10 December 2016
The American west is most peoples dream destination as there are so many natural and made made wonders to experience in this part of States. And this great 15 day tour, which begins and ends in Los Angeles, has it all. As well as visiting the cities of San Francisco and Las Vegas, you will stop at Santa Barbara, San Simeon and Monterey, as well as driving through beautiful Yosemite National Park and along the spectacular Pacific coast. Add to this visits to the magical Grand Canyon as well as Zion National Park and colourful Bryce Canyon and you can see why this trip is so popular.
After your flight to Los Angeles check into your hotel which is near to the international airport. There is so much to see and do in this vast city which has so many different neighbourhoods and for the rest of today and this evening you may want to get around and explore seeing some of the iconic sights. But don't try to do too much on your first day, you will be back in the city at the end of the tour with plenty of opportunities to pack in lots of sightseeing.
Leave Los Angeles and drive to Santa Barbara along the beautiful Pacific Coast. Santa Barbara is a gem and the pristine city’s climate gives rise to lots of natural attractions. Stroll through the Botanic Gardens or hike a scenic nature trail in Los Padres National Forest. The beaches all have their own allure. East Beach attracts the trendy while fishing and whale watching are the favourites at Arroyo Burro. See the fine collection at the art museum, explore the Santa Barbara Mission and try fresh seafood at the restaurants on Stern’s Wharf. Travel on to San Simeon and visit Hearst Castle, former home of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, and stay overnight in the area.
This morning begin the spectacular drive up the Pacific Coast and spend the afternoon at Monterey. Settled in 1770 as one of the first European outposts on the west coast, many of the Colonial buildings still stand. Monterey became the sardine capital of the the world when the first packing plant was built in 1900. Today the old factories have been converted into quaint restaurants and boutiques. This area called Cannery Row was made famous by author John Steinbeck. Monterey Bay is a great place to whale watch and there are lots of tours. Consider taking the scenic 17-Mile drive up the coast to Pebble Beach and Carmel. Then continue to San Francisco for a two night stay.
Today you can enjoy San Francisco home of the Golden Gate Bridge. Rows of elegant houses, the famous cable cars, clusters of ethnic neighbourhoods, and the colourful waterfront all add to the distinctive international flavour of the city. You are free to enjoy some of the many sights and sounds of the city. Take a cable car ride to Fisherman’s Wharf for shopping, great food and entertainment and another major attraction is Alcatraz, the small former prison island located in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Also visit Golden Gate Park and in the evening dine in Chinatown or the very Italian flavoured North Beach.
Leave the bustle of San Francisco and drive toward Yosemite National Park. The striking beauty of Yosemite is due in part to the Yosemite Valley, whose flat floor contrasts with nearly vertical granite walls. The cliffs, including the El Capitan monolith, Glacier Point, and Half Dome all have major waterfalls tumbling over them. Extensive visitor activities, facilities, and services are available and at Yosemite Village you can see an orientation film at the visitors centre. Elsewhere in Yosemite you can visit Mirror Lake in the East Valley and the famous Tunnel View at Wawona. You can also take a park tour on an open air tram. Overnight tonight in the Fresno area.
Today visit the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. These twin parks are monuments to nature’s size, beauty, and diversity. Immense mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns and the world’s largest trees all reside here making it a unique place. Located in the foothills and mountains of the south central section of the Sierra Nevada range, Sequoia is famous for big things -- some of the largest trees in the world and some of the highest mountains in the U.S., including Mt. Whitney, at 14,495 ft. Spectacular views can be seen from Moro Rock and there are guided cavern tours. After enjoying the park, return to the Yosemite area for the second night.
Make an early start today as there's a lot to pack in. Drive through Death Valley National Park where you will find raw and barren earth carved by the elements and stop at the visitor centre at Furnace Creek. Then drive on to Las Vegas, a city that has something to offer everyone. From the outrageous live shows to the excitement of casinos, the action never stops from morning to night. Stroll down Las Vegas Boulevard, also known as “the strip.” Each hotel and casino has a distinctly different theme and all have wondrous displays. Take a trip up to the top of the Stratosphere hotel tower, enjoy dinner at the Top of the World, or simply admire the view from the observation deck.
