• Corsica at Sunset

    6 of Europe's Best-Kept Secrets

    <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/europe/" target="_blank">Europe</a> is known for having some of the most iconic sites in the world. From the picturesque canals of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italyfamily/" target="_blank">Venice</a>, the standing stones at <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/londonstonehengecotswolds/" target="_blank">Stonehenge</a>, to the lavender fields of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/provence-tours/" target="_blank">Provence</a>. It’s easy to find yourself on a merry-go-round of repeating travels. But you can still find amazing places off the beaten path… the places not known yet to tourists. And with the help of Classic Journeys, you’ll find that Europe is full of them!<br><br>Here you’ll find six of the best-kept secrets in Europe. Which one will you visit first?<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/istria-slovenia-walking-tour/" target="_blank"><img alt="Croatia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Ei9Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000015rP9" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/istria-slovenia-walking-tour/" target="_blank"><b>Slovenia + Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula</b></a><br>Just a generation ago, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/istria-slovenia-walking-tour/" target="_blank">Slovenia and Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula</a> were part of Yugoslavia. Now, they’re two of the great under-the-radar and off-the-chart destinations in all of Europe. These unspoiled next-door lands sit right at the top of the Adriatic Sea just east of Venice. The scenery is so insanely perfect that you don’t want the walks to end. Think vineyards rolling into olive groves sweeping to the Adriatic and mirror calm mountain lakes reflecting snow-capped Alps.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/basque/" target="_blank"><img alt="Basque" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Ei9Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000015rPE" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/basque/" target="_blank"><b>Basque Pyrenees</b></a><br>A museum sheathed in titanium. Wild horses that eat baguettes. Villages with names in three languages—Basque, French and Spanish. Farmers on tractors yield the right of way to fierce but friendly pelota games in village squares. Garlands of brilliant red pimientos dry in the sunlight… then show up on a dinner plate stuffed with seafood. You’ll be surprised at the richness of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/basque/" target="_blank">Europe’s oldest culture</a> that few have had the chance to experience.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sardinia/" target="_blank"><img alt="Corsica" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Ei9Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000015rPJ" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sardinia/" target="_blank"><b>Sardinia + Corsica</b></a><br>Travel between the isles of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sardinia/" target="_blank">Sardinia and Corsica</a> and you&#39;ll only venture eight miles...but they&#39;re worlds apart. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sardinia/" target="_blank">Corsica</a>—part of France, but defiantly non-French—is blanketed in fragrant herbs and dotted with quaint villages. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sardinia/" target="_blank">Sardinia</a> seeks adventure. Travel through the island and see how it&#39;s rustic, mysterious; with a few thousand years of Phoenician, Spanish and Italian blood in its veins. Together, these two gorgeous islands are some of the least-touristed spots in Europe. When you leave behind the yacht-studded harbors for the mountains, pastures and vineyards of the interior, you have the rarest of privileges—to see and experience countryside and culture that seem to have stood still in time.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/montenegro/" target="_blank"><img alt="Montenegro" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Ei9Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000015rPO" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/montenegro/" target="_blank"><b>Montenegro</b></a><br>How will you explain <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/montenegro/" target="_blank">Montenegro</a> to your friends who haven’t been (and that will be 99.9% of them)? Do you start with its Adriatic coast, where golden stone villages nestle on secluded, palm-lined bays? You can’t leave out the wild mountains with their sheer canyons and whisper-quiet lakes. You’ll certainly have stories about the hospitable Montenegrins… the olive growers, grappa-makers, shepherds and artists. You’ll fall in instant love with this compact Balkan land because it’s still so undiscovered, unexpected and unforgettable.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank"><img alt="Prague" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Ei9Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000015rPT" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank"><b>Prague to Budapest</b></a><br>The journey from <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank">Prague to Vienna to Budapest </a>is one of Europe’s best hidden gems. These one-time capitals of the Habsburg Empire, with its spires and castles, create the continent’s most inspiring skylines. Out in the countryside, the sights are spectacular. Powder-blue cathedrals leap up from the heart of valley towns. Incredibly intact villages are so perfectly preserved that the U.N. recognizes them as World Heritage Sites. Vast farmlands make it feel as though you’ve stepped back into feudal times. This is a rich slice of Europe’s life and history that most travelers never see.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/apulia/" target="_blank"><img alt="Apulia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Ei9Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000015rPY" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/apulia/" target="_blank"><b>Apulia</b></a><br>When we ask our Italian guides where they&#39;d most like to take our friends who think they know Italy on a walking tour we get one response: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/apulia/" target="_blank">Apulia</a>. And then they use their hands. To paint a vista of gnarled olive trees silhouetted against a lapis lazuli sea. To express the amazing sunlight. To sketch the saw-toothed skyline of a village comprised entirely of trulli—the conical stone roofs unique to the region. Best of all, Apulia (pronounced ah-pooh-lya) passes the most important Classic Journeys test—it offers fine leisurely walking, elegant accommodations, and a glimpse into a region and culture that&#39;s not quite like any you&#39;ve encountered before.

