Too young to hire a car? Worry not. This epic American road trip takes you from the national parks of the west to the musical cities of the south east. This is as much USA as you can fit into three weeks.. Music lovers will dig this itinerary. Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans are where it’s at for music history and nightlife.. There’s a lot to do in Washington DC. That’s why this trip spends a full day there. The best part? Most activities there are free.. Granite cliffs, redwood forests, star-studded night skies, Instagram-smashing waterfalls… Yosemite National Park feels like utopia. There are two nights spent here, which means a full day to explore.
This trip covers so much of America it’s hard to know where to start. It’s your chance to channel your inner… everything. Take your pick. Beatnik? Check out San Fran’. Foodie? New Orleans will make your tastebuds cry. Music lover? Cut loose in Memphis and Nashville. High roller? Stay up late in Vegas. Nature lover? Hike in Yosemite, Grand Canyon and the Appalachian Mountains. And that’s all before you get to New York.
Breakfast Included: 2 Lunches Included: Dinner Included:
Welcome to the US! San Francisco is a chilled-out city with a vibrant, multicultural heart. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the hotel lobby at 6 pm where you'll meet your tour leader and fellow travellers. If you arrive early, why not catch a tram to visit the waterfront, feast like a king in Chinatown or peruse the artwork in SoMa. As this is the only day you'll spend in San Francisco, we recommend you arrive a few days early to see the sights. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Yosemite National Park
Hit the road and drive 300 km to the east into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Our destination: Yosemite National Park. One of the most famous parks in the US, Yosemite National Park's colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls and OMG-inducing giant sequoia trees attract visitors from all over the world.
Yosemite National Park
Today is a free day to get out and discover the park. There are plenty of hikes available, each varying in steepness and difficulty. Hike under the cooling breezes of Nevada Falls (4-5 hours) or to the serene Mirror Lake (45 minutes). Keep an eye out for squirrels and perhaps even a bear along the way. You might prefer to hire a bike and explore Yosemite Valley. Visit the park's photo gallery, shops and restaurants along the way. In the heat of summer, a relaxing float down the Merced River followed by a few drinks at the park's cafe is just the trick.
Leave Yosemite behind and drive into the eastern Sierra Nevada. Spectacular mountain scenery, crystal clear lakes and breathtaking vistas are in store for us today. Total driving time is about 3-4 hours (170 km), depending on weather conditions and road access over Tioga Pass.
Travel east through Death Valley to Las Vegas (about six hours). Las Vegas may be the gambling capital of the world, but there's plenty to do if gambling isn't your thing. Hit the shops, feel your stomach drop on a rooftop roller coaster or simply stroll along the Strip, soaking up the glitz and gaudiness. In the evening, perhaps feast at a celebrity chef's restaurant (Giada de Laurentiis, Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck are among the many well-known chefs who have restaurants here), check out one of the many shows on offer or party the night away in a Vegas nightclub.
You'll have another day to further enjoy the delights of Las Vegas. Use the opportunity to find a swimming pool to relax by, have a crack at blackjack, check out a show or just soak up the craziness that is Vegas. You may also choose to go on an optional adventure on the infamous Las Vegas Roller Coaster.
While the lights of Las Vegas might be dazzling, your eyes are in for a real treat today as they'll fall on the incredible Grand Canyon. Leave Vegas and drive along a section of famous Route 66 to one of the world’s seven wonders (approximately 5 hours). You’ll have two nights here to help you’ll fully comprehend this amazing sight. There are plenty of things to see and do during your time here, so be prepared for busy and active days. Peer over the rim and stand in awe as you watch the setting sun ignite the multi-coloured rock walls. For the next two nights you’ll camp out in one of the world’s most magnificent settings, surrounded by the smell of pine and cedar and enveloped by a stunning canopy of stars at night.
Take time today to explore at your own pace. Maybe rise early for an incredible sunrise, then soar like a California Condor over the canyon with a scenic helicopter flight (not included). If you get active, then descend through pine trees into the heart of the immense abyss, hiking from red rock to white powder. Discover this stunning gorge – 1.5 kilometres deep and formed by over six million years of erosion from the Colorado River – by strolling around the edges, or hiking along the South Kaibab trail or to Plateau Point. Or perhaps join rangers to learn about the park’s geological story, watch an IMAX film to discover the canyon from a different perspective, or simply relax with a book and a backdrop like no other. Whatever you choose, you’ll find that the canyon depths are nothing short of mind-blowing.
Cruise the scenery of classic Western cinema into the Navajo Nation, home to Monument Valley and one of the largest North American Indian tribes (approximately 4 hours). The reservation here is the largest in the US and home to more than 200,000 Indians of the Navajo Tribe. The towering sandstone formations scattered across the landscape give the area its name, and the angle of the sun means that the landscape is constantly changing colour and it's near impossible to take a bad photo. When you arrive, let a Navajo guide share their culture and knowledge on an optional Jeep ride through the beautiful landscape, taking in flaming red cliffs, visiting traditional Navajo homes, and hiking up sweeping sand dunes. You’ll visit places that are only accessible with a Navajo guide, and tonight you can choose to join the locals for an authentic Navajo dinner around a campfire, listening to their traditional songs and stories.
Mesa Verde National Park
Step back in time today and understand human history in North America with one of the best and largest archaeological sites in the country. Travel from Monument Valley to Mesa Verde National Park (approximately 3.5 hours). Although the desert-scapes and cactus-spiked mesas might seem pretty uninhabitable, this part of the American Southwest has been settled for thousands of years. The park protects over 4000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloans, who made the area their home for over 700 years from AD 550 to 1300. Explore a cliff dwelling on a short walk – where you can descend a ladder into a kiva, a round, subterranean ceremonial structure – or (for a small fee) join a ranger-led walk. The ranger will help you access the more difficult sites like ‘Cliff Palace’ or ‘Balcony House’, and help you learn more about this ancient site.
Driving time 5 hours into New Mexico and Albuquerque. Fans of Breaking Bad will recognise the city as the setting for the show. It was also the setting for High School Musical. Otherwise you can explore Pueblo culture at the city's museums, hire a bike and cruise through the city on its interconnected trails system, or stroll along Central Avenue, which was originally part of Route 66 and still retains some of the original neon signs. This is also a great place to sample some southwestern cuisine (think chile) or Native America food at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. You should also try to track down New Mexico's state cookie, the anise-flavoured biscochito.
Hit the road again for another 5 to 6 hours of driving. Follow the old Route 66 for 460 kilometres (286 miles) from Albuquerque to Amarillo, Texas. This is a quintessentially Texan town - think cacti, cowboys, steak and oil. If you're into steak, this is the place to try it, at the Big Texan Steak Ranch. Home of the 72 oz steak challenge (that's 2 kg in metric). Up for a challenge? If you can eat the whole steak, including shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad and bread roll in under an hour, you get the meal for free.