Begin your tour in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. San Francisco is renowned for its stunning Golden Gate Bridge, steep hills and grand Victorians, with enough to keep you entertained for months on end. You may want to arrive early for this incredible adventure, as there is so much to see. Get an excellent introduction by reserving a spot on one of the “Urban Adventures” tours, experiencing the city through the eyes of a local guide. If you book an extra night at your hotel before the tour kicks off, you’ll be able to take a cruise to Alcatraz, an excursion that really shouldn’t be missed. This formidable fortress in the middle of San Francisco Bay served as a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963, housing the likes of George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Al Capone. “The Rock,” as it’s often called, is part of the 80,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area and open for fascinating, and a bit eerie, public tours.
Overnight: Kimpton Buchanan Hotel San Francisco (or similar)
Day 2 - 4
It’s hard to leave this dazzling city and its golden bridge, but your next destination is just as spectacular, and the drive to Yosemite is simply beautiful. Yosemite National Park is famed for its dramatic towering peaks, steep granite cliffs and magnificent waterfalls that have been captured by countless photographers, including Ansel Adams, whose gallery is housed in the heart of Yosemite Valley, this vast wilderness is a place that must be seen to be believed.
Hiking is one of the best ways to explore this park, so the first thing on the agenda is a walk on the Mist Trail, one of the top hikes out of Yosemite Valley. Walk across the lovely wooden bridges and up the 600 granite steps toward Vernal Falls, as the cascading waters splash a gentle mist to keep you cool on a hot summer’s day, and create colorful rainbows that lead to the top. If you continue, you’ll reach another awe-inspiring waterfall, Nevada Falls, where you’ll feel a true sense of being at one with nature, with no barriers to separate you from the plunging water. Return via the John Muir Trail, taking in countless photogenic scenes that include Half Dome, Cathedral Peak and Yosemite Valley. If you’re fortunate, you may spot a black bear, bobcat, coyote or mule deer along the way.
Overnight three nights: Yosemite Cedar Lodge (or similar)
Day 5 & 6
Continue on through the High Sierra to Lake Tahoe and its remarkably clear, cobalt blue waters, a place where Mark Twain once remarked that the “air was pure enough for angels.” The second deepest lake in the U.S. is surrounded by majestic mountains and boasts sandy beaches, rocky coves and forested areas. The cool waters are ideal for summer swimming and even scuba diving, as well as lake cruises, kayaking and more, while mountain biking, hiking and off-roading are popular land pursuits.
Emerald Bay offers the best of the best scenery in Tahoe, designated a National Natural Landmark thanks to its impressive panorama of mountains and glacier-carved granite. Emerald Bay State Park hosts one of the state’s first underwater parks of its kind, protecting wrecks and other items at the bottom of the bay, providing a unique diving experience, and visitors can also enjoy soaking up the sun and the sand as well as numerous water sports and hikes. Take the Rubicon Trail that begins in the park and traverses the lake’s south shore, offering some of the most jaw-dropping views of Tahoe as well as being famous for nesting eagles.
If you have the time and inclination, you may want to tour Vikingsholm Caslte which sits at the head of the bay and includes some of the original features from 11th-century stone churches in southern Sweden. Before retiring to your hotel on the south shore of the lake, enjoy sipping champagne on a catamaran cruise around the lake, just as the sun sinks below the horizon, with its rays creating sparkles along the water.
Overnight two nights: Beach Retreat & Lodge at Tahoe (or similar)
After departing Lake Tahoe, you’ll make your way back to San Francisco, where you’ll have the opportunity to do a bit more exploring. But first, make a stop in Sausalito, on the Marin side of the Golden Gate. This charming waterfront town that’s nestled at the base of steel hills that frame the bay offers panoramic vistas of San Francisco and is renowned for its more than 500 colourful houseboats that provide a novel lifestyle most only dream of ever living. Take a walking tour of this vibrant community of floating homes and imagine what it might be like to live here.
Finish your day, and the tour, in the City by the Bay by taking a leisurely stroll across the 1.7-mile span of the world’s most famous bridge, the Golden Gate, while marveling at the views of infamous Alcatraz, the city skyline and the glistening expanse of the Pacific.
The tour ends at approximately 17.00, so either book an extra night in this wonderful city or book a flight which departs after 21.00