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Dear Educational Traveller,

20 January 2017

 

Our 2016 Santiago in Style group
The team at Golden Compass Tours trust that you had a most enjoyable Festive Season and we wish you a very Happy New Year. We hope you are looking forward to some exciting travel experiences in 2017.

We have already guaranteed our scenically stunning and acclaimed Japan Cherry Blossom tour with Robyn Laing and are excited about our first guaranteed program to Persia & Iran: Past & Present to be led by Peter Burns in April. Dr Jone Gaillard is keenly looking forward to leading our popular and again guaranteed Anglo-French Discovery in May and this will be followed by a special tour to include the highlight of the British gardening year, the world famous Chelsea Flower Show. We should warn you that space is now very limited on our stunning Icelandic Discovery in June, the ideal time to explore this island of 'fire and ice', as well as on our Greenland and Faroe Islands Extensions - so, if you want to follow Louise Shave to this most extraordinary part of the world this year, please contact us without delay.

 
Prayer wheel in Paro, Bhutan
We are now pleased to announce that, in addition to the above, we are able to guarantee two tours which could make 2017 truly memorable for you. Bhutan, where the philosophy of 'Gross National Happiness' holds sway, has always held a particular attraction for those seeking spiritual enlightenment. This tiny mysterious kingdom, wedged amongst the towering snow-capped Himalayas, boasts awe-inspiring scenery and is coloured with festivals. Here you will no doubt have some of the most surprising, enjoyable, breathtaking and thought-provoking experiences of your life. Our Festive Bhutan: 'Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon' tour departs in early March and also ventures into the eastern part of the country, which many tours do not cover. It will be a small group, accompanied by Alison Dale, our New Zealand Manager, and so will have more opportunities to explore less visited sights and enjoy adventures perhaps denied to larger groups.

We are also delighted to confirm that we have now guaranteed our Santiago in Style tour, together with its extensions: the Balearic Islands and Portuguese Extension.  The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago de Compostela has held a magical spell for many over the centuries. For some this is a deeply moving spiritual experience, for many it provides an opportunity to explore the tranquil, yet spectacular, mountain and coastal scenery of Northern Spain and Portugal. For others it gives the chance to journey with a small group of like-minded travellers and soak up the local culture, staying in some of the region's most comfortable hotels and enjoying the region's renowned food and wine. 

 
A typical mountain village in Mallorca
Hugh Morgan leads our Santiago in Style tour in early May and has written the article below which I am sure you will enjoy. Why not join Hugh this year on his stylish and leisurely journey along the Camino, with short walks along the most picturesque and interesting sections of the route? You may also consider adding a short pre-tour extension with Hugh to explore the fascinating Mediterranean islands of Menorca and Mallorca, both boasting a rich history, stunning scenery, charmingly typical towns and villages as well as local specialities to enjoy. You could also extend your stay in Portugal with Hugh, exploring the university city of Coimbra with its stunning library, and then experiencing the sights in and around the vibrant Portuguese capital, Lisbon. We tour the city, including the mediaeval Alfama district, discover quintessential walled-towns, ancient monasteries and quaint fishing villages, experience the pilgrimage site of Fatima and visit the great summer palaces of Sintra and Queluz.

As we guaranteed both Bhutan: The kingdom of the Thunder Dragon and Santiago in Style after our usual Early Bird Special Discount date, we are extending this discount of $200 per person for Bhutan and $300 per person for Santiago in Style to any registrations received on or before 31 January 2017. We hope that this will help entice you to join one of these incredible tours. We would also like to remind you that we have reduced the rate of our guaranteed Anglo French Discovery tour by $200 person due to the current weakness of the British pound.


 
Travel with me to Santiago in Style - by Hugh Morgan
 
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
Santiago de Compostela has always held some sort of fascination for me. Unswaying devotion has drawn a constant stream of pilgrims from all corners of Europe to this hallowed site for well over a thousand years.  Pilgrims walked for months on end to reach Santiago, the resting place of St James. You may be considering your own pilgrimage or you may just be curious to learn about the attraction of this stunning, mountainous region of Northern Spain and Portugal.     

