The Perfect 7-Day Mighty 5 Utah Road Trip Itinerary (2021)

Anybody who loves the outdoors needs to visit the incredible state of Utah!

Utah has so many options including phenomenal national parks (five of them!), hot springs, ski resorts, and more!

Pack your bags and your camera because this 7-day Utah itinerary has all of Utah’s unique destinations laid out in the perfect order.

I’ve ensured you hit all the top attractions and snag some of those drool-worthy Instagram pictures you see plaguing your feed, as well as suggesting a few off-the-beaten-path gems, while road tripping the Mighty 5 in Utah!

PLANNING FOR UTAH AT A GLANCE: 

When to Go: With mellow summers and stunning snow-covered winters, Utah is beautiful all year round but since you'll be spending a tremendous amount of time in the outdoors, I suggest going in the months of April-May and September-October. But if I had to pick just one month to go, I'd choose October — the crowds are fewer, the weather is appealing, and fall foliage is in full swing. 

Where to Stay: For this itinerary, you'll have sleepovers in Salt Lake City, Moab, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Springdale or Zion.

For the first overnight stay in Salt Lake City, I recommend staying at Kimpton Hotel Monaco for a luxurious stay in downtown SLC.

Moab has several accommodations but for something exclusive, I suggest staying at either Moab Red Stone Inn or Moab Springs Ranch. And if you prefer glamping, Under Canvas Moab is unmatched when it comes to comfort and style.

And for a sleepover near Bryce Canyon National Park, Stone Canyon Inn or Bryce Canyon Log Cabins in nearby Tropic is what I recommend or you can even opt for camping within the park itself at any of its 2 campgrounds.

And as for your last days on your Utah road trip in Springdale, you can either choose to camp inside Zion but if you can't find a campsite or just don't want to, then you can stay at either Cable Mountain Lodge or Springhill Suites in Springdale. Both of these places offer incredible Zion views.

How to Get Around: You're definitely going to need a car while road tripping Utah. If you don't know where to rent one from, you can compare car rentals and prices from here. Alternately, you can rent an RV or campervan via RVShare and save on accommodations. 

Best Activities: Want to fully enjoy your Utah road trip without the hustles of planning? Booking some activities will help you with that. You can book a horseback excursion on a canyon trail ride, an ATV tour, a Bryce Canyon National Park guided Tour, or a Moab Sound and Light Show tour.

3 Things Not to Forget to Pack:  A sturdy pair of hiking boots will serve you well -- I love my Ahnu boots. A dual purpose phone mount and charger will come in very handy and you'll be happy to have a roadside emergency kit should your car break down while road tripping.

Road trip pro tip: Purchase an annual pass (AKA the America the Beautiful Pass) to save money on the entrance fees for the multiple locations in this itinerary run by the NPS!

When to Plan Your Mighty 5 Utah Road Trip

Empty road going through Zion National Park with mountains on either side and orange autumn trees alongside the road

Utah is incredible any time of the year. With tepid summers and gorgeous snow-covered winters, there is never a season that doesn’t reveal jaw-dropping landscapes.

But since you’ll be cruising the highways and spending enormous amounts of time in the outdoors if you’re doing a Mighty 5 road trip, I suggest the months of April-May and September-October.

Late September and early October is a great time if you want to see some fall foliage in places like Zion!). If I had to pick the best month to visit Utah, I’d pick October — fewer crowds, better weather, and gorgeous foliage!

Going in the shoulder season will allow some crowds to dissipate at the popular sites and puts you ahead of snow closures. These months are considered the off season for crowds, and the weather has never failed me during these months.

Tips for Planning Your Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

green tent outside of the landscape of zion national park a beautiful red rock landscape in utah

Prep for the parks. This Utah road trip means you will need to pay for entrance to at least 4 separate national parks, 5 if you also visit the interior of Capitol Reef and don’t just pass through. Each park can easily charge a $30 admission fee, so if you’re planning to enter more than two parks, an America the Beautiful pass will save you money! Buy it online at REI.

Time it wisely. Spring and fall, in my opinion, are the best times to visit Utah! Skip summer unless you’re willing to handle the heat (and school vacation crowds), and winter unless you’re a confident winter driver as many parts of Utah experience snow.

Cell service is spotty. Don’t always count on having cell phone service while driving in Utah! There are many long stretches of highway with very little service. Be prepared by having your maps downloaded offline.

Places on the map are not always as direct or close as they look. There are many routes that, at first glance, appear to be doable… but when you plug it into your maps app, you find they’re rather far apart! I’ve omitted a few notable places from this itinerary for that reason, such as Monument Valley, which is hard to squeeze into a 7-day Utah itinerary.

Utah Road Trip FAQs

Allison visiting Mesa Arch in Canyonlands national park sitting in the middle of Mesa Arch

How many days do you need to visit the Utah National Parks?

There are five incredible national parks in Utah (hence their collective nickname, the Mighty 5!). One week in Utah is enough time to catch a glimpse of each of the five national parks, but to see them in full, you could easily spend a month in Utah’s national parks and not see it all!

What are the best national parks to visit in Utah?

All of them, but this itinerary focuses the most time on Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park, with briefer part-day trips to Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef National Park.

How do I plan a road trip to Utah?

The first step is to determine your itinerary: where are you flying or driving into, and how many days do you have from there?

Below, I’ll offer a few different routing ideas for driving around Utah, but generally, this itinerary assumes you’ll fly into Salt Lake City and then have seven days to explore Utah by car. 

If you have longer, you can absolutely spend more time at each site, but 7 days is the bare minimum to complete a Mighty 5 road trip!

The Mighty 5: Your Perfect 7 Day Utah Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Salt Lake City

A view of the skyline of Salt Lake City with enormous mountains towering over the city.

Salt Lake City International Airport is a hub for flights and car rentals as well as the perfect starting and ending point for exploring Utah.

I suggest booking your arrival and departure tickets from here, as it creates the perfect loop for your 7 day Utah road trip. 

Another option would be to fly into Las Vegas, in which case, your route itinerary would look like the following: Las Vegas – Zion – Bryce Canyon – Capitol Reef – Moab – back to Vegas or SLC. 

You could also add on a few days at the Grand Canyon and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as well Page, AZ easily with this kind of itinerary. 

If that sounds more like the itinerary you want to follow, check out my Southwest road trip post, which does a roundtrip from Las Vegas to Moab and back, touching all Mighty 5, the Grand Canyon, and Page’s landmarks like Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

However, for the purposes of this 7 day itinerary, let’s assume you’re flying into SLC, as it’s the easiest for routing purposes, plus SLC is a great airport hub!

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on RentalCars as the best site to rent with in the USA – it searches dozens of rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare car rentals for your trip here!

Salt Lake City is in the heart of Utah, nestled among the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountain Range it is surrounded with fantastic opportunities for fun.

Here’s how you should spend your day in SLC! If you have two days, read our two-day Salt Lake City itinerary.

Check-in to the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City

This luxury hotel is such a delight for the eyes!

Swirling colorful carpet draws you into the warm space of the lobby while modern vintage furniture gives the Kimpton Hotel Monaco an inviting atmosphere.

The rooms are adorned in old-world style with flashes of flair from the 1950s.

Hotel Monaco is perfectly situated in downtown SLC, making exploring the city extremely accessible.

Book your stay online here!

Grab a coffee and start your day

Begin your morning by making the 3 block walk to Campos Coffee.

Snag a seat in their stylish cafe and order up a delicious cappuccino with a side of Cran-Apple Toast.

Campos coffee offers an inviting, wide-open atmosphere adorned with a steampunk theme. Enjoy a quiet morning here as the city will quickly wake up.

Wander around downtown SLC

Giant Mormon church with cherry blossoms blooming in the spring and other spring flowers

Salt Lake City is known for its outdoor squares and parks. Once you’ve properly caffeinated, head to one of the year-round farmer’s markets for food, fun, and Utah flair.

There are several downtown areas that offer farmers’ markets at different times a year. A couple of options include Liberty ParkSugar House, and Downtown Farmers Markets.

Most of these markets only take place on Fridays and Saturdays but if you’re lucky enough to catch one, they’re worth the visit.

Fresh fruits and vegetables line the streets along with homemade gifts and local artists displaying their talents. It’s easy to spend a few hours wandering the streets.

While you’re on foot, consider seeking out some of Salt Lake’s most known and gorgeously constructed monuments such as the Mormon Temple, the State Capitol, and Temple Square. There’s a ton of historical sightseeing in downtown SLC, so be sure to pack your most comfortable shoes.

Hit the hiking trails

View of Salt Lake City in the far distance from the trail to the Living Room on a partly cloudy day.

Salt Lake City is filled with tons of outdoor options as well!

One of the most fun and accessible hiking trails is The Living Room. Lying just 10 minutes from downtown, this 2.2-mile out-and-back hike leads to incredible views of Downtown and the surrounding landscape.

Sit above the horizon on “chairs” made from surrounding rock and enjoy the afternoon high above the city.

If you desire some trails that require a bit more of a time commitment consider looking into Mount Timpanogos Trail or summit Grandeur Point. Both of the trails lead to exquisite views.

If you’re visiting in the fall, the colors of the changing leaves along both trails are breathtaking!

I also have a full guide to the best hikes near Salt Lake City here in case you want to extend your trip a bit and do a day hike or two!

Grab a delicious dinner in the city

Head back to the city and clean up for dinner.

Salt Lake is filled with phenomenal restaurants that’ll please any palate. A few of my favorites are Settebello for pizza or Red Iguana for Mexican.

Settebello offers insanely delicious Neapolitan style pizza wood-fired to perfection with a fluffy, buttery crust. Their bruschetta is simple and delicious, piled high with fresh tomatoes on divinely toasted bread. 

If a cuisine south of the border sounds more enticing, Red Iguana is the hot spot for you. Dubbed as Utah’s “killer Mexican food,” they have all the specialties including chimichangas and indulgent Mexican desserts that go down well with a custom-made margarita!

Day 2: Moab

Sign for the town of Moab which reads "Moab Again & Again The Adventure Never Ends" with a desert landscape in a background.

Day two of this Utah road trip is all about hiking and soaking up some of Utah’s most iconic scenery in Moab!

3.5 hours south of Salt Lake via an incredibly scenic drive lies 3 parks that are so breathtakingly beautiful, it’ll take two days to explore.

Dead Horse Point State ParkCanyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park all lie within miles of each other but the landscapes of each are so totally different.

Here’s how you should spend your first day in beautiful Moab.

Start the day with a delicious breakfast

As you roll into the quaint city of Moab, consider stopping for breakfast at the Love Muffin Cafe to fuel your hiking day.

They have all the breakfast classics including breakfast burritos, quiches and scones set in a brightly colored, eclectic cafe.

I’ve also heard rave reviews of Moab Cafe. Although I’ve never personally visited, it sounds like it’s worth checking out!

Head to Dead Horse Point State Park

An overlook in Dead Horse Point State Park where you can see a bend in the Colorado River that has hollowed out a canyon, with red rocks in layers on the sides of the canyon.

Dead Horse Point State Park is the perfect introduction to the beauty of Moab.

It’s a sprawling 5,000-acre park set high among the desert landscape with towering cliffs and unrivaled views of the Canyonlands in the distance.

There are several pull-outs along the drive to the parking lot that are all worth the extra stops.

But to truly experience the spectacular sights, hike the Dead Horse Rim Loop Trail. This trail is a 5-mile loop that canvasses the rim of the canyon.

The most prominent view from the trail is hands down the overlook at the point of the Colorado River — it’s stunning!

Dead Horse Point also has a trail system for mountain bikers as well. If you’ve come prepared to bike, the park Intrepid Trail is a 16-mile single-track trail on dirt roads that offers the same unrivaled views with a bit more adrenaline.

Head towards Canyonlands National Park

A view of Canyonlands National Park as seen through the empty space of a rock arch, Mesa Arch, looking out onto the landscape.

Rest your feet and make the short 12-minute drive over to Canyonlands National Park to the park entrance at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center.

Canyonlands is a massive park that has 3 different districts. For the sake of time, I recommend visiting the nearest and most accessible district called the Island In The Sky.

Here, you’ll find a comprehensive visitors center with rangers who are more than willing to help you plan your afternoon. 

The Island In The Sky is the only paved district in Canyonlands National Park with easy access to well-marked trails; the Needles is beautiful but more remote and not quite suited for such a quick trip to Utah, and the Maze and the Rivers (consisting of the Colorado River and the Green River) are even more remote.

On your drive into the park stop at the Grand View Point Overlook. The overlook totally lives up to its name as it reveals jaw-dropping views into Monument Basin as you ascend via a scenic drive. You can also take the trail, which is an easy 1.8-mile hike.

Another iconic sight is Mesa Arch, a short and easy 0.7-mile trail that leads you to an arch that’s perched perfectly on the edge of Canyonlands Cliffs.

After a few dramatic photos of Mesa Arch, head over to Upheaval Dome, the last trek of the day. Upheaval Dome is attractive because of its odd geology and wild folklore that surrounds its creation.

An easy 2-mile wide trail takes you along the rim of the Dome and gives you a panoramic view of just how weird and wonderful the geology truly is.

Grab a drink to toast your hikes

After an entire day of hiking, you deserve a beer!

Back in the city of Moab is Moab Brewery. The perfect place to end your first day in the spectacular Utah desert. Moab Brewery is always fun, always lively, and always has plenty of beer!

The atmosphere is a fun mix of outdoorsman bar vibes. Kayaks hang from the ceiling and pool tables fill the corners.

You’ll find a massive selection of microbrewed beers including ambers, lagers, Hefeweizens and IPAs.

They’re also a full-service restaurant, so grab dinner and hang around for a bit.

Check into your Moab accommodations

A lit up canvas glamping tent with a dark night sky with lots of visible stars.

There are several different options when it comes to accommodations in Moab. These include hotels, Airbnb, glamping, and camping.

If you’re wanting more of the comforts of home, there are plenty of commercial hotels located in the heart of Moab.

For something more unique look into the Moab Red Stone Inn or Moab Springs Ranch. Both offer a more low-key, secluded fee.

As for glamping, Under Canvas Moab knocks it out of the park in terms of comfort, style, and entertainment, and is frequently cited as one of the best glamping lodges in the entire United States.

Book your stay at Under Canvas Moab here!

If you’re wanting to go all in and camp under the stars, there are plenty of campgrounds dispersed in and around the city.

To find these, I recommend checking out my entire write-up on Utah’s incredible dispersed campsites or by using some well-known campground finder apps including The Dyrt, iOverlander, or  rec.gov website.

Day 3: Arches National Park

Wake up early while the city of Moab is still sleeping and get a head start on Arches National Park.

Arches National Park is one of Utah’s top attractions and draws over 1.5 million visitors a year. Because of its popularity, it’s important to beat the crowds if you want to experience Arches in all its glory.

Start with a sunrise hike to Delicate Arch

A view of the famous Delicate Arch, a Utah road trip must, taken at sunrise with the light falling on the left side of the arch.

The iconic Delicate Arch should be your first destination and you should plan to hike it before the sun rises.

To make this possible, check the local times of the sunrise and plan to head out about an hour and half before this.

You’ll need a headlamp or flashlight for the first part of the 1.5-mile hike to Delicate Arch, as it will still be dark outside.

If you timed it correctly, you’ll reach Delicate Arch just as the sun begins to beam on its east side.

It’s an amazing experience to see the surrounding landscape wake up and to watch Delicate Arch glow under the newly risen sun.

Wander the Devils Garden

A nearly empty trail in Devils Garden in Arches National Park with red sand on the trail and views of the red rocks and arches around it.

After you’ve captured photos of Utah’s most iconic arch, continue driving on Arches Entrance Road until you reach the Devils Garden Trailhead.

This 7-mile trail can easily be broken up into something more manageable (2-3 miles) while still offering insane views of the otherworldly landscape.

Massive boulders, tunnels, and arches are the highlight of this trail, as well as its tranquility.

Devils Garden is much less crowded than the surrounding trails and offers a great opportunity to bask in the uniqueness of Utah in peace.

On the way back, be sure to stop in Fiery Furnace which has some of the best views and reddest rocks in Arches.

Snap some final photos of Arches

A trail leading up to a red rock formation which features a rock "balancing" on top of another rock, with the moon rising in the background.

As you meander your way back to the entrance, take this chance to capture some stunning photos at the multiple pull-outs spread throughout the park.

Balanced Rock, the Windows, Double Arch, and Petrified Dunes Lookout are just a few spots worth a quick stop.

You also should make sure to visit the longest arch in the entire park, Landscape Arch, which is accessible via an easy 1.9-mile out-and-back trail.

The day should still be early enough to capture the stunning lighting and natural beauty of the surrounding rock formations.

Grab lunch and gas before hitting the road

Highway 70 going through Moab with red rocks and desert landscape around it.

Stop off in Moab for a bite to eat and gas up the car before you hit the road again to head towards your next destination.

The afternoon will be spent driving to Bryce Canyon National Park. The 4-hour drive from Arches National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park is absolutely stunning.

You’ll leave Arches and head West on highway 70. As you leave the desert landscape of Moab you’ll be transported into the mountainous scenery as you head south through Highway 24.

If you don’t want to visit Capitol Reef National Park, you can shave an hour or two off your drive time by skipping Highway 24, instead going a more direct route to Bryce via Highway 72 and Fishlake National Forest. However, for the purposes of this post, we’ll go the scenic route so you can visit Capitol Reef!

Stop quickly in Capitol Reef National Park

the sign to enter capitol reef national park

With only 7 days in Utah, it’s hard to tackle all of the Mighty 5 and do them proper justice. 

This Utah itinerary focuses more heavily on the Southern Utah national parks, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pop into Capitol Reef on the way to Bryce from Moab!

We won’t have time to take on some of the best hikes in Capitol Reef, but we can definitely see a few of the most beautiful landmarks there that are easy to access by car.

As you near Torrey, be sure to stop off at Factory Butte, a stunning and off-the-beaten-path land formation that looks like it could be something out of Mars. It’s right off Highway 24 so you can’t miss it.

For a quick but scenic spin through the park, stick to the parts of the park near Torrey that are accessible via Highway 24, all centered around the Visitor Center. 

This includes the Fruita Schoolhouse, the Petroglyphs, Hickman Natural Bridge, and the gorgeous views at Panorama Point.

If you have a national park pass, as you should, then you can also visit a few places within the park within an easy drive. That would include Fruita Barn, the Gifford Homestead, and if you have time for a hike, the Cassidy Arch Trailis a phenomenal 3.1-mile out-and-back with one of the best views in all of Capitol Reef, rated as moderate.

Arrive in Bryce Canyon National Park

allison looking over the edge of bryce canyon and its orange hoodoos

As you turn south and head towards Bryce, the topography changes one final time into a mix of bright red cliffs, canyons, and hoodoos.

The first sighting of a hoodoo along a scenic drive is a great indication that Bryce Canyon is just around the corner!

The city of Bryce is a small, quiet town that lies minutes outside the National Park. Although limited on hotels and restaurants, it’s easy to find a place to have dinner and a warm place to sleep.

You can also stay in nearby Escalante, which is halfway between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon and is home to Yonder Escalante, a great accommodation choice with cute cabins and Airstreams available for rent.

Grab dinner and hit the sheets

Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm, Big Fish Family Restaurant and Stone Hearth Grille are a few restaurants that cater to weary travelers looking for a hearty meal.

As far as hotels, check out the Stone Canyon Inn or Bryce Canyon Log Cabins in nearby Tropic.

Each resort is immaculately maintained and offers stunning views of Bryce Canyon in a private setting.

Of course, Bryce Canyon is also brimming with campgrounds. There are two campgrounds inside the park, North Campground and Sunset Campground, as well as options for backcountry camping.

Day 4: Bryce Canyon

A brilliant view over the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. Hoodoos are vertical finger-like rock formations formed by erosion over time.

Bryce Canyon is purely about the landscape!

With the largest concentration of hoodoos and brightly colored cliffs, Bryce Canyon is a geologic wonder that resembles Mars. 

Hikers will adore the plethora of beauty that is easily accessible via the trails in the park! 

While the classic Bryce Canyon Rim Trail would be amazing to do, at 11 miles roundtrip, it’s not doable for this itinerary, so save it for a return trip. We’ve listed a few shorter day hikes that are better suited for one day in Bryce instead.

Do a hoodoo hike

the hoodoos of bryce canyon

There are several different ways to enjoy one day in Bryce in an adventurous and active way!

Hike the Navajo Loop Trail or Queens Garden Loop inside the core section of the park to experience the topography from within the canyon.

Navajo Loop is a personal favorite and you’ll enjoy absolutely stunning views from everywhere on this canyon trail!

… Or hop on a horse or ATV!

Man on a brown horse wearing a cowboy hat and looking over the canyon views.

If your feet are exhausted from the previous days’ hikes, no worries — there’s still plenty of ways to experience Bryce Canyon without needing to hike.

Hop on a horse for a horseback excursion on a canyon trail ride or pump up your adrenaline with an ATV tour!

Either is a great way to stay active and see the best that Utah’s Mighty 5 have to offer without overexerting yourself.

Book your horseback excursion on a canyon trail ride now!

Get the best sunset view in Utah

Sun setting over a canyon full of red and white hoodoo landforms.

As the sun begins to set, head to Sunset Point to watch the most phenomenal sunset cover the canyon.

It’s probably the best place to catch the sunset in all of Utah, with its hoodoos, red rocks, and wide-open skies.

As the skies begin to darken, catch the glory of the stars, as Bryce is part of the world-renowned International Dark Skies club.

Of course, if you’re too tired for sunrise — or you just want to double up on the beauty of Bryce — another option is to do an early wakeup call the following morning at Sunrise Point, which offers a great vista from a viewpoint better oriented for the rising sun.

Day 5: Springdale and Zion

Wake up early and start the 2 hour drive to Springdale, Utah.

What makes the Beehive State so unique is the opportunity to experience dramatic landscape changes over the miles and the drive from Bryce to Springdale is a prime example of this.

Start at the East Entrance of Zion

A sign which reads "Zion National Park, National Park Service" on the road leading to the national park with mountains in the background.

Head south down highway 89. From here, you’ll hit the East Entrance of Zion National Park first.

I recommend coming in from this direction because it allows you to drive through the entire length of Zion before hitting the main headquarters of the Park.

There are no words to describe the beauty of Zion. Sky-high mountains loom over deep purple slot canyons, multi-layered rock formations weave among the cliff sides, and wild animals can be seen crossing the street.

The beauty will captivate you all the way to the visitors center where you’ll catch a park shuttle to the epic water hike of The Narrows.

Hike to the Narrows

People hiking in knee-deep water in hiking sticks in a slot canyon with purplish rocks and pale green water.

The Narrows is by far the top trail in Zion for discovering the interior slot canyons, and it’s a must-see on the bucket lists of hikers everywhere.

Some visitors rent waders and gear from the nearby Zion Outfitters but I don’t see this step as absolutely necessary. If you’re wanting to save money, it’s perfectly acceptable to hike without being outfitted.

Waterproof hiking shoes, however, are absolutely needed, or you’ll be regretting it. Trust me.

Jump on the shuttle and head to the last stop, Temple of Sinawava. From here, make the 1-mile paved hike into The Narrows.

The beauty of this hike is you can make it as long, or as short as you desire. The entire trail will be water wading while you explore between two towering canyon walls that tend to change color as the sun orbits over.

Get in as much, or as little, hiking in as you like and head back to the visitors center to claim a campsite.

Grab a campsite or check into a hotel

Lime green camping tent contrasting against the red and orange rock landscapes of Zion with Watchman mountain in the distance.

The Watchman Campground is the only public campground in the park and fills up quickly.

This is a gorgeous, shaded campground sitting at the foot of the Mountains with a paved walking path along the Colorado River and within walking distance to the bustling city of Springdale.

If you can’t (or don’t want to) snag one of the limited campsites in Zion, there are plenty of wonderful hotels in Springdale.

I recommend Cable Mountain Lodge or Springhill Suites, with their stunning floor-to-ceiling windowed lobby with incredible Zion views. Another classic is the Zion Lodge which must be booked months and months in advance.

Head to the city and grab a bite to eat at The Spotted Dog (American), Zion Pizza and Noodle (pizza), or the Whiptail Grill (Mexican).

Shop around the many unique, handcrafted stores and head back to camp to enjoy a night under the stars or to your hotel for some creature comforts in a beautiful setting.

Day 6: Zion National Park

Grab a delicious cup of coffee before hitting the trail

Woman hiking Angels Landing, a ridge hike with a chain assist, with views of the valley in Zion National Park on all sides.

Wake up early and hit Deep Creek Coffee for a pre-hike meal and hand-crafted coffee. You’ll need the energy for this hike!

Today’s trail, Angels Landing, is a strenuous uphill hike to the tops of Zion so you’ll need to properly fuel your body.

If you’re feeling extra energized this morning, rent a bike from Zion Cycles and skip the shuttle!

You can bike to the trailhead of Angels Landing as well as the rest of the park. Although a big undertaking, it’s a great alternative to beating the crowds.

 Angels Landing is arguably THE top hike in Zion and for a good reason. This 5-mile trail climbs up and over the canyons of Zion and gives you a birds-eye view of the true beauty of the park.

Summiting Angels Landing is an exhilarating experience! As you ascend, you’ll be assisted by chains that are hanging off the sheer cliffside offering a heart-pounding experience.

Once at the top you’re greeted by the most epic view on earth. Catch your breath and enjoy the beauty before you.

Want a different view? Head up to Observation Point. While normally this is a harder hike than Angel’s Landing, the East Rim to East Mesa approach is closed due to the danger of rockfall.

 The easier route via East Mesa is still accessible though, and is only rated as moderate. It involves a 6.7-mile out-and-back trail with only 700 feet of elevation gain (the hard Observation Point trail involves well over 2,000 feet of elevation gain!). 

For this trailhead, I suggest you park at the intersection of Beaver and Fir Roads if you don’t have a high-clearance vehicle.

 Celebrate your summit with a drink

Descend Angels Landing and head back to town for a celebratory beer at Zion Brewery.

Located creekside to the Colorado River, Zion Brewery has the perfect patio to enjoy the afternoon while you recharge and reminisce.

Once you’ve had a beer… or three, cool off at the riverbank or tackle a shorter Zion hike around sunset for even more epic views.

Hit Zion Canyon Overlook Trail for sunset

For a great view worthy of the final full day of your Utah itinerary, head to Zion Canyon Overlook Trail for sunset.

It’s a super short trail, less than 1 mile out-and-back and rated as easy, though there is about 400 feet of elevation gain. It’s absolutely worth it!

Parking is limited so you may have to circle around for a spot. Give yourself some extra time to find parking if you’re going at sunset as it is a popular sunset spot.

Day 7: Back to Salt Lake City

Brilliant turquoise hot spring in the middle of nowhere in Utah.

The last leg of your journey will be spent making the 4.5-hour drive back to Salt Lake City.

Don’t let the longer drive intimidate you, there are plenty of stops you can make along the way to break up the drive.

A few options I recommend are visiting the ghost town of Grafton, stretching your legs at Cedar Breaks National Monument or soaking in the natural hot springs along the way.

As you head north to Salt Lake City, you’ll conveniently pass two opportunities to soak in Utah’s many natural hot springs.

Mystic Hot Springs and Meadow Hot Springs are both located off Highway 15 and welcome tourists to enjoy the soothing heated waters. It’s the perfect ending to your 7-day road trip across Utah.

I hope this 7 day Utah itinerary inspires you to get out and enjoy this beautiful and truly unique state!

What to Pack for an Utah Road Trip

I have a complete USA road trip packing list that you can go through before your trip to know everything to take but below is a rundown.

Travel guides

This Utah road trip itinerary is packed with so much useful information but Travel guides are useful resources to have for deeper insights as they dedicate more time and resources to research. So, to fully arm yourself with knowledge and tips before doing the mighty 5 Utah Road Trip, I recommend combining my personal experience with this highly-rated Fodor’s Utah travel guide.

Phone Mount & Car Charger

Though cell network is not the best while road tripping Utah, you’ll still need your phone whether it’s to check maps or take photos, so it’s essential to have a car charger. And for navigating, a phone mount is gold! It takes away the pressure of having to check your phone while driving (which you shouldn’t do btw) or even asking your front-seat passenger all the time. I honestly can’t imagine going on a road trip without this dual-purpose phone mount and charger!

Snacks

Road trips just go better with snacks and let’s not forget how quickly hanger can kick in especially if you don’t want to keep stopping just to get something to eat. Pack a few snacks — and not just the sweet ones but a mix of sweets and salty ones too.

Rehydration packets

Rehydration packets are life savers when it comes to road trips! From long hikes, fatigue, uncoordinated meal times, scorching sun, there are so many incidences that can cause dehydration.

I always carry some rehydration packets for every road trip I go on and they’ve been great at keeping me hydrated. There are quite many on the market but I recommend these ones.

Bug spray and after-bite care

Nothing takes away the fun of enjoying a scenic hike like bug bites. I know it and I’ve been there — nowadays I never leave home without this lemon eucalyptus-based mosquito repellent, it’s a natural and DEET-free solution that works well on even the most stubborn mosquitos!

Unfortunately, it is sometimes inevitable to avoid bug bites regardless of how committed you were to applying and re-applying bug spray every couple of hours. In that case, this After Bite itch eraser will instantly soothe any bug bites.

Sunscreen

Most people don’t know this but the windshield doesn’t protect you against all UV rays. While they protect against UVB rays (which cause sunburn), most do not block UVA rays, which cause aging and skin cancer and that’s why it’s important to wear sunscreen even when driving.

On top of that, you’ll need it on hikes, beach days, or every time you go under the sun. You could probably get away with a cheaper sunscreen but since my face is kind of sensitive to chemical sunscreens, I need something gentle and I found that in this sunscreen.

And unlike the myth that some skin tones and races don’t need sunscreen, I am here to tell you that you need it as sun cancer doesn’t discriminate based on skin tone. So whether you’re white, pale like me, Black, Latina, or Asian, you need sunscreen!

If you’re hiking, don’t forget about your scalp either — I often end up with a burned scalp and it’s no fun, often leading to headaches. Buy a special sunscreen for hair and scalp to avoid this!

Rain jacket

Do you hate hiking in soaked clothes? Me too! You could have the perfect Utah road trip itinerary but that won’t stop it from raining but that also doesn’t mean you should just waste your day and wait for it to end while hiding in your hotel room!

Get yourself the Marmot PreCip rain jacket (there’s a women’s version and a men’s version). I’ve used mine for years doing all sorts of activities, from biking to hiking and traveling.

And the best part about this jacket is that it keeps me dry when it rains without making me uncomfortably hot like other rain jackets due to the zippered arm-pits which provide ventilation.

External batteries

The Anker external battery pack is a travel must. While you can charge your phone while driving, you may want to charge other devices — a camera, a drone, portable speakers, an e-reader — as well.

Or if you notice your battery is running low while you’re out hiking or sightseeing, you can just start charging right away without having to return to your car. It holds several charges on a single battery pack and will last days at a time.

Read Next

I have so many posts to help you plan an epic trip through the Southwest, from general packing guides to quotes to inspire your trip to detailed itineraries just like this one for neighboring states!


Don’t forget travel insurance!
Travel insurance coverage helps you recoup your losses in case of emergency, accident, illness, or theft. I’ve relied on World Nomads for my travel insurance coverage for four years with no complaints, and I’m a happy paying customer. I recommend them highly to fellow travelers!

Get your free quote here.

Here are my suggestions for where to go next.

What to Pack for a Road Trip: The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List
Road Trip Quotes: The Best Road Trip Quotes & Instagram Captions
Arizona Road Trip: The Perfect 7 Day Arizona Road Trip Itinerary
Southwest USA Road Trip (Nevada, Arizona, & Utah): The Ultimate Southwest Road Trip Itinerary for 10-14 Days
Idaho Road Trip: The Best Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Montana Road Trip: The Perfect 10 Day Montana Road Trip Itinerary

San Juan Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in San Juan, PR

Old San Juan views

The United States is a young country – and as a result, its architecture skews towards the modern and functional rather than the historic and elegant.

The U.S.’s best architectural eye candy actually lies about 1,000 miles offshore of Florida: Old San Juan, Puerto Rico at the edge of the Caribbean Sea.

With its odd legal status somewhere between colonial territory and full U.S. statehood, Puerto Rico is easy for Americans to travel to. 

As a result, visiting Puerto Rico requires neither a passport nor lengthy border crossings at airports. 

That, plus Puerto Rico’s immense beauty, has lead it to be an increasingly popular destination, particularly in 2021 as we navigate the new normal of travel.

San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico and it offers the best of the island in a nutshell. This vibrant city combines history and modernity, urban life and beach culture, old and new seamlessly.

If you only have 3 days in Puerto Rico, it may be tempting to blitz as much of the island as possible, trying to see San Juan as well as the beauty of Ponce, Culebra and Flamenco Beach, and Vieques. 

But I’m here to tell you to take your time. Puerto Rico moves at its own pace, and running yourself ragged to hit all the “top spots” will actually have you missing out. 

San Juan in and of itself has tons to offer. By basing yourself in San Juan and doing a day trip to visit El Yunque and the Bio Bay, you’ll get a rich picture of Puerto Rico while also having time to relax.

You’ll also be energized to come back and plan a longer Puerto Rico itinerary where you can spend more time enjoying Puerto Rico’s islands (yes, this island has islands!) and lush tropical interior.

With beautiful colonial architecture painted in vibrant colors, some of the most Instagrammable places in Puerto Rico, and gorgeous beaches within the city limits…. what are you waiting for?

Where to Stay in San Juan

the beautiful downtown of old san juan

Here is a selection of some of the best-rated places to stay in San Juan. I suggest staying in a hotel, not an Airbnb. 

Airbnbs have recently been required to pay taxes like hotels, and many Airbnbs in San Juan operate illegally to avoid taxes. To avoid issues with an illegal Airbnb, I suggest staying in a hotel.

BOUTIQUE | I love the Small Luxury Hotels of the World brand and I’ve stayed at many a property of theirs over the years! They have a gorgeous offering called O:Live Boutique Hotel located in vibey Condado that I’m looking forward to staying at on my next trip to the island!

Gorgeously designed rooms with Mediterranean-inspired details, rain showers with hydromassage jets, a roof terrace with an infinity pool with views of the Condado Lagoon? Swoon. Sold.
>> Check availability and rates on Booking.com

LUXURY | Nothing says luxury quite like the Ritz-Carlton brand! At Dorado Beach Ritz-Carlton, we’re talking on-site golf course, multiple swimming pools, 4 on-site restaurants, and spa and fitness centers. Plus, some rooms even have their own private plunge pools for the ultimate luxury vacation! 

It’s not cheap, that’s for sure, but it’s by far the best choice if you’re looking for a blowout accommodation choice for a special occasion (or just a really baller vacation).
>> Check availability and rates on Booking.com

BUDGET | Looking for a hostel option? Nomada Urban Beach Hostel is a fantastic choice for travelers on a budget, located near Isla Verde Beach. Options include dorm-style rooms and private rooms. 

The dorms are modern with amenities like curtains and hangers allotted for each bunk bed: little touches that frequent hostel-goers are sure to heave a sigh of relief over. There’s also a roof terrace for travelers to relax on and chitchat.
>> Check availability and rates on Booking.com

Travel Tips for Getting Around San Juan

the colorful buildings of old town san juan

I’ve structured this San Juan itinerary so that you don’t need to handle renting a car while in Puerto Rico. Renting a car gives you freedom, but it can be stressful, and 3 days isn’t enough for a full-on Puerto Rico road trip.

Parking conditions are tough especially in the Old Town, and Puerto Rican driving is something you definitely have to adjust to!

This itinerary can be done with a combination of guided tours + taxis, and this is how I specifically planned this San Juan, Puerto Rico itinerary.

However, if you want to rent a car, feel free to — it will definitely give you more freedom to craft the ideal 3 days in San Juan without having to consider tour timings and transit.

If you choose to rent a car in Puerto Rico, there are ways to get a good deal on your rental. I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine – it searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rental from San Juan Airport here.

San Juan Travel Guide: 5 Frequently Asked Questions

the colorful buildings of old san juan in a rainbow of colors

Is English widely spoken in San Juan? Yes! While the main language is Spanish, most people in San Juan are bilingual and you should have no problems getting around with English.

Is 3 days enough in Puerto Rico? While ideally, you’d have a full week getaway to explore Puerto Rico to its fullest — white sand beaches, islands, snorkeling, rainforests, and more — 3 days in San Juan is a great introduction to the island! 

What do I have time for with only 3 days? I suggest sticking to the PR “mainland” if you only have a 3 day weekend in Puerto Rico. The ferry ride to Vieques and Culebra takes quite a bit of time, and flying is a bit of a hassle as well. 

Is an adaptor needed for Puerto Rico? Nope! PR uses the same plugs as everywhere else in North America. In Puerto Rico, electronics use a voltage of 120V, so if your device needs a different voltage, you may need a voltage converter.

Is San Juan, PR safe? Absolutely! I’ve traveled to San Juan three times: once solo, once with friends, and once as part of a couple, and I’ve had fun and felt safe every time! There are some parts of San Juan that have specific safety tips to be aware of, which I’ve mentioned below, but overall, keep aware of your surroundings as you would in any other city and you’ll be fine.

What to Pack for a San Juan Getaway

Allison wearing a swimsuit in Puerto Rico
Enjoying Puerto Rico in a cute high-waisted swimsuit!

Reef-safe sunscreen. The future of marine life in Puerto Rico depends on the actions visitors take now! Do your part to keep Puerto Rico’s reefs healthy for the future. 

I use and love SunBum SPF 50 with Vitamin E. It’s moisturizing and protective for you, and it’s harmless for the animals and marine organisms who call San Juan Bay their home!

Chemical-free insect repellent: Like reef-safe sunscreen, it’s important that the bug spray you use won’t harm the sensitive ecosystems of Puerto Rico. This is true for swimming as well as visiting the rainforest in El Yunque, particularly if swimming in the natural waterslides, waterfalls, and pools! 

A simple lemon eucalyptus spray like this will keep most mosquitos away without the harsh chemicals which can mess up delicate ecosystems.

An awesome travel towel. I’m obsessed with this classic red and white striped travel towel from Dock & Bay

It easily knocks off sand from the beach in a single shake-out and is made of 100% recycled materials. Order it on Amazon here.

Bathing suits you love. On an island getaway, you’ve got to have swimwear you adore! I love wearing high-waisted swimsuits to cover up any travel bloat (mofongo, amirite?)

I love this one, and this one is a great plus-size option with a high waist and a classic shape. I’d bring two suits so I have another one to change into.

Comfortable travel sandals. Birkenstocks are my travel must! I adore the Birkenstock Gizeh leather thong style personally, but the classic two-buckle Arizona slides are really cute as well. These are the exact shoes I have and love!

One tip, though: Break them in for 2-3 days before you travel, as they form to the exact shape of your foot! They’ll be slightly uncomfortable at first, but nothing major (I just bought a second pair and they fit like a glove after a day of use), but they’re not shoes I’d want to walk around the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan in on their first day!

San Juan Itinerary, Day One: Old San Juan

Visit the Castillo San Cristóbal.

San Cristobal, old san juan

One of two beautiful forts in downtown San Juan, Castillo San Cristóbal is a great place to start your walking tour of San Juan and the old city center.

It’s massive, covering 27 acres at one point, which made it the largest fort ever built by the Spanish in the Caribbean.

It’s absolutely worth a visit. I suggest buying a $10 combined ticket which will allow you entry into both Castillo San Cristóbal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

There’s a ton of historical insight here at San Cristobal — you can see where the first shots were fired during the Spanish-American war, look through holes in the wall where cannons used to be placed, and check out the sentry boxes which used to house Spanish soldiers (including, supposedly, a haunted one — la Garita del Diablo). 

Not into history? The views alone are swoon-worthy, stretching all the way to the gorgeous beaches of Condado.

Take an oceanside stroll down Calle Norzagaray.

basketball in Old San Juan

The best way to start your San Juan itinerary is by taking a self-guided walking tour of all the amazing sights in downtown San Juan.

Calle Norzagaray connects several important San Juan landmarks such as Castillo de San Cristóbal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro, flanked on one side by the beautiful Caribbean Sea and another by beautiful colorful facades.

You’ll love walking the historic streets of Old San Juan with their cobblestone pathways and candy-colored buildings!

Note: Down below Calle Norzagaray is the neighborhood of La Perla, a colorful shantytown outside the city walls made famous by its appearance in the Despacito music video. 

I personally haven’t visited, and the neighborhood has a strict “no photo, no video” policy. Murders of tourists — while rare — have occurred

I’ve always felt safe when traveling in San Juan, but as a solo female traveler, I opted to stay away from La Perla. This is not to fearmonger — many people have visited safely and enjoyed it. 

Use your judgment, but I left it off this San Juan itinerary since I have no personal experience and don’t feel comfortable recommending it without having been there myself.

See the most beautiful cemetery in the world.

Old San Juan views

As you near Castillo San Felipe del Morro, you’ll see a gorgeous green grassy area, often filled with people picnicking or flying kites and enjoying the gorgeous Puerto Rican weather and salty breeze.

Down below the park, there’s a staircase that takes you to an oceanfront cemetery just outside the city walls. 

cemetary old san juan

It’s one of the most beautiful places in Old San Juan and it shouldn’t be missed on any San Juan itinerary! 

While in the heart of San Juan between two very well-known landmarks, the cemetery is a little bit hidden and so there usually aren’t a ton of tourists here.

It’s a nice peaceful little sojourn off the beaten path of downtown San Juan!

Wander around Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

El Morro Old San Juan

The better-known of the two fortifications in Old San Juan is Castillo San Felipe del Morro, often called “El Morro” for short because whew that’s a mouthful.

Using your entry ticket which you bought at San Cristóbal, you can also gain access to this beautiful and historic site, which protected Puerto Rico from water invasions. 

The fort was positioned strategically on a high cliff (hence the name ‘el Morro’, which means ‘promontory’ or headland) with a sweeping view of the San Juan Bay, so they could easily spot any intruders and immediately spring into defense.

This is also another place for gorgeous views as well as tons of interesting history.

Take a photo on Calle San Jose.

street art in Old San Juan

Home to some of the most beautiful and recognizable street art in Puerto Rico, Calle San Jose is a colorful street in the Old Town that shouldn’t be missed!

To take some photos of this gorgeous piece of street art, type in “Puerto Rican Flag Door Historical Location” into Google Maps or look just outside of the Base Hostel Old San Juan: it’s right there!

Fill up on a fun food tour.

tasting platter in puerto rico

One of the best ways to get to know a destination is through a food tour!

While there are a few food tours that cover Old San Juan, keep in mind that the historic center is but one small part of San Juan — and a touristic one at that.

To eat like the locals of San Juan, opt for a food tour that gets you outside the city walls — like this driving food tour of San Juan.

You’ll eat like a true boricua as you explore the San Juan metro area and enjoy 3 sitdown meals and 2 drinks, including beach snacks at beautiful Piñones.

Book this San Juan metro food tour!

Relax on the beach.

the beach at playa escambron

After eating your way through the city, it’s time to kick up your feet and relax at one of San Juan’s best beaches.

Now would be a great time to visit Playa Escambrón, a great snorkeling spot as it’s home to the Escambrón Marine Park, which also has several beautiful sunken statues and structures throughout which make it a beautiful blend of art and nature. 

Picture the columns of Atlantis, statues, and a sunken fish protection wall! This is a great spot to bring your own snorkel or even try scuba diving for the first time! It has easy beach access and shallow waters.

Another option, if you have a car, would be to drive to Luquillo and visit the beautiful white sands of Luquillo Beach! There are lots of kiosks selling tasty fritters and other fried Puerto Rican goodies, but it’s a bit hard to get there unless you drive yourself.

Get your night going with a rum craft cocktail tour.

hand serving a mai tai style cocktail made with rum filled with crushed ice and garnishes.

For the best way to cap off your first night in San Juan, I suggest you take a tasty craft rum cocktail tour.

You’ll learn firsthand why Puerto Rico is widely considered to be the rum capital of the world — and how rum is more than just Bacardi! Rum distilleries in Puerto Rico are a huge industry, and there are many more tasty rums to try.

On this fun cocktail and walking tour, you will have the chance to taste many delicious rum-forward cocktails, while also exploring the fun-loving nightlife of Old San Juan with a guide. 

This is a great way to get to know a variety of bars in the city (and figure out which ones you want to come back to spend more time at!) while also learning about the drinking culture of Puerto Rico and the history of rum production.

Get to know the city and its history while getting your buzz on!

Book your rum cocktail tour here!

San Juan Itinerary, Day 2: Rainforest & Bio Bay

Take a day trip to El Yunque Rainforest and the Bioluminescent Bay.

the beautiful green landscapes of the tropical rainforest of el yunque

One of the coolest parts of visiting San Juan is the chance to see a rainforest in the United States — the only tropical rainforest in the U.S., in fact! 

So if you’ve never experienced visiting a rainforest before, you’ll adore the opportunity to do so on this San Juan 3 day itinerary. A visit to El Yunque National Forest is only a short drive or easy guided tour away.

I personally drove out to El Yunque on my last visit to Puerto Rico, and it was absolutely worth the time but I will say driving in Puerto Rico is a little different than the U.S. mainland… a little more hectic than driving in California, let’s say. 

Drivers are a little more aggressive than I’m used to, and there are some quirks about driving in Puerto Rico that can surprise you.

For example, the right lane is typically for faster cars whereas the left lane is typically the fast one in the States, which means that merging onto the highway can be a heart-pounding experience if you’re an anxious driver like I am!

If you want to skip the er, cultural immersion that is driving in Puerto Rico in a rental car and have a more relaxing experience, I recommend going by guided full day trip. 

beautiful waterfall in el yunque

This highly-reviewed day tour makes it all easy. They will arrange pick up at your hotel and then they will take you to El Yunque first.

There, you can hike through the beautiful rainforest with unique tropical flora and fauna, arriving at natural pools and waterfalls (including a natural waterslide!) via the beautiful hiking trails in the national park. 

By night, the tour will bring you to a delicious dinner before heading to the Bioluminescent Lagoon in Fajardo Bay, where you’ll get to kayak in the picturesque blue waters which sparkle as the paddles dip into the water, gently disturbing the dinoflagellates microorganisms which then light up in response — true magic.

Book your rainforest + bioluminescent bay tour here!

the electric blue views of the bioluminescent plankton in fajardo

San Juan Itinerary, Day 3: Beach Day

Start the day with a mallorca.

mallorca y cafe

One of the best ways to start the last way of your San Juan itinerary is with a tasty breakfast with a view!

Grab a ham and cheese mallorca (con un cafe con leche, obviamente) for breakfast. There are so many places you can grab one, but I suggest eating at one of the kiosks the Plaza de Armas, which is a colorful square with lots of historic and beautiful buildings.

So, what is a mallorca? Mallorca refers to the sweet Puerto Rican bread dusted with powdered sugar, but it can also be split open and turned into a delicious sandwich that’s tasty at any time of day, but is delicious for breakfast.

 It’s salty, it’s sweet, it’s delicious. It also runs the risk of covering you in a white cloud of powdered sugar, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Relax on the sand or jet ski through the San Jose Lagoon.

palm trees and blue waters of carolina beach in san juan puerto rico

From your accommodation in Old San Juan, head to Carolina Beach, about a 20-30 minute drive or Uber depending on traffic. 

From there, you can stake out a claim on the public beach at Balneario de Carolina or Balneario de Isla Verde, sipping on local craft brews from Ocean Lab Brewing Co (I recommend the blood orange blonde!) or cocktails swinging on a bar swing at Vaivén Beach Bar.

Alternately, or you can go on a 90-minute jet ski tour through the San Jose Lagoon with its beautiful turquoise blue, crystal clear waters, heading all the way to the beaches of beautiful Isla Verde.

A jet ski tour of the San Jose Lagoon is an adrenaline-pumping way to see a large stretch of the area around San Juan quickly, perfect if you only have a weekend in San Juan to make the most of.

If you’re not into jet skiing, kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding is another fantastic option.

Book your 90-minute jet ski tour online here!

Have a delicious lunch by the sea.

a fried red fish with flattened fried plantains
Fried red snapper with tostones — a Puerto Rican classic!

While in Piñones, make sure to eat a delicious lunch — preferably seafood, since you’re in the Caribbean, after all!

We recommend El Nuevo Acuario if you’re a fan of seafood — it’s famous for its tasty lobster empanadas, fresh fish, and tasty trifongo (which is a combination of plátano verde, plátano maduro, and yuca — aka green plantain, ripe plantain, and cassava).

Not a fan of fish? Hipic Cache has a nice variety of non-seafood options, such as their mofongo (mashed plantains) with skirt steak and BBQ chicken.

Spend the rest of the day enjoying the sun.

the beaches of condado in san juan

From here, you can spend the rest of the day on one of the beautiful beaches in San Juan proper, such as Condado, Playita del Condado, Ocean Beach, or Ocean Park.

I’ve been to all of them and each is amazing in its own way. You can’t go wrong!

Finish your San Juan itinerary with a sunset sail.

Silhouette of a sailing boat at sunset in the Caribbean in San Juan, Puerto Rico

For a beautiful and historic sail around San Juan, climb aboard the Amazing Grace, a sailing vessel dating back to the American Revolutionary War.

Sunset sailing tours depart daily at 5:30 PM between Pier 3 and 4 in the San Juan Bay.

While on a sunset tour of the San Juan Bay, enjoy beverages, cocktails, and appetizers as you cruise San Juan Bay viewing historic buildings like La Fortaleza, the Governor’s mansion… plus you can enjoy local music aboard the vessel.

The views are stunning on this small-group tour! Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring your ID.

Book your small group sailing tour online here!

The Only Southwest Road Trip Itinerary You Need

Planning an epic road trip through America’s Southwest? You’ll be richly rewarded with insane Martian-esque landscapes, beautiful national parks, empty stretches of road, and stunning sunsets.

I’ve highlighted all the best on and off the beaten path adventures so you can create a Southwest road trip of your dreams.

This itinerary for the American Southwest starts and ends in Las Vegas, Nevada, taking you through six national parks and a handful of state parks and national monuments along the way.

Get ready for the USA road trip of a lifetime — this Southwest road trip is truly one for the bucket list.

How Long Do You Need For This Southwest Itinerary?

This Southwest itinerary should take you from 10 days to two weeks to complete.

However, if you were pressed for time, you could certainly condense it to a one-week road trip or hit a few highlights in just 5 days, though you would definitely need to cut out quite a few things.

As written, this road trip will take you through six national parks, three state parks, a handful of national monuments, and through hundreds if not thousands of miles of untamed landscapes. We saw one national park in Arizona and all five national parks in Utah.

If you were trying to condense this Southwest road trip into just five days, I’d make it go from Las Vegas to Zion to Bryce to Page to Sedona and back to Las Vegas via the Hoover Dam.

Extending this Southwest Road Trip

If you have even more time? There’s so much more to road tripping in the Southwest that you could tack on, or even go slightly beyond the Southwest itself.

You can also easily add on a little Western road trip from Vegas to see some of California’s famous parks (Joshua Tree and Death Valley come to mind) or swing up north after Moab to visit the famous Yellowstone National Park.

New Mexico with its beautiful White Sands National Park and Carlsbad Caverns National Park, plus its beautiful cities of Sante Fe, Taos, and Albuquerque, are also a great idea.

Personally, we swung north and east after Moab and went up to Denver and Boulder for a few days before heading back to Las Vegas to drop off our rental car.

However, considering the drive from Moab is about 8 hours, you may want to break it up with some time in Grand Junction or somewhere else in Colorado if you choose to continue eastwards. We just took the long driving day and took turns driving, but if you have only one driver, you may want to break up the journey.

Tips for Saving Money on this Southwest Itinerary

To save money, be sure to buy an Annual Pass for the national parks– you can easily purchase an America the Beautiful park pass online at REI.

For $80, you have unlimited entrances to all US national parks (and monuments, forests, seashores, etc — over 2,000 protected lands) for one vehicle for a year!

Seeing as national parks cost anywhere from $10-30 to enter, with most near the $30 side of the spectrum, you’ll definitely save money by buying an annual pass.

Another way to save money is to travel by campervan or RV, eliminating or reducing your accommodation costs.

There is free camping in BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land across most of the Southwest. I have a guide to free camping in Utah, which will cover most of this Southwest itinerary.

If you prefer the amenities of a maintained campground, you still won’t pay too much, as paid campgrounds are typically around $30 per night.

Finally, another big way to save money if you’re not going with a campervan is to book your car rental in and out of the same place — when I was researching, I found Las Vegas to have the best options, followed by Phoenix, which isn’t on this itinerary but would be an easy swap.

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine – it searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rentals in Las Vegas here.

Southwest Road Trip Itinerary

Stop One: Las Vegas, Nevada

My Southwest road trip itinerary has you starting in Las Vegas for a variety of reasons: the first being that renting a car in Vegas is loads cheaper than renting in most other places along this American Southwest itinerary.

You can also rent an RV in Las Vegas and use that as your transportation and accommodation all in one!

The second reason being that flights to Las Vegas are often incredibly affordable — my flight from Vegas to San Francisco was only $32 on Southwest, which even includes a bag!

While in Vegas, check out the Seven Magic Mountains about 20 minutes outside of town – it’s a fabulous art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, which will be dismantled at the end of 2018.

The Seven Magic Mountains installation, a temporary art exhibit 20 minutes outside of Vegas

If money permits, there’s no better way to get excited about the landscape you’re about to see than to take a helicopter tour from Las Vegas.

There’s a variety of helicopter tours you can take from Vegas, each offering a completely unique landscape. If budget allows, I strongly recommend taking a flight over the Grand Canyon.

You’ll get to see the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and an extinct volcano on your way to the Grand Canyon — the 7th natural wonder of the world!

You can opt for an aerial-only flight (which is more affordable) or a canyon landing tour that stops 3,500 feet below the Canyon Rim, right next to the beautiful Colorado River. Both are a great choice — it depends on how badly you’d like to land at the bottom of the canyon!

Book your flight to the Grand Canyon — aerial-only or canyon landing!

But if you’re on a tight budget in Vegas and still want to ride in a helicopter, there are several more affordable rides you can do, including a nighttime flight over the Las Vegas strip!

A short helicopter flight over the Las Vegas Strip just after sunset as the lights come down over the city is an incredible experience, and one I won’t soon forget. I was surprised at how breathtaking it was even after having my breath taken away seeing the Grand Canyon… but the Las Vegas Strip did not disappoint!

You can opt for a night flight with a romantic dinner or for the more budget-friendly helicopter over the Vegas Strip tour.

With prices for the latter just around $100 per person, it’s a great way to experience the high life (literally) without breaking the bank or needing to strike it rich at the slots before booking!

Book your helicopter tour over the Strip — budget or with luxury dinner option

Recommended photo spots: Anywhere and everywhere, really! A helicopter ride will give you stunning views; The Bellagio, the W, the Wynn, and pretty much anywhere on the Strip are also great places for photos.

Recommended accommodations: The W is the funkiest boutique hotel in all of Vegas — perfect for the ‘gram! The rooms are over the top and ridiculously outlandish, the staff is amazing with their personalized recommendations and greetings, and the calm of the pool there compared to at the SLS (which you can also visit if you stay at the W) was an awesome oasis in the middle of crazy Vegas. Can’t rate highly enough! Check prices, ratings, and availability at The W here.

Stop Two: Valley of Fire

About 45 minutes from Las Vegas is what I deem to be the most underrated spot on this entire Southwest road trip: the Valley of Fire State Park.

I literally have no idea why this isn’t a national park — it’s so massive and the vistas are so spectacular that it surely deserves the title.

That said, the fact that it’s only technically a state park will serve you well, as despite its proximity to Las Vegas there were very few people at the park.

While you could do this independently, I actually did a day trip to the Valley of Fire with Pink Jeep Tours and I can’t speak more highly of it — I definitely recommend it if your budget allows.

We absolutely maximized our time there and got to see all the best parts of the park with expert narration (and a wicked sense of humor!) along the way. It was pretty much a perfect day out.

Since we had so much driving along the way later on in the trip, it was nice to start off the trip at a slow pace and not have to handle the driving and planning ourselves for the Valley of Fire.

As it’s just 40 minutes outside of Vegas, it’s an easy and logical day trip if you’re wanting to spend a few nights luxuriating in Vegas before heading out on your Southwest road trip adventure of a lifetime.

I’d recommend the tour, as it’s what we did and loved it, but you can also DIY a day in the Valley of Fire if you have budget constraints.

Book your Pink Jeep Tour online here!

Recommended photo spots: Rainbow Vista trail, The Beehives, Elephant Rock, Balanced Rock, pretty much anywhere with an open road!

Recommended accommodations: Overnight somewhere in Vegas; we loved our stay at The W (find rates & availability here) but there are a ton of other budget-friendly options available in Vegas.

You can also camp inside the park, first come first serve, but get here early if you plan to do that as spots go fast!

Stop Three: Hoover Dam

After visiting the Valley of Fire, you’ll need to route back via Vegas on your way to the Hoover Dam. This is right on your way to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon – no circuitous rerouting required – so you might as well see one of America’s biggest engineering marvels.

The Hoover Dam used to be the tallest dam in the world when it was first built, but it’s since been overtaken by a dam I’ve never heard of until researching this post, located in Tajikistan.

The most amazing fact (to me at least) about the Hoover Dam is that the concrete holding up is still not dry all the way through!

At its base, it’s a massive 660 feet thick — the equivalent of two back-to-back football fields!

Scientists say it’ll take 125 years for it to dry all the way through; at only 80 years since its construction, we’ve still got 30 to go.

The Hoover Dam from above on a helicopter tour – truly a sight to behold on a Southwest road trip

Recommended photo spots: The dam, obviously; the Pat Tillman memorial bridge

Recommended accommodations: No need to stay overnight – this is best done as a quick stop off on the way to Flagstaff and/or the Grand Canyon.

Stop 4: Flagstaff, Arizona (the Grand Canyon & Sedona)

Flagstaff is a perfect base for further road trips in the Southwest USA.

That said, Flagstaff on its own has plenty to write home about — don’t miss Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, with its beautiful landscape and exciting lava trails.

But perhaps the best thing about Flagstaff is its proximity to some of Arizona’s greatest attractions.

30 minutes through a winding national forest, you’ll find Sedona — one of Arizona’s most scenic places, and a must on any Southwest US road trip itinerary.

If you have time, it’s worth giving at least a full day for exploring Sedona, or even following my 2 day itinerary to exploring Sedona’s best sights.

For the purpose of this post, I’m suggesting Sedona as a day trip from Flagstaff, but you could easily spend more time in Sedona if you wish.

Check out the stunning red rocks arching into the sky, and be sure not to miss the opportunity to go for a hike or to visit the Church of the Holy Cross — a stunning chapel quite literally built into the side of a mountain.

I didn’t have time in Sedona to go on the original Pink Jeep Tour (the same company as I went with on my Valley of Fire tour) but if I did, I absolutely could have gone on this off-roading 2-hour scenic rim tour.

Book your 2-hour offroad tour of Sedona!

Sedona is great for a day trip, but the main attraction when visiting Flagstaff is the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is a mere 90 minutes away.

I picked the South Rim for this itinerary because it works better with the itinerary, but you could also add on the North Rim between Page and Bryce Canyon. (Here’s how to pick between the two).

No amount of preparation can truly ready you for the grandeur of what it’s like to stand at the edge of this canyon in person.

I even flew over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter a few days prior to seeing it from the edge.

While the helicopter ride was an absolutely amazing experience, truly nothing beats standing at its edge and seeing its vastness from ground level. If you can see it both ways, do! But don’t underestimate the power of seeing it from ground level with your own eyes. It’s breathtaking.

The easiest way to see the Grand Canyon is to drive there from Flagstaff, about 90 minutes each way, which is what we did.

However, I didn’t realize at the time that there was a really cool historic scenic train that runs right from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon! If you’re into train history and old, nostalgic train rides, this may be a really cool experience for you to have. You can book it online here.

Recommended Accommodation: When I was in Flagstaff, I stayed at the Hilton Doubletree in town. With free (warm!) cookies upon check-in, large rooms, and an in-house restaurant, it’s a comfortable and affordable crash pad between adventures and it’s much cheaper than staying in either the Grand Canyon or Sedona. Check prices, rates, & availability here.

Stop 5: Page, Arizona (Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, & Lake Powell)

Page, Arizona has some of the most spectacular sights in all of the American Southwest, all in a tiny little town.

For one, Horseshoe Bend, one of the most iconic photography spots in the entire Southwest US, is located a mere 3 miles down the main highway.

But the main draw to Page is the stunning Antelope Canyon. Broken into two parts, Upper and Lower, we opted for the Lower — having heard that it has more vibrant colors, as opposed to Upper which is famous for its sunbeams much-loved by photographers.

Upper is more popular (and thus more expensive and more crowded) than Lower, plus it requires advance reservations.

Chronic underplanners as we are, we opted for Lower, as we were able to book next-day tickets quite easily.

The information online is a bit out of date; there are now two tour companies operating tours to Lower Antelope Canyon.

Ken’s Tours charges $20 as far as I know, Dixie Ellis’ $25; plus the $8 tribal lands fee. We went with Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours as the line was shorter and highly recommend the experience.

Be aware that this is an incredibly popular tour on everyone’s Southwest itinerary no matter what tour company you go with, and you will be waiting in line quite a bit – not to mention the waiting you’ll have to do in order to snap photos without people in them. However, it’s entirely worth the experience in my opinion!

Horseshoe Bend is a bit less crowded than Antelope Canyon, mainly because it’s more spacious. We actually went three times in the span of 24 hours seeking the perfect shot.

Sunrise is fantastic because so few people are there, although the sun rises on the opposite side of the bend so if you’re looking for sunbursts, you’re better off at sunset. Midday, you’ll see a wild array of colors that you can’t quite see during sunrise/sunset, so it’s worth a separate trip just for that as it’s not so far away from Page

At sunset
At sunrise

While sunset is the most crowded at Horseshoe Bend, it’s also the most magical. As a bonus, if you scrabble up the rocks a bit, you can quite easily get epic photos with no one else in the shot!

A clever way to escape the Horseshoe Bend hoards? Fly over it by helicopter (which seems to be a running theme of this post — sadly, I didn’t have the chance to do this, though. Next time!) You’ll also get to see Lake Powell — more on that in a second.

Finally, as if I haven’t written enough about Page to fill an entire blog post all on its own, you must check out Lake Powell.

This lake is simply stunning, with glassy blue water amidst a desert landscape. You can rent a paddleboard and check out the lake at your own speed, or go to one of the many viewpoints to see it from above.

Recommended photo spots: Horseshoe Bend, Lower/Upper Antelope, Lake Powell, Wahweap Overlook

Recommended accommodations: We stayed at Hampton Inn & Suites in Page – Lake Powell and highly recommend it. The rooms are large with plenty of space to work and relax in, with all the comfortable amenities you’d expect like a fitness room, a heated indoor pool, a Jacuzzi (perfect for sore legs after hiking all day!).

Breakfast was also delicious and included in the price of the room. It also couldn’t be any closer to Horseshoe Bend, just three miles and a quick five-minute drive down the road.

If you’re planning to visit Horseshoe Bend multiple times for the perfect photo like we did, it’s an awesome place to base yourself because as soon as you leave the parking lot you’re already on the road to Horseshoe Bend! Check rates, prices, & availability here.

Stop Six: Kanab, Utah

On the way from Page to Utah, you can go two different ways. We actually did both as we did a huge circle from Page to Kanab and back all in one day when we couldn’t go to Antelope Canyon as planned, so I can report on each way!

The first way, via I-89, you’ll pass a view of Lake Powell at Wahweap Overlook before making your way to the Visitor Center of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park.

Stop off at the visitor center in Big Water, Utah and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to meet a man who discovered a brand new species of dinosaur! He is really lovely and fun to talk to, so definitely stop by if you can.

On the way to Kanab, you can stop off to do the Toadstools hike — a short one-hour roundtrip hike that ends in a truly Martian landscape. Quite off the beaten path of most people’s typical Southwest road trip itineraries, and well worth the stop!

“Toadstools” are formed when rain makes boulders fall from cliffs and land atop softer rocks, creating mushroom-looking rock structures. They look manmade but they’re entirely natural!

After passing Kanab, quickly grab lunch somewhere before making your way to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

This little-visited park has sand dunes that look as if they’re straight out of the Sahara — all against the backdrop of some legendary Utah mountains.

This park is so close to Zion that I don’t know why it’s more popular, but you definitely should have it on your Southwest itinerary — all the better for you to snap some epic photos without the crowds!

With the clouds, it looked more orange than pink, but on a sunny day, I’m sure the sands are more true to their name.

If you go the other way from Page via the longer but more scenic route (I-89A), you can go over a beautiful mountain pass filled with lush evergreen trees and stop at the Vermillion Cliffs viewpoint and LeFevre Overlook.

There, you can see four plateaus that make up the “Staircase” of Grand Staircase-Escalante in a variety of hues — including chocolate brown, vermillion, and purple (two of the plateaus was unfortunately covered by some clouds when we were there!)

While you’re in Kanab, you’re so close to Zion, but I urge you to skip it — for now — in lieu of visiting it on your way back to Las Vegas!

Finally, Kanab is also a good stopping point if you are testing your luck for permits for the Wave in Arizona, as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center visitor center here is where you would need to get your permit.

Your chances are low, but it’s worth a try!

Recommended photo spots: Lefevre Point, Vermillion Cliffs overlook, Toadstools, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Recommended accommodations: We didn’t stay in Kanab during this trip because we went back to Page in a giant circle (which we don’t recommend — it was only our poor planning that had us doing so!), but Canyons Boutique Hotel would have been a great choice if we did.

With a 8.9 rating on Booking, spacious rooms, nice décor, and a central location, it’s the best choice in town. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Stop Seven: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon is truly one of the most memorable stops on any Southwest US road trip itinerary. For one, it has its distinctive hoodoos which you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the world in such number and scale.

Hoodoos (also called “fairy chimneys”) form when the water from melting snow seeps into the cracks of the rock and freezes overnight. Bit by bit, the cracks expand until large chunks of rock fall away, leaving pillars in their place.

Hoodoos form all over the world, but there are thousands of them at Bryce Canyon, partly because the elevation is so high (around 8,000 feet!) that the melt-freeze cycle happens at least 200 nights per year

We just drove to a few different viewpoints in the park — Natural Bridge, Sunset Point and Inspiration Point — and then did the Navajo Loop Trail, which filled about a half-day in the park.

If you’re looking for a creative yet structured way to spend some time in Bryce Canyon National Park, you can do an ATV ride, a horseback ride through Red Canyon, or join a hiking tour.

Recommended photo spots: Queen’s Garden Trail, Navajo Loop, Inspiration Point, Natural Bridge, and Sunset/Sunrise Points.

Recommended accommodations: Bryce Canyon doesn’t have the most exciting options for accommodations.

We didn’t stay overnight here, as we just visited for a day, but if we had, something simple but comfortable like a Best Western is probably your best bet. Check prices, ratings, and availability. 

Stop Eight: Capitol Reef National Park

On your way to Moab from Bryce, you can take a scenic route passing through Capitol Reef via Highway 12, which I highly recommend.

The least visited of Utah’s staggering five national parks, it’s not quite as epic as Zion or Bryce but it has its own charms. It’s worth a quick stop as you pass through, at the very least.

Recommended photo spots: The cute barns and old schoolhouse on the main road, the Scenic Drive, Panorama Point, Cassidy Arch, Temple of the Moon and Sun, Chimney Rock.

Recommended accommodations: The best — and in my mind, only! — place to stay in Capitol Reef is in the Capitol Reef Resort. They have covered wagons and tipis for a themed stay, as well as standard rooms and cottages for a more traditional hotel experience. Book a stay at the Capitol Reef Resort here.

Extra Stop: On your way between Capitol Reef and Moab, you’ll have the opportunity to stop off at Goblin Valley State Park!

Frankly, we were exhausted and gave it a pass this trip, but it’s definitely on the list for my next Southwest itinerary!

Stop Nine: Moab, Utah (Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point, and Arches)

Ah, Arches National Park. With its famous Delicate Arch which is featured on the Utah license plate, this is one of the most famous national parks in the US, and a must on any Southwest road trip itinerary.

In addition to the Delicate Arch hike, you should also be sure to see the North & South Window arches, the Double Arch, and the Turret Arch.

If you want to dedicate two days to Arches, follow this detailed Arches itinerary which will explain exactly what to do with your time there!

The Devil’s Garden trail was closed when we visited, but you should definitely check it out if possible — it’s supposed to be a stunner.

Also near Moab is the Canyonlands National Park, which I actually preferred to Arches (blasphemy, I know – but I hate crowds). It was super immense, with really colorful rocks and huge canyons, and far fewer people.

There are two entrances to Canyonlands, both of which are quite far from each other.

One is Islands in the Sky, and this is the one that’s closer to Moab (and also Dead Horse Point State Park, another must-see on your Southwest road trip).

The other section, Needles, is rather far away, and suitable if you’re staying longer in Moab.

We didn’t get a chance to visit Needles on this trip, but we weren’t disappointed with the taste of Canyonlands we got at Islands in the Sky — not at all.

Other spots you can’t miss in the Moab area include Dead Horse Point State Park, a place much more beautiful than the name suggests!

It’s right on the way from Canyonlands – Island in the Sky, so it’s a good idea to go there for sunset after visiting Canyonlands in the late afternoon.

Here, the Colorado River winds and rips its way through a valley, like a combination of the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend all in one.

It’s absolutely stunning at sunset, although sunrise is supposed to be even better. I never woke up early enough to see for myself.

Finally, the Corona Arch is a great sunset spot that’s a bit of a hidden gem compared to the crowds you’ll find around Dead Horse Point and Arches.

Make sure you arrive there with about an hour to spare, as the hike is one hour on a not super well-marked path, and make sure you leave before it gets too dark!

We missed the sunset by at least a half-hour and ended up walking back in the dark because we didn’t give ourselves enough time for this hike (#travelbloggerfail) but we at least made it in time for some super pretty cloud action!

Bring a headlamp if you do this hike, trust me — it’s not fun navigating back in the dark with just your cell-phone as a light source.

There are some other great things you can do in Moab if you have the time — as if having two national parks and a state park in your backyard isn’t enough choice!

For an adventure rush, go rafting on either class I and II rapids or III and IV rapids on the Colorado River or hit the ominously-named Hell’s Revenge ATV trail which crisscrosses a rugged terrain in ATVs until you hit the Colorado River.

Book a rafting tour (class I & II), a tougher white water rafting tour (class III & IV) or an ATV tour!

Not into heart-stopping adventure? There are also more leisurely ways to relax in Moab, such as taking a 3-hour jet boat cruise to Dead Horse Point State Park along a peaceful stretch of the Colorado River, checking out side canyons and marveling at the canyon walls which reach 2,200 feet above your head.

Alternately, if you need some R&R after several long days of driving and adventuring, there are tons of great spas in Moab catering to soothing tired and aching muscles! Sorrel River Ranch and Spa Moab are two great choices.

Recommended photo spots: Mesa Arch (sunrise is supposed to be fantastic as the sun will rise directly through the arch!) in Canyonlands NP as well as the scenic drive pulling over at the various viewpoints, Delicate Arch and the other arches (North & South Window, Double, Turret) in Arches NP.

Outside of these national parks, be sure to also visit Dead Horse Point State Park (please don’t miss this!!), and Corona Arch. Be sure to give yourself enough time in Moab, it’s stunning! At least 3 days is a good start.

Recommended accommodations: Moab is a bit expensive compared to other places on the Southwest itinerary. If you are looking for a decent but budget-friendly place, book well in advance as the best-priced places book up quickly.

For people on a budget, I’d suggest the Aarchway Inn is just a tiny bit outside of Moab and has gorgeous settings with that classic Utah red rock all around, a lovely swimming pool, and well-appointed rooms. Check out rates, reviews, and availability here.

If you want a world-class stay, try glamping! Under Canvas Moab knocks it out of the park in terms of comfort, style, and entertainment, and is frequently cited as one of the best glamping lodges in the entire United States.

Book your stay at Under Canvas Moab here!

Stop Ten: Zion National Park

I recommended skipping Zion initially and saving it for the end because it’s probably one of the most epic national parks in all of the United States, and you’ll want a cool place to stop on the long drive between Moab and Las Vegas.

It’s a great way to end your Southwest road trip with something memorable, and it’s a great stopover on the way between Moab and Vegas.

If you’re at all into hiking, the Angels Landing hike is truly a can’t-miss experience.

Climbing up 1,500 feet over a grueling two hour hike (the last half mile of which is up rocks, which you have to use chain handrails to ascend) is not easy — but no epic view really is.

I feel compelled to leave an important safety note about this photo.

Angles are deceiving – there was a larger chunk of the rock edge beneath me which is obfuscated a bit by the high camera angle of this shot. I scooted around while maintaining at least 3 points of contact at all times to be safe. I never stood close to the edge, only scooted on hands and knees.

Still, I posed for this photo 3 years ago — after seeing so many articles in the last few years about selfie deaths, I wouldn’t pose the same way now, but I’d choose to leave a few feet more room between myself and the first edge.

Please be careful when posing on Angels Landing and never do anything you don’t feel comfortable with, especially in pursuit of a good picture! You will likely be exhausted from the hike in the heat, so you won’t have the best balance or judgment. Be cautious and respect your body’s limits. Always be on the safe side.

If you have more time, be sure to check out The Narrows, a hike that can take up to a full day wading through water through a beautiful slot canyon. You can also opt to do a shorter hike and turn around before the endpoint.

We didn’t have time for this, as we were flying out of Vegas later that evening, but it’s on my bucket list for my return to Zion. There are some other shorter hikes in Zion that are also fantastic if you’re too afraid of heights to take on Angels Landing.

Recommended photo spots: the top of Angel’s Landing OR Observation Point (higher and harder hike), Emerald Pools, Watchman, the Narrows

Recommended accommodations: We stayed about 45 minutes outside of the East Ranger Station at Zion Backcountry Yurt, with insane views of the Milky Way surrounding us. Book way in advance on Airbnb (you can find it here).  

It’s also common to stay by the West Ranger Station, close to Springdale, but expect to pay a pretty penny for the privilege. The best combination of proximity, value, and high-quality amenities is at Driftwood Lodge about a mile outside the center of Springdale. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

After Zion, head back to Vegas, return your rental, and marvel at all your photos from the trip of a lifetime!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t forget to travel with travel insurance, especially on a trip involving lots of driving and hiking! You want to be covered in case of an accident or medical emergency. I use and highly recommend World Nomads for their easy purchasing, extensive coverage, and low prices. Get your free quote here.

What to Pack for a Southwest Road Trip

Not sure how to handle packing for a long road trip? I have a full guide to how to pack for a road trip, but I’ll briefly go over the essentials here!

Essentials

Car documents and license: This should be rather obvious, but you’ll need your license, car documentation, and insurance papers (both car insurance and travel insurance) ready for any road trip you take.

Travel insurance: If your road trip includes going to another state or country where you are not insured locally, you may need travel insurance in order to cover you in case of an incident. I use and recommend World Nomads.

Roadside emergency kit: If traveling with your own car, you should already have one of these kits, including (but not limited to) a reflective triangle, rain poncho and emergency blanket, safety vest and whistle, etc. If renting a car, ask if they provide one and if not, bring your own roadside emergency kit that also includes a first aid kit.

Spare tire & tire changing kit: Having a spare tire isn’t much good if you don’t have a jack or kit to change out the tire. Make sure your tire changing kit is complete (or buy your tire changing kit before you head out), and make sure you know how to use it!

Flashlight or headlamp: In case you get somewhere poorly lit after dark, have an emergency in the night, or just go on a sunset hike and need to light your way back, a flashlight or headlamp is key (and make sure to bring some extra batteries, too!) I suggest a rechargeable headlamp like this — it’s a great travel must-have that I find myself using more often than I’d expect.

Car charger and phone mount: Navigating, picking tunes, taking photos: your phone battery goes fast on a road trip, so don’t forget a car charger. I like this dual purpose phone mount and charger! Don’t forget any and all USB cords you might need to for your charging needs!

A road trip playlist: I’d argue this is as essential as anything else on this list! Make sure you download it before you go so that you’re not dependent on data, as a few stretches of this Southwest road trip do go through service deserts.

Hygiene and Safety

Alcohol wipes: Be sure to bring some Lysol or alcohol wipes. These are hard to find currently in the current context, so I’d suggest buying alcohol prep pads, as these seem to be the safest source of 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes. Be a decent person and only buy one box. Do not hoard anything — these alcohol wipes are needed by many people with chronic health conditions such as diabetics. One box will more than suit your needs.

NOTE: Use alcohol wipes or prep pads ONLY on high-touch surfaces as needed and not excessively — soap and water should be your primary line of cleaning and defense. Only use these when not otherwise possible, such as when at a gas station or using a touchpad at an ATM or grocery store.

Hand sanitizer: Sources of hand sanitizer and soap cannot always be guaranteed, and there may be times where it is difficult or less safe to go to a public restroom. It’s better to try to source hand sanitizer in a store from a trusted brand, but in the absence of that being possible, this brand available online looks to be safe, FDA-approved, and with a high-enough level of ethyl alcohol to be safe.

Spare liquid soap: Liquid or bar soap should be chosen over hand sanitizer whenever you have access to water. It’s safer and easier to get ahold of proper soap. Some gas stations, park bathrooms, etc. may not be well-attended, so bring some spare liquid soap with a locking top or a bar of soap in a Ziploc baggie just in case. Be sure to wash your hands for 30-40 seconds, including every part.

Face mask: When in places where distancing is not possible, you will need to wear a face mask to keep yourself and fellow humans safe. I suggest KN94s as opposed to cloth masks when possible, as these offer you (and your fellow humans) the most protection. They’re the Korean equivalent of the N95, and they work quite well. Unfortunately, the N95 is still in short supply and should be reserved for health care workers, unless you’re lucky enough to already have your own personal supply of N95s from a previous need.

Extra water: Be sure to have a few gallons of extra water in your car for emergencies — especially since this road trip through the Southwest covers a lot of harsh desert climates. Whether it’s replacing the water to cool down your engine or emergency drinking water if you’re stranded, it’s a cheap and simple thing to add to your road trip packing list with no downside.

Extras

Snacks: I fully believe the adage “It doesn’t matter how old you get, buying snacks for a road trip should always look like an unsupervised 9-year-old was given $100.” Pro tip: mix salty and sweet — too much of one or the other is a no go. I like having things like KIND bars, trail mix, chips when I need something salty, RXBar protein bars, etc. for my trip

Toilet paper or Kleenex: Good for poorly stocked roadside bathrooms or other emergency needs.

Basic medicines: Any prescription medicine you need, plus motion sickness tablets, ibuprofen/paracetamol, and Pepto-Bismol tablets for upset stomachs.

Rehydration packets: I always pack some rehydration packets with me on my travels as I’m prone to getting dehydrated and getting headaches, and they’re a lifesaver. I recommend these ones.

Travel towel: Great for a quick dip, toweling off after a rain storm, having a spare towel in case of a poorly stocked hotel or Airbnb, a microfiber travel towel is a road trip must pack.

Bug spray: So necessary in the summer months! I love this lemon eucalyptus-based mosquito repellent. If I get any bites, I use this After Bite itch eraser, which instantly soothes mosquito bites.

Sunscreen: Did you know you should always wear sunscreen while driving? The windshield doesn’t protect you against all UV rays — while they protect against UVB rays (which cause sunburn), most do not block UVA rays, which cause aging and skin cancer. This is the sunscreen I use on my face daily, and I use a cheaper basic sunscreen for my skin. No matter your skin tone or race, you need sunscreen!

Lip balm with SPF: I love this key lime-flavored Sun Bum chapstick!

Sunglasses: Bring your favorite sunglasses plus a cheap spare pair as backup — driving without sunglasses = absolute misery.

Travel pillow: If you have someone to divvy up driving duty with, this is a comfortable must-have for kicking back and enjoying your time off! I like this cozy memory-foam travel pillow, because it comes with an eye mask if you want to take a quick nap!

Battery pack: The Anker external battery pack is a travel must. While you can charge your phone while driving, you may want to charge other devices — a camera, someone else’s phone, portable speakers, an e-reader — as well.

Insulated travel mug: A Contigo travel mug is leakproof and pretty much indestructible — and they’re inexpensive to boot. This one is vacuum-insulated and fits standard cupholders easily, great for early morning coffee to power up your road trip. It’ll also be a good thing to bring along on any sunrise hike to keep you warm!

Refillable water bottle: Get a refillable water bottle and either refill it from your extra-large water containers mentioned above or fill up in sinks and fountains along the way. This one is insulated, stainless steel, and convenient to drink from

Day pack: This Osprey day pack is a perfect size. Plus, it’s designed by a company that specializes in ergonomic solutions for backpackers and multi-day trekkers, so you know it’ll be comfortable.

Camera: For years, I’ve relied on my Sony A6000 to take nearly-professional quality images, and the photos you see in this post were almost exclusively taken on this camera! I truly believe this camera is the perfect middle-ground above a smartphone yet below the 5-figure kits that most photographers use. Don’t forget extra memory cards – I only use 64GB Sandisk memory cards.

Toiletries

Wet wipes: These biodegradable wet wipes are easy on the environment and your skin, with aloe vera and Vitamin E.

Vaseline: For fixing flyaway hairs to helping chapped or burned lips to soothing hands or chub-rubbed thighs (ladies, if you know, you know)… I always make sure I travel with Vaseline!

Haircare: Whatever you need to travel with. I just bring a brush and hair ties and shampoo, but your hair needs may be different than mine!

Other basic toiletries: Body wash, shampoo, conditioner, razor, shaving cream, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, face wash, any sort of face cleansing or anti-acne products, moisturizer, body lotion, makeup, etc.

Clothing

Hiking Clothes: Depending on the time of year you do this Southwest road trip, you’ll want to bring either shorts or leggings, long-sleeve or short-sleeve hiking clothes.

Jeans and Ts: Good for non-hiking days and just basic walking-around-town days.

Comfortable hiking shoes: Absolutely necessary for tougher hikes and strongly recommended for even shorter hikes like Angel’s Landing. While tennis shoes may work, hiking shoes are safer.

Sandals: Great for being able to kick them on and off in the car and suitable for shorter walks to observation points, overlooks, etc. I use Birkenstocks.

Rain jacket: It does rain even in the desert! I love the Marmot PreCip rain jacket (there’s a women’s version and a men’s version) and I actually used mine twice on my Southwest road trip.

Dress up clothes: In case you want to have a few nice meals out, you’ll want to bring some nicer clothes as well.

Road Trip to Alaska: Top Sights Along the Alaska “Alcan” Highway

The Alaska Highway, or Alcan, is often listed as one of the ultimate North American road trip routes. We couldn’t agree more!

With winding mountain roads cutting through the remote reaches of British Columbia and Canada’s wild Yukon, this 1,390-mile scenic highway takes travelers all the way to beautiful Alaska. This road trip is unlike any other you’ve experienced before!

Quick Note: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the border between the U.S. and Canada is currently closed to non-essential travel. While some Americans are permitted to travel on the Alaska Highway, you must have a legal, valid reason to do so. You must also follow all the laws of Canada while you transit through the country. Tourism and sightseeing is not a valid reason for travel, and this post is strictly meant for post-pandemic travel plans.

Please read this helpful page from the Canadian government website if you are planning to travel between the continental U.S. and Alaska via Canada to ensure you follow all laws.

An American and a Canadian flag side by side next to barren fields and a deep blue lake while driving the Alcan Highway road trip to Alaska

Originally built during World War II to connect Alaska with the contiguous United States, the Alaska Highway has seen drastic improvements since it’s opening in the 1940s.

No longer a treacherous dirt road, it’s paved and ready for your modern-day road-tripping rig!

This scenic highway begins in the town of Dawson Creek, British Columbia. With a population of about 13,000 people, Dawson Creek will be one of the larger towns on your route.

Load up on groceries and fuel, check over your road trip packing list, because you’re in it for the long haul!

Road Trip to Alaska: Alcan Highway Itinerary

Stop One: Dawson Creek (Mile 0)

Sign with three flags reading "You are now entering the World Famous Alaska Highway Dawson Creek BC"

Welcome to Dawson Creek, where your adventure officially begins! Brush up on the famous route’s history at the Alaska Highway House Interpretive Center.

Here, you can watch an educational film about the highway’s construction and explore some of the equipment used in the rigorous building process. This was no small project!

If you’re planning to spend multiple days in Dawson Creek, you’ll have plenty of time to take a trip over to the Kiskatinaw Bridge. Check out this bridge’s quality craftsmanship.

Built during the construction of the Alaska Highway, the Kiskatinaw Bridge was the first curved wooden bridge in Canada and is one of few that remain intact today.

Ready to hit the road? Dawson Creek features a fun sign marking the start of the Alaska Highway. This marker makes a great photo opp to commemorate the beginning of your road trip.

Let the journey begin!

Stop Two: Charlie Lake (Mile 52)

Logs and trees on the shore of a lake, which is still and mirroring the clouds above it.

The first scenic stop along the Alaska Highway is Charlie Lake. This magnificent lake sits right next to the road and is a convenient pull off to enjoy the views.

Don’t be shy, go take a closer look! There are two wonderful parks along the lake’s shore, Charlie Lake Provincial Park and Beatton Provincial Park.

Charlie Lake Provincial Park, on the west shore of the lake, offers some short scenic hiking trails, a boat launch, and a campground with full hookups.

Stretch your legs, take some memorable photos, and relax by the water!

Stop Three: Muncho Lake (Mile 462)

Jade green waters surrounded by some leaves and greenery with mountains and clouds in the distance on a road trip to Alaska

This next lake is definitely a sight to see while you road trip to Alaska!

Similar to Charlie Lake, you can’t miss this one because the Alaska Highway runs right along its eastern shore! Muncho Lake is a jaw-dropping jade-color. No filter needed!

With a backdrop of towering mountains and pristine wilderness, you’ll want to stay here for days, which is actually possible if you snag a camp spot.

Strawberry Flats Campground in Muncho Lake Provincial Park is a great place to spend a night or two. Most of the campsites here even offer direct access to the lake for fishing and the ultimate sunset viewpoint. You can’t beat that!

While you’re here, take a hike on one of the area’s awesome trails. The 3-mile Stone’s Sheep Trail offers hikers an epic view of Muncho Lake and the surrounding landscape. Be on the lookout: there’s always a possibility to see stone sheep and caribou!

Stop Four: Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park (Mile 496)

Woman with short brown hair in a colorful bathing suit in turquoise water at a hot spring in Canada surrounded by green grass and trees.

Bathing suit? Check. Towel? Check.

You’re ready to soak and relax at Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park.

As the second largest natural hot springs in Canada, there’s no wonder why this remote paradise is on so many traveler’s bucket lists! It’s a wildly spacious pool for soaking, but it’s also right in the middle of an incredibly beautiful boreal forest.

Make your way from the parking area to the hot springs using the boardwalk trail. You’ll feel like you’ve entered into a fairytale!

The Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park has a campground for those wishing to spend the night. Keep in mind, the sites tend to fill up quickly, so plan to arrive in the morning!

Stop Five: The Sign Post Forest (Mile 635)

Sign which reads "Sign Post Forest" surrounded by lots of signs from all over the world along the AlCan Highway

Looking for a sign? Well… Here’s over 77,000 of them!

Make a stop to walk through Watson Lake’s most popular attraction: the Sign Post Forest.

It’s encouraged to bring a legally obtained sign representing the town you’re visiting from! Make your mark on the growing forest and add to one of the posts.

This interesting tradition was founded by a soldier who decided to mark the distance to his hometown while working on the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942. It’s said that he was homesick for his small Illinois town.

Interested in learning more about the history of The Sign Post Forest? The Alaska Highway Interpretive Centre is only a 5-minute walk away!

Stop Six: Whitehorse, Yukon (Mile 872)

Welcome to Whitehorse, the capital of Canada’s Yukon territory!

