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The Leader in Enriching Cultural Experiences since 1958

Worldwide Discovery at Extraordinary Value

2018 Romantic Villages of Alpine Europe

Italy • Switzerland • Austria • Germany

89% Traveler Excellence Rating Read reviews

16 Days from only $3995 including international airfare

Activity Level:

1 2 3 4 5


Courtesy Small World Productions
Switzerland and the Alps

Witness the majesty of the Alps and the quaint villages nestled therein with travel expert Rudy Maxa.

Courtesy Small World Productions
Munich and Bavaria

Toast to the Alpine beauty of southern Germany with one (or more) of its famed local ales with travel expert Rudy Maxa.

Courtesy Small World Productions
Milan and Lake Como

Join travel expert Rudy Maxa on a journey through one of Italy’s most stunning regions—featured on our pre-trip extension.

Courtesy of CNN
What is the real Milan?

Known for being lavish, fast-paced, and aspirational, Milan—our pre-trip extension—reveals its quieter spots.

Courtesy of CNN
A culinary journey through Milan

A local chef shares favorite food haunts in Milan—our pre-trip extension—from a fresh fish market to a family-owned restaurant.

including international airfare
15 DAYS FROM $2995 Tour Only
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NEW: Activity Level

Our NEW Activity Level rating system ranks our trips on a scale of 1 (easiest) to 5 (most difficult) to help you determine if a trip is right for you. The information below is a general guide to our rating system, but see our itineraries for much more detailed physical activity information about each trip.

Activity Level 1:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

Itinerary Overview

Tucked in the valleys of the Alps lie some of Europe’s most charming villages, which you can discover on our comprehensive Alpine Europe 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 crystalline lakes and surrounded by stunning Alpine peaks. Enjoy the charm of Seefeld, in Austrian Tyrol and the bustle of the Bavarian metropolis of Munich, Germany. As you journey across international and cultural borders, our exclusive Discovery Series events will enhance your explorations, with discussions about food, heritage, and history.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 4 nights from only $895

    Discover one of Europe’s most beloved lakes, and some of its most sophisticated towns, such as Como and Bellagio. On this pre-trip extension, explore Lake Como, the chic Alpine gem with a beauty that has drawn noted philosophers, composers, leading men, and poet laureates. You'll also feel the excitement of Milan—a historic city that is brimming with culture and style.

    View Extension Itinerary
Stresa Munich Expand All
  • 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, and this evening, join your Program Director and fellow travelers, including those who took our Lake Como & Milan, Italy pre-trip extension, for a Welcome Drink and introduction before a dinner at your hotel.

  • After breakfast and an orientation briefing at your hotel, you'll have the opportunity to sign up for optional tours that interest you. 

    Then, set off on a walking tour of scenic Stresa, your home base for the next three nights. This township of roughly 5,000 residents is one of Italy's jewels, sitting 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, you'll learn about Fresh Produce & Regional Fare during an exclusive Discovery Series event. Some of the world's most beloved cuisines comes from Italy, from wines to olive oils, breads, and pastas. Learn about the local products during a discussion and enjoy a sampling. 

    The rest of the day is yours at leisure before you gather this evening for a Welcome Dinner in a local restaurant.

  • After breakfast, depart for a private boat ride to explore the Borromean Islands. Your first destination is Isola Bella, where you'll spend the morning discovering the Palazzo Borromeo. Looking like a complex straight out of a fairy tale, this 17th century complex has long been renowned for its Neoclassical ballroom, gardens, and artificial grottoes, with both an included tour and time to stroll the grounds your own.

    Your next stop is Isola Pescatori, a charming fishing village where you'll enjoy a light lunch at a local restaurant as well as a discovery walk with your Program Director before visiting Isola Madre. The largest Borromean island, Isola Madre features a magnificent, English-style botanical garden.

    Return to Stresa this afternoon. The evening is yours to spend at leisure, and dinner is on your own.

  • Spend today at leisure, or join an optional tour to discover the Treasures of Lake Orta.

    Take in this picturesque sub-Alpine lake during a panoramic drive. In Orta, the lake's namesake village, you'll find the Sacro Monte, a hidden gem that many visitors have yet to discover: 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 train ride with your local guide back down to the village of Orta where you'll first enjoy a walking tour then private boat ride to San Giulio Island—a place of meditation where a community of cloistered nuns live in a Benedictine monastery. Take a discovery walk ending at a medieval church before taking your boat back to Orta in time 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, weather permitting. 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. During your stop, you will have the opportunity to  see the stone eagle built by Swiss soldiers in 1944 while patrolling the Swiss border with Italy. 

    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 lunch on your own.

    In the early afternoon, your scenic journey continues on to Interlaken. Arrive in the early evening, with dinner tonight at your hotel.

  • After breakfast, learn about modern life in Switzerland Today during an exclusive Discovery Series discussion.

    You'll then embark on a walking tour of Interlaken, an idyllic Swiss Alpine town, with your Program Director. There you’ll explore Unterseen, an old hidden part of the town where locals live. Continue on to the 19th century Kursaal Casino and its gardens, where you can see the Flower Clock, a flat garden shaped into the figure of an iconic Swiss clock. In front of the Kursaal, stroll along the local promenade, enjoy the view of the Jungfrau mountain. You may even see para-gliders landing down in the Hohematte, a 35 acre park.

