There is no better time to experience northern Europe’s “best kept secret” than mid-summer. The weather is ideal, with generally perfect temperatures for enjoying the many outdoor musical and cultural activities that are celebrated all season long. Though having much in common, these three countries are distinguished by different language, history, ethnic origin, and cuisine. The capital cities of Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn, each with a unique character of cultural richness and beauty, have earned all three the designation as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites.
TRAVEL FOR WOMEN The Beautiful Baltic Capitals Baroque Vilnius and Seaside Palanga, Lithuania Art Nouveau Riga, Latvia Medieval Tallinn, Estonia Sunday, July 17 – Tuesday, July 26, 2011 (Overnight flights depart on Saturday, July 16) There is no better time to experience northern Europe’s “best kept secret” than mid-summer. The weather is ideal, with generally perfect temperatures for enjoying the many outdoor musical and cultural activities that are celebrated all season long. Though having much in common, these three countries are distinguished by different language, history, ethnic origin, and cuisine. The capital cities of Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn, each with a unique character of cultural richness and beauty, have earned all three the designation as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites. In the summer of 2011, the Baltic Folkloric Festival is scheduled to be hosted by Latvia, although celebrations will be held throughout the region from June through August. Our tour dates were selected to showcase a variation of cultural activities. Once the festivities are published in late spring, we may make some minor adjustments to the itinerary within our city stays to take advantage of concerts and special events as they become available. Experiencing the rich heritage of this region will be the highlight of the tour. http://www.awayforwomen.com Exciting Women INspiring / Women INspired Our tour will include several interesting WIN / WIN gatherings with local women who have an inspiring story to share. Such opportunities never fail to add a unique dimension to the travel experience, and profoundly enhance our cultural appreciation for one another. We sometimes meet in combination with the day’s touring, or perhaps over dinner, depending on schedules. Our WIN / WIN events are not only inspiring to all, but great fun, and will surely be a highlight of the tour. . Day-By-Day Day 1 – Sunday, July 17, 2011 Arrive Vilnius Airport Greeting and Transfer to Hotel Check-in and Relax Welcome Reception at Hotel We begin in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, a vibrant city that is within a few miles of the geographical center of Europe. Cobbled streets and stunning architecture, together with church domes and spires filling the skyline, make Vilnius incredibly picturesque. A great walking town, Vilnius offers a rich assortment of museums, monuments, and endless cultural entertainment. Its historical center, Old Town, is one of the largest in Eastern Europe with unique architectural features and more than 1500 buildings dating back centuries. We will schedule one group airport transfer in Vilnius based on the majority of flight arrival times which is usually in the early afternoon. (The transfer time will revert to the group flight time if we have a minimum of 10 travelers TBD). For those arriving at other times, a private transfer can be arranged for about 20 Euros. Once you collect your luggage, you will be met and swiftly transferred the short 7 km distance to Old Town where our boutique hotel, the four-star Artis Hotel is centrally located in a restored 19th century building. Guest rooms are charming, with modern amenities such as air conditioning, satellite TV, telephone, internet, mini bar, safe, and hair dryer in the bathroom. In the mornings, guests have complimentary access to the spa and fitness center which even has a small swimming pool. http://www.awayforwomen.com For those who arrive by late afternoon, we will lead an informal orientation stroll along Pilies Street to soak up the appealing atmosphere of Old Town Vilnius. Then at about 5:00 pm, we’ll meet just off the hotel lobby for a welcome reception with wine and heavy hors d’hoeuvres – a lighter option to dinner after a long day of travel. Enjoy the camaraderie of your fellow travelers while your tour leader reviews the highlights of the coming days. Day 2 – Monday, July 18, 2011 Vilnius Breakfast at the Hotel Morning Sightseeing Tour Afternoon and Lunch at Leisure Dinner in Old Town Today you will