23 January 2017
When planning an American adventure there is no better region to go to than the spectacular South West. There are so many iconic sights to see, great cities to explore and stunning natural wonders at every turn. Beginning in San Francisco and ending in Los Angeles this 14 day panorama tour will take you to beautiful Yosemite National Park, the awesome Grand Canyon, colourful Bryce and Zion Canyons, artistic Sante Fe, burning hot Death Valley and glittering Las Vegas. It would be hard to think of any tour that packs in so many great destinations.
On arrival at San Francisco International Airport you proceed to your hotel. San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the US. It’s a compact and approachable place, where downtown streets rise on impossible gradients to reveal stunning views of the city, the bay and beyond. San Francisco is culturally vibrant and ethnically diverse and as a result it has evolved into the urban jewel of California’s coast. Very typical for this city are the cable cars and rows of elaborate redwood Victorian-Style houses and it contains the biggest China Town outside China.
Today, you are free to enjoy the many sights and sounds of San Francisco. Take a cable car ride from Fisherman’s Wharf or a boat out to Alcatraz, a small island located in the middle of San Francisco Bay which served as a federal prison until 1963. The rangers give excellent guided tours detailing the history and legends surrounding “The Rock.” Alternatively spend the day in Golden Gate Park and in the evening dine in one of the city's many distinctive neighbourhoods. From Chinatown to the very Italian flavoured North Beach, each offers its own distinctive culture and cuisine.
Today you leave the bustle of San Francisco and drive to Yosemite National Park. The striking beauty of Yosemite is due in part to its valley whose flat floor contrasts with nearly vertical granite walls. The granite cliffs, including the El Capitan monolith, Glacier Point, and Half Dome and all have major waterfalls tumbling over them. At Yosemite Village, you can visit the Valley Visitor Centre and see its orientation film and self-guiding trails start nearby. A one night stay has been arranged in the Yosemite area.
Leave Yosemite and drive to Nevada. Along the way, you pass through Death Valley National Park, which is one of the most arid places on earth and the hottest and driest of America's National Parks where temperatures can reach 134°F (56.6°C). Stop at Zabriskie Point for a spectacular views of the Panamint Mountains and Sand Dunes and at Furnace Creek where you can relax and have lunch. Continue to Las Vegas where an overnight stay has been arranged. Las Vegas has something for everyone from star-studded live shows to the excitement of casinos. Stroll down 'the Strip' and experience the spectacular nightlife.
Leave the Vegas excitement behind and drive toward 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 formed with colourful stripes caused by years of water and wind erosion. In the park and along the river there are a variety of trails and pathways for explorers of all skill levels and a complimentary shuttle system that runs throughout the park. Visit the Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock and Angels Landing and stop at the Visitor Center for information on the park's history. Continue to Bryce for an overnight stay.
This morning visit Bryce Canyon National Park. Dramatically different from Zion, Bryce contains “amphitheatres” of colourful eroded rock formations. These spires are called hoodoos and their uniqueness sets Bryce apart from anywhere else. Light reflecting on the hoodoos at different times changes the colours of the park. There are a variety of walking trails and horseback riding is another popular way to see the highlights. Later travel through canyon country to Arches National Park to see more than 2,000 natural freestanding sandstone arches. At the Visitor Centre, rangers offer guided walks and nature talks.
First visit Dead Horse Point to view the spectacular Canyonlands then continue via Cortez to Mesa Verde National Park, which consists of more than 4,000 ruin sites, which include 600 cliff dwellings. These magnificent sites include the famous Balcony House and Cliff Palace. Visit Spruce Tree House, built between AD 1211 and 1278 by the ancestors of the Puebloan peoples of the Southwest. Then drive on to Durango, a great city nestled in the picturesque San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado which was built as a mining centre during the gold and silver era.
After crossing the continental divide make a brief stop in the surprisingly green valley of Chama, the last leg of the Rio Grande Railway, before a lunchtime arrival in Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico and the second oldest city in the USA. Take time to tour the Old Town visiting the State Building, San Miguel Church, Loretto Chapel, with its miraculous floating staircase, and the Governor’s Palace. Native Americans sell their arts and crafts outside the buildings facing the central Plaza just as they have for over 400 years. Later drive on to Albuquerque where you stay.
Start today by visiting Old Town Albuquerque where you can walk through history around its original central plaza. Uniquely distinctive Southwestern items can be found in numerous shops and boutiques. The tour continues west for a visit to Canyon De Chelly and its magnificent vistas. The steep, stained walls of the canyon have helped preserve cliff dwellings. From here you will also see Spider Rock, a sandstone spire that rises 800 feet from the canyon floor. You may recognise it, as it has served as the scene of a number of films and TV commercials. Continue to Kayenta for an overnight stay.
Today, visit Monument Valley which provides perhaps the most enduring and definitive images of the American West. The isolated red mesas and buttes surrounded by empty, sandy desert have been filmed and photographed countless times for movies, adverts and holiday brochures. Because of this, the area may seem familiar, even on your first visit. Stop at the Cameron Trading Post for lunch and buy local Indian crafts. Then continue to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to visit Desert View, Mather Point, Yavapai and Bright Angel Lodge. The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and this amazing landscape is awe inspiring.
Your journey continues as you leave the Grand Canyon through scenic Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona for a lunch stop. Oak Creek Canyon is a spectacular 16-mile gorge with streams and waterfalls between sheer rock walls and the scenery here is truly breathtaking. After lunch continue to Phoenix or Scottsdale for a mid-afternoon arrival. This evening visit the “Old Town” area of Scottsdale. In addition to lots of galleries and exclusive shops, you will find excellent collections of Southwestern and Native American art and handicrafts for sale. Enjoy the regional flavours of the southwest at one of the many restaurants in this area.
Leave Scottsdale behind and head west towards Los Angeles through scenic desert country where you stop at the exclusive resort town of Palm Springs. Situated in the shadow of the San Jacinto Peak, Palm Springs serves as a playground to the rich and famous and boasts plenty of manicured golf courses. Take a ride on the Aerial Tramway that takes you from the desert to snow-capped mountains. Then drive on to Los Angeles for a two-night stay in the entertainment capital of the United States. Home to famous movie stars, it is a city brimming with culture and happenings.
Today, explore the City of Angels. Visit the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, take a stroll along the Walk of Fame and see the names of celebrities commemorated in pink stars along the pavement, visit Mann’s Chinese Theatre and see the celebrity hand and footprints in the forecourt, shop along the famous Rodeo Drive, have lunch in Venice Beach, and visit the Universal Film Studios. If all this isn't enough, you could also spend time at the original Disneyland in nearby Anaheim. In the evening have dinner at one of the many ethnic neighbourhoods and experience the distinct flavours of authentic dishes.
Well, you have experienced all the best that the southwest of America has to offer, and today your wonderful panorama tour comes to an end. Possibly time for some more sightseeing or shopping in the city before driving to the airport to catch an onward flight or begin your journey home.
Standard fr £820pp
Superior fr £1299pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated