The European Explorer is the ultimate holiday for those wanting to travel to all the major destinations and do it with a little luxury! Make your way through 17 countries in a little over a month with all the big names being accounted for - Paris, Barcelona, Florence, Rome and Amsterdam - as well as some of the lesser known through Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia. And if you think that 33 days sounds like a long time, don't forget that you'll spend 4 nights sailing around the Greek islands. A holiday within a holiday!
Meet up with your Contiki team before we hit the road and take a ferry past the White Cliffs of Dover. We travel via World War I battlefields in the Valley of the Somme, to Paris. Tonight, the group kick-starts Paris with the ‘Tour of Illuminations’, which shows off the French capital’s transformation into the “City of Lights”. Lamp-lit bridges and cool little cafés give us a real taste of Paris’ romance. Your Trip Manager will fill you in on the world’s most-recognised monuments, like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.
This city is loaded with possibilities. Discover its many bistros, museums, tree-lined avenues and diverse quartiers (neighbourhoods). Get a feel for French flair by window shopping on the Left Bank. Step into the Notre Dame or explore the endless galleries of the Louvre, where you can get up close to the famous Mona Lisa. In your free time, try indulging in some delicious pastries and relax in one of Paris’ many cafés. Treat yourself to the full Parisian experience with a cabaret show, complete with can-can girls, dinner and Champagne. But don’t stop there – afterwards hit the clubs and finish up your time here with a big Parisian night out.
Southbound, we stop off at the massive 12th century Château, Fontainebleau. Walk around the imperial gardens and check out the chateau’s imposing, regal exterior. Continue on through Burgundy’s wine country to Beaujolais’ green hills and vineyards. Next stop: Lyon
Today, we head south through the rugged and dramatic scenery of the Pyrénées mountains, over the border into Barcelona. A sizzling, festive capital any night of the week, Barcelona is all about action. In Spain fiesta time starts late, so settle in at one of Barcelona’s many outdoor squares to enjoy a glass of sangria and nibble on tapas (plate-sized snacks), before a fun night out exploring the city’s nightlife with your new friends.
First stop: Montjuic. The hilltop has full-blown vistas of the city and it’s where we stop to check out the 1992 Olympic Games complex. Afterwards, get a look into Spanish architect Gaudi’s wild imagination with his Art Nouveau masterpiece, the Sagrada Família church. Your Trip Manager walks you through the cobbled lanes of Barcelona’s oldest district, the Gothic Quarter. There’s free time to discover more of Barcelona’s creative core. Pick up some quirky buys in the side streets or hit the big label shops on Plaça de Catalunya. Take in all of Barcelona’s buzzing street life on the tree-lined La Rambla – a boulevard packed with street performers, artists, shops and stalls. Other ideas for your afternoon off include hanging out in the colourful gardens of Parc Güell or kicking back with the locals on the beach and taking a swim in the Mediterranean sea. For lunch, there’s plenty of delicious local seafood to try as well as Spain’s signature dish, paella. Finish off an unforgettable time in this hot city and get into the local flavours with tonight’s optional flamenco dance show and dinner, including sangria. Afterwards, get the low down on Barcelona’s hottest spots and maybe hit the pumping clubs of Port Olympico by the water.
Unwind on the coach, listen to your MP3 and take in the rustic beauty of Provence, known for its pretty landscapes of lavender, sunflowers and wild herbs. Then we hit the rugged coast line of the stunning Côte d’Azur. Follow the beautiful sapphire waters past the movie-star glamour of Cannes (famous for its annual film festival), to the palm trees and sun-soaked shores of Nice.
In your free time live a bit of the lifestyle with a visit to the local markets. Try out the region’s produce like lavender honey, aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and mouth-watering rosé wine. Window shop the chic boutiques or spend the afternoon relaxing in one of the city's many cafés. Tonight get a taste of the high life in Monaco, the glamorous principality packed into just 1.92km2 and home of the Formula 1. Indulge in a bit of glitz with the group by opting for a typically French 4-course meal just a few doors down from the Royal Palace. Get the inside story on the Royal Family and their place of residence from your Trip Manager, then try your luck at a casino later on.
Onwards to Italy and Verona, another UNESCO World Heritage site. This morning you will take a visit to the famous Fragonard perfumery. Check out the main shopping street and the Roman arena, before heading on to Venice.