With a population of around 25,000 people, this is the largest town you’ve seen in a while. Whitehorse maintains a small-town vibe with friendly locals and rich history.

There’s a lot of fun activities to do in Whitehorse, and it’s often recommended that Alaska Highway travelers spend multiple days here.

Witness the Northern Lights

Green Northern lights above the lights of the town of Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada along the AlCan Highway

This spectacular light show is most commonly viewed in the wintertime, but it can make appearances during late summer and fall when the days begin to grow shorter. 

To see the Northern Lights, you’ll have to take a drive out of town to escape any bit of light pollution. The darker the better! Bring some hot chocolate and camp chairs to enjoy your evening under the stars.

Walk Under the Midnight Sun

For those visiting in midsummer, you may be able to experience the midnight sun.

Long summer days have a whole new meaning when you travel this far north!

Hike in Miles Canyon

Brilliant turquoise water on the Yukon River, surrounded by rocks and green trees

Explore along the Yukon River, and wander through the area’s most magnificent natural feature.

Here, you will see how the river’s powerful flows wore through the basaltic lava rock to form Miles Canyon.

Takhini Hot Pools

Another soak? Yes, please!

The beautiful outdoor pool at Takhini Hot Springs is the perfect place to relax for the day.

If you’re searching for a place to stay the night, there’s a nice campground with full hookups and a welcoming hostel right on location.

Explore the Local History

Become immersed in Yukon history at the MacBride Museum’s downtown location. Connect with the groundbreaking events that founded today’s modern Yukon and the people who originally inhabited the rugged landscape.

For some more on the mining history, the MacBride Copperbelt Mining Museum offers a fun and interactive interpretive experience. A great excursion for all ages!

There’s still more to discover! Visit the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site, and check out the fully restored riverboat. Before modern roads, riverboats connected the area to the outside world.

Stop Seven: Kluane National Park and Reserve (Mile 1,016)

Ice fields in Canada surrounded by tall mountains covered in green and orange foliage and grass.

After an exciting stay in Whitehorse, it’s back on the road toward Haines Junction.

Calling all mountain lovers! From Haines Junction, outdoor enthusiasts are urged to stop by Kluane National Park and Reserve.

Home to the largest non-polar ice fields in the world as well as Canada’s tallest mountain, Mount Logan, this park is a dream for mountaineers and front country users alike. Just from the road, visitors can view wildlife and the towering peaks of the Icefield Range.

Looking for a short hike to get your steps in? Head out on an easy ½ mile hike along the Soldier’s Summit Trail to witness the site of the Alaska Highway’s official opening.

For those looking to spend the night, the campground at Kathleen Lake offers tremendous views, and it’s a great basecamp for area hiking. Many people choose to spend multiple nights here because of the vast outdoor recreation opportunities!

As you explore Kluane, keep on the lookout for grizzly bears, black bears, Dall sheep, wolves, and mountain goats!

Stop Eight: Destruction Bay (Mile 1,083)

Soft blue water against beige sand in a bay in Canada, with larger hills in the distance and lots of cloud.

Wondering how this sweet little community along the Alaska Highway earned such an ominous name?

After a severe storm destroyed materials and buildings during the route’s construction, the name Destruction Bay seemed appropriate!

At the northern tip of Kluane Lake, Destruction Bay makes for a great place to pull off the highway and take in the views.

For those who have been fishing along the drive, Kluane Lake is a great place to put that license to use! Cast a line into the icy cold waters for a chance to catch one of the legendary monster trout.

Stop Eight: Delta Junction (Mile 1,390)

A family of three moose -- a mother and two babies -- crossing the road of the AlCan Highway with some pink flowers on the side of the road.

It’s the end of the road but the beginning of your next adventure.

From the end of the Alaska Highway in Delta Junction, AK, you now have to decide whether you will head north towards Fairbanks to explore the wild landscape of Denali National Park or make your way towards the coast in Anchorage.

Wherever you end up next, we know that adventure waits for you there!

Pin This Guide to Road Tripping to Alaska Along the Alcan Highway!

Lake District Itinerary: Your 2 Day Lake District Guide

Helvellyn summit looking down to Red Tarn in the Lake District

If you’re planning on visiting the Lake District and are looking for a 2 day Lake District itinerary, then keep reading to really see how you can have a fun-packed couple of days in Cumbria!

There really is something for everyone. And you’ll be booking your next break to get back as soon as you can!

Here’s how to spend a weekend in the Lake District!

Day One of Your Lake District Itinerary

Have breakfast in Keswick.

So where is the best place to start any good blog post on a guide for two days in the Lake District?

Well, with your stomach and making sure that it is filled and ready for the day ahead!

That’s certainly where we would begin any good adventure for the day ahead. And being local to Keswick, you really can’t find a better place for a choice of cafes and restaurants throughout the day.

This bustling tourist market town offers a wide variety of food, so you won’t be struggling for a new place to visit each day that you stay here.

The Merienda Café in Keswick is one of our favorites. We’ve been a few times now and each time we remember why it is that we keep coming back!

They have an excellent choice for breakfast and brunch to kick start your day. The Merienda cafe offers gluten-free and vegetarian options, so there is no fear that your needs won’t be accommodated while you’re here.

My personal favorite is the porridge, just because it’s a healthy and hearty meal, as well as a warm way to begin your day.

It’s sure to keep you going until dinner time and with the option of blueberries, honey, and banana to add to your breakfast: it’s just a great option.

They also do a mean full English, but they do it their own way. It’s a little unique, but it’s well worth trying. My mouth is just watering at the thought of it again now!

Take the scenic drive to Fleetwith Pike.

Being in the Lake District can cause you to get stumped with a million different possibilities for the day ahead. But that’s what we’re here for, and boy do we have a treat for you!

This is where we really begin the guide for two days in the Lake District. So once you’re in your car, head down the B5289 leaving Keswick as you head south.

It won’t be long until you will see the fells and mountains of the area all around you. Their slopes come right down to the roadside as you drive through the up and windy route that is Honister Pass.

It’s a view that has to be seen while on any Lake District itinerary, and so we just have to bring you this way to Buttermere!

You will pass Honister Slate mine on your left-hand side, and this is where we’ll be coming for some well-needed lunch.

But for now, you drive past this and begin the decline towards Buttermere itself. You will see some small lay-bys dotted around alongside the road and this is where you’ll want to be pulling up and parking.

View of rocky and grassy summit of a mountain the Lakes District, on a partly cloudy day.
Fleetwith Pike is on the left — which you’ll be climbing!

The start to Fleetwith Pike

Parked, backpacks on, boots tightened, and map at the ready, here we go! Begin your walk by following the road down to the base of Fleetwith Pike.

You’ll know what mountain it is when you can see a white cottage ahead of you on the road. When you see this, then you want to be looking on your left for a path leading off from the road.

Once you’ve located the path, head left and continue the easily-located path to the base of the ridge. From here, it’s a straightforward path that simply heads up.

There are no major complications here, just keep an eye on your footing and the easy scrambles as you make your way up this epic fell… and make sure that you take a moment or two to turn around!

Take in the views as you head up. So often we look in front of us, but at times like this, it is just as important to look behind too.

For us personally, the views from the top of Fleetwith Pike are some of the best in the whole of the Lake District. So for us to help guide you for two days in the Lake District, we only go on what we’ve witnessed and experienced, to get the best couple of days for you!

Celebrate at the summit of Fleetwith Pike.

When you reach the top of the mountain, you’ll be welcomed by a cairn and views that stretch for miles around you.

Towards the south-west is the famous Haystacks that holds some great memories and so much history in Cumbria too!

As well as this, the sight over Buttermere and the fells around towering down towards the lake are stunning.

I’m sure you can see this for yourself in the photo below — and when you’re there in person, I guarantee you it feels epic to be looking around you from the top!

A rock cairn overlooking green fells and small hills and a blue lake in the Lakes District
Fleetwith Pike is on the left — which you’ll be climbing!

But by now I’m sure you’ll be getting a little peckish. I mean, if you’re anything like us, you’ll be seriously hungry and ready for some lunch!

So let’s get moving again and get back for some food before our afternoon of cliff-hanging begins.

From the top of Fleetwith Pike, continue heading in the same direction as before over the top of the summit and locate a less distinct path here.

It will lead you down toward the Honister slate mine. When you get to a slight junction you will want to bear left here, and this will take you to lunch.

Fuel up on lunch at the Honister Slate Mine.

It is easy to find the Honister Slate Mine. When you see the building and car park in front of you, then you know that you have arrived.

Make your way through the car park and to the main entrance of the building. Once you’re inside, you will find the Sky Hi cafe that they have, and this is when you can go to town on ordering anything you like from the menu.

They have a good choice of food, and if you need warming through after your walk, then there are hot options available too. For us though, it was a hot day when we had been walking, so something cooler and lighter was needed.

Here you can take some time out and enjoy looking back through the photos of your walk so far. Even on a cloudy day in the Lakes, some of the views you can see will still amaze you. It will give added contrast to the skies and fells that you see too!

Once you’ve finished your lunch, it’s time to get those hard hats on and get onto the side of the rock face for more adventures!

Brave the heights on the Honister Via Ferrata.

To guide you through two days in the Lake District, we’d have to advise you to get booked in for this activity in advance!

Make sure that there are free spaces for the day that you’re going to be in this area of the Lake District. You can find more information about the whole experience on their website too.

When you’ve got yourself checked in then there will be a brief safety briefing for the activity ahead.

For those of you who haven’t done a via ferrata before, you’re going to be in for a treat. It’s something special for sure, and it’s not every day you have the option of climbing along the rock face of a mountain and hanging there watching the world go by!

If you have a fear of heights, this might not be the best choice for you, unless you’re ready to face that fear head-on. If so, then let’s do this together!

A group of four people climbing on iron ladders and railings (via ferrata) in order to ascend a cliff
Hazel and Zoe (truefreedomseekers) on the Via Ferrata in the Lake District

As you make your way through this activity for an hour or so, you’ll get to grips with feeling out of your comfort zone.

But you’re not alone — they have great guides for this in the Lake District. They go through the whole experience with you, along with a group of others just like you. So no need to fear, you’re always in good hands!

Simply jump in and absorb it all. It’s truly fun, and although my legs were well and truly shaking most of the time, I loved it. It’s something to look back on and smile, even laugh at how we were throughout the whole thing! Hazel even managed to split her trousers climbing up the metal ladders!

So it’s a great way to build some memories and feel truly free as you climb up the mountainside to the top for those seriously stunning views again.

Have some of the best fish and chips at the Old Keswickian.

When the via ferrata experience is completed and you’ve walked back to the slate mine, it’s time to get back to the car and head into Keswick for some serious fish and chips!

Head out of the slate mine and turn left onto the road, and go back to where you drove earlier this morning to get back to your car. Then you want to be heading back up the road and into Keswick.

A traditional high street in England with a man looking inside the restaurant that says "Old Keswickian" and has posters for fish and chips.
Some of the best fish and chips in Cumbria the Old Keswickian.

When you’ve parked up in the little town, simply head to the town center. Follow the crowds and it won’t be long until you smell the incredible smell that is fish and chips!

The Old Keswickian is located on the corner of the main high street. Now, it is entirely your choice to eat in or take out. There are benches dotted around the streets, so on a summer evening, it can be a great place to do some people watching too.

They really are some of the best fish and chips in Cumbria though, and you won’t be disappointed — I’m certain of it.

Head to the Castlerigg Stone circle.

Now how do you end a full packed guided first day in the Lake District? Well, even here, you can unwind and enjoy the slower pace. After all, you are on holiday!

So we couldn’t recommend heading to the east of the town and out into the countryside for a spectacular end to the day.

Castlerigg Stone Circle is a true hidden gem in the Lake District. There is so much history to the area, and once again, the views and aura of being in such a grand structure are worth the last slog up the hill to find it!

It’s about a half-hour walk from the center of Keswick, but when you’re there, you can simply sit down and enjoy simply just being there.

A circle of large stones casting a shadow in the late afternoon sunlight on Castlerigg in the Lake District.
A view from Castlerigg Stone Circle just outside of Keswick

Wait for the sun to go down for a true experience and see the stones glisten as the last of the day’s light hits them. Now that’s how you switch off and really enjoy being in the moment!

Day Two of Your Lake District Itinerary

Have breakfast at the Pooley Bridge tea rooms.

Welcome to day two of your weekend in the Lake District and day two of your guide!

We hope you’re ready for another big one…. and if you are, then you’re going to need a good breakfast to get that energy stored up!

We start day two at Pooley Bridge, which can be driven to from Keswick. It’s around a half-hour or so drive, and once you’re here and parked, then the day is ready for you.

The Granny Dowbekins Tearooms offer a great selection of breakfasts to get you started for the day — of course, you can enjoy a good cup of tea alongside this too!

Today, there is a bit more of a schedule to keep to because of the Ullswater Steamers, but more information about their landing times at each stop can be found on their website. So check them out to make sure you can fit everything in for your trip.

Take the Ullswater Steamer across the lake to start your walk up to Helvellyn.

Once on the Ullswater Steamer, you can take a seat for the beginning of the day and look over the side of the boat at the water beside you.

Take in the views across the other mountains and fells in the Lakes as you travel along the water to Glenridding.

A jetty point where you can disembark from the steamboat, with a white smaller boat visible, and some hills on the lake in the distance.
Glenridding jetty point on Ullswater in the Lakes

When the steamer pulls up at Glenridding jetty, hop off and head out through the car park and cross the road here too.

Head right at the road for a short period of time before detouring off left. This path starts to climb up through another car park and then out of Glenridding.

This, folks, is the path leading up to the third highest fell in the Lake District: Helvellyn.

Follow the clear and somewhat steep path in places as it climbs up the banks of Helvellyn. You might meet and join others on their walk too, but go at your own pace. There is no rush to climbing any mountain, so take your time, stop as often as you like, and simply enjoy being here!

As you near the famous gap in the wall, it isn’t much longer until you see the beauty that is Red Tarn in front of you. This main path guides you to the tarn on Helvellyn in the Lake District. 

To either side of this are the glorious ridges of Striding Edge and Swirral Edge: one to climb up to Helvellyn, and one to walk back down from the top. But first, let’s take a break for a well-earned lunch break.

Enjoy a tasty packed lunch on the fells.

You cannot go walking across the fells in the Lake District without having to take a packed lunch with you most of the time!

Now when it comes to packed lunches, we are the leaders. We make sure that we have enough food to feed an army! This is simply because we are constantly hungry and snacking is a big part of fell walking for us, to keep your energy up along with being healthy too.

Some of the best snacks and packed lunch ideas are fruit, nuts, cereal bars, energy bars, along with sandwiches or soup in a Thermos if it’s an especially cold day in Cumbria.

Always take enough water with you too so that you don’t get dehydrated. This is a must if you’re walking in the summer months for sure!

Something that you just have to have on you at all times when in the Lake District is Kendal mint cake.

It’s insanely nice and hits the spot as a real energy boost when you need it. You can pick it up in most local and larger stores around the Lakes, so there is no excuse to not try it out! You won’t regret it. Our two-day guide to the Lake District wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t give you some local food or snack advice!

So enjoy your packed lunch at the side of Red Tarn whilst looking up towards the ridges of Striding and Swirral Edge, knowing it will soon be your turn to take them on yourself!

Ascend Helvellyn via Striding Edge and come back via Swirral Edge.

Backpacks zipped back up and bellies full, it’s time to face the beast itself: Striding Edge and the final ascent to Helvellyn.

Take your time as you head up the ridge on the left of Red Tarn and truly enjoy the exhilarating climb to the top of this amazing mountain.

Helvellyn summit looking down to Red Tarn in the Lake District
Helvellyn summit looking down towards Red Tarn in the centre, Catstye Cam on the far left

From the top of Helvellyn, you’ll have insane views across the whole of the Lake District and beyond.

If you’re lucky enough to have the summit mostly to yourself, then enjoy walking to each and every edge of the plateau and take in the views from each side.

Get your camera or phone out and get some snaps! We do each time to make those memories easier to look back on, and to show others where we’ve been too. It also helps with our blog to show you what to expect too!

Head towards Swirral Edge on the northern side of Helvellyn and head down this ridge.

Part of the way back down you’ll see a detour path on the left. This heads towards Catstye Cam.

For your two-day guide to the Lake District, depending on how you’re feeling, you might want to take the detour up here. It’s worth it to see the sights looking back towards Helvellyn! But if you’re feeling a little worn out, just keep heading down back to Red Tarn.

From here, you follow the same path down which you came up. This is the easiest and most direct way back to Glenridding.

Have dinner at the Helvellyn Country Kitchen.

When you’ve hiked back down to Glenridding, it will be well and truly time for some good grub!

A great place to head for a hearty meal is the Helvellyn Country Kitchen. They have some great hot meals like burgers, along with chips, paninis, and salads if you’re after a healthier option.

For us, after a long day walking you can’t beat a good greasy dinner to finish the day off. But each to their own, so there are options for everyone here.

If you’re feeling particularly hungry — which, let’s be honest, you should be after the walk you’ve had! — then take a look at the Helvellyn Country Kitchens desserts and cakes.

You really can’t beat them to finish off any meal… and maybe a good local pint to wash it all down!

Head back to Pooley Bridge on the steamer.

After you’ve filled your stomach to the bursting point, head back towards the Ullswater Steamers and jump back on to head back to Pooley Bridge.

Check the timetable throughout the year to make sure you have plenty of time. Depending on the time of year, it depends when is the last steamer back to Pooley Bridge.

This is why it’s essential to check the planned timetable for the day in the Lake District for the steamers, and this goes for all the lakes as well as Ullswater. 

When you’ve got back to the car then jump in and let’s take a drive to the final stop-off point for the day: Aira Force.

It’s a relatively short drive to Aira Force. The parking for this is located at the north end of Ullswater, so just keep following the main road from Pooley Bridge until you see the signs to pull in.

Head towards the waterfall of Aira Force.

Park in the large parking lot, and then head towards the only way possible: the waterfall of Aira Force.

As you get closer to the waterfall, you’ll start to feel as though you’re in a fairytale! The woods get denser, and there are some lovely bridges and stone paths that lead over the streams below.

Aira Force waterfall in the Lake District

It’s possible to get utterly lost in time and lost in general whilst walking to the waterfall.

We have got lost here in a downpour, and when we finally made it back to the car we were in hysterics laughing at just how soaked we really were!

So rain or shine, it’s the perfect way to end a busy day climbing in the Lake District.

When you get to Aira Force, take a seat on the wall or stand and just become mesmerized by the water tumbling down. Let yourself drift into a calm place and reflect on the last two days in the Lake District.

I know for us, any adventure in the Lake District is special. So we hope you’ve enjoyed this Lake District itinerary, and truly got the most out of your weekend in the Lake District.

So that’s your fun-packed two-day guide to the Lake District from us!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading and are ready to get your boots strapped on tight! Comment below for more information or your thoughts on the plan too. We’d love to hear from you. And if you need more resources, be sure to check our blog for more Lake District articles.

About the Authors

Two women, Hazel and Zoe, smiling and wearing glasses while visiting the Lake District of UK.

Hi, we’re Hazel and Zoe (True Freedom Seekers), who have a deep passion and interest in the Lake District of the UK. After visiting Cumbria over five years ago, we now make our way back to the Lakes at any time possible to enjoy more adventures while we’re there.

We regularly climb the Wainwrights and now blog on our journeys along the way. Along with information pages so you can get the best advice possible when you visit too.

You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Medium

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The Perfect 10 Day Montana Road Trip Itinerary (+ Optional Wyoming Stops)

With a host of mountain trails, trout streams, and downtown art scenes, a Montana road trip should be next up on your USA bucket list.

The state is home to several national parks, including Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area and Glacier National Park.

This road trip also offers drivable access to the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park in neighboring Wyoming should you want to extend your trip to be both a Montana and Wyoming road trip!

Are you ready for one of the best road trips in the USA? Let’s get going: here’s all you need to know to plan the best Montana road trip.

PLANNING FOR MONTANA AT A GLANCE: 

When to Go: There is no doubt you can visit Montana any time of the year but if your road trip involves visiting Glacier National Park (which it should as it's one of the state's highlights), then the best time to visit is in summer. This is because most roads and lodges in Glacier National Park close in winter due to snow and it doesn't make sense to visit Montana and skip GNP.

Where to Stay: For this itinerary, you'll have sleepovers in Billings, Bozeman, Bigsky& Yellowstone, Missoula, and Whitefish & Glacier National Park.

For your first sleepover in Billings, I recommend staying at Northern Hotel, a charming historic hotel with a touch of luxury. And while in Bozeman, I recommend staying at Kimpton Armory Hotel, a chic boutique hotel.

Missoula might not be a popular overnight stay area but if it makes sense for your road trip, then you can spend the night at Blossom’s Bed & Breakfast.

And for your adventures in Whitefish & Glacier National Park, I recommend staying at The FarmHouse Inn, a quaint B&B or Firebrand Hotel if you want to stay in the middle of everything.

How to Get Around: You're definitely going to need a car while road tripping Montana otherwise you'll have to spend a lot of money on private tours. In that case, you can compare car rentals and prices from here if you don't know where to rent one from.  Alternately, you can rent an RV or campervan via RVShare and save on accommodations. 

Best Activities: Don't want to drive or plan? Booking a few different activities can help you eliminate the need for driving around. You can book a Bighorn Canyon cruise, whitewater rafting experience, or river floating experience in Glacier National Park, or this 2-day Yellowstone guided tour if you choose to extend your Montana road trip to Wyoming. 

3 Things Not to Forget to Pack:  A sturdy pair of hiking boots will serve you well -- I love my Ahnu boots. A dual purpose phone mount and charger will come in very handy and you'll be happy to have a roadside emergency kit should your car break down while road tripping.

Road trip pro tip: Purchase an annual pass (AKA the America the Beautiful Pass) to save money on the entrance fees for the multiple locations in this itinerary run by the NPS!

How this Montana Road Trip Itinerary Works

An overcast day in Glacier National Park, turquoise water next to melting snow, surrounded by evergreen trees and mountains with little snow.

This Montana road trip is designed for people who don’t mind a few longer days of driving, but are truly all about the sights and hikes that this beautiful state has to offer!

Personally, I don’t like staying in a new place every single night, so I try to break the itinerary up a bit so that you have a few multi-night stays — typically 2 nights, occasionally 1 night or 3 nights in the case of Glacier National Park and Whitefish at the end.

Breaking up this Montana road trip with longer overnight stays in a place helps you get to really know each destination on this trip rather than just passing through in a car as fast as possible and ticking off the “main sights”, as many other road trips have you do!

I want this road trip through Montana (and Wyoming, if you wish!) to mix as much sightseeing as possible with a leisurely pace… so you don’t end up needing a vacation from your vacation!

There are a few places on this Montana road trip where you can “choose your own adventure” so to speak. When you stay in Big Sky, I give you the option to make a side trip to Yellowstone National Park. And of course, you could also visit Grand Teton National Park while you’re in Yellowstone, and extend the stay a little there, making this more of a 2 week Montana road trip than a 10 day one.

However, since you probably got here by searching for “Montana road trip”, this post is going to focus on the best places to stop on a road trip through Montana. However, I will note when a quick side trip or detour into another state would be a good idea, in case you are hoping to visit a bit of Wyoming as well on this road trip!

The Best Time of Year for a Montana Road Trip

Pink wildflowers blooming in an alpine meadow in a valley between peaks in Glacier National Park, a Montana road trip itinerary must-see!

Let me start off by saying that while the best time to visit Montana is really any time, the best time to road trip Montana is a little different: especially if you have Glacier National Park on your Montana itinerary!

While of course, you can visit Glacier National Park in the winter (and it’s beautiful and worthwhile!), many of the roads are closed which makes the whole ‘road tripping’ part a little more complicated.

Due to the high elevation of Glacier National Park (the highest part of the park, Logan Pass, is located at 6,646 feet above sea level!) and northern location near the border of Canada, heavy snow sets in rather early in Glacier National Park.

As a result, this road trip through Montana is at its best in the middle of the summer: think July or August.

This is when you’ll enjoy the best weather with a limited impact of snow (though a few trails in Glacier National Park may still have some patches of snow — it is Glacier National Park, after all!).

Early September is also a good time to visit Montana. There is no fixed date to when the roads and lodges close, but the later you get into September, the more you risk not being able to see as much of the park as you wish.

So, for that reason, I’d say late August is perhaps the best time to start this 10 day Montana road trip: that way, you end up in Glacier National Park right at the beginning of September, with little chance of closures interrupting your road trip plan.

Flying Into Montana

An airplane connected to a jet bridge with the mountains in the background as seen at a Montana airport

Flights are typically best through Billings or Bozeman. However, Missoula and Kalispell are worth looking into. 

Booking one-way flights from different cities versus a roundtrip might make sense if you need to save some time on the road. The state is large and there is a lot of ground to cover!

Year-round flights into Billings are offered from larger hubs including Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Las Vegas, Dallas and Phoenix.

Chances are you one layover away from the start of your trip. Seasonal direct flights are also available from Chicago and LAX.

We’ll assume you are flying into Billings for this Montana road trip itinerary as it is the most common arrival hub, but you may need to reorganize this itinerary if that is not the case.

Luckily, this Montana road trip goes in a circle once you leave Billings, so it’s pretty easy to adapt to your needs if your flight booking means you need to rejig the itinerary.

If you’re not flying into Billings, you may decide to skip it, as it’s a bit out of the way compared to the rest of the itinerary, and spend more time along the loop we detail in days 3-8 of these 10 days in Montana itinerary.

Renting a Car

A blurry red car driving past a landscape road tripping in Montana's Glacier National Park

If you’re flying into Montana for a road trip, you’re definitely going to need a car!

The best prices can be found by picking up and dropping off at the same pickup point, which will likely be Billings.

Keep in mind, though, that this means a 6-hour straight drive from the last point on this 10 day Montana road trip itinerary, Glacier National Park, back to Billings.

If that sounds tiring to you, you may want to look into one-way rentals between Billings and Kalispell, the nearest airport to Glacier National Park. It will almost certainly cost more, but it may be a whole lot more convenient.

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on RentalCars as the best site to rent with in the USA – it searches dozens of rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare car rentals for your trip here!

Montana Road Trip Map

Day 1-2 of Your Montana Road Trip: Billings

Welcome to Billings!

Since you’ll be driving a lot on this Montana road trip itinerary, we’ll get you out onto the hiking trails to stretch your legs as much as possible between each Montana road trip stop.

Take a Hike

View from rocks and trees above the city of Billings from a local hike around sunset

From Billings, several day hikes are within a quick drive from downtown. Moderate hikes include Phipps Park and Skyline Trails — pick one or the other to start your Montana itinerary.

The Skyline Trail

If you want to hit the trails pretty much as soon as you hit the road, about a 5-7 minute drive west from Billings Logan airport is the Skyline Trail. It is an easy 1.7-mile loop around the ridge of Zimmerman Park.

With sweeping views of the city below (and Bighorn, Pryor, and Beartooth Mountains in the distance) it’s a quick way to get your directional bearings before further exploring Billings. The trail is rated as easy, but take good hiking shoes and be prepared for a slight scramble.

City partnerships are currently in the fundraising process to build out a paved multi-use Skyline Trail extending for 7 miles between Zimmerman and Swords Parks.

Check in on the trail status before your trip, as you might be able to tack on a longer bike ride as trail sections are completed!

The Phipps Park Trail

Clocking in at a slightly longer 2.5-mile loop, Phipps Park Trail is located farther west from town and offers similar views of Billings. The trailhead parking is just past the Yellowstone Country Club off Rimrock Road and about 20 minutes or 10 miles from downtown.

Most of the trail’s 450 foot elevation gain is tackled in the first mile, and the shared trail is also good for running and mountain biking. If walking, plan for about 1.5 hours.

Bighorn Canyon

A Grand Canyon looking landscape with rocks with red, orange, and yellow tones creating a large canyon.

For longer, more difficult hikes head to Bighorn Canyon for the day. Located 1.5 hours from Billings, the national recreation area is a great spot for hiking around, or watersports on, Bighorn Lake.

The lake extends nearly 60 miles from Montana into Wyoming with the majority of the area in the Bighorn Canyon. The area is vast, over 70,000 acres, so checking in at the Fort Smith Visitor Center will give you the best information for the day.

One of the best ways to explore Bighorn Canyon without the hike is by taking a two-hour scenic boat tour of the canyon, learning about America’s third-largest canyon and its importance to the Native American people who have lived in this area for centuries, narrated by an expert guide.

Book your Bighorn Canyon cruise here!

You can also try your hand at fly fishing below the Yellowtail Dam or hit trail sections like Sullivan’s Knob Trail (easy at 0.8 miles), Upper Layout Creek (moderate at 1.8 mile), or Medicine Creek and South Pasture Loop (hard at 11.6 miles).

Check Into Your Hotel

The landscape of downtown Billings, Montana: buildings against greenery and plateaus

Since this Montana road trip itinerary places you in Billings overnight, we recommend you check into the Northern Hotel.

Dubbed as “unpretentious historic luxury”, the Northern’s renovated guest rooms feature warm, contemporary interiors, and a central location to the best drink and fare downtown.

Though the hotel’s restaurants serve up good food, plan to branch out and explore for dinner instead — the dining scene in Billings is too good to miss!

>>> Book a room at the Northern <<<

Enjoy the Brews

A benefit of staying downtown is walking from your hotel straight onto the Billings Brew Trail, Montana’s only walkable brewery trail.

The 1.5-mile self-guided tour covers the heart of historic downtown while mixing your choice of six breweries, two distilleries, and one cider house.

