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Train travel - USA

Take a train to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Highlights

  • Two of the most beautiful train routes in the USA

  • Experience the largest balloon festival in the world

  • Discover Mesa Verde National Park’s trail of history

  • Guided excursions to the most exciting sights

  • Includes eight meals

Description

Witches, mushrooms, buses, cartoon characters, and cows the size of a house — what sounds like a visit to an amusement park attraction is the "Special Shape Rodeo" of the annual Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. Every year, more than 700 balloonists come here and offer around 100,000 visitors an unforgettable spectacle. We'll take you on a 9-day train journey to the world's largest hot air balloon event.

Destination

North America

Grand Zephyr - Grand Junction - Mesa Verde NP - Durango - Albuquerque

Seasoned train travelers say the California Zephyr traverses one of the most beautiful train routes in all of North America. The daily route travels between Chicago and San Francisco through the middle of the American Rockies. Your trip begins in Chicago or San Francisco, where you’ll board the California Zephyr, where you will head toward your destination in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Travel time: Chicago - Grand Junction: approx. 815 km / San Francisco - Grand Junction: approx. 700 km

1 night onboard the California Zephyr in the coach compartment, USA.

Onboard the California Zephyr, you can enjoy your start to the day while the train majestically makes its way through the unique landscape of the Rocky Mountains. When you arrive in Grand Junction, the afternoon and evening are at your disposal.

Grand Junction is the number one wine region in Colorado because of its 20 wineries amidst the beautiful red rock canyons. Other stunning highlights are the Colorado National Monument, the high alpine landscape of the world's largest table mountain, the Grand Mesa, and the Colorado River.

1 night at DoubleTree by Hilton**** (or similar) in a standard room, Grand Junction, USA

Countless arched rock formations that formed over the past millions of years by water, ice, and extreme temperatures are now the main attraction of Arches National Park. Massive stone arches, balancing boulders, mighty stone pillars, and rows of oversized rock slats await you. On your guided tour through the park, you will experience contrasting colors, rock formations, and textures you can’t find anywhere else.

Then it's on to Moab for lunch! Visit one of the largest and most diverse archaeological centers in the United States. Mesa Verde remains one of the most important places for today's Pueblo Indians. The Anasazi Heritage Center (AHC) exhibits archaeologically valuable finds from the prehistoric Anasazi settlements, which were found with the construction of the McPhee Dam in the 1970s and 1980s. In collaboration with Colorado University, a unique rescue project began to rescue these artifacts, the most valuable of which are now on display at the AHC.

At the end of this eventful day, you will climb a hill in Mesa Verde National Park, check into your hotel, and enjoy your dinner with an impressive view of the unique surroundings.

Travel time: approx. 402 km

1 night at Far View Lodge*** (or similar) with dinner in a standard room, Mesa Verde National Park, USA

Your day begins with a refreshing breakfast before embarking on a sightseeing tour of Mesa Verde National Park. The “green table” is the most historically significant national park in the USA and is on a densely wooded high plateau (approx. 600m). The national park offers exciting insights into the life of the Ancestral Pueblo People (Anasazi), who lived here for over 700 years from 550 to 1300 AD. Today, the park protects almost 5000 archaeologically valuable sites, including 600 cliff dwellings (the Anasazi’s housing) — some of the best-preserved in the United States of America.

After the sightseeing tour, continue to Durango, where you will spend the next two days.

Travel time: approx. 81 km

2 nights at Strater Hotel*** (or similar) with breakfast in a standard room, Durango, USA

Embark on a train journey into the past. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad runs through Durango and is one of the most scenic train routes in the world. Feel the history come alive on this spectacular adventure aboard the historical train that has been in operation since 1882. Discover Colorado at its best on the train ride through the breathtaking canyons of the San Juan National Park’s remote 800,000-acre wilderness. The train journey ends at Silverton, where you will have plenty of time for lunch, shopping, or sightseeing before driving to Ouray. Drive on the Million Dollar Highway, which once attracted visitors because of the large silver deposits, but today, the breathtaking landscape. In the old mining town, you can hike in the footsteps of the old silver mine before heading back to Durango in the evening.

Today you’ll leave Colorado and arrive in New Mexico. Drive past picturesque landscapes, through charming Spanish villages and towns, and make your first stop at Rancho de Chimayo. For lunch, enjoy a meal in this 18th-century hacienda and learn about when the Spanish settlers lived here.

After lunch, continue to a weaving mill where you can watch the famous manufacturers create various fabrics. You will also visit the “Santuario de Chimayo,” a church from the 18th century. Many visitors, believers, and pilgrims come here because of the “healing earth” and take something home with them.

You will finally reach New Mexico's capital Santa Fe and can stroll around the old town to your heart's content.

Travel time: approx. 360 km

1 night at the Inn & Spa of Loretto**** (or similar) with lunch and breakfast in a standard room, Santa Fe, USA

Today you will first take a walk through Santa Fe. You will learn more about the city’s history and the Spanish colonial rulers who laid the foundation stone for Santa Fe in 1610. Begin your tour at the central historic Central Plaza and the Governor's Palace. It’s the oldest public building in the USA and an impressive witness to the first settlement of New Mexico. You'll also see the Loretto Chapel and San Miguels, the city's oldest church.

