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Dare to Explore with TAP

When people leave their comfortable routines to step onto a plane, they venture into the unknown. They choose adventure over the everyday to walk through a European castle, stare at a geologic wonder or steer a train.

These bucket-list-worthy tours from Travel Alliance Partners take guests to different cultures, natural treasures and memorable experiences. The excitement of each comes not from physically daring excursions but from the thrill of exploring some of the world’s most incredible destinations.

Europe’s Rivers and Castles

Custom Holidays

Custom Holidays travelers step into the pages of a fairy tale on the company’s Europe’s River and Castles luxury river tour.

Groups will sail past castle after castle on a river cruise with partner AmaWaterways. The cruise journeys along the Rhine, Main and Moselle rivers past medieval European towns in Germany, France and Luxembourg, each with its own character, cuisine and scenery. Guests can immerse themselves in every stop, with plenty of time in port to relax or choose from several planned excursions.

Those wanting an active vacation can book bike rides at most stops. Historic walking tours also reveal the history and heart of each destination.

Customers report that their favorite day involves sailing on the Rhine Gorge. The trip’s cruise director hands every passenger a map and points our approximately 15 castles along the way, some close to the boat.

Passengers can also opt for gondola ride over the vineyards of Rudesheim to the Niederwald Monument. After admiring the imposing statue, participants sample local wines and enjoy the stunning scenery.

During the Germany portion of the cruise, groups also learn the art of pretzel-making in Wertheim, sample Cochem’s famous mustard and discover the country’s ancient Roman past in Trier.

Incredible Copper Canyon of Mexico

Fancy-Free Holidays

With snow-capped mountain peaks rising 8,000 feet above a tropical canyon floor, Mexico’s Copper Canyon is one of the largest canyons in North America. The gorgeous sight takes visitors’ breath away on Fancy-Free Holidays’ Incredible Copper Canyon of Mexico tour.

After a cruise on the Sea of Cortez and a stop at a pearl farm, groups arrive in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains at Alamos. Declared a National Historic Landmark, the town preserves its cobblestone streets and Spanish Colonial mansions. Dinner with traditional music, dancing and costumes introduces guests to the local culture.

After exploring Alamos, groups board the Copper Canyon Railroad for a journey known as the “train ride in the sky.” The train provides the only access to Copper Canyon’s untouched wilderness. The dramatic railway travels through 86 tunnels and more than 37 trestles.

Once groups arrive at Posada Barrancas, they watch a presentation on the culture of the Tarahumara indigenous group to learn about the semi-nomadic cliff dwellers who still call the area home.

The Copper Canyon Aerial Tramway descends into the canyon for unparalleled views. Travelers choose between hiking, horseback riding or simply relaxing, with great views of the canyon.

Calgary Stampede

DeNure Tours

Groups take home an authentic cowboy hat and memories of one of the world’s most famous events on DeNure Tours’ Calgary Stampede tour. The Canadian rodeo event features thrilling competitions such as the GMC Rangeland Derby, where 36 chuck-wagon drivers and 216 horses race for $1 million in prize money.

Onlookers stay on the edge of their seats watching the bold and skilled riders compete in barrel racing, bareback riding, tie-down roping and steer wrestling. Acrobatic dancing, musical performances and fireworks also add to the celebration.

Groups watch everything unfold from premium seats reserved by DeNure Tours. The tour also includes up-close bleacher seats for the Calgary Stampede Parade, one of the largest parades in the world.

Guests stay at a downtown hotel with easy access to local transportation around Calgary. The 10-day tour goes beyond bucking broncos with sightseeing in Calgary and the region.

On day four, guests venture out to Dinosaur Provincial Park, a rocky landscape that resembles the badlands. Groups keep watch for birds and wildlife while learning about the dinosaur species that called the habitat home 75 million years ago.

Other excursions include a hike around Lake Louise; a gondola ride in Banff, Alberta; and a tour of Calgary’s Heritage Park Historic Village.

Canyon Country Experience

Western Leisure

Century after century, geological forces formed awe-inspiring natural wonders in Utah and northern Arizona. Because of their proximity, Western Leisure’s Canyon Country Experience visits eight extraordinary national and state parks in seven days.

The tour includes several bucket list destinations like the Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley and Arches National Park. Groups begin the trip in Las Vegas before heading to the legendary Grand Canyon National Park. The 1.2 million-acre park offers breathtaking views, wildlife and hiking trails.

From there, groups learn about the area’s Native American culture at the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum. Next, they visit Monument Valley, with an iconic landscape made famous by its appearance in scores of famous films and television shows. The evening ends with a presentation on Navajo culture, food and entertainment.

Groups then visit Arches National Park before taking a Sunset Jet Boat Ride on the Colorado River past red rock canyons. The tour stops for lunch next to ancient petroglyphs at Capitol Reef National Park before arriving at Bryce Canyon.

A tour of the unusual rock formations of Bryce Canyon is followed by time to explore Zion Canyon’s waterfalls and sheer red cliffs.

Greece: In the Footsteps of Paul

Ed-Ventures

To escape religious persecution, monks in 14th-century Greece climbed to heights where few would follow. They built monasteries in cliffside caves and other high places in Meteora. Groups visit these historic monasteries perched precariously on gray rock pinnacles on Ed-Ventures’ tour Greece: In the Footsteps of Paul.

The religious-themed tour will run as a custom departure in 2020 but can be repeated and altered by other groups. The tour follows the apostle Paul’s journey through Greece by stopping in various cities Paul visited while also including Greece’s other historic attractions.

Groups first explore Kavala, where Paul first landed in Europe. The tour includes stops at other places where he preached in Thessaloniki, Veria and Athens’ Mars Hill.

Historic churches also play a prominent role in the trip. For example, a walk through St. Demetrios Church in Thessaloniki showcases the church’s valuable mosaics and frescoes.

After the monasteries at Meteora, groups begin a three-day cruise of the Aegean Islands. Picture-perfect beauty captivates visitors at stops in Mykonos, Crete and Santorini.

A final visit to Athens allows guests to see the ruins of the Parthenon, the House of Parliament, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Panathenaic Stadium, where the first Olympics were held.

You Are the Railroad Engineer: The Ultimate Experience

Leisure West Tours and Cruises

Everyone remembers their first time driving a car, and their first time driving a train can be just as thrilling. Participants on Leisure West Tours and Cruises’ You Are the Engineer tour in Nevada operate a steam locomotive for an adrenaline-filled experience.

With one hand on the throttle and the other hand on the whistle, groups take turns controlling a powerful 19th-century locomotive. Participants feel the heat of the coal-banked fire and watch the steam fill up the sky as they operate the train.

Groups also take charge of a diesel locomotive for the sounds of steel-on-steel and panoramic views on the Nevada Northern Railway.

The authentic experience requires participants to read the Nevada Northern Railway Train Service Rule Book and pass an open-book exam.

Groups divide up so everyone who qualifies takes turns driving either the steam or diesel locomotive. While one part of the group is guiding a train, the other will explore the rail yards on speeder cars or wander through the historic towns of Ely and McGill. The next day, the groups switch so that each participant gets a chance to drive both the diesel and the steam locomotives.

Eliza Myers

Eliza Myers has worked for The Group Travel Leader since 2007. She is the online editor and associate editor for Select Traveler.

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