Grand Tour of California
From snowcapped peaks to sweltering deserts and pristine coastlines to glitzy marinas, you’ll taste the incredible diversity of the Golden State on this unforgettable 15-day California Grand Tour. Start with a sprinkling of stardust and beachsand in Los Angeles before following the Pacific Coast Highway north, taking in the charming Spanish mission town of Santa Barbara, the upscale Central Coast wine region, and pristine Big Sur. After ticking irresistible San Francisco off the bucket list, you’ll venture inland to experience both big name destinations like peerless Yosemite and otherworldly Death Valley and under-the-radar gems like Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (home to the world’s oldest living trees) and the alien landscapes of Mono Lake.
Starting from $5,990 per person
Pricing includes everything from your international arrival to your departure, with the exception of flights and a few lunches and dinners.
HOW IT WORKS
- Enjoy a lazy-days cycle tour of two of LA’s hottest beaches and an insider’s guide to Hollywood and Koreatown.
- Really get to know charming Santa Barbara, whose Spanish colonial history, immaculate botanical gardens and laidback beach vibes melt into one irresistible package.
- Dust off the spittoon (or not!) on a sommelier-led tour of the Central Coast wine region, a magnet for global conoisseurs of Pinot Noir.
- Uncover the secrets of one of America’s most storied tycoons with a guided tour of dramatic Hearst Castle, the palatial clifftop residence built by William Randolph Hearst.
- Press ‘pause’ in pristine Big Sur, the forgotten-by-time oceanside paradise punctuated by “big elbows of Rock rising everywhere” (Kerouac’s words).
- Experience the best of San Francisco, touring Little Italy and Chinatown with a local guide and cycling across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge before returning to the city on a sunset cruise.
- Explore the fabled Yosemite Valley by car and on foot. Embark upon an epic guided trek through this spectacular Park, and enjoy a picnic surrounded by wildflowers.
- Experience the contrasting ecosystems of briny Mono Lake (a surreal way station for migratory birds) and picture-postcard June Lake on a drive down Highway 395, considered one of America’s best road trip routes.
- Get up close and personal with the oldest living trees on the planet at Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, an off-the-beaten-path gem of a State Park.
- Spend two full days exploring the otherworldly desert landscapes of Death Valley, getting to know the geology and history of the lowest point in North America and the hottest place on the planet.
- Have the freedom of your own rental car but also enjoy the benefits of being shown around each destination by genuine experts.
- Marvel at the stunning Monterey Bay, known the world over for its award-winning aquarium and iconic Cannery Row.
Welcome to the City of the Stars! Today is a transit day, and after your plane glides in over the Pacific Ocean, you will take a shuttle to claim your rental car and take a drive through Los Angeles to the famous Beverly Hills. Spend the afternoon exploring your new ’hood, or just relax in your iconic Los Angeles hotel. After dinner you can rest up ahead of the adventure to come or hit the town to experience some of LA’s famous nightlife.
Today is the day you walk among the stars! Enjoy a tour of Hollywood (watched over by the famous sign) including a visit to the Avenue of the Stars, and a stop at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Our tour allows you to see Tinseltown your way! Cap off the day with an invigorating urban hike through Griffith Park for a unique viewing perspective of that most famous of hillside signs.
After a leisurely breakfast, your local guide will take you on a biking adventure to two of South California’s most famous beaches: Santa Monica and Venice Beach. On your pedals, you’ll be California Dreamin’ as you take in the sun, sand and sea of Los Angeles for the entire morning. By early afternoon you will be heading up the iconic Highway 1, aka the Pacific Coast Highway, passing glitzy Malibu en route to Santa Barbara, your base for the next couple of nights.
Known as the California Riviera, Santa Barbara’s cobblestone sidewalks and old Spanish style architecture serve up an irresistible helping of beach life and history that dates back to the 18th century when the territory was controlled by Spain. Your guided visit will take in the splendid Spanish mission, the idyllic Botanical Gardens and the pedestrian haven of State Street. In amongst it all, you’ll also find time to enjoy fine California wines and some of the best gastronomy anywhere.
