Newcastle Herald

Italy? Ireland? Japan? Go small to savour iconic destinations

A tea ceremony in Japan. Picture supplied
A tea ceremony in Japan. Picture supplied

This is branded content for Collette.

Leading global tour operator Collette has recently released its new Explorations brochure, dedicated to small-group guided tours.

The carefully-crafted suite of over 49 tours is big on experiences including culinary and cultural activities in many of the most popular destinations. Italy, Ireland and Japan are amongst the countries which top the list for Australian travellers, while new destinations such as the Balkans and the Baltics are on the rise.

Collette's Explorations tours focus on maximising the time in destination, minimising travelling time to and from destinations and incorporate varying modes of transportation and accommodation. From igloos to chateaux, from reindeer safaris, to dog sleds, boats, trains and planes, guided travel has changed significantly over the past twenty or so years.

Touring for today's traveller involves more choice on tour as well as a variety of optional excursions and levels of activity, free time for shopping and more flexibility. Collette's industry-leading cancellation waiver provides for a full refund less the deposit up until 24 hours prior to departure. Emergency assistance is also available 24/7.

Enjoy a Guinness or two with the locals in Dublin in Ireland, one of the most popular destinations this year. Picture supplied
Enjoy a Guinness or two with the locals in Dublin in Ireland, one of the most popular destinations this year. Picture supplied

Meeting the locals is a key feature of many tours as are hands-on experiences such as making pasta. Visitors have been embracing smaller guided tours knowing that accommodation, transport, meals and entries to attractions are all included. There are no hidden surprises making budgeting easy. Furthermore, guided touring is a safe way to travel as Collette's highly trained tour guides know where to go and where not to go.

Trends for 2024 indicate that travellers are looking for value for money, with food, wine and cultural experiences high on the radar.

"Europe is very much in demand this year as is Japan, and Canada is set to make a big impact in the next few years," said Karen Deveson, Collette's Australian Managing Director.

"Our guests want to experience a destination in more detail and hear from locals who are experts in their field, such as winemakers, artisans or cultural representatives."

Get an authentic taste

Visiting an Irish pub is a sure-fire way to be warmly greeted by friendly locals who are always ready for a yarn or two. Wind-swept coastlines, rollicking hills and hearty fare are all part of a trip to the Emerald Isle where time seems to stand still. The Best of Ireland includes both the northern and southern parts of Ireland, with insights into Celtic culture and legends of the past.

Frothy cappuccino, pizza al taglio, seemingly endless varieties of fresh pasta with dollops of home- made sauces bursting with the reddest tomatoes can be found everywhere in Italy. With cafés serving coffee at almost any hour, gelato outlets offering creamy traditional flavours brimming with fruit, and intimate bars offering an 'aperitivo' prosecco with snacks, it's not surprising that Australians have fallen in love with Italy.

Discover the cultural and culinary splendours of Florence on the Italy's Treasures tour. Picture supplied
Discover the cultural and culinary splendours of Florence on the Italy's Treasures tour. Picture supplied

Explorations tours to Italy cater for the first-time and repeat visitor as the extensive range of in-depth tours covers historic cities, picturesque islands and the relaxing countryside. Fine wines and Italian artisanal delicacies are featured in Italy's Treasures which also includes the cultural splendours of medieval Florence and Venice.

The ever-popular Amalfi coast is combined with Puglia in Italy: Amalfi Coast to Puglia. From bustling Naples to the beautiful baroque town of Lecce, this tour includes accommodation in a comfortable cave dwelling in ancient Matera, one of the oldest cities in the world. Matera was the setting for Mel Gibson's epic film, The Passion of the Christ.

In Old World Sicily and Malta, visitors can sample the delicious regional Mediterranean cuisines and learn about the islands' fascinating archaeology, history and traditions.

Nestled on hillsides and in verdant valleys, the charming villages of Tuscany and Umbria with their local specialities are sure to please food and wine buffs in Tuscan and Umbrian Countryside. Olive oil is akin to wine in these parts with guests on this tour able to learn about the intricacies of producing olive oil at a family owned business. In the evening, guests celebrate their own inner chef and enjoy dinner, the product of a specially crafted cooking class in a restaurant in a 12th century abbey. A visit to the legendary wine area of Montalcino, home to the internationally acclaimed Brunello, is another highlight.

A family experience 

Multi-generational travel is an upcoming trend, with grandparents taking the family on a tour to discover and explore together.

Japan is an ideal country for doing this as there is something for everyone to enjoy with its rich tapestry of cuisine, traditions, history and landscapes.

Dining on beautifully presented specialities in Kyoto. Picture supplied
Dining on beautifully presented specialities in Kyoto. Picture supplied

Collette's Japan: Past & Present a Cultural Journey from Tokyo to Osaka combines the high tech experience of a bullet train ride with a traditional kaiseki dinner, a must for any foodie. Fresh, seasonal ingredients are used to create an array of dishes which are themselves works of art.

Visits to the Tokyo National Museum, Buddhist temples, shrines and the Mikimoto Pearl Museum provide insights into the nation's culture and history. Making sushi and mastering the art of origami are unique experiences which can be shared across generations.

A pioneer in guided touring since 1918, Collette is expert at crafting memorable itineraries which connect guests with cultural experiences which go beyond that of an ordinary holiday. Offering a range of tours including Explorations, Classic tours, river cruises and Spotlight city stays, there are over 170 tours to choose from offering customers exceptional choice and value.

Ready to book a trip to remember? To find out more visit or call 1300 792 196