FROM THE CARIBBEAN T O T H E PA C I F I C 13 days from only £2,399pp

From Emperor butterflies, toucans and the iridescent green plumage of the Quetzal to unique three-toed sloths, explore one of the most scenic and bio-diverse countries on the planet – now accessed by direct flights from the UK.

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In Costa Rica every road seems to lead to another waterfall, a coffee plantation, a volcano, a lush rainforest or a stunning tropical beach. Everywhere you look, you are greeted by smiling faces who are immensely proud to live in a country whose happy motto is ‘pura vida’ - pure life! Costa Rica was named as the ‘rich coast’ by Spanish conquistadors who, as always, hoped to find gold and silver. Ironically, the opposite was true – not only were there no precious metals of any description, but the impenetrable jungles and lack of local inhabitants made it virtually impossible to farm the land. This is why Costa Rica is not superbly endowed with the huge cathedrals, grand architecture and all the trappings of colonial administration. The Costa Ricans, or Ticos, were not conquered like the Aztecs to the north or the Incas in Peru and the Spanish ruled in a more benevolent manner till 1821 when the country gained its independence. The long hoped-for riches

finally came to pass when the country became the first one to export coffee directly to Europe and was also the first to farm and export bananas on a large scale. Nowadays, Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world not to have any armed forces and is rated one of the happiest countries on the planet. Costa Rica has realised that its real riches come from its immensely fertile volcanic soils which have created a biodiversity of incredible range, variety and complexity – a veritable natural paradise! With more than 25% of the country designated as protected reserves or national parks, what can you expect to see here? One of its most well-known and likeable inhabitants is the three-toed sloth, but this is not even close to the tip of the iceberg. There are green iguanas, hundreds of varieties of brightly coloured tree frogs, howler and capuchin monkeys, tapirs, elusive jaguars, toucans, scarlet macaws, hummingbirds a-plenty, crocodiles, leatherback turtles, whales – the list just


PRICE INCLUDES • Discover the unique eco-system along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline in Tortuguero National Park • Explore the area around the perfect cone of the still-active Arenal Volcano • Travel to the remote Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, renowned for its incredible birdlife • See the extraordinary Monteverde Cloud Forest from above on superb hanging bridges • Enjoy a fascinating tour of a coffee estate • Stay for three nights at a five-star resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY Take a zip-line tour through the rainforest Much of the flora and fauna in Costa Rica’s rainforests thrives in the upper levels. Explore this magnificent world, largely unseen by humans, by taking an exhilarating zip-line tour through the extraordinary Monteverde Cloud Forest. You’ll be rewarded with unrivalled panoramic views. Bookable locally.

Plus, of course... • • •

Return direct scheduled flights with premium economy flight upgrades available at a supplement Stay in hand-picked accommodation rated three to five stars, with daily breakfast and 10 meals The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £2,399PP the species of Costa Rica can be found here. We’ll take an easy walk along one of the many trails nearby and see some attractive views of the peak. From our comfortable base we will also visit the Caño Negro reserve, close to the border with Nicaragua. The main access route here is along the Rio Frio and the best way to spot wildlife is our boat safari which gives you uninterrupted views along its banks. More than 300 bird species have been identified here, including

kingfishers, ibis, toucans, storks and even a type of vulture, plus you are also likely to see caimans and monkeys. Our next port of call is the renowned Monteverde Cloud Forest, a unique ecosystem created by the warm Pacific winds being pushed up and condensing on the mountain slopes. The trees here are covered in mist and mossy vines, bromeliads, ferns and the greatest diversity of orchids on the planet. We explore via system of hanging bridges so as to look down on the thick vegetation below. There are plenty of hummingbirds here and you may be lucky enough to spot a quetzal. You may also choose to experience the incredible thrill of zip-wiring through the forest - this is one of the best places in the country to try this (at extra charge).

Don’t miss the astonishing Arenal Volcano

goes on and on! One particularly extraordinary animal is the quetzal, the most breathtakingly stunning bird in Central America. Our tour starts from the country’s capital of San José before striking out for the Tortuguero National Park on Costa Rica’s eastern Caribbean coast, a labyrinth of canals, rivers and lagoons covered in thick forest and mangroves. Tortuguero means ‘turtle catcher’ and the many species of turtles which lay their eggs on these beaches came close to extinction until the area was declared a national park. You can also expect to see caimans, several types of monkeys and a huge number of endemic and migratory bird species, including toucans, macaws and raptors. More rarely seen inhabitants include tapirs, jaguars and manatees. We continue cross-country towards the Arenal volcano. With a perfect cone, numerous hot springs and surrounded by its own national park, roughly half

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coast, passing by coffee and banana plantations and small farming communities. We arrive at the dock where we transfer on to our boat for the final part of our journey through the complex maze of natural canals to our home for the next two nights, either the Pachira or Evergreen eco-lodges, on full board basis. After lunch we visit the nearby small picturesque town of Tortuguero and the Caribbean Conservation Corporation museum dedicated to studying the thousands of Atlantic Green, Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles who come to lay their eggs on the protected beaches here between July to October every year. As the sun sets and the sounds of the tropical forest fill the air, you may look forward to sampling some typical Costa Rican cuisine in the hotel’s restaurant. DAY 3 – TORTUGUERO After breakfast we set off for a fascinating walk along one of the nature trails around our lodge. After some time to relax by the pool during the hottest part of the day, in the afternoon we continue our exploration by boat, along the lush green waterways of this unique eco-system.

Our final stay for three nights is at a five-star resort in Guanacaste on the Pacific coast. Known for its beautiful palm-fringed beaches, this is the perfect spot to take some time off, relax, find a nice restaurant or bar and watch the sun slowly sink into the mighty Pacific Ocean. With the new direct flights from London Gatwick to San José, we are sure you will come back from this surprising, amazing country with a real burning desire to go back. Pura vida!

DAY 4 - ARENAL This morning we set off westwards through the centre of the country towards Arenal, famous for the perfect symmetrical cone of the Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica’s youngest volcano. After a stop for lunch we arrive in Arenal in the afternoon, staying three nights at the Montaña de Fuego eco-lodge or fourstar Arenal Manoa Hotel, with breakfast. Dinner is included tonight.

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN SAN JOSE Depart from London Gatwick on your direct British Airways service. We arrive in San José in the afternoon and transfer to the four-star Crowne Plaza Corobici Hotel for one night. The remainder of the day is at leisure.

DAY 5 – CAÑO NEGRO RESERVE Today we head north, close to the Nicaraguan border, to the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. Here we embark on a boat to quietly float along the Frio River – your local guide will point out what’s considered to be some of the most abundant bird life in Costa Rica. Iguanas, caimans and numerous monkey species can also be spotted along the river banks. Lunch is included.

DAY 2 - TORTUGUERO After an early start, we leave the city behind, on our way to Tortuguero, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean

DAY 6 – ARENAL FREE DAY A day to take it easy at your hotel – after a sumptuous breakfast, settle down around the pool with its swim-

Hanging bridges in Monteverde

up bar and wonderful views of the volcano. Just an easy walk around the grounds is sure to offer plenty of chances to spot some local wildlife. Tonight, why not enjoy an optional evening cooking class with dinner included. DAY 7 - MONTEVERDE In the morning, embark on a walking tour in the foothills of Arena Volcano, enjoying more close-up scenic views of the volcano. We turn south today to drive towards the Monteverde Cloud Forest, staying for two nights with breakfast at the four-star El Establo Hotel. Your evening is free to try out one of the many excellent local restaurants, cafés and bars. DAY 8 – MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST This stunning Cloud Forest boasts an extraordinarily diverse ecosystem, being home to 120 species of reptiles and amphibians, 130 species of mammals and an astounding 500 species of birds, not to mention more than 3,000 species of plants. Possibly the best

Caño Negro

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exuberant tropical forest. On the way, we stop at the bustling town of Liberia, for some free time to have a stroll and maybe sample some of the local cuisine. Our hotel for three nights with breakfast will be the five-star JW Marriott Resort & Spa, close to the charming seaside resort of Tamarindo, where it’s not unusual to see iguanas and white-faced monkeys on the beach! This evening we’ll take you into Tamarindo where there’s plenty of great food, music and friendly bars to choose from.

way to enjoy all this is from above: the Sky Walk Hanging Bridges are a system of walkways that offer a unique view into the jungle from up to 180 feet above the forest floor. If you’re feeling really adventurous (and at extra charge), this is where you can also enjoy what is considered to be the country’s best ‘zip-line’ experience. This afternoon enjoy lunch and a tour of a traditional Costa Rican coffee farm where you’ll see how one of Costa Rica’s top exports is grown in this tropical region and its importance in the development of the country as a whole. Dinner tonight is included. DAY 9 – GUANACASTE This morning we drive towards the shores of the striking Pacific coast to the region of Guanacaste, one of the most beautiful places in the country, with an exotic combination of exquisite beaches and an

DAY 12 – RETURN FLIGHT Travel back to San José airport for your overnight direct flight to London Gatwick. DAY 13 – ARRIVE HOME We arrive home this morning. JW Marriott Resort & Spa, Guanacaste

DAY 10 – PALO VERDE NATIONAL PARK Today, we take a guided tour to Palo Verde National Park, one of Costa Rica’s most popular conservation areas. Its wide range of land and marine biodiversity make this one of the Central America’s most impressive natural habitats. Your local guide will lead you by boat through the waterways of this tropical paradise to discover a unique combination of thick coastal forest, rivers and mangrove lagoons which are home to more than 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. You’ll observe several species of monkeys, iguanas, and birds and possibly even the three-toed sloth. DAY 11 – FREE DAY IN GUANACASTE Enjoy all the pleasures of your final day in your luxury hotel. You can take it easy on the beach or beside the hotel pool, with a pina colada or daiquiri in hand, play a round of golf, try out the spa or perhaps join the optional sunset cruise along the coast with picturesque views and time for snorkelling. A farewell dinner in Tamarindo is included tonight.

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PERU 14 days from only £2,399pp WITH AMA ZON EX TENSION 16 days from only £2,779pp

With some of South America’s most exceptional sights, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Lake Titicaca and the Amazon rainforest, Peru will never disappoint! Peru is without doubt the most intriguing and fascinating of all South American countries. The incredible remains of the Inca civilization are a huge draw and combined with its colonial architecture, the stunning vistas of the jagged peaks of the Andes, the Amazonian jungle, its superb cuisine and the warmth of the Peruvians themselves, this is one of the most captivating destinations in the world! Firstly, its scenery is world-class: the Andes, the second highest mountain range in the world rising to a jaw-dropping 20,000 feet, run like a backbone down the entire country. Snow-clad volcanoes pierce the sky, whilst torrential rivers surge through rocky valleys from the numerous glaciers. At lower altitudes is the altiplano, a timeless plateau covered with tufts of wiry grass and studded with occasional but distinctive low thatched houses of the indigenous Peruvians. Completing the scene are small herds of instantly recognisable llama, whilst above, giant condors soar on the rising thermals. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. At 13,000 feet the luminescent light and clear air cause the lake to emit a stunning sapphire-blue colour and its infinite vastness stretches into the horizon. With the ever-present Andes as the backdrop, the dark greens of the altiplano plunge into the deep waters whilst an eerily haunting silence pervades; it exudes an almost other-worldly natural beauty. The

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lake itself is home to the Uros, an indigenous people who live much as they have always done, on extensive floating islands constructed from reeds. Peru, in all our minds though, is indivisible from the fabled Incas, that remarkable people who, by the early 16th century had created the greatest empire

Lake Titicaca

in the then world. Stretching from Colombia to Chile, amazingly without the benefit of writing, ferrous metals, horses, currency or wheels. The Incas were the last of dozens of pre-Colombian civilisations, but how did a tiny group of 160 Spaniards manage to conquer this highly organised and sophisticated society of 32 million people? We visit the sites of battles, palaces and the most sacred temples of the Incas answering this question and many others. We stay a few days in Cusco, the oldest inhabited city in the Americas. As Peru’s undisputed archaeological capital, surrounded by exceptionally beautiful Andean countryside, it is one of South America’s most charming cities. It is a curious blend of old and new with immense, virtually earthquake-proof Inca walls lining cobbled streets and forming the foundations of some gorgeous colonial buildings, reminiscent of medieval Spain. We see its 16th century cathedral, fabulous art and opulent treasure collections, the main square where the conquistadors were almost overwhelmed and the last Inca emperor was executed in a public display of Spanish supremacy. The most striking image of Peru, and probably the entire continent, is of course the awesome Machu Picchu. One of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times, it is set in a breathtaking landscape of rich rainforest, deep perilous gorges and lofty


Explore the astounding citadel of Machu Picchu

PRICE INCLUDES • Explore extraordinary Machu Picchu, the fabled ‘Lost city of the Incas’, on a guided tour • Tour the Sacred Valley of the Incas and visit Pisac’s famed indigenous market and temple of Ollantaytambo • Guided tour of Arequipa, one of South America’s most charming Spanish colonial cities • Visit Colca Canyon, twice the depth of the Grand Canyon, to spot Andean Condors in flight • Visit the famous floating islands of Lake Titicaca by private boat •

Pass through the Pampa Cañahuas Reserve and the Pampa de Toccra for jaw-dropping viewpoints of the surrounding volcanoes

• Guided sightseeing of Cusco, once capital of the Inca empire, now one of South America’s most enchanting cities • Travel through Peru’s altiplano, the high Andean plateau, and spot llamas and alpacas

Plus, of course... • Return scheduled flights from the UK • Stay in hand-picked four-star and three-star accommodation with daily breakfast and five meals • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout snow-covered peaks. Nothing can prepare you for the sheer exhilaration felt as you approach the site and it gloriously comes into view. You ascend a slope and suddenly there it is, its magic hits you right between the eyes: the classic view from countless travel posters, it will truly take your breath away! Peru is also the culinary centre of South America with many specialities. You should try ceviche, a meaty sea-fish similar to sea-bass, marinated in lime juice. Alpaca steaks are popular too, but you may wish to draw the line at the Inca speciality of guinea pig, still considered a delicacy. There are over thirty different types of potatoes, one of which is bright yellow and delicious baked in salt, and the most mouth-watering corn on the cob, totally different from the selectively bred varieties we are used to. Peru is fascinating: a striking mixture of old-world Spanish influence combined with many Inca customs and beliefs persisting to this day. Peruvians are justly proud of their unique and complex cultural heritage and no visitor can fail to be enchanted by their genuine kindness, intrigued by their long and colourful history and captivated by their spectacular and beautiful country. DAY 1 - DEPARTURE You should arrive at the airport for your overnight flight to Lima, via São Paulo.