    This afternoon, visit Lake Brienz for 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.

    Tonight, visit a local Swiss family for a Home-Hosted Dinner. Always a memorable experience, these evenings provide you with an opportunity to visit a typical home and sample home-cooked food of the region. Your Swiss hosts will be delighted to tell you about their culture, and introduce you to family traditions and foods.

  • This morning you will discover Swiss bucolic life during an exclusive Discovery Series event. A local family will welcome you to their farm in the Brienzerland countryside, one of the most traditional areas in central Switzerland. In the surrounding pastures, where cow graze in the high green meadows, you will gain insight into the everyday life of a real Swiss farmer. Your hosts will also offer you a taste of local cheese.

    Afterwards, return to Interlaken and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Tonight dinner will be on your own.

  • 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. 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 Scheidegg to witness views of the surrounding area from nearly 7,000 feet, and enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before descending the mountain to return to Interlaken.

    Tonight, dinner is on your own.

  • Today, transfer to Seefeld, Austria—stopping on the way in the tiny landlocked nation of Liechtenstein.

    At a mere 62 square miles, Liechtenstein is sixth-smallest microstate in the world with a population of more than 37,000. Stop in its capital, Vaduz, which was founded circa 1322 and 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. Then, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series visit to a local distillery in Triesen, just south of the capital. Here, you'll enjoy a guided tour and light lunch, as well as the opportunity to sample local spirits during a tasting.

    Complete your journey with an overland crossing into Austria, arriving at your hotel in Seefeld in the early evening. Tonight, enjoy an included dinner at your hotel.

  • Set off on a walking tour of Seefeld after breakfast. 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 you won't have any difficulty finding somewhere to sit in one of the many cozy taverns available. Perhaps you'll taste the regional specialty of speck, a smoked ham with a rich and salty flavor. 

    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 noted for its incredibly clean and deep blue water. You will take a ferry to Scholastica, perched along the lake's northern shore. After a short walk along the lake, you'll enjoy a traditional Tyrolean dinner featuring local flavors.

    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. Innsbruck has kept most of its medieval buildings, including its Baroque Cathedral which looms imposingly over the central Domplatz (Cathedral Square). Spend the morning exploring these sites and more on a walking tour with your local guide before lunch at a local restaurant.

    After lunch, learn more about the many important roles women play in times of war during an exclusive Discovery Series discussion on the Women of World War II. You'll then enjoy time for independent exploration before returning to Seefeld. Dinner is on your own tonight.

  • Today is yours to enjoy as you wish.

    Or, join an optional tour to learn more about Bavaria, the largest State of the German federation. This fascinating region has a proud cultural identity, separate from that of the rest of Germany, and some of Germany's finest architectural wonders trace their identity to Bavarian builders.

    Your optional tour begins with a visit the town of Oberammergau, where you'll tour the theater where the Passion Play is performed. This play, depicting the life of Christ, has been performed here since 1634, after village residents were spared from the bubonic plague. Appreciation for life has now become a time-honored tradition: Every ten years, the play is performed in its entirety. A full performance takes seven hours to perform and involves more than 2,000 people, making it a significant artistic and spiritual undertaking for all involved.

    After lunch on your own and free time, head to 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 a leisurely morning with breakfast at your hotel. Perhaps you'll take this time to explore one of the many scenic pathways that have made this town a popular destination  for visitors—and even the host site for Nordic events during multiple Winter Olympic Games.

    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. It has also made significant contributions to the arts, as it is one of the centers of Luftmalerei art, the local tradition of "facade painting," decorating the walls of houses and buildings throughout the town. Here also, fine violins, violas, and other string instruments are manufactured by skilled craftsmen. The Geigenbaumuseum (Violin Museum) of Mittenwald is home to a permanent exhibition of locally made classical stringed instruments, which have been produced in the town for more than 300 years.

    This evening, you'll feast at a memorable Farewell Dinner with your fellow travelers, complete with traditional Tyrolean-style music.

  • After breakfast, depart for Munich, Germany. Upon arrival, set out for a discovery walk of the city with your Program Director. Then enjoy lunch on your own.

    This evening, reminisce about your Alpine memories with your fellow travelers during dinner at your hotel.

    • Meals included:

    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.

    Munich, Germany & Salzburg, Austria

    5 nights from only $1395

    Munich and Bavaria
    Produced by Small World Productions
    This independent film features destinations you can visit on this post-trip extension.

    Immerse yourself in Bavaria’s most famous and festive city, and enjoy the Alpine charms of Mozart’s birthplace on this 5-night extension. Discover Munich’s many palaces, churches, and museums, not to mention sampling some of the city’s best brews. And experience Salzburg—famed home to Mozart and the Von Trapp family—from the charming lanes of Old Town to the exalted might of Hohensalzburg Fortress.

    View Extension Itinerary

Click below to read our Travel Planning Guide on Romantic Villages of Alpine Europe

Read Travel Planning Guide

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