In the early afternoon, you will go to the Rail Runner's depot and embark on the fascinating journey across Indian villages to Albuquerque. Once you arrive, you’ll head to your hotel, where you can freshen up before an early dinner. Treat yourself to a good night's sleep, because tomorrow you have to get up early.

Travel time: approx. 105 km

2 nights at the Marriott Uptown Hotel*** (or similar) with dinner and breakfast in a standard room, Albuquerque, USA

Set your alarm clock before sunrise this morning! It's worth it because you’ll get to see “Dawn Patrol” on the festival grounds outside Albuquerque. At Dawn Patrol, five to six balloons rise a few meters to check the wind conditions. Like oversized light bulbs, the balloons “hang” over your heads in the sky and illuminate the darkness.

Enjoy a delicious breakfast at the Club Lounge. As soon as you can, however, you should take the opportunity to run across the grounds. Chat with balloonists everywhere, watch the preparations for take-off, and capture photos of the stunning sights. As the hustle and bustle slowly increase, the balloons begin to fill with propane. One balloon after the other rises until you can barely see the sky. Up to 700 balloons of all shapes, colors and sizes participate in the festival every year.

After the balloons leave the grounds, head back to Albuquerque for a sightseeing tour. Among other things, you will visit the Pueblo Cultural Center and witness a ceremonial dance. After a tour of the old town, head back to your hotel to rest.

In the evening, head back to the festival grounds. This time for the highlight: the night glow. All balloons are fired up, and their light illuminates the area. Unforgettable moments!

Your trip through the American Southwest is drawing to a close. If you are interested in extending your vacation, contact us today!

California Zephyer, USA (1 night)

Since 1949, the train has connected Chicago, Illinois, with Emeryville, California, on a 2532 mile route that covers the ground in three days. The trip's highlights include driving through Byers, Gore, Glenwood Canyon, and the Moffat Tunnel, the highest point on the route network. The journey leads up to an altitude of 2850 meters.

Depending on the booked category, comfortable armchairs are available in the open-plan compartments (coach), which you can tilt and convert into reclining chairs if necessary. In the sleeping car of the second class (roomette), you can move freely in your compartment and look forward to two comfortable seats with adjustable backrests. These chairs are arranged on both sides of the panorama window, and you can turn them into a comfortable bed at night. Above that, there’s also a fold-down sleeping area. The sleeping cars in the first class (bedroom) have a large sofa and a seat with adjustable backrests. The couch turns into a comfortable bed, and you can unfold the couch from above. There are also separate, self-contained toilets, sinks, and showers.

DoubleTree by Hilton****, Grand Junction, USA (1 night)

DoubleTree by Hilton welcomes you in a central location as one of the best properties in town. The newly renovated hotel has 237 bright and attractive rooms, a cozy restaurant, bar, lobby, fitness center, reception, and several conference rooms. The free shuttle service takes you to the city's attractions within five miles of the hotel.

The guest rooms offer a bath, shower/toilet, air conditioning, telephone, flat-screen TV, minibar, safe, tea and coffee maker, and radio with MP3 connection.

Far View Lodge***, Mesa Verde National Park, USA (1 night)

The only place to stay in Mesa Verde National Park is on Navajo Hill, which offers beautiful region views. Facilities include a restaurant, bar, souvenir shop, restaurant, and a tour desk.

The 150 guest rooms are spread over several buildings and have a bath/shower, WC, hairdryer, telephone, WiFi, coffee and tea makers, and a balcony or terrace with a stunning view.

Strater Hotel***, Durango, USA (2 nights)

The historic Strater Hotel, built in 1887, is one of the most famous in Durango. The hotel exudes a cozy atmosphere because of its lovely furniture and handcrafted furniture. The 93 individually designed rooms feature Victorian antiques and modern amenities such as air conditioning, a television, and a telephone.

Inn & Spa of Loretto****, Santa Fe, USA (1 night)

The Inn & Spa at Loretto is at the end of the historic Santa Fe Trail, surrounded by the scenic Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It nestles in the heart of Santa Fe, just a short walk from the city's famous galleries, museums, and Artist Row on Canyon Road. Can you already feel the spirit of the local artist community?

Thanks to the incomparable combination of location, unique charm, and loving soul, the Inn & Spa at Loretto has achieved real fame as one of Santa Fe’s most famous accommodations. Visit this inspiring hotel and let the atmosphere enchant you.

Marriott Uptown Hotel, Albuquerque, USA (2 nights)

This accommodation is in the heart of the dining and shopping district and steps from Winrock Mall, Coronado Mall, and ABQ Uptown. Numerous restaurants and the city center is just a few minutes walk away.

Duration of the trip: 9 days / 8 nights

Including

  • 1 night on the California Zephyr in an open-plan compartment (coach)

  • 7 nights in the mentioned hotels or similar

  • 8 meals according to the program

  • Guided tours according to the program, including entrance fees

  • Admission to Albuquerque's International Balloon Fiesta, including Dawn Patrol, Mass Start, and Night Glow

  • Train excursion to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

  • Tour guide

Excluding

  • Flights

  • Meals and drinks not mentioned in the scope of services

  • Personal expenses, such as tips and minibars

  • Insurance

  • Entry fees, if required

Notes

  • Please note that meals are included during the train journey if you upgrade to a roomette or bedroom. Your travel advisor will be happy to provide you with further details.

  • We'd be happy to help you plan a night in Chicago before you leave. Talk to our travel advisor today!

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