From Rockies rail trips to foottapping music tours, eclipse expeditions to sailing extravaganzas, themed tours span a broad spectrum.
And if sun, sea and sand were once the only ingredients for a summer holiday (as Cliff Richard seemed to believe), it’s now rather more complex.
That’s both good and bad news. On the plus side, it’s a sign that tours are doing extraordinarily well, but on the other hand, it means deciding what to recommend has become a first-class conundrum. To help whittle it down, we’ve selected a few of the best.
Kaleidoscopes of colour in India, heady parades in Rio, tomato fights in Spain… the world plays host to some pretty whacky events, and in 2017, it’s all about the so-called Great American Eclipse, due on August 21.
Tour operators across the board – from Intrepid Travel to Grand American Adventures – are getting in on the game. Explore has several itineraries themed around the event, including its Western USA Highlights Eclipse, during which clients will watch the action over the mountains of Grand Teton National Park.
Book it: Explore’s tour starts at £4,080, including accommodation, transport and some meals.
Or try: For an event of a slightly different kind, suggest Newmarket Holidays’ Canadian Rockies & Calgary Stampede, where clients experience the world’s most famous rodeo, while embracing all things cowboy.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of gliding along on the open water, wind whipping against your skin beneath a beaming sun. So if that’s what floats your client’s boat (excuse the pun), suggest a sailing holiday.
Burma’s Mergui Archipelago is one of those rare places that feels happily undiscovered – the internet has yet to arrive and locals live as they did centuries ago. Intrepid Travel makes reaching it possible thanks to its Burma Sailing Adventure, which takes clients past the untouched islands of the Andaman Sea.
Book it: The nine-day trip starts at £1,360, including transport, accommodation and most meals.
Or try: For clients after something a little closer to home, On The Go Tours’ Sailing Split tour in Croatia could be the answer, meandering through Makarska, Dubrovnik, Sipan Island and beyond.
Music pulses through the veins of cities across the world, but nowhere swings to the beat quite like the southern states of the US. At the heart lie Memphis, Nashville, Natchez and New Orleans, which Insight Vacations’ Luxury Gold Southern Grace trip ties up in one lively and soulful itinerary that takes music lovers from the birthplace of blues and rock ’n’ roll to Graceland, home of The King. This year, to mark 40 years since Elvis’s death, clients will enjoy a tour around the latter with George Klein, who was the best man at the rock legend’s wedding.
Book it: The nine-day Southern Grace tour costs from £3,450, including flights, accommodation, transport, sightseeing and some meals.
Or try: For something a little more mellow, suggest a trip to Austria. Just You offers a music-focused trip, Sounds of Austria, taking in The Sound of Music city Salzburg, as well as St Florian, Vienna and beyond.
From the dramatic icebergs of Antarctica to the vast plains of Kenya, there are certain parts of the world that just need to be captured on camera, and a photography tour is well worth recommending to clients looking to learn from the pros.
Exodus offers tours to both destinations, and on its Photographic Safari, clients can pick up skills firsthand from wildlife photographer Paul Goldstein, who guides game drives through the Masai Mara. Whether it’s a cheetah sprinting through the wilderness or a lioness nursing her cubs, he and his team make it that bit easier to capture those blink-and-you’llmiss- it moments.
Book it: Exodus has a nine-day Photographic Safari to Kenya starting at £4,699, including flights, accommodation and transport.
Or try: If clients have always dreamed of getting the northern lights on film, direct them to Artisan Travel’s Winter Photography workshop in Sweden, which features adventures such as ice fishing alongside photography workshops led by Fredrik Broman.
It’s not only by heading out on a safari that clients can get up close and personal with wildlife. Seeing a giant panda has to be up there with the most in-demand experiences, and Wendy Wu Tours has a trip which, after passing iconic sites such as the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army, culminates at the Panda Conservation Centre in Chengdu.
Book it: Wendy Wu’s nine-day In Pursuit of Pandas tour starts at £1,890 per person, including flights, accommodation, meals and entrance fees.
Or try: Costa Rica is a haven for animal lovers, but for bird-watching fans, in particular, suggest Grand American Adventures’ Discover Costa Rica itinerary, which has certain departures accompanied by a bird specialist – binoculars at the ready.
Picture an explosion of colour lighting up the sky in dramatic swathes of green, pink, purple and yellow, and you have the aurora borealis, a once-in-a-lifetime sight that’s happily easy to sell.
Combine it with activities such as dog-sledding and it’s even more appealing. Taber Holidays’ Northern Lights Lodge, Husky Safari and Tromsø experience, in Norway, does exactly that, throwing in a stay at the icy Igloo recommendation for adventurous types looking to get off the usual trail.
Book it: Taber Holidays’ six-day trip starts at £2,115, including flights, accommodation and some meals.
Or try: Iceland has its fair share of sightings too, and Regent Holidays’ eight-day Northern Lights Explorer is a good option for clients wanting to spot them while exploring hot springs, waterfalls and lava fields.
The history of western Europe is a vast and complex affair filled with bloody battles and historic victories, and a battlefields-themed tour gives clients a unique opportunity to explore the events that shaped our heritage.
Back-Roads Touring has several such trips, including Anzacs on the Western Front, a five-day itinerary exploring the Antipodean war effort, taking clients from the trenches of Ypres to the Somme.
Book it: Anzacs on the Western Front starts at £895 per person, including accommodation, transport, entrance fees and some meals.
Or try: To explore the real story behindthe famous Michael Caine film, Titan has a 15-day KwaZulu Natal trip – think tales of Zulu warriors, Boer guerrillas and British redcoats told on the battlefields where it all happened.
Making it to Machu Picchu, hiking the Himalayas, trekking through Patagonia or scaling Kilimanjaro feature on bucket lists the world over, but some can be near impossible without a guided tour.
G Adventures offers trips to all of the above. The Peru Multisport itinerary, for example, sandwiches the iconic Inca Trail between biking excursions, kayaking and cultural stops aplenty.
Book it: G Adventures’ 15-day trip starts at £1,799, including activities, internal flights and accommodation.
Or try: Australia’s opal coastlines make it a hotspot for hikers of any ability. Try AAT Kings’ Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk, a scenic and eco-friendly way to see the Great Ocean Road.
Adventure doesn’t have to mean base-jumping off a cliff; it’s also about exploring natural beauty, and garden tours can be an appealing alternative to more outlandish options.
Among some of the longer-haul garden tours is Saga’s new Wild Flora of the Cape itinerary, which combines visits to South Africa’s most floral regions with a game drive, stargazing and activities.
Book it: Saga’s 16-night trip starts at £2,449, including flights, excursions, accommodation and all meals. travel.saga.co.uk
Or try: Closer to home, you’ll find Rail Discoveries’ Netherlands in Springtime trip, which is centred on one of the most colourful gardens in the world, Keukenhof.
There’s something magical about watching the world go by from the comfort of a railway carriage, and it’s all the better when the scenery is as spectacular as the Canadian Rockies – think snow-capped peaks covered in carpets of cedar trees.
For that, there’s Great Rail Journeys’ Canada and the Rocky Mountaineer tour, which winds its way through the heart of the wild west, taking in Banff, Vancouver, Niagara Falls and more from on one of the world’s most legendary trains.
Book it: This 18-day tour starts at £4,395,
including flights, standard-class rail,accommodation and some meals. greatrail.com
Or try: India is just as well set up for rail travel; recommend Ffestiniog Travel’s Indian Hill Railways for a wide-angle view of this intriguing and culture-rich country.