Whatever your reasons, do come and join me on my journey across the gorgeously green countryside of northern Spain from Bilbao to Santiago then on to Oporto in northern Portugal. While the thought of our walking the entire Camino de Santiago is out of the question, we have selected three very manageable shortish walks, never more than six or seven kilometres per walk. Each is different and offers something special: one is a walk through the scenic open countryside in La Rioja, another through a forest in Galicia and finally another to bring us to the dramatic Atlantic coast of Galicia.  Mind you, should you prefer to follow the course of the Pilgrim Route in the comfort of our coach rather than walking, you’ll have more time to explore our rendezvous point at the end of each of these pilgrim walks.
Casa Batlló, Barcelona
We will meet in Barcelona.  It’s easy to reach and a great place to relax for few days before the tour starts. Our hotel there is within easy walking distance of the Barri Gothic, the most historic district in the heart of this outstanding city.  Wonderful examples of Gaudí’s work, such as the Sagrada Família, are close at hand.  There are tons of things to see and do there.

Golden Compass will organise our flight to Bilbao, where we will visit the Guggenheim Museum, one of those modern wonders of the world.  Our journey takes us to Navarre and to the La Rioja region, renowned for its fine wine, where we will visit Pamplona and Santo Domingo de la Calzada.  Both of these towns lie on the mediaeval pilgrim route, where we will have our first opportunity to walk along the Camino Francés.

Our journey then follows the coastal pilgrim route, the Camino del Norte, which introduces us to the spectacular Picos de Europa mountain range that runs from the Basque Country westwards through Cantabria, Asturias and finally into Galicia.  In so doing, we will visit fascinating mountain towns as well as picturesque fishing villages.  We learn about everyday life in these places as well as discovering their rich history, including tales from the Dark Ages about battles when the Moors were repelled.
 
Part of the Pilgrimage Route
Important towns such as León and Astorga are amongst those that we visit when we return to the Camino Francés.  The Ruta de la Plata can also be ticked off our list, as it converges with the Camino Francés on our approach to Astorga.  Before arriving at Santiago de Compostela, we will visit a number of charming towns such as Lugo, whose Roman walls still remain completely intact, more or less just as they were when this part of the world was known as the Roman province of Tarraconensis. 

Our arrival at Santiago de Compostela will be a special highlight for all of us, no matter what our individual motives may be for making such a pilgrimage.  The focal point for all pilgrims is the tomb of St James and the magnificent cathedral itself.  Before leaving Spain for Portugal, we will take a short walk along the Camino de Finisterre pilgrim route to the Atlantic coast, to the End of the World, as the Romans thought it to be!

 
Duoro River, Porto
Northern Portugal is known for its verdant countryside, stunning scenery and picturesque towns and villages. We will head for Braga, to visit a glorious sanctuary, Bom Jesus do Monte, in park-like grounds, encircled by woods and with panoramic views into the surrounding country from its elevated location. We continue on to Porto, Portugal’s second most important city with Celtic roots and with Roman and Moorish history. Modern-day Porto, which overlooks the Douro River at its Atlantic mouth, is best known for the production of port wine.  By the early 18th century, the English had acquired a taste for port wine.  For a number of centuries, English families established vineyards along the banks of the Douro River to cultivate grapes for the production of wine for export to the British Isles.  We will take the opportunity to view this vineyard landscape from the river itself, before sampling various local ports and wines.
 
Hugh Morgan
This journey is a great adventure, whether it be a pilgrimage or otherwise. We will stay in well-selected and comfortable accommodation throughout, many of the hotels being Paradores, buildings such as monasteries of national importance that have been converted into hotels of standing. With a skilfully-planned itinerary, comfortable coach and expert local guides, this will be a trip to remember.  

For 2017, we have also added the opportunity to explore the Balearic Islands of Menorca and Mallorca prior to our tour and the Portuguese countryside and capital, Lisbon following it. Many think of the Balearic Islands as tourist resorts for Europeans but they are really much more. We avoid the beaches to explore the rich historic sites, charming towns and villages of the mountainous interiors and enjoy some of the tasty local specialities. In Portugal, we visit the splendid university library of Coimbra and many of the extraordinary highlights in and around historic and architecturally pleasing Lisbon, adding just that little extra to our journey. 

Do come and join me on this tour of discovery.

Hugh Morgan
Golden Compass Program Leader

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2017 Guaranteed Departures

2017 Guaranteed Departures

We are very pleased to be able to guarantee the following tours for 2017.

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Discover Spain with Jone Gaillard - 14 September - 02 October 2017

Our Discover Spain program explores the historic links, cultures and religions of these two civilisations, as well as the great geographical and cultural diversity of Spain with its ancient and fascinating cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Granada and Seville, as well as its regions away from the traditional tourist beaches. 

 



 

Inclusive of field trips, local guides, gratuities and all meals.