04 December 2016
This two-week tour of Central Europe takes in the magnificent cities of Vienna, Prague and Budapest, as well as breathtaking natural landscapes, fairytale castles and even a chance to learn more about the dark side of this region's history, with a chilling visit to Auschwitz. The itinerary includes plenty of leisure time and optional activities, so whether you prefer to join a guided city walk or hop on a bike and explore under your own steam you can pick and choose to create your perfect holiday.
Your adventure begins as you arrive in Vienna, with your first day at leisure to begin exploring this cosmopolitan city, once the centre of the Habsburg Empire, before this evening's welcome meeting.
This morning you'll join a guided walk through the city centre, taking in the 14th-century St Stephen's Cathedral, the neo-classical grandeur of the Graben, and the Hofburg Palace, winter residence of the Habsburg emperors. There'll be time to relax at the monument to Empress "Sisi" Elizabeth in the Volksgarten before you continue on to the Ringstrasse and the State Opera House. Once you've got your bearings, the rest of the day is free for you to spend as you choose. You may like to tour Empress Maria Theresa's summer palace at Schoenbrunn, visit one or more of the city's museums and art galleries, or perhaps head to Belvedere Palace to see Klimt's famous painting The Kiss.
Today you'll leave Vienna by minivan and cross the border into the Czech Republic, heading for Cesky Krumlov, a picturesque town which dates back to the 13th century and looks like something out of a fairytale, complete with hilltop castle and a quaint old town filled with cobbled alleyways. Over your two days here you can stroll those streets, explore the castle, and perhaps climb its tower to enjoy the spectacular views of the town.
You'll continue your exploration of this beautiful town today, or perhaps take an optional cycling trip out into the surrounding countryside. Weather permitting, you can also enjoy a relaxing raft or canoe trip along the river that winds through the centre of the town, while a visit to the Cesky Krumlov brewery is also a popular choice.
Today you'll travel by bus to Prague, "The City of a Hundred Spires", where you'll have three days to explore its spectacular architecture, with buildings dating from the Middle Ages right through to Frank Gehry's Dancing House. You'll be staying in an apartment right at the heart of the city, close to all the tourist attractions, as well as the famously lively nightlife.
Today you're at leisure to continue exploring this fascinating city. You'll want to visit Prague Castle, the biggest in the Czech Republic, where you'll find St Vitus Cathedral and Golden Lane. In the evening, you'll have the chance to take in the cosmopolitan nightlife in the Old Town. Enjoy a meal and a few drinks in the many restaurants and pubs, some in old vaulted cellars, perhaps visit a jazz club, and stroll along Charles Bridge as the sun rises.
Another full day to explore Prague. During your time here, you can choose from a range of optional activities, including a tour of the Jewish Quarter, a trip to Kutná Hora, the city of silver, and a bike tour.
Today you'll take the train to the small town of Broumov from where you'll cross the Czech–Polish border. From here you'll be transferred in a private vehicle to the nearby small village in range of Gory Sowie (translated as Owl Mountains). On arrival, check in to a pension situated at the foot of highest mountain in the range – Wielka Sowa. After check in, you’ll visit a nearby underground city from the times of the II World War. Osowka is a mysterious underground complex where workers from concentration camps were forced to work in order to create huge systems of concrete corridors, fortifications and halls. As the work was kept in secret, until now there is many theories trying to explain what the underground city was meant to be used for. Find out yourself on an included guided visit this afternoon.
Today you'll cross the border into Poland by private bus and continue to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). Here you'll take a guided tour of the Auschwitz Museum and Birkenau to learn more about the terrible history of the former Nazi concentration camp. After your tour, you'll continue on to Krakow.
Today you'll explore the city of Krakow, residence of the Polish kings from the 11th to the 17th centuries. You won't want to miss the hilltop Wawel Royal Castle, or Rynek Glowny, the 13th-century town square. The Galicia Jewish Museum is also well worth a visit, or you can take a guided tour through the Jewish Quarter to learn more about Schindler's Krakow. Another highlight is the Wieliczka Salt Mines, a deep underground network of tunnels and chambers, including the Blessed Kinga Chapel, with its elaborate salt chandeliers and carvings.
You'll leave Krakow this morning and travel by local buses through southern Poland, enjoying the scenery of rolling hills and tiny villages along the way, until you arrive in the small Slovakian resort of Tatranska Lomnica, at the base of the Vysoke Tatry (High Tatra) Mountains.
Today you'll have the chance to hike in the Tatra mountain range, which stretches for 60 km across the Polish-Slovakian border. There's a wide range of hikes to choose from, depending on how energetic (or not!) you're feeling.
An early start this morning for the 10-hour train journey to Budapest, one of Europe's truly great cities and the final destination on your tour.
You'll spend the next two days exploring the grand architecture and boulevards of this magnificent city. There's so much to see and do here that you may want to hire a bicycle to help you get around. You'll want to visit some of the city's countless museums, perhaps including the Museum of Fine Arts, which includes work by Monet, Manet, Gauguin, Goya and El Greco.
You have another full day at leisure in Budapest today. You may want to head out to Statue Park to see the communist monuments that were removed from the city after the fall of the Iron Curtain, or perhaps browse the shops for a last chance to pick up some souvenirs and gifts. Whatever else you choose to do, be sure to make time for a relaxing soak in the city's hot thermal baths before you head for home.
Standard fr £1379pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated