Meet up with your Contiki team before we hit the road and take a ferry past the White Cliffs of Dover. We travel via World War I battlefields in the Valley of the Somme, to Paris. After dinner we will depart for the 'Paris by Night tour', where the French capital transforms into the "City of Lights". Lamp-lit bridges and cool little cafés give us a real taste of Paris' romance. Your Trip Manager will fill you in on the world's most recognised monuments, like the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. If you're adventurous, get right into French culture when you arrive at a Parisian café with the opportunity to try out France's national delicacy - escargot! You'll also get to toast the start of your trip with French Champagne.
This town is loaded with possibilities. Discover its many bistros, museums, tree-lined avenues and diverse quartiers (neighbourhoods). Get a feel for French flair by window shopping on the Left Bank, step into the Notre Dame Cathedral or explore the endless galleries of the Louvre and get up close to the famous Mona Lisa. Try indulging in some delicious pastries and relax in one of Paris' many green spaces. Time in Paris includes a trip out to France's most well-known château: Versailles, once home to ‘the Sun King' Louis XIV, and hot spot of the French Revolution. Check out the impressive exterior of this extravagant palace. Then there's an opportunity to explore the former royal family's luxurious living quarters. Treat yourself to a real Parisian night out, starting with an optional dinner in an atmospheric restaruant, where you can get to know your group. Then sign up for an authentic cabaret experience, complete with can-can girls and Champagne.
Southbound, we stop off at the massive 16th century Château Fontainebleau. Walk around the imperial gardens and check out the château's imposing, regal exterior. We continue on through Burgundy's wine country to Beaujolais' green hills and vineyards. Our team will make you feel right at home in Contiki's very own 16th century Château. There's a wine tasting within the Château's working winery, where our resident expert will teach you about Beaujolais wine as you swirl and sip on wines made in the area for centuries.
There's loads of time to catch up on some sleep, laze about the Château or position yourself poolside. Explore the French countryside with a walk through the vineyards and picnic in the hills above the Château. In the afternoon, you can even get a feel for a real French country town by heading into nearby Theizé.
Today, we head south through the rugged and dramatic scenery of the Pyrénées mountains, over the border into Barcelona. A sizzling, festive capital any night of the week, Barcelona is all about action. In Spain fiesta time starts late, so settle in at one of Barcelona's many outdoor squares to enjoy a glass of sangria and nibble on tapas (plate-sized snacks), before a fun night out exploring the city's nightlife with your new friends.
First stop: Montjuic. The hilltop has full-blown vistas of the city and it's where we stop to check out the 1992 Olympic Games complex. Afterwards, get a look into Spanish architect Gaudi's wild imagination with his Art Nouveau masterpiece, the Sagrada Família church. Your Trip Manager walks you through the cobbled lanes of Barcelona's oldest district, the Gothic Quarter. There's free time to discover more of Barcelona's creative core. Pick up some quirky buys in the side streets or hit the big label shops on Plaça de Catalunya. Take in all of Barcelona's buzzing street life on the tree-lined La Rambla - a boulevard packed with street performers, artists, shops and stalls. Other ideas for your afternoon off include hanging out in the colourful gardens of Parc Güell or kicking back with the locals on the beach and taking a swim in the Mediterranean sea. For lunch, there's plenty of delicious local seafood to try as well as Spain's signature dish, paella. Wrap up your time in this hot city with an optional flamenco dance show for a closer look into Spanish culture. Get some tips on regional food from your Trip Manager and head to one of the excellent local restaurants to try out the flavours of Catalan cuisine, like crema catalana (caramalised custard), cargos a la llauna (cooked snails) and the fantastic Rioja wine! Afterward, hit the pumping clubs of Port Olympico, by the water.
Unwind on the coach and take in the rustic beauty of Provence, known for its pretty landscapes of lavender, sunflowers and wild herbs. A stop for lunch in Arles means a look at the ancient Roman Arena and at a typical provincial French town. It's back on the road to the rugged coast line of the stunning Côte d'Azur. Follow the beautiful sapphire waters past the movie-star glamour of Cannes (famous for its annual film festival), to Antibes.