DAY 2 - ARRIVAL IN LIMA On arrival transfer to the four-star Casa Andina Select Miraflores, where you stay overnight with breakfast. This afternoon we enjoy a city tour, visiting Lima’s most important colonial sites. You will see the Presidential Palace, the Plaza del Armas, Lima’s central

square, surrounded by colonial-era buildings in the central UNESCO listed area of the city. We will also visit the Casa Aliaga one of Lima’s best-known colonial mansions built by Pizarro for one of his lieutenants in the 16th century. DAY 3 - FLY TO AREQUIPA Transfer straight on to a domestic flight to the beautiful colonial city of Arequipa where we stay for two nights at the three-star superior Casa Andina Select Arequipa, with breakfast. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax after your flight. DAY 4 - AREQUIPA Situated at an altitude of 7,660ft, Arequipa is Peru’s second-largest city and a good place to start acclimatising to the higher altitude. Its skyline is dominated by a trio of spectacular volcanoes – in fact many buildings are constructed from volcanic sillar rock, the hue of which gives Arequipa its ‘White City’ moniker. After breakfast we set out on a tour that begins at the Carmen Alto viewpoint, which offers spectacular views of the city. We head through the Yanahuara quarter with its small, cobblestone streets and beautiful mestizo baroque church dating from 1750. We then head downtown to Arequipa’s UNESCOlisted historic centre and arguably Peru’s prettiest square, the Plaza des Armas, which features the 17th century baroque Jesuit church of La Compáñia. We then head across the plaza to the cathedral, a grand piece of colonial architecture. With 12 giant marble columns, a high vaulted ceiling, the cathedral is impressive on its own, but is given further dramatic emphasis when viewed against the backdrop of the three mighty snow-capped volcanoes. We move on to the Monastery of Santa Catalina, founded by the Spanish in 1580 for the nuns of the Order of Saint Catherine of Siena. Peru has many magnificent religious structures, but none can match the grandeur and sheer scale of this working convent, which includes streets, chapels, cloisters, squares and an art gallery. The afternoon is at leisure, giving you the opportunity to browse the local craft market or further explore the pretty streets of dazzling colonial buildings. Many have been transformed into shops, hotels and restaurants, where you can sample some of the excellent cuisine for which the city is famed. Try locally caught trout cooked on a hot stone, the sweetest corn on the cob you’ll ever taste or even an alpaca steak, all washed down with a pisco sour, of course.

Arequipa

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DAY 5 - COLCA After breakfast we head north to Colca, site of one of the world’s deepest canyons. As we pass through the Pampa Cañahuas Reserve we see desert landscapes, exotic rock formations and grasslands populated by vicuñas, llamas and Andean deer. We climb even further to over 12,000ft and the Pampa de Toccra, a plain featuring a lake where pink flamingos reside in season. The trip features several jaw-dropping viewpoints, including the Mirador de los Andes at Patapampa – at over 16,000ft above sea level the air here is thin but the view of the volcanoes around Arequipa is simply jaw dropping. In the afternoon we reach Chivay (alt.11,900ft), the small town near Colca Canyon where we stay for one night at the three-star superior Casa Andina Hotel, with breakfast. DAY 6 - COLCA CANYON Today will undoubtedly be another of this tour’s many highlights as we head to Condor Cross for some magnificent views of the Colca Canyon. Prepare to be amazed, the canyon is more than twice the depth of the Grand Canyon and is one of Peru’s most popular sights. This is also where you can get some amazing close-up views of one of the world’s most spectacular birds in flight – the Andean Condor. The Colca Canyon region is one of the last remaining habitats of this endangered giant vulture, which has a wingspan of up to 10ft. At around midday we continue eastwards to Puno on Lake Titicaca, where we stay two nights on bed and breakfast basis at the four-star superior Libertador Hotel, overlooking the lake. A packed lunch is included today. DAY 7 - LAKE TITICACA The panorama of Lake Titicaca has to be seen to be believed. Reflecting the blue sky above, is a fabulous deep blue expanse of water stretching as far as the eye can see. After breakfast we board our private motor launch and visit the famous floating Uros Islands where the

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indigenous communities, living much as they always have, construct these islands using many layers of totora reeds. We then visit the island of Taquile, further into the lake and famed for the highest quality knitware in Peru. It’s very much a typical village, with no roads or electricity, where the Uros people proudly still adhere to their traditional culture and dress. Lunch is included in Taquile. DAY 8 - CUSCO This morning we say goodbye to Lake Titicaca and head northwards to Cusco. We firstly drive through the altiplano, the high-altitude Andean plateau observing small herds of llama, alpaca and the low mud-brick, thatch-roofed houses of the local farmers. As the scenery slips by we start climbing gradually towards La Raya, at 14,170ft, the highest point on this stunning journey. After our included lunch, we also visit the fascinating church of the Andahuayillas, known as the Sistine Chapel of the America’s due to the high quality of its artwork, arriving in Cusco in the late afternoon. Our Cusco hotel for two nights is the four-star Costa del Sol Ramada with breakfast. DAY 9 - CUSCO After breakfast we have a tour of Cusco, one of the most beautiful cities in South America, a heady mixture of traditional colonial architecture interspersed with fascinating Inca remains. The main square, nestling within a maze of narrow streets and quaint piazzas, has been the centre of the city since Inca times and used to be surrounded by three palaces. Today it is the site of three churches, including the 16th century cathedral, so huge it took 100 years to complete. It has an exquisitely carved wooden choirstall and over 400 paintings, including one thought to be a Van Dyck, plus the Last Supper featuring guinea pig as the main course! We then visit the Qorichancha, the Incas’ principle temple to the sun. This was the ‘navel’ of the Inca world, originally covered in sheets of pure gold and

Tambopata National Reserve


appears before you, its wonder and mystique astounds - the only Inca settlement never discovered or destroyed by the Spanish. Set on a ridge overlooking the gorge of the Urubamba River, it was rediscovered in 1910 by Hiram Bingham, an American explorer, but with the site being completely overgrown, he had no idea of the immense significance of his find. No one knows why it was built in such an inaccessible spot or why it was mysteriously abandoned. As you walk through its gates, temples and houses, our guide will explain the significance of the location in relation to the equinoxes and how central mountain-worship was to the Incas. DAY 12 - FLIGHT TO LIMA Today we travel back to Cuzco airport for our short flight to Lima, staying one night at the four-star Casa Andina Select Miraflores, with breakfast. If you’re extending your holiday, please see the Amazon extension section. contained the Incas’ most sacred object, the golden disc of the sun. Although the Spanish built the Santo Domingo convent over the Inca temple, many of the internal walls remain and have now been excavated. Our final Inca site is the extraordinary Sachsayhuaman with three vast megalithic walls, a staggering thousand feet long and with the largest blocks of stone ever found in Inca structures, all moved with no wheels. This was also the site of the final epic four-day last stand of the Inca rebellion. Had the conquistadors lost, the history of South America could have been quite different.

DAY 13 - RETURN FLIGHT You have the chance to enjoy a late breakfast before your transfer to the airport for your return flight home – via Sao Paulo. DAY 14 - ARRIVE HOME We arrive back in the UK, after a superb and highly memorable tour.

DAY 10 - PISAC & SACRED VALLEY The Sacred Valley was the empire’s breadbasket, spiritual centre and home to some of its most iconic symbols. Its wide fertile plain, with ancient terraces hugging the valley sides and the imposing peaks of the Andes beyond is truly an awesome sight. Firstly we visit Pisac, famous for its dominating fortress and colourful indigenous market. It is a fantastic sight, full of traditionally dressed locals bartering for all kinds of produce, chickens and goats. Every kind of local handicraft is available too – from vibrant hand-made rugs and ponchos in bright reds and yellows, to local ceramics and a huge variety of high quality llama and alpaca knit-ware. After an included lunch we visit the massive fortress and temple of Ollantaytambo. Built along a dominant rocky bluff, and was the site of a rare Conquistador defeat. You can examine the astonishingly intricate Inca stonework – its beauty and precision unique in the world and all hand-crafted using stone tools. Interestingly, Ollantaytambo was unfinished and still has the earthwork ramp used to transport the huge stone blocks used in its construction. We return by train to the Urumbamba Valley, known as the ‘Sacred Valley of the Incas’ where we spend two nights at the four-star Casa Andina Sacred Valley Hotel with breakfast. DAY 11 - MACHU PICCHU Today will certainly be the highlight of your tour! After driving to Ollaytambo station we board the specially constructed Explorer train taking us on one of the world’s most spectacular rail journeys through the increasingly narrow Urubamba river gorge to the legendary Machu Picchu. As we descend, the scenery changes from semi-arid brush and cactus to dense, lush rainforest. Below us, the river rushes headlong into numerous rapids whilst above, the precipitous sides of the gorge rise to dizzying heights. Nothing can prepare you for your first sight of the ‘Lost City of the Incas’. It suddenly and magically

AMAZON EXTENSION On selected dates our tour continues into the Peruvian Amazon basin with a two-night stay at an eco-lodge in the jungle. DAY 12 - AMAZON This morning you begin your journey into the vast Amazon rainforest with a short flight from Cusco to Puerto Madonaldo. We make our way to the Madre de Dios River where our adventure starts with a 25-minute ride by motorised canoe to the excellent Inkaterra Hacienda Concepcion Lodge for two nights on full board basis. After lunch, we take a guided walk through the local nature trails, where you’ll discover the differences between primary and secondary rainforest, its complex ecosystem and the many fascinating uses of its plant life. At dusk, we’ll navigate the river by motorised canoe, to spot nocturnal animals’ behaviour and the southern constellations above us. DAY 13 - AMAZON Today you will understand why the Madre de Dios is called the biodiversity capital of Peru! We will use the motorised canoes to cross mirror-like oxbow lakes and visit the Tambopata National Reserve, home to the endangered giant river otter, black caiman, and one of the world’s biggest fresh water scaled fish, the paiche, as well as blue and yellow macaw and red howler monkeys. After a buffet lunch back at the lodge, we’ll enjoy a unique view of the rainforest from a canopy walkway. Ascend one of the two 98-foot towers and cross the 7 hanging bridges that connect the treetops, with the chance to watch white-throated toucans, woodpeckers, squirrel monkeys and three-toed sloths. DAY 14 - FLY TO LIMA After breakfast, you take the motorised canoe back to Puerto Maldonado from where we fly to Lima for a one night stay at the four-star Casa Andina Select Miraflores, with breakfast. DAY 15 - RETURN FLIGHT You have the chance to enjoy a late breakfast before your transfer to the airport for your return flight home – via Sao Paulo. DAY 16 - ARRIVE HOME We arrive back in the UK after an amazing and unique tour.

Condors at Colca Canyon

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SOUTH AMERICA HIGHLIGHTS 11 days from only £2,399pp PLUS PERU 16 days from only £3,399pp

From Machu Picchu to Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro, discover South America’s greatest sights on our incredible three-country tour. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In the minds of many, Peru is inextricably associated with the Incas, the remarkable civilisation that, by the 16th century, had created one of the greatest empires in the world. Their territory stretched, in modernday terms, from Colombia in the north, to Chile and Argentina in the south. Amazingly, this dominance was achieved without the benefit of the written word, ferrous metals, horses, currency or wheels. We stay for two days in the beautiful rural surroundings of the Sacred Valley, the bread basket of the Incas, and for two nights in Cusco, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the Americas. Nestling in dramatic Andean hills, it’s among the continent’s most interesting destinations. Immense, virtually earthquake-proof Incan walls line cobbled streets and form the foundations of some very well-preserved colonial buildings, reminiscent of medieval Spain. We see Cusco’s cathedral, fabulous art and opulent treasure collections, as well as the main square where the conquistadors were almost overwhelmed. Machu Picchu is the most striking image of Peru. One of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times, it is located along a ridge with a

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breathtaking landscape of rich rainforest, precipitous gorges and lofty peaks, stretching as far as the eye can see. Nothing prepares you for the excitement as you approach the site, and then the sheer exhilaration when it comes into view. You ascend a slope and, suddenly, there it is – the classic view you’ve seen in countless photographs, but all the more magnificent when seen firsthand. Argentina, the second-largest country in South America, is known for its gauchos (cowboys), its huge steaks, its excellent Malbec wines, and the invention of the tango. We’ll sample all of these during our three-night stay in Buenos Aires – sophisticated, cosmopolitan and the most ‘European’ of the South American capitals. With its wide tree-lined avenues, café culture and upmarket boutiques, Buenos Aires cannot fail to surprise and delight you. Iguazu Falls may not be as well-known as Niagara or Victoria Falls, but it outshines them all in its sheer scale and majesty! Spanning the border between Argentina and Brazil, each side has its own particular attractions. Don’t miss the chance to experience the falls from below on our exciting optional jetboat trip.