learn why Vilnius is the only capital in Europe situated on the boundary of two ancient civilizations, Latin and Byzantine. From our prime location in Old Town, we will visit Cathedral Square, the heart of the city since the Middle Ages. We’ll pass by the majestic Cathedral (now a Basilica) and graceful Bell Tower. Rising above the square is a symbol of the city, the Castle Tower of the Grand Duke Gediminas, who founded Vilnius in the 14th century. We’ll also see the tiny Church of St. Anne, a masterpiece of late gothic architecture and the most impressive landmark in Old Town. Legend has it that Napoleon Bonaparte was so taken with its beauty that he wanted to take it back to Paris “in the palm of his hand.” Representing the beautiful Renaissance heritage of the city is the 16th century Gate of Dawn and its revered Black Madonna painting. Other highlights of the morning are the Presidential Palace, the Jewish Quarter, Town Hall Square and Vilnius University (the oldest in the Baltics, established 1579, and containing one of only 4 observatories in Europe). A visit to the Amber Gallery includes a fascinating explanation on Lithuania’s number one souvenir, “Baltic gold,” which was formed at the bottom of the sea some 50 million years ago. Amber is found in only a few other locations in the world, but it is the amber from the Baltic Sea that is considered the best. To this day, small pieces can still be found on the seacoast after a stormy night. The afternoon is yours to enjoy a closer look at the attractions of the city. A walk along cobbled Pilies Street presents an abundance of lovely outdoor cafes and shops. Your guide will be on hand to offer additional suggestions on what to see and do. In the evening, we’ll regroup for dinner in Old Town, and perhaps a concert depending on the summer festival schedule. http://www.awayforwomen.com Day 3 – Tuesday, July 19, 2011 Vilnius Breakfast at the Hotel Morning Tour of Trakai Castle with Lunch Sailboat Cruise on the Lake Afternoon and Evening at Leisure The 12th century town of Trakai, just 28 km west of Vilnius, was the original old capital and an important military and political center. Located between hills, forests and lakes, Trakai is also famous for its picturesque landscape. We will sail on beautiful Lake Galve before touring the restored and resplendent Trakai Castle. The furnishings are long gone, but it houses a Museum of History and offers spectacular views from the upper floor. Afterwards, lunch will be served at a café overlooking the lake. When we return to Vilnius, the rest of the day is at leisure. Tonight you are free to savor the local flavors of Lithuanian cuisine. Old town overflows with inviting restaurants and outdoor cafes, many with live music. Our guide will have lots of suggestions and will keep us advised of any festival activities as the schedule becomes known. Day 4 – Wednesday, July 20, 2011 Vilnius / Kaunas / Palanga Breakfast at the Hotel and Check out Tour of Pazaislis Monastery Sightseeing in Kaunas with Lunch On Own Hotel Check-in at Palanga Dinner near the Pier Our drive to the coast today will cover about 200 miles on highways that are superbly maintained by the government of Lithuania. Along the way, we will make several stops. Just before we reach the city of Kaunas, we’ll tour a monastery with a remarkable history. Dating from the late 1600’s, the complex has housed Napoleon’s army, a German hospital and Soviet offices. It is now a convent with extraordinary art treasures that somehow survived decades of pillaging. We will see ornate wood carvings, pink marble columns, valuable frescoes and oil paintings of Italian origin that are on display in the magnificent chapel. A short distance beyond is Kaunas, the second largest city and the prior capital of Lithuania in the early 20th century. Driving along the central avenue of Liberty Street, we’ll get an overview of its history before stopping for lunch. As soon as we’re back on the road, it’s only two and a half hours to the resort capital of Palanga, a small seaside town of immense charm. We will stay in the five-star Hotel Vanagupe, Each of the 98 guest rooms are elegantly furnished, complete with air-conditioning, telephone, minibar, safe, internet access, and the added luxury of heated bathroom floors and Austrian bathrobes made of the softest fabric. Recreation facilities include an outdoor pool, tennis courts, and a wellness center with gym, sauna and Jacuzzi. You can also rent a bike – very popular in Palanga – and follow one of the many excellent bicycle lanes through the pine forests and along the seashore. With fantastic beaches of soft white sand, the intoxicating scent of pine woods, and a vibrant night life, Palanga is the ideal spot for a few days of relaxation. We’ll enjoy dinner http://www.awayforwomen.com in an outdoor restaurant tonight that is beautifully landscaped with blossoming flowers, a fish pond and waterfalls. The summer sun sets late on the Baltic Sea – well past 9 pm in July – and a leisurely stroll after dinner to the Palanga Pier is not to be missed. Day 5 – Thursday, July 21, 2011 Palanga Breakfast at the Hotel Morning Tour of Tiskevicius Palace Visit the Amber Museum Lunch at Leisure Afternoon Tour to Klaipeda and the Curonian Spit Dolphin Show at the Sea Museum Free Night for Dinner in Palanga After a leisurely start to the morning, we’ll gather for a visit to nearby Tiskevicius Palace. An imposing 19th century estate with botanical gardens containing over 200 species of plants, the palace also houses the largest amber museum in Europe. Afterwards we’ll return to the hotel for a few hours of relaxation. In the afternoon we’ll take a trip to the world famous Curonian Spit, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The spit is a unique and natural sand bar, running 98 km long, with the Baltic Sea on one side and a freshwater lagoon on the other. Its ownership is shared between Lithuania and Russia. On the way, we’ll stop in Klaipeda, an ice-free seaport (due to the salt content in the sea) with a fabulous history and traces of German culture in its old town. A seven minute ferry ride brings us to the Spit and a short drive to the Sea Museum in time for the dolphin show. Take a ringside seat for the 45 minute performance. Or for a unique perspective, remain on the lower level for a close-up view of an amazingly synchronized underwater ballet. When we return to Palanga, enjoy a free evening for dinner and numerous options for outdoor musical entertainment. Day 6 – Friday, July 22, 2011 Palanga / Riga Breakfast at the Hotel and Check-out Visit the Hill of Crosses Lunch in a Local Restaurant Afternoon Tour of Rundele Palace in Latvia Hotel Check-in Dinner in Old Town Riga Today’s travel to Latvia will cover about five hours of driving that we will break up with several fascinating visits to local monuments. The first one, while still in Lithuania, is the Hill of Crosses. Thousands of straight and tilting crosses, small and large, have been erected here as far back as 1831, when participants of an anti-czarist uprising were buried here. Later, the site became a http://www.awayforwomen.com riveting symbol of spiritual resistance in Soviet times, and was honored by a cross from Pope John Paul II when he visited Lithuania in 1993. Today, visitors of all faiths stop here to purchase a small, carved wooden cross and inscribe a personal message before adding theirs to the collection. The cross-carving, having old traditions in Lithuania, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as one of the most original spiritual crafts. After lunch we cross the Latvian border. Within an hour we arrive at Rundale Palace, the luxurious 18th century summer residence of royalty. The magnificent Baroque interior now houses a rich exposition of paintings and furnishings. Following a guided tour, there will be some time to visit the ornate gardens. By 6 pm, we will arrive in Riga, the “Paris of the Baltics.” As the largest and most cosmopolitan town in the Baltics, Riga is also one of the largest centers of Art Nouveau architecture, rivaling both Paris and Vienna. More than a third of the buildings in its Central District (over 800) are built in this distinctive style. The city is simple gorgeous. Our four-star boutique hotel, the Hotel Justus, is located in the historical center of Riga’s Old Town, where narrow streets open up onto large, vibrant squares filled with outdoor cafes, wonderful aromas, festive laughter, and musical entertainment. The hotel was renovated in 2009 so that each of the 45 cozy guest rooms are uniquely designed to embrace the charm of genuine interior brickwork. Each room has air conditioning, flat-screen satellite TV, telephone, high-speed internet access, minibar, safe, and a hair dryer in the bathroom. The public areas are decorated with lovely art objects, both antique and contemporary. The exterior architecture of the hotel makes it a favorite shooting location of Soviet film-makers. After you are settled in your room, we’ll meet for a brief orientation walk as we stroll through Old Town to dinner in a café in one of the grand outdoor squares. With the Latvian folkloric festival anticipated to be in full swing on this weekend, we are sure to enjoy the ambiance on our first evening here. Old Riga is known to be as lively at midnight as it is during the