These days, it’s not enough just to see a place. We want to immerse ourselves in its culture, and get under the skin of a destination through the most authentic local experiences we can find.
Tour operator Travelsphere, which specialises in escorted tours, understands this well. Its experienced guides are local experts who know their destinations inside out, and its experiences are carefully curated to make every trip truly unforgettable.
Here, are Travelsphere’s top five destinations for a holiday with wow-factor in 2019, and the experiences that bring them to life.
The US is jam-packed with wonder, from the non-stop thrills of New York and Los Angeles to epic landmarks such as the Grand Canyon. The only problem is deciding which destination to discover first, but luckily the US is one of Travelsphere’s specialities.
The city of New Orleans has never been more exciting. Celebrating its 300th anniversary in 2018, it has become livelier than ever, with performances filling the streets with music in the very birthplace of jazz. And 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Jazz Fest, which these days celebrates all genres of music: blues, soul, rock ’n’ roll – all fuelled by southern soul food.
It’s one stop on Travelsphere’s 14-day The Deep South escorted tour, which includes showstopping experiences such as visits to Graceland, Nashville, Memphis, the BB King Museum, the Country Music Hall of Fame – and even a private performance by Johnny Cash’s brother or son. For the ultimate musical experience, go for the Mardi Gras Special in February.
Australia is having a bit of a moment, nationwide. It’s no longer all about Sydney – other state capitals such as Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth are enjoying booming food and wine scenes, their city centres buzzing with vibrant culture, and brand new bars and restaurants.
Natural wonder: the limestone stacks of the 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean RoadCREDIT: GETTY
Then there are the extraordinary natural wonders of this great country: heritage-listed reefs and ancient rainforests, Ayers Rock in the great red centre of the outback, and the limestone stacks of the 12 Apostles, a highlight of the Great Ocean Road, one of the greatest drives in the world. Travelsphere’s Grand Tour of Australia takes in all these incredible sights and more, on a 30-day trip of a lifetime.
More like a continent than a country, India is like nowhere else on Earth. A land of contrasts, colourful, chaotic and cacophonous. It overwhelms the senses, from the ornate beauty of Delhi’s palaces and temples to the camels wandering the streets of Jaipur, Rajasthan’s “pink city”.
Land of contrasts: Indian women carrying water in Jaipur CREDIT: GETTY
For first-timers, Kerala, in the verdant south, is a tranquil place to begin – drifting along the serene, green backwaters on a wooden houseboat and visiting the charming colonial town of Fort Cochin, where the fishermen still cast out their traditional Chinese fishing nets, silhouetted against the setting sun.
There’s so much beauty, history and culture – plus wonderful food and wine, of course – in this glorious country that it is almost impossible to see it all in one go. But Italy specialist Travelsphere’s Grand Tour of Italy does a pretty good job, packing iconic Italy experiences into a 16-day escorted trip. Insider tours unearth fascinating stories in Bologna, Florence, Venice and Rome. There are impressive sights including Pompeii and Mount Etna (where you can go right up to the volcano’s fiery peak in a jeep), and beautiful spots on the Amalfi coast, Capri and Taormina, in Sicily.
Hidden beauty: the blooming gardens of Isola Bella Island in Lake Maggiore CREDIT:SHUTTERSTOCK
For something a bit different, Secret Lakes of Italy is an eight-day exploration of the Italian “lake district”. High-profile holidaymakers may have put Lake Como in the spotlight (George Clooney, Richard Branson and David Beckham all have second homes here) – but elsewhere there are still hidden beauty spots to be discovered, along with private gardens, trattorias serving excellent local food and wine, and thermal spas for bathing to heal the soul.
Steadily gaining popularity as an alternative European holiday destination for some years now, Croatia remains relatively unspoilt. From the romantic forests of Istria to its dazzling turquoise coast dotted with more than 1,200 islands, much of it is rarely visited by British tourists.
Little-known: listen to the sound of the waterfalls in the tranquil Plitvice Lakes CREDIT:GETTY
Travelsphere’s Croatia specialist, Aleksandra Lena-Johnson, is passionate about her native land. She delights in taking visitors to the little-known Plitvice Lakes, a series of pale green pools, which you can stroll across on a wooden walkway suspended above the water. “I love to just wander quietly,” she says, “look for wildlife and listen to the sound of the waterfalls as the 16 lakes tumble into one another.”
Dubrovnik, meanwhile, has its fair share of visitors. But Travelsphere helps its guests see the city from a whole new perspective: kayaking beneath the ancient city walls themselves; or from up on high, in a cable car up to Srd Hill, for unforgettable views of Croatia’s capital and the Adriatic sea.
Holiday of a lifetime, every time
Escorted touring in 2019 is a million miles away from the coach trips of old, with huge flexibility and a vast array of destinations and experiences from which to choose.
Travelsphere has spent 50 years perfecting the escorted tour to ensure each trip is designed to make everyone feel like a VIP.