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Visit Portugal’s Douro Valley and walk in the amazing wine terraces and
Quinta wine estates high above the Douro River. Read on to find out about 5 reasons for spending your active holiday in Douro Valley.
The Douro Wine Estates
Walking in the Douro Valley should be regarded as a ‘Quinta-essential’ walk: it takes you deep into the working wine estates of golden terraces laced with vines and wires to support them. The local people will be busy picking the grapes in September/October while at other times in the year, there are activities taking place such as pruning, training, spraying or weeding. Some times of the year, you will hardly see a soul about. Most of the
Quintas, estates or inns in the Portuguese countryside, produce their own wine. The area is of UNESCO World Heritage interest, and there are some amazing Escher-type perspective views of the vine terraces from across the hills in certain lights, dissected in places by roads and paths.
Discover the two famous ironwork bridges
when you’re visiting the Douro Valley. They both date back to the late 1800s. Walk across the Gustav Eiffel Bridge that connects both sides of River Pinhão and that is also a main landmark in the charming village of the same name. The bridge was designed by, surprise-surprise, Gustav Eiffel who was also involved with the ‘Luis I Bridge’ in Porto. Nowadays, the bridge is considered as a national masterpiece.
When you visit Douro Valley, you can also walk high above the magnificent Ponte de Dom Luís I bridge. This is Porto’s most recognisable landmark over the river Douro. The iron bridge was designed by Seyrig, one of Gustav Eiffel's co-workers, in 1886.
Cruise along the Douro River
Relax and take a replica Barco Rabelo, wine boat for a little cruise along the Douro River while passing numerous wine estates that advertise themselves via large riverside boards. You can slouch in a bean bag quaffing a tawny port, watching riverside birds. To break your walking days, you could hire a boat to visit the village of ‘Tua’. There are a couple of restaurants there, which are excellent to have some lunch at before catching the train back to either Pinhão or Oporto.
Porto, O Pretty Porto
Get lost in Oporto (Porto)! This is a must on your Douro Valley holiday. Having survived through periods of European war, Porto has a maze of ancient streets and old buildings focussed on the River Douro. It is a proud and friendly city bursting with cafes, bars, restaurants and some unusual stores selling things like Portuguese guitars.
Check out some of Porto’s ornate churches that are decorated with blue and white
azulejos tiles such as the Igreja de Sto Ildefonso church. The railway station, Estação de São Bento, is also internally decorated with a mass of these tiles illustrating Portuguese landscapes and train travel.
There are lovely squares, and terraced vistas. Always you will find good restaurants (ask around for
) where you can taste famous national dishes such as tascas bacalhau, dried and salted cod, in its varying preparations.
The Port Lodges
Visit a couple of Port Lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia. This town is a separate entity to Porto (just across from the river and easily accessible); most importantly, this is where all the traditional factories of the wine estates exist. Here, the port is made by adding spirit to stop the wine fermentation process and the finished product is then aged, usually in oak barrels. A visit to a couple of the estates is recommended, they often have the most beautiful premises and outlooks. There is a small entry charge that includes tasting a few ports or wines. There are so many lodges to choose from including Dutch and German brands. For Anglophiles perhaps the most famous are Sandeman, Grahams, Croft, Churchills, Ferreira, Taylors, Offley and Cockburns. Some also do food, which is just as well before you wobble back to your hotel!
The best times to visit Douro Valley for an active holiday are spring, between mid-March until June, and autumn (fall) from around September until mid-October and when also the
takes place. annual grape harvest
Walk alongside imposing cliffs before taking a cobbled mule track descending in hairpin turns to the base of the Aiguebrun Valley where you will find your overnight accommodation on this week of hiking in the Luberon Mountains.
At the base of the Aiguebrun Gorge in the Luberon Mountains, there is a breath-taking 17th century goat cheese farm that is now restored and converted into the most unique hotel in the Luberon. The Auberge des Seguins is in harmony with the original buildings that are found in this enchanting region in southern France.
The hotel offers a lovely escape from modern life where you can enjoy your surroundings and it is here that we stay at for one night during our Rambling in the Luberon hiking holiday.
The name of the hotel is chosen for a reason. Seguins derives from the Waldensian, which is a reformed religious group. A family of the same name lived in the area centuries ago. In the 16 th century however, the Waldensians were massacred throughout the Luberon mountains.
The oldest buildings of our accommodation and those that are still standing today were built in the 17th century, long after the Seguins had left. Fast-forward to 1850 when the hamlet was shared by three farming families. Jumping another 100 years or so and we arrive in 1960. At this time the hamlet in the Luberon Mountains was run as a goat farm until it was purchased by the Pessemesse family to convert it into a hotel.
The Pessemesse family still runs the Auberge today, and when you visit, you may meet one of the sisters Amélie and Estelle or brother Simon.
Luberon Mountain Life
The accommodation is located at the base of the Aiguebrun Gorge, both storybook scenic and peaceful. Both to and from the hotel, we expect you to find the hiking to be beautiful. Off the beaten path and far from tourist crowds, you can enjoy limestone karst mountains, quaint oak forests and imposing cliffs. Savouring dinner family-style and with home-cooked Provençal specialties, such as lamb shoulder braised with olive purée served in a large casserole for the whole table. Breakfast is also communal and eaten on large farm tables with no bells and whistles, but with the freshest breads and tasty homemade jams.
All that is left doing - watching the swifts dance atop the soaring limestone cliffs, and relaxing in a lounge chair in the open field, facing the centuries-old golden stone buildings. Sounds like you? Check out our 7-day Rambling in the Luberon walking holiday.
“ Beautiful scenery, well selected hikes, expertly handled logistics. It was so hard to leave Funchal! ” - E & K Pavlik from Canada
Madeira, the Portuguese island, is famed for its excellent walking temperatures – year-round! But there are many more reasons for the island to be popular, besides its good weather. If you are interested in the rich Portuguese history, a varied landscape that ranges from rugged coastline to pine forests and a wealth of flowers then read on and find out what Madeira walks can look like.
Escape to excellent walking temperatures. Madeira, just over 3.5 hours away from London, less than 2 hrs from Lisbon, and 7 & 8 hours from Toronto & Miami respectively, is one of your best options in Europe. The island enjoys an impressive year-round flowering season thanks to its subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil. For example, October and November still see well over 10 hours of sunshine daily and temperatures in the low-20 oC. In comparison, the average temperature for England is half of that.
When thinking of exploring Madeira, walks are a good option and below you can find 5 reasons to go.
“ Enjoyed the great views, the way the tours were laid up so we had very different walks each day. ” - J Brandstrom from Sweden
Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Europe and Africa, Madeira offers both a mild year-round climate and a 1,350-mile network of ‘levadas’ to discover on foot. Follow ‘ levadas’ through a peaceful pastoral countryside or traverse terraced hillsides; dating back to the 16 th century, these irrigation channels or aqueducts are specific to Madeira, originally built to carry water to the agricultural regions. Read more about the levadas of Madeira.
Volcanic in origin, Madeira’s rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1,800 metres (approx. 6,000 feet) with forests of pine and laurel flanking its jagged peaks. The island is home to a myriad of colourful flowers and trees, such as jasmine, begonias, freesias, magnolia and camellias.
#3 Pico Ruivo
Walk up to Pico Ruivo, Madeira’s highest peak, from where there is an exceptional ridge walk following the backbone of the island. The views to either side over the island and ocean are very rewarding.
Loose count of how many orchids you can see in the dedicated Orchid Garden – there are more than 7,500 species! Madeira’s subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil make for perfect growing conditions and orchids here enjoy an impressive year-round flowering season. A dedicated weeklong Flower Festival takes place every spring.
Spend time in the bustling little capital of Funchal: visit a Madeira wine lodge, explore colourful food and flower markets and enjoy superb fish restaurants to finish off a week of impressive Madeira walks.
Intrigued? With Sherpa Expeditions you can visit the Portuguese island on an 8-day trip called Madeira Island Walking. Learn more about it by downloading the trip notes here or contact one of our travel experts in the UK office.
