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Best Tours in North America 2015

From Traveler Magazine's 2015 Tours of a Lifetime

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Mist blankets Viñales, Cuba.


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Alaska: Conquering Kenai

This condensed grand tour of the “last frontier” has you circumnavigating Fox Island by kayak, scouting for puffins and sea lions on a fjord cruise along the rugged coastline, trekking Exit Glacier, and learning how to mush with the help of an Iditarod champ before setting off on a dogsled ride. Alaska Heritage Tours: “Best of Kenai Fjords National Park,” 5 days; $1,933; www.alaska
heritagetours.com

Colorado: Rockies High Route

Llamas do the heavy lifting by carrying your gear (if desired) as you hike the Vail to Aspen High Route in the Rockies, overnighting at three of 34 backcountry huts managed by the 10th Mountain Division Hut system. Paragon Guides: “Vail to Aspen Interconnect—Summer/Fall,” 5 days; $2,125; www.paragonguides.com

Canada: Channeling Quebec

Settle onto the 198-passenger Ocean Endeavor for a trip along the St. Lawrence Seaway and Gulf, taking in history-filled Quebec. See whales in Saguenay Fjord National Park and tour lost-in-time islands St. Pierre and Miquelon. Adventure Canada: “Mighty Saint Lawrence,” 10 days; $2,595-$11,995; 
www.adventurecanada.com

Mexico: Grave Doings

Oaxaca gets buzz for its Día de 
los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations; less well-known are rituals in villages around Lake Pátzcuaro, in the state of Michoacán, where families hold all-night graveside vigils to honor loved ones, the centerpiece of this dive into colorful area culture. Tia Stephanie Tours: “Day of the Dead, Michoachán,” 8 days; $2,185; www.tiastephanietours.com

Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana: North by Northwest

Pedal from Portland, Oregon, to Missoula, Montana, on this 10-day cycling tour carved from the outfitter’s popular 45-day journey to Portland, Maine. Dramatic scenery en route includes the Columbia River Gorge and Bridal Veil Falls. Trek Travel: “Portland to Missoula,” 10 days; $4,199; trektravel.com

Illinois, Louisiana: Making Tracks

Nostalgic for old-time train travel? Ensconce yourself in vintage railcars and ride the City of New Orleans route from Chicago to the Big Easy. Passengers spend two nights in each city (in historic hotels). Entertainment includes live music; artists with Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music join some trips. Pullman Rail Journeys: “Chicago and New Orleans Roundtrip,” 7 days; from $839 (includes meals on train); www.travelpullman.com

Florida: Putting Manatees First

Biologist Samantha Whitcraft studies the Crystal River, a critical habitat for a group of manatees that compose about a fourth of the U.S. population. Join her to canoe and snorkel with the marine mammals. Home is a 1,100-acre tree farm roamed by such rare species as gopher tortoises. Oceanic Society: “Manatees’ Ecosystem and Conservation,” 5 days; $1,395; www.oceanicsociety.org

Cuba: Kids Welcome

Cuba may not spring to mind when planning a family vacation, but this itinerary packs in activities designed to engage all ages, from acting with local theater students to searching for alligators, hummingbirds, and hawks in Las Terrazas, a sustainable community in the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve. Classic Journeys: “Cuba Family Vacation: Cultural Exchange,” 8 days; $5,195 (includes airfare from Miami); www.classicjourneys.com

Contributing editor Margaret Loftus has reported and written “Tours of a Lifetime” for the past nine years.


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