Western Highlights

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Western Highlights

from £948
Duration: 9 days
Countries: United States of America
If you want to make the most of your time in this region and actually see a thing or two, the Western Highlights is calling out your name. San Diego, Sonoran Desert, Phoenix, the Grand Canyon, Route 66, & Vegas will soon be clogging up your Instagram account!

Western Highlights

Start in Los Angeles and end in Las Vegas!

Everybody's guilty of some sweet, innocent California dreaming, which makes a two-day, San Diego sun-n-surf stop, a great western start. Continue on to the Grand Canyon, a desert phenomenon in Arizona. And later in Nevada, with party people and poker champs, we'll show our hand…..your final destination is Sin City itself, Las Vegas.


Meet up with your Contiki Team this morning then cruise down the star-studded Hollywood boulevard and the Sunset Strip, shop or chill at Santa Monica and get the into the energy of Venice Beach.



We cruise south along the Pacific coastline to laid-back San Diego. Get a feel for the city’s easy-going vibes with a look around San Diego’s vibrant neighborhoods. In Old Town, your Trip Manager will give you the story behind the original pueblo (village), with its Adobe buildings (made of brick, straw and mud) and show you the 19th century buildings of the Gaslamp Quarter’s. You’ll also see Balboa Park, which holds the largest urban cultural park in the USA and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Tonight, make your first night on trip one to remember and get to know the group over dinner before heading out for a fun night exploring the Gaslamp District’s funky live music venues or one of the many cool bars.


With a full day in San Diego, live a bit of the California lifestyle and get into some outdoor activities. With 42 miles of beaches, a Mediterranean climate and loads of parks, San Diego is all about kicking back in the pleasant surrounds. Otherwise, visit the San Diego Zoo, known for its conservation efforts and vast numbers of animals (over 4000!) If the weather is good, we’ll cruise out to the locals’ favorite spot, Mission Beach, for a few hours soaking up the sun or walking along the boardwalk for views of ocean. Don’t forget your towel and swimmers.


Things are about to get hotter as we head to Phoenix, a massive metropolis sitting smack in the middle of the desert. With around 300 days of sunshine per year, this place is all about shopping, sports and nightlife.


Kick start the day with an unforgettable optional excursion: a hot-air balloon ride over the Sonoran Desert and “Valley of the Sun”. The combination of full blown vistas over the desert and a champagne breakfast upon landing make this an amazing experience. We continue deeper into the Wild West as we head to stunning Sedona. Chill out and watch the region’s recognizable red rock cliffs, rugged spires and mesas (flat-topped rock formations) go by from the coach. Your Trip Manager will tell you about this eco-friendly town that is also known for its high-energy red rocks. There’s a chance to explore this stunning red rock country with our Local Guide on an optional 4WD tour through the historic canyons. Learn local legends and even pick up a piece of Native American jewelery. We continue on to the mind-blowing landscape of the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s most recognizable natural wonders and pride of Arizona.


A day here means time to take in the immensity and spine-tingling beauty of the scene-stealing Canyon – it has got a rep for a reason! This morning get up close to this UNESCO World Heritage site on an optional helicopter ride and get another angle on the Canyon as you fly over it. Hike along the South Rim for mind-blowing vistas of the dramatic scenery. See some of the oldest exposed rocks on earth, take in the deep abyss and soak up the wildness of the area. There are trails for all levels of hiking, so take it up a notch or cruise along at your own pace. Wrap up the day with a canyon sunset and take in the stunning changes of light while the sun goes down.


Leaving behind the Grand Canyon, we stop off at Seligman, an historic Route 66 town. Get a feel for the old style as you check out 1940’s shop fronts and motels. Maybe pick up a souvenir for back home. Then following a section of the legendary Route 66, we head north. With down time on the coach, plug in your MP3, catch on some sleep or chat with your friends. Get ready to arrive in larger-than-life Las Vegas – a man-made entertainment oasis smack in the middle of the desert. Often dubbed Sin City, it’s all about glitz, neon lights, and excess. See the bright lights of this city and its world-famous casinos in a first taste of Vegas kitsch as the group heads down the main drag, the “Strip”, and your Trip Manager fills you in on the story behind Vegas. Then cruise downtown to Freemont Street and experience a slice of the spectacular at a light and laser show in a massive pedestrian mall.


With a free day, you’ve got time to get a real feel for this outrageous town, so keep an eye out for Elvis impersonators and fast-paced chapel weddings! Explore more of the Strip and check out over-the-top versions of international icons, like the Eiffel Tower, Venetian canals and gondolas, a Roman temple or the pyramid, whose nightlight can be seen from the moon. Try your luck at one of the casinos, sit yourself down at a blackjack table and watch the high-rollers or go for a ride at one of the casino’s theme-parks. If you work up an appetite, tuck into an all you can eat buffet, and lunch American style. For something different, discover Las Vegas’ trademark art at the Neon Museum and for a look into this town’s atomic heyday in the 50s, visit the Atomic Testing Museum. Tonight, get some pointers on Las Vegas’ hot spots from your Trip Manager and make the most of this towns’ 24/7 action with some of your new friends.


Say goodbye to the party in the desert as your US adventure wraps up and it’s time to say farewell to your new friends.

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Further Details

More information about this gap year opportunity...

Price details:

from £948


Call 0333 333 9923 to enquire or book


8 nights accommodation: 6 nights in twin-share hotels, 2 nights in a twin-share lodge
An experienced & professional Trip Manager & Driver team
Modern, air-conditioned coach with powerpoints for charging
9 meals: 5 breakfasts & 4 dinners

This tour offers Vegetarian, Vegan, Halal and Kosher food options on request.


Drive through the O.C. & along the scenic Pacific Coast
See downtown San Diego, the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park, Coronado Island & Old Town San Diego
Panoramic view of the city’s skyline from Coronado Bridge
Visit Mission Beach (weather permitting)
Go loco as you feast on traditional Mexican cuisine
Scenic drive through Cleveland National Forest, the Anza Borrego and Sonoran deserts
Drive the scenic route through “Red Rock” country
Shop for Native American jewelery
Drive through beautiful Oak Creek Canyon
Visit Grand Canyon National Park
Hike along the Canyon’s South Rim
Capture incredible photos with a visit to a panoramic viewpoint
Stop for photos & souvenirs along Route 66
Evening tour of the famous Vegas ‘Strip’
Visit Fremont Street & see the light-and-laser show
Experience some of the world’s largest hotels & casinos
Non-stop nightlife
Live it up Vegas-style with a limo ride & champagne (Until April 2017)
Go wild in Vegas with a Party Bus (From April 2017)


Speedboat Adventure (USD $57.00)

San Diego Zoo (USD $42.00)
Visit the world’s largest zoo, complete with tram tour!

Surf Lesson (Seasonal) (USD $65.00)
Love getting out in the water? With our qualified instructor, you will quickly master the basics of surfing in no time. Get the essential skills from our expert so you’re in the know, then hit the water for a fun & different experience, San Diego style

Hot Air Balloon (USD $170.00)
Experience an unforgettable flight over the beautiful landscape of the Sonoran desert. Ballooning is an exhilarating experience for everyone! The flight concludes with a champagne continental breakfast.

Jeep Tours (USD $57.00)
Four-wheel-drive jeeps driven by professional guides take you around the back country of Sedona, a town noted for its incredible red rock formations set amidst pine forests. Enjoy Old West hospitality as you journey through these historic canyons.

Lower J on 4WD jeep tour

Grand Canyon Biking (seasonal) (USD $49.00)
The tour begins on the newly constructed, vehicle free Greenway and provides riders the chance to learn about the unique botany of The Grand Canyon. It’s sure to be an unforgettable moment as riders emerge from the forest for their first views of the cany

Helicopter Flight - Imperial (USD $289.00)

Helicopter Flight - North Canyon (USD $199.00)

Group Photo (USD $15.00)
Capture the memory of your Contiki tour forever with a photo of you, your group and your Contiki staff.

Cirque du’ Soleil show (USD $85.00)

High Roller Anytime (USD $32.00)

About StudentUniverse

StudentUniverse has been supplying the best flight, hotel and tours deals to students around the world for years now and we’re delighted to be the preferred travel partner of gapyear.com and to make your travel experience even more amazing.

We have a great team of travel gurus that understand what a gap year is all about just waiting to help you, and since we are part of the Flight Centre Travel Group we are able to offer the best flights, gap year packages, hostels, tours, volunteer placements and insurance - the works. This is not your average travel agency, it’s the ultimate backpacker travel agency.

If you’d like to get in touch to chat about your travels, even if you’re in the preliminary stages and you’d just like some advice, give us a call on 0333 333 9923 or submit an enquiry to StudentUniverse – we’d love to hear from you.

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