Visit any of the premier hotels including Caesars Palace, The Venetian and Paris for luxury shopping. If you’re searching for a bargain, drive to one of the outlet malls featuring designer names at discounted prices and if you want a break from the city take one of many helicopter flights over the Grand Canyon. Dining in Las Vegas is also special and world-renowned chefs have made the city their kitchen and there is a restaurant nearby to satisfy any palette. Make sure not to miss the nightly fountain show at the Bellagio Hotel and visit Fremont Street which is covered by a canopy screen with more than two million lights.
Leave the Vegas excitement behind and drive to Zion National Park. You will be greeted by gigantic sandstone monoliths and hear the soft rush of the Virgin River. The Narrows are Zion’s famous slot canyons and these stone crevices were formed with colourful stripes caused by years of water and wind erosion. The result is a hiker’s paradise and along the river there are a variety of trails and paved pathways. There is also a free shuttle system that runs throughout the park and you can take it to see the Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock and Angels Landing. Stop at the Visitor Centre for information on tours and park history. Continue on to Bryce for an overnight stay.
This morning visit Bryce Canyon National Park which contains “amphitheatres” of colourful eroded rock formations called hoodoos. It is their uniqueness that sets Bryce apart from anywhere else. Light reflecting on the hoodoos at different times of day change the colourful scene of the park. Consider a drive to Rainbow Point where from some of the overlooks you can see more than 100 miles on a clear day. There are a variety of walking trails and riding is another popular way to see the highlights. Stop at Lake Powell, a body of deep blue water surrounded by red cliff walls and see the magnificent Rainbow Bridge, the largest natural bridge in the world.
Continue to the Grand Canyon today and see how the overwhelming size and brilliant colours easily make it one of the natural wonders of the world. The Grand Canyon was carved out by natural elements including the Colorado River over vast geological spans of time. The South Rim has an assortment of viewing areas that can be reached by shuttle or car. There are many paved and unpaved walkways along the rim. Visit the Bright Angel Lodge for an excellent vantage point. Guided hikes also leave from the lodge and talks are often offered by the park rangers. Continue on to Flagstaff for an overnight stay.
Drive from Flagstaff taking the scenic route through Oak Creek Canyon. Red rock formations surround the town of Sedona and it is worth making a photo stop at Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock, that tower above the town. Sedona is known for its strong artistic community, eclectic shops and galleries and fantastic places to eat. Phoenix will also make a nice stop for lunch before continuing on to the fashionable resort community of Palm Springs. Here, date palms grow wild and natural springs have attracted visitors for years. Now, known for its golf and upscale lifestyle, tourists and celebrity visitors enjoy the luxurious amenities. An overnight stay has been arranged here.
Leave Palm Springs today and drive to southern California. Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the United States and home to movie stars and the famous landmark, the Hollywood sign. It is a city brimming with culture and happenings. Take a stroll along the Walk of Fame and see the names of celebrities commemorated in pink stars along the sidewalk and stop at Mann’s Chinese Theatre, the best-preserved of the movie palaces from Hollywood’s golden era, which is known for its celebrity hand and footprints in the forecourt - more than 200 impressions are yours to discover. Then drive through Beverly Hills and see the lavish homes of the stars.
Today explore the City of Angels. Visit the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, go shopping on Rodeo Drive, have lunch in Venice Beach, and stop at Santa Monica Pier, once known as the “finish line” of legendary Route 66. The pier was built in 1916 and features an aquarium, an amusement park and the famous Hippodrome building, a mix of California, Byzantine and Moorish architecture that has been featured in many films. Or you can make your way to Anaheim and visit the “Happiest place on earth.” - the original Disneyland or for a behind the scenes look at movie making, drive along to Universal Studios and take a tour.
Today your wonderful 15 day Highlights of the West tour comes to an end. Possibly time for some more sightseeing or souvenir shopping in the City of Angels before leaving for Los Angeles International airport to catch an onward flight or begin your journey home. On this great tour you will experience so much of what the West coast of America has to offer and it is bound to leave you wanting to return.
Standard fr £615pp
Superior fr £986pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated