Explore the world's most famous National Parks, intriguing Native American culture, amazing desert landscapes, the lush forests and lofty peaks of Yosemite and the vibrant, pulsating cities.
There are few places in the world that generate more iconic imagery than California and the western USA, and even fewer live up to it in reality! The sights and amazing natural wonders just roll off the tongue, with probably nothing more aptly named than the Grand Canyon. Then there's Monument Valley, whose towering sandstone pillars are immortalised in countless Westerns, the Painted Desert, Yosemite, home to the highest waterfall in the USA, the lofty snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. The natural splendours of this huge region are quite simply astonishing. Combine these with the allure of such genuinely unique cities as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas and you have a destination that simply cannot be matched. Our tour visits all these and more besides!
Inhabited for thousands of years by Native Americans, California and Arizona were then visited by Spanish explorers searching, as always, for gold. They found none, but founded Missions all along the California coast. During the 19th century, California, Nevada, Utah and most of Arizona, were ceded to the USA for just $15 million and by a twist of fate, barely a year later gold was finally discovered and the Californian Gold Rush began. Prospectors flooded in and within just a year San Francisco's population rocketed from just 600 to 25,000. They were soon followed by the trans-continental railroad and the 'Golden State' was born.
The names of the cities, some of the most famous in the world, still display their Spanish heritage: San Francisco, charmingly eccentric with a topography few cities in the world can match. Its centre is row upon row of lovingly restored Victorian houses, easily explored using the iconic wooden cable cars that trundle up and down the steep hills and valleys. The magnificent brick-red Golden Gate Bridge beautifully completes the picture. In contrast, Los Angeles is the archetypal US mega-city: criss-crossed by 6-lane freeways. Nevertheless, it is home to some very attractive and exciting neighbourhoods like Santa Monica. No visit would be complete without a stroll down the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame!
Then it's off to San Diego, which has the laid-back atmosphere so typical of Southern California - its surfing beaches, cultural attractions and the balmy climate have made it one of America's most popular cities. Finally there's Las Vegas, originally an isolated oasis in the Mojave Desert and now a vibrant, exciting and genuinely fascinating manmade wonder that attracts over 40 million visitors a year and boasts 15 of the world's largest hotels.
For many, however, the real attraction will be America's most famous National Parks. The Grand Canyon is such an astonishing natural wonder that the sheer scale of it is almost too much to comprehend. Over a mile deep and 14 miles across, this geological masterpiece offers a glimpse of the enormous complexity and beauty of the normally hidden rocks beneath our feet. There is simply nowhere like it on earth! Subject to weather conditions, there is the option of a spectacular helicopter flight over the canyon. Much of Arizona is occupied by the Navajo Reservation - one of the few Indian tribes that has rejected the commercialism of gambling in favour of heritage tourism. We visit their most famous treasure, Monument Valley. This instantly recognisable landscape, with its fiery-red spindles of rock is even more spectacular when you find yourself within it!
In nearby Utah we visit Bryce Canyon, an enormous amphitheatre created by thousands of spires, pinnacles and towers of eroded pink-hued rocks that have produced an intricate labyrinth of deep gullies. Finally, high in California's Sierra Nevada we visit Yosemite and some of the world's most pristine and awe-inspiring wilderness. Dominated by the huge mass of the Half Dome rising to almost 9,000ft, its vertical granite wall is so huge and smooth that until 50 years ago it was thought to be un-climbable. The wildlife is as varied as the landscapes. There are the black bears of Yosemite, mule deer and chipmunks at Bryce and rare mountain lions at even higher altitudes, whilst coyotes still roam the deserts and vultures soar over the canyons. From the highest plateau to the deepest gorge, from LA to San Francisco, this tour showcases the very best of western USA's natural and manmade wonders and you will return home with some truly amazing memories.
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Four states in one tour, visiting California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada;
Experience the stunning beauty of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Yosemite National Parks;
Stay two nights in the famous Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco and enjoy a guided tour of the city;
Visit timeless Monument Valley, a masterpiece of ancient erosion;
Visit glitzy Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world with eye-popping architecture;
See Los Angeles, the City of Angels, with highlights including the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Sunset Strip;
Stay two nights in Culver City, the home and heart of film-making and the silver screen ;
See the iconic London Bridge in Lake Havasu City;
Tour of sunny San Diego, the classic southern California city;
Return direct scheduled flights from London with premium economy upgrades available at a supplement;
Hand-picked accommodation rated three to four stars, with five breakfasts, including all local taxes;
Arrive at the airport for your direct flight to LA.
LA, the city of glitz, glamour, the stars and miles of pristine beaches - it’s all here! This morning we see the best it has to offer - the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Sunset Strip and Santa Monica.
Later this afternoon we had south, following the coast, to charming San Diego. This classic
Southern California city is set around a sweeping bay and with its beautifully restored Gaslamp
After an included city tour, you are free to experience San Diego’s numerous attractions. A great favourite is the Maritime Museum with its many historical ships, including the Star of India, the HMS Surprise, a replica of an 18thcentury frigate and used in the film ‘Master & Commander’ and a Soviet-era submarine.
During the afternoon, take the ferry across the bay to Coronado and the Victorian Del Coronado Hotel, used in the film ‘Some Like It Hot’. The 1,200 acres of Balboa Park, the largest cultural complex west of the Mississippi with 15 museums and numerous other attractions, all set amidst wonderful sub-tropical gardens and fountains.
Today we leave the coast driving towards Kingman in Arizona, climbing to 4,000ft, passing through the Cleveland National Forest, descending towards the wide plains of the Sonoran Desert. Heading north, we cross the Colorado River through Moabi Regional Park into Arizona. We then continue to Lake Havasu,
where you’ll see the London Bridge on our way to Kingman.
We take a drive from Kingman to Seligman, on the longest section of the original route 66, on
our way to the Grand Canyon. It’s a mindboggling series of shapes, colours and glaring desert light; contrasted with jet black shadows, formed by pinnacles of rock interspersed with stark promontories. The Grand Canyon south rim extends for 14 miles and we visit some of the best viewing points, each one providing a different perspective over the ever-changing panorama.
This afternoon you have the option of taking a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter flight for the ultimate panoramic view of the Grand Canyon, a truly magical display of natural beauty! As the light changes, the crisp shadows rapidly shorten and the greys and blues change to reds, yellows and ochres in a kaleidoscope of intensive colour.
From the Desert View Watchtower we have our final, lingering look over the canyon with the meandering Colorado River visible in the distance, before crossing the Painted Desert, through the vast 16-million-acre Navajo Indian Reservation, towards Monument Valley. We arrive a few hours before the best time to view the incredible flat-topped towers of red sandstone that rise so dramatically from the surrounding barren desert, with the softer light affording ideal photographic conditions. For those wishing to see the Valley from a different perspective and gain a greater understanding of its historic significance we have the option of a guided 4x4 tour by a local Navajo Indian. Tonight we stay for one night in the nearby small community of Kayenta.
After an early start we arrive at the town of Page just next to the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River and whose building created the vast Lake Powell. We then cross into the Mormon state of Utah and climb to almost 8,000 feet as we arrive at Bryce Canyon National Park. Created by thousands of years of erosion, Bryce Canyon presents an almost surreal landscape of multi-hued and delicate rock pinnacles – a quite exceptional, strange and exotic topography with a uniquely fragile quality.
This morning the journey continues in a southwestly direction as we head towards Las Vegas en route we visit the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada’s oldest and largest state park covering an area of 40,000 acres. Created when dinosaurs roamed, this state park is known for the dazzling red sandstone formations, illuminating the valley, making it look like it’s on fire with rock colours changing from oranges and browns to deeper dramatic shades as we continue to drive through the valley towards the glittering bright lights of Las Vegas.
Tonight we have the option of a ‘Vegas by Night’ tour, probably the best time to appreciate its unique atmosphere with everything bathed in a glow of all-encapsulating neon – so brash it’s almost an art form.
Today we have a full day at leisure to explore the self-styled ‘entertainment capital of the world’. It’s an almost surreal apparition growingout of the desert and where the world’s mostrenowned sights and cities such as Venice, Paris, New York and even the Pyramids have been recreated in such detail. You can even take a trip on a gondola on a canal on the 1st floor of one of the hotels! Tours by helicopter are also available to book locally to the west rim of the Grand Canyon. This is the only section of the canyon where helicopters are permitted to actually fly and even land on the canyon floor itself. This evening why not take in a show? Vegas shows are typically amongst the most impressive in the world, so you are assured of a memorable night whichever you choose.
Today we leave Las Vegas and drive through the barren Mojave Desert. Our route skirts the famous Edwards Air Force base, before climbing even higher through the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. On reaching the peak, literally from one minute to the next the climate changes from the burning heat of the desert to temperate grasslands and forest as we cross the Tehachapi Pass and travel through the vast fertile plains of the San Joaquin Valley.
We stay two nights nestled within the area of the Sierra National Forest in duplex-style wooden chalets, described by locals as ‘mountain lodging’.