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  • Family Jumping in the Mountains

    Take Your Celebration On the Road

    <h2>Record numbers of travelers are taking their milestone celebrations and reunions on the road – and coming home incredibly happy.</h2><p> </p><p>The Croatian language can be a bit of a challenge for <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank">visitors to this beautiful Adriatic country</a>. Just try wrapping your tongue around “Sretan 60th rodjendan, honey!” But one group of friends is at work on their accents now, anticipating next summer’s joint 60th birthday bash. When Grace, Carol, Kitty and Tom go cheek-to-cheek to blow out the candles on their cake, they’ll be marking the milestone on a landmark vacation. With a total of eight couples, they are traveling to Croatia and <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/montenegro/" target="_blank">Montenegro</a> to commemorate their cumulative 240 years.</p><p>Way back when—let’s say when those folks turned 50—celebration vacations were relatively rare. Not so much these days. Among the 45+ crowd, more than three-quarters now say that a vacation is their preferred way to celebrate milestone occasions, according to no less an authority than AARP. Do a Google search for “25th anniversary vacation”, and prepare to toggle your way through about 397,000 results. So if the idea has occurred to you and yours, you’re not alone.</p><h3><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/groups/" target="_blank">FROM ANNIVERSARIES TO FAMILY REUNIONS, GIRLS’ GETAWAYS AND ANYTHING ELSE WORTH CELEBRATING, A SPECIAL TRIP WITH CLASSIC JOURNEYS MAKES THE OCCASION THAT MUCH MORE MEMORABLE. LEARN HOW WE’LL ACCOMMODATE YOUR CELEBRATION VACATION.</a></h3><p>Fresh back from a major birthday trip, Classic Journeys’ guest, Larry Jacobs, cites a song by The Grass Roots from the ‘60s as his inspiration: “We take the ‘sha-la-la-la-la-lala, live for today’ approach. Big days are worth a big gesture. It’s not just about the odometer turning over. I look at that day on the calendar as the perfect excuse to have an experience we’ll always remember.”</p><p>“I hear that sentiment over and over,” agrees Dave Van Hook, Senior Guest Services Coordinator at Classic Journeys. “I’ve arranged <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/glaciernationalpark/" target="_blank">river-rafting parties in Montana</a>. A candlelit honeymoon dinner for two at Angkor Wat. A bar mitzvah <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi/" target="_blank">trip to the Amalfi Coast</a>. And a <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos/" target="_blank">high school graduation celebration in the Galápagos</a>.” The common goal is to elevate what’s already a memorable moment into a truly unforgettable non-stop experience.</p><p><a href="http://www.classicjourneys.com/costarica-walking-tours/" target="_blank"><img src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mq&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f9iA" alt="Group River Rafting"></img></a></p><p><br></p><p>And when a specific celebration is nowhere on the horizon, legions of travelers—whether family groups or circles of friends—now invent an occasion and theme their vacations as reunions. “At home, we just can never get everybody together,” says Dick and Barbara Enberg. Soccer practice. Business trips. Family members strewn around the country. The obstacles are endless. “But invite everybody to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/costarica-walking-tours/" target="_blank">come to Costa Rica for a family reunion</a>, and it’s amazing how those calendars clear. There were times on that trip when the kids were telling stories and enjoying each other. It’s what parents enjoy most of all.”</p><p><br></p><p>The Knapp and Picon families are going for that effect next June. Grandparents, four adult children and eight grandchildren aged from 7 to 16 are headed off for a unique “grand tour” of Europe—from a scavenger hunt in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/londonstonehengecotswolds/" target="_blank">London</a> to a gladiator training session in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italyfamily/" target="_blank">Rome</a>. “We want to have these experiences together while we all can,” says Judi Knapp, guiding force behind the adventure. That trip seems highly likely to fuel at-home Thanksgiving reminiscences for decades to come.</p><p>Marilyn Shockey and her husband just returned from a three-couple trip that included <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank">Budapest, Vienna and other spots in the Danube Valley</a>. “Our husbands have all known each other since grade school. They could just sit on a porch and tell the same stories to each other over and over. On these vacations they still have time for that, but we create a lot of new memories. Traveling together means our relationship isn’t just about the past. It’s about the present and shared memories for the future too.”</p><p>The chance for an uninterrupted celebration of friendship is also inspiring a growing number of groups of women to travel together. Ultima Morgan, an Orlando attorney, has now traveled with her sister and four friends to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscany/" target="_blank">Tuscany</a>, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/provence/" target="_blank">Provence</a> and <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi/" target="_blank">Amalfi</a>, each time with Classic Journeys. “If you’re married or you have kids, especially as you get older, it’s nice to have a chunk of time when you can reconnect with friends. Spending that kind of time together, you’re just bonded for life.”</p><p>In fact, most celebration vacationers are at least as interested in renewing and strengthening personal bonds as they are in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/provence/" target="_blank">partying in Provence</a> or <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos/" target="_blank">reunion-ing in the Galápagos</a>. “Often, the milestone event is really just a happy incentive for people who love each other’s company to make time for each other,” Dave confirms. When they raise a glass to the Birthday Girl or the Anniversary Couple or the Class of ’77, they’re really saying, “Here’s to all of us!” Memorable, marquee moments that rare are definitely worth the trip.</p><p> </p>

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  • Woman taking photo of temple at sunset in Myanmar

    What Travel Looks Like, 20 Years Down the Road

    <p>For a perfect symbol of how travel has changed over the last 20 years, I vote for that little cheese-yellow box of Kodak film. Oh, the debates we had about how many rolls of 24 or 36 exposures to cram into our bags. How we crossed our fingers every time we pushed the shutter button. And then came the antsy wait for the prints to come back from the drugstore. Subtract the rolls that didn’t rewind right, the thumbs in front of the lens, the over-exposed sunsets, and you felt lucky to end up with a dozen or two really terrific shots.</p> <p>As we look ahead to our 20th Anniversary in 2015, I find myself reminiscing on the past two decades, comparing then and now. I sure wouldn’t trade the speed, reliability and instant gratification of my digital camera for anything. The same goes for e-tickets. (Admit it: at least once in your life, you dumped a backpack or a purse onto an airport floor in the frantic search for a paper ticket that was actually in your jacket pocket.) Travel apps trump half-pound guidebooks full of slightly out-of-date info any day.</p> <p>Way back in ’95, your Bon Voyage party could tag along to the boarding gate at some airports…and you didn’t take your shoes off until it was time to try sleeping on your overnight flight (in a seat with inches of width we’ve kissed goodbye forever). You couldn’t visit Montenegro (because it didn’t exist) or <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/now-is-the-time-to-go/" target="_blank" title="Travel to Myanmar">travel to Myanmar</a> (because nobody was allowed in). Somewhere in a drawer, you had an envelope full of leftover French francs that you couldn’t use on your next trip to Italy or Spain. <i>Vive la euro! </i><br><br><img alt="Group walking in Provence" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7n3&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002pYu" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><i>Classic Journeys is founded in 1995, and kicks off with a cultural walking tour of Provence among 8 trip regions in 4 countries.</i></p> <p><br>You can probably add a dozen more changes to the list. But here’s one you may not have thought about. In this flatter world – where travelers swim in a sea of Wiki entries and crowd-sourced reviews – it’s gotten harder than ever to have the spontaneous, authentic experiences that are the Holy Grail of avid travelers. Is there a pho shop in Hanoi that hasn’t been rated? An inch of the Inca Trail that hasn’t been Instagrammed? A Croatian village that doesn’t have its own website?</p> <p>I call it the democratization of travel, and mostly it’s an excellent thing. It opens minds to new ideas and inspires people to head for places they never considered before. But how crazy is it that the easier it becomes to research and travel to destinations, the harder it is to feel like you’ve actually been there in a real, deep-in-your-soul sort of way? Uncounted thousands have crossed <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/how-to-visit-machu-picchu/" target="_blank" title="Tips for Visiting Machu Picchu">Machu Picchu off their bucket lists </a>in the last two decades, but how few of them got more than a drive-by, greatest-hits visit?