I know some travelers abhor the idea of trailing along after a guide, jostling position with other tourists to hear what is being said and to get the best view, but there are some outstanding tours that just shouldn’t be missed. Tours serve various valuable purposes: they provide the best route to see a number of attractions in the best time; knowledgeable guides impart information; they bring together people with the same aim; and sometimes, it’s the only opportunity to visit certain (restricted) places. A well-organized tour with a guide who really knows their stuff is a great experience. Here are some of the outstanding tours I highly recommend. You’ll find plenty of tour operators offering them.
1 Cinque Terre, Italy
As one of the outstanding tours of Italy, the journey along the coastal trails of the “five villages” will inspire you with its incredible views of the mountains, the Mediterranean, and the lovely, vibrantly colored fishing villages of Cinque Terre. The terraced slopes of the Riviera di Levante offer footpaths upon which to take in your surroundings, which include trattorias (Italian restaurants/cafes), abbeys and deluxe hotels, all brightly colored, like a picture-perfect painting. I can’t fail to mention the Ligurian cuisine, which you’ll be delighted to eat after a nice walking tour. The cuisine includes Italian pesto made with local basil, as well as crisp white wine from Cinque Terre’s vineyards.
2 Saguenay National Park, Canada
Close to the Quebec City lies a northern wonderland of cultural and natural gems. A walking tour along the Saguenay Fjord estuary offers up a diverse ecosystem where sea water blends with fresh water, creating cliffsides which delve into the St. Lawrence River. Saguenay National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site where you’ll find quaint little villages bordering the water’s edges and a vast network of trails that take you through the spectacular landscape of waterfalls, stunning lakes, granite peaks, and gorges, where you’ll be sure to spot an array of wildlife.
3 Costa Rican Cloud Forests
Float through a dream in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. These tropical forests are located near the very top of coastal mountains, which provide year-round cloud coverage, making you feel as though you’re in the depths of enchantment itself. Not for the faint of heart, on your route you’ll cross bridges suspended light years above the forest floor. Lagoon waterfalls and rugged craters make the tour even more ethereal, and the serene sea coves and clear freshwater ponds further the otherworldly touches to this unnaturally natural place. Surrounded by towering forest trees and floral lanes, the sights and sounds of the cloud forests are unparalleled.
4 The Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
The emerald gem of Ireland offers many outstanding tours, but perhaps the best is along the worn paths of the southwestern region, where walkers are invited to explore a world of legend, of ancient castles and abbeys mingled with quaint cottages and country life. The Dingle Peninsula is peppered with stone villages alongside spectacular cliff edges, while the other side showcases a dabbling of small islands far out at sea. The western tip of the peninsula, Slea Head, offers Iron Age ruins, while a path through Killarney National Park features forest floors of moss. Stop in for a pint of Ireland’s Guinness at a local pub along the way.
5 Crete, Greece
Home to the Minoans, Europe’s earliest civilization, Crete is a treasure trove for archaeologists, historians and culturally inclined travelers who enjoy the intrigue of exploring hard-to-reach enclaves only attainable by foot or boat. Gorges, coves, cobbled pathways, pristine beaches and Venetian castles are just some of the sights you’ll take in on a tour of Crete. Your walks can be broken up with lovely afternoon swims in the warm Mediterranean, lunches at seaside tavernas, and wayward wanderings through olive groves and vineyards.
6 The Oregon Trail, USA
Bring out the explorer in you by navigating the Oregon Trail. This historic trail extends from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon, and for more than 20 years, starting in 1841, the Oregon Trail was the way west for nearly 300,000 emigrants. Nowadays, the trail covers 2,170 miles of road and includes many hikes and walks, as well as 125 historic sites. One walking tour starts along the Columbia River at the base of volcanic Mount Hood and travels alongside snowcapped mountains, wildflower-filled meadows, and gorgeous waterfalls. Also the backdrop of Native American history, the Oregon Trail covers this region’s ancient civilizations which date back thousands of years.
Bhutan is not only a country of breathtaking natural landscape, but its culture carries with it a genuine piece of peace and tranquility you may not be able to find anywhere else in the world. Travelers are only allowed to visit Bhutan on an organized tour, so many extensive tours are offered, which include visits to the valleys’ ancient citadels, Buddhist temples and idyllic wood carved farmhouses. The snowcapped Himalayas are the background to the Kingdom of Bhutan, which houses magnificent fortresses, a great contrast to the Bhutanese rather simple and modest way of life. Your tour may allow you to attend a Bhutanese festival, which will provide you the opportunity to experience more intimately the country’s rich and vibrant culture.
Whichever country you choose to travel in the world will have operators offering tours. Don’t ignore them thinking they aren’t for you. Sometimes it’s nice to spend time doing something that is choreographed. You get to see things you want to see without any hassle of planning how to get there and knowing what to see. One of the most outstanding tours I have ever been on was a trip to Kandy in Sri Lanka (I was staying about 120 miles south of Kandy) which included a tour of a tea plantation, a spice farm, a gem merchant, a batik painting shop, an event at the Temple of the Golden Tooth and various Sri Lankan cultural events. An itinerary I would probably have never managed on my own. What tours have you enjoyed or would recommend?
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