Meet up with your Contiki crew and Tour Manager before cruising through Orange County and along the Pacific coastline to laid-back San Diego. Get a feel for the city's easy-going vibes with a look around San Diego's vibrant neighborhoods. In Old Town, your Tour Manager will give you the story behind the original pueblo (village), with its Adobe buildings (made of brick, straw and mud) and show you the 19th century buildings of the Gaslamp Quarter's. You'll also see Balboa Park, which holds the largest urban cultural park in the USA and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Tonight, make your first night on tour one to remember and get to know the group over dinner before heading out for a fun night exploring the Gaslamp District's funky live music venues or one of the many cool bars.
With a full day in San Diego, live a bit of the California lifestyle and get into some outdoor activities. With 42 miles of beaches, a Mediterranean climate and loads of parks, San Diego is all about kicking back in the pleasant surrounds. Otherwise, visit the San Diego Zoo, known for its conservation efforts and vast numbers of animals (over 4000) or head to SeaWorld, known for its fun marine animal shows. If the weather is good, we'll cruise out to the locals' favorite spot, Mission Beach, for a few hours soaking up the sun or walking along the boardwalk for views of ocean. Don't forget your towel and swimmers.
Things are about to get hotter as we head to Phoenix, a massive metropolis sitting smack in the middle of the desert. With around 300 days of sunshine per year, this place is all about shopping, sports and nightlife.
Kick start the day with an unforgettable optional excursion: a hot-air balloon ride over the Sonoran Desert and “Valley of the Sun”. The combination of full blown vistas over the desert and a champagne breakfast upon landing make this an amazing experience. We continue deeper into the Wild West as we head to stunning Sedona. Chill out and watch the region's recognizable red rock cliffs, rugged spires and mesas (flat-topped rock formations) go by from the coach. Your Tour Manager will tell you about this eco-friendly town that is also known for its high-energy red rocks. There's a chance to explore this stunning red rock country with our Local Guide on an optional 4WD tour through the historic canyons. Learn local legends and even pick up a piece of Native American jewelery. We continue on to the mind-blowing landscape of the Grand Canyon, one of the world's most recognizable natural wonders and pride of Arizona.
A day here means time to take in the immensity and spine-tingling beauty of the scene-stealing Canyon - it has got a rep for a reason! This morning get up close to this UNESCO World Heritage site on an optional helicopter ride and get another angle on the Canyon as you fly over it. Hike along the South Rim for mind-blowing vistas of the dramatic scenery. See some of the oldest exposed rocks on earth, take in the deep abyss and soak up the wildness of the area. There are trails for all levels of hiking, so take it up a notch or cruise along at your own pace. Wrap up the day with a canyon sunset and take in the stunning changes of light while the sun goes down.
Leaving behind the Grand Canyon, we stop off at Seligman, an historic Route 66 town. Get a feel for the old style as you check out 1940's shop fronts and motels. Maybe pick up a souvenir for back home. Then following a section of the legendary Route 66, we head north. With down time on the coach, plug in your MP3, catch on some sleep or chat with your friends. Get ready to arrive in larger-than-life Las Vegas - a man-made entertainment oasis smack in the middle of the desert. Often dubbed Sin City, it's all about glitz, neon lights, and excess. See the bright lights of this city and its world-famous casinos in a first taste of Vegas kitsch as the group heads down the main drag, the “Strip”, and your Tour Manager fills you in on the story behind Vegas. Then cruise downtown to Freemont Street and experience a slice of the spectacular at a light and laser show in a massive pedestrian mall.
With a free day, you've got time to get a real feel for this outrageous town, so keep an eye out for Elvis impersonators and fast-paced chapel weddings! Explore more of the Strip and check out over-the-top versions of international icons, like the Eiffel Tower, Venetian canals and gondolas, a Roman temple or the pyramid, whose nightlight can be seen from the moon. Try your luck at one of the casinos, sit yourself down at a blackjack table and watch the high-rollers or go for a ride at one of the casino's theme-parks. If you work up an appetite, tuck into an all you can eat buffet, and lunch American style. For something different, discover Las Vegas' trademark art at the Neon Museum and for a look into this town's atomic heyday in the 50s, visit the Atomic Testing Museum. Tonight, get some pointers on Las Vegas' hot spots from your Tour Manager and make the most of this towns' 24/7 action with some of your new friends.
Today, it's a total change of scene when leave behind flashy Vegas and the desert to arrive in the outdoor capital of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Make the most of picturesque Bass Lake and wind down in your chalet. With two nights at this lakefront resort, you can unpack your things, kickback on your chalet's deck and soak up the views.
Get back to nature with a day in Yosemite National Park. This place has a reputation for a reason - it's absolutely stunning. With a dramatic combination of waterfalls, woods, towering mountains and wildlife, Yosemite will take your breath away. Keep an eye out and a camera handy in case you're lucky enough to see black bears, deer and coyotes. Your Tour Manager will tell you all about Yosemite as you check out the massive El Capitan rock and the sheerest cliff in the USA, Half Dome. It's guaranteed to impress. You'll also see the breathtaking Yosemite and Bridalveil Falls. Add to your time here and hike or bike along the park's trails to experience this unique environment first hand and close up. Tonight, if the weather is good, cook up a BBQ on your chalet's deck and enjoy eating under the open night sky.
Cruise on through the San Joaquin Valley to free-wheeling San Francisco, via Oakland. Colourful, cosmopolitan and creative, San Francisco is packed with characters, free-thinkers, and artists. You'll see the signs of its recent history where it served as the hub of the gold rush, as well as the center for Beatnik and Hippy cultures. After crossing over the Bay Bridge for a panorama of the area, get familiar with this buzzing city as your Tour Manager shows you around San Francisco's key sights. We stop off at Fisherman's Wharf for a slice of the historic waterfront lifestyle, where you can order some fresh fish or crab from sidewalk stands. Cross San Francisco's landmark suspension bridge, the Golden Gate, and check out the city's iconic row houses on Alamo Square. This afternoon, take it down a notch & soak up the sunset on out included catamaran cruise around San Francisco Bay. Thriving with activity, Chinatown is a fun, kitsch experience. Tonight there's a chance to celebrate the last night of your tour with an optional meal in one of its many authentic restaurants.
This morning, say farewell to the Golden Gate Bridge & American dream. Next up, we're headed on an afternoon flight to Vancouver, Canada, a place well known for its majestic natural beauty & it is frequently ranked as one of the "best cities to live in". There are 11 more days of endless adventure awaiting, enjoy every moment & make the most of this beautiful country 'ay' (as the Canadians would say).
With beaches, forests and mountains, this town is all about location and fusing big-city living with an outdoor lifestyle. You'll enjoy a first taste of it all with the group when your Tour Manager points out historic Gastown, Vancouver's founding district, the city's own Chinatown - home to the largest minority group in Vancouver and the landmark Lion's Gate Bridge. In Stanley Park, see the colourful Totem Poles of Canada's First Nations People and learn about traditional culture as your Tour Manager tells you the stories behind them. We'll then wind our way along the spectacular cliff-top Sea to Sky highway and arrive in Whistler, one of the most popular ski resorts in North America and home to the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Today, you've got time to get into some alpine activities and experience Whistlers' high-energy action. Choose to have a go with the paddle and get out on the water in a canoe excursion along the River of Golden Dreams. With lots of trails to choose from, Whistler is a hiker's heaven. For those wanting vistas of the spectacular surrounds but not wanting to work up a sweat, choose a gondola or chairlift ride to the top for amazing views. Otherwise, kick back and take in the natural surroundings back at the hotel or walk around the quaint village of Whistler.
Leaving the mountains behind, we make our way to the desert and to Canada's impressive interior. Passing the picture-perfect Seton Lake, we'll make a stop in Lillooet, a former gold rush town. We travel on to our next night stop, Kamloops, sitting at the confluence of 2 rivers. Once a former meeting point for traders, it continues to serve as a stop over point for travelers and still has touches of the Wild West.
Sticking to the famous Yellowhead Highway, we stop off at the highest peak of the Rockies, Mt Robson. Get your blood pumping in a thrilling white-water rafting optional on the Fraser River. Then pull into small-town Jasper and kick back in the Rockies' largest national park - our home for the next two nights.
We drive through the wild beauty of Jasper National Park to Maligne Lake, known for its stunning scenery and vivid colors. There's a chance to take in the snow capped mountains from the water and visit iconic Spirit Island on an optional cruise. Later, your Tour Manager will take you for an easy-going hike through the Maligne Canyon, an impressive limestone gorge - the result of years of raging waters. Use your free time to make the most of lesser-known Jasper Park. With 1000kms of trails, from hour loops to day hikes, it's easy to get off the beaten track and into nature.
Get ready for some sublime scenery as we stick to the Columbia Icefield Parkway, a route that fur traders and native peoples once used during the 19th century. With waterfalls, lakes, meadows, glaciers, towering mountains, and the largest ice-field south of Alaska, this is one fantastic drive. Jump on board the Ice Explorer, a snow coach on tracks, and roll onto the Athabasca Glacier, where you can get out and explore the icy slopes. Drink straight from the glacier and taste some of the purest water on earth. We continue on to famous Lake Louise. Its striking turquoise color and incredible mountain back drop create a breathtaking scene. Back on the coach, we roll on to legendary Banff, the unofficial capital of the Rockies.
With loads of activities available in Banff, you can choose your own adventure. There's the option to get above the Rockies in an unforgettably spectacular helicopter ride or to head up Sulphur mountain by gondola for a slice of remote high country and the chance to see some summit wildlife. Other ideas for your day include checking out Banff's landmark Banff Springs Hotel. With over 800 rooms, this massive Gothic structure is fun to explore. Otherwise, head downtown for some shopping, where you can pick up cowboy hats, well-known brands and outdoor sporting equipment. Tonight, give our horseback ride optional a go, where you'll ride into the back country and enjoy a traditional cook-out dinner under the open sky.
Cut across three national parks today and experience what each one has to offer in an incredible drive. Things get wilder and a whole lot more rugged in Yoho National Park, where the ice blue Kicking Horse River winds through a valley of waterfalls and meadows. Be impressed by Glacier National Park, home to over 400 glaciers and stop off at Rogers Pass - a place of awesome surroundings. We'll also see Mt Revelstoke National Park's towering peaks and surging river. Then it's a complete change of scene as we travel into British Columbia's wine country, Okanagan Valley, with its vines and terraced hills, to Vernon for our overnight stop.
Journey through the stunning Okanagan Valley, Canada's wine country, before returning to laid-back Vancouver, with its friendly locals, sandy beaches and Pacific rim position. You'll enjoy a taste of it all with the group when your Tour Manager points out historic Gastown, Vancouver's founding district, the city's own Chinatown - home to the largest minority group in Vancouver and the landmark Lion's Gate Bridge. In Stanley Park, see the colourful Totem Poles of Canada's First Nations People and learn about traditional culture as your Tour Manager tells you the stories behind them. For a bit of urban culture, head down town and grab a coffee at one of the many cafes. Continue on to the Gastown area for a bit of shopping, where you can find souvenirs to take back home, including Native American crafts and jewelery. Tonight, head out on the town with your friends and experience more of Vancouver's nightlife. Hit the back streets of Gastown or the alleys of Yale Town for some live music. Otherwise, if you know what you're after, ask your Tour Manager for tips.
Feel the young vibe of this city while exploring its hip shops & cafes. Later, enjoy a dinner cruise around the harbor & head out for a night on the town!
Your Canadian adventure ends this morning and it's time to say farewell to your new friends. For those who are keen for some more action, there's the option of a trip to Grouse Mountain or Butchart Gardens.