</p> <p>This is where our job at Classic Journeys has become extra challenging…and a ton of fun. All along, our idea was to turn left when everybody else turned right, to track down or create experiences that would be one-of-a-kind. One of my co-founders, Steve Snapp, has been heard to joke that, “Edward never met a shepherd he didn’t love.” Guilty as charged! We reward our local guides for connecting us with people and places that don’t show up on other trips. If we can make pasta in a private Amalfi home on top of a cliff, my day is made. Introduce me to a truffle-hunter or a floating farmer in Myanmar or the Quechua children in a remote Peruvian school or a cigar-roller in rural Cuba, and I’m a very happy camper. I love it when we can break down a barrier or shatter somebody’s preconceived notions. One of my favorite shepherds is a Sardinian named Tonino. He makes us lunch and we eat on cork plates in his garden. His only exposure to Americans used to be via SkyTV. Even mainland Italians are outlanders to him. Our time with him shows us a world that we can barely believe still exists. But his eyes have been opened in nice ways too. That’s the power of travel at its best.<br><br><img alt="Cooking lesson in Provence" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7n3&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002pYz" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><i>In 1999, a casual cooking session in a friend’s Provencal kitchen inspires Classic Journeys to create culinary tours in France and Italy.</i><br><br>Finding authenticity is definitely not a static process. We’re on a constant quest for new twists and ways to refresh a trip. Sometimes it takes years to gently convince someone – oh, say, a goatherd – to invite us into his mountainside hut. Much of the originality happens on the fly. We’ve always empowered our guides to go with the flow, to zig off to a one-day village festival that wasn’t in the plan. It’s one of the ways technology has made a huge positive difference. A quick text message or email lets us fire off a suggestion or respond to a guide’s suggestion in real time. We’ve been known to look at long-distance weather forecasts and suggest switching a coastal walk to today because it looks more ideal than tomorrow.<br><br><img alt="White water rafting in Costa Rica" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7n3&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002pZ4" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><i>Classic Journeys launches Family Journeys in 2003. Costa Rica tops the list of early favorites.</i></p> <p><br>Travel’s democratization has also made a major difference in how you shop for and book vacations. Everybody has access to just about every pixel’s worth of travel info on the Internet. In our own case, we started when websites were still optional. Our original site had a couple of dozen pages; we’re up to thousands now. Google the phrase “Tuscany tour”, and you get “about 15,500,000 results.” You could book who knows how many hundreds of them with a couple of minutes at your computer keyboard…without ever exchanging words with another human. Happily, we see that what hasn’t changed is that travelers still love to talk. A lot of you really crave conversation and need it more than ever in order to sort through all of the options. You won’t find anyone who’s happier to oblige than we are.</p> <p>For us personally at Classic Journeys, the most recent change is that we’re heading into our 20th Anniversary Year as the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/its-been-quite-a-trip-to-1/" target="_blank" title="World&#39;s Best Tour Operator">World’s Best Tour Operator</a> in the latest <i>Travel + Leisure</i> Reader Survey. This is our seventh appearance on one of the <i>T+L</i> World’s Best lists in the last 10 years and our first time as #1. Back in 1995, we couldn’t have predicted that any more than we would have said we’d use our iPhone as a flashlight on an after-sunset stroll in a Croatian garden.</p> <p>I’m just so happy that we’ve been here to see it all. That our style of immersive experiential travel has grown to matter more than ever before. And that travelers who like to get under the skin of a place know that we understand them and can make it happen. I’m not brave enough to predict everything the next 20 years will hold, but I’m willing to bet there will never be an app for that.</p> <br> 

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