Contiki Holidays are youth travel experts from 18-35 year olds. Since their first tour in 1962, with just one tour and one bus, fast forward to 2016 they now operate over 300 tours on 6 continents worldwide. I was able to experience a Contiki tour in May of 2016, I packed my bags and headed to Paris, to what I thought would be an ordinary guided tour. I was wrong. Upon arriving to Paris, I decided to take the Metro to my hotel vs a cab or private transfer. A little Jet-Lagged, I made my way to the Metro station at Charles De Gaulle, purchased my ticket and hopped on the train. Immediately I felt I was somewhere different, riding with locals and trying to understand the French that was being spoken. 45 minutes on the train, I hopped off and on to a local bus for a 10 minute ride to my hotel. I did get a little turned around navigating the streets, but this all part of the experience of travelling. I arrived to my hotel, where upon check in I met my roommate, Willy, from New Zealand who I would be sharing a room with for the next 9 days. Contiki holidays are great way for meeting likeminded people who like to travel, where the average age is 26, it’s also a great for solo travellers looking to make friends with the added benefit of safety in numbers. At 4pm we all met in the lobby of the hotel and met our whole group and started our first tour in Paris. With stops at the main sights we ended our night at the Eiffel Tower, where I took in views of the city lights of Paris, Breathtaking is all that needs to be said.
Day 2 – Another nice aspect of Contiki is the convenience of having our own bus. No trying to figure out how and when to get to the sights. We stop at a perfumery that has an elegant interior and is a unique setting for a look into the history of perfume. It’s also a chance to pick up some French perfume at great prices. This town is loaded with possibilities. We discovered its many bistros, museums, tree-lined avenues and diverse quartiers (neighbourhoods). Get a feel for French flair by window shopping on the Left Bank. Step into the Notre Dame. I did take the opportunity to explore the endless galleries of the Louvre, where I was able to get up close to the famous Mona Lisa. During ME time, I tried indulging in some delicious pastries and relaxed in one of Paris’ many cafés. Later on in the evening, we all got to get dolled up and dined at a local restaurant, then we all headed to a Parisian Cabaret to sip on champagne while taking in a Can Can show. After the show we hit the town and the nightlife.
Day 3 – Paris to Contiki Chateau. Our first stop on Day 3 was a visit to visit the majestic 16th Century Chateau Fontainebleau. We walk around the imperial gardens and checked out the chateau’s imposing, regal exterior. We continued on through Burgundy’s wine country to Beaujolais’ green hills and vineyards before arriving at Contiki’s very own 16th Century Chateau De Cruix! We enjoyed some wine tasting within the Chateau’s working winery, where their resident expert taught us about Beaujolais wine as we swirled and sipped on wines made in the area for centuries. We than enjoyed a dinner in the chateaux and danced the night away in the night club located in the basement.
Day 4 – Contiki Chateau to Swiss Alps.I was sad to leave the picturesque Chateau, but pleased to know I was on my way to beautiful Switzerland! En route, we stopped in the international city of Geneva to stretch our legs and check out the Jet D’Eau on the lake and the United Nations building. Before we carried on to Lauterbrunnen, we stopped and grabbed some Swiss cuisine for lunch and stocked up on delicious Swiss chocolates and cheese.
Day 5 – Swiss Alps. It was a change of pace amongst Switzerland’s massive Alps. I couldn’t believe the beautiful views I could see from my chalet window. We visited Jungfrau Mountain in which we headed up the sheer slopes of this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site on a cog rail to Europe’s highest railway station and stepped out onto the “roof” of Europe for spine-tingling views. Back at the chalet, we made the most of the genuine underground ‘Bomb Shelter’ and enjoyed a few drinks at the bar.
Day 6 – Swiss Alps to Hopfgarten. We departed the Swiss Alps and travelled to the beautiful alpine town of Lucerne. With all its covered wooden bridges, cobbled lanes and quaint buildings, we explored Lucerne’s centre on foot. Our trip manager can gave us pointers on where to pick up the best-priced watches Switzerland is so famous for. Later we travelled past the stony cliffs of Liechtenstein, into the capital, Vaduz, where we grabbed some lunch in the shadow of the Royal Family’s 12th century castle before continuing onto Contiki’s very own Austrian Gasthof (guest inn). I had plenty of time for pulse-racing activities the Alps has to offer, which I tried Paragliding which made my heart race. The Contiki crew gave us pointers on the best stuff to do in the region and made sure I got everything out of your time here.
Day 7 – In the morning, I filled my lungs with clean mountain air, jumped on a bike got into the region’s outdoor lifestyle with a fully guided optional tour through the Tyrol’s picture perfect scenery, complete with waterfalls and mountain fields. After working up an appetite, I had a great BBQ lunch. For the rest of the day, I had time to do my own thing and got out for a walk in the surrounding hills, went into town for pictures and coffee before having dinner and enjoying a night with friends.
Day 8 – Hopfgarten to Munich. In the morning I visited the Swarovski Crystal World Museum. Then we remembered one of history’s darkest moments with a sobering stop at the Dachau concentration camp memorial. Learn more at the museum and walk through the remaining living quarters. This was a sad thing to see, but I believe an important thing we should experience and remember. Afterwards, we travelled back to the home of the world-famous Oktoberfest, Munich – is a city that blends traditional Bavarian culture and modern lifestyle. I explored the heart of Munich’s old town and headed to Marienplatz, a central gathering spot famous for the Glockenspiel - a Gothic clock, complete with 32 dancing figures and 43 chiming bells. Our group took a bike tour off the beaten track and onto Munich’s side streets with our Local Guide. After our farewell dinner, we got a taste of tradition at a typical beer hall, where we parked ourselves at a long wooden table and quenched our thirst with a stein of one of Germany’s 5000 beers! Our group ended the night painting the town red, before heading home the next morning.
I was sad to leave the new friends I had made along my journey. Contiki’s always included trip manager was experienced, kind, knowledgeable and outgoing. A key part to any tour. With their many included activities, and time for myself, it a great and hassle free way to see the world. I would recommend Contiki to any of my clients.