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Sticking close to home? That’s so last year.
Although recent years have seen many Canadians up for travel itineraries that don’t involve pulling out the passport, the world’s a-waiting..
And as travel is increasingly on the agenda, given the relaxation of pandemic restrictions that stymied it for far too long, foreign destinations and unique experiences are getting a lot of attention.
Wherever you want to go, if you are looking for someone else to do the heavy-lifting when it comes to the finer details of your travels, you can get that by booking in with a tour company. Essentially, all you have to do is show up.
Whether you want to do an epic walk or soak in some historic sightseeing, there is lots of choice out there. Sailing excursions, socially-responsible globe-trotting adventures and tours that will put you up in hotels or hostels, take your pick.
We’ve put together a wish list of top 10 tours for a bona fide, guided travel experience. In no particular order:
Öskjuhlíð Hill overlooking the mosaic-like architecture of Reykjavik. Your guide will take you to iconic sites like the Golden Circle and Thingvellir National Park before a stop at the black-sand beaches of Reynisfjara for a meditation session. A seven-day trip from Reykjavik return is priced from $3,599.
- Costa Rica Quest | G Adventures — You want all the action but don’t have a lot of time? No problem. This quest promises to “get your adrenaline pumping.” Your CEO (chief experience officer) will take you hiking along a trail to the base of a waterfall, dipping into thermal springs or, if you prefer, a beach and reveal other secluded spots you might not find as an ordinary tourist. A nine-day trip from San Jose return is priced from $1,449.
- Highlights of Egypt | G Adventures — Obviously, this is one for the history buffs. But Egypt is also an incredible place where modern meets ancient. Your tour takes you to see famous temples, the pyramids in Giza and for a traditional felucca float along the Nile. You will enjoy some local flavour, literally, with a home-cooked meal prepared by an Egyptian family and visit the white sands of Hurghada on the Red Sea. A 14-day trip from Cairo return is priced from $1,934. By the way, this is currently on sale.
- Local Living Italy – Amalfi | G Adventures — This eight-day trip is a true sampler of the Italian countryside with its charming hilltop towns, vineyards and stunning cliffs overlooking cobalt-blue waters. You will explore small towns, mountain trails and visit the ruins of Pompeii. Priced from $2,199.
- Perfect Tasmania | Trafalgar Tours — 13 days | one country | 10 cities. If that’s your speed, then this might appeal to you, too. We figure if we are travelling that far, we might as well make a day of it.
This will take you to Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm, Hellyeers Road Whiskey Distillery, Cataract Gorge, Bridestowe Lavender Estate and a local specialist will tour you about Port Arthur Historic site. There will be two scenic cruises, time in Cradle Mountain and Freycinet National parks. And that’s just a sliver of this fantastic itinerary. It includes all accommodations, 24 meals and what seems to be a pretty thorough take of Tasmania. Sign us up. From $6,707.
- European Whirl End Paris | Trafalgar Tours — 14 days | eight countries |12 cities. Bring good shoes! This falls under the category of ‘walking tours.’ Highlights include exploring London, the ancient sites in Rome, Florence and Paris’ Eiffel Tower with a local specialist. Add Heidelberg, Munich, the Golden Roof in Innsbruck, St. Mark’s Square in Venice and Lucerne. There will be glass blowing demonstrations, a cruise along the canals of Amsterdam and many memories to be made. From $4,175.
- 13-day Namibia Safari Tour from Windhoek | Trafalgar Tours — “Peer into the depths of Africa’s largest canyon, admire the stark beauty of Sossusvlei’s ancient backdrops and see the shimmering expanse of the Etosha Pan on this expedition through Namibia’s surreal landscapes.” Say no more.
From the Kalahari Desert to the Quivertree Forest and mountains and canyons in between, this is a definite departure of all things Canada. Visit Twyfelfontein ancient rock art, the petrified forest and the Moon Landscape near Swakopmund. From $6,746.
- Boston Cape Cod and the Islands | Insight Vacations — This 16-day guide tour promises to “blend history with glamour as you travel from Massachusetts to Rhode Island.” Along the shores of Cape Cod you will visit Sandwich, a town renowned for its glassmakers and also spend time at the Sandwich Glass Museum. Drive past the former home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Martha’s Vineyard and soak in the beauty of Oak Bluffs, a town characterized by its gingerbread-like cottages.
Of course, there’s food, including a feast of local fare including the daily catch from fishermen in the area and a cruise along the coastline. From $9,575.
- Country roads of southern Italy and Sicily | Insight Vacations — We’re hungry just thinking about this one. It sounds like a wonderful culinary experience dining at Trattoria Terra Madre where everything is grown organically, harvested on site and excess produce is donated to the locals. You will also walk along the back streets of Rome, visit Pompeii, take a cruise to the Isle of Capri and travel in an open-top taxi. From $5,425.
- Oktoberfest: The Germanic experience | Insight Vacations — Beautiful architecture, stunning landscapes and divine meals. Trip highlights include a visit to the world-famous Oktoberfest in Munich and BMW Museum as well as a tour at the Hohensalzburg fortress in Salzburg, wine tasting, a visit of the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna and a river cruise along the Wachau Valley. From $5375.
About the operators
About the operator: G Adventures has been in the business for more than three decades and receives great reviews from people who have chosen them as a travel partner.
The Canadian enterprise offers 700 tours across seven continents, so we doubt we could ever join every one of their adventures. But we would sure like to. So much so, we spent a bit of time digging into what the company has to offer.
Accommodations: No Trump towers nor Applebee’s on these tours. Most tours are smaller, boutique accommodations. All about local flavour, they hire chief experience officers (CEOs) locally so travellers can tap into an authentic experience with someone who knows the lay of the land. And it also means supporting the local community.
Lifetime deposits: If you have to cancel your trip, for whatever reason, they don’t pocket your money but instead keep it on file until you are ready to go again. Right now, that means if you cancel within 14 days or more there will be no fees. We think that’s great.
The Ripple Score: For those who are passionate about sustainable tourism and want to contribute to the communities they visit, G Adventures will let you know how much of the proceeds of your trip stay local rather than being sent to some out-of-country corporation.
Group size: Groups are a maximum of 16 people but on average tend to be about 12 — small enough to mean people get to know their fellow travelers and the tour can be flexible and tailored to their interests.
Duration: While there are day trips and two or three-night excursions, the majority of trips run one to two weeks. Trips are available for all ages (12 and up for its classic tours) with some tailor to youth and Roamies which includes staying at epic hostels in the itinerary.
Oh, and don’t be deterred by the term ‘adventures.’ It’s not all zip lining and bungee jumping. Yes, G Adventures offers that but they also have wellness retreats, sailing vacations, family-friendly tours and relaxed ‘living local’ experiences where you settle in at a home base and do daily excursions to and from.
About the operator: Trafalgar Tours — If you are looking for a theme, you’ll probably find it here. Pick one. From family tours to ones focussing on food, religious, safari, short breaks and romantic tours, there is a long list that should suit any would-be traveller. Plenty of customer reviews rave about their experiences with Trafalgar.
About the operator: Insight offers premium, guided tours. That means highly-rated hotels (check out some of the beautiful locations here.)
And all the bells and whistles that other tour companies include like authentic dining and incredible insight offered by guides specializing in the locales you are visiting. Travellers, overall, give them great reviews.
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