Posts Tagged ‘north american road trips’

40 things to do before you’re 40

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

No. 35 Pay homage to forces of nature in the company of the Navajo

So often have gun-slinging cowboys and bow-and-arrow-wielding ‘Indians’ been seen on horseback charging across this striking and desolate landscape on cinema screens, with their beasts’ thundering hooves stirring up great billows of dust, that Monument Valley has become virtually synonymous with the great Hollywood Western.

And it has to be said, to head out into this wide and beautifully sparse expanse and just bear witness to the collection of surreal buttes that sprout randomly out of the desert floor, like giant plinths in honour of nature, is a truly memorable experience.

But to do so under the guidance of a local Navajo, the Native American tribe for whom this striking region is both traditionally and spiritually home, well, that is another story altogether.

Dressed up for visitors

Dressed up for visitors

Get to know the Navajo

Monument Valley lies within a designated reservation named the Navajo Nation. The entire region, known to the Navajo people as Diné Bikéyah, makes up a vast area of the American southwest called the Four Corners, as each ‘corner’ of the nation extends into four different states.

The Navajo themselves are the largest recognised Native American tribe in the US and lived here for centuries before Europeans arrived in the Americas. When the nomadic Navajo themselves first came to the region, the area was already inhabited by another Native American group known as the Ancient Pueblo People, who had been here since as early as 1200 BC. Unlike like the hunter-gatherer Navajo, the Pueblo had established permanent dwellings and even had palaces built into rock faces that can still be seen today. The Navajo settled here and went on to adopt a more permanent and agricultural lifestyle from the Pueblo.

After European arrival however, a pretty dark period of persecution, inter-tribal warfare and even forced migrations ensued before the eventual the creation of a reservation. This has since enabled the Navajo to retain their traditional lifestyle, merging with a modern-day way of life where appropriate, and creating a semi-autonomous ‘nation’ that has meant the Navajo have been able to protect their identity and survive.

Know your butte from your elbow

Learning from a real expert

Learning from a real expert

When visiting Monument Valley today, regardless of the urge, it would probably be pretty inappropriate to don a Stetson and pair of spurs, jump on a stallion and cry ‘Geronimo!’ as you head off in search of imaginary redskins. Instead, far more interesting and informative – not to mention more sensitive – would be to join a local Navajo guide and venture out into the great expanse and learn first-hand about the natural forces that created this striking setting as well as how a very different people have lived, and continue to live, in such a harsh yet spellbinding part of the world.

The defining characteristic of Tsé Bii? Ndzisgaii (or Monument Valley as it is perhaps better known) is clearly the towering buttes and large mesas that proudly dominate the scene; they were the silent stars of so many Hollywood classics. The tremendous forces that have forged the area over millions of years are responsible for the many buttes and mesas, which are made of rock stronger than the surrounding sandstone and have thus withstood the erosion that has taken place around them. The mighty that have remained standing while the weaker around them have been subdued, if you like. The difference between a butte and a mesa (the later gets its name from the Spanish for ‘table’) is that the later has a top that is wider than the rock is high – much like a table top – while anything else is called a butte.

But nothing can substitute the experience of having a member of the Navajo Nation explain this to you in greater detail as you stand beneath one of these behemoths staring up in awe at the beauty and sheer size of such a masterpieces of nature.

Fortunately for you, it just so happens that Topdeck now run tours of the Southwest, of which most visit Monument Valley with an included Navajo-guided jeep safari. You really do have to experience it for yourself!

American Firsts

Monday, March 25th, 2013

March 31st, 2013 – remember the date.

It’s the date of Topdeck’s first trip in North America!

We couldn’t be more excited about sharing North America with a host of lucky Topdeck passengers over the coming months, and we’re especially thrilled for the passengers on our inaugural trip.

We’re delighted to be taking the USA and Canada by storm in the year of our 40th birthday, and at Topdeck HQ we’ve been getting a little misty-eyed thinking about how Topdeck has grown from a mere youngster in 1973 to the industry-leading youth travel company it is today.

It also got us thinking about the USA, which is a relative teenager in global terms. Like with any growing child, it’s always good to keep track of the important milestones in life… so here we present some of the key ‘firsts’ in the formative years of America!

America’s first date…

America’s first proper date was July 4th 1776. No romantic meals and drive-in movies – simply the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Smooth.

America’s first party…

Was the Federalist Party in the early 1790s. It was a party of strong fiscal policies, nationalistic ideals… and all-night raves with everyone drinking out of red plastic cups before jumping in the pool in their underwear.

America’s first driving lesson…

Took place in 1884, shortly after the opening of America’s first golf course in West Virginia. The first informal lesson in driving off the tee was given by the talented Archibald B. Dogleg to his companion, Hubert J. Bunker.

America’s first Kiss…

Came in 1973, when four friends from New York formed a band, painted their faces black and white and put on elaborate hard rock stage shows. It was as if someone had fired a Love Gun – together America and Kiss had some Crazy, Crazy Nights.

America’s first Topdeck trip…

Will take place on March 31st, 2013. Passengers on this 7 day California Calling trip will see the best of the USA’s West Coast; they’ll gaze over the Grand Canyon, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, enjoy an included Party Bus in Las Vegas, stay in Yosemite National Park and much more.

Now that’s what we call a first to remember!

If you want to join Topdeck and explore the wonders of North America, check out our superb range of trips here:

5 North American ‘must see’ locations.

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

What runs through your mind when you think of travelling North America? The Californian beaches, Niagara Falls, the infamous ‘Sin City’ Las Vegas, or perhaps the enormous Grand Canyon? Here’s a quick look at a handful of recommended places to go when visiting.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Viva Las Vegas! If you’ve seen the movie ‘The Hangover’ then you’ll have an understanding of why it’s commonly referred to as ‘Sin City’, however you don’t need to end up with a tiger in the bathroom to feel like you’ve experienced the real Las Vegas. The city is full of entertainment and attractions that run up and down the strip. There are countless casinos, amazing restaurants, enormous shopping malls and incredible nightclubs all at the tip of your fingers. If visiting Las Vegas with Topdeck, you’ll even get to go on an exclusive Party Bus tour of the strip! This is definitely a city worth seeing at least once.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

To help understand why the Grand Canyon is so unique, here are a few ‘fun facts’: It is listed as a Natural Wonder of the World, it took approximately 3-6 million years to form, the rock at the very bottom of the canyon is around 2 billion years old, it’s shape has developed over millions of years by a single river which slowly erodes the rock walls, and there are still 5 American Indian tribes that call the Canyon home. It’s fair to say that it’s a pretty amazing place! Take one of our North American trips that visit the Grand Canyon and cap off your experience with an unforgettable golden sunrise with your Topdeck companions.

Canadian Rockies

Absolutely picturesque. The Canadian Rockies present beautiful snow-capped mountains, glaciers, stunning blue lakes, lush alpine forests and incredible wildlife. Activities are in abundance in the Rockies as there is something that will please the more reserved travellers as well as the adventurous. Our Canadian Rockies trip will allow you to see some of the best spots and provide the opportunities for your adventurous side to let loose! You can go White Water Rafting in the Kicking Horse River, canoe in the Bow River or take a nice relaxing visit to the Banff Mountain Hot Springs.


Whether it be natural landscape or man made cities, there is so much to see and do in California. Home to the Yosemite National Park, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Death Valley National Park, HOLLYWOOD and the ever so famous beaches and coastline, California is a must-see on your travel bucket list.  You can live the Californian dream on many of our trips that visit the American East Coast State. We know you want to run along the beach Bay Watch style!

New York

Home to one of the world’s most popular cities, one of the most popular attractions in North America as well as numerous landmarks, New York is also on our list of must visits. A trip to New York City, the City that never sleeps, is enough to quickly fill up your itinerary with things to see and do, including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Central Park. New York was also the first State in the United States to establish a State Park, Niagara Falls, which now attracts around 8 millions visitors each year. Take a trip with Topdeck to Niagara Falls and you will have the opportunity to get up close and personal on the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat tour, gaining an insight into the incredible power that the Falls’ possess.

North America: Our First Traveller!

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012


It’s been a hectic couple of months since we launched our brand new Topdeck North America programme on the 4th of July. The response so far has totally blown us away - so many of you have booked and started planning your very own adventure with us.

A little bit of trivia for you: the first ever Topdeck North America holiday booked was a seven day Southeast States trip from New Orleans to New York. It was purchased by none other than Topdeck veteran Lorraine Kagatse who already has a massive six trips under her belt!

To say thank you for being our very first bookee we’ve shouted Lorraine a helicopter ride over the city that never sleeps, NYC.

Here’s a bit more about Lorraine…

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am 30 and live in west London. I enjoy going to concerts, reading, meeting new people, but my real passion is travelling. One of my favourite places I have visited is Sarajevo in Bosnia. It’s full of friendly people, great food and amazing history.

Where have you travelled to with Topdeck?

Venice Carnival, Amsterdam for Easter, Turkey, Morocco, Valencia for Las Fallas and Berlin for New Year.

What was your favourite trip story?

A hot air balloon ride over the chimney like rock formations in Cappadocia Turkey - it was like something out of a fairytale!

How would you sum up the Topdeck experience?

Fun and enjoyable. I have had many amazing and memorable experiences on the tours I have done and made lifelong friends from all over the world

What made you choose Topdeck North America?

The range of cities that would be visited and it was value for money.

What are you most looking forward to in the US?

Everything! The noise, the bustle and the food.  Making new friends, shopping and my helicopter ride over New York!

Who would you recommend Topdeck to?

Anyone who enjoys travelling, having amazing experiences. It is also good for people who travel alone as it’s a great place to make friends

What has been your favourite travelling memory?

Celebrating my 29th birthday in Turkey on both the Asian and European sides - I got two birthday cakes and got to party with my new Topdeck friends

What kept you coming back to Topdeck?

Value for money, organised trips, friendly and informative staff, good range of cities, countries to visit and activities to do.

Why not join Lorraine on the North American Road Trip of a lifetime. With 21 trips to choose from there’s something for everyone. Book before 31 August 2013 to save up to 10% off your trip!