Discover vibrant and colourful Rio de Janeiro

PRICE INCLUDES • Marvel at the breathtaking Iguazu Falls from the Argentinian and Brazilian sides • Be astounded at the iconic panorama of Rio de Janeiro from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain and the foot of Christ the Redeemer • Enjoy a wonderful evening’s entertainment at a typical tango show • Guided tour of cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, the ‘Paris of South America’ • Discover Argentina’s ‘pampas’ or plains on our visit to a typical ‘estancia’ Enjoy our full 16-day tour, including 5 days in Peru • Explore the extraordinary Machu Picchu, the fabled ‘Lost city of the Incas’, on a guided tour • Tour the Sacred Valley of the Incas and visit Pisac’s famed Indian market and temple of Ollantaytambo • Guided sightseeing tour of Cusco, former capital of the Incan empire, now one of South America’s most enchanting cities

Plus of course… • • •

Return scheduled flights from the UK Stay in hand-picked four-star accommodation with daily breakfast and four meals The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

Sugarloaf, Rio

DAY 1 – DEPARTURE Arrive at the airport for your overnight flight to Lima, via São Paulo. DAY 2 – ARRIVAL IN LIMA On arrival, we transfer by coach to the four-star Casa Andina Select Miraflores, where you stay overnight with breakfast. In the afternoon, we’ll see the Presidential Palace, the Plaza del Armas and the charming Baroque San Francisco church, in the central and UNESCO-listed colonial area of the city. DAY 3 – SACRED VALLEY Today we fly to Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas. To help you acclimatise to the altitude, we spend two nights at the slightly lower altitude of the Urubamba Valley, the ‘Sacred Valley of the Incas’, just below Cusco, where we stay for two nights with breakfast at the excellent four-star Casa Andina Private Collection. DAY 4 – PISAC & SACRED VALLEY We spend the day in the Sacred Valley, firstly visiting Pisac, famous for its colourful indigenous market with Ollantaytambo , Peru

And finally, there’s Rio, arguably the most spectacularly sited city on the planet. The ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’, or marvellous city, is an intoxicating fusion of samba rhythms, vast stretches of beaches, beautiful people, lush forests and extraordinary granite peaks. Somehow everything seems bigger, brighter, louder and more colourful when you’re in Rio! We stay at the northern end of Copacabana beach, from where the wide swathe of the whole bay stretches before you. Copacabana and its sister, Ipanema beach, are the playgrounds of the city and the people-watching is simply fascinating. Of course, we’ll also get to the top of two of Rio’s most famous peaks, Sugarloaf Mountain and the Corcovado peak with its awe-inspiring 100ft statue of Christ the Redeemer. Needless to say, South America is a vast continent with a huge variety of incredible places to see and things to do, which are simply impossible to cover on one trip. We have hand-picked the real ‘stand-out’ experiences that encapsulate the culture, history, cuisine, monuments and scenic wonders in this oncein-a-lifetime, three-country tour.

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Presidential Palace, Buenos Aires

a huge range of local handicrafts. It’s a fantastic sight, full of traditionally dressed locals bartering for all kinds of produce. All sorts of handicraft are available, too, from vibrant handmade rugs and ponchos in bright reds and yellows, to local ceramics and a wide variety of llama and alpaca knitwear. After an included lunch, we visit the impressive hillside fortress of Ollantaytambo, the site of a rare Conquistador defeat. You can examine the astonishingly intricate and precise Incan stonework, all fashioned using stone tools. DAY 5 – MACHU PICCHU Today you’ll experience one of the highlights of your tour. We board the Explorer train on one of the world’s most spectacular rail journeys through the increasingly narrow Urubamba River gorge to the legendary Machu Picchu. As we descend, the scenery changes from semi-arid brush and cactus to dense, lush rainforest. Below us the river rushes headlong into numerous rapids, whilst above the precipitous sides of the gorge rise to dizzying heights. Nothing can prepare you for your first sight of the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, the only Inca settlement never discovered or destroyed by the Spanish – its wonder and mystique are simply astounding. No one knows why it was built in such an inaccessible spot or why it was mysteriously abandoned. Set along a high ridge, it was rediscovered in 1910 by Hiram Bingham, an American explorer. We return by train to the Sacred Valley, from where we drive to Cusco for two nights with breakfast at the four-star Costa del Sol Ramada. DAY 6 – CUSCO Cusco is a mixture of colonial architecture interspersed with fascinating Inca remains. The main square, nestling within a maze of narrow streets and quaint plazas, has been the city centre since Inca times. Today, it’s the site of the 16th-century cathedral, so huge it took a hundred years to complete. We visit the Qorichancha, the Incan temple to the sun, the ‘navel’ of their world and originally covered in sheets of pure gold. Although a Spanish convent was built over the Inca temple, many of the internal walls remain. Cusco is such a beautiful city, with so many fascinating corners to explore, that this afternoon is free for you to make your own discoveries. Our hotel is centrally located, so you can easily walk everywhere.

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Argentine gaucho


Machu Picchu

Iguazu Falls

used to speak to huge rallies. We’ll see the colourful barrios (districts) of San Telmo and La Boca, and also visit Recoleta Cemetery to see Evita Peron’s final resting place. This evening we enjoy a visit to one of the city’s best tango shows, with dinner included.

DAY 7 – FLIGHT TO BUENOS AIRES This morning we fly back to Lima to connect with our flight to Buenos Aires in Argentina, arriving late in the afternoon. Our hotel for the next three nights with breakfast is the centrally located four-star 725 Continental. DAY 8 – PAMPAS RANCH After breakfast, we drive out of the city to the Pampas plains to the west of Buenos Aires. Our destination is the Estancia Santa Susana, originally created by Irish migrants and today still a working ranch spread across almost 3,000 acres. The original house is beautifully preserved and gives a fascinating insight into life here during the late 19th century. The ranch has plenty of horses and in true gaucho tradition, you’ll see them showing off their equestrian skills. An excellent lunch is included featuring Argentinian beef on the barbecue, which you can enjoy with local songs and dances. DAY 9 – BUENOS AIRES & TANGO SHOW Today we explore the fascinating metropolis of Buenos Aires. Known as the Paris of South America, with its wide tree-lined avenues, squares, parks and grand public buildings, it exudes an unmistakable style. We’ll visit the Plaza de Mayo and the pinkcoloured Presidential Palace, from where Evita Peron

DAY 10 – FLY TO IGUAZU FALLS This morning we take the short flight to Iguazu Falls, arriving in the mid-afternoon. We stay for two nights with breakfast at the four-star Mercure Iguazu Hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure, so perhaps relax around the pool at your hotel. DAY 11 – IGUAZU FALLS The Argentinian side of the falls is known for its numerous viewpoints over the many small and large falls, which are easily accessed by wooden boardwalks through the lush forest surrounding the falls. We also catch the charming open-sided ‘jungle train’ to the head of the falls. For the more adventurous, there is the option to take a jetboat ride to the foot of the falls on the Iguazu river – you will get seriously wet! DAY 12 – FLY TO RIO DE JANEIRO We cross the border to the Brazilian side of the falls, visiting the stunning Devil’s Throat balcony viewpoint, where you are literally surrounded by falling water! There’s also the option of arranging a helicopter flight over the falls. In the afternoon, we take the short flight to Rio de Janeiro, where we stay three nights with breakfast at the new three-star superior Arena Leme Hotel, perfectly located right on Copacabana beach. All our rooms have stunning sea views. DAY 13 – RIO DE JANEIRO Today we visit the statue of Christ the Redeemer, one of the highlights of the tour. Reached by a Swiss-built

cog railway through the Tijuca Forest National Park, the granite peak stands at 2,300ft, with the statue itself a further 100ft tall. The views in all directions are simply outstanding. On return to sea level, we take a walk through Rio’s charming Botanical Gardens before our included lunch of Brazilian barbecued meats (a vegetarian option is available). DAY 14 – RIO DE JANEIRO This morning we board the breathtaking two-stage cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, which overlooks some of Rio’s most spectacular bays and beaches. We follow this with a tour through the centre of Rio and an included lunch at one of the city’s most iconic restaurants, the beautiful belle-époque Confeitaria Colombo. DAY 15 – RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your return flight via São Paulo. DAY 16 – ARRIVE HOME

11 DAYS WITHOUT PERU On selected dates, our tour does not include Peru. Your tour begins in Buenos Aires and includes Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro, with the same hotels and inclusions as detailed above: DAY 1 – DEPARTURE DAYS 2-4 – BUENOS AIRES DAYS 5-6 – IGUAZU FALLS DAYS 7-9 – RIO DE JANEIRO DAY 10 – RETURN FLIGHT DAY 11 – ARRIVE HOME

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C A N A D A’ S R O C K Y M O U N TA I N E E R 9 days from only £2,699pp WITH AL ASK A CRUISE EX TENSION 16 days from only £3,659pp

Some of North America’s most spectacular scenery combined with an incredible train journey on the Rocky Mountaineer and a luxury cruise to the world’s last great wilderness, Alaska. The Canadian Rockies, coupled with an Alaskan cruise, must surely rank amongst the very finest scenic and wildlife holidays on earth! Combining Canada, the world’s second largest country, with a cruise to Alaska, the largest state in the US, our tour has been designed to showcase the very best that such an enormous area can offer. The magnificent Rocky Mountains are Canada’s crowning glory: home to bears, majestic elk, moose and beaver, with vast forests that seem to go on forever. Opaque lakes of stunning emerald green and turquoise reflect the magnificent scenery like no other place on earth. Carpets of wild flowers bedeck the green meadows spread beneath the towering glaciers - huge expanses of brilliant white ice and snow, contrasting with the muted greys and pinks of the jagged peaks. We stay in Banff, the very heart of the mountains, then travel along a monument to man’s engineering prowess, the ‘road of steel’ that is the great Trans-Canadian railway, on the incredible Rocky Mountaineer train. Crossing high passes, deep ravines and innumerable spectacular bridges, places that can only be seen by rail, the Rocky Mountaineer

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is acknowledged as the ultimate way to travel through the beautifully rugged terrain of Alberta and British Columbia. Finally, we arrive in Vancouver, nestling beside the immense majesty of the Pacific Ocean, which ranks alongside Sydney, Cape Town and San Francisco as one of the world’s most naturally beautiful panoramas. With its gleaming glass skyscrapers reflected in the azure-blue ocean, Canada’s thirdlargest city is a fascinating and cosmopolitan metropolis encircled by water and mountains. Our seven-night cruise with Holland America Line to Alaska is available as an extension on all departures. The cruise includes two days at sea sailing the calm, sheltered waters of the famed Inside Passage. In Alaska, we visit the historic ports of Skagway and Ketchikan, where the prospectors of the 1890’s Klondike gold rush took their first steps towards riches or heartache! We spend a whole day cruising the pristine waters of Glacier Bay, travelling through a landscape that was completely covered by a 20-mile wide glacier just 200 years ago! The park contains eight tidewater glaciers,


Board the remarkable Rocky Mountaineer

PRICE INCLUDES • Experience the drama of the magnificent Rocky Mountains in unrivalled luxury on the Rocky Mountaineer train, the ultimate way to travel across this breathtaking terrain • Enjoy impeccable SilverLeaf service on board the Rocky Mountaineer, plus two breakfasts and two lunches. Upgrade to GoldLeaf service from only £399pp • Travel on the Icefields Parkway, one of the world’s most scenic highways, and walk on the 300-metre-thick Athabasca glacier • Stay in vibrant Vancouver and tour this wonderfully sophisticated city overlooking the Pacific Ocean Enjoy a seven-night, full-board Alaskan cruise with Holland America Line: • Visit the awe-inspiring Glacier Bay National Park, a World Heritage Site home to actively calving glaciers and humpback whales

Plus, of course... • • •

Return direct scheduled flights with premium economy flight upgrades available at a supplement Stay in excellent, hand-picked threestar superior accommodation The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY

Choose from a wide selection of shore excursions During your cruise, you may wish to add on glacier helicopter flights, bear and whalewatching, fishing, kayaking, hiking and even dog-sledding.

Rockies come into view. Our hotel for the next three nights is the three-star superior Banff Park Lodge, in the spa resort of Banff. With its woodpanelled interior, cozy fireplace and excellent indoor pool, our hotel is an easy 5-minute stroll into the centre of this attractive small town. DAY 3 - BANFF This morning our breathtaking journey is along the Icefields Parkway, one of the most spectacular roads in the world, with stunning mountain vistas. Our first stop is famous Lake Louise, completely encircled by high peaks, perhaps the most photographed view in the Rockies. We then take in Peyto Lake, one of the world’s most beautiful azureblue glacial waters. Finally we see the Columbia Icefield, the largest in the Rockies, covering an area of over 200 square miles with depths of over 1,000 feet. We’ll ride on a giant ‘Snocoach’ (weather permitting) across the Athabasca Glacier for a closer inspection of the massive crevasses before returning to Banff. Lake Louise

extraordinary twelve-storey walls of ice in countless shades of blue and white, creaking and groaning their way to the sea where huge blocks up to 200 feet high break loose and crash into the chilly waters. On board you will enjoy unparalleled service and extraordinary sights coupled with exciting and unique experiences via the many shore excursions on offer. So, come join us on this wonderful tour and explore one of the most exciting places in North America, located in truly awesome scenery, with enchanting wildlife and welcoming people. You are sure to return with some amazing lifelong memories! DAY 1 - ARRIVAL IN CALGARY Arrive at the airport for your direct flight to Calgary. Following our afternoon arrival we transfer to the three-star superior Delta Bow Valley in central Calgary for one night. DAY 2 - CALGARY Today we start our spectacular journey from Calgary across the gently rolling prairies of Alberta and soon the amazing slate-grey, snow-capped peaks of the

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DAY 4 - FREE DAY IN BANFF Today we have a free day. Why not take a leisurely ‘float’ trip on the Bow River or a dip in Banff’s relaxing hot springs. There are also helicopter trips on offer, or perhaps a ride up to the top of Sulphur Mountain at 7,500 feet on the Banff gondola. Several walks commence from the peak and there’s also a restaurant with an open-air terrace. Also very popular is afternoon tea at the magnificent Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, built in the style of a massive Scottish baronial castle. DAY 5 - ROCKY MOUNTAINEER TRAIN This morning we set off on what is one of the world’s greatest train journeys! Boarding the Rocky Mountaineer you’ll be led to your assigned comfortable reclining seats, with plenty of legroom and large panoramic windows. The train begins its spectacular two-day 585-mile journey following the wide Bow River valley before crossing the Continental Divide at Kicking Horse Pass. Next come the famed spiral tunnels, an engineering marvel built 100 years ago, and as we follow the Columbia River we cross the dramatic 500-foot steel span of Stoney Creek bridge. The excellent on-board commentary highlights the intriguing history of the towns en route and the building of the railway itself. Meals in SilverLeaf Class include excellent hot meals served at your seat on each day including complimentary snacks, tea and coffee, non-alcoholic drinks, plus beer and house wine with lunch, all served at your seat (bar service at extra cost). Upgrade to the excellent GoldLeaf Services and their impressive Dome carriages - see overleaf for details. Our overnight stay is in a range of mediumclass hotels in the town of Kamloops. DAY 6 - VANCOUVER We continue our journey to Vancouver. Following the Fraser and Thomson River canyons, passing the Jaws of Death Gorge, Avalanche Alley and Hell’s Gate Canyon, we criss-cross the river many times as we travel through some of British Columbia’s most scenic country. We finally reach Vancouver during the afternoon after a truly once-in-a-lifetime journey. Our hotel for the next two nights is the three-star superior Coast Coal Harbour Hotel in downtown Vancouver, close to the main shopping areas and the harbour-front promenade. DAY 7 - VANCOUVER Vancouver regularly features as one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities: the blue of the Pacific Ocean with its picturesque harbour, the glass skyscrapers reflecting the sunlight and the lush coastal mountains form a stunning backdrop. This morning we tour the city stopping at Stanley Park, with its

Glacier Bay, Alaska

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Vancouver

famous collection of totem poles and Prospect Point, which offers lovely views. The afternoon is at leisure - there’s plenty to see and do in this sophisticated city. A popular, easy walk starts from Vancouver’s waterfront pedestrian promenade to the huge expanse of Stanley Park. The path continues along the seashore and offers stunning vistas across the bay until you reach English Bay’s sandy beach, a lovely spot to watch the sunset. DAY 8 - RETURN FLIGHT This morning is at leisure. Those returning home will transfer to the airport for their flight, arriving next morning. If you’re extending your holiday, please see the Alaska Cruise extension section. DAY 9 - ARRIVE BACK HOME You arrive back in the UK.