Continuing north on the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Barbara you will pass through the California’s Central Coast wine region. With your sommelier guide, you will visit some of the best and most welcoming family wineries to get a sense of this burgeoning wine region whose sophisticated Pinot Noirs are globally revered. By mid-afternoon you will arrive to the town of Cambria where you will settle into your boutique hotel and experience the best of small-town California hospitality and gastronomy.
Your day will begin with the short drive to mind-boggling Hearst Castle. William Randolph Hearst – one of the most powerful media barons of the early 20th century – built this spectacular home on a majestic bluff overlooking a remote stretch of the California coast. Today it’s a state park where you can enjoy a guided visit of all its splendor and decadence. Departing from Hearst Castle, you will spend the afternoon driving along the sea cliffs to Big Sur, where the Pacific breaks amongst mountains and redwood groves. The evening is spent settling into your hotel in beautiful Monterey.
Spend the day experiencing charming Monterey with your private guide. Highlights will include an in-depth exploration of the now-iconic Cannery Row, home to a fishing boom and inspiration for John Steinbeck's eponymous novel, and a VIP tour of one of the world's premier marine conservation centers, the award-winning Monterey Bay Aquarium.
This morning, continue your California road trip north on the Pacific Coast Highway from Monterey all the way to legendary San Francisco. After lunch, walk or bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to the upscale port town of Sausalito before returning to the city on an unforgettable sunset cruise across the bay.
After driving over the bay and across the expansive Central Valley, climbing into the Sierras by vehicle you will arrive to the majestic and fabled Yosemite Valley. The glaciated valley within the shadows of massive granite protrusions was one of the world’s first National Parks. Its value to humanity as a natural landscape has inspired conservation movements around the world ever since. You will be greeted in comfort and style at your Yosemite lodge to begin your exploration of the park.
One of the best ways to explore the park is on foot. After breakfast, your guide will greet you at the lodge to take you into the backcountry. There you will picnic amongst the wild-flowers and green meadows and visit waterfalls and alpine streams that meander through sheer granite cliffs. By day’s end, you will be back at your lodge for a cold beverage to reflect on a beautiful day in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
From Yosemite, you will descend out of the mountains down the Highway 395 corridor to Mono Lake. This saline lake, formed over hundreds of millennia, is a critical habitat for millions of migratory birds – and it’s equally popular among photographers and seekers of otherworldly landscapes. After visiting the briny waters of Mono, you will head to June Lake where a wonderful lodge, surrounded by a more conventionally majestic alpine setting, awaits. Your sunset and evening are spent taking in the views and mountain air.
This California State Park is home to the oldest living trees on the planet. The 5000-year-old trees of Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest live in groves on a windswept mountainside of dolomite at 11,000 feet. After a morning spent exploring the many trails of this paradise for naturalists and photographers, you’ll enjoy a well-earned picnic lunch. By the mid-afternoon you will depart for a scenic drive into Death Valley, arriving in time for your first desert sunset.
Death Valley National Park is a desert wonderland like few places on earth. Both the lowest point in North America (282 feet below sea level) and the hottest spot on earth (134 degrees Fahrenheit), Death Valley is not for the faint of heart! Not that you’ll have to worry about any of this – our travelers stay at the finest lodges in the park. Your first full day in the park will include a fascinating docent-led geology tour and a sunset trek among the dunes, once the midday heat has worn off.
Today you’ll have another full day to drink in this incredible landscape. Setting out in the morning, you will go with your guide to further explore the mysteries of Death Valley. Choose between a fascinating Geological tour of the sliding boulders and lunar landscapes and a trip down memory lane to unearth the many stories of Leadfield Ghost Town and Scotty's Castle. Regardless of which option you choose, you will be moved.
All good things must come to an end. Departing Death Valley, you will return to the Highway 395 corridor before heading south to Los Angeles to head home or onwards to your next California destination.
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