Next stop on the Riviera and home to the French perfume industry is Fragonard perfumery. Learn about how perfume is made and some of its more surprising ingredients. It's also a chance to pick up a bottle or 2 at great prices. In your free time live a bit of the lifestyle with a visit to the local markets. Try out the region's produce like lavender honey, aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and mouth-watering rosé wine. Window shop the chic boutiques or choose a beach and catch some sun among all the bronzed bodies! Tonight get a taste of the high life in Monaco, the glamorous principality packed into just 1.92km² and home to the Formula 1. Get the inside story on the royal family and their place of residence from your Trip Manager. Try your luck at a casino later on!
Au revoir France, it's all about saying ‘Ciao' in Italian as we head into the famous canals & gondolas of floating Venice.
Venice is packed with character - crammed with hidden lanes and linked by a network of canals. The group travels on our private boat through the waters of the lagoon to visit the city's historical heart. The limestone Bridge of Sighs, the Gothic arches of the Doge's Palace and the expanse of St. Mark's Square (pigeons and all!) show off Venice's unique beauty and way of life. Take some time to explore the floating city and lose yourself in the backstreets. There's an optional walking tour where you can discover the labyrinth of interweaving lanes, waterways, palaces, piazzi and markets with our Local Guide. You'll see historic monuments, hidden treasures and the Rialto market - a local favourite for food shopping. Maybe grab a table on St. Mark's Square and eat some delicious Italian food al fresco. Cap off the day with an optional gondola ride & share this amazing experience with your friends - seeing Venice from on the water is unforgettable!
Wind through the Apennine Mountains and Tuscan countryside to the Renaissance city of Florence, with a stop at the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. The scene-stealing Duomo Cathedral rises above Florence, which serves up frescoes, markets and priceless art. After dinner, walk along the River Arno with your Trip Manager, take in the atmosphere and head into the heart of Florence, where you can sit back and relax Tuscan style with a glass of Chianti wine.
Jump start the day uncovering this open-air museum and its UNESCO World Heritage city centre. Our Local Guide gives you the inside track as the group learns about Florence's cultural beginnings and explores streets crammed with artworks from masters like Michelangelo. Then take a look into a skillful demonstration of Florentine leather making and understand this region's traditional art. With bargains and bustle, the city's markets are a great place to hang out. Grab a gelato and enjoy this gorgeous city. Tonight, there's a choice of a group dinner - an authentic Tuscan feast. Try regional dishes in the heart of Florence. Then keep it moving with a night out and get your groove on at Florence's biggest club.
Travel through Tuscany's rustic hills, past the recognisable cypress tree landscapes of this olive oil producing region, to vibrant Rome. Stylish Rome oozes energy and overflows with relics from another age. Our special access coach tour gets you right into the thriving atmosphere of this living timeline as your Trip Manager shows you the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia. Continue on foot to check out the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Honour tradition at the Trevi Fountain and throw a coin in the fountain's waters (it's meant to improve your chances of returning to Rome!) or maybe hang out with your new friends at the Spanish Steps, sit back with a few slices of pizza and people watch.
This morning, make the most of our Local Guide's inside knowledge with an optional guided tour of the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. Then check out Rome's imperial glory by visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum. Take off into the city and absorb the atmosphere, as Vespas flash past timeworn monuments that are surrounded by fountains, pizzerias, cafés and bars. Before you hit the shops, let your Trip Manager point you in the right direction with some tips on the best buys. In your free time, live the local lifestyle by indulging in a long lunch on a paved piazza or knock back a shot of espresso at the bar, like the Romans do.
Pass gritty Naples, see Mt Vesuvius and plunge into Pompeii's well-preserved past in an interesting optional excursion and retrace ancient history with our expert Local Guide. Then there's time to chill out on the coach, crossing through the rugged landscapes of southern Italy, before boarding the overnight ferry to Greece in Brindisi. Check out the amazing 360 degree views from the deck!