For Charles Hawes, walking is his main recreational fun. “For me a decent walk is around 10 miles, though it very much depends on how much climbing hills is involved!” he tells us. One of the things he likes to do most, is to walk for several days at a time, travelling through the countryside and absorbing the atmosphere of a place. Last year, Charles travelled with his friend on the Sherpa trip in the
Tarn & Averyron region of France for a five day walk and that was brilliant. In Spring 2018, he set off on yet another adventure: hiking in Alsace, France. Read on for his experiences on this holiday ( Alsace Vineyard Trails).
Why did you choose to go hiking in Alsace?
I love France and have visited many times but the Alsace region was unknown to me. I had an uncle (Nigel Buxton) who was a travel writer and he wrote a book called
and the Alsace was one of the regions he had covered, so I wanted to walk in his footsteps and light a few candles in his memory. Walking in Wine Country
How did you prepare for this walking trip in France?
Ahead of the trip, I wanted to
improve my French so I used an app called Duolingo to practice for 20 minutes each day for several months. It helped a bit, but I still found lots of gaps. Other than that, I do walk most days for about 30 minutes just to maintain basic fitness (I’m 62). I plotted each day’s walk onto a large scale map in my phone – I find it very easy to take the wrong path and the GPS location facility makes getting lost quite difficult.
Your favourite destination on our Alsace Vineyard Trails?
I love hills and views and we had plenty of those on this trip. The hilltop chateaux were on or very close to the trail and had some had good information boards and were well worth the visit. What I loved best though were the hours we spent walking through the woods on the lower slopes of the Vosges. They were of such varied character and with different plants favouring different species of trees. I have never seen Lily of the Valley growing so abundantly.
What was the best food & drink in Alsace?
We soon found that the Alsace Riesling was nothing like the semi-sweet wines that we had had in our youth – these were on the medium side of dry but had such wonderful flavour. We also liked the red Pinot Noir served chilled. I still think that there are fewer things nicer for breakfast than fresh French pastries.
Auberge de la Meuniere at Thannenkirch was a fabulous place. A really lovely hotel with great character, friendly staff and a lovely terrace for evening drinks. Great food here!
What was your biggest surprise on this walking trip?
When I had got to the departure gate in
Basel airport on the way home, I realised that I no longer had my wallet. I thought that I might have dropped it at check-in, so went all the way back and then to the information/lost property desk, but it had not been handed in. I thought maybe I had put it in my suitcase so they retrieved that for me but it wasn’t there. So I was feeling rather low after going through all this. I phoned the lost property desk again just in case it had been found. It had! I had dropped the wallet in the bus on the way to the airport and the driver had taken the trouble to bring it into the desk. The guy on the desk then brought it to me 10 minutes before I boarded the plane. There was quite a bit of cash in it and nothing was missing. Such kindness and good service.
On another note,
Haut Koenigsbourg is a must to see and very popular. It was definitely worth the queue for tickets.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
There were several quite long climbs on the last two days which took it out of us. It might have had something to do with the fact that it was in the low 80s; we were grateful for the several benches that we came across and for the shade of the trees. Choosing wines was a challenge.
Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?
Make sure that you carry enough water.
More information on the
Alsace Vineyard Trails can be found on the trip page and by downloading the trip notes there. For any specific questions or booking requests you may contact one of our travel experts.
>> View Trip
When hiking in the French countryside on one of our
grande randonnées ( long distance trails), you may occasionally like to have a chat with the locals. Perhaps you like to learn a bit more about their culture and cuisine or you simply like to ask for a direction. This list of useful French phrases may come in handy on your next walking holiday in France – do not forget to work on your pronunciation though!
Should I go left / right / straight / or turnaround? .............
Est-ce que je dois aller a gauche / a droite / tout droit / ou bien est-ce que je dois faire demi-tour?
How far is it until the next village?........................................
A combien est le prochain village?
Where can I find a toilet?..........................................................
Où sont les toilettes?
When was this castle built?.....................................................
Quand est-ce que ce château a été construit?
Can I enter this church / castle / cemetery / cathedral? ...
Est que l’on peut visiter cette église / ce château / ce cimetière / cette cathédrale?
I would like 1/2/3/4 entrance tickets.....................................
Je voudrais un / deux / trois / quatre tickets.
What is the best restaurant in town?....................................
Quel est le meilleur restaurant de la ville?