Favorites include Uberbrew and Montana Brewing Company, the state’s first brew pub.

Day 3-4 of your Montana Road Trip: Bozeman

Bozeman in the early fall, orange-pink college buildings surrounded by green and orange trees.

Bozeman will be your next stop from Billings.

At 2 hours due west on I-90, Bozeman has a college town vibe with growing art, music, and food scenes. It also serves as a launching point to the Gallatin River and Big Sky.

Whether passing through or staying the night, the best restaurants are centrally located downtown near the Montana State University campus.

I also have a full guide to visiting Bozeman in case you need more inspiration!

Check Into Your Digs

Architecture in downtown Bozeman, a hotel made of brick with a fire escape and distinctive arched windows

There are several chain hotel options to choose from, but your best lodging choice is the Kimpton Armory.

The Kimpton Armory Hotel has been renovated from its National Guard roots to restore its Art Deco design and new, comfy communal spaces set it apart from bland chain hotels in Bozeman.

It’s a lovely chic and central place to stay the night in Bozeman!

>> Book a room at the Kimpton Armory on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com <<

If you’re on a budget, Airbnb is your best bet.

Look for a location a few blocks north or south of W. Main Street. The neighborhoods here have a quaint, just-off-campus feel, with a short walk to the center of all Bozeman action.

Stroll the Downtown

A bunch of landscaped flowers in front of a large house in downtown Bozeman.

In fact, just strolling through the downtown and near campus neighborhoods is well worth it, especially with a cup of coffee.

Go-to coffee shops are Wild Joe’s Coffee or Treeline Roasting Room. Lean towards Wild Joe’s if you need some food alongside your latte.

Hit the Trails with a Picnic Lunch

A grassy creek or river landscape with mountains in the distance.

There are several hiking options near town, primarily to the north in the foothills of the Gallatin National Forest or south towards Big Sky.

Whichever direction you head, grab a lunch to go from the Bozeman Co-op. The local co-op grocer is near the above coffee stops on W. Main.

The Storm Castle Peak Trail

Storm Castle Peak Trail is located 25 miles south of Bozeman, with access from the Gallatin Road. This is the road that eventually leads into Big Sky so the peak hike is an easy stop on the way out of town.

Storm Castle is 4.6-mile out-and-back trail that rewards hikers with worthy views. Be prepared for an elevation gain of just under 2,000 feet, but with several accommodating and manageable switchbacks.

Bozeman Creek Trail

Also due south of Bozeman (but not on the way to Big Sky) is Bozeman Creek Trail. The 16-mile out-and-back trail is moderately rated with a turnaround point at Mystic Lake in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Elevation gain totals nearly 1,800 feet, and it is a popular dog-friendly trail. Despite the noted elevation gain, most visitors report the hike feels a bit steeper. Time your trip during wildflower season for the best experience!

Drinking Horse Mountain Trail & M Trail

Shadowy hills and mountains with lots of evergreen trees and yellow grass in the summer on a sunny day

If wide open mountain meadow trails are more your cup of tea, plan to hike north of town off Highway 86.

There are two trailheads on U.S. Forest Service land near Drinking Horse Mountain. The first, Drinking Horse Mountain Trail, is a short, but steep, 2.1-mile loop best tackled from May through September. Most hikers suggest going counterclockwise.

The second trailhead, located just across Highway 86, is for M Trail, a slightly shorter moderate climb with less elevation gain and views of the valley, city, and mountains to the south.

Enjoy the Culture

Circle back to Bozeman post-hike for music, arts, and dinner. Once again, downtown on W. Main Street is where you should start and stick around.

Several galleries are located on W. Main or one block off, between S. Rouse and N. 3rd Avenue including Visions West Contemporary, Altitude Gallery, and Thomas Nygard Gallery.

Keep an eye out for dinner spots while you gallery hop. South 9th Bistro and Dave’s Sushi are two of the author’s favorites.

Listen to Live Music

The view of the Bozeman skyline at night, with a purplish pink sky just after sunset, with all the buildings lit up for nighttime.

There will likely be a live-music option following dinner if you continue your exploration of W. Main Street. Try Haufbrau House, Rialto, and Live from the Divide (Northeast of Main on Peach Street) for current shows.

One great benefit of a college town is there is likely a good music option regardless of the night of the week!

Day 4-6 of Your Montana Road Trip: Big Sky & Yellowstone

Your next Montana road trip stop, Big Sky, is an hour south of Bozeman along the stunning Gallatin River.

The wide-open views surrounding Bozeman quickly narrow to continuous steep-sided gorge which winds for about 30 miles along Gallatin Road.

There are several U.S. Forest Service designated camping sites, as well as turnoffs for perfect fly fishing spots, if you wish to extend your trip up Gallatin Road awhile longer.

Get Oriented

A rolling highway road leading towards Big Sky Montana mountain resort, grassy fields leading to mountains in the distance.

Big Sky, MT comprises of a base village called Town Center and an upper mountain village connected by a steep 8 mile stretch of road.

In-town transportation is easy as the community boasts a reliable public bus route, complete with bike racks. Be sure to check the current schedule as route times change between seasons.

Relying on bus transportation makes it easy to get into town or up to the resort village and puts less pressure on deciding beforehand which part of town to stay.

The majority of restaurants and shops, including flyfishing and mountain biking outfitters, are located in Town Center. Particularly during summer months, not much will be open at the upper mountain village.

Go for a Mountain Bike Ride

A small river or creek surrounded by grass and a hill covered in pine trees.

Big Sky is the best spot on this Montana road trip for mountain biking at any experience level!

For beginners to intermediate bikers, check out the Mountain to Meadows Trail. The entrance begins at the resort base (upper mountain) near the Ramcharger Chairlift.

A short 10-minute uphill climb is rewarded with a downhill trail for the remainder of the 5-mile ride.  The trail averages 7% grade with a max 35% grade.

The trail ends right behind Gallatin Alpine Sports in Town Center which happens to offer very reasonable daily and weekly bike rentals!

Soothe Your Muscles

New mountain bikers will soon realize a host of ignored muscle groups are used during a ride.

If a yoga session or massage is in order stop, by Santosha Wellness Center in Town Center.

The studio offers a host of vinyasa and ashtanga classes as well as massage methods ranging from Swedish to Cranio-Sacral to Reflexology.

Grab a Bite to Eat

By now you’ve probably worked up quite an appetite — luckily, several delicious eateries can also be found in Town Center.

Favorites include Lotus Pad (Thai), Pinky G’s (Pizzeria), Hungry Moose (Market and Deli), and Blue Moon Bakery.

Hit the Hiking Trails

Lots of rocks in a shallow water pool surrounded by rocky mountains and green grass on an overcast day hiking

Apart from a range of mountain biking trails, Big Sky is also host to several fabulous hiking trails. Two popular outings are Beehive Basin and Cinnamon Mountain.

Beehive Basin

Beehive Basin clocks in at 7.1 miles out-and-back and has great views of Lone Mountain (which towers over Big Sky resort).

It includes stops at alpine lakes before the return trek to a convenient parking lot.

Cinnamon Mountain

Cinnamon Mountain is a moderate 8-mile out-and-back trail through a denser pine forest.

Both trails can be muddy after heavy rains and also hold snow in shadier spots, so plan around the weather.

Both hikes entail a consistent, steady climb and easy descent, so they’re great for less experienced hikers.

Take a Day Trip to Yellowstone

The orange and brown striations of Grand Prismatic Hot Spring in yellowstone national park with a steaming center that is bright turquoise blue.

If time for a detour is allotted, a good Montana road trip addition is a drive to Yellowstone National Park.

It’s a one-hour drive from Big Sky to West Yellowstone, which you can use as a jumping-off point for all Yellowstone adventures.

Important Note: If you are visiting Yellowstone in winter, road access is seriously restricted, so you will have to plan for snowcoach transport. Learn more on my guide to visiting Yellowstone in winter.

Day 7 of Your Montana Road Trip: Missoula

The architecture of downtown Missoula, what appears to be a college building

From Big Sky, continue your road trip in Montana towards Missoula.

On this particular Montana road trip itinerary, the city is the ideal afternoon stopping point before heading north to Whitefish and Glacier National Park.

You can stop just for lunch if you’re short on time, but we recommend staying the night.

Missoula is home to the University of Montana and, because of the connection, has a vibrant near-campus Main Street similar to that in Bozeman.

Grab a Lunch or a Hike

A hiking path above Missoula with wild yellow flowers next to the path, the city below, on a partly cloudy day.

Take in a long lunch downtown or pack a to-go snack for a quick hike before continuing on to Whitefish.

If you choose the quick hike option, check out Hellgate Ridgeline on Mount Sentinel. The brief 3-mile out-and-back trail features views of the city, valley, and river.

With a trailhead conveniently located near the campus and downtown, the hike can be easily paired with a quick lunch.

The hike is steep and strenuous but not long. Make it up to the “M”, a student-built Missoula landmark since 1908, or continue on for even better views.

Enjoy the Downtown

A building tower with an American flag on it raised above the tops of green trees on a blue sky cloudless day.

Missoula’s downtown district follows the Clark Fork River and is teaming with unique restaurant options.

Many include outdoor seating with views of the riverfront. Hob Nob, Bernice’s Bakery, Tamarack Brewing, Scotty’s Table, Catalyst Café, and Biga Pizza should spark your interest. 

While downtown, stretch your legs at Caras Park before getting back on I-90.

The park overlooks Brenan’s Wave, Missoula’s manmade wave installation in the Clark Fork River. It is an entertaining spot to watch surfers and kayakers take on a brief rapid.

Consider an Overnight Stay

If staying the night in Missoula makes sense on your personal itinerary, grab a room at the Blossom’s Bed & Breakfast.

Blossom’s B&B is in the Lower Rattlesnake Historic District near downtown. The comfortable rooms give you the sense you are staying at a friend’s or family member’s home.

“Wine down” on the porch with views of Mt. Jumbo. Amenities also include backyard games and guest bikes.

>>> Check out other Missoula hotels here <<<

Day 8-10 of Your Montana Road Trip: Whitefish & Glacier National Park

From Missoula, Whitefish and Glacier National Park are next up on this Montana itinerary, located within a 2.5-3 hour drive through the Flathead National Forest. Much of the drive is uneventful until reaching the shores of Flathead Lake.

The lake spans 27 miles and Highway 35, which follows the lake’s eastern shore, passes several privately-owned cherry orchards.

Many of the orchards operate roadside cherry stands during high season which lasts from June through August.

Check Into Your Whitefish Digs

The shores of Lake Whitefish near Glacier National Park, a popular place to stay for easy park access. The lake is clear with some ripples and a slight reflection of the mountains.

Whitefish is just 30 minutes north of Flathead Lake and your home base for all activities in and around Glacier National Park.

Whitefish is similar to Big Sky in that, while it may be more widely known for its ski resort and winter activities, the area doesn’t lack for summer fun. The town itself is about a 15-minute drive from the resort by way of Whitefish Lake.

The best places to stay in downtown Whitefish include The Firebrand Hotel and The FarmHouse Inn and Kitchen.  

On Lupfer Avenue, The FarmHouse Inn is a quaint B&B comprised of two guest rooms. One sleeps four and the other sleeps two.

It is centrally located and the onsite bakery and café churn out local farm to table meals and Czech pastries. This is your spot for gluten-free options and fresh-pressed juices. Hotel guests can also enjoy the backyard fire pit on cooler evenings.

>>> Book your stay at the FarmHouse Inn here <<<

The Firebrand Hotel sits right in the mix of downtown nightlife on the corner of E. Second Street and Spokane Avenue. The hotel’s vibe mixes urban sophistication with a node to Montana’s rugged Northwest.

Amenities include a rooftop patio and spa along with bicycle rentals in the summer months. The hotel also includes shuttle transportation to Amtrak and their sister property, the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

>>> Book your stay at the Fireband Hotel here <<<

You may opt for the Lodge at Whitefish Lake if you prefer a quieter setting closer to the water.

The Lodge amenities include a lakeside pool, onsite yoga classes, and quick access to watersports and boat rentals from a private beach.

>>> Book your stay at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake here <<<

Grab a Bite

An aerial view of Whitefish Montana in the autumn with some yellowing trees.

There are several great breakfast, lunch, and dinner options in Whitefish.

Local favorites include Wasabi Sushi Bar, Jersey Boys Pizzeria, Tupelo Grille, and Amazing Crepes.

Head to Glacier National Park

An early morning light on a lake in the middle of mountains in Glacier National Park with a small island with a few trees on it in the middle of the alpine lake.

Whether staying lakeside or in town, access to Glacier National Park is an easy 35 minute drive to the Apgar Visitor Center.

Visitors are encouraged to avoid traffic and minimize impact to our collective natural resources by utilizing the park’s free shuttle service.

Shuttles leave every 15 to 30 minutes from the Apgar Visitor Center and take visitors to all of the best park sites.

Shuttle stops from the Apgar side include Apgar Village, Center, and Campground, Sprague Creek Campground, Lake McDonald Lodge, Avalanche Creek, The Loop, and Logan Pass which serves as the transfer to the east side of the park.

Want more information on Glacier National Park? Read my two-day Glacier National Park itinerary which will lay out exactly how to have the perfect time there.

Go for an Adventurous – or Leisurely! – Rafting Trip

Two rafts ahead on the Flathead River, which is calm, turquoise and surrounded by trees and hills on a sunny day in Glacier National park

One of the most popular things to do in Glacier National Park in summer is to take a rafting trip on the scenic Middle Fork Flathead, which has fun whitewater rafting that’s perfect for rafters looking for an easy to moderate level (class II and III) experience.

Book your whitewater rafting experience!

Of course, whitewater rafting isn’t for everyone, and if you’re in the mood for more sightseeing and relaxing rather than adrenaline-pumping, a lovely float trip on a calmer stretch of the Flathead River is a perfect option for you!

This is better suited for families of all ages, as whitewater rafting can be a little scary for younger kids.

Book your river floating experience here

Hit the Hiking Trails

Glacier National Park has 734 miles of hiking trails and something for all hiking levels, including day and overnight hikes.

Note that overnight hikes require reservations and park permits. Popular day hikes include the Highline Trail (11.4 miles), Avalanche Lake (4.6 miles) and Pitamakan Pass (15.4 miles).

The Highline Trail

View from the Highline Trail over Glacier National Park's glacial mountains and valleys, covered in trees in the middle of summer with very little snow.

The Highline Trail features views of Logan Pass and includes some technical areas of hiking, some which come with the safety of a cable railing.

Highline is one of the best hikes for catching a variety of scenery as you will see alpine meadows, creeks, avalanche ridges, and portions of the Livingston Range. The hike can be made shorter by stopping at Haystack Butte.

However, hikers should press on for views of the Grinnell Glacier. The overlook area for the glacier sits on the Continental Divide. If you chose to bypass the park shuttle, you can still access the trailhead from the Logan Pass Visitor Center parking lot.

The Avalanche Lake Trail

A deep teal and turquoise glacial lake, surrounded by pine trees and steep mountains with some waterfalls coming down the sides from snow melt.

Avalanche Lake Trail is a shorter hike with equally breathtaking views. The trail follows Avalanche Creek until meeting with the alpine lake.

Views of waterfalls at the lake’s far end can be seen from the trail. The total elevation gain is an easy 600 feet.

The Pitamaken Pass Trail

If you want to take on a longer hike, shoot for Pitamaken Pass Trail. The hike swaps between forested and meadow trails while passing by Oldman Lake, Sky Lake Waterfall, and finally Cut Bank Basin’s alpine lakes.

You might even come upon bighorn sheep at higher elevations, especially nearing Bighorn Basin. The total elevation gain is a stout 3,300ft.

Trailhead access begins at the campground at Two Medicine by Pray Lake and is preferred as a counterclockwise route.

Grab A Set of Wheels

Sign which reads "West Glacier, MT" against a backdrop of a partly cloudy sky and green trees.

Another popular way to explore Glacier National Park is by bicycle.

Parking is available at Glacier Guides in West Glacier, MT where bike rentals are available.

From there, a 1.5 mile downhill trail takes you to the Apagar Visitor Center where trails continue within the park’s boundary. Access to the park via bicycle is also half the cost of standard admission, so it’s good for cost-conscious travelers!

Feeling a little intimidated to try biking in Glacier National Park all by yourself? This 6-hour guided cycling tour is a great way to see the park by bike without the stress of self-guiding.

Book your cycling tour of Glacier National Park here!

Optional: Tackle Other Hiking Trails

View of the lake of Whitefish with yellow and green pine trees in early autumn.

There are several hiking options outside the park boundary and closer to Whitefish.

Many of the best can be accessed in Whitefish Lake State Park near the Whitefish Mountain Resort base.

If you visit during the summer season, you might be able to jump on the gondola for a one-way trip.

From the resort base, try Journey Mountain (2.8 miles), Big Mountain via Summit Trail (16.1 miles), Danny on National Recreation Trail (7.2 miles), or Gray Wolf Ski Trail (17.9 miles).

Ending Your Montana Road Trip Itinerary: Kalispell or Back to Billings

View of rivers winding amidst yellow and green trees in early autumn in Kalispell, MT, a popular place to end a Montana road trip itinerary.

While some of the more frequent and better-priced flights are found out of Billings and Bozeman, it’s worth checking options in and out of Kalispell.

The city and airport are just 22 minutes south of Whitefish, and you can often find cheap connections to Salt Lake City.

Do a bit of research on one-way rental prices, consider the time (it’s a 6-hour drive back to Billings!), and check the best ways to get to and from Montana.

While we have covered some of the best places the state has to offer, Montana offers still offers so much to explore!

How to Extend This Montana Road Trip

Mountain peaks of the Teton Range reflecting perfectly in still lake water on a sunny day in Grand Teton National park
Continue this Montana road trip to Wyoming to add two more National Parks to your list!

Of course, there are several ways to extend this Montana road trip in order to see even more of this gorgeous part of the United States!

The most natural addition to this Montana road trip is spending a few days exploring Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

From Big Sky, you can easily head down south to Yellowstone and spend some time in the park. I have a two day Yellowstone itinerary which you can simply insert into this Montana road trip itinerary between days 6 & 7!

If you want to extend your Wyoming explorations even further, overnight (or stay a couple days) in the Jackson Hole area, which is one of the prettiest parts of Wyoming and a perfect midway point between Yellowstone and your next stop, Grand Teton National Park.

I also have a two day Grand Teton National Park itinerary, which you can add after Yellowstone, before heading back up to Missoula. Just note that you may want to stop in Big Sky again on the way up, or you’ll be in for a long driving day (6 hours point-to-point without stopping, traveling via Idaho).

10 Day Montana Road Trip Itinerary at a Glance

An adult white mountain goat and its baby walking in the landscape of Glacier National Park with an alpine lake below and a mountain half-covered in snow, the rest clear of snow.
  • Day 1: Fly into Billings
  • Day 2: Billings
  • Day 3: Bozeman
  • Day 4: Bozeman
  • Day 5: Big Sky
  • Day 6: Big Sky (optional Yellowstone Day trip)
  • Day 7: Missoula
  • Day 8: Whitefish & Glacier NP
  • Day 9: Glacier NP
  • Day 10: Fly out of Kalispell or drive back to Billings

2 Week Montana and Wyoming Road Trip at a Glance

The sunset at Old Faithful, a geyser spouting into the air with the setting sun showing up in a sunburst behind the geyser in Yellowstone National Park
Add a few days to add both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks to your itinerary! I recommend staying in Jackson, WY if you do.
  • Day 1: Fly into Billings
  • Day 2: Billings
  • Day 3: Bozeman
  • Day 4: Bozeman
  • Day 5: Big Sky
  • Day 6: Yellowstone NP
  • Day 7: Yellowstone NP
  • Day 8: Grand Teton NP
  • Day 9: Grand Teton NP
  • Day 10: Missoula
  • Day 11: Whitefish & Glacier NP
  • Day 12: Glacier NP
  • Day 13: Glacier NP
  • Day 14: Fly from Kalispell or return your car in Billings

What to Pack for a Montana Road Trip

A road near Glacier National Park with greenery and some mountains with a bit of snow nearby

I have a full road trip packing list here, but here at the top things you shouldn’t forget!

Road Trip Essentials

Roadside emergency kit

You should already have an emergency kit in your car with things like a reflective triangle, rain poncho, emergency blanket, safety vest, safety whistle, etc. in case of an emergency.

But if you are renting a car and aren’t sure it’ll have the full emergency kit, now is a good time to invest in a roadside emergency kit that also includes a first aid kit.

Car charger & hands-free phone holder

You will zap your phone battery FAST while on a road trip, so it’s essential to have a car charger.

I like this dual purpose phone mount and charger!

Of course, it’s pretty hard to connect your phone and charge it and do all sorts of other necessary 21st-century things without USB cords.

Bring 1 or 2 more than you need, it’s always a good idea!

External batteries

The Anker external battery pack is a travel must. While you can charge your phone while driving, you may want to charge other devices — a camera, a drone, portable speakers, an e-reader — as well.

Or if you notice your battery is running low while you’re out hiking or sightseeing, you can just start charging right away without having to return to your car. It holds several charges on a single battery pack and will last days at a time.

Face mask, alcohol wipes & sanitizing gel

When in places where distancing is not possible, you will need to wear a face mask to keep yourself and fellow humans safe.

Bring multiple cloth face masks and circulate them, allowing face masks ample time in the sun when possible (such as leaving them on your dashboard) or washing them in between uses in order to sanitize the masks.

You should also bring alcohol wipes or sanitizing gel in case you aren’t close to a place where you can wash your hands.

Rehydration packets

Long hikes, lack of schedule, random meal times, salty snacks, sunny days, hangovers from wine nights after driving duty is done: there are many reasons it’s easy to get dehydrated while road tripping.

I always pack some rehydration packets with me on my travels as I’m prone to getting dehydrated and getting headaches, and they’re a lifesaver. I recommend these ones.

Camera & extra batteries

For all my years of running this travel blog, I’ve relied on my Sony A6000 to take nearly-professional quality images. I don’t sell my photography, but I do love having wonderfully preserved memories, and this camera is the perfect middle-ground above a smartphone yet below the 5-figure kits that most photographers give.

Whatever camera you choose, be sure to have plenty of extra batteries and the battery charger as well — plus extra memory cards! I rely exclusively on 64GB Sandisk memory cards.

Clothing & Hiking Essentials

A woman in the Montana wilderness wearing shorts, hiking boots, and a day pack with her hair in a ponytail on a summery day.

Comfortable clothing

When road tripping, think loose clothing that’s easily breathable which transition from car to outside easily.

For women, I suggest the following at a minimum for car/outdoor comfort:

  • yoga pants or leggings
  • jeans
  • hiking shorts
  • T-shirts
  • sports bras
  • hiking boots
  • sneakers
  • flipflops
  • warm sweaters

You’ll also want to bring layers like a jacket for any needed warmth, depending on the temperatures you expect on your Montana road trip.

Rain jacket

I included this separately from the comfortable clothes section because I wanted to highlight and underline how important a good rain jacket is. Rain is inevitable at times, so might as well dress for it!

I love the Marmot PreCip rain jacket (there’s a women’s version and a men’s version). I used mine for years biking in all sorts of rainy NYC weather and it always kept me dry without making me too hot and uncomfortable like some other rain jackets can, due to the zippered armpits which provide ventilation. This is key if you plan to do anything active on your Montana itinerary like hiking while it’s raining.

Proper Hiking Boots & Trekking Poles

This Montana road trip includes a ton of hiking opportunities, and you’ll definitely be happy with yourself for bringing along a pair of hiking boots!

I recommend these Ahnu boots for women and these Keen boots for men. Both are waterproof, comfortable, and provide lots of ankle support for harder hikes.

If you’re doing some harder hikes, you may also want to bring a pair of collapsible trekking poles with you!

Water Bottle with Filter

You always end up needing lots of water when you hike!

You can either carry liters upon liters of water, which can be heavy, or you can pack a backup water bottle and use your water bottle with a filter to refill anywhere along the trail — streams, rivers, springs, anywhere!

I use the Grayl for its ease of use and to reduce my plastic footprint: I love mine and highly recommend it!

Day pack

Day packs are essential when hiking or leaving the car for a bit to do some sightseeing and needing to bring essentials like bug spray, sunglasses, water, and sunscreen with you.

This Osprey day pack is the perfect size and it’s designed by a company that specializes in ergonomic solutions for backpackers, so you know it’ll be comfortable.


Don’t forget travel insurance!
Travel insurance coverage helps you recoup your losses in case of emergency, accident, illness, or theft. I’ve relied on World Nomads for my travel insurance coverage for four years with no complaints, and I’m a happy paying customer. I recommend them highly to fellow travelers!

Get your free quote here.

Pin This Montana Road Trip Guide!

One Week in Europe: 30 Ways to Plan a 7 Day Europe Trip

If you only have one week in Europe, you may be a bit intimidated when it comes time to deciding where exactly to go.

After all, there are countless possibilities: from exploring one country in depth to zipping around a couple of capitals as fast as you can, there are so many different ways to spend your one week Europe trip depending on the kind of traveler you are and what kind of sights you’re interesting in seeing.

I’ve broken down the best ways to spend 7 days in Europe with the help of well-traveled bloggers from around the world, sharing their favorite way of spending just one week in Europe.

From classic examples like Italy and Spain to one week itineraries for the Balkans and Central Europe’s capitals, here are 25 incredible ways to spend a one week in Europe itinerary!

One Week in Europe: Classic Itinerary Ideas

Classic Italy: Rome – Florence – Venice

A one-week road trip through Italy is on many people’s bucket list. The incredible views of Tuscany, mouth-watering food, and pristine history make it one of the best road trips in the world!

Rome to Florence and Florence to Venice are only 3-hour drives, and the route can also be done by train. 

Stop 1: Rome (3 days)

The eternal city of Rome is a traveler’s dream destination! With an incredible lifespan filled with rich history and delicious food, what’s not to love. 

Highlights:

  • Visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum to appreciate the glory of Ancient Rome
  • Explore the history of Vatican City
  • Toss a coin or two into the Trevi Fountain to guarantee a return to Rome. 

Stop 2: Florence (3 days) 

Walking through beautiful architecture while snacking on homemade gelato is the perfect Florence day! 

Highlights:

  • Visit the impressive collection of museums in Florence – including the Uffizi Galleria 
  • Walk through the city to the Piazza del Michelangelo for panoramic views of the city
  • Enjoy live music throughout the many piazzas

Stop 3: Venice (2 days) 

The floating city of Venice is a breathtaking destination for all travelers.

Since there’s no driving in Venice, it’s the perfect time to drop off your rental car and use public transportation during your stay. 

Highlights:

  • Cross the iconic Rialto bridge with gondolas gliding underneath
  • Take a relaxing gondola ride through the small alleyways 
  • Enjoy cicchetti (Italian tapas) at a waterfront restaurant.

Explored by Pamela of the Directionally Challenged Traveler

Northern Italy: Venice – Verona – Milan

A one-week whirlwind trip through Northern Italy is the perfect way to experience a bit of Italy, without biting off more than you can chew with just one week in Europe.

Here’s how to structure a perfect one week Northern Italy itinerary!

Stop One: Venice (3 days)

Venice is a beautiful city with plenty of opportunities to just lose yourself in the backstreets.

There are some great family hotels in Venice making it the perfect base to start your travels.

Highlights:

  • Take a gondola ride through the canals to see Venice at its best.
  • See the glass being made in Murano, some of the most exquisite in the world.
  • Explore the history in the Doge’s Palace full of intrigue and culture.

Stop Two: Verona (2 days)

Verona is much less touristy than Venice but has a real charm.

It’s a place to see history, eat great food and soak up the history in this picturesque city that featured in Romeo and Juliet!

Highlights:

  • Take a trip to the Roman Arena which is older than the Colosseum.
  • Stand on Juliet’s balcony to imagine yourself in Shakespeare’s tale!
  • Climb to the top of the Lamberti Tower for spectacular rooftop views.

Stop Three: Milan (2 days)

Milan is a fantastic city to take in the culture, the shopping and the sights.

It is cosmopolitan Italy at its best!

Highlights:

  • Visit the Duomo di Milano – one of the largest cathedrals in Italy.
  • Shop until you stop at the Via Montenapoleone.
  • Immerse yourself at the Museo Nazionale Della Scienza e Della Tecnologia with all the creations of Leonardo da Vinci

Explored by Nichola of Globalmouse Travels

Classic Spain: Seville – Granada – Madrid

Spain is a beautiful destination that’s perfect for a first Europe trip.

If you only have one week in Europe and you want to see history, culture, and food: Spain is the destination!

 Stop One: Seville (2 days)

 Located in the southernmost region of Spain, Seville is a beautiful city that is easy to explore on foot.

It is filled with stunning historical buildings, traditional music and dance, and incredible food.

Highlights:

  • Visit the incredible Royal Alcázar of Seville
  • Experience music and dance at a flamenco show
  • Explore the Triana neighborhood and enjoy some of the best tapas in Seville

Stop Two: Granada (2 days)

Visiting the small city of Granada is like stepping back in time.

While many visitors simply stop for a day trip to the Alhambra, an overnight stay allows you to truly experience the heart of this historic city.

Highlights:

  • Visit the magnificent Alhambra Palace and gardens
  • Wander the historic Albaicin neighborhood
  • Visit the Granada Cathedral and the Royal Chapel, the final resting place of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand

Stop Three: Madrid (3 days)

The capital city of Spain, Madrid is filled with history, art, and wonderful food. Make sure to include a little of each during your visit!

