Alternative Oz

Lesser-Known Australia

October 22 – November 2, 2018

Gay Group Tour of Australia

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Australia’s cultural and culinary capital – Melbourne – with its heavily cosmopolitan vibe, iconic trams, edgy street art, great restaurants, and a European-accented feel . . . along with its status as the world’s most livable city seven years in a row.
  • The glowing red mountains of Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park – with some of the Australian Outback’s most exotic plant life as well as spectacular and timeless scenery, including Wilpena Pound, a colossal crater rim rising from the plains.
  • The best-known and perhaps most charming wine region of Australia – the Barossa Valley – with several dozen growers producing internationally-acclaimed wines, including some from families descended from German immigrants arriving in the 1840s.
  • Pristine Kangaroo Island, with its fantastic wild coastal scenery plus a huge variety of wildlife, including kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, platypuses, little penguins, fur seals, sea lions, dolphins, southern right whales, and over two hundred bird species.
  • Gracious, relaxed Adelaide — which can boast a position among the world’s top five most livable cities – ringed with a green belt of parks and blessed with a thriving arts scene, multicultural cuisine, and four famous wine regions on its doorstep, including the Adelaide Hills with gorgeous scenery, historic towns settled by 19th-century European immigrants, stone cottages, vast orchards, and cool-climate vineyards.
  • A variety of excellent accommodations, from urban luxe to country chic, with delicious meals along the way, of course!

Detailed Itinerary Forthcoming

 

PROGRAM SUMMARY

Gay Tours Australia MelbourneWe kick off our tour in Melbourne — the capital of Victoria state and Australia’s second-largest city after Sydney but with a noticeably different feel to it. Truly a multicultural melting pot, nearly a half of the state’s residents were born overseas or have a parent who was. This, of course, gets reflected in the city’s very diverse and excellent dining scene. Evidence of stately 19th-century European-style architecture remain; the city’s trams are an iconic sight; a café culture rages; elegant tree-lined boulevards crisscross the city; and atmospheric laneways are adorned with street art. It’s hard to find a Melbournian who doesn’t like living here.

LGBT travel Australia OutbackThe rest of our tour unfolds in the state of South Australia, usually missing from tourist itineraries yet has so much to recommend. We make our way up into a piece of the Australian Outback, specifically the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, with its awesome scenery with abrupt escarpments, gorges, and the famous elevated basin of Wilpena Pound — and with luck some good late-spring wildflower action. Basing ourselves at a historic family-run sheep station with upscale accommodations we explore by 4WD vehicle and walks, and you can also take a scenic flight over the area.

gay travel Australia Barossa ValleyJourneying overland we reach one of the most notable wine regions in Australia if not the world — the lovely Barossa Valley. Cultural roots imbue the Barossa with a different charm from other wine-making zones as the area was settled by Silesian immigrants in the 19th century, their influence seen in some of the architecture and cuisine. Certainly we take advantage of the valley’s food and wine riches, including an overnight stay at the nicest accommodation in the Barossa and its very highly-regarded restaurant.

gay tours Australia AdelaideWilderness and wildlife abound on Kangaroo Island. It’s a rurally paced kind of place and still relatively undeveloped with friendly folks who savor their nature haven, excellent local produce, an abundance of flora and fauna, and 270 miles of wild coastline. Barely 10 miles off the mainland the island feels a world away and of another age, and we have two full days to explore its best sights.

 

South Australia’s capital of Adelaide is a lovely manageable city with heritage buildings, multiethnic population, a thriving arts scene, great dining, and parks surrounding it on all sides. We cap off our tour of Australia in this sophisticated city and include an excursion out to the nearby Adelaide Hills where historic towns, wineries, nature, and gardens co-mingle in an appealing, almost Bavarian-looking countryside.

 

Detailed Itinerary Forthcoming

Across Andalucía!

Gay Group Tours Spain

Soulful Southern Spain

April 4-12, 2018

Gay Group Tour of Spain — HIGHLIGHTS

  • Two of Spain’s grandest palaces: the Alhambra in Granada and Seville’s Alcázar
  • Tasting sherry at a wonderful bodega with its excellent art collection in Jerez
  • Extraordinary, vibrant Seville with its magnificent cathedral
  • Flamenco show
  • Moorish Ronda, split in two by a fantastic gorge
  • Beautiful Córdoba and its resplendent Mezquita
  • Vejer de la Frontera, a charming “whitewashed” hilltown
  • Scenic train ride through the Sierra de Grazalema

Download Detailed Itinerary

 

Escorted Gay Group Vacations in Southern SpainINTRODUCTION

Southern Spain has long been a destination so attractive that it’s been invaded time and again by various cultures for nearly 3,000 years. Andalucía — the large region in southernmost Spain — has held an allure and a whiff of the exotic for a long, long time. Nowhere does Europe come closer to Africa — physically and metaphorically. Much of its natural beauty, history, culture, and architecture span two continents, and it’s this unique blending that has long given the region its distinctive flavor. In particular, it’s the legacy of the Moors, whose 700-year presence in Spain remains etched in stone across the land, which has greatly created Andalucía’s exoticism.

This itinerary will encompass two of Spain’s grandest palaces — the stunning Alhambra in Granada and the Alcázar of Seville; the magnificent cathedral of Seville; the country town of old Moorish Ronda with its winding streets perfect for wandering and split in two by a fantastic gorge; the passions of flamenco music and dancing in the old quarter of Seville; the purebred Andalucián horses at the Andalucían School of Equestrian Art in Jerez de la Frontera, a city world-renowned for its sherry production; and the stunning Mezquita in beautiful Córdoba — originally an ancient mosque now overlaid with a Renaissance-era cathedral. The super charming “whitewashed” hilltown of Vejer de la Frontera is also along our route, and a scenic train ride through the Sierra de Grazalema is another fun attraction of this trip as we retrace a historic train route there.

Another major draw is that Andalucía is popularly seen as the quintessential Spain. This is the home of nearly everything that is perceived of as stereotypically Spanish: bullfighting; flamenco; fragrant orange blossom, tapas, sherry, Gypsies . . . Come along with us and experience soulful Southern Spain!

Gay Group Tours in AndalusiaTOUR MANAGER

Our tour manager in Andalucía is by far one of our favorites over the 19 years of operating our trips. Originally from England, he made Andalucía his home 15 years ago. Since then, he has explored most nooks and crannies of Andalucía (and quite a lot of Spain, of course). His knowledge of the local culture, language, and history will take you not only on a tour, but on a journey through time to appreciate precisely how Andalucía came to be. His charm, easy-going manor, and sense of humor are also winners!

 

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Gay Tours: Spain, Andalucia, Granada

Alhambra — Granada

Gay Vacations: Spain, Andalucia, Ronda

Tajo Gorge — Ronda

Gay Group Vacations: Spain, Andalucia

Pueblos Blancos

Gay Tours: Spain, Andalucia, Andalusia

Sherry Bodega

Panama & Costa Rica Cruise

Gay Cruise Panama Costa Rica

A Luxury Small-Ship Cruise Exploring Costa Rica and Panama — with the Panama Canal

January 26 to February 3, 2018

Gay Group Cruise
of Panama & Costa Rica — HIGHLIGHTS

  • One-night pre-cruise hotel stay in Panama City
  • Search for untamed wildlife — sloths, howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, white-faced capuchins
  • Stroll a butterfly- and flower-rich tropical botanical reserve
  • Hike, snorkel, kayak, paddle board, and explore by skiff — or just kick back
  • Off-the-beaten path exploration
  • Transit the Panama Canal
  • Granito de Oro, Coiba National Park (Panama)
  • Golfo Dulce (Costa Rica)
  • Osa Conservation Area (Costa Rica)
  • Manuel Antonio National Park (Costa Rica)
  • Curu National Wildlife Refuge (Costa Rica)

Download Detailed Itinerary

 

Bonus Feature: Our departure will have a renowned birding expert onboard so that we may enjoy a more in-depth discovery of the unique habits and characteristics of the winged creatures we encounter along the way.

Optional Post-Cruise Add-on: 5 nights exploring Costa Rica’s interior at the Arenal Volcano and Monteverde Cloudforest.

Gay Cruise Panama Costa Rica

 

PROGRAM OVERVIEW

gay travel panama costa ricaThe 62-passenger Safari Voyager will take us where the big cruise ships simply can’t go — and it’s a deluxe, all-inclusive experience throughout. Completely refurbished in 2016 the ship is ideally designed to spotlight the magnificent natural surroundings.

Please Note: Unlike our other tours this is not exclusively a Venture Out group. There will be other guests onboard — with no cap on the number of travelers in our own group.

Monkeys, sloths, iguanas, hummingbirds, toucans, and whales! By kayak, skiff, on foot, and small ship — uncover the wonders of jungles, mangroves, national parks, preserves, and the Panama Canal.

Be as active — or not — as you like!

 

gay tours panama costa ricaOne of the 20 most biologically diverse countries in the world, Costa Rica alone is home to around 4% of the earth’s total species. Add in the thousands of species of plants, mammals, and birds found in Panamá, and it’s easy to see just how vital these countries’ habitats are.

Both Costa Rica and Panamá are relatively small in size—just under 20,000 square miles and just over 29,000 square miles, respectively. And narrow Panamá is only 110 miles at its widest point. Despite their small geographic footprint, both countries have dramatically changing landscapes, reaching from the shores of the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, to volcanic peaks that tower above 10,000 feet.

Not far from the equator, the warm tropical climate nurtures the rich tapestry of life… making for an inviting and adventurous exploration.

SAFARI VOYAGER

gay vacations panama costa rica

Undergoing refurbishment in 2016, the 62-guest Safari Voyager offers personal comforts, full uncompromising amenities, and upscale accommodations. Sights are revealed from the window-lined lounge with sweeping 270-degree views. Enjoy the vessel’s cozy library and elegant dining room, all outfitted with nautical décor. Ideally designed to spotlight the magnificent natural surroundings, the Safari Voyager features four public decks including a spacious upper sun deck.

An aft EZ Dock launch platform provides convenient access into and from the water for adventure activities. The vessel is outfitted with kayaks, paddle boards, inflatable skiffs, snorkel gear, and hiking poles. For rejuvenation and relaxation, guests can take advantage of our wellness program with fitness equipment, yoga mats, and a complimentary massage.

More information regarding the Safari Voyager can be found in the Detailed Itinerary.

SLIDESHOW: Safari Voyager Cruise — Onboard & Off

 

POST-CRUISE LAND EXTENSION

gay tours costa ricaExplore Costa Rica’s exotic interior by hiking, canopy tour, zip line, boat trip, and river rafting on a 5-night, post-cruise land extension. Destinations include Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna, Monteverde Cloud Forest, Selvatura Park, and the Sarapiquí River. Visits to a coffee plantation, a sugar mill, a local school, and hot springs are also included. Information can be found in the Detailed Itinerary.

 

 

Download Detailed Itinerary

Myanmar Revealed

Gay Group Tours of MyanmarLegendary Burma! — including a luxury 4-night Irrawaddy River cruise

February 28 to March 10, 2018

Gay Group Tour of Myanmar — HIGHLIGHTS

  • Myanmar’s greatest temple and one of the world’s most majestic Buddhist monuments — Shwedagon Pagoda, its gilded stupa rising high above Yangon
  • Exploring colonial Yangon (Rangoon), one of Asia’s finest showpieces of British colonial urban planning — now in its various states of atmospheric decay
  • The last royal capital of Burma — Mandalay, Myanmar’s cultural capital and a fine center for crafts
  • The “world’s biggest book,” a series of 729 inscribed marble slabs surrounding Kuthodaw Pagoda
  • Visit to a marble carving workshop
  • A 4-night luxury river cruise on the mighty Irrawaddy River from Mandalay to Bagan
  • Dreamily pretty Inle Lake, a postcard picture come to life, surrounded by a variety of ethnic groups’ villages (some on stilts), colorful markets, and floating gardens
  • Sagaing, another former royal capital famous for its stupa-studded hill
  • Bagan — truly one of the great wonders of Asia with thousands of majestic temples rising from the Irrawaddy plains
  • Visit to a monastic school and orphanage
  • Gay Tours Burma MyanmarThe world’s longest teak footbridge, U Bein, one of the country’s most famous sights and enjoyed at sunset
  • Tour of a local food market and a cooking class on board our luxury river cruiser
  • Mount Popa, like a Burmese Mount Olympus, with its colorful cluster of shrines perched dramatically atop an ancient volcanic outcrop
  • A candlelit sandbank dinner with the backdrop of Bagan’s twinkling lights
  • Top-end accommodations

Download Detailed Brochure

 

map_of_myanmar

From the glittering pagodas and downtown bustle of Yangon to the idyllic waters of Inle Lake; from the temple-strewn plains of Bagan to storied Mandalay . . . we show you the best of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) on this 11-day tour including a tranquil four-night luxury cruise on the famed Irrawaddy River tossed in for good measure.

Gay Travel Burma MyanmarOne of the least known and least developed countries in Southeast Asia, and perhaps the region’s most enigmatic, Myanmar has taken some steps towards change in the past decade, but the old Burma described by Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell is still very much on display. Winston Churchill referred to Burma as a riddle wrapped in a mystery. It’s a tantalizingly exotic culture with a quirky old-world atmosphere where traditions of the past linger.

Gay Vacations Burma MyanmarMany say that the country is locked in a kind of time warp, and indeed that is part of its appeal. Horse-carts outnumber cars. Steer plow the paddies. Saffron-robed, shaved-headed monks queue for alms in the street. Young women wear a fragrant paste on their faces. All manner of exotic headgear is worn. A beautifully patterned sarong-type garment is worn by nearly all women and most men. There’s a wealth of vibrant arts and crafts traditions. Life for most Burmese centers around the temple and the teahouse. And the warm and gentle nature of the Burmese people impresses visitors every time.

A special highlight of our journey is the luxurious all-suite ship on which we’ll cruise in style down the Irrawaddy River for four nights between Mandalay and Bagan. Launched at the end of 2014 and with just 21 suites this is an intimate affair, custom-built by local craftsmen using traditional materials and melding Burmese design with contemporary chic. It’s the only all-balcony ship on the Irrawaddy, offering excellent cuisine (both local and international options), a high staff-to-guest ratio, and included cultural excursions from the boat (such as a craft workshop, villages, a monastery, pagodas, and a food market).

gay group cruise Burma Myanmar

Gay Group Tours of MyanmarOnboard activities will include a performance by local dancers, lectures, and a cooking lesson. Relax in the lounge with its panoramic windows, enjoy the plunge pool on deck, indulge in a spa treatment, observe life along the river from the comfort of your room . . . It’s a delightful way to appreciate this corner of the country. You may also wish to enjoy a unique vantage point over the stunning temples of the Bagan plains by taking a magical hot air balloon ride!

Please Note: During this four-night cruise our group will be sharing the boat with other travelers as this is not a private charter.

 

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Italy: The Places In Between

Gay Tours Italy

The Less Trodden Route!

September 3-9, 2018

Gay Group Tour of Italy — HIGHLIGHTS

  • The understated handsomeness of Bologna and its 25 miles of elegant porticos
  • Ravenna’s astounding Byzantine-period mosaics
  • Urbane, sophisticated Parma and its wealth of sights
  • Tasting traditional Balsamic vinegar of Modena at its source
  • The Roman-era Arena in Verona and the city’s numerous other attractions
  • Winery tour and tasting at a historic villa in the Valpolicella zone
  • Several UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Delicious meals and lovely accommodations, of course!
  • Download Detailed Itinerary

INTRODUCTION

Inspired by the travel guide book of the same title, our tour Italy: The Places In Between focuses on cities in the Emilia-Romagna and Veneto regions — cities that are almost always passed over as tourists head from Florence to Venice. There’s a plethora of worthy sights around here, and we’re very glad to bring you this unique program — our eighth unique itinerary and 22nd tour overall in this enticing country!

Gay Travel ItalyOne of the best-kept secrets in northern Italy, our first of two bases is Bologna — a very handsome city (and a pity that its name conjures up the less-than-appealing American food product). Indeed, some would argue that, after Venice, Bologna is among the most attractive cities in Italy. Home to the world’s oldest university, Bologna lives on its red-brick towers and stately colonnades and is almost universally considered to be Italy’s gourmet capital. The sidewalks in the city center are covered in intricately decorated porticos — some 25 miles of them all together. The feeling of a university city permeates the air, and Bologna feels full of Italians in a way that many other places, thronged with tourists, do not.

Gay Travel ItalyModena vies as Italy’s wealthiest city and can boast the UNESCO World Heritage sites of its 12th-century cathedral, tower, and adjacent main piazza evoking a glorious past. It’s famous for local products: Maserati, Ferrari, opera star Luciano Pavarotti — and not least of all it’s also home to the true traditional Balsamic vinegar, which is little understood and often badly misused! We’ll learn what makes this product so special — some of it aged up to 40 years — and taste various types at one of the area’s artisinal producers.

Gay Vacations ItalyOne of the greatest cities of the Mediterranean from the fifth to the eighth centuries, Ravenna has brick palaces, cobbled streets, magnificent monuments, and spectacular Byzantine-period mosaics. Churches and tombs with the most unassuming exteriors contain within them walls covered with these sumptuous mosaics. These beautifully preserved works of art place great emphasis on nature, which you can see in the delicate rendering of sky, earth, and animals. The mosaics have been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, and they quite handily rival what you’ll find in Istanbul.

LGBT travel ItalyThe stately historic center of Parma shows its prosperity, along with its well-dressed residents and immaculate piazzas. The residents of Parma are generally considered to be the most elegant people of Italy. Bursting with gustatory delights, Parma draws visitors for its sublime cured ham, prosciutto crudo di Parma. The pale-yellow Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese produced here is the original — and best — of a class known around the world as “Parmesan.” The city has also been a mecca for opera lovers. Giuseppe Verdi was from here, and his operas echoed through the Teatro Regio, the opera house that we’ll visit and which is today jam-packed during the season. We’ll also see some of the greatest Romanesque buildings in northern Italy: the 11th-century cathedral and 12th-century Baptistery with its superb sculpture work.

LGBT tours ItalyFounded by the Romans in the 1st century A.D., the enchanting city of Verona is dotted with very attractive palazzi, elegant squares, and medieval gems. Architectural remnants of the Roman era are also a real draw, most notably the famous Arena, which is home to a world-renowned summertime opera festival. It is perhaps the best-preserved Roman amphitheater in the world — and the most famous after the Colosseum in Rome. Dubbed the “City of Love,” romance is most definitely in the air in fair Verona. The city’s most famous residents, Romeo and Juliet, seemed to think so anyway. The Basilica San Zeno Maggiore is another wonderful highlight — a very impressive Romanesque-era building with extraordinary artistic creations. Verona sits on the Adige River which comes tumbling down from the Italian Alps, and indeed just outside the city is hilly terrain and the location of some excellent vineyards, one of which we’ll have the pleasure of visiting to taste their wines.

ACCOMMODATIONS

The following are the hotels that we plan to use for the tour at the time of publishing this itinerary. We reserve the right to make changes to the accommodations.

LGBT Vacations ItalyBologna – 4 nights

The 4-star hotel we’ve selected enjoys a very central location in the heart of the city on a pedestrian-only street, easily walkable to Bologna’s impressive historical attractions, great restaurants, and good shopping. Set in a magnificently restored 15th century palazzo, elegantly designed construction conserves architectural elements of various periods. The beautiful lobby has a real wow factor thanks to a large skylight that floods the pretty space with light. A number of different architectural styles are on display in the hotel yet it all combines to create a whole that’s elegant in an old-fashioned, genteel way. Fresco work and paintings date back to the building’s aristocratic origins.

The 40 rooms come with nice little touches such as fresh fruit, robes, and slippers along with kettles and minibars, beautifully hand-embroidered bedside rugs, and marble bathrooms.

In the lounge the evening starts out with an aperitivo service which provides a small buffet of several pre-dinner appetizers with the purchase of one drink. A top-notch buffet breakfast includes an array of homemade cakes, plus prosecco, freshly squeezed juices, and egg dishes made to order.

veronahotelVerona – 2 nights

This is another very central hotel, in a perfect location for our Verona sightseeing as well as for any shopping you might like to do! A jumble of three ancient palaces have been stitched together and thoroughly modernized inside to create a 4-star hotel while respecting and highlighting the Roman ruins that were discovered beneath in the process. Original frescos and paintings join historically inspired design to create an almost magical atmosphere in the hotel’s interiors. A chic lobby bar lets guests soak up the atmosphere from white leather seats. While the lobby, lounges, and restaurant have a very contemporary, enchanting, and rather hip feel to them, the 75 guest rooms are more classically decorated with stylish furniture, high-class fabrics, patterned wood floors, and red Veronese marble bathrooms. On top of all that there is an equally elegant restaurant with the casual style of a brasserie. Here guests can enjoy refined, novel variations of classic Italian dishes by a Michelin-starred chef.

 

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Japan — Then and Now

Gay group tours of Japan

Special Fall Foliage Departure

November 10-19, 2017

Gay Group Tour of Japan — HIGHLIGHTS

  • The famously stunning fall foliage in Japan
  • Gleaming, glittering Tokyo along with some of its more tranquil attractions
  • Old streets, traditional houses and merchants’ shops, and atmospheric walks in the town of Takayama and Hida Folk Village
  • Shrines and temples of Kamakura – a lovely town by the sea
  • Kyoto – the cultural, historical, and religious soul of Japan with its myriad temples and shrines, including a side trip to Nara
  • Two-night stay at a traditional Japanese ryokan with hot spring baths
  • A bustling food market in Kyoto
  • Tour of the impressive Matsumoto Castle used by Shoguns since the early 1600s
  • Delicious meals and lovely accommodations — of course!

Download Detailed Itinerary

INTRODUCTION

Escorted Gay Group Vacations in JapanFrom the bright lights and pulsating streets of high-tech, ultra-modern Tokyo, to the beautiful landscapes and charms of the Japan Alps, and finally to an in-depth tour of historic imperial Kyoto with its must-see temples, shrines and gardens, this 10-day very special journey through Japan during peak foliage season will provide you with a wonderful feel for the country’s various highlights and reveal the intriguing nature of today’s Japan — so modern and yet heavily steeped in its traditions.

We’ll marvel at several UNESCO World Heritage sites in this program: the historic monuments of ancient Kyoto (which are many!) as well as those in ancient Nara.

• 10-day trip begins in Tokyo and ends in Kyoto

• Deluxe hotels in Tokyo and Kyoto; 2 nights in an upscale Japanese ryokan (inn) with hot spring baths

• All breakfasts, 7 lunches, 5 dinners

• Venture Out escort throughout plus local guides along the way

Gay Tours JapanTokyo is Japan’s absolutely buzzing capital city and the most densely populated area on the planet. It certainly is a phenomenon unto itself, and we’ll experience a diversity of sights in the city — from the historical Asakusa district to important religious sights such as the most important Shinto shrine with Japan’s two largest torii (the traditional entry gate of a shrine). More contemporary attractions will also be explored.

Gay Travel JapanKamakura makes for a lovely day trip outside of Tokyo. It’s a seaside city surrounded on three sides by mountains, and its most iconic sight is the 37-foot-high bronze statue of the compassionate Amida Buddha. Completed in the mid 13th century it’s said to have been commissioned by Japan’s first shogun. Also in Kamakura is the largest carved-wood statue in Japan: the 11-faced, 30-foot-high Kannon in a temple that faces the sea. In downtown Kamakura we’ll have an opportunity to check out shops selling local crafts, especially carved and lacquered woodwork.

Gay Group Tours of JapanA gorgeous ride brings us up into the “Japan Alps” to Takayama. This small city’s rustic charms are the result of hundreds of years of peaceful isolation in the Hida Mountains. Shops and restaurants mingle with museums, inns, sake breweries, and markets along rows of traditional wood-lattice buildings and tiny canals of running water, all immersed amidst the fresh mountain air and gorgeous scenery of 10,000-foot mountain peaks.

img_0265There is simply nowhere more special in Japan than Kyoto. It is the epicenter of Japanese culture and history, and it’s home to everything that you might associate with traditional Japan: vermillion temples, mysterious geisha, the sacred tea ceremony, Zen rock gardens, imperial palaces, sumptuous cuisine, glittering kimonos, bamboo groves, street-corner shrines, ancient festivals and much more.

Kyoto culture — a unique tapestry of influences from imperial nobility, samurai warriors, silk traders and Zen Buddhists — is still fiercely defended by Kyotoites. The city is now home to more than 2,000 temples and shrines and in their entirety comprise a massive UNESCO World Heritage site. Then there are the places that are less museum-like and more real, working Kyoto such as markets where old ladies in kimonos barter for mysterious ingredients and the tiny lantern-lit temples set right among the shops in the arcades.

We’ve included a mix of high-end, well-located hotels with two nights in a deluxe Japanese ryokan (an inn with hot springs and the traditional sleeping arrangement of futons on tatami mats). Most meals are included in the program, and this cultural tour of Japan is set against the backdrop of the absolutely stunning fall foliage.

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Along the Amalfi Coast

Positano

Sorrento, Capri & the Amalfi Coast

October 5-10, 2017

Gay Group Tour of Italy — HIGHLIGHTS

  • The handsome and venerable resort town of Sorrento — the historic gateway to this area, perched on cliffs above the Bay of Naples and looking out towards Mount Vesuvius
  • Fabled and romantic Capri island with its magnificent views, glamorous shops, bucolic footpaths, and pretty lanes
  • Diminutive but historically-rich Amalfi town, once a significant maritime superpower, with its exceptional Cathedral, lemon groves, and steep alleyways
  • Heavenly views from lofty and refined Ravello, a sky-high retreat that’s hosted writers, musicians, and actors the likes of Garbo, Vidal, Capote, Woolf, Wagner, and Lawrence
  • Stunning, steep Positano — one the Mediterranean’s jewel towns — with its chic boutiques, swaths of bougainvillea, and pastel-colored buildings cascading down to the sea
  • Visit to an excellent winery in the hills overlooking the sea
  • Fun pizza-making session at a working farm with beautiful views of the coast
  • Delicious meals and lovely accommodations, of course!