Known as the “floating city”, Venice is packed with character, crammed with hidden lanes and linked by a network of canals. The group travels on our private boat through the waters of the lagoon to visit the city’s historical heart. The limestone Bridge of Sighs, the Gothic arches of the Doge’s Palace and the expanse of St. Mark’s Square (pigeons and all!) show off Venice’s unique beauty and way of life. Take some time to explore the floating city and lose yourself in the backstreets. There’s an optional walking tour where you can discover the labyrinth of interweaving lanes, waterways, palaces, piazzi and markets with our Local Guide. You’ll see historic monuments, hidden treasures and the Rialto market – a local favourite for food shopping. Maybe grab a table on St. Mark’s Square and eat some delicious Italian food al fresco. Cap off the day with an optional gondola ride & share this amazing experience with your friends - seeing Venice from on the water is unforgettable!
Wind through the Apennine Mountains and Tuscan countryside to the Renaissance city of Florence. The scene-stealing Duomo Cathedral rises above the city. Get the inside track on Florence’s cultural beginnings from our Local Guide as the group explores streets crammed with artworks from masters like Michelangelo. Then take a look into a skillful demonstration of Florentine leather making and understand this region’s traditional art. With bargains and bustle, the city’s markets are a great place to hang out and people watch. Grab a gelato and enjoy this gorgeous city. Tonight, there’s a choice of a group dinner - an authentic Tuscan feast. Try regional dishes in the fantastic Tuscan country setting. Then keep it moving with a night out and get your groove on at Florence’s biggest club.
Travel through Tuscany’s rustic hills, past the recognisable cypress tree landscapes of this olive oil-producing region to vibrant Rome, via a stop off at the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa. Our special access coach tour gets you right into the thriving atmosphere of this living timeline as your Tour Manager shows you the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia. Continue on foot to check out the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Honour tradition at the Trevi Fountain and throw a coin in the fountain’s waters (it’s meant to improve your chances of returning to Rome!) or maybe hang out with your new friends at the Spanish Steps, sit back with a few slices of pizza and people watch.
This morning, make the most of our Local Guide’s inside knowledge with an optional guided tour of the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Take off into the city and absorb the atmosphere, as Vespas flash past timeworn monuments that are surrounded by fountains, pizzerias, cafés and bars. Before you hit the shops, let your Trip Manager point you in the right direction with some tips on the best buys. In your free time, live the local lifestyle by indulging in a long lunch on a paved piazza or knock back a shot of espresso at the bar, like the Romans do.
From Naples, it’s a boat ride to the main marina of the island of Capri. Soak up the views and head off with some friends into the cute, white-washed villages where you could try out the region’s sweet lemon liqueur, limoncello. Set on sheer slopes, Sorrento doles up sweeping views over the Bay of Naples. Tonight there’s an optional dinner, where you’ll feast on traditional Mediterranean fare, complete with views of Mt. Vesuvius from the cliff-top terrace.
Plunge into Pompeii’s well-preserved past in an interesting optional excursion, where our expert Local Guide retraces ancient history. Then there’s time to chill out on the coach, crossing through the rugged landscapes of southern Italy, before boarding the overnight ferry to Greece. Check out the amazing 360 degree views from the deck!
From Patras, cross the impressive man-made Corinth Canal. Athens is next, a city crammed with myth and ancient wonders, and busy with modern, urban soul. Wrap up the day on the shady slopes beneath the Acropolis, with an optional dinner in the rustic district of Plaka, full of traditional tavernas spilling out onto the pavements.
Today, board a typical Greek ship to Mykonos and take advantage of the amazing views across the Aegean, full of rocky islands. Mykonos is famous for its blissful beaches and party culture. No matter what you’re after, chances are this island has got it! You’ll soon understand why this happening hub draws people from all walks of life, from jetsetters to backpackers. In your free time, head into Mykonos town and wander through the maze of tiny streets lined by whitewashed, cube-shaped houses. Maybe grab a table for lunch in the village and feast on fresh local specialties, like olives, feta and tzatziki dip. Chill for the afternoon with friends on the island’s world famous beaches and cool off in the azure waters. Wrap up the day with a drink at one of Mykonos’ hip bars and watch the sun go down. But don’t stop there, toast the start of the cruise back on board and hit the ship’s nightclub with the group.
In the morning, wake up to the Turkish port town of Kusadasi. Rummage through the Grand Bazaar and go local bargaining for leather goods, jewellery or local crafts. Otherwise hook up with the group and our Local Guide for an optional excursion to ancient Ephesus, a stunningly preserved city that Mark Antony and Cleopatra once visited. Our next port of call is Patmos, with its sacred spots and wild countryside. Get the background from your Rep on why this island attracts both pilgrims and holiday makers. Explore the monasteries, traditional settlements and country churches. Get into the spirit of the island with an optional excursion that takes you to Patmos’ UNESCO World Heritage sites: the 11th century Monastery of the Apocalypse and to the Grotto of St. John – the hilltop cave where John the Apostle lived for many years.
Next up is Rhodes, smack in the middle of three continents, serving up a mix of relics from different civilisations. Choose to learn more about the island as the group travels through history in an optional excursion with a Local Guide. Head up to the Acropolis of Lindos and wander within the walls of Rhode’s medieval town centre, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Use your free afternoon to explore the modern side of Rhodes or discover more of the old town. There’s some of the best shopping in the region with great prices on local goods like honey, olive oil, leather and silver. Relax on the awesome beaches, put your feet up with a glass of local wine and order fresh seafood or calamari (squid rings) - typically Greek food! Back on board, we set sail to the port of Heraklion.
Today we start the day off with a visit to the biggest of the Greek Islands, Crete. Choose an optional excursion to the Palace of Knossos where our Local Guide will tell you the story of this 4000 year old mythical Minoan Palace, where the minotaur (half-man/half-bull) was slain. Next up: Santorini. This island will make your jaw drop with its stunning natural beauty – the result of a massive volcanic eruption. From the water look up at the iconic blue–domed, whitewashed churches. Once we’re back on land, head up the cliff and the twisting stone steps, save your breath on a donkey ride or take it easy in the cable car for views of neighbouring volcanic islands. Your Rep will fill you in on Fira – dramatically perched on the edge of the crater - as the group explores its narrow streets. Get tips on the best places to pick up a piece of Santorini’s famous jewellery and where to try out the delicious local speciality, domatoktedes (fried tomato balls). Otherwise head to one of the distinctive black or red sand beaches, and soak up the breathtaking scenery. You could jump on an optional boat ride out to the active volcanic island of Nea Kamini. Cruise past lava formations and get up close to the active crater.
Our hosts put on a buffet breakfast before we disembark at Piraeus. Step back in time in Europe’s oldest city to the birthplace of democracy and get the run down on the Parthenon and the Acropolis from our Local Guide, as you wander around the marble columns perched above the city sprawl. Then we check out the first modern Olympic Stadium from the 1896 Games. After rejoining our travel buddies, we hit the road and travel over the Peloponnese, up the mainland and through the mountains to the coastal town of Preveza, a fishing village know for its friendly locals.
Wind along the dramatic Adriatic Coast to Albania’s colourful capital, Tirana. It’s an up-and-coming city that is rapidly changing, blending her Communist, Italian and Ottoman pasts with all things modern.
Sticking to the shoreline, continue through tiny Montenegro to the spectacular fortress town of Dubrovnik, well known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”.
With Baroque buildings, museums and monasteries, this eye-catching UNESCO World Heritage Site is great to explore. Get lost in the walled city’s web of winding streets. You’ve got free time so pull up at a table in the pedestrian district of the stunning Old Town. Lunch on fantastic fresh seafood or a spicy beef stew. For full scale views of the area, wander along the 2kms of Old Town walls or hike up Mt. Srj. Otherwise, take a moment to remember Croatia’s recent history visiting the war memorial or the war photo exhibition. Or else get away from it with a taste of paradise on the small neighbouring island of Lokrum. With botanical gardens, a small lake and gorgeous beaches, this is the perfect place to chill out. In the afternoon, try our optional Dubrovnik Cruise. Jump on the family-run boat and island hop!
Weaving up the Dalmatian Coast towards Split, we pass crystal clear waters scattered with green islands. Get up close to Roman heritage when you wander through the domain of Diocletian’s Palace in the city centre, complete with 220 buildings and a huge cathedral. Zadar is the next stop with its medieval churches and marble streets. Check-out the local man-made wonder, the Sea Organ, where surging water bursts through holes cut into the rock. If you’re keen, grab a few buddies and hang out among the lively student population that fills the town’s bars and cafés.
From Zadar, the group travels through Paklenica National Park and the scenic beauty of Slovenia, to the cultural hub of Vienna.
Your Tour Manager starts the day by introducing the group to the city’s historical heritage. There’s the imperial grandeur of Schönbrunn Palace, the elegantly ornate State Opera House and St. Stephen’s Cathedral – a Gothic masterpiece. Cruise down Kärntner Strasse, Vienna’s main shopping spot, and buy some traditional ceramics or materials for gifts back home. There’s free time to check out magnificent squares and majestic palaces or the city’s art galleries. Take a break in a coffee house like the locals do, chill out in Vienna’s manicured gardens or wander along the Danube River. Get schnaps savvy with a behind-the-scenes look into this local liqueur’s production in an optional excursion to the Old Vienna Schnaps Museum. This evening it’s all about culture at an optional dinner and concert. Up first is a classical music concert with former Vienna locals, Mozart and Strauss, in one of the city’s imperial palaces. Follow this up with a traditional Viennese meal in an old-world restaurant.
Remember one of history’s darkest moments with a sobering stop at the Mauthausen concentration camp memorial. Learn more at the museum and walk through the remaining living quarters. Afterward, it’s west to the home of the world-famous Oktoberfest, Munich – a city that blends traditional Bavarian culture and modern lifestyle. Explore the heart of Munich’s old town with the crew, and head to Marienplatz. It’s a central gathering spot famous for the Glockenspiel – a Gothic clock, complete with 32 dancing figures and 43 chiming bells. Then get a taste of tradition at a typical beer hall and park yourself at a long wooden table. Order yourself some hearty local food, like roasted pork knuckle, and quench your thirst with a stein of one of Germany’s 5000 brews.
Today, travel past the stony cliffs of Liechtenstein into the capital of Vaduz, where you can grab some lunch and eat it in the shadow of the Royal Family’s 12th century castle. Next stop: the jaw-droppingly beautiful alpine town of Lucerne. Get above the clouds on the world’s steepest cog railway with an optional excursion to Mt. Pilatus. You can see massive mountain ranges with a bird’s-eye view over this spectacular region.
With covered wooden bridges, cobbled lanes and quaint buildings, Lucerne’s centre is perfect to explore on foot. Also to stock up on lots of genuine Swiss chocolate! Your Tour Manager can give you pointers on where to pick up the best-priced watches Switzerland is so famous for. This afternoon, choose an optional cruise on one of Europe’s most striking lakes, where stunning scenes of the Swiss Alps reflect back across the water.
Chill out while the coach follows the Rhine River, weaving through valleys dotted with castles and vineyards. With our included river cruise, drift past quaint riverside towns and magical castles and see this UNESCO World Heritage area. Next stop - the pretty, old-world village of St. Goar, complete with fairy tale castle and even a free-hanging cuckoo clock! Get savvy with a demonstration on the local craft of beer steins. Then kick back with a glass of local wine and choose to find out more with the optional wine tasting in a candlelit underground cellar.
Head into the buzzing capital of Amsterdam to check out the city’s eye-opening Red Light District, where the creative and the wacky come together on narrow cobbled streets, 24/7.
Cycle around like the laid back locals and cruise into the countryside, past working windmills, in the world-famous cheese village of Edam. Free time this afternoon to experience Amsterdam’s coffee shops, museums and quirky boutiques. Wander along the canals and past gabled houses or try out Amsterdam’s multi-ethnic cuisine. This cultural melting pot dishes up loads of affordable food. Tonight, try some of the traditional local cuisine at a restaurant in a nearby fishing village. With an optional evening canal cruise, there’s a chance to toast your travels with the group, unwind with a few drinks and uncover another angle on Amsterdam at water level. For your last night in this city, get some pointers from your Trip Manager, dive into Amsterdam’s night action with your buddies and finish up your travels with a night to remember.
This morning after breakfast we transfer you to Schiphol Airport (estimated arrival 10:00am) where your trip ends. Or choose to take a complimentary transfer to central London & extend your stay.
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Trip Name: European Explorer plus Greek Island Cruising
Duration: 33 Days
From Price: 7155
Supplier Tour ID/Link Tour Code: BHEC/164896
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