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Northern California Adventure

13 Days Self Drive Tours

Virgin Holidays' view

Canny travellers have been flocking to NorCal for decades — swapping the USA’s cookie-cutter cities for the dazzling nature and small-town feel of this picture-perfect patch of America. This little slice of California manages to squeeze in a national park, a vast lake, swanky vineyards, and one of the most-loved cities in the States. And this trip lets you explore them all; with its slow pace and long stopovers giving you time to truly immerse yourself in NorCal’s sights and spirit.

It all starts with three nights in San Francisco, a blissfully free-thinking city thanks to the swinging sixties’ hippies and today’s dotcom generation. With 24-hour bike rental included, you could cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, the beaches, and Muir Woods – or brave the hills and zigzagging Lombard Street. With so much to squeeze in, it’s lucky you return for an extra day at the end of your trip.

Some head to Sonoma County for the wineries and tasting rooms of Napa and Sonoma, others for the fabulous things the vineyards attract – like exquisite restaurants, chic galleries, and stunning vine-striped scenery for hiking and biking. Of course, with three nights here you can fit in the sightseeing and the wine tasting.

Blessed by Mother Nature, NorCal’s beauty comes into full view at Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. With two nights in each, you’ll have time to bike or hike your way through forests, past beaches, and along the shore of Lake Tahoe; and to snap Yosemite’s jaw-droppingly photogenic monuments like Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan.

Itinerary

Day 1: San Francisco

Fly to San Francisco from the UK and arrive to the Bay City. Upon check in, please ask the hotel reception for your ATI Tour documentation pack which will include your tour essentials. Accommodation stay – 3 nights in San Francisco.

Day 2: San Francisco

Discover the adventures the city has to offer as you cycle your way along the coast, experience the vibrant neighborhoods, and witness the world Famous Golden Gate Bridge on your rental bike (included). Cross the bridge for spectacular views from Sausalito and take the ferry back for an up-close view of Alcatraz (optional). After your journey touring the city and taking some time to relax, ride your bike and make your way to some of the city’s well-known neighborhoods and hidden gems to get a taste of their various cuisines.

Day 3: San Francisco

Today, get a unique perspective and take in the beautiful sights the Golden Gate city has to offer on an exciting hike where you share the path with locals. Make sure to have your camera ready and grab those postcard-perfect pictures to share and keep before you embark to your next destination.

Day 4: San Francisco - Sonoma

Pick up your rental car and leave San Francisco behind as your journey continues further North to Sonoma County, well-known for its exceptional wineries. On your way, spend the afternoon in the hub for American cycling, Santa Rosa, with roads tested by both world-class and first-time riders. You can also make your way over to nearby tasting experiences at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens and Matanzas Creek Winery where you can add a garden tour, flight of wines, or learn about the best food and wine pairings (optional). Accommodation stay – 3 nights in Sonoma.

Day 5: Sonoma

Following your introduction to Sonoma County, your adventure enters the Sonoma Valley where you will find no shortage of entertainment. The Sonoma Valley is rich in history and a perfect destination for hiking, biking, fishing, golfing, and more. Enjoy an overview of the area and its various wineries biking through Sonoma’s quiet and country roads. There are over ten wineries within 5-miles making a perfect day itinerary for you to pinpoint your favorite spots to visit on a leisurely ride on vineyard-lined roads (optional).

Day 6: Sonoma

After experiencing Sonoma on two wheels, discover some of the valley’s scenic gems walking and hiking the neighbouring area. You can follow hiking trails located in Sugarloaf Park, also home to the largest observatory in the western United States, or stroll through the Sonoma State Historic Park, providing you with the opportunity to visit the Mission San Francisco Solano (optional). Before the end of the day, make sure you make your way to downtown Sonoma. At Sonoma Plaza you will find wine tasting rooms, shopping, galleries, and restaurants with cuisine featuring local farm and harvest bites (optional).

Day 7: Sonoma – Lake Tahoe

Continue to Lake Tahoe, where you will encounter the largest alpine Lake in North America nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. At Lake Tahoe, you will have the opportunity to bike away with calm paved roadways for the family and mountain biking for the more experienced traveller (optional). The Forest Bicycle Trail will lead you to the two beautiful Lake Tahoe beaches Pope and Baldwin. During your ride through the forest-filled route, you can stop to visit the restored Baldwin Estate and Forest Service Visitor Center before heading back to rest up for the following day’s activities (optional). Accommodation stay – 2 nights in Lake Tahoe.

Day 8: Lake Tahoe

On this day, the endless selection of hiking trails will encourage you to hop off your bike and explore Lake Tahoe by foot. Three of the more popular trails include the Fallen Leaf Lake hike, perfect for families with gentle hiking trails filled with wild flowers during the spring, Skyline trail, accessed by a lift (optional) for hikers looking for an exciting challenge, and Rubicon Trail, situated along the shorelines providing hikers with amazing photo opportunities. Following an active morning and afternoon, you will have plenty of dining options to choose from with many locally owned restaurants offering a unique environment and signature dishes.

Day 9: Lake Tahoe – Yosemite

Continue on to Yosemite National Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, covers over 1,000 square miles and provides visitors with exciting wildlife, stunning waterfalls, giant sequoias, and an unforgettable experience. Take a nature walk following one of the best trails in the National Park taking you along the Yosemite Valley on a wide and smooth path allowing you to calmly enjoy the natural landscape and beautiful scenery. Accommodation stay – 2 nights in Yosemite.

Day 10: Yosemite

Following an extraordinary Yosemite Valley hike, enjoy more of the world heritage site while you can. Take on a new rewarding challenge by hiking Yosemite Falls trail. This is one of Yosemite’s oldest trails and leads hikers up to the top of the tallest waterfall in North America. Pack lots of water and snacks to keep you energized throughout this experience. You do not need to reach the top to enjoy the amazing views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Sentinel Rock, and have your camera ready to capture stunning photographs you will definitely want to share.

Day 11: Yosemite – San Francisco

Spend the morning soaking in the smells and sounds of Yosemite, before you slowly make your way back to San Francisco. Spend the afternoon exploring Oakland’s waterfront before crossing over the bay and settle back into San Francisco for your last overnight. Accommodation stay – 1 night in San Francisco.

Day 12: Depart San Francisco

Return your hire car to the airport prior to your flight back to the UK (arrive on Day 13).

All hotels & locations are subject to change based on availability, final hotel list will be confirmed 10 days before departure.

Dates & prices

The table below shows our escorted tour departure dates.

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Prices are described as Guide prices on this website and may be higher or lower due to availability and date of departure.

Prices are for departure dates listed, ex-UK and are per adult based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room and with return economy flights where stated. Single room and flight prices are available at a supplement.

Please note some tours are subject to minimum numbers, please call our travel experts or visit your local retail store for full details as well as our latest prices.

Tour information

Please click here to download a pdf of the itinerary and additional tour notes

Pre/Post Tour information

If you would like to extend your trip or make the tour part of a longer holiday, we can easily add on a pre or post night stays for you. Our Sales Team will work with you to arrange the best connecting flights and book any additional hotel stays. Simply tell us what you’d like and we can arrange it.

Time difference

GMT -8 hours

Hotel list

Final hotel list will be confirmed 10 days prior to departure.

Tour inclusions

  • Accommodation listed
  • Welcome phone call from American Tours International on Day 1
  • Virgin Holidays branded rucksack with tour documentation and Atlas, please ask when you check in at your first hotel for your ‘ATI Pack’
  • Self-guided bike tour with 24-hour bike rental in San Francisco

Tour exclusions

  • All Flights and airport transfers in the UK
  • Travel Insurance
  • Car hire and insurance unless this has been booked by the sales consultant
  • Items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, tips & gratuities, video camera fees at monuments
  • The required ESTA application
  • Anything not detailed on the itinerary

Dining inclusions

Room Only.

Included activities

Tours listed in the itinerary.

Visa requirements

It's mandatory for everyone travelling to or transferring through the US, under the Visa Waiver Program, to obtain approval to travel no later than 72 hours prior to travel by completing an online process ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA scheme). Failure to obtain an ESTA could result in the passenger being denied boarding by the airline.
The cost of an ESTA is currently approx $14 per person and can be obtained by visiting https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. Once completed & approved, the ESTA application is valid for two years and allows multiple visits without the need to reapply – simply update your details on the same website. Travellers can apply for an ESTA even if they have no firmplans to travel to the US.
If you need any further information on the ESTA or you have any other visa queries, then try the Visit USA Website at www.visitusa.org.uk where further information on the scheme and up to date fee can also be found.