Download Detailed Itinerary

 

INTRODUCTION

The Amalfi Coast is often thought of as the most beautiful coastline in Italy – and one of the most beautiful in the world. Having done nearly 30 tours in various parts of the country we know Italy very well – and we have to concur with that assessment of this region’s beauty. The scenery is just stunning; the fragrances intoxicating; the engineering feat of the coast road simply amazing to witness; and the colorful towns so attractive and inviting as they cling to the mountains with vistas over the azure waters. The entire area is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

CapriOur tour will begin in lovely Sorrento, looking out on the Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius. This was historically the terminus of the “Grand Tour” of Italy popular with northern Europeans in the 19th century, and it still maintains its very charming draw. A ferry whisks us over to famous Capri so we can capture the best of this utterly captivating island on a day-trip. Then it’s time to explore the Amalfi Coast itself using the town of Amalfi as a base while we explore nearby towns like famously jaw-dropping Positano and lofty, serene Ravello.

boatThis tour will also bring us to a winery high up in the hills — perhaps the best in the region — where we enjoy a tasting of their various wines accompanied by an excellent lunch. And how about a fun pizza-making session at a real working farm in the hills with glorious views out to sea? And we’ll toss in world-renowned gardens as well as a visit to a traditional paper maker, a prominent industry in Amalfi for centuries.

antipastoThis 6-day / 5-night tour combines easily with other destinations in Italy (which has so very much to offer) or in Europe. We can add extra nights for you in Sorrento at the beginning, in Amalfi at the end, or in Naples at either end. Should you be in Naples prior to the tour we can also set up private transfers from Naples (city or airport) to Sorrento, the starting point of our tour.

ACCOMMODATIONS

The following are the hotels that we plan to use for the tour at the time of publishing this itinerary. We reserve the right to make changes to the accommodations.

Sorrento hotelSorrento – 2 nights

With a nice mix of old-school splendor and boutique chic the vibe at our selected 5-star hotel could be described as elegantly casual. The 80 or so spacious guest rooms are well-equipped and have painted-tile floors and carved walnut beds. The hotel’s garden is a delight with lemon trees, fountains, and Roman busts. Service is professionally attentive and cordial. From the rooftop pool and bar/restaurant area you can enjoy a magnificent outlook with the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius forming the panoramic backdrop. Live music is featured a few nights a week. The hotel is in the heart of Sorrento, making it easy to stroll the appealing city center in your free time and choose from the many good restaurants for dinner the second evening. (Please note: the pool might not be open at the time of our tour.)

 Amalfi hotelAmalfi town – 3 nights

Founded as a convent in 1222, allegedly by St. Francis of Assisi himself, our iconic 4-star property (43 rooms) was the first hotel to open on the Amalfi Coast in the early part of the 19th century. It has coved ceilings, graceful arches, and marble columns along with Flemish religious artwork, church and convent artifacts, antique furnishings, and mosaic flooring, all of which blend nearly seamlessly with modern comforts. It’s an intimate atmosphere brimming with historic character. Guest rooms overlook the sea, which is right across the street. Past guests include Otto van Bismarck, Benito Mussolini (:-/), Ingrid Bergman, and Tennessee Williams, among other noted figures. One of the restaurants and its bar are in the 15th-century Saracen tower, perched on a rock over the sea. The famed southern Romanesque cloisters and the beautiful baroque chapel form the heart of the hotel. Below the tower is a seawater pool (which may not be open at the time of our tour). Just a 5-minute walk and you’re in the center of town with its numerous restaurants, cafes, and shops.

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Chile – Top to Bottom

Gay Group Tours of Chile

A Luxury Adventure for Nature Enthusiasts

April 3 to 13, 2017

Gay Group Tour of Chile — HIGHLIGHTS

  • The stupendous landscape of the majestic Patagonia wildlands, where the “end of the world” descriptor makes total sense
  • The vast northern reaches of the surreal Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth, with its bizarre (and beautiful), high-altitude “moonscapes”
  • The famed and lush Lake District with its deep indigo lakes and ancient virgin forests at the foot of soaring snow-capped volcanoes
  • The Mediterranean-like heartland surrounding the capital with its excellent vineyards in fertile lands trapped between the Pacific and the Andes
  • Luxury accommodations, delicious meals, and excellent wines

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PROGRAM OVERVIEW

Gay Travel in Atacama, ChileIf you were a geography buff in school you were probably intrigued by the very odd shape of Chile – the spindly “shoestring” country that lies between the Pacific Ocean and the mighty Andes Mountains. Top to bottom Chile extends some 2,500 miles, and that very wide range of latitudes means an extremely diverse landscape as we journey through this beautiful land. The equivalent North American latitudes would be from Hudson’s Bay, Canada down to Cancún, Mexico!

Gay Travel Patagonia ChileFor lovers of the outdoors (and wine enthusiasts, too) Chile, with its spectacular scenery, is a must-see destination in South America. It comes with an excellent tourism infrastructure, and we have sought out beautiful, luxury accommodations along the way.