Corfu is all that's great about Greek island living. You'll immediately find yourself on "local time", browsing the markets of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Old Town and bargaining with the laid-back locals. Jump on board the Captains Cruise optional with a bunch friends for a fun day out on the water. It will give you another angle on idyllic Corfu. Work up an appetite swimming in the secluded spots and then feast on a lunch of olives, salad, cheeses, fresh bread and dips. Corfu also gives you the chance to dive into action with a selection of water sports, like parasailing, banana-boating and waterskiing. Otherwise hire a car for a deeper look into Corfu and venture across the island to explore some beautiful, remote beaches. While you're here, there's a fun toga theme party - don't worry, we'll supply the outfit!
From Corfu, head to the mainland and travel to the impressive, man-made Corinth Canal. Athens is next, a city crammed with myth and ancient wonders, and busy with modern, urban soul.
Step back in time in Europe's oldest city to the birthplace of democracy. Get the run down on the Parthenon and the Acropolis from our Local Guide, as you wander around the marble columns perched above the city sprawl. Then we check out the first modern Olympic Stadium from the 1896 Games. Later, jump on the ferry to the island of Ios.
Relax on sandy beaches or lounge about poolside before a big night out, when Ios' villages come alive. Head to the small streets of Hora, packed with clubs, bars and pubs and let loose to the pumping tunes. Otherwise, join the outdoor party in the squares and lanes. If you're keen, you can keep it moving until dawn!
Today: change islands and it's a total change of scene. As stunning proof of a massive volcanic eruption, Santorini will make your jaw drop with its natural beauty. From the water, look up at the well-recognised sight of iconic blue-domed, whitewashed churches.
Start your day getting familiar with this gorgeous island. Head to Santorini's highest point for full blown vistas over the crater then cool of with a swim stop at Perissa Beach. There's a chance to check out Santorini's main town, Fira - dramatically perched on the edge of the crater - as the group explores its narrow streets. Get tips on the best places to pick up a piece of Santorini's famous jewellery and where to try out the delicious local specialty, domatokeftedes (fried tomato balls). Otherwise head to one of the distinctive black or red sand beaches, and soak up the breathtaking scenery. You could jump on an optional boat ride out to the active volcanic island of Nea Kamini. Cruise past lava formations and get up close to the active crater. Or head to the northern tip of Santorini with the group to catch one of the island's famously spectacular sunsets on the Oia at Sunset optional excursion.
Cruising back to Athens today for your final night in the capital. Catch up with your fellow travellers on their arrival back from Egypt and swap stories. Dinner is your choice tonight, a great opportunity to dine in the famous Plaka district.
Northbound, we travel past mythical Mt Olympus, Greece's highest peak, and stop off for a crash-course in ancient heroism at Thermopylae, where just 300 Spartan soldiers held off the invading Persian army's masses of thousands. After cruising by Byzantine Thessaloniki, we arrive in the port town of Kavala.
Ferry across the Dardanelles, crossing from Europe into Asia, to the habourside town of Canakkale. Get inside the legend of one the world's most famous battles and explore the excavation site of mythical Troy. Learn how heroes and gods fought in a ten year war, as our Local Guide unravels the layers of history. Tonight, take a walk along the waterfront complete with stunning views, or catch up on your emails back at the hotel.
This morning, make a pilgrimage to the site of the region's other bloody battle, Gallipoli. Visit stunning Anzac Cove where World War I troops landed, Lone Pine Cemetery, where Australian troops are buried and check out the memorial for New Zealand soldiers. Please note: The 28th March departure itinerary has been amended and will now visit Anzac Cove on 27th April. Please contact your Reservations team for further information. Enjoy some down-time on the coach, following the coastline of the Sea of Marmara to the cosmopolitan hub of Istanbul - the last stop on the Silk Road and the only city in the world to span two continents.
With a couple of days here, there is plenty of time to get a real feel for this cultural melting pot. Our Local guide shows you one of the city's major draw cards, the stunning Blue Mosque. It's an amazing building with a series of domes and minarets dominating the skyline, complete with a breathtaking interior of tens of thousands of blue tiles. After that, we head right into the heart of the city and plunge into several kilometres of shops at the Grand Baazar. It's an unforgettable shopping experience and our Local Guide will give you plenty of pointers. Walk through a maze of lanes, where tacky trinkets and authentic treasures are sold side by side. With carpets, jewellery, spices, music, electronics and more, the place is buzzing, so make sure you've got your haggling hat on. There are heaps of options for your time here. Monument-wise there's Topkapi Palace for a look into the sultan's lifestyle and Hagia Sofia church to give you a feel for Constantine's empire. Otherwise, live a bit of Istanbul's daily life. Try your hand at backgammon in a sidewalk café and watch the crowds go by as you sip on Turkish coffee. Chill out in a tea garden, or take to the time-honoured tradition of the hammam (steam bath house) and get scrubbed down on heated marble stones. Opt for a dinner complete with belly dancers and watch some top dancers perform this famous Eastern art. Istanbul's nightlife is fantastic and your Tour Manager knows what you're after - so find out about the city's happening bars and clubs and go discover!
This morning, it's on to Sofia, Bulgaria's largest city. Once behind the Iron Curtain and today an emerging capital, Sofia brings together traditional Tsarist architecture and a modern feel. It's the perfect place to explore on foot. Your Tour Manager will lead a walking tour through this compact town. You'll see the massive Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, complete with golden domes, mosaics and murals, and then check out the stalls that surround the building.
Parked between the Danube and Sava Rivers, Belgrade is a little rough around the edges, mixing up extravagant churches and dull, Communist building blocks. Your Tour Manager will show off the city's treasures including the Kalemegdan Fortress and the historic old town. Free time means you can go deeper into Belgrade's heart, and find many cute, little shops and interesting galleries. Tonight, enjoy the town's festive vibe, grab some friends and party on one of Belgrade's floating bars.
We'll head north along the Danube River, to the “Paris of the East”, Budapest. With two cities rolled into one, this exotic town has a bit of everything. Buda and Pest sit on different sides of the river, but bring together the stunning buildings and atmosphere that makes Budapest so romantic. To get another take on Budapest from the water, jump on board tonight's optional cruise, and see the city aglow from the water as you feast on a buffet full of Hungarian specialities like goulash and cabbage rolls. Launch into Budapest's nightlife and live it up like the locals by heading to a beerhouse, a riverside bar or a happening club.
On the Buda side of the river, from the Fisherman's Bastion, you'll get a full-blown view of the city and learn about Budapest's history in a nutshell! Check out the colourful Church of St. Matthias, the Royal Palace and the Chain Bridge. Your Tour Manager knows all about Budapest's bumpy history and will tell you more with a visit to the Liberation Monument. Free time means a chance to treat yourself to a truly local experience: a spa and thermal bath. With outdoor thermal pools, healing waters, Art Nouveau architecture and spa treatments, this is the perfect way to unwind. For more of Budapest's outdoor lifestyle, it's a short bus ride to visit Margaret Island, a favourite among the city's residents with its gardens, fountains, pools and ruins.
Next stop is the cultural hub of Vienna. Your Tour Manager starts the day by introducing the group to the city's historical heritage. There's the imperial grandeur of Schönbrunn Palace, the elegantly ornate State Opera House and St. Stephen's Cathedral - a Gothic masterpiece. Cruise down Kärntner Strasse, Vienna's main shopping spot and buy some traditional ceramics and materials for gifts back home. There's free time to check out the magnificent squares and majestic palaces or the city's art galleries. Take a break in a coffee house like the locals do, chill out in Vienna's manicured gardens or wander along the Danube River. Later, there's a chance for a traditional meal with the group in the Viennese countryside.
Journey through the Tyrol and "The Sound of Music" country to a cute Austrian village in a region famous for adventure sports. With 2 nights in Contiki's very own Austrian Gasthof (guest inn), there's plenty of time for pulse-racing activities. Our resident crew will give you pointers on the best stuff to do in the region and make sure you get everything out of your time here.
This morning, fill your lungs with clean mountain air, jump on a bike and get into the region's outdoor lifestyle with a fully guided optional tour through the Tyrol's picture perfect scenery, complete with waterfalls and mountain fields. Work up an appetite - a BBQ lunch is waiting for you at the end! With time to do your own thing, laze about or get out for a walk in the surrounding hills. Catch up on some emails or postcards at the inn or take a gondola up the mountainside for more spectacular views of the area. For something different, pop into the local trout farm. For adrenaline-junkies, an optional tandem paragliding experience will give you an awesome angle on the surrounding Alpine scenery.
Kick start the day and plunge into some whitewater rafting in an adrenaline-pumping optional activity on the river. This afternoon, travel north to the home of the world-famous Oktoberfest, Munich - a city that blends traditional Bavarian culture and modern lifestyle. Explore the heart of Munich's old town with the crew, and head to Marienplatz. It's a central gathering spot famous for the Glockenspiel - a Gothic clock, complete with 32 dancing figures and 43 chiming bells. Then opt in to get off the beaten track and onto Munich's side streets with our Local Guide on a fun biking tour around the city - it's a great way to see the sights.
Today, travel past the stony cliffs of Liechtenstein, into the capital, Vaduz, where you can grab some lunch and in enjoy it in the shadow of the Royal Family's 12th century castle. Next stop: the jaw-droppingly beautiful alpine town of Lucerne. With covered wooden bridges, cobbled lanes and quaint buildings, Lucerne's centre is perfect to explore on foot. Also to stock up on lots of genuine Swiss chocolate! Your Trip Manager can give you pointers on where to pick up the best-priced watches Switzerland is so famous for. Tonight, we head to the alpine heights of Lauterbrunnen and stay at Contiki's very own Swiss Chalet.
It's a change of pace among Switzerland's massive Alps. Take in the amazing views from the campsite. Opt to visit Jungfrau Mountain, head up the sheer slopes of this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site on a cog rail to Europe's highest railway station, and step out onto the “roof” of Europe for spine-tingling views.
Over the border and into Germany, we head to the university town of Heidelberg. Wander around, grab a late lunch and check out its famous Baroque church. The coach follows the Rhine River, weaving through valleys dotted with castles and vineyards. Next stop - the pretty, old-world village of St. Goar, complete with fairy tale castle and the world's largest free-hanging cuckoo clock! Learn about local know-how and get savvy on the craft of beer steins. Then kick back with a glass of local wine and choose to find out more with the optional wine tasting in a candlelit underground cellar.
In an intro into Dutch culture, see how clogs are made and try some of the famous Dutch Edam at a cheese farm. Cruise into the countryside and bike around like the laid back locals, past working windmills, to the world-famous cheese village of Edam. Head into the buzzing capital of Amsterdam and check out the eye-opening Red Light District, where the creative and the wacky come together on narrow cobbled streets, 24/7.
There's free time to experience Amsterdam's coffee shops, museums and quirky, cool boutiques. Wander along the canals and pass gabled houses or experience Amsterdam's multi-ethnic cuisine. This cultural melting pot dishes up loads of affordable food. With an optional evening canal cruise, there's a chance to toast your travels with the group, unwind with a few drinks and uncover Amsterdam at water level as you drift past the city lights. For your last night on the trip, treat yourself to a feast at a rice table dinner with the group in a popular restaurant. With this fun way to eat, you'll be served loads of dishes from colonial times. Get some pointers from your Trip Manager, dive into Amsterdam's night action with your friends and finish up your travels with a night to remember.
This morning after breakfast we transfer you to Schiphol Airport (estimated arrival 10:00am) where your trip ends. Or choose to take a complimentary transfer to central London & extend your stay.