Few spots in Europe feel as timeless as the Irish countryside. The craggy, untouched coastline and rolling, startlingly green meadows dotted with herds of sheep and the occasional crumbling castle seem to belong to a faraway past, as though the Industrial Revolution never managed to jump the Irish Sea. It's the perfect place to cobble together a romantic country idyll, with days given over to exploring rustic byways and nights to sipping frothy pints in cozy pubs. Authentic Ireland Travel's seven-day, six-night Romantic Ireland Escape Tour provides a taste of all that the Emerald Isle has to offer, as guests follow a flexible itinerary with pre-arranged transportation and accommodations. Click here to see a detailed itinerary of the trip. Days 1–2: Visitors arrive at the Dublin, Cork, or Shannon airport, pick up a rental a car, and escort themselves to Ballyseede Castle in Tralee, a turreted, 16th-century stone castle later converted into a hotel. Later, travelers can explore the Dingle Peninsula by rental car. The circular Slea Head Drive supplies sweeping views of the coast, and the twisting, turning Conor Pass cuts through the highest grouping of mountains in the country. A pint in one of Dingle's brightly painted pubs, many of which feature live music, brings the day to a tasty, tuneful close. Days 3–4: The Fairview Guesthouse in Killarney provides a centrally located home base for visitors to explore the brick footpaths of downtown, with its clustering of quaint pubs and shops located within walking distance of the hotel. A horse-and-carriage ride, included with this tour, supplies a leisurely trip around Killarney's historical sights, including the soaring St. Mary's Cathedral and the 15th-century Ross Castle. A drive along the 110-mile Ring of Kerry passes through sleepy villages and cool forest glades, and travelers to nearby Blarney in County Cork can receive the gift of gab by kissing the Blarney Stone after treating it to a romantic candlelit dinner. Days 5–7: The final leg of the journey includes lodgings at the friendly, family-run Bunratty Manor Hotel in western Ireland's County Clare. Close by, the majestic Bunratty Castle broods over the River Shannon and popular Bunratty Folk Park, a reconstructed village that depicts life in rural Ireland as it was lived 100 years ago. A short drive to Cashel presents the arresting sight of medieval buildings perched dramatically on cliffs overlooking the town. As evening falls back in Bunratty, a medieval four-course banquet dinner is served, complete with wine, mead, and costumed singers. The next day, an included Ancient Paths of Ireland Walking Tour takes hikers on a relaxed, guided trek through the rocky Burren near the coast. Later, a visit to Ailwee Cave lets travelers explore 210 passages, bridged chasms, and giant open caverns. The tour ends on day 7, when travelers depart for home from Shannon Airport in County Clare.
Intrepid's trips span 17 different countries and regions throughout Latin America, with an eye toward checking out both the key landmarks and immersing travelers in vibrant hidden neighborhoods. The pulsating rhythms, the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, and the majestic Iguazu Falls highlight the Rio to Buenos Aires trip. Tulum's dramatic cliff-side ruins and Chichen Itza's pyramids characterize the Mayan Discovery trip. For adventurers who want to hike gorgeous scenery or to carve phone numbers into a boulder, there are trips that wind through the jungles of Brazil and Belize to the rugged mountains of Chile and Argentina. After getting a taste of traditional Quechua culture on an Amazon journey that crisscrosses multiple countries, travelers can bask in the lively modern scenes located in flourishing metropolises such as Mexico City and Buenos Aires
Long visited by dreamy visions of starting their own tour company, Jewels Wine Tours owners and Napa Valley residents Julia Young and Ryan Raes utilize their regional intimacy to construct guided tours to the finest wineries, distilleries, and restaurants the area has to offer. The team takes great joy in customizing packages to their guests’ preferences, whether customers are looking to taste-test a certain hard-to-find vintage, or just want to be driven around by someone other than the family dog. A dedicated driver handles navigation for the duration of each tour, allowing the grape gurus to focus on enriching the tour experience by answering in-depth questions and providing insights into Napa and Sonoma Valley history.
It's a daunting task to visit all the wineries in the Napa/Sonoma region?there are more than 900 of them. Luckily, Stacy's Wine Tours is up to the challenge. They whisk visitors to a wealth of boutique wineries and vineyards during customized wine tours aboard a fleet of luxury vehicles. Guests can cruise through the grape-dotted countryside inside a stretch limo or opt for a basic designated-driver service.
They can also skip the wine tastings and head out on a brewery tour via Tap in Tours. A tour bus described as an "Irish pub on wheels"?though it's missing drunken novelists and poets?ferries passengers to various microbreweries along the 121 and 101 corridors, including Lagunitas, Hop Monk, and Petaluma Hills Brewing Company.
"If you want to aggressively snack your way through a neighborhood as you walk it," says Fodor's, "consider hanging with cookbook author Tom Medin or one of his local guides." Medin is one of the founders of Local Tastes of the City Tour/SF Food Tours, and he personally leads many of the company's walking tours, which seek out the soul of the city in its bakeries, restaurants, and cafes. The hunt for hidden gems might lead to Chinatown's oldest bakery and a fortune cookie-making demonstration, or through an authentic Western saloon. The North Beach tour, which has been recommended by Lonely Planet, presents a behind-the-scenes look at coffee-roasting by way of the favored hangouts of the Beat Generation. Even when a tour skirts the city's iconic landmarks via painted bus, each stop is replete with tastings and demos, which is why the guides recommend that visitors avoid eating before a tour or swallowing their backpacks for safekeeping.
Even before you climb inside, the GoCar is clearly a car with a personality. The petite, three-wheeled two-seater has a hood that slightly resembles an eager-to-please smiley face, and an open top that seems custom-made for letting the breeze ruffle your hair. Then the real fun begins: built with the company's own software and a compassion for the voiceless robots of America, a talking GPS system guides two-seater GoCars through the city streets of San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon with cheerful, info-rich narration. Second only to having a knowledgeable local jog alongside your minivan, tours zip along at drivers' own pace and accommodate as many pit stops as time allows.