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!
California & the Golden West Price Includes
- Return flights and transfers
- 3 to 4-star accommodation with 4 breakfasts
- Experience the stunning beauty of the Grand Canyon
- Stay in San Francisco’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf with a guided tour of the city
- Marvel at the other-worldly spires of Bryce Canyon
- Visit timeless Monument Valley, a masterpiece of ancient erosion
- See vast wind sculpted red sandstone rock formations in the Valley of Fire State Park
- Stay on the Strip in glitzy Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world
- See glamorous Los Angeles including the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Sunset Strip
- Bask in sunny San Diego, the classic southern Californian city
- See the iconic London Bridge in Lake Havasu City
- Take a scenic drive through the Mojave Desert and the Sierra Nevada mountains
- Enjoy the lush forest scenery of Yosemite Valley and visit the mighty El Capitan
- Visit Mariposa grove, the largest sequoia tree grove in Yosemite
- Stay in Culver City, the heart and home of film-making and the silver screen
- Services of an expert tour manager
Subject to availability. Single supplements apply.
Day 1 – Arrival in Los Angeles
Arrive at the airport for your direct flight to LA.
Day 2 – Los Angeles
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
Hotel – 3* Best Western Plus Bayside Inn – San Diego
Chosen for its great location. It takes 10 minutes by foot to reach the Bay.
- Breakfast buffet included
- Balcony rooms with city views
- Located in Downtown San Diego
Day 3 – Free Day in San Diego
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.
Day 4 – Sonoran Desert & Lake Havasu
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.
Hotel – 3* Best Western Plus King’s Inn & Suites – Kingman, Arizona
Chosen for its location on the famous Route 66.
- Swimming pool & indoor hot tub
- Spacious rooms
- Relaxing lobby lounge
Day 5 – Route 66 & Grand Canyon
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.
Day 6 – Monument Valley
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 4×4 tour by a local Navajo Indian. Tonight we stay for one night in the nearby small community of Kayenta.
Hotel – 3* Monument Valley Inn – Kayenta, Arizona
Chosen for its authentic Native American style.
- Located in the Navajo Nation Reserve
- Swimming pool
Day 7 – Bryce Canyon
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.
Hotel – 3* Best Western Ruby’s Inn – Bryce Canyon, Utah
Day 8 – Valley of the Fire State Park
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.
Day 9 – Free Day in Las Vegas
Today we have a full day at leisure to explore the self-styled ‘entertainment capital of the world’. It’s an almost surreal apparition growing out of the desert and where the world’s most renowned 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.
Day 10 – Sierra Nevada
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’.
Hotel – 3* The Pines Resort on Lake Bass, California
Day 11 – Yosemite Valley
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 cliffs 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.
Day 12 – San Francisco
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?
Hotel – 3* Kimpton Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco, California
Day 13 – Free Day in San Francisco
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’.
Day 14 – Return Flight
Our flight departs in the late afternoon, so why not use your final morning for some last-minute shopping on Union Square?
Day 15 – Arrive Home
We arrive back in the UK after a very special tour with memories that will last a lifetime.