ALASKA CRUISE EXTENSION DAY 8 - EMBARK MS NIEUW AMSTERDAM For all those continuing on to our Holland America Line Inside Passage cruise, embarkation begins at 11.30am and cabins are normally available from around 1pm. Our ship sails at 5pm, passing below Vancouver’s spectacular Lion’s Gate suspension bridge.

DAY 9 - AT SEA Our first full day at sea and there’s plenty of time to ease into shipboard life and take in the amazing scenery of the Inside Passage. For anyone who prefers a little more activity, there are a huge variety of onboard talks and activities available. This evening is the first formal night of the cruise. DAY 10 - JUNEAU We spend the morning cruising the narrow 25-mile long Tracy Arm fjord to view the massive twin Sawyer Glaciers. Hemmed in by near vertical ice-scoured granite mountainsides, the glaciers are surrounded by a wild and barren landscape – reminiscent of the last Ice Age! Look out for harbour seals basking on the many ice floes in the bay. After lunch we arrive in Juneau, Alaska’s state capital. From here there’s a widely varying selection of shore excursions on offer, ranging from flying to a glacier by helicopter and dog-sledding with teams of huskies, to whalewatching, kayaking, a typical Alaskan salmon bake, fly fishing by sea plane and a variety of hikes in the surrounding area. DAY 11 - SKAGWAY An early start today as we arrive in Skagway at 7am. Our ship remains here all day allowing plenty of time to explore this historic gateway to the Klondike, originally a lawless tented city during its gold rush days. The shore excursions include a number of helicopter glacier sightseeing opportunities, but what makes Skagway unique is that it’s the start of the White Pass & Yukon railroad and there are a number of excursions that include a fascinating ride on the restored carriages of this 100-year-old route through the Alaskan wilderness. The most striking feature of Alaska is the sheer sense of isolation and tranquil beauty. People are a rarity, settlements more so; the land is not farmed or used by man in any way and the forests, seemingly, unmanaged! There’s wildlife galore, safe in the sanctuary of this pristine wilderness - there are few places like this left on the planet. DAY 12 - GLACIER BAY Today is yet another tour highlight as your cruise-ship slowly enters the magnificent Glacier Bay National Park, with eight actively calving glaciers, more than


anywhere else on Earth, access to this amazing spectacle is strictly controlled by the US Parks Service. Surrounded by snow-clad 10,000-foot peaks of the Fairweather Range, the nutrient-rich waters teem with salmon and humpback whales. On-shore it’s also home to black bears, moose and wolves. Our ship will spend the day cruising this huge area comprising 900 square miles of marine waters and although we do not actually dock anywhere, National Park Service rangers will come on board to provide specialist commentary and answer any questions. DAY 13 - KETCHIKAN After a morning’s cruising, we arrive at the small town of Ketchikan after lunch, where a number of breathtaking trips are available, via seaplane, into the nearby Misty Fjords National Monument or the remote Tongass National Forest – a perfect environment, only accessible by air, where bears can be spotted fishing for salmon. Amongst the many other activities available, there’s salmon fishing, a crab feast, sea kayaking, and for the really adventurous, a ‘zip-line’ descent through the forest canopy!

Upgrade to the Rocky Mountaineer’s GoldLeaf service

DAY 14 - AT SEA Our last full day is spent at sea returning through the Inside Passage. DAY 15 - RETURN FLIGHT We arrive back in Vancouver in the morning and spend some free time in the vibrant markets and restaurants of Granville Island before returning to the airport at the appropriate time for your return flight. DAY 16 We arrive back in the UK, with some wonderful memories. ROCKY MOUNTAINEER GOLDLEAF SERVICE Upgrade to the stunning double-decker dome coach with its panoramic wrapround windows and comfortable reclining leather seats. Guests also have access to the open-air observation vestibule at the end of each carriage. Impeccable service is complimented with three-course gourmet meals in the lower-level dining room. Cost per person: from £399pp, subject to availability

THE MS NIEUW AMSTERDAM Holland America Line’s Vista-Class ship, launched 2010, the 2,106-passenger MS Nieuw Amsterdam has more outside ocean view staterooms that most other ships in Alaska. The Promenade deck goes right round the ship with plenty of classic teak deck chairs to relax in, whilst its stunning 8-deck atrium and spacious public rooms are adorned with a wide variety of art and antiques. Dining options include the Vista dining room, serving five-course meals with impeccable service. A more intimate option are the Pinnacle Grill (US$35pp supplement), which features sterling-silver beef served on top of the range china and linens, The Canaletto Italian Restaurant ($15pp supplement) and the PanAsian Tamarind Restaurant ($25pp supplement). The informal Lido restaurant has free seating and buffet-style service for lunch and breakfast and waiter service for dinner. You may also enjoy daily afternoon

tea, complimentary hot hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour and late night snacks. There is also the chance to go to the BB King’s Blues Club, a vibrant blues musical experience. There are two formal evenings when gentlemen are requested to wear a jacket and tie. The spacious, elegantly appointed staterooms all feature complimentary 24-hour room service, fresh fruit daily, flat-panel TVs, bathrobes, Egyptian cotton towels and Elemis bath products. The Deluxe Veranda staterooms are particularly popular and early booking is recommended. Other ship facilities include a three-tier theatre, the Crow’s Nest observation lounge, a piano bar and sports bar, the Explorer’s Lounge where complimentary newspapers, books and internet are available, the Greenhouse Spa and hair salon with its steam room and ‘hydro’ pool, a covered pool and a large open observation deck right at the very top of the ship.

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CALIFORNIA & THE GOLDEN WEST 15 days from only £2,069pp

Explore the world’s most famous National Parks, intriguing Native American culture, amazing desert landscapes, the lush forests and lofty peaks of Yosemite and vibrant, pulsating cities. There are few places in the world that generate more iconic imagery than California and the western USA, and even fewer live up to it in reality. The sights and amazing natural wonders just roll off the tongue, with probably nothing more aptly named than the Grand Canyon. Then there’s Monument Valley, whose towering sandstone pillars are immortalised in countless Westerns, the Painted Desert, Yosemite, home to the highest waterfall in the USA, the lofty snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. The natural splendours of this huge region are quite simply astonishing. Combine these with the allure of such genuinely unique cities as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas and you have a destination that simply cannot be matched. Our tour visits all these and more besides. Inhabited for thousands of years by Native Americans, California and Arizona were then visited by Spanish explorers searching, as always, for gold.

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They found none, but founded Missions all along the California coast. During the 19th century, California, Nevada, Utah and most of Arizona, were ceded to the USA for just $15 million and by a twist of fate, barely a year later gold was finally discovered and the Californian Gold Rush began. Prospectors flooded in and within just a year San Francisco’s population rocketed from just 600 to 25,000. They were soon

followed by the trans-continental railroad and the ‘Golden State’ was born. The names of the cities, some of the most famous in the world, still display their Spanish heritage: San Francisco, charmingly eccentric with a topography few cities in the world can match. Its centre is row upon row of lovingly restored Victorian houses, easily explored using the iconic wooden cable cars that trundle up and down the steep hills and valleys. The magnificent brick-red Golden Gate Bridge beautifully completes the picture. In contrast, Los Angeles is the archetypal US megacity, criss-crossed by six-lane freeways. Nevertheless, it is home to some very attractive and exciting neighbourhoods like Santa Monica. No visit would be complete without a stroll down the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. Then it’s off to San Diego, which has the laid-back atmosphere so typical of Southern California – its surfing beaches, cultural attractions and the balmy


• • • • • •

PRICE INCLUDES

PERSONALISE YOUR HOLIDAY

Experience the stunning beauty of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Yosemite National Parks Visit timeless Monument Valley, a masterpiece of ancient erosion Stay on the Strip in glitzy Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world with eye-popping architecture Stay two nights in the famous Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco and enjoy a guided tour of the city See glamorous Los Angeles, the City of Angels, with its many famous highlights including the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Sunset Strip Bask in sunny San Diego, the classic southern California city set around a sweeping bay

See the Grand Canyon by helicopter Perhaps the most exciting way to experience the Grand Canyon is on a helicopter flight. Soaring over this marvellous expanse of natural beauty, you’ll be treated to spectacular views and thrilling perspectives, allowing you to fully appreciate the magnitude of one of the USA’s greatest wonders. Bookable locally.

Plus, of course... • • • •

Return direct scheduled flights from London with premium economy upgrades available at a supplement Flights available from UK regional airports via Dublin Stay in hand-picked four-star and three-star accommodation The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £2,069PP We visit their most famous treasure, Monument Valley. Immortalised by John Wayne in classic westerns such as ‘Stagecoach’ and ‘She Wore A Yellow Ribbon’, this instantly recognisable landscape, with its

fiery-red spindles of rock, is even more spectacular when you find yourself within it. In nearby Utah we visit Bryce Canyon, an enormous amphitheatre created by thousands of spires, pinnacles and towers of eroded pink-hued rocks that have produced an intricate labyrinth of deep gullies. Finally, high in California’s Sierra Nevada we visit Yosemite and some of the world’s most pristine and awe-inspiring wilderness. Dominated by the huge mass of the Half Dome rising to almost 9,000ft, its vertical granite wall is so huge and smooth that until 50 years ago it was thought to be unclimbable. The wildlife is as varied as the landscapes. There are the black bears of Yosemite, mule deer and chipmunks at Bryce and rare mountain lions at even higher altitudes, whilst coyotes still roam the deserts and vultures soar over the canyons. From the highest plateau to the deepest gorge, from LA to San Francisco, this tour showcases the very best of western USA’s natural and manmade wonders and you will return home with some truly amazing memories.

Discover the remarkable Monument Valley

climate have made it one of America’s most popular cities. Finally there’s Las Vegas, originally an isolated oasis in the Mojave Desert and now a vibrant, exciting and genuinely fascinating manmade wonder that attracts over 40 million visitors a year and boasts 15 of the world’s largest hotels. For many, however, the real attraction will be America’s most famous National Parks. The Grand Canyon is such an astonishing natural wonder that the sheer scale of it is almost too much to comprehend. Over a mile deep and 14 miles across, this geological masterpiece offers a glimpse of the enormous complexity and beauty of the normally hidden rocks beneath our feet. There is simply nowhere like it on earth! Subject to weather conditions, there is the option of a spectacular helicopter flight over the canyon. Much of Arizona is occupied by the Navajo Reservation – one of the few Indian tribes that has rejected the commercialism of gambling in favour of heritage tourism.

