Call of the wild West
NICK DALTON looks at four tours that explore the best of the US and Canada
THE bright lights of Las Vegas illuminating the desert night; the snow-capped Canadian Rockies; sunset turning the rim of the Grand Canyon a fiery red; Mount Rainier, a volcano that tops 14,000ft and is one of the largest in the world – that’s the America and Canada we all know, yet can’t wait to see in person.
The West is alive with classic images that fill movies and posters, images that sum up everything we love about the countries and their grand landscapes. There’s the Wild West and there are mountain resorts, glittering cities and sun-drenched beaches, remote national parks and rolling plains.
The trick is to put together a string of spectacular destinations on one splendid holiday. America and Canada are built for road trips but if you want the wonder of the open highway without having to do it yourself, there is another way.
The answer is the expansive collection of holidays from Cosmos, the leader in escorted tours and its sister company Globus, which offer premium escorted tours that unlock even more authentic local experiences and come with special VIP access to top attractions. The spectacle of the two nations’ great West Coast is summed up in four tours.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE CANYONLANDS
An eight-day adventure starts with a night in the desert city of Las Vegas and takes in the states of Nevada, Utah and Arizona.
There’s a stay in the Grand Canyon National Park, a four-wheel-drive tour past the huge rock towers in Monument Valley (stars of so many Western movies) with a visit to Lake Powell and a tour of Glen Canyon Dam which holds back the Colorado River. Aside from the Grand Canyon there are two other national parks – Bryce Canyon and Zion, both with breathtaking vistas. From £1,226pp.
THE CANADIAN ROCKIES
Some of the most dramatic scenery on the continent and there’s the chance to see it
top to bottom, from sea to sky, on this 14-day tour. It all starts with two nights (and a tour) in the glorious waterfront city of Vancouver, where snow-tipped peaks reflect in the glass skyscrapers.
The holiday takes in Victoria, a ferry ride away on Vancouver Island, the winter sports resort of Whistler (a stunning drive with views down to Vancouver’s fjords), the Columbia Icefield glacier, the wilderness town of Jasper (where elk wander the streets) and Mount Robson, at 12,972ft the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
There’s also Glacier National Park, with its mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls, and Yoho National Park with vertical rock walls and waterfalls. From £2,077pp.
All the way from Los Angeles to San Francisco (with two nights and a tour in each), the long way round! This 13-day trip heads from LA for a night in Palm Springs, the city with a 50s desert chic (it was the place where Elvis had his honeymoon).
From there it’s into Arizona and Scottsdale with its Western ambiance, the arty city of Sedona and then one of America’s most scenic drives, past Oak Creek Canyon with its red sandstone cliffs and on to the Grand Canyon.
There’s a cruise along Route 66 with its motels and quirky attractions before two nights in Las Vegas. Then it’s into the mountainous interior of California, passing through Yosemite National Park with its famed Half Dome granite peak and on to the seaside city of Sausalito before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. From £1,924pp.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, HELLS CANYON, & WINE COUNTRY
The West with a difference, visiting some less-discovered states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
The 11-day Globus tour starts in waterfront Seattle – over welcome drinks you learn about the tour taking in both Mount Rainier National Park and the vineyards cloaking the mountain foothills.
Heading east, in Hells Canyon, the country’s deepest river gorge, there’s a delicious barbecue lunch along the river. There’s also a cruise on huge Lake Coeur d’Alene. Amid the Rocky Mountains of Montana there’s a three-night stay in Whitefish with a day out (by vintage bus) to the wilds of Glacier National Park, plus a gondola ride up Whitefish Mountain Resort.
The holiday also visits Spokane (with crashing city centre waterfalls) before a final night (and an included farewell dinner) in Seattle. From £3,022pp.
SPECTACULAR LANDSCAPES: The Canadian Rockies and, above, Monument Valley in Utah
SHOWSTOPPERS: The iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and, above, the bright lights of the desert city of Las Vegas