Every year a small handful of tours stand out as being especially memorable. We’ve collected guests’ photos, feedback, and trip highlights, and as 2016 comes to a close, we wanted to take a look back at some of the most popular trips of the last 12 months. Here’s our “Top 5” of 2016.
1. Best of Italy
The name of this tour says it all. The perfect adventure for both first time visitors and return travelers, this two week adventure kicked off in the Eternal City and covered all of Italy’s highlights. In Rome, everything from St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican to priceless works of art painted by Michelangelo were all a part of the plan, with special insider experiences and local experts to lead the way. Of course there was also time to explore the epic Coliseum, a highlight of Rome for many travelers.
The trip also included a fascinating visit to Pompeii’s ancient ruins, which tell the story of city destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. A side trip to Sorrento and the mystical town of Assisi, perched high atop Mount Subaso, offered breathing views of the Amalfi Coast, and nothing topped a day trip to the famous Island of Capri, where travelers shopped for delicate wooden inlay pieces and enjoyed plenty of sun, fun and delicious cuisine.
Up north, the tour revealed the charm of Verona and ancient canals of Venice, where gondoliers serenaded guests under bright summer skies. Then, a spin through Milan, one of the world’s fashion capitals, accompanied the culture of La Scala Opera House. The Best of Italy itinerary is also a traveler favorite as it includes a popular visit to glistening Lake Como, where travelers enjoyed a private boat ride across the smooth waters and intimate dinner in town.
This trip is surely a busy one–packed with food, history, culture, and incredible natural beauty. And it’s sure to be a top pick for 2017! To learn more, click here.
2. Mexico’s Copper Canyon
Sun drenched and draped in colors of brown and copper, this trip stood out for its unique itinerary and jaw-dropping scenery. Many travelers reported that the ease of travel was a perk, as the trip starts and ends in Phoenix, Arizona. We also like this guided tour of the Copper Canyon because of its ease of accessibility from the US as well as the trip’s authentic offerings.
The adventure dives deep into Mexico’s Copper Canyon, an area known for cultured pearl framing, silver mining, and Mata Ortiz pottery. The trip always kicks off with a “cactus” hunt as travelers seek out the giant Saguaro cacti that line the US border – one of the few places in the world where this type of cactus still grows wild.
We must admit though, that after traveling through the desert it always feels refreshing to arrive at that first Mexican resort in San Carlos. Spending even a small amount of time of the Sea of Cortez, with its fresh ocean air and incredible blue waters, reminds us how incredibly beautiful the contrast between ecosystems truly can be. Then we continued on to the desert to arrive at Mirador Escenico- a place National Geographic calls one of the, “Top 10 Ocean Views” in the world.
Trip highlights included a number of immersive experiences, including a visit to a cultured pearl farm, an opportunity to meet local tribes and artisans, and of course plenty of traditional music, dancing and Mexican cuisine. But nothing tops the experience of seeing the Copper Canyon, which is four times larger than the Grand Canyon! Travelers enjoyed an exciting journey aboard the “Train in the Sky” that offered heart-stopping views of the surrounding scenery. To learn more about this popular trip, click here.
3. Highlights of Spain
We love Spain. And this trip really shows the best parts of this incredible country in a comfortably paced 10 day adventure. The trip follows what’s known as an “open jaw” itinerary, meaning it arrives and departs from different cities. We love these kinds of trips because they allow us to go further and enjoy a new city at the end of the tour.
The tour kicks off in Barcelona with all the highlights of the mega city including some of the most “out there” architecture Spain has to offer. Next, travelers head up Orange Blossom Coast to Valencia for a fun culinary evening, and a trip highlight for many. One traveler described it as “a wonderful live demonstration of how to make ( & eat) classic paella. Lots of Sangria! Bravo!”
More castle views adorn the drive up the Costa Blanca to Granada. The views of the famed Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance offer a contrast as they are often snow peaked, even during the heat of the summer travel months. In Granada guests explored one of the most substantial palace fortresses ever built, the Alhambra, with local experts alongside them to answer questions and offer insight. Travelers then ventured through the olive groves of Seville, an area known for fiery Flamenco dancing, before arriving in Carmen for a special visit to Alcazar, the burial place of Christopher Columbus.
Packed with so much history, culture, and excitement, it’s no surprise that this leisurely Spanish adventure is one of our most popular guided tours in Europe. To learn more about this trip, click here.
4. Scenic Parks Explorer
This is such a fun trip! While we love adventures in Europe and beyond, sometimes there’s nothing like sticking close to home and enjoying the beauty that exists in our own backyard. And there’s no shortage of beauty on this whirlwind trip through six states—Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Colorado—uncovering some of the best national parks our country has to offer including Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, and of course, the Grand Canyon.
After setting off from the Las Vegas strip, travelers uncover the natural wonders of Bryce Canyon and Zion, known for having the world’s largest concentration of limestone hoodoos. Taking in the snowcapped peaks of the Grand Teton Mountains en route to Yellowstone is an exhilarating experience. And many travelers tell us that a highlight of their trip was staying inside the park, where they had plenty of time to observe incredible wildlife including bison and deer, and admire natural wonders like Old Faithful.
This active paced trip isn’t for the faint of heart or those seeking a leisurely, laid back approach. Instead, it’s the perfect hassle-free vacation for anyone who wants to “see it all” in one trip. To learn more, click here.
5. Britain & Ireland Explorer
Travelers love this epic tour! Covering the highlights and hidden treasures of the British Isles, this popular vacation packs an impressive number of sights in just under three weeks. So it’s no surprise that Britain & Ireland Explorer was a traveler favorite for 2016.
We especially love this trip because it allows a few groups each year to experience Edinburgh’s world famous Military Tattoo. The annual August event gave travelers a taste of traditional Scottish music, dance, food and military pageantry—truly a spectacle unlike any other.
Other highlight experiences travelers have reported include visits to the famous Cliffs of Moher, the Queen’s Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the Roman Baths and Stonehenge, a private cruise on Loch Ness, a chance to kiss the famous Blarney Stone, and sailing from North Wales to Dublin. Guests who joined this active guided tour of Britain and Ireland in 2016 experienced plenty of beautiful sites and immersive cultural encounters. This trip is one that will not soon be forgotten, and it’s sure to be a favorite again in 2017. To learn more about this trip, click here.
What was the best place you visited in 2016? Tell us in the comments below!