Yosemite Falls

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DAY 1 - ARRIVAL IN LOS ANGELES You should arrive at the airport to take your direct flight to Los Angeles. After our early-evening arrival, we transfer to the nearby four-star Hilton Los Angeles Airport Hotel for one night. DAY 2 - LOS ANGELES LA, the city of glitz, glamour, the stars and miles of pristine beaches – it’s all here! This morning we see the best it has to offer – the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the legendary Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Sunset Strip and Santa Monica. During the afternoon we head south, following the coast, to charming San Diego, staying two nights with breakfast at the threestar Best Western Plus Bayside Inn, close to the waterfront and the city’s ‘Little Italy’ quarter with its many restaurants and cafés. DAY 3 - SAN DIEGO With over 260 days of sunshine a year, San Diego is the classic Southern California city, set around a sweeping bay and numerous sparkling white sand beaches with its beautifully restored Gaslamp Quarter. After an included morning city tour, you are free to experience San Diego’s numerous attractions. A great favourite is the Maritime Museum with its many historical ships, including the Star of India, the HMS Surprise, a replica of an 18th-century frigate and used in the film ‘Master & Commander’ and a Sovietera submarine. A visit to the USS Midway Museum with the famous aircraft carrier the USS Midway is particularly fascinating and includes a tour of three decks, 35 types of aircraft and even the option of trying out your own flying skills in a high-tech flight simulator! During the afternoon, why not dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean? Take the ferry across the bay to Coronado and the Victorian Del Coronado Hotel, used in the film ‘Some Like It Hot’ and host to a multitude of famous names such as Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart and even Edward VIII. Whale watching cruises (Feb-Mar is best) or Harbour cruises to view the US Pacific Fleet are also very popular. Next to the world-famous San Diego Zoo are the 1,200 acres of Balboa Park, the largest cultural complex west of the Mississippi with 15 museums and numerous other attractions, all set amidst wonderful sub-tropical gardens and fountains. DAY 4 - SONORAN DESERT & LAKE HAVASU Today we leave the coast driving towards Kingman in Arizona, climbing to 4,000ft, passing though the Cleveland National Forest, descending towards the wide plains of the Sonoran Desert. Heading north, we cross the Colorado River through Moabi Regional Park into Arizona. We then continue on to Lake Havasu, where you’ll see the London Bridge on our way to Kingman, where we stay one night at the Best Western Plus King’s Inn with breakfast. DAY 5 - ROUTE 66 & GRAND CANYON We take a drive from Kingman to Seligman, on the longest section of the original and historic route 66, on our way to the Grand Canyon. When you first experience this great chasm, the grandeur is truly overwhelming, almost beyond the grasp of human imagination and one of the few sights in the world that mere words can never, ever describe! Photographs or mere statistics just cannot prepare you for such gigantean scale: over a mile deep, with rocks as old as the earth itself. Its mind-boggling series of shapes, colours and glaring desert light; contrast with jet black shadows, formed by pinnacles of rock interspersed by stark promontories. The south rim extends for 14 miles and we visit some of the best viewing points, each one providing a different

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Grand Canyon

perspective over the constantly changing panorama. Our hotel for one night is the three-star Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn. DAY 6 - MONUMENT VALLEY This morning you have the option of taking a once-ina-lifetime helicopter flight for the ultimate panoramic view of the Grand Canyon, a truly magical display of natural beauty! As the light gradually grows ever stronger, the crisp shadows rapidly shorten and the greys and blues change to reds, yellows and ochres in a kaleidoscope of intensive colour. It is at moments such as these that you truly feel the might of Mother Nature! From the Desert View Watchtower we have our final, lingering look over the canyon with the meandering Colorado River visible in the distance, before crossing the Painted Desert, through the vast 16 million-acre Navajo Indian Reservation, towards Monument Valley. Arriving a few hours before sunset, this is the best time to view the incredible flat-topped towers of red sandstone that rise so dramatically from the surrounding barren desert, with the softer light affording ideal photographic conditions. Here, the bustle of civilization seems so far away and as the sun sets there is an amazing and almost magical stillness in the air. For those wishing to see the Valley from a different perspective and gain a greater understanding of its historical significance we have the option of a guided 4x4 tour by a local Navajo Indian. Tonight we stay for one night at the threestar Monument Valley Inn in the nearby small community of Kayenta. DAY 7 - BRYCE CANYON After an early start we arrive at the town of Page just next to the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River and whose building created the vast Lake Powell. We then cross into the Mormon state of Utah and climb to 8,100 feet as we arrive at Bryce Canyon National Park. Created by thousands of years of erosion, Bryce

Canyon presents an almost surreal landscape of multihued and delicate rock pinnacles – a quite exceptional, strange and exotic topography with a uniquely fragile quality. We stay for one night in the three-star Best Western Ruby’s Inn, a mile outside the park. DAY 8 - ZION NATIONAL PARK This morning we continue to Zion National Park where the scenery is made up of layers of petrified sand dunes, hundreds of feet thick as well as huge sheer cliffs and gorges. Unlike the Grand Canyon Bryce Canyon


San Francisco

Tehachapi Pass and travel through the vast fertile plains of the San Joaquin Valley. This evening, we stay for one night just outside Yosemite National Park in Oakhurst at the three-star Yosemite Southgate Hotel with continental breakfast. and Bryce, we reach the bottom of the main canyon experiencing a completely new perspective. Leaving Zion in the afternoon we drive towards the glittering bright lights of Las Vegas, the glow of which can be seen from thirty miles. Our hotel for two nights is the stylish four–star Tropicana Resort & Casino superbly situated in the vibrant heart of the Vegas ‘strip’. Tonight we have the option of a ‘Vegas by Night’ tour, probably the best time to appreciate its unique atmosphere with everything bathed in a glow of all-encapsulating neon, so brash it’s almost an art form. DAY 9 - LAS VEGAS Today we have a full day at leisure to explore the self-styled ‘entertainment capital of the world’ which really is everything you expect it to be. It’s an almost surreal apparition growing out of the desert! It’s where the world’s most renowned sights and cities such as Venice, Paris, New York and even the Pyramids have been recreated in such detail. You can even take a trip on a gondola on a canal on the 1st floor of one of the hotels! Whatever your opinion and taste, shocked or captivated, you cannot fail to be impressed! Tours by helicopter are also available to the west rim of the Grand Canyon. This is the only section of the canyon where helicopters are permitted to actually fly and even land on the canyon floor itself. This evening why not take in a show? Always amongst the most impressive in the world, you are assured of a memorable night whichever one you choose. DAY 10 - SIERRA NEVADA Today we leave Las Vegas driving through the barren Mojave Desert. Our route skirts the famous Edwards Air Force base, before climbing even higher through the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. On reaching the peak, literally from one minute to the next the climate changes from the burning heat of the desert to temperate grasslands and forest as we cross the

DAY 11 - YOSEMITE VALLEY This morning we enter the park and drive through incredible scenery to Yosemite Valley itself where we are confronted by one of the most staggering views in the USA: a deep, lushly forested valley encircled by the steely grey vastness of sheer granite cliffs and domes rising by over 4,000ft on all sides, bisected by some of the highest waterfalls in North America. Dominated by the granite monolith of El Capitan on one side and the instantly recognisable Half Dome on the other, it is impossible not to find your heart touched by this overwhelming natural grandeur. We then continue to Sonora and stay at the threestar superior Best Western Plus Sonora Oaks for one night with breakfast. DAY 12 - SAN FRANCISCO For many, San Francisco will be one of the highlights of the tour. From its beginnings as a 19th-century mining boomtown to the sophisticated metropolis you see today, it is simply one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world. Nestling on a

bay astride the blue Pacific Ocean, dominated by the instantly-recognisable Golden Gate Bridge, the city spreads out over forty-three steep hills on one side and a vibrant green carpet of forests on the other. This afternoon we have a guided tour of the city, including Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, Golden Gate Park and Twin Peaks, from where you can enjoy splendid city views. Why not wander along the busy waterfront of Fisherman’s Wharf, choose from one of the many seafood restaurants or watch the antics of the sea lions on Pier 39. We stay for two nights at the four-star Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf. DAY 13 - FREE DAY IN SAN FRANCISCO Our final full day and there’s still so much to do. You can amble through Chinatown, the largest outside Asia, and marvel at the pagodas and oriental markets. Or perhaps take a stroll down to the renovated Ferry Plaza Building on the waterfront, converted into a huge alfresco Farmers’ Market every Saturday. Try the once predominantly Italian North Beach, still home to innumerable bistros, delis and bakeries, which during the 50s attracted the bohemian writers and avantgarde artists of the Beatnik movement. And don’t forget the Haight-Ashbury district and the ‘Summer of Love’ for which San Francisco is still famous today. Alternatively, there’s an optional trip to visit Muir Woods, a US National Monument, which contains a unique 560-acre stand of giant 300-foot high Coast Redwoods. The trip also visits the quaint artists’ colony of Sausalito. The short boat ride to the USA’s most infamous prison, Alcatraz Island, known as ‘The Rock’, is well worth the trip – the fascinating audio guide is narrated by ex-prisoners and guards. Other popular trips include a scenic harbour cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge. DAY 14 - RETURN FLIGHT Our flight departs in the late afternoon, so why not use your final morning for some last minute shopping – Macy’s department store is always popular and is centrally located on nearby Union Square. DAY 15 - ARRIVE HOME We arrive back in the UK after a very special tour, the memories of which will last a lifetime.

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DEEP SOUTH USA PLUS TEXAS 14 days from only £2,299pp

Experience the unique culture, history, music of America’s Deep South, home of the blues, plus the charms and classic images of the lone star state, Texas. Take one of America’s classic ‘road trips’ exploring the Deep South, renowned for its gracious hospitality, its charming southern drawl, its unique Creole and Cajun cuisine and, of course, the most popular music genres of the 20th century – jazz, rock n’ roll, the blues and country. Flying into Atlanta, Georgia, site of the 1996 Olympic Games, which really put the city on the map. Home to CNN and the Coca Cola Corporation, two of the US’s most iconic ‘institutions’, Atlanta has a lovely laid-back southern charm and is the perfect start to a fascinating tour. We then travel through the rolling rich farmland of Tennessee, past the cotton fields of Mississippi to Louisiana’s moss covered bayous and the vast South Texas plains. You’ll stay in some of America’s most fascinating cities: Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis, the amazing New Orleans, as well as Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. We stay two nights in Nashville, known as Music City USA, the centre of the huge country music industry - where aspiring artists come to start their careers, songwriters try out their new songs and where anyone can walk into one of the myriad of

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live music venues and hear some of the best musicmaking in North America. Not too far down the road lies another of America’s great musical cities - Memphis. Home of the remarkable Sun Studios that launched Elvis’ stratospheric rise to fame and the site of his sprawling home, Graceland; Memphis also played a pivotal and tragic role in the civil rights movement as the place where Martin Luther King was assassinated. We stay three nights in New Orleans, ‘The Big Easy’ with its motto ‘Laissez les bons temps rouler’ – let the good times roll, depicts exactly what makes this city such a rewarding place to visit. Its famously progressive spirit and liberal attitudes date back to its French roots, when convicts were freed on condition that they settled there. Then it became an unruly smuggling enclave ensuring its rebellious streak continued to thrive. Always pushing the boundaries, it was inevitable the exceptional French, Spanish, American and African cultures fused so harmoniously producing a unique city which has given birth to jazz and its most famous son, the remarkable Louis Armstrong. It was also home to some of the greats


PRICE INCLUDES • • • • • •

Stay in Nashville, ‘Music City USA’, and visit the Country Music Hall of Fame Visit Studio B in Nashville and Sun Studio in Memphis, where some of the best-loved songs of the last 50 years were recorded Explore the incredible life of Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll, through the places where he recorded his greatest hits and his unique home, Graceland Enjoy Amtrak’s renowned train service from Memphis to New Orleans Spend three days in New Orleans and enjoy a walking tour with a local guide through the iconic French Quarter Guided tour of Houston’s NASA Johnson Space Centre, from where the Moon landings were controlled

• • •

Visit the Alamo in San Antonio, where 183 settlers fought for Texas’ independence from Mexico See where President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and tour the fascinating museum dedicated to that fateful day Stay in Atlanta and visit the Centre for Civil and Human Rights, an engaging cultural attraction

Plus, of course... • • •

Return scheduled flights from the UK Stay in hand-picked four-star and three-star accommodation, including a hotel in the centre of the French Quarter in New Orleans The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £2,299PP in the world. It does not seem so long ago, but would you believe the return trajectory through the earth’s atmosphere was calculated using a ‘slide rule’ – how the world has changed! The space centre is still used today to train astronauts and develop the new technologies for future manned missions to Mars. Finally it’s Dallas, which during the 1980s was the setting of the world’s most watched TV programme! However probably more famously, in 1963 the ’Big D’ was propelled to world attention when Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy, for whatever reason we shall ultimately never know and after which it seemed the entire planet went into mourning - especially so when his son poignantly saluted his father’s coffin. We see the ‘grassy knoll’ and learn all about the events of that famous day. Experience the charms of colourful Chattanooga

of American literature such as Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams, who famously said that ‘America only has three cities, New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. All the rest are Cleveland!’ Our extension into the ‘Lone Star State’ of Texas includes a visit to the very soul of Texas – the Alamo, where in 1836 an estimated 183 men were killed by Mexican troops trying to prevent Texas from gaining its independence. As the second largest US state, Texas is unbelievably almost three times the size of the UK, and has a proud cowboy tradition dating from the 19th century. Who can ever forget the excitement, hope and sheer exhilaration the US gave the world during the 1960s and ‘70s at the height of its space program, the moonshots and those immortal phrases ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ and of course probably the world’s most famous understatement, ‘Houston, we have a problem!’ We’ll tour the Johnson Space Centre and NASA’s ‘Mission Control’ from where the ill-fated Apollo 13 crew was saved from almost certain disaster by the innovative thinking of some of the best scientists and engineers

DAY 1 - ARRIVAL IN ATLANTA You should arrive at the airport for your direct flight to Atlanta and on arrival we transfer to the three-star Holiday Inn Express Downtown with breakfast, just a short stroll from the Centennial Olympic Park. DAY 2 - ATLANTA & CHATTANOOGA Atlanta is the base of one of America’s best known companies, CNN and home to the Centre for Civil and Human rights. We enjoy a visit to the Centre for Civil and Human Rights. This afternoon we transfer to the charming small town of Chattanooga for a one-night stay at the three-star superior Choo Choo Hotel, aptly converted from the original railway station. DAY 3 - NASHVILLE Experience a ride on the ‘world’s steepest passenger railway’ to the top of Lookout Mountain just outside town experiencing tremendous views, on a clear day across a staggering seven states! Driving deeper into Tennessee to Lynchburg, this quintessential little town is a true slice of unspoilt ‘50s America, with its redbrick courthouse, general store and one traffic light! It’s a great place to just browse the shops and get a bite to eat before we visit Lynchburg’s claim to fame: the Jack Daniel Distillery. Obviously it’s where Jack Daniel’s whisky is made, since 1884 and a tour is a great experience. Interestingly, the county is ‘dry’ and

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The French Quarter, New Orleans

Graceland, Memphis

locals are not allowed to consume the product they are most famous for! Continuing across Tennessee’s rolling green hills we soon arrive at ‘Music City USA’, Nashville, staying two nights at the three-star superior Hyatt Place Opryland, with continental breakfast. This evening you have the opportunity to enjoy dinner and a show on board the General Jackson Steamboat – one of the largest steamboats ever built. DAY 4 - NASHVILLE In downtown Nashville we visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. A huge museum of all things ‘Country & Western’, it has floors of fascinating exhibits from the earliest days of country music to the megastars of today. There are films and videos of music’s greatest, with their life-stories and costumes. The famed Music Row is close by, lined with studios and record company offices, where we visit the legendary RCA Studio B, where Elvis recorded many of his greatest hits, followed by a ‘who’s who’ of recording superstars such as Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. Lower Broadway is Nashville’s nightlife centre, with stupendous live music in famous

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honky-tonk bars like Robert’s Western World and The Stage on Broadway and many more. There’s a fantastic atmosphere along the entire street and an evening here is a real ‘must’! Tonight you have the chance to see a country music show at the Grand Ole Opry. DAY 5 – MEMPHIS & SUN STUDIO Today we say goodbye to Nashville and head to the far west of Tennessee and the city of Memphis and America’s artery, the Mississippi. From its earliest beginnings as a small French garrison, Memphis grew into a magnet for freed slaves after the Civil War and as a cotton trading centre. More infamously, in 1968 Martin Luther King visited to help in a sanitation workers strike and was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, now converted into the Civil Rights Museum. This afternoon we have a guided tour around the birthplace of Rock n’ Roll – the legendary Sun Studio, where Elvis recorded his first hit. This insignificant, yet iconic 1950s building, was the starting point for Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison amongst others and is a designated National Historic Landmark. You can still see Jerry Lee’s piano and Elvis’ microphone! We stay in Memphis for two nights at the three-star superior DoubleTree by Hilton, right in the centre of downtown Memphis.

The double-decker, classic silver coloured train carriages, so typical of the US, feature comfortable reclining armchairs with plenty of legroom, as well as a panoramic glass observation deck and dining car. Our journey takes us through vast forests, farms and the small ‘southern’ towns lining the eastern bank of the Mississippi like pearls on a necklace. Nearing New Orleans, excitement mounts and we cross Lake Pontchartrain, bizarrely it appears like the train is actually travelling over the water itself. We stay three nights at the three-star superior Courtyard by Marriott Downtown, well located within the French Quarter and a short walk from restaurants and attractions.

DAY 6 - GRACELAND Today we visit one of America’s biggest tourist attractions, Elvis’ Graceland. The ‘King’ bought the Graceland mansion for $100,000 in 1957 when he was just 22 and it was his main home until his death. From the time it opened to the public in 1982, Graceland has expanded to include Elvis’ private airplanes and his extensive car collection. One of the most iconic houses in America, Graceland’s Meditation Garden is also Elvis’ final resting place. This evening is at leisure to sample the music scene at Memphis’ famous Beale Street.

DAY 8 - NEW ORLEANS This morning we have a walking tour of New Orleans’ famous French Quarter with an expert local guide. We see the charming art galleries and antique shops along Royal Street, the white stucco St Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square, full of artists, musicians and fortune tellers, and walk up the iconic Bourbon Street, centre of the city’s nightlife. The afternoon is free for you to explore this charming city at your leisure. In the evening why not step out and try New Orleans’ famed Cajun cuisine – there are plenty of fantastic restaurants.

DAY 7 - AMTRAK TRAIN TO NEW ORLEANS An early departure this morning as we catch the renowned ‘City of New Orleans’ Amtrak train service to New Orleans, a real little piece of America.

DAY 9 - FREE DAY IN NEW ORLEANS A free day to relax in the ‘Big Easy’ and explore further afield. Alternatively, you may choose to visit some of the most fascinating Antebellum Plantations


NASA Johnson Space Centre

stop is at the world-famous NASA Johnson Space Centre, still a working NASA base from where the international space station is controlled. We visit ‘Mission Control’, now restored to its 1965 look with all the original equipment and furniture – a unique experience. We also see a full-size Saturn V rocket which famously has no on-board computer, they were just too big at the time, plus the huge indoor training facility for the astronauts of the International Space Station. Tonight we stay at the nearby three-star superior Hilton NASA Clear Lake with breakfast.

outside New Orleans combined with a fascinating boat tour of the nearby Louisiana swamps, known for their alligators and snapping turtles, and where you can admire the fauna, such as the moss-draped cypresses native to the bayous of Louisiana. Oak Alley Plantation is a National Historic Landmark and is considered the Deep South’s most spectacular mansion. Dating from 1839 with two rows of mighty oaks leading down towards the Mississippi River, the house has been fully restored to its magnificent 19thThe Alamo

century opulence and grandeur. Nearby we also visit a more modest mansion from a different world: the Laura Plantation was owned by a Creole family who lived apart from the American mainstream for almost 200 years. DAY 10 - HOUSTON & NASA We leave New Orleans this morning heading ever westwards along Louisiana’s Cajun country towards Texas. As we enter the outskirts of Houston, our first

DAY 11 - SAN ANTONIO We continue further into the south Texas plains arriving in San Antonio this afternoon. Originally settled by the Spanish who built a mission station here, the Alamo, whose name was destined to be one of the most evocative words in American history. It was here in 1836 that a seriously outnumbered group of settlers, including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, were besieged by the Mexican army for nearly two weeks before they were overrun. Tonight we stay at the three-star superior Menger Hotel, just round the corner from the Alamo and within easy walking distance to the charming Riverwalk area with its many bars and restaurants, ideal for trying out the region’s famed Tex-Mex cuisine. DAY 12 - DALLAS & FORT WORTH We say goodbye to friendly San Antonio and travel north to Dallas to visit the infamous Dealey Plaza, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. The floor in the Texas Book Depository from where the fatal shots were fired has been converted into the excellent 6th Floor Museum dedicated to explaining the background and the events of that fateful day on the 22nd November in 1963. In the afternoon, we explore the historical Stockyard District. We stay overnight in the threestar superior Courtyard by Marriott Downtown with breakfast in the centre of Fort Worth, with plenty of restaurants nearby. DAY 13 - RETURN FLIGHT Transfer to the airport for your return flight via Atlanta. DAY 14 - ARRIVE HOME You arrive home this morning after a really memorable tour.

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WA S H I N G T O N D C , N E W YO R K C I T Y & N I A G A R A FA L L S BY T R A I N 10 days from only £2,099pp

Travel on the iconic Amtrak trains between America’s greatest cities, followed by the natural wonder that is Niagara Falls. The sights and sounds of New York & Washington are familiar from countless Hollywood films and TV dramas – but nothing can prepare you for the sheer extraordinary scale and vitality of these remarkable cities. The iconic Manhattan skyline reflects the very essence of the United States - striving to be the biggest and the best! We enjoy a wonderful day on board the Maple Leaf train service crossing into Canada spending two nights at Niagara Falls, seeing this incredible natural phenomenon from all angles. DAY 1 - ARRIVAL IN WASHINGTON DC You should arrive at the airport for your direct scheduled flight to Washington DC. After our early afternoon arrival, we transfer to the three-star Courtyard Washington, DC/U.S. Capitol, our hotel for three nights. The rest of the day is at leisure. DAY 2 - WASHINGTON DC Washington DC - nestling serenely on the Potomac River, we have all seen this amazing city’s glistening array of world-famous monuments in countless political thrillers like ‘All the President’s Men’! But when you imagine the worldwide importance of the decisions taken here, the reality of Washington can be overwhelming. On our guided tour this morning we’ll have the benefit of an expert local guide to show us the worldfamous museums, buildings and memorials of the Capitol, the White House, the Vietnam and World War II Memorials, the Lincoln Memorial and so much more. The afternoon is at leisure.

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DAY 3 - MOUNT VERNON This morning we drive through beautiful countryside to nearby Mount Vernon, George Washington’s stunning home and estate. There is so much to see here: the impressive, yet intimate, formal ground floor rooms display a wealth of original furniture.

Walk through the original gardens, where the ‘greats’ of 18th century America once strolled and still supply plentiful vegetables and fruit. You will visit Washington’s tomb, the slave quarters and the pioneer farm with its unusual 16-sided threshing barn, designed by Washington himself. Returning to the city this afternoon you are free to explore some of the excellent Smithsonian Museums, perhaps the world-famous Air and Space Museum or the host of other attractions in this amazing city. DAY 4 - AMTRAK TRAIN TO NEW YORK This morning, a poignant visit to Arlington, America’s renowned military cemetery, huge at 624 acres and final resting place of the Kennedys, John and Robert, with memorials to the two space shuttle disasters plus the Lockerbie bombing amongst many others. We transfer to Union Station and board the impressive sleek Amtrak train for its 3.5-hour journey to New York, then transferring to the four-star DoubleTree Hilton Times Square West for three nights. DAY 5 - NEW YORK This morning we enjoy a fascinating tour of New York’s amazing sights with a two-day New York HopOn Hop-Off bus pass, including bustling Times Square, the iconic Rockefeller Centre, laid-back Central Park and the Empire State Building. Our tour allows you the freedom to use your pass independently on both days during your stay, and get off at whichever particular sight you want to see, or join your tour manager on a fixed itinerary visiting the major sights today.


PRICE INCLUDES • Discover Washington DC with our expert local guide, seeing the White House, Arlington Cemetery, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and much more • Visit Mount Vernon, George Washington’s impressive home along the Potomac River, with landscaped gardens, pioneer farm and a fascinating museum dedicated to America’s first president • Explore New York with a two-day Hop-On Hop-Off bus pass, seeing the Big Apple’s most amazing sights, including bustling Times Square, the iconic Rockefeller Centre, beautiful Central Park and the famous Empire State Building • Marvel at the sheer power of spectacular Niagara Falls from every possible perspective

DAY 7 - AMTRAK TRAIN TO NIAGARA FALLS Early this morning from Penn Station, a wonderful classic building in its own right, we board the Amtrak Empire Service to Niagara Falls. This iconic American journey takes us through up-state New York’s wonderful bucolic scenery, following the Hudson River valley, bisected by finger lakes, forest-covered hillsides and studded with the neat settlements so typical of small-town America. Arriving in Buffalo Marvel at the iconic Niagara Falls

The afternoon is free to explore New York’s many fascinating museums, shops and neighbourhoods. You could take a cruise around Manhattan, see the Statue of Liberty, a wander round the superbly restored Meatpacking District or perhaps a memorable helicopter flight over this most photogenic of cities. DAY 6 – NEW YORK One of the simplest pleasures in the city is just a stroll through Central Park, used in countless films’ sets and undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous urban spaces - the perfect place to watch New Yorkers taking it easy. ‘The Met’, with its extraordinary collections of Native American art, Impressionists and ancient Egyptian treasures is a New York landmark and an absolute ‘must-see’ world-class institution. A wander through Chinatown or Little Italy helps you appreciate the mammoth ethnic melting pot New York was, is and always will be. Another great option is the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Centre for the finest sunset views. The latest landmark is of course the thoughtprovoking ‘ground zero’ visitor centre where the World Trade Centre once stood. This evening, explore ‘the city that never sleeps’, there’s a vast choice of restaurants and entertainment from classic Broadway musicals to jazz clubs or just Greenwich Village’s intimate little bars. Absorb the ‘buzz’ - this is truly one of the world’s greatest cities!

• •

Stay three nights in Washington DC and in New York and two nights in Niagara Falls Travel in comfort on the iconic Amtrak trains between Washington, New York and Niagara Falls

Plus, of course... • • • •

Return direct scheduled flights with premium economy flight upgrades available at a supplement Flights available from UK regional airports via Dublin Stay in hand-picked four-star and three-star accommodation (2019 tours include daily breakfast) The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £2,099PP late this afternoon, we cross the Rainbow Bridge into Canada for the most for the most spectacular views and our hotel for two nights, the four-star Marriott on the Falls or the four-star Sheraton on the Falls. DAY 8 - NIAGARA FALLS Niagara Falls has long been a magnet for daredevils, sightseers and honeymooners but there are few superlatives which can describe the sheer spectacle in front of you as the equivalent of over one million bath-fulls of water cascade every single minute over a 200-foot-high cliff, crashing in a deafening roar below. We have included a thrilling boat cruise on the famous Hornblower Cruise to get you as close as possible to the thundering waters at the base of the falls (subject to weather in Apr & Nov). For a real close-up experience, you’ll also explore the tunnels, staggeringly behind the very falls themselves, for an astonishing view of the massive wall of water - but from the inside! Then we’ll take a lift, walking along the bottom of the Niagara Gorge for a truly spectacular ‘close-up’ view of some amazing white-water rapids. Next it’s a visit to the Niagara Daredevil Exhibit at the IMAX Theatre, where you can enjoy the short ‘Miracle, Myths & Magic’ film, learn about the thrillseekers who hurtled over the falls, and see the only collection of the original barrels constructed to survive this incredible feat – sometimes! DAY 9 - TORONTO & RETURN FLIGHT This morning we say goodbye to Niagara Falls and continue on to Toronto, Canada’s largest city. Its soaring glass skyscrapers contrast with the parks and lakefront boardwalks of a host of communities. Dominated by the CN Tower – at 1,815 feet the western hemisphere’s tallest freestanding structure, we take an exhilarating ride to its observation deck in exterior glass lifts. Once there, are you brave enough to walk on the glass floor? This afternoon we transfer to the airport for our return overnight direct flight. DAY 10 - ARRIVE HOME We arrive back in the UK after a truly memorable tour, the memories of which will last a lifetime.

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G R E AT N AT I O N A L PA R K S O F THE WESTERN USA YE LLOWSTO N E , MT RUS H M O RE & A R C H E S N AT I O N A L PA R K 16 days from only £2,899pp

Explore some of the world’s finest National Parks, with North America’s most spectacular and truly extraordinary scenery, coupled with the endlessly fascinating history of the ‘Old West’. The magnificent Old West conjures up images of cowboys and Indians, lawmen and outlaws, as well as courageous frontiersmen, forging ever westward in search of freedom, independence and greener pastures. No other period has influenced American culture and defined its history as greatly as the Western frontier. Its legendary figures – Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickock – are now commemorated in film and fiction. Areas of the West had already been populated since 11,000 BC with the arrival of the first PaleoIndians. Long before Columbus, trade routes existed in places such as Yellowstone, a real highlight of our tour. The western territories saw rapid development in the 1840s with major settlements, largely due to the California Gold Rush and Oregon Trail. Beyond the myths and legends, the West is famed for its bountiful natural treasures. As the largest region covering more than half of the USA, it is also the most diverse, boasting an impressive range of spectacular landscapes, from some of the highest mountain peaks, to expanses of desert lands and rolling plains. Our exhilarating tour focuses on the Mountain States

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– Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado – and extends northeast to the Midwestern state of South Dakota. Our first stop is ruggedly striking Utah, featuring monumental red-rock mesas, vast canyons and arid deserts. The unique jaw-dropping natural sandstone structures of Arches National Park offer glimpses into the Earth’s turbulent geological past dating back over 100 million years. Salt Lake City, the capital, still has a small-town feel, despite its university and downtown skyscrapers. We explore breath-taking Colorado, synonymous with outstanding vistas, mountain towns, and top-class ski resorts. We visit no less than three National Historic Landmarks, officially recognised by the US government for their significance – be swept away by the majesty of the Rockies, mirrored in the national park’s many crystal-clear lakes; witness the extraordinary cliff dwellings built by ancient Native Americans in Mesa Verde National Park; and relive the sights and sounds of yesteryear on the Durango & Silverton Railroad in a vintage steam locomotive, passing through the unspoiled San Juan Mountains.