Add to that a strong economy, a stable political environment, warm and inviting people, and you’ll see why Chile is making its mark as the new hotspot in South America.

 

This trip will appeal to outdoor enthusiasts who love being in nature yet who also enjoy luxury lodgings and very nice meals along the way.

Gay Group Tours of Chile

In the Atacama Desert and Patagonia we’ve selected all-inclusive, top-notch lodges that offer a variety of daily activities to choose from — from the tame to the high-octane! So wherever you fall on the physical-activity scale you should find something that suits you as long as you’re a nature lover.

Gay Tours in Atacama Desert, Chile

Such geographic variety provides not only breathtaking scenery but also the ingredients for a distinctive, varied national cuisine. Ocean delicacies are vitally important here, but European immigrants brought with them a love of robust country cooking. International cuisine has caught on here as well. And if you’re a wine lover then you know you’re in for a treat here where you can enjoy some of Chile’s excellent labels!

 

 

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Scottish Highlands & Islands

July 12-20, 2017

Gay Group Tour of Scotland

Gay Tours of Scotland

Isle of Skye

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Edinburgh – The charming, culturally rich, historically rich capital – one of Europe’s handsomest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site — with iconic sights such as its striking medieval castle, the Royal Mile, Old Town, and Georgian architecture.
  • Stirling Castle — Historically strategic, holding fort over the passage between the Lowlands and the Highlands, home of the Stuart kings with spectacular views over a gentle countryside.
  • Rosslyn Chapel – An exquisite and ornate 15th-century cathedral-like masterpiece that is a testament to the skills of its medieval sculptors.
  • Scotch Whisky Distillery – An informative, fun tour in a lovely setting to refine an appreciation of Scotland’s national drink, and enjoying a wee dram, of course.
  • Gorgeous Landscapes – Crystal-clear lochs and rivers, wooded hills, craggy mountains, wide-open moors.
  • Isle of Skye – An island of sheer beauty with the misty Cuillin Mountains, rocky shores, hidden beaches, and shady glens, plus a historical link to Bonnie Prince Charlie as well as a modern arts and crafts scene.
  • Eilean Donan Castle – A postcard-perfect ruin standing on an island set among three lochs and arguably the most photogenic of Scotland’s myriad castles.
  • Road to the Isles — Encompassing some of the most iconic images of Scotland and considered one of the loveliest drives in Scotland with mountain views, shimmering lochs, historical places, and steeped in Jacobite history.
  • Delicious meals and lovely accommodations, of course!

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PROGRAM SUMMARY

Gay Tours Edinburgh Scotland

Edinburgh

Beginning in Edinburgh — Scotland’s captivating capital — we see what makes this city so enticing: from its impressive, history-steeped medieval castle looking out over the city to Old Town and the Royal Mile; from lovely New Town (new meaning 1700s) to the ultramodern Scottish Parliament building; attractive Georgian- and Victorian-period architecture; the Princes Street Gardens; and the view from the volcanic crag that is Calton Hill.

The riotously ornate Rosslyn Chapel, not far out of Edinburgh, is revered for its sublime 15th-century stone carvings – some of the finest in the world – and its past is steeped in intrigue and great mystery, probably accounting for its connection to myths and legends and its appearance in The Da Vinci Code. Covering almost every square inch of stonework are human figures, animals, and plants.

Gay Travel Scotland

Scotch Whisky Distillery

Moving into the scenic Highlands we come first to picturesque Perthshire – the epitome of well-groomed rural Scotland and the long-established domain of Scotland’s well-to-do country set. For lunch we call in at a splendid baronial castle – one of the country’s grandest of grand houses — surrounded by extensive parklands and that once hosted Queen Victoria. Also in this area is a single-malt whisky distillery – reputedly Scotland’s smallest traditional distillery (hand-crafted as in Victorian times) and dating back to 1825 – where we learn about the making of Scotland’s signature drink and enjoy a “nosing” (tasting). It’s in an idyllic position tucked into the Perthshire hills.

One of the most iconic images of Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle perches on an islet set against a backdrop of mountains and guards the confluence of three lochs. The unique beauty of the place has led it to appear in movies and television and is perhaps the most photographed sight in Scotland after Edinburgh’s castle.

Gay Travel Scotland

Portree

The rugged beauty of the Isle of Skye has been proclaimed since the early 1800s when Sir Walter Scott visited. Mountains, sea, cliffs, lochs, glens, farming villages, castles, fine dining, arts and crafts – they’re all here on this remarkable island, which is also an important center of Gaelic culture and language. Our base is Portree, one of the most attractive ports in northwest Scotland with a cliff-edged harbor, fishing boats, and multicolored houses.

Skye has some extraordinary geological scenery to be seen on the Trotternish Peninsula, and then we head westward to the Glendale region where we may spot otters, seals, and dolphins off its rocky coast and eagles above. In a commanding position Dunvegan Castle has been the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for over 700 years. Of note here is the scrappy remnant of the Fairy Flag, said to have been a gift from a fairy to the clan and thought to have miraculous powers when unfurled in battle, and the castle’s gardens are attractive.

Gay Vacations Scotland

Glenfinnan Viaduct

A ferry returns us to the mainland where we then embark on one of the prettiest routes in Scotland – the Road to the Isles — a famously scenic 46 miles, passing birch and bracken-covered mountains, glassy lochs, the Caledonian Canal, and the 21-arch viaduct at Glenfinnan (where passengers get to live out Harry Potter fantasies).

A final night in Edinburgh concludes our Scotland adventure.

 

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Gay Tours of Scotland

Blair Castle

Gay Tours of Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle

Gay Vacations Scotland

Serving Single Malts

Gay Travel Scotland

Pitlochry

Along the Dalmatian Coast

 

The Enchanting Beauty of Croatia

Gay Group Tours of CroatiaSeptember 16-23, 2016

Gay Group Tour of Croatia — HIGHLIGHTS

  • The stunning walled city of Dubrovnik —  one of Europe’s hottest destinations
  • Split‘s spectacular and unusual ancient core — a remnant of Ancient Rome.
  • Glitzy and gorgeous Hvar — an island destination that easily stands up to the likes of other rich playgrounds
  • The beauty of Krka National Park with its series of waterfalls and pools and the 15th-century Franciscan monastery in Visovac Lake
  • A visit to one of Croatia’s best winemakers for tastings and a delicious meal
  • Enchanting Trogir — a postcard-perfect coastal jewel in Croatia’s crown
  • A day trip into the neighboring country of Montenegro and the old quarter of Kotor with its imposing fortress and labyrinth streets
  • Beautiful architecture from the Venetian Republic era
  • Several UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • The convenience of just two hotel bases
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Escorted Gay Group Vacations in CroatiaCroatia is generously endowed with natural and man-made wonders, a rich repository of culture, a complicated history, and people who are warm and welcoming. Croatia’s charms include endless beaches and clear blue sea, a wealth of Roman ruins, medieval hilltop castles, and an impressive collection of natural sights.

Despite the turmoil of the 1990s that erupted with the breakdown of the former Yugoslavia, today’s Balkan countries are on the rise, and that certainly includes Croatia as the European Union’s newest member state as of 2013.

 

Gay Group Tours on the Dalmatian Coast of CroatiaIts Dalmatian Coast is spectacular, and this coast – the east side of the Adriatic Sea – is arguably prettier than the western coast (sorry, Italy). It is a sun-washed mosaic of red-tile roofs, bell towers, lush vegetation, and beautiful beaches. The region’s history is rich with very visible Roman and Venetian influences plus a mild Mediterranean climate. With the mark of Greek, Roman, and Venetian cultures — and the Dinaric Alps and the Adriatic Sea as backdrops — this skinny strip of land squished between Bosnia-Herzegovina and the sea shows off one gorgeous place after another.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this itinerary include:

  • Historical complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian
  • Historic city of Trogir
  • Old city of Dubrovnik
  • Natural and culturo-historical region of Kotor

Escorted Gay Vacations on the Dalmatian Coast of CroatiaDiocletian’s Palace, completed in A.D. 305 in Split, isn’t what is normally thought of as a palace. The Roman Emperor built his estate in such a grand manner that it was converted into a city after his death. Stroll down Split’s Riva, the city’s spiffy, busy promenade along the harbor, and you’ll see sidewalk cafes and restaurant tables that are rarely empty. A nearby excursion takes us to Trogir, one of the most enchanting towns on the Adriatic. It’s a postcard-perfect jewel in Croatia’s crown, with its well-preserved decorative stonework and intact medieval character. The entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

We witness the beauty of Krka National Park with its waterfalls, gorges, and traces of ancient settlements along the Krka River. The falls were formed by deposits of limestone sediment (travertine), and Skradinski Buk is considered one of the best falls in Europe as it extends about half a mile and tumbles 150 feet over 17 distinct travertine deposits.

hvar2A ferry ride from Split takes us for the day to Hvar island — known for sun, glamour, and herbal fragrance, mainly lavender. Hvar town can certainly boast its share of celebrities, but many more visitors are just hip (or hip wannabe) tourists looking for a beautiful, sun-drenched, seaside place with good restaurants and nightlife. But there is some solid history here, too, and fine architecture with churches, a fortress, clock tower and monastery dating from the 15th to 19th centuries.

A stop between Split and Dubrovnik shows us the 3-mile, 14th-century defensive wall that stretches above the town of Ston from both sides and forms a horseshoe above it in the hills resembling (sort of) the Great Wall of China from a distance. Ston is well known for its oyster beds and its salt pans, and its restaurants serve fabulous versions of oysters and mussels fresh from Malostonski Bay — quite a  pleasant place for a lunch stop.

dubrovnik4The UNESCO World Heritage city of Dubrovnik has been referred to as the “Pearl of the Adriatic, a “city of stone and light,” and it is stunning. In the early 1990s shelling by Serbia wreaked havoc on the beautiful city, but now it has regained its composure and sparkles just as it did 500 years ago when it was a major sea power and endowed with Renaissance beauty. It’s now bustling with an international crowd that comes for its historic churches and buildings; designer shops; restaurants; ancient art and modern galleries; sculpted fountains and bell towers; and most famous of all, its ancient city walls, of which you can walk the entirety.

KotorDramatically beautiful Kotor (in the neighboring country of Montenegro) has a wonderful old town center with a labyrinth of marbled streets, pretty architecture, and defensive walls dating from the 9th to the 18th centuries rising steeply up the mountain behind it. Kotor makes for a pleasant day trip from Dubrovnik and also sits on one of Europe’s largest fjords so it’s just a striking setting overall.

 

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