Tours have long suffered a bad rep: bossy guides, frantic frog-marches around famous sights, groups with bigmouths and bores (and no way to escape).
Yet all of this is changing. Tour-led trips are enjoying a resurgence. The trend now is for specialist tours — and sales have risen dramatically, by almost a third, in the past decade.
Here is our selection of the best trips catering for all tastes…
Bridge of sighs: Tours of Brazil’s spectacular Iguazu Falls
See Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru on a South American tour that begins in Peru’s capital, Lima, and ends in Rio. Machu Picchu is magnificent, dating from the 15th century. The trip also includes visits to Lake Titicaca and the temples at Cusco before taking in the Iguazu Falls and Copacabana Beach.
Details: 13-day tours from £3,629 pp with flights and some meals (tropicalsky.co.uk), maximum group size 16.
Angkor Wat in Cambodia was built by Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Join a ‘gentle walking’ trip taking in the temples of Angkor and enjoy a stay on Mekong Island, a trip to Tonle Sap Lake and an elephant conservation project.
Details: 16-day tours from £3,015 pp with flights and almost all meals (mountainkingdoms.com), maximum group size 16.
Ready for adventure
Climb giant dunes and explore the rugged Skeleton Coast on a group tour of Namibia.
Game drives to see black rhinos and leopards, and dolphin-watching cruises, are arranged on this action-packed 14-night trip across the south-western African country. Fly into and out of Windhoek, the capital.
Details: A 14-night tour with flights, most meals and hotels, from £3,898 pp (kuoni.co.uk), maximum group size 16.
Hit the highways on a group road tour of Yukon and Alaska that begins in Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon before passing glaciers and mighty plains to Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city.
Head to Dawson City, where locals still pan for gold, return via the Alaskan coast to Whitehorse.
Details: A 14-night tour is from £3,967 pp including flights and hotels (frontiercanada.co.uk), maximum group size 20.
Explore Romania on a ten-day tour that focuses on the uprising against communism in 1989. The trip is accompanied by expert Paul Davies, taking in the former home of Nicolae Ceausescu, the grandiose Parliament Palace in Bucharest and the former headquarters of Romanian State Television.
The tour includes visits to Transylvania, medieval towns and vineyards.
Details: Ten-day tours from £1,995 pp including flights and most meals (toursprestigeholidays.co.uk), maximum group size 26.
A real classic: The Lion Gate at ancient Mycenae in Greece
Learn all about ancient Greece on a tour of archaeological sites including Mycenae, Olympia and Delphi — as well as the Acropolis in Athens — on ten-day trips led by Professor Tony Spawforth, expert in ancient history and author of The Story Of Greece And Rome.
Details: Ten-day tours from £3,410 pp (two sharing) with flights, transfers, hotels and most meals including wine (martinrandall.com), maximum group size 22.
The train gang
Indulge in a train lover’s dream on an 18-night journey that includes steam train and narrow-gauge railway rides in India. The trip begins in Amritsar with a visit to the Golden Temple before catching a steam train on the Kangra Valley Railway, crossing 950 bridges on the way to Baijnath Paprola. A trip to see the Dalai Lama’s monastery at Dharamsala is followed by a trip on the Kalka-Shimla narrow-gauge track.
Details: A 19-day tour from £4,795 pp including flights and some meals (ffestiniogtravel.com), maximum group size 30.
Take to the rails on a two-week trip around China that includes visits to Beijing, the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, Shanghai and Chengdu (to see its Panda Research Centre). The tour also includes four nights on a cruise of the River Yangtze.
Details: 13-day tours from £2,095 pp, flights and some meals included (raildiscoveries.com), maximum group size 40.
Go sea kayaking, swimming, snorkelling and hiking (along the ancient Lycian Way) for a week in Turkey. Lounge in mud baths, wade through a river and ramble up hills to castles. Aimed at families with children over eight.
Details: An eight-day tour is from £545 pp, with breakfast and a few meals but no flights; return flights can be booked from £295 pp (keadventure.com), maximum group size 16.
Pull on your hiking boots and take to the Coronallacs region of the Andorran Pyrenees with its beautiful, remote lakes and mountains on a tour with accommodation in hotels and mountain refuge huts. The altitude is above 1,500 metres for the entire hike.
Details: A six-night tour is from £850 pp including flights and meals (ramblersholidays.co.uk), maximum group size 13.
Pretty as a picture: The water lilies at Giverny that inspired Claude Monet’s paintings
See the water lilies at Giverny that inspired Claude Monet’s impressionist paintings, on a tour of northern France. Includes the superb gardens at Versailles.
Details: A four-day half-board tour is from £499 pp including Eurostar trains and wine at dinner (arenatravel.com), maximum group size 40.
Enjoy beautiful gardens on the Swiss and German shores of Lake Constance. The grounds of ancient castles at Meersburg and Arenenberg (adolescent home of Napoleon III) included.
Details: An eight-day half-board tour with flights from £1,269 pp (inghams.co.uk), maximum group size 26.
See some of the U.S.’s top music sights (and enjoy live gigs, too) starting at Nashville in Tennessee, Memphis and New Orleans on a ten-night Deep South Solo tour. Visits to Graceland and the French Quarter in New Orleans.
Details: An 11-day trip with flights, excursions, B&B double rooms, from £2,595 (bonvoyage.co.uk), maximum group size 20.
Wander ancient Pompeii in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius with an expert guide. Includes trips to Sorrento, Herculaneum and a limoncello tasting.
Details: An eight-day trip with five meals, flights and transfers from £849 pp (trailfinders.com) maximum group size 30.