From legend and lore, dramatic history and jaw-dropping architecture, these remarkable castles and citadels are spectacular destinations on our adventures. Join us to experience these regal ancient landmarks—and get a taste of royal life as we stay in an atmospheric château and a former palace of a maharaja.
On our adventure, Japan: Castles, Samurais, and Legends, we visit Okayama Castle, known as the “Castle of the Crow” because of its black exterior, as well as Himeji Castle, known as the “White Egret Castle” for its resemblance to a bird taking flight. Both are spectacular displays of Japanese castle architecture. Himeji Castle, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Japan, is a network of 83 buildings built in the mid-14th century that have never been damaged by war, earthquake, or fire.
Imposing turrets, dramatic castle walls, and a history steeped in legend—the Czech Republic is what fairytales are made of. On our journey, From Bratislava to Prague, we explore the 13th century Cesky Krumlov Castle, set picturesquely in a river’s bend, with incredible Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque features. In northern Prague, another fairytale complex emerges: The Prague Castle. One of the largest castle complexes in the world and spread over 18 acres, the Prague Castle is comprised of spectacular courtyards, gardens, and historic buildings and has been the official residence of the Head of State since the 9th century.
What was once the former home of the Maharaja of Jaipur is now a lovely hotel that we get to call home while on our Royal Rajasthan cultural tour. Built in 1835, the palace offers a grand entrance—by horse-drawn carriage—and each of its 78 guest rooms are all fit for royalty. You’re likely to see peacocks roam the gardens during sunrise and sunset and the atmospheric hotel bar is a wonderful place to enjoy a nightcap.
The medieval citadel, La Cité, of Carcassone, is absolutely extraordinary. Its massive walls—nearly two miles around—encircle more than 52 towers, a wonderfully preserved Gothic church, and marvelous historic buildings. On our Hiking in the Land of the Cathars adventure, we explore this site by day, and later retreat to our hotel set inside the city walls, right next to the Grand Basilica.
Spend a night like royalty at the exquisite Château de la Treyne, one of the highlights of our journey, Prehistoric Caves and Great Cuisine of Southern France. This 14th century château has a magical setting overlooking the Dordogne River and is surrounded by a formal French garden lined with century-old cedars and nearly 300 acres of private forest. With 17 uniquely designed rooms, the château offers an authentic glimpse into what life was like in a French palace.
Built in the 19th century, this Romanian castle, Pele’s Castle, was by far the most modern of its time. In fact, it was the first European castle entirely lit by the use of electricity. The castle was the summer residence of the royal family and boasts 160 rooms. Its gardens are equally marvelous, and we explore them on our Bulgaria to Transylvania adventure.
With its zigzagging terraces and ceremonial buildings laid out in alignment with the movement of the sun, Choquequirao is the more mysterious (and far less-traveled) sister to Machu Picchu. Discoveries are still being made at this intriguing site, and we’ll camp right inside the walls on our expedition, Choquequirao: Trek to the Cradle of Gold. In the stillness and remoteness here, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, we will sense the majesty of the Inca Empire. One of our trip leaders has been a part of its excavations and will help unlock its wonders.
Beyond the bustling souks of Marrakesh and Fez stands the fortified village, or “ksar” of Ait Ben Haddou. This majestic UNESCO World Heritage Site has been the backdrop for many films, including Lawrence of Arabia. Our journey in Morocco takes us hiking up through the labyrinth of alleyways for breathtaking views of the dramatic Atlas Mountains and lush groves of palm trees.
During our explorations of Scotland’s Orkney Islands and Stunning North Coast, we visit Dunrobin Castle, a fairytale castle that is one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses—the Earl of the Clan Sutherland still retains private quarters here—and we’ll also be welcomed at Castle Leod, seat of Clan Mackenzie and home of their Chief, the Earl of Cromartie. We’ll have a visit with the Earl, learning about the tumultuous era of the Jacobite rebellion and infamous Highland Clearances, with a first-hand introduction to his 500-year-old family home.
On our adventure to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, we visit Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most recognizable sights in Scotland. Set on a tidal inlet where three lochs meet, it is connected by a footbridge to the mainland. Founded in the 13th century and a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie, the castle also played a role in the Jacobite risings of the 17th and 18th centuries, ultimately leaving the huge stone structure in ruins. Lt. Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and dedicated the next 20 years to its reconstruction.
Caernarfon Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Edward I’s four castles built to control north Wales, collectively known as “The Iron Ring.” Perched on an estuary at the entrance to the Menai Strait, the well-preserved 13th century Caernarfon is undoubtedly the most impressive of the four, its massive stone structure a strong symbol of Edward’s military might. On our Adventure in Wales, we explore the impressive fortress that still plays an important part in British Royal life. It was here in 1969, with much pomp and ceremony, that young Prince Charles knelt before his mother, the Queen, to be invested as The Prince of Wales.