Now’s the Time for an Awe-Inspiring Tour in the Great Outdoors

Why you should immerse yourself in the wonders of nature and see some of the most incredible locations in Europe and North America this year.

Now’s the Time for an Awe-Inspiring Tour in the Great Outdoors

Incredible stargazing in Banff National Park

Photo courtesy of Damien Raggatt/Intrepid Group

It’s high time to get outdoors, see the world, and let stunning landscapes inspire you again. Whether you prefer active outings (at multiple skill levels) or more laidback ways of sightseeing, these small group tours will bring you into the heart of gorgeous natural environments. Choose from marvels close to home in North America, like cycling through the Canadian Rockies or touring Utah’s stunning national parks, or travel further afield to Europe for a walking tour of Prosecco, a journey through Scotland’s Highlands, or an exploration of the Northern Lights of Finland. Bond with family and loved ones and forge new friendships as you take in the natural splendor of the great outdoors on these small group trips.

Best of all, when you sign up for a tour, all you’ll do is look forward to it, and enjoy your experience when you get there—instead of fussing over details. Leave the planning to experts and be guided by highly trained locals, who help you travel deeper by going beyond the sights with insider info and access to places and events that are otherwise unavailable. Now, with the help of the United States Tour Operators Association and their curated tour operators, it’s time to get out there and get a new perspective.

Explore Scotland’s untouched wilderness

open-uri20220630-49-1swr0iz

RED DEER STAG IN GLEN COE (GLENCOE) WINTER / SPRING

Photo ©Visit Scotland/Paul Tomkins

On Celtic Tours’ Highland Explorer and the Isle of Skye tour, one of the operators’ most popular trips and limited to 16 people, you’ll discover the natural beauty that makes Scotland muse to great works of literature and films alike, from pristine Northern Highlands beaches to the Isle of Skye’s lighthouse. Taking advantage of the country’s size, the trip covers Loch Ness, Ullapool, Assynt, Isle of Skye, Glencoe, Applecross, Torridon, Cairngorm National Park, Eilean Donan Castle, and Five Sisters of Kintail. Remote beauty will surround you all along this incredible route, with multiple options for adventures and more accessible excursions along the way.

Fly into Edinburgh and explore the city before heading to Loch Ness the next day. Keep your eyes peeled for Nessie, the famed Loch Ness monster, and enjoy forest walks (including the ancient pine at Cairngorm), castles, and charming villages. Follow it with the spectacular Scottish Highlands where you’ll have opportunities to see magnificent 15th-century castle ruins, wildlife, some of the oldest landscapes in Europe, the epic River Droma, the castle from Highlander, and more.

A breathtaking bicycle tour through the Canadian Rockies

open-uri20220630-49-nqs6lm

Peyto Lake in Banff National Park

Photo ©Rob Cooney

With its snow-dusted peaks, turquoise lakes, glittering glaciers, and vibrant forests, the Canadian Rockies do not disappoint. And there’s perhaps no more invigorating way to see it all than up close and personal on two wheels, taking in the fresh mountain air on Intrepid’s Cycle the Canadian Rockies tour.

Led by an experienced local guide, this six-day cycling adventure kicks off from Calgary before venturing on to Banff National Park, the Icefields Parkway—one of the world’s most scenic roads—and Jasper national Park. In between, you’ll pedal through forests and along the Bow River to the clear waters of Lake Louise, the jewel of the Canadian Rockies. Both challenging and rewarding, this is one cycling trip for the books.

Discover the iconic National Parks of Utah

open-uri20220630-49-11gvce7

Sunrise over Bryce Canyon

Courtesy of Insight Vacations

During this eight-day guided small group tour from Insight Vacations, Iconic National Parks of Utah, you’ll see one “wow” after the next as you travel through the heart of Utah. With up to just 17 fellow guests, this tour is intimate enough to take you to places and exclusive experiences that larger groups just can’t access.

Get ready to revel in red sandstone landscapes and geological wonders such as Monument Valley Tribal Park, Zion and Capitol Reef National Parks. You’ll slip through the sheer rock walls of Antelope Canyon in Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, and walk among the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, which holds the largest concentration of the irregular rock columns on earth, and the giant Toadstools of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. You’ll also savor a traditional Navajo cookout and a beautiful picnic lunch during the trip. Expect moderate hikes, 4x4 excursions and narrow canyon walks on this active tour that will also see you relaxing in style at boutique hotels and resorts.

Marvel at Finland’s Northern Lights

open-uri20220630-49-1nyllb2

Photo ©Collette

You’ll truly be at one with nature as you set across rugged Lapland in pursuit of the fabled celestial skies in Collette’s eight-day tour, The Northern Lights of Finland. While you’re there, you’ll get first-hand knowledge of traditional Finnish culture throughout the tour, all the more accessible thanks to the small group size.

You’ll have the chance to lead your own dogsled team as you mush your way to breakfast on a Finnish sleigh and embark on a reindeer safari with a local farmer as your tour guide. And some nights you’ll slumber in traditional log cabins and even sleep out in the wilderness in a glass igloo, from which you can marvel at the night skies. Speaking of what’s above, you’ll venture out nightly to find the mesmerizing Northern Lights—nature’s dazzling electric light show—across Lapland.

A delectable walking tour through Italy’s Prosecco Hills

open-uri20220630-49-vrzfkf

Photo by Exodus Travels

Traipse over forest trails, dirt roads, and paved tracks and tarmac as you discover one of the oldest wine regions in Italy on Exodus Travels’ seven-night tour, Walking the Prosecco Hills, led by Exodus’ expert local guides. A mere hour’s drive north of Venice, in the foothills of the Dolomites, you’ll find ancient, terraced vineyards clinging to the sides of the slopes, all dedicated to grapes resulting in Italy’s renowned sparkling wine, Prosecco.

You’ll be based in an elegant hotel in the heart of “Prosecco Road”—Italy’s oldest wine route—and spend the week walking through picturesque rolling hills, toasting your hiking accomplishments over wine tastings and vineyard tours at the region’s best wineries. You’ll also step back in time with a guided tour of the jewel of Veneto, the UNESCO site Villa Barbaro, which dates to the 16th century, and when visiting charming medieval villages such as Cison, Follina, and Asolo. Saluti!

For these tours and many others that mean expertly planned trips, access to VIP and off-the-beaten-path experiences, local and knowledgeable guides, around-the-clock service, and more, head to USTOA.

More From AFAR