Rail Wonders of the Balkans

Tour Date: 18 to 30 September

Location: Serbia, North Macedonia, Bulgaria

Travel through the Balkans by train with us and along the way visit the culturally rich cities of Belgrade, Skopje and Sofia and other smaller, but equally historic, towns on route.

Each city or town has its own story to tell and is overflowing with history and charm at every turn. There is the option of a 7, 8 or full 12 day trip. Where possible we travel by train with our tour bus shadowing us and taking care of our luggage.

We travel on the amazing “Šargan Eight” railway, one the most scenic railways in Europe and is considered a unique construction masterpiece in the world among the narrow-gauge railway lines. Narrow gauge railway fans will love this holiday as we also visit the stunning Septembri to Bansko line. A two foot six gauge line, known as the “Alpine Railway of the Balkans” and takes 5 hours to cover the full length.

Tour Manager: Maria

From: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Travel on the “Alpine railway of the Balkans”
  • “Šargan Eight” narrow gauge railway
  • World famous Rila Monastery
  • See the oldest inhabited city in Europe
  • Incredible range of scenery
  • Includes dinner every night
  • First class rail travel where available
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Day 1 Friday 18 September (D)

Flights from Heathrow (12:45), Gatwick (12:00), Stansted (11:45), Luton (17:25), Birmingham (11:00 via Munich), Manchester (13:00 via Vienna), Edinburgh (19:00) to the Hungarian city of Budapest. Overnight in Budapest. If you have not visited the Hungarian capital before then we suggest you fly out a day or two earlier. For this particular tour we are using Budapest as a convenient start point to enter Serbia.

Day 2 Saturday 19 September (B,D)

This morning we will depart towards Serbia. The train leaves Keleti station at around 11:30 so we will have ample time to make our way to this magnificent station after checking out of our hotel. Our InterCity (loco hauled) train today will travel only as far as the border, at Kelebia. Here, we will need to transfer to a different train (most likely a diesel unit) for the remainder of the trip (14 minutes) to Subotica – the most northernmost city in Serbia. Total journey time is around 4 hours. Upon arrival in Subotica, we will have a panoramic tour.

Day 3 Sunday 20 September (B,D)

Unique in Serbia, Subotica has the most buildings built in the art nouveau style. Places of interest include: The City Hall, the Synagogue, the Artistic Encounter building, the National Theatre, the Cathedral of St. Theresa of Avila dating from 1797, the 1723 Franciscan friary, the Orthodox churches, etc.

Morning departure by train from Subotica to Novi Sad. Arrival Novi Sad train station, where our minibus will wait us for a panorama tour. Novi Sad is the second largest city in Serbia, lying on the banks of the Danube river and facing the northern slopes of Fruška Gora. It will be European Capital of culture in 2021. Departure to Belgrade for a short panoramic tour before we meet up again and transfer to Skadarlija for dinner.

Day 4 Monday 21 September (B,D)

Early breakfast at the hotel Morning visit of Tito’s blue train (Serbian: Plavi voz) – a luxury train, once used by Josip Broz Tito, while president of the former Yugoslavia.

Depart from Belgrade to Uzice by train, arrival to Uzice and transfer to Mokra Gora. Free time for lunch and Visit Drvengrad ethno village, built by Emir Kusturica. Located on Mećavnik hill in Mokra Gora nature park, the meeting point of two beautiful Serbian mountains Tara and Zlatibor, ethno village “Drvengrad” is a product of film director Emir Kusturica’s imagination, and was built for the production of his film “Life is a miracle”. It has only 605 residents not far from the city of Užice.

“Drvengrad” has an art gallery, a library, a cinema called “Underground” after one of Kusturica’s most famous movies, a cake shop with home made sweets, a restaurant with traditional Serbian cuisine, a souvenir shop etc.

Afternoon train ride – Nostalgija train (2h 20min). “Šargan Eight” is one the most attractive tourist museum railway in Europe and is considered a unique construction masterpiece in the world among the narrow-gauge railway lines. The track of 760 mm gauge width passes through the most beautiful mountain areas of Mokra Gora with 5 bridges and 22 tunnels.  On the total length of the railway line, on the Mokra Gora – Šargan Vitasi route, in the length of 15.5 km passes the height difference of 300 m.Transfer to to Zlatibor, arrival at the hotel, dinner and overnight.

Day 5 Tuesday 22 September (B,D)

Breakfast and some free time in the morning to enjoy Zlatibor – situated at an elevation of just over 1,000 metres, Zlatibor is a climatic resort, characterized by a cool alpine climate and clean air. The tourist era of Zlatibor officially began in 1893, when the King of Serbia Aleksandar Obrenović decided to establish a health resort on an initiative from the local hosts. Most probably its name stems from the Serbian words zlatni (golden) and bor (pine). 12.00 – transfer by coach to Niš (appr 4 hours transfer with comfort stop enroute). 16.00 – panorama tour of Niš – the 3rd largest city in Serbia. Niš has long been a crossroads between East and West and is the birthplace of 3 Roman emperors: Constantine the Great, Constantius III and Justin I. The city’s past would earn it the nickname – The Emperor’s City. Dinner and overnight at your hotel.

Day 6 Wednesday 23 September (B,D)

Breakfast and departure to Skopje, Macedonia. Arrival around 12:00 o`clock followed by a tour of Skopje, the capital city of Macedonia – the City square, the house of Mother Theresa, Stone bridge, St. Spas Church and the Old Bazaar. It is also possible to join the tour today by catching the daily 08.55 flight direct from Luton to Skopje.

Although Skopje has been destroyed many times through its history, it still has many historical landmarks which reflect the successive occupations of the city. It was also a ground for modernist experiments in the 20th century, following the 1963 earthquake.

Free time or afternoon train ride from Skopje to Gostivar (this is part of the Ohrid line  – a narrow gauge railway which ran to a gauge of 600 mm). The original route was Skopje to Ohrid, a distance of 167 kilometers. The section from Skopje – Gostivar was converted to standard gauge in the 1950s. The remaining 600 mm lines were closed altogether in 1966. Back to Skopje by coach, overnight Skopje.

Day 7 Thursday 24 September (B,D)

Packed breakfast and early morning train from Skopje to Bitola, the 2nd largest city of Macedonia.  The city stands at an important junction connecting the south of the Adriatic Sea region with the Aegean Sea and Central Europe. Arrival before noon and short walking tour of Bitola – the former Military school, the main street Shirok Sokak, the main square with St. Dimitrius Church. Transfer to Ohrid UNESCO town (1.5 h) with free time for lunch and walking tour, followed by a short boat cruise on the lake.  Transfer to Skopje by coach. Dinner and second overnight in Skopje.

Day 8 Friday 25 September (B,D)

At the moment there is no train connection between Macedonia and Bulgaria. Bulgaria has a rail line upto the border, but Macedonian has only just started their construction. For those who have visited Bulgaria before you can end your tour with transfer to Sofia Airport for flights back to the UK. For those on the full tour we transfer by coach from Skopje to Bulgaria. Stop to visit Rila Monastery – the largest monastery in Bulgaria, located at an altitude of 1147 m above sea level in Rila Mountain National Park.  Admire wooden balconies, azure fretwork, collonades, facades and colourful frescoes, silhouetted against a fantastic panorama of mountain peaks.  Proceed to Bansko museum town, located at the foothills of Pirin Mountain National Park  (UNESCO site). In winter, Bansko is a host of many world cup alpine ski races, while in summer time international jazz, opera and theatre festivals are organized. We will have a walking tour of the Old Bansko to see St. Trinity Church and the complex of National Revival houses with their typical architecture Check in at the hotel, dinner and overnight.

Day 9 Saturday 26 September (B,D)

We depart by narrow-gauge passenger train from Dobrinishte and Bansko to Septemvri. This is the only operating narrow gauge (760 mm) line in Bulgaria nowadays, built in the period 1921-1945. The journey takes almost five hours through the valleys and gorges. The route leaves Bansko, passing Razlog, Yakoruda and Velingrad, linking the western part of the Upper Thracian Plain with the Western Rhodopes, Rila and Pirin mountains. Along the route there are 35 tunnels, 11 stations and 10 stops. Transfer from Septemvri to Brestovitsa village by coach. Wine tasting and visit of a boutique wine cellar. Transfer to Plovdiv by coach.  Dinner at the hotel and overnight. Plovdiv was the European Capital of Culture in 2019.

Day 10 Sunday 27 September (B,D)

Day tour from Plovdiv to the Rhodope mountains, transfer to the town of Haskovo, where remains of 1st settlements have been discovered dating from 5000 BC. A landmark of the city is the 32-metre-high monument of the Mother of God and the Infant Jesus – entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the highest monument to the Mother of God in the world. Free time for lunch.

We take the train from Dimitrovgrad to Podkova – the southernmost rail station in Bulgaria and the end of a major railway route. Take the train from here and you can end up in Ruse and from there travel to Romania, Ukraine and Russia, or, if you change in Plovdiv, to Istanbul or Vienna. Back to Plovdiv by coach. Dinner and 2nd night at the hotel.

Day 11 Monday 28 September (B,D)

We start the day with a guided tour of Plovdiv – considered the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe and the 6th oldest in the world. The Eternal City, as Rome is conventionally called, is much younger than Plovdiv. Athens, Carthage, Constantinople came into being later.

We will visit the Old Plovdiv architectural reserve, awarded golden medal for architecture by UNESCO – the national revival houses complex, the ancient Amphitheatre, the Roman Forum and Stadium, St. Constantine and Helena Church.

We take the train Plovdiv – Panagurishte. Panagyurishte is primarily known for being the centre of the April Uprising against the Ottoman rule in Bulgaria in 1876. It was capital of the Fourth Revolutionary District which was the main centre of the rebellion. The uprising was bloodily suppressed after 10 days of declared freedom, and the town was burnt down and almost completely destroyed by the Ottoman Turks. Lady Strangford arrived from Britain later that year and established hospitals and mills to assist the Bulgarians. Tour of Panagurishte – one of the museum houses and the treasury of the History museum with Panagurishte Thracian golden treasure (400-300 BC).  Check in at a SPA hotel. Dinner and overnight.

Day 12 Tuesday 29 September (B,D)

We start with a tour of Panagurishte then transfer Panagurishte – Sofia by coach (2 h). Tour of Sofia – the capital city of Bulgaria, which Emperor Constantine the Great once called “My Rome”.  The city covers ancient Serdica, founded 4,000 years ago by the Thracians, while its numerous monuments and buildings reveal as well Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Russian influence. Visit Alexander Nevski Memorial Cathedral, St. Sofia 6th c basilica, the Parliament Square, the Old City garden and the former Royal Palace, National Theatre, Presidency, St. George rotunda (4th c, the oldest building preserved in Sofia), the ruins of Ancient Serdica and Arena di Serdica. Farewell dinner, overnight. It is also possible to fly back to Birmingham at 16:45 today.

Day 13 Wednesday 30 September (B)

Return flights to several UK airports. Heathrow (14:20), Gatwick (11:50), Stansted (12:05), Luton (11:35). For Birmingham (16:45), Manchester (12:30) and Edinburgh (13:20) you have an extra night in Sofia before flying back to Thursday 1 October.

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices (per person) – first price is 8-day tour

  • From Heathrow: £1,475 (£2,025)
  • From Gatwick: £1,395 (£1,945)
  • From Stansted: £1,395 (£1,945)
  • From Birmingham: £1,445 (£1,995)
  • From Manchester: £1,445 (£1,995)
  • From Edinburgh: £1,445 (£1,995)
  • From Budapest to Sofia: £1,195 (£1,745)

Options

  • Single room supplement: £170 (8 day), £270 (13 day)
  • With flight prices might increase for late bookings

Deposit

  • £600 with flight option or £300 for all other options

Please note that you cannot book a flight inclusive trip on our website but if you select the flight option you prefer then we will contact you with the flight details and convert your booking into a flight inclusive package.

Online Booking


Click here to see our Booking Conditions

Click here to see our Privacy Policy

We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

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Italian Vintage

Tour Date: 1 to 12 May 2021.

Location: Italy

Please note that this tour has been postponed to 1-12 May 2021 in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.

You are invited to join us on an exclusive rail-based holiday in northern Italy and the Italian Lakes.

We spend 6 nights based in Turin and 3 nights in Venice.

The tour leader will be Angelina Pons who speaks fluent Italian, having lived in the country for several years. Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with her about the trip, please feel free to e-mail her on angelina@ptg.co.uk.

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • No-fly
  • Unspoilt and un-touristy
  • Based in historic cities of Turin and Venice. Also Strasbourg (for those on no-fly)
  • Chapel of the Holy Shroud
  • Superga historic rack tramway
  • Lake Maggiore
  • Scenic rail journeys
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Day 1 Saturday 1 May

Flight departures from various UK airports to Turin or overland from London St Pancras Station at 09.22 with a single change of train in Paris. Turin, a fine Baroque city set in the foothills of the Alps, is our base for the first of our six nights.

Day 2 Sunday 2 May (B, D)

In the morning we have a two-hour guided city tour with a professional local guide. This will include the 15th century Renaissance cathedral and the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, home to possibly the world’s most famous holy relic – the Turin Shroud. We also visit the Royal Palace and the Mole Antonelliana tower which dominates the city’s skyline. The afternoon is free for your own exploration of the city, which includes many fascinating museums and art galleries. Train option: excursion by train to the Piedmont Railway Museum (Museo Ferroviario Piemontese) in Savigliano. The Museum has a collection of rare vehicles, some in working condition including some three-phase locomotors. In the evening we have a welcome dinner in a local regional restaurant.

Day 3 Monday 3 May (B)

Today we go by rail to the sea at Genova (Genoa) travelling southward across the end of the Po Valley (Pianura Padana) and entering the Apennine Mountains. On arrival in Genova we have a two-hour guided tour of the city ending in the Ancient Port where there are many places to have lunch. In the afternoon we go to the terminus of the 950mm narrow gauge railway “Ferrovia Genova Casella” where we board a service train to Casella with a vintage coach built by Breda in 1929 reserved for us. Arriving in Casella a charter bus is waiting for to take us to Ronco Scrivia where we board a service train back to Torino on the first Italian main line built in 1853.

Day 4 Tuesday 4 May (B)

This morning we travel to Superga on the historic rack tramway. Our 25-minute ride takes us high up to the Basilica church giving superb views of the city and the Alps from a point that La Corbusier defined as “the most delightful position in the world”. The Basilica was built by Juvarra in 1717-31. The beautiful yellow and white façade is dominated by a large portico designed like a classical Roman Temple. Before boarding the rack tramway we visit the small tram museum and the tram depot. After visiting Superga we return by rack tram to Sassi and by a service tram back to our hotel for a lunch break. In the afternoon there is a two-hour tour of the city with a historic tram.

Day 5 Wednesday 5 May (B)

Rail option: Travel on the GTT (ex SATTI) lines Torino – Ceres and Torino – Pont Canavese. Cultural option: A guided tour of the Reggia di Venaria (The King’s Palace), one of the finest examples of the majesty of 17th and 18th century architecture. We also visit the Gardens of the Reggia.

Day 6 Thursday 6 May (B, L)

Today we head into the region known as “The Italian Lakes”, travelling by coach to Arona by the side of Lake Maggiore. This is the second largest Italian lake after Lake Garda and is a long expanse of water nestling right against the mountains. The gently sloping shores are dotted with camellias, azaleas and verbena. Here we join a boat for a 4-hour cruise, with lunch included, to Locarno in Switzerland. After a break we catch the narrow gauge “Centovalli Railway” to Domodossola in Italy; a very scenic line as it crosses the mountains. Coach transfer from Domodossola to Turin.

Day 7 Friday 7 May (B)

We leave Turin behind and travel east to our next base, at Venice. First, we travel by high-speed train service to Milan. This is Italy’s centre of fashion, business and finance, a smart, wealthy city. We will have a guided tour of the city with a professional guide including a visit to the Duomo Cathedral – one of the largest Gothic churches in the world which took 500 years to build. We also see the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the 18th century Scala Theatre, one of the world’s most prestigious opera houses. Lunch is available in one of the many city centre restaurants.  After lunch we visit the Sforzesco Castle, one of the most curious and fascinating monuments of the town. Late afternoon we take a train to Venice Mestre. Mestre is joined to Venice itself by a 6km railway line, much of it on a causeway, and is a more pleasant place to stay than the main city. Night in Venice Mestre.

Day 8 Saturday 8 May (B)

We take the train for the short 10 minute ride into Venice. Venice is truly a unique city which survives against the odds, built on a series of low mud banks amid the tidal waters of the Adriatic, and regularly subject to flooding. In the morning we will have a two-hour guided tour of the city centre with a professional guide. We will visit the San Marco Basilica, Venice’s most famous landmark and one of the greatest buildings in Europe. After the lunch break we have a boat tour out to the islands of the lagoon. On Murano Island we can see the famous coloured glassware, on Burano the laceware and on Torcello (the oldest inhabited island of the lagoon) its 7th century cathedral. We return by our boat to Venice and then by train to Venice Mestre.

Day 9 Sunday 9 May (B,D)

Today we have the option of a free day in Venice or joining an excursion to Trieste on the border with Slovenia. We take the local train service to Trieste, a journey of just under two hours. A professional guide will meet us at the station. Trieste is an atmospheric city with a long, bustling harbour lined with handsome buildings. We will take the funicular up into the Opicina hills. The funicular is unique in that the tram section is supplemented by a cable section where the tram cars are connected to two buffer wagons and then connected to the cable, the only one of its type in Europe. In the late afternoon we return by train to Venice Mestre. In the evening we have a farewell dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 10 Monday 10 May (B)

For those returning by air we have road transport to Venice airport for the 11.30 flight back to London Gatwick arriving 12.45. The “no fly” group returning by rail depart at 08.32 with an ES City train to Milan where we change to an EC train to Basel in Switzerland and then onward by rail to Strasbourg (arr 17.09). Overnight in Strasbourg.

Day 11 Tuesday 11 May (B)

A free day for your own exploration of Strasbourg. Tear your gaze away from that mesmerising Gothic cathedral for just a minute and you’ll be roaming the old town’s twisting alleys lined with crooked half-timbered houses straight from Grimm’s Fairy Tales and feasting in the a Winstub (an Alsatian tavern) by the canals in Petite France. Overnight in Strasbourg.

Day 12 Wednesday 12 May (B)

Leaving Strasbourg we travel to Paris where we catch the Eurostar service back to London St Pancras.

We can also book you extra nights at the hotel in Venice should you wish to stay on to see more of this city. If the majority of people opt for overland travel via the Eurostar then our tour manager will accompany this group from Paris.

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • From London Gatwick (10 days): £1,995 *
  • From St Pancras (12 days): £2,295
  • Own travel to Turin and back from Venice: £1,795

Options

  • Single room supplement: £280 (9 nights), £375 (11 nights) in main hotels
  • Single room supplement: FREE in alternative hotels
  • A supplement might apply to flights from airports other than London Gatwick
  • * with flight price might increase for late bookings

Deposit

  • £600 with flights, £300 joining in Italy

Price Includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary: B = breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
  • Services of our Tour Manager. Holiday is escorted in Italy

Please note that you cannot book a flight inclusive trip on our website but if you select the flight option you prefer then we will contact you with the flight details and convert your booking into a flight inclusive package.

Online Booking


Click here to see our Booking Conditions

Click here to see our Privacy Policy

We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

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Classic Bulgaria

Tour Date: 22 June to 1 July 2021

Location: Bulgaria

Please note that this tour has been postponed to 22 June to 1 July 2021 in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Bulgaria is a Balkan country with spectacular mountains and a coastline on the Black Sea. For around 500 years it was part of the Ottoman Empire, although the Orthodox tradition remained strong, and today has ancient history, a favourable climate, varied cuisine and hospitable people.

Join us on a rail-based tour around the central region visiting the best of the ancient and cultural sites. You will see wonderful monasteries, Thracian tombs, the ancient capital of Bulgaria, Europe’s oldest inhabited city and much more, as well as travelling on some very fine railway lines, including the “Alpine railway in the Balkans”. From the lively capital city of Sofia, to small remote picturesque villages, known for superb folk art, we guarantee that Bulgaria will entrance you.

From: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham and Manchester

Tour Manager: Maria

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Narrow gauge train Septemvri – Dobrinishte
  • UNESCO sites, museum towns and villages
  • Plovdiv – European capital of culture in 2019
  • The Black sea coast with Varna and Nesebur
  • Annual Holiday of Lavender, Essential plants and healing herbs in Karlovo
  • Demonstration of lavender distillation, tasting of essential oils
  • 2 Wine tastings in Varna and in Brestovitsa ( boutique wine cellar )
  • 7 dinners and 3 lunches included
  • Dinner at a local family in a village in Pirin Mountain National Park with demonstration of preparation of traditional pastry, folklore costumes, folklore dances.
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Day 1 Tuesday 22 June

Flights from Heathrow (08:05), Gatwick (05:55), Stansted (16:30), Birmingham (18:35) and Manchester (07:45) to the Bulgaria capital city of Sofia. For those on the morning flight you will have the rest of the day to relax and for your own exploration.

Day 2 Wednesday 23 June (B, D)

Panorama tour of Sofia. The capital city of Bulgaria is one of the most ancient cities in Europe, which Constantine the Great once called “My Rome”. See the Parliament Square, St. Sofia 6th century basilica, Alexander Nevski Memorial Cathedral, the National Theatre and the City Garden, the Presidency, St. George 4th century Rotunda. There is also a railway museum to visit. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 3 Thursday 24 June (B, D)

Breakfast and morning train to Gorna Oriahovitsa. Arrival in Gorna Oriahovitsa railway station. From Gorna Oriahovitsa we transfer to Veliko Turnovo – the medieval capital city of Bulgaria, which is built on four hills above the Yantra River. Tour of Tsarevets Royal Hill with the fortress, Baldwin tower (the leader of the 4th Crusade), visit Samovodska Charshia (the street of crafts in the old part of Veliko Turnovo). There is a variety of craftsmen’s workshops in the Samovodska Charshia today: potter, armourer, coppersmith, carver, confectioner, weaver, icon-painter’s studio, photographer, café, a workshop where kadaif is made (kadaif is a classic Middle Eastern pastry), and a bakery. The centre recreates the atmosphere of the first decades of the 20th century. Late afternoon to Arbanassi Museum Village, located on a hill above Veliko Turnovo, where we will visit Nativity Church. The village is mentioned for the first time in documents from 1538. The village was so scenic that Greek bishops from Mount Athos and from as far as Jerusalem went to spend the summer there. Dinner and overnight in Veliko Turnovo.

Day 4 Friday 25 June (B,L,D)

Breakfast and departure by train to Shumen and Varna, joining the first Bulgarian railway line Ruse – Varna ( 1866, commissioned to an English company managed by William Gladstone, a politician, and the Barkley brothers, civil engineers ). Arrival in Varna – the marine capital city of Bulgaria and largest Bulgarian port on the Black Sea.

Varna railway station is one of the oldest in Bulgaria and was one of the stations where the Orient Express used to stop between 1883 and 1885.

City tour of Varna with lunch and tasting of local wines. In the afternoon we will visit the regional museum, which displays the oldest gold treasure in the world, belonging to the Varna culture, was discovered in the Varna Necropolis and dates to 4200–4600 BC. Check in, dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 5 Saturday 26 June (B,D)

Breakfast and departure by train to Karnobat, crossing beautiful nature sites – Chudnite skali rock formations, Kamchiya river valley, Tsonevo water reserve and the eastern slopes of Stara Planina mountain ( Balkan Range ). Arrival in Karnobat railway station and transfer by coach to Nesebur UNESCO town.

According to Strabo, the town was named Messambria (later altered to the Slavonic Nessebur), after the legendary founder – a Thracian by the name of Melsa and the Thracian name for city “bria”. It exists since the 2nd millennium BC, the Hellenic colony on this site was founded in 510 BC by Dorian settlers. Having captured Messambria in 72 – 71 BC, the Romans preserved the city intact, leaving there a permanent garrison. During the Roman epoch, new temples dedicated to Demeter, Asclepiad, Hecate, Isis, etc. were erected. On the northern shore of the peninsula rose the Temple of Zeus.

At the big local theatre, drama, music performances and poetry readings were arranged. Since the 4th c AD, Messambria maintained close links with Constantinople, during the 7th c it became one of the “special” locations where out of favour politicians and courtiers were exiled from Constantinople.

Walking tour of the old peninsula and free time to enjoy the place.

Transfer by coach to Stara Zagora and take the train to Plovdiv. Evening arrival, dinner and check in at the hotel.

Day 6 Sunday 27 June (B,L)

Breakfast and departure by coach to the small town of Karlovo to participate in the Holiday of the Lavender, Essential plants and healing herbs.

During the day you will witness the special rituals associated with the healing herbs, taste traditional bread with “silent” water, taste products of rose and lavender, see harvesting of lavender, distillation of lavender oil, visit lavender fields.

In the Old Karlovo Ethnographic complex you will visit a traditional house and learn about the Bulgarian folklore. In the centre of the city there will be a folklore program and later on we will visit Bulgarian Rose cosmetics factory with a demonstration of soap production.

In the late afternoon we will proceed parallel to the mountains to Shipka memorial church and Kaznaluk – the centre of the Valley of Roses, known as well as the Valley of the Thracian kings. Visit Kazanluk Thracian tomb ( UNESCO site, copy ) and depart to Plovdiv. Independent dinner and 2nd night at your hotel.

Day 7 Monday 28 June (B, L, D)

After breakfast we have a walking tour along the longest pedestrian street in the world and the remains of the Roman forum and stadium to Djumaya Mosque Square and the Old Plovdiv architectural reserve: Plovdiv has 6,000 years of history and was once the capital city of Philip the 2nd of Macedonia (the father of Alexander the Great). With its innumerable art galleries, winding cobbled streets and bohemian cafés, it would be no exaggeration to call today’s Plovdiv the Paris of the Balkans. Plovdiv’s appeal derives mainly from its lovely old town, the Stariat Grad, largely restored to its mid-19th century appearance and full of winding cobblestone streets. It is literally packed with atmospheric house-museums and art galleries and, unlike many other cities with ‘old towns’, has eminent artists still living and working within its tranquil confines. During the tour you will see the Ancient Amphitheatre, St. Constantine and Helena Church, the Ethnographic Museum (the so-called `Royal House`). Transfer to Brestovitsa village for a visit of boutique wine cellar, lunch and tasting some local wines.

Transfer to Septemvri railway station and take the narrow gauge train to Velingrad Spa town. Arrival in Velingrad, dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 8 Tuesday 29 June (B,D)

Breakfast and morning to enjoy the swimming pools with mineral water and the spa facilities of the hotel. Transfer to Velingrad railway station and continue along the only operating narrow gauge (760 mm) line in Bulgaria nowadays, built in the period 1921-1945 till Dobrinishte. The journey takes some 3,5 hours and passes through valleys and gorges. The route leaves Velingrad, passing Avramovo, Yakoruda, Razlog and Bansko, linking the western part of the Upper Thracian Plain with the Western Rhodopes, Rila and Pirin mountains. Due to the characteristics of the route through the mountains, the narrow gauge line is also known as the Alpine railway in the Balkans. Avramovo station, situated at 1267 meters above the sea, is the highest station in the Balkans. Along the route there are 35 tunnels, 11 stations and 10 stops.

Arrival in Dobrinishte and transfer for dinner at a local family in a village nearby – preparation of traditional pastry, folklore costumes, folklore dances. Transfer to Bansko after dinner. Overnight at your hotel.

Day 9 Wednesday 30 July (B,D)

Breakfast and morning tour of Bansko museum town, located at the foothills of Pirin Mountain National Park ( UNESCO site ) – nowadays an international centre for winter and summer tourism. The eco paths and trails near the town, the numerous lakes and the old pine woods make it a popular site for recreation. In winter, Bansko is a host of many world cup alpine ski races, while in summer time international jazz, opera and theatre festivals are organized. We will have a walking tour of the Old Bansko to see St. Trinity Church and the complex of National Revival houses with their typical architecture – thick stone walls, narrow and dark loop-holes, iron wires on the windows and the heavy doors.

Proceed to Rila Monastery UNESCO site – the largest monastery in Bulgaria, located at an altitude of 1147 m above sea level in Rila Mountain National Park.  Admire wooden balconies, azure fretwork, collonades, facades and colourful frescoes, silhouetted against a fantastic panorama of mountain peaks. The monastery has been founded in the 10th century.  It is a National Historical Reserve since 1976 and part of UNESCO list since 1983.

Departure by train from Blagoevgrad to Sofia. Arrival, transfer to your hotel. Farewell dinner.

Day 10 Thursday 1 July (B)

After breakfast there is free time until the transfer to the airport for your flight back to the UK (separate transfers for each flight).

Place(s) available

Single Supplement just £100

Prices (per person)

  • From Heathrow (BA): £1,395
  • From Gatwick (Easyjet): £1,365
  • From Stansted (Ryanair): £1,350
  • From Birmingham (Ryanair): £1,350
  • From Manchester (Easyjet): £1,395
  • From Sofia: £1,165

Options

  • Single room supplement: £100

Deposit

  • £300 (own flights), £500 (with flights)

Online Booking


Please note that you cannot book a flight inclusive trip on our website but if you select the flight option you prefer then we will contact you with the flight details and convert your booking into a flight inclusive package.

Click here to see our Booking Conditions
Click here to see our Privacy Policy
We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

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The Little Trains of the Dolomites

Tour Date: 29 August to 5 September

Location: Italy

A seven-night half-board holiday based at Hotel Miralago in Molveno, a charming small town located on the shores of Lake Molveno at the foot of the Brenta Dolomites, 25 miles north-west of Trento.

Perfect for lovers of nature, culture and history, the town itself has a 13th century church and a working watermill as well as water sports on the lake. Our itinerary takes us to historic towns, wine-tasting, mountain railways, funiculars, cable cars, a lake cruise and, of course, stunning mountain scenery.

We begin in Bolzano, and a guided walk around its medieval historic centre. Today we ride on a cable car which affords us amazing views of the city and valley below us, before catching a train to Collalbo. Another mountain funicular on the following day, as we reach the 1,362-metre-high Mendel Pass. We finish this day at a winery, where we will have the opportunity to taste some of their excellent wines. We experience another scenic railway, the “Castles Train”, as we go to Caldes and Cles. Our Dolomites adventure continues with a trip to Lake Garda, a favourite holiday destination for Italians, with time in the charming resort town of Riva Garda and of course a cruise on the lake. Our final rail journey takes us from Trento to Bassano del Grappa, another very scenic line.

As well as David, the PTG Tour Manager, we will also be accompanied by our local guide, who will lead our walking tours and explain the local history of the places we pass through.

This is a half-board holiday. Each day we return to our hotel in Molveno in time for dinner, which is served in the hotel, and includes drinks with our meal.

Your Tour Manager for this trip is David, who lives in Lisbon. Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with him about the trip, please feel free to e-mail him on david@ptg.co.uk.

From Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham (Frankfurt) Manchester, Edinburgh

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Seven nights at the same hotel with breakfast and dinner
  • Mountain scenery of the Dolomitic Alps
  • Bassano del Grappa
  • Rack railway to the Mendel Pass
  • Renon narrow-gauge railway
  • Lake Garda
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Day 1 Saturday 29 August (D)

Direct flights from the UK to Verona from Gatwick (13:15), Stansted (12:55), Birmingham (08:55 via Frankfurt) Manchester (13:15), Edinburgh (07:45). Overland travel from London St Pancras is possible too. Transfer to Hotel Miralago in Molveno, our home for the week.

Day 2 Sunday 30 August (B,D)

This morning we travel north to the town of Bolzano (or Bosen in German). Here we are joined by our local guide for a walking tour around the medieval historic centre. Bolzano is the gateway to the Dolomites Mountains. Though it is part of Italy now, it used to belong to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and as so many people still speak German as their first language, you’ll be excused if you forget we are in Italy! After time for lunch, we take the cable car up to Soprabolzano (Oberbosen). This 10-15-minute journey affords wonderful views of the town and valley below us, and is an attraction in itself, not just a means of transport. After a short break at Soprabolzano, we catch our train on the Renon narrow-gauge railway to Collalbo. This metre-gauge railway, dating from 1907, is one of South Tyrol’s treasures, as well as being an important part of public transport in the area. We hope to also have a short charter on one of their historic railcars. We return to the hotel by coach, visiting the Earth Pyramids on the way. These earth pyramids are a phenomenon caused by erosion. When dry, the material is as hard as rock but, when wet, it becomes a clay-like mush which flows into the valley.

Day 3 Monday 31 August (B,D)

We begin our day by travelling to Caldaro, at the bottom of the Mendel funicular. From there we climb over 850 metres on the funicular to Mendel Pass. This railway has a maximum gradient of 64%. After a short break at the top, we head back down to Caldaro where our guide will lead us on a short walking tour. Free time for lunch in this very Austrian of villages, followed by a visit to a winery near Mezzacorona where we will have an informative guided visit and of course the opportunity to taste their produce.

Day 4 Tuesday 1 September (B,D)

This morning we transfer by coach to the railway station at Mezzolombardo, for our 45-minute rail journey northwards to Caldes. From the train, we have views of the Dolomites and some of the castles that are in this area. On arrival at Caldes, we visit one of those castles. After this visit, we catch another train to the town of Cles. The town is famous for an important archaeological find, the Tavola Clesiana, dating to the year A.D. 46. Cles, and the Val di Non, are also well known for their apples. Melinda is the brand name given to high quality apples exclusively grown in the Val di Non valley, and you will see many apple trees in the town. A guided visit to the Assessorile Palace, whose walls and ceilings are adorned with centuries-old frescos.

Day 5 Wednesday 2 September (B,D)

Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, is our destination this morning. The narrower northern part of the lake is surrounded by mountains from the Monte Baldo range, while in the south, the wider part of the lake is surrounded by morainic hills that were left after the melting of the glacier. Flourishing vegetation – mainly olive and lemon groves, palms, cypresses, oleanders and orange trees – along with majestic landscapes make this lake the most charming in Italy. We visit Riva Garda, at the northern end of the lake. This charming resort town is located at foot of high mountains, and also has an interesting historic centre with narrow streets and alleyways and an abundance of excellent restaurants. We will have a short cruise on Lake Garda, with time ashore at the charming medieval village of Limone.

Day 6 Thursday 3 September (B,D)

Our final train trip of the holiday starts at Trento, where we catch a train along the scenic branch line to Bassano del Grappa. Our two-hour train journey takes us past lakes and along valleys between high mountains. Bassano del Grappa. As well as an attractive historic centre a short walk from the railway station, the town boasts a covered wooden pontoon bridge, designed by the architect Andrea Palladio in 1569. The bridge has been destroyed many times, most recently during World War II, but it has always been rebuilt. Return to Trento by train at the end of the day, with our coach waiting to take us back to Molveno in time for dinner.

Day 7 Friday 4 September (B,D)

The last day of our holiday is a free day for you to explore on your own. Perhaps you wish to relax by the lake or even walk round it (7 miles), hire a rowing boat or simply soak up the beautiful mountain air and scenery. Or head up into the mountains on the cable car that leaves a short distance from the hotel. The first route rises 460 m to Pradel, with a further 180 m rise on the second, to over 1,500 metres (5,000 feet) above sea level, with stunning mountain views from the moment you set out. The day is yours, and our local guide will also offer suggestions depending on your abilities and interests.

Day 8 Saturday 5 September (B)

This morning we return to Verona Airport for our flights home.

This is a relatively easy tour, with very little “compulsory” walking, though there are some short optional walking tours. We are picked up from and brought back to our hotel each day by our own luxury coach (which will also meet us at the airport on arrival and take us back for our flights home), and dinner is in the hotel each evening. To enjoy the tour to the full, you need to be able to get on and off our coach and also trains and a cable car.

Book early to get the best “with flight” prices as they may increase for late booking. Verona is one of the most expensive places in Italy to fly to from the UK.  It can also be cheaper to fly to Milan and catch a train to Verona (1hr, 15m).

Lake View Rooms: Rooms with a view over the lake are limited so book early to guarantee the best rooms.

Hotels

Hotel Miralago in Molveno (7 nights)

Holiday Prices

  • From London Gatwick: £1,399
  • From London Stansted: £1,399
  • From Birmingham: £1,495
  • From Manchester: £1,399
  • From Edinburgh: £1,549
  • From Verona: £1,199

Options

  • Single Room Supplement: There are a limited number of small single rooms and these are available for no single supplement. For a double room for single use add £130.
  • Guarantee a lake view room: £110 (per room)
  • Overland from London St Pancras: POA

 

Deposit

  • £500 with flights, £300 own flights

Price Includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary: B = breakfast, D = Dinner
  • Services of our Tour Manager. Holiday is fully escorted

Online Booking


Please note that you cannot book a flight inclusive trip on our website but if you select the flight option you prefer then we will contact you with the flight details and convert your booking into a flight inclusive package.

Click here to see our Booking Conditions

Click here to see our Privacy Policy

We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

 

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Hidden Slovenia

Tour Date: 15 to 24 September

Location: Slovenia

If you have travelled to Slovenia before the chances are you stayed in the fine capital city of Ljubljana or at the wonderful Lake Bled. On this tour, we take you to an equally wonderful, and scenic area of Slovenia, but even more off the normal tourist route.

Along the way we will visit World Heritage sites, vineyards and steam railways. We also spend a couple of nights in the ancient Austrian city of Graz and travel through the world famous Semmering Pass – not once, but twice.

From: Heathrow, Gatwick, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, London St Pancras

Tour Manager: Marion  marion@ptg.co.uk 

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Visit to Unesco world heritage site of Graz old town
  • Complete non-touristy region
  • Wine tasting
  • Cable car trip
  • Steam train trip
  • Stunning scenery
  • All four-star hotels with 6 nights in Maribor
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Day 1 Tuesday 15 September

Fly direct to Vienna today from Heathrow (11:35), Stansted (19:40), Birmingham (19:05), Manchester (13:00) or overland from London St Pancras. We take the train from the airport to the main railway station in Vienna. There is a short walk to our hotel for the night. Overnight in Vienna. To fly from Bristol you need to fly out a day early on Monday 14 September and have a pre-tour night in Vienna.

Day 2 Wednesday 16 September (B, L)

This morning we take the train from Vienna to Graz via the world-famous Semmering Pass. Our coach will meet us for approx. half hour drive to South Styria Wine region, to the village of Stainz. With the local guide, we will discover the history, wine and culinary importance of the area. To verify the excellence of South Styria Culinary we will have lunch at a local restaurant. Later we will take a one-hour ride on a steam train “The Stainzer Flaschenzug – The Bottle train”, that runs on narrow gauge tracks, which first opened in 1892. Today the train is a great local attraction. The name of the train comes from the time when doctor “Höllerhansl” (1866-1935) practiced medicine. He was called to diagnose diverse diseases out of urine. That is why many people travelled with the narrow-gauge railway Preding – Wieselsdorf – Stainz to Höllerhansl with a little bottle of urine in their luggage. The coach will meet us and transfer us to our 4 stars hotel in the very centre of Graz.

Day 3 Thursday 17 September (B, D)

Graz is the second largest city in Austria, situated on the River Mur just 120miles southwest of Vienna. A leisurely morning before our guided tour of this fascinating city. We will start with a trip up the Schlossberg (with the funicular) and literally get the best views of the city. Then we will take a walk from the stunning cathedral, through the amazing renaissance Landhaus courtyard, double spiral staircase in The Burg Graz (official headquarters of the regional government), main shopping street, the main square and town hall to an extravagant steel construction on the river Mur (Island on the Mur). We then have a free afternoon to explore, for ourselves the old centre of Graz. Perhaps visit the fairyland railway beneath the castle or a visit to the tram museum. By now we will understand all the reasons why UNESCO declared Graz old town World Cultural Heritage. Plenty of free time before we meet in the evening for our dinner in a local restaurant near the hotel.

Day 4 Friday 18 September (B)

We will check out of our hotel and take a local train to Maribor where we start our second Slovenia Tour, here we will stay and explore many places that we have yet to enjoy to the full. Maribor is the second largest city in Slovenia situated on the River Drava. Don’t be fooled by your first impression, as I once was. The Old City has so much to offer, with beautiful buildings, little streets, the park and the riverside to explore. Our luggage will be transferred from Graz to Maribor for us. After arrival, we have a guided tour of this lovely city including the famous puppet theatre before our visit to the Vinag wine cellar. Vinag is one of the largest and oldest classic wine cellars in Europe, there we will have a wine tasting of locally produced wine before free time for the evening and dinner. Restaurants will be pointed out to you for your evening dinner.

Day 5 Saturday 19 September (B, L)

Today we will have a lovely railway journey east of Maribor. In the morning, we visit Ptuj, the oldest documented town in Slovenia. The core of the old town is protected as a cultural monument. At every step monuments bear witness to its ancient past, with traces of Roman Poetovio and the periods that followed. At a local restaurant on the bank of the River Drava we will have time for a refreshing lunch. Then we will take the train to Ivanjkovci, from where we will discover Jeruzalem, one of the most beautiful wine regions of Slovenia, the eastern part of Slovenske Gorice, the land of many vales and low rounded hillocks and ridges, where sunny south-facing slopes are covered with vineyards and orchards. At the local winery, we will have a taste of the local produced wine before returning to Maribor.

Day 6 Sunday 20 September (B, L)

Today we are going to visit the third largest town of Slovenia – Celje, which was an important Roman city called Celeia and in medieval times a home to the most important Slovenians (and also one of the most important European) aristocratic families – Counts of Celje. The remains of the castle owned by this aristocratic family stand on a dominant point on a hill and we will discover the castle stories with our local “medieval” guide. In a nearby local tourist farm we will have a tasting of home produced cheese and other farm products. After lunch, we meet up with our local guide for a tour of this fascinating city before our journey back to Maribor.

Day 7 Monday 21 September (B, L)

We take a morning train from Maribor to Podčetrtek; the first part of this railway track constitutes the very first constructed railway track in Slovenia. We spend the whole day in the Kozjansko region, which is an area of forests, rolling hills, vineyards and scattered farms. A road train will take us to visit a local brewery where we have a break to sample the local beer and enjoy this lovely countryside before moving onto the renovated Minoriti monastery complex (the part of the convent is also a celebrated pharmacy, which is one of the oldest monastic pharmacies in Europe), we will taste the local produced chocolate in a Chocolate boutique, Olimje. In this fairy tale-like countryside we will have lunch in one of the welcoming farmhouses. Here they breed deer so we are able to feed them, if you so wish. Tidiness and beauty of these places has convinced even the strict European commission to award village Olimje with the golden medal on Entente Florale 2009 contest. Our road train will then return us to the railway station for our train back to Maribor.

Day 8 Tuesday 22 September (B, L)

The scenic railway line along the Drava River will take us to Dravograd, from where we take our coach to Mežica lead and zinc mine. With mining equipment, we will take a ride on a genuine mining train right to the heart of the mine. Driving through the 3.5 km long Glančnik tunnel lasts about 15 minutes and can truly be described as a unique experience. We will step out at the station in the heart of the mountain, 600 m below the surface of Veliki vrh. Accompanied by an experienced guide we find out more about the history of mining. Above all, we will have a typical local lunch underground. Later the afternoon train will take us back from Dravograd to Maribor.

Day 9 Wednesday 23 September (B, L)

This morning we visit Pohorje mountain range where we take a cable car to the top. We have been able to see these mountains from our hotel since we arrived now let’s see if we can see the hotel from the top of the mountains. Every winter the slalom and giant slalom races for the Golden Fox World Cup for women are held here. From the top, there are wonderful views of Maribor and the Drava Valley. We will have time to have a light lunch here and perhaps a walk to soak in the views. We have some free time in Maribor on our return before we meet up again for a boat tour on the River Drava. This will be followed by our farewell dinner.

Day 10 Thursday 24 September (B)

Today it is time to say “Nasvidenje Maribor, Nasvidenje Slovenija” (Goodbye Maribor, Goodbye Slovenia). Our coach will transfer us to the Graz for our return journey to Vienna by rail – giving us a second chance to admire the wonderful Semmering Pass. In Vienna we catch the airport train to the airport for flight back to various UK airports.

This is a moderately active tour.  To fully enjoy this program, participants should be able to climb a flight of stairs and walk at least a half-mile on uneven ground during several of the sightseeing trips.

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • From London Heathrow: £1,775
  • From London Stansted: £1,775
  • From Bristol (includes pre-tour night): £1,875
  • From Birmingham: £1,775
  • From Manchester: £1,775
  • From St Pancras: Price on application
  • Own travel to and from Vienna: £1,575

Options

  • Single room Supplement: £390
  • Fly out on 10 July: £60 (twin/double) or £105 (single)
  • With flight prices may not be available for late bookers

Deposit

  • Travelling by air: £500
  • Travelling by land: £1,000
  • Own travel: £300

Price includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as stated in the itinerary: B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner
  • Services of our tour manager (tour is fully escorted from London)

Please note that you cannot book a flight inclusive trip on our website but if you select the flight option you prefer then we will contact you with the flight details and convert your booking into a flight inclusive package.

Online Booking


Click here to see our Booking Conditions

Click here to see our Privacy Policy

We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

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Classic Belgium including Bruges

Tour Date: 4 to 11 June 2020

Location: Belgium

This tour should appeal to a large range of people.  Lovers of culture and history, good living, and vintage transport will all find themselves well catered for.

The tour is based in Blankenberge, a seaside town on the Belgian coast close to the port of Zeebrugge. Accommodation is in the recently completed Mercure or Ibis Budget hotels which now form the main part of the station building and are therefore an ideal base from which to explore. The town is full of shops, cafés and restaurants, and the tram can easily take one further along the coast.

Excursions have been arranged to the old Flemish cities of Bruges, including a cruise on the famous canal system, and Gent, where a tour of the city by tram and a visit to the castle of the Counts of Flanders is included.

A day trip by train will take us to the Belgian National railway museum “Train World” and the Museum of Urban Transport with transfer between the two by vintage tram.

Everyone is moved by the bloody history of Flanders fields in the First World War, and a coach trip will show us some of the main sights and memorials from this dark period in history. The day is concluded by a ride along the coast in a restored 1930’s tram.

Travelling by coach, a more light-hearted visit is to the acclaimed Pairi Daiza Zoo-Park with its superb 60cm gauge steam railway. Again, there is something for everyone to see here including the park’s own brewery!

On the last day, we travel by preserved bus over the border to the pretty Dutch town of Sluis before continuing back into Belgium to visit the Canada-Poland War Museum,  arriving mid-afternoon at Maldegem Steam Center, We can visit the railway’s workshop and museum shed to see the extensive collection of locomotives and rolling stock and take a steam hauled narrow gauge train ride. The “Orient Dining Express” then awaits us, and we board a beautifully restored Wagon Lits dining car in which a gourmet meal will be served at our seats as we travel, in steam hauled luxury, to Eeklo and back before returning to our hotel.

Tour manager: Kevin – email kevin@ptg.co.uk

From: London St Pancras, Hull, Blankenberge

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Dinner on the “Orient Dining Express”.
  • Boat trip on Bruges’ famous canal network.
  • City tour of Gent by preserved tram and boat.
  • Flanders fields tour including Ypres.
  • Train World railway museum and Brussels tram Museum.
  • Vintage tram ride along the whole Belgian coast.
  • Pairi Daiza Zoo Park & Railway
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Day 1 Thursday 4 June (D)

From London by Eurostar, Changing to InterCity train at Brussels South to the seaside town of Blankenberge, our base for the week staying at the comfortable Hotel Sabot d’Or, close to the station. The coast tram stops close by and it is a 10-minute walk to the seafront. Welcome dinner at a local restaurant. Alternative to Eurostar, for those coming from the North, is P&O overnight ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge leaving Hull on Wednesday 3 June at 18:30.

Day 2 Friday 5 June (B, D)

We take a short train ride to the famous Unesco city of Bruges where follows a walking tour including the Cathedral, the main square with its octagonal belfry and ornate town hall, Our Lady Church with Michael Angelo’s statue of Madonna and child, and the Begijnhof convent. This is followed by a trip in a motorboat around the city’s famous canal network. Rest of the day free to explore, perhaps climb the 366 steps of the belfry, do some shopping, or sample some Belgian beer. Return to Blankenberge at leisure.

Day 3 Saturday 6 June (B, D)

We catch an InterCity train from Blankenberge, changing to a suburban train in Brussels which will bring us to Schaerbeek for “Train World” the Belgian National Railway Museum. After a break for lunch, a vintage tram will take us via the city centre to the extensive Brussels museum of urban transport in Woluwe where we will be given a guided tour. After the visit, the tram will return us to Brussels South station for the train back to Blankenberge.

Day 4 Sunday 7 June (B, D)

Today we travel by coach from the hotel to visit the famous sights, cemeteries and memorials of the first war in Flanders fields including Tyne Cot Cemetery and Ypres with its Menen Gate memorial. We travel on to De Panne for a visit to the small tram museum before boarding a restored 1930’s electric tram for the two hour trip along the coast to Blankenberge with an additional option of remaining on board to the end of the line at Knokke to visit the restoration workshops before returning to Blankenberge.

Day 5 Monday 8 June (B, D)

This morning we board a train for the 50-minute ride to Gent. At St Pieters Station, a 1970’s PCC tram car, restored to its original Blue and crème livery, will be waiting to take us on a tour of the city, finally dropping us in the centre where we have a break for lunch before taking a boat tour of Gent’s canals. The rest of the day is free to visit the beautiful city with its Gravensteen, the castle of the counts of Flanders and St Bavo’s cathedral. Finally, we take a service tram back to St Pieters station for the train to Blankenberge.

Day 6 Tuesday 9 June (B, D)

We are picked up by coach for the 1.5-hour drive into the French-speaking part of Belgium to the renowned Pairi Daiza Zoo Park. In the beautiful setting of an old monastery, The park is home to countless exotic animals and birds including giant pandas and koalas. A large circuit of 60cm gauge railway has been built around the park and we start with a visit to the pretty wooden engine shed which is home to its four steam locos before taking a trip around the circuit which has some quite serious gradients and passes through elephant and bison enclosures. The rest of the day is free to visit the park, take extra rides, photograph the trains, or sample the excellent products of the park’s own brewery. Return to Blankenberge by coach.

Day 7 Wednesday 10 June (B, D)

This morning a preserved bus will collect us from the hotel for a drive through the Zeebrugge dock area and railway yards, then over the Dutch border to the pretty little town of Sluis where we will make a stop. The bus then continues back into Belgium to Adegem to visit the Canada Poland War Museum and Japanese Gardens. The museum tells the story of the liberation of the local area by Canadian and Polish troops in the Second World War. There is a Canadian war cemetery nearby. After this, we proceed a short distance to Maldegem Steam Centre, one of Belgium’s foremost railway preservation sites. We take a trip on a narrow-gauge steam hauled train and visit the museum and workshop to see the society’s extensive collection of restored locomotives and rolling stock. This is followed by a highlight of the holiday: The famous Wagons Lit luxury train company was a Belgian initiative. We board an immaculate restored Wagon Lit restaurant car, originally built in France in 1919 with a teak body, it was re-bodied in steel in Hungary in 1943 but retained the original interior. The car is part of the “Orient Dining Express” operation, and we take a steam-hauled ride to Eeklo and back during which a gourmet meal including suitable wines will be served at our seats before the bus returns us to Blankenberge.

Thursday 11 June (B)

Blankenberge station for the train to Brussels South where we transfer to the Eurostar to take us home to London.

The tour is moderately active with some walking involved to visit the cities.

Place(s) available

Single Supplement Just £100

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • From London St. Pancras (Eurostar): £995
  • From Hull (overnight ferry): £1,045
  • From Blankenberge: £850

Deposit

  • £300 (from London), £500 (from Hull)

Options

  • Single supplement: £110
  • Single use cabin on Hull ferry: £105

Please note that you cannot book a flight inclusive trip on our website but if you select the flight option you prefer then we will contact you with the flight details and convert your booking into a flight inclusive package.

Online Booking


Click here to see our Booking Conditions

Click here to see our Privacy Policy

We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Overland via Eurostar

12.58 St. Pancras to Bruxelles-Midi (arriving 16.07)
16.51 Bruxelles-Midi to Blankenberge (arriving 18.05)

12.54 Blankenberge to Bruxelles-Midi (arriving 14.08)
14.56 Bruxelles-Midi to St. Pancras (arriving 16.05)

Ferry from Hull (on 3 June)

18.30 Hull to Zeebrugge (arriving 08.45 on 4th)
19.00 Zeebrugge to Hull (arriving 08.30)


The Douro: Rail, River and Wine

Tour Date: 1 to 8 July 2021

Location: Portugal

Please note that this tour has been postponed to 1 to 8 July 2021 in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.

A seven-night, half-board holiday based for six of our seven nights at the Regua Douro Hotel. From our base in Regua, we explore the Douro Valley by rail and by boat, with a trip on a steam train through some of the most beautiful scenery in Portugal, visits to wine cellars to taste their excellent wines, travelling the whole length of the Douro Valley railway line with a visit to a pre-historic rock art location and ending our holiday with a cruise down the River Douro to Porto.

Our hotel has its own pool and restaurant/bar.

Your Tour Manager for this trip is David, who lives in Lisbon. Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with him about the trip, please feel free to e-mail him on david@ptg.co.uk.

From Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Manchester, Birmingham (via Barcelona), Edinburgh, London St Pancras

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Lunches included most days
  • River cruises
  • Stunning scenery
  • Wine and port tasting
  • Steam train
  • Scenic rail journeys
  • No-fly option
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Day 1 Thursday 1 July

(D) Your flight leaves Gatwick at 12:20. Direct flights also available from Luton, Stansted or from Birmingham (via Barcelona) and Manchester* and overland travel from St Pancras via the Eurostar and Sud-Express sleeper. You will be met at Porto airport by David, your tour manager, and we will transfer to the Hotel Regua Douro by rail (morning flights) or coach (evening flights). Dinner at the hotel. * from Manchester you fly out on the evening of Wednesday 1 July (at 19:35) for a pre-tour night at Porto Airport hotel.

Day 2 Friday 2 July (B,L)

In the morning we catch the regional train east along the river to the railway’s terminus at Pocinho. Until the late 1980s, the main line continued to the Spanish border at Barca d’Alva and at Pocinho the Sabor narrow gauge line branched off. You can still see a steam loco from that line that was abandoned in Pocinho when the line closed.

This is a superb scenic journey with stunning views and we might catch sight of the rare Black Kite which still manages to survive in this remote area of Europe. From Pocinho we will make a short road trip to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Archaeological Park and Museum near the small town of Vila Nova de Foz Côa. As well as visiting the museum, with its spectacular views over the River Douro, we will also visit one of the prehistoric rock art sites, travelling 6 Km through the countryside in an all-terrain vehicle with an easy walk for the last 600 metres. Return to Regua by train. Lunch today is included at the restaurant in the museum.

Day 3 Saturday 3 July (B,L)

Some free time in Régua this morning. Régua is the centre of the Port Wine industry and a visit to the excellent Douro Museum is recommended. Late morning our coach will collect us from the hotel to take us to Quinta da Pacheca, one of the local wine and port producers. Here we will have a guided visit of the wine cellar and production facilities, with the opportunity to taste their excellent wines with lunch, which is included in the visit.

In the afternoon, we join a restored steam-hauled vintage train, formed of five wooden bodied carriages dating from the 1920s.  We travel up the river through breath-taking scenery of terrace vineyards and olive trees, to the riverside station at Tua (about a 90-minute run). En-route we stop for water at the picturesque riverside town of Pinhão. Use the time here to see the famous tiled pictures, dating from 1938, that decorate the station. Many of the most famous names in port production have quintas (port lodges) close to the railway station which is decorated with dazzling tile panels depicting scenes from bygone days of port production. On board, we are treated to traditional singing and served local delicacies and port wine. After a break, we return on the steam hauled special to Regua.

Day 4 Sunday 4 July (B,L)

This morning we once again catch the regional train east along the river to the railway’s terminus at Pocinho. At Pocinho we join our river cruiser and sailing down the river we pass through three of the dams built in the 1970s and 1980s to tame this once wild river. One of the locks we pass through is 32 metres deep and is an unforgettable experience.  This is a stunning part of the valley with steep terraced vineyards and dramatic rock cliffs and is probably the most stunning stretch of the river. A full three-course lunch with wine is served on board and included in your tour price.

Day 5 Monday 5 July (B,L)

We have another chance to see the Douro from the train as we head back west to Penafiel. Our coach will be waiting to take us the short distance to the vineyards at Quinta da Aveleda, one of the region’s top Vinho Verde estates with its fine gardens. Look out for the Goat Tower and the Old Wine Lodge. After a guided walk through their beautiful gardens, we are taken to their dining room where we will be served an excellent three-course lunch with the chance to taste some of their excellent green wines. From here we transfer by road to the pretty riverside town of Amarante, one of the gems of northern Portugal. Rows of 17th-century mansions with their brightly painted balconies line the narrow streets. There will be time to visit the Monastery and other sites during our walk through the town. We return to Regua by train from Livração station, arriving early evening.

Day 6 Tuesday 6 July (B,L)

A short train journey to begin the day as we alight at the first station east of Régua, Covelinhas. Here we find ourselves at Quinta das Murças, a wine cellar on the banks of the River Douro. We will be shown their production plant and the tanks where the grapes are crushed and then the best part, actually tasting some of their excellent produce. After our visit, we once again join the train to go to Tua station and lunch in the well-known Calça Curta restaurant. Their specialities are venison and wild boar, and of course drinks (house wine, beer and soft drinks) are included. Return to Régua after lunch for a relaxing afternoon in the town.

Day 7 Wednesday 7 July (B,L)

One of the highlights of the holiday, we sail down the River Douro to Porto. We pass through two dams, firstly the spectacular Carrapatelo Dam. The lock in this dam will take us down 35 metres, one of the deepest locks in Western Europe and an unforgettable experience. Later we pass through the relatively small Crestuma-Lever Dam, as we start to see more settlements and finally the city of Porto. The approach to Porto is spectacular as we pass under a series of bridges, including the iconic Maria Pia railway bridge and the Dom Luis I two-level bridge. After docking we will make the short journey to our hotel at the airport, ready for our flights home tomorrow. Our farewell lunch, including drinks, will be on board our river cruiser. Alternatively travel to Coimbra and join our Vintage Central Portugal tour.

Day 8 Thursday 8 July (B)

We are just a short walk from the airport. If you have later flights, you may wish to catch the modern metro into Porto and explore a little more of this fascinating city.

Optional Porto & Vouga Historic Train add-on

Day 8/9 Thursday 8 and Friday 9 July (B)

Armed with your transport pass you will have a free day in Portugal’s second city, Porto. The “Ribeira” district down by the river is one of the most picturesque scenes in Portugal. Make sure you cross the river by the Dom Luis I bridge to the city of Vila Nova de Gaia, home to the wine cellars of most of the famous brands of port wine. For transport fans, Porto has an extensive modern metro and your ticket is valid on the whole system. There are also historic trams and an excellent tram museum.

Day 9 Saturday 10 July (B)

Join the Vintage Central Portugal tour group as we ride on the Vouga Historic Train. After being stored in Regua for many years, the metre-gauge Vintage Train has been brought back into service on the Vouga Line, and today we will take a step back in time to travel on the original rolling stock along this scenic, but often forgotten, line. For so long threatened with closure, it managed to hang on, and is now having a renaissance due to the presence of this train. A visit to Macinhata museum is included. At the time of going to print, the train was being hauled by diesel loco 9004. However, steam loco E214 has been moved to this line, so we are hopeful that she will be ready to haul our train today. Note: if for any reason the historic train is not running today, we will still visit the line, but use the service trains instead. You will travel down to Aveiro by suburban train in the morning, giving you the opportunity to explore this attractive town, considered one of the best in Portugal to live in, and at the end of the day you will return to Porto by suburban train.

Day 10 Sunday 11 July (B)

Return home via Porto Airport or overland.

This tour has some walking, including hills and steps. Some Portuguese railway stations still have low platforms. In Porto you will need to be able to walk a few hundred metres.

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices (8 day)*

  • From Gatwick: £1,350
  • From Luton: £1,350
  • From Stansted: £1,350
  • From Birmingham: £1,395
  • From Manchester (9 nights): £1,450
  • From Edinburgh: £1,375
  • From London St Pancras: £1,635
  • From Porto/Oporto: £1,150

Options

  • Porto & Vouga Historic Train add-on: £350
  • Single Room Supplement: £190 (8 day tour), £320 (11 day tour)
  • From St Pancras price is a twin berth sleeper cabin on the Sud-Express
  • Flight inclusive bookings made less that 3-months before departure might mean an increase in price.

Deposit

  • £500 with flights or £300 if joining in Porto

Online Booking


Please note that you cannot book a flight inclusive trip on our website but if you select the flight option you prefer then we will contact you with the flight details and convert your booking into a flight inclusive package.

 

Click here to see our Booking Conditions

 

Click here to see our Privacy Policy

We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Hotels

  • Hotel Regua Douro, Regua (6 nights)
  • Hotel Park Aeroporto, Porto Airport (1 night)
  • City centre hotel in Porto TBC for the Porto add-on


Vintage Baltics

Tour Date: 18 to 27 September

Location: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – three Baltic States visited in one holiday!

Estonia, the most northern of the three Baltic States, is bordered by the Gulf of Finland, the Baltic Sea, Latvia and Russia. Tallinn, its capital with its medieval old town inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List, has charming twisting cobblestone lanes, gothic spires and medieval markets.

Latvia boasts beaches looking over the Baltic, and its capital Riga has medieval architecture, cobblestone streets and a Cathedral (Rigos Doms) which is the largest house of worship in the Baltic states. Riga’s central market is one of the largest and most modern marketplaces on the European continent.

Lithuania’s capital Vilnius is the largest medieval old town of the three states and here we see Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical architecture side by side. One of the most impressive buildings is Vilnius University with its beautifully painted library containing 600,000 historic and cartographic items.

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Medieval old town of fairytale Tallinn
  • Gauja National Park
  • Trakai, with its beautiful castle on the lake
  • Narrow gauge Aukštaitija railway
  • Hill of Crosses
  • Medieval centres of Riga and Vilnius
  • Turaida Castle, set in the “Switzerland of Latvia”
  • Accompanied throughout by tour bus so no luggage on trains
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Day 1 Friday 18 September

Flights from Stansted, Heathrow, Leeds/Bradford/Manchester and Edinburgh airports to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Transfer to our centrally located hotel.

Day 2 Saturday 19 September (B)

A free day for your own relaxation and exploration of Vilnius.

Day 3 Sunday 20 September (B, D)

Today there will be a tour of the Old Town, partly by coach and partly walking. The Old Town is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. During our tour we will see the main churches, historic and architectural monuments, the Gate of Dawn with a splendid icon of the Virgin Mary, Vilnius university and Cathedral square. At midday we depart by train to Trakai which is 28 km from Vilnius. This is the former capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and has a beautiful 14th century castle that stands on an island in the middle of Lake Galve. The lake serves as a moat around the castle. A cruise on the lake allows us to view the castle from a different perspective. This evening we have our welcome dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight in Vilnius.

Day 4 Monday 21 September (B, L)

We transfer by coach to Lentvaris railway station for our train to Kaunas. The Kaunas city tour includes the funiculars in Kaunas, the only* city in Lithuania with this type of transport, in service since 1931. In the residential districts of Žaliakalnis and Aleksotas these “climbing cars” serve both as a means of transport and entertainment. The Aleksotas funicular links the old part of the city with the slopes of Aleksotas hill, offering a marvellous panoramic view of the city. The Žaliakalnis funicular provides an easy way of reaching the Resurrection church from the city centre. We have lunch in a traditional Lithuanian restaurant before we visit Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection Basilica in Kaunas. If you would like to do your own thing in Kaunas, and are interested in classical music or art, we recommend a visit to the M K Čiurlionis Gallery in Kaunas. Čiurlionis (22 September 1875 – 10 April 1911) was Lithuania’s foremost composer and painter. There is a fascinating gallery featuring his music and paintings in an attractive modern building built onto the back of a traditional military museum. There are also a number of other art galleries in Kaunas. Return by train to Vilnius. Overnight in Vilnius. * Vilnius also has a funicular up one side of the Gediminas Castle mound. It was opened in 2003, though it is currently out of order.

Day 5 Tuesday 22 September (B, L)

Today we travel to Anykščiai to visit the Siaurukas railway museum and travel on the narrow-gauge railway. This unique heritage line, built in 1899, runs between Panevėžys, Anykščiai and Rubikiai and dates from a time of steam locomotives and wooden carriages. At the beginning of the 20th century the railway was the main mechanical means of transport in the region of Aukstaitija (north eastern Lithuania) for carrying people and goods such as flax, bacon, sugar-beet, flour, butter, flaxseed, wood and silica-sand. Since 2001 the narrow-gauge railway has only been used for passenger transport. During our trip we will have a barbecue lunch at a small café located on the banks of Lake Rubikiai, before travelling on to Riga. On the way, we stop at the Panevėžys narrow gauge railway museum and at the Hill of Crosses. Overnight in Riga.

Day 6 Wednesday 23 September (B, L)

This morning we have a Riga highlights tour including a visit to the biggest indoor market in the Baltic States. During our tour we will also see numerous places of cultural and historic importance, such as the Dome Cathedral, St. Peters Church, the Parliament Buildings and the Swedish Gate. You will experience the atmosphere of Riga Market, perhaps chat with the friendly local people, and taste Latvian specialties. After lunch in a local restaurant we travel by train to Jūrmala, a summer resort on the Baltic Sea which built itself a reputation as a Spa resort in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and also known for its beautiful wooden houses built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We will have a walking tour of Jūrmala and some free time before we return to Riga by train. Overnight in Riga.

Day 7 Thursday 24 September (B, L)

We depart by train to Gauja National Park where we visit Turaida Castle in Sigulda (sometimes called “the Switzerland of Latvia”), set on the banks of the River Gauja. The town and surrounding areas offer magnificent views. Turaida Castle was built in the 13th century under the direction of Albert, the Bishop of Riga. After lunch in Gauja National Park we will continue to Tartu. Tartu is referred to as the intellectual capital of Estonia because of its famous University founded in 1632 by the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus and was initially called Academia Dorpatensis. Some say that the main building of the University of Tartu is one of the pearls of the city – certainly it is one of the most outstanding examples of Classicistic architecture in Estonia, built from 1804 to 1809. Once we have checked into our hotel we will have a walking tour of this fine city including a visit to the Kissing Students Fountain in the centre of Town Hall Square that was erected in 1998. This has since become the most popular meeting place in the city. Overnight in Tartu.

Day 8 Friday 25 September (B, D)

An early start today as we depart by train to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, which is the most northern of the Baltic States. We arrive in good time for our mid-morning tour of Tallinn which is one of the most completely preserved medieval towns in Europe. The medieval Old Town is known around the world for its well-preserved completeness and authentic Hanseatic architecture. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy and explore these wonderful streets before we meet in the evening for our farewell dinner. Overnight in Tallinn.

Day 9 Saturday 26 September (B)

There will be free time today for your own relaxation and appreciation of this wonderful city. For train and tram enthusiasts our local guide will be able to advise of local trips you can do for very little cost.

Day 10 Sunday 27 September (B)

Road transfer to the airport for our flights back to the UK.

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • From London Stansted: £1,499
  • From Heathrow (via Frankfurt): £1,550
  • From Leeds/Manchester: £1,579
  • From Edinburgh: £1,655
  • From Vilnius (on 18 September) to Riga: £1,300
  • From Vilnius (on 19 September) to Riga: £1,250

Options

  • Single room supplement: £260
  • Flight price might increase for late bookings

Deposit

  • Travelling by air: £500
  • Own travel: £300

Price includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary; B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
  • Services of our local tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted from Vilnius.

Please note that you cannot book a flight inclusive trip on our website but if you select the flight option you prefer then we will contact you with the flight details and convert your booking into a flight inclusive package.

Online Booking


Click here to see our Booking Conditions

Click here to see our Privacy Policy

We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Flight Options from the UK

From Stansted

Outward at 19:05 with Ryanair on the direct flight to Vilnius. Return from Tallinn at 12:20 again with Ryanair for direct flight to Stansted arriving 13:15.

From Heathrow

Outward at 11:30 with Lufthansa, via Frankfurt, to Vilnius. Return from Tallinn at 13:55, again via Frankfurt, arriving into Heathrow at 17:40.

From Leeds/Manchester

Outward from Leeds Bradford at 06:35 with Ryanair on the direct flight to Vilnius. Return from Tallinn with Air Baltic at 13:30, via Riga, to Manchester arriving 17:00.

From Edinburgh

Outward from Edinburgh at 10:00 with Finnair via Helsinki to Vilnius. Return from Tallinn direct with Ryanair at 12:25, arriving Edinburgh at 13:10.


WesternStatesBanner

Trains & Treasures of the Western States

Tour Date: 14 to 28 October 2020

Location: USA

This tour will present to you some of the most exciting and scenic excursion train rides in six western states of the USA during the peak fall colors.

This tour includes visiting Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California. Additionally, many spectacular national and state parks will be visited as we make our way westward from Colorado to California using vans which allows us more flexibility.

This tour is for a maximum of 18 people so please book early to avoid disappointment.

Tour Manager: Chris Skow

From: London Heathrow plus other UK airport (indirect).

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Twelve train rides
  • Six western states
  • Eight railroad museums
  • Three railroad workshops
  • Nine National and State Parks
  • Eleven lunches/dinners included
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Day 1 Wednesday 14 October

Direct BA flight at 14.40 from Heathrow to Denver; From Gatwick (out via New York, return direct); from Manchester or Edinburgh (via LHR). Transfer to downtown Holiday Inn Express hotel. The rest of the evening on your own to relax and explore the downtown area of the city.

Day 2 Thursday 15 October (L,D)

Today we visit the Colorado Railroad Museum in nearby Golden. This museum is full of wonderful Colorado Narrow Gauge history and rolling stock and is the best railroad museum in Colorado. We will leave the museum around mid-day and then pay a visit to the Forney Transportation Museum in Denver. The Forney Museum of Transportation is a one-of-a-kind collection of over 600 artifacts relating to historical transportation. One of the highlights include: Union Pacific ‘Big Boy’ Steam Locomotive #4005. In the evening we will have our “Welcome to Denver Dinner”.

Day 3 Friday 16 October (D)

We depart Denver and head for Canon City located at the mouth of the Royal Gorge. On the way we plan to stop at Colorado Springs to view the famous “Garden of the Gods” rock formations. We will ride the 12:30PM train on the Royal Gorge Scenic Railroad train for a journey through the spectacular Royal Gorge. After our train ride we travel by highway to Fort Garland to board the evening Wine and Dine train with dinner on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad then by road to Chama, New Mexico and hotel check-in at the Branding Iron Motel.

Day 4 Saturday 17 October (L)

After breakfast, visit to the railroad yards and workshops to watch the crew prepare the steam locomotive for a 10:00AM departureon the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad. This morning you will have a choice to either ride the steam train up the steep grades to Cumbres Summit or you can follow the train by highway and get some great action shots then board the train at Cumbres Summit and ride the rest of the way to Antonito, Colorado arriving at 4:05PM. Once the train arrives at Antonito we head for Durango, Colorado by highway arriving early evening and hotel check-in at the Best Western Rio Grande hotel.

Day 5 Sunday 18 October (B,L)

Before boarding our train in Durango we will visit the Durango & Silverton museum which is attached to the workshops and give you a view into the roundhouse from the museum. We then board the first steam train of the day on the famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This train leaves Durango at 8:00AM and arrives in Silverton before lunch having passed through the dramatic Animas Canyon. Being on the first train gives us the opportunity to photograph the second train which arrives 45 minutes later. The Durango & Silverton Railroad shares a special place with the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad as the two iconic narrow-gauge steam railways of the American west. You will ride both of them and have opportunities for line-siding and photography. There is a railway museum in the old Silverton station. Your train will depart Silverton at 1:45PM and you will have the option to get off of this train at the Rockwood Station and follow by highway for photos on into Durango.

Day 6 Monday 19 October (B)

Before we leave Colorado we visit the Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the ancestral Pueblo people who lived in the wonderfully preserved cliff dwellings. Our next call is the Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley Park where we are subject to Navajo laws and customs. You will be experiencing one of the most majestic – and most photographed – points on earth as the astonishing landscape of mesas and buttes towering up to 1000 feet above the valley floor have been used in numerous Western movies.

We stay at the Navajo owned View hotel where all rooms face east with a private balcony and views unlike anywhere else in world. After the sun sets you can head for the hotel restaurant for dinner.

Day 7 Tuesday 20 October (L)

A morning exploration of Monument Valley as we travel the 17 Mile Drive to view some of the rock formations such as Rain God Mesa, and Totem Pole before heading north into Utah, stopping to visit Goosenecks State Park on the edge of the San Juan river canyon with impressive views over the entrenched river meander a thousand feet below. Next is the Valley of the Gods, a hidden gem with scenery similar to that of nearby Monument Valley, but much less visited. After a picnic lunch we are back on the road enjoying the vast vistas at Canyonlands National Park with its countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado river and its tributaries. Hotel check-in Moab, Utah.

Day 8 Wednesday 21 October (B,L)

Morning visit to Arches National Park which has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. We continue our trek westward and have a picnic lunch at Capitol Reef National Park before arriving at Bryce Canyon National Park for our overnight stay.

Day 9 Thursday 22 October (L)

Morning visit to amazing Bryce National Park with its thousands of Hoodoos (odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing by the forces of erosion). Midmorning we leave this national park and enter Nevada, making a short stop at Great Basin National Park where sage-covered foothills rise to the 13,000-foot summit of Wheeler Peak. Check-in to our hotel in Ely, Navada then maybe photograph the afternoon steam excursion train on its return journey.

Day 10 Friday 23 October (B,L)

Visit the Nevada Northern Railway yards and workshops in East Ely, Nevada. This is the best-preserved, least altered, and most complete complex remaining from the steam railroad era in the US, established in 1905 to support the area’s booming copper mining industry We take the afternoon steam-hauled excursion train up to a point near the Ruth Copper Mine. If you wish you may follow on the highway for some great action shots. 2nd night at the La Quinta Hotel.

Day 11 Saturday 24 October (B)

It is time to yet again head west across the Nevada desert on the “Loneliest Road” in America. We will make stops in Eureka and Austin on our 287-mile journey between Ely and Fernley.

Eureka is one of the best-preserved mining cities in the American West and rich lodes of precious metals made it the “Pittsburgh of the West”, overtaking the silver town of Austin in size and mining productivity during the middle 1870s when the Eureka & Palisade Railroad was extended south to the Central Pacific. There were dozens of saloons, gambling houses and bawdy houses, three opera houses and two breweries. Many of its buildings are impressive. We end at Carson City after a very long day.

Day 12 Sunday 25 October (B)

On Sundays the Virginia & Truckee, Nevada’s most famous short line, runs a steam train from the Eastgate Station near Carson City up the steep hill to Virginia City and back, so today you can ride the train or follow to take photographs. Once this train arrives in Virginia City you will have the opportunity to visit the workshops. The ‘Bonanza’ short line’s last official revenue train operated on May 31, 1950 between Reno, Carson City, and Minden.

We travel to Carson City to visit the Nevada State Railroad Museum where select pieces of equipment in the collection are restored and operated throughout the year to demonstrate steam and early gasoline technology. Northward through Reno and on to Portola, our overnight stop. In the evening we are invited over to Chris Skow’s home for an all you can eat Mexican Buffet out on the deck. Chris will have his garden scale model trains running in the gardens and you can inspect his massive collection of railroad artefacts in his private railroad museum.

Day 13 Monday 26 October (L)

Portola is home to the Western Pacific Railroad museum which has the largest collection of diesel engines in North America, so we must visit it! Around mid-day we have the opportunity to photograph freight trains in the Feather River Canyon at such famous locations as the massive Clio Viaduct, Williams Loop and the Keddie Wye Bridge. We make our way down the canyon to Oroville and continue to our hotel in Sacramento, which is next to the California State Railroad museum and the old historic section of the city, so well placed for some evening exploration.

Day 14 Tuesday 27 October (B)

For those that are interested we will take a ride on the Sacramento Regional Transit light rail line, then visit the California State Railroad Museum before boarding Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor train 541 which departs Sacramento at 14.10 and arrives at Richmond at 15.35. Richmond is the across the platform connection with the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and we will catch a BART train here for the ride into San Francisco, transferring to the street level street car line which will take us to Fisherman’s Wharf. San Francisco has purchased old street cars from all over the world and put them back into service to the enjoyment of many people. Our hotel is next to the street car line and a block away from one of the famous cable car lines. After dinner we have a night time tour of San Francisco using the street car, cable car and trams.

Day 15 Wednesday 28 October (B)

Hotel check-out and transfer to the airport.

Holiday prices per person

  • Full 15-day tour from Denver to San Francisco: £5,100
  • Return flight options from the UK from London or Manchester: Allow £650

Options

  • Single room supplement for full tour: £680
  • Discount for booking before 31.12.2019: £150*

Deposit

  • £750 plus flight costs
  • Final payment due by 15 August 2020

* discount cannot be used in conjunction with any other discount or voucher

Online Booking

Please note that you cannot book a flight inclusive trip on our website but if you select the flight option you prefer then we will contact you with the flight details and convert your booking into a flight inclusive package.

Click here to see our Booking Conditions

Click here to see our Privacy Policy

We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Flights

BA219 14.40 Heathrow to Denver (direct)

BA286 19.30 San Francisco to Heathrow (direct)


Wonders of Sri Lanka by Rail

Tour Date: 14 to 28 November

Location: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a beautiful tropical island the size of Ireland that has it all: endless beaches, World Heritage, wildlife, beautiful scenery.

And above all, a wonderful broad-gauge railway system still very much as originally built and we cover much of this system partly on service trains and partly with our own private train.

