Sponsored content

Riviera Travel logoFor people who are passionate about travel, exploring a new destination involves more than ticking off the ‘must-see sights’. It means discovering hidden gems, diving deep into a country’s culture and history, and hopefully, gaining a new perspective. Immersive travel is all about going beyond the pages of the guidebook – not merely sightseeing and observing, but learning and participating too.

If you’re keen to discover a secret side of your chosen destination, we’re here to inspire. We’ve partnered with Riviera Travel, one of the UK’s leading tour operators. Known for their engaging and enriching escorted tours, Riviera holidays are also about comfort and relaxation. Everything is arranged for you, so you can kick back, relax, and focus on savouring the experience and making memories.

With continental Europe on our doorstep, we’re pretty spoiled for choice when it comes to beautiful and diverse destinations to discover. But, to shine a light on the variety on offer, we’ve chosen ten of our favourite Riviera tours, all of which take you far beyond the pages of the average guidebook.

1. Classical Spain: Seville, Córdoba, and Granada

Classical Spain: Seville, Córdoba, and Granada

If it’s Spain that’s calling, Riviera’s Classical Spain: Seville, Córdoba, and Granada tour may be the trip for you. This seven-day tour takes you to sunny Andalucía, where you’ll explore several of the region’s most magical towns and cities. In Seville, a guided tour will take you to the city’s most famous sights, including the Plaza de España and Tower of Gold. You’ll have a full free day here, so you can sample tasty tapas, catch an authentic flamenco show, and have fun losing yourself in the narrow streets and secret squares.

In Córdoba, discover Spain’s Moorish influence during a tour of the Mezquita, surely one of the most dazzling mosques ever constructed. Then, prepare yourself for the majesty of the Alhambra. Framed against dramatic peaks and verdant gardens, it might just take your breath away. Medieval Ronda is equally as impressive – and keep an eye out for eagles and vultures soaring through the sky! Along the way, sip local sherry, feast on fresh seafood, and savour the scent of orange blossom in the warm air.

2. Grand Tour of Sicily

Grand Tour of Sicily

As the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily’s wonders aren’t exactly a secret – but there are plenty of lesser-known spots too. On Riviera’s Grand Tour of Sicily, you’ll spend 11 idyllic days exploring, delving deep into its diverse history, admiring the ornate architecture, and sampling the fabulous food. Begin with a guided tour of Palermo to unravel the capital’s mysteries, then lose yourself in its labyrinth of side streets. Stop off for a gelato or espresso, browse the food markets, or people-watch from a quaint cafe.

If you’re dreaming of hitting the beach, you can do so in Cefalù. Sunbathe on its sandy shores, splash in the sparkling sea, and soak up that famously laid-back lifestyle. Admire breathtaking views and the historic amphitheatre in elegant Taormina, before heading to the ancient Greek city of Syracuse. Along the way, visit the active Mount Etna, taste local dishes at an agriturismo, wander through quiet towns, and explore UNESCO-protected sites. You’ll have plenty of free time to explore in your own way too!

3. Grand Tour of Madeira, the Pearl of the Atlantic

Grand Tour of Madeira, the Pearl of the Atlantic

Known as the ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’, Madeira is one of the world’s most unique destinations. On Riviera’s 12-day Grand Tour of Madeira, you’ll uncover the true diversity of this small-yet-spectacular island. Cast adrift 600 miles southwest of capital Lisbon, this Portuguese territory is home to an incredible array of natural wonders. If you’re passionate about plants, you’ll be in awe of the varied and vibrant flora here, which include purple-blossomed jacaranda trees as well as colourful orchids and birds of paradise.

On a guided tour of the capital Funchal, you’ll learn about Madeiran culture and history. After admiring the architecture and uncovering the city’s maritime heritage, you can then enjoy a tasting of the local wine. There’s more fun for plant fans who can tour three world-renowned subtropical gardens, while culture vultures will love visiting the villages of Câmara das Lobos and Curral das Freiras. There’s plenty of time for relaxation too, from sampling the local cuisine to visiting charmingly sleepy fishing villages.