PRICE INCLUDES • Visit nine National Parks, Monuments and State Parks spread across Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana • Spend two days in magnificent Yellowstone, the world’s first National Park, with its geysers, hot springs, waterfalls and herds of bison, elk and grizzly bears • Marvel at incredible Mount Rushmore, that iconic symbol of the USA, with the colossal heads of four of the USA’s greatest Presidents set in the Black Hills of South Dakota • Discover Arches National Park and gaze in awe at the incredible variety of sandstone arches, spires, balanced rocks and monoliths sculpted by nature • Travel on the historic Durango & Silverton steam railway amongst the spectacular scenery of the Colorado Rockies

Marvel at incredible Mount Rushmore

Our tour takes us north into South Dakota with its gentle rolling prairies and four times as many cattle as people. As we pass through Custer State Park, try to spot its numerous inhabitants, from diminutive prairie dogs to slow-moving buffalo herds. Rising high over the treetops of the Black Hills is iconic Mount Rushmore and the faces of four great presidents, immortalised in the granite mountainside. We visit the historic gold rush town of Deadwood, first settled by miners and then all sorts of characters, both lawful and unsavoury, all seeking their fortune. Looming above the plains is Devils Tower, a flat-topped volcanic formation, a unique marvel of nature and the recipient of the first National Monument title. We cross over to Montana, the epitome of the independent American frontier spirit. The unmistakable scent of pine fills the crisp country air, as we forge ahead to the Little Bighorn Battlefield,

• Visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield and see the site of Custer’s famous ‘Last Stand’ • Drive through classic cowboy country in Wyoming and learn about its famous historical figures such as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill • Marvel at Devil’s Tower, Mesa Verde and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison – some remarkable but lesser-known sights

Plus, of course... • • •

Return direct scheduled flights from the UK Stay in hand-picked three-star accommodation, with 11 breakfasts (2019 tours include daily breakfast) The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

FROM £2,899PP the site of the epic clash between the 7th Cavalry and several Native American tribes. Heading south-west into Wyoming, the endless expanse of blue skies and rustling grasslands lets us know we’ve arrived in cowboy country, especially in the picturesque town of Cody, named after its founder, ‘Buffalo Bill’. Surrounded by stunning mountains, this charming town wouldn’t look out of place in an old Western. America’s most sparsely populated state is home to several world-famous national parks. In Yellowstone, where every view is a picture-perfect moment, there’s an absolutely astounding blend of natural beauty, rugged wilderness, plentiful wildlife, and the world’s largest concentration of geysers. The neighbouring Grand Teton National Park is equally blessed with dramatic vistas of gorgeous landscapes dominated by snowcapped peaks and crystalline alpine lakes. Durango & Silverton Railway

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When it comes to the cuisine of the West, you’ll find it as varied as its scenery. Many areas are steeped in ranch culture and hunting traditions, so wild game and meat dishes, particularly beef, are common. Chuckwagons and BBQs, historically used for cooking out on the prairie, still feature in cooking events. Native American staples have also found their way into the American kitchen, such as corn, beans, and squash, referred to as the ‘three sisters’. On this incredible journey, you’ll experience the lands and legends of a bygone era, and discover why its indomitable spirit still thrives today. DAY 1 - DEPARTURE You should arrive at the airport for your direct flight to Salt Lake City, arriving later on the same day. We stay the night at the three-star Red Lion Hotel (2019 tours include an American breakfast). DAY 2 - SALT LAKE CITY A walking tour of Salt Lake City will give you a fascinating insight into its unique history and culture. It dates back to 1847 with the arrival of the Church of the Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), the first settlers in the valley, who travelled far in their search for an isolated area where they could practise their religion. Our visit includes the splendid Temple Square, forty years in its construction and the Beehive House, one of the two official residences of the first Church leader, Brigham Young. Later today, a long but fascinating drive takes us south-east, travelling over the Wasatch Plateau into the remote Price and Green River basins. We stay for two nights at the three-star Moab Valley Inn with continental breakfast. DAY 3 - ARCHES NATIONAL PARK This morning, when the light is at its best, we’ll visit one of our tour’s highlights, Arches National Park. Boasting the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches within a relatively small area, there are around two thousand colossal sandstone arches, soaring spires, monoliths and balanced rock formations, making the landscape utterly unique and a photographer’s paradise. This Mars-like topography, with its changing colours of oranges and deep reds, is sure to leave an indelible mark on the memory. Spend the afternoon at leisure – your options include a boat trip on the Colorado River or a 4x4 off-road tour. DAY 4 - MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK Leaving Moab, we soon cross into Colorado and arrive at Mesa Verde National Park, the only one exclusively Grand Teton National Park

devoted to Native American archaeological remains. Marvel at the past dwellings of the Anasazi, an Ancestral Puebloan people who inhabited the area between AD 600 to AD 1300. Their intriguing mudbrick buildings are some of the best preserved in the country, thanks to the dry desert climate and the stunning cliffside location under massive folds of rock – a truly extraordinary sight. Tonight we stay at the three-star Durango Downtown Inn (2019 tours include an American breakfast). DAY 5 - DURANGO & SILVERTON RAILROAD We enjoy a real highlight this morning, as we take a ride on the Durango & Silverton Railroad, one of the USA’s best-loved heritage railways. Running on narrow-gauge tracks originally laid in the 1880s, the locomotives used today date from the 1920s and are completely coal-fired and steam-driven. As the railway slowly gains height, the scenery becomes ever

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more rugged, with the muted greys and pinks of the jagged peaks contrasting beautifully with the dense forests in the deep valleys below. Our wonderful vintage train follows the Animas River Valley through the San Juan National Forest, until it reaches the charming ex-mining community of Silverton. We re-board our coach headed for the small town of Montrose, where we stay at the three-star Holiday Inn Express, with an American breakfast. DAY 6 - BLACK CANYON & DENVER This morning we visit one of the most spectacular canyons in the US, the Black Canyon, where its dark walls plunge more than 820 metres to the Gunnison River gorge below. Although others may be larger or wider, the Black Canyon is so narrow and deep that its floor only receives 33 minutes of sunlight a day. Continuing east through the magnificent Colorado Rockies, we finally arrive in Denver, the ‘Mile High


Arches National Park

Yellowstone National Park

We’ll also visit the Crazy Horse Memorial, still in the process of being sculpted from the mountain cliffs – on a truly vast scale, it will be 172 metres high and 195 metres long when completed.

City’, Colorado’s cosmopolitan capital. Our hotel for the night is the four-star Holiday Inn Denver Cherry Creek (2019 tours include an American breakfast). DAY 7 - ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK Today we head into the spectacular vastness of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. Whereas much of the European alpine areas are managed in some way, the Rockies, being so vast, have remained as wilderness, so the scenery is just as beautifully pristine as it has always been. We continue to Wyoming’s capital, Cheyenne, for our stay at the three-star Microtel Suites by Wyndham, with continental breakfast. DAY 8 - MT RUSHMORE & RAPID CITY After breakfast we leave Cheyenne and head north to South Dakota, where we will visit Mount Rushmore. The faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln look down over the Black Hills from stony heights to inspire and remind us that even the impossible is possible. You’ll be fascinated by the story of the one man who designed and sculpted this incredible monument and the ingenious techniques used in its construction, all set in the glorious natural beauty of mountains, forests and emerald meadows. We arrive at Rapid City, capital of South Dakota, where we stay for two nights at the three-star Howard Johnson Hotel with continental breakfast. The hotel is located within walking distance to the downtown area, which is easy to explore on foot. DAY 9 - CUSTER STATE PARK & CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL Today we drive through scenic Custer State Park, home to abundant wildlife, including bighorn sheep, antelope, elk, coyote, prairie dogs, and ‘begging burros’, wild donkeys with a reputation for approaching passing vehicles to ‘ask’ for food.

DAY 10 - DEADWOOD & DEVILS TOWER Heading east, we pass through legendary Deadwood, the historic gold rush town and a National Historic Landmark, with its wonderfully restored Main Street. Settled by illegal gold rushers in the 1870s, it attracted gunslingers, gamblers and outlaws, including Wild Bill Hickok, who was gunned down here during a poker game. One of the town’s most famous citizens, Calamity Jane, was immortalised in the film of the same name by Doris Day in the song, Deadwood Stage. Crossing back into the wide-open spaces of Wyoming, we’ll visit the remarkable Devils Tower National Monument. The remains of an ancient volcano rising mystically above the surrounding area, it has been a spiritual icon for many of the Plains tribes and is also instantly recognisable as the aliens’ landing ground in Steven Spielberg’s film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We stay the night in Sheridan at the three-star Best Western Sheridan Centre, with American breakfast. DAY 11 - LITTLE BIGHORN BATTLEFIELD Today we cross into the vast grassy hills of Montana, site of the US Cavalry’s greatest defeat at the hands of Native American tribes. Commanded by the flamboyant Lt Col Custer, the famed US 7th Cavalry suffered huge losses against the combined forces of the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, led by

several major war leaders including Crazy Horse. Our local guide will take us through the dramatic events that led up to Custer’s Last Stand. We stay the night in Cody at the three-star Comfort Inn Cody, with continental breakfast. In the evening, you may wish to experience the Cody Nite Rodeo, which runs on a nightly basis from June till August. DAY 12 - CODY & YELLOWSTONE The town of Cody is named after ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody, US soldier, bison hunter, showman and one of the most colourful figures of the Old West. His career began at age 11 when he worked on the wagon trains, then at 15 he was the youngest rider on the Pony Express. He was also a Union soldier in the Civil War, a famed fighter against the Indians and most notably, the founder of the Wild West Show that ran for 30 years. He was probably the world’s first international showman, dining with heads of state, including Queen Victoria. We then cross into Yellowstone National Park over the 2,590-metre-high Sylvan Pass. We stay for one night in West Yellowstone at the three-star Three Bear Lodge, with continental breakfast. DAY 13 - YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK Wilderness is the theme of the day as we head into the park, the USA’s first and finest nature reserve. The breathtaking scenery is incredibly special – see the stunning Lower Falls, twice the height of Niagara; the awe-inspiring Yellowstone Grand Canyon; wonderful bubbling mud pools, steaming rivers and hot springs, including the most famous geyser of all, Old Faithful. There are opportunities to catch sight of the park’s strikingly diverse wildlife, such as herds of bison and elk, or if you’re lucky, grizzly bears. We continue our drive south into the spectacularly scenic Grand Teton National Park. Its mountainsides are carpeted with forests, whilst crystal-clear streams cascade down canyons into large, pristine lakes, in which the jagged peaks are magnificently mirrored on calm days. In summer, the area becomes a canvas of vibrant-coloured wildflowers. We stay in the famous resort of Jackson for two nights at the three-star 49er Inn & Suites, with continental breakfast. DAY 14 - JACKSON Today we have the entire day to enjoy the wonderful town of Jackson. Perhaps try out a ‘float trip’ on the nearby Snake River. DAY 15 - RETURN FLIGHT We drive to Salt Lake City airport for our overnight flight home.

Mesa Verde National Park

DAY 16 We arrive home full of memories of a unique tour.

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INDIA 11 days from only £1,489pp PLUS SHIMLA 15 days from only £1,969pp

The ‘Taj’ at dawn, a tiger in the wild and the Himalayas are amazing sights, all infused with an extraordinary and eclectic mix of colours, sounds, customs and religions. India, a unique country and civilisation, is a mindboggling potpourri of sights, sounds, colours and experiences as well as a culture-shock of astonishing contrasts. Immerse yourself in this tour and prepare for a revamp of any preconceptions towards one of the world’s ‘must-see’ destinations! The jewel of our tour is surely the Taj Mahal in the early morning, when its colours and ethereal beauty is at its most amazing. Built to house the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, Emperor Jahan’s wife, it took 20,000 men 22 years to finish it. The end result transcends the extraordinary world monument it is. The tomb represents the ultimate expression of a pure and enduring love, a tangible expression of the unquantifiable. But there’s more. We’ll see the real India, a subcontinent that covers the full gamut of evolution, from the natural world, including the nation’s unofficial symbol, the tiger, in Ranthambore, through the Rajasthan forts and palaces of the Moghul Empire, to the more recent Raj and British colonial influence.

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We’ll stay for three nights in Rajasthan, regarded as India’s most colourful state, a region fringed by deserts, populated by a fiercely proud, warrior race and a plethora of forts and palaces. No area in all of India more clearly illustrates the paradox of ancient and modern which exist side by side. We stay in Rajasthan’s capital city of Jaipur, known as the ‘Pink City’ due to the colour of its walls and so many of its buildings, and we visit the Maharajah’s City Palace as well as the great Amber Fort, one of the masterpieces of Rajput architecture, guarding the northern approaches to the city. We delve, ever deeper, into the culture and history of Rajasthan with our stay at the Alsisar Mahal, a restored fort, converted into one of the region’s best heritage hotels. A wonderfully romantic setting where Belgian crystal chandeliers hang above exquisite marble floors, cut from the very quarries that supplied the builders of the Taj Mahal. On selected departures our tour continues on to the hill-station of Shimla, effectively the summer capital of India during the Raj. At over 7,300ft, the

Ranthambore National Park


PRICE INCLUDES • Visit all the major sights of Old and New Delhi • See the breathtaking Taj Mahal bathed in soft morning light, gazing in awe at the simple purity of its white marble and the exquisite craftsmanship of its inlay work • Enjoy a guided tour of the 400-year old deserted Moghul city of Fatehpur Sikri • Driving safari in Ranthambore National Park, the best place in India to spot the elusive tigers • Spend two nights in the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur, capital of the desert kingdom of Rajasthan with a guided city tour, seeing the City Palace, Astronomical Observatory and the Palace of the Winds • Marvel at the extraordinary location and beauty of Amber Fort, home of one of India’s most powerful maharajas • Stay in an original Rajasthani fort, converted into a stunning Heritage Hotel • Travel on the famous Shimla railway

Plus, of course...

