Our pick of the best trips for the new century

May 11, 2009

Here are our picks of the ultimate tours in the ultimate places. You're thinking planes, trains, and automobiles?Absolutely--not to mention hikes, bikes, and elephants.

Africa and the Middle East

(80) Abercrombie & Kent: Ancient Voices (800/323-7308; 19 days, $5,900 per person). Experience the Holy Land and the land of the pharaohs. (81)Micato Safaris: South and East Africa--the Dream Safari (800/642-2861; 16 days, $5,780). Hear the mighty roar of Victoria Falls and camp in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.(82)African Travel: Jewels of the Desert & Delta (800/421-8907; 15 days, $5,295).Count the whiskers on a cheetah in Botswana and the ripples in Damaraland's dunes.

Asia

(83) Absolute Asia: Highlights of China (800/736-8187; 14 days, $4,400). A deluxe introduction to the sights and scenes of the Middle Kingdom. (84) Backroads: Vietnam Biking (800/462-2848; 12 days, $3,998). Relax on unspoiled beaches after cycling through tiny fishing villages. (85) Mountain Travel­Sobek: Adventures in Central Asia (888/687-6235; 21 days, $3,890). Bargain in Ashkhabad's famous bazaar and seek out Bukhara's mosques.

Australia and New Zealand

(86) Absolute Australia: Western Australia Deluxe Four-Wheel-Drive Tour (888/285-6094; 15 days, $8,470). Waltz your Matilda through the outback and mountains, and along pristine coastline. (87) Abercrombie & Kent: Jewels of the South Pacific (18 days, $10,710). Relax at intimate hotels and revel in a two-day trip aboard the Edwardian-style Great South Pacific Express.(88) Swain Australia Tours: Aussie Highlights (800/227-9246; 15 days, $2,185). Explore Sydney, tour wineries, and discover the spirit of Uluru (a.k.a. Ayers Rock).

Europe

(89) Travcoa: Medieval Cities of Europe with Oberammergau (800/992-2003; 20 days, $9,595). Exciting days in historical and religious towns, plus a passion play in the German Alps. (90) Butterfield & Robinson: Provence--Biking the Lubéron Valley (800/678-1147; seven days, $3,995). Inhale the lavender-scented air while wheeling down avenues lined with plane trees. (91) Intrav: Paris, London, and the Supersonic Concorde (800/456-8100; 10 days, $6,880). Arrive on time and in style.

India

(92) Cox & Kings: Discover India and Nepal (800/999-1758; 15 days, $2,985). Visit movie sets, a maharajah, and the Taj Mahal. (93) Geographic Expeditions: Himalayan Highlands (800/777-8183; 21 days, $4,545). Tie prayer flags at mountain temples above Darjeeling.(94) Western & Oriental: From the Coromandel to the Malabar Coast (44-207/313-6611; 15 days, $3,650). Heed the siren call of Bangalore, Mysore, and the spice fields of the Nilgiri Hills.

Latin America and Antarctica

(95) Wilderness Travel: Andean Tapestry(800/368-2794; 15 days, $3,995). Watch Peruvian and Bolivian villagers weave the textiles worn since Incan days. (96) Lindblad Special Expeditions: Exploring Baja's Infinite Mysteries (800/397-3348; eight days, $2,390). Sail the Gulf of California with blue whales and sea lions. (97) Geographic Expeditions: Classic Antarctica (12 days, $3,995). See penguins diving from icebergs as you wind your way around Cape Horn.

North America

(98) Tauck Tours: Islands of Southern New England (800/468-2825; eight days, $2,350). Experience clambakes, nature walks, and a visit to Jackson Pollock's studio (new this year, the tour is already sold out). (99) Discovery Tours: Life on the Mississippi (800/462-8687; eight days, $2,925). Steam past the antebellum South and Civil War sites on the Delta Queen paddleboat. (100) Butterfield & Robinson: The Johnston Strait (five days, $2,350).Kayak the Inside Passage, slipping into glacial fjords and remote bays the big ships just can't reach.*

Made To Order

Custom tours help you follow your own roadThese operators will tailor a trip to suit any traveler's needs--when you want, where you want, and how you want. Of course, as the level of pampering goes up, so does the price: a cut-to-fit trip can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $175,000.

Abercrombie & Kent Custom Tours 800/323-7308. Since 1962, A&K has offered personalized tours on all seven continents.

Butterfield & Robinson Private Trips 800/678-1147.Travel experts can create any combination of biking and walking tours imaginable (city or country, golf or fishing...).

Classic Encounters 888/808-1999. Headed for southern Africa?This outfitter will set up any combination of flights and lodging you require.

Heritage Tours 800/378-4555. Sightseeing trips arranged in Spain, Morocco, Turkey, and South Africa, with private transportation and knowledgeable guides.

Off the Beaten Path 800/445-2995. The staff knows all the best guest ranches and lodges in the Rockies, the desert Southwest, and Alaska, and devises sure-to-please itineraries.

Lisa Lindblad Travel Design 212/876-2554. Every detail is planned, right down to reading lists, special lectures, and private dinners, in what this packager calls the "personal-trainer approach" to touring.

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