Photograph by Holger Leue, Corbis

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Kayakers explore clear Adriatic waters edging Dubrovnik, one of seven World Heritage sites in Croatia.

Photograph by Holger Leue, Corbis

Best Tours in Europe 2015

From Traveler Magazine's 2015 Tours of a Lifetime

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Croatia: Coastal Idyll

Hike rocky bluffs and kayak coves between wine tastings and talks on local history with this introduction to Dalmatia’s coast and islands. High point: dinner at the home of a local artist. Boundless Journeys: “Dalmatian Coast Hiking & Kayaking,” 8 days; $4,995;

Netherlands, Belgium: Touring in Slow Mo’

The canals and flat terrain of the Low Countries offer ideal conditions for travel by barge and bike. As your barge floats from Amsterdam to Bruges, guides lead bike rides filled with cultural moments, such as visiting a family for homemade Dutch wafels. VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations: “Holland and Belgium Bike & Barge Amsterdam,” 12 days; $4,195 (includes airfare);

Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic: Through the Grapevine

Sip Grüner Veltliner wine in Austria’s Wachau Valley as you tour a vineyard with Heidi Shröck, one of a few female vintners, on a wine-focused trip in central Europe. Bonus: a VIP visit to Strahov Monastery, near Prague. Exeter International: “A Wine Lovers Journey Through Budapest, Vienna, and Prague,” 10 days; $8,025;

Italy: Two-Wheel Touring

Geared to cyclists who prefer sightseeing to speed, this new slow-travel trip meanders from Verona to Bassano del Grappa, in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige (or Südtirol), stopping for a boat ride on Lake Garda and sips of local grappa. ExperiencePlus!: “Bike Paths of Lake Garda and Veneto—Sightseer Tour,” 8 days; $3,650;

France: Wild Corsica

Trek a segment of the Grand Randonnée 20, a legendary long-distance trail that runs north-south along Corsica’s granite spine. En route, reconnoiter coves and sea caves in the Gulf of Porto on a hiking/kayaking expedition fueled by local charcuterie, sheep-milk cheeses, and wine. The September departure will be led by outfitter co-owner Peter Grubb. ROW Sea Kayak Adventures: “Compelling Corsica—Sea Kayaking and Mountain Hiking,” 9 days; $3,490;

Portugal: Creature Feature

Kids and grown-ups alike partner with donkeys to walk picturesque paths in rural northeastern Portugal. Come evening, children can help brush and feed the burros, then guide them into their stables. KE Adventure Travel: “Blazing Saddles Family Adventure,” 8 days; from $1,420;

Scotland: For the Birds

Can’t tell a golden eagle from an osprey? Get a quick course in wildlife viewing during a week in the fauna-rich mountains of Cairngorms National Park. This lodge-based trip concentrates on how to identify bird species, from that golden eagle to a Slavonian grebe. Speyside Wildlife: “Wildlife for Beginners,” 8 days; $1,015;

Switzerland: Biking—With a Boost

From the vineyards of Lavaux to the peaks of Interlaken, glory in Alpine landscapes while astride two wheels—without breaking a sweat. The secret? E-bikes, which provide an electric boost when needed. Butterfield & Robinson: “Switzerland E-biking,” 6 days; $6,995;

Sweden: Wolves in Winter

Strap on snowshoes or cross-country skis and head into the taiga forest of central Sweden with naturalist Anders Stahl, who will teach you how to interpret wolf tracks and howls (are many wolves in the pack, are they hunting?). Your base: the Green Hotel, on Lake Siljan, where staff honor the local heritage by wearing traditional dress. Naturetrek: “Wolf Tracking in Winter,” 5 days; $1,585;

Denmark: Mastering Arctic Ways

Enter the world of Greenland’s Inuit people, whose way of life is being challenged by modern times. Each guest partners with an Inuit hunter, who helms a dogsled across the icy expanses of Greenland’s west coast, tracking wildlife—foxes, narwhals, polar bears—and uses such survival skills as building an igloo. Glamping on ice this isn’t; most of your nights will be spent in basic canvas tents. WANT Expeditions: “Greenland Traditional Dogsled Expedition,” 9 days; $6,749;

Republic of Georgia: Holy Spirits

Monks at the ancient Alaverdi Monastery still ferment wine the way their order has for a millennium, in earthenware vessels buried in the ground. Taste the fruits of their labor on a culinary odyssey led by Max Johnson, the travel outfitter’s founder, whose passion for this unsung corner of the planet is contagious. Great Canadian Travel Company: “Georgia’s Food, Wine & Culture,” 10 days; $3,280;

Hungary, Slovakia, Poland: Trails Made for Walking

A series of ten-mile hikes on the trail system that traverses Slovakia’s peaks and valleys takes you from the medieval 
mining town of Banská Štiavnica to the limestone caves of Demänovská. The trip begins in the museum-filled town of Szentendre, Hungary, and ends in Poland’s medieval city of Krakow. Freewheeling Adventures: “Budapest to Krakow Walk,” 8 days; $3,365; $2,275 self-guided;

Italy: Storied Stones

Discover some of Italy’s most ancient landscapes and ruins on this journey from Naples through Sicily. You’ll visit eight World Heritage sites, including Pompeii and Agrigento, and hike the rims of still active Vesuvius and Etna volcanoes. National Geographic Expeditions: “Archaeological Wonders of Southern Italy and Sicily,” 10 days; $6,195;

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