An outstanding tour exploring Western USA’s world-famous National Parks, intriguing native Indian history, amazing desert landscapes, lush forests, the lofty peaks of the Sierra Nevada and including its pulsating and unique cities.
- Return flights from London Heathrow
- Stay in hand-picked three and four-star hotels
- Stay three nights in cosmopolitan San Francisco, America’s favourite city, dominated by the instantly recognisable Golden Gate Bridge
- Guided tours of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco
- Visit and stay in glitzy Las Vegas
- Experience the stunning beauty of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and Yosemite National Park
- Visit timeless Monument Valley
- Enjoy a superb optional helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon
- Escorted by an experienced tour manager
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Los Angeles. After our afternoon arrival, we transfer to the nearby four-star Hilton Los Angeles Airport Hotel for one night.
Day 2 – Los Angeles, Santa Monica & San Diego
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 – Beverly Hills, the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the legendary Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Sunset Strip, Santa Monica and Venice beach. During the afternoon we head south, following the coast, to charming San Diego, staying two nights at the three-star 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’, a Soviet-era submarine and the famous aircraft carrier, the USS Midway. A visit to the 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 – Mojave Desert, Yuma & Pheonix
Today we leave the coast driving towards Phoenix in Arizona. Climbing to 4,000ft, passing though the Cleveland National Forest and hugging the US-Mexico border, we descend towards the hot sands and wide plains of the lower Mojave Desert. We cross the Colorado River and the California-Arizona state line at Yuma before staying one night at the excellent Hampton Inn Happy Valley just north of Phoenix.
Day 5 – Sedona & Grand Canyon
Leaving Phoenix we drive through the Sonora Desert, the ‘new-age’ resort of Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon and then on towards the Grand Canyon itself. 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 gargantuan 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 perspective over the constantly changing panorama. Our hotel is the three-star Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn where you have the option of taking a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter flight for the ultimate panoramic view.
Day 6 – Grand Canyon & Monument Valley
This morning you have the option of taking a once-in-a-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 4×4 tour by a local Navajo Indian. Tonight we stay at the three-star Monument Valley Inn in the nearby small community of Kayenta.
Day 7 – Glen Canyon Dam & Bryce Canyon National Park
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 almost 8,000ft as we arrive at Bryce Canyon National Park. Created by thousands of years of erosion, Bryce Canyon presents an almost surreal landscape of multi-hued and delicate rock pinnacles – a quite exceptional, strange and exotic topography with a uniquely fragile quality.
We stay in the three-star Best Western Ruby’s Inn, just a mile outside the park.
Day 8 – Zion National Park & Las Vegas
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 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 – Free Day, 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 & Yosemite National Park
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 Tehachapi Pass and travel through the vast fertile plains of the San Joaquin Valley. This evening, we stay at the three-star Yosemite Southgate Hotel in Oakhurst just outside Yosemite National Park.
Day 11 – Yosemite National Park & San Francisco
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 Best Western Plus Sonora Oaks for one night.
Day 12 – San Francisco
We travel to San Francisco this morning and stay at the three-star superior Holiday Inn Golden Gateway Hotel for two nights. 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 morning we have a guided tour of the city, visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, Nob Hill, Lombard Street and Union Square. The rest of your day is at leisure. 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. Alternatively, the short boat ride to the US’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 13 – Free Day, San Francisco
Our final full day and there’s still so much to do! You can amble through Chinatown, the largest outside Asia, and wonder 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 50’s attracted the bohemian writers and avant-garde 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.
Our flights depart 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 located very centrally on nearby Union Square.
We arrive back after a very special tour, the memories of which will last a lifetime.