day. Day 7 – Saturday, July 23, 2011 Riga Breakfast at the Hotel Morning Tour of Riga Afternoon and Lunch at Leisure Free Night for Dinner Optional Concert Performances We start today with a close-up tour of the real treasure of this city – the Art Nouveau district. No other city in the world has preserved so many fine examples of buildings made in this style. Other highlights of the city that we’ll see include the 13th century Gothic Dome Cathedral, St. Peter’s Church – an impressive feature of the Riga skyline since the Dark Ages, the House of Blackheads on Town Hall Square, Old Riga Synagogue, the Small and Big Guild Houses, Swedish Gate, and the Freedom Monument. Latvians have a strong passion for music, especially opera. The first building renovated after the Soviets were ousted was the National Opera House, in an effort to recapture their national identity. It was in Riga that the young Richard Wagner started composing his opera, “The Flying http://www.awayforwomen.com Dutchman,” which made him famous. And depending on the schedule of festivities while we’re here, we will organize optional concerts based on interest, perhaps an opera or a classical performance in one of the acoustically-superb churches. Day 8: Sunday, July 24, 2011 Riga / Tallinn Breakfast at the Hotel and Check-out Tour of Turaida Castle Complex Lunch in a Local Restaurant Hotel Check-in Dinner in Old Town Tallinn In the morning we leave Riga and continue north, stopping very soon in Sigulada, a green mountain area so picturesque that it is referred to as the Latvian Switzerland. Located here on a hill overlooking the River Gauja is the 13th century red brick Turaida Castle, one of only three medieval castles in the area that survives today. Our tour of this historic complex – the most visited site in Latvia – includes a sculpture park, an 18th century Lutheran church that is one of oldest wooden churches in Latvia, and a Stone Age exhibit with tools, weapons, jewelry and coins dating back to the original inhabitants of the area. These, in addition to the castle tour, offer a fascinating glimpse into what life was like here in the Middle Ages. After a stop for lunch while still in the Latvian countryside, we will continue on to Estonia. This is the longest day of our tour, with about 4.5 hours of afternoon driving along the deeply forested main highway. Arriving in the capital of Tallinn, you will be struck by the architectural diversity of styles, from the 13th century through to today. One can still see the original perimeter wall with 26 turreted defense towers that remain in superb condition. As the European Capital of Culture for 2011, Tallinn will be rolling out the red carpet to welcome the world to Estonia. The city was first recorded in 1154, making it the oldest capital in northern Europe. Its Old Town, where we will be staying, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best-preserved medieval town centers in the world. What is truly unique about the five-star Baltic Imperial Hotel is that it was built against the historic town wall in 1877, portions of which can be seen inside the hotel. Completely renovated in 2003, our boutique hotel is just a short walk from Town Hall Square and the heart of Old Town. Each of the 32 comfortable guest rooms are air-conditioned and equipped with satellite TV, direct dial telephone, free Internet access, minibar and hair dryer in the bathroom. The lower level has a sauna with Jacuzzi and fireplace for relaxation. After check in, we’ll stroll through the narrow streets of Old Town Tallinn to a dynamic town square near the hotel where dinner will be served in a cozy restaurant. The area is a joy to explore, with charming cafes, shopping boutiques, art galleries and history galore. http://www.awayforwomen.com Day 9: Monday, July 25, 2011 Breakfast at Hotel Sightseeing Tour of Tallinn with Lunch Afternoon at Leisure Farewell Dinner in Old Town The symbol of Tallinn is its Town Hall, the only surviving gothic hall in all of northern Europe. We’ll pass it on our way to visit the country’s oldest church, the Lutheran Dome Cathedral, which was built in 1233 and showcases a superb Baroque altar. From a high point over the city, we’ll get the full scenic view of Old Town and its turrets. Other highlights include the Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Church, the 18th century Kadriorg Palace of Peter the Great and the Song Festival Grounds, site of the 1988 Singing Revolution. This historic gathering of Estonians to courageously sing patriotic hymns led to the overthrow of Soviet rule. Following lunch in a typical Estonian café, you will be free in Old Town for the rest of the afternoon. Later we’ll meet for a festive farewell dinner in a special location. Day 10: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 Breakfast at Hotel and Check-out Transfer to the Airport for Flights Home As most flights depart early in the morning, we will arrange a group transfer to the airport based on the majority of the group’s flight schedules. For those leaving later in the day, we will assist in pairing you up to share a taxi for the short ride to the airport. Reminder: Our itinerary is subject to minor revisions in order to take advantage of Baltic Folkloric Festival activities that won’t be published until a few months before the tour. We promise an exciting program! ITINERARY 3 nights Vilnius, Lithuania 2 nights Palanga, Lithuania 2 nights Riga, Latvia 2 nights Tallinn, Estonia TRAVEL OPTIONS Price is based on Land Only. Tour begins in Vilnius (Airport Code VNO) Tour ends in Tallinn (Airport Code TLL) (Discounted Group Air Fare from NYC Available). http://www.awayforwomen.com PRICE $2,499 per person, double occupancy $ 375 single supplement (limited) All gratuities included! No extra tipping. PAYMENTS $600 Deposit due upon booking Balance due 90 days out (4/15/11) (Group Air will require additional deposit). INCLUDES Luxury & Boutique Accommodations In Old Town Vilnius at the Artis Hotel **** In Palanga Beach Resort at the Vanagupe Hotel ***** In Old Town Riga at the Justus Hotel **** In Old Town Tallinn Baltic Imperial Hotel ***** Superb Local Cuisine with Accent on Variety 9 Breakfasts at the Hotels (daily) 4 Lunches while Sightseeing 1 Welcome Reception with Wine and Heavy Hors d’Hoeuvres (Arrival Night) 5 Additional Dinners in Lovely Local Restaurants Wine with 2 Dinners Private Ground Transportation Roundtrip Airport/Hotel Transfer per Group Flight Schedule Private Sightseeing in Modern, Air-Conditioned Motorcoach Baggage Handling at the Airport and the Hotels Private, Guided Sightseeing Tours In Vilnius: Old Town Tour with Cathedral Square, Church of St. Anne, Gate of Dawn, Presidental Palace, Jewish Quarter, Town Hall Square and Vilnius University Tour of Amber Gallery Half-day Visit to Trakai with Castle Tour and Sailing on Lake Galve Visit to Pazaislis Monastery and Sightseeing along Liberty Street in Kaunas In Palanga: Tour of Tiskevicius Palace, the Botanical Gardens and Amber Museum City Tour of Klaipeda and the Port Ferry to Curonian Spit with Dolphin Show at the Sea Museum http://www.awayforwomen.com En Route to Riga Vist to the Hill of Crosses Tour of Rundale Palace In Riga: Old Town Tour with the Art Nouveau district, Dome Cathedral, St. Peter’s Church, the House of Blackheads, Town Hall Square, Old Riga Synagogue, Guild Houses, Swedish Gate and Freedom Monument Visit to Turaida Castle in the Latvian Switzerland Region In Tallinn: Old Town Tour with Town Hall, Dome Cathedral, Alexander Nevksy Russian Orthodox Church, Kadriorg Palace of Peter the Great, and the Song Festival Grounds Senior Staffing On-Site Professional, licensed guides throughout Escort from Away For Women QUALITY & SAFETY ASSURANCE 24-hour emergency hotline $2 million tour operator’s professional liability insurance AFW is a proud member of the National Tour Association NOT INCLUDED International Air Other Meals and Cocktails Personal Incidentals Optional Activities not included in Itinerary Travel Insurance (highly recommended) Discretionary Tips to the Drivers and Local Tour Guides DOCUMENTS Valid Passport for Airport Security ACTIVITY LEVEL Moderate, with Walking on Cobbled Streets and Uneven Surfaces http://www.awayforwomen.com \ CHANGES Occasionally we may find it necessary to make minor adjustments to the itinerary due to such unforeseen circumstances as weather, detours, construction, local traffic issues, etc., or the chance to take advantage of a new and better option. In the unlikely event of a change in hotel, one of equal or better class will be substituted to ensure the guaranteed quality of your travel experience with Away For Women, LLC. About Away For Women Today’s women want more from the travel experience than the usual sights, sounds and flavors of a destination. We look to connect with one another in new ways, to share in the delight of cultural discovery, to interact with women globally, and to enjoy the exclusive rewards that touring with like-minded women so beautifully delivers. We think of this enriched vision of travel as: TAGS: for women travel, tours for women, travel for women, travel groups for women, trips for women, vacations for women, woman tour, women getaways, women tours, women traveling, women vacation http://www.awayforwomen.com
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