What is this dish called?............................................................
Comment s’appelle ce plat?
Of course you'd like to be prepared to understand the answer in French. So when you're in the Luberon, you may expect to hear
ratatouille as the answer, in Ardeche perhaps crique or bombine (both potato-based) and in the Cevennes soup aux chataignes (chestnut soup). When in Dordogne you may prepare for a response like cassoulet (stew), in Tarn & Aveyron aligot (cheese & potatoes), and in the Loire your dessert may well be the famous tarte-tatin.
Where can I do some wine tasting?........................................
Est-ce qu'il y a une dégustation de vin dans les environs?
What time do you serve dinner?.............................................
A quelle heure servez-vous le diner?
I am a vegetarian / vegan.........................................................
Je suis végétarien / végétalien.
I am allergic to gluten / nuts / lactose...................................
Je suis allergique au gluten / aux noix / aux produits laitiers.
Where is the nearest supermarket?......................................
Où est le super march é le plus près?
I had a wonderful sleep.............................................................
Dormez bien. / Bonne nuit.
Good morning! / Good evening................................................
Bonjour! / Bonsoir.
Thank you! / Excuse me / Sorry...............................................
Merci! / Excusez-moi / Pardon
We hope these French words proof useful on your next walking holiday to the beautiful European country and that they will help you find your way around. Have a look below the image (which shows a small group of hikers doing the TMB) to find some ideas for popular walking holidays in France – or
contact our team of travel experts to discuss your queries.
Popular walking holidays in France
Our friends at Cicerone publishing house have released yet another fascinating book, this time celebrating the mountain huts that dot the European Alps and Pyrenees in The Mountain Hut Book.
Kev Reynolds has been compiling travel guide books since the late 1970s and has an undiminished passion for mountains and the countryside. With his enthusiasm, personal anecdotes and authority, we at Sherpa are already a big fan of the publication.
The book explores the development of alpine mountain huts from primitive and often squalid beginnings to a valuable network for people who venture into the mountains. Whether you are new to the experience of staying in huts, or are an old hand, we believe that the book will bring you lots of entertainment and information.
Drawing on Reynolds’ long experience of staying in hundreds of mountain refuges, the new book examines hut life, what facilities to expect, and hut etiquette. For example: reserve your spots in advance, cancel if your plans change in order to make space for other hikers, bring a pair of ‘hut shoes’ to wear indoors, or make your bed once you’ve been allocated a room & spot.
Sherpa Expeditions gave away one copy of the book following a small competition on
our Facebook page that ran in May 2018. The lucky winner of 'The Mountain Hut Book' is Char Aaberg from Canada.
Would you like to get hold of a copy of the book as well? Head over to the
webshop of Cicerone to order yours, and because we're friends, you receive a 20% discount on your order >> find more information here.
The Mountain Hut Book has profiles of the author’s 10 favourite huts in the Alps and Pyrenees, gives the best approach routes and offers suggestions for ascents and outings from them. 10 hut-to-hut walking tours of between 3 and 13 days duration are also outlined, including the Tour of the Bernina and the Alta Via 2.
>> Learn more about Cicerone and how you can claim 20% discount on books when you travel with Sherpa Expeditions.
The Austrian Alps are one of the great mountain playgrounds of Europe and the Dachstein is the most dramatic and arguably most interesting of these mountain areas in Austria. Huge pyramids of limestone pierce through the great icy expanses of the Hallstätter and Gosau Gletschers (glaciers).
Yet these peaks are often hidden by steep valley sides and flanking peaks. The glaciers of this area have been, of course, in full retreat after the last Ice Age ended some 12,000 years ago and, in their wake, they have carved out some impressive 'U' shaped glacial valleys. These valleys have been scoured deeply and over the millennia have filled with melt and rain water to create the classic and popular Austrian Lakes District.
It is in this setting that you will find yourself when travelling on the
Austrian Lakes and Dachstein Alps walking holiday with Sherpa Expeditions.
To introduce you to the mountainous region, read on for 6 unique aspects of what an Austrian Alps hiking holiday is all about.
#1 Viewpoint over Hallstätter See
Hike to a great viewpoint over the Hallstätter See and the mountains of Hoher Dachstein. Actually, the way to this climax could be considered a highlight in itself as it follows Austrian Emperors’ hunting grounds and passes the old salt working village of Salzberg. When you’ve made it to the summit of Predigstuhl (1214m), the views will be rewarding.
#2 Austrian Flag Waymarkers
The trails on Sherpa Expeditions’
Austrian Alps hiking trip are generally well waymarked. Most of the routes that we take are numbered and waymarked by the Austrian Alpine Club and we love the symbols they use. These are either classic red & white waymarks, and regularly red-white-red – like the Austrian flag!
The old town of Hallstatt is clustered on a very steep site along the lake, while the newer parts of this stunning town are located a little further south. With an attractive market place, nice town houses, two ancient churches and a lot of traditional Austrian charm, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is definitely beautiful!
The town of Gosau lies at 780 metres and is actually a sprawling collection of original farmsteads from the 15
th century onward that have coalesced in the Gosau Valley to now form the villages of Vordertal, Mitteltal and Hintertal. Gosau is the actual centre with couple of attractive churches and good views of the Gosaukamm Mountains, which offer amazing Austrian Alps hiking opportunities. Take a few of the many ski lifts that you find in the valley for excellent views and walks – we especially like those going up the Zwieselarm.
#5 Hiking around Hallstätter See
Whether you choose to follow the eastern or western shore of this stunning Austrian Lake, you will hopefully get some beautiful reflections of the town in the waters of the lake. On you walk, and on a good summer day, take the opportunity to go for a swim. Or take the boat over to the other side of the lake to start your walk and to add some extra romance to your day.
#6 The Glacial Lakes of Vorderer Gosausee & Hinterer Gosausee
On a walk around Gosausee you will pass the glacial lakes of Vorderer Gosausee and Hinterer Gosausee. From both, the views of the Gosaukamm Mountains are just stunning. It is quite a popular route as the mountains are magical. With good weather you can hopefully get some good reflections of the peak in the lake and go for a swim in the clean waters.
For more information and booking requests, please download the trip notes of the Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps walking holiday or contact our knowledgeable team in London.
More About Austrian Alps Hiking
The highlights of a
Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) walking holiday are without a doubt the excellent views of Mt Blanc itself and of the snow-clad alpine peaks of the Wildstrubel, Valais and Bernese Oberland, plus plenty of impressive glaciers. For others, magnets can also be the fresh cheeses & local wines, classic mountain cottages, or the fact that you’re circumnavigating an entire peak, in this case western Europe’s highest one!
But why go trekking around Mont Blanc with Sherpa Expeditions? To give you a better idea of how our Tour du Mont Blanc walking holiday stands out, we made this short overview that helps explain how our trip works:
10 fixed departure days in this summer’s season
Walk independently, but at the same time as a small number of other Sherpa travellers
Enjoy the benefits of support from our team members who live in the area
Stay in good value for money accommodation while trekking around Mont Blanc
Receive maps and very detailed route notes that include options to walk different trails
Lots of background information and tips for local establishments
Complete circumnavigation of Mont Blanc; from Les Houches to Les Houches
Meet & greet at the start of the Tour du Mont Blanc
Are you a single traveller? Make use of the option to share a room with another single traveller of the same gender and avoid paying a single supplement
A suitable choice for first-timers on a self guided walk
En-suite facilities in the accommodation we selected for you (except for the nights in a guesthouse & auberge)
Days at leisure on which you can choose to rest, explore museums, go shopping or undertake more walks
The personal support of our friendly team in London, before, during and after your trip
Have you got any questions on this? Do feel free to
contact our friendly team in London via phone, email or drop by if you are in the area.
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The long-awaited film adaption of the international bestselling novel ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ will premiere in UK cinemas next week, on the 20 th April 2018. To celebrate the occasion, we are giving away free copies of the book by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Schaffer.
Book on the Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way or Jersey: The Channel Island Way walking holiday and receive the novel that the film is based on *
Book before 31 May 2018 on the
Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way or Jersey: The Channel Island Way walking holidays and travel before 25 October 2018 and we will send you the novel together with your Final Documentation.
