The Top 15 Tour Operators
This year's World's Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year's honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.
Linking up with the right tour operator can take an amazing trip and turn it into a trip of a lifetime. This might seem like magic, but their in-the-know expertise and long-standing relationships open the doors for the seemingly impossible — a private Jeep safari with a professional tracking team in the depths of Torres del Paine or one-on-one cooking classes from a chef that runs a Michelin-starred restaurant in the south of France. And if any group has traversed the world enough to discern the best tour operators out there, it's the readers of Travel + Leisure.
Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.
The companies that made the list have the skills and connections to create itineraries that reflect their clients' personal interests. No. 3 VBT Bicycling Vacations curates two-wheeled trips all over the globe. One reader said, "Their staff make all the difference." No. 2 Mountain Lodges of Peru puts together highly personalized trekking adventures to Machu Picchu. As another reader exclaimed, "This is the way to visit Machu Picchu!"
But at the top of the list is Quasar Expeditions. Though primarily known for its cruises (the company won the small-ship ocean cruises category this year), it also operates a roster of dynamic safari-style excursions in South America. Read on to find out what sets it apart and which other companies join it on this year's list of the best tour operators in the world.
1. Quasar Expeditions
Quasar Expeditions is for adventurers. The highly specialized itineraries are designed to make guests feel like they're James Cook or Charles Darwin. "Quasar Expeditions' guides are the ultimate, passionate gatekeepers to the Galápagos Islands," one reader said. "Their enthusiasm and love of the islands and the wildlife encourages you to share in their passion and desire to conserve the natural beauty and habitat of the area while still allowing low-impact tourism." Another raved, "Excellent isn't a high enough rating to describe our experience with Quasar Expeditions. Extraordinary in every way!" And while Quasar is best known for its Galápagos trips, it gets high marks for its Patagonia itineraries, which takes guests into the best parts of Chile's Torres del Paine and Argentina's Los Glaciares — two of South America's most spectacular national parks.
More information: quasarex.com
2. Mountain Lodges of Peru
More information: mountainlodgesofperu.com
3. VBT Bicycling Vacations
More information: vbt.com
4. Classic Journeys
More information: classicjourneys.com
5. TCS World Travel
More information: tcsworldtravel.com
6. Black Tomato
More information: blacktomato.com/us
7. Inside Japan Tours
More information: insidejapantours.com
More information: tauck.com
9. Wilderness Travel
More information: wildernesstravel.com
10. Trek Travel
More information: trektravel.com
11. Geographic Expeditions
More information: geoex.com
12. Thomson Family Adventures
More information: familyadventures.com
More information: greavesindia.com
14. DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co.
More information: duvine.com
15. Odysseys Unlimited
More information: odysseys-unlimited.com
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2021.