Highlights:

  • Visit the Reina Sofia art museum to see Guernica, as well as the Prado if you have time
  • Take a tour of the Royal Palace (Palacio Real)
  • Walk around the beautiful Retiro Park

– Explored by Joanne of Sunsets and Roller Coasters

Beloved Italy: Rome – Florence – Pisa

There are so many wonderful destinations to spend one week in Italy, but perhaps the most classic is the combination of Rome, Florence, and Pisa, a tourist favorite.

Here’s how to tackle Italy if you have just a week in Europe!

Stop One: Rome (3 days)

Rome is the ultimate place to visit for ancient history, culture, and cuisine. It’s also home to many of Italy’s famous landmarks as well as plenty of hidden gems that will leave you in awe. 

Highlights:

  • Wandering the Colosseum, the biggest amphitheater of the Roman Empire
  • Admiring the beautiful fountains in Piazza Navona
  • Walking up the Spanish Steps and enjoying the view
  • Tossing a coin in the legendary Trevi Fountain
  • Seeing the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums
  • Tasting the delicious local cuisine in the Trastevere neighborhood

Stop Two: Florence (3 days)

As the capital of Tuscany, Florence is filled with beautiful cathedrals, scenic bridges, and magnificent art. It also offers one of the most gorgeous sunset views of Italy!

Highlights:

  • Wandering the historical center with a gelato in hand
  • Climbing to the top of the iconic Duomo
  • Shopping for souvenirs on the scenic Ponte Vecchio
  • Watching a spectacular sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo
  • Seeing beautiful artwork in the Uffizi Gallery
  • Getting cultured in the museums of Palazzo Pitti

Stop Three: Pisa (1 day)

The charming town of Pisa is only an hour away by train from Florence, making it an easy day trip to take. It’s not only a great place to visit for architecture and food, but also for shopping!

Highlights:

  • Climbing up the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa
  • Listening to the acoustics in the Pisa Baptistery
  • Exploring the stunning Pisa Cathedral
  • Admiring the artwork inside Palazzo Blu
  • Shopping at Corso Italia

-Explored by Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad

Southern Spain: Seville – Malaga – Granada

If you want to stick to the south of Spain (Andalusia), then this alternate one week in Spain itinerary is a great choice.

Stop One: Seville (3 days)

Seville is a top highlight of Spain, with incredible Mudejar architecture, 25,000 orange trees, spectacular streets with buildings covered in orange and white, amazing food, and flamenco music on every corner!

Highlights:

  • Visit the palace of Real Alcazar, a Game of Thrones filming location
  • Stroll around the colorful streets of Santa Cruz neighborhood
  • Watch the sunset from the top of Las Setas

Stop Two: Malaga (2 days)

Malaga is the most popular, and the largest beach town of Andalusia, with beautiful beaches, colorful streets, and vibrant nightlife.

We can’t forget that it’s the birthplace of the famous artist Pablo Picasso! By bus, it takes 2.5 hours to arrive from Seville, so it’s an easy next stop:

Highlights:

  • Visit the Picasso Museum to learn more about the man behind the paintings
  • Explore the beautiful beaches of Malaga
  • Watch a sunset from the best viewpoint of the town, Mirador de Gibralfaro

Stop Three: Granada (2 days)

Granada is one of the most authentic towns to visit in Andalusia, and it’s just an hour and a half away from Malaga.

The Moors (Arabic) played a really important part in Andalusia’s history and unique architecture, an you can see that in Granada.

Granada is spectacular for its amazing views, authentic feel, and the many flamenco artists that are strolling around in Albaicin and stopping at each restaurant for a quick show.

Highlights:

  • Visit the spectacular Alhambra palace
  • Wander around in the Moorish neighborhood, the white-washed old town of Albaicin
  • Listen to flamenco artists while enjoying a delicious meal

– Explored by Helga of ShegoWandering

Mainland Greece: Athens – Meteora – Thessaloniki

A wonderful trip through Mainland Greece is the perfect one week in Europe trip, since you won’t have to deal with coordinating flights and ferries during a shorter trip.

This one week in Greece is the perfect primer to Greece and is easy to travel by car or train.

Stop One: Athens (3 days)

Athens, the capital of Greece, is a vibrant city rich in history, archaeological sites, museums, and amazing food that enjoys great weather all year round.

It has a wealth of archaeological sites like the Acropolis but also the Ancient Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and more.

Highlights:

  • Visit the Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Athens’ most popular attraction, as well as the Acropolis Museum and the Archaeological Museum of Athens to learn about Greece’s rich history.
  • Explore the street art on the streets of Athens
  • See the change of the guards on Syntagma Square

Stop Two: Meteora (2 days)

Meteora is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is a place of unique natural beauty where you will find big rock formations with Greek Orthodox monasteries on top. 

Highlights:

  • Visting the 6 remaining monasteries
  • Watch the sunset from the top of the rocks
  • Hike one of the many paths around these unique rock formations

Stop Three: Thessaloniki (2 days)

Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece built around the coastline of the Thermaic Gulf.

It is a lively city with great nightlife, food, and a lot of interesting historical sites.

Highlights:

  • Admire the view from Ano Poli
  • Check out the archaeological sites of the Roman Agora, the Rotonda, the Byzantine Baths, and the Arch of Galerius.
  • Visit the landmark of Thessaloniki, the White Tower on the waterfront

– Explored by Chrysoula of Athens & Beyond

Central Europe Sampler: Budapest – Vienna – Bratislava

Central Europe is a wonderful destination for travelers hoping to experience a few different countries in a single week in Europe.

The closely-linked capital cities of Vienna and Bratislava are just an hour apart, and Budapest isn’t far, either, making three European countries in one week not only doable but also downright pleasant.

Stop One: Budapest (3 days) 

A city of two halves divided by the Danube River, Budapest has so much to see and do. Budapest is a cosmopolitan city offering a wealth of culinary delights and a historical center with magnificent architecture.

Budapest also has the most thermal springs than any other capital in the world, so plenty of choice for bathing. 

Highlights:

  • Relax in the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, or the Palatinus Baths which is more suitable for families
  • Visit Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion on Buda Hill
  • Explore the Jewish Quarter and the ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’, a memorial to those killed during WW2

Stop Two: Vienna (3 days) 

Trains to Vienna (Wien Hauptbahnhof train station) depart from Budapest Keleti train station every hour and take around 2 hours 40 minutes, making this an easy next stop on a week in Europe itinerary.

Vienna is a romantic and magical city packed full of architectural masterpieces. If you like shopping and museums, Vienna has an abundance of both.

Highlights:

  • See Vienna’s magnificent Rathaus (City Hall) and Hofburg Palace
  • Visit Maria Theresia Garden, home to both the Natural History Museum & Vienna’s Art History Museum
  • Explore the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace & Children’s Museum

Stop Three: Bratislava (1 day) 

From Vienna, the train journey to Bratislava is just a little over an hour. It can be visited as a day trip or as an overnight.

Such an underrated city, Bratislava has something for everyone with its quirky historical old town and modern center, tightly packed with super trendy bars, cafes and eateries.

Highlights:

  • Visit the unique, white rectangular Bratislava Castle which overlooks the city
  • Wander around the old town and visiting the Church of St. Elizabeth (aka the Blue Church)
  • Walk over the River Danube via the UFO Bridge

– Explored by Gemma of Families Can Travel

Best of the UK: London — Lake District — Edinburgh

The UK is a compact and diverse country that is perfect for a first trip to Europe.

If you only have one week in Europe, you can easily visit both the English and Scottish capitals with a quick trip to the beautiful Lake District in between, all easily connected by train.

Stop One: London (4 days)

London, the capital city of England is brimming with history and royalty. From the many iconic landmarks to Red double decker buses to red telephone booths to black cabs, the city will make you fall in love with it.

Highlights:

  • Explore the royal city by taking a tour of the city and visiting Buckingham Palace and seeing the Change of Guard, Tower Bridge, London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, iconic Big Ben, British museum and cruise on the Thames river.
  • Taking a day trip to Greenwich and visiting Royal Observatory and other landmarks like Queen’s House, Old Royal Naval College, National Maritime Museum. Could ride the Emirates Cable for a round trip from London.
  • Taking a day trip to Windsor Castle and Stonehenge.

Stop Two: Lake District (1 day)

Lake District, a national park in Cumbria, is known for its mesmerizing glacial lakes surrounded by mountains and lush greenery. It is a popular vacation spot to unwind and rejuvenate yourself.

Highlights:

  • Take a cruise on the Lake Windermere or Lake Ullswater
  • Hike or explore on an electric bike around Lake Windermere along the trails.
  • Check out Castlerigg Stone Circle, 5000 year old.

Stop Three: Edinburgh (2 days)

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland is a vibrant city with beautiful landscape, cobblestone roads, window to the Scottish culture that will strike a chord in your heart. Checking out Edinburgh’s attractions will also let you enjoy its classical Scottish architecture. 

Highlights:

  • Walking the Royal Mile and shop for lambswool/cashmere, whiskey, and other souvenirs. Don’t forget to eat at the cafes on Royal Mile.
  • Visit the Edinburgh Castle perched atop the hill, Camera Obscura, Holyroodhouse Palace and Scottish Parliament all on the Royal Mile.
  • Hike Arthur’s seat for a panoramic view of city and take a Harry Potter tour. 

-Explored by Neha from Travelmelodies

Best of Ireland: Dublin – Cork – Galway

Ireland is the perfect introduction to Europe for first-timers to the continent. Friendly people, no language barrier for English speakers, beautiful landscapes: what’s not to love?

Plus, Ireland is small and compact so that if you only have one week in Europe, you can easily do Ireland justice without stressing.

Stop One: Dublin (3 Days)

Dublin is Ireland’s capital and largest city. Most importantly it’s the heart and soul of the country. The city offers something to see for every travel, incredible food and drink, and best of all, it’s easy to explore.

Highlights:

  • Learn about Ireland’s most famous export, Guinness, at the Guinness StoreHouse and Brewery
  • Trinity College and the Book of Kells
  • Explore Ireland’s tumultuous history at Dublin Castle

Stop Two: Cork (2 Days)

Welcome to the “Rebel City”. Cork is Ireland’s 2nd largest city and gateway to southern Ireland. The city has played a large role in the history of Ireland from confrontation with the British, to the setting off point for millions of Irish emigrants. Today it’s one of Ireland’s most dynamic cities offering tons to see and do.

Highlights:

  • Wander the English Market to sample some of the best Irish food in the country. 
  • Visit the 18th Century Gothic Revival St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral
  • Explore Fitzgerald Park and Cork Public Museum

Stop Three: Galway (2 Days)

Located on Ireland’s rugged west coast, Galway has been referred to as Europe’s “friendliest city.” More of a small town than a major city, Galway is a vibrant city thanks to a lively music and arts scene.  

Highlights:

  • Visit one of Europe’s youngest cathedrals, Galway Cathedral
  • See Galway from the water on a Galway Bay boat tour
  • See the last remaining parts of the old city medieval walls at the Spanish Arch

-Explored by Eric from Food and Drink Destinations

Best of France: Avignon – Lyon – Paris

These three French cities are connected via the high-speed TGV train, making this an easy one week in Europe itinerary.

Stop One: Avignon (2 days)

The cultural and historical heart of Provence, Avignon is a stunning city situated on the River Rhone.

From boutique shopping to dining in world-class restaurants, it offers a sophisticated city break.

Highlights:

  • Explore the UNESCO World Heritage city, with its intact ramparts and endless historical attractions
  • Visit Les Halles food market to shop for regional specialities and to watch food demonstrations
  • Take an interactive 3D tour (via histopad) of the Pope’s Palace.

Stop Two: Lyon (2 days)

Famous for food, Lyon is the ideal place to indulge your inner food critic.

Settle into the city’s cafes and restaurants to sample the region-specific specialities on offer. Then walk off your gluttony by touring the wealth of historical sights around the city!

Highlights:

  • Take a stroll through the streets of Presqu’île for stunning architecture and shopping
  • Go on a mural-spotting spree through the city, since Lyon takes street art to a whole other level!
  • Visit Vieux Lyon to take a step back in time and see how the city once was.

Stop Three: Paris (3 days)

Equally as alluring for lovers as it is for families, Paris is a destination with something for everyone.

From touring the city’s standout museums to people watching on a cafe terrace, the City of Lights is sure to dazzle every visitor.

Highlights:

  • Ride the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower for dreamy Paris views
  • Walk through Montmartre and climbing up to the Sacré-Cœur
  • Take to the French art of flaneur and spend hours wandering the streets and gardens as you go

– Explored by Nadine of Le Long Weekend

Paris & French Riviera: Paris – Marseille – Nice

This France itinerary from Paris to Nice covers Paris, Marseille, and Nice, and it is excellent for sightseeing if you only have one week in Europe.

All the cities are well connected by direct trains, so you don’t need to take any flights, great for a short trip.

Stop One: Paris (3 days)

Paris is always a good idea, and there’s no better place to start this 1-week holiday than from the French capital.

If this is your first time in Paris, you will want to visit some of the city’s main sights, perhaps with a couple of leisure strolls around the most picturesque areas.

Highlights:

  • Climb up to the Eiffel Tower
  • Walk around Montmartre
  • Visit the Louvre Museum

Marseille (2 days)

Direct TGV trains leave Paris Gare de Lyon train station to Marseille. The train ride takes less than 3 hours, and it is very straightforward.

Marseille, in southern France, is the capital of the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. It is one of the most important port cities in the Mediterranean Sea and an exciting place to visit for a couple of days. 

Highlights:

  • Stroll around the Old Port and visit the fish market, as well as the Le Panier neighborhood
  • Admire the magnificent views from Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde
  • Visit the MuCEM (Museum of Mediterranean Cultures)

Nice (2 days)

The last stop of this French trip is Nice.

Enjoy the sun and the glamour of this coastal city in the French Riviera famous for its baroque architecture and the iconic Promenade des Anglais.

Highlights:

  • Stroll around the Old Town
  • Admire the views from La Colline du Château
  • Walk the Promenade des Anglais, ice cream in hand

– Contributed by Elisa of World in Paris

Best of the Netherlands: Amsterdam – Rotterdam – Utrecht

The Netherlands is a compact country with so much more to offer than just Amsterdam!

If you only have one week in Europe, the Netherlands is a perfect destination as it’s compact, easy to travel by train, and very easy to navigate as a foreigner due to the friendliness of the people and the prevalence of English speakers.

Stop 1: Amsterdam (3 days)

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and known for its beautiful canals, 17th-century warehouses and excellent museums.

Highlights:

  • Admire world-class artworks from famous Dutch and international artists in the Rijksmuseum
  • Visit the house where Jewish diarist Anne Frank was hiding during WWII.
  • Learn about science at the interactive NEMO Science Museum (especially suitable for families planning a Dutch city trip with kids)

Stop 2: Rotterdam (2 days)

Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands. The city is famous for its modern architecture such as the iconic Erasmus bridge, the Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses), and the colorful Market Hall as well as its maritime history.

Highlights:

  • Ascend to the top of the 185-meter-tall Euromast. On a clear day, you can look as far as the city of Antwerp in Belgium!
  • Learn about Dutch naval history at the Maritime Museum Rotterdam and stroll along the Old Harbor.
  • Take a boat tour and visit the Europoort, the largest harbor in Europe.

Stop 3: Utrecht (2 days)

Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands and is often called a smaller (and better) version of Amsterdam. Its historic city center can easily be explored on foot, or do as the Dutch people do and hop on a bicycle.

Highlights:

  • Climb the Dom Tower and admire the view (you can see Rotterdam and Amsterdam on a sunny day).
  • Take a bus to nearby Castle De Haar, a beautiful historic castle surrounded by lovely gardens.
  • For those with kids, the Miffy museum is a must. Here your little ones can meet this famous children’s book character and walk around in 10 miniature worlds based on the Miffy books.

-Explored By Lotte from Beste voor Kids 

Scandinavian Sampler: Stockholm – Malmo – Copenhagen

For a quick trip of some of Scandinavia’s best cities, you can easily combine a trip to Sweden and Denmark with just one week in Europe, using Malmo as a connection point between the countries’ two capital cities.

Stop One: Stockholm (3 days)

Stockholm, Sweden’s vibrant capital, is a city built on a 14-island archipelago. It has a series of bridges and ferries to help visitors navigate the city and the waterfront of Stockholm is seemingly everywhere. The city is a must-visit capital in Scandinavia and home to fascinating history and a most-welcoming people.

Highlights:

  • Wander the streets of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s perfectly-preserved medieval town center
  • Visit the Vasa Museum, an exhibit of a 17th-century Swedish warship that was recovered from the harbor fully intact
  • Check out the ABBA Museum and learn about the Eurovision Song Contest and the band that has become a Swedish national treasure 

Stop Two: Malmo (2 days)

Malmo is a diverse city in the southern region of Sweden. It’s geographically and culturally close to Denmark with historical ties to the nation, having been part of both kingdoms throughout the centuries. It’s a vibrant city with a young population due to the universities in the area.

Highlights:

  • Take a canal tour around the beautiful city of Malmo and its harbor
  • Visit the Malmo Saluhall, a hip street food hall in a rustic post-industrial building
  • Check out Malmo Castle, the city’s fortress and part of Malmo Museum

Stop Three: Copenhagen (2 days)

Copenhagen is an often-overlooked European capital that maintains a quiet and unassuming charm. It’s a perfect foodie destination and home to castles, canals, and an amusement park that inspired Walt Disney himself. 

Highlights:

  • Embark on a canal tour of Copenhagen to see the entire city from the water in under two hours
  • Try a New Nordic meal at any of the fabulous restaurants or Copenhagen street food areas
  • Visit Copenhagen’s famous amusement park, Tivoli Gardens, the second-oldest amusement park in the world.

-Explored by Derek & Mike of Everything Copenhagen

Best of Norway: Oslo – Flåm – Bergen

If you only have one week in Europe, the country of Norway is one of the most majestic places for a scenic vacation. Norway is a nature-lovers dream, filled with waterfalls, hikes, and stunning fjords. 

Stop One: Oslo (2-3 days)

Start your journey in the country’s capital city of Oslo. Plan to give yourself 2-3 days, as the city is filled with museums, the Nobel Peace Center, and the world-class sculpture park, Vigeland Sculpture Park. 

Highlights:

  • Visiting the Nobel Peace Center
  • Admiring the art in Vigeland Sculpture Park
  • Checking out the Fram Museum and the National Gallery

Stop Two: Flåm (2 days)

After a few days learning about Viking culture, art, and Scandinavian history, catch a train to Flåm, Norway. The tiny village in the heart of the fjords is serenely beautiful. Even the train ride to Flåm is known as one of the most scenic train rides in the world.

Take a cruise through the fjords, kayak or hike to a waterfall. To truly relax and take in nature, give yourself at least 2 days in Flåm before continuing on your journey to your final destination, Bergen. 

Highlights:

  • Admiring the views from the scenic Flåm Railway
  • Heading out onto the water on the Nærøyfjord Cruise
  • Seeing the gorgeous Brekkefossen waterfall

Stop Three: Bergen (2 days)

The coastal city is known as the gateway to the fjords. Give yourself 3 days in Bergen to explore Bryggen and its colorful row of wooden houses along the harbor, take the Ulriken cable car ride or take a funicular up Mount Fløyen. You can even hike between Ulriken and Mount Fløyen for stellar views of the harbor and its surrounding peaks.

Be sure to eat fresh fish from the Bergen Fish Market and take a short train ride to see the beautiful Fantoft Stave Church to round out your one-week itinerary in this incredible Scandinavian country. 

Highlights:

  • Take the scenic Ulriken Cable Car for incredible views
  • Soar above the city on the Mount Fløyen funicular
  • Marvel at the Fantoft Stave Church

-Explored by Melissa from Parenthood and Passports

One Week in Europe: Alternative Itinerary Ideas

Best of Benelux: Amsterdam – Brussels – Luxembourg City

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

This European itinerary belongs to the classics: just in 7 days you will visit 3 countries and their capital cities.

It features the so-called Benelux countries Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Stop One: Amsterdam (3 days)

Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe – with its maze of canals and step-gabled canal houses, the city attracts millions of tourists each year. The best way to discover Amsterdam is on foot.

Highlights:

  • Taking a boat tour of the canals – a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Visiting the Rijksmuseum to admire Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch 
  • Stopping at Anne Frank House to learn the story behind the famous wartime diary and its author – the Jewish girl Anne Frank
  • Seeing the gorgeous tulip gardens at Keukenhof (open only from March – May)

Stop Two: Brussels (2 days)

Belgium’s capital is an amazing city where the lush architecture of the historical centre is juxtaposed to the modern buildings in the European Quarter. Brussels is also the capital of the European Union as the most EU-institutions are headquartered there.

Highlights:

  • Admiring the Grand Place with the Town Hall – a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Binging on Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolate, Belgian fries and Belgian beer
  • Checking out the Atomium

Stop Three: Luxembourg City (2 days)

Luxembourg City is a cosmopolitan city with rich historical heritage. The city was founded in 963 and is a good example of medieval defensive European architecture. Luxembourg City is, after Brussels, the city with most EU-institutions in Europe.

Highlights:

  • Visiting Grund – the old town along the Alzette River with the Neumünster Abbey and the famous casemates – a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Relaxing at one of the cafés at Place d’Armes
  • Checking out on modern and contemporary art at Casino Luxembourg and at the Museum of Modern Art Grand-Duc Jean

-Explored by Daniela of Exploring the Netherlands

Beautiful Baltics: Tallinn – Riga – Vilnius

For travelers looking to visit three countries in Europe in a week, the Baltics are the perfect place to do so — and get off the beaten path in the meantime!

The three Baltic capitals are all beautiful and compact, and the short travel distance between them (and the easy bus connections) make it quite a perfect itinerary for a seasoned Europe traveler looking for a slightly different Europe trip.

Stop One: Tallinn (3 days)

Tallinn, Estonia is a beautiful cobble-stoned city that looks straight out of a fairy tale. It has a fascinating naval history to explore at the Maritime Museum. It’s also a delicious destination for those who want to try Nordic-style cuisine at much cheaper prices. 

Highlights:

  • Exploring Tallinn’s Old Town
  • Smelling the roses in Kadriorg Park
  • Seeing the best of Estonian art at the Kumu Museum

Stop Two: Riga (2 days)

Riga, Latvia is a fascinating destination for any lover of architecture from medieval to communist styles.

Its Old Town is full of charming statues like the one of the Bremen Town Musicians. It has some of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in all Europe as well as a fabulous food market.

Highlights:

  • Visiting the many churches in Riga’s Old Town
  • Admiring the Art Nouveau designs on Albert Street and in the Art Museum Riga Bourse
  • Tasting the special Latvian drink known as Black Balsam

Stop Three: Vilnius (2 days)

Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania and the best place to learn about Lithuania’s rich history.

But it’s also a vibrant university city with an exciting youth culture and street art scene. It’s also a famous destination for riding hot air balloons!

Highlights:

  • Learning about Lithuania at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
  • Visiting the quirky independent community Uzupis
  • Tasting local delicacies like the potato dumplings known as zeppelin

-Explored by Stella Jane of Around the World in 24 Hours

Classic Poland: Warsaw – Wroclaw – Krakow

For an alternative way to spend one week in Europe, go a bit more off the beaten path and explore Poland.

A great budget destination, Poland is also incredibly rich with history, culture, and delicious food and nightlife.

Stop One: Warsaw (3 days)

Warsaw, the capital of Poland, is an incredibly special city.

Its history and style combine pre-war classic old town (that was completely ruined and rebuilt) and castles, sad memorials from Second World War and the Holocaust, post-war gray communist buildings, and modern streets with fun vibes, great shopping, and interesting Polish food.

Highlights:

  • Stroll the cobblestone streets of the old town of Warsaw
  • Watch the view from the Palace of Culture and Science
  • Visit the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Stop 2: Wroclaw (1 day)

Wroclaw is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland, and maybe in Europe.

The colorful houses, the Oder river, and the impressive cathedrals make you feel as if you are walking inside a 200-year-old painting!

Highlights:

  • Climb up the St. Elizabeth’s Church Tower to get an amazing view of the old town
  • Cross Tumski bridge (the Lovers’ bridge). If you are with your loved one, add your own lock to the bridge.
  • Follow the mini dwarf statues in between the city’s landmarks

Stop 3: Krakow (3 days)

Krakow is the second largest city in Warsaw and the historic capital of Poland (until 1596).

The city is an extensive cultural heritage, and the entire old town was declared a UNESCO world heritage site.  It is also a city of students and is renowned for its nightlife scene.

Highlights:

  • Visit the Wawel Royal Castle, the beautifully preserved 14th-century castle
  • Grab a beer at Rynek Główny – Europe’s largest medieval market square
  • Take a somber day trip to Auschwitz concentration camp to learn about Holocaust history.

Explored by Moshe of The Top Ten Traveler

Best of Bosnia: Sarajevo – Konjic – Mostar

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a beautiful country off the beaten path of Europe, and it’s a great place for a one week Europe trip for seasoned travelers.

While Bosnia and Herzegovina isn’t the easiest country in Europe to travel — language barriers and infrastructure issues are a concern — it may be one of the most rewarding, with kind-hearted people, fascinating (and at times tragic) history, and incredible landscapes. Here’s a Bosnia itinerary to follow:

Stop One: Sarajevo (3 days)

Sarajevo is Europe’s most multicultural city. The charming old town allows you to travel back to Ottoman times, but there is great Austro-Hungarian architecture too. With its scenic location in the hills there are a variety of things to do.  

Highlights:

  • Walking through the cobbled stone streets of the Bascarsija
  • Enjoying the Panorama views over Sarajevo from the Yellow fortress
  • Learning about the Bosnian civil war at the Tunnel museum and Galerija 11/07/95.

Stop Two: Konjic (1 day)

Konjic is a small town with a beautiful Ottoman bridge spanning the Neretva river. Recently it became more famous for being home to a secret nuclear bunker built by Tito. It also serves as a gateway to the spectacular natural beauty that surrounds the city.  

Highlights:

  • A visit to Tito’s bunker
  • Rafting over the Neretva river
  • Walking over the ancient Ottoman bridge.

Stop Three: Mostar (3 days)

Mostar is one of Bosnia’s most picturesque towns that is famous for its historic Ottoman old town from the 15th century. Although it was destroyed during the war everything was beautifully renovated, including its iconic bridge spanning the Neretva river. 

Highlights:

  • Watching the locals jump off the Stari Most bridge
  • Shopping for souvenirs in the old town
  • Visiting the Dervish monastery in Blagaj

-Explored by Ellis Veen of Backpack Adventures

Best of Czechia: Pilsen – Karlovy Vary – Prague

Most travelers to Czechia never make it past Prague, but if you want to see some of the best of this Central European gem, head a bit off the beaten path and explore cute other towns like Pilsen and Karlovy Vary.

Czechia’s small size makes it perfect for a leisurely one week in Europe, and here’s how to do it.

Stop One: Pilsen (2 days)

The beautiful Czech city of Pilsen is most well known for the beer derived from the destination. It’s located in the western Czech Republic and is wrapped in charming city parks hugging a medieval town center. 

Highlights:

  • Visit the Pilsner Urquell Brewery for a tour and tasting
  • Climb to the top of the Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew for a panoramic view of the city
  • Explore the old city and Pilsen’s Great Synagogue, the second-largest in Europe

Stop Two: Karlovy Vary (2 days)

Karlovy Vary is a picturesque spa town in West Bohemia. This Czech city has been a favorite of global celebrities and nobility since the early 19th century. The thermal springs have defined the city with visitors flocking to the spas that have emerged from them.

Highlights:

  • Hike to the many lookouts around the city of Karlovy Vary like the famous Diana’s Lookout
  • Book a spa treatment at one of the best thermal baths in Europe
  • Taste the waters from any of the hot springs fountains in the city’s colonnades

Stop Three: Prague (3 days)

The cultural center of the Czech Republic, Prague is a must-visit European capital. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in Europe with incredible architecture, art, history, and culture. It’s bisected by the Vltava River and has been a crucial trading center in Central Europe for hundreds of years.

Highlights:

  • Visit historic Prague Castle and the iconic Saint Vitus Cathedral
  • Walk across the famous Charles Bridge and admire the sculptures that line it
  • Wander Old Town Square and catch the hourly performance of Prague’s Astronomical Clock

-Explored by Derek & Mike of Robe Trotting

Best of Bulgaria: Sofia – Bansko – Melnik

Bulgaria is a beautiful and underrated part of Europe that travelers often miss, but that’s why it’s such a true hidden gem, a rare place where you can escape mass tourism in Europe.

This itinerary covers the capital, Sofia, as well as two small but quaint towns that are great for travelers looking for a less hectic one week in Europe itinerary.

Stop One: Sofia (3 days) 

Sofia is the country’s biggest city and the capital of Bulgaria.

The city has everything that you might wish for: cultural and historical heritage, amazing cuisine, exciting nightlife, plenty of parks and even its own mountain, Vitosha! 

Highlights:

  • Explore the ruins of the Roman city Serdika 
  • Visit Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia’s most iconic landmark
  • Go on a day trip to Plovdiv or the Seven Rila Lakes

Stop Two: Bansko (2 days)

The town of Bansko is one of the best places to visit in Bulgaria for hiking lovers and winter sports enthusiasts.

Located at the foot of Pirin Mountain, Bansko is famous for its distinctive architecture, stone houses, its wood-carving school, and the traditional Pirin songs as well as cuisine.

