Tucked in the valleys of the Alps lie some of Europe’s most charming villages, which you can discover on our NEW Land Tour. Each has a style all its own—you can unwind in graceful Stresa, Italy’s garden-filled resort on the shores of Lake Maggiore. Relax in Interlaken, a Swiss vacation spot set amid two picturesque lakes and surrounded by stunning alpine peaks. Enjoy the Mittel-European charm of Seefeld, in Austrian Tyrol, and discover Bavaria's distinctive heritage as you travel to Munich. As you journey across international and cultural borders, our exclusive Discovery Series events will enhance your explorations, with discussions on food, heritage, and history.
Depart today on your flight to Italy.
Arrival times vary throughout the day, depending on your city of departure. You'll be met at the Milan airport and driven to your hotel in Stresa to begin your Alpine vacation. Take an orientation walk of your neighborhood with your Program Director, and this evening, join your fellow travelers, including those who took our Milan & Lake Como, Italy pre-trip extension, and your Program Director for a Welcome Drink and introduction before an included dinner at your hotel.
After breakfast and an orientation briefing at your hotel this morning, you'll have the opportunity to sign up for optional tours that interest you.
Then, enjoy a walking tour of scenic Stresa, your home base for the next four nights. This township of roughly 5,000 residents is one of Italy's jewels, sitting as it does on the shores of sparkling Lake Maggiore. A fishing village since the 15th century, Stresa has always been a beloved resort town for the region's well-to-do.
During your walk this morning, you'll enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event to learn about the Taste of Italy. Some of the world's most beloved cuisines comes from Italy, from wines to olive oils, breads and pastas. The rest of the day is yours at leisure, before you gather for a Welcome Dinner in a local restaurant.
Today is yours to enjoy at leisure. Or, you could join an optional A Tale of Two Countries tour to explore the culturally diverse region at the Italian and Swiss border.
On this optional tour, take a train to Santa Maria Maggiore, a rural village where old agricultural traditions still hold firm, where your Program Director will take you on a walk. After a walk through the village, you’ll visit a local museum to learn about chimneysweeping, which is how people in this bucolic region have traditionally earned a living. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant, then hop on the Cento Valli, a scenic leisure train, and travel to Domodossola to take in more of the countryside scenery and explore this 1,500-year-old town. You’ll return to Stresa in the evening.
Dinner will be on your own.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before departing for a boat cruise to the Borromean Islands. The striking 20-minute ride takes you along Lake Maggiore's western side, where you will be able to see villas and villages lining the coast. You'll land on Isola Bella and enjoy a tour of the fairytale-like Palazzo Borromeo, renowned since construction began in the 1600s for its Neoclassical ballroom, gardens, and artificial grottoes.
During your time on the islands, you'll also enjoy a discovery walk with your Program Director on Isola Pescatori, a charming fishing village. Lunch is included at a local restaurant before your return to Stresa.
The rest of the day is at leisure, and dinner tonight is on your own.
Enjoy today at leisure, or join an optional tour to discover the Treasures of Lake Orta.
Take a coach ride past panoramic views of this picturesque subalpine lake. In Orta, the lake's namesake village, you'll find a hidden gem that many visitors have yet to discover. Visit the Sacro Monte, one of nine northern Italian churches intended as pilgrimage sites, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your optional tour also includes a boat ride to San Giulio Island, and a discovery walk there before gathering for lunch at a local restaurant. You’ll return to Stresa in the late afternoon, and have the balance of the day to spend as you choose. Dinner is on your own tonight.
This morning, you’ll say goodbye to Stresa—and Italy—as you depart for Interlaken, Switzerland. You’ll stop at the Simplon Mountain Pass for a chance to take photographs—one of the most famous mountain routes in the world, this pass offers commanding views of the snow-capped Swiss Alps and the many villages that dot the valleys below.
Then, board a train for a short ride to Zermatt, a high-altitude (about 5,300 feet) town perched on the Alpine mountainside. A beloved ski resort town, Zermatt has been attracting outdoorsy travelers and athletes since British mountaineers hiked here in the 19th century. Its name derived from the same root as the nearby Matterhorn—Matten being German for “meadows,” of which Zermatt has optimal views.
Explore Zermatt on a walk with your Program Director before enjoying lunch on your own. In the early afternoon, you’ll continue on your scenic journey to Interlaken.
You will arrive at your hotel in the early evening. Enjoy dinner at the hotel.
After breakfast, take an educational discovery walk with your Program Director around Interlaken, a classic Swiss Alpine town. Located on the Bodeli, a strip of land on the Aar River, connecting Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, Interlaken has an abundance of green mountain views and, at an altitude of approximately 1,800 feet, a crisp Alpine climate. You’ll explore the Flower Clock, a flat garden shaped into the figure of an iconic Swiss clock, as well as the local promenade and 35-acre park.
You will visit Lake Brienz this afternoon, and enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series tour of a local woodcarving workshop. Woodcarving is one of Switzerland’s heritage crafts, and this region is the heart of production for these works of art. Learn how woodcarving (and in particular, the local specialty of chip carving) became emblematic of Swiss craftwork, and meet the artisans still producing such pieces today.
Dinner tonight will be a Home-Hosted Dinner with a local Swiss family. Always a memorable experience, these visits provide you with an opportunity to visit a typical home and sample home-cooked food typical of the region. Your Swiss hosts will be delighted to tell you about their culture, and introduce you to family traditions and foods.
Take today at your leisure to explore more of Interlaken, or join our optional Bernese Oberland tour. The Bernese Oberland encompasses the German-speaking highlands of the region of Bern. You’ll tour the Trummelbach Falls, unique glacial waterfalls that are accessible underground. You’ll also see the Lauterbrunnen Valley, or “The Land of 72 Waterfalls” (the name literally translates to “many fountains”), and hear the thunder of all the waterways that crash down in this scenic valley. Take a ride on the Jungfraubahn, a train that runs to the highest rail station in Europe. Disembark at Kleine Sheidegg to witness views of the surrounding area from nearly 7,000 feet, and enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before continuing on to Grindelwald, an ancient Germanic mountain town where you’ll take a discovery walk with your Program Director. After some free time in Grindelwald, return to Interlaken.
Tonight, dinner is on your own.
Today you will transfer to Seefeld, Austria. On the way, stop in Vaduz, in the tiny landlocked nation of Liechtenstein. Founded circa 1322, Vaduz is home to Liechtenstein’s Parliament, as well as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop. A compact city with much political history, Vaduz makes for a pleasant discovery walk with your Program Director. Enjoy an included lunch, before you complete your journey with an overland crossing into Austria.
Arriving at your hotel in Seefeld in the early evening, you’ll have time to unpack before a dinner in the hotel.
Enjoy a walking tour of Seefeld after breakfast at your hotel. A Tyrolean town founded as a farming settlement in 1022, Seefeld offers old-world Germanic charm and a landscape of snowy mountains, wooden church spires, and the Karwendel Nature Reserve. Lunch is on your own, but with many cozy taverns you won’t have any difficulty finding somewhere to sit and perhaps taste the regional specialty of speck, a delicately-flavored fatty ham.
If you are looking to learn more about the landscape you’ve just entered, consider joining our Austrian Afternoon tour.
On this optional tour, you’ll take a ride on an open-air narrow-gauge cog train built in 1888. This nostalgic train will deliver you to the shore of Achensee Lake, the largest lake in Tyrol and one which is noted for its incredibly clean and deep blue water. You will take a ferry to Scholastica, on the lake's northern shore. After a short walk along the lake, you'll enjoy a traditional Tyrolean dinner featuring local flavors.
You’ll return to Seefeld this evening. Dinner is on your own for those travelers not participating in the optional tour.
This morning, take a train to Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol. This city offers a truly spectacular look into European history, having been continuously inhabited since the Stone Age. The massive, white Rennaissance Ambras Castle overlooks the city from its hillside perch, and the Baroque Innsbruck Cathedral looms imposingly over the central Domplatz (Cathedral Square). Your local guide will take you through the city so you can see these sights and more.
Enjoy time in this fascinating city for an included lunch, and independent exploration after your tour.
Dinner is on your own tonight.
Today is yours to enjoy as you wish. Or, join an optional tour to learn more about Bavaria, a German state in the southeast of the country.
This fascinating region has a proud cultural identity, separate from that of the rest of Germany. Some of Germany’s finest architectural wonders trace their identity to Bavarian builders, and you’ll see this during a stop at the Benedictine monastery in Ettal. A 14th-century marvel, Ettal Abbey was actually considered modest by the elaborate standards of most Bavarian churches, but it still boasts a massive domed roof with detailed frescoes and intricate religious sculptures.
As you continue on this optional tour, you will also visit the town of Oberammergau. Here, you’ll tour the theater where the Passion Play is performed—the story of the life of Christ, performed every ten years since the people of the town were spared from the bubonic plague. This play takes seven hours to perform and involves over 2,000 people, making it a significant artistic and spiritual undertaking for all involved. After lunch on your own, visit Linderhof Palace, the former home of King Ludwig II that was inspired by the construction of France's Versailles. The rococo decorations of this impressive palace are offset by a precisely-designed garden outdoors, and both the interior and exterior are rich with symbolism that your local guide will point out.
Dinner is on your own tonight in Seefeld.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and a leisurely morning. Perhaps you'll take this time to explore one of the many scenic pathways that have made this town such a popular destination (it even hosted the Nordic events for multiple Winter Olympics).
Lunch will be on your own, before a mid-afternoon departure for Mittenwald. This Bavarian town has long been a vital transportation hub for the region, lying as it does on a low route through the Alps. But the town has also made significant contributions to the arts, as it is a major producer of fine violins, violas, and other string instruments. The Rathaus (Town Hall) of Mittenwald is home to a permanent exhibition of locally-made classical stringed instruments, which have been produced in the town for over 300 years. You’ll learn about Luthiers, or instrument-makers, and have the chance to ask questions about the cultural legacy of this work in the region.
This evening, you’ll feast at a memorable Farewell Dinner with your fellow travelers, complete with musicians in grand Tyrolean style.
After breakfast, you’ll depart for the two-hour drive to Schwangau, Germany, best known for the iconic castle overlooking the landscape. Made famous as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s Disneyland castle, Neuschwanstein is a Romanesque Revival masterpiece. You’ll explore this fairy-tale structure during a guided tour.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria, a notably antisocial figure, originally intended for the castle to act as a personal home—it was never intended, unlike most similar structures of the era, to be used for defensive purposes. The drama of the castle’s clean white exterior and massive courtyards is matched by the interior. Richard Wagner was one of the main creative inspirations for the construction of the building, as the king was such a fan of his operas—paintings of characters decorate the walls, and some say the castle was in part dedicated to the composer. Since the castle was built in the late 19th century, it contains modern amenities such as flush toilets, central heating, and hot water. The Hall of the Singers is an impressive 89-foot-long room, where the anniversary concert of Richard Wagner’s death was performed in 1933.
Lunch will be on your own before heading on to Munich; you'll arrive in the early evening. Tonight, reminisce about your Alpine memories with your fellow travelers.
This morning, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Early departures will be given a box breakfast to take along. Or, extend your European vacation with our optional post-trip extension to Munich, Germany & Salzburg, Austria.