4. Helsinki, Tallinn, and Riga

Helsinki, Tallinn, and Riga

Compared to Western Europe, the Baltic countries are far more under-the-radar, but they’re just as captivating. On Riveria’s eight-day Helsinki, Tallinn, and Riga tour, you’ll explore this underrated corner of Europe, visiting four cities and three countries. The adventure begins in the Finnish capital Helsinki, where you’ll discover the Scandinavian and Russian influences that characterise the city. Tour the historic highlights, before visiting the Suomenlinna Fortress, which is scattered across six islands.

Next, travel to Estonia to visit Tallinn, a bewitching city that looks like it’s fallen from the pages of a fairy story. Take a walking tour of the pretty Old Town, lose yourself in winding alleys, and enjoy delicious Estonian delicacies and local craft beer. Then it’s onto the cultural capital of Tartu, where you’ll have free time to visit museums before moving onto the Latvian capital, Riga. Tour the medieval Old Town, browse the vast Central Market, and admire the gothic churches that tower above quaint cobblestone streets.

5. Timeless Provence

Timeless Provence

The South of France is known for its striking natural beauty, and Provence is particularly dazzling. Home to fragrant fields of lavender, silver olive groves, and ancient pine forests, the lovely landscape here famously inspired painters like Van Gogh and Cézanne. On Riviera’s eight-day Timeless Provence tour, you’ll discover the secrets of this wonderful region. Take a tour of stylish Aix-en-Provence, Provence’s former capital, admire its ornate fountains, and visit Cézanne’s perfectly preserved workshop.

Nature lovers will enjoy visiting the wetland region of Camargue, where you’ll take a boat trip along the river, spotting pink flamingos and white horses. Next up are the Luberon Hills, where you can admire the glorious natural light, and visit Provençal villages that have barely changed in centuries. In chic, historic Avignon, you can tour the imposing Papal Palace. You’ll finish in the pretty port of Cassis, where you can enjoy a lazy lunch at a waterside restaurant before taking a boat trip along the wild, rugged coastline.

6. Puglia, Lecce, and Vieste - Undiscovered Italy

Puglia, Lecce, and Vieste - Undiscovered Italy

Thanks to its remote location, right in the heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia is far less touristy than other Italian hotspots. But it has much to offer, and on Riviera’s eight-day Puglia, Lecce and Vieste – Undiscovered Italy tour, you’ll uncover many hidden gems. The communal way of life here is unique to this part of Southern Italy, as is the simple-yet-fabulous cuisine, exceptional wines, and passionate outlook. During this tour, you’ll discover the true beauty of this rugged region, as well as the relaxed culture and intriguing history.

Lecce is one of Italy’s most impressive towns, and on a guided tour you can admire its grand baroque architecture. You’ll visit the curious cone-shaped trulli houses of Alberobello, which are symbols of Puglia, as well as magical Matera, the medieval cave village. In Bari, you can explore the remarkable old town. Along the way you’ll try your hand at pasta making, feast on delicious local food and wine, visit picturesque coastal villages, and stroll through white-washed villages set among the olive groves.

7. Lisbon, Porto, and the Douro Valley

Lisbon, Porto, and the Douro Valley

Portugal may be known for the sweeping beaches of the Algarve, but there’s much more to this country than sun, sea, and sand. It’s a land of contrasts, where ancient and modern coexist, and history is valued yet the future embraced. On Riviera’s eight-day Lisbon, Porto, and the Douro Valley tour, you’ll dive into the country’s past and present. On the itinerary are vibrant cities, historic towns, and stunningly diverse landscapes: think coastal forests, rugged seascapes, lush meadows, and hills dotted with olive trees.

In Lisbon, take a guided tour of the different neighbourhoods, learning about the city’s maritime heritage and visiting magnificent monasteries and squares. You can sample the country’s most famous export – port wine – in Porto before heading into the gorgeous Douro Valley. Here, vine-clad terraces sprawl above the winding river, and you’ll have plenty of time to explore the peaceful villages. Also on the agenda is Sintra and its Royal Palace, Coimbra University, and the 13th-century walled city of Obido.

8. Pompeii, Capri, and the Bay of Naples

Pompeii, Capri, and the Bay of Naples

The Sorrento peninsula and Bay of Naples isn’t exactly a hidden gem. People have been flocking to this part of Italy for millennia, drawn by its scenic beauty and tranquil charm. But away from the glitz of the most famous coastal towns, there are all kinds of delights to discover. On Riviera’s eight-day Pompeii, Capri, and the Bay of Naples tour, you’ll do just that! And, not only will you explore this beautiful stretch of coastline, from Naples to Sorrento to Amalfi, you’ll also visit the idyllic island of Capri.

Take a guided tour of Sorrento’s narrow streets, admiring the flower-blanketed balconies, and feasting on fresh food in pretty pavement cafés. Next up is the Amalfi Coast, one of the most beautiful in Europe, and you can take your time exploring this paradise. In Capri, explore the island at your leisure, perhaps taking a boat trip, or visiting the famous Blue Grotto sea caves. History buffs will love visiting Pompeii, which gives a powerfully poignant look into what life was like in Roman times.

9. Norway Tour

Norway Tour

The beauty of the Norwegian fjords might be known all around the world, but this compelling country offers so much more. Riviera’s eight-day Norway Tour won’t just take you to the most dazzling natural sights, it’ll also take you to its cosmopolitan cities. Beginning in the capital Oslo, you’ll dive into Nordic culture and history on a guided tour of the city. Your ‘Oslo Pass’ gives you free entry to more than 30 museums and attractions, so you won’t be short of fun and fascinating ways to spend your free time.

After, head into the wild Telemark region to visit the famous Rjukan power station, then travel along the Bergen Railway, one of Europe’s most breathtaking rail journeys. From Flåm, you’ll cruise across the UNESCO-listed Naerøyfjord, admiring jaw-dropping vistas of the iconic fjords. Norway’s second-longest fjord, Hardangerfjord, is up next, then it’s time to head to Bergen. Take a walking tour of this gorgeous coastal city, stroll around the famous fish market, and admire the colourful homes that line the quayside.

10. Montenegro: Budva, Cetinje, and the Bay of Kotor

Montenegro: Budva, Cetinje, and the Bay of Kotor

Montenegro is one of the few European countries that can be still classed as a hidden gem, but it won’t be long before it’s just as busy as its neighbours. During Riviera’s eight-day Montenegro: Budva, Cetinje, and the Bay of Kotor you’ll discover the dramatic beauty of this Balkan country. First, take a tour of Budva, go wine tasting, and see why this town has become the country’s best loved coastal resort. Then, travel through the mountains to Lovćen National Park before heading to the former royal capital Cetinje.

After, it’s on to the magnificent Bay of Kotor. With soaring mountains on one side and the sparkling blue sea on the other, the beauty of this town might leave you speechless. You’ll take a tour with a local guide before visiting the idyllic island of Perast, with its atmospheric Venetian church. Along the way you’ll visit the ancient Albanian town of Shkodër, discover Montenegro’s best-kept secret with a tasting at one of the world’s most unique wine cellars, and enjoy a peaceful boat trip on the stunning Lake Skadar.

Final thoughts…

From remote Madeira, cast adrift in the Atlantic, to the farthest corners of Northeastern Europe, these ten tours cover an incredibly diverse range of destinations. While each tour is very different, they all go far beyond the usual travel agendas.

With local guides and tour managers to show you around, you’ll discover a new side to every place you visit, delving deep into each country’s culture and history. Plus, Riviera’s award-winning escorted tours all include plenty of free time, so you’ll be able to explore in your own particular way too.

If you’re keen to take your travel experiences to the next level, why not consider one of these immersive tours? With flexible itineraries, authentic experiences, and excellent rates, Riviera’s reputation speaks for itself. Now all you have to do is decide which destination is calling you!

Are you intrigued by any of these tours? Or have you taken an escorted tour before? We’d love to hear about your travel experiences in the comments below!