Highlights:

  • Hike in summer and ski or snowboard in winter 
  • Wander around the pretty Old Town 
  • Check out the oldest tree in Bulgaria, Baikushev’s pine (1,300 years old!) in Pirin National Park

Stop Three: Melnik (2 days)

Melnik is the smallest city in Bulgaria.

Situated among sand pyramids with bizarre forms, this little town attracts its visitors with its ancient houses and aromatic wines. The town is declared as a cultural-historical reserve. 

Highlights

  • Wine tasting along the Melnik Wine Route
  • Visit Rozhen Monastery 
  • Stop by the Kordopulov House

Explored by Bilyana of Owl Over The World 

Best of Portugal: Lisbon – Sintra – Porto

The best of Portugal can easily be seen in a week, meaning it’s a great introduction to Europe if you only have one week.

You’ll get to see the vibrant capital of Lisbon, the fairytale castles of Sintra, and the romantic azulejos of Porto all in an easy one week Europe trip.

Stop One: Lisbon (3 days)

Lisbon is one of the most vibrant cities in Portugal, filled with historical landmarks, museums, scenic lookout points, and charming neighborhoods. It’s also a fantastic destination for foodies and those looking for a buzzing nightlife scene.

Highlights:

  • Visiting the 11th-century São Jorge Castle.
  • Attending a Fado show to enjoy the soulful, most symbolic Portuguese music.
  • Exploring the important and unique National Tile Museum, housed in a 16th-century former convent.

Stop Two: Sintra (2 days)

Sintra is the queen city of beautiful palaces and castles, which gave it the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also a great base for exploring the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

Highlights:

  • Admiring the colorful 19th-century Pena Palace – one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
  • Visiting the intriguing Convent of the Capuchos.
  • Living a fairytale at the dreamy Quinta da Regaleira palace.

Stop Three: Porto (2 days)

Sitting on the Douro River, Porto is a beautiful city perfect for travelers who love wine, good food, interesting landmarks and museums, and “wanderable” historic centers. It’s also a perfect base for exploring the Douro Valley.

Highlights:

  • Admiring the 18th-century Carmo Church and its stunning Azulejo tiles.
  • Getting lost in the maze of the narrow, colorful streets of the neighborhood of Ribeira.
  • Crossing the Luís I Bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia to visit some cellars and enjoy the best port wine tasting tours.

Explored by Or from My Path in the World 

East of the Iron Curtain: Berlin – Prague – Budapest

For history lovers, a one week Europe trip covering Berlin, Prague, and Budapest will allow you to visit 3 European capital cities in 3 different countries that were all formerly behind the Iron Curtain.

If you’re curious to see beautiful European cities while also learning more about the history of the 20th century, this is the perfect one week Europe itinerary for you.

Stop One: Berlin (2 days)

The quirky city of Berlin is unlike any other in Germany – and the world! Not only does it have buckets of history but there are plenty of alternative things to do in Berlin popular with young travellers and locals. 

Highlights

  • Learn about Berlin Wall history by visiting the Berlin Wall Museum and checking out the street art that now covers the remaining section
  • Explore quirky museums like the David Hasselhoff Museum!
  • Alternative nightlife – check out warehouse parties, discos in refurbished phone booths and friendly LGBTQ+ bars

Stop Two: Prague (2 days)

The capital of the Czech Republic is a fantastic place for history and architecture lovers especially those who love castles. Although it gets cold in the winter, you can warm up over hearty Czech cuisine and affordable Czech beer. 

Highlights

  • Drink in panoramic views of Prague from Vyšehrad viewpoint or Letna Park
  • Explore Prague Castle dating back to the 9th century 
  • Take photos at colourful and quirky John Lennon Wall

Stop Three: Budapest (2 days)

The beautiful city of Budapest is another one with classic architecture and history in abundance but also a quirky side and off-beat attractions. You can explore the best of both worlds during a 2 day Budapest itinerary.

Highlights

  • Soak in the famous Széchenyi Spa Baths
  • Catch the funicular up to Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion on top of Buda Hill
  • Have a drink in quirky ruin bar, Simpla Kertz and others set inside refurbished buildings.

-Explored by Rose of Where Goes Rose

Mini Balkans Tour: Kotor – Dubrovnik – Mostar

The Balkans is a complex region covering 12 countries and numerous languages, currencies, and traditions. Transit between countries can be time-consuming, and a proper trip through the Balkans definitely requires more than just one week in Europe.

However, this mini Balkans itinerary with stops in Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina takes advantage of a particularly beautiful corner of the Balkans where you can easily visit three Balkan countries in just 7 days in Europe.

Stop One: Kotor (2 days)

Kotor is an ancient port city in Montenegro on the Adriatic coast. The city is on the UNESCO world heritage list. Kotor is famous for its churches, walls and astounding views.

Highlights:

  • Wander through the old town with many beautiful buildings, narrow streets, restaurants, terraces, small shops, and unique squares.
  • Climb the over 1200 stairs towards the fort, towering over the city. The rewards are stunning views over Kotor and the Bay of Kotor.
  • Take a boat tour in the Bay of Kotor. For the views on Kotor and to visit the town of Perast and the island Our Lady of the Rocks.

Stop Two: Dubrovnik (3 days)

Dubrovnik is another beautiful port city on the Adriatic Sea in Croatia. It’s a famous, walled city with red-tiled roofed houses. Visitable in one day in Dubrovnik, but it’s more relaxed in 2 days.

Highlights:

  • Walk on the medieval walls, surrounding the old town of Dubrovnik. Admire the city and its buildings from above.
  • Wander through the old town with its Stradun (main) street and old buildings like the Onofrio fountain.
  • Go up Srd Mountain with a cable car to have a perfect view over Dubrovnik.

Stop Three: Mostar (2 day)

Mostar is a city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, famous because of the bridge Stari Most. The bridge was destroyed during the Bosnian-Croatian war and rebuilt in the early 2000s.

Highlights:

  • Walk over Stari Most, the famous steep bridge. Admire it also from afar.
  • Take the Mostar Free Walking Tour, a walking tour with a local. Learn more about the city and its history.
  • Sit down at a terrace and try a Bosnian coffee.

-Explored by Cosette from KarsTravels

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Your Perfect 10 Day Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

We’ve covered a few special spots around Idaho before, like the best Idaho hikes and hot springs.

This time, we’ve pulled them all together in a collective Idaho itinerary which helps to highlight the unique characteristics of each place as well as the shared natural beauty consistent throughout the Gem State.

Starting from Boise and working your way counterclockwise around the state to some of the best outdoor spots makes for one memorable Idaho road trip.

Follow along for an epic Idaho road trip through Ketchum, Stanley, Salmon, Missoula (a little side trip to Montana), Coeur d’Alene, and McCall.

The full road trip route can be covered in just over a week in Idaho, but you’re better off with 10 days in Idaho to maximize your trip time and spend more time enjoying and less time driving.

There are also options to pare down for a two to three-day excursions from Boise. Check out the previous post on Idaho hikes and incorporate some of those along the way.

Alternately, you can plan your itinerary around hitting up some of the best, most unique Airbnbs in Idaho — I’ll also include suggestions throughout this post for accommodations, both traditional and unique.

PLANNING FOR IDAHO AT A GLANCE:  

When to Go: Idaho is beautiful all year round but since this itinerary involves a lot of hiking and other outdoor activities, the best months to go are between June and late September since some roads and trails are inaccessible during the winter months. 

However, if you want to go hiking in the best conditions, then July and August are the best months for your Idaho road trip but if your road trip involves seeing the stunning Idaho fall foliage, then I recommending going in late September.

Where to Stay: For this itinerary, you'll have sleepovers in Boise, Ketchum/ Sun Valley, Stanley, Salmon, Coeur d’Alene, and McCall.

For your first sleepover in Boise, I recommend staying at The Modern Hotel & Bar, a stylish boutique hotel, Inn America if you're on a budget, or this loft if you want a homey feel. 

And while in Ketchum, I recommend staying at Hotel Ketchum, a contemporary boutique hotel, Wood River Inn & Suite for budget travelers, or this Barnhouse if you want something less traditional.

For Stanley, I recommend staying at this tiny house if you ever dreamt of staying in one or this Redfish Riverside Inn (Lodge). 

Salmon has several accommodation types but I suggest staying at this tiny converted wagon trailer if you want something unique or at this log cabin for a homey and cozy feel.

Since you'll have a number of nights in Coeur d’Alene, I recommend choosing a comfortable place to stay and in that case, I suggest Greenbriar Inn a cozy Inn, this houseboat if you want to be right on the lake, or this cowboy cabin for a western-themed stay.

And for your last overnight stay in McCall, I recommend staying at this McCall cabin if you're traveling as a group/family, or Scandia Hotel for a Nordic Inspired comfort.

How to Get Around: You're definitely going to need a car while road tripping Idaho. If you don't know where to rent one from, you can compare car rentals and prices from here. Alternately, you can rent an RV or campervan via RVShare and save on accommodations.

3 Things Not to Forget to Pack:  A sturdy pair of hiking boots will serve you well -- I love my Ahnu boots. A dual purpose phone mount and charger will come in very handy and you'll be happy to have a roadside emergency kit should your car break down while road tripping.

Road trip pro tip: Purchase an annual pass (AKA the America the Beautiful Pass) to save money on the entrance fees for the multiple locations in this itinerary run by the NPS!

How This Idaho Road Trip Itinerary Works

An open road with yellow grass on the sides of it, a barn on one side of the road, and mountains with some snow lit up orange by the sun.

This Idaho road trip departs and leaves from Boise, Idaho, which has the main airport with service from several major cities in states all over the country, as I figured this would be the most useful departure point for most travelers.

This Idaho road trip follows a loop, starting and ending in Boise, which means that you can also start at any other point along the loop and follow it from there, just reorganizing the stops on this itinerary to make the road trip work for you personally.

However, if you are traveling from a neighboring state, you may want to treat this road trip itinerary a little differently. For example, if you are based in Tacoma, Washington, you’d most likely want to start this Idaho road trip in Couer d’Alene and make a loop from there, as it would require the least backtracking.

This Idaho road trip is also focused on covering all the best natural beauty there is in the state as opposed to covering city and town travel. You’ll find plenty of beautiful hikes and outdoor activities to indulge in, but we won’t be stopping at too many larger cities and towns, although there is an exception for Boise and a quick side trip to Missoula, Montana, which is an easy addition to an Idaho road trip.

This Idaho road trip is structured to cover 10 days at a leisurely pace without too many long driving days without interesting stops in between. However, you could easily parse it down to 7 days by cutting out a few destinations or spending less time in each destination. If you have to cut anything, I’d suggest cutting Missoula from your plan, as hey — it’s not even part of Idaho anyway!

The Best Time of Year for an Idaho Road Trip

Autumn is the best time for an Idaho road trip: yellow trees, green evergreens, and orange mountain tops on a partly cloudy day.

This Idaho road trip itinerary, including suggested roads and activities, is best taken between June and late September, as some road and trail conditions are inaccessible during winter months. 

For the best hiking conditions, July and August are the banner months, as the snowmelt on the highest altitudes we’ll cover here should definitely be gone by then.

However, if you want a chance at some beautiful Idaho fall foliage, I’d suggest timing your Idaho road trip to begin in late September.

While foliage does reach its peak around mid-October, you’ll also have to potentially contend with early snowfalls and inclement weather, so late September is a safer bet in terms of not having to reroute or skip parts of this Idaho itinerary.

Meanwhile, starting this Idaho road trip in May or June means you’ll have the peak wildflower season on your mountain hikes, as the wildflowers are at their best shortly after the snow melts, so truly any season is a great one for this road trip!

We don’t recommend this exact Idaho itinerary for the winter time because many of the hikes are not possible and some roads may not be passable, leading to time-consuming re-routes.

However, there are definitely some great things you can do in Idaho in the winter, such as creating a skiing and hot spring-themed road trip — check out these Idaho hot springs for inspiration around planning a winter road trip!

Renting a Car in Idaho

Sepia-toned photo which shows the back of a car approaching a sign which says "welcome to Idaho" on an Idaho road trip with a field in the background.

If you’re planning on driving into Idaho from a neighboring state like Washington or Montana, feel free to disregard this section!

But if you’re flying in and planning to rent a car in Idaho, I suggest picking up at the Boise Airport.

It’s the easiest airport to get to in Idaho, and for that reason, it’s both the starting and ending point of this itinerary. It’s also where you’ll find the cheapest car rental prices in Idaho — smaller airports tend to have pricier rentals.

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on RentalCars as the best site to rent with in the USA – it searches dozens of rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare car rentals for your trip here!

When renting a car in Idaho, be sure to purchase the proper car insurance coverage unless your credit card covers those for you.

You don’t want to be on the hook for damage to your car, especially as this Idaho road trip is rather adventurous and involves some gravel roads and other conditions that may give your car a bit of wear and tear if you’re not careful (gravel + windshields do not mix — I learned this lesson well in Iceland!).

Your Perfect Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Boise (Day 1)

View of downtown Boise with lots of buildings and a busy road in the autumn as the colors change on the fall trees,

Distance: Minimal — from the airport to downtown & any hikes you want
Driving Time: 15-30 minutes

Boise is an easy and logical place to begin and end your Idaho road trip. Boise International Airport offers multiple flight options to connecting cities, is centrally located to all things downtown, and is near some of the best local trailheads for a quick hike upon your first day’s arrival. 

Boise is also a pretty feasible day drive if you are based in the Pacific Northwest and are not planning to fly to Idaho. It’s just about 6.5 hours from Portland, 7.5 hours from Seattle, 5 hours from Salt Lake City, and 10 hours from the Bay Area.

Similar to other cities in the Northwest, Boise’s backyard is full of hiking, skiing, and mountain biking trials with the accompanying park infrastructure to make it both accessible and enjoyable.

The city and its suburbs have seen huge population growth in the last few years. The downside of this is you may experience higher traffic on some of the shorter trails closest to town, especially during weekend days. The upside of the growth is the increased number of new boutique hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops at manageable prices.

Upon arrival, check in to The Modern Hotel & Bar on West Grove Street, four miles from the airport. Vogue magazine describes this hotel as “a seedy motel-turned-stylish boutique hotel, [with] one of the buzziest bar scenes in town.”

The mid-century modern renovations and minimalist interiors are a nice change-up from your run of the mill hotel and you get a distinct Austin, Texas vibe (though not overkill) as you drive in.

The Modern Hotel is a great option if you roll into town on the later side as Txikiteo, the on-site restaurant (pronounced “chee-kee-tay-o”), serves up pasta, tapas, gourmet sandwiches, and cheese boards. Enjoy a drink by the outdoor fire pit before turning in for the evening.

The Modern Hotel is conveniently located near Hulls Gulch Reserve, the nearest of Boise’s main hiking trailheads. Access to Hulls Gulch Trail, the most popular in the reserve, is two miles from the Modern Hotel off North 8th Street and behind Camel’s Back Hill.

View of a hiking trail near Boise with lots of yellow grass and trees, in the distance you can see the buildings of the Boise skyline at sunset

This is a well-traveled, moderate hike with views of the city which ends at a scenic waterfall. Out and back is 6.3 miles with a total of 1,131 feet in elevation gain. Hulls Gulch Reserve has suitable terrain for trail running, but the trail gets direct sun and summer months can be hot. Plan for about 2.5 hours. 

Also near the Modern Hotel is road access to Bogus Basin, another popular hiking and activity destination in Boise sure to make your Idaho road trip itinerary.

This ski area doubles as lift-accessible hiking terrain during spring and summer. Located about 40 minutes from Boise, Bogus Basin has several trail options, including a 7-mile loop around the winter skiable acreage. Check out Bogus’ summer schedule for free activities like Yoga on the Mountain. 

Regardless of your plans in and around Boise, Neckar Coffee should be your first stop of the morning. Conveniently located near the Modern Hotel, and on the way to the above recreation areas, Neckar has quality lattes, pour overs, and pastries. A crowd favorite is the pain au chocolat.

Where to Stay

View of a spacious modern Airbnb loft with kitchen equipment, table for two with blue chairs, and a couch seating area with white walls and modern design.
Image provided by Airbnb

LOFT | If you prefer the cozy touches of an Airbnb, this chic loft in the lovely Hyde Park neighborhood of Boise is affordable, cozy, and well-styled. It’s affordable but has all the creature comforts you’d want from a home away from home| Book on Airbnb

UNIQUE | How much more Idaho does it get than sleeping in an actual potato? Yes, really: a 6 ton potato you can stay in, right on a farm outside of Boise! Believe it or not, the interior is ultra-chic (think mid-century modern meets Scandinavian minimalism) and cozy, and best of all, there’s a friendly pet cow on the farm!| Book on Airbnb

BOUTIQUE | We suggest the Modern Hotel, which is a great choice for travelers on a mid-range budget who want a cool, personality-packed hotel in the hip Linen District which is great walking distance to all attractions. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

BUDGET | If money is a concern, Inn America is a well-reviewed option at a fair price that won’t break the bank, though it’s not quite as cool or, well, modern as the Modern! | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

Ketchum / Sun Valley (Day 2-3)

Grass with purple flowers sprouting up like wildflowers in it on a sunny day.

Distance: 153 miles
Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

Next up on your Idaho itinerary is the Wood River Valley, 2.5 hours due east of Boise. 

The Wood River Valley is home to the Sun Valley and Ketchum area, widely known for its winter sports infrastructure and ski resort.  It’s an easy drive along I-84 then US-20 through the Camas Prairie.

If you plan the timing of your trip just right, you may be able to catch the Camas lilies blooming between late May and mid-June. Many of the lilies are in fields outside Fairfield. It is a spectacular sight to witness and a common stop for many painters and photographers looking to capture the mature blooms.

Fairfield’s Wrangler Drive-In, featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, is a good lunch stop for burgers, patty melts, and ice cream. If you have time for a hiking detour here, head towards Soldier Mountain Ski Area. The family-oriented ski hill is 11 miles north of Fairfield and has a few short but steep hiking trails and a new mountain bike trail system for summer months.

The Ketchum / Sun Valley area is another 40 minutes past Fairfield. The resort town is full of top-notch restaurants, an intricate and well-maintained trail system, and fishing access. Your best and priciest hotel options of your Idaho road trip will be in Ketchum, but with amenities (think spa services) to match.

Ketchum has become something of a campervan pit stop because it is an ideal place to grab supplies before setting out toward the Salmon-Challis National or Sawtooth National Forests.

A building which reads "the higher you get the higher you get" on the roof top, a popular site near Ketchum in the Sun Valley, with mountains and trees in the distance.

Apart from notable summer hikes like Warm Springs and Pioneer Cabin, attractions to explore include the Roundhouse Express Gondola on Bald Mountain, golf at one of the local courses, or camping just outside town near Trail Creek or Cathedral Pines.

There are several alpine lake hikes do-able in under 3 hours’ time and any activity near Ketchum gives you the best of two worlds, easily accessible nature and fine dining in town!

If you need a day off from longer trail hikes you will be quite content walking or biking along the Wood River Trail, a 20-plus-mile paved, multi-use path which spans between the communities of Bellevue and Sun Valley.

Yellow trees in autumn surrounding a blue river, with a person standing in the middle of the river fly fishing.

Much of the trail follows abandoned Union Pacific rail lines which were originally used to help settle and grow the valley.

No matter where you stay in the Wood River Valley you will be near an entrance to the trail, locally known simply as ‘the bike path’. It is a friendly trial and always filled with other people making it a nice choice for those who may be traveling alone.

Look into Hotel Ketchum, Limelight, or the Sun Valley Lodge for accommodations and Pioneer Saloon (steak), Rickshaw (Southeast Asian), or Cookbook (Italian) for fare.

Hank and Sylvie’s makes the best coffee and pastries to get you started for the day. There is more than enough to do in Ketchum to warrant extending your stay one or two days if you’re looking for a more leisurely pace to your Idaho road trip.

Finally, if you’re down for a little extra driving, you can head to Shoshone Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Idaho, which is an hour and 40 minutes south of Ketchum.

Where to Stay

View of a red barn available for rent as an Airbnb.
Image provided via Airbnb

BARN | Yes, you can stay in a beautifully renovated barnhouse property while you’re visiting Ketchum, rented out via Airbnb! This stunning property gives off all the cozy vibes you can imagine, and the price is more than fair, great for budget travelers who want to stay in something a little less traditional. | Book on Airbnb

BOUTIQUE | For a contemporary, chic place to stay in Ketchum with great amenities like a fitness center, hot tub, and large spacious rooms, Hotel Ketchum is a fantastic choice. It’s a little pricier than other options in Ketchum, but it’s definitely the coziest. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

BUDGET | Accommodations in Ketchum generally run on the expensive side, being a ski resort town, so if budget is a concern, I suggest moving 15 miles outside to Hailey, ID, which has a better range of accommodation options such as the well-reviewed Wood River Inn & Suite. Enjoy a hot tub, heated indoor pool, fitness center, and complimentary breakfast. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

Stanley (Day 4)

A yellow field next to some evergreen trees with several mountain peaks in the background on a clear day.

Distance: 62 miles
Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

You really start to see the changes in scenery about 40 minutes due north of Ketchum as you’re en route to Stanley, as softer rolling hills quickly transition to the more rugged side of Sawtooth Mountains.

The drive is beautiful, and you will want to appreciate it during the day. Don’t let Stanley’s year-round population of 69 people fool you. During summer, the surrounding campgrounds, rivers, and lakes swell with visitors, but you are always able to find a (somewhat) secluded spot even in the height of tourist season, as long as you steer clear of the Redfish Lodge.

Stanley is the best town on your Idaho itinerary to try your hand at fly fishing. There are several access points along the Salmon River for trout fishing but if you are new to the area or fly fishing in general, price out one of the guide services to help you maximize your experience. Sawtooth Adventure Company can place you with an experienced guide who knows the waters.

View of a river with mountains surrounding it on a clear sunny day.

If you are unfamiliar with a guided fly-fishing day by raft, or a “float”, they come highly recommended. The guide ratio is typically one for every two guests and half day floats start in early morning or early afternoon. All needed equipment is provided, like nets, rods, reel, and flies.

Guides also come in handy for learning a bit of casting technique or for telling you where the best fishing spots are along the river. More times than not, the local guides are pretty fun and make for a better outing than hitting it solo or with your own group.

There are only a handful of accommodations in Stanley and they are typically booked well in advance during summer months. However, the camping is so good in this area it would be a shame to stay inside anyway.

Alturas, Lake Stanley, Salmon River, and Casino Creek Campgrounds take reservations but at a minimal cost. They each are primitive campgrounds and have bathhouses onsite. Look to the National Forest Service website for campground locations and pertinent information.

A lake with a perfect reflection on the evergreen trees and mountains in the still water, some yellow and orange fall foliage in the left corner.

Of course there is good hiking near any of the campsites you select, particularly around Lake Stanley.

Restaurants to pay attention to in town are Stanley Baking Company, Luce’s, Peaks and Perks, and Scoops for an ice cream dessert. 

Stanley Baking Company will likely have a decent wait time for breakfast but it is well worth it if you can hang around. Popular plates include a pancake plater and a classic egg breakfast or hearty sandwiches for lunch. The restaurant also has coffee and homemade pastries to go if you don’t feel like waiting for a table or prefer to take you treats on a hike. Peaks and Perks is a walk-up window for to-go coffee and it’s your best option if in a hurry to get on the road.

If you have 30 minutes to spare before leaving town lookout for Boat Box Hot Spring on your right as you drive from Stanley to Salmon. A small turnout from the Highway 75 along the Salmon River is 4 miles north of town and a path leads to a small tub with hot water piped in.

If you chose not to fly fish this go around, you can relax in the tub and watch boats quietly float by. The hot spring is best in the early morning hours around sunrise.

Where to Stay

A tiny house with a small kitchen, small coach, and large windows overlooking a nature landscape.
Image provided by Airbnb

TINY HOUSE | Have you ever wanted to stay in a tiny house? In Stanley, you can see what it’s like by renting one easily via Airbnb! There are 4 similar tiny house properties to choose from, but this one is my personal favorite for its great full-windowed views and spacious layout that belies its small size. | Book on Airbnb

LODGE | For a lovely but no-frills typical lodge in Stanley, check out the Redfish Riverside Inn. This place has all the amenities you’d need at a fair price, perfect for if you’re not quite into the camping scene and prefer a bit more luxury where you lay your head down each night. | Reserve on Booking.com

Stanley to Salmon (Day 5)

A woman in a blue bathing suit with white stars sitting in a hot spring with a mountain valley landscape behind her.

Distance: 116 miles
Driving Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

This section of your Idaho road trip is the time to explore natural hot springs like Goldbug Springs near Salmon in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

A gravel road at mile marker 282 off Highway 93 (the road between Stanley and Missoula) will mark your turn off. From there, both trailhead and trail are well marked. The springs are accessed by a steep 2-mile trail climb.

Goldbug is a perfect choice if you want to pair your hot springs outing with a bit of physical exertion. After hiking up to the springs and soaking for a while, leave enough time to exit back via the hiking path before following Highway 93 along the Salmon River to the town of Salmon where you will find a quaint, main street feel.

Try the Junkyard Bistro (tapas, sandwiches, salads, and wraps) or Last Chance Pizza for dinner before turning in for the night at the Stagecoach Inn or Syringa Lodge.

Where to Stay

A green wagon-style tiny house converted into an Airbnb in a forest with trees and plants.
Image provided by Airbnb

RIVERSIDE WAGON | For a unique place to stay, this tiny home slash converted wagon trailer is a great place with epic views of the Salmon River. It’s so cozy inside and the views of the river are absolutely unbeatable. What other chance like this do you get? | Book on Airbnb

CABIN | For a more spacious stay, this cozy log cabin gives off all the old school vibes, and the interior is lovely and warm with all you need to host up to 3 guests| Book on Airbnb

Coeur d’Alene via Missoula, MT (Day 6)

A sunny view of the sun setting below Missoula mountain ranges with some buildings on one side, the river in the middle, a bridge crossing the river, and trees on the other side of the river.

Distance: 305 miles
Driving Time: 5.5 hours

Driving from Salmon to Coeur d’Alene via Missoula, MT makes for a long day on the road (5.5 hours) but ensures you experience the northern parts of the state.

From Salmon you navigate through the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness (National Forest lands) towards Missoula.

With plenty of eatery options near the University of Montana campus, Missoula should be your planned stop for lunch. The campus is easily accessible as you enter downtown and sits along the Clark Fork river.

Scotty’s Table, Catalyst Café, and Hob Nob are three restaurants near the riverfront that continuously have good reviews.

Their locations on the river are also in close proximity to Brenan’s Wave, Missoula’s manmade wave installation in the Clark Fork River. It is an entertaining spot to watch surfers and kayakers take on a brief rapid.

From your pit stop in Missoula, take I-90 towards Coeur d’Alene for your next road trip stay. You’ll be staying here for several nights, so pick where you want to stay carefully.

Where to Stay

Image provided by Airbnb

COWBOY CABIN | The well-named ‘cowboy cabin‘ offered on Airbnb is a great place to stay for couples looking for a cozy, Western-themed stay. The cabin has all you need for several nights of a cozy stay, including a full kitchen, and the surrounding Ponderosa pines and the location walking distance to town and a short drive from the lake make this a fantastic and budget-friendly choice. | Book on Airbnb

HOUSEBOAT | If you want to be right on the lake… literally… then it doesn’t get better than this Coeur d’Alene houseboat which sleeps six right on the lake. With several comfortable beds, a full kitchen and bathroom on board the boat, and an epic patio area to enjoy lake sunsets, it doesn’t get better than this. | Book on Airbnb

OLD FASHIONED INN | For a lovely, cozy inn with traditional B&B vibes, head to Greenbriar Inn for a vintage yet budget-friendly stay. The inn dates back to 1908 and rooms have all sorts of lovely touches like clawfoot tubs and four-poster beds. An outdoor gazebo is the perfect place to relax and take in the views of the inn in all its glory. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

BUDGET CHAIN | There are a number of budget-friendly chain hotel offerings in Couer d’Alene which offer plenty of standardized comfort but not necessarily unique charm or offerings. The best reviewed is the Quality Inn & Suites, which is loved for its tasty included breakfast, hot tub, kids play area, and location just 3 miles from the lake. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

Coeur d’Alene (Day 7-8)

View of the boat houses on the lake at Couer D'alene: two rows of teal-roofed boat houses on a still lake with a dock.

Coeur d’Alene (CDA) is located in the northwest corner of the state and just 30 miles from neighboring Spokane, Washington.

It is known as a hub of watersports and lake view scenic hiking as the city rests on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

It is also a spot of a popular Ironman event so you can imagine there are ample running, swimming, and cycle opportunities around the area. The town has a deep history as a fort settlement and has hosted large Fourth of July festivities on the holiday for many years.

If your travels have you in Idaho during early July, you should schedule around CDA for the 4th. The holiday events include ample street vendors and massive amounts of fireworks, depending on national forest fire conditions of course.

With such beautiful lake scenery, it would be a shame to hike without making the lake views a central theme. Popular hikes include Mineral Ridge Trail and Tubbs Hill Park.

Mineral Ridge is 11 miles east of CDA proper and has well-labeled parking with restroom access and picnic amenities. Estimate about 1 hour for the 3.3-mile loop.  If you feel like taking a break halfway, there are plenty of benches and rest areas to fit your needs.

Calm, blue water surrounded by a road on one side and mountains covered in trees on the other on a sunny day in Couer d'Alene, a muston any Idaho road trip.

Tubbs Hill is a 120-acre park which borders the city and is closer to downtown attractions. The park features a moderately rugged 2.5 miles of trails with views of the lake and city.

Apart from Ketchum’s Wood River Trail, the Centennial Trail outside of CDA is one of the best places to cycle on this Idaho road trip.

The Centennial Trail in CDA runs 23 miles from the Idaho / Washington border to Higgins Point on Lake Coeur d’Alene. A longer 72-mile paved Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes creates a longer route for more seasoned cyclists.

If you do not have a bike with you there are several places to rent a bike in town, like Coeur d’Alene Bike Company, as the activity and trial are quite popular with tourists.

Near the midway point of the Centennial Trail is Coeur d’Alene Resort, a good location to grab a meal or happy hour libation post-ride. The Coeur d’Alene Resort offers wonderful lakeside accommodations but there are several alternate options, including campsites outside of town, if you are not looking to splurge.

There are also miles of world-class mountain biking trails at Silver Mountain Resort and on the Canfield Mountain Trail systems if you’d prefer a little more intensive bike action.

McCall (Day 9-10)

A view of the small marshy lakes and larger lake in the background in McCall Idaho on a cloudy, overcast day.

From Coeur d’Alene, head south for 5 hours along US-95 to the city of McCall. McCall sits on the edge of Payette Lake and the Payette National Forest.

Similar to Coeur d’Alene, the area is perfect to explore the water (lake and river activities) as well as head out hiking for a day.

Save McCall for whitewater rafting on this Idaho road trip. Several outfitters in town provide multi-day, full or half-day adventures. Multi-day outings are fully catered experiences.

Whether you hit Hells Canyon or other areas of the Snake or Salmon Rivers, you are in for a blast. Check out Salmon Raft or Canyons River Company to show you the way.

There are several lodging options lakeside, such as Shore Lodge, which offers amenities like lakeside pool areas and boat rentals.

A small lake at the base of a rocky mountain covered in pine trees.

Two of the best hikes from the McCall area are Bears Basin and Louis Lake Trails. Louie Lake Trail is 2.6-mile moderately rated trail that rewards hikers with an alpine lake and dramatic views at the hikes mid-point.

You can also opt for a 7-mile loop to nearby Boulder Lake if you feel like a longer trip. The total time for the main trail is about 1 hour but plan for 4.5 to 5 hours if you try the Boulder Loop.

Bear Basin Trail system is easily accessible by hiking or by bike from downtown McCall along the Bear Basin Connector Trail. The trail system allows for multiple variations and most follow through a mixture of wooded areas and meadows with excellent views of the surrounding lakes and mountains.

The upside of the trail system is you can mix and match trails for the exact distance you feel that particular day. The downside is you need to watch out for mountain bikers!

Where to Stay

A well-lit small cabin with an armchair, kitchen with island and stools, and wood details and white walls.

MODERN CABIN | For a cabin that’s distinctly modern and good for groups (it can hold 4 guests in two bedrooms), this McCall cabin is a great choice. The design is modern and spacious yet comfortable, and the location is hard to beat. The kitchen is a dream to cook in, which is great for people trying to save on food costs while road tripping!| Book on Airbnb

NORDIC INSPIRED COMFORT | For the ultimate in Scandinavian design and comfort, check into the boutique Scandia Hotel, which draws its inspiration from Swedish and Finnish design elements. Think white walls with textured wood elements and lots of plant life and detail to bring in greenery and life to the rooms. It’s an incredibly comfortable and stylish place to stay in a small town, so book ahead if you want to splurge on an extra comfortable stay for the final night of your Idaho road trip | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

Back to Boise (Day 10)

Yellow trees with a few red trees showing fall foliage, in front of the downtown Boise skyline with buildings rising above the tree tops on a sunny fall day.

Wrapping up your Idaho trip, returning to Boise is just over 2 hours due south on ID-55.

While the trip was outlined counterclockwise, it works just as well in the opposite direction.

Eight to ten days in Idaho can be a lot to spare, so if you don’t find yourself with that much time away from your home base, try pairing down this itinerary down to either the Boise-Stanley or Boise-Coeur d’Alene routes.

How to Extend This Idaho Road Trip

The waterfalls of Shoshone Falls cascading in a horseshoe shape over a large cliff edge, tumbling into a pale green pool of water below, surrounded by a rocky landscape.

This Idaho road trip does make a few notable omissions in order to create a road trip that makes sense and doesn’t backtrack too much. The most obvious omission is Shoshone Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of Idaho.

If you want to add that to your itinerary, add it after your trip to Ketchum and Sun Valley, but be prepared to spend more time getting back to your next stop, Stanley, if you do so.

If you have more like two weeks in Idaho for a road trip, you can add on Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve (a stunning lunar-like landscape) on your way back from Shoshone Falls, or you could also head to Idaho Falls, a fun and funky city located along the Snake River. From Idaho Falls to Stanley, it’s 3.5 hours, where you can continue this itinerary.

What to Pack for an Idaho Road Trip

Interracial couple (white woman and Black man) sharing a thermos of coffee while pulled over on the road while wearing cold-weather clothing, sitting in the back of their car.

I’ve created a full packing list for a USA road trip here, which you may want to peruse before heading out on your trip!

Travel guides

I’ve packed this Idaho road trip itinerary with so much practical information but sometimes travel guides provide deeper insights than I put in one article since they dedicate more time and resources to research. That being the case, I recommend combining my first-hand experience and the information in this Moon Idaho guidebook and I guarantee you’ll have an amazing time road tripping this beautiful state.

Phone Mount & Car Charger

You will use up your phone battery fast while road tripping in Idaho, or anywhere, so it’s essential to have a car charger. And for navigating, a phone mount is clutch and takes the pressure off of your front-seat passenger. Personally, I can’t imagine road tripping anywhere without this dual purpose phone mount and charger!

Snacks

There’s a funny road trip quote about buying snacks… I don’t know who said the quote originally, but it goes something like this: “It doesn’t matter how old you get, buying snacks for a road trip should always look like an unsupervised 9-year-old was given $100.”

I’m not sure who originally said it, but it’s true. Nothing ruins a road trip faster like hanger… so be sure to avoid it! Have a good mix of snacks — and not just sweet ones. Too many sweets on an empty stomach = major headaches. Likewise, too many salty snacks and not enough water will also do you in!

Rehydration packets

Impromptu hikes, the lack of a predictable schedule, random meal times, overly salty snacks, days exploring out in the hot sun, hangovers from celebrating after your driving duty is done: there are many reasons why it’s so easy to get dehydrated while road tripping.

I always pack some rehydration packets with me on my road trip travels as I’m prone to getting dehydrated, and when I’m dehydrated I get nasty headaches. Rehydration packets are a lifesaver: I recommend these ones.

Bug spray and after-bite care.

Nothing ruins a scenic sunset hike or lakeside lay-out worse than being besieged by bug bites! For a natural DEET-free solution, try this lemon eucalyptus-based mosquito repellent. It works surprisingly well on even the most persistent mosquitos!

Unfortunately, some bites are inevitable no matter how diligent you are with bug spray and reapplying it periodically, especially if you have sweet blood that attracts mosquitos like crazy like I do! Keep itchiness at bay with an After Bite itch eraser, which instantly soothes any bug bites. It’s a must-have for any summer road trip.

Sunscreen

Did you know you should always wear sunscreen while driving? The windshield doesn’t protect you against all UV rays — while they protect against UVB rays (which cause sunburn), most do not block UVA rays, which cause aging and skin cancer.

Plus, you’ll want it for hikes, days out in the sun, beach days, and that sort of thing. This is the sunscreen I use on my face daily (to prevent breakouts — my skin is very sensitive to chemical sunscreens, so I need something gentle). Meanwhile, I use a cheaper basic sunscreen for my skin.

No matter what your skin tone or race, you need to wear sunscreen daily, whether you’re white and pale AF like me, or whether you’re Black, Latinx, or Asian — sun cancer doesn’t discriminate based on skin tone, so always lotion up!

If you’re hiking, don’t forget about your scalp either — I often end up with a burned scalp and it’s no fun, often leading to headaches. Buy a special sunscreen for hair and scalp to avoid this!

Rain jacket

Even the best-laid plans can be felled by rain! While Idaho isn’t extremely rainy, it’s definitely a possibility during your trip, and you’ll want to be prepared.

I love the Marmot PreCip rain jacket (there’s a women’s version and a men’s version). I used mine for years doing all sorts of activities, from biking to hiking and traveling.

It always keeps me dry without making me too hot and uncomfortable like some other rain jackets can, due to the zippered arm-pits which provide ventilation. This is key if you plan to do anything active like hiking while it’s raining!

External batteries

The Anker external battery pack is a travel must. While you can charge your phone while driving, you may want to charge other devices — a camera, a drone, portable speakers, an e-reader — as well.

Or if you notice your battery is running low while you’re out hiking or sightseeing, you can just start charging right away without having to return to your car. It holds several charges on a single battery pack and will last days at a time.

Travel Insurance

Let’s be real: US health insurance sucks, and it can get complicated when you cross state lines to try to find in-network care in case of an emergency.

As long as you’re traveling more than 100 miles away from your home destination, World Nomads will step in where your insurance falters, and they make it super simple to purchase a policy for only as long as you’re traveling and not a bit more. Their policies are inexpensive and cover basically everything from theft to accidents to delayed baggage to trip cancellation and more.

I’ve been a happy paying customer of World Nomads since 2016 and have zero complaints about their service, interface, or claims process, and I’m happy to recommend them to any traveler I meet.

Get your free quote on World Nomads here

Idaho Road Trip Map

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One Day in Prague Itinerary (From Someone Who Lived There!)

Prague is a truly spectacular city that, personally, I could visit and revisit endlessly.

I spent six months living in Prague studying abroad, and even in those six months, I never found myself running out of places to explore or new hidden gems to uncover.

Returning to the city many years later, I fell in love with it all over again, re-dedicating myself to exploring and finding little hidden corners of the city to fall in love with, and eating as much Czech food as could possibly fill my stomach.

I’m hoping to convey my love to Prague for you in this quick one day Prague itinerary, helping you to see the city through the eyes of someone who lived there, loved it, and will always keep a piece of Prague in their heart.

I hope you enjoy this quick 1 day in Prague itinerary and that it helps you capture a piece of Prague for your own heart, too!

How This One Day in Prague Itinerary Is Structured

Astronomical clock in Prague surrounded by other old buildings with afternoon light shining on it.

This post is your one-stop guide to tackling the best of Prague in one day.

During my six months living in Prague, several friends came to visit, and I had the opportunity to show several visitors around the city in my days there!

As a result, I’ve figured out the best way to route a single day in Prague itinerary without missing any of the highlights, but still adding on a few of Prague’s hidden gems.

This one day in Prague game plan skips the tourist traps and brings you straight to the essential attractions, while also granting you an inside glance at one of of the prettiest cities in Europe and one of my favorite places on the planet.

This Prague mini-itinerary includes a few guided tours where it helps you save time or adds essential historic context, but for the most part, it leaves you free to roam around the city for independent exploration and fortuitous wanderings down beautiful streets.

Is 1 Day in Prague Enough?

The view of the famous Prague church from a high vantange point, people down in the square looking very small, with lots of red roof architecture and pastel building facades surrounding the church in the middle of the photo.

If you ask me, not quite…. but don’t despair just yet! One day in Prague is just the right amount of time to enjoy an introduction to the city and its main attractions.

With only a day in Prague, you won’t quite get a feel for the city outside of its most popular attractions, but it is definitely enough time to snap plenty of beautiful photographs, see the top attractions, and swear up and down that you’ll come back to Prague another day to spend more time in this beautiful, magical city.

On this 24 hour Prague itinerary, we’ll cover some important attractions — Prague Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral, Charles Bridge, the Astronomical Clock, the Old Town — but we won’t quite get to everywhere. But we’ll do our best!

One Day in Prague Map

Your One Day Prague Itinerary

Morning: Kolaches, the Charles Bridge, & Prague Castle

Start the day with a tasty koláč.

Four different colorful kolache Czech pastries, with black, orange, yellow, and red jams, a great way to start a day in Prague.

Start your day bright and early so you have time to tackle this one day in Prague itinerary properly! I suggest getting a start at 8 AM if you want to be at the Charles Bridge by 10 AM for the tour. But first — breakfast!

If you’ve ever had a kolache in the Midwest or Texas, you may not have known it, but you were eating a traditional Czech pastry!

What is known is Czech as koláč (koláče in plural form) has been transliterated into English as kolache — I guess in default as plural because it’s pretty much impossible to eat just one!

Koláče in Czechia are lightly sweetened pastries similar to a small, handheld pie, consisting of dough baked with a sweet filling or either jam or poppy seeds (my favorite!).

You can find them all over the city, but my favorite are at the cute gingerbread shop Perníčkův sen in the Old Town.

While they specialize in gingerbreads, their other pastries are absolutely delicious as well, as it’s a great place to grab a Prague souvenir for a loved one!

Walk through Old Town to the Kafka Monument.

Bronze statue of a headless, armless man with a man with a hat sitting on top of his shoulders, with a city background behind the sculpture.

Prague is, rightly, proud of one of the city’s most famous writers, Franz Kafka.

As a matter of fact, you’ll find countless Kafka references all around the city, in the form of museums, placards, tongue-in-cheek statues, and more.

As you walk through the Old Town towards the base of the Charles Bridge down, you’ll notice a strange statue: a headless, armless giant man with a man (Franz Kafka) sitting on top of it.

Why a headless man? It’s a tribute to one of Kafka’s strangest and earliest works, “Description of a Struggle.”

It’s located right in front of the Spanish Synagogue in the heart of Jewish Prague — don’t worry, we’ll come back here later in the afternoon for even more sightseeing.

Admire the the Rudolfinum.

Gold-yellow symmetrical music house with two stories and tons of ornate detailing with a statue in front and green hedges and plants.

This stunning pale yellow music hall is home to the Prague Philharmonic. It’s one of my favorite buildings in Prague, a perfect example of the delicate, pastel 19th century architecture that defines the city.

We’ll just stop here briefly to admire the architecture and the views over the Vltava River — it’s onto our next stop on this Prague itinerary. Also while here, don’t miss the statue in tribute to Prague’s most famous composer, Antonín Dvořák.

Side note: If you’re a fan of modern sculpture, you can take a quick detour to the Jan Palach memorial, a two-part memorial featuring The House of Suicide and the House of the Mother of Suicide.

Jan Palach was a Czech student who lit himself on fire in Wenceslas Square to protest the Soviet’s violent repression of the peaceful Prague Spring reforms. His self-immolation shocked Czech society and led to several other such suicide protests in then-Czechoslovakia and other Soviet-occupied countries.

There is another more traditional memorial to Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc in front of the National Museum in Wenceslas Square, but personally, I like the abstract nature of this piece.

Walk across the Charles Bridge to Malá Strana.

Walking across the Charles Bridge towards Mala Strana and the Castle District, buildings with red roofs on the side and observation towers and a basilica dome in the background.

Stroll down Křižovnická to the Charles Bridge (Karlův most), where you’ll cross the bridge over the Vltava. This beautiful river bisects Prague into the Castle side and the Old Town side.

As you cross the Charles Bridge, admire the beauty of this bridge which was begun in the 14th-century (construction finished in the 15th century) and still stands today.

You’ll pass by many statues as you cross the bridge — 15 on each side, 30 in total — all replicas after being replaced due to theft and vandalism.

As you cross the bridge into Malá Strana (Lesser Town) and Hradčany (the Castle District), look back over the bridge to the Old Town — it’s a spectacular sight!

Note: Pickpockets love to lurk on Charles Bridge and other popular tourist destinations, so be sure to have a secure day bag to thwart would-be thieves.

Skip the money belt (you’re not fooling anyone) and opt for a secure bag instead. I’ve carried this PacSafe backpack to 30+ countries with me, and it’s my #1 travel companion. This chic, sleek backpack has double-interlocking zippers, slash-proof construction, and RFID blockers! Pick from one of seven colors — I have and love the classic black one!

Once you get to the other side of Charles Bridge, turn right and walk up U Lužického Semináře through the Lesser Town (Malá Strana), passing the beautiful Vojanovy sady park until the street turns into Klárov, then turning left once you hit the Old Castle Stairs (Staré zámecké schody).

Marvel at the majestic Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral.

Interior landscaped gardens of the Prague Castle, with statues, green low hedges, buildings with interesting tile work, and red roofed architecture.

Welcome to the Prague Castle complex!

The Prague Castle is the number one tourist attraction in all of Czechia, so you’ll definitely want to be strategic about your visit if you only have one day in Prague.

If you just show up at the Prague Castle in the middle of the day without a ticket pre-booked, expect to wait at least an hour, if not more — a lot more in summer, in fact.

I strongly suggest buying a skip-the-line ticket and tour online in advance, so that you can make the most of your time in Prague but also to fully understand the immense amount of history behind the Prague Castle.

While there is some signage and you won’t be totally lost at sea without a tour, having a guide to bring the story of the castle to life and imbue the sights with historical color amps up the experience times ten. Also, skipping the line like a VIP is pretty cool!

Book this skip-the-line tour online in advance!

The interior of a cathedral with stained glass and high arch ceilings with rows of pews

There are so many points of interest in the Prague Castle complex that I’d be doing you a disservice to try to describe them all briefly in this article, which is why I strongly suggest a tour.

If time is really limited and you can’t do a tour, make sure you visit the following main attractions: St. Vitus Cathedral (an absolute must), the Old Royal Palace, and the Story of Prague Castle permanent exhibit which details as much history as possible into a short exhibition.

The Golden Lane is also beautiful and infinitely Instagrammable — and as an added bonus for literature fans, #22 used to be the house of Franz Kafka’ s sister, and where Kafka wrote some of his works!

Afternoon: Lunch, A Walk in Petřín, & the Old Town

Grab lunch and beer at Strahov Monastery.

A view from the side of Strahov monastery, a white monastery with a red tiled roof and two towers, on the top of a small hill.

One of the coolest places to have a meal and a beer near Prague Castle is at Strahov Monastery, a nearly 900-year-old monastery!

While in my American mind, it’s a bit strange to equate monks and beer, in reality, monastery-brewed beer has a long tradition in Europe… and it’s delicious).

Klášterní Pivovar Strahov, the monastery brewery, serves over 25 beers brewed on the monastery premises as well as a selection of food.

Recommended dishes include beef tartare (Prague is famous for it!), goulash with bread dumplings (guláš s knedlícky), and pork schnitzel, but you can check their menu here.

Prices are reasonable given the location, about $10 USD per main dish, though of course, you can find some cheaper meals elsewhere in Prague. However, with only one day in Prague, why skimp?

An ornate library room with a pastel painted ceiling with lots of detailing and rows upon rows of books with wooden shelves and carved wood detail.

Insider Tip: If you have time, be sure to check out the Strahov Library!

A visit to the library (plus photography permission) is 200 CZK, about $9 USD, and it’s well worth it to see one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. An absolute must for bibliophiles. Check here for more details.

Scale up Petřín Tower’s 300 stairs.

View of Prague park and distinctive red tiled roofs from the double-helix staircase of Petrin Tower, between the steel geometrical bars.

For one of the most incredible views in Prague that’s just a little bit off the beaten path that most tourists trod, head to the lovely and underrated Petřín Park.

The walk up to Petřín Tower is a short walk from the monastery, but if you want to cut some corners on the way down, you can take the funicular down.

We’ll explore the park in more detail in a bit, but first, head straight to Petřín Tower. This cool observation tower measures 63.5 meters (208 feet) tall, but its placement on Petřín Hill means the views are even more extraordinary than its height would suggest!

Petřín Tower resembles the Eiffel Tower quite a bit, making it a fantastic photo spot, and the views from the top are spectacular… and well worth the 300 stairs you need to climb for the view. Note that there is no elevator. Admission is 150 CZK (about $7 USD).

Admire the statues and gardens in Petřín Park.

Sculptures of men on a set of stairs, the men appear to be torn or decaying with pieces missing from the sculptures

There a lot more to beautiful Petřín Park than just its tower, though! This park is home to some of Prague’s most beautiful gardens. I particularly love the Kinsky gardens, which is an English-style garden with a fantastic view.

Another interesting thing to see in the park is at the bottom of the hill, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism. This haunting memorial commemorates the losses of thousands of lives while Czechoslovakia was under Communist occupation as well as the hundreds of thousands who fled and emigrated.

The piece is particularly interesting when you start looking at it more closely.

“In the upper part of the memorial, you can see 7 persons walking on stairs. The first person seems to be all right, but one can clearly observe that the others are missing something of their anatomy, which should symbolize the suffering of the prisoners, their courage and resilience.”

Prague.eu

Grab a coffee at Café Savoy.

Cup of coffee in a cafe with lit up chandeliers and other lighting in background.

After all that walking around Petřín, it’s a good time to stop and rest those feet for a second in one of Prague’s most beautiful coffee shops.

There are a number of traditional Prague coffee houses to go to, but let’s stop at Café Savoy, a beautiful coffee shop whose wood-carved interior evokes the coffee houses of Vienna after which this café was modeled.

Prices are a little high, but it’s worth it for a coffee and perhaps a slice of cake in one of Prague’s prettiest, most nostalgic cafés.

Cross Legion Bridge.

View of Legion Bridge from the water with a view of some novelty water boats (such as swan boats) in the water. Prague Castle is in the background.

Legion Bridge (Most Legií in Czech) is another bridge connecting the two sides of Prague, and it’s great because it’ll give you a different perspective of the famous Charles Bridge!

Once you reach the other end of Legion Bridge, you’ll notice the beautiful National Theater (Národní divadlo), where you should stop for at least one or two photos!

Walk towards Wenceslas Square, where we’ll learn a bit about the history of this famous place in Prague.

Take in the history of Wenceslas Square.

The National Gallery building with a green dome on the rooftop and sculptures on either side, flowers in the foreground of the photo.

Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí in Czech) is one of the most important places in Prague’s history for a number of reasons, and it’s played a particularly pivotal role in the country’s history in the last century as a place for protest, resistance, and remembrance.

Wencenlas Square is truly massive, capable of holding at least a hundred thousand people (and it often has), which means it’s been the inflection point for several important historical events in Prague, such as the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution.

It was the site of Jan Palach’s historic self-immolation act of protest mentioned earlier in this article, and you’ll find a memorial to him in front of the National Museum, reopened in 2018 after nearly a decade of renovation.

You’ll also see the famous Statue of Saint Wenceslas in front of the museum, as well as several beautiful Art Nouveau buildings (Hotel Paříž and Hotel Evropa both come to mind) lining Wenceslas Square.

Stroll to the Old Town.

The Old Astronomical Clock with lots of painted detail and on the right side the Our Lady Before Tyn Church with two distinct spires, lots of pastel buildings around the square with cobblestone walkways.

Once you’ve checked out Wenceslas Square, you’ll want to stroll over to the Old Town… luckily, it’s quite a short and pretty walk.

I think the most beautiful way to enter the Old Town past the Mustek metro stop and through Melantrichova. I’m partial to this walk because it was my daily commute when living and studying in Prague, but I think it stands for itself!

Once you arrive in the Old Town, prepare to be amazed: this is one of the most spectacular Old Towns in all of Europe, and I’ve seen enough of them to feel confident making that claim!

Look immediately to your left once entering the Old Town to see one of my favorite buildings in Prague, Dům U Minuty (House at the Minute). This beautiful building dates back to the 15th century and is adorned with exquisitely detailed sgraffito work on the facade. It was also Franz Kafka’s home from 1889 to 1896!

And of course, you can’t miss the Astronomical Clock, which is mounted on the Old Town Hall (Staroměstská radnice). The clock dates back to 1410, making it the oldest still-operational astronomical clock in the world.

Be sure to ascend the tower at the Old Town Hall for stunning views over the Old Town. Save time by prebooking your ticket to the town hall’s observation tower — you can pick it up right at the 3rd floor where you can exchange a mobile voucher for a paper ticket.

Prebook your entrance tower ticket here!

Other places you must see while in the Old Town include the beautiful Church of Our Lady before Týn, with its two Gothic towers that soar 80 meters (260 feet) in the air. St. Nicholas Church is another church in the square, smaller and done in the Baroque style but no less lovely (and a frequent host of organ concerts!).

A few other points of interest in the Old Town Square include a branch of the National Gallery of Prague located in the lovely Kinsky Palace and the enormous Jan Hus monument in the center of the Square.

Arrive at the Jewish Museum.

Gravestones stacked up on top of each other in the Old Jewish Cemetery with greenery growing around it, a small building in the middle of the gravestone with a red roof.

Finally, hurry to the Jewish Museum! Try to arrive no later than 4:30 PM in order to properly have enough time to see this museum, which is more of a complex of buildings, before it closes at 6 PM.

The Jewish Museum consists of four synagogues (the Maisel, Pinkas, Spanish, and Klausen synagogues), the Old Jewish Cemetery, some archives and galleries, and more.

The museum contains over 40,000 exhibits of artifacts and objects related to Jewish life and history, so it can be a bit overwhelming to take in. If you have limited time, prioritize the beautiful Spanish Synagogue as well as the Old Jewish Cemetery, home to over 100,000 graves.

For three centuries, it was the only place Jews could be buried in the city, and it is the oldest existing Jewish burial ground in Europe.

For more information on Prague’s rich Jewish history, read here.

You can buy your tickets online here.

Evening: A Dazzling Dinner Cruise & Exploring Prague by Night

Dine with Vltava views.

Blue hour in Prague with lots of lights on in the city, reflecting in the water, you can see Charles Bridge, a watchtower, and distinctive Prague architecture in the skyline.

Once you’ve wandered all over Prague, you’re probably dying for a little time off your feet!

But if you don’t want the sightseeing to end, a dinner cruise on the Vltava River is a phenomenal way to end your one day in Prague.

You’ll get stellar views of the Castle District, the Old Town, Lesser Town, the waterfront, and more while toasting with a complimentary glass of prosecco and enjoying a traditional Czech meal to the sound of live music.

Dinner cruises last 3 hours, from 7 PM to 10 PM, and they arrive and depart by Čechův Bridge.

Tip: For a romantic option or a special occasion, be sure to request a window seat!

Book your dinner Vltava river cruise here!

Traveling with kids? You may prefer this medieval-themed dinner, which includes swordsmen and jugglers and all manner of performers… while adults can kick back and enjoy unlimited drinks! Book your medieval dinner here.

Walk over to the Dancing House.

The Dancing House building lit up at night: two buildings intertwined together with  a movement that makes them look like they're dancing, with light trails on the street in the foreground.

As your day in Prague draws to an end, make one final stop at the Dancing House (Tančící dům), also known as Fred and Ginger.

This whimsical architectural marvel is a collaboration between the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Canadian-American Frank Gehry.

At night, the beautiful building all lit up is even more lovely and magical!

Call it a night or continue exploring Prague nightlife.

A man's hands making a cocktail, which looks to be a whiskey old fashioned, with an orange peel garnish, in a dark bar.

By now, I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to call it quits and turn in for the night!

However, if you wish to keep the night going, I do have a few suggestions.

If you’d like to a see a quiet, hip side to the city, leave the Old Town and head to Vinohrady, my favorite neighborhood in Prague.

Manesova Bar & Books is a chic cigar bar with a cozy library feel and is a great place for a nightcap if you don’t mind a little smoky ambiance.

If it’s the summer time, join the locals at Riegrovy Sady beer garden. And finally, if you want to check out Czech wine (and you should!), Vínečko Wine Bar is a great place to grab a low-key glass of wine.

If you don’t mind going a little further afield, Holešovice is a super-fun neighborhood off the beaten path in Prague — check out Cross Club for a guaranteed fun night out.

Where to Stay for One Day in Prague

Pastel colored facades in the Old Town as seen through an old stone gate

For tourists, Prague 1 and 2 are the most popular districts. I personally prefer the area around Vinohrady and the Old Town, though some people may prefer to be closer to the Castle District (Malá Strana and Hradčany)

I’ve noted my top picks for each type of traveler – budget, boutique, and luxury travelers – to make the hard choice a little easier!

Budget | Czech Inn

Combining beautifully European architecture and budget prices, this hostel provides affordable luxury to their guests with a fun vibe.

Most of the interiors are designed by Olga Novotná, a beloved Czech designer, and she uses eclectic kinds of materials to create a cozy and warm feeling for guests in the common areas and rooms.

They have private rooms, apartments, shared rooms and premium dorm room, all with huge windows that allow natural lighting inside.

The best part of the hotel is the Czech Inn Bar, which is situated underneath the hotel. It’s a great place if you’re looking for a budget-friendly stay with a social vibe.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Boutique | Le Palais Art Hotel

Want to feel like you’re staying in an art museum? That’s Le Palais in a nutshell. Upon entering its main hall, you will see a grand chandelier, matched by exquisite décor and furniture A lot of paintings are also on display in its hallways and rooms, which almost act as if a gallery.

Luxurious Ligne St. Barth toiletries are provided in their ensuite bathrooms. Some rooms even have a tub where you can soak after a long day of sight-seeing!

There’s also a wellness center and fitness center, and several other fantastic 4* amenities to make your stay in Prague both stylish and comfortable.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Luxury | Aria Hotel Prague

This beautiful luxury hotel (which has a partner hotel in Budapest) offers 5-star amenities with a tasteful music theme. The rooms are all inspired by the different types of music like opera, jazz, and classical music. They also named each room after famous musicians and music personalities.  

The rooms have a classic, simple, and elegant style taken up a notch with velvet upholstered sofas and seating. The suite-type rooms also have a living area and kitchenette that easily helps you feel right at home.

Inside, Coda Restaurant has an art deco interior located on the rooftop terrace.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

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