Nine unique trips to take in North America

See a side to the USA and Canada beyond the big cities and discover incredible stories and special wildlife with our pick of trips…

Team Wanderlust
18 November 2023

1. Tour the Four Corners states

The Four Corners states’ landscapes are hard to beat (Shutterstock)

There is no easy way to sum up the Four Corners states – Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. They might share a desert topography, bristling with mesas and towering pinnacles, but there is so much here that is unique, from the pueblos of Albuquerque to the vast night skies over the red rock of Utah. Bon Voyage’s Planes, Trains and Desert Terrains trip opens the door to all these, as you ride the old Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad into the mining country of the San Juan mountains, hit the hot springs at the bizarrely titled Truth or Consequences (a town that changed its name to win a 1950s radio contest), visit Spanish missions in Tucson and take stock at the Grand Canyon.

More information: Bon Voyage. Year-round; 14 nights from £2,850pp, including international flights.

2. Meet South Carolina’s Gullah Geechee

Gullah Geechee are descendants of enslaved Africans (Alamy)

Few travellers know the story of the Gullah Geechee, descendants of enslaved Africans who were sold to the island plantations off the USA’s lower Atlantic coast. Here they were cut off from the rest of the mainland by the waterways, so managed to keep their roots, their music, their culture and their foodways intact – even their language is the only distinctly African Creole in the US. Intrepid Travel’s Charleston to Savannah: Exploring Gullah Geechee Culture first explores African American heritage and the civil rights movement in Charleston before heading to the South Carolina islands of James, Johns and St Helena to meet the communities of Gullah Geechee living there. Here you can learn about a history, culture and struggle that remains unique in the US.

More information: Intrepid Travel. March–June 2024; 7 days from £3,220pp, excluding international flights.

3. Spend winter in Yellowstone NP

See grey wolves in Yellowstone (Shutterstock)

Wyoming and Montana are the setting for Audley Travel’s Winter in Yellowstone tour, which makes the most of the park’s fallow months, when many of its lodges close (Dec–early Mar) and travel becomes trickier for those going it alone. The crowds drift away during this period, so what better time to explore Yellowstone’s mud pots, geysers and hot springs, as they fog the winter air with steam, or scan for its famed grey wolf packs, which are easier to spot against the snow as they stalk elk deep into the valleys. In addition, guests will set off on snowshoe adventures in Grand Teton NP, then head up into Big Sky Country in Montana, where cross-country skiing and sleigh rides put the heavens on full widescreen before you settle in for the night at your ranch in the Rockies.

More information: Audley Travel. Flexible; 14 days from £7,800pp, including international flights.

4. Get into gear in the Maritimes

Visit historic towns in Nova Scotia (Alamy)

On the tip of eastern Canada lie the Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, the inspiration behind Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic, Anne of Green Gables. It’s a region defined by panoramic bays, vast parks, fresh lobster dinners and historic towns such as the UNESCO-listed Lunenburg, whose salty past and sailing heritage still loom large. Discover the World’s Canada: Maritimes Explorer self-drive charts a rugged course through this world via scenic routes. Hit the Cabot Trail that threads the dramatic Cape Breton Highlands, then cruise the Fundy Coastal Drive, passing the twisted sea stacks of Hopewell Rocks to see the phenomenal force of the world’s highest tides.

More information: Discover the World. May–September; 13 nights from £2,054pp, excluding international flights.

5. Take a safari in British Columbia

Find bears in British Columbia (Alamy)

The west coast of Canada is where the vast temperate rainforests of British Columbia trickle down to the waters of the Johnstone Strait. It is an area rich in wild encounters, and Wildlife Worldwide’s Safari Slowly on Canada’s West Coast tour puts you square in the centre of that world. Based in Farewell Harbor Lodge, on an inlet at the edge of the Great Bear Rainforest, you are surrounded by trails and some 85,000 sq km of wilderness – ample room for its black and grizzly bear population to roam. Spend your time in the Broughton Archipelago on excursions deep into the rainforest to look for its resident bears, before heading out on boats to scour the water for migratory orcas and humpbacks while bald eagles soar overhead.

More information: Wildlife Worldwide. June–October; 9 days from £6,495pp, including international flights.

6. Hear the blues in the Deep South

Music is at the heart of New Orleans (Shutterstock)

The Deep South is the home of the blues. By exploring states along the Mississippi – Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana – Exodus Travels’ Deep South & Delta Blues trip delves into the roots of a music that first emerged among the descendants of enslaved Africans in the region’s plantations. A visit to Louisiana’s Houmas House Plantation adds context, as does a trip to Birmingham, Alabama, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr found his voice and was later buried. Then make your way through New Orleans, Memphis and Clarksdale, where Robert Johnson was said to have sold his soul at a crossroads for superlative skills on the guitar, to get a taste of where the likes of BB King and Muddy Waters first wowed their audiences.

More information: Exodus Travels. June–November; 12 days from £4,299pp, excluding international flights.

7. See both sides of North Dakota

Take a road trip through North Dakota’s stunning views (Alamy)

In parts of North Dakota, where the plains stretch for days, it can still feel like an America before Lewis and Clark headed west. On the North Dakota Adventures self-drive tour from America As You Like It, the open road is an invitation to explore just why. Whether visiting the largest national grassland (Little Missouri) in the USA or roaming the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, there is plenty of natural grandeur to explore. But it’s the cultural side of the state that intrigues most, with the outdoor stage shows of Medora, a drive along the Enchanted Highway to see the sculptures that line this route, and a visit to Fargo’s Plains Art Museum, filled with local and Indigenous art, all offering a tantalising glimpse of North Dakota’s creative scene.

More information: America As You Like It. Year-round; 12 nights from £1,819pp, including international flights.

8. Wilderness and wine in Oregon

Explore the Painted Hills in Oregon (Alamy)

Oregon is perhaps best known for ‘capital of weird’ Portland, but it has plenty more strings to its bow. North America Travel Service’s Wilderness, Wine & Coast Adventure explores these corners as it follows the Columbia River east of Portland and up to Mount Hood, which is filled with hiking trails and skiing spots. From here you can choose to detour east via the ‘Painted Hills’ – remarkable hillsides streaked in reds, blacks and yellows – and the high desert of Central Oregon, before looping back round to the pinot noirs, vineyards and farm-to-table eateries of the Willamette Valley. But the highlight is arguably Oregon’s unsung west coast, where dunes, lighthouses, basalt headlands and sea lion colonies await.

More information: North America Travel Service. Year-round (best: May–Sep); 10 days from £2,211pp, including international flights.

9. Bears and belugas in Manitoba

Manitoba’s shores are home to beluga whales (Alamy)

Midsummer in the remote Canadian town of Churchill, Manitoba, is a special time to arrive. Despite being 400km from the nearest big settlement, Churchill fills with visitors in the winter months because this is when the polar bears come to hunt on the ice of Hudson Bay. In summer, the waters thaw and the bears spread out along the coast, but another visitor takes their place. Trailfinders’ Ultimate Bears & Belugas Summer Adventure times its arrival for the migration of some 60,000 beluga whales into the bay. You can still spot polar bears here, and boat tours or visits to the town’s famed Polar Bear Holding Facility (where bears who have become troublesome are held before relocation) will delight those wanting to see more, but it’s the whales that are the star at this time of year.

More information: Trailfinders. July–August; 7 days from £4,609pp, excluding international flights.

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