This morning we enter the park and drive through incredible scenery to Yosemite Valley itself where we are confronted by one of the most staggering views in the USA. Our first stop is at Mariposa Grove the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite, home to over 500 mature giant sequoias (access subject to season). We continue to see a deep, lushly forested valley encircled liffs and domes rising by over 4,000ft on all sides, bisected by some of the highest waterfalls in North America. Dominated by the granite monolith of El Capitan on one side and the instantly recognisable Half Dome on the other, it is impossible not to find your heart touched by this overwhelming natural grandeur.
From its beginnings as a 19th-century mining boomtown to the sophisticated metropolis you see today, San Francisco is simply one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world. Nestling on a bay astride the blue Pacific Ocean, dominated by the instantly-recognisable Golden Gate Bridge, the city spreads out over forty-three steep hills on one side and a vibrant green carpet of forests on the other.
We travel to San Francisco this morning and enjoy an orientation tour of the city, which includes Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, Golden Gate Park and Twin Peaks for splendid city views.
The rest of the day is at leisure, so why not take the included one-way ride on San Francisco’s famous cable car?
Our final full day and there’s still so much to do. You can amble through Chinatown, the largest outside Asia, and marvel at the pagodas and oriental markets. Or perhaps take a stroll down to the renovated Ferry Plaza Building on the waterfront, converted into a huge alfresco Farmers’ Market every Saturday. Try the once predominantly Italian North Beach, still home to innumerable bistros, delis and bakeries,
which during the 50s attracted the bohemian writers and avant-garde artists of the Beatnik movement.
And don’t forget the Haight-Ashbury district and the ‘Summer of Love’ for which San Francisco is still famous today. Alternatively, there’s the option to take the short boat ride to the USA’s most infamous prison, Alcatraz Island, known as ‘The Rock’.
Our flight departs in the late afternoon, so why not use your final morning for some last-minute shopping on Union Square?
We arrive back in the UK after a very special tour with memories that will last a lifetime.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room with single rooms available at the relevant supplement. Price includes:
Return travel to Los Angeles and returning from San Francisco
Thirteen nights’ accommodation on room only basis in three and four-star hotels
Four continental breakfasts
All tours and National Park entrance fees as mentioned
All touring as mentioned
Hotel porterage of one item of luggage per person
The services of a Rivera Travel tour manager
Included excursions are: guided city tours of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Visits to Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion Park and Yosemite National Park and Las Vegas.
Not included: There are several optional excursions available during this tour which are to be arranged with the tour manager in resort. You will be advised of these and the relevant prices within your final travel documents.
Touring Holidays with Riviera Travel
Outstanding tour managers, friendly local guides, meticulously crafted itineraries, personalised experiences and honest pricing policy are just some of the reasons to book an escorted tour with Riviera Travel. Boasting an award-winning reputation, the brand has been delighting travellers for 35 years and is proud to currently hold two Which? Recommended Provider awards, including Escorted Tour Provider and River Cruise Provider. Riviera Travel is also consistently recognised by customers and the industry for excellent service and value for money and has recently been awarded ‘Best Value for Money’ by Travel Weekly.
When you choose a Riviera Travel holiday, every detail of your river cruise or escorted tour is personally considered by travel specialists. The experts behind the brand go to great lengths to curate each holiday, ensuring you can enjoy the very best of your chosen destination and have plenty of free time to explore at your own pace. What’s more, Riviera Travel is fully bonded by ABTA and ATOL and you can fully relax with the brand’s no surcharge guarantee.
Riviera Travel offers a wide range of thrilling escorted tour itineraries for every type of traveller. Whether you want to see the iconic sites of Prague, go on a solo traveller adventure in Paris or relax with a soak in Iceland’s famous geothermal spa, Riviera Travel promises to give you the best European tour experience possible. The brand also offers amazing worldwide escorted tours, which means you can voyage to Antarctica, stay in the heart of New York City or even go on a guided safari in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. And remember, insightful guided tours and visits are all included in the price and you can enjoy scheduled flights from a choice of UK airports or Eurostar travel.
When it comes to the local guides and tour managers, Riviera Travel chooses specialists that are not only extremely friendly and knowledgeable but also have flair for engaging audiences and sharing eye-opening insights. Ancient ruins, historic towns and unfamiliar landscapes all come to life when you’re in the company of one of the guides or managers, and each one will make you feel as though you’re travelling with a friend who knows the best secrets of every destination.
Once you’ve booked your Riviera Travel escorted tour, you can rest assured that the cost of your holiday will not increase as there are no hidden costs at all. As Riviera Travel’s pricing is transparent, clear and includes essentials such as taxes and fuel supplements, you can book with confidence knowing that your holiday offers exceptional value. You do, however, have the option to upgrade and add hand-picked highlights to your itinerary to make your trip extra special. And if you choose a solo tour, all prices are fully inclusive with no single supplement to be added and you’ll still have a room all to yourself.