Curious travelers know that sometimes a country's surface-level offerings are not enough to paint a complete picture of its allures. Visiting a single city during your travels or sightseeing at a place's most popular attractions will surely give you an introduction. However, if it is an immersion you are looking for, this is where Vacations By Rail's Grand Tours enter the scene. These in-depth tour packages take you to thrilling destinations around the world, allowing you to get a comprehensive look at countries through guided tours and experiences. Taste regional flavors in unique locations and venture to places off the beaten path where history comes to life, all while traveling upon well-connected rail networks and staying in cultural epicenters. Whether you want to dive into the vivacious cities of the Iberian Peninsula or see the best of the British Isles, here are five incredible Grand Tour offerings that can take you there.
The Best of Scotland and Ireland
Ride three iconic railways, sip authentic Scotch whisky, and explore landscapes whose beauty and legends are intertwined in a meaningful way on the Best of Scotland and Ireland tour. This expedition explores the best of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland over 13 action-packed days. Spend your first days amongst Scotland's great cities, traveling through the colorful Scottish Highlands by rail between destinations. Elements of Scottish culture seep into each experience, whether touring the only remaining distillery on the Black Isle, visiting 13th-century strongholds, or during a clansmen demonstration that explores nuances of the old Scottish way. The tour then crosses into Ireland by way of Belfast and unveils the Emerald Isle one storied site at a time. See beloved natural features like the Giant's Causeway, the Ring of Kerry, and the Cliffs of Moher, and touchstones of old Ireland, such as ruined castles and historic cities. Experience how cuisine, music, legends, and picturesque terrain create a journey for the senses on the British Isles.
Grand Tour of Spain and Portugal
The sunny Iberian Peninsula is a haven for foodies and adventure-seekers, making it the perfect European destination for cultural tours. In some ways, its countries are a living and evolving representation of the vibrancy this part of the world holds; in others, the peninsula is a constant reminder of how tradition can seamlessly blend with modern life. Explore these contrasts and many more on the Grand Tour of Spain and Portugal.
This journey takes to railways and the vineyard-enveloped Douro River to showcase cities like Madrid, Salamanca, Seville, Granada, and Barcelona in Spain and Porto and Lisbon in Portugal. See how the landscapes have shaped the cities while tasting famous port wine in Portugal and visiting ancient Granada, whose idyllic positioning has made it a point of interest since the 12th century. Enjoy guided tours to pinpoint distinct cultural and architectural elements and experiences unique to your destination, such as Flamenco dancing. Including many traditional meals and the knowledge of a professional guide, this tour leaves a lasting impression.
Grand Train Tour of Switzerland
Dramatic landscapes create impressive pockets of culture and intrigue in beautiful Switzerland. This nation's terrain is rugged and often impassable, making it the ideal place to explore by rail on the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland. Hand-carved tunnels and jaw-dropping mountain passes lead the way from Zürich in the north to Lugano in the south and from pretty Montreux in the west to Switzerland's oldest city, Chur, in the east, to create an itinerary that doubles as a grand circle through the country. Travel takes place aboard six legendary railways, including the Glacier Express, the Bernina Express, and the GoldenPass Line. Shorter expeditions, such as climbing to the Top of Europe on the Jungfrau Railway and riding the Gornergrat Rack Railway, further demonstrate how train culture has woven its way into Switzerland. Between journeys, look upon the breathtaking Swiss countryside and explore mountain resort towns where historical buildings and modern amenities showcase the best of Switzerland.
Top to Toe to Italy
Italy is such a diverse nation, with each region punctuated by distinctive scenery and culinary offerings. Imagine an itinerary that allows you to experience them all, and you have Vacations By Rail's Top to Toe of Italy. Of the grand tours mentioned here, this is the longest, with 15 days of all-encompassing explorations as you travel the length of the country. Spend time in classical cities like Venice, Florence, and Rome and amidst the citrus orchards and coastal villages of the sparkling Amalfi Coast. Experience the Tuscan countryside at its best and the romance of old-world Sicily. From guided tours of ancient Roman sites to archaeological unveilings in Pompeii and meals that perfectly capture the essence of Italia, there is much to discover in the Boot.
Grand Imperial Cities Train Tour
Old Habsburg and Prussian influences spark inspiration on the Grand Imperial Cities Train Tour. Traverse through Central European powerhouses - Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and Berlin - with multiple days in each to dig deeper and see why they remain some of the most popular cities around the world. As you travel, see places like stunning cathedrals, famed bridges, and sprawling palace complexes alongside local guides. Their intimate knowledge of their cities introduces you to stories and history that keep you wanting more and may even inspire your independent sightseeing time. You will quickly see how cultural elements change between countries and range from an iconic railway operated by children in the Buda Hills to a massive wall that drove a city apart. Unmatched ambiance awaits in the Imperial Cities.
A country is more than its landmarks, and watching its tales be told through art, music, food, and wine is an experience that quickly weaves its way into your heart. Whether you find inspiration in this list and are ready to book or want to see where else Grand Tours can take you, our Rail Specialists are there to make your travel goals a reality.