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.
(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).
(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.
(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.
(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 road
These 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.