Highlights of the trip include leaving the airport on a private train and rail journeys through amazing scenery as we travel through the tea-growing areas of the island. We also take in many of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and for nature lovers, there are amazing birds and nature reserves which we will visit. In short, this tour offers something for everyone. Our dates have been chosen to enjoy the best month weather-wise (“best” meaning coolest temperatures and least rain).

Throughout this tour, we will have a local guide and crew, and our own private coach to take our luggage from hotel to hotel.

This year we are offering both 10 and 14-day options.

Your Tour Manager for this trip is David, who has led the Sri Lanka tour four times before. Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with him about the trip, please feel free to e-mail him on david@ptg.co.uk.

Please take a look at the following BBC News article on Sri Lanka:

BBC News Queen’s Baton Relay: Sri Lanka by steam train By Mark Beaumont BBC Queen’s Baton Relay presenter (23 October 2013)

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Some private charter trains
  • Private train from the airport into town
  • All dinners and some lunches
  • Stunning scenery
  • Wildlife
  • Amazing welcoming and friendly people
  • Chance to travel of all rail lines in Sri Lanka
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Day 1 Saturday 14 November

Flight departures with Emirates via Dubai from Heathrow (13:40), Gatwick (13:35), Stansted (13:50), Birmingham (13:30), Manchester (13:10) and Glasgow (13:00) to Dubai, where the group meet up for the same onward flight to Colombo. It is also possible to fly direct with Sri Lankan Airways leaving Heathrow at 20:40.

Day 2 Sunday 15 November (D)

We arrive at Colombo Airport in the morning where our coach will be waiting to take our luggage to the hotel, but we will travel into town by private train! And not just any train, but the luxurious Viceroy or Viceroy II carriage hauled by one of Sri Lanka’s last remaining operational steam locomotives. In fact, Mount Lavinia station is right next to our hotel, the excellent Mount Lavinia Hotel. As with most evening meals, dinner will be a buffet with a wide range of dishes to suit all tastes.

Day 3 Monday 16 November (B,D)

Ride a service train Colombo – Galle. This is a lovely ride through the palm-tree plantations south of Colombo, always with the sea on our right. After lunch we have a city tour including Galle Fort. Galle was a Dutch trading station and is dominated by the picturesque fortress built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and extensively fortified by the Dutch to protect both themselves and their commercial interests. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1988.

Day 4 Tuesday 17 November (B,D)

The culture tour option is to Weherahena Temple. We join a morning service train from Galle to Matara. From here we will visit the famous Star Fort and a snake conservation centre. Later we return to Galle to enjoy the excellent facilities at our hotel. Alternatively spend a relaxing day exploring the old and new parts of Galle. For rail fans, David will lead a trip along the new line to Beliatte and back.

Day 5 Wednesday 18 November (B,L,D)

Rail fan Option: Ride the public service train Galle – Moratuwa where the T1 railcar will meet us and take us into Ratmalana workshops by rail. The SLR’s main workshops are almost a Victorian time capsule, and it is a fascinating glimpse back in time. We return to Mount Lavinia on the T1. Culture option: Travel back to Mount Lavinia by coach with a special stop at a “Turtle Sanctuary”. Join the rail group at Ratmalana, or go to the hotel to enjoy its facilities. Picnic lunch served on board the T1.

Day 6 Thursday 19 November (B,D)

Rail fan Option: We will ride on the beautifully restored T1 railcar out of Colombo to Avissawela, a journey of around 3.5 hours each way. On our return, we travel directly to Demagoda Running Shed. As well as maintaining many of the diesel locos used on the network, it also stores a collection of long withdrawn steam locos, and what’s left of the narrow-gauge stock. We also visit the nearby Maradana running shed. A packed lunch will be served on board the T1. Culture Option: 3-hour City Tour, taking in many of the area’s most important historic locations. Sri Lanka’s commercial capital and sea-port is a blend of old and new, with many reminders of its European colonial past. Bustling bazaars, Buddhist and Hindu Temples and Muslim Mosques contrast with smart modern Shopping Malls. Sightseeing highlights include the old parliament houses, Buddhist Temple, Town Hall, and the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall.

Note: Clients who opt to start the tour here will leave the UK on Wednesday and will be met at the airport by the local guide and representatives of J F Tours and will transfer to the hotel in Colombo by coach. Depending on the arrival time, there may be an option for an afternoon sightseeing tour of Colombo.

Day 7 Friday 20 November (B,L,D)

Today we leave Columbo to head into the mountains. We travel on the line from Mount Lavinia – Rambukkana – Nanu-Oya by Viceroy special train with the views of rice cultivation, coconut palms and charming villages. On leaving Rambukkana our train begins to climb the Kadugannawa Incline, where trains climb 1400 ft in 13 miles, often on a ledge of rock cut out of the hillside. We also visit the new railway museum in Kadugannawa. On arrival at Nanu-Oya we are met by our coach for the short journey to Nuwara Eliya. This summer resort was discovered by British explorer Sir Samuel Baker in 1847 and was a favourite sanctuary of the British civil servants and planters in former Ceylon.  It still keeps the atmosphere of a British village with many of the buildings retaining features from the colonial period, such as the Grand Hotel, Town Post Office and Hill Club. After time to settle-in, there is an optional visit to a tea factory. Note: if we have enough clients, the first part of our journey will be behind one of Sri Lanka’s steam locos, before the diesel takes over. Otherwise, the whole trip today will be with a diesel loco.

Day 8 Saturday 21 November (B,L,D)

Nuwara Eliya – Badulla – Nuwara Eliya. We transfer to Nanu-Oya to catch our Viceroy special train to Badulla. This part of the scenic train journey climbs into the mountains to reach the summit at Pattipola at 6226 ft., which is the highest altitude achieved by a 5’6” broad gauge main line anywhere in the world. Connecting two mountains, the Demodara Nine Arch Bridge was constructed solely out of solid rock, bricks and cement without using iron or steel. The nearby Demodara spiral is another attraction. We continue to the end of the line at Badulla, where we will have free time to explore the town. Return by train to Nanu-Oya and then by coach to Nuwara Eliya. Lunch will be served on board the Viceroy train.

Day 9 Sunday 22 November (B,L,D)

Returning to Nanu-Oya to catch our Viceroy train, we make our way to Kandy. Kandy has an agreeable climate due to its altitude of over 1600 feet. Founded in the 14th century, it became the capital of the kingdom in 1592 and is located in a valley surrounded by forested hills. The city was declared a World Heritage Site because of the outstanding Kandyan royal architecture found in the sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic, adjoining royal palace and other historical buildings nearby, which we will visit this afternoon.

Day 10 Monday 23 November (B,D)

This morning we visit the immaculately kept Peradeniya Botanic Gardens. Renowned for its collection of orchids, the gardens include more than 4000 species of plants, including orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palm trees. Look out for the varied wildlife, including monkeys, fruit-bats and many birds. After lunch, we will have free time to relax in the hotel or explore the bustling town. The hotel is next to Bogambara Lake, and you will find locals and visitors alike strolling round it and enjoying the scenery. For rail fans, David will lead a trip on a service train along the branch line to Matale, with time to explore this very typical small town, well off the usual tourist route.

Day 11 Tuesday 24th November (B,D)

Today will begin with a visit to a beautiful spice garden and a very important UNESCO World Heritage Site by coach. Firstly, the spice garden, where we see spices familiar to us in jars growing in their natural habitat. A local guide shows us the garden and explains the properties of several spices. After time for lunch in a local restaurant, we continue our journey north to one of Sri Lanka’s best-known sites, Sigiriya, also known as the ‘palace in the sky’. Atop the 200-metre-high solid rock, an ancient Sri Lankan King (477-95) transformed the natural rock into a heavenly palace and part fortified town. We will have time to climb this to enjoy the spectacular views and see the ancient rock paintings. Overnight in Habarana.

Day 12 Wednesday 25 November (B,L,D)

Culture option: We make the short rail journey to Polonnaruwa to visit the Polonnaruwa World Heritage Site. The people of Sri Lanka are very proud of Polonnaruwa, the capital of the country from AD 200 to 1300 when it was sacked by Indian invaders and is the best preserved of the ruined cities. The city was supplied with water channelled from the still existing 2500-hectare reservoir known as the Sea of Parikrama. The Gal Vihara Rock Monastery is the most celebrated site in Polonnaruwa these days, with its gigantic rock sculptures. Rail option: The east coast town of Batticaloa is our destination today, as we make an out and back trip by train. This is a full day trip and takes us through the vast plains in this part of the island, but with a chance of seeing wild elephants. For track bashers not averse to an early rise, it may also be possible to take in the other branch to the east coast, to Trincomalee.

Day 13 Thursday 26th November (B,L,D)

Habarana – Maho – Anuradhapura. This morning we visit Dambulla, which is the largest, best preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. Our local guide will lead us on a walking tour around the complex. We then join our train to Maho Junction and Anuradhapura, arriving at our hotel at the end of the afternoon.

Day 14 Friday 27 November (B,L,D)

Culture option: Anuradhapura is another ruined city and was the first capital of the ancient kingdom of Sri Lanka and founded around the 5th century BC. The sacred city, which is spread out over approximately 100 acres (40 hectares) of land area, is home to the ruins of huge stupas, monasteries, Buddha images and colossal man-made lakes and ponds. This afternoon we will visit Mihintale & Isurumuniya temples. The 1080+ foot-high Mihintale rock is situated about 13 kilometres east of Anuradhapura. It is on this rock that the historic meeting between King Devanampiyatissa and Arahath Mahinda, the son of Emperor Asoka of India, is said to have taken place in 247 BC. This meeting led to the King converting to Buddhism and the establishment and growth of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. In Isurumuniya temple there are four carvings of special interest in this Viharaya. They are the Isurumuniya Lovers, Elephant Pond and the Royal Family. Rail option: David will lead a trip by train on one of the two recently reopened lines to Jaffna and Kankesanthurai in the north of the island, or to Talaimannar Pier in the north-west. Before the civil war, Jaffna was one of the busiest stations in Sri Lanka, but suffered heavy damage in the 1980s and by 1990 the line had been closed. It reopened in 2015. There are controversial plans to build a bridge to connect Sri Lankan and Indian railways at Talaimannar.

Day 15 Saturday 28 November (B,L,D)

We travel by coach from Anuradhapura to Wilpattu National Park. Wilpattu is Sri Lanka’s largest national park. The unique feature of this park is the existence of “Willus” – Natural, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater. The park is home to leopard, elephant, sloth bear, jackal and other mammals whilst providing ample opportunities for bird watching, and we can expect to see eagles, horn-bills and many others. We continue to Puttalam Station where our train is waiting to take us south to Negombo. We have our Farewell Dinner at our hotel tonight. Transfer to the airport for our 01:50 early (Sunday 29 November) morning flights home.

This is a relatively easy tour, however on some of the optional visits it is necessary to be able to climb a flight of stairs and walk over rough ground. Two locations, in particular, Sigiriya and Mihintale, have some very narrow steps and steep climbs.

Place(s) available

Holiday prices per person*

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • Full 14-day holiday including flight from London, Birmingham, Glasgow or Manchester: £4,750
  • Own travel to Colombo: £4,125
  • Alternatively join the tour in Colombo on Thursday for a 10-day holiday: £3,150

Options

  • Single room Supplement: £695

Deposit

  • Travelling by air: £1,250
  • Own travel: £500

Your holiday price includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary; B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted.

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