Experience the beautiful Taj Mahal

• • • •

Return direct scheduled flights with premium economy flight upgrades available at a supplement Stay in hand-picked three-star to five-star accommodation Daily breakfast and seven meals, plus a sumptuous buffet when staying at the Oberoi Cecil in Shimla The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

blowing prospect of Phaal curry. Whichever culinary delight you choose, the one guarantee is that the Indian people are supremely hospitable and will go out of their way to ensure their visitors enjoy their stay. From the flawless grandeur of the Taj Mahal, to the mighty fortresses of Rajasthan and from the reminders of past glories of the Raj in Delhi to the teeming markets of Jaipur, our India tour encompasses the very best of northern India, ensuring a lifetime of truly amazing memories. DAY 1 - DEPARTURE Airport check-in for your overnight direct flight to Delhi. DAY 2 - ARRIVAL IN DELHI On arrival, we transfer to the five-star Taj Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi (previously named the Taj Palace) for one night. All rooms are stylishly furnished and air-conditioned with flat-screen TVs, personal safe, mini-bar and complimentary tea/ coffee. After a short rest we commence our guided tour of New Delhi. The city centre, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1911, is bisected by wide, tree-lined avenues, a hub which clearly reflects the Raj legacy and home to the former Viceroy’s Palace, now the Presidential Palace. Heading down the imposing Rajpath, we pass India Gate and the Parliament building. We’ll visit some of Delhi’s older monuments, including the Qutub Minaret, started in 1199, which is the tallest stone built tower in India. Nearby is Humayun’s tomb, an outstanding example of Moghul architecture and the first mausoleum of its type, pre-dating the more widely known Taj Mahal by nearly a century. A buffet dinner at your hotel is included tonight. DAY 3 - OLD DELHI This morning we continue our city tour, first visiting Old Delhi, starting with the Raj Ghat, a fittingly simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. We continue past the imposing walls and battlements of the great Red Fort before visiting the Jama Masjid, one of Asia’s largest mosques. We leave Delhi in the afternoon for our drive to Agra, arriving at our four-star Oberoi Trident hotel, in the late afternoon. DAY 4 - TAJ MAHAL We rise early to catch the sun rising over the Taj Mahal. In the soft morning light, as the mist rises from the Yamuna River behind it, the Taj Mahal seems to float, mirage-like, above the surrounding landscape.

cooler climate made this the ideal location to escape from the searing summer temperatures on the plains below. Dominated by the baronial splendour of the Viceregal Lodge, Shimla was, in those days, a microcosm of late Victorian English society. Surrounded by vast forests of teak and pine and located across a long ridge with steep mountainous terrain on all sides, Shimla was not the easiest place to get to. But Victorian engineers managed to build one of the marvels of Indian Railways, the 96-kilometre narrow-gauge line to Shimla, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our journey ‘clickety-clicks’ along those very tracks laid by those intrepid imperial engineers more than a century ago. But India is not all history and architecture – genuine Indian cuisine is far more varied and interesting that what we are used to at home. From a simple hot chapatti fresh from the oven, to the delicate spices of Kheer, a sweet rice pudding, a trip to India will change your view of Indian cookery – and don’t worry, many of the curries are quite mild! However, for the brave at heart, there’s the gasket-

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A combination of extraordinary beauty, symmetry and history makes this wonder of the world one of the most amazing monuments on the planet and you will have plenty of time to admire it from all angles. Moving on, we continue our tour with a visit to the vast red sandstone Agra Fort. Completed in 1573, it was the headquarters of the Moghul Empire, boasting vast size and opulence, its buildings make it more of a walled palace than a fort. In the evening you have the option of completing a wonderful day with another visit to the Taj Mahal, to witness the shrine at sunset. DAY 5 - FATEHPUR SIKRI Leaving Agra this morning we continue towards the ancient abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri, built in 1571, as Emperor Akbar’s imperial capital. Although it was mysteriously abandoned just 15 years later, it remains in a remarkable state of preservation, with numerous palaces, wide courtyards and beautiful carvings. Just 15 kilometres away is the Bagh Bharatpur, a luxury Heritage Hotel in Bharatpur where we stop for lunch before going on to the railway station to catch the Shatabdi Express for our comfortable two and a half hour journey to Ranthambore National Park. Originally the private hunting preserve of Maharajahs, its 400 square kilometres of forested rolling hills, valleys and lakes form a unique ecosystem. Started in 1973, India’s famous Tiger Project was created to protect the country’s tiger population. Despite many difficulties, the tigers of Ranthambore have survived and numbers have stabilised. Our hotel for the next two nights is the comfortable family-run, three-star Ranthambore Regency on full board basis. DAY 6 - RANTHAMBORE TIGER SAFARI An early start this morning is worth the sacrifice as we head out to the park for our safari using speciallybuilt, 20-person, open-top four wheel drive vehicles known as ‘canters’. After many years of conservation, Ranthambore is now the best place to spot tigers in India, but the reserve is about more than tigers – over 300 bird species have been counted including impressive crested eagles, painted stork and wild peacocks. The park’s residents also include large numbers of sambars, the largest Asian antelope, as well as marsh crocodiles, wild boar and rare sloth bears and leopards. Look out for the playful troop of black-faced langur monkeys near the main entrance gate. We return to our hotel in the late morning, with time to relax before and after lunch. In the afternoon

Amber Fort

we take our second trip into the park for another chance to spot the elusive tigers. DAY 7 - JAIPUR Leaving Ranthambore after breakfast we head north to the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur. Our afternoon tour will cover all the major highlights of this ancient city. The famous Hawa Mahal, known as the Palace of Winds, is one of our first stops before we continue to the Astronomical Observatory constructed in 1726 and on to the City Palace, still home to the present Maharajah of Jaipur, where we’ll view collections of costumes, carpets, paintings and the impressive armoury. Our hotel for the next two nights is the new four-star Hilton Jaipur. DAY 8 - AMBER FORT This morning another highlight, on a tour of highlights: you’ll visit the immense Amber Fort, located in the hills just a short drive out of Jaipur. Sampling all the most fascinating sights, our guided tour includes the sections reserved for the Maharajah’s wives and concubines as well as the remarkable hall of mirrors, with tiny delicate convex mirrors embedded like a mosaic in the walls and ceilings. City Palace

DAY 9 - RAJASTHAN After breakfast, we bid goodbye to Jaipur and head north, deeper into the interior of rural Rajasthan. We pass numerous small villages and towns on our way to the Sekhawati region of the state and the village of Alsisar. This was once part of India’s Silk Road and over the years the merchants here grew very rich, building a large number of luxurious mansions known as ‘havelis’, to display their wealth through the magnificence of their frescoed walls. Although most of these have now been abandoned, the imposing and luxurious residence of the local kings has been lovingly restored into an amazing Heritage Hotel, the Alsisar Mahal, where we stay for the night with a buffet dinner. A maze of winding corridors, cool courtyards and arched colonnades, lead to the charming rooms, all different, but most are spacious and some with four-poster double beds. Rooms are air-conditioned, with bath or shower, but no TV. In the afternoon we take a guided walk through the village to explore the best examples of the havelis that lie just outside the walls of the Alsisar Mahal. DAY 10 - DELHI After breakfast we head back to Delhi and the last night of our tour at the Taj Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi. Dinner is included tonight. DAY 11 - RETURN FLIGHT In the morning we will transfer to the airport for our flight home, arriving back in the UK to reflect on a once-in-a-lifetime tour.

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SHIMLA EXTENSION On selected departures, our tour continues on to Shimla, the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’, for three nights of indulgence at the renowned, five-star Oberoi Cecil Hotel on a bed-and-breakfast basis. DAY 11 - TRAIN TO SHIMLA We take the morning express train from Delhi for our four-hour journey north to Kalka. Our train reservations are in ‘chair-class’ carriages, with comfortable seating, air-conditioning and large windows. At Kalka we change trains onto the Shimla narrow-gauge ‘toy’ train for the last part of our journey. Although the carriages are smaller and not air-conditioned, the compensation is the increasingly spectacular scenery en-route. Inaugurated by Viceroy Lord Curzon back in 1903, this amazing railway encounters no less than 800 bridges and 102 tunnels on its 96-kilometre journey to Shimla. A packed lunch is included today. We arrive in Shimla’s small station in the late afternoon from where we are transferred straight to the town’s haven of luxury, the five-star Oberoi Cecil Hotel, where we stay for three nights, bed and breakfast. With its Burmese teak floors, magnificent atrium lobby, its excellent restaurant, indoor pool and Asian Spa, this is one of India’s best-known hotels. All the spacious rooms are air-conditioned, beautifully furnished and have views of the surrounding teak forests.

Palace of the Winds

DAY 12 - SHIMLA Today we explore the many reminders of British colonial life in Shimla. The most fascinating by far is the immense Viceregal Lodge and its beautiful botanical gardens, built in Scottish baronial style to house the Viceroy and his staff for the six months they were based in the town. Although some of the interior of the building is closed to the public, the areas that are open give an incredible glimpse into the not-so-distant past. Particularly touching is the large collection of photographs from the late Victorian era and the last years of the Raj. We also take a walk along the pedestrian-only Mall, from Scandal Point and Christ Church past the mock-Tudor Post Office, the Gaiety Theatre and the Town Hall. There are a huge number of shops and markets and Shimla is particularly known for the quality of its locally made pashmina shawls. DAY 13 - FREE DAY IN SHIMLA Enjoy a day at leisure in Shimla, relax at the hotel pool or spa, or maybe take another stroll along the mall and do some last minute bargain hunting in the markets. Alternatively, there are a number of short local ‘treks’ that can be arranged in the surrounding hills. A sumptuous buffet dinner is included at the Oberoi Cecil tonight. DAY 14 - TRAIN TO DELHI Today we say goodbye to Shimla and the Oberoi Hotel as we start our return journey to Delhi. This time we descend by car to Kalka or Chandigarh from where we catch the train back to Delhi for our last night at the Taj Diplomatic Enclave. DAY 15 - RETURN FLIGHT We depart Delhi in the early afternoon on our flight home to the UK, arriving back the same day.

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SOUTHERN INDIA & T H E B A C K WAT E R S OF KERALA 14 days from only £1,749pp

Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala: Discover their remarkable cities, thought-provoking temples and astonishing natural wonders. Less familiar than the north, visiting the south of India is an incredible journey of discovery: we’ll see amazing thousand-year old rock-cut and granite temples, intricately carved, rising to over 200ft high, packed with pilgrims and devotees and remarkable forts, mansions and churches from British, French, Dutch and Portuguese colonial periods. We’ll sail on converted rice barges through the tranquil backwaters of Kerala and walk through fragrant spice plantations and pristine tropical forests of the Western Ghats. Staying in colonial hotels, lakeside bungalows, thatched cottages and hundred-year old original traders’ mansions and we’ll experience a cuisine and hospitality renowned throughout India. All blended together; this outstanding eclectic mix will ignite your imagination. Southern India and specifically the vast states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, are worlds away from New Delhi, Agra or Rajasthan. It’s much more laid back here, slower paced and a simpler way of life. There are no deserts here and lush fertile land yields plentiful harvests of rice and every sort of tropical fruit.

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In the higher elevations of the Malabar Hills in the Western Ghats, the altitude and temperature are perfect for every type of spice - the ‘black gold’ of 500 years ago was not oil but pepper from these very hills. Vast fortunes were made and lost, battles and campaigns were fought and colonies founded just to control the spice trade. We’ll stay in Kumily, at 2,600ft, markedly cooler than the plains below, with its lush spice plantations and Kerala’s best-known Nature Reserve, Periyar, where we’ll explore the enchanting forest during a fascinating walk with a naturalist guide. The great temple cities of Tanjore and Madurai are quite unique - there is nothing like them anywhere else in India. The astonishing craftsmanship and sheer scale of these temples is extraordinary. But the real beauty here is that they are not mere tourist attractions; they are working Hindu shrines, many locals visit daily and many more travel great distances. You’ll see young people and families, from every walk of life, coming to pay their respects. In Chennai, we’ll visit Fort St George, the British fortification where Clive of India first rose to


PRICE INCLUDES • • • • • • • • •

Visit Chennai’s Fort St George, where Clive of India began his glittering career Tour of elegant Pondicherry, a French colonial outpost until 1954 See the breathtaking Meenakshi Amman Temple of Madurai, southern India’s greatest cultural icon, plus enjoy a tuk tuk ride and explore the bustling markets Cruise the picturesque backwaters and canals of Kerala on a typical, local houseboat Visit to Periyar National Park and enjoy a nature walk through primeval virgin forest See the extraordinary World Heritage Site of Tanjore’s Brihadeeswara Temple Visit Cochin on the Malabar Coast, India’s first European colony, settled by the Portuguese, Dutch and finally, the British Explore the fascinating Chettinad region, visiting and staying in one of its extraordinary traders’ mansions Visit a 500-acre spice plantation high up in the stunning Western Ghats to learn how the most popular spices are grown

Plus, of course...

Chinese fishing nets in Cochin

prominence from a lowly clerk with no military training, to a Major-General securing India for the East India Company and ultimately the British Crown. The fascinating museum houses some of his letters, period military uniforms, cannons and arms. We’ll also explore one of the least visited but most intriguing regions of Tamil Nadu - the Chettinadu. Originally home to the Chettiars, financiers and traders par excellence, they amassed vast wealth trading in raw materials with Burma and South East Asia. Using their profits to build opulent, flamboyantly coloured 60-room mansions housing their extended families, the beauty of these unique houses has recently been rediscovered and great efforts have been made to preserve their remarkable legacy. The setting of the novel and film ‘The Life of Pi’, visiting Pondicherr