Directed by BAFTA-award winning Mike Newell and starring Lily James and Michiel Huisman, the film shines a light on Guernsey’s occupation during World War II. The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles that were under German control during the war and evidence of their stay is still widely visible today.
Sherpa Expeditions Manager Tali Emdin explains:
“The Guernsey Occupation, between June 1940 and May 1945, shaped the islands into what they are today. It left a lasting legacy and, to this day, the coastline still bears testament to this time, dotted with well-preserved fortifications built by German soldiers.
History aficionados will find that the island’s heritage, including those five tempestuous years, is depicted in stunning detail through a whole host of museums, which aim to recreate those dark days with gripping exhibits.
The German Military Underground Hospital, the largest construction in the Channel Islands, was built by slave workers during the occupation; the German Occupation Museum features a recreation of an occupation-era street; while La Villette Underground Military Museum is set in a series of tunnels used for U-Boat fuel storage during the occupation”.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ inspires you to discover the unique history of the Channel Islands, activity holiday specialist Sherpa Expeditions can take you there.
>> View all details about Guernsey Islands – The Channel Island Way
>> View all details about Jersey: The Channel Island Way
*Terms & Conditions:
Book on the
or Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way walking holidays departing on or before 25 October 2019 and receive a free copy of the international bestselling novel ‘The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society’ by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Schaffer. Jersey: The Channel Island Way
Bookings must be received before 31 May 2018.
Only valid for departures on the Guernsey Islands – Channel Island Way and Jersey: The Channel Island Way trips on or before 25 October 2018.
The book will be included in your pre-departure information.
Only valid for bookings made with Sherpa Expeditions directly, not valid for bookings made through third parties.
Only valid for these specific trips operated by Sherpa Expeditions.
Offer applies only once per booking, eg. you will receive one (1) copy of the novel per booking.
Trips and book are subject to availability. Booking
Terms & Conditions apply.
Quote code POTATO at the time of booking.
The colours that inspired famous painter Vincent van Gogh for many of his, now world-famous, paintings are especially visible during the French spring and summer months of May, June, July and August. Naturally, this makes these months some of the best time to visit Provence. If you have seen the
film Loving Vincent, you may have been inspired by these vibrant colours and you may have added to your travel bucket list a visit to the French region that the painter loved so much.
Lavender fields are perhaps the most iconic image of Provence and if you are hoping to get that picture-perfect photo of the Senanque Abbey near Gordes (on our
Rambling in the Luberon walk), make sure to be there in June. When you travel in this month, you are quite sure to find a glorious purple field of lavender surrounding the beautiful abbey.
©Google Art Project via Gemeente Museum Den Haag
No less spectacular are the fields of
coquelicots, perhaps better known as the bright red poppies of France. For some walkers, the best time to visit Provence is in May: when fields of poppies simply explode and paint the landscape a magnificent red. At the same time, May is also that time of year when the strawberries are at their sweetest and most delicious. Ah, and for asparagus-lovers, this is your time to visit as well, when they are prepared with omelettes for example.
Seen in one of Vincent van Gogh’s more famous paintings, ‘Olive trees with yellow sky and sun’ is a grove of olive trees. The olive forms an important part of life in Provence and feature in tapenades,
, quality oils and of course in many varieties as cured olives. Although the harvesting season is in winter, the beautiful rows of green-leaved trees in April and May come with a white blossom. Take a little picnic stop and take advantage of the trees’ shadow during the warm summer months. pissaladiere
From all over the world, visitors come to
Provence to enjoy great weather, the delicious Provençal cuisine and of course the impressive surroundings. Add to that in late summer fields on end with sunflowers and it’ll be almost without effort to position yourself in one of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. For some this is definitely the best time to visit Provence.
In Provence, Vincent van Gogh had the most ambitious and productive period of his life. Working under luminescent skies and the bleaching Provençal sun, he painted the fields, drawbridges, cypress trees, cafes, local folk and ancient Abbey ruins.
Why not theme your holiday for this year around Vincent van Gogh and combine our
walking holiday in Provence with a visit to Paris and Amsterdam to visit the Van Gogh Museum, where the temporary exhibition Inspiration from Japan is on display until 24 June 2018.
For more information and booking requests, please
contact our team of travel experts in our London office.