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One family ruled a huge swath of central and eastern Europe for centuries, and the three cities on this eight-day tour were its playgrounds. In the 16th century, Hapsburg Emperor Rudolf II invited so many alchemists, astronomers, and artists to Prague—capital of today’s Czech Republic—that the place earned the nickname “the Golden City.” At Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace, the Hapsburgs’ summer home in Austria, you can walk through some of its 1,441 ornate rooms, then wander the 18,000-square-foot hedge maze in the gardens. The trip ends in Budapest, Hungary, where you can enjoy a soothing soak at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool, arguably the grandest of the city’s many spas. From $1,484.
West Indies idyll
On Aruba, Dutch homes with gabled roofs go tropical, painted in colors as bright and inviting as the blue waters that roll up on the island’s sandy southern beaches. This seven-day cruise on the Caribbean Princess makes a grand circle of the West Indies, passing from a private resort and snorkeling haven in the Bahamas to Curaçao, where Christoffelpark boasts orchids, iguanas, and cave paintings by the original Arawak inhabitants. From $599.
The Glacier Express train travels only 24 miles an hour on average, but that’s plenty quick for navigating the 291 bridges, 91 tunnels, and various grassy mountain valleys on the climb to Zermatt, a town at the foot of the Matterhorn. Get an eyeful of Switzerland on this seven-day tour, from its wild mountains to urban treats such as Lucerne’s wooden bridges. In Zurich, visit the brightly paneled museum dedicated to the pioneer modernist architect Le Corbusier, housed in the last building he designed. From $2,890.
Asakusa Kannon, Tokyo’s oldest temple, was built 1,384 years ago after fishermen netted a statue of the Buddhist goddess of mercy in the nearby Sumida River. Not far away rises another superlative: the newly opened 2,084-foot Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest self-supporting broadcasting tower, with an observation deck where visitors can view the city. On this eight-day journey, catch marvels modern and ancient, from a bullet train that zips you south to Kyoto at a top speed of 168 miles per hour to Nijo Castle’s nightingale floor, designed to chirp in warning when stepped on. From $3,599.
National park splendor
Tall, deep, bright, dark—the West’s national parks showcase all kinds of drama. With its cathedral-like hoodoo towers, Bryce Canyon might be known as Temple of the Gods if Congress had agreed with a Utah legislative recommendation. “Dark rangers” at Bryce oversee brilliant stargazing, and this 12-day tour hits many such highlights, stopping for a view at the rim of Arizona’s Grand Canyon; a float on Lake Powell, on the Arizona-Utah border, the second-largest reservoir in the country; a trek along the base of Zion’s rainbow cliffs in Utah; and a stay in Yellowstone—straddling Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana—to see the world’s largest concentration of geysers. From $2,899.
Photography by Radius Images(Schönbrunn Palace); Robert Harding Pictures Library Ltd/Alamy (Aruba); Look de Bildagentur der Fotografen GMBH/Alamy (Bryce Canyon); John Warburton-Lee Photography/Alamy (Switzerland); courtesy Wikipedia (Ninomaru Palace ceiling)
This article was first published in January 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.