Opposites attract, especially when it comes to holidays. If you live a stressful city life, a week or two in the countryside probably seems like an ideal antidote to the pressures of everyday life – the best way to slow down, unwind and refresh the soul. If you are retired and living a rural idyll, then some time in the city makes a stimulating change – a great way to gear up, have fun and refresh the mind. But what if you are greedy for both?
Here are 10 very different ideas that combine rural escapism and urban intensity on the same trip.
1. Strasbourg and the Vosges vineyards
The medieval city of Strasbourg is the idea base for forays into the Alsatian vineyards. The best itineraries will provide a driver who will be able to give a private guided tour so that you don’t have to worry about blood-alcohol levels. But if you want to arrange your own visit, there is more information on Alsace and on the 106-mile Alsace Wine Route, which takes in dozens of villages and wineries, at alsace-wine-route.com.
Grape Escapes offers an Essential Strasbourg wine tasting tour from £435, including accommodation in Strasbourg and wine tastings, but not travel from Britain.
2. Oslo and the fjords
Offering a classic combination of city sights and lakeland beauty, this eight-day holiday begins with sightseeing in Oslo, where highlights include the Viking Ship Museum and the National Gallery (home to The Scream by Edvard Munch), before journeys on the spectacular Bergen Railway and Flåm Railway, where breathtakingly unspoilt mountain landscapes await. A visit to Hardangerfjord follows, before time in the picturesque port of Bergen.
Riviera Travel’s eight-day tour costs from £1,249, including accommodation, some meals, flights and travel.
3. Palermo and rural Sicily
A nine-day, round-island journey which combines an introduction to the island’s capital, Palermo, for a tour of its 12th-century cathedral and broad squares, with forays into the peaceful, rural backwaters to discover dramatic mountain and coastal scenery.
Country-based pursuits include a guided hike through the volcanic landscapes of Mount Etna, guided tours of the island’s Greek and Roman archaeological sites and a visit to Italy’s first nature reserve, Zingaro, home to the rare Bonelli’s eagle. A stay in the hilltop town of Taormina, with its ancient theatre and spectacular sea views, rounds off the break.
Exodus offers its Treasures of Sicily tour from £1,449, including accommodation, breakfasts and flights.
4. Granada and the Sierra Nevada
A good balance of city and country for nature-lovers who want to spend a couple of nights in Granada’s medieval quarter for a visit to its top sights and tapas bars, including the fortified Alhambra palace with its famous gardens and rooftop views.
The rest of the seven-night itinerary is based in Mairena, a village within the vast Sierra Nevada National Park which has views across the Alpujarra mountains. Join daily walks and minibus excursions to find alpine flowers, butterflies, insects and bird life, including hoopoe and golden oriole species, in the company of an expert local guide, Jorge Garzon.
From £1,695, including accommodation, all meals and flights, with Naturetrek.
5. Florence and walking in Tuscany
Particularly well-geared to active types who want to mix-and-match some treks through classic Tuscan countryside with time in Florence and Siena, this eight-day self-guided walking holiday includes stops in the fabulous fortified towns of San Gimignano and Monterissioni plus plenty of opportunites to indulge in the region’s food and wine. Florence and Siena bookend the itinerary, making it easy to add extra days to explore the two Renaissance cities.
From £825, including accommodation and some meals, with Explore. Flights are not included.
6. New York and New England
First stop on this eight-day itinerary is New York City, for the chance to see iconic landmarks including the Empire State Building and Central Park, and visit cultural gems like the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Guggenheim and the Met. Swapping urban buzz for rural tranquillity, the tour then moves on to the spectacular scenery of Vermont.
New York and New England Multi Centre Holiday from £1,799, including accommodation and flights, with Hayes & Jarvis.
7. Hong Kong and the islands
This 15-day trip enables keen walkers to take walks that alternate between quiet, open countryside and buzzing city streets and markets. Staying in a four-star hotel in Kowloon, the itinerary includes a climb to Victoria Peak for views of harbour and skyscrapers, plus hikes along the Maclehose Trail in the New Territories. Two rest days allow free time to shop, sightsee and ride on the Kowloon-Canton railway to mainland China.
Discover Hong Kong from £2,449, including accommodation, some meals and flights, with Ramblers Holidays.
8. Paris and Giverny
The River Seine is well known in its urban guise, but this eight-day cruise reveals another side to this iconic waterway as it meanders through unspoilt countryside on its journey north. Starting in Paris with a tour of top sights, including the Eiffel Tower and Sainte-Chapelle, the first port of call is Giverny for a stroll through Claude Monet’s garden.
Back to city life in Rouen with an Old Town tour before a chance to stretch the legs on the Normandy beaches. Returning to Paris, there’s a stop at Les Andelys to view Richard the Lionheart’s 12th-century castle.
Paris and the Heart of Normandy from £2,545, including accommodation, meals and flights, with Viking River Cruises.
9. Tokyo and cycling through rural Japan
Biking over 450km, mainly on quiet country roads, this 13-day tour includes the cost of cycle hire as well as full support vehicle backup. After taking in the relatively flat Noto Peninsula, the route heads inland through rice paddies and terraced hillsides.
Combining the cities of Kyoto, Kanazawa and Wajima, with their fascinating temples, gardens and shrines, the itinerary also includes time in the countryside of the Shogawa River Valley. The tour concludes in Tokyo for a full day of sightseeing and shopping.
Japanese Cycling Tour from £4,145, including accommodation, some meals and flights, with Explore.
10. Rio and national parks
Beyond Copacabana Beach to find another side to Brazil’s biggest tourism draw. The highlights of Rio de Janeiro State include the Parque Nacional de Serra dos Orgaos, where walking trails wind past tabebuia trees and pink-flowering tibouchinas, the laid-back port of Paraty, and Saco de Mamangua, a tropical fjord that bites into the landscape for five steep-flanked miles.
TravelLocal offers a 10-day Best of Rio de Janeiro State itinerary that spends time in Rio, Teresopolis and Paraty. From £2,030 per person, including accommodation with breakfast, transfers, guides, and excursions (flights extra